Romantic partnerships end in heartbreak all the time, but there are few things that cause as much pain and upset as the “C” word. For many, it’s the ultimate deal-breaker. Others stick around but may carry trust issues that last for the rest of their lives. It causes some to guard their hearts so tightly that they stop pursuing love altogether. The “C” word we’re talking about is, of course, cheating.
The temptation to choose variety over monogamy doesn’t discriminate. Cheating is present in every genre of coupledom, from married couples to cohabiting couples to dating couples. The numbers are staggering – estimates of lifelong engagement in extra-relationship affairs hover at around 20 percent for married couples and up to 70 percent for unmarried couples.
Britt Smith unwillingly became part of those statistics when Tim, her boyfriend of eight years, cheated on her. It was a tragic turn in an otherwise sweet relationship that Britt had believed was headed towards marriage.
Finding love in the ‘City of Love’
They met in Paris, she an American and he a Brit, both of them sent to the French capital for work. They were dating within a month, and the “City of Love” soon lived up to its reputation.
When it was time for Tim to return to his native England, Britt found a way to follow, enrolling in a master’s program at Oxford University.
They lived apart for the year Britt was in school, but moved in together once her diploma was in hand. There were a few bumps along the way, but Britt and Tim were generally happy and eventually bought a house together.
“I didn’t have permanent U.K. residence yet, so my name wasn’t on the mortgage, but I contributed a ton of money to the down payment,” Britt said. That decision would complicate things when they split up, but more on that later.
The sordid secrets of a festival night
It all hit the fan when Tim went to a music festival with friends, one of whom brought his new girlfriend (who, notably, was the “other woman” in the friend’s previous marriage).
The friend and his girlfriend were in the tent next to Tim, making for a rather convenient commute when Tim and the girlfriend decided to sleep together in the middle of the night.
In a twist fit for a soap opera, the girlfriend made a pit stop at her boyfriend’s car in between sleeping with Tim and sleeping with her boyfriend. (If you’re wondering how we know that happened, it’s because the friend’s car was stolen that night and the thief later told police that he had seen a girl stop at the car and “wash up” in between visiting the two tents).
It was a dirty little secret that, for a short time, no one knew about except for Tim, his friend’s girlfriend, and the guy that stole the car. That is, until Tim’s friend found lewd text messages on his girlfriend’s phone.
“The texts between Tim and the girl were quite explicit, so the friend called me when he found them,” she said.
Before contacting Britt, the friend had called Tim to give him a heads up about telling her. Tim was in the middle of a run when he got the call and immediately turned around to head home.
Britt was devastated, but she was committed to working on the relationship. Tim said he wanted to do the same. A few days later, after countless tears, Britt rounded up some friends so that she and Tim could have a “normal night” at the local pub. But Tim texted the other girl the entire time.
“He told me on the way home that he had changed his mind. He was going to try to have a relationship with this other girl who he had met for three hours at a festival while completely inebriated.”
Britt transitioned to being Tim’s platonic roommate. During that time, in what must have been the world’s most miserable living situation, a mutual friend named Chris made it his mission to check in on her.
“Every day after work, he would pick me up and take me to his place. We would watch TV and eat Domino’s and it was pretty much the only social interaction I had at that time.”
They soon became friends with benefits, but it didn’t take long for their “no strings attached” arrangement to develop into real feelings. Tim was less than pleased with the news.
“When Tim found out about us, he became really vindictive. He would talk to his girlfriend outside my door, leave her underwear for me to find. He took something that he once gave to me and re-gifted it to her.”
Britt turns a legal feud into a real estate win
But the biggest blow was when Tim hired a lawyer to draft a letter demanding that Britt move out of the house. It was a fierce punch to the gut for Britt, who had put thousands into the house but still wasn’t on the mortgage.
It took an injunction on the house and 1.5 years of battling through their lawyers, but Britt managed to walk away with a 46% share in the house – quite a remarkable feat for someone whose name was never on the title.
She then offered Tim £5,000 (US $6,400) to stop fighting and sell his portion of the house to her. It was a no-brainer for Britt, who knew she could renovate it and sell it for a lot more money. Tim took the deal.
“Everyone has a price. I was the one with the money in the relationship, his ATM with boobs, so £5,000 meant very little to me but it meant a lot to him,” said Britt, who works as a senior sales executive.
Britt transforms diversity into a Scottish fairytale
Once Tim was completely out of the picture, Britt and Chris began renovating the home and eventually sold it. Just as Britt expected, they made a huge profit.
“We made a ton of money and that’s what enabled our move to Scotland,” she said.
Let’s be abundantly clear here: Their move to Scotland wasn’t just any old move to Scotland. Britt and Chris, who married in July 2022, live on a stunning country estate that gives off serious “Downton Abbey” vibes.
“If you would have told me in the midst of the breakup that my life would have turned out the way it is now, I wouldn’t have believed you. I live in the most magical place, I have a beautiful home. I have a wonderful husband who loves me, his parents love me. I feel safe, secure, grateful, and happy for what I went through because I learned to stand on my own two feet…
…I’m also grateful for Tim, for f**king up and letting go. If that hadn’t have happened, I probably would have stayed around forever, thinking that’s what love was. Now I realize that nothing I experienced with him was actual love.”
With everything she’s been through, it’s fair to say that few people are better equipped than Britt to offer words of wisdom when it comes to relationships. Her advice? Every woman needs a “go f**k yourself” fund.
“Women should always have their own money. If I hadn’t had my reserves, I couldn’t have hired the lawyer, I wouldn’t have been able to get a new visa after the breakup (one that wasn’t tied to Tim being my partner), and I wouldn’t have had the cash to buy him out of the house. I would have been in a completely different position.”
That being said, partners should be mindful of how an “exit strategy” mentality can affect a good relationship, according to Tamekis Williams, a licensed therapist based in Atlanta.
“It’s important to understand how the subconscious mind works. You’d be surprised to know how this mindset can play out in a self-sabotaging way in your relationship, without you even being conscious of it. If you feel you need to plan for an exit at the beginning of a relationship, then that may be your red flag to say that this person isn’t for you.”
Now that you know how happy Britt is these days, you might be wondering about Tim. He ended up marrying the girl he cheated on Britt with, buying the ring and proposing on the same day he received Britt’s buyout money.
“That’s my money on her finger,” said Britt. But don’t think for a minute she’s losing sleep over Tim, his wife, her ring, or anything else related to him.
“I don’t think about Tim anymore because he’s not worth my time or energy. I just wish him exactly the life he deserves. It’s not up to me to say what that is, but I hope he gets it.”