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May 20, 2020

Surviving Infidelity

“Shifting the focal point of the story from his misbehavior to my survival was not easy, but it saved me.”

by Hana Adiningsih

Nine years ago I was hit by a motorcycle on my way to school. I was just one step away from the other side of the road when it happened. People immediately gathered around to help me and I could feel blood running in my mouth. Fortunately, my teacher who happened to be passing by, stood up for me and confronted the driver. I was sent home and found out I had a sprained ankle and broken tooth. The pain was unnoticed, covered in my alarming shock.

At the end of my college year, I found out that my ex-boyfriend cheated on me. Somebody told me out of nowhere, when we were just planning on celebrating our graduation. If anyone ever asks me how it feels to be cheated on, it feels like being hit by a motorcycle. Both happened too fast and there was too much to proceed. I remember the scene from Friends series after Joey told Chandler that Janice actually had been cheating on him. While throwing darts, Chandler says, “When I woke up this morning, I was in love. I was happy.” Betrayal comes up as a abrupt maneuver that nobody is ever prepared for.

Another similarity was on the days after the accident I thought to myself, Was I not being careful enough? Was it my fault? Why didn’t I see it coming? These were the exact same thoughts of people who had just been cheated on. The only difference was in the accident, everyone passing by lent me a hand and my friends called to check up on me. Not that when I was cheated on nobody cared enough to do so, I believe they would. I was just not disclosing it because I was ashamed and confused.

The guy who cheated on me was a religious man of conscience, at least it was what he showing himself to be. Sometimes he talked about morality, religion, and education. The evening after I found out, I sat him calmly and asked him if he cheated on me. He said, “No,” as lightly as talking about the weather, and as firm as speaking in front of 100 audience as he often did. He might know everything, but he didn’t know I was never unworthy.

Also read: Let's Take Another View On Infidelity

I told him I knew everything that he didn’t want me to, and politely asked him to go. Not a single tear falls. Not because it wasn’t painful, but because the pain took me to a foreign state of mind that was too difficult to fathom. Someone who said that they love you, do something so unspeakable they thought they could just get away with it? Intense feeling of contempt started to emerge as I no longer saw him the same way. Relationships can endure pain and hatred, but never contempt. That’s when I knew it was the end.

I began to question how moral compass works. I wrote out my desperation for answers. I asked my friend on the phone at 2 a.m. I googled “Why would you cheat on your partner?” too many times. I read journal articles, expert’s explanation, and a forum consisting of hundred pages of thread where people share and discuss how they survive being cheated on. But nothing taught me as much as when I started having a direct conversation with myself.

I imagined myself as a friend consoling the other me, who was in distress. I let myself speak at length about grief and anger, but not to romanticize or to be drowned by it. I took all the time I needed and supported every little progress made along the way. Weeks and months of practice, I came up to the realization that this was just a terrible part of a story, but the whole story has always been mine. I didn’t have to understand why he cheated on me. Whatever the reason may be, he couldn’t be more wrong. And he didn’t matter as much as my well-being in the story. Shifting the focal point of the story from his misbehavior to my survival was not easy, but it saved me.

Also read: In Defense of the Mistress

People cheat for a lot of different reasons and people survive being cheated on by various coping mechanisms. But at the end, here’s the quick answer: No, it’s not you, and it’s never justified. Love hurts, but it shouldn’t harm. There is a huge difference between mistake and violation. Being late for an anniversary dinner due to the traffic, or forgetting to call your partner is a mistake. Why? You were wrong but you didn’t mean to. On the other hand, an affair is not something you have without conscience, but in spite of it. You’re fully aware of the given consequences. That’s why violation takes more to forgive.

I began to draw the line, the boundary for my sanity. I know how to put the blame and credit where it belongs. I learn to understand that whatever feelings I had was just a normal reaction to an abnormal unjust situation. Amidst all chaos, I believe miracles happen. It’s just as we grow up, we learn to become our own miracles. I figure out how to be someone who would stand up for myself and express how I feel unapologetically. I tried to give myself compassion as a gift every day, until one day it doesn’t feel like a gift anymore.

There is one old, simple concept that I like: “You can be at one place at different times, but you can never be at different places at one time.” That guy who cheated on me might not grasp this concept, but I do. Because that place of misfortune he deliberately put me in was that one place that I would not be in at the same time with the peace of mind where I am now.

At that exact moment I have never been more proud of myself.

Hana Adiningsih is currently a researcher and writes occasionally. The complexity of human mind always captivates her attention.