In last week’s post, we talked about the way that life often presents us with unsought challenges that almost always have a hidden possibility within them. This hidden possibility is the call that the crisis presents us with – a call to leave what is known and familiar and move toward the unknown and unfamiliar. By accepting that the crisis in front of us is about more than just surviving, we step into a journey that takes us through new challenging territory but in the process grows and transforms us if we will allow it to.
For betrayed partners, the crisis of betrayal is the crossroads where you are presented with the call and must make a decision. A pivotal life-altering decision. You must decide how you will go through the crisis. You can keep your head down, play it safe, avoid vulnerability and sacrifice courage in the hope that it will all be over soon. Or you can muster hope, gather courage, take a deep gulp and step forward in faith believing that this crisis is not going to destroy you, but will instead somehow, someway enlarge you in unimaginably good ways.
So, you take the step forward. You answer the call with a hesitant but determined yes.
This is where things get interesting.
In all the legends and stories of old, the heroine always encounters guides and helpers once she has begun the journey. Often, they are unlikely sources of help; random fairies, talking animals, bushes that burn, wart covered strangers. But help is always there, providing the heroine with whatever she needs to climb the next rise and to eventually reach the end of her quest.
This will be true for you as well. What I want to say as clearly as possible to you is that there is hope and healing for you as a betrayed partner. Sometimes it’s easy to think that the path to recovery is mysterious and that only the lucky few stumble on it, but this is not true. The path is actually well trod. Many other partners have walked it before you and left plenty of markers and arrows pointing the direction. There is lots of help to be had as you go along and friendship, love and care to support you on the way.
One of my favorite moments as a therapist is when a new client comes into my office and tells me their story. I listen, and I begin to see in my mind’s eye the way in which this person’s life will change, the freedom they will encounter, how much better their relationships will be and how good they will begin to feel in their own skin if they will enter into the process of change. The client can’t usually see this because at the beginning they are mired in their troubles, but part of my job is to hold onto a vision of what can happen in their lives and to allow them to borrow my hope when they don’t yet have any of their own.
I have a vision for you as well, a vision based on the healing I have experienced and the extraordinary changes I see taking place in the lives of betrayed partners every day.
When the heroine comes to the end of her journey, her life is completely different. She will often have experienced losses on the way, because at some point everyone goes through the dark forest. But the one thing that is true in all fairy tales and great legends is this simple truth: the journey is worth it. At the end of the story, the change wrought in the heroine, the new life gained, the dream obtained, the unforeseen treasure discovered are all worth the hardships and losses endured along the way.
If you are reading this blog, then it is likely that you have already been presented with the life-altering challenge of betrayal. You have already been called to the hero’s journey. You have already been placed at the crossroads. Now you must decide about the how. How will you go forward?
Will you kick and scream and fight against? Will you try to fly solo and simply survive? Will you parachute out and attempt to avoid the whole thing?
Or will you pray the simple prayer: “Help. Show me. Save me. Give me willingness. Turn this pile of crap into something good for me.” Will you put your hand in mine and in the hands of the many women who have walked before you and taking a big gulp, step out in faith into your own hero’s journey?
For me, accepting the call to my hero’s journey through betrayal started with the realization that the only way out of the pain and anguish was through the pain and anguish. When I discovered that, I began to pray what may seem like an odd prayer. It went something like this. “Ok God, if I have to go through this mind-numbingly crappy experience anyway, then I ask that it would not be wasted. Use it to change me, heal me, grow me and make me into more of who I am supposed to be.” In some way, I found a place of courage and fight inside myself where I was determined that the situation that I found myself in as the partner of a sex addict would not defeat me or lessen me or rob me but would instead grow, strengthen and enlarge me in surprising and transformative ways. And that is what happened for me, and I watch it happen every day to betrayed partners who are willing to look at the big picture and step into their hero’s journey.
In this New Year, may we all embrace the hero’s journey that will take us out of the old and into the new, out of self-doubt and into self-trust, out of shame and into self-compassion, out of disconnection and into the beauty of connection.