the perception of deception.
30 Dec 2011 § 2 Comments
Cheating. Infidelity. Unfaithfulness.
It’s a subject that’s ofttimes sensitive, one of which I believe most people keep under wraps – not wanting to admit that they’ve strayed or that they’ve been on the other end of the spectrum.
Well, I had the opportunity – for want of a better word – to have experienced the latter six years ago. While it was emotional and as far as I know, non-physical, let’s call a spade a spade – emotional unfaithfulness is just as painful to deal with as physical adultery, if not more.
How did I find out? Classic signs, really.
Firstly, a withdrawal of affection. Not a gradual waning type of withdrawal, but a sudden sharp disappearance. He was withdrawn, distracted, indifferent. I initially attributed it to work, but it continued even while we were on holiday.
A sudden, new interest in clothes. Wanting to join a gym. Mentioning a new phone brand that he never liked (the girl had that phone, I found that out later).
Going out with his new colleagues. Not wanting me there, telling me that it’s just a departmental thing.
His behavior was so out of the ordinary that it flagged warning signs, and after nearly a month, I succumbed to my suspicions and checked his phone. Yes, I know it was an invasion of privacy and obviously not something to be proud of. Yet I found nothing, and my thoughts immediately shifted to thinking that it must be something I did or didn’t do.
I gathered up the courage to do ‘The Talk‘ and in the process, was subsequently told that he doesn’t love me anymore. And so, I watched as my carefully built world collapsed and crumbled around me, while he walked out to join his colleagues for dinner that same night. I remember this so clearly as it were yesterday…it was the first time I have ever felt so worthless as a person as I sat on the chair at the balcony sobbing my eyes out trying to comprehend how it could’ve come to this.
In the days following his revelation, I initiated a second round of talks. Swallowed my pride, tried to patch things up, make it work, salvage what I could. Yet something was missing. His heart wasn’t in it even though he’d agreed to give it another go. And I knew then that there was still a missing piece in the puzzle.
Always trust a woman’s intuition.
What I found this time astounded me (thought in retrospect, I should’ve expected it – wasn’t I after all searching for evidence of infidelity?). What I’d missed the first time around were 300+ SMSes, carefully hidden in a folder that was renamed after a guy’s version of the girl’s name, sent over a span of a month. Cliché phrases of ‘she doesn’t understand me, I’m not happy‘. Plans to have dinner together. SMSes that showed that they did have dinner together. Plans to go somewhere together.
I know that at this point, some people would argue that this doesn’t fall under cheating in their books. I agree that the lines are grey and muddy when it comes to emotional infidelity – how does one define the moment when a friendship goes from impersonal to personal?
Well, the one common statement that you will find if you ever read more on this subject, and which I still use up till today to define emotional infidelity: when there’s deception involved. Call it selective disclosure or what you will, but the principle is simple: if there’s nothing to hide, why hide it? (And if your answer to that question is somewhere along the lines of “S/he won’t understand if I tell her/him”, then you should be redirecting your energy into fixing that part of the relationship, instead of thinking of different ways to deceive.)
Those of you who have been through this will know that the hardest part is not the shock of discovery. It’s picking up the pieces and deciding whether to move on or move out. Forgiving is easy, forgetting is not. And then there’s also the insurmountable obstacle of rebuilding the trust that was shattered if you choose to stay.
“It was a mistake,” you said. But the cruel thing was, it felt like the mistake was mine, for trusting you.” ~ David Levithan, The Lover’s Dictionary
Well, I made the choice to forgive him when he apologized. Even then, the apology was begrudging as he maintained that all he was doing was having ‘a bit of fun’, that she was just a ‘distraction’. Well, his ‘bit of fun’ cost me nearly 4kgs in weight-loss and a whole lot more in pride and self-confidence while I grieved over the loss of an innocence I had about relationships. It took me close to nine months before I could think about it without my heart and stomach tying itself into knots, before the memories became devoid of the searing pain and bitterness that used to accompany them, before that modicum of trust was finally allowed to piece itself back together again.
In the aftermath of the discovery, I toughened up. I didn’t become cynical about love, but I did become less idealistic. I learned to protect myself, and realized that in order to reclaim the happiness that I had lost, I have to stop worrying about what other people might think and do what I think is right – for myself and for what I hold dear. I realized that this is MY life and if I don’t safeguard the things that matter, no one else will, and if there’s collateral damage along the way, what can I say except that you should not have strayed from your path in the first place (pun fully intended!). It was a painful lesson, but what I gained then helped me many years later when I had to make even tougher decisions in my life.
I started this post fully with the intention of sharing a first-hand account of my experience, and I will refrain from going off-tangent into a spiel about why ‘thou shalt not cheat’ – after all, I have been guilty of overlapping the ending and beginning of my first two relationships back during my college days so I’m definitely in no position to preach. Instead, allow me to end this post with an excerpt from one of my favorite books – a very raw yet true quote that exemplifies the pain of finding out.
“Who came up with the term cheating, anyway? A cheater, I imagine. Someone who thought liar was too harsh. Someone who thought devastator was too emotional. The same person who thought, oops, he’d gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar. This isn’t about slipping yourself an extra twenty dollars of Monopoly money. These are our lives. You went and broke our lives. You are so much worse than a cheater. You killed something. And you killed it when its back was turned.” ~ David Levithan, The Lover’s Dictionary