We have spent the last two weeks looking at the unhealthy and shame-based parts of ourselves that can drive us into offending from the victim position. This week, I want to focus on what it is that we are really trying to accomplish when we take this one-up position in the relationship. I strongly believe that we are trying to accomplish something good. Typically, underneath our unhealthy behaviors, our dignity is trying to speak, trying to reach for the light and get one of our most important relational needs met.
I believe that offending from the victim position is ultimately about our deep hunger for justice and a longing to have our heart’s hurt understood by the one who has hurt us. It is a desire to have our cheating partner truly understand, at a profound and heartfelt level, the pain and hurt that his behaviors have caused. It is a desire to be understood, empathized with, comforted, and meaningfully apologized to. It is the desire to have an amends made to us for what has been taken from us or lost to us as a result of the infidelity. It is a desire to receive the gratitude of our spouse for staying, persevering, bleeding on his behalf, and working toward healing for ourselves and perhaps the relationship.
This is our dignity. This is the healthy part of us that understands we are valuable and precious. We deserve much better treatment than we have received, and we want our spouse to own that, acknowledge it, and make amends to us for violating our trust.
This hunger for justice is a good longing. We need to affirm our heart’s need and desire for understanding, empathy, gratitude, and amends. When we affirm this for ourselves, when we reach in and touch the tender place of longing inside us and let ourselves know about our true need, the desire for revenge moves aside. Our shame also moves aside. We recognize that we have been going about things all wrong. We have settled for the cheap shot and the quick thrill of retribution instead of waiting on that which will really heal. We begin to realize that offending from the victim position simply rubs salt in our open wounds when what we really need is to gently and kindly hold our hurts close.
When we give up the right to “offend back” it changes things. It unhooks us from our cheating partner’s behaviors and gives us the freedom to think through and choose our response to situations, rather than just blindly reacting.
We have more freedom to go about our business, take care of ourselves, and be the person we want to be, because we are not focused (either consciously or unconsciously) on taking revenge or avoiding our shame. Our energies are freed to use on behalf of healing, rather than in fruitless rounds of escalating anger and pain.
What if our cheating partner is not offering or available for this type of repair work and healing amends? It may be that our cheating partner has left us. Or he has stayed but is not showing much remorse or repentance. Or he is trying very hard and saying I’m sorry a lot, but it falls flat for us because we don’t yet trust him. If so, we can still heal without seeking revenge or giving in to our shame.
My hope for every betrayed partner is that regardless of whether you and your spouse stay together, you are met with empathy and true remorse that facilitates healing, and you are provided with a meaningful amends. But this does not always happen.
In such situations, we have to decide to meet our own heart with kindness and empathy and love. We have to open ourselves to our friends and their love and support while allowing other avenues of healing to appear. Our healing is not dependent on our partner. It’s lovely when he can be a part of it. But our ability to fully heal from betrayal and lead and full and abundant life is up to us, not him. And that is a good thing.
About the Author:
Michelle D. Mays, LPC, CSAT-S is the Founder of PartnerHope.com and the Center for Relational Recovery, an outpatient treatment center located in Northern Virginia. She has helped hundreds of betrayed partners and sexually addicted clients transform their lives and relationships. Michelle is the author of The Aftermath of Betrayal and When It All Breaks Bad and leads the field in identifying and crafting effective treatment strategies for betrayed partners.
Braving Hope is a ground-breaking coaching intensive for betrayed partners around the world. Working with Michelle will help you to move out of the devastation of betrayal, relieve your trauma symptoms and reclaim your life.