Bitterness is what lingers after you get past the anger and resentment of infidelity. It hangs on because you can’t stop thinking about what happened and how much it hurt. Overcoming bitterness is one of the hardest parts of feeling betrayed. But there is light at the end of this tunnel when you make the choice to walk toward it.
Bitterness Becomes Personal
From experience, I learned that the emotions from betrayal by someone you love are deep and come in waves. My heart broke, and I cried until I could cry no more. The emptiness left me numb, unable to think clearly. Then, I put on a mask, pretending I was okay and went through the motions of my life. Soon, I accepted the reality that my marriage was over.
Eventually, the fiery anger waned, the disappointment and hurt lessened, and the fear about what was to come next got easier to bear.
What I didn’t expect was the lingering bitterness. That feeling that it was all so unfair. Despite how hard I tried to be a good partner, loving wife, and supportive companion the infidelity still happened. That was the overwhelming concept I couldn’t get over—how unfair it was to me.
I found myself repeating this unfair story over and over. At first, it was in my own head, then to anyone who asked how I was doing. It was as if the story never ended and I would always be known as that bitter woman who could not move on. That was not who I wanted to be.
It became clear that overcoming bitterness was my next lesson to learn. Here’s what I learned:
Overcoming Bitterness Takes Work
First, acknowledge that you feel bitter. That’s not always easy. Bitter can mask itself as anger, resentment, or disappointment. But, recognizing these emotions are present and real is the initial step in asking them to leave.
Next, admit who you are hurting by remaining bitter. Is it the person who betrayed you? Or is it you? Decide to stop hurting yourself. It’s one of the many choices you get to make as you work on overcoming bitterness.
Then, explore why you hold onto the bitterness and what it is you can’t seem to let go. Perhaps you attached a part of your identity to being part of that relationship, and now it’s over. Maybe you are bitter because the dreams you had would no longer come true. Once you recognize why you are holding on to the bitterness, you can dispel the myths about your identity and dreams, and it will be easier to let go.
Another great lesson is to find the “silver lining.” Also, easier said than done. But there is almost always something good to find in any situation that seems dire and dark. For instance, you may discover that being single again allows you to create your own dreams and make them happen the way you want, without consulting anyone else. Erin Connolly, a recent guest on Tips for the Transition, shares her perspective on overcoming bitterness. Her mantra became, “the plus side is…” How she made that approach work for her and her daughter is an inspiring story.
Lastly, get help if you need it. Overcoming bitterness is not easy on your own because you are often stuck in your story. Allowing a professional to help you see more clearly where you are mired in the muck, will make the journey back onto solid ground easier and empowering.
Overcoming Bitterness is a Choice
The biggest lesson to learn is that you have a choice about how you want to feel and who you want to become after the betrayal that hurt you so deeply. Changing your attitude about it, finding the light at the end of the tunnel, and releasing the feelings that keep you stuck in that story are life strategies that will serve you well when the next major life event turns your world upside down.
Here’s one of the quotes about making a choice that helped me immensely:
“Attitude is a choice.
Happiness is a choice.
Optimism is a choice.
Kindness is a choice.
Giving is a choice.
Respect is a choice.
Whatever choice you make makes you.
– Roy T. Bennett
Choice is a powerful thing and overcoming bitterness is a choice that will free you from the chains that bind you to betrayal and the myth that this is how your story ends. Choose wisely.
If you are living with a lingering bitterness, you may not like yourself much or even know who you are anymore. Making choices to move beyond the bitterness can be hard and getting some guidance may be just what you need. Let’s have a chat and talk about how to get you to the other side so you can love yourself more. Request your chat with María.
Great article! It’s so true that bitterness is often masked as other emotions and it takes deep self-reflection to discover that. The unfairness of situations that happen “to” us can be overwhelming. It’s easy to get stuck in the ‘why me’ and ‘what did I do to deserve this’.
But figuring out how we are better for the situation, what did we learn, how did we grow, what blessings came our way that wouldn’t have otherwise adds sweet to the bitter I think.
And moving past it, letting go completely, and understanding that unfair things happen to us every day, it’s how we respond that matters, is incredibly freeing. Sometimes we need dear friends and reminders like this article to encourage us not to get stuck in the bitter muck and rise above it.
Erin … you are so right! Finding the silver linings and letting go help us to keep looking forward and not back, adding “sweet to the bitter” … I love how you put that. Thanx so much for sharing your thoughts. ~Maria
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