I Never Believed My Ex Cheated On Me — And I Still Don't

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 I Never Believed My Ex Cheated On me And I Still Don't

I was unfaithful in the past, but does that mean I’m a cheater forever?  If a cheater attempts to change their behavior, do those changes stick or are the possibilities of them cheating always there? If the latter is true, how can a cheater ever be trusted?  

There’s a popular theory that if you get involved with someone who cheats when they’re married or in a committed relationship, and you get into a relationship together, they’ll likely end up cheating on you. 

I cheated on my college boyfriend, Jeremy, with his friend, Stefan. I wasn’t the first person Stefan had cheated with, and there wasn’t a guarantee that he wouldn’t cheat again once we got together.

When I first met Stefan, I wasn’t impressed; he was Jeremy’s weird friend. Stefan pretended to be more bizarre than he was because he was afraid of people thinking of him as boring if he showed his authentic self.

Stefan would talk in a fake British accent, drink 5 espresso shots in a row, and claim to be an astral projection expert. When I first met him, I could appreciate his blonde punk haircut, his nerdy-but-cool glasses, and his genius-level intellect, but his personality didn’t appeal to me.

However, the more time Jeremy, Stefan, and I spent together, the more I saw the real person behind the facade, and I fell for him. Stefan and I saw each other behind Jeremy’s back and sometimes with Jeremy in the next room. We didn’t consider how devastated Jeremy would be when he found out the truth, but we enjoyed the emotional danger of it.

When I finally couldn’t handle all the sneaking around, I broke up with Jeremy. The break-up was fast, but the repercussions would last for decades.

Stefan and my relationship began with cheating, yet the idea that either of us would cheat wasn’t something I’d ever considered. Our relationship would be different — we’d both be faithful.

Then one night, Stefan didn’t come home.

Stefan and I had been living together for three years, and he’d never before just not come home. I knew he liked to hang out with his co-worker, Hannah, after work and that they were just friends. Stefan had shared with me that she was a functioning heroin addict, and most evenings, she fell asleep in the middle of their conversation.

Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” 

I believe people reveal their true selves through their actions and their words.

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Stefan felt bad about ruining his relationship with Jeremy and never wanted to hurt somebody by cheating again. I didn’t see myself as a cheater either — it had been a one-time thing and I knew I had been a dick in the way I had handled the breakup and Jeremy’s feelings.

So, when Stefan didn’t come home, I didn’t immediately suspect him of cheating on me. He had been spending time with his work friend, Hannah, who was cool, but I didn’t get the feeling that she was into guys. 

As the night wore on and no Stefan appeared, my anxiety rose.

I started to vacuum the living room, then stopped and turned on the TV only to quickly lose interest.

I shifted through my memory of the morning to see if Stefan had told me of any plans. Did he tell me earlier he was going to be late? Did I forget? Was I overreacting?

The later it got, the more tragic scenarios I dreamed up in my head: Hannah had overdosed, Stefan had gone with her to the hospital, or maybe Stefan wasn’t with Hannah, and something terrible had happened to him. He could have been assaulted or been in a bike accident and was lying on the side of the road somewhere.

I needed to stay busy, or I would worry myself sick, so I picked Stefan’s coat off the end of the couch, and that’s when I felt some folded-up papers in his jacket. 

I pulled the papers out and realized it was a letter from Hannah.

As I skimmed the letter, I felt sick as my eye caught words like love, sex, and mine. Hannah had written explicitly about her sexual fantasies concerning Stefan, but that wasn’t all; the letter went on to describe in detail how she’d be a much better girlfriend than me in every way.

The part I remember best is when she wrote, “And if you were my boyfriend, you wouldn’t sleep on the couch with your cats.” He had told her how difficult it was for me to sleep with people and how he ended up sleeping on the couch. This felt like the biggest betrayal of all. 

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This letter was proof that Stefan wasn’t home because he was banging Hannah.

I comforted myself that the letter was all about what she was going to do, not what she had done. I was crying so hard that I couldn’t breathe. This was my punishment for cheating on Jeremy. I was a cheater, and I knew Stefan was a cheater too; what did I expect? I deserved this pain.

After a mostly sleepless night where I alternated between beating myself up and figuring out what I was going to say to Stefan, I got a call from a friend of ours who was visiting out of town, and did I want to spend the day with him sightseeing? Yes, I did — going out with the friend, having lunch, and shopping on Melrose was exactly what I needed. 

When we got back to my apartment, there was Stefan looking very chill and relaxed. I didn’t want to make a scene in front of the friend, so I acted as if everything was cool, and the three of us went out to dinner.

Later, Stefan explained that nothing had happened between Hannah and him; he’d fallen asleep on her sofa. He was so sorry, and he promised that he and Hannah wouldn’t be hanging out anymore. She was obsessed with him, and it wasn’t a good idea for them to remain friends—he didn’t want to lead her on.

I had my doubts about the validity of his story, but he seemed sincere. Besides, if he had wanted to lie, he could have used his big brain and come up with a better story than falling asleep on the couch. 

Stefan and I stayed together for almost a year after that, but the thought of him cheating remained at the front of my mind.

Both Stefan and I found the relationships we were meant to have with other people and have been with our partners four times as long as the relationship we had together. From what I can tell from social media, he looks happy and devoted to his wife.

The answer to the question of, 'Did he cheat on me?' remains unknown. I like to think he didn’t. I know I didn’t cheat on him. While our relationship wasn’t amazing, maybe the incident with Jeremy and the pain it caused, taught us to think about the consequences of our actions before hurting ourselves and the people we love by being unfaithful.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer, performer, and teacher who loves writing and performing personal narratives. She's had pieces in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Woman's Day, Purple Clover, Bustle, and is a regular contributor to Ravishly and YourTango. Check out her website or her Facebook page.

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