Max and I dated for two years and had been engaged for 9 months, with the wedding date set for early January. We have a healthy, honest relationship, and I’ve never had any reason to doubt him.
He and Caroline were high school sweethearts who married very young (they were both twenty-two, right out of college.) They divorced after two years. Max told me that they got married too quickly and didn’t realize how different their relationship would be in the “real world,” i.e. when they were both working full-time jobs and struggling to pay the rent. They split up on good terms but didn’t keep in touch. He remained in our home city, while she pursued a modeling career and began traveling extensively.
Three months ago, Caroline contacted Max over Facebook out of the blue, saying she was in town and wanted to meet for coffee. He agreed. Over coffee, she told him that she had recently been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Her odds of survival were low, but she was determined to fight it through surgery and chemo. She said that all she wanted was for Max to be by her side throughout her treatment.
Caroline’s parents died shortly after she married Max. She has no siblings, and the rest of her family lives overseas. She described Max as the closest thing to family she has left.
The next day Max had her over to our apartment, and she was completely lovely and clearly trying very hard to be optimistic in the face of her life potentially ending before she turns 30. I feel terrible for her and for the situation that she’s in, and I fully supported Max being there for her.
Her first surgery was later that month. Max flew across the country (we live on the east coast, she’s on the west) and checked into a hotel a few minutes from her apartment. He’s a writer, so working from his laptop is no issue. We spoke on the phone or on Skype almost every day for the two weeks he was over there.
Caroline had her surgery at the beginning of June. Unfortunately, it was not entirely successful. Her doctors moved to the next method, chemo.
Max came home after her surgery to tell me this. He explained that Caroline’s treatment plan was set to begin in July and end in late January. It would be an incredibly difficult time period for her, and she wanted him with her at all times.
We couldn’t afford to pay for a hotel until January, so he moved into her apartment, sleeping on her sofa. When we spoke, Max gently told me that based on Caroline’s condition, he wouldn’t feel right leaving her so close to the end of her treatment. He’d like for us to postpone the wedding until February, at the very least, so that he can stay with her until her treatment is over.
I felt awful for resenting Caroline at all, she had cancer, and she was suffering immensely. But the resentment was still there. I resented her for needing Max constantly holding her hand, as though she had absolutely no friends of her own. I resented Max, too, for agreeing to this situation. We wouldn’t be seeing each other in person for months now, on top of our wedding being postponed.
I spoke to Max. I told him that as terrible as I feel for Caroline, I don’t want him living over there until February. I suggested that we brainstorm some sort of schedule that allowed him to continue visiting her, even postponing our honeymoon and using that money to fund his plane tickets. I emphasized that I didn’t fault him for wanting to help an old loved one in what could be her final days, but that I couldn’t help but feel marginalized, especially so close to our wedding.
Max didn’t speak very much, just listened while I rambled on. When I couldn’t think of anything else to add, I asked him to please say something.
So he told me the truth: Caroline was never stage 4, she was stage 2.
He assured me that the rest of his story is true. Caroline asking him to be with her, the initial surgery being unsuccessful, her chemo treatment plan, etc. But apparently, her chances of survival are far greater than he led me to believe.
Max said he lied because he felt it was the only way I could understand his need to be with her. He thought that if her situation seemed less dire than literal life-or-death, I wouldn’t agree to him essentially moving across the country for her.
He admitted to telling her that our wedding had been postponed to next August, giving her the impression that him being away until February would be no problem. He has also been the one insisting on remaining by her side. After her surgery, she had given him permission to return home, saying that it wouldn’t be fair to pressure him into living with her throughout her entire chemo treatment, as much as she would have liked him there. He refused to leave. He told her that I supported this decision fully.
Max swears that he’s not in love with her still, but I just can’t believe that. He lied to my face. Before she visited our apartment back in May, he warned me not to mention her being stage 4 as she was still “extremely sensitive about it.” And I completely bought into that lie. I trusted him.
He put his past with her over his future with me. I’ll be spending the next few months apartment hunting and canceling wedding plans.
I didn’t know what to do and just couldn’t find the right words to express my feelings. Later in the evening while sitting in my room alone thinking of Max, I just thought “why to give up?” Max may have omitted some details, but I don’t think he’s being unfaithful to me. After all, he came clean with it. As his life partner, I need to support him and assure him that I understand his situations. I love him, and I know he loves me. So it’s okay if I don’t get married in January, February too is a great month. I wish her a speedy recovery.
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