In my early twenties, I got into the most serious romantic relationship of my life up to that point. It was the first time I had deeply fallen in love with a woman. Looking back on it now, it was a borderline religious experience, having my heart opened to the profound magic of intimacy. It was as if a certain sense had been missing throughout my life up until that point - and suddenly I uncovered it and discovered that it was possible to experience it on earth, with another person.
I came into that relationship a very wounded person, with a tremendous amount of baggage I had no idea how to navigate or even acknowledge. The relationship ended tumultuously, due to both of our inability to understand, process or communicate our feelings.
The part of that story to that relates to this post, however, only surfaced a few years after the relationship ended.
In the last days of our relationship, my then girlfriend had been on a trip. I had this strange, massive emotional breakdown one night while she was away - I was convinced that our relationship was over, that I had been betrayed. It was as if someone told me I had been cheated on. I confronted my girlfriend about this, and she denied anything had happened. Life went on, and we broke up very shortly thereafter.
Then, two years later, I got an email from my now ex, sharing that she had indeed been with another person exactly during that time I had intuited something was off. She simply couldn't hold it in any longer.
The fact that I psychically picked up on it at the time is interesting - although I believe it is extremely common for people to form strong psychic bonds with intimate partners and pick up on significant events like that. What was actually more interesting than any intuition I had, however, was my reaction when she finally confirmed it years later - I said something to the effect of "Wow. That's okay, it's in the past. I'm sorry you've had to carry it all of this time, it must have tortured you."
That was it. I forgave her, to the best of my ability. We remained friends, and that was that.
It wasn't until I began working with a facilitator some years later that I realized how, in my rush to forgive, I had completely betrayed myself. I had said: "It's okay - I'm totally fine with having my heart and my dignity run over and being lied to about it."
Forgiveness As Betrayal Of Self
The kind of forgiveness I described above is in many ways exalted and seen as virtuous, probably because when juxtaposed with another more common reaction to being betrayed or wounded - the toxic resentment of victim consciousness - it appears a lot 'nicer'. It appears to be selfless. It allows people to have a second chance - because everyone messes up after all, right?
To be honest, I see that kind of forgiveness as completely misguided and an insult to our souls, to truth, and to the healing process. Because, in our rush to forgive, forget and move on, we often end up throwing our soul's true needs - and the most pure, vulnerable, beautiful part of ourselves - under the bus. Because to that pure, sacred part of ourselves, when it has been hurt, a surface level apology, or an intellectual realization that "everything happens for a reason" usually just isn't enough to validate it, honour its pain or lead to healing.
Let me make this clearer by finishing my story:
Giving Forgiveness A Second Chance
Eventually, several years after my ex confessed that she had been with someone else, I realized I had to revisit that with her. We lived in different cities now, and only spoke occasionally. But we were still friends, and if that connection was going to continue, I knew I needed to address that situation. By this time I knew my initial reaction had been very unhealthy: I'd simply had an extremely low sense of self worth, formed by a childhood that had taught me to expect betrayal, to expect my sensitivity and my heart to be trashed. So, when it happened, although I was hurt, I wasn't able to protect myself. I had no healthy boundaries. I was very very capable of stuffing my needs into the dark, though, and saying I was okay.
The truth was, I wasn't. It took a lot of digging, but there was an immense feeling of betrayal, sadness, and distrust around this situation.
And yet, at the same time, I had come to a place in my life where I understood that we are responsible for one hundred percent of everything that happens in our lives. Everything in our physical reality is synchronized to meet us exactly where we are energetically. I could see the perfection in what had happened with my ex - I could see how it was a big lesson that had been emerging again and again in my life, and even in my father's life before me. It was perfect, it was beautiful and it was necessary for my growth.
When I finally did have a conversation with my ex about all of this - about the betrayal, about my inability to own my hurt when she came clean, and even about the higher perspective I had around all of it - I ended up not getting what I needed. She tried to empathize with me, though her apologies landed in the "I am sorry, but---" category, where we apologize and then immediately take that apology back by rationalizing or defending our actions.
What finally allowed me to forgive my ex was not any conversation or reconciliation at all. It was the simple process of eventually truly seeing who she was, and not lying to myself about it. And in this situation, she was not capable of meeting my core needs - or to put it really bluntly, she couldn't own her shit. Because of this, I eventually stepped away from our connection.
I found that by doing this, I was able to actually love and appreciate her more - because I had taken care of myself.
I found that my forgiveness was much less about her and mending our relationship, and more about my own process of validating my inner child, honouring its needs, and from there being able to let go and fully let in the bigger picture.
As a facilitator, I work with people regularly who have the same dysfunctional approach to forgiveness that I did - who have learned to throw themselves under the bus to mend a relationship, or to put certain parts of themselves on mute in order to "move on". True forgiveness is something so much more healing than this - something that involves a true accountability of all involved, validating the vulnerability and purity of our soul, developing healthy boundaries, showing all parts of ourselves that there is a perfection and lesson in every wound - and learning those lessons. It is something that ultimately leads to real healing, growth, and healthy relationships.
About the Author:
My name is Miles Olsen. I'm a facilitator that helps people get into alignment with their soul through conscious relationship work, emotional work, shadow integration and much more.
I am passionate about this work because when we align with our souls, pure magic happens. I know of nothing more beautiful or healing.