Hi, my name is Justin and my girlfriend cheated on me. Although this might sounds like an introduction at a 12 Step program, it's really an explanation of how my girlfriend's one night stand improved my love life and became the best thing to ever happen to me.
“Couple Having Problems” courtesy of marin at freedigitalphotos.net
I never expected Penny to cheat on me. Our relationship was great; there were no warning signs or red flags. The guys at school were all jealous of me and liked it when I brought Penny along to clubs and events. Even Penny's friends were a little jealous and teased her about finding her one true love amidst a sea of hunks at school. They were hopping from one guy to the next while Penny had found a guy willing to take care of her from the first day. Jealous indeed!
"I was dumbfounded," I told my best friend, Mark, "but she was very apologetic. She said it meant nothing to her and she just had to get it out of her system. She says it will never happen again, now that she's over it. Maybe she's right. Maybe our relationship will be stronger now. I know I'm dedicated to her, and now she knows she's dedicated to me." Mark poured me another stiff drink. "This one's on the house. It sounds like she's got her hamster wheel running full tilt, spinning excuses. Didn't any of your friends see any warning signs?" Mark asked.
"You all know her here. Nobody said anything to me," I replied. "If you thought there were problems, you should have said something!"
"Justin, we just work here at the bar. What about the guys you go to class with? The guys you hang out with when you're not with Penny? We really don't know anything about your relationship."
"I don't hang out with other guys except here. I spend all my spare time with Penny. She's my best friend."
"Justin, you are quite an example of Nice Guy Syndrome. You should work on that."
"What's wrong with being a nice guy? Penny loves me because I'm so nice. I was raised to be a nice guy."
"Justin, girls love good guys. They walk all over nice guys."
Mark just left me more confused than ever, so I paid my bill and headed back to my house. Hamster wheel? Nice Guy Syndrome? This was a rare night when I didn't see Penny, so I got online and surfed straight to Google. Homework be damned! I had some stuff I needed to work through.
I decided to figure out what this Nice Guy Syndrome was all about. I quickly scanned the info and was shocked; this almost exactly described my life, and how things go wrong for Nice Guys. But I was happy! I had a hot girlfriend, she only cheated on me once and she was even honest enough to admit it. Our relationship had to be stronger now that she knew she really wanted me. I put the Nice Guy Syndrome out of my mind. After all, nobody knows my life better than me! My life was with Penny, and I forgave her for cheating.
For the first week or so after Penny's confession, the sex was great and Penny was more attentive to me than ever. I was a little bit put off by wondering what the other guy felt like on top of Penny, but that feeling quickly left as Penny became more adventurous and more into me. Surely our relationship WAS better. I was beginning to think maybe everybody's girlfriend should cheat on them just once to get it out of her system.
Then the little things started to build up. I started to notice just how many guys would hit on Penny when we went out, and how she enjoyed the attention. It seemed odd, but wasn't until some drunk fraternity guy actually pushed me out of the way so he could get to Penny that I knew something was wrong. I asked Penny why she let the guys hit on her, and she abruptly dismissed it. "You're imagining things. They aren't really hitting on me. They just like my attention. I'm here with you, Justin. You're all I want. Be a sweetheart and get me another cosmo."
Later that night, since we were both pretty drunk, the sex was perfunctory. While she was sleeping off her cosmopolitans, I was busy reading up on the Nice Guy Syndrome I had dismissed months ago.
I discovered some important concepts over the next several weeks. For one, Mark was right that I needed to hang out with guys more. If I had more guy friends, I might have gained more experience by observing their relationships, and just sharing experiences. I would have had a life that extended beyond Penny, one I could enjoy without her, instead of depending on her. By spending all my time with Penny, I had allowed myself to be feminized; I had learned to be more girl than man. I had sacrificed my own life for Penny.
It's probably because of my dependence on Penny that I had failed to set or enforce boundaries on our relationship. I assumed exclusivity was part of a committed relationship, but when Penny violated that boundary, I did nothing. I told her by my actions that there were no boundaries, so she flirted with every dog that sniffed around her, and she enjoyed it.
And the hamster wheel? I discovered that a metaphor for when someone starts desperately running nowhere while spinning excuses for what they've done, but never accepting that they are personally responsible. Although women seem particularly adept at the hamster wheel, I've observed that everybody seems to do it at one time or another.
I finally had to confront Penny about boundaries. "First you cheated on me, and I let that go because I love you, but you really need to stop flirting with the other guys. I won't stand for that anymore." Her response shouldn't have surprised me; "That was a long time ago and I said I'm sorry. Why do you always have to bring that up?" (This was the first time I mentioned it since she apologized months before.) "You've never had any problem with me flirting with guys, you let me do it all the time. And I've told you there's nothing to it. It's nice to have guys around, and you should be flattered that they're interested in your girlfriend. Besides, they're flirting with me, not the other way around. If you don't like it you should chase them away. I'm quite a catch and you should be proud we're together." Yep, the hamster wheel was spinning at full throttle. I steeled my nerves and dealt with it, only this time as more of a man, and not a nice guy to walked on.
I'm happy to say that I've finally solved the hamster wheel problem, and learned to set and enforce boundaries in my relationship. After setting myself free of Penny, I've had several relationships, and many dates where I was able to see in the first few minutes that there was no future with that girl. I'm now in a long term relationship with Jessica, and we're both more mature and respectful of each other. I have no idea where Penny is nowadays. Cutting that relationship off was the second best thing that ever happened to me. The best thing? Having Penny cheat on me. It forced me to confront my misguided view of relationships, and learn to be more of a man and assert myself. Penny's cheating was the best thing that ever happened to me, and my current relationship is definitely stronger because of that experience.
I feel I'm more of a man because of the trials of Penny. I resisted the childish urge to defame her, or call her a slut or whore. A man doesn't stoop to those levels. She was as inexperienced as I was, but in her own way. I hope her well. Now my story is finished and I'm off to a games of hoops with the guys, and maybe some beers afterwards. Jessica and I will meet up later this week.