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Friday, September 9, 2011
"Aren't you over that yet?": How to deal with those who think betrayal should be healed with a pedicure and a night on the town
Which is about the time many of us compound our emotional maelstrom by adding shame for not healing faster.
Sometimes these others don't put it quite so forthrightly. Instead, they might say, "are you still having trouble with that?" Or "don't you think it's time to put that behind you?" Or, in the case of our spouses, that perennial fave, "We can't move forward if you keep bringing up the past."
However it's phrased, the point is the same: Get over it, already. You're making me uncomfortable.
And that, of course, is the thing. You need to heal on your own timeline, which is likely a whole lot longer than anyone, including us, ever imagined it would be. But healing isn't a straight upward trajectory from total collapse to bright-eyed recovery. Sometimes you gallop along, sometimes you slide backward, sometimes you just sit and stew in your own pain.
But it's all valuable and part of the process. (Well, unless the stewing is becoming some sort of self-serving masochism. How can you tell? Time...that old healer. And the help of a good therapist/counsellor/friend.)
But it will make others uncomfortable. For some, it's the discomfort of seeing a friend in distress and not being able to "fix" things.
For others, it brings up uncomfortable feelings about their own relationship. If you're clearly dealing with the fallout of infidelity, it might conjure up anxiety about their own spouse. Or even guilt if they've committed adultery themselves. I had a friend, who'd left an unfaithful spouse, dismiss my healing because I chose to stay. If I wasn't going to take her advice and leave, went her thinking, well then I deserved what I got.
And, of course, for our spouses – or ex-spouses, as the case may be – it's a lot more complicated. Seeing in you the consequences of their actions can make even the scummiest adulterer feel at least pangs of guilt. And these guys hate to feel guilty. Quickest solution? Tell you to buck up and get over it, already.
Your challenge and it's a tough one given how fragile we are in the wake of betrayal is to stand up for yourself and your healing. You didn't invite this into your life. You're having a normal reaction to an extreme trust violation. And you will heal at your own pace.
It's not fun feeling like crap. You're not doing it to make a point (and if you are, stop!). You'd love, as much as anyone else, to just "get over it." But grieving doesn't work that way. The only way out of this misery is through it. And these others could help you a whole lot more by letting you process your pain surrounded by love and support. The quickest way out of pain is through it. Cramming it down simply makes it seep out of the cracks in your heart, which is a whole lot slower.
So next time someone asks "aren't you over that yet?", look them in the eye and tell them No. You're not.
But someday you will be and you'll be a whole lot more careful about who you let into your heart.