An unfaithful man ends up alone, taking a fearless personal inventory, and vows to change.
Maybe I deserve
for you to go out and find some other guy
Maybe I deserve
for you to stay out with him all night
Maybe I deserve
for you to do all the things I did to you
Maybe I deserve…
for you to say yes I cheated on you
I won’t care after all I put you through
—Tank, “Maybe I Deserve”
I was a chronic cheater, terrified of commitment, and yet scared shitless of being alone. I wore a façade of being a caring boyfriend while repeatedly lying to conceal secret rendezvous. I cheated in nearly every relationship I had since my teenage years; the question was not “if” I was going to be unfaithful, but when and how often.
The “karma” of catching my girlfriend and close friend in bed together only exacerbated my behavior as I then used multiple relationships as a way of avoiding my feelings. I continued cheating until roughly one year ago; by that time I had left a trail of broken hearts in my wake, and was alone to ponder my carnage. Only then did I realize that I was suffocating my own heart.
Why did I cheat?
I want to begin with stating the obvious reasons for my cheating behavior. I was selfish and inconsiderate: I cared more about my feelings and hedonistic desires than my partner. I was a coward: I was afraid to simply be honest about my intentions towards my partner and our relationship. I wanted sex with multiple people: I treated promiscuity like a drug, sex with a new partner was thrilling. Bragging rights: yes, the proverbial “everybody else was doing it” at the time. Even my closest male friends had “something on the side.”
What Lies beneath
Each of these factored in to my behavior. However the more I thought about it, I was masking insecurities related to emotional intimacy and to a lesser degree, sexual inadequacy. My behavior was not simply a relentless mission for sexual stimulation; I was literally having another relationship on the side, not strictly a sexual escapade, or one night stand.
Why did I feel the need to not only cheat on my partner, but live two different lives?
Fear of being hurt
I was terrified of being hurt, and through my infidelity I was able to avoid being vulnerable within relationships. I felt if I became vulnerable to my partner and she abandoned me, I would be devastated. My cheating was therefore a way to avoid being vulnerable and susceptible to being hurt. Cheating was my way of having a relationship back up plan, “just in case she leaves me, I’ll have her to fall back on.” I erroneously reasoned that, by maintaining several romantic options, I would never feel the utter devastation that comes with heartbreak and subsequently loneliness.
Too Close for Comfort
There were times when I would begin a new relationship determined to be faithful. However, as I grew emotionally close to my partner, my fear of being hurt intensified; I was then out searching for extra-relational opportunities. I both strongly desired emotional intimacy and was horrified at the thought of being that close to another person. Most of the time I did not need precipitating factors: I stayed on the prowl, looking to ensure that I would not be alone.
Need to Control
Being unfaithful was also my way of controlling my feelings, preventing myself from loving too hard or being open to being hurt. In doing so I was not only controlling my emotions, but through my secrecy, I controlled the relationship.
My infidelity became a self-fulfilling prophecy: I never fully revealed myself emotionally, or allowed others to get to know me; therefore I was lonely, even while engaging in multiple romantic relationships.
Furthermore, the truth of my infidelity always surfaced, as either my lies would unravel, or, I would acknowledge my transgressions, after which I would lose everyone. In other words, by cheating, I created the outcome I feared most. In the process, I also left others devastated.
To be clear, there is no excuse for cheating. The bottom line is, I knew my behavior was wrong, therefore I deserved whatever consequences I experienced.
Confronting the Cheater
Having cheated my way to loneliness, for the past year I have remained single. 2012 has been the loneliest year of my life, yet it was precisely what I needed. During this time, I have looked at the womanizer within, trying to understand my behavior, and taking steps towards changing.
My first step was writing what amounted to a letter of apology for my past transgressions and the pain my cheating caused. The letter was not sent to anyone; it is my way of holding myself accountable for my behavior and ensuring that I am making the necessary changes to being a better man.
As with all things, this is a journey. There are times when I can feel the prowler in me reappear. I realize it is up to me to fully give myself to a future partner and treat her the way I would want to be treated.
- I´m sorry for lying to you about my intentions towards you. You gave me your honesty and I was not man enough to give the same to you.
- I´m sorry for treating you as a sexual object.
- I´m sorry for treating our intimacy like a pornography audition.
- I´m sorry for failing to be a better role model of a grown adult male for my nephews.
- I´m sorry for failing to be a better example to my niece of how she should expect to be treated by members of the opposite sex.
- I´m sorry for paying more attention to my pocketbook and professional pursuits than my relationship with you.
- I´m sorry for treating our relationship as a matter of conquest, instead of a matter of compassion, common sense and consideration
- I´m sorry for taking you for granted. I did not realize how good I had it with you, and how lonely life can be without you.
- I´m sorry for not recognizing and confronting my relationship destroying patterns sooner, before they surfaced and destroyed our relationship.
- I´m sorry for not calling you back—I should have at least texted or called or hell, even emailed. My silence was controlling and a horrible way to treat you.
- I´m sorry for being a coward. For not having the courage to tell you exactly how I felt. This is perhaps my biggest failure as it prevented us from truly knowing each other, and ruined the possibility that we ever will.
- I´m sorry for disappointing you, especially after you defended me to your friends and virtually the world. I repaid you by breaking your heart in the worst way. I know you don’t believe it, but I am deeply sorry, and I will be a better man.
And every day you’ll see
How I try and be
A better man for you
By the things I’ll do
A better man, you’ll say
Has come to you today
I’ll try and be a better man
—All-4-One, “A Better Man”
Image credit: Eva Blue/Flickr