When your love is betrayed and your trust severed with the precision of a scalpel, an emergence of grace is possible. “Stop with the spiritual mumbo jumbo!” the betrayed one wails. “I’m devastated.” Hold on, before you shut me down, read one more paragraph, then decide.

…At first, your eyes water, not from sadness, but from disbelief – you’re in an emotional vacuum. Soon you will writhe in agony from the sting of acknowledgement. It’s a searing pain. Almost indescribable. No matter who comes to your aid, they can never, ever, understand how it actually feels to bleed out from betrayal – unless it’s happened to them.

It happened to me, so I know.

It was 8:00 in the morning when I got the call from my gynecologist. My first thought, “That’s weird, why is she calling me?” The nurse usually calls patients with annual test results. “All normal,” she’d chirp. Then it hit me. The doctor is calling; this can’t be good.

“You have an STD,” she said, “it’s serious. You need to come in for a procedure.”

Wait. What?

“I’m married,” I pronounced, as if my long-time doctor didn’t already know. “I haven’t been with anyone other than my husband for more than 20 years!”

Silence. I can’t swear for her, but it seemed neither of us took a breath for several seconds. She cleared her throat with a soft cough. “You need to talk to your husband.” It was matter of fact, as if she were prescribing medication. We hung up.

I felt dizzy. The room spun so quickly I grabbed onto a table to keep from falling. Thoughts raced in fast; I could barely hold on to a single one of them. “He was with another… He had… No… Not my… THAT PIECE OF SHIT!”

Turns out he was a serial cheater. It’s one of those stories you hear about, shake your head and wonder, “how could she/he have not known?” Trust me on this, the really good cheaters, the ones who’ve mastered the art of deception, can get away with it. But not forever. And certainly not after they’ve given you an STD.

I divorced him, of course.

When your heart breaks, the pieces can be gingerly arranged back together like Humpty Dumpty, if you’ve been mildly disappointed or disillusioned.

But when you’ve been betrayed, your heart shatters into millions of tiny shards; far too many to be put back together. The heart needs to be rebuilt. That’s the grace part. A new heart. Pure. Unscarred.

It takes a lot of soul searching to build a beautiful, new heart. Unearthing jaded jewels for intense polishing requires deep digging. My first gem: self-esteem.

I’d beaten myself up badly. Didn’t eat. Didn’t sleep. “How could I have not known?” played over and over in my head as did visions of the red flags I’d missed, nuances I’d misread.

My life coach told me that the most important relationship we have is the one with ourselves. “Love yourself first,” she said, “and then you can love someone else.” Rebuild or never love again. Slowly, I began a daily diet of inspiring and hopeful, healthy thoughts. It’s not easy; some days I’m still hungrier than others.

A few years ago, on a particularly difficult Valentine’s Day, I felt terribly alone in my New York City apartment, so I took a walk in Central Park. Fresh air. Bad idea. A woman was holding a bouquet of roses, her head resting on her man’s shoulder, while they strolled hand in hand. It seemed like every couple were holding hands, announcing “we-ness”. I was hypnotized by a pathetic, poor me spell. Tears welled. I tried not to blink.

My coach’s admonition, love yourself, came out of nowhere and broke the mesmerism. Without thought, I grabbed my own hand. What happened was surprising. And wonderful. The sadness evaporated. Just like that. I was in a loving relationship – with me.

“Good night, I love you,” I now whisper to myself, before going to sleep.  

Since that Valentine’s Day, whenever a sense of sadness stirs, I put one hand in the other and clasp affectionately. Like I do with my boyfriend’s hand. I think I love him. I know I love me. 

Rebuilding in Progress.