Isn’t it funny how sometimes the same old high school bullshit catches up with you?
About two years ago, I got a friend request on Facebook from a woman who was not my friend. In fact, the reason I knew her was she slept with my high school/college boyfriend. I had no idea why she had sent me a friend request. I let curiosity get the better of me and I clicked on her picture to see what she was up to. Apparently, 20 minutes before she sent the friend request, she changed her Facebook relationship status to “In a relationship” … With the ex she’d slept with.
Ah, so that’s why she sent me a friend request. 15 years after the fact, she finally got him to commit to a relationship. And she wanted damned sure for me to know. Well, I’m pretty happy in my life, with the way it all turned out, and definitely who I chose to spend my forever with. So I accepted. Let her stalk if she wanted. Literally no further thoughts were given until Valentine’s day when a picture of her and my ex pop up on my Facebook feed. Apparently he’d proposed. My first reaction was laughter. Which is petty, I know. But after I actually spent a little bit thinking about it, and felt an incredible amount of gratitude.
So to my ex; here’s something I never thought I’d say:
Thank you for cheating on me.
Because it split us apart. It showed me my limit and it proved that we weren’t forever. It taught me that I trusted too easily. A lesson I’ve had to learn over and over again. I have a real problem with what my dad calls “Rooting for the Underdog” and my husband calls “Wounded Puppy Syndrome.” You had a hard childhood. I wanted so badly to help you; to mend your heart. I wanted to build you up. I wanted to make you something you weren’t. And I failed.
I’ve spent the last 15 years learning that lesson over and over again with friends. The sadder the story, the more I want to help. And you taught me first: Just because someone has had a bad go of it; doesn’t mean they need me putting my neck out for them. A single friend with small kids did not need me to straight up give her a car. An airman in my squadron going through a rough patch in his marriage did not need me to be his sounding post. I do not need to spend all night up with an acquaintance talking through his pain when I have to get up with my toddler in 3 hours.
My wounded puppy syndrome often puts me at odds with what is appropriate.
You were the very first to teach me that. Because you lied so many times. You fooled me in so many ways. Trying to compromise with you was 100% about compromising myself for your self. But it could have been so much worse if you’d have known how to convince me to do more. Thank God for the innocence of youth.
You’re engaged now. Possibly married by now. You could be happy; I hope you are. I told a friend the news of your engagement and she chuckled and said “Well, you weren’t still holding out hope were you?” Without thinking, I said, “That he’d die alone and miserable? Yeah, I think I was.” But as soon as I said it, I realized I didn’t really mean it anymore.
I forgave you a decade ago. I haven’t really thought much of you in that long either. But my knee-jerk reaction to you is still anger. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the point where I can remember our time together fondly and without resentment somewhere deep down. But I’m at least to the point where I don’t really want you to hurt. And considering my feelings affect you absolute zilch, I’m not sure it really matters. But I’m glad I’m not a bitter ball of anger. Probably better for me. And if I’m being honest, the entire experience taught me so much.
It taught me about pain.
I’d thought I’d had my heart broken before. But nothing compares to a man you thought loved you as much as you loved him, prove to you that he didn’t. We were going to be forever. You said it, I said it. We both meant it. There was a time where you were completely head over heels for me. And though, I didn’t realize at that age, it was possible to mean those words one minute and just stop the next.
I didn’t realize that you could have stopped loving me before I stopped loving you. It didn’t even occur to me. I’d been dumped, I’d had guys stop caring about me before I stopped about them. But I never thought it would happen with you. Betrayal has a way of teaching a person that a relationship isn’t about what you want it to be or what you think it is. It taught me to stop believing that if you just want something bad enough you can have it.
It also taught me how to find “Me”
I had spent my entire life learning right from wrong. I did my best to always chose right. Even if it was kinda lame. Even if I didn’t really want to. When you cheated on me, it made me question everything about who I was and what I wanted to be. And who I wanted to be with.
Turns out, I didn’t want to be “perfectly right” 100% of the time. Sometimes I wanted to do the “wrong” thing. So I did. And choosing to do what I wanted, instead of what I thought I should do showed me who I really was and who would be compatible with me.
It taught me to be realistic.
I should have known that the life that you led (partying with your friend and his wife [who you are now engaged to]) and the life I led (going to a Christian College giving speeches on abstinence)… didn’t exactly compliment each other.
So the next time I fell in love; I chose a man who was like me. (Probably a little better, if I’m being honest.) He had similar, or at least related, interests. And being practical worked. We didn’t break up and get back together 100 times. Or wonder if the other really cared. He and I worked together beautifully from the get-go. But only because you had changed who I was. Pain did that to me. It changed everything I thought I knew.
And I married him. I have a wonderful, blissful life. Because you made me question everything about myself. You made me a match for my husband.
And I will always be grateful to you for that.
But to allow myself my petty moment:
Thank you for saving me from a life with you.
If you hadn’t cheated on me, I would have married you. I’m 100% positive of that fact. I was devoted. I was in it for the long haul. Come what may, I’d have stayed with you. And looking back, I’m 110% positive of one thing: we’d have both been miserable.
There’s an old wives tale where a President and First Lady were walking in the gardens and came across a ditch digger. The president said to his wife, “Aren’t you glad you married me? You could have been married to that ditch digger.” To which she replied, “Honey, if I’d have married him, he’d be president.”
Every time I hear a negative story about your life, I think of this. Part of me feels guilty because I think a good support system could have prevented a lot of your troubles. I know that’s cocky, but I can’t help it. A decently business-minded, ambitious wife would have put you in a different spot in life. But…
A life with you would have put me in a different spot, as well.
Let me lean on this “shallow and petty moment” pretty hard, here. It’s possible I may have helped improve your life. But you wouldn’t be president. You couldn’t have ever reached as high as my husband has. You’d never have been able to show me the world, or given me the financial security my husband has, sure, that’s true. But what I really mean here is this: You’d have never given me the happiness I have now with the family I’ve made with my husband. Or the life I have.
If you hadn’t cheated on me, we would have had an ok life. We’d even have had periods of happiness. But at best, us together would have only been a mediocre life.
I hope your life with your new wife is as happy as mine is with the man I chose over you.
(Spoiler: It won’t be,)