Updated: Feb 12, 2022
“I’ve learned to handle the bad times better. It’s the good times that are hard. I’m just always waiting for the other shoe to drop.” - Unknown
This phrase has been echoed throughout by those who have experienced a traumatic event. It’s hard enough working through the shock but living in constant anxiety, wondering if it will happen again, compounds the traumatic symptoms and makes it very difficult to move forward.
When working with spouses who are recovering from betrayal trauma this is a very real fear that I hear expressed repeatedly. The spouse of someone who has been unfaithful often lives in a chronic state of “what if?”
“What if it happens again?”
“What if I find a text again? An email? A suspicious number?”
“What if there’s more?”
“What if ……
This heightened state of vigilance is a very normal response to an abnormal occurrence. This alert state plays an important role in healing. This part is attempting to create safety, without safety it can be very difficult to heal. The one person you would turn to for safety is suddenly unsafe, so you must create that security for yourself.
Many symptoms of trauma are struggling to create this protection for you. It’s wise to recognize that anxiety, hypervigilance, difficulty sleeping or eating, difficulty focusing, and other trauma symptoms are attempting to guard you from being retraumatized.
None of these symptoms are pleasant, in fact they’re horrific.
It’s normal to want them gone right away. I want to encourage you that if you are in the middle of this, take a step back from your symptoms, look at them with compassion and even gratitude that these parts of you are trying to help you. They won’t always be this intense.
“It seems I can never stay on level, solid ground long enough to heal. I often wonder if this pattern will ever end. The continual unknown dramatically slows the healing I need and my ability to move on.”
Your Sexually Addicted Spouse, Steffens & Means
The part of you driven out of self-protection that checks and re checks and checks again for new texts, phone calls, emails, any sign of the slightest infidelity will settle. It can take months to years to develop a security strong enough to trust again, to be vulnerable again, to love again. You won’t always be waiting for that shoe.
Although your spouse holds the other shoe, you hold your response to it.
It can seem impossible to build after an earthquake when there are continuous aftershocks. But this is where you begin to actively pursue your healing. Seek out family and friends who will respect the vulnerability of what you are going through. Seek counsel from a therapist that understands the betrayal trauma model of healing and can work with you on setting boundaries that will create shelter to heal.
There will be days you feel you can’t go on but every forward motion is a testament to your strength and of God's faithfulness.
If you need help in walking through this, please call 601-517-7854 to schedule an appointment with me.
A note to the spouse who was unfaithful: It can be challenging to stay patient with the healing process of your spouse. Feeling safe enough to be vulnerable and trusting on a consistent basis will take a great deal of time and a great deal of effort on your part. One of the ways to assure this space of safety is to end all means of unfaithfulness and to do all you can to disclose everything upfront. If you act out again or disclose new sexual information in a delayed manner it will delay healing. THIS is the “other shoe”. And you hold it. There can be a great deal of shame and embarrassment along with fear that your spouse will leave you if you disclose everything. But I encourage you, no matter the depth of betrayal, to be honest. The fullness of healing can come for both of you, but only in the sanctuary of truth.