Bullish Q&A: When You’ve Been Cheated On and Now Hate Everyone

Oh no! Here’s a letter from a young woman who has been scorned!

I have been cheated on before and kept in the dark about it for 2 months. I feel like every guy who I am with will cheat on me, and I need to just protect myself or be cynically prepared. Any advice on insecurity/paranoia and not letting it ruin my career/life?

First off, that’s terrible! I hope you have friends who will tell you this in person: That’s terrible! I’m so sorry! (Hugs, ice cream, vodka!) You don’t deserve this!

I assume you’ve broken up with this person. Please never sleep with him again. (See Bullish Life: Breaking Up is Hard to Do — Do Not Touch the Phone When You’re Drunk.) I really mean that. It would be better to find a random guy in a bar and say, “I’m kind of tempted to sleep with my ex-boyfriend who cheated on me, but I shouldn’t, right? You look like a nice guy. Maybe I should sleep with you instead,” and then see what happens, even though that is also not a great idea. I’m just giving it for emphasis. Do not reward cheaters.

That said, you do not need to worry that every guy you are with will cheat on you.

I will tell you, though, that sometimes it can seem that you constantly run into/date the same kind of guy, and that this is not a coincidence. For instance, sometimes I meet a guy who has really Romney-esque ideas about women: “Sure, they have jobs, but they hardly need laws guaranteeing them equal pay since what they really want is to have flexible hours so they can go pick up their kids.”

And, of course, women of my demographic think, “You sexist asshole!” But it kind of turns out that that guy isn’t totally crazy, and that that actually does describe nearly all the women he knows. Like, his job has 6 women working there, and they are all unambitious and have kids, and they all take every opportunity to cut out early and attend a soccer game. Maybe the more ambitious women from his town got out of that town as soon as they could. What he’s seeing is not a representative sample. Sure, this guy could open the newspaper and read about lots of other kinds of women. Maybe that guy’s own daughter fled the state for a faraway college and life in the big city. But, from that guy’s limited perspective, it sure does seem as though he runs into the same kind of woman over and over.

What does that have to do with dating? Well, in some dating subcultures, cheating is more accepted than in others. I once went on a first date with a cute young finance guy who told me — on a first date! — that all of his married coworkers cheated on their wives. All of them. He shrugged and looked unsure (we were both about 24, and far away from marriage), but despite his ambivalence, I just kind of figured that that guy is surrounded by toxic influences all day long and I don’t want to be a part of it.

Even just regular NYC dating culture is very noncommittal — there are a bazillion people per square mile and everyone’s apartment is really small, so the whole social culture is based on going out and seeing a bazillion people (rather than, say, fixing up your house real nice and inviting other couples over for pizza and Boggle). I do think that sometimes young women who want to get married kind of need to pick between NYC and marriage. (My fiance spent much of his 20s and 30s in San Francisco, and I noticed on our first date that he didn’t seem like a New York kind of guy, which was a huge plus for me.)

So my point is that there are some groups/clusters/subcultures of guys who are very likely to cheat on you, and some that are much less likely. And of course there are all kinds of individuals who are hard to put in boxes.

So, go out and date and be free and hopeful and optimistic. This guy was one data point, so it’s hard to generalize. But if it happens again, then look for commonalities. Usually your friends can see this much better than you can. YOU think your last two boyfriends Mark and Domingo were completely different people (one was short, one was tall! etc.), but your friends are like, “Um, they are both drummers who hate their mothers.”

But sometimes you just run into one single creep. If you get sprayed by a skunk, it doesn’t mean there’s something about you that attracts skunk smell. You were just unlucky, and there are a lot of skunks around this season.

I’m glad you mentioned not letting this fuck up your career. I’ve written about man-troubles and careers on many occasions:
Bullish: When Your Male Partner is Not Exactly Helping Your Career
Bullish Life: Picking a Boyfriend Who Doesn’t Hold Back Your Career or Bank Account
Bullish Life: Should You Slow Down Your Career for a Guy?

And finally, there’s nothing wrong with protecting yourself. Don’t tell some new guy you’re terribly afraid he will cheat on you. But you certainly can restrict access to your life, emotions, and body however you wish. Don’t say, “I need to meet your friends before I will go on vacation with you.” But you can say, “I really want to meet your friends. You get to know so much more about a person when you see what kind of people they hang out with and what kinds of things they like to talk about.” That’s true, you know?

(See Bullish Life: Let’s Just All Agree on Some Basic Principles of Sexual Ethics.)

And if you run into a sort of clueless dude who you nevertheless think is promising, tell him very early on that you are really into monogamy. Not in an old-fashioned, uptight, judgmental way. Say it in a sexy voice.

You know, people are really into different things! Mostly sex things, but not always. Some guys really like boobs, or bondage, or being peed on. You? Monogamy really gets you off.

When you phrase it more like a positive, you’re more likely to get the regular reassurance it sounds like you would want from a new guy. If he’s like, “Oh, she’s really needy and uptight,” that’s not so great. But if it sounds like he can really turn you on by telling you you’re the only girl in the whole wide world (there really is a lot of dirty talk based on owning each other’s genitals, you know?), well, that’s motivating for a certain kind of guy. And it’ll help get rid of the other kind of guy a lot faster, which is actually a huge positive, even though it may not feel like it at the time. Promise.

Good luck!

First published on The Gloss