There's no denying that cheating on someone can cause a lot of pain. Most of the time, it's better to be up-front about how you're feeling before making a move that could hurt someone you care a lot about. But there's also no denying that sometimes, even people with the best of intentions get carried away. In some cases, a moment of infidelity can even change your whole outlook on love and life. Here, 14 women recount why they cheated and why it was the right decision for them at the time.
1. "I was in a long-term relationship with the worst human I have ever met; he cheated on me several times. I stayed with him because every ounce of confidence I once had was gone. I wanted to break up with him but felt as though he was the best I could get, and I didn't deserve any better. Then, a friend of mine started showing interest in me. We went out for a few drinks and ended up sleeping together. If it weren't for this guy reminding me what it felt like to be wanted and appreciated, and showing me that I did deserve better, I never would have built up the courage to leave the man I was with. My friend and I never started dating, but we're still good friends to this day.” —Kasi, 23
2. "My boyfriend and I were long-distance. I started feeling like I didn't need him in my life anymore and I was happy without him. Then my ex came into town. I was out at a bar and drunkenly asked my ex to pick me up. I stayed over and we had sex. I woke up at, like, 4:00 a.m. in complete shock and disgust with myself. I walked out of his apartment, clothes in hand and nothing but his shirt on. I wandered through the apartment complex waiting for my Uber, and I felt that my life had never been so in shambles. Since that night, I have been so grateful for my boyfriend, and have a deeper understanding and appreciation for him. If I never cheated on him, I don't think our relationship would have survived. It opened my eyes to how much I loved him.” —Jennifer, 21
3. "Cheating made me realize how much my boyfriend at the time didn't care; he really just wanted to be with his friends more than me. I would tell him I would be hanging out with these guys at all hours of the night and all he would say was something like, 'Have fun.' He never would care if I was hanging out with him or someone else. It got to the point where I went to Canada overnight with a guy—and I told him about it before it happened—and he didn't even question it or anything. This is when I knew I needed a change. Soon after, I met my current fiancé and broke up with my then-boyfriend. I don't regret anything." —Ally, 22
4. "I had an on-again, off-again relationship through high school (ha!) that ended when I went to college. Fast-forward three years later, and I was dating a wonderful guy. The conversation was lovely, we were both very interested in the same types of music, had fantastic date nights, and a great sex life. For a few moments, I thought he could be The One. One afternoon, walking to the library to study, I literally ran into my high school ex. He ended up walking me to the library and sharing a table where we had a nonstop catching-up session. It was late when we finally walked back to the dorms, and he invited me up to keep catching up. As soon as the door shut, sparks were flying and we ended up on the floor, clothes in every direction. I broke up with my then-boyfriend the next day. And my high school sweetheart? We're getting married in four months." —Brittany, 26
5. "I ended up cheating on my long-distance boyfriend. We had been arguing for a few months and he was so distant, barely talking to me or giving me the time of day. I met a guy at school and he was everything I could have ever wanted. He made me feel a way I had never felt before, even without doing anything physical. I instantly knew he was the guy for me, but I was already in a committed relationship, so I was very confused. We did end up getting physical and I decided to break things off with my boyfriend. Me and the guy are still together, and now we're getting ready to move in with each other. He still makes me feel like he did the first day we met. I don't think we would have ended up together if I didn't cheat." —Elizabeth, 21
6. "The guy I cheated on was my first love. He had cheated on me before, and I forgave him, but as we grew up together, I grew into a person he couldn't control anymore. I was pushed to my limits and when I was pushed enough, I was pushed right into someone else's arms. The guy I cheated on my boyfriend with knew how mentally damaging my relationship was; he was my best friend. We told each other everything. One night, I ended up in my best friend's arms and things got carried away. I felt guilty afterward but at the same time, I didn't blame myself. I blamed my boyfriend. I couldn't find love and acceptance with him, so I went searching for it elsewhere. Subconsciously, I think I knew that the only way my boyfriend and I would break up would be by committing the 'ultimate crime'—in his eyes, at least. I told him within the next few days, and it ended up being unforgivable to him. We went our separate ways, and I have never been happier. I am the best version of myself without him. And the act of cheating got me to the place I am now, and I will never apologize for that." —Gabby, 24
7. "I'd been with my boyfriend for almost three years, but over time we started spending less time together. We stopped having sex and eventually there was no real physical contact. But I stuck with it because, hey, we got along OK and rarely fought, so it must have been fine. In fact, I started to wonder if it was my fault, and I'd just lost my sex drive for some reason. But when I started talking to a guy I worked with, things changed. I couldn't wait to go into work every day (despite the fact I hated my job) and I would get excited to see his name pop up in my emails. But he was engaged, so I thought I was just kidding myself, and besides, I had a boyfriend, too. Slowly, talking became flirting and flirting became sexting, and eventually we kissed, and from that day, we couldn't stop. The more time we spent together, the more we realized how broken our own relationships were. I had a sudden zest for life again, wanting to see my friends more and picking up old hobbies that I couldn't quite remember why I'd stopped. Cheating showed me how bad things had gotten and how unhappy I was. I regret doing it because I don't ever want to hurt someone, but I think ultimately it showed me how unhappy we were. We broke up, and I'm happy to say having met my new man, everyone has noticed how much more suited we are. And the same seems to be true from his side, too." —Katie, 24
8. "I had just started dating this guy from work, and this new girl got hired right around that time. She made it really clear she was interested, but I had never been with a girl before, and I was supposed to be dating this guy. He told me he didn't want anyone to know we were dating (red flag, I know) and as time went on, he was an increasingly crappier human. One day, I ended up spitefully hooking up with this girl in my car, and after I broke up with him, we ended up dating and have been living together for almost two years. What a way to find out you like women, too." —Jenna, 23
9. "I actually cheated on my current fiancé about two years ago. We broke up, and I began a relationship with the other guy. My fiancé and I obviously got back together, and as much as I hate that I hurt him so much, I can say with 100 percent certainty that I'm marrying the man I should be. I think I needed to get that last 'idea' out of my head, otherwise I'd be living the rest of my life with a 'what if,' which is absolutely no way to go into a marriage. I still feel like a pretty bad person for doing it, and I regret hurting my fiancé, but I don't regret getting it out of my system." —Denise, 24
10. "I had always believed that a 'leopard never changes their spots,' aka once a cheater, always a cheater. I got married very young—I was raised religious and so was my ex-husband. Yet when my marriage fell apart and my then-husband began to question whether or not he was attracted to women, I met someone who was attracted to me, who made me feel vibrant, alive, beautiful, and supported. Despite my ex-husband's 1940s viewpoint that we should stay unhappily married through his identity-questioning and our deeply unsatisfying relationship because of the vows we took, I explored what it could feel like to be loved, seduced, and fulfilled. I left the marriage a year after we said 'I do' and have been with my now-fiancé for years since. We are so deeply in love and I can't believe I almost passed up on my Happily Ever After because of the stigma around cheating. There's nothing unhappy about my story, since we're both better off, and my ex is now living happily with a man and seeking out the support groups he needs to find self-acceptance." —Rose, 26
11. "I was in an emotionally abusive and destructive relationship with a man, Brad*, who I was convinced was The One. We shared an apartment with some of his close friends and over a year or so, I became very close with one of them, Ryan*, strictly as friends at first. It never even crossed my mind that it would turn into something else. But over time, I started to realize how happy I was with Ryan and how miserable I was in my relationship with Brad. I knew I needed to break up with Brad, but every time we would talk about, it would become a disaster of screaming and crying and threats and begging to get back together until I would cave. Eventually, Ryan and I crossed the line. I think I needed that push to really end things with Brad. It wasn't the way Ryan deserved to have me come into his life, but it's the way it worked out. Four years after all that mess, and Ryan and I are engaged. I've never been this happy and I know that even if it's not the way I dreamed of finding my husband, it was the way it had to happen to get me past that destruction and to a better place." —Mary, 26
12. "I had found myself in a two-year relationship that had lost its luster. He had met me when I was at an all-time low with self-esteem and was shocked that anyone could see me as a remotely attractive person. He treated me like a sure thing that would crawl into bed beside him every night regardless, and I was tired of it. My first time cheating was with a guy who finally showed me that I was desirable and that I didn't have to settle for being someone's 'sure thing.' Cheating gave me the confidence that there would be other people out there who would want me and love me more than my boyfriend had." —Chelsea, 22
13. "Cheating was the best decision I've ever made. I learned a lot about myself and who I was as a person. I wound up hurting someone I loved and respected very much, and I can never forgive myself for that, but in the end was the best decision I've ever made. My boyfriend and I ended our relationship, but I stayed with the person I cheated with. In time, I realized it was never this second guy I wanted. Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that that neither he nor my ex-boyfriend was what I wanted. I could never make him or anyone happy, because I wasn't happy myself. Cheating did not lead me to the love of my life or to someone better, but it did lead me to look at my life and find happiness in myself and in my own life, something that I was not able to do before. I relied heavily on the validation of men and based happiness on men. I am now single and could not be happier. I wish I had done things differently, but finding true happiness within myself has given my life so much joy. Something that I would have never been able to find within either relationship." —Lee, 23
14. "I had been in a miserable, controlling, and manipulative relationship for three years throughout college. By the time I figured out it needed to end, there was only one month left until graduation. One night after I got off work, I tried calling my boyfriend to see if his fraternity house was open so I could come over. Twenty minutes went by and he hadn't answered. I decided to go over to one of the other houses having a party instead. Right after arriving, I ran into an awesome, fun guy I had studied abroad with the previous summer. We ended up hanging out for the next hour having the best time. I turned my phone off and decided to deal with my boyfriend in the morning. My study-abroad guy and I stayed up the entire night playing beer pong, cracking jokes, and reminiscing on old times until the party had closed down, and we moved to his room. He made the first move and before I knew it he was driving me home at 9 a.m., both of us covered in hickies, and me with about 10 missed calls and 20 texts. I kept my hickies covered, broke up with my boyfriend that night with no explanation (trust me, he didn't deserve it), and went on my first date with the other guy two days later. We fell in love within a month. Fast-forward to today—almost two years later—he and I have moved to Australia and will undoubtedly be spending the rest of our lives together. And it never would have happened had I not gone to that party." —Emily, 24
*Names have been changed.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.