The Biggest Mistake I’ve Ever Made
Finding the lessons when we choose the wrong path
There is one big decision I’ve made in my life that I wish I could change. Something that was completely out of character for me, the one thing I’ve done that I wish I could take back.
I was 22 and engaged to a man who was a good person, but just wasn’t a good person for me. Instead of talking to him about my feelings, expressing my unhappiness and ending things in a kind and respectful way, I cheated on him. It only happened once, with a close friend of mine from work. Less than a month later, I broke off my engagement, which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I started dating the friend who I had cheated with, and we ended up being together for five years. We definitely had our fair share of problems, and things were never quite as perfect as I had expected them to be. After all, I had made some pretty big sacrifices and life changes in order to be with this man. I was compelled to make things work with him; otherwise, cheating would never have been worth it in the first place, and I needed to prove to myself that it wasn’t such a horrible decision.
I eventually became engaged to him. We were only engaged for a few months when he became unexplainably distant and unhappy. We started going to couples therapy to work on our relationship and try to sort out whatever problems were keeping my fiancé from being happy. Nothing seemed to work, and eight months after proposing to me, he ended our relationship. I found out that he had been cheating on me for quite some time. He vehemently denied this and never admitted it or expressed any remorse. I moved out of the house that we shared and eventually, the woman he had been seeing moved in. They ended up getting married.
For a long time, I felt like I had brought this outcome on myself, given the way that our relationship began. I never previously believed that if a relationship started with cheating, that it would be doomed for failure, but after my experience, I absolutely see how that is the case more often than not. Lying and hiding things is never the best way to begin a relationship. I like to think I’m an honest person and keeping my cheating secret was so gut-wrenching and shameful, that I didn’t admit it for quite some time, not even to my closest friends. I was so disappointed in myself, and didn’t think I even deserved to be as crushed as I was when the situation was reversed and I was the one who had been hurt by cheating. What right did I have to feel like my world was ending, when I had caused someone else this same heartbreak? Didn’t I deserve this happening to me?
The other unfortunate side effect of my decision is that cheating is now a part of my past forever. When I’m lucky enough to find the person I want to share my life with, I will have to admit to him that I have cheated on someone before. I can never change that. The only saving grace is that after having the same thing done to me, it is something that I will never do again; knowing the irreparable damage that it does to a person will prevent me from ever hurting someone that way in the future. At least I was able to learn a valuable lesson from my poor decision.
I can blame my choice to cheat on being young, being in a serious relationship before I was ready or just being too scared to hurt someone with a break up. But, the bottom line is that I had a choice to make, and I made the wrong one. I was weak in a situation where I needed to make a difficult decision that turned out to be life-changing. I realized that even good people are capable of making poor choices, especially in emotional situations. I always wonder how different my life would be if I had made a different decision in that moment. Instead, I have had to move on, learn from my decision and choose never to make the same mistake in the future. Sometimes, I think that mistakes, even life-changing ones, are worth it for the lessons that they teach us; to challenge us to be better people and to think of the consequences of our actions.
It took years, but I was able to forgive myself for cheating, and realized that everything in life happens for a reason. I could have ended up with someone who really didn’t love me enough to be faithful to me or even be honest with me. And in the years since, I have learned so much about myself and about the kind of person I really want to be, especially in relationships. I feel like that is the silver lining. If we can learn something from our mistakes, it makes the pain that comes from them a little more bearable and hopefully, makes us strive to be better people in the process.