Question: I have a problem: I'm a repeat cheater. Like it is my destiny in life to cheat on every boyfriend I've ever had. Even guys I am just casually seeing, I cheat on them with other guys I'm casually seeing. I've been with my current boyfriend for about three years. I thought he was the love of my life, the man I'd be with forever. I liked him so much before we dated, so when we finally "made it official," I was incredibly happy. I was determined to not cheat on this one. And I didn't. Fast-forward to this past summer. I started working at a restaurant to make some money before I started law school, and I met the most amazing guy—smart, had a full-time grown-up office job, funny, made me laugh, and made me feel smart and funny. We went out for drinks a few times, with other people from work and alone, and something just clicked. What was so special about this guy that made me want to cheat on my boyfriend? I encountered attractive men in all my jobs and internships and at school, but not one of them made me want to do something. This guy did. He made me feel daring and spontaneous and beautiful. He is six years older than me, which I think has a lot to do with it. I've always had a preference for "older men." I think he knows what he wants, and he's more mature than my boyfriend. He has more experience. He knows how to treat a woman, and he knows how to make a woman feel good. So I did it. Two weeks later, I had committed my first (of many) serial cheating occurrences. I don't know what was going through my head and why I allowed it to happen, but it did. I can't stop. It's like a drug. How do I stop? Why did I let myself basically ruin my perfectly good and successful three-year relationship with my boyfriend? I keep telling myself there has to be a reason I'm so attracted to the guy from work. It has to be a sign that he came into my life. What in God's name do I do? The simple answer is break up with my boyfriend. We tried that. He doesn't let go easily, and I'll admit I do still love him and we have a huge history with each other. And our families. And everything. I keep telling myself time will tell. HELP ME.
Answer: We all get spun around and turned upside-down sometimes. People make mistakes. People fall out of love. And people move on, all the time. Often, when we cheat—or decide to end something good because we think there's something else that's better—we come up with these excuses, so we don't have to feel so damn responsible for hurting someone else or ending a commitment that we once cherished. And I think that's what you're doing here. You're avoiding responsibility.
Commitment isn't something that happens to you, it's a choice. And there are four moments in your letter that left me feeling like you're not taking responsibility for the choices you're making in your life.
1. Right at the top, you say, "I'm a repeat cheater. Like it is my destiny to cheat on every boyfriend I've ever had." I'm not a big believer in destiny, but I cannot imagine a universe in which someone is destined to cheat. You've got free will and you're using it.
2. You say "it has to be a sign" that this guy popped up in your life. Odds are, if it's not on the road and shaped like an octagon, it's not a sign. I just don't buy that fate is pushing a hot guy in front of you. You chose to cheat. Own it. And stop looking for "signs" that justify your choice.
3. You argue that cheating is like a "drug." But this isn't heroin, it's just some guy.
4. Finally, you say that, going forward, "time will tell." Again, you're avoiding responsibility. Clocks and calendars don't make decisions. People do. If you continue to carry on like this, time won't tell—but one or both of these guys will tell you off eventually.
I understand the urge to avoid responsibility for this messy situation. When our emotions and passions are running high, it's tempting to pretend we're just passive victims of our own attractions. Sometimes, attraction can make you feel like you're out of control—like your hormones are taking control of the wheel. But don't fool yourself into thinking that you're simply following fate or waiting for this situation to sort itself out. You are making decisions. You are choosing both your boyfriend and this other man. Until you choose otherwise—or this all blows up in your face—that's what you'll get. And that's up to you, for better or worse.
I hope you'll abandon this idea that you're a born cheater, destined to be a cheater, addicted to cheating until the fates say otherwise. Instead, consider why you're deciding to cheat. Are you scared that things might not work out? Are you afraid of commitment? Or did you just commit to the wrong guy, no matter how nice he may be?
It's a scary thing to be responsible for your own life—to not be able to blame our mistakes on destiny—but the only fate we've got is the one we make.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.