How To Make A Relationship Work Even After A Heartbreak


Sherley is a Haitian-American flight attendant who served eight years in the US Army Reserve. Her journey with Femme Naturelle began in 2012 as a way to build a safe space, a community to uplift and empower women in relationships transitioning out of crisis. She resides in New Jersey with her husband and two children.

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How To Make A Relationship Work Even After A Heartbreak

This article was written by Tania Bhattacharya on behalf of Sherley Altidor.

As I sit behind this computer screen thinking of different ways to start my post, my mind is racing. This is probably going to be the hardest post to write because it is not easy to talk about things that make you re-live the events that leave you battered and scarred deep inside.

But it is important that I do, because pain offers experience and insight and gives you a perspective that you didn’t think of earlier. And it is this ‘learning’ from life lessons that I want to share with my readers. After all, how can I claim to offer support to other women if I did not go through similar situation?

This post talks about three distinct phase of my life: heartbreak, understanding, and reconciliation.

How To Make A Relationship Work Even After A Heartbreak


This year marks 20 years of true love! OMG! That’s a long time indeed.  Those years do come with some heartache and pain. How did we survive this long?  How did we get through hard times? How hard do you want to know? I will tell you.

After 17 years, homeownership, 4 pregnancies, 2 kids, arguments, and many other issues my partner told me that he was not only cheating on me but she was also pregnant with his kid. The news shattered my world. I was numb; and whenever I could think, I just asked myself one question— how could he do that to me? What was I supposed to do? Worst still, this ‘betrayal’ hit me so hard that I started questioning my abilities and my capabilities. Until then I assumed I was everything he wanted, I was perfect, we were perfect.

Of course, it wasn’t correct.

That day our relationship died. 17 long years gone, just like that.

Or, did it?

I hit rock bottom.

My waking moments became a series of questions: “Why me? What did I do?  What did I not do? How could you? Do you hate me? Do you love me? What could I have done better? Does she know me?  Who is she? Am I a good mother? Am I pretty enough?”

I never experienced such sadness in my life until I was hurled into this mess.  I did not know whether to love him, hate him or kill him.  I wanted him to feel what I felt.  I wanted him to suffer the way I was suffering. I wanted him to cry the way I was crying.  I wanted to hurt him the way he hurt me. He did this intentionally. Why would the person who is supposed to love you, hurt you? My strength was put to test and I did not know what to do to bounce back.

Everything felt heavy.

I went through the seven stages of grief — disbelief, denial, guilt, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. The cumulative effect put me in a state of confusion.  I was not able to make rational decisions, I never felt so emotional disconnected.  I never experienced all these emotions at once.  At times, I did not know how or what to do to sort out my mental thought process or my emotional state. I wanted to disappear, or better yet, turn back time.  I wanted to hurt both, seriously.

I cannot even describe my feelings to you.  I wanted to give him credit for being truthful to me, but did I want the truth? Would it have been better if he did not tell me?  Ignorance is bliss, as they say.

It felt like this man picked up a knife and stabbed me in my heart.  I was left to figure out how to remove it without dying.

I lost an excessive amount of weight within month.  Everything that was easy became difficult.  I had to fake normalcy, I did not want people to ask me “what is wrong?”

Was this karma telling me something?

How To Make A Relationship Work Even After A Heartbreak


This happened when I a few years back. I did not understand what I did nor did I understand why I did it. After it happened I cried and cried and cried.  How could it have come down to this?  Why did I let this happen?  I am a terrible person.

I was too perfect for committing such a mistake. I always assumed that I had  better control on my feelings than to do such a thing.  In my mind I assumed only a certain type of person would do things like that.  What the hell was a certain type of person?

He was shocked when I told him.  He could not believe his perfect girl could have cheated. The innocent catholic school girl.  I felt like crap.  Nothing positive came out of the situation.  It was pure lust. I felt humiliated.


Coming back to the recent years. I really wanted to make our relationship work. I never thought that I would be torn down.  The cheating did not hurt as much as the pregnancy.

I watched the man who I love break down to pieces because he saw how lifeless I became.  I wanted to believe he was remorseful.  He apologized countless times.  He did not know what to do to help me.  I didn’t eat and barely slept. I always had a lost look on my face, until it came time for me to fake a normal. I would fake a smile if I needed to.

He tried to stay strong for me. We cried together. We yelled at each other.  We argued. The cycle repeated for many months.  Exhausting, I did not know how to feel or what to feel.  Everything he told me I assumed to be a lie.  I doubted everything.

He tried to ease my pain and I wanted him to feel my pain.

We briefly separated.  The short time he was gone my head was clear enough to understand  that I wanted to make it work.  I loved this man even through the tumultuous times.  I wanted to save our relationship.

We attended counseling which helped get us on the right path psychologically.  I had to change my thinking. I had to learn how to be happy again, without faking it.  I had to learn to love myself and him again.

Why Did We Cheat?

I believe that people cheat only when they do not get what they want out of a relationship. This brings us to the five love languages:

  1. Words of Affirmation

  2. Quality Time

  3. Receiving Gifts

  4. Acts of Service

  5. Physical Touch

We love people based on how we think they should be loved and not how they want to be loved.  Some people have never heard of the five love languages.  The first time I heard about it was three years ago when we went to counseling.

The five love languages are five different ways to show your significant other how much you love the person. I am not going to get into the details here because that deserves a whole new  post.  There are many books available, but the one that I have read is The 5 Love Languages, The Secret to Love That Lasts by Dr. Gary Chapman.

What I Learned

We are two screwed up people, if you want to call it that.  I call it ‘perfect imperfection.’  Who is the victim?  Who is the perpetrator?  We both are.  We just dug ourselves deeper into sorrow and self hurt.  I have written a post learning your partners love language.

It makes me proud to share my story.  Why should I share?  I am not the only woman in this situation.  We are not the first and nor are we going to be the last.  I believe that someone will read my story and find hope.

How I did It

Changing my mindset is one of the reasons I am able to live again.  I removed myself from that naïve bubble that I was living in. Do not set yourself up for emotional failure. Be realistic, don’t create an imaginary perfect person.

I could name a few other tactics to survive a situation like mine.. Honestly, what works for me may not work for you.  As a young woman what I wish someone had told me is: the person you love may hurt you or you may hurt the person, but the hurt is not intentional. Don’t put anyone so high up on a pedestal. No one is perfect and humans are prone to err.

Companionship is not taught to us.  There is no manual. Whenever a new person comes into our life, we start from scratch.  This is why each one of us must figure out how to make things work in our relationship when faced with conflicts. My faith, my experience, and my love for life is what got me to where I am today.  I am still growing and learning.

I went through some serious depression for months.  Along with a lot of anger and sadness.  In the beginning, I was terrified to share my story for one simple reason— I was embarrassed.  What would people think?  What would they say? Would they be talking about my relationship?


It does not matter what people have to say about your relationship.

We just have to stop creating idealistic thoughts in our head about our partner. Every decision should be made between you, your partner, and God.  I have wrapped our story into one post, but remember that we are still living it every day. If I shared every nitty-gritty detail, I should be writing a novel, not a post.

I have become wiser and I look at life differently.  I have learned how to live with pride instead of fear.  This girl has been reborn even stronger.

The Now

Our relationship is tremendously strong now. A situation like this is either going to strengthen your relationship or weaken it. I am happy that we survived like a phoenix. We took a negative situation and turned it into an extreme positive one that you don’t normally see. We are still faced with challenges but we’ve learned how to approach them differently.

Companionship is a wonderful thing but don’t approach it while creating imaginary illusions in your mind.

In no way, shape, or form do I tolerate infidelity; it is not okay. In my opinion, I do not feel that cheating should be the end of any  relationship. But only you as an individual know what is best for you. Another person will never understand why you made the choices that you made. It does not make you a bad person if you choose to work your relationship out. But do not stay with someone because you’re scared to be alone. Do not allow society to make decisions for you about your relationship. Do not compare your relationship to others. You can take a crisis and turn it into something positive.

My advice on how to get through a crisis

I intentionally said crisis because the tips I am providing will help you get through any crisis that you may experience in your relationship:

  1. Talk to someone : Do not be afraid to talk to your real friends, family members and/or counselling.  Do not keep your pain bottled up.  Please refrain from running to social media; it is not the place to go.

  2. Take care of yourself: It is okay if you need some alone time.  Do not be scared to be alone so that you can allow yourself to think rationally.

  3. Reading: I started reading and educating myself.  I read a lot of self-help books.  Reading helps to prevent my thoughts from fighting with each other inside my head.

  4. Exercise : I am not saying to hit the gym like a beast.  Start off by walking at least 3 times a week just for 30 minutes.  Also, yoga is a big stress reliever.

  5. Prayer: Nothing special has to be done but you have to talk to Him.  That can happen anywhere and at any time.

  6. Forgive : You must forgive the person. However, it does not mean that the person is not accountable for his/ her wrong doing.

Did you find this post useful? Let me know by leaving your comments below.

Articles to read also on relationships:

Relationship Goals

What does it mean to be strong

Do you know what is being done behind your back

How To Make A Relationship Work Even After A Heartbreak

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