Illusions of Past Perfections When Dealing with Betrayal
After the discovery of a betrayal, you can go through a whole series of turbulent feelings and beliefs. Some experience extreme anger, sadness, or depression. While others may go into denial.
One of the common things that can happen with betrayal and the time after discovery of a betrayal is revisionistic history. People often want to go back to the way things were before all of the turmoil began. Because things feel so intensely traumatic in the present, the past can seem better than it actually was. However, the truth is that there is often a long history of difficulties that weren’t brought to the surface.
Some of the most common difficulties I hear about in my office include the following:
- Couples that never fought.
- Good sex but lack of connection.
- Good friends, but no sex.
- Traumas that took place in the relationship.
- Difficulties adjusting to having children.
- Life dreams that have been given up.
- Lack of personal lives outside of the primary relationship.
- Avoidance of feelings.
Over time, small issues can become bigger ones. There can be addictions such as sex and porn addictions that are often not known about for some time until there is some type of a discovery. There can be insecurities and struggle to show up for each other in a supportive way. This list can go on and on.
Because these things tend to happen gradually, those in relationships often don’t even realize that they’re even starting to develop problematic patterns. That is until a something like a betrayal happens.
Over-romanticizing the past.
When stressed or sad it is easy to start thinking about the past as if it was so much better than the present. It arguably may have been easier than the present situation to deal with. Many times when we’re going through a difficult time, we look at the past with rose-colored glasses, which can make us feel more depressed or frustrated. You might find yourself asking yourself “how did I go from that situation to the situation I’m in now?” Other questions may pop up like “how did I ever trust this person?”
Thus, you may find yourself struggling with shame or self-blame about the situations that you’re currently facing. A betrayal isn’t your fault. However, as time goes on, you want to be able to look at what happened in the past that everyone in the relationship needs to address. This is the way to make real, new and meaningful reconnections that will last.
Build a new future.
When you confront what happened and what was avoided in your relationship’s past, you have an opportunity to build new connections. You can learn how to communicate about issues in a way that identifies solutions that work for both you. You can learn how to reconnect through new traditions and through sex.
But you have to heal with newly found trust. Many relationships identify that the past included trust that wasn’t deep and sustainable. Trust is a foundation that has to be built upon. As you learn about your partner with increased dialogue, you’ll learn about meaningful ways of increasing trust that aligns with your partner. Many of these things will be small gestures of understanding, appreciation, and listening.
Healing open wounds.
In order to build a new future, old wounds have to be healed. Healing happens with transparency, consistency, and reliability. This may also mean that there are no more assumptions that can be allowed. Many of us go into relationships with assumptions about relationship structures, personal desires and goals, and even sex. When cheating and betrayals occur, dialogue has to open up to prevent misunderstandings, secrets, and future lies. Therefore, it’s good to talk about relationship goals and desires. It’s also important to learn how to talk about insecurities, fears, and boundaries.
Talking about this stuff may not be easy. If you struggle to figure out how to talk about these things without getting extremely activated, it may be important to participate in individual or even trauma therapy. You may also need to engage in couples therapy to help with dialogue.