Having been cheated on early in my life, I understandably internalized feelings of rejection. As a result, I closed myself off from my own faucet of truth, the one that told me that I was worthy, able and important.
Infidelity was like a trigger to a bottomless well of insecurity and feelings of inadequacy, which separated me from what I always felt was my true, carefree and joyful nature.
It is only now that I can look back and understand the lessons that I learned, and that we can all learn, in response to betrayal. Here are 11 kernels of wisdom that I hope you can take to heart, and realize that your well of truth is always yours, regardless of what anyone else says or does.
1. Nothing is ever personal (even when it is).
People cheat for a number of reasons, and it has nothing to do with you or the qualities you think you might be lacking. Cheaters, and liars in general, are often lost within their own kingdom of pain and we have to recognize that. It’s not us. It’s them.
2. Misery loves misery (and love loves love).
How can someone treat us with the respect and honesty we deserve when they can’t take an honest look into the mirror? Infidelity can be a blessing, because it alerts us to the fact that we need to seek a relationship that we deserve, not one that reinforces our insecurities.
3. Self-worth can never be taken away.
One of the most important things we can have in this life is an understanding of our personal value. Individual worth is something that we will always be called to come back to in our times of struggle (and success!). Always respect yourself first and foremost. Self-respect is all you’ve got, but it’s also a huge gift.
4. Honesty really is the best policy.
The cliché holds. The truth holds our power to access happiness and strength.
5. Prioritize protection.
My partner was having unprotected sex with other men, and while I am grateful to not have suffered any health repercussions, discovering this caused a deep enough trauma that caused me to run away from a number of topics within my personal life. I even avoided getting tested for a long time afterward, which was one of many reasons my issues with addiction started to spiral out of control. The message here is simple: know your status, get tested and let the importance of protection be an open topic between you and your partner.
6. Nothing is worth avoiding.
When something feels off, don’t be shy to search for what is causing the discomfort. I let my emotions and feelings entangle me in a web of denial and delusion. When I look back, I see how I could’ve untangled myself if I had made space to ask myself questions about what I wanted and how I felt about what was going on at the time.
Even when you don’t think someone who hurt you “deserves” it. Holding resentment only hurts us at the end of the day.
8. Always accept apologies.
For so long, I felt as if everything was my fault and failed to see why other people would apologize to me due to my own, sometimes subconscious, feelings of unworthiness. When I awoke to the reality that I was worthy of an apology, I allowed room for closure.
9. Things fall apart for other things to be created.
I wouldn’t be here writing this article if it weren’t for this experience in my life, so — one of many cases closed.
10. The most important relationship in your life isn’t what you think.
No one will ever complete us. The only way you can feel complete is by honoring yourself. Of course, you can seek and find a meaningful romantic relationship. But that only happens when the two people getting together each already know, honor and love themselves; their union is built on a foundation of strength rather than codependency.
11. Pain can actually make us happier in the end.
Strength is a form of resilience, and is something we gain from undergoing pain. What if we allowed every wrong we’ve ever experienced to shine a light on all that is right in our lives? Instead of suffocating in the thralls of defeat, deceit and dread, we can appreciate our struggles for letting them guide us to greater discovery within.
When we approach our darkest moments, we allow ourselves to heal from what isn’t meant for us. In relationships, we are often melting into one another and can find ourselves throwing away our personal identities as we become “one” with another. It’s easy for us to get caught up in our need for validation from another person and forget that, at the end of the day, we are the one person who needs to meet our needs.
Many of us want to devote our entire existence to the one we love, but I’ve learned how that existence can come crashing down. As long as we have a solid foundation in who we are, we will always be able to weather any storm. Feeling safe doesn’t necessarily come from a lover’s embrace, but from standing on our own two feet.