Matt was the first boyfriend I ever (knowingly) stole.
When we met during my first year of university, I’d had my own boyfriend back home in London.
However, the long distance was taking its toll, and we’d had a rough time of it as a couple after his dad had passed away after a long and torturous battle with cancer the previous summer.
Matt was three years in to a relationship himself when we started rehearsals for ‘Macbeth’: him, the title character, me his ruthless wife.
The darkness of the Scottish play turned out to be both a powerful aphrodisiac (leading to us passionately kissing in the wings between scenes when the show was up and running - as his girlfriend sat mere metres away in the auditorium) and a haunting metaphor for the savage betrayal we’d incited out of our selfish, insatiable desire.
Matt and I spent the rest of that summer meeting up for dangerous liasons somewhere between his hometown of Oakham in the Midlands and mine of Kingston in the south-east.
Every time, we would lie to our families about where we were going and who we were seeing.
On the 7th July 2005 our web of deceit caught up with us.
We’d been enjoying one of our secret sojourns in a random little village in the middle of the Cotswolds when we discovered – via the news that was on in the background of the rickety little pub we were drinking in – that London had been hit by a series of fatal terrorist attacks.
To cover my trollop-y tracks I’d told my parents that I was in London working that day, and because all the phone lines were down I wasn’t able to let them know that I was well out of harms way until much later that night.
Watching the shocking images on the news and not being able to contact my family to see if they were safe, I’d felt a sharp sting of guilt and remorse on realizing the needless worry my lies would have caused them all.
But, it wasn’t enough to initiate a reformation in my behavior; I still had six years of recklessness left in me before I’d even consider taking responsibility for how I was treating myself or the people I claimed to love.
The next few years saw me cheating on Matt over and over again – even sparking up an affair with my best male friend during my second year of university (which I spent in Canada), at the same time that Matt was at home grieving the recent death of his father.
Although I had enough good sense to terminate the affair, cancel my plans to travel around Canada with my friends and return home to my broken-hearted boyfriend instead, the damage had been done and mine and Matt’s relationship continued to disintegrate until there was nothing left to fight for.
A few years later, I found myself stealing the boyfriend of a girl I’d known briefly while living in Canada.
She and her boyfriend had been together for four years, and when she found out what I’d done, she (quite understandably) defaced my Facebook wall with words like ‘Whore’, ‘Aids Slut’ and my personal favourite: ‘Slack-Jawed Swamp Donkey’.
It appeared that the ‘cheating-on-my-boyfriend’ fix was no longer enough to give me validation that I was still attractive and desirable to the opposite sex: I now needed to actively steal other people’s boyfriends to get the same hit and trick myself into believing that - if these guys had picked me over their own girlfriend – well, then I must be worth something.
That’s how low an opinion of myself I had back then.
As I’d done with Matt, whenever I’d start to feel any guilt, shame or remorse I’d drown it out with the anesthetization of alcohol or drugs, and set about finding someone new to obsess over.
During those years, I accumulated a handful of girlfriends who shared my predilection for this shameless behavior, and like me, they also seemed to develop a certain numbness of conscience when it came to cheating on their doting boyfriends (or nabbing someone else’s).
We’d get told often by concerned girl friends who despaired of our sexual conduct (but loved us all the same) that we were ‘just like blokes’ – going full-pelt after what we wanted without a care in the world for the consequences.
Much of the time we took this as a compliment, and whilst we genuinely felt bad when an unfortunate girl got caught in the crossfire, our ambivalence towards causing men pain resulted from the belief that we were only treating them like they’d been treating women since the dawn of time.
Of course, this warped sense of morality was simply masquerading the true state of affairs:
We were hurting badly, and men had become our drug of choice to temporarily numb the pain.
(Unfortunately, if they happened to be in a relationship the high was all the more intoxicating because of the very fact it was taboo).
But, the thing is, no one gets away scot-free when it comes to addictive and dysfunctional behaviour.
It doesn’t matter if your obsession resides in Jack Daniels, online shopping or cream puffs, there will come a time when you won’t be able to sweep the consequences under the carpet of self-delusion any longer.
And so it was that my crew of boyfriend-stealers was each brought to our knees by karma eventually:
We were betrayed, our hearts were broken and we couldn’t run from the repercussions of our actions anymore; they kept catching up and dragging us backwards.
So, if you’ve ever wondered what became of the girl your high-school boyfriend cheated on you with, trust me when I say that she’ll have paid the price for her offense at some point.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU:
Have you ever ‘stolen’ someone else’s partner – or been cheated on by your own?
How did it leave you feeling, and were you eventually able to get to a place of forgiveness for the perpetrator?
All my love,