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Processing the Pain of Infidelity

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This time last year, I was in Paris with the man I thought I'd spend the rest of my life with. I trusted my partner and loved him with every ounce of my heart and soul. He was "the one," or so I thought.

That is, until a week after our trip, when a boy's night out turned into him making a series of poor and destructive decisions that would ultimately break everything we had into pieces -- including my heart. He cheated on me and, upon coming home at 4 a.m., lied to me and blamed me for being paranoid. What happened in the next 48 hours after was a blur of lies and a painful, slow discovery that the person I admired and adored was not the person I thought I knew.

I have purposely not written about what happened in my breakup because I felt I needed some time to heal and process the situation before publishing, and because I didn't want my story to come from a place of spite or revenge. Also, it has taken me a lot of courage to share this very personal experience with you, because I felt a lot of shame around what happened. As much as I can say I'm a confident and strong woman, you can bet that I doubted my own self-worth and asked myself what was so wrong with me for the man who supposedly loved me to throw it all away for an hour with someone who "meant nothing" to him. I was embarrassed, hurt and my self-esteem was damaged.

Pain

I believe that everyone makes mistakes, and often it is not the mistakes that defines a person's character, but what they do afterward. I hoped in my heart that he would redeem himself, be accountable for his actions and work for my forgiveness. I hung on to faith that he would step up to be the man I thought he was. But he didn't. And maybe that's the most disappointing part of it all.

During this time, I reached out to him for help. In his own pain, he did not know how to handle me. So instead of responding with compassion and care, he ignored me. I watched the man that I loved, that I shared deep secrets and sacred moments with, in a blink of an eye treat me like I was nothing. It was as if one day I was the world to him and the next moment I was irrelevant.

Regardless of the support from friends and family during such a time, I felt terribly alone. To have your trust breached and your heart so wounded feels like there is a dark cloud of misery that follows you everywhere you go. It's with you no matter how you try to distract yourself. Even in sleep you cannot escape, as pain haunts you in the form of nightmares. You feel trapped, because there is nothing you can say or do to make it go away.

In the process of dealing with the pain, I dehumanized him. I lost compassion and forgot that his actions came from a very unhealthy place of disconnection. I realize now that I must take accountability for the fact that I attracted him into my life in the first place. After all, you attract people of a similar health level.

Old Wounds Resurfacing

A year later, I still have moments where sadness and anger creep up on me and I break down in tears. These tears go way beyond my experience of betrayal -- they stem down to the little girl inside, whose deepest insecurity is not being good enough. That little girl who never seemed to be able to get love and approval from her father comes out and wonders if she will ever be worthy of love from a man.

I've given myself permission to be vulnerable and have allowed myself to process the plethora of emotions and old wounds that were triggered from the event. There's been some deep childhood stuff that surfaced after being suppressed for over two decades, and ripping off the Band-Aid has forced me to work through them.

There are ups and downs, and I am proud to say that there are a lot more ups than there are downs, now. And slowly, the hope that real, authentic love does exist is starting to return.

Learning From the Experience

When you feel pain and suffering, it's hard to see the light or how the experience fits into the bigger picture of things. Hitting such a low was not an easy feat; however, I feel as if it helped me mature. In the last year, I've become very clear on my values and have been attracting new opportunities and people that are aligned with those values.

I remember some of the darkest moments I faced after I found out he cheated on me. I felt like I was completely broken and I wanted him to fix me. Now, I realize, I wasn't broken. I was just bruised. And those bruises, through gentle care, eventually heal. I look back and think about that scared little girl, sobbing as if it was the end of the world. I know now the world was not ending; rather, it just had to hit a low in order for it to get a lot better. And it did.

If You've Been Cheated On

If you are reading this and have experienced or are experiencing something similar, I hope that this article gives you some peace of mind, that what you are feeling is normal. The hurt, anger, denial, thirst for revenge -- those are all part of the emotional roller coaster that comes with betrayal. Have faith that things will get better and the feeling of suffering will eventually ease. However, keep in mind that if you don't process the experience and allow the wound to truly heal, you will only endure the same suffering in some shape or form in the future.

I hope you allow yourself to be vulnerable, break down as you need to and get real honest with yourself so that you can grow from the experience, and in turn, become a healthier person. Because when you yourself are healthy, you will start attracting healthy people and situations in to your life. A wise friend once told me, "like attracts like."

These struggles in our lives are opportunities for us to heal old wounds and to grow. They are catalysts that have to be triggered in order for you to overcome them. These experiences may not feel good at the time, but they are not good or bad -- they are just a part of the human journey. And you have the choice to deal with them in a healthy way or not. I hope you choose the former, because it only gets better from there. I promise.

Amy Chan is a relationship and lifestyle columnist. To read more of her blogs, visit www.amyfabulous.com.