I never thought I would be the girl getting dirty looks. The one taking a shower that doesn’t make her feel clean. The one wondering how she could do something so horrible, so disgusting, so shitty that she’s still queasy when she looks back on her decision years later. Much to my personal disgust, I became her. I went against everything I believed and everything I stood for and I became “the other woman.”
It all started early in high school, when love was in the air and our hormones were taking us on one hell of a roller coaster. I was 16, and I was in love for the first time. He made my knees tremble, my heart pound, and my self-esteem plummet. He was hot and I thought he was totally out of my league, so naturally, I gave him my virginity. Classic. From that point forward, I was terrified he would cheat on me. He was a notorious playboy–the biggest womanizer a 16-year-old boy could be–and the longer we dated, the more I learned about the girls from his shady past. Just what every high school girl (or any girl) wants to discover in a first love.
Luckily for me, I had a best friend–we’ll call him Todd–to talk to. He was kind, funny, and comforting. He convinced me I was beautiful, and he hung out with my friends and me while enduring hours of girl talk. We laughed on the phone at night after my boyfriend “missed” my calls and Todd’s girlfriend went to sleep. Sometimes, we wouldn’t even call one another because he’d just spend the night at my house. Our friendship was totally platonic.
Until it wasn’t.
It was Christmas break, and our significant others were out of town and out of cell phone range. We had a whole week to ourselves, and secretly, I was terrified. Before his girlfriend left, she confided in me that Todd was not only interested in someone else, but that he was interested in me. I was shocked. We never spoke of our feelings before that, but the chemistry we had was electric. I convinced her that she had nothing to worry about, and I tried to put it out of my mind. I shoved those thoughts aside until the first night of Christmas break, when we decided to throw a party. As the evening came to an end, I found myself alone with Todd in my dark, deserted house. I did my best to avoid talking about anything too serious, but the tension was chokingly thick. Just when I thought everything was going to be okay, he turned to me and confessed his feelings. I remember sitting next to him, hand-in-hand, and realizing that this was a moment that would define who I was as a person.
And I became a shitty person.
As he leaned in to kiss me, I remember the blood rushing to my face, my palms getting sweaty, and my mind shouting at me–but my lips? My lips were kissing back. And just like that, I became my worst nightmare. And I kept becoming my nightmare all week long. As Christmas break came to a close, Todd told me that he was falling in love with me, and I told him that I wouldn’t leave my boyfriend. He was devastated, and I was horrified that any of it had happened.
But, as it so often happens in high schools, word got out about what we’d done. Todd and his girlfriend broke up. My boyfriend and I broke up. I started dating my best friend. For a while, it was amazing. It was like a fairytale and I thought we were meant to be. Best friends for years and our love finally brought us together? Cue Taylor Swift.
Then, karma got me.
Maybe she had been planning it the whole time, or maybe it just happened but after two years of pure bliss, I went through the most soul-crushing experience of my life. Todd’s ex-girlfriend, the one whose feelings I’d so easily dismissed from my mind years earlier, came forward and told me he’d cheated on me. With her. After weeks of crying, being depressed, and feeling devastated, I finally had to accept that the one guy I trusted with my whole heart had betrayed me. And I’m not sure anything has ever hurt so bad.
It was in that moment that I finally realized how wrong it is to cheat. When you’re in the moment, you only think about what you want, and you completely ignore the fact that someone is dying inside because of you. You think it’s not a big deal. Maybe you’ll lose a friend or maybe you’ll end a relationship, but you’ll end up in love and you think that’s all that matters. But it’s a big deal. Just because you don’t see how much pain you’ve caused someone else, it doesn’t mean no one got hurt–by you, and by the person she trusted more than anyone. That can take years of recovery.
Try to understand that before you make the biggest mistake of your life. It can be so tempting to give in when a guy says all of the things you want to hear. The rush you’ll get from sneaking around and the thrill and danger in the secret are nothing compared to the shame you will feel when word gets out. And yes, word will get out.
I learned from my experience. I learned to always stick to what is right rather than what is easy or what feels good. I have since forgiven the girls who betrayed me, and I have received forgiveness from the girl I betrayed. But it wasn’t easy. It isn’t easy, and it took many, many years. It’s hard to look in the mirror and be so disgusted with your reflection. It’s miserable to be the reason a relationship fell apart. No matter what he tells you, it’s impossible to start a relationship with someone who is already in one. If he starts one with you, what’s to say he won’t start one with someone else?
I try to live my life with no regrets, and after the situation, I can easily say that I would never cheat on or with someone ever again. I know I will stick to it, but it shouldn’t have taken destroying a love to figure that out. So whenever temptation comes to you, as hard as it may be (and trust me, it’s hard) you need to say no. If it’s meant to be, it will be when the time is right. Until then, you’re going to hurt, disgust, and disappoint so many people. Most importantly, you’re going to disappoint yourself..