Facing Hard Truths

“Being alone may scare you, but staying in a bad relationship will damage you.”

Think about that.

I realize it’s not the kind of thing we want to think about. But it’s the kind of truth we need to think about.

There are costs to staying and there are costs to leaving. And sometimes we need to stop and weigh those costs up.

The first question to ask yourself is:

“Is there any hope that the relationship will change? Real solid hope? Hope which has evidence attached it? “

And perhaps there is. In that case, hanging in there, deciding what we will and won’t accept – and why – could well be the right thing for us to do.

But what if that isn’t the case? What if the person we are in a relationship with is refusing to change? Either because they don’t think they need to change, or because they simply refuse to get the help they need?

That is a difficult scenario.

Yes, things were wonderful at some point in the past – otherwise we wouldn’t be in this relationship right now.

There will also be some really special, treasured memories.

And the likelihood is, it hasn’t been bad all the time.  Sometimes things have been fine, perhaps even good …. But “fine” or “good” isn’t the whole story.

And you know that.

Which brings us to the second question:     

“What will my life look like if I stay in this relationship? One, two, five or ten years from now? How will it affect my self-worth and self-esteem? How will it affect any children we have?”

There is a stability and predictability in sticking with the status quo. It’s a known quantity.

And change is difficult. It brings so much uncertainty with it.

And if we think about leaving there are some very difficult questions to confront like: Where would I go? What would I do? How would I manage financially? What if I don’t meet anyone else? Do I even want to meet anyone else?

And there are no easy answers. We are dealing with unknowns.

But these are hard realities that we need to think about.

Each creates a different future, and a very different life.

Ask Us: Rebuilding Trust after Betrayal

“I always thought I had a good marriage. My husband and I were really great friends, we enjoyed each other’s company, and we shared a lot of interests. However, about two months ago I saw a message on his phone which revealed he had been having an affair with a colleague. As you can expect, I was completely devastated. It has caused me to call everything into question and I feel our whole marriage – my whole life – has been a lie. He has ended the affair and, more than anything, wants to rebuild our relationship and marriage. However, I am finding it impossible to trust him again. Can you help me?”

First let me say how very sorry I am that this has happened. I know how utterly devastating it is. Nothing can prepare you for a shock like that, and the way it turns your world upside down. It’s not surprising that you find it hard to trust. Your mind is protecting you from further harm, and is going to be hyper-vigilant for a while. That is normal and healthy. It’s what I would expect.

Turning to your question …

Trusting a person is always gamble; and it’s a much greater gamble when you’ve been deceived. You are making yourself vulnerable to someone who has hurt you – so you know they have the potential to cause you pain again. All the time you are having to weigh up important questions like:

– “Is this person who they say they are?

– “What indicates he’s motivated to change (and to really change; to permanently change)?”

– “What steps has he taken to show that he has changed?”

– “Does he really get what this has done to me, and is genuinely sorry for the damage he has caused?”

– “When the chips are down, is it worth taking the risk; and, if so, why do I think it’s worth the risk?”

From what you say, it seems like this was a new (a first?) betrayal, rather than being a pattern of behaviour. Of course, you can’t know for sure if this will ever be repeated. But if it was a one-off, and he’s genuinely remorseful) then it might be easier to start again. However, repeated behaviours should sound a warning bell.

It’s also worth looking at why it might have happened.

– Was your husband duped by someone ‘out to get him’ – who worked on his ego and self-esteem?

– Was he just bored, and looking for a thrill?

– Did he feel worn down by responsibility?

It’s important to uncover these reasons with a counsellor, to help to ensure it doesn’t happen again. These can never be excuses but understanding the reasons can be immensely helpful, and can help to rebuild trust. (But please never, ever start to blame yourself. He made the decision: it was never about you.)  

Many partners will decide it’s a gamble that’s worth taking – but it’s something you need to think through carefully, and it’s also something only you can decide.

– Think about why you think he’s trustworthy now.

Try arguing the case, like a lawyer, from both sides: for why you should trust him, and why you shouldn’t trust him. Ask yourself questions like:

– “What is the evidence that indicates he’s changed?”

– “What makes you think he’ll be faithful in the future?”

Rebuilding trust, when a person has betrayed you, isn’t going to be easy, and it takes a long time. It is built day by day. Month by month. Year by year. It’s a conscious active process that can’t be hurried up.

Right now, the wound is raw, and it bleeds so easily. However, in time a scar will form the wound and, with help, will slowly heal. Relationships can change, and you might be close again.

Trust your instincts, and listen to your heart.

You Get to Decide

You are the one who gets to decide.

Yes, we are wounded. We are hurt; we’re betrayed.

Awful things happen.

The sky does fall down.

This isn’t the life we’d expected to have.

It’s not what we wanted; it’s not the life we planned.

No, we don’t get a say in the cards we are dealt.

And we don’t have control over choices others make.

But we still get to choose how we’ll play what we’re dealt.

For we hold the pen. And we write the next line.

The future is yours.

You will make it.

You’ll survive.

Could Life be More Than Pain?

Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” – The Princess Bride

I wonder if, perhaps, you have ever felt that way.

My guess is that you have – and especially if you’ve suffered.

And perhaps you’ve also noticed – when we’re in that desperate place – that we tend to start believing very dark and hopeless things like:

“Nothing will ever change.”

“The other shoe is bound to drop.”

“There’s no-one you can trust.”

“In the end, it all goes wrong.”

And yet … and yet …

On those days when we areable to hold onto our hope,

Perhaps we can believe there still is beauty in the world.

We see it in a sunrise. In a snowy winter scene.

When we smell fresh roasted coffee.

When we hear a favourite song.

It’s true that pain and sorrow can keep us trapped inside, when the needle on the record keeps replaying what went wrong.

And yet these small reminders can shake us up as well. A tiny ray of sunlight. The start of a warm glow.

We so want to be happy. To feel relaxed, and free.

Perhaps it still could happen.  

Perhaps life’s still worthwhile.

Quote of the Day: For Those who are Struggling

This is for the ones who are struggling right now.

This is for the ones who have been having a rough day, or week, or year.

The ones who feel like this storm will never end.

Keep on fighting for YOU. Not for your friends, not for your family, but for YOU.

Keep fighting because deep down you hear a tiny voice that you were meant for far more than this sadness and pain you are feeling.

Keep fighting because the person you will be on the other side of all of this is cheering for you so much.

Keep fighting because you will get there.

And it will be worth it.” – Nikki Banas

Don’t give up.

You are stronger than you feel.

Breathe in deeply.

Let your mind and body rest.

Then, when you are grounded, you can stand and fight again.

You can do this.

You have got this.

You are going to survive.

An Interview: Healing from Betrayal Trauma

The following is an interview with a client, Natalie. When Natalie was pregnant with her third child, she learned her husband had been using hookup apps. That was four years ago. The couple have subsequently divorced. Natalie shares some of her experience of recovery from betrayal trauma here.

1. Can you share some of the lessons you learned about grief? The most important thing is to give yourself permission to grieve. That is absolutely crucial. The feelings are going to find a way to come out anyway. So, it’s better to express them, and to go ahead and rant and cry when you feel you need to. That is so much better than repressing your emotions, and having them wreck your physical health. 

Don’t go it alone either. Find someone to share your feelings with. I know not everyone is going to be a safe person. But it really helps if you can find at least one other person you can be totally honest with.

And finally, accept that the grief journey is going to take time. A lot of time. It’s also going to follow its own course. You can’t predict when you are suddenly going to find yourself in a pit again. But that’s OK. You just go with it. Your subconscious minds understands your healing journey, even if feels like a mystery to you.

2. What else helped with the recovery process? Being alert to potential triggers, especially at times when I felt very vulnerable. It helped me maintain some control of my emotions. Also, there are potential triggers I can deal with now that I couldn’t have dealt with early on.

3. What about forgiveness? What are your thoughts on that topic? Forgiving him wasn’t really something I wanted to think about, at least not initially. I put it on the back burner and just ignored it completely while I was working through the grieving process. Maybe I’ll come back to it later. Maybe I won’t.

The most important issue for me has actually been forgiving myself for getting into a relationship with someone who treated me so badly. I think it’s instinctive to beat ourselves up when something like that happens … and we know that other people are going to throw bricks, too.

But you don’t know the person you are committing is going to treat you like that. Honestly, who of us would choose to hook up with someone who was going to damage us so deeply?

Also, my ex was very careful at covering his tracks. I had to forgive myself for trusting him so deeply (but aren’t we meant to trust those closest to us???), for thinking the best of him, and for believing him when he told me his flights into online sex were in the past.

And I do forgive myself.

Yes, I am wiser today … but there is something beautiful in being soft and trusting, too. I don’t regret being that kind of person, either.  

4. How has the betrayal affected your self-worth and self-esteem? At first it devasted my self-esteem. I thought there was something wrong with me. That I was inadequate in some way. Not beautiful enough. Not sexy enough Not …. whatever … fill in the blanks. But I’ve moved beyond that now.

Today, I don’t take any of the blame.  I can see it was his problem. Not mine. Commitment is a choice. Infidelity is a choice. Choosing to use hookups is a choice. Perhaps it took a while to get to this place but I can now honestly say that I treated him well, was probably as good at sex as the next woman. I am also comfortable with myself as person. I like who I am. And perhaps that is the most important thing of all.

“At your absolute best, you still won’t be good enough for the wrong person. At your worst, you’ll still be worth it to the right person.” – Unknown

5. Any final thoughts or comments? Although the pain is intense at the start, it really does lessen over time. The scars begin to heal, and you find yourself again. There comes a day when you can look back and say, you’re in a place when you can start to live once more. And that is a very good day!

I Don’t Deserve to be Loved

I wonder if you ever struggle with that painful feeling … The feeling that you really don’t deserve to be loved.

And when we’re in that desperate place we often move to self-attack. We turn against ourselves and we recite the countless reasons why we ought to be rejected, disliked or even scorned.

But this self-attack is crazy on so many different levels.

It usually has no bearing in reality.

Also, it serves no useful purpose, and it scars and wounds us deeply as we turn against ourselves with loud, self-shaming accusations.

Why do we do it?

There is a voice inside our head that has been nurtured through the years by negative experiences that left their mark on us. The voices of our parents, or of cruel, unloving people, have gathered evidence that now feels hard to contradict. Words like:

“Nobody likes you.”

“No-one cares about you.”

“Who would ever love you?”

“You’re not beautiful; you’re ugly.”

“Have you heard the way you sound?”

“You have nothing to contribute.”

“You’re stupid, and you’re boring.”

“You are worthless.”

“You’re a loser.”

Something to Think About

But that person in our head – the way we’ve come to see ourselves – is just some fantasy. It isn’t really who we are.

We need to shake off that false image, and to search for our true self. The person who went missing when we listened to the lies.

How to do that?

1. The first thing to do is to start to notice every time you ruthlessly attack, or are mean to yourself. Make a note of what you said, and what was happening at that time. Think about how you were feeling, and why you felt that way.  

Usually, a pattern will start to emerge.

2. Think back to other times when you have heard those things being said. Who made those accusations? And why did you believe them? Can you challenge what they said? What could you say to yourself? What would be a reasonable and accurate rebuttal?

Now practice talking back to the voice inside in your head. It will silence that old critic so it starts to lose its power. And you’ll find that, over time, your real self will get much stronger.

3. Notice how your thinking has affected your behaviour. Has it caused you to withdraw. and to isolate yourself? Has it stopped you taking risks, or setting goals for yourself? Has it stopped you being funny, or being natural with new people?

Start to notice these connections. Start to see how you’ve missed out. Then start to change those patterns. One small step by one small step.

4. Think of people that you’re drawn to. Think of why you like that person. You might find them attractive – as you see yourself in them. Because they have some interests that are part of you as well.

“You are standing in the answer. It is when you start to lose yourself that you start to look for yourself in other people … other things. But there is a place and a time in your life that links you to the person you were before all the chaos. All the pain. All the heartache.  Before you looked in the mirror and judged the reflection looking back at you. Find this place. Go back to this place. Because, in this place, you knew exactly who you were. You just got a little lost.”

– April Green

Quote of the Day: Your Trauma is Valid

 

Your trauma is valid.

Even if other people have experienced “worse”.

Even if someone else who went through the same experience doesn’t feel debilitated by it.

Even if it “could have been avoided”.

Even if it happened a long time ago.

Even if no one knows.

Your trauma is real and valid and you deserve a space to talk about it.

It isn’t desperate or pathetic or attention-seeking.

It’s self-care.

It’s inconceivably brave.

And regardless of the magnitude of your struggle, you’re allowed to take care of yourself by processing and unloading some of the pain you carry.

Your pain matters.

Your experience matters.

And your healing matters.”

— Daniell Koepke

Please believe it. Take these words to heart.

Soul Care

Beautiful girl, take care of yourself. No-one else knows what your soul needs.”

Do you actually know what your soul needs just now?

Really figuring that out, can be difficult at times.

First, we need to find a way to successfully detach from the never-ending list of “must’s”, “ought’s” and  “should’s”.

From being the right partner/ mother/ daughter/ sister/ friend.

From that guilt-inducing list of responsibilities.

And often that can be the hardest part of all.

But you really need to do it.

You need to detach.

You need to make it possible to listen to your heart.

And when you do, you will find that your soul starts to speak. It will start to give you hints. It will tell you what you need.

It might be something very simple. Something small and practical like relaxing on your own. Curled up snuggly with a book.

Or it might be something deeper like the need to mourn and grieve for the heartache, disappointment and the pain that you’ve been through.

Or the need to stop comparing. And the need to like yourself. To work harder on self-love, and being comfortable with you.

But whatever it is … your heart and soul already know.

And they’ll share that secret with you, if you’ll listen carefully.