Confessions of an Internet-Famous Cheater

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When I betrayed my fiancée, I destroyed my relationship. But the shadow stretches over the rest of my life as well.

There’s nowhere to start but at the beginning, so let’s do that. Last year, my fiancée discovered that I had been unfaithful to her. She called the wedding off and ended our relationship for good. I made no attempts to reconcile. Four months later, on the June Sunday we’d planned to get married, she shared her story in a post on our onetime wedding website, describing in excruciating detail the pain I caused her, showing the graphic text messages I sent to another woman, and generally reading me for filth. The post, as well as her tweet about it, went viral. (I’m not linking to either of those to avoid bringing her unwanted attention.)

The words she used to describe me — narcissistic, manipulative — torched me. They were also true. “He will have another story to tell,” she wrote. I don’t. Poisoned by narcissism, I sought validation from other women. I gaslit her, her family, my family, the other women, our mutual friends, and anyone who followed our relationship on social media, where I’d built a brand around the image of a reformed playboy, giving advice on how to be a “good man.”

People often tell me I cheated because I did not want to get married. While that may be true — I thought getting married was something a man my age was supposed to want — it doesn’t excuse my despicable actions. A real man, an honest man, would tell his partner he wasn’t ready for marriage, not cheat to get out of it. I was a coward for betraying the woman I loved, for letting my body speak what I didn’t have the spine to say. I will be sorry for the pain and embarrassment I caused her, her family, our friends, and my family for the rest of my life.

I’m not writing this to make excuses. There are no excuses. I’m not writing this to atone; I can only do that for myself and for the woman whose trust I violated. When my ex learned about my infidelity, I had to accept the loss of our relationship. When she aired me out online, I had to accept the loss of my social reputation and my friends. This story is about what happens after the violation — about the long shadow a lie can cast over a life. Because when my behavior spread across the internet like wildfire, what I didn’t expect was that it would render me unemployable more than a year later.


The day the blog post hit and my name started trending on Twitter, I made three phone calls. The first two were to my pastor and my therapist; the third was to the HR representative for my employer, a sports media company. I was sure that nothing I had done had any legal or professional ramifications, but I wanted to explain everything and ask if there would be any consequences for what was happening.

In the short term, I was fine. The HR rep expressed sympathy about what was happening and told me that the company’s leadership had looked into the matter to see if disciplinary action would be in order. As the issue was a personal one, there was nothing they could do, and she added that there would be no further discussions about the matter when I came back to the office. Indeed, when I returned, other than a couple of coworkers asking how I was handling all the attention, everyone acted like nothing had happened.

Two months later, in August 2019, I was one of 19 people laid off due to company restructuring. The company had been making leadership changes, which in the media industry usually leads to staff changes. When I found out, I was relieved not to be the only one leaving; at least my employer didn’t let me go for my infidelity. I wouldn’t know how to explain that one to employers — but unbeknownst to me, I would have to learn.

If you ever find yourself in the internet’s crosshairs, one thing people say to make you feel better is that everything will pass. “They’ll stop talking about you,” they say. This is true about people — but as Hillary Clinton’s emails know, that saying never met the internet.

My layoff terms included five months of severance pay, a generous timeline to find a new job. I knew my online reputation had plummeted after the high-profile firestorm I’d set off, but the job market was healthy, and I had confidence in my resume. A few companies had tried to poach me during my last tenure; now I was a free agent coming from a very successful run at a very successful company. I thought my search for a new job was going to be a cakewalk. But the blog post has made my job search a walk of shame.

If you ever find yourself in the internet’s crosshairs, one thing people say to make you feel better is that everything will pass. “They’ll stop talking about you,” they say. This is true about people — but as Hillary Clinton’s emails know, that saying never met the internet.

Before my experience with internet notoriety, if you searched my name, you’d find articles I had written for GQVibe, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. You’d also find me described as a “relationship expert” because of a blog I created in 2009. At the height of the Great Recession, I’d become unemployed for the first time in my career; Vibe, where I was an editor, became one of the many magazines to fold during the economic crisis. As I looked for my next job, I created that blog as an outlet to be vulnerable and share my unfiltered feelings about my (messy) journey through bachelorhood. It was a diary of sorts, albeit one that was open to the public. I thought of it as a side hustle. But a professional calling card? If I thought that was possible, I would have given myself more of a filter.

Back then, the blogosphere was seen by the larger media world more as a nuisance than a legitimate talent pool. Yet, if you gave the people what they wanted, you could make a name for yourself. But because I talked about relationships with more candor than most men did, I achieved a visibility I didn’t think was possible — and I leaned into it.

The blog’s reception turned me into a persona, a hybrid of Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw and Hitch’s Alex Hitchens. Publications like Essence and the Washington Post wrote about me. I made guest appearances on shows like Death, Sex, and Money and Sway in the Morning. At one point, Kenya Barris wanted to develop a show around my blog. (This was right before a little something called Black-ish happened.)

In my mind, there was Jozen Cummings the relationship blogger and Jozen Cummings the media professional. When my ex and I met, she knew me as the latter, even though many people saw me as the former. The dichotomy was funny to us; if there was anyone who knew I wasn’t a relationship expert, it was her. My terrible dishwashing skills, my impatience with finances, and my habit of falling asleep 10 minutes into a movie all made sure of that.

Still, she knew the perception followed me. She knew every Instagram post of us added another page to what seemed like a great love story. She knew why complete strangers approached us to share how happy they were that I found her. She knew why the video of my proposal to her at a Daniel Caesar concert got featured on Good Morning America.

She also knew I never called myself a relationship expert, so when she wrote in her post that relationships are one of the two things I have no credibility to speak about, it didn’t bother me. But the second thing she mentioned did.

“Trust me when I say the last two things on this earth he should have authority to speak on are relationships — at least successful ones — or anything on behalf of Black men.” That’s verbatim.

I’m Black. I am also Puerto Rican and Japanese. When I’m asked, I answer that I’m mixed — and I’m asked often. When you look like Shades from Luke Cage more than Luke Cage himself, people will have questions for you. Even though my Puerto Rican and Black father bounced when I was barely more than a year old, I spent my whole life trying to be him. He was light-skinned and had green eyes, so people had questions for him when he went to Howard, just like they did for me, but he always fought for and on behalf of Black people in the streets and in the office, in Spanish and English: a bilingual social justice warrior who identified as both. And I don’t speak Spanish like he did, but I do speak up for my people like he did. So to see that written about me — and to see the internet pounce on it with glee, twisting her words to claim I wasn’t Black — hurt.

Everything else she wrote? Not wrong.


Ialways thought my marriage proposal video would be the height of my internet fame. But on the day my ex published the blog, I learned the only thing the internet loves more than a happy ending is an awful ending. Social media users may stan the good guy, but nothing gets them going more than dragging the bad guy.

Instead of rehabilitating our relationship, I knew I needed to rehabilitate myself, and she agreed. She told me that church alone — we actively attended throughout our time together — wouldn’t save me. I needed therapy too, just as I had 10 years prior when coping with my father’s death. Within a month of our breakup, I found a therapist and a new church, determined to break free of the man I had allowed myself to be. I also told her I wanted to unplug from the performance matrix of social media and that I’d be signing off for a long time.

Nothing in my life made me feel more masculine than sex. Not money, not work, not material possessions. My ex-fiancée loved me and made me feel loved, but her love alone was not enough for my ego; I wanted other women to give me the same feeling.

Other than my countless apologies, we never tried to make amends or work through what happened. The only contact we’ve had since was the day after the blog post when she emailed me. “If you want to speak again, with or without a therapist present, I’m open to using that as an opportunity for some closure,” she wrote, “only if you’re ready and able to be truly honest. Either way, I want you to get better, I hope you are doing the work and that therapy is helping you, and I hope you don’t hurt anyone like this ever again.”

Did I love her? Yes. So why did I hurt her?

In those early days of therapy, I told my therapist I believed my actions were about my desire for sex. I thought that desire was innate — which was exactly the sort of wrongheaded thinking so many men have used as an excuse when they fear looking inward. My therapist refused to let me get away with that rationalization. He pushed me to drill to the true source of my desire, what it was I sought beyond physical pleasure.

A few months into my treatment, I finally began to understand what that source was: Nothing in my life made me feel more masculine than sex. Not money, not work, not material possessions. My ex-fiancée loved me and made me feel loved, but her love alone was not enough for my ego; I wanted other women to give me the same feeling. In time, I came to realize how toxic my thinking was about women, about sex, and about myself — and how each of those, and all three in concert, led to toxic choices.

Even after coming to this realization, I knew the work I was doing was better done alone than with her. At my new church, I threw myself into the community — volunteering to serve wherever I could and finding people who, even after learning about my past, did not judge me because of it. In therapy, every time I suggested reaching out to my ex out of guilt, my therapist reminded me to worry about myself. I had to heal too, even if it was from my own mistakes, he said. If the work I was doing was going to work, it had to be for me — not for her, not to avoid her wrath, and not for social media clout.

When people ask if I saw that blog post coming, I always say no. Other women had left me because I was unfaithful. They never wrote about it. But even if my ex had told me she was going to write about what I did, I would never have tried to stop her. I wouldn’t think so many people would care. I wouldn’t think someone like Issa Rae would talk about it in interviews. I wouldn’t have guessed her blog post would invisibly attach itself to every job application I’ve submitted.


For the first six months of my job search, I chose not to speak of what could be easily found about me on the internet. I was naive enough to believe recruiters and hiring managers would give me grace even if they searched my name. Instead, I experienced rejection after rejection early in the process — usually after the first interview.

That itself didn’t bother me; I aim for competitive roles at renowned companies, which means competition is tough. But this doesn’t mean my public-facing personal scandal isn’t a factor. Even now, with jobs as scarce as ever, I still come to every job interview with copies of my resume and a skeleton so big it won’t fit in a closet.

If I see a good role and I know someone who could refer me, they’re reluctant to do so, and I can’t blame them. What would they say? “I have a friend who’d be great for this role, here’s his resume — oh, and if you search for him on the internet, just know he was publicly shamed last June for cheating on his ex-fiancée. But still, he’d be great in the role!”

I wouldn’t ask my mother to have that conversation with someone, so I don’t begrudge people who once championed me professionally keeping me at arm’s length. I just know if the conversations are awkward to have for people who know me, I should not expect to get them from complete strangers.

People try to convince me I’m making too much of a personal matter. If everyone who cheated lost their job, they say, the unemployment rate would probably be even higher than it currently is. That may be true, but the difference is that anyone can see my shame by searching my name.

So as the last month of my severance crept up, I decided on a different approach: On my LinkedIn and my resume, instead of using Jozen Cummings, I decided to go with my first and middle initial. J.P. Cummings. People thought adjusting my name was my attempt at hiding when it was really about me controlling my narrative. If my ex’s blog post was going to come up in an interview, I would be the one to bring it up. (That said, the blog post’s metadata now includes my professional name.)

If I see a good role and I know someone who could refer me, they’re reluctant to do so, and I can’t blame them. What would they say? “I have a friend who’d be great for this role, here’s his resume — oh, and if you search for him on the internet, just know he was publicly shamed last June for cheating on his ex-fiancée. But still, he’d be great in the role!”

Within one day of the adjustment on my name, a hiring agency reached out to me with a role running social media for one of the big-name Democratic presidential candidates at the time. Since Super Tuesday was fast approaching, the interview process went quickly, and they made me a generous offer before I even left the office. Finally, I was being assessed on the strength of my resume rather than my name, I thought — and luckily enough, they were in such urgent need, they wasted no time with their decision.

I submitted my paperwork to get paid and get my federal background check, all using my full government name. I began the next day and started killing the job right away. “We’re going to make a great team,” my boss told me after the first day.

On day three, the hiring agency told my manager I needed to come to their offices instead of campaign headquarters. When I arrived, the two women who had recruited me sat me down in an office. “So the first thing you should know is, you passed our background check easily,” the one seated behind the desk said. “Everything checked out. You’re good.”

Then she took a deep breath, and I immediately knew what was coming. “But,” she said. “The campaign does a more extensive background check, and they found something. Do you have any idea of what it could be?”

“Yes,” I said. “Last year my ex-fiancée ended our relationship when she found out I cheated on her. She wrote a blog post detailing it all that went viral, so when you search my name that’s usually the first thing that comes up. I’m not proud of it. I would have said something sooner, but this process moved so fast, I didn’t have time to bring it up, and I thought it wouldn’t be a factor. It’s personal. I broke her heart; I’m not a criminal. I have professional references to show I’m a good employee. I didn’t hide my real name. I have a professional name I prefer.”

“We know it’s not right,” said the other woman. “There are so many people who did what you did, and it doesn’t cost them their job.”

“Yeah,” I said. “But I guess it does for me.”

“It’s not fair,” she said.

We shook hands, they wished me luck, and I went home.

Now, I try to disclose the situation as soon as I can in a job interview. It’s a tricky thing to do. Say it too soon, and I take myself out of the running before I even get past a prescreening. Wait too long in the process, and I look like I’m hiding it. Usually, I deliver it to the hiring manager when they ask me if I have any questions. Usually, they appreciate my transparency and are thoughtful and professional in how they respond.

One recruiter apologized for what I was going through and then revealed she’s done it too so she doesn’t “know what the big deal is.” (That one was awkward.) Another woman admitted she had looked me up before my interview and was pleased I was honest with her. Two women I interviewed with wanted to change the topic to a lighter note before we ended our interview, so they asked me what my favorite television shows were.

So far, honesty hasn’t been enough to get me a job. But if every job interview I have is a test of my character and an opportunity to show I’ve grown, then I at least want to pass that part.

As the search for my next job continues, what has become most clear in my season of unemployment is this: If we hurt people, we should expect to pay some consequences — but the unintended consequences are the most severe. The idea that I might not ever find a love like the one I lost, that I may never get married because of what I did, is something I can accept. The idea that I may never get to work in journalism again for something completely unrelated to my work in journalism is something I talk about with my therapist and pastor often.

I have also learned that a resume, no matter how great, cannot outshine a reputation. We achieve true success when we make good choices not in one part of our life but every single part of our life.

I am a good son, a good brother, a good uncle, a good friend, a good journalist, and a good coworker. I wasn’t a good boyfriend or fiancée. In that, I wasn’t a good man. When people see why, the good parts no longer matter. I can’t blame them. I can’t blame my ex. I can only blame myself.

I have never asked God or my therapist or my friends “why me?” because I know why. Instead, I have asked how I can grow — and how I can show that growth so other people see who I am now instead of who I was then. There’s only one answer: keep doing the work I have been doing. That’s work no paycheck can compensate.

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