For some couples, the hideous fingers of Betrayal spread their bony fingers around your necks in an undisguised effort to destroy all that you have built – are building.
The impossible happened. One of you betrayed the other.
Betrayal Has Many Faces
A sexual affair. An emotional affair. Missing money.
Once conquered addictions reappear. Serious lies uncovered. The list is long.
The ripples of discovery mutate into angry, overwhelming waves of devastation.
Your initial reaction? Shock. How could this happen?
You descend into anger. Demand atonement. The piper must be paid. You designate yourself the piper.
You rage, pray, call a friend, withdraw, cry, escape into sleep, on and on.
There are as many ways to express anger as there are possibilities for expression.
Hope Begins to Return But It’s Only the Start
You both want to stay in the game.
You spend painful hours with a counselor … or your minister … alone … together … until almost imperceptibly hope returns.
You’re going to survive. You commit again.
But your work isn’t finished.
The final step — sometimes the hardest step – must be taken.
It’s Time to Forgive
It’s time to forgive – -unconditionally. Otherwise, it’s never over.
The whole experience must be buried in the deepest sea “as far as the east is from the west,” NEVER to be visited again. It’s not easy.
But the permanence of your reconciliation depends on it … literally.
Surviving and thriving after betrayal requires – demands – committing to forgive.
Betrayal is one of the most brutal experiences life can throw at us.
Betrayal is an emotional and spiritual sucker-punch. It hurts — badly.
Can you heal? Absolutely. You’re not the first couple to have survived it, and you won’t be the last.
Plus, there is a pay-off.
Forgiveness enables you to move on wiser, more forgiving, more loving, and closer to each other than you ever imagined.
How to Heal After Betrayal
Academic and religious literature alike teach the same essential healing steps for regaining emotional balance, spiritual equilibrium and, most importantly, the ability to move on.
• Be angry. It’s healthy.
• Grieve. It’s normal.
• Reflect. It’s healing.
• Get out of your shoes and slip into the shoes of the Betrayer. Try to understand the “whys.” Theologian Thomas a Kempis wisely challenges us: Be assured that if you knew all, you would pardon all.
• Remember your humanity. Draw courage from the times you were offered the grace of forgiveness.
• Then move on. Hold your head high. You and your spouse were incredibly brave. Not every couple is this strong. You survived a near-death experience
There is a pay-off. The day will come when you unexpectedly catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. Your reflection will shock you because in your reflection is someone at peace.
The bitter cup of betrayal transformed you in the best of ways. All of that relentless pain morphed you and your relationship into something more fulfilling and beautiful than you ever could have imagined.
Good marriages are sometimes messy with confusing and conflicting layers.
But when regularly given the antibiotic of forgiveness, they heal and grow into marriages that are stronger at the broken places.
And life is good again. I promise.
“The weak can never forgive, Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi
Dr. Gloria Wall spent her career as an educator. Currently, she and her husband, the man who inspired this entire idea, live in Edwardsville, Illinois.
She writes a blog focusing on seniors who are committed to aging intentionally, gracefully, and with dignity, no matter their outer circumstances. Her writing is generalizable to all ages. Dr. Wall is currently working on a book entitled Aging with Intention. You may visit her website at www.suddenlyseptember.com
Tom and I have been married for 35 1/2 years, and we’re still building our marriage. It’s a process that should never stop. Just as I will never arrive to the place of perfection in this life, so too, my marriage will always be in need of growth and change. Not realizing this fact causes more marriages to crumble than anything else.
Does that surprise you?
Marriage is like a house. If left to itself it will deteriorate, but if careful attention is given to the needs that come up, the home will last a lifetime.
How do we continue to build our marriage house? It’s simple really, but it’s not easy.
It has been said that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Our marriage is no exception. We have determined four building blocks that when used throughout the years of your marriage, will make it strong and able to withstand any adverse weather conditions that come your way.
Building Block #1 – Spiritual Intimacy
We’ve all heard the saying, “The family that prays together stays together.”
Of course, it takes more than just prayer to build a strong marriage. Prayer is not an end in itself, but is a line of communication to the only One who can truly help our marriage be all it was meant to be.
Prayer is our acknowledgement of our need for God to help us in our weakness. It’s sharing with Him what’s troubling us. It’s humbling ourselves in His presence letting Him know that we realize that without Him we are helpless to change. And when you take the time to pray to God together, it allows your spouse to hear what’s on your heart in a way mere conversation never reveals.
Spiritual Intimacy is learning together more about who God is. It’s Bible reading. It’s growing your faith by being an active part of a local church.
By all means possible, make sure the building block of Spiritual Intimacy is strong in your marriage.
Building Block #2 – Intellectual Intimacy
We should never stop learning and growing. How do you work on this building block? Make it a practice to study current events and talk about what you’ve heard. Learn new things together. Take a class or visit local museums or galleries and read the signs explaining the exhibits. Stimulate your mind by exercising it. A great tool is Lumosity, an on-line daily quiz for your brain that will strengthen your brain in ways you may not realize you need.
By all means possible, make sure the building block of Intellectual Intimacy is strong in your marriage.
Building Block #3 – Emotional Intimacy
Usually one spouse is more emotional than the other and oftentimes it’s the wife, but this isn’t always the case. If you are the one who doesn’t cry much, it takes effort on your part to grow in your understanding of one who cries at the drop of a hat. It would be easy to disregard their emotions as unnecessary, but if you do, you’re missing an important aspect of intimacy.
I remember a time when Tom and I were talking with a friend about an emotionally charged topic. Our friend asked me a question and immediately my eyes began to fill with tears and I couldn’t talk. Tom, who knows and understands me well said, “Give her a minute and she’ll be able to tell you what she’s thinking.” In that moment I felt loved and cared for by Tom. He isn’t nearly as emotional as I am, but he doesn’t make light of the emotions I feel. He listens. He knows me, and most importantly he shows his care by letting me express myself emotionally.
It’s also equally important to not let your emotions rule your heart or the decisions you make. This is why it’s good when one spouse isn’t nearly as subjective in making decisions. It takes the feeling of one spouse and the wisdom of another to consider important decisions on all sides.
Just as the more objective spouse must learn to understand the more subjective spouse, it’s also important for the subjective spouse to listen and trust the more objective spouse. This creates a strong balance in your marriage that isn’t easily shaken.
By all means possible make sure the building block of Emotional Intimacy is strong in your marriage.
Building Block #4 – Sexual Intimacy
This is most likely the first block you thought of when you heard the word “intimacy.” 🙂 It is important, but I placed it last in the list for a reason.
You see if you’re working on the first three building blocks, this one will benefit and grow stronger.
However, it takes a willingness to communicate with your spouse honestly and without fear of being exposed. To be intimate physically with another requires a vulnerability many fear because of past abuse or disappointments. It may be you’re afraid of being rejected.
Before the fall recorded in Genesis, God made them male and female. They were naked and not ashamed. What a gift they had, but didn’t realize until it was gone.
Guilt and shame made them want to hide, and it is the same for us today. It takes patience, love, and care to help a spouse who is suffering under the weight of guilt and shame. It takes unselfish love that is willing to become a safe haven for the one with whom you’ve been joined as one flesh.
The physical intimacy God intends for a husband and wife to enjoy is unlike any other relationship you’ll have. No one else sees you in this way. No one else has access to the core of who you are. It is a privilege and a great responsibility to know only one person in this way.
There is much to learn in regards to sexual intimacy, and much information is available. However, I caution you to know your source, and make sure what you’re reading is Biblically sound.
Cultivating romance into your marriage on a regular basis helps you stay connected heart-to-heart when you don’t see eye-to-eye.
Every marriage goes through seasons of conflict, and it’s usually quite intense when it happens. Things can be going along really well and your spouse says something that doesn’t sit right in your mind.
So, you ask a question that leads to more tension because either the question isn’t heard clearly or it isn’t understood.
So, the answer isn’t at all what you wanted to hear, which leads to more tension and more conflict. It’s a downward spiral that’s hard to correct once it begins.
Smart couples choose to go to their separate corners when tensions mount in order to think and pray before continuing the conversation.
This is a good idea, especially if you’re prone to fits of anger. Giving yourself time and distance allows the Lord to help you think with wisdom, instead of reacting with foolishness.
What does this have to do with romance?
A couple who never takes the time to romance each other when things are going well, are going to have a harder time believing the best about their spouse when things are hard.
Romance acts like a safety net when you’re balancing on the high wire of conflict.
You know it’s a dangerous place to be, but the romance you’ve enjoyed together insures that you’ll make it through safely and together.
Romance gives you a tangible reminder of why the relationship is worth fighting for. It helps you remember the good times when the bad times are screaming at you.
I remember a time when Tom and I were going through a really difficult conflict that had no quick resolve. It went on for months, but our commitment to each other never wavered. We knew we were in this relationship together–for better or worse–and just because this was a “worse” part of our marriage, we weren’t going to give up.
The best was yet to come. It might surprise you that our lives continued on as normal; I was homeschooling our three children, Tom was leading a small care group in our home on a weekly basis, Tom had work commitments that required us both to attend with smiles on our faces, and all the while our hearts were hurting.
We did what we knew to do, which even included some romance here and there, because this was our norm. Sort of like a default setting on a computer.
It was while we were doing a normal romantic thing–slow dancing together at a work dinner–that God broke through our conflict and helped us resolve the issue once and for all.
It started with tears that lead to repentance and then, total and complete forgiveness. Had we not taken the steps to do something romantic that we both enjoyed would we have ever found resolve to our conflict?
I’m sure we would have, but because we did, it may have happened sooner because we were willing to do what we knew to do, regardless of how we felt.
Was it easy? No. Would we wish this kind of conflict on anyone? Absolutely not!
But now this story is part of our testimony, and it has helped hundreds of couples understand that a good marriage isn’t without difficulty.
In fact, if you’re doing things right, it’s not to prevent trouble, but to prepare the ground so that your love is supported through it when it comes.
What trouble are you facing today that causes you to want to pull away?
How could doing something romantic and thoughtful for your spouse help you get through the worst part to a better tomorrow?
Pray and ask God to help you come up with a plan, and then watch what He does. If He can turn water into wine, then certainly He can turn our trouble into something good.
A testimony that will help us help others who may be struggling in the same way.
The American Journal of Epidemiology monitored the health behaviors of nearly 8,900 adults over several years and found that both men and women who got married during that time tended to lose a significant amount of their cardiovascular fitness.
Most husbands and wives don’t need a study to tell them that being married might derail their fitness regime. As a seasoned personal trainer, I’ve listened to many men and women stress over balancing their career, marriage, family, and health.
Though it may be difficult, staying fit is a most worthwhile endeavor for married couples. Research suggests that couples who stay fit experience benefits that contribute to the success of their marriage.
Three years ago, during a premarital counseling session with our pastor, my husband-to-be and I made a commitment to one another. We promised to make our health a priority in our marriage – we jokingly call it our “fatty clause.”
I will never forget the look of surprise on our pastor’s face when we brought up the role of fitness in our marriage. She said we were the first couple to ever select health as a priority.
At the time, I thought our “fatty clause” was just a sensible measure to help us avoid lifestyle related disease and a spreading midsection, but our mutual commitment to health has become so much more.
As a young married couple, we’ve made lots of plans. Some have worked out and others didn’t. As I am writing this we are living in Costa Rica – that was never part of our life plan, but here we are!
Even when the world around us feels like its upside-down (a common occurrence when living outside your home country), we’re able to ride the storms of life out together. Research would suggest that our commitment to physical fitness has contributed to our healthy marriage.
Regular exercise can help you and your spouse maintain a healthy self image. According to a University of Arkansas study men and women who are physically fit tend to feel more sexually desirable (Penhollow & Young 2004).
Couples that are physically fit are more likely to respond to stress better. The American Physiological Association suggests that exercise gives your body a chance to practice responding to stress. Thus when you encounter the emotional stress of day-to-day life, you’re physiologically better at handling those stressful experiences.
Exercise can enhance a couples sex life. Engaging in intense physical activity can stimulate blood flow and nervous system activity that can boost sex drive.
Couples who share new experiences together, stay together. A study published in 2000 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, demonstrated that sharing in new and exciting activities is consistently associated with better relationships (Aron 2000). Try mixing up your workout routine by going on a weekend hike or bike ride together.
Whether you use working out as alone time or as a time together, the benefits to your well-being will affect your marriage in surprising ways. I want to encourage every couple to use physical fitness as a way to keep their marriage in shape.
After 3 years of marriage, I’m more committed to my husband and my health with each passing day. Making room in our life together for regular workouts is the second best decision we have ever made.
What role does fitness play in your marriage?
Erika Volk is a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach who has a passion for helping people make their everyday lives just a little bit healthier. She specializes in TRX training, fitness travel, and online coaching.
Erika lives with her husband in a beautiful little beach town somewhere in Costa Rica. Visit her website at erikavolkfitness.com to learn more about how Erika can help you make the most out of your workout.
Wait, what? I thought this was going to be a holiday post?! It is a holiday post, friends. Just not the holiday post you were expecting.
If you’ve been watching the news at all lately, you may’ve heard of this “game” some kids thugs are “playing” in which they run up to an innocent stranger on the street and throw a punch with the goal of knocking the person out cold. It’s termed, “The Knockout Game”. Lovely.
If you’re like some of my friends, fans and readers of late, you may be able to empathize with these innocent victims on a much more personal and profound level. See, the truth is that although we typically look towards the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s) as a time of great joy, love and warmth, there is a darker side to the season. It’s the time of year when a lot of people decide to clean out their closets—namely of the secrets they’ve been stuffing in there. Turns out, not all the skeletons are for Halloween.
Take my friend (we’ll call her “Kate”) who recently had her husband of less than a year reveal that when they were dating, he had a one night stand with a woman from “back home” while he was visiting family. It wasn’t the fact that he’d “cheated” per se, since they were admittedly in that kinda-sorta-not-sure-if-we’re-exclusive phase when the event happened. It was the idea that she now had to deal with the mess of this new information, and consider how its absence had influenced subsequent decisions—like, umm… getting married.
And of course there were questions. Questions like:
Why did you do that?
Why didn’t you tell me?
Why on earth are you telling me NOW?!
And perhaps most importantly:
How do we fix this?
I can’t quite tell if the timing is a conscious one or not, but ask almost anyone in the mental health community and they’ll tell you the holidays are notorious for “stirring the pot”. And just in case that wasn’t enough to run a chill through your hot cocoa, consider the fact that more divorces are filed in January than any other month! If you’re a therapist, lawyer or crisis hotline worker, you probably know the holidays by another name: “busy season”.
Of course, not all instances of bad news are marriage-endingly horrific, or worthy of “bomb” status. In fact, there are times your spouse might drop a piece of bad news on of you that’s not even their fault! For the sake of thematic consistency, I’ll call these smaller events “grenades”. They’re not on the same level of devastation like an affair, but they catch you off guard, and frankly—it sucks.
Recently, my husband took our dog to the vet for his “Senior Checkup”. As you can tell from the picture—he’s still pretty spry for an old guy! Anyway, when I got home from work, I asked about how everything went. Our little wonder-mutt was in perfect health, however the vet bill was not. It was $750. Yes. You read that right… $750 to learn that our pooch was COMPLETELY FINE.
The next words out of my mouth were: “Why didn’t you call me?!”
My husband looked at me and calmly replied, “Because he’s fine and I took care of the bill right then.”
“Yes, but you didn’t call me. It was over $300. We have an agreement.”
Side note: We have an agreement that we always usually discuss major purchases over a certain amount.
“Because you would’ve told me to pay it,” he replied sounding equally confused and slightly perturbed.
And really, he was right. I would’ve told him to pay it. Of course I would’ve told him to pay it. We had the money. That wasn’t the issue. He was right. I knew this.
But why could I not shake the feeling that someone had socked me in the gut?
After some careful thought, I realized it was because I would’ve called him. To me, our agreement was sacrosanct. Black and white. Non-negotiable. And perhaps most importantly, it was an expression of equality. I also realized it had stirred up some old hurts– not even remotely related to him—but rather in connection to the way I related to money.
In this case, he had dropped the “bomb,” but the mess was all mine.
So how do you survive a “bomb dropping” or even a “grenade”?
Here are a few things to consider—
1) Give yourself time to react.
As I’m sure you know, when it comes to good communication—even in the face of some seriously disturbing, earth-shattering news, it’s good to curb your immediate response and take a few seconds to breathe. This isn’t just some fluffy therapist-speak either.
Without getting too technical, when the brain processes an event that elicits a strong stress response, the limbic system (aka the “emotional brain”) takes over –overriding the logical part of the brain (aka the prefrontal cortex). Giving yourself some time to process the news allows your brain to rebalance itself, and will hopefully prevent you from saying or doing anything you’ll likely regret later.
2) Give yourself MORE time…
It seems to me that when things like this happen, the person who detonated the bad news often seems to want an immediate response and then later on, a clear-cut pathway to resolution one way or another. Here’s why this makes sense: Depending on the secret, your spouse may have been carrying it around for hours, days or even years! S/He has had plenty of time to mull it around, evaluate it from several– if not all– sides, and then drop it on you at his/her convenience. Simply said, they want a resolution now, but they’ve also had a head start.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point this out to your spouse. I once listened to a professor relate an experience of working with a patient who had terminal cancer. This patient had already come to terms with her death, and was having angry response to her family’s reaction to the news. My professor said that he had to point out to her that while it was “old news” for her, it was “new news” for them.
In my situation, my husband had already had time to process the sticker shock, make logical steps towards resolving the issue, and research pet insurance to avoid the situation in the future, well before I ever knew anything about the original bill! Of course I wasn’t going to be on the same page! He was on a different chapter!
3) Consider the Power Differential
—it may actually be in your favor. Yes, I just said that.
Assuming your spouse just dropped a bomb on you, like the one Kate experienced—after following the advice given in Steps 1 & 2, you’ll want to follow up with an evaluation of who’s who and what’s what.
Yes, s/he just dropped the bomb—but, if your spouse isn’t already halfway out the door towards divorce, and is interested in fixing the issue, then in many cases this puts you at an advantage for setting the terms of how, when and where the relationship will be remedied. This is the exact advice I gave my friend Kate.
A week or so after the news, Kate’s husband thought she’d be over it. Kate was far from feeling over it, and was struggling to appease his timeline. In no uncertain terms, I validated her struggle. He got to choose when to “start” the issue, and she most certainly had the right to work through it to a reasonable end.
Notice the word “reasonable”. A reasonable end is not one where you stew and simmer for some undetermined length of time with absolutely no productivity whatsoever. Holding grudges does not a happy marriage make. However, processing and actively grieving the news so you can figure out where to go or what to do next is a very different story.
4) Create a Proposal.
If you want to fix your marriage after an injury, you’ll eventually need a plan of action. Now that the logical part of your brain is back up and running, and you’ve figured out how you fit into the equation moving forward, it’s time to make a plan. To illustrate, let’s go back to my friend Kate:
For Kate, a day or two of feeling heard and validated by friends was enough to help her confront her husband with the painful truth that she wasn’t feeling “over it”. She calmly presented her terms: marriage counseling, and co-reading a book I’d recommended (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work*), along with more quality time (one of her predominate love languages*) reconnecting and rekindling the trusting bond she’d come to adore and rely on as a wife and as a woman. Her husband, being the wise man that he is, decided to accept Kate’s terms.
Have you suffered an emotional “knockout” or “bomb-dropping” by your spouse? If so, I want to hear how you dealt with it!
Digital Image Source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.com Artist: digitalart