By Wella Liles

Have you ever wanted something that you know will end up hurting the people you love?

Have you ever made a decision that broke everything you believed in . . . only to realize that later, the same decision will lead you to the greatest discovery you have yet to make—and that is yourself?

Once upon a time, I had it all. A loving husband and son. Two dogs. Two cars. A nice middle-class. Friends and family were inspired by our love story.

“Not everyone could be lucky like you, Wella. Especially with men.”

They revered the fact that I had a thriving career, a husband madly in love with me, and a stable marriage and family life. To top it off, our in-laws adored both of us.

The pressure of keeping up with this image! In everyone’s eyes, I had it made. That, my friend, was my life for eleven blissful years.

But suddenly, I felt disconnected. I don’t know when it started or what caused it. I knew something was missing, yet I couldn’t tell what it was. Have you ever felt empty when you know you’re not supposed to be? Is it the pressure of keeping up with perfection?  Are couples bound to settle in a routine after some time? Is it the lack of support and attention to my already exhausted self while caring for our child? Should we have gone to counseling before getting married?

Too many questions and not an answer. Soon I started wondering what it’s like to be with someone else, to feel connected and brand new again. And the same thoughts made me question why I even felt that way. I told myself to just be happy and focus on my husband.

But I was no longer happy, and I was scared to admit it. I was scared to lose the image that defined me or what “they” would say if “they” were to find out.

So I hid behind this perfect façade, while getting my fix on the side—whether it was for emotional connection or simply for fun. I lived a double life to stop merely existing while filling the empty spaces until, one day, my unfaithfulness led me to fall intensely for someone else and destroy my marriage.

With my then husband broken and angry, I wanted to run away and disappear. I wanted to work things out, but I was also filled with guilt and shame. I felt conflicted sometimes. Why was I fighting to convince myself to stay in a marriage I was no longer happy to be in? Was it because it was the right thing to do and what’s expected of me? Should I pursue the one relationship that may have been right for me all along?

Decisions are nothing but risks taken. A friend once told me that everything in life comes with options. You just need to stand by your decision. So, I took the bigger risk and walked away. I was broken, especially since shame and guilt stayed with me for a while, and honestly, they still pop in occasionally.

Yes, I went astray. I cheated. But I had to let it go. The only person I now need to be faithful to is myself. Do I celebrate cheating? No, but I understand that people are not immune to it. It takes more than just boredom and a whole lot of unhappiness, lack of appreciation, and emotions for a woman to finally do something out of the ordinary. We don’t do it “just because.” But we risk twice the shame and ridicule a man faces when he cheats.

In the end, forgiving myself wasn’t easy but necessary. The truth is that I failed to recognize that some relationships run their course, and it’s time to move on. There’s no sense in focusing on the what ifs when the path I have chosen is clearly right in front of me: a new love and my little one who sprung from that love.

Life is too precious to be consumed by perfection. Stop relieving your choices and mistakes—they do not define you. As you choose to live, be willing to take risks, get hurt, and accept that you may hurt others. That’s how you grow and discover yourself. I spent the last few years trying to appease everyone, but it was when I started living truthfully that I finally came to terms with myself. Therefore, as you get past your own mess or find yourself in the middle of it, know that it’s going to be ok. You’re gonna be ok.