I never physically cheated, but simply seeking comfort in other men was enough to ruin everything.
My boyfriend and I moved to New York with only each other. We were 3,000 miles from home and knew no one else in this big city. I don’t think either of us anticipated just how homesick we’d be, but at 19 years old, we were sure that all we needed was each other to take on this brand new world, so starkly different from our Southern California roots. Our naiveté didn’t last long.
I hardly remember that fall, our first couple months learning and forgetting subway routes, me dutifully buried in schoolwork and him working 50+ hours a week just for an excuse to leave the house. But before I knew it, winter was upon us and we trudged through slush and snow, feeling perpetually frozen in a way that even my time in Colorado and London couldn’t have prepared me for. Poor California boy, he’d never experienced anything like it.
By January, less than six months into our New York new life, hairline fractures of fear and homesickness had evolved into cracks of exhaustion, depression, and irreparable loneliness. Relying solely on one another for comfort, friendship, love, and support had made him needy and me resentful.
Frustrated by the imposed restrictedness on any social life and simultaneous monotony of our relationship, I sought out the attentions and affections of other men, former flings, and subway strangers, craving some kind of social interaction other than the repetitive banter and routine we had established at home. But my attempts to divert my domestic displeasures only made them that much more pronounced — we spent our evenings sitting opposite one other, Netflix on the TV but our fingers and eyes glued to our phones in a silent, self-induced boozy haze.
It was unfair of me to assume that he wasn’t perceptive enough to notice. I kept my phone close at hand at all times, especially after his semi-successful attempts to learn my passcode and read my texts. We both felt the gap between us — mentally, emotionally, physically — widening, but were too scared of the potential loneliness to bring it up.
Our relationship ebbed further into distrust and resentment. Sensing something was going on, he would try going into my texts, Facebook messages, and email looking for something concrete to confirm his suspicions, and I would respond by strengthening my passwords and carrying my laptop with me when I left the house. But there weren’t any sexts or dirty photos or evidence of infidelity that he was searching for in any of the messages with these other men. It wasn’t the physical temptations leading me astray, but the search for emotional understanding from anyone to feel less alone.
One guy in particular, Sam, an old high school fling who was back in California, escalated our increasing trust issues to an unsalvageable level. Already (and quite reasonably) threatened by our history, my boyfriend was far from OK with my ongoing communication with Sam, especially as I became more secretive with my phone. So I would make excuses to leave the house while I called Sam for reassurance and comfort. I complained about my boyfriend and he responded with sympathetic encouragement for me to end things, that things could be so much better without him, that Sam and I had a “real” future together, until I was so worked up that I stormed home, icing out my boyfriend for no particular reason.
After eight months in New York, our relationship was only a hollow façade clinging onto some infinitesimal semblance of what we’d once been. Our daily communication had been boiled down to a scripted dialogue of “how was work/school” and a few select, abbreviated responses. We hadn’t had sex in over three months; my failing to reciprocate his advances led him to finally give up any attempts. And the two of us, both singularly and as a couple, were utterly miserable. Rather than a reprieve from work and city life, home was tense and uninviting, and I spent many nights taking too-long walks.
That summer, we both went back to California, attempting to defrost our bones from the New York winter that seemed to last those entire eight months. It was there that I ended things. I was petrified of coming back to New York, this time truly on my own, but I was even more scared of having another year like that one. Loneliness is inevitable in a city as populated as New York, but there’s nothing quite as isolating as being lonely with someone.
I am guilty, both of failing to communicate how I was feeling to my boyfriend and of using those other men as an emotional distraction. And it all led me right back to where I had spent all that effort avoiding — alone in New York, 3,000 miles from home.