Series Two; Blog Seventy-Six
The discovery of relational betrayal is a shocking experience to everyone connected to the gauntlet of disclosure. The betrayer is challenged to expose hidden secrets that destroy trust. The betrayed wait for words that are daggers to the heart. The end result is a crushing carnage of hurt that cripples and at times is irreparable.
Couples who try to survive this tsunami of emotional pain experience a roller coaster of devastating feelings that rock their foundation. Stress on the relationship is extreme. Often, the betrayer doesn’t disclose all of the details and the betrayed is left to wait for the next shoe to fall. The betrayer pulls away from further details of disclosure like someone retreating after touching a hot stove. Heartache and anger are inevitable to the betrayed in the presence of shock and disbelief. The intensity escalates each partner to polarizing positions toward each other.
Addicts often ask, “What do I say when my partner asks why I betrayed and then did it again?” “Were you thinking of me before you decided to violate your vows to me?” The question begs for an answer and a salve that will make the pain go away. The dilemma is that no matter what you say there is no fix, because you cannot make the pain go away with words. Many addicts panic when asked why because they don’t know the answer and can’t think of a solution. There are a few things you can do.
You can respond by saying it straight. Tell on yourself when you have minimized or omitted hurtful admissions. Clarify your behavior that added a crazy-making environment to your betrayed partner. Surrender to the distrust your partner felt because of your deceit. When asked “Why would you do this to me and your kids?”, be honest. Don’t evade tough questions. If you don’t know, admit it. In time, recovery and treatment will help you know why and you can express your understanding then. However, in the moment be clear and truthful and let go of trying to fix your partner’s anguish. Easier said than done but necessary.
Let go of trying to fix your partner’s pain. When you see your partner in agony, it is normal to want to say or do something to take away the pain. Trying to fix it by saying what you think they want to hear will backfire. Saying you’re sorry and promising to never do the behavior again will not take away the never-ending pain. Betrayers who obsessively try to fix their betrayed partner’s hurt with attempts at solution responses focus on trying to escape not only their partner’s pain but their own self-contempt. Healing advances for both parties when the hurt from devastation is recognized. The only way to resolve the pain is to go through the heartache and the intense feelings that accompany broken trust. So, stop repeating “I’m sorry!” Don’t offer any more solutions for the betrayed partner’s pain. Sit with your own disturbed breach of personal values. Let this journey be your path to healing. Allow your partner to have their personal struggle to get through your crippling conduct.
You can validate! Replace empty promises and apologies with validating words and behavior. When your partner screams out in pain, simply validate that what they feel makes sense and is as awful as they feel and express. When pain is expressed by those you’ve hurt, save explanations of your behavior, and simply validate. Later will be better timing to give needed explanation. Needed apologies are appropriate after you have painstakingly validated the harm you have done when your partner expresses grief and hurt from your betrayal.
You will need to validate your own pain. Becoming busy with recovery program, vocational work, or tending to family activities can become a way of escape and avoidance from your own emotional pain. You will need to validate your pain in order to authentically be present for the pain of your betrayed partner.
Essentially, betrayal is a traumatization of both the betrayer and the betrayed. You will need to say it straight to yourself and your partner. You will need to lean into the pain of your hurtful behavior. There are not words that fix. Healing will require that you validate yourself and the one whose heart is broken by your betrayal behavior. These actions are more healing than the words you choose to explain or attempts to alleviate the pain in the presence of betrayal behavior.
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