We have spent the past few weeks looking at the first three phases of the Authentic Hope Process for healing from betrayal trauma. The first three phases of the process center around understanding and coping with the immediate personal and relational impacts of your partner’s betrayal. Phase four, re-imagining, marks a shift in the process—a transition into looking forward toward the future and starting to think about life after the betrayal and the possibilities that healing might hold for you.
Phase four is called re-imagining because in this phase your energy is focused less on what your partner did and how it has impacted you, and more on understanding how you got to where you are, including the ways in which your past story has shaped your present story, and on imagining a new and different story as you move forward.
When you experience betrayal trauma, it ruptures your attachment and connection with your partner so thoroughly that there is no going back. You will never again have the relationship you had with that person pre-discovery—even if you decide to stay with him and repair and heal the relationship.
You will also never again be the same person you were pre-discovery. The core of who you are does not change. If you were funny before, you will still be funny. If you were creative or outdoorsy or loved animals or were generous and giving or playful and silly, those parts of your basic self will remain. However, the version of ‘yourself that you were pre-discovery is gone, and you will never again be that version of yourself. The version that had not experienced betrayal trauma.
The first three phases of the process of recovering from betrayal trauma focus on tallying up and understanding the losses that have occurred as a result of the betrayal. Grieving those losses, letting go of hopes and dreams, and accepting the new and very challenging reality that you now find yourself in are key steps along the path of recovery. After taking these important steps, it is vital that you shift into a new, post-betrayal future and life.
The re-imagining phase is exactly what it sounds like. It is the phase where you begin to consider who you are now, what you want for yourself, what you want for your relationship, how you want to craft and live your life going forward, what you want to change, what old baggage from your history needs to be healed so you can be free of it, and what you hope for and want for yourself and those you love.
During the re-imagining phase, as betrayed partners begin to think bigger picture about their life and relationships, they commonly experience the following:
- They develop a growing acceptance of the new normal.
- They begin to imagine a new future.
- They explore how their history has shaped their present story.
- They alternate between hope and despair as progress is made and issues are dealt with but then resurface.
- They feel an extreme need and desire for a changed relationship.
- Their awareness of the long-term nature of addiction and recovery increases.
- They experience an increase in stability or instability within the relationship.
- Family dynamics change as new ways of relating are learned and practiced.
- Fears surface about risking and becoming vulnerable again in relationships.
Next week we will continue our look at the re-imaging phase, focusing on the key steps and hopes for the journey through this phase.