The day we broke up, he ended up with a guy whom he was friends with throughout our entire relationship, whom I had always had suspicions about. It’s becoming more and more evident that my ex cheated, but that’s beside the point. I gave our relationship my all and truly loved, and the two of them did things that have hurt a lot of people, especially me. And they never looked back or showed any hint of remorse. Now they’re happy together while I’m fighting to focus on the positive. And for the most part, I am. But it’s difficult on nights like this when I’m alone in my room, accidentally coming across pictures of them and their new happy life.
I’m sure you’re thinking I should move on and get over it because life’s unfair and blah-blah-blah. And that’s why I am moving on. This question is about what happens after I move on, and how this experience has changed me. It’s about my strong beliefs about karma fading. I’ve always believed that, if I do good, then I’ll receive good. And I thought that both the asshole who dumps you after cheating on you and the asshole who he cheated on you with will get the bad karma, while I should end up happy. This real life situation, however, is proving the opposite to be true.
So what happens to guys like me after we move on? Do I continue to be myself, even if that makes me prone to being walked all over again? Or do I live without regrets and remorse the way the two happy assholes did? At this moment they’re probably having a date night, not even thinking twice about me while I’m here alone in my bed writing a novel about them. So do I trust in my old beliefs about karma and continue to be me, or do I learn from this experience that the nice guy loses and simply become an asshole to avoid losing again? — Karma Chameleon
Whether or not you believe in karma and whether or not you decide to be an asshole because you’re worried you’ll always finish last as a nice guy, I’ll tell you one thing I’m certain about: no one’s life is ever totally as it appears in photos posted online. Whether it’s projected on Facebook or a blog or Instagram or a dating site or some other social network, no one’s life ever appears the same as it is in reality. For many people, the online versions of their storied lives are at best a slim collection of the best highlights, and at worst, an all-out fabrication (does anyone watch “Catfish”?). There’s some quote I’ve been seeing online a lot lately that goes: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” Of course, I don’t think that’s the only reason — or even an main reason — we struggle with insecurity, but I’m sure it does play a big part. It’s playing a part in your struggles, for sure. You’re comparing your current challenges to some dumb photos you’ve seen of your ex and his new guy and you’re imagining what their lives are like. And I’m telling you, your fantasy of their lives is probably a lot better than their reality.
But never mind them. They may or may not be blissed-out happy, but even if they currently are (and they likely aren’t), they probably won’t stay that way for long. Not if they’re 21 like you. Every 21-year-old has struggles ahead. They do, you do — hell, we all do, regardless how old we are. It’s part of life. And 21-year-olds only have more struggles ahead than, say, someone 31 or 41 or 51, because they have more life ahead and life is full of disappointments and betrayals and heartache and stress and sadness and traffic jams and sleepless nights and all of it. But it’s also full of great joy and unimaginable thrills. Those will happen to you too. Yes, even if you stay nice. Especially if you stay nice.
Does karma have anything to do with it? I don’t know. But I do know that being a nice person feels good. And being an asshole, especially if your natural inclination is to be kind, doesn’t feel good. It actually feels pretty shitty. I know. I’ve been nice and I’ve been crappy, and as someone who is, I think, more inclined to be kind, I feel awful when I know I’ve been wrong and treated people poorly. I bet you do too. For nice people, it’s just not in their makeup to be assholes. Oh, they will be assholes from time to time. We’re all only human, after all, and the aforementioned unpleasantries of life can certainly take a toll and make us pricks when we don’t mean to be. But that’s the thing, you’re going to be an asshole from time to time even when you don’t mean to be. And you will see for yourself that it doesn’t feel good. And it doesn’t make you happier.
I don’t need to convince you to continue being your nice self. You’ll see for yourself it’s just better to be nice. It makes life a little more pleasant. It makes your friendships and relationships — and yes, there will be other relationships — and general interactions with humankind richer and more enjoyable. Most important of all, you will like yourself better. And when you like yourself, you will attract the admiration and company of others who will like you too. It doesn’t have so much to do with karma as it does with sheer common sense.
You do have a choice to make. You can let the unpleasantries of life beat you down so much you’re an asshole most of the time (as opposed to the occasional times you’re bound to slip up like all humans do). Or, you can let the joy and beauty and wonderment and small pleasures and overwhelming thrills lift your spirit and keep you being a kind, good person — a person whose kindness and goodness WILL be noticed and admired and loved by those smart and lucky enough to see your value. The world needs more good. I hope you’ll choose the latter.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.