Being cheated on sucks. This is a universal and inarguable truth—and one I've experienced firsthand. The moment you realize the person you cared for and trusted has been deceitful is fraught with so many awful emotions: devastation, helplessness, hurt, anger. But after the initial shock wears off, then the logistics come into play.
In the aftermath of infidelity, you and your partner have a decision to make about how you want to move forward: maybe you choose to stay together and seek couples counseling; maybe you to take a break and banish them to couch sleeping for a while so you can reassess the relationship; maybe you kick them out of your shared apartment and immediately start trolling Craigslist for roommates (or worse, you're the one who's suddenly homeless, heartbroken and destitute). When it first came to light that the person I loved and lived with had cheated on me, it was only the beginning of a lengthy and complicated break-up process—and I was surprised to learn just how much that process would cost me.
My friend Lauren and I found out just a few weeks apart that both of our long-term partners had cheated on us. My partner and I broke up. I stayed in the apartment and he moved out, since it had been my apartment with another roommate before he moved in. After the break-up, I stayed in the same city with the same job. Lauren works in film and TV production and had moved to the city where her boyfriend lived in to be with him. Lauren and her boyfriend chose to stay together and had a handful of couples counseling sessions (each one cost $120; they took turns paying). However, when she discovered a few months later that he was still screwing around, she left. That "leaving" entailed finding a new apartment, hiring movers, and turning down jobs—all of which ended up costing her upwards of $20,000, by her estimation—because she didn't have a place to live.
It sucked that I had to pay all of [the remaining lease], but it ensured that I never had to interact with him again.
The longer you're with someone, the more entangled you become in each other's lives. It's just a natural progression: You split the cost of a big-screen TV, you split bills, you take turns buying dinner and groceries, maybe you even get a pet. I spoke with a graphic designer named Alexandra, who dumped her boyfriend of four years after finding out he'd been cheating on her for months and subsequently found herself without a TV, a bed, or kitchen utensils—all things she says she "lost in the breakup." The total amounted to about $1,200.
A few years ago, Nora*, a business owner and artist, had closed on a condo with her then-boyfriend just before she hit a breaking point with his shady behavior, manipulation, and unfaithfulness. She packed up her belongings and ended up living in her workspace for three months—"in my office, on the couch," she said. "I washed my hair and self in the sink. I mean, that's basically being homeless." Beca, a writer living in New York at the time, lost her part of the apartment deposit when her cheating dude kept the place they'd shared—and her new living situation cost $100 more per month.
While the rent hike that occurs when going from sharing a place to either living alone or finding roommates can be significant, let's not forget the fees that come with breaking a lease or losing a security deposit. "Lease termination costs vary greatly depending on the lease agreement—at the very least, you'll have to pay through a 60-day notice to vacate, pay a termination fee equal to a month's rent, and repay any concessions you've received since the beginning of the current lease," Elizabeth, a 10-year property management pro in Atlanta, told me. If your monthly rent was $2,000, the termination fee would be $2,500 and concession repayment would be $2,000, bringing your total to a whopping $8,500. (It's also worth noting that, while this figure is on the higher end for an apartment in Atlanta, real estate site Curbed reported this February that the median monthly apartment rent is $3,350 in Manhattan and $2,923 in Brooklyn. For Los Angeles, it's about $1,830.)
I interviewed a woman named Katie, who works at a distribution company in Florida, and told me she chose to pay the full $4,500 left on her and her boyfriend's lease agreement so she could immediately move out of the place they shared after finding out he'd cheated on her three months after they moved in together. "It sucked that I had to pay all of it," she said, "but it ensured that I never had to interact with him again." This makes the argument for what's been recently referred to as the fuck-off fund, a much-discussed story that originated from a post on The Billfold about having a financial safety net if a dude tries to screw you over.
If you've ever had to financially support your partner due to a layoff, health issue, or mere bad judgment, things can become even more complicated—and costly. I talked to Nancy*, who told me she footed the bill for herself and her then-boyfriend for more than a year "while he didn't have a job and had a suspended license." Once he found a new gig, he started cheating on Nancy with a coworker. "When I found out, I broke up with him," she explained. Nancy slept on a friend's couch and found out it would cost about $600 plus rent to break their lease—"$600 he didn't have, and $600 I didn't want to be responsible for. I was the one that was cheated on!" she said.
Nancy found out that, for $100, she could get signed off of the lease, which would leave her ex-boyfriend responsible for the rent, but that didn't work for him. "My ex made it abundantly clear that while he wouldn't sign me off the lease, he didn't want me coming anywhere near 'his space.'" After her ex refused to allow her to get her name off the lease, Nancy found a new place but was forced to pay two rents for months in order to avoid an eviction ending up on her renters' history. Finally, her ex relented. "In the end," she said, "he had to borrow money from his brother to pay me back for some of the rent I had to pay while I wasn't living in the space anymore. And to top it off, he shorted me an extra $50. When I asked why, his response was, 'I'm a little broke. Hope you understand.'"
When Katy, a sales manager, and her boyfriend decided to move from Atlanta to St. Simons Island after she got a job there, she fronted most of the initial bills, "because he, of course, wasn't working yet, but there was an agreement that he was going to pay me back," she said. Those bills included an apartment application fee, a pet fee, a few months' worth of rent, cable, electric, Internet, and a Christmas gift for her boyfriend's dad—more than $2,000 in total. In the wake of their cheating-fueled breakup, they lived together for a few more months until their lease was up—a decision she doesn't recommend. "When it was finally time to part ways," Katy said, "he moved out while I was out of town, taking with him quite a few of my belongings—all of the bathroom decor that I bought, the Xbox that was mine (but he used it more so that was his justification in taking it), sheets, towels, bedding, movies, and probably a few other things that I have yet to realize."
When it was finally time to part ways, he moved out while I was out of town, taking with him quite a few of my belongings.
Just as important as figuring out your living situation post-breakup is ensuring your health is still in check; realizing you may have been unwittingly exposed to an STI or STD is enough to make anyone spiral into a rage-fear blackout. And while gyno visits are important and necessary, they are not the most fun (or cheap) way to spend an afternoon. In my experience, getting the full range of STD testing at Planned Parenthood costs more than $220 before insurance, if you've got it—and that, of course, doesn't include the cost of any treatment or meds if it turns out you contracted something (which I hadn't, luckily). For example, generic medication for gonorrhea typically costs around $17 for the single dose, while a 30-day supply of daily valacyclovir, a twice-daily medication used to treat herpes, can run you from about $60 to more than $200, according to sexualhealth.com. Things like Hepatitis B and C, syphilis, and HIV require more involved and costly treatments.
Then there are the mental health–related costs. After Tyler, a producer at a news organization, found out he'd been cheated on by his girlfriend, it prompted him to start therapy—"for me, it was needed," he said. "Therapy can range anywhere from $75 to $200 an hour, and most people don't see a therapist just once." Tyler said he'd spent $900 before he felt therapy was no longer needed. "Sometimes insurance covers parts or all of this, or a set number of therapy sessions, but not always," he added.
Many people I talked to said they also spent money on self-care after they found out their partner had cheated. According to them, things like plane tickets, salon visits, and shopping sprees felt almost like required expenses—and I'm not inclined to argue with them. A few weeks after the cheating-realization dust had settled for Lauren and me, we scraped some funds together and rented an Airbnb about an hour away for the weekend, where we binge-watched bad TV and ate an egregious amount of snacks. But it helped us come out on the other side—poorer, but still in a much better place.
*Names have been changed.