I opened my eyes. It was still dark. I grabbed my phone. 3:30am shined brightly from the screen. Where was she? No missed calls. No texts. I hadn’t heard from Bethany, my girlfriend since 11pm when I left the party and told her to call me if she needed a ride. I felt a knot in my stomach, something wasn’t right. I tried calling Bethany. It went right to voicemail. I started to worry, really worry. I decided to call our friend Sara, who had thrown the party.
“Hello” a sleepy voice answered.
“Hey, Sara. Sorry to wake you, but is Bethany crashing with you, by chance?” I said trying to not sound too panicked.
“No, Jay. Is she not with you? We went to a bar and she left with Ed. I figured he dropped her off.” Sara replied.
“No. She didn’t come here. And her phone is off or dead. Thanks.”
My heart leapt out of my chest at the sound of Ed’s name. Ed was her coworker. I did not like Ed. But I also didn’t know why I didn’t like Ed, so I was in an ongoing internal battle to talk myself out of disliking him since there was no logical reason to not like him. Then again there was no logical reason to like him either. The first time I met Ed, he shook my hand with an overcompensating tight grip, like he was trying to outman me with a greeting. He then took Bethany on a ride on his motorcycle, as I watched from the porch. Ed was kind of a dick.
I was typically not a jealous person. Jealousy to me, is a symptom of a lack of trust in a relationship. And relationships need trust. I did not trust Ed. And suddenly I didn’t know if I trusted Bethany. I felt my cheeks get flush. I started imagining Ed kissing Bethany.
Stop. Breathe. Don’t jump to conclusions. Bethany loves you. She is planning to move in with you in the fall when her lease is up. And we’re even doing a trial run for a month while a friend stays at her place. It’s late and you aren’t thinking clearly. It’s almost 4am and she isn’t back yet and her phone is dead. Why isn’t she back yet? What if something happened to Bethany?
I sent her a text, thinking at least she’d see it as soon as she plugged her phone in. If she was okay.
I’m really worried about you. I hope you’re okay. Call me when you get this. I love you.
I then tried to sleep. Instead I imagined Bethany being hurt in a hospital and stuck in a jail cell and worst of all, in bed with Ed. By the time the sun came up, Ed and Bethany were getting married in a jail cell and somehow had 3 children named Tina Marie, Maximilian, and Jetson.
Then my phone beeped a text alert.
I’m so sorry. Can we talk?
The text of death; “Can we talk?” hit me like a speeding bullet. It ripped through my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I felt nauseous. I knew from that one text everything I needed to know. I didn’t need to talk. She cheated. She had cheated on me with Dickhead Ed.
I’m coming over now.
I met her on my porch. I didn’t want to let her inside. We sat on the steps in silence for a long time. My mind was completely blank. I stared at the front lawn. It needed to be mowed.
“Why, Bethany? Why?” I asked. The sudden sound of my voice startled both of us. It cut into the silence sharply.
“I—um—I don’t know. I know I love you and I know I’m sorry and I know I’d take it back if I could. I want to be with you. I want to make us work. I think I need to get sober.”
That last sentence echoed in my head over and over. Over the last year we had talked so much about how damaging her binge drinking was and how much it was impacting us and her friendships. She had always adamantly disagreed that there was a problem. I had been so exhausted from worrying about her when she would pass out or when she would black out. Somehow hearing her revelation on the porch, in this moment made me forget how angry and hurt I was. Maybe we could fix this.
We talked more about how we could work on us and heal from this. We talked about what I needed to build trust again. We talked about what she needed to work on herself. We talked and talked and cried and hugged and kissed and talked some more. I felt better. And for a little while we were better.
One week later, she cheated again. With Ed, again.
For two weeks it felt like nothing would ever be okay again. I was angry in a way I had never been before. I was hurt and angry about feeling hurt. I was sad which also made me angry. I can’t tell you how many times I texted Bethany or called her, leaving drunk voicemails asking her “why” more ways than a thesaurus claims is possible. And then one day, I woke up and I felt like a new and refreshed person. I was like, “New me, who dis?”
In the end, Bethany cheating and eventually marrying Ed (yes, they got married and have a kid now) was the best thing that could have happened for all parties involved. It did take me a while to date again. I needed time with myself and to really heal. I didn’t want to carry insecurities into the next relationship. I mean, newly created insecurities around trusting partners. I still have a shit ton of baggage and insecurities from being a human who has lived 31 years in this world.
Through this experience I also learned that sometimes jealousy is a good indicator or flag to listen to rather than ignore. It’s a good opportunity to ask questions about why you’re feeling jealous—what’s missing from the communication or trust with the partner? What behaviors or relationships are causing discomfort in the relationship and why? What conversations need to be had and what does each partner need to do to make things better? I also learned that guys named Ed with overcompensating handshakes and motorcycles really are just dickheads. But most importantly I learned that break-ups, even bad ones that make you feel like a shell of the person you once were, end up being gifts from a really twisted universe.
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