My ego (almost) got the best of me.
You should've seen my face when I found she was cheating on me. It was something like this:
It wasn't a face of anger or betrayal or despair. It was a look of complete and total consternation. "She's been cheating? On me?"
That simply isn't possible. That's like saying two and two gives you five. That's like managing to prove that one of Aristotle's universally accepted a priori truths is actually false. The sun rising in the west, dogs and cats living together in harmony, my mother saying she despises James Taylor — it was a topsy-turvy world and I wanted no part of it.
Now, bear a few things in mind before you pass judgment: Firstly, I always believed the chances of cheating were the same for me as they were for the girl. In other words, nil. I would never do it and I would never date someone who would; I'd only be with those who respected a serious attempt at monogamy.
I'd only be interested in women who were mature enough to sit down and talk to me if they had a problem as opposed to running out and getting someone else. I'd do the same. It's how adults are supposed to operate.
That being said, there was a fair amount of ego involved in my former thinking. My self-esteem certainly wasn't suffering. I always thought I could deliver exactly what the girl wanted. If I could get her to say "yes" once, I could easily maintain and cultivate that relationship.
What I never realized was that this overly confident belief was just a smokescreen for a deeper fear. And when my girlfriend of two years cheated on me, I realized with a sudden shock that I'd been lying to myself for years.
I believed a woman could never cheat on me because if it happened, the awful reversal would occur: I'd go from believing it to be impossible to believing a woman will always cheat on me.
It's hard to say which philosophy hurt me more. I know I stumbled upon the depressing revelation that my love life was a dark, cynical mire of questions with no answers. I tried harkening back to my schooling — I have a degree in psychology — but that only made me think I had myriad incurable mental illnesses. (Free word of advice for all you kids out there in college studying in this field: It's not uncommon for you to think you've got just about every disease you read about. The power of suggestion is, well, powerful.)
So I bit the bullet and went online. I started to interact with people who had similar trust issues. I read just about everything on the topic written by both peers and experts. I soon realized trust problems were dominating my life — and if I didn't do something about it I'd just bounce from one relationship to the next, always dogged by the same malady.
"Fix it!" something inside me screamed. "Before it's too damn late!"
Bottom line? It's hard to get to the bottom of your own bullsh*t when you refuse to learn and educate yourself. Having been fiercely independent my whole life, harboring the deeply rooted belief that I — and I alone — can handle anything is a benefit in a lot of ways.
But when something like this happens and you can't figure it out on your own, it really does help to talk to people. Hey, if Rick Clemens' great piece on this topic had been published before I went down that dark path, it would’ve been awfully illuminating. If I'd seen supremely consoling pieces like this, I might have — no, I definitely would have — been better off. I was just late to the party.
I will never again let any of my own bullsh*t cloud my judgment and mess up my perception(s). I wasted more than a few years going from "women will never cheat on me" to "women will always cheat on me," never realizing that neither was normal or healthy.
Never again. Away, bullsh*t! Away for good and ever.