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How to Say Goodbye to a Toxic Relationship (Alternatively, “An Open Letter to my Cheating Ex”)

Dear My Cheating Ex,

Today I signed my name on a dotted line to sell you our home—my last connection to you—and with that, I say goodbye. Almost a year has passed since your truth was revealed and in that time I maintained my silence towards you, aside from matters regarding our joint assets, for two reasons: you, in your selfish creation of the disorder we’ve found ourselves in with blatant disrespect for my mind, body, and soul did not deserve to hear it and I, the innocent bystander who was steamrolled under the weight of your wheels—damaged, lost, and scorned—needed time to find it again. But alas, my dear Cheating Ex, my voice has been recovered…and it is more than eager to scream this final goodbye.

On paper, we spent just over six years as partners. In a little more than half a decade, we built a seemingly perfect life for ourselves filled with world travels, a sprawling 4-bedroom/3-bath/1-acre house nestled in a quiet Connecticut suburb, and each with honorable career paths: you, an established police officer and I, an aspiring social worker. For all six of those years, I felt so happy. Fulfilled and uninterested in building a life with anyone else but you. But you…you did not feel the same way. Behind your green eyes, in the confines of your mind, you were not satisfied. I wonder, my dear Cheating Ex, at what point in those six years did your heart first wander? At what point did you decide that my deep and unrelenting love for you was not enough? That you needed love from Alex, from Chloe, from Elena, from the girls you met on your “Boys’ Trips,” and from those you met in bars only streets away from the house that I was turning into a home for you to supplement it? And that even then, with all that love, your sense of what made you a man was not satisfied?

More often than not, when I close my eyes to rest my mind for the day, I see you. Perfectly—as if it hasn’t been almost 365 days since these eyes of mine last absorbed the slope of your nose and the curve of your smile. When I see you in my dreams, I ask, “When did your love leave me?” Your answer differs every time. Sometimes in my dreams, you confirm my suspicion that it was gone from the beginning. That all the moments that race through my mind as possible markers of your infidelity were exactly that. Sometimes you add a new name to your ever-growing roster of bodies. Other times, you are silent. And in your eyes, though there is no sound to accompany their look and your very presence is just a figment of my imagination, my every concern about your abundant infidelity is confirmed to be true. In this respect, you and your careless decisions continue to haunt me. You hijack the most private and peaceful moments of my mind and replenish the dread I have been working so hard to drain from my body as I unravel my ties to you. Because of this, it is time that I finally say goodbye.

Unraveling myself from you, my dear Cheating Ex, has been the hardest feat of all. A process that, with great reason, has not been the least bit pretty. I mean, how could it be? Learning, painstakingly, to cleanse the deepest cavity of my heart that was once filled with every slow dance we shared in our kitchen. Undoing the layers of love that were built just by looking into your eyes and seeing yours look back at mine. Unlearning the songs that narrated our time together and forgetting the places we frequented together, hand-in-hand, dreaming out loud together of the life we hoped to create? And, ultimately, swallowing the painful reality that those dreams we shared were one-sided, and that the person who knew the most intimate parts of my soul was ill-equipped to keep it safe.

Sometimes I worry about how you will speak of me to your Next. Will you tell her the true circumstances of our relationship? About how I, albeit imperfect, would sacrifice my well-being to make sure you felt my love? That I was your biggest fan, with eyes that fixated on no one else but you? That the seemingly everlasting fountain of love and affection—whose waters I would bathe you in ten times over before spilling a drop on myself—was too much for you to hold? And that in your gross insecurity and relentless search for physical satisfaction, you would seek refuge from said waters without being able to communicate that you were drowning? That you once had a girl who would give you the world without granting her the privilege of knowing that you couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do that same? It is evident to me for many reasons that no, you will not tell her the truth. You have demonstrated through calculated messages to friends during times of your infidelity, begging that they not share your truth with me or anyone who might slip, that you will go to great lengths to protect your damaged dignity. You have insinuated by the way you referred to your exes before me as “crazy,” “unhinged,” or “gross” that you are unable to speak respectfully of a woman from your past, nor own up to your faults. And when you told your mistress that you were done with me while simultaneously keeping me trapped in our house waiting for your return, you showed in full form, without remorse, that you have little interest in protecting me. Regardless of how you speak of me, I have to believe that whoever else you entangle in your web of lies will eventually know the truth about your venom. I have to let it go and say goodbye.

I have just one more question for you, my dear Cheating Ex. How does it feel when you dress yourself in your police uniform every day? Do your constituents know the complex lies you are capable of spinning for your benefit? Do you feel any guilt, as a white police officer in a predominantly black and underprivileged community, that you swore to serve and protect those less-privileged than you when you didn’t have it in you to protect the one who loved you the most—your “equal?” I think, of all the things that anger me about the mess you’ve created, this aspect of your life enrages me the most. The badge you wear holds no honor. You are not a hero; you are a manipulator. A pathological liar with sociopathic behavior. A narcissist, obsessed—probably subconsciously, at this point—with creating a world that serves only you. You said it yourself… you remember, my dear Cheating Ex, don’t you? You said, “It’s my world, they (us girls who unknowingly participated in your game) are just living in it.” I know you remember…how could you, or I, forget? And while I pray for those civilians who encounter your toxic world by virtue of where they live, it is no longer my responsibility to care about the man or police officer you become. It is no longer my duty to ensure that honor and respect accompany your name when spoken, and for that, I have never felt more liberated.

You see, you were wrong when you said it’s your world that us 5, 6, or 7+ girls lived in. The truth is that the world belongs to those who do good unto it. It belongs to those who respect others. Those who are driven by empathy instead of blatant selfishness. It belongs to those who reciprocate genuine love and who are strong enough to speak up if otherwise. I am not perfect, my dear Cheating Ex, but I know I am good. Knowing so has helped me tremendously in not internalizing your rejection. I know that the way I look, the way I live, and the way I love has nothing to do with your inability to keep me as your only lover, as once promised. The very essence of who I am, both inside and out, has nothing to do with the internal chaos and discontentment that plagues you. I am learning this and more about myself each day. This is what keeps me sane during my darkest moments.

Almost 365 days since your truth was revealed, I find myself living in a new country with a beautiful dog we once called ours. I am meeting new friends, basking in the warmth of new lovers, and learning to live and love myself in this new season of life without you. I have never felt freer, more connected with myself and the world around me than I do now, and for that, I am so grateful. You see, my dear Cheating Ex, it was actually my world that you were living in—a small, yet significant character in my story who blessed me by taking me for granted. For that alone, I could never thank you enough. Thank you for thinking that I would never leave, yet catapulting me into a situation where I would have no choice but to. One day I will forgive you, with luck, I will forget you, and for the rest of my days, I will thank you for releasing me from that false life we were creating together. As the great Ariana Grande once said, “I’m so fucking thankful for my dear Cheating Ex.” That’s what she said, right?

Signed,
The One That Flew Away

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4 Comments

  • Reply EJ

    Wow ! Love that babe and so proud of you!

    October 16, 2019 at 9:19 pm
  • Reply Timothy Mack

    Love reading your truth! Preach my love and blossom into the woman you were meant to be, PERIODT!!

    October 17, 2019 at 10:42 pm
  • Reply Heidi (Brown) Stein

    Ok. I have chills! This was so eloquently and emotionally written, I found myself glued to your every word. I, too, lived the life and loss you describe and can relate to the emotion on an almost visceral level. I am so proud of you for the work you’ve done on and for yourself in this new journey. It’s not easy! I pray that you are able to forgive and forget, but know from firsthand experience, it will likely remain in a cobwebby spot in the depths of your heart as a great loss- loss of your own innocence, loss of the ability to trust as wholeheartedly and readily as you once did, and a loss of what your heart believed was a beautiful future ahead. There IS life on the other side and it WILL BE more beautiful than you thought (*think*) possible. If you ever want to talk, I would welcome the chance to reconnect, commiserate, and congratulate one another for the grace with which we have crawled out of the black hole.

    You, my dear, are a talented writer! Thank you for sharing so open-heartedly. Your words have reached far and wide and will serve as a step in other people’s healing process. I am certain of that!

    Be well and, please, take care if yourself! You are loved. You are worth it. XOXO

    October 17, 2019 at 11:14 pm
  • Reply Noel

    Yes bitch

    October 19, 2019 at 12:06 pm
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