A story of healing and forgiving an unfaithful partner
Updated: Feb 20, 2019
As a young adult, when I was a much more desperate, less self-aware version of myself, I was in a relationship with the love of my life (of that time). When I say desperate, what I mean to say is that I really needed to feel needed by my partner and I really had no control over that feeling.
Said lover and myself had a deeply passionate relationship. We were in love, had amazing romping sessions, which added to the passions of the relationship and amongst it all, we also shared a deep connection.
But we were both quite insecure about ourselves and that insecurity was reflected in the relationship.
After some time into the relationship, while deeply and obsessively in love with him, he starts cheating on me. Not by sleeping with the girl, as she lived overseas, but he had an emotional relationship with her, calling and emailing her regularly behind my back.
Not the more conventional and clearly unethical sleeping with someone behind your back kind of cheating, but what might be called emotional cheating.
I think I must have found a message in a phone he lent me once, which is how I became privy to it and was then thrown into the biggest jealous internal rage and angst.
I confronted him about it, but he never admitted to doing anything wrong, instead telling me that I was being crazy and insecure about a relationship that didn’t exist.
I held onto our relationship though. Wishing things were different and wanting him to love me, so badly that I didn’t want to let it go.
I wanted for him to admit that he had this relationship behind my back so that I could finally leave him. But even more so, I wanted him to tell me that it was me that he wanted and to stop contacting the girl to be with me.
I did tell you I was desperate for him.
This was super painful and my confidence and self-worth took a big hit. I would create stories in my head and anguish over his disloyalty. I could be overcome with extreme sadness at any moment and would often break into tears anywhere.
How could he do this to me? Why won’t he just love me? How can I get him to love me and stop contacting this girl?
Eventually we broke up and I got the admission that I so wanted. It did give me a reason to leave, like I wanted, but it didn’t make the hurt go away.
What ensued was many years of pain. I couldn’t let it go.
I obsessed over it. I couldn’t forgive and forget and this went on for years. More years than I could fathom.
And although the time in between replaying hurtful memories became longer and the time spent dwelling in the pain was shorter over the years, it was still there. When something triggered the thoughts and memories, my heart ached just as bad as it had before and I was still so bitter about it.
Did I also say that I never held down a relationship after it either? Yeah, I was also tainted.
Fast forward to a trip I had in India 6 years after the relationship...
I visited a place called Rishikesh. You might know it as a haven for aspiring yoga teachers. I wasn’t there for the yoga but I did meet a spiritual guru named Prem Baba (prem means love in Hindi). He spoke of many concepts that are common in spiritual teachings and then taught workshops as a way of practicing the concepts.
I attended a workshop by Prem Baba and in it I went back in time through my life and recognised some patterns that I had from as an adult to teenager to a kid. I then traced those patterns back all the way to me as a young child and saw how those patterns were tied to some moments from my childhood.
Those experiences in my childhood created my behaviours which I had taken with me throughout my life.
It was a great lesson, but the most extraordinary experience came after the workshop.
Immediately after the workshop, my heart felt gripped with an anxiety. I could feel it very strongly and thought it odd. I shared the anxiety that I felt with a fellow participant who told me that Prem Baba tells them this is a good thing. It means that the memory or bad energy that was stored or trapped in that body part was now releasing.
Over the next couple of the days, the pressure of that energy/anxiety leaving my heart dissipated. It took around two days for the feeling to subside.
The workshop and that trapped energy being released became an interesting experience and memory, but nothing more than that.
While leaving Rishikesh, though, I picked up a book by Osho, a spiritual philosopher from India, and read it in the days following. Within the pages of his sermons, there was a lesson on compassion. Compassion means being truly able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and realising that that person is always doing the best that they can, within their means in that moment.
Something earlier that day had triggered me yet again to be taken back the heartache of my cheating partner. That deep sinking feeling in the pits of my stomach hit me once again.
I thought to myself, why can’t I just let this go? How can I still be plagued by the hurt of something that happened so long ago? What happened next will remain with me as one of the greatest lessons of my life.
Inspired by the lesson from Osho, I closed my eyes and decided to put myself in his shoes. I really imagined being him, and I looked at our relationship from his eyes and point of view.
As him, I noticed that he was insecure about the relationship and himself.
How could she ever love me when I am such a loser?
In this other girl was someone who fancied him, and he could momentarily forget how bad he felt about himself. He suffered from depression, you see, and in those moments when he felt so bad about himself and his girlfriend only amplifies that feeling of unworthiness, the only thing he could do to make himself feel good, to forget that pain, was to talk to a girl, who knows nothing about how much of a shit person he feels he is.
These were all things that he told me before when explaining himself, but I could never empathise with him because I was too busy feeling indignation for his wrongdoings.
But this time I could.
When I was truly in his shoes, and seeing it from his perspective, I finally understood that he really did act in the only way he could have. It was the only way he felt he could deal with his pain.
Sure, I got hurt in the process, that was the sad reality. The other sad reality was that he was hurting as well, in his depression, which was what compelled him to act like he did.
In his pain, so gripped and taken by it, he needed to escape it and feel better, and he did.
After this exercise of feeling compassion for him, that feeling of an anxiety being released from my heart came back. I knew what it was now, having experienced only days earlier and I let the pain that I had stored and held on to for all these years release.
I was present with it and just allowed it be. It didn’t last days like my last episode, only hours.
after so many years of holding onto that pain and hurt, it was gone. I didn’t feel indignation about what had happened between us any longer. I was indifferent to the entire thing. I looked back at his cheating, and felt nothing, but most importantly, I actually felt love and care for him again.
In the next few moments on the bus, I was taken to some of our happiest moments together. Something I wasn’t able to and had absolutely no room to for years.
I was healed. I had forgiven him and the pain that I was holding onto had no place in me anymore.
From that day until now, the pain of those memories has never, not even for a moment, overcome me again.
I was finally free.
I was able to truly forgive and forget when I was compassionate. By putting myself into his shoes, by imagining what it was to be him and then seeing that he was always only acting within whatever means he could.
When you have options in front of you, you would never choose the option that is going to give you the worst outcome in your life. You always act in the way that is going to bring you the best outcome. Knowing that, truly, is compassion.
I’ve not had to use this exercise again in this setting, nor in any other. Not sure if I will need to.
I’ll never forget it though and now know the power of compassion.
Oh, and I am now, after all those years, in a loving relationship. No longer tainted :)