Facing the revelation of a loved one’s pornography addiction is a difficult task. On a good day, navigating your own healing journey – post-betrayal – takes everything you’ve got. And when you add the turbulence of your partner’s recovery to your environment, you have the makings of a perfect storm that can easily swamp your serenity.
Fortunately, a handful of strategies can help you stand strong.
The key is to identify your energy drainers and energy gainers. Your goal every day should be to minimize the drainers and maximize the gainers.
My clients tell me this toxic trio accounts for at least 75 percent of the frustration they face:
- Trying to control people, circumstances, and situations that you don’t have the power to control
- “Right and wrong” fights. These conflicts aren’t focused on finding practical solutions but are about assigning and avoiding blame. The bottom line is – would you rather be right or be happy? (I know, you’d rather be both. Wouldn’t we all!)
- Becoming caught up in your partner’s shame and guilt. These dark moods can drain your emotional gas tank and leave you resentful. The challenge here is to empathize without rescuing or reacting.
Energy Gainers are the bright spots in your healing journey – the self-care activities that fill you up and give you joy. But as life-giving as these experiences are, some in the faith community feel guilty prioritizing their own needs. I remember being taught in Mrs. Pyles’ 4th grade Sunday School class that the way to experience JOY is to put Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last. This is a snappy slogan, but it’s a train wreck in real life, where the fear of being labelled selfish keeps many Christians from ever taking the time they need to recharge their batteries.
Jesus himself didn’t minister to the masses 24/7. When he got tired, he took time off and rested and prayed (Luke 5:15-16). I’ve seen a bumper sticker that says “Jesus is coming. Look busy,” so maybe it’s part of the popular mythology that Jesus is some kind of slave driver. But the opposite is true. In Matthew 11, he says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
So the first big step toward healthy self-care comes when you push through the false guilt and give yourself permission to put joy in your agenda.
The key to thriving post-trauma is resilience.
There have been numerous studies on resilience in recent years to determine why some people weather adversity better and bounce back from trauma more quickly than others. In the workshop on the 30th, we’ll look at four energy gainers suggested by these studies on resilience:
- Taking time to be still. This could be a daily quiet time of meditation, reflection or prayer. The studies show that even 15 minutes a day decreases anxiety and depression.
- Exploring feelings. The pain of betrayal can be excruciating. It can seem counterintuitive to lean into and explore your feelings rather than avoiding or medicating them with busy-ness, food, alcohol or religious activities. But all your feelings are gifts from God to guide you. We’ll discuss how to use a journal to better understand your emotions.
- Time in nature. Research shows that even a brief walk in a forest or park lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases feelings of happiness.
- Meeting a friend for coffee or tea. Every one of the studies on resilience found that trauma survivors with strong support networks had less severe symptoms and recovered their sense of wellbeing more quickly.
I hope you’ll join me on April 30th for a day spent exploring ways to deepen the resilience of your healing journey!
In its 8th year, Restoring Hearts Conference is a one-day event focused on healing and hope for women impacted by sexual betrayal. This year’s event is Saturday, April 30th, 9am-4:30p at Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, Washington.