No one likes to be alone at this time of year. There are plenty of ways to pull off a solo Christmas, but you've got to weigh them up against the benefits of committing to cuffing season and finding someone to keep the other side of the bed warm. It's a time when sentimentality and introspection becomes the norm – and sitting alone with your thoughts may not be ideal.
And so people might put up with more bullshit than usual from the person they're shagging, in a combination of good faith – "nah, they wouldn't cheat" – and survivor's instinct. A Journal of Social and Personal Relationships study from earlier this year found that five percent of 200 people thought their own partner would cheat on them, but those surveyed also thought the average person has about a 40 percent of cheating on anyone. Clearly that doesn't quite add up, and it means some of us inevitably find a partner has strayed.
We've already asked men and women what makes them cheat, so figured it was time to hear from the other side: this is the complex mind-fuck of staying with an unfaithful partner, rather than ending things as soon as you find out they've cheated.
"It was the first time I could call the shots"
In the beginning of our relationship, Dave always had the upper hand. Mostly because he could turn heads wherever he went and other women had no problem trying it on in front of me.
When I discovered he'd slept with another girl, all I can remember from that time is walking around in a daze, numb from shock. I couldn't believe he'd essentially pissed on the two years we'd spent together.
Once the humiliation had started to wear off a little, I noticed that there was one silver lining: it was the first time I could call the shots. Most of our time together was now spent with Dave creeping around me on eggshells. It definitely helped that he was living at my place so I could threaten to throw him out when I wanted.
I took full advantage. Even whose turn to do the dishes would turn into a "well, you cheated on me so you might as well do it" slanging match, so he just started doing it without complaint.
As satisfying as it was, anyone who says they can get over being cheated on by someone they're with is a liar. I lost countless hours that year replaying the whole thing in my mind, wondering if I should have fucked him more. Or torturing myself by imagining them at it. My advice? You might try your best to get over it, but you really won't. Just walk away.
– Lena, 26
"I don't think I could get another girl like her"
I'm pretty used to my long-term girlfriend, Jen, getting attention from men. Her mate works in events so she's always attending something or other.
I found out she'd met up with some guy who'd apparently been pursuing her for a while. Even though Jen came clean pretty quickly, I was pretty devastated that she'd actually entertained it. The only consolation was that they didn't actually sleep together, so I took her back fairly quickly.
We've been together since uni and I see her in my future, so I didn't want someone who meant nothing to get in the way. Not to mention I don't think I could get another girl like her. Our relationship is way past the honeymoon period, so I do worry she goes out looking for some excitement. I can't say that I know for sure she's totally faithful. I'd love to say I'd end it if I had proof, but I'm not sure. It's just easier to pretend that maybe I'm being paranoid.
– Louis, 25
"I didn't want to lose"
I'd always suspected that my boyfriend of three years, Rob, had a thing for a girl in our friendship circle – let's call her Lily. He did talk about her a lot, but I thought it was pretty harmless. We'd all gone for drinks after work near mine one night but I'd had a long day so headed home.
It wasn't until I discovered a WhatsApp message from Lily flashing up on his phone the next day when he'd gone to take out the bins that I realised they'd actually hooked up. I was livid. But more than that, I didn't want to lose. I was convinced that there might be real feelings involved and if I called it quits, they might give it a go. It was either watching them get together and everyone feeling sorry for me, or being known as the girl who took a cheater back. I knew which one I preferred.
Because Rob was so racked with guilt and desperate to make it up to me, I knew that I could pretty much manipulate the situation to my favour. Especially as I was sure Lily was banking on us splitting. So I decided to stay.
In the end, when I did call it quits, I even felt a little bit guilty that I'd stuck by him simply to feel like I'd "won". But I didn't feel that guilty. It did help that when we'd gone our separate ways, Lily had moved back up north.
– Hayley, 28
"I wanted to give things another go"
I ignored all the signs that were staring at me in the face in the first few months I'd been going out with Mark: him blowing hot and cold, getting nervous if I so much as looked at his phone, that kind of thing.
It all made sense when he'd been tagged in a girl's picture; the pair of them looked pretty cosy. He had a particular type: just like me, she was brunette and tall, so I was instantly suspicious. I put two and two together after coming across more photos of them during times he was supposed to be "with mates". I confronted him pretty quickly and he promised me it was a one-off. I really wanted to give things another go as I'd fallen for him, so stupidly swallowed it.
That was until a few months later, when I realised he was up to the same old tricks, only this time with a different girl – another tall brunette.
Do I regret sticking around for seven months? Hell yeah. It's really embarrassing thinking how little respect he had for me – and how little I had for myself. But I've got a lot to thank him for. I'm in a really great relationship now, mostly because I learnt to spot the warning signs pretty quickly. If anything, I owe him.
– Sarah, 25
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