woman crying

My Relationships/Teen Relationships

When he Cheats: The Power of Perspective

I was the “other woman.”

It was the beginning of my senior year in high school, and he was adorably cute. It started with a touch that led to hand-holding and ended in a sudden kiss. I knew from the moment we started hanging out that he already had a girlfriend. Yet, despite the deep, wavering hesitation and full knowledge that there was a very real, very beautiful red-headed girl already in his life, I made the decision to consent to that kiss, to go along with the cheating.

I read this now and see a million and one red flags, but attraction and hormones and the feeling of being liked, deeply liked, ultimately won me over.

“It was totally fine that our relationship started this way. He broke up with her. It’s totally cool. No harm no foul!” These words echoed in my head in the weeks that followed. Round and round they went — a really bad justification for our actions, for our foundation.

But I chose to believe them.

What I Didn’t See

That relationship ended up lasting a year and although we had fun and enjoyed each other’s company, I made a lot of mistakes that I absolutely regret. The first mistake was consenting to his cheating, and being OK with being the person he cheated with. I know, I know … it wasn’t completely my fault; he was definitely at fault, too, but there were three factors I failed to take into consideration:

The awful foundation of this relationship.
Our foundation had zero footing. I mean … it essentially all started out on a lie. Despite knowing about his girlfriend, his expression of sole desire to date me, while simultaneously expressing a desire for her was not even close to honesty. We maybe had a few common interests in play, but that night I let feelings push reason aside and drive the train. My feelings told me that being desired by this guy trumped everything else, but had reason been in control, it would’ve told me that desire is only one part of a healthy relationship.

The future effect.
Since our foundation was so wobbly, our relationship never got past a very shallow level. They say “hindsight is 20/20,” but anyone who took two seconds in that moment to consider our need for common beliefs and goals to be a part of a relationship’s foundation would recognize that this was not a good path to start traveling on.

His girlfriend’s experience.
THIS is the kicker. When we submit to our desires without taking into consideration if 1) they are healthy and 2) who they are affecting, we cause a whole lot more hurt than we realize. Oddly enough, she and I became friends. She showed me real grace and mercy that helped me to forgive myself, but I never stopped wondering just how badly my actions hurt her.

What I Hope You Know

If you’ve been cheated on, hear this from me: I’m so sorry … truly, so sorry. It’s never OK to be lied to and hurt by someone who’s supposed to love you. Having been on the other side of the cheating game, and knowing what it feels like to be wronged by someone I love, I want to assure you of a few things…

You are not to blame. Period. No matter how you feel or what you think you’ve done, it is not your fault that your significant other cheated on you. They made that choice, not you.

Being wronged doesn’t give you the right to wrong someone else. There is a difference between revenge and justice. Revenge says, “That person must get what they gave to another.” Justice says, “That person should amend rightly for what they have wronged.” In the case of cheating, revenge would say, “Go ahead and cheat on the person who cheated on you; smear their name for all to see.” Justice would say, “The person who cheats should recognize their fault, apologize, and resolve to never cheat again.” One is tempting and temporal, but the other is transformative and enduring.

Proceed with caution but remember mercy. While I do not know your specific situation, I will tell you three general things about moving forward:

1) Talk to someone. Please, please, please for the love of all things holy do not proceed with this alone. By just clicking on this article, you are expressing a desire to be known and to be helped. Share your experience with those closest to you, listen to their advice, and, if needed, do not be afraid to seek a counselor.

2) Pray, pray, pray. Process. And pray some more. This is the rhythm we should follow in our lives anyway, but in times of confusion, this pattern is especially helpful to create clarity in our lives. The Lord is big and His love satisfies the deepest depths of our hearts. His love alone can heal your broken and hurting heart.

3) Do the right thing. For some, it’s easy to walk away, but for many others (myself included), it’s much more complicated than that (see “stayed in a relationship with a guy for a year who cheated on someone else”). Listen to the people in your life who have imparted advice and wisdom upon you, consult God, and make the decision that brings the most peace to your life. Forgiveness and mercy are noble things, but just because a significant other has expressed sorrow for cheating does not mean you “owe it” to them to stay in that relationship.

Please know of my prayers for you. Whatever you are facing, know from my heart to yours, you are loved, you have value, and you do not deserve this sorrow and pain. Yes, life will move forward… but in time. For now, be with the Lord in your hurting and seek to find Him. He will fill you, He will provide perspective for you, and He will never stop fighting for you.

About the Author

Rachel Penate

I am a Wisconsin girl at heart who has a slight obsession with the band Switchfoot. When I was little I dreamed of becoming a professional figure skater, but instead found myself studying Education. Currently I reside in the great, yet terribly hot state of Arizona and am neither a figure skater or teacher - I joyfully serve the Church as Assistant to the Executive Vice President of Life Teen. When I'm not typing away at my desk, I'm spending time with my family, working out, or relaxing with my nose buried in a book.

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