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Holly Sidell

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Relationship Advice: Own Up to Your Past

Posted: 12/19/11 01:41 PM ET

"Have you ever cheated?" the man I'm in love with asked totally nonchalantly while spooning out a portion of veggie pan fried noodles. SH*T. I was faced with a split second game time decision. Here's this wonderful man who I am building a relationship with ... a relationship based on trust. Do I tell him the truth that yes, eight years ago, in one of the darkest and worst moments of my life I cheated on a serious boyfriend? Do I risk having him lose all trust in me and seeing me in a horrible light, holding something against me for something I did when I was a totally different person? Or do I lie and then hope he never finds out, because if he did, he'd perhaps lose trust for me then, knowing that I lied to him?

Yes, eight years ago, I did a horrible thing to a loving man I was in a relationship with. I moved away to England to study and we had decided to stay together. Yet with each passing day I was there, I fell more and more into a depression. I was lonely. I felt alone. I felt lost, I felt helpless. I hated who I was. I felt like I had lost myself. And I got to the point where I was so desperate to feel better I'd take any sort of instant gratification. When people already hate themselves, they do things that just perpetuate their self-hatred. That just proves that they should hate themselves. So one night after way way too much to drink, I grabbed for some self-sabotaging, selfish, messed up comfort. I did something that proved to me that I was right, and that I SHOULD, in fact, hate myself.

Of course the moment I woke up hung over the next day, I wanted to die. My boyfriend, even though he was across the ocean, knew something was wrong. I left school and immediately got on a plane to come home and try to save our relationship.

That one awful decision that dark night in a fancy hotel room in London, however, was the start to my spiritual and self-reflexive journey and process that makes me who I am today. I got home and immediately started therapy and studying spirituality. I needed to learn how to take care of myself in a healthy way ... to learn how to self-soothe, and not look for or expect anything outside of me to make me feel better about me. I needed to peel away the layers that were covering my true essence. I needed to feel all the pain and go through the tunnel of the hatred to eventually get out the other side. I needed to learn how to take responsibility for my life and my own happiness.

So. Do I look the man I love who is sitting across the table from me straight in the eyes and tell him? I know that he had been terribly betrayed and cheated on twice in his past. Would this just bring up all of that old pain for him and as a means of protection would he push me away or walk away from me so as not to get hurt like that again? I knew that he was expecting me to answer "no" to his question. I know the light he sees me in ... what do I do?

I told him the truth. Because I knew that that girl eight years ago was a different person than I am now. I know that people make mistakes and people change. I know that that incident changed me for the better and is one of the things that make me who I am today. I know that I will NEVER do anything like that I again. I turned the situation around in my head, and thought if he had told me he cheated years ago, would it make me feel like I couldn't trust him now? And the answer was no. Because I SEE who he is NOW. Because I believe in him and I believe in our relationship. I believe in the power of forgiveness. I believe in people's ability to learn from their mistakes and change. I hoped he would see it the same way.

He was shocked. And he got triggered. And I got triggered -- all of my fear of abandonment came up. My fear that he would never look at me the same or that he would leave me or hate me now or judge me, or that he would never feel like he could trust me again. All of my fears that I'm not lovable came up. And I had to sort through those while he sorted through his feelings.

The whole time he said his being triggered wasn't even about me or about him feeling he couldn't trust me anymore. It was about old wounds for him that came up. And he said that he knows me NOW and he knows that what happened then was an important part of making me who I am now. He said that what happened then and how I grew from it and transformed from it is what makes me able to love him in the incredible way that he feels loved by me today.

WOW. I have to tell you that I have never felt so completely and unconditionally loved and accepted. To me, that showed true strength and was one of the sexiest things I'd ever seen. To get out of his own ego and to really give me space to change and be who I am, past mistakes and all. To not hold a grudge and allow me to be who I am today, not who I used to be.

So many times in relationships we get angry at our partner for something they did in the past. But really, the past is in the past. And we want to live in the present. If we can just get out of our own ego and fear space, and take a look at why we're being triggered instead of blaming the other person for making us feel a certain way, we can give each other the chance to truly be the highest version of ourselves.

 
 
 

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