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I walk through the door to my shared college house and deposit my muddy shoes in the entryway.  It had been raining all day long, an unusual occurrence for late summer, but one that fit my mood perfectly.  I had spent the day dreading my return home, afraid of what was going to happen, how she was going to take it.  I couldn’t see it being anything but terribly unpleasant at best, and relationship-ruining at worst.  But I had to tell her.  It wouldn’t be right for me not to.

Ashley is lounging on the couch in her tiny workout shorts and baggy t-shirt, indicating that none of our housemates are home.  She sprawls in that manner that only tall, athletic people can.  Her legs, impossibly long and muscled, are spread wide, one resting on the back of the couch, the other on the coffee table.  One arm is above her head and bent to prop her head up, and the other hangs limply on the floor.  It would look decidedly uncomfortable, even painful, on a person of slighter stature; she, however, displays all the comfort of a house cat lounging atop its favorite precarious bookshelf.

Her face lights up when she sees me.  “Hey sweetheart, how was school?”

“Schooly,” I reply glumly.  I set my backpack on the floor beside the couch and look down at her.  I take a steadying breath, steeling my resolve, and say as gently as I can, “Ashley, I need to talk to you.”

Her face immediately darkens, and she sits up.  “Okay…  Sit down, let’s talk.”  She switches off the television and pats the cushion beside her.

I sit beside her and interlace my fingers in my lap to keep my hands from shaking.  My heart races, and my chest tightens in anticipation.  I feel like a coward on the front lines of a battle he never expected to face.  Or maybe a brave man walking to the guillotine.  Either analogy holds, I think.

Ashley looks at me, and I think she can tell how nervous I am.  I look away and stare at the darkened television.  She puts a reassuring hand on my knee.  “Honey… what’s wrong?”

I swallow, even though my mouth is dry.  The act strains my throat and causes mild discomfort.  I focus on that pain rather than the anxiety.  I take a deep breath.

“I’ve cheated on you.”

I had intended the admission to be calm and assertive, but it comes out quiet, almost meek.  I keep staring straight ahead, refusing to look at her, struggling to maintain what little composure I can. I hear her breathing beside me, and I keep expecting to hear the heartbroken sobs.  But they never come.  Her hand remains comfortingly on my knee as she asks calmly, “When?”

“Several times,” I reply.  Her measured reaction has bolstered my confidence, and I speak more plainly.  “Since we first started dating, I’ve slept with several other women on multiple occasions.  Don’t bother asking me who because I won’t tell you, nor will I tell you how many.  I don’t think those facts are important.  But I wanted you to know.”

“I wouldn’t ask,” Ashley responds.  Her voice has softened a bit, but she has retained her composure.  “Why are you telling me now?”

I lick my parched lips and sigh.  “Because of last night.”

“When you asked me to marry you.”

I nod.  “It’s been eating me alive for days.  I’ve almost made myself sick worrying about what you would say, about whether you would leave me on the spot.  And you would be completely justified if you did.”  I look down at her hand on my knee, at the small diamond resting on her right hand.  I tentatively reach out and place my hand on hers, touching the gem.  “I asked you to marry me because, when you look at me, you see something I never have, and for the first time in my life, I want to live up to that image.  But I can’t do that if you don’t know what I’ve done, and who I am.”

I take another deep breath and lift my head to face her.  Her eyes are reddened by tears she refuses to let fall.  She’s staying strong, either because she wants to hear me out or because she doesn’t want to lose it yet.  Either way, her expression is like a fist in my gut.  But I push on.  “I’m weak, and shallow, and selfish, despite what you may think.  I’ve cheated on every woman I’ve ever been in a relationship with, including you.  And I can’t promise it won’t happen again.  But I can promise that you are the only woman who has ever made me want to be faithful.  That may not be worth much to some people, but that’s a hell of a thing for me.”

Ashley can’t stop herself now, and the tears roll freely down her cheeks.  I squeeze her hand gently as I finish.  “I’m sorry for hurting you like this.  I know this is probably the last thing you expected after last night.  But I had to tell you, because I love you like I never thought was possible.  And it didn’t feel right to go into this without telling you the truth.”

I stop and look away again, because I can’t bear the pain on Ashley’s face.  I can hear her labored breathing.  She sniffs gently, and a faint whimper escapes her.  It hurts worse than her expression did.  But I wait, sitting still and silent, giving her the time she needs to process this admission, to decide what she wants to do.

And I am surprised when she whispers, “I love you.”

I look to her again, and she’s smiling.  It’s a pained thing, but it’s a smile, regardless.

“I don’t care about your faults,” she continues.  “No one is perfect.  No one will ever live up to the dream we have of the person we’ll spend forever with, and if you spend your whole life looking for that one perfect person, you’ll always be alone.  But you’re as close as I think is possible.”  She clasps my hand fully in both of hers.  “You make me happier than I’ve ever been, you take care of me, and you protect me.  You’ve let me down here, but this is one mistake on a long list of everything you’ve done right.  I would be stupid to let you go because of that.”  Ashley leans forward and kisses my cheek.  “You told me the truth, so I believe you mean everything you’ve said.  And I forgive you.”

Her smile wavers, and her eyes well up again.  She sets her jaw in a serious frown.  “But if I ever catch you cheating on me after this, God Himself won’t be able to help you.”

I hear the anger she’s struggling to control, and I nod slightly.  The only word I can manage is, “Understood.”

She scoots closer to me, hip to hip, and wraps her arms around me.  I respond in kind, and she buries her face in the crook of my neck.  I hold her while she cries softly.  I pet her hair as I struggle to contain my own emotions.  It’s a strange sensation, voluntarily trading months of guilt for a single moment of fear and sadness, but there, with Ashley in my arms, I feel strangely relieved.  I feel free.

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18 Comments

  1. Oh Bi, that is a touching story. Hard to read with all that you have shared here. Isn’t love weird?

    BTW – I’m not loving the update to the WordPress mobile app. I can’t figure out how to comment on the go and it’s frustrating when I’m always reading updates on my phone!

    Take care.

    • I’m glad to hear you say so, on both counts. I actually teared up a bit while writing it. On one hand, it’s a very sweet memory for me, admitting my flaws to Ashley–to ANYONE–for the first time ever and still receiving her love. It’s how I know what we have is real, despite what some people may say. She loves me despite who I used to be, and I love her so much that I genuinely want to be better.

      On the other hand, though I am not the same manipulative person I once was, I still engage in the behavior. More opportunistically perhaps, but I still cheat on her, and I can’t bring myself to stop. So however sweet the memory may be, it’s also a reminder that I have failed someone that loves me so much that they were willing to forgive my past indiscretions. That’s why I’m so guilt-ridden.

      Anyhow! I don’t use the mobile app. I have it on my iPad, but the damn thing isn’t user friendly at all, and it always wants you to look at the HTML code rather than the compiled page. That irritates me. So I just write on my office or home work desktops.

      • I get being opportunistic. As the boyfriend says if something gets near me (food, booze, other…ahem) it goes in my body. 🙂 I’m working on saying NO! It’s hard. I like a good time as much as the next guy. I think the guilt only comes into play when you really do love someone. Otherwise you really don’t give a shit, right? However when you are good at compartmentalizing (which I believe you are) sometimes guilt doesn’t play a big enough role to make the behavior stop.

  2. Wow, this is raw and beautiful. I really enjoyed it. Is that strange, given the content? It doesn’t hurt that you’re a very good writer.

    • I really appreciate that! It’s always encouraging to hear someone say they enjoyed reading my work, despite the socially uncomfortable subject matter. It actually makes it easier for me to share my memories and infidelities, knowing that some (not all) people won’t judge me for it, will offer support, and take pleasure out of reading them, so I am always grateful for the positive comments.

      Thanks for reading!!

  3. Your girl Ashley is a gem , for you. Coz if I were Ashley, you’d be out of my life in a second.

    Cheers.

    • That’s why I’m so lucky, Ren. It’s why I don’t deserve someone like her. And it’s why I’m so guilt-ridden over my continuing infidelity.

      Thanks for reading.

  4. You are such an amazing writer. Thank you for sharing all of your stories.

  5. Good post, Bi. Honest. Kind of heart-retching, on multiple levels.

  6. Bi – First, because I need to get my emotions in order … this is exceptionally well written. I feel like I can actually see Ashley.

    Second, this was moving, profoundly so, but I find myself having the same questions over and over when I read your posts in this vein… why do you feel like you deserve to be punished? That’s what you’re doing. Why are you deliberately ensuring that you feel this way?

    Damn, I wish I could get inside your head. You are a good person and I believe you love your wife, so why do you feel you don’t deserve the same? She loves you, but if she found out you “haven’t changed” she’ll stop, so by definition you become unlovable, but she already proved you wrong, proved you are supremely lovable, by a strong woman no less, so why do it to yourself?

    Fuck, I sound so goddamned “arm chair psychiatrist” … my apologies.

    • Thanks Gillian. I don’t know why I feel this way. Someone once told me that I do it because I’ve never had a reliable partner, so I cheat because I know it will all end anyway, and I want it to be on my terms. I bought into it once, but not anymore. Not since Ashley.

      I sometimes wonder if I cheat because I feel like I don’t deserve Ashley and the happiness we share. I know she could have had any man she wanted. Pretty much everyone agrees with me on that. I don’t see what she does, and I believe that what she sees is just the same con I’ve put on for women for years now, because that’s how we started talking–she was my mark for the night. (Reference my post “Falling for Your Own Best Laid Plans”.) A relationship that started on a flawed premise can only have a flawed existence.

      Then I tell myself I’m overthinking it, and I drink a cup of tea.

      Pardon me, my earl grey is ready.

  7. Ok. Trying not to overrun your comment log, but one more thing after reading your responses to comments on the last two pages…

    From a therapeutic level (whether you believe in it or not) I would conclude that cheating in your coping mechanism. Whatever it was before, it was, and I’m not so concerned about that. But now, you’ve said you have the desire to not do it, but you still do. It’s your protective cover. So that if Ashley would leave, it wouldn’t be because of you (the person), it would be because of the cheating (your actions). It’s your buffer. Maybe because you’ve “never had a reliable partner” and you don’t think you deserve her. It’s almost like you are giving her a reason to walk away. Just because you don’t think you’re good enough.

    It’s kind of like you’re setting yourself up to fail. And, what in treatment is called fear of success. You don’t want to set the bar too high, because then you will be held to it. Or find disappointment if you can’t maintain.

    I don’t know. It’s hard for me to put into words, especially in a forum like this, as “conversation” is hard to mimic.

    Anyway, Bi. She loves you. You should embrace that. Don’t second guess it. Accept it for what it is. And remember, we are more than what we do… And flawed premises be damned. The world has been built on them!

    • I’d like to add something to Love’s analysis – also from a therapeutic perspective. It’s the pain-seeking behavior that has caught my eye more in your writings than the love-avoidance. I feel we are siblings in this respect. Perhaps the pain inherent in hurting the one you love the most is what is so intoxicating (along with all the other adrenaline-causing things cheating provides).

      My heart, while hating it, craves pain. It’s inexorably tangled together. Maybe hating yourself is also tied up in being loved.

      xx

  8. I read your stuff, and I swear written by anyone else I would think ASSHOLE. But It’s so filled with guilt and an raw love at times It’s to hard think of you in just that box.

    It’s all wonderfully written and I really think you just write a book, your that talented.

    But the subject matter can be very hard to swallow, In one moment you’ve resigned that this is who you are and it’s a defining characteristic of yours, maybe not THE defining characteristic but If you want to know ALL about you then it has to be included, and you can’t change it and then in the next moment the guilt takes over and you don’t want this to be man, you don’t want this to be part of your definition. It’s very Jekyll and Hyde.

    Ashley loves you. True love. That little gem that billions of people worldwide are searching for, you got it. And maybe you don’t deserve it but who does? Everyone has something wrong with them that can be considered a deal breaker, but when it comes down it and you have to face the issue, you find you can over come it. Treasure it, because she knew exactly what you are, and she still stood up in front of the world and vowed to spend the rest of her life with you.

  9. Wow bi,
    i had not idea you had confessed to her in the past. i actually thought it was a dream sequence. i wonder, was it recent? did it take the blog to prompt you to do it? i’m confused on the timeline.

    • No, it was a long time ago, before we ever got married. Right after I proposed to her, actually, approximately six years ago. We had never broached the subject of my infidelity, and I didn’t feel right going into a marriage without telling her that I am a sexually flawed being. Though I later discovered that several of my ex-girlfriends had informed her of my previous behavior. (Not surprising. Everyone loves Ashley. They wanted to protect her from me.) Why she chose to stay and marry me is beyond my understanding, and one of the myriad reasons I feel like a louse.


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