Every girl hopes falling in love will be like a fairytale. She expects to find a faithful soul mate with whom she can spend the rest of her life. Maybe, like me, she grew up reading books about a guy and a girl who meet, fall in love, and then ‘live happily ever after.’ And, maybe, she was always enchanted by these mythical guy-meets-girl, they live happily ever after type stories just as I always was. This same girl will likely spend hours in her lifetime fantasizing about being all dressed up in white and gliding down the aisle on her wedding day.
I’ll admit it. I was one of these women. As a young girl, I held on to this fairytale idea that the man I gave my heart to would cherish it forever and make me his wife. This notion was reaffirmed in my familial life as well. I was taught from an early age that marriage was something that “good Christian girls” should aspire to. In my childhood home marriage symbolized one of the many rungs on the ladder towards success in a woman’s life; it was just as important as going off to college or getting a great job. Over the years, as I became a woman, I began to believe that without marriage, I would not be happy. For a long time I accepted this messaging as my personal truth—subconsciously using it to define who I was and allowing it to invalidate all that I had accomplished. Then at twenty-five, I had a life-altering experience that totally turned my perception of love and happiness on its head.
A month before my wedding, the man I was in love with—my real life Prince Charming—cheated on me and broke my heart. The sheer devastation of knowing that the ideal for love I’d held onto so tightly for so long had failed, almost cost me my life. When I found out about my partner’s indiscretions, I was completely broken and inconsolable. I even considered taking my own life. I found myself resenting my faith in marriage and questioning my belief in God. “How could He allow something like this to happen to me?” I shouted angrily at the Universe. It was as if I had been unfairly handed a heap of pain, and instinctually, as is the case when someone places something in your hands, I closed my fists tightly around my discomfort, and I didn’t let go of it for a long time.
As time began to pass, I started to look for ways to pick up the pieces and move forward with my life. One of the first steps I took was to accept what had happened to me. Even though I wished I could change the course of events that lead to my disappointment, I just could not. Even if I could have, I had decided that I didn’t want to marry someone who wasn’t completely committed to our life together and me; someone who needed coaxing to be honest and truthful. I decided to stop blaming myself for someone else’s bad choices. Unfortunately, some part of me believed that maybe if I would have spent fewer hours in each day chasing my dreams, and instead spent more time and energy on my cheating fiancé, maybe he wouldn’t have strayed. It’s almost embarrassing to admit that thought now. But I’m sharing it because I know many women who have been cheated on before have felt the same way. I had to accept that my fiancé made a conscious decision to be unfaithful in our relationship—a choice that was a comment on his character and not mine. It was time to stop beating myself up over someone else’s blunders. My next step might come as a surprise to some people, but it has been a very crucial part of my healing process: I accepted responsibility for the ways in which I was complicit in my own pain. I had overlooked my fiancés flaws—the dishonesty and deceit, the phone calls he received in the middle of the night—all to reach some pinnacle of adult life before my time had actually come. Time and time again I had ignored my instincts that something in our relationship was amiss. I still remember the night I got engaged; when my fiancé got down on one knee to propose, I instinctively took three steps back. Sometimes I wonder what my body knew then about what was to come that made it want to go in the opposite direction. Intuition is God’s greatest gift to woman, a denial of one’s own intuition is almost certainly a denial of one’s self.
It’s been months now since our split, and I can still feel the pain I experienced when I opened up my email inbox to find messages from my ex-fiancé’s lover revealing their affair. I still cringe in embarrassment when I think about the smile I plastered on my face as I simultaneously canceled my wedding plans and grieved the loss of someone I once thought I couldn’t live without.
There is something very different about me today that wasn’t apparent six months ago. I have started taking the final steps in the process of moving forward by practicing forgiveness; I’ve decided to stop clenching a broken fairytale and release the pain I’ve been holding onto for so long. I’m not that timid young woman who felt her value needed to be reaffirmed or defined by marriage. And most importantly, I no longer question God’s plan for my life; I know now that in His own special way he has used my suffering to build my character, strengthen my trust in Him, and allowed me to be an inspiration for others. Without me even knowing it, God has transformed my pain into a gift waiting to be shared with the world.