Sunday, March 28, 2010

No Harm, No Foul

When I posted a blog last week about Sandra Bullock and her husband, I made a comment that I had never been cheated on, at least not that I knew of. Well, I have since been informed that I made a false statement. One of my ex-boyfriends, upon reading the blog, decided to inform me that he had in fact cheated on me.

I guess the number one lesson in all of this is not to let your ex-boyfriend know that you are writing a blog. Aside from that, there are a few other lessons I have learned in the past few days. So I thought I would share them with you.

My relationship philosophy is simple. I believe two people should choose each other every day. And it has served me well for the last ten years of my dating life. Maybe it is because I have such a strong independent streak, but I never wanted anyone to do something for me because they felt like they had to do it. I thought that if you put no strings or conditions on someone, the relationship would be pure.

So you can imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail from my Mr. Big saying that he had cheated on me. In my mind, we had the perfect relationship for five years. We connected on all levels: physical, intellectual and emotional.

Most of my relationships have started with a physical attraction, but it was different with my Mr. Big. For us, the relationship started with an intellectual connection. The two of us met at work. We were both smart, passionate and in the prime of our careers. In fact, he was one of the most intelligent men I have ever known, and the only person I have ever dated who could keep up with me intellectually.

Our jobs required us to work closely together on a project. The more time we spent together, the more we enjoyed each others company. Pretty soon our working relationship developed into a friendship that extended beyond the office. That's when the emotional connection started. We would go out to lunch together and then to happy hour with a group of friends. I found myself confiding in him about my life outside of work. Things with my family, the guys I was dating and my hopes and fears about turning 30. He would always tell me that I was special and that I needed a man, not a boy to make me happy.

My Mr. Big was married at the time, so it never occurred to me that we would be anything but friends. Little did I know that his marriage was falling apart. Over time he started to confide in me about sleeping in separate beds and staying together for the children. Eventually he and his wife split up and we started dating. The physical connection was evident from our first kiss, and we never looked back.

Our relationship had a certain honesty that I had never experienced with anyone else. He was my biggest fan, yet that never stopped him from letting me know when I needed to consider things from a different perspective. And when he was feeling stressed out, I had the unique ability to turn him around. Instinctively I knew when to talk things out and when to just back away and give him space. We hardly ever had an argument. Both of us respected the other person's point of view and we were too rational to let our emotions make us say something we'd regret later.

So for five years we felt like we were on top of the world. Our careers and our personal lives moving along at lightning speed. And it was a great ride. Every Friday night was date night. We would go out to dinner and drinks and talk abut how lucky we were to have found each other. I never felt for one day that we took each other for granted.

All of that ended in October 2006. My Mr. Big was on a business trip and suffered a massive stroke. He was paralyzed on the right side of his body and unable to speak for the first few days. I spent months by his side through hospital stays, doctor's visits and endless therapy sessions, but in the end he was a completely different person. About a year after it happened, we broke up for good.

Since the stroke we have been in and out of each others lives. We tried to be friends, but it was just too painful for both of us to constantly be reminded of what we had lost. Once in awhile, we still exchange e-mails or check in over the phone. In one of our most recent exchanges I told him how hard it was for me to get over what happened and that I was still trying to move on with my life. That is part of the reason I started writing. As a way to find myself again.

So last week, when I confronted my Mr. Big about the sins of his past, we had an interesting conversation. Essentially, what I learned is that he had cheated on me with two other women. It was early in our relationship and he said it didn't mean anything. The reason he never told me about it was that he was in love with me and he knew that if he told me I would break up with him.

The only justification he offered for his behavior is that men and women are different. "We were together for five years with no rings," he explained to me. "There were only two times in five years. I think that is pretty good." Well, I guess that depends on how you look at it. If your expectation was that the person would cheat on you once per year, then you are right. Only twice in five years is pretty good. But if you had planned that the other person was faithful to you in the same way that you were to them, then anything over zero would be considered a complete and utter failure.

I kept pressing him for the details. Who were these women? When did it happen? Was he out of town? Where was I when it happened? The most frustrating thing about talking to my Mr. Big is that he has a lot of gaps in his memory after his stroke. So we went around in circles a few more times before I finally realized that he wasn't going to be able to tell me what I wanted to know. And at that point it really didn't matter.

While I was upset that my Mr. Big had cheated on me, what I found even more disturbing was that my whole theory of relationships had been turned upside down. I always believed that if you gave a man everything he needed in the relationship, there would be no reason for him to seek out another woman. But my Mr. Big clearly acknowledged that he was getting everything he needed from me - and then some. Yet when faced with the opportunity to have sex with another woman, he still went for it.

So I guess the lesson in all of this is that no matter what you do, if someone is going to cheat on you, they will. It's not something that you can control. The only thing you can control is your reaction to the situation. There is no point wasting your time thinking if only you were thinner or prettier or blonder, somehow things would be different. I can assure you with 100% certainty that they wouldn't.

The question I have been struggling with is what to think about our relationship now that I know the truth. I was blissfully happy with my Mr. Big for five years. Arguably, the best five years of my life. Does the fact that he cheated on me twice during those five years change how happy I was at the time?

For me, the answer is no. Maybe it is because I have been through so much over the past three years and my perspective has changed. But it seems to me that if I summarily dismiss that entire relationship because of what happened, I am throwing away most of my 30's. A time when I learned so much about myself and what I want out of life. And my Mr. Big was an integral part of all that.

The truth is that my Mr. Big is gone. And I have spent the past three years missing him and wishing every day that he were still here with me. Even if I wanted to be angry about his cheating, who is there to be angry with? He is a different person now. One who barely remembers the details of our five years together. Hardly a suitable target for the rage of a woman scorned. And I don't have the energy to be mad at him anyway.

What I realized over the past few days is that I have been holding on to my relationship with my Mr. Big as the 'perfect' relationship. And after losing him in such a tragic way, I had resigned myself to the idea that there would never be another person who could make me happy like that again. As hard as it was to hear the truth, I think it was something I needed to help me move on with my life.

As my Mr. Big said to me before we hung up the phone, I think we have come to an understanding about our misunderstanding. So I guess we'll just call it even. No harm, no foul.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to read this. I feel as shell-shocked as when the real Mr Big left Carrie outside the church. Your perspective is very mature but you should take a minute to scream or break something, too ... it is the least you deserve.