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Recovering From Betrayal

Submitted By Peter Cronin:

Accepting, Learning, and Trusting Again

1. Acknowledging, Grieving, and Accepting the Wound:

Many of us who have separated and/or divorced feel betrayed by our former partner, and this is especially true when we’ve discovered that our partner has been having a secret affair. Betrayal, like death, requires that we accept what has happened and find a place to put it in our minds where it doesn’t hurt forever. This is often very hard to do.

The last stage of grief is acceptance, achieving some level of peace with what has happened. On the way to finding this peace, we may go through shock, disbelief, raw hurt, or even frantic bargaining with our ex partner or with fate. Then ultimately we may come to acceptance.

Acceptance includes acknowledgement that we were painfully wounded, that our faith in others may never be quite the same. For many of us, fully accepting all this is necessary in order to fall out of love and to set ourselves free from constantly reviewing and reliving the past.

2. Social Support and Learning are Keys to Recovery:

Talking helps. Reaching out for social support can help us to accept the trauma of betrayal, to live without our lost love, and to discover new love(s) of people, places, ideas, and activities. It helps us to find our enthusiasms once again.

“Telling our story” to others who understand is also key to the learning that can turn mistakes of the past into valuable lessons for the future.

A secret affair is an “exit behavior” that is usually a symptom of unsolved problems in an intimate partnership or marriage. It tells us that significant problems were not able to be talked about and resolved successfully. Though very difficult to accept, it means that the injured party must face that there were responsibilities “on both sides of the fence.”

Men in particular, often resort to self- isolation and “toughing it out.” Male “machismo” can act as fences that wall us off from social support and from the kind of learning that depends on sharing ourselves with others.

Talking and airing your wounds, whether in peer or in professional relationships, whether one-to-one or in groups, can greatly enhance both the acceptance and the learning that are key to successful recovery from betrayal. Wise peers and professionals are particularly indispensable when we feel “stuck” and struggling to move ahead.

Good adult information comes from many sources. Sometimes experienced and wise friends or family who have survived and thrived since divorce are invaluable resources for advice, options, and ideas. They can brainstorm and be an excellent sounding board when you are uncertain what path to choose.

Through genuine connection and the ability to reach out to others we can heal ourselves after the betrayal and counter the tendency to fall back into stagnant or low energy behavior.

3. Risking and Trusting Again:

A perfectly legitimate decision can certainly be made that you will never marry or even date again. After all, as someone has observed, “It takes an awfully good spouse to be better than none.” Perhaps the only sure-fire way to guarantee that you’ll never again encounter pain or betrayal in love may be to stay in bed forever.

Recovery requires acknowledging and accepting that you have been betrayed and grieving that the love is over. It also means consciously deciding to live again for yourself and for those whose love remains important in your life.

Reflecting and contemplating alone and with others is the way to mature adult understanding – gathered slowly and painfully. If you do decide to risk romantic love again, apply all the lessons you have learned about yourself, about your last choice of someone to love, and about what to do and not to do in a wise and healthy love connection. Employing that learning well will help you decide more wisely when, how, and whom to trust in the future.

So, fellow travelers on this lifelong quest for balance and happiness, we wish you comfortable acceptance, valuable learning, and wise venturing forth toward a new and happier life. May you not only survive divorce but thrive well beyond it.

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