At the beginning of January, Hello Love published my essay called I Know You're Sleeping With My Boyfriend. It takes place during one particular day in my early twenties when I received a voicemail from the girlfriend of a guy I had recently started dating. Throughout a series of events, she and I spent the day together. Later the same evening, we also confronted him together.
This article received far more attention than anything else I’ve written. While I didn’t expect it to take off as it did, I get it. It’s an interesting story and probably not a situation many would expect given the circumstances. However, at the end of the essay — spoiler alert — I mention that Madeline stayed with Brandon despite everything. I’ve received a good amount of comments expressing disappointment about Madeline’s decision to stay, as well as a pat on the back when I chose not to.
While I agree it’s too bad Madeline stayed with him, I have to admit, I’ve done the same thing. In the story you’re about to read, I also stayed with someone who cheated on me. More than that, I don’t regret the relationship. It’s my story, my choices, and my history. I’m sharing it because the world isn’t perfect and neither am I. More importantly, shitty situations can still have valuable outcomes and lessons. The world isn’t black and white.
Only a couple of years after my situation with Madeline and Brandon, I met “B” (I’m not using his name to help protect his identity and no, it isn’t Brandon, he has a different B name.) B was unlike any guy I had met in my 25 years of life. At the time, I was a massage therapist working as an aid in a physical therapy clinic, he was a client. Between his three appointments, I spent around six hours with him every week for months.
Our flirtation started off innocently enough. I denied his first couple of invitations to socialize outside the clinic. Not because I wasn’t interested, but because he didn’t look good on paper and I was worried about what other people would think.
B’s a Decade Older and Had a Teenager Son
Not only is B ten years older than me, but he has a son ten years younger than me. Technically speaking, I’m one month closer in age to his son than to him. That in and of itself isn’t a huge deal. After all, no relationship worked out with any guys my own age, so why not try dating someone older?
Besides, I thought B having a 15-year-old son was kinda perfect. See, I don’t have much, if any, interest in being pregnant. I’m lowkey terrified of the pregnancy process, but that’s another story.
Although I gotta say, I’ve been told countless times I’d eventually get baby fever and “change my mind” about becoming pregnant. Well, I’m in my mid-thirties and still have no desire for the experience — though I do think the whole process is amazing and I am in awe of the women who do choose to experience it.
Anyway, I figured if things worked out with B, then if I were to ever have “baby fever” then B’s son would be about ready to have kids. This way, I could go from girlfriend to grandma. Allowing me to skip the whole pregnancy part, but would still allow me to play with, and spoil the children before sending em’ home. All while maintaining my quality sleep at night. Win-Win.
But That’s Not All
The rest of B’s background reads like a fiction novel but I’m just going to provide a couple of bullet points relevant to my decision-making process.
- He grew up in a strict Mormon household which he ran away from when he turned eighteen.
- By the time I met him, he’d been married and divorced three times
- He’s a recovering addict who had lived on the streets for a bit a few years prior.
- He openly admitted he’d never been faithful in a monogamous relationship. (Though, he was convinced he could commit once he “met the right girl.”)
Even then, I knew there were enough red flags to intellectually understand getting involved with him probably wouldn’t turn out well. I also knew the majority of people would write him off as a loser and try to persuade me not to pursue a relationship with him — maybe you’re nodding your head in agreement.
You might judge me for even entertaining the idea of dating him let alone actually doing it, and that’s okay. But, I met him during a time in my life when I wanted to explore my own boundaries versus the ones set for me.
To me, B was handsome. Tall and athletic, with sandy hair, intense blue eyes, and a strong jawline. I appreciated he didn’t try to hide his past from me. I felt like he was a good person who had overcome some impossible struggles. But…he also talked about hot tub parties ending in orgies, hanging out at strip clubs with groups of friends, and insane parties. I was intrigued, and curious about this new way of living I knew nothing about.
A few months after we started dating, I saw an email left open on his desktop from a woman. Honestly, he left it up on the screen, I wasn’t snooping — but I totally read it. According to the email, before we were an item, B hit on a woman at the gym.
I know because she reminded him of their encounter and that she’d turned down his advances because she recently went through a divorce. But months later, she changed her mind and remembered his invitation. Although she hadn’t seen him at the gym anymore, she remembered his name and that he coached his son’s high school football team. So she tracked down his email via the school's website and reached out to see if he’d be open to meeting up — talk about dedication.
Naturally, I confronted him and he said it didn’t mean anything. He said he responded to her but nothing was going on. He claimed he’d told her about our relationship. He also said they became friends since he’d also been divorced, so he was just being someone she could talk to.
Learning of B’s Cheating
A few weeks later, I received a text message from a friend on my way to work, informing me of B’s cheating. Plot twist: the girl he cheated on me with (the same one who wrote the email if you didn’t guess) and I had a mutual friend who’d heard both of us talk about the same guy and put it all together.
B was fully dating both of us for six weeks. During which he underwent surgery and allowed both of us to care for his recovery. He told her his mom was in town to care for him, so she dropped off a gift basket and only checked on him when he told her his “mom” was out of the apartment. Yup, his “mom” was me. I asked him about the gift basket as soon as I saw it, but he claimed a friend of his dropped it off.
I learned about it because our mutual friend arranged a phone call between us which lasted 45 minutes. During which we traded stories and explanations. By the end of the conversation, we both held a more complete picture of all the sneaking, lies, and selfishness B put us through for weeks.
Even though B and I had been together for months, it was the other woman I empathized with. She profusely apologized to me. The same way I was clueless Brandon had a girlfriend while dating me, this woman didn’t know about me. To make it worse, she confided to me the reason she’d gotten divorced (mentioned in the email), was because her husband cheated on her. Something she’d told B. All the while, B was making her the other woman.
I Stayed with Him
I don’t remember exactly how B and my argument went after her and my conversation. But I do remember he had already set up an appointment with a therapist. He said he realized he had a problem, one that “meeting the right girl won’t fix”.
We stayed together for another two years, eventually, we even moved in together. Then we broke up about three weeks after I had brain surgery which was admittedly messy, but a different story. Regardless, if I’m being honest, I don’t regret staying with him, or our relationship.
In some ways, I learned more about myself during those two years than at any other point in my life. My time with B exposed me to new ways of living that defied every social norm I knew. A lifestyle full of exploration, sexual and emotional curiosity, a sense of openness, freedom, and acceptance among friends I’d never before experienced. B tied me to a world I wasn’t ready to let go of, and despite his flaws, he held my hand and kept me safe while I learned who I wanted to be — completely free from expectation or restriction.
Though B and I have understandably lost touch over the years, I don’t think he’s a bad person. I sincerely hope he’s doing well. He’s on his own curious adventure called Life — like we all are.
It’s easy to point out flaws in other people’s stories. Anyone can claim they’d choose differently, and maybe they would, but honestly, why does it matter? Critiquing from a distance gives a false sense of superior judgment. Every situation is unique, and “right” or “wrong” is almost never black and white.
Of course, I’m not condoning cheating, and if a similar situation were to arise today I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t make the same choice. But that’s only because of the choices I made before and learned from. If I had ended things with B when he cheated then I’d be a completely different person today.
Because I stayed, our time together radically changed my outlook on life and what I wanted out of it. My mind was opened, I was free to explore and had endless adventures. And anyway, isn’t that what youth is for? Having adventures, figuring yourself out, and learning from your choices? Life is full of choices for you to make and they all lead to lessons. It’s not about “right” or wrong”, it’s about what we learn along the way.