She slept with another man. It's just about the worst thing you could hear in a relationship. And it happened to me. On my very first serious relationship. As you might imagine, it left a deep wound.
How do you heal from a wound like that and turn into a scar you can be proud of? How can you let go of your fear and love unconditionally when someone new?
Do what matters to you first
I got into my first real relationship as a sophomore in college — late in the game for most, I know, but this only made it even more meaningful for me. Within weeks, we were madly in love. For almost eight months we got by without even a fight. Then things started to go downhill. The romance faded. The arguments began. We started to see each other for who we really were and not just for what we wanted out of a relationship. So we tried to change each other. To no one's surprise, that strategy only resulted in more heated battles.
Nonetheless, when the worse eventually happened, my heart was crushed. But I could't let go of her. I still loved her and a part of me felt like I would never find anyone else. So I kept fighting to make it work. For another six months, our relationship was an off and on roller coaster.
Lucky for me, I was in the Marine Corps Reserves and in April 2007, they called me up to war. That finally ended our relationship. It took me away from her and gave me something more important to focus on. In Iraq, I came to learn the most important thing in letting go of the past: to focus on what mattered to me. Out there, that meant my men and my mission.
I completely forgot about my relationship.
That may sound selfish, but to allow love into your life, first you must love yourself and do what you love. That doesn't mean you have to go to war. It just means you do what is important for you first. So what are your passions? Are you living them fully? Doing so will create the space for more passion and love to come into your life.
Since returning from Iraq, I have followed my heart to climb mountains in the Himalayas, dive into underwater cave, and spend one month dragging a 190 pound sled 350 miles across Greenland.
Live for you, to live for your partner
As a result, I found the woman of my dreams when I wasn't even looking for her. She saw the passion in me and I in her. Now we have been married for over 2 years and the romance is still riding strong.
In a relationship, the best part about doing what you need to do for you is that it allows you to give your partner the space to do the same for themselves. When I leave on an expedition, my wife supports me because she is working on her dreams as well. Sure, we make sacrifices and compromises for the sake of our relationship. But we would never expect the other to make a sacrifice that asks them to give up on who they really are. What I have now with my wife is also a result of those past relationships.
How to heal the past
The past can be a disease at times, because it holds us trapped within our implicit memory: the subconscious part of our memory that is beyond our conscious control. This is the part of the brain that controls 95 percent of our cognition — which is why it is so hard to let go of the past, because it constantly bombards our subconscious. The worst part is that, neurologically speaking, traumatic events create an even greater hold in our memory.
The key to reducing the impact of that trauma is to make the memory explicit. To make it a part of your conscious memory. That then allows you to choose outside of it. Don't run from the past relationships that haunt you. Accept them, remember them, and most of all, learn from them.
The secret to learning from your bad relationships and creating good ones
You don't learn by finding out all the things the other person did wrong (as appealing as thay may seem).
You learn by taking 100 percent responsibility for how and why things went the way they did. That is the fundamental key to success in any relationship. If both partners took 100 percent responsibility for everything, how could there ever be any fights?
Today I am stronger because of what happened to me as a sophomore. It has allowed me to see that I too made a lot of mistakes in that relationship. It wasn't all her fault. By seeing the mistakes I made, I have done something about them and created an unbreakable bond with my wife.
What issues are you struggling with about a bad relationship in the past? Share any questions you have in the comments below and I promise to answer every single one.
More breakup advice from YourTango: