In my 27 years of life, I've learned a lot about relationships.
I've learned there is a balance to strike between passion and comfort. I've learned time doesn't necessarily heal all wounds, but it definitely makes them feel less painful.
I've learned that sometimes you have to walk away from things the heart wants because the mind knows better, and sometimes you have to let yourself free-fall into something the mind doesn't quite understand.
Most importantly, most prominently, I've learned relationships aren't always made of the magic we see in fairy tales. I've learned they can be hard work, and they require patience, understanding, kindness and forgiveness.
Making mistakes is integral to our development. It helps us grow, it helps us learn and it shapes us into the people we eventually become.
I wouldn't want to live a life of perfection, a life without mistakes. A life without mistakes means you're playing it safe; you're not taking the risks that often lead to greatness.
Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” I want to try new things; I want to grow. And if I stumble and fall along the way, that is a risk I am willing to take.
With that in mind, I've realized something else about humans, an important counterpoint to the fact that we will inevitably make mistakes: As mistake-making humans, we all deserve forgiveness.
This was one of the hardest realizations I've come to regarding relationships. Not the fact that my partner deserves forgiveness, which I have accepted and tried to practice, but rather the realization that I do too.
And it only came after a long time of reflection and regret.
Recently, I made a mistake. It was a mistake I could possibly undo, but I could never take back. Unintentionally and unknowingly, I hurt someone I cared about deeply. And as a result, I lost him.
I could say I didn't realize the effect my actions would have, or that I didn't realize the consequences of what I was doing. But the reality is this: When it comes to hurting someone you care about, there are no excuses.
I have accepted this. I have admitted I was wrong. I have apologized, done what I could to fix it and I have sought forgiveness.
I sought forgiveness from a person who had also made mistakes along the path of our relationship (as everyone does). He was person I had forgiven for hurting me in the past because I understood he was human, that he had thoughts and feelings and baggage that stretched far beyond our relationship.
Despite this, despite our rich history and the love we shared, this person refused to forgive me. And that's OK. That was his prerogative.
What wasn't OK was my letting this dictate the way I felt about myself. I spent months beating myself up over the mistake I had made, and letting him berate me for it, too.
I spent months apologizing, pleading for an opportunity to make things right to no avail. I did everything I could do to make up for the mistake that I had made, but for him, it was unforgivable.
I'm never going to get him back. And I'm probably never going to be satisfied with the way things ended. This is a hard pill to swallow. But eventually, I had to forgive myself because I deserved to. Because I could grow from this, but only if I could move on from it.
It was a long, difficult path to realizing that. For a long time, I felt I could not forgive myself until he forgave me, until I made it right. I put my self-worth in his hands, and then let my confidence crumble.
But over time, I realized the forgiveness I sought — the reconciliation I thought I needed — was never going to happen. I realized the only way for me to make peace with myself was to be my own closure.
Don Henley sums this up perfectly (and speaks to my soul) when he says,
This doesn't mean I'm not still sorry, not still regretful. I am both of those things. But it means I now know I have to move forward.
I have to pick myself up, dust myself off and remind myself that I am not a bad person, that I am human, that I made a mistake and that I too deserve forgiveness, at the very least from myself.
So, in case you ever find yourself in a similar spot, in case you forget, let me remind you: You are human. You will make mistakes. And you deserve forgiveness.