It was within heartbreak and destruction when I realized how much growth I have had over the past years.
As I sat alone in my house on my couch, holding my phone and looking at a picture of him with someone else, I could feel the tears beginning to pool. I was a blink away from a “turn around don’t drown” kind of crying.
I looked at the picture so clearly on social media and I began to shake uncontrollably. I stood up and then sat down and did the dance of confusion over and over again, until I had enough.
I threw myself back on the couch, and in the late evening, I called my therapist. Like the other nights from my house or from a hotel in France, when I was in a place I knew I could not be alone, he took my call.
Years ago, after a failed marriage where I was the toxic one and another relationship that wasn’t good for me, I was not in a healthy place. Back then I was a firm believer in revenge, a roaring from a mountain top “eye for an eye” type of person. I won the gold medal in grudge holding—first place public humiliation if you crossed me—and I was #1 in sarcasm.
I thought I was a force to be reckoned with, but it turns out I was just a toxic asshole, and everyone knew but me. Once I began to see what others had been living with for years, I realized I needed to heal, and I took the first steps in healing, through my recovery program—recovering from control, codependency, narcissism, and anger.
I took years away from dating until I felt I was finally ready to give it a real go, and when I was actually ready, I met an incredible man after so many dating flops.
During our relationship, I saw who I had been and who I was now, two completely different people. Now I was healthy, open, patient, and understanding. I knew good things took time, so there was no rush in getting to know each other. I listened to my gut and I made typical relationship mistakes. But through it all, we’d stuck together, until that night. The night I thought everything I knew was a lie and the man I loved had betrayed me like no one ever had.
I truly met the woman I had worked so hard to become.
Talking to my therapist that night, I was upset, and he did as he usually did; he allowed me to talk. Talking out loud with no interruption has always allowed me to hear me. Allowed me to put pieces together and to calm myself down.
As I spoke, I told him a story of what I thought was going on. A story of betrayal, passion, and an affair. The story I told myself grew and grew, and the more it grew, the more upset I became. Crying. Yelling. Hurting. I had convinced myself of something I wasn’t even sure about because when I called the person who held the answers I was so desperately seeking, I didn’t allow him to speak. Instead of listening to him, I told him what I had believed to be true.
Over the next few days, I plotted my revenge. And then I asked myself: “Is this the woman you want to be?”
“No,” I responded to myself. And it isn’t who I want to be, at all.
As I sat home, now with a clear head, I thought back to who I used to be years ago before even meeting the man I now love, and I didn’t like her—but the woman I am today, I love her, and I do not want to lose her.
That day, I plotted revenge; I made the decision to not give an eye for an eye or to hurt him in a way I was hurting, in the same way I had done in my life before healing. I made this decision for myself, not for him—I made the decision for me. I don’t want to be that woman regardless of who I am with and I choose every day to be a woman I can be proud of even when I am hurting.
Over the next few days, I took the time to ask the man I loved questions, paid attention to the answers, and made my own decisions with only the facts I had, not the story I told myself of what was going on. I learned during this difficult period in my life what a relationship really is, what it really means to work through the tough parts. That it’s okay to take a step back, be still, and be on our own for as much time as we need until we are ready—ready to see each other, ready to talk, or even ready to respond to a text—but it is never okay to tell someone what their truth is.
Although something looks one way, that does not mean it is that way. It is always best to get the entire story and then make decisions about what to do next, with a level head and fewer emotions than necessary.
While going through this journey in my first healthy relationship, I saw that my career was still on the rise. My finances were stable and my life was intact. I saw that there is a life outside of a relationship. You can love someone while you work through the tough parts, but also continue the journey of you while working things out together.
Relationships, even with your soul mate, still require work and effort. But the right person will meet you in your darkness and walk you back into the light when things are unsteady.
I am grateful I took the time to be still, figure out how I felt after I got the information I needed, and I’m even more grateful I didn’t make permeant decisions with temporary feelings.
I am proud of the woman I have grown into today, and I will keep working on me, to keep her—because she is worth saving.