How Do I Say I Love You When I Feel Like Running Away

By Ken Wells - 01/27/2023


Series Three: Blog Ninety-Two

Addictive behavior always involves betrayal. You say you will do one thing, but your good intent is torpedoed with destructive acting out behavior. There is a pall of gloom that hovers around those who were counting on you to be true to your word. Everyone is disappointed including you.

Your partner no longer believes a word you say. H/she is triggered by a number of experiences and then goes into ranting and railing about how you hurt them. Often, the rant is demeaning, condescending and devastating. The hard work you put in to correcting the course of wrong doing seems for naught. You swear your partner discounts your efforts with a litany of complaint and accusations. You really do love your partner and want to heal the relationship but you feel like running away.

Here is a list of considerations that can help you not run away, but instead lean into the difficulty with an “I love you” statement.

  1. When you have betrayed your partner, give them what they want. What partners want is to be validated. This means to agree that you gaslighted—you took advantage of your deceit of them to act out in the way you did. Validation means you underscore that you did break their heart and that it makes sense that they would not trust you. This validation is not only verbal but includes you going out of your way to inform about your whereabouts, your plans for managing high risks, sacrificing events and trips that you normally would engage because you are working to rebuild the trust that has been broken. It includes creating “what if” lists and communicating your itinerary about your coming and going. It involves submitting to a polygraph when recommended by a trained therapist. Why? Because broken trust is devastating. The intensity of your effort is not meant to last forever. It is for a season of time designed to support the healing of broken trust for your partner and you. How Long? For as long as is needed! The amount of time needed is relative to you and your partner investing with intense healing work. There is a window of tolerance. If the partner is highly invested in mending h/her broken heart, then you as a betrayer work hard to support with acts of validation. If h/she refuses to do healing work then administer validation efforts and requests in coordination and consultation with your own therapist. If both of you refuse therapy or shortchange therapy by bailing before your therapist suggests is time, it is more likely that the healing process will spoil with an increased likelihood of a failed reconciliation. You must understand that healing betrayal will require that you do the inconvenient and take difficult steps that go out of your way to support healing. It will not be easy but is doable and is done by countless thousands who determined to climb the mountain of healing and reconciliation.
  2. When attacked, don’t just do something, stand there! It is the hardest thing to not personalize an attack from a betrayed partner. It requires the “wise-mind” adult within to be in charge. Work with not personalizing. Be an observer. Separate your behavior from who you are. Place the shame on the destructive behavior not on your sense of self. It will cultivate compassion for you and your partner. Inwardly, cocoon yourself with solid affirmations about your being. Be present. Defensiveness is something you do that does not work.  When you blow it, admit it and ask for a restart.
  3. On the one hand, don’t dominate with control and condescension toward your partner and on the other hand, don’t be voiceless. Healthy assertion requires courage to be vulnerable. Aggressive communication only utilizes the strongest/loudest voice. There is no redeeming value in harshness that loving firmness would not be better. Harshness simply shuts down your partner and blocks relational healing. Practice deep listening to the needs of your betrayed partner. Don’t adopt a “walking on eggshells” mentality. Speak your truth with vulnerability.   Admit your failure often. Open your heart by expressing your feelings about your pain and remorse for them. Be real about your feelings about how you hurt them.
  4. Don’t duck and dive from your pain and fear of abandonment. Often recovering addicts try to control everything so that their partner is not triggered to go to a bad space that makes it difficult to coexist. This fosters a “go along to get along” environment and is dishonest. When other people in recovery disappoint, relapse or demonstrate disappointing behavior, an addict is triggered to embrace the thought that what happened in others’ lives will be the cause of disruption in your own life. Worse yet, it might even trigger your partner to despair and doubt your program and hard work. It’s easy to saddle with the fear and critical judgment rather than to directly address the fear that exists within both of you. Directly confronting the issue of fear can draw two people closer by reaffirming commitments to continue doing the hard work required for healthy recovery and deepening love for each other.
  5. Rather than complain make a request. Learn to quietly celebrate incremental progress. Take your complaint and create a request. “It would mean the world to me to be sexual with you! What can I give you to help you give to me what I am asking for?” If your partner has told you they don’t want to be sexual until they feel they can trust you because of your betrayal, put your big boy pants on and don’t ask, simply work toward healing broken trust. When your partner opens their heart and is willing to be vulnerable by holding your hand, put their head on your shoulder, etc., quietly express gratitude for the 15% improvement versus complaining about you not getting what you once had.

Each of these suggestions demonstrate ways in which you can say I love you and not run away. By leaning into the uncertainty and emotional pain of fear and abandonment,  you can create a path that cultivates the necessary inner healing of broken trust.

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