This was first published on KSL.com
About a year ago I found out my spouse had not only been looking at inappropriate things online, but she has also been leaving comments on posts and videos of other men. It has completely destroyed me. I feel betrayed. I feel like I'm not good enough. She, of course, says that it meant nothing to her. But when I try and tell her how much it has hurt me, she doesn't get it. We have been fighting over this for over a year, and the only way to stop fighting is for me to just act like I am over it. I AM NOT OVER IT! In fact, I'm still sick about it. But the more I think about it, the more I think that maybe I am the one overreacting over it. I'm so lost and confused. ... Can you please help me? She did delete the app she was doing it on, but I feel like the damage is done and I don't know how to move forward.
I'd like to address your question by giving you a procedure you can use whenever you get offended or have a fight or a problem with anyone in your life. This is especially helpful when trust has been broken and you don't feel emotionally safe with your partner.
In a situation like this, you only have two options in response. It is very important that you understand the consequences of each option and make a conscious decision about which is right for you. If you don't make a conscious decision, your brain will make a subconscious decision by reacting and you will probably make the situation worse, not better.
Here are your two options:
1. Respond from a place of fear
Understand that you cannot show up in love and fear at the same time. If you choose fear, your love goes out the window and your focus is on protecting yourself. This means your behavior will be selfish. You will not do or say things that show love and compassion for the other person; you will say and do things that make you feel safer.
The other person will feel the selfish energy around what you say, and they will likely not feel safe or loved by you. They will then focus on protecting themselves, too, and they won't be loving toward you. If you both show up in fear often, no one will be giving any love and it's less likely that the relationship will work.
2. Respond from a place of love
This means you choose to respond with love toward yourself and the other person. You can only access your love and respond this way if you have first chosen to trust that you are safe. You will need to trust that the universe is on your side, that your value can't change, and that you cannot be "not good enough." This will help you have the capacity to choose to show love, compassion and forgiveness to the other person.
When you respond with love, you can choose to allow the other person to make mistakes and still be worthy of your love because you want the same grace for your mistakes. You can forgive their past behavior completely, seeing it as just a lesson for both of you and not part of who they are. Choosing to forgive and love the other person is likely to make them love you more and create the best outcome.
How to respond from a place of love
Having said that, the love option isn't easy to choose; fear is a lot easier. Fear comes naturally with no effort whatsoever. Choosing love and forgiving the other person can feel much harder, but there are some things you can do to make it easier.
It's important to note there are some situations when the loving thing to do is love yourself enough to leave. If you truly believe the other person has no intention of changing or improving, you might feel leaving is the best thing for you. Only you are entitled to know if and when you have reached this point. Trust your heart and you will know. This is also a love-motivated choice, not a fear-motivated choice.
You may also want to work with a coach or counselor on your self-esteem. Work on letting all human beings have the exact same intrinsic value as you and giving up judging other people and seeing them as less than you. This is the secret to feeling more worthy and loveable yourself. If you see faults and mistakes in others as making them less, bad or unworthy, your own faults and mistakes will also make you feel less, bad and unworthy. If you let every other human make mistakes and still be worthy of love, you will start to see that you are too.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.