We live in a (part of the) world where it’s perceived healthy to discuss our issues – and thank God for that. I’m a huge fan of communication and believe it’s vital to our well being. However, there are times where you should simply stay quiet. Or at least as quiet as possible. There are times where silence can end up being the best thing you ever did for yourself – times when silence is gold.
A very long time ago, in my late teens / early twenties, I had a boyfriend I was very much in love with. It got to the point where some would say I was obsessed. I more or less kissed the ground he walked on! (He’s been mentioned before – you can catch up here). It turns out he and our relationship had incredible amounts of life lessons to teach me. One of which I’ll let you in on here.
During our first year together he went backpacking in Asia for 3 months with one of his best friends. We were so in love at the time that I was never in doubt that we would make it. I sent him packages wherever he went, with love letters, candy, mixed tapes and what not (my toes are curling up as I write this). In addition to this he purchased a mobile phone while traveling and so we spoke daily for a minimum of 30 minutes (oooohhhh the phone bill!). I felt that I was very much a part of his trip and, quite frankly, that was probably the issue. He was supposed to be backpacking with his friend, living in the moment. Instead, he was constantly on the phone with his clingy and insecure girlfriend. Hardly ideal.
Long story short, one night he cheated on me. I woke up with a pounding heart that night – I knew something was off. I called him excessively, but he didn’t pick up till the following day where he was sad, upset and so incredibly ready to ‘go home’ that I was surprised. He was homesick and missed me. Although I loved the obvious display of affection, I kept asking him if something had happened, but he said no. All was good, he was just fed up – I ended up believing him. I tried, at least. You see, my instincts kept telling me something was wrong. I eventually became slightly paranoid. I kept asking him about particularly one of the girls I knew they had partied with and he kept denying that anything had happened between them. With time his story changed slightly here and there, but his message stayed the same; nothing had happened.
When he returned to Denmark we even had arguments about it. He kept telling me that I needed to trust him and that we wouldn’t make it as a couple if I didn’t. So I tried letting it go. But it haunted me – even in my dreams!
One day he left me. To be fair, this was inevitable regardless of what he had done, as our balance was probably as off as could be at this point, but it still felt like the breakup came out of the blue. He left and it destroyed me completely. A few weeks later I found out he had hooked up with the girl he met and partied with in Thailand and was seeing her now. Still, he stuck to his story – nothing had happened between them till after we broke up. I hated him. I hated her. I shut the door with a bang (and then I cried every single time I was alone because I missed him so much).
A few weeks later he wanted me back and although I did what I could to stay away from him, he had a power over me that kept me around. We dated for a little while, but I was too hurt to stay in it. Eventually, I left him.
Not long after this, I met my ex’s backpacking buddy at a Christmas party and asked him (casually, as if it were no big deal) exactly what had happened back then in Thailand. He gave me a completely new story. A story that didn’t connect with my ex’s at all and boom! That was it. I called up my ex and let him know exactly what I thought of ‘people like him’. I cried, was angry and said words I didn’t even know I knew. He tried to apologise, but I didn’t understand half of it due to his sobbing. Eventually I hung up and made my way home. But the story doesn’t finish here. On my way home, I called everyone I could think of that I knew had cheated at one point or the other. I’m not kidding. My real low point was when I, in a public bus, called up a guy from high school that I hadn’t seen or spoken to for several years at the time just to tell him off on behalf of myself and all women who had ever been wronged! This particular memory makes me smile today, but believe me when I say I wasn’t smiling then. Poor guy.
Now, you would think I would have had a moral hangover the following day, but I actually didn’t. I was still so hurt and angry! I did everything in my power to turn everyone against my ex – ‘the cheater’. I spoke to literally anyone who was ready to listen. The whole world knew my story in no time. He was a bastard and I was an angel. End of.
Even now, writing these words, I’m slightly embarrassed by the extent I took things to. But what was worse (back then, anyway) was that I destroyed the possibility of ever mending our relationship, which, deep down, was what I really wanted…
He called me every day, crying and apologising. He showed up in the middle of the night just to give me a present and leave again. He did everything in his power to show me that he was a changed man and tried to win me back. I did nothing but turn him away. At least, I turned him away till we ended up back together again a few months later. But this time it was different. The power had shifted – I was in charge. What’s more; No one knew a thing about it! I was so embarrassed! All our surroundings knew what he had done to me, yet here I was, back with ‘the cheater’. Had I no self respect?! I didn’t tell my friends and family that I was seeing him again. I mean, what would they think? What would they say? When they called and I was with him, I’d pretend I was alone. He told me later on that this broke his heart every time, but he put up with it because he still felt guilty. I treated him badly and he let me do so as he was so full of remorse.
Needless to say, our relationship didn’t work out and eventually we ended it (although the drama continued for years to come, but that’s a different story).
Now, why this story? As I mentioned earlier, I learnt so many life lessons with him, of which several of them are actually present here – one way or the other. However, the focus today is on this one; speech is silver, silence is gold.
Once my initial anger had calmed, I wanted to forgive him. I wanted so badly to get back to where we were prior to his mistake in Thailand. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t because for one, I wasn’t mature enough to see that I had played a massive part in the reason he cheated. However, I particularly didn’t manage to forgive him, because I was constantly reminded of what he had done by simply being around friends and family. You see, everybody knew. Every single person around me knew.
Now, if I had been clever, I would have either kept it all to myself (and gone through the 10 steps you can find here) or maybe shared it with one or two people (tops) who would be open minded enough to NOT take sides and maybe even play the devil’s advocate and make me see the role I, myself, had played in the whole thing. Instead, I shared it with literally anyone willing to listen and, I guess, my favourite audience were the people who were 100% on my side as they would bad mouth him as much as I did. I told family, friends and strangers – I even involved his friends! And this was exactly how I doomed the chances of ever getting what I really wanted, which was to be with him.
Now, if you have gone through a breach of trust with someone you love recently (it could be anything – doesn’t have to be infidelity), do yourself a favour. First of all read this. Second – remember that silence in your case just might be gold. I’m not saying you can never tell anyone what happened. I’m saying wait. Wait till you know exactly what YOU want, before you doom anything, Forgiving is so much easier (and so much more achievable) if not everyone knows what has happened. Remember, we are all human, and humans mess up. Also, keep in mind that it takes 2 to tango – could it be that you are partly to blame for what happened?
If you do choose to involve someone, make sure you choose the right person / people. Sometimes the right people aren’t the ones you think they would be… It’s all about finding someone who is capable of not judging (any of you), staying somewhat objective and maybe even being able to turn the table and help you see the other side of the story. Someone who understands that people are people and we all have flaws. We all make mistakes.
Only you know what’s right to do and sometimes a breach of trust is irreparable. However, make sure you give yourself the time required to make your mind up as to how you would like to move forward. And while giving yourself this time, remember that in this case, silence just might be gold.