I was once engaged to someone I shouldn’t have been. Let’s call her Carol. We were not kind to one another. She made a point of ruining my best days. I looked down on her. It wasn’t healthy, and I’m so very grateful we did not go through with getting married.
I cheated on Carol twice, and confessed to her immediately. She made a point of dragging out the forgiveness, but it happened. I was grateful, and contrite, and tried to make things better.
What I did not know, what I wouldn’t learn until much later, was that Carol had been cheating on me long before that, and with two close friends of mine, possibly more. Including my best friend (let’s call him George).
Yup. She cheated on me for over two years with my best friend from high school. Fun.
We broke our engagement before I knew about that. I was annoyed when Carol started dating George, whom her parents far preferred to me. I was even more annoyed when she attempted to sleep with me while with him.
Then I found out about the cheating. Turns out Carol had told two other friends of mine while we were still together, as a kind of landmine for our relationship. I can only guess that she hoped they’d tell me and I would do the breaking up.
They foiled this plan by deciding not to get involved. In fact, it was only when, a year later, I started dating one of those friends that I found out. If we were going to be together, my new girlfriend didn’t want that ugly secret between us.
I wasn’t mad at her. I was mad at Carol and George, my former fiancée and my (now-former) best friend. I wrote to let them know I wanted nothing more to do with them: “Do not write, do not call, do not darken my door. I want nothing to do with you.” And for the next decade, I didn’t (though the invite to join their wedding registry was a little gross).
In the meantime, I moved to Chicago, got married (to the right person), launched a successful career as an author and actor, and had two amazing kids.
Then, out of the blue, George wrote to me. He was coming to Chicago for a weekend. Could we get together and talk?
I said yes. It was ten years past, and he sounded low. So we met at a restaurant, and he unloaded his troubles. He wanted my forgiveness, which was easy. He wanted to be friends again, which was a no go.
Then we got to the heart of things. He and Carol were getting divorced. He was shocked — shocked! — to discover that she had cheated on him!
And that’s the secret truth getting together with someone who cheats. No matter what happens, no matter how deep the feeling or how close you are, you know one thing for certain about the other person:
If they’re willing to cheat with you, what makes you think they won’t cheat on you?
There were cheating rumors about my wife and I before we got together. I’ve heard so many stories about our supposed wild and tempestuous affair. People talked about us making out in corners, sneaking off to have sex in a car.
I’m sure people still believe these stories. But they make me laugh and shake my head. Because it never happened.
Why not? I was certainly attracted to her. We had great rapport. So why, when we were both with other people, did we never get together?
I’d love to say I’m better than that, but I’ve already confesses to cheating on someone else. The real reason is this: our relationship was too important. We liked each other too much to sully it by cheating.
Because when you get together with someone who is cheating, you lose respect for them.
Our story is the opposite. The moment I found out she was leaving her first husband, I turned to the young lady I had just started dating. She was lovely, kind and funny. I’d just given her a key to my place. But the moment I learned Jan was leaving her husband, I ended things as honestly as I knew how. “I don’t know if anything is going to happen. I just know I need to be free right now.” Though hurt, she accepted this, and we’re still friends today.
Then I let Jan know I was free, should the time ever come that she was too.
Weeks later, she showed up at my door. It was time for us. And we’ve been certain of each other for eighteen years, because we both know for certain that we don’t cheat.
Our relationship is too important for that.