“I think I’m falling in love with someone else,” I told Moses, my then boyfriend, over the phone. “I can’t talk to you right now,” he said with a trembling voice. Then he hung up.
It was one week before our one year anniversary as a couple. I was a full-time college student in Manhattan and worked 30+ hours per week. Moses was a first-year teacher in Queens, whose schedule was eaten up by never-ending lesson planning. We talked on the phone as often as we could, but we carved out very little time to see each other in person. The few times we did meet up lacked the depth, intensity, and excitement of the earlier days of our relationship.
I know I hadn’t cheated on my boyfriend physically, but betraying him emotionally felt just as bad. Hungry for companionship, I found myself confiding in another man. I knew it was wrong, but I was lonely and I missed being needed. Upon hearing Moses say that he couldn’t talk to me, I braced myself for our inevitable break-up.
With swollen eyes, I woke up early the next morning to find an e-mail from Moses waiting in my inbox. Incredibly, Moses said he still wanted to be with me, he wanted to struggle with me and to be better. Now we are married. But I learned three things about love from that whole ordeal:
1. Love is a risk.
Moses and I each had walls up that stunted the growth of our relationship. But behind every wall is a fear and lack of trust. “Relationships are built on trust,” the saying goes. But there is no trust without risk. In his book, The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis put it well: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.”
2. Love forgives.
Never in a million years would I have expected myself to be unfaithful. I know some people do not consider “emotional cheating” to be infidelity. But I do. While I was never involved physically with another man, my time, emotions, and attention were given to someone other than Moses. These were parts of myself that should have been reserved only for him. As a result of my careless actions, Moses suffered from feelings of jealousy and a loss of self-confidence.
Moses had two choices: become angry and resentful, resulting in our bitter split, or forgive, resulting in a stronger relationship. It took a lot of humility for Moses to recognize his own faults. It took maturity to refuse to dump all the blame on me, the unfaithful one. But Moses’ decision to forgive not only saved our relationship, it allowed a newfound sense of trust in each other to blossom and gave our relationship a fresh start.
3. Love needs constant effort to survive.
Moses and I got a wake-up call that day that a relationship can never be stagnant. Those days of not prioritizing the other person and “doing our own thing” allowed an emotional and spiritual distance to creep into our relationship. Then, at the first sign of loneliness, I attempted to compensate with another person.
It took almost losing each other to push Moses and me to take our relationship seriously. Since that day, we’ve realized the amount of vulnerability and effort necessary for a relationship not only to survive, but to thrive.
What did you learn from your biggest mistake or hardest life circumstance?