There is a beautiful, ancient Japanese art where potters fix broken or cracked pottery by using lacquer dusted with gold, silver, or platinum.
The process is called Kintsugi, which means “golden repair.”
The intention behind Kintsugi is to draw attention to, and emphasize the breaks and imperfections of the piece rather than trying to cover them up or disguise them.
The art of Kintsugi speaks to those times in our lives when we feel broken, shattered, and defective—feelings most survivors of betrayal trauma are intimately familiar with.
Working with betrayed partners for the past 10 years, I’ve had the honor of witnessing many of them use the alchemical process of healing and recovery to turn their betrayal and their invisible wounds into Kintsugi.
Here are 7 ways partners become strong in the broken places:
1. You know how to stand up for yourself and ask for what you need.
When you’re in a relationship with someone in active addiction or early recovery, you’ll need a black belt in boundaries to survive.
And when you learn effective boundaries, you’ll know what you need and you’ll know how to make effective requests. This is true not only with your unfaithful spouse—but in all areas of your life.
2. You experience greater self-love and confidence.
One of the most powerful things you’ll learn on your healing journey is that your unfaithful spouse is 100% responsible for his actions.
When you truly understand that your body, your choices, and your preferences are perfect just as they are, you will have a deeper love for yourself. And when you do, you will radiate the kind of confidence that will attract the people, experiences, and opportunities that will enhance your life—personally, relationally, and professionally.
3. You say no when you mean no, and hold others accountable when boundaries are violated.
This is a tough one—right?
But by knowing what effective boundaries are, and the confidence you’ll gain by using them, you will become far more comfortable setting limits—freeing up your time and energy for activities that bring you joy and are life-enhancing, rather than draining and self-sacrificing.
4. You have the courage to pursue a career you’ve always dreamed of, or return to school for a degree or certification.
I’ve known several partners who’ve started a new career, left a career they no longer had passion for, or returned to school for an advanced degree after surviving sexual betrayal. For many partners, betrayal is a wake-up call that she’s been neglecting or ignoring her inner compass, or putting others—rather than herself—first.
5. You establish independence and assertiveness in your relationship.
In the past, you may have yielded too much responsibility and power to your spouse around finances or other important decisions, but now you speak up and take your rightful place as an equal partner.
6. You face and process any childhood sexual abuse.
After the discovery or disclosure of sexual betrayal, partners who experienced childhood sexual trauma often become more aware of the impact of their past abuse on the current life, and gain the motivation and courage to tell the truth about what happened—so that they can release and heal childhood wounds.
Often, this kind of healing gives partners more insight about their current situation, and empowers them to establish healthier sexual boundaries.
7. You explore or rekindle your own sexuality and experience greater sexual fulfillment.
Sexual betrayal severely damages a partner’s sexual identity and her sexual experience. Exploring and healing your sexual history, along with identifying your own sexual needs and preferences is a powerful way to take back this important part of who you are—reclaiming your right to sexual health and pleasure.
Of course, no one would wish infidelity or betrayal on anyone. But in the end, what we do with what happens to us is far more powerful than what happened to us.
In the art of Kintsugi, it is believed that the repaired piece is “even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing it with new life.“
And before you go, I’d like to invite you to join me Tuesday, August 29 at 7 pm!
I’ll be hosting a free, online presentation, and talking about how you—as a survivor of betrayal trauma—can restore clarity, claim your power, and create connection using the 5-Step Boundary Solution process I present in my book Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts.
Sign up and get the details here. [This event has now ended.]
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2017)
All submitted comments are subject to editing to protect confidentiality and maintain anonymity. Submitted comments containing profanity, offensive language, or otherwise objectionable material will not be published.
Hello, Thank you for all your help. I continue to watch out for all your inspiring knowledge . I do have a question for you, you may have covered this but I am asking for clarification, maybe.
If my husband is doing all the things that require trust from me, and he is, I do feel there are moments when I question trust. Maybe due to past behavior, I don’t know. I now know my reality, but I am not trusting his behavior due to his need to prove to me. How do I know this isn’t for himself? I have boundaries in place and he follows quite well. But my trust is in question. He wants me to trust him now, but I have heard this before as well. How can I do this?
Vicki Tidwell Palmer says
Hi Teresa, you are very welcome!
You’re asking some good questions about trust-building that many partners want to know the answer to. It takes a long time to rebuild trust, and the patience of both the betrayed partner and the unfaithful spouse will be tested many times. Your husband may want you to trust him now, but your trust in him can’t be at the same level as his actual trustworthiness. That’s because it takes time for you to fully know that he is trustworthy after he has been reliable, transparent, and consistent over a long period of time.
I think what you are asking when you say “How do I know this isn’t for himself?” is what is his motivation for change. I wrote about that in my article Doesn’t He Have to Want It [Recovery] for Himself?
And here’s an additional article about the trust-building process: Beginning Anew & Rebuilding Trust