My college boyfriend cheated on me with my roommate.
It started out as an innocent friendship that quickly evolved into an inappropriate relationship. They were together all the time. Watching movies in my bed while I was at work. Hanging out in her bedroom with the door closed for hours, refusing to come out. You get the point.
I don’t mind my boyfriends having female friends. In fact, I was relieved he had a new friend that wasn’t me. But, back then, they crossed the boundaries that I wasn’t comfortable with.
When I raised concerns, he was more interested in taunting me for my apparent jealousy than acknowledging or resolving the issue. He loved that I was jealous, and he wanted to make sure I knew it.
Red flags were everywhere, not to mention he was a medically diagnosed sociopath — well, that’s an article for another day.
Naturally, we broke up. I confronted my roommate about the situation to honor my experiences and gain closure. She immediately asked why I never came to her sooner. If I was uncomfortable with what was going on, why didn’t I have a conversation with her about it the minute I felt something was wrong?
Fair enough. I could have done that.
But I stand by my decision not to because the dishonesty and manipulation I encountered in that relationship taught me invaluable lessons about trust and relationship.
1. A partner’s infidelity is their fault.
When a partner cheats, you might be quick to blame the other woman. They’re someone you aren’t in love with that you can take out your anger on. But they didn’t force your partners to cheat.
Cheating is your partner’s fault.
I didn’t confront my roommate immediately. I could have, and there’s nothing wrong with doing that. But before I had any epiphanies about loyalty and trustworthiness, I knew that wasn’t going to fix our relationship. The problems and disloyalty in our relationship didn’t end with her.
Let’s say we had a conversation, she recognized the breaches in our relationship’s boundaries and agreed to back off. Where would that leave us? He would still be manipulative, dishonest, unfaithful, and untrustworthy. She wasn’t the one breaking my trust — he was.
As much as I wish other women would respect the terms of a romantic relationship, it isn’t their responsibility to make sure my partner is loyal.
The boundaries you and your partner set are between the two of you. Only you and your partner can break those. Your partner cheats on you, not his mistress.
2. A trustworthy partner doesn’t need to be monitored. They respect boundaries.
If I’m dating someone trustworthy, every woman in the world could be trying to seduce him at once, and I wouldn’t be anxious.
It doesn’t matter if women are always asking for his number, trying to kiss him, ripping their clothes off, and pouncing on him.
I trust him to navigate the world in a way that is respectful to the commitments we made each other and the boundaries we set.
My current boyfriend has female friends, and he’s even friends with one of his exes. I am as well. It works because we defined the terms of our monogamy in a way we’re both comfortable with.
It doesn’t bother me when a female’s name shows up on his phone or he has lunch with one of his female friends. I trust that he is aware of their intentions. I trust that if someone were to make a move on him, he wouldn’t entertain it. Even more importantly, I trust that if he misjudged someone’s intentions, he would act accordingly.
This goes beyond female platonic relationships.
3. If I truly trust my partner, I won’t feel threatened by other women.
I don’t get worried when my boyfriend goes out bar hopping with his friends. If someone starting hitting on him in a bar, I trust that he would remove himself from the situation or respectfully shut it down.
That’s my default reaction because we trust each other, not assuming he’ll run away with them for a passionate night in her apartment.
Regardless, I wouldn’t want to date someone that I didn’t think had enough will power or respect for me to resist other women’s advances.
Other women are not your threat. Your partner’s autonomous and voluntary decisions are the only thing that threatens and damages your relationship when boundaries and trustworthiness are breached.
No one else’s behaviors matter but your partners. If you feel the need to look through their phone or question every one of their outings, is your partner really a trustworthy person? Do you deserve someone who makes you feel anything less than secure?
4. Jealousy is natural. Untrustworthiness is not.
As much as I respect and trust my boyfriend, I still get jealous or uncomfortable sometimes. I’m human.
I don’t beat myself up for feeling that way. Jealousy isn’t a reflection of cheating or dysfunctional relationships. It also isn’t a reflection of my insanity or instability.
I try not to translate those feelings into suspicion and distrust for my boyfriend if he hasn’t given me a reason to believe he’s crossing any lines.
That being said, I can’t always just make them go away, and it wouldn’t be healthy to pretend they didn’t exist. But when these negative feelings fester, they can turn into more painful thoughts and cause unnecessary distrust and resentment.
Here’s how to deal with jealousy in a healthy way:
1. Set clear boundaries.
Make sure both parties feel comfortable and are aware of the expectations in the relationship.
Even in non-monogamous relationships, boundaries for external platonic, romantic, and sexual relationships need to be defined.
2. Have an open and honest conversation about it.
Trusting someone doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to feel uneasy or jealous.
If my boyfriend is talking to someone I’m uncertain about or has plans that make me uncomfortable, and vice versa, we talk about it. He hears my concerns and respects them, and I do the same for him.
3. Make adjustments to boundaries, external relationships, plans, etc., if needed.
Sometimes all I need to let out my emotions and have a conversation with my boyfriend to regain balance.
When inappropriate boundaries are unintentionally being neared, making my partner aware of my feelings can help him navigate his external relationships in a more respectful way to our relationship.
We respect each other’s agreed-upon right to have platonic relationships with the opposite sex, so suddenly eliminating that right would be unfair.
But, if adjustments need to and can be respectfully made according to our individual limits, it’s always on the table.
Accepting jealousy and suspicion as natural isn’t a suggestion to ignore those feelings or turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviors that may be going on.
Sometimes we feel suspicious because there is actually something to feel suspicious about.
Approach your partner in a non-accusatory way if you don’t have any evidence beyond feelings and intuition, even rumors, that something isn’t right. Give them an opportunity to respond. It’s better to talk about it than convince yourself you’re just paranoid.
Pushing those feelings aside leaves a lot of room for negative emotions to make their way into your relationship.
If you have evidence your partner has been cheating on you, decide how you want to proceed.
Is that a deal-breaker, or are you open to repairing the relationship?
Some people stay with their partners after being cheated on, and that is their own personal decision.
In any of these situations, the most important thing to pay attention to is your partner’s response.
Does he brush you off? Does he get defensive? Does he turn the conversation on you? Does he listen and engage in a mature discussion with you about your feelings and concerns?
The way your partner responds to respectful and thoughtful conversations about your feelings says a lot about who they are, cheating or otherwise.
Don’t settle for someone who downplays or ignores your feelings.