It's not a black and white situation, to be sure.
I'd had a long day; fresh from a family funeral in Connecticut, I was back in Manhattan. I'd been helping a friend pack, waiting for my boyfriend of six weeks to get home so I could sleep at his place. Finally, we were in his apartment and did what we normally did: have frantic, hot, wonderful sex. Then he fell asleep.
I had work to do so I went quietly into the living room. I was having trouble getting online with my laptop, so I logged into my email account using his. At least, I tried to. When I went to gmail.com, his inbox popped up.
This is not my proudest moment. I started reading. Snooping, if you will. His inbox yielded nothing, but I was still curious. I wanted to see what, if anything, he was telling his friends about me. I wanted to get some clue as to whether or not I was a long-term prospect because I was smitten—already dreaming of having his babies.
I don't know what I expected to find, but it certainly wasn’t the numerous "Massage in fifteen minutes?" messages sent from him to random Craigslist addresses. My first thought wasn’t shock so much as rationalization. I thought maybe he really was getting massages; regular people do that. I couldn't equate the man I knew with the person whose hidden side I was getting a peek at.
I kept going, and my stomach dropped as I realized that "massage" was simply Internet parlance for sex. All the time we'd been together, when he'd refused to use condoms—until I finally went on the Pill—he'd been hiring, or trying to hire, hookers. I could tell at least one of his attempts had been successful; a woman emailed back to say that he'd left a piece of jewelry behind with her. Another response, from an escort site which I promptly visited, made the imagery all too real.
And I had just told him I loved him. In a card, but still, I wanted him to know. “You have my heart," I wrote inside an image of that bloody, messy, complex organ. It was early, but things seemed to be moving along quickly—for me, anyway. So he knew how I felt about him and was somehow compelled to do this anyway. It didn’t make any sense. Was he a sex addict, I wondered. Did he even care about me at all?
I stayed up all night that night, unable to sleep or work or even think. I couldn’t believe that the nice Jewish guy I was falling so hard for, the one with the high-powered job and Upper West Side apartment, who could be so sweet and tender, was doing this. I felt disgusted.
I didn’t say anything to him the next morning. I just gathered what little I’d stored at his place and left. It all felt like a dream—especially since I was so overtired. When I finally confronted him a few days later, he told me it “had nothing to do with me.” I was stunned all over again by the realization that he could rationalize it that way. If that were true, his ability to compartmentalize sex—something he also engaged in with me—made me realize we would never have worked in the long-term.
In the months afterward, I was very angry. I felt betrayed and sick to my stomach, and there are times now when I still do. In my weaker moments, I'd visit the page of the escort I knew he'd corresponded with and stare at the girl I saw on the screen, wondering what her life was like, whether they ever met, and if so, what he did with her. I was convinced that if I could just figure out why he chose this behavior, I could figure him out.
When I repeated this to a friend, she said to me, "But you would do anything." Meaning anything sexual. And, yes, that's probably true. I'm not known for my sexual reticence. But the more I pondered it, the more I realized it very likely wasn't about performing some specific sexual act. It was about doing so with someone who didn't know him, didn't care about him, and didn't want to; someone with no expectations, no strings.
Cheating with a hooker is worse than a regular affair, in my opinion.
Falling for someone else is understandable, even though it hurts. Paying for random sex is not. It hurts in a different way, not so much because of the money, but because of the randomness. It's like saying that sex "with anyone" is better than sex with you, the real, live, and yes, imperfect, person he's committed to.
With the passage of time, I see things a little differently. I don't detest him but instead feel sorry for him. And what hurts me the most, even now, is that he couldn't find a way to tell me that something was wrong, that things were out of control. I was so in love with him—to be honest, a little part of me still is— that I would have found a way to deal with it. Not accept or embrace it, but confront it, puzzle it out.
I understand being out of control, being self-destructive. My methods are different (binging, shopping, moping), but I think the feelings are the same. Instead, I found out in such a horrific way that it rattles my sense of self and trust to this day.
While it's easy to ask why, say, a wife would stand by her husband, I can almost understand it. I can't compare my brief relationship to a marriage, but I can see how it takes a while to process this sort of betrayal, how you don't want to believe your man could go there.
It's not a black and white situation, to be sure. As much as I'd like to hate my ex, I don't. Nor do I forgive him. I just wish I understood him a little better. I guess I'll have to save that for my next relationship.
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