It felt as if my heart stopped completely. For what seemed like an eternity, my chest was tight and my breathing was heavy. I remember looking at my phone hazily to read the text I had been sent over and over again.

“I cheated on you last night.”

The words rattled around in my mind and I understood them well, yet I could not, or would not, process them; I refused to. Desperately, I tried to play it off as a cruel joke, but I knew her all too well. She meant it.

Without warning, anger, pain, frustration and insecurity all began to rise up within me. It felt like fireworks of emotion were exploding within my soul and all too quickly it sank into confusion and pain.

Nothing seemed real; it felt like I was trapped in a dream, or better yet, a nightmare.

There is no adequate way to describe the hurt I felt when my longtime girlfriend told me she cheated on me after a night of partying. I felt betrayed. No, I felt broken.

How could she do this to me?

Why would she do this to me?

Those questions and many more began to flood my mind. I wanted answers to questions I should not have had answered. The more she began to tell me, recounting everything that transpired, I felt my heart race and pulse in absolute hatred and anger. Never in my life have I ever felt such immense anger and bitterness. When she finished speaking, I was speechless still. Everything became cloudy and I just broke down. I told her I hated her and I never wanted to see her again and then hung up. And just like that, all that work built up into that relationship was gone.

I wish I could tell you that is where it all ended entirely, but that would be a lie. I came to find that it is the days after the breakup that hurt the most.

You go throughout your life in a relationship and you become accustomed to them. After some time being together, they are not just someone you are with, they are a part of your life and to an extent, they are your life. It was no wonder then, that when she left, my life felt empty. A part of my everyday life was now gone and there was a gap which needed filling - but nothing seemed to suffice. I wanted to feel whole again. I wanted to have my wrongs made right. I wanted her to feel the hurt that had gripped my heart so tightly. More than anything, however, I just wanted to know why. I began to ask myself whether I was enough for her or if I did something wrong to have her do such an awful thing, especially while in a relationship with me. Yet, when it comes to cheating, no reason will ever make sense. Simply because it is not supposed to make sense. It is not a hurt that can be simply mended with an apology. I placed so much blind trust into her. I suspended all belief that she could ever hurt me so deeply. To have that trust broken, to have all those fears made reality - it shattered me, my self esteem, my self worth.

The pain is still fresh and honestly, nothing has changed, but somehow, everything has changed. Though that seems like a contradiction, I mean it as, though circumstances have not changed, I have changed all the more.

Coming out of this longtime relationship made me realize how little I was growing. Her leaving made me start to question things like my personal happiness and my self worth as a person. Thankfully, I also had friends who had gone through the same thing and together, we were able to vent and talk through the hurt. It is still a day to day process, and some days are certainly more difficult than others, but surprisingly I feel free. I am able to look upon myself and allow the space and freedom to grow and to realize my true worth - what I deserve and what I do not. Though I wish things could have ended differently (and I honestly could have done without the hit to my self esteem), I am thankful. Had it not been for this, I probably still would have been letting myself take less than what I am worth. I was not going to allow her to define me.

There is no greater feeling than that of being in love. To be in love is to be vulnerable; it is to let yourself be you - the you no one else gets to see, the real you. When you find yourself in love, nothing else seems to compare. Nothing can compare to having someone to be open with, someone who you let past all the defenses you built around your heart. Someone who looks upon you with passion and desire and beauty. Truly, it is the only sort of magic you will find in this broken world.

Remember that feeling. Remember that truth. I know what it feels like to be cheated on. It destroys any self esteem you had and it wrecks the way you perceive people. There is so much that is lost because of cheating and believe me when I say that I understand. Yet, I beg you to not give up. You are worth loving and you are worth pursuing. You are worth the work it takes to make a relationship work. You are worth staying faithful to. You are worth it all and I know it does not seem like that, but it is the truth. You are worth love and you are worth being in love. If they could not see that, then they were nothing but blind. Never forget that. Never blame yourself either. There is no justification for cheating - for the breaking of that trust.

Do not lose hope. Real love is out there. Though we may hurt ourselves on our journey to finding it, that is simply a part of life.

To fall in love is to risk it all - there is no guarantee that you will not get hurt; but what is a life well lived without risking it all for the pursuit of love?