“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have—life itself.” ~Walter Anderson
“Are you really okay?” I lost count of how many times my immediate family and friends asked me this question.
My positive, light-hearted attitude seemed to be difficult for people to comprehend, but for me it was the only option and means for survival.
I remember the situation like it just happened yesterday.
I was driving home during a holiday weekend after hanging out with a couple of friends and received a text message stating, “This is his girlfriend.”
At that precise moment, it felt like my heart stopped beating for a minute.
I had to pull over at a gas station to catch my breath and allow the tears to flow down my cheeks so that the road could be visible again.
I responded to the text and told her to call me. I spent over an hour listening to another woman cry and try to understand what was happening.
The man that I had been dating for over a year had been with this woman for over five years and to put the icing on the cake, they live together.
Fact vs. Fiction
Imagine meeting your dream guy at a wedding party mixer. He was handsome, ambitious, athletic, family-oriented, fun, and the list goes on.
He was the epitome of a typical “perfect mate” list so many people draft hoping to find that person.
We had amazing chemistry, always laughing and enjoying good conversations. We spent a lot of time talking about our dreams, ambitions, family, and personal obstacles. It just seemed so easy, perfect in a sense.
He and I both lived in different states, so we made travel arrangements to see each other.
I would complain about us not seeing each other as often as I would have liked to, but his gentle reminder about the nature of his demanding job would quickly stroke my compassionate, understanding side.
It was not until I moved closer that I began to question his behaviors.
Originally, we lived over ten hours apart, but after I relocated due to a job promotion, we were now three hours apart. The excuses about not being able to travel due to his work schedule were a tad irrelevant at this point.
His stories about his car being in the shop, which restricted his travel, and the story about his coworker moving in with him temporarily due to some personal problems did not seem to make sense after a while, but sometimes you want to believe the best in a person despite what your instincts are telling you.
It was not until my hour-long conversation with his live in girlfriend of five years that I realized the extent of the lies he’d told. This dream guy was not the person I thought he was. I had been awakened from the dream.
You Have a Choice
It was at this moment, I had to make a decision. Did I want to react from an emotional, hurt place and focus on my pain? Or did I want to help this woman who had plans to marry this man, who lives with him, who has made many more sacrifices than I ever did to be with him?
See, this woman had been with him to aid him while he transitioned careers, when his family disowned him, when he had nothing. Listening to her story tugged at my heartstrings and made me for a brief minute forget about my feelings.
So many times in life we get so focused on ourselves and do not lend ourselves to be in the moment and hear others. Yes, what happened to me was like a scene out of your favorite Lifetime movie, but my situation was nothing in comparison to hers.
I had the option to easily remove myself from the situation and allow time to heal the wound, while she had to literally undergo a complete lifestyle change.
Life is about choices.
You can choose to stay in bad circumstances.
You can choose to listen to your instincts and your gut feelings that tell you something is not right.
You can choose to support a complete stranger and be the listening ear during their time of need.
You can choose to release a situation—the pain, the hurt, the sadness, the anger.
And more importantly, you can choose to forgive someone you never received an apology from. Forgiving an individual who you feel may have hurt you initiates the healing process.
The first step in the healing process was being able to truly address how I felt about the situation. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to speak to this person to get an explanation or an apology, and I had to learn how to process my feelings without internalizing them.
Using techniques such as journaling and exercising, as well as speaking to close friends and family about the situation, really helped with getting my thoughts out.
However, I believe allowing myself to learn and grow from the experience is what helped me to move forward.
It’s so easy for us to embrace the victim mentality and place blame on other people for their wrongdoing, but this is the very type of mentality that keeps us angry, bitter, and hurt.
There is healing in accepting your role in each situation, and for me that was accepting the fact that I chose to avoid the signs.
I wanted to believe that this person truly loved and cared about me and would never hurt me, so I chose to look the other way, and that is not a demonstration of self-love.
Over the course of time, I was able to embrace the fact that every being is flawed and we all make mistakes. By no means was I or am I perfect, so who am I to hold this grudge and anger toward another being?
At times, I thought to myself this man is delusional and absolutely crazy for trying to live a double life. However, for a brief moment, I realized he was probably miserable and seeking an escape from his reality and at that moment, I felt bad for him.
For me, forgiving this man was pivotal for my life and well-being, because I was able to learn the value of self-love again.
I found strength, joy, overwhelming gratitude, and peace. I also learned one bad relationship is not an indication that every relationship will be horrible.
Choose to grow from your pain and learn to forgive, because you deserve to be happy.
Sad man image via Shutterstock