Series Two; Blog Fifty-One
Cherish is a dynamic in relationship life that adds richness and protects the integrity of love between two people. Cherish promotes protecting and caring for something or someone in a very loving way. You hear about athletes who cherish an old coach who has long since retired. The athlete now cherishes the memories and lessons learned. Memories of old mentors who have passed away are cherished by all of us. Cherish means that we hold something or someone dear to our hearts. Historians cherish the Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence and other valued historic documents. Olympic athletes cherish the opportunity to participate with great hope for success. The word cherish represents magic that adds meaningfulness to romantic relationships. It is an important characteristic and life dynamic.
Cherish can be drained from the experience of life. Disappointment can stop the flow of cherish in a promising job when you are overlooked for a promotion. Selfish living can kill the cherish that exists in a community. Abandonment and neglect can choke the cherish from the dynamic of any relationship.
Yet, nothing destroys cherish in a relationship like betrayal. Gone is the protection and the care for the integrity of love in a relationship. Past memories of cherish are now sullied with deceit and lies. Meaningfulness in a betrayed relationship is demolished with chaos and confusion from gaslighting. Hope is destroyed with dupe and double cross.
Relational betrayal is a societal travesty. The basics of how men learn to treat women begin with role-modeling in the home between mother and father. When dad treats mom as if she were a utility (responsible for all the domestic duties and for providing good sex) then it carries forward in the lives of the boys into adulthood. The seed for sexual objectification are planted in the minds of children by the way dad objectifies mom and how mom colludes with being a utility.
Objectification eradicates cherish. When one partner betrays another, objectification is the culprit that permeates the thoughts and behavior of the betrayer. The grass seems greener somewhere else.
When betrayal is exposed through disclosure, the betrayer most often will want to fix the problem with an apology and move on. Yet, broken hearts don’t heal this way. It becomes a feeble attempt to restore cherish in the relationship.
At the moment of disclosure, partners are unable to move forward toward rebuilding trust with a simple apology. Trauma ignites a systems failure. Unpacking broken trust and gaslighting truth requires a detailed healing process. Honesty moving forward from disclosure about every behavior is necessary. It is important for the partner to experience this reality from the betrayer.
When this understanding is ignored, the efforts made by the betrayer to fix the problem will most likely be unsuccessful. On the other hand, betrayed partners can heal when their experience is validated and their truth respected and supported. Those who betray can offer this support toward healing. Betrayers who undertake a rigorous commitment to honesty in all aspects of life create a healing environment to address betrayal behavior and begin to rebuild the partner’s trust. Working with an informed therapist who has special training in working with betrayal can be helpful. Attending a self-help group for betrayed partners is healing and will steady the journey toward healing. Trying to avoid your partner’s pain will slow the healing process.
Here are ten suggestions to consider around healing betrayal in a relationship and restoring cherish:
- Accelerate your own commitment to your own healing. Stay in your own lane. Focus on doing everything possible to heal yourself, getting clear about why you cheated, with a commitment to radical interventions to prevent betrayal behavior in the future. Many betrayers get lost with finger pointing, doing whatever their partner wants them to do, while avoiding what is necessary for their healing. So, take your eyes off your injured partner and concentrate on restoring your own values.
- Practice telling on yourself. You’re right that you won’t be doing recovery perfectly. You will screw up. This doesn’t mean you have to relapse but you will have to deal with making recovery mistakes in the relationship. This is where you tell on yourself and commit to making amends. Every day, every time you hurt your betrayed partner, make an amends to them. It all begins when you telling on yourself.
- Practice not making assumptions. Making assumptions involves human error. You cannot know what you don’t know. Insecurity and shame accelerates the temptation to make assumptions. You can assume that your partner only sees you as disgusting. You can build an entire system of sabotage behaviors based on false assumptions you make about what your partner thinks of you. Simply, make an intervention. Stop and check things out with honest inquiry. Don’t bait your partner with hurtful behavior to repeat your false assumptions.
- Don’t personalize your partner’s behavior. Your partner’s response to healing from betrayal is not about you. This may be hard to wrap your arms around but true nonetheless. It’s about the partner’s pain. True, you hurt your partner with betrayal, but, your partner will only heal when they are guided to embrace their pain and walk down that path toward healing. As betrayer, you will need to establish internal boundaries that help you detach from your partner’s healing. It’s not about you. What is about you is offering support and validation of betrayal behavior. You will need to cultivate external boundaries which will help to say “No more” should your betrayed partner become verbally, physically and/or emotionally abusive. The strategy for healing is not that you become a pin cushion for your partner’s pain.
- Stop saying you’re sorry and validate. Sorry is a hollow word around betrayal behavior. So stop! Validation is about supporting your partner in pain with agreement and affirmation. “You are right, I was selfish, inconsiderate and insensitive”! I didn’t think of you and you have every right to be angry and hurt!” “I know you are hurting. How can I best support you right now?” These are compassionate and caring examples of validation that will require you to anchor yourself in the powerful adult that you are and can operate from in your relationship.
- Stop looking for a pat on the back or attaboy from your partner as you work hard to maintain sobriety. Providing sobriety is a ground zero expectation. Your partner did not commit to you thinking that fidelity would be an added benefit. It’s assumed that you would preserve faithfulness. When you break your partner’s heart you cannot expect them to be your cheerleader. Support at this level must be provided by your 12-step community and others.
- Know your partner’s love language and zero in with that behavior. Focus on being sensitive to what your betrayed partner needs from you. Making promises and giving to your partner what you would want for comfort usually is not healing. However, when you focus on what is considerate and caring from their perspective, it can create emotional pain relief and soothing support.
- Ask for permission to express love to your partner in non-sexual ways. Taking initiative to do nice things for your betrayed partner without first asking is often received as inconsiderate and annoying. Doing what you think your partner needs without checking in with him/her is another way of taking up too much space. Asking for permission and framing it “would this be helpful to you” is a way of practicing dignity and respect that ultimately leads to healing.
- Pay attention to codependent response in relationship to your betrayed partner regarding your recovery program. It is understandable that you want to please your betrayed partner as you attempt to heal from destructive behavior. However, motivation to do recovery primarily to please your wife, sometimes works to get started but is never sustainable. Letting your partner determine what your sobriety contract is, abandoning your truth to please him/her will contribute to you getting lost and ultimately leads back to relapse behavior. You must cultivate healthy self-assertion regarding your wants, needs and expectations in the relationship. To not do so will create a shallow recovery life.
- Subconsciously, don’t make your partner your parent while recovering from destructive betrayal behavior. It is easy to put yourself in the basement and your partner upstairs when you commit infidelity. After all, you’re the schmuck, aren’t you? Shame accelerates negative images and messages about yourself. In a one-down position, you can easily create a mentality of trying to please your partner any way you can. This frequently triggers old pattern behaviors that resemble trying to gain approval from parents early in life. Your partner cannot be your parent. Pleasing your partner from this framework of thought and behavior will never restore healthy intimacy. Recovery may trigger awareness that unresolved family-of-origin issues need to be addressed. When this is true, address it so that you can anchor healing that fosters equal loving care for yourself and your betrayed partner.
Rebuilding cherish in the appalling presence of infidelity and betrayal is a difficult undertaking. These ten suggestions are among many that can help make a healing difference as you navigate the treacherous waters of mending betrayal behavior.