Things You Only Know When Your Boyfriend Cheats On You... With Your Friend
The Debrief: Getting cheated on is one thing, getting cheated on by your boyfriend and your BFF is a whole different, incredibly painful ballgame. Also, do you smash his guitar first, or his balls?
Balls or guitar? This was my first thought when I unravelled the story of my boyfriend cheating on me. Well, after contorting my face like a fully licenced member of the Kim Kardashian Crying Appreciation Society and sobbing uncontrollably with no sound. Then, I thought: which do I smash to bits first?
I had been with my boyfriend, Marc*, for two years. We’d met at university and spent our time living on top of each other, listening to Morrissey, eating sweet and sour chicken and smoking weed from a plastic bottle out of my bedroom window. We got on with each other’s dogs and we kept each other company while the other one peed.
So when we graduated, we upped sticks and moved to the big city together to eat spicier food, see actual bands who wouldn’t come near our hometowns and smoke weed somewhere else.
Six months in, this new place was filled with stops and starts: screaming when one was kicked out of the single bed we shared, discovering the hallowed chicken shop and laughing at how English people don’t use the plural ‘yous’ and say ‘H’ funny (it’s ‘haitch’ BTW). It was difficult working and living somewhere where our mums weren’t down the road for hangover food and washing runs, but having each other made it easier.
And then one weekend, everything changed. Always more into partying than I was, he went out on the Friday night and the next I heard from him was at 8am the next day, when I woke to find him absolutely hammered, trying to crawl into bed with two ginormous hickeys on either side of his neck like Frankenstein’s monster bolts.
Who had tried to perform keyhole surgery with her mouth on his neck? My friend Natalie*. Here’s what I learnt as my worst nightmare unfurled in front of me.
No stone can be left unturned
When I asked where the marks on his neck had come from, he said they were from his friend Ben – the joker – and I believed him; after all, it sort of sounded like something he’d do. Later on, he was in the shower when his phone started bleeping like crazy. A message from Natalie asking for her key back, suffixed with an infuriating ‘XX’, along with three from his friend Ben asking, ‘How far it had gone’.
How far had what gone? I was numb as I flipped through his calls from the night before to find holes in his text conversations from where he deleted his messages, but not the replies.
I confronted him as he stood in the middle of our cramped little bedroom on a Sunday afternoon with a fluffy towel tied tound his waist. I asked him who the hickeys were really from, and who he’d been with the night before. He didn’t bother trying to deny it any more. The final confession? ‘We didn’t have sex though.’
No they didn’t – but I had to know everything else. I had to know what they talked about before they kissed, who leaned in first, what they drank back at her place, if she was wearing those hatefully glittery leggings that she always wears, what music was playing when they took their clothes off.
I tortured myself with these details. Constructing the night in my head as I hurled his polos, Fender strat and bottle of Calvin Klein Obsession out my front door. I had to know everything, even though it was like nicking my legs with a blunt razor over and over again.
You question every friendship you have
When it’s not a random hook-up, but someone you once shared uni notes, compared Primark bargains with and discussed Kendall Jenner’s burgeoning modelling career post-KUWTK with, it gets messy. She’d texted me while she had been with him that evening, saying how sorry she was I hadn’t come out and that she would see me soon – ending it with the horrific ‘XX’.
I questioned every glance, laugh or conversation the terrible Marc and Natalie had shared. I analysed every encounter I had had with her. Was it a brief fling or an illustrious affair? What had I missed?
I didn’t give either of them a chance to explain – I kicked him out and holed myself away with OC box sets and Walkers multipacks. The little contact I had with the outside world consisted of two-hour phone calls before 9am or after 1am, mostly one-sided jagged crying.
I took it out on my friends – why didn’t they warn me this was going to happen? Surely they must have seen it coming, even if I didn’t? A mutual friend got an awkward earful on the phone when I learned he had been at the same bar that night.
You find solace in the weirdest people
I distanced myself from family and the small handful of friends who knew, too embarrassed to admit I’d put my faith and love in someone who didn’t reciprocate it for those few hours on a Friday night in Dalston. Instead, my unlikely spirit guide was Katie Price as she rampaged against her cheating fiancé Kieran and that woman she bought botox for.
Googling more ‘women celebs who have been cheated on’, I found my sisters: Fergie, Amber Rose, Reese Witherspoon. Fergilicious became my anthem and Amber Rose fan pages overran my Instagram explore section. Cruel Intentions sent me over the edge though, especially since Reese’s sex scene was soundtracked by Counting Crows, which had been one of our favourite bands. Colourblind is an emotional ride, which is not one I recommend for broken hearts.
You feel fine, then not
The shops may seem fine. They aren’t far. Or burgers with friends two tube stops from your flat. You’re feeling OK, maybe a bit numb, at a stretch something positive ending in –licious. Then it’s like a full-blown Summer Roberts rage blackout that descends like hail stones. I would be picking through the Tesco reduced section or adding Tabasco to my Byron burger and everything would rush back.
That ass-less, gutless wuss was on my radar and I wanted to kill the both of them for what they had done to me. They were both to blame and I wanted them to know it. I wrote dozens of angry texts, one merlot-fuelled Facebook status and a couple of letters, the paper falling apart from where I had furiously crossed out expletives. When the rage passed, I hid.
There’s no point feeling embarrassed or to blame
Finally letting my friends and family back in meant a sense of clarity in a fog of self-hatred and Batiste dry shampoo. My wonderful mother stayed with me for a full week, making sure she knew the exact place my muddled mind was in. Yes: you can feel hurt, lost, denial, explosive Summer-esque rage. But not embarrassment, blame, or insecurity.
I had fudged my brain with what-ifs. If I’d not eaten the last of our minestrone we wouldn’t have bickered. If I’d gone out with them it never would have happened. If I’d been less moody that day he might have been thinking nice thoughts about me.
Nothing could have stopped it happening. If not that night, it could have been another Friday, or Saturday or Sunday. It could have been another girl, a nameless, faceless girl. I mourned a friendship and relationship that had gone up in smoke. But it wasn’t me who lit the sticks.
Bad situations bring out the best in you
That may be a cliché, but it’s true. Once you exit the dull smog that was thrust upon you by people you thought cared for and respected you, you realise they aren’t worth your time. From there, it’s about sucking the poison out. I joined the gym again and swung a squash racket for the first time in my life, doing the whole pretend-it’s-their-head spiel. I reached out to friends I wanted to be closer to, having holed myself up with the annoying come-as-a-pair guff for far too long.
You build yourself up again, taller than you even were before. I did it at first to spite both Natalie and Marc, sucking them in and spitting them out like Wrigley’s Extra (into bins of course, you can get fined for that). After that, it became more about pleasing myself and being the person I wanted to be, away from toxic friends and stunting relationships.
Now a while since it has passed, I still get angry enough to use the c-word to describe them both, usually prefixed with ‘immature’, ‘horrible’, or ‘insufferable’. However, carving a life to be proud of post-betrayal is invigorating and damn well more fun than crying into a Pot Noodle.
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Picture: Li Hui
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