Being cheated on causes a lot of pain, there's no doubt about that. But what about the person who did the cheating? An endless number of books and movies chronicle the deep anger and sadness felt by the innocent party. But few give the unfaithful partner a chance to tell their story honestly and openly—what led them to infidelity, how it affected their relationship, and what kind of emotional fallout resulted.
With this in mind, we asked five (anonymous) women who two-timed a partner to share their story, no judgment. Their wildly different rationales for being unfaithful and what happened in the aftermath show that no two stories of cheating are alike.
"It helped me get out of a relationship that didn't suit me”
“I got married young, and divorced young. Then I started dating my boss. I met him soon after my divorce, and at the time it felt right, so I didn't think much before saying yes to a committed relationship.
It wasn't until six months into the relationship when I realized he wasn't at all what I wanted. The more I started to think about what I did want, the more I disconnected from him. But because he was my boss, I was afraid that if I ended the relationship, I would lose my job. So I tried to make it work and reconnect with him.
After another six months of this, a new guy was hired at work. “Wow, he is what I want,” I realized. He made me laugh, he made me feel seen, and we had chemistry. We became close friends and texted constantly.
It truly was platonic at first, until we started talking on the phone for hours each day. I found myself hiding our calls from my boyfriend, and when he’d question what we’d talk about, I'd say, “Everything. He just gets me.” As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I knew I needed to end things with my boyfriend. I felt it in my gut, my heart, and my head.
I knew I had been emotionally cheating on my boyfriend for a long time. But ultimately, the emotional cheating helped me get out of a relationship that didn't suit me.”
"I have zero regrets about any of it"
My boyfriend and I met in high school and became exclusive during our sophomore year of college. The decision was tough because we knew he’d be transferring to another school that spring. We made the most of our fall and winter together and became super serious. At the time, him transferring colleges felt like the worst thing to happen to me.
I loved him and we would see each other often, and those times were great. But I missed the constant attention from when we were at the same school, and I was young and dumb. I hooked up with several guys over the next five years, even though my college boyfriend and I were exclusive.
When I graduated college, he still had a semester to go. I moved to a different state for a new job and he was supposed to move in with me after he graduated in December… but I fell in love with with my next-door neighbor. It was messy. My neighbor-lover was going through a divorce, and I still hadn’t called it quits on my long-term boyfriend.
At the time, I loved the attention, and I was so confident I would never get caught. The guilt was there, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it should have felt. I ended up calling off my relationship with my boyfriend and marrying my neighbor. If I cheated on my husband right now, I can't imagine the guilt I would feel. It’s crazy to reflect back on this 10, 15 years ago. But I do know one thing: I have zero regrets about any of it.”
"Cheating is still something I'm ashamed of"
“Pat and I had been dating for four months, and things were getting too serious too fast for me. It felt like we were reaching a point where we would move in together, get married within the year, and start having children…or break up. He was about 10 years older than me, and I was only 22. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, I wasn’t ready for those major next steps.
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One night not long after I realized this, I threw a birthday party for my best friend, Sarah. Pat wasn’t having a good time at the party, so he went outside on the balcony to smoke. While he was outside, Sarah dragged me to one of the bedrooms because she needed to vent about her ex, who was also at the party.
Sarah and I both identify as bisexual, and we had been drinking, and there’s always been an attraction there. I don’t know how it happened exactly, but suddenly we were hooking up. We heard Pat banging on the locked bedroom door, so we got dressed fast. But he knew what had happened. He came in screaming and called me all sorts of names.
Initially, I was upset with myself. A cheater—that’s not who I am or who I was. I pride myself in being very loyal, so the fact that I cheated really made me question myself and my character. Pat and I broke up a few months later, not because of the cheating, but because I wasn’t ready for the next step and he was. It’s a good thing the relationship ended, and I don’t regret hooking up with Sarah. But the cheating is still something I’m ashamed of.”
"Every relationship of mine has started or ended with my cheating"
“I was dating one person, but I had sexual tension with a previous partner that I was unable to let go of. We were both in other relationships and planned a visit without telling our partners. We didn't explicitly say, 'Let’s plan a visit so that we can hook up and maybe get it out of our system,' but that was the clear implication.
As far as I know, neither of our partners ever found out we hooked up. This previous partner and I still have sexual tension, but now we try to avoid being in situations where we're alone together and might act on it. I know that I have trouble controlling physical urges in the moment, so I try to avoid putting myself in scenarios where that could be an issue.
Truthfully, every relationship I've had has started or ended with me cheating in some way. I'm deeply afraid it's something I'll never be able to change about myself. But throughout the years, I've definitely learned to be more cautious about putting myself in situations that are likely to lead to cheating. I think it's an issue of prioritizing the short-term over the long-term (a problem I've had throughout my life). It's something I'm still in the process of working through.”
"I didn't feel guilty at the time, but I do now"
“I had been dating my boyfriend for a little over a year, long distance for most of that time. When it was good, it was great. But somewhere along the way, I began feeling neglected, not prioritized, and unloved. When I felt that I was cared about, being faithful was easy. But once that disappeared, I strayed.
I ended up sleeping with someone I met at the gym who had been pursuing me for months. I didn’t tell my boyfriend, but eventually my boyfriend and I made the mutual decision to split. I didn’t feel guilty at the time, because my partner had been so profoundly unavailable emotionally—and likely, he had also been cheating.
Gym guy and I ended up dating, but that didn't last. Now, I think about my ex a lot. I regret that I didn’t work harder to salvage that relationship. While he may have become emotionally distant, there was a time where that relationship made me so happy.”