No, this is one of those morally ambiguous areas that you know will inspire judgement and outrage from some, just for daring to humanise the subject. This is one for those who have slept with someone with a partner.
Despite being one of those things that people don’t tend to talk about, more people have been through this than you might think. Even more surprising – they’re not all Satan. It might even be worth taking pause before launching into a tirade of slut shaming.
I’ve been there. And I’m not proud.
Many of us wish we could vindicate ourselves with excuses of ignorance, but that isn’t always the reality.
I knew he had a partner. He didn’t hide it from me. And I did it anyway.
Every case is different of course. In mine, I was emotionally seduced by promises of being together, breaking up with his girlfriend, dates and parental meetings.
And gosh, I just understood him so much better than her. I hate myself for being taken in by such a stereotypical garbage narrative.
It was a whirlwind few weeks of ludicrously late night Messenger conversations, flirting and sexting that eventually manifested in the real world.
It was also very soon after I got out of a very messy breakup.
And that's our first lesson.
One could argue that I was in a vulnerable position and taken advantage of. Perhaps I wouldn’t have let it get physical if he didn't feed me a fairy tale future.
That may be true. But I still need to stand up for what I did. It was cheating, even before it got physical. Also, how many fairy tales begin with a bottle of cheap swill and an early morning quickie?
I could have waited. I could have not pushed the envelope. I could have discovered his lack of real intention without completely destroying my own sense of moral awareness.
Perhaps the person in your life did lead you on. Perhaps they're the ones who chased you. Perhaps they are a piece of shit. But you still had a choice.
Own it. Learn from it. Grow From it.
By no means should you internalise all of the blame. That’s not what this is about. But becoming more self-aware, and wary of others, will help you to not repeat the same mistake again.
This may mean having to justify yourself to people who find out. It's hard enough when strangers judge you, and even worse if it comes from friends or family. If this happens, don't go looking for pity. Be honest with them about what happened and acknowledge the mistake. You can't change what you've done but you can show them how you intend to live your life from here on out.
Hopefully they will be able to exert some empathy. All of us make mistakes. They may just need some time, so try to give them that. However, if people who are supposed to be your loved ones permanently reject you over one admittedly large lapse in judgement (assuming this is not a pattern of bad behaviour) then maybe you need to rethink your support network.
This can be incredibly tough, especially when you acknowledge the person you probably don't want to think about. The partner. Whether they know about what happened or not - they're the real victim here.
You're going to have to come to terms with the fact that this person hates you with the fire of a thousand suns. And it's likely that they blame you more than their partner as a means of self preservation.
It's easier to hate on you than the person who they trusted and loved, especially if the ended up back together (or didn't break up). You need to accept that.
They may never forgive you, and perhaps rightly so. But you need to find a way to forgive yourself, otherwise the guilt may destroy you.
Just don't forget what you've learned from this. Don't pass the blame or make excuses for yourself, but try to move on. Let it shape the person you want to be in a positive way. And know that the fact that you feel guilty at all is a good thing. Some people wouldn't give a shit.
I know. This is a god damn tall order and maybe you'll never quite get there. I haven't. But at least try to forget them.
Forgiveness isn't just about being the bigger person, it's an exercise in self care. Once you let it in, hatred can find a way of injecting itself into every aspect of your life, poisoning it.
Why in the hell would you want to give that person that much power over you? They don't deserve your thoughts or attention.
If you can cut them out of your life - do it.
This can be hard at first, especially if you still have feelings for them. If you're stuck getting over this hurdle just keep thinking to yourself - do you really want to be with someone who can treat people like this? Can you really trust them? Sure, the same could be said about you. And that's why you need to work on yourself as a person and forget them.
But I promise you that your feelings will fade with time and eventually disappear.
This is easier said than done. Maybe you have to work with them or they're part of the same social circle.
Maybe they're labouring under the misapprehension that everything is cool between you two. Maybe you need a minimum of three drinks just to put on a smile when you encounter them at social gatherings. Maybe they still think its okay to message you.
If any of these are your reality, I would suggest as minimal contact as possible. Avoid them at events, limit the amount you work with them, don't respond to messages unless you have to and if you do - keep it short.
This may all seem immensely unfair. Especially if nobody really knows what happened. Especially if you have to see them happy and flourishing. Especially if you have to pretend it's all fine.
Although some primal part of you may want to see their world burn - that mentality isn't good for anyone. Most importantly you.
It's time to stop giving them your thoughts and energy.