I was with Karen* for seven years—my longest relationship so far. I loved her and thought I’d marry her someday, which is why I stayed with her for so long.
I was working in IT and moonlighting as a math tutor when I met Karen. She was eight years younger than me, still in college, and looking for someone to help her with algebra. She was beautiful.
Karen and I got together upon the recommendation of a common friend. We spent a lot of time together because of our tutoring sessions. We fell in love.
We were happy at the start; however, trust issues plagued us. Karen was really attractive and worked part-time as a model, sometimes doing sexy photo shoots. There were a lot of guys hanging around her.
The first time Karen cheated on me sometime in our first year together, it was with an ex-boyfriend she had been with for four years. He was her first love.
One day, I visited Karen at her house and was surprised to see her ex there. There was a confrontation, and I kicked the guy out. She and I had a big fight; she confessed to having cheated on me with him. I made her choose between us. She cried, apologized, and chose me.
The second time was two years into our relationship. We had just had a big fight, after which we didn’t speak to each other for three days. While we weren’t speaking, one of Karen’s friends told me that Karen had gone drinking with friends at a bar one night, where she had been approached by a guy. The night ended with Karen sleeping over at the guy’s place.
When Karen and I started talking again, I confronted her about it and she admitted that she had slept with the guy out of anger with me. Again, I forgave her, and we stayed together.
The third time happened a year after the second one. One of the photographers she knew had been chasing her for quite a while by then, and I found out that something had finally happened between them through good old Facebook.
She had asked me to upload some photos to her Facebook account, so I logged into it. While I was logged in, I witnessed in real time a conversation taking place between her and the photographer, in which they recalled what they had done one Saturday night after a common friend’s party. Apparently, the guy had offered to drive Karen home, and emboldened by the drinks they had just had, they had decided to do a daring photo shoot right then and there. They went straight to a motel where they tried to do a shoot. But as Karen’s clothes fell off, they ended up doing it instead.
That third infidelity hurt the most. Imagine watching a conversation unfold in real time in front of you, each line that appeared a stab in the chest.
I broke up with Karen, but she kept apologizing and asking me to take her back. After a few weeks, once my anger had subsided, I took her back.
The fourth time she cheated on me was five years into our relationship. Still reeling from the blows our relationship had suffered in the last five years, we had decided to give each other some space. During this break, Karen went on a beach trip with a group of friends, and it turned out that one of the men in the group was a long-time admirer of hers. Apparently, their friends had conspired to help this guy get the chance to win her over. The guy tried his luck with her throughout the vacation, and on the last night of the trip, she gave in.
Karen came clean about what happened when we were talking about where to take our relationship next. But like we had the previous times she cheated on me, we stayed together.
The final blow came in our seventh year together. It was Karen’s birthday and we had spent it together, but as night came, I had to leave since I was working the night shift. She told me that she would spend the rest of her birthday with her family instead.
At around 3 a.m., her brother, who was living with me and Karen, called me and asked me to come home immediately. Turns out another guy was in our bedroom with her.
I rushed home and went straight to the bedroom to see the guy with his arms around her. I was livid with rage. I pounced on the guy. Her family had to step in to stop me.
Several days later, I told Karen it was over. We had been together for seven years by then, but I was tired. I didn’t want to be with her anymore. I meant it this time.
After the breakup, I was devastated, angry, a total mess. Thoughts of revenge swirled in my head. I wanted to take back the house I had bought that I had placed under Karen’s name. I wanted to take back all the things I had gotten her; she didn’t deserve them anymore. I wanted to hunt down the guy I had last caught her with, devise a plan to frame him so that he’d get arrested and end up in jail.
I ended up doing none of these. But at least I never went back to her again.
Away from Karen, I had time to mull over where I had gone wrong. I admit I had trouble breaking it off with her in the past because our families had become too intertwined by then and I didn’t want to let them down. I admit I had always given her allowances for her youth, believing her when she said she was only human and that she would learn from her mistakes. And as shallow as it sounds, I admit part of the reason I held on to her for so long was because she was beautiful.
But my greatest mistake was that I loved her more than I loved myself. I gave up so much of myself for that relationship: my time, my money, my chances of employment abroad—I sacrificed all these to make us work. And I shouldn’t have. I know that now.
It took me a year to completely move on and forgive Karen. Now, we are back to being friends. She is still with that last guy I went batshit-crazy on years ago. And she still cheats. I know this for a fact. Recently, she cheated on him with me.
I no longer have feelings for Karen, but I do feel sorry for her. I wonder what has made her so unsatisfied, so unable to be with just one man and make it work.
But that is not my problem anymore. I’ve moved on, and I’ve wised up. I’ve been in two relationships since Karen and I broke up, and while I’m still not immune to getting cheated on—what do you know, the two girlfriends that followed ended up cheating on me, too—I can now walk away from infidelity once it happens. I can now walk away without further getting hurt.
As long as there are lovers, there will always be cheaters. The question is, can you love yourself more than you love the cheater, enough to walk away?
*Names have been changed