Q: I need some help letting go! I have recently gone through a jolting experience with a girl who was exactly what I've always wanted. For a year, we never had a fight and always enjoyed one another's company. Suddenly, she asked me if we could just be friends. She said that there wasn't anyone else, she just needed some space. Although this was incredibly hard for me, I agreed to try. For three months I was patient, even though I began to suspect that there was someone else, but she insisted there wasn't.

The other day I was at the mall, and I saw her holding hands with another guy. This really hurt me, and I feel that she lied to me the whole time. I don't understand this at all. I haven't spoken to her since then, but I'm angry and upset, and I don't know how to get over this. I don't think I can continue being her friend, and I am wondering if this is a character flaw in me. I'm incredibly confused!
--Mark from Augusta

A: What happened to you would be deeply upsetting to any mentally healthy person. The fact is you were betrayed and lied to--by someone you loved and respected. It doesn't matter what her motives may have been, whether to let you down easy, to maintain a friendship, to avoid a scene, or to string you along until she decided between you and the new guy. Whatever her motive, what she did was wrong and certainly does not indicate a character flaw in you. No one could witness what you did in the mall and still feel friendship. And for you to try to feel friendship in the face of this betrayal will only confuse you. What you want to feel, and eventually can feel, is release.

But what do you do now? Speaking angrily to her will not help, because when we attack someone, they attack back in some way, and this only complicates the situation and drives the pain deeper into our mind. Your first step should be to back away from this relationship as quickly, gently, and unmemorably as possible.

For example, you might simply e-mail or write her about what you saw in the mall and add that you are sure she will understand if the two of you now go your separate ways. If you do this, it would be best not to leave an opening for her to say something back. You might say that you would appreciate it if she simply accepted your decision about this and didn't respond. If you do get a reply, you will probably be more peaceful if you delete it without reading it, or throw the unopened letter away.

You are experiencing the effects of being wounded. What happened to you caused an emotional wound, and if you think of it this way, you will see that any contact with this woman will simply reopen the wound. Although it is difficult to do, stepping back from the source of the pain is necessary in the healing process.

Your second step should be to forgive her. Anything you can do to think of her in peace will help the wound heal. Condemning her binds your mind to this sad and unhappy betrayal. Instead, put her in God's hands and trust that God knows how to correct any mistake that any of us make. But forgiveness does not require that you deny or reinterpret what she did.

Your third step should be to refuse to condemn yourself. Whenever you notice a self-critical line of thought, interrupt it (just don't complete the thought) and then turn your mind to some peaceful consideration. Just as continuing to have contact with her would keep the wound active, mentally torturing yourself will do the same thing. Although it is difficult to get off this merry-go-round of disillusionment with her and self-condemnation toward yourself, if you are disciplined, you will eventually succeed.

Give yourself one long session in which you mentally tell her good-bye, forgive her, and let her go. Visualize yourself cutting your ties to her and releasing her to God. If necessary, forgive yourself for any mistakes you believe you may have made. Follow up on this long and thorough session with the decision to see her in God's light whenever any unhappy thought crosses your mind. Gently remind yourself that you have already let this go. Then relax and allow your mind to return to peace. Do this consistently, and our promise to you is that you will soon heal completely. And complete healing is necessary so that you don't carry some fear or doubt about the nature of real love into your next relationship.
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