PHASE 2: REALIZATION
We have been looking at the six phases that make up the Authentic Hope Process for healing from betrayal trauma. In our last two posts, we talked about the devastation phase, helping you understand your experience and providing a few tips on how to weather and move through your devastation.
This week, we turn our attention to the second phase, realization. The realization phase is when the initial shock of discovery begins to wear off and you start to more fully realize the extent of the betrayal and what it means for you and your relationship. During this phase, there are several key realizations that you will likely need to grapple with and process.
Realization #1: The problem is bigger than I thought.
For most betrayed partners, the initial discovery of the cheating reveals only a portion of the full story. In your relationship, you may have initially discovered a single affair, or an emotional affair that your significant other swears never turned physical, or a pornography issue, or any of a million other possibilities. And this initial discovery was without doubt terribly painful.
Unfortunately, most of the time the initial discovery is only part of the story. Often, over time, more discoveries are made, and the truth slowly trickles out in a death-by-paper-cut vortex of ever deepening betrayals. Sometimes what is revealed over time is a sexual addiction that requires serious and intense treatment. Sometimes what is revealed over time is infidelity that is broader in scope than first anticipated. Sometimes what you discover initially really is the whole story. In that case, what is revealed over time is the level of damage this has caused to your relationship. Which leads us to the next realization…
Realization #2: This is not something I/we can just ‘get over’ and ‘move on’ from.
After initial discovery, most partners go through a phase where they hope the relational breach can be patched up and worked through relatively quickly. They desperately want to escape the pain of the betrayal, so they look for a way to quickly repair the damage and get the relationship back on stable ground. Usually, cheating partners also want to move the relationship out of crisis. To this end, they will apologize and make heroic promises for change.
However, when more lies and betrayals come to light, the hope for a quick resolution fades, and betrayed partners begin to realize they are not going to be able to easily move on from what has happened. At this point, there is a deepening awareness of the level of damage that has been done, and that serious work and effort is going to be required to heal. Which leads to realization number three…
Realization #3: Healing from betrayal trauma is a process that takes time.
As betrayed partners develop a fuller understanding of the scope and depth of the issues confronting them and their relationship, they begin to recognize that the quick fix they were hoping for is not going to happen. They start to understand that healing from betrayal trauma is a longer-term process of learning about and repairing the wounds that have occurred.
This realization is a big one because it requires betrayed partners to reorient themselves and adjust their expectations. It asks them to take the long-view about what has happened and the type of healing that might be possible. It changes the lens from a close-in immediate view of the situation to a bigger-picture examination of what might be possible over time.
The realization phase is a pivot point for many betrayed partners. It is the phase where, after having the three realizations discussed above, many partners make the decision to seek out help and fully enter a healing process. They adjust their expectations from hoping for a quick fix to understanding that a deeper level of healing and restoration is needed for themselves and potentially for their relationship.
Next week we are going to look at the common experiences betrayed partners have during the realization phase, including a danger point that arises for many betrayed partners.