Being betrayed by the man you love is one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to face. You may think that time will heal this wound, but time only heals the wounds you bring out into the open.
He acted out through lust, looking at other women, pornography, flirting, sexting, emotional affairs, adultery, or any number of addictive and compulsive sexual behaviors.
Whether he is working through recovery, or refuses to admit that he even has a problem, you can find healing. Here are three things you can do.
In many ways, being sexually betrayed is like death. It’s the death of what you thought your marriage or relationship was. You are grieving the loss of the man you thought you knew. And there’s a little girl inside of you whose dream of “happily ever after” has died.
No one grieves the same way. So if you have a friend who was betrayed, they will grieve differently than you. Don’t compare your circumstances to someone else’s—don’t give yourself a time frame of how long you should take to grieve. But you should be aware that there are five stages you may go through:
- Denial: Being in denial initially helps you continue to function and move forward.
- Anger: Anger is a real emotion that has underlying feelings of hurt, fear, shame, and disappointment.
- Bargaining: You no longer experience intense anger, but there are moments when you bargain.
- Depression: This is when you feel sad and hopeless; you are at your lowest point.
- Acceptance: Acceptance doesn’t mean you are content about your circumstances, but you have learned a “new normal” to deal with it.
In the past, you may have had a hard time setting boundaries and following through with them. As you begin to think about what kind of boundaries to set in place, there are three things to keep in mind.
First, boundaries are to protect you. They are something you put into place to protect yourself from unnecessary hurt, pain, and anxiety. Think of them as a guardrail or fence around your heart and mind. Keep in mind that boundaries are not walls; rather, they are more like a fence with a gate. A boundary keeps the bad out and lets the good in.
Second, boundaries require that you find your voice. Start by using “I” statements. For example, you can say “I feel…” or “I need…” Make it clear that you are establishing a boundary by telling him that it is for “my safety and security” and “this is what I need.” Try to be as concise as possible. And use a deadline if necessary.
Third, boundaries aren’t easy. Establishing boundaries will not make him change. After all, choosing to change is between him and God. What if he repeatedly chooses not to respect your boundaries? Get help from a counselor and a life recovery group.
Taking care of yourself may be the last thing on your mind right now. However, it’s necessary if you want to heal. Here are some examples of practicing self-care:
- Having healthy self-talk.
- Taking a warm bath.
- Getting out.
- Snuggling on the couch with your kids.
- Getting coffee with a friend.
- Hiring a housekeeper.
- Spending a few minutes in silence.
Although sexual betrayal hurt you deeply, you don’t have to be in pain forever. Take the time to grieve fully. Be firm with your boundaries. And don’t forget to practice self-care.
Please know you can connect with us at our RESTORE workshop, or let us help you find a Christian counselor in your area. Together we will help you discover a plan to heal from sexual betrayal. You may be left with a scar, but your wound can heal.
By Kimberlee Bousman