Cheat | A Story on Infidelity

Jason Credo
7 min readJul 23, 2021
The Marais. Paris, France

He took me to Paris on my twenty-fifth birthday, and he held me that night beneath the lights of the Eiffel Tower. We gave ourselves no time to adjust to the new time zone, having flown across the country from Los Angeles. With our phones in hand, we managed to navigate Paris’ metro system and arrive at the iconic tower, brilliantly lit and filled with tourists. We crossed the street to take the photo. You know the one—the cliched, picturesque image that every couple yearns to take as soon as they board the flight. I leaned into the arms of the man I loved; the man that took me to another country on a whim; the man I had wanted to marry.

Three months later, we decided to go on a break. By we I truly mean he. As he had done so often in our one year together, he made the unilateral decision to “take some time to think” claiming that it would be “best for the both of us.” Of the many red flags that erected in our relationship, this was, by far, the most blaring. To this day, I can still hear the way he said those words —it was early and my eyes had barely adjusted to the morning sun. I can still feel my heart cringe at the pauses and punctuations. He had deliberately claimed that we weren’t “breaking up,” but “going on a break.” (The clear correlation to Ross and Rachel here I never vocalized because he wasn’t a fan of Friends.) I cried, we kissed, and then I went to work, puffy eyed with a smile forced onto my face like a mask.

We were never on the same page, even on our best days. I was clingy, and he was flighty. I overcommunicated, and he took eons to respond to a “good morning” text. I Loved him, and he loved me. The metaphorical writing was on the wall, and I decided to paint over it with a thin layer of primer and haphazardly hang frames from the dollar store. Any means to hide the mess was welcome, and in the dimness of my depression, I looked at that wall and thought it sufficient. When my boyfriend lifted the embargo a week later, I drove as fast as I could and haphazardly parallel parked on a crowded street outside of his apartment in Koreatown. With every step I took on my way up, I could feel my anxiety bubble up and into my throat; I didn’t know what to expect, but just to see him felt like a reward, so I swallowed it down. I knocked on the door with a shaky fist, and it opened to show the man that I Loved, with a nervous smile.

“Hi,” he said while gesturing to his living room, “come on in.” He smiled a toothless grin and pulled me in for a lingering hug. Being slightly taller than me, he slumped over and held me close. I can feel the tight arch in his back as he squeezed me closer; as if he didn’t want to lose me. I could feel my anxiety churn again and found myself reciprocating with a tight embrace — this could very well be the last time I hold him, I thought. I could feel the sweat bead on my forehead, as he told me to sit down on the mattress topper, which he used in lieu of a bed in the middle of his nearly unfurnished space.

“I’m just going to say it.” His voice was hoarse, and I grabbed his hand reassuringly.

“What is it? You can tell me.” This was it. I braced for impact.

“I cheated on you. I was with other men, when you were faithful only to me.” ‘Faithful’ was an odd choice of words, almost religious yet diplomatic. He keeled over, his head in my lap, and sobbed crocodile tears onto my legs. I let go of his hand. My ears deafened, my body grew hot, and I could feel the anger, and upset, and rage collect into my hands as I balled them into fists — I felt a flurry of words and questions queueing up to be blurted out.

How could you? Who was he? Who were they? What did I ever do to you? I love you and this is what you do? Were they better than me? I cut the questions up with my teeth and swallowed them, chasing it with my anxiety. Instead of punching him, I unclenched my fists. Instead of letting out the hatred, I drew it inwards.

His infidelity was my fault.

I knew that to be true and I resolved myself to prove it. I couldn’t manage to collect my thoughts when he lifted his head from my lap and begged and pleaded for forgiveness. I couldn’t bear to look at him, but I knew that I might find answers in his face. I looked at him, tears blurring my vision, and all I saw were the glassy brown eyes that I’d grown accustomed to staring into at night and pencil thin lips that I’d loved to kiss. He was a veritable Mary Magdalene at the feet of Jesus Christ, and I saw only the things I loved about him and reserved all of the hatred for myself. If I kept it in, if I held onto it, then I could keep him.

That’s what love is — you take the good over the bad, even if it means losing a part of yourself — right?

Days of conversations ensued, attempting to put together the pieces of an already fractured-beyond-repair relationship. I upped my therapy sessions from once a month to every other week and aimed to validate my hypothesis: my boyfriend’s infidelity was my own doing. Session after session, my therapist corralled my thoughts and reassured me that it wasn’t my fault. But how could it not be? I wasn’t enough for him, so he sought out more. Plain and simple. In these sessions, I thought about the metaphorical wall and the layers of paint and the frames and how tacky it all looked in the light of day. It wasn’t pretty, but it was mine and I loved it, nonetheless.

At the behest of my therapist, I sought out Esther Perel’s TED talk and tried to listen. She spoke of the natural occurrence that was infidelity and affairs — how an affair threatens the sense of self. My interest piqued and I found myself taking notes. By some mental proxy, Esther Perel was now counseling me through the experience of being cheated on. She, more or less, echoed my therapist’s placations: infidelity is intrinsic to society and there is nothing that I did to prompt my boyfriend’s indiscretion. Sometimes “there are things that even a good relationship could never provide,” she said. She encouraged asking investigative questions and left me with the understanding that there are dual perspectives to an affair: “on one side there is hurt and betrayal, and on the other there is growth and discovery.”

Naturally, I sent a link to my boyfriend and we began to have these more guided discussions, attempting to ask investigative questions to build a new foundation upon which we could move from hurt and betrayal to growth and discovery together. After more days passed, I’d never felt myself stronger in our relationship. Encouraged, I began to ask more and more questions over the weeks. I wondered what he was trying to find without me. I wondered what else he wanted that I couldn’t provide. As my questions increased, his responses shortened to The Greatest Hits of our discussions on infidelity:

“I don’t know, I was curious.”

“I love you, but there’s a part of me that’s always wondering about what else is out there.”

His go-to responses were like crumbs and I found myself insatiable, but still in love with him. So, I relented and slumped back into our routine, knowing that the comfort of having him was all that I would need to keep us going. Knowing that he was still there gave me permission to relax. It was a hot night in June, the week after Pride, when he texted me.

“I think I need a break from all of this.” Confused, I got on FaceTime with him.

“A break from what?” A part of me already knew that it was going to be a break from me.

“Us. All the questions, I just feel like you’re not over me cheating on you and I think we need to break up. It’s what’s best for the both of us.” Another unilateral decision.

“Is there anything I can say?”

“No. I’m sorry. I love you.” No time to brace for impact. I hung up, closed my laptop, and bawled on my couch. I was left alone in my apartment. Devastated.

It took years to rebuild and in that time I tried so hard and tried to figure out how I failed. What did I do wrong?

In short, nothing.

There is nothing clean-cut about infidelity and there is no right or wrong way to navigate the fallout. It’s portrayal often relies on the narrative of a person scorned and their inevitable revenge, but it’s so much more complicated than that and I think that conversation needs to be at the forefront. Beneath the scorn and the vengeance, there is a will to rebuild and so much love and affection that can become the glue to make things look new again. And with the drive to put in work, the glue will hold. Fact of the matter is—it didn’t hold for me.

Years later and I still look back on that day and how much of a blessing it was—how I had dodged a bullet. I wrote the majority of this piece two years ago; well before a pandemic and well before I realized how much I would change. Despite my growth, this relationship will always hold a place firmly in my heart; not because I was hurt, but because it was in this moment, down the very bitter end, that I was able to realize my capacity for love. How deeply it all goes, how much hurt it comes with it, and how much richer my life is for it.

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Jason Credo

Consistent lover of the first acts of most musicals and someone who has been keeping his draft for a novel alive for the last year and a half. Enjoy my musings.