I have been married twice to the same man and divorced twice. I recently ended a four-year relationship with a man that I loved. I went with him to Houston. He was so good to me and my son. Until my son found out my boyfriend was cheating on me. I was devastated. I was then and I am still devastated and in utter disbelief. I trusted him. I do not trust my judgement when it comes to people. My son was so hurt. I have not broken contact with the boyfriend. I miss him. When I think of cutting contact off with him, I can’t breathe. I am afraid I will never find someone that will make me feel that way. I want to get my life together, but I just feel like it is spinning out of control. I have a man that is an old boyfriend and we spend time together as companions but nothing more. Anyway, I apologize for rambling. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the TEDx talk. If there are any materials or suggestions, I sure would appreciate it.
Spinning in Houston
I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. As you know from watching my talk, I totally understand heartbreak. And I know what it’s like to feel utterly breathless—and not the OMG-you-take-my-breath-away-you’re-so-beautiful-how-did-I-get-so-lucky kind. But the, OMG-how-could-you-betray-me-and-also-how-am- I-going-to-live-without-you? These are two thoughts that can really f#@& with a person’s mind—creating a lot of cognitive dissonance. Not only about the other person, but also ourselves. After all, how can we love somebody so deeply when they’ve hurt us to the very bone?
It’s a good question with a simple answer: We don’t love ourselves enough to love someone who deserves the gift of us. It all starts there, Spinning, with self-love.
Let me tell you a story about a time when the love I had for myself was in short supply.
You see, like you, I was once with a man who cheated on me and who I loved (or thought I did) a lot and could not imagine living without. His name was Todd. And he was horrible. We worked together and, when we first met, I disliked him immediately. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t trust myself to honor that feeling or trust myself (although you can bet your bottom dollar I do now…). Not knowing that all he wanted was a conquest, I let him work on me like a thesis project. I opened up like an Encyclopedia, letting him get to know me, and what I wanted from life and love.
And then, you know what? He gave it to me, but it was a lie. Even though he was already in a relationship with another person, I relented. Ignored my instincts and values and morals and bought his lie hook line and sinker—I was so desperate for love. And before I knew it, he’d left his girlfriend and proposed. Talk about joy! I couldn’t believe my good fortune, that the most perfect person could just show up at my job, after so many years of searching.
And that’s when everything turned to crap.
Long story short: Soon after proposing, I found out he had a girl in every port (he traveled a lot for work) and was cheating on me too, like he’d done with the former girlfriend (and, yes, I deserved it, shame on me). You see, he was just in it for the thrill of the chase. Once I’d been caught, he was out the door in the cruelest of ways.
Talk about not being able to breathe. I was devastated. Utterly crushed. That breathlessness—that lack of air that you’re feeling—is a sign. When we gasp for air, we’re either feeling gob smacked by the high-vibrational love of and for another person or trapped under something heavy at the bottom of an emotional ocean—our mind, body, and heart trying to tell us something. In my case and in yours, Spinning, it’s the latter.
The message? To keep moving. To let go of this man once and for all. Even though it will feel like climbing Everest in paper shoes, to walk forward. To step lightly, but surely.
And to know that in doing so, you’re on the road to finding the healthy and sustainable love you want. Not just for another person but, most importantly, for yourself. That lack of air? It’s also a sign of grief. Because letting go of this man, even though he’s not worthy of your love, is loss. And you must grieve it as if it were a true death.
Will it feel good? Nope. Will it be fun? No way. Will it last forever? Not a chance. You will come through the other side of this “tunnel of pain”, as I refer to it here and in my book. But only if you muster up the courage to step inside. That’s where you are, Spinning. Will you go there? I hope the answer is yes, because you and your son deserve better and I believe with every fiber of my being it’s out there for you. If you choose it.
Of course, you could avoid it. That’s certainly a way to go. But that would also be you ignoring some very clear facts:
- I do not doubt for one moment, Spinning, that you loved your boyfriend and he was good to you and your son in many ways. But let’s not gloss over or sugar coat the fact that he wasn’t as good you believed because he was cheating on you. So essentially, he was lying to you and your son, taking your love and care for granted, and believing you and your son were not worthy of his honesty.
- While I’m sure your son was deeply hurt—and I’m so sorry for that, how dare anybody toy with the affections of a child in such a dark and careless way. And yet, your son is hurt, in large part, because YOU are hurt. Seeing you in pain creates pain for him. With that in mind, it’s up to you to show your son that you’re okay. He’s okay. Everyone will be okay. That doesn’t mean you have to hide the fact that cheating and betraying someone you love is wrong and hurts other people. But it does mean that, for his sake, you should reserve your pain for private moments and other adults who can be there for you in a real way.
- You won’t trust your judgement until you do something restorative. Start by taking a stand on your own behalf, and not accepting the unacceptable. Break ties with this man now and gasp for air for as long as it takes and I promise you that one day,
you’ll wake up to take the best, most satisfying, most empowering, first long deep breath of your life. I know I did, when I let go of everything, and watched my life transform. Letting go can do that, you know. But you have to walk through its fire first.
Saying goodbye to the wrong kind of love and saying hello to the reclamation of your own worth invites wonderful things. But you need time and space away from the source of pain to deal with it. You need perspective. It’s like looking at a Monet painting—up close, it’s easy to get lost in the detail, but harder to see the big picture. Your life is your Monet painting. You’ve been there up close, but now, pull back. Ask yourself, what do you want your life to look like? Who’s in it? How do they honor you? And most importantly, how do you honor yourself?
When you instinctively start to love yourself, you’ll have clarity like you’ve never known before. There will be a clearing. But finding your way back to self-love, and overcoming your grief is a process. I think it’s great that you have an old boyfriend to hang with as a companion, but I suspect he’s an old boyfriend for a reason. Don’t feel the need to jump back in because there’s a void left by your old boyfriend.
When I was writing a Shape magazine column that chronicled my year-long journey to lose weight, I had access to a body image psychologist who once said, “Whenever there’s loss or a void in our lives, we rush to fill it, instead of sitting with it for a while, taking a moment to catch our breaths and live in the empty space. And yet, it’s only then, can we truly let go and move forward in the service or our own true selves.”
Rest, Spinning. Catch your breath. Give all of the love you have to yourself and your son and give the cheating boyfriend his walking papers. Wrap your arms around silence, space, and perspective. And when you’re ready, take a clean hummingbird breath and get back out there. You’ll find the love you want, you will. But only after you take the time needed to love yourself first.
P.S. Make sure to read the other BWL columns as I believe there are nuggets in them for you too!
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Learn more about Jill Sherer Murray: www.letgoforit.com
Jill Sherer Murray is an award-winning writer and speaker who studies creativity, relationships and self-growth. She is also the founder of Let Go For It®, a lifestyle brand dedicated to helping individuals let go for a better life. Jill’s TEDx talk as well as her advice column, Big Wild Love: Let Go For It® were created in service to her loyal and growing fan base, who seek support in the act and the art of letting go for the love they desire and deserve. Follow Jill @letgoforit on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.