Today's question is: "how do you get out of the pain and feelings of being ‘stuck’. I feel sad quite often when I think about the pain and damage all the trauma has done to me. I struggle with fibromyalgia and frequent headaches now, and as much as I pray and go forward for healing any opportunity that arises, the pain doesn’t seem to change. The problem is that it’s quite tiring living with both external and internal pain. So my question is how do you heal and get out of the dark valley and all the pain?"
Answer: I can hear that you are in such a tough place… and I’m glad you’re reaching out to find some answers for yourself. Of course if your healing journey from betrayal trauma started less than 2 years ago, it’s possible you are just experiencing the slowness of the normal healing process. However, even if that is the case, there are steps you can take to help with that pain.
The first thing that I would want you to consider is whether this pain is solely about the betrayal in the past, or is it also about things going on currently in your life: particularly in your relationship with your husband. Certainly the physical pain is in the present and needs the support of a medical professional. However, I see you are making a link between the physical pain and the emotional pain… so I’m wondering if that pain is about your husband’s past actions or are there current ones as well?
If we were to talk, I might hear that there are other stressors and pain points in your life: family, friends, work, church. However, the one that I see most often creating “stuckness” for women is their relationship with their husband (assuming they are still in that relationship). If that is one of the sources of stuckness here are some thoughts below.
Current Relational Pain
For some women the reason for the stuckness revolves around their husband not being in personal recovery or at least not being in good personal recovery. For others their husband has established good sobriety, but he hasn’t done much in the area of relational recovery, i.e., making restitution by helping repair the damage. This looks like:
- disclosing everything about the betrayal in a helpful, supportive way (ideally in a therapeutic disclosure),
- holding space for his wife’s negative feelings when they need to come out
- taking full responsibility for the damage his behaviors caused
- offering to live more transparently and with boundaries
- pro-actively looking to help her heal, etc.
Many of these points require him to first learn some relational skills.
In some cases the husband has done many of these things… or is trying to, but he lacks the capacity to show up patiently, humbly, grounded, with empathy etc. on a consistent basis. If he is in early recovery, that’s not surprising and will hopefully change with prolonged sobriety and normal recovery work (especially if he’s doing trauma work, capacity building exercises, identity healing work, etc). If he’s been doing this work for a couple of years and still isn’t showing improved capacity or empathy, this could be the sign of a deeper issue that could require specialist intervention. Common deeper issues include:
- Mental illness: more serious forms of mental illness—e.g. bi-polar, a personality disorder, an anxiety disorder—will impede your husband’s recovery progress, if not even halt it. As a caveat, those with a full-on addiction will often have symptoms of mental illness that are tied to the addiction and reduce drastically after a sustained period of sobriety. Such symptom may initially worsen, however, once sobriety is achieved.*
- Neurodiversity: Asperger’s, ADHD, being further down the autism spectrum can all complicate and slow relational recovery, causing a great deal of pain.
- Spiritual illness: in most Christian denominations we also hold space for the possibility of spiritual issues that may have gained a foothold with the sin our husband was committing.
- Other addictions: if there are other things our husband is addicted to, this can also be impeding his growth and capacity building. Drugs and alcohol will certainly cause such a problem, but even more socially acceptable addictions such as media, overworking, food, and gaming can be an issue. At times the husband can even use sex with his wife addictively: to medicate negative emotions.
If there are any forms of relational abuse, or outright domestic violence in the relationship, this will also cause deep pain and a sense of stuckness—as well as fear. Even past domestic violence can create long-lasting pain and trauma that can leave one feeling stuck. When a betrayed wife has experienced abuse, sometimes specialist help is needed.
Since this is becoming quite a big answer, this post will be continued next week... where I'll look at past pain and other issues.
If you have a question you also would like anonymously addressed in a blog post, please do send that through to me.
*regarding mental illness creating "stuckness" in the relational healing, Jake Porter just created a very helpful webinar on this called "Complexity".