*Names have been changed.
Tony* is an intelligent man- he graduated two years ago from Caltech with a mechanical engineering degree. We met at a party last autumn, and I immediately was drawn in by his boyish nerdiness and pleasant demeanor.
At the time, I was playing the field, and had no interest in a relationship. But I still took him home, and I recall clearly, when he bent his skinny, shirtless torso over my twin bed, I questioned that decision. “Not only is he not my type,” I thought to myself, “But he’s also below my standards.” I let him sleep over, which I almost never did, because he would be getting up a few hours later for work anyway. Little did I know that what should have been a one-night stand would change everything.
We went out a few times, and I found myself falling for him. I asked myself, “Is this love?” and simultaneously admonished myself for thinking such thoughts, because in addition to my being too emotionally unstable for a relationship, he lacked a number of the qualities I desired in a partner, like social aptitude or profoundness. The conversation shifted when I found out he was seriously dating a woman from his past, Miranda, while going out with me, and I was quite hurt. I drank myself into a stupor the night I found out, and couldn’t understand why I was surprised, let alone why I cared. Perhaps it was that Tony’s dating his ex made me the “other woman,” something that reminded me of a mistake I made several years prior. At least, that’s what I told myself.
Against all of my friends’ advice, I continued to see Tony. He eventually broke things off with Miranda, because, in Gossip Girl-esque style, she was dating another man at the time, making Tony the “other man.” We went steady a month later.
I knew Tony was still in love with Miranda, and I sought consolation in anecdotes of other successful relationships where one of the parties still loved his ex. It wasn’t easy for me to deal with, especially when this struggle was compounded by other ones in my life. But for the most part, I managed.
That is, until about six months into our relationship, he said something especially strange about our love, and I knew for certain that he was being unfaithful. In the past, I’d been suspicious, but never confronted him because I dismissed my fears as paranoia. Going on a gut feeling is typically not something I condone, but I knew my psychology and Tony was not acting normal, even by his standards.
I didn’t know what to do or think. He denied anything when I asked him, and I wasn’t one to look through his phone or pry into his personal files.
Here is the point when I should have cut things off. I should not be nor have been with a man who makes me feel like I’m not enough, like I’m not loved, like I’m wasting both of our time by sticking around. But I didn’t- I was in love, I was insecure, I was whatever. For some reason, I could not bring myself to leave.
Then, Delilah entered the narrative. Delilah is a beautiful woman who pursued me romantically the year prior to my relationship with Tony. Things didn’t work out for various reasons, but I always had a soft spot for Delilah. I still do.
One night, a group of us went out for drinks, and I had a few too many. Tony was doing whatever he was doing elsewhere, and Delilah was the first person to make me truly laugh in weeks. One thing led to another, and before I knew it we were kissing. It was wrong, but it felt like the first event that was right in months.
I never really thought cheating was particularly horrible. Infidelity was never something I’d experienced. It seemed zesty, like it added a spice to what was otherwise a monotonous relationship. Ironic, considering that Tony’s infidelity was taking such a toll on me. But after I crossed that line, the depth of what I had done hit me like a bullet. People get stoned for this sin for a reason.
I was not the woman who waited at home while her partner was out with other ladies. However, the next weekend, and the one after, I felt overwhelming remorse. One time, maybe even two, is a drunken lapse of judgement; over weeks is not. I told Delilah that it couldn’t continue, but after two weeks I decided to simply end it with Tony. But then – I didn’t. To put it simply, when faced with the two lovers, and my compromised morals, I stuck with Tony. It was still Tony who I loved, who I refused to give up on.
I cut Delilah off, and put all of time and affection into loving Tony again. I no longer cared about Miranda’s role in our relationship. If Tony went back to her, so be it. I didn’t want my hands- or lips- any dirtier than they already were.
A convenient three weeks later, Tony entered my home sobbing. He confessed to me his love and rendezvous with Miranda. Unsurprised, I let him cry in my lap and told him I forgave him. It would have been hypocritical for me to do anything else.
He seemed surprised, but why not? Tony didn’t understand that I not only knew about his disloyalty, but that I had also forgiven him before he uttered a word about Miranda. Why? Because relationships and trust are a fragile thing, and seduction and jealousy are devastating weapons that weaken the resolve of individuals with the best intentions. Not to excuse my own actions, but I believe my sins have made me a better person. I could never get into the head of an adulterer until I was the head of an adulterer, and my appreciation for Tony grew exponentially as a result. I like to think it did the same for him.
Tony and I are still together a year later, doing whatever couples in the city do, and doing wonderfully. He makes me stronger, and I don’t believe I will ever be as weak emotionally as I was the year I fell into temptation.