I’ll get right to the point: emotional healing is an inside job.
I know, because over the years I’ve experienced a multitude of emotional wounds — many self-inflicted, some having no obvious explanation, and some inflicted on me by another person’s unconsciousness or cruelty.
Regardless of who or what was “at fault” for my pain, what I discovered was that I was the only one who could truly heal it. When the wound was inflicted by another person who sincerely wanted to make amends or repair the damage, of course, that helped.
But the deeper layer of healing emerged from exploring the meaning of my suffering, and taking responsibility for my healing and happiness.
When you’ve been wounded by another person’s choice to deceive and betray you, it’s only natural to expect and desire that they do something or make an effort to help you feel better, to repair the relationship, or to make amends to you. No doubt, your spouse can help you heal by taking specific actions to be more transparent, accountable, and forthcoming.
However, the deepest healing in relationships happens in unplanned, unscripted moments when unexpected tears come, or a deeply authentic expression of remorse spontaneously arises.
These moments are more likely to happen when there is emotional connection and intimacy — by-products of a culture of respect and gratitude — not through teaching, instruction, scripts designed to foster empathic connection, or even a partner’s requests.
Placing responsibility on an unfaithful spouse to heal his partner’s pain seems logical and deserved, right? After all, he (or she) was the one who caused the damage and fractured the relationship. But does it truly serve partners to look to their spouses for healing? I don’t believe it does.
What I discovered after decades of trying everything else, was that looking to another person’s actions or behavior as the barometer for my own happiness left me in an extremely vulnerable and precarious situation.
If the person we rely on to heal our pain, or to make us happy, doesn’t show up the way we think they should, or doesn’t do what the experts say they should do, or slips, or relapses, or doesn’t follow through with what they promised, or is just plain human and fails, where does that leave us? Sad, disappointed, and disempowered.
If you want to heal, or heal faster, start with you.
Practice the very best self-care you can, set the standards you need to feel safe (specifically physical/sexual boundaries), deprive the painful past of oxygen as much as you can, focus on your vision and desires, and surround yourself with people who are standing for your thriving.
Healing takes courage, and we all have courage,
even if we have to dig a little to find it.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2020)