I Found a Naked Woman in My Boyfriend's Bed
He wasn't always bad.
And while the phrase is cliché, it is true in my case. My once-boyfriend of two and a half years didn't start out cruel. Our relationship featured moments of shared positivity and humor. He was intelligent, loved to learn and enjoyed the outdoors. However, every few months brought a cycle of depression and substance use disorder. Then, he'd take his self-hatred out on me, punishing me for loving him by ignoring me and pushing me away.
My ex was an alcoholic and abused cocaine. While cocaine makes you feel euphoric, talkative and energetic, most of it is cut with ingredients ranging from vitamins to fentanyl. These random mixes combined with alcohol—a depressant—made his depression even more of a wild, self-destructive roller coaster.
After a few nights or a week of this behavior, he'd spiral toward feelings of shame for how he had acted. He'd get sober and start working out. He'd swear off cocaine and alcohol, but in three to six months he'd be back at the old habits. On one occasion, he had a party at his apartment and did not invite me. During said party, he smashed his brand-new iPhone. When I asked him why, he said, "I don't know, I think it was one of those moments when I screamed, 'Nothing matters,' and threw it on the ground."
I believe at that point, he was already cheating on me.
The other woman
He was cheating on me with a female coworker, a woman I had met and whose friendship I encouraged. He didn't make friends easily; he was quiet and reserved. There was a small part of me that liked this about him: A person who shut the world out chose to let me in. But he hadn't—not really.
After the phone-smashing incident, I didn't expect to hear from him much, but he was resourceful. He took an old iPad from his place of work, signed in to Facebook and messaged me. He was starting to spiral again, so he asked if we could go to his family's cabin in the morning. I said yes, packed a bag, told him I loved him and went to bed.
The next morning I messaged him, telling him to call when he was ready to go. I watched an hour pass and then called—no answer. I drove over after another hour.
Upon arriving, I locked my car, which beeped, outside his house. He met me shirtless on the stairs.
"I heard your car," he said. "What are you doing here?"
He was ready to gaslight me, as he always did—to accuse me of being overbearing and suspicious. But I wasn't having it this time.
"We made plans," I said, shoving past him.
"I have company," he said.
Company. He had company. I will never forget the word he chose.
I walked past his roommate's empty bedroom and the empty couch. I opened his bedroom door and found her naked in his bed. I said her name, told her, "I need you to leave," and closed the door.
I could go on about the argument. I could tell you I read his messages to her off the iPad. I could tell you I screamed and cried and even tried to forgive.
He didn't cheat on me because I wasn't enough. Of course, I went through many months of feeling that way. He cheated on me because he was a liar. A part of him—the best part of him, the part I loved—loved me back. But a bigger part of him needed to do something else. And that's not on me, it's on him.
Today, I'm in a healthy relationship. Sometimes, I fear coming home to find my boyfriend cheating. But at the end of the day, that fear is residual trauma. My boyfriend tells me he loves me multiple times a day, he makes time for me and he makes me feel special and loved. Unlike my ex, he doesn't make me feel bad for choosing him; rather, he makes me feel happy I did.
If this story sounds familiar, take solace in my happy ending. It's possible for any of us who have survived toxic partners, including you.