To My Cheating Ex

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Do you remember the night we took my dog for a swim in the pool of my first apartment complex? It was slightly chilly, particularly for early summer in the south. We wrapped my wet, trembling pup in a towel and you held him in your lap as we sat on pool chairs and talked. You told me about the time you and your father saw your mom’s car parked on some street in San Diego, her and someone else in it when she had said she’d be elsewhere. You told me about the visible hurt you saw it cause your father. I told you about the time I found suggestive text messages on my father’s phone. I told you about how I yelled at him and how it took me years to understand and forgive. You rested your forehead on my bare knees, and we agreed with heavy hearts that there is little more deplorable than betraying the trust and love of a partner in this manner.

But it isn’t always so black and white, we both knew, even then. My initial reaction to the allusion made by the woman bearing your child that you had cheated on me, either physically or emotionally, was utter shock. We had, it seemed to me, built a relationship on the understanding we shared that night sitting by the pool. You were a man who found pride in compassion, in the fair treatment of others, and in the effort to be responsible for your emotional wake. And you were human, a man who didn’t always live up to these internal expectations. But that you would cheat, either emotionally or physically, is a direct contradiction to everything you ever tried to be, an unprecedented immaturity, a gross lack of self-knowledge. That is a weight I know will be hard for you to bear, and may you be kind to yourself in your journey of growth.

I used to dream of a family with you, and now you will be starting one with someone else. It wasn’t planned, and that’s okay; you are someone who will make the most of it. My wish for your future daughter is that she never know a man like you, a man who acted so against everything he held important, everything he valued. I can tell you how deeply that hurts a father, too, from my own father’s reaction to the news.

You apologized for causing me pain, but really, that isn’t what I feel. Instead, I feel a deep sadness—for the fact that people like you exist. Because, you see, it makes it hard for people like me, who seek to love openly and see the best in all beings, to continue to love without restraint knowing full well it could mean being hurt. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of self blame in these sorts of situations, to assess for flaws that would have caused another person to stray. But you know I’m a much stronger woman than that, and I hope others out there will read this and understand in the way I do that it was your own severe flaws that caused you to act in ways you had told yourself you never would.

I’m still not sure I believe it—then again, it doesn’t matter if I do or I don’t, or even if it’s true or not—because I’ve said goodbye to all that.

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