How My Girlfriend's Cheating Gave Me A Better Relationship With Myself

by Garrett Paknis

I've always been hardcore in everything that I do. I'm black or white and yes or no f*cking thank you.

There was no exemption of my oh-so-wonderful personality during my first real relationship, which ended because I was cheated on. (Hello, temper tantrums!)

I remember the day I found out my partner was cheating, and how everything caved into a bottomless pit of dread, anxiety and fear. It didn't help that I found out my ex was having unprotected sex with other men, which was something we were doing, too.

"F*ck, f*ck, f*ck," I thought, feeling as though someone had pulled the plug on my carefree youth. Suddenly, life was over.

Instead of dealing with reality and maybe hitting up that STD clinic, I ran the other direction. I started a torrential descent toward every liquor bottle and drug I could get my hands and nose on. I escaped in endless hours of working out, starvation, the obsession with my vanity and how beautiful I was when I felt exactly the opposite within.

What I found is that what we're running from will always win the race. After years spent sprinting and trying to avoid what was within me, I was beat to the finish line. I crashed. I remember looking into the mirror after a three-day bender and not recognizing myself.

There was no life in my eyes, and I knew that right then, I could either keep doing what I was doing and die, or I could get help. I could help myself. 

That was, as the cliché goes, the first day of the rest of my life. I decided it was time to wake up. There could be no more sleeping at the wheel just because my now-ex was sleeping around.

In facing myself, I had to get real with the fact that being cheated on was simply the catalyst for a storm brewing within me that I kept hidden from plain view. I realized I was harboring a tremendous amount of pain from childhood, and so in actuality, being cheated on helped me shed the light on what was really the issue at hand.

I now see that every hardship, every embarrassment, every illness and every lie can bring us closer to our truth, if we allow room for them to. I've also learned that nothing is ever personal, even when it feels like something is directed right at us.

People cheat for a myriad of reasons. Their actions don't define who we are, but rather, who they are.

People can never take away your worth unless you let them. We each have the key to our personal vault of freedom, and nobody can duplicate that sh*t at the corner hardware store. Your key is yours and yours alone.

Spending so many years in disillusionment taught me that we should never treat anyone as if he or she is stupid or "less" than us. We all do our best at our own level of awareness, and even when it seems like someone is coming short of that, we shouldn't be so righteous as to think that we haven't ever slipped up.

I see so many people putting others down because they simply feel terrible about themselves. But, life is a mirror, and how we treat others is how we feel about ourselves. Let's look within.

Through this whole experience, I learned that out of all the people I had to forgive, the most important one was myself. I learned that holding onto resentment is like holding onto the sharpest sword's blade: It's always going to slice us into pieces when we are meant to be whole.

Nowadays, I don't live in fractions because I was able to stand up to my strength. I allowed my experience to push me toward greatness, and I realized that we are all possibility powerhouses. I stopped looking for validation from others and started turning my focus inward, where I found that I was happiest in a long-term relationship with myself.

I may be as hardcore as ever, but now I've got a soft heart and no need to worry about being cheated on because I'm always there for myself. And that's exactly where I'd rather be: Here, where I'm grateful.