Jeff* was my first boyfriend. We met when I was a sophomore in college—I was 20 then, and he, 30. Our huge age gap should have clued me in to the kind of girl he would eventually betray me with, but I was oblivious, because I was in love.
Jeff was not guwapo, but I was drawn to him because he was funny, witty, sociable, and madiskarte. Plus, he had a great body. And as a college girl being wooed by a thirtysomething, of course I was impressed and flattered.
My family didn’t approve of him, though. At his age, Jeff still hadn’t graduated from college, delayed by his shifting from course to course. It didn’t help that his family wasn’t exactly well-off, so my family thought I was out of his league. Regardless of all their misgivings, I still fell in love with him. I thought he was street-smart, which, to me, was more important than having a slew of academic achievements. He was also sweet and affectionate, going out of his way to make me feel special even though he had to save up just to get me things like flowers and gifts.
Jeff and I were very happy, to the point that he was my constant companion and I rarely spent time with my family and friends back then. Since my family didn’t like him anyway, Jeff and I spent time with his family and friends instead.
Like any couple, we went through rough patches, but we managed to come out on the other side okay. When I landed a full-time job, we began to spend less time together. Meanwhile, Jeff was in a funk because he couldn’t land stable employment. Since I was doing better financially, I ended up footing some of his—and his family’s—financial needs. Finally, he was able to get a part-time job at a company which organizes field trips for high school students. He liked that job because being with teenagers made him feel young again, and I was happy for him.
Throughout our time together, we would plan our future, like how many children we’d like to have and what we’d do once we were already in stable careers. It really felt like the relationship would go somewhere, that’s why we lasted as long as we did: four years.
So it was such a blow to me when I found out that he had cheated on me.
It was a common friend, Sam*, who had dropped the bomb. He blurted it out to me one day because he could no longer bear seeing me left in the dark. He told me that Jeff had carried on an affair with a 15-year-old girl he had met on one of those high school field trips a year prior.
A 15-YEAR-OLD GIRL. Jeff was 35 at the time.
Prior to my finding out, I had no suspicions at all that Jeff had been unfaithful. He had hid his infidelity so well that it began, it happened, and it ended without me ever finding out. I refused to believe Sam at first because it simply could not be true; I had seen no traces of infidelity at all during our time together. But once the possibility that it was true sank in, I was devastated. I really had trusted Jeff all that time, and knowing how much I had given him and his family, I didn’t think it was possible that he could turn on me like that. Plus, he was my first boyfriend, my first heartbreak, and my first brush with infidelity. I was at a loss on how to proceed.
After a few more of Jeff’s friends backed up Sam’s story, I drove to Jeff’s house to confront him. I remember it was raining hard that night. I shouted at him from outside his house, and he got out and got in my car. It was late, and we drove to a mall’s parking lot for privacy.
Once we had gotten out of the car, I started slapping him like crazy. I screamed at him and cried—talagang hagulgol na iyak.
There, Jeff admitted his relationship with the 15-year-old. He also confessed that he had almost gotten the girl pregnant.
I was livid, and hurt, and had a hard time believing that all of it had really happened. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. I had given him everything, and yet that was what I got in return.
Jeff kept apologizing and begged for me to stay. He tried to explain that being in a relationship with a younger girl was rejuvenating for him, and it was less of a pressure than being with me, who was already working then and as such had more concerns. He said he knew that he had made a mistake, and that his fling with the girl was a short one.
But I was done. It was over for me.
After the breakup, I’d spend days crying myself to sleep. I couldn’t eat, and I lost weight. I wasn’t used to not having Jeff around, as he had been my constant companion for four years. I had to reconnect with my family and friends and rely on other people again.
For two straight months, I grieved. And then I started to pick up the pieces.
In retrospect, it was a blessing in disguise that he had cheated on me so I could finally let him go. I hadn’t realized that having to support him and his family because he was financially unstable had taken a toll on me.
Once he was out of my life for good, para akong nabunutan ng tinik.
If anything, that first heartbreak made me wiser. I have since faced infidelity issues with other boyfriends, but now I know how to handle them better. I realized that men who end up hurting you come into your life for a purpose—to teach you a lesson, to toughen you up, to carve out a space for the next man who will come along and finally treat you better. Sometimes things don’t go the way you planned with these men precisely because they’re not meant to stay in your life. They need to come, and they need to go, to pave the way for the right man eventually.
Looking back on it now, I have no regrets about how things turned out between Jeff and me. He had served his purpose in my life, and me, in his. And here I am today, in a relationship with a man who makes me so much happier.
Things have turned out just as they should.
*Names have been changed