Hello everybody, welcome to episode 123 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. I’ve got a question for you today that I’m really excited to answer – it’s a long, hearty question about what we do with the pain that comes to us after a breakup – specifically the pain of learning that an ex was unfaithful. This can be very damaging to learn, but today we’re going to look to repair that damage in a way that is honest and dignified. Let’s hear what this listener had to say…
QUESTION: “Myself and my girlfriend of 3 years broke up on June 11th. It was going to happen eventually as I felt myself and her distancing apart from one another. At about the 1 and a half year mark she broke up with me for a few days saying that she had to figure things out because she developed feelings for someone else. We got back together days after that. We dated for another year and 9 months and then broke up.
Yesterday, I asked her if she cheated on me anytime during the relationship. Turns out she did cheat numerous times with the same guy from years ago this year.
I held out hope that we could eventually be friends. However, that was before I found out that she cheated. When we broke up, I honestly thought that she needed help and that she couldn't deal being in a relationship. I know her past was terrible in that her father didn't show her enough love and that her mom would cheat on her dad often to the point where her dad couldn't look at her because she looked too much like her mom.
She never even apologized for cheating when I confronted her. I was totally fine with the breakup until I learned about the infidelity. Cheating was the one thing I told her about in our relationship that I could not tolerate and she didn't care and carried on an affair. What do I do to get over this?”
Pride vs. Absence
All right, a very powerful question today. Thank you, sir, for sending this in. As I’ve said before, in a way, relationships really don’t end at the break up.
The feelings between two people simply enter a final phase; a phase which can have as many twists and turns as the relationship itself as both people slowly transition back into having relationships with themselves. And we’re definitely going to talk about that today, because right now it seems to me that you’re not treating yourself well.
You’re making this whole thing a lot more about you than it actually is, and it’s not helpful. It’s natural, but it’s not helpful nor is it accurate. I think your pride is hurting the most right now – much more than her absence.
Challenging Feelings with an Ex that was Unfaithful
You ended you question by saying that, “cheating was the one thing I told her about in our relationship that I could not tolerate and she didn't care and carried on an affair.”
This, however, came shortly after you said, “when we broke up, I honestly thought that she needed help and that she couldn't deal being in a relationship” and then went on to talk about the environment she grew up in which obviously correlates to her behavior as an adult.
When I look at these segments side by side, it tells me that you’re first an insightful person who knows better and understands the challenges people face. However, once you found she cheated, you then resort to saying that she didn’t care, which tells me your pride was hurt enough that you turned your logic aside.
I think we both know that it’s a little irresponsible of you to assume that she just cheated viciously without ever paying mind to your feelings. Based on that first excerpt I shared, it seems rather clear to me that she was wrestling with very challenging feelings along the way, especially if this dates back to almost two years ago when she made you clear of these emotions and chose to separate because of it, albeit a brief separation that ultimately didn’t do anything for either of you.
Gray vs. Black and White Areas
Does this make her behavior right? Of course it doesn’t.
But you know gray areas and you know better than to make this about right and wrong and you being wronged. The way you’ve exited the gray area and gone into black and white is you trying to make sense of everything so you can have a strong viewpoint and not have to deal with the uncertainty.
This division gives a false sense of clarity that people can’t help but to fall into. See all things politics.
Needless to say, the certainty is barely ever right. The anger makes sense right now because it’s the easy thing to feel based on what happened, but over time, as you go beneath the surface, the time will come when you realize it’s just your ego getting angry and that the anger was never worth it.
I’m not saying you can just turn that off with the snap of your fingers – it’s a strong feeling. But it’s a knee-jerk feeling nonetheless.
Observing Past Patterns
So right now, the breakup phase of your relationship has opened a new can of worms and the wound is fresh again. Therefore, it’s going to feel like you two are still very connected and it will continue to for a bit longer.
But once you’re able to assess her behavior objectively like this (to the best of your ability), you’ll begin to see that you two are not unified, as this whole stint was entirely about her as an individual and had nothing to do with you. If you look at her patterns with you and in her past, is it very surprising to you that she acted this way?
It isn’t to me, and I think you’re right in that this pattern will continue for her until she gets some help with understanding the underlying causes better. You just happened to get caught in the storm, but you didn’t cause it.
And I want you to really pay attention to that, because it offers you an invitation.
As you make this discovery that her behavior is about her and not about you, you are then in a place to understand the fact that this was also not about the other man she was with. You were never in a competition with this man. The only competition in this entire thing was the competition your ex was in with her own lack of security.
Ex was Unfaithful: The Pain from Wrongdoing
This is a crucial realization that I hope you come to, because you mentioned that you were ok with the breakup until finding out that she cheated.
What does that tell you? It says that the pain is derived from being done wrong to. It’s not derived from no longer being with this person.
You said the distance between you two was obvious – something you were consistent with before and after the breakup. And you were right. But the distance now is between your pride and your highest self (a term I use at the risk of sounding too flowery).
So what if she didn’t say sorry? Big deal. That’s her problem and it has nothing to do with you. Your entire recovery from here on out is all about what you’re doing to you rather than what she did to you.
Yes, this may hurt, and “getting past” it might take time. The things I’ve mentioned here, while true to me, are still hard to come to terms with in the face of huge emotion.
But if you can practice stepping out of the realm of companionship and instead see the two of you for the individuals you are, you’ll start to see what makes her tick and how little impact you or anyone else has over that ticking right now. And more importantly for your recovery, you’ll start to see what makes you tick outside of her.
You know yourself well enough to know that this wasn’t a good match. Don’t let a blow to your ego make you second guess that.
Use your knowledge to rebuild your self-worth and the relationship you have with yourself, and make it a relationship that is not threatened by having disservices done to you.
Many thanks to the man who sent this question in for being so vulnerable and so forthcoming. Being cheated on is a tough thing to admit, but let’s face it, it’s not uncommon in the least. So it’s great that we could have a dialogue about it today, and I sure hope it helped the asker as well as anyone out there listening who’s going through something similar.
And to said listeners, if you’re struggling with anything that you think we could help with, please email your questions to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
It’s a pleasure to help all of you and there’s no such thing as too many questions. Time to wrap up for today though, all. It means a lot that you stopped in today and I hope you’ll do the same next time. Until then babes.