I Promised Myself I Would Never Cheat, Then I Did

I Promised Myself I Would Never Cheat, Then I Did Our digital agony aunt, Lucy Neville, hears one reader's story of infidelity, regret and happy endings.

If this is our first time meeting, I'm Lucy Neville, best known for being a digital agony aunt. Over on my Instagram, thousands of women send me their secrets in exchange for my thoughtful advice, and yes, I make it very clear that my advice is anecdotal—not professional, "use at your own discretion"... or something like that.

Over the years I've paid close attention to a common theme that runs through all of these confessions, and through all of us: regret. The older I get, the more I become fascinated by our relationship with regret. When you're younger, everything seems fleeting and non-consequential, then through wisdom and time, most of us realise that to live with 'no regrets' is largely impossible.

But regret is not about age, it's about distance.

We'll never stop making mistakes no matter how much wisdom we have. Regret is heavy. It's a burden we carry with eyes slammed shut, wishing that we could go back in time and make different decisions. But we can't, so I think it's best that we lighten that load.

Each month, I'm going to interview someone (anonymously) about their biggest regret and tell their story. My hope is that through careful reflection and radical forgiveness, they can release their regrets, and I'd love to invite you to do the same.

I encourage you to keep an open mind and put your judgement aside while you read their stories; these are real people. So often we hear about people's biggest mistakes through the rumour mill, the grapevine, or another gossipy cliche, but this column is about humanising our mistakes, shining a light on what it's like to live with them, and acknowledging that we are all deeply imperfect.

Then, Now: Megan’s Story

Megan was working in a bar when she met Luke. She was 21, he was 24 and charming with an undeniable sense of fun about him. They exchanged numbers, and quickly started dating. For the first couple of months, it was constant dinners and breakfast dates, they went shopping, hiking, on day trips to the beach and spent their evenings in nightclubs.

Everything was going well, and things started getting serious. They met each other's families and friends and all signs pointed towards positive.

But—and this wouldn't be a column about regret without a "but", right?—before too long, Megan started to feel like everyone knew something she didn't. Something was off and she couldn't put her finger on it.

Luke started to ghost her, he would distance himself from her, ignoring her for days, sometimes weeks, and then seemingly out of the blue he'd reappear on a night out to rekindle things as if no time had passed.

While they never sat down and officially decided to be 'boyfriend and girlfriend', it was clear to them—well, certainly clear to Megan—and to everyone around them that they were together.

The first time Luke cheated on Megan, she saw it. He had invited her out, and right there in front of her, he started kissing another girl. She left the bar in tears, completely shattered, and the next morning she woke up to a message from Luke apologising, saying how awful he was and how confused he was by his own actions because of his feelings for Megan.

The apology was enough for Megan to take him back, heartbroken, but holding onto the hope that this was a mistake, one that would never happen again.

After the kiss, they were spending much less quality time alone together, and when they did, the sexual tension between them meant that they didn't do much else but sleep together. No more dinners, no more hiking, he would disappear and reappear to sleep with Megan, promising her that this time was different.

While her wounds were still fresh from his abandonment, he'd say things like, "I love you, I don't want to lose you". A vicious cycle that proved hard to break. She didn't deserve it, of course, but like so many of us, she just wanted to be loved.

Then she walked in on him in bed naked with another girl. This time, the apology routine didn't quite land like it had before.

However, despite the most recent infidelity, it was only when Luke moved to another city for work that the relationship ended completely. And that's when Megan discovered that the deception she knew about was just a small taste of the full extent.

Luke had lied about being at university for the entirety of their relationship. He lied about when—and why—his previous relationship had ended, and he lied about passing on an STI to Megan. Megan came to discover that Luke was sleeping with multiple women, far more than the one woman she caught him in bed with.

In the end, she'd decided it was a fleeting, toxic relationship she could put behind her, and not long after he left she began dating Simon, a man in her and Luke's shared friendship group.

Megan and Simon started going to the gym together, spending hours talking in the car park afterwards. Megan was surprised how quickly she fell for him: he was honest, a true gentleman, and he adored her. She didn't have to try and "win" his love, the way she had with Luke.

They'd been together for two months when Megan ran into Luke again. He was visiting for the holidays, and one Friday evening, she found herself talking to him at a bar. When his conversation turned flirty, she reminded him she was dating Simon.

Something shifted.

"Oh, so that is true," Luke became emotional and began apologising for how he treated Megan. He confessed that he still loved her. Megan later said it was like he knew exactly how to tap into her deep desire to be loved.

"Maybe this is it," she told herself. "Maybe all of this needed to happen for us to be together."

It was easy to put Simon out of her mind, particularly with the help of a couple of drinks. Luke was right in front of her, telling her everything she'd longed to hear.

They left the bar together, and Megan cheated on Simon.

They had sex for all of 20 seconds before Megan realised what she'd done, and she stopped it immediately. Her heart sank, she felt physically ill — a feeling she couldn't quite describe and has never felt since. Disgust. She left, and the next day she messaged Luke to assure him that it was a mistake and that she was going to tell Simon. In a brutal twist, Luke told her there was also someone he needed to tell—a detail he'd failed to mention the night before.

Simon was still going to be away for another week, and Megan couldn't stand pretending that everything was fine for seven days. She called him the following evening when she knew he'd be alone.

"You know how I was out last night with friends, well, I ran into Luke at the bar." She told him that they went home together. "And you had sex?"—a question she wished she didn't have to answer.

Simon was devastated. He told her it was over, and hung up the phone.

For the first time in her life, Megan truly hated herself. She was sure she was not this person, yet, she had done the one thing she thought she'd never do. She had been cheated on herself, she knew how much it hurt.

She told her family and all of her friends because she didn't want to lie about what she'd done, she wanted to be accountable for her actions. The disappointment was palpable, and although Megan could feel their shame, particularly from her family, no one's shame could outweigh her own.

Five months went by and Megan didn't hear from Simon. She spent those months sitting with her thoughts, unpacking that night, trying to decipher what was going on in her head. She started seeing a therapist, who helped her deal with some unprocessed traumas—including her relationship with her absent father. Megan's dad had told her he didn't love her, leading to significant rejection and abandonment issues.

She believes this manifested in her seeking out toxic relationships because it's what she felt she deserved. And when Luke apologised to her that night, it was everything she'd ever wanted her dad to say.

Megan decided to write a letter to Simon. She wanted him to know how sorry she was, and how deeply she regretted that night. She acknowledged the hurt she caused and that he might want nothing to do with her—but that she would always love him.

It's been six years since Megan sent that letter. She's now happily married with a toddler and another baby on the way. And Simon, her husband, still has the letter she sent him.

She never hears from Luke, and she never checks up on him.

Is infidelity unforgivable?

For my first column, I knew that I wanted to speak to someone who cheated on their partner. I hear stories of infidelity every week, and it's easy to colour them all with the same brush.

Sure, we can all hold hands and agree that cheating is wrong, the impact is devastating and almost always we can identify the innocent and the guilty parties. I've even had people message me, angry that I share stories about cheating and particularly angry that I respond to those stories with compassion, but I truly believe that a bad decision doesn't make for a bad person.

In Megan's story, it's been years and by all measures she's moved on. She lives a wonderful life with Simon, yet when I called out for your stories for this column something in her still felt the tangible grief of her biggest regret.

I'm sure it hits her out of nowhere sometimes; in the shower, when she can't sleep, when she sees a photo of Luke posted by a mutual friend on Facebook. We can be so quick to assume that these decisions are malicious and that people would stand by those decisions now that they've seen the consequences. The nature of it being a regret suggests that they wouldn't, and in my opinion, that is a wonderful example of true growth. The same growth that we demand from ourselves.

After Megan finished telling me her story, I had two final questions.

What do you know now, that you wish you knew then?

"That I was good enough, that I was worthy of love and that I deserved so much more than Luke," she said. "Be kind to yourself, one mistake doesn't make you a bad person. It's how you learn from your mistakes, that makes you stronger."

Have you forgiven yourself? Or are you ready to forgive yourself?

"I think I have forgiven myself for what I did, yes, but I always think it's a work in progress."

If you have a regret that you'd like to share, I'd love to hear from you. Please email me at [email protected], and know I'll keep you anonymous when sharing your story.

*A reassuring digital agony aunt, Lucy Neville's advice on beauty, sex, dating, regret, body image, and everything else life throws our way is now depended on daily by her community.

Every month, thousands share their intimate and personal questions and stories with Lucy, knowing in return she'll value their privacy, offer comfort and comic relief, and remind them that they're not alone. A content creator and bestie to all, Lucy never fails to remind us how important it is to equally embrace the good, the bad, and the cringe.*

Follow her on Instagram here and TikTok here.

  • https://www.msn.com/en-au/lifestyle/style/i-promised-myself-i-would-never-cheat-then-i-did/ar-AA1deweJ?ocid=00000000

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