The Year In Cheating

2012 was the worst year ever for infidelity in America. I know that because I am American, and in 2012, my boyfriend cheated on me. Not only that, my boyfriend cheated on me and I had to recover from it in complete anonymity. Robert Pattinson, cheated on by Kristen Stewart, was invited to unpack this experience on “The Jon Stewart Show.” I was not. Someone shot a video of Scott Broadwell in his darkest hour, after his wife Paula’s affair with General David Petraeus was revealed, walking with somber solidity to his brother-in-law’s house, while Paula gripped his arm with an assuring sense of ownership. No such video exists of me. Finally, while Holly Petraeus was held up as “a great example for military wives,” I was held up as nothing. And yet something—a sense of shared experience, vanity, delusion—makes it impossible to avoid comparing my own situation to these more public betrayals. Here’s my story against the backdrop of 2012’s cuckolded A-listers.

1. Neither Robert Pattinson, Scott Broadwell, Holly Petraeus (or, for that matter, poor Liberty Ross, Rupert Sanders’ wife) had the pleasure of attending the wedding of the person with whom their partner cheated. Nor did any of them kindly agree to do this erstwhile bride the wedding-day favor of picking up butterflies—in the blazing parking lot of a Honolulu supermarket, from a woman/butterfly vendor driving a Blue Volkswagen beetle decorated with, what else, painted pink butterflies—to be released at the end of said wedding. (Nor did any of them endure spending the first hour of this wedding sober because the bride’s wedding planner “didn’t want anyone to get too drunk.” This, when all is said and done, remains the only crime that can never be forgiven.)

2. At no time during the immediate, tender period after the admission of the infidelity was I invited to convalesce—as was Pattinson—at Reese Witherspoon’s house in Ojai. Also, I do not believe either Pattinson or any of the others spent those first weeks of stunned heartsickness sleeping in a wool hat emblazoned with the logo of a Chicago vintage car remodeling outfit called Mobsteel, because I do not believe any of them spent this period sleeping, in winter, in the Sierra foothills, in the unheated bedroom of a friend, which was, to quote the movie Argo, my “best bad idea” about where to go.

3. Nobody spoke to relationship expert Pepper Schwartz about my relationship with my partner. Someone did, however, speak to Pepper Schwartz about Holly Petraeus’ relationship with David Petraeus. Consequently, Pepper Schwartz never said about my partner, “If he lies down and pees on himself, which is hard for a man like that, his wife will likely forgive.”

4. My partner did not lie down and pee on himself, as David Petraeus presumably did. He just left me. My boyfriend and I weren’t married, and we had no children. Several people tried to comfort me that this must have made things easier and while that may be true I don’t know how exactly I could have felt any worse. He and I got together when I was 38. He was the first man I ever loved that I also liked, and I did not want to let him go.

5. Scott Broadwell found out his wife was cheating on him while he was staying in a beautiful bed and breakfast in Virginia. I found out my boyfriend was cheating on me while sitting in my Toyota Yaris in the parking lot of an organic grocery store in northern California, the place where I seem to find out everything.

6. Robert Pattinson, Scott Broadwell, and Holly Petraeus have all been mentioned in The Economist in connection with their partners. When I think of this publication in reference to my own breakup it is around having flung it at my ex-boyfriend (two separate issues on two separate occasions). May I add that despite the sharp incisiveness of The Economist‘s writing, it is not a particularly menacing weapon.

7. The Daily Beast ran a headline: Scott Broadwell Proves to Be a Class Act in the Wake of His Wife’s Affair. Were I well known enough to have merited a headline in the wake of my boyfriend’s affair, I am confident the term “class act” would not have appeared in it.

8. When Kristen Stewart cheated on Robert Pattinson, she was photographed wearing an amazing yellow bra. When my boyfriend cheated on me, he was not, to my knowledge, photographed wearing an amazing yellow bra. I reacted to my boyfriend’s cheating on me by spending a lot of time and money on couple’s therapy, by crying a lot, by screaming at him and sometimes at my parents and friends and innocent bystanders, and then, eventually, by standing in a Rite Aid transfixed by the John Mayer/Taylor Swift song “Half of My Heart” and saying to myself, “I hate to admit it, but this pretty much sums it up.” I reacted to Kristen Stewart’s cheating, several months later, by doing a Twitter search for “yellow bra,” “Kristen Stewart” and “cheat,” and, upon discovering that there was a $35 version of the $240 bra she had been wearing, ordering and having two of them express-mailed from Zappos.

9. But one thing I’m almost certain Robert Pattinson, Scott Broadwell, Holly Petraeus and I had in common is that as we were being cheated on, lots of our friends were cheating. I spent about half of this last year screaming at my partner for cheating on me and leaving me and the other half counseling friends of mine who were doing the same to other people. (People who were not me, of course.) One minute it was, “How could you betray me, you fucking asshole?” and the next it was, “Well, if you’re really unhappy, I don’t blame you for looking elsewhere. I mean. What are you going to do?” I even pleaded with a good friend to begin an affair:”You’re 37 and you’re not going to have sex for the REST of your LIFE? Because you have a SON? That’s really your PLAN?”

10. None of the people with whom Kristen Stewart, David Petraeus or Paula Broadwell cheated is an amateur antiques expert who has been kind enough—now that she has essentially moved into my former home, with my former boyfriend—to estimate the value of the items I left behind so that I might choose wisely as to whether to sell them or keep them, and this service, coupled with the fact that I find myself miraculously grateful that my boyfriend left me, turns out to be one for which I am, surprisingly, most appreciative.

11. Neither Robert Pattinson, Scott Broadwell or Holly Petraeus had the recent misfortune of accidentally pushing their Toyota Yaris down an enormous hill and watching it crash into a stone wall. Therefore, neither Kristen Stewart, Paula Broadwell, or David Petraeus was forced, as my now-former boyfriend was, to come over and peel the Yaris from the wall, push it back up the hill, and jack the ruined door shut. (Nor, four hours prior to this accident, did one of them say, “Please do not try to roll-start your car until I come over. I have this image of you trying it yourself and rolling it down a hill and fucking killing yourself.”) Though they have not had this particular experience, I can only hope Robert Pattinson, Scott Broadwell, Holly Petraeus, and even poor Liberty Ross have gotten over being cheated on, because it just happens. You sleep with someone and they sleep with someone else. You love someone and they leave you. Then you push your car down a hill and they push it back up and you watch them and realize they didn’t mean to hurt you, because they, you, no one, from one moment to the next, has any fucking idea what they’re doing.



Previously in 2012 In Review: The 10 Best Music Videos Of 2012 That Are Not Gangnam Style



Sarah Miller is the author of Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl, which were regrettably marketed to teens but should really be read by adults. She lives in Nevada City, CA.