Irreversible infidelity


Man is crying in despair, hands covering face, low key portrait

Ethan Hayes

For me, relationships in high school are a feudal affair, existing only in Cinderella movie remakes and PG-13 romantic comedies. The age of social media has blurred the lines and norms of dating in high school. You can be in a relationship with someone you’ve known for two weeks and at the same time be talking dirty to random people in chat rooms.
The element of discipline, commitment and personal accountability in a relationship combined with the invincibility mindset common in people our age has made dating, arguably already overly complex and messy, difficult and pushed many to opt out of the activity all together.
The two serious relationships I’ve had in high school have ended in my discovering the other person’s uncommitted and unfaithful behavior either through guilt driven admission or by mutual friends.
The first instance occurred in sophomore year around the end of January. My boyfriend at the time complained that I never texted him enough and that he felt neglected. Naturally, I apologized and told him the lack of communication wasn’t purposeful and only because I was really busy with extracurriculars and other activities. Additionally, I sent him the cliche lovey-dovey text message to reaffirm my feelings for him and that I was happy he was trusting enough of me to address an issue in our relationship.
I ended the message by offering us to seal the deal in teenage terms. I asked him if we could officially tell our peers about the relationship we had been building for the previous few months and call each other ‘boyfriends.’
The chemistry was instant when we started dating, and we were upfront with each other about our feelings towards each other towards the overall relationship. We had agreed to take things slowly and not rush into anything until we were certain we wanted to go public with our dating. The one rule we established was to be exclusive to each other, meaning no talking or dating other people unless we broke things off.
After I pressed send, I felt a sense of pride over the action I believed was the most mature response to the situation:however, that was soon replaced with worry and uncertainty. My boyfriend responded, saying he wasn’t ready to commit and that we didn’t talk as much as we should.
You can imagine the fear that clutched my gut.
I scrambled to write a message asking what he meant about not ready to commit. He said he wasn’t ready to be exclusive and put a label on our dating. I was confused and felt as if I had missed something. For weeks on our dates, we had been using the official relationship label around each other when describing what we meant to one another, and we also promised that we wouldn’t pursue anybody romantically.
I texted him that we had agreed to be exclusive months ago and also I was under the impression that the issue with making our relationship official was that it would also be public. So we decided to wait to make such a big step until we felt ready. He told me that he wasn’t ready for that step and that he hadn’t been keeping his promise of exclusivity. Apparently he never wanted to be exclusive, but he didn’t want to hurt my feelings so he avoided that conversation and instead lead me on to believe that we were in a private mutually exclusive relationship.
After that, I put my phone down and just stared at the ceiling of my Advanced Placement (AP) World history classroom. I wasn’t sure what to feel. I knew I would have to ask about specific details of what he had been doing behind my back, but I first had to decide if what I had been feeling for the past few months was even real.
If a relationship is built on trust and that trust was broken and covered up with lies, then were the feelings and experiences I had with that person still valid? I may have felt I was in a caring relationship all this time, but he viewed me as neither a friend or a boyfriend or really anything. I was just something fun and a better use of time than sitting around all day watching Netflix.
Just when I started to get emotional and cave into my self-pity, my mom’s words rang through my head. I had a flashback to the memory of her and me in the car around the beginning of my freshmen year.
She was trying to give me ‘The Talk’- not the one about human body parts and where to find them- the one about how to handle adult relationships and hold yourself in the world. She started off the conversation by turning off the radio and telling me something along the lines of: “If you remember nothing else about this talk then know that if someone is unfaithful, then you have to ask are you gonna stay, or are you gonna go?”
I picked up my phone and saw I had tons of messages from my soon to be ex boyfriend. I only read the first few texts because they all were either “I’m sorry.” “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” and “Please respond!” I asked what he had been doing behind my back and that if he held anything from me then I would completely cut him off from my life. He sent a big long paragraph detailing how he had been messaging other guys and had been fooling around with some of them. Once I finished reading, I told him I couldn’t go out with him anymore if this was how he was gonna behave and ended things right then.
Getting over the relationship was simple initially, but the thoughts and feelings of betrayal loomed in the back of my head weeks after the split. Haunting me and taunting me in moments of perceived relief and joy that soon turned bitter and sour. In short there wasn’t much healing.
Going into my second relationship junior year I was much more cautious, for obvious reasons. The person I was dating was not out of the closet and not coming out anytime soon, but that didn’t stop us from seeing each other. We were in many of the same activities, so our busy schedules weren’t an issue. We called each other boyfriends and spent a lot of time together and for a while I let the walls I had built from my previous relationship down.
About two months into the relationship he told me, out of the blue, that he had fooled around with another guy behind my back. He felt really bad about it and said he wouldn’t do it again and like a gullible dummy I believed him. A few months later, one of my closest friends came up to me and said that my boyfriend was flirting and fooling around with girls around school. A few days later my other friends were telling me the same thing. Despite all this, I avoided the conversation I needed to have with the guy and pretended that everything was fine.
A couple weeks or so passed, and I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror the same anymore. Living the lie that the relationship was okay only brought up depressed and hollow emotions that were grossly nostalgic of my days as a closeted 11 year old.
I texted my boyfriend that since we wouldn’t be able to coordinate our schedules next year we might want to end things. He agreed, and we parted ways. I still think about why I never confronted him about his rumored behavior. There’s not a simple reason as to why I didn’t speak out. Deep down, I think talking about the problem would’ve forced me to legitimize the issue and deal with the emotional pain that has been suppressed for a long time. My whole life I’ve avoided serious conflict especially if I thought it would make me open up and reveal my vulnerabilities. Just writing this commentary makes me cringe at myself due to the fact I’ve let my weaknesses and fears influence so much of my life and decision making.
These two instances in my life showed me that I have to learn more about myself before I commit to others. In both situations I never took the time to ask myself “Am I benefiting from the relationship?” I was always concerned about the other person and the relationship as a whole, and forgot about whether or not I was truly happy. I might have felt love in the moment, but in reality it was the attraction to a new experience and an overwhelming desire to prove my maturity.
I never woke up with either of the people I had dated being my first thought. My priority was cheer and academics, so in some form I was being unfaithful to the other person by not devoting more time. I know some people view taking responsibility for your partner’s infidelity as internalized victim blaming, but I have to be held accountable for my faults just as do to others.