The Other Side of The Game

In the millennial dating system, treacherous based offenses are considered extremely heinous. In Detroit city, there’s a dedicated woman who seeks to find peace and healing in spaces where relational chaos ensues. This is her story. *Dun Dun*

Hold me down x Daniel Caesar

Barbara, this is Shirley…

It’s a couple days before your big event, the night out with your friends, or the date night you’ve been anticipating for a while. You’ve got every single detail figured out. All you need is the right hairstyle. You’ve taken your previous hairstyle down, prepped your hair for it to be re-beautified and are excited for your upcoming appointment. The day of your hair appointment, maybe even moments before it’s supposed to start, you get that infamous “Hey boo…” text from your hairdresser. INSTANT PTSD. We all know the conversation that follows this phrase. It’s either an ask for you to push your appointment back a few more hours, day(s) or *bonus points* none of the above. Your appointment is just canceled. No warning. No remorse and no sign of re-booking somewhere else at the last minute. Disappointing? Yes. But hey, it happens to the best of us. There’s another message category that I have come to loathe with everything in me. It’s the ever-provoking “Hey girl, I just think you should know…” message. Again, INSTANT PTSD. These kinds of “Woman to Woman” texts are usually followed by statements and/or evidence detailing extremely shady actions done by a significant other–either with the person messaging or with someone they know. I hate to admit it, but I’ve received this kind of message in previous relationships one too many times.

So what’s the big deal about cheating? I mean honestly, even Beyoncé was cheated on and it’s BEYONCE for goodness sakes!! Is it fair to say that everyone cheats and it’s just something we have to endure in relationships? We all know someone who’s cheated or whose played the side role once before. It could be you reading this who’s in the middle of an entanglement now! If we haven’t personally lived these kinds of experiences, we definitely know of them. The reality is that cheating is not a just a millennial issue; It’s a human issue–no matter the race, age, socioeconomic status, sexual preference or generation. So why do people do it? What makes people step outside of their relationships? Disclaimer: I can’t tell you that I have all the answers, or even the right ones for that matter because everyone’s situation is different and the motives change. I can however, tell you some things that I’ve learned along the way through my own personal experience.

My Man is My Man, is Your Man Heard it’s Her Man too…

Okay, so boom. I had received the “hey, I just think you should know…” message. What followed was a short statement about the sexual involvement of my then significant other and the woman on the other end of my phone. It was like one of those BET original movie “Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got here,” moments. All that I could remember thinking was what did he do to make homegirl THIS mad?! She had to be extremely pissed off if she’d be willing to tell on him AND herself cause that’s like the number one rule of cheating right?! Like DO NOT tell the other person’s partner that they’re actively cheating and with you of all people!! Sadly, this isn’t my first rodeo. It’s typically been the same routine in my neck of the woods. Girl meets boy, boy has girlfriend, girl sticks around to see how dedicated boy is to girlfriend. Boy makes a move in which girl justifies her actions by placing fault on the boy who has the girlfriend. Girl ends up falling for boy, then gets upset when boy doesn’t leave girlfriend. Girl opens up and confronts girlfriend to expose the boy for the trash that he truly is and then walks away… or girl sticks around to see if she’ll finally have an honest shot at being with said boy. What a great love origin story. How did you and your partner meet?? Oh, we met while he was with another woman. We fooled around and fell in love and the rest is history! It’s giving Alicia Keys. Yikes.

It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay…

I used to wonder what the main objective was. Like were we supposed to join forces and set the man up because homegirl’s feelings got hurt? Kinda like what happened to Ty Dolla $ign when he saw two of his women in the club? Or are we expected to be like “The Boy is Mine” and fight over him Monica and Brandy style?? Maybe we were supposed to be beefed out like 3rd and 4th baby mommas and do the dramatic Summer Walker slide down the nearest wall??? Who knows. What I do know is that the women who’ve approached me in this way definitely knew about me and continued to be involved with my- excuse me, I mean our boyfriend. They would attempt to follow/stalk me on social media, watch my stories weekly, if not daily just to see about me, to learn about who I was and possibly to see his involvement or lack thereof in my life. I knew that at the point of the “confession” she had been fed up with how things were going for her in the situation she involved herself in. I knew that she was very okay with being shady until it inconvenienced her wants and needs. I knew that she wanted to blow up my world by giving me information about our boyfriend because she was hurt and hurt people tend to hurt other people too. Lastly, I knew that she would not take any accountability for her actions in any of it.

You Can Have a Piece of My Love…

Truth is, I could have responded to these women in a variety of unpleasant ways. These women don’t know me or where I come from. Dropping a statement like that and then exiting the chat can be dangerous. I have seen one too many episodes of Snapped, and Dateline NBC where similar situations ended in tragedy for all involved. None of what was done to me, behind my back and in front of my face was okay. However, other women who I do not know personally are not expected to be loyal toward me, nor my then-significant other. Their loyalty is to themselves, and rightfully so. It is not the other woman’s responsibility to safe-guard my relationship. It was my partners. He didn’t show value or respect toward me, so why should she? As messed up as it sounds, I get it from that angle. So, to the girl(s) who have ever “just thought I should know,” I want you to know a few things too. First, I want you to know that I am sorry that you were hurt and that because you were hurt, you felt the need to hurt me too. If being in a committed relationship is what you desire, you deserve to be loved out loud in public and not in stolen moments or in the shadows, or on the weekends when I’m out of town. You deserve to be loved by the whole person and not just a piece of what they are willing to offer you due to their own selfish desires to have someone else and you too. You shouldn’t have to share your person with anyone else (unless you’re into polyamory and don’t mind that kind of thing). You deserve to be in a trusting relationship, where you sleep easy at night knowing that you don’t have to second-guess what/who the other person is doing when they aren’t around, or when they haven’t answered your calls/text. You deserve someone who will cherish every part of you, even the not-so-good parts. I truly wish that kind of peace and stability in relationships for you, even after you had played an active part in making that unachievable for me at the time. That’s all the energy I have for you sis.

It Wasn’t Me…

I can’t speak for all of the men in the universe who’ve cheated, but I can share real life conversations I’ve had with the culprits themselves. About a month ago, I met a stranger at the bank. I had caught him at a time where he was extremely frustrated with how his day had gone. As we began to talk, he started to open up to me about his personal life. Mid-sentence into his frustration-rant he said “See that’s why I cheat on my wife! She just doesn’t understand me!!” It was like a record scratched in my mind. He saw my facial expression switch from understanding to pure concern with the infamous Druski “What do you mean by that?” look and then proceeded to say “She just doesn’t understand how to handle me. I’m a Pisces, she just doesn’t understand me.” I wish I was making this up, but I have the recording to prove it. I began to talk to him more about why he felt the need to cheat. It honestly boiled down to frustration. Frustration on the job, frustration at home and frustration with being a Black man in society. He wanted to find a safe space. A space that would comfort him instead of nag him, that would hold him instead of push him away and that would hear his thoughts without judgement. He just wanted peace. Sounds simple-Am I right fellas? WRONG. You ever notice it’s always the ones who actually caused the hateration and holleration in the dancery themselves, screaming for peace??

That’s another Ted Talk for another day.

I listened as this man took absolutely no accountability for his actions. In fact, he proudly justified them. A couple weeks later, I was in the salon getting my hair braided. The topic of cheating came up and it instantly became WWlll in that joint. One man said he cheated on his girl because he loved her. Come again?! Another man said, “men don’t really be getting hoes like women think they do so if a shorty comes around and is paying the man some attention, it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see how it turns out, even if he has a girl.” Interesting. Another man said he lies to his girl because he values her feelings. He “tells the truth to the hoes because he doesn’t care how they feel about it.” Genius. Again, I listened to these men take no accountability for their actions. I asked some of the men if they’d ever been caught. The room filled with a resounding “Yes!!” So what did these men do to get out of it?? That’s right. You guessed it. THEY LIED. They told their girl it wasn’t true, that they never met that girl before in their life, better yet, they swore on they great granny’s grave that she was trippin, that the other girl was a hater, that their phone really did die that night, etc. There was no surprise that they got away with it at least once using one of those pathetic lines. And don’t get me started on the co-signing of the lying best friend. These are just a few of the crazy stories I’ve heard over the years. This is the mentality behind many relationships. The gaslighting, the manipulation, the lies. All under the guise of protecting the interests of the one they really “love.” It’s giving Kevin Hart. Yikes. Raise your hand if you’ve been personally victimized by one or more of these lines. This is a safe space love. I’ve been there too.

Love Should Have Brought You Home…

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a man say he loved his girl even while actively cheating on her, I would be rich enough to quit my part-time job. I’ve personally been told I was loved over and over again all while being done dirty behind the scenes. I used to be so confused when I heard that line. How could you possibly love someone you are actively hurting? From what I’ve learned and have always heard, men are able to separate sex from feelings… most of the time. A guy could really be in a whole relationship, have sex with other women and it just be that. No feelings, no attachments, just sex. The concept blows my mind. There’s so much simplicity to the thought process that men go through and it’s high key terrifying. Like my guy, what about the possibility of getting someone else pregnant, contracting an STI and passing it along to your partner, or the other person blowing up your entire world, destroying your family and all you claim to love??? Again, these kinds of fatal cases actually happen in real life. I guess men don’t think that far ahead. It’s the high stocks of audacity that men be carrying around in bundles. It gives them the super strength to make them feel extremely invincible to any of the consequences that come with their actions. I am sorry to put this out there fellas, but contrary to very extremely popular belief, if you are actively cheating on your girl, putting her feelings, emotions and physical health on the backburner so you can be out with the “hoes,” you may “love” her but you don’t respect her, nor value her, nor are you protecting her or your situation the way it needs to be, and if that’s the kind of love you putting out there, you can keep it. I put that on your great granny’s grave dawg.

I Just Need Time to See Where I Wanna Be…

Let’s be honest here. The real beef is between me and the one person who was actually supposed to care. I believe my previous partners were at a cross-roads between commitment and single life. We were and still are really young. Being locked into something so serious when you’re young and unsure about life in general can be pretty terrifying. I get it. That’s very valid. However, instead of making the executive decision to call things off, the audacity chip in the back of the man’s brain sparks the idea of wanting to have the best of both worlds. A partner who’s down and committed but also the urge to tease the idea of being with another person who finds them attractive enough to sleep with but not to “commit” to. I guess if you could effectively have your cake and eat it too, why wouldn’t you? The problem is, it may work for a while, but it’s not a permanent fix. This is a clear sign of immaturity and selfishness with a complete lack of regard for the people who get hurt in the process of “figuring” out where you want to be at that point and time in life.

Don’t Hurt Yourself…

I have had the opportunity to speak with my previous partners in this current season of my life. These conversations have been hard and sobering. For the first time in a long time, I have been able to hear the perspective from someone who’s really hurt me and to express the extent to which their actions had impacted me in my own journey. Although these conversations don’t excuse the behaviors, and the destruction they’ve caused, it definitely has given more context to our histories together and areas where things slipped through the cracks on all parts. The bottom line is that the person wasn’t ready. There was nothing I could’ve done or said to change that. If someone isn’t ready to commit, they just aren’t. You can’t force it and you shouldn’t have to. It’s a process that takes growing up and some people just aren’t there yet. Maybe they never will be. It’s above you now. It is the responsibility of the people who are in a relationship to protect the relationship, no one else’s. When one person falls short of that responsibility, it leaves the door open for anything and anyone to come in-between them. I was taken for granted. I was disrespected, and I was treated less than what I deserved. I was left exposed in the middle of someone trying to figure out if they wanted to be with me or in the streets. As a result of his uncertainty, I placed my own worth and value in his line of terrible decision-making. Such a dangerous place to put someone in and an even more dangerous place to be.

Ring The Alarm, I’ve Been Through This Too Long…

I wouldn’t say all of these things without taking a look at my own tenure through relationship Clown College. I pretty much majored in “give me one more chance,” and graduated with high honors. I wish I could tell you that I handled these situations with the utmost class and dignity (maybe to some of my friends/family I did) but that would be a lie. Honestly, nobody is that well adjusted. The thing is, I am only human. I have real life feelings and emotions and just like anyone else, I have things going on that people have no idea about. It’s like you could be minding your business and someone comes out of nowhere to hurt you. The one person who was supposed to protect our love, completely disregarded it. All of the history, the good times, the pain, the loss. Completely ignored for the sake of selfish desires. There’s a lot of words and phrases I could use to describe how I feel about it but the main feeling is betrayal. It’s hard opening yourself up to someone, finally being able to trust and then having your entire life blown up by disloyalty. It’s heartbreaking. It leaves you in a space feeling like you can’t trust the shoes on your feet to stay on when you start walking.

There were a lot of red flags that I chose to ignore or move past in my previous relationships for the sake of longevity with the person, being in love and wanting to be loved back. I allowed myself to be embarrassed time and time again because I really believed that this time would be different–and the next time, and the next time (okay but this is the last time…) It’s giving Rasheeda and Kirk. Yikes. I struggled a lot with letting go. I would think to myself, these women have absolutely no idea what I’ve been through with this man. Why would they be okay with something like this? I ain’t did nothing to this girl and here she is wrecking my situation and what I got going on. But as I’ve described earlier, it’s not up to the outside person to care about your relationship. I mean, you’d expect people to be decent human beings and treat others like they’d want to be treated overall, but that’s not always realistic as we know. Anyways, I just had this intrinsic belief that people could change and that if I loved them hard enough- if I showed them that I was worth fighting for, then maybe, just maybe they would find it in their hearts to love me the way that I was supposed to be loved.

She Said Don’t Break My Heart…

By now, I know some of you are reading this like “SIS. Why didn’t you just leave?!?” or potentially some other crazy remark about my foolish ways. I feel that whole heartily. I really do. However, being cheated on does something ill to your psyche. It had me questioning my self worth, my body image and more than anything it had me doubting my intuition. I wondered all the time if I was worth it or if I was asking for too much. I was constantly comparing myself to other women- their looks, accomplishments, social status. I kept thinking that if I could just change little parts of me to accommodate my partner’s needs, he wouldn’t have to look elsewhere. If I could just channel my inner Chaka Khan and be every woman, I would be enough, right? I was so lost y’all. The tears are starting to well up in my eyes as I write this out. There were so many times when I knew in my gut that something was off but out of fear or exhaustion of facing the same harsh reality, I would try my best to let it go. But I never really let it go. The feeling was always with me, even in the so-called “good” times. I tried many times to advocate for myself. To plead my case for how I was feeling. It was typically met with nonchalant energy, maybe an apology and a promise for changed behavior that would start, but would never be consistent. As I struggled through relationship, I imagined the nameless, faceless women behind their phone screens looking at my life, wanting to be where I was. Looking at me do my best fake smile on social media, desiring to know what it felt like to be next to him. They had no idea how depressed I was. I was suffering internally. I was so insecure, sad and I was lonely–all while having someone right next to me. I wish they could’ve seen how far I had gone, how worthless I felt. Maybe it would’ve prevented them from making the same mistakes I had. I think in a way, they were able to get a taste of my reality the moment they hit send on that “I just think you should know…” message. That’s when I think they could’ve realized that they had gone too far, that they had let someone take them so far outside of themselves that it led to pure rage, taking it out any and everyone in their path for the sake of justice for the injustice THEY had committed against ME. So in a way, maybe they did understand what it was like to be me at the time. To have an out of body experience. Even if for just a moment. Who knows.

You’re A Dime + Ninety-Nine…

What I do know now that I should’ve known then is that I NEVER have to beg or convince someone to love me or to treat me like a decent human being. I know that it is better to be by myself than miserable with someone else for the sake of history, or for appearances. I now know that I was not asking for too much. I know that relationships and being in love is cool, but it’s not the end all, be all. I know that I am not difficult to love. I know that my worth is not tied up in how people treat me, whether good or bad. My identity is found deep in God. I know that I will not let the actions of people whose intentions are to hurt me, win. I know that I may be broken, but I am whole. I know that I am deserving of a love that I don’t have to question. I am deserving of a love that I can trust. I am worthy of full commitment in relationships, and I do not have to settle for anything less. So if that means I have to wait a little longer, I’ll take a number and keep living my life. I. Am. Enough. Always have been, and always will be. So in conclusion, if you ever catch me in these streets fighting over anything, it will be over maintaining my peace, and my healing BUT never, ever, ever over somebody’s crusty son caught up with someone else’s dusty daughter.

Yours in Authenticity,

-L

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