Everybody is called at some point (and most of us are called several times throughout life) to go through something so challenging we think it will break us. We are called out of our place of comfort and are asked to go to a new place, a place of challenge and change. We are asked to walk through the fire or to brave the sea, to navigate the dark woods and to conquer the sky.
When we finally accept that yes, we must go forward, we must face the challenge, take it on and move through it – we are changed. Like the caterpillar that must do battle with the cocoon to break free and live into its glory as a butterfly, so too must we be willing to go through the struggle that is sometimes required to achieve our own metamorphosis.
When dealing with the crisis of betrayal and the overwhelming trauma symptoms that often follow, it can feel easy to be focused just on surviving the day, hour or minute you find yourself in. Stopping to think about the big picture is not first on everyone’s list of things to do in the aftermath of betrayal. However, at some point, it is important, I would even say imperative, that you do pause, take a breath and ask yourself the question, ‘is there something bigger happening here? Am I, without asking for it, in the middle of a transformative moment in my life?’
The key question is this: Is experiencing betrayal about more than pain and suffering? Is it also potentially an opportunity wrapped in a crisis? An opportunity for enormous positive changes, personal growth and transformation that only a crisis that shakes you to your core and stretches you beyond your limits can produce? Because this is a big truth about being human – it often takes significant events, circumstances and challenges that bring us to the brink to get us to leave our comfort zone and make big changes (even positive ones).
As we begin a New Year together, this is the question I want us to contemplate: is betrayal the event that, if we allow it to, will produce positive transformation in our lives beyond anything we would have thought possible? Can we become the hero of our betrayal story?
In countless fairy tales, legends and folk stories told through the ages, the individual who becomes the hero or heroine of their tale starts out as just a normal person, minding their business, living their life, just like you and I were before the tsunami of betrayal rolled in. Then in some unforeseen way, life suddenly presents them with a test. This test requires that they must make a choice. They can ignore it and stay where they are, or they can accept the challenge and venture into the unknown.
Ignoring it means giving up the benefits the test has to offer and the possibilities of it changing your life forever in wonderful ways. But you get to stay safe and life remains familiar and known. You will not have to risk losing anything. For us as betrayed partners this might look like ignoring the signs of addiction and staying in a place of blindness about what is unfolding. Or it might look like discovering betrayal and immediately filing for divorce and moving on without ever stopping to find out how we might need to grow ourselves.
The alternative to ignoring the call, is to accept that life has suddenly plopped you down at a crossroads. In one direction is the familiar, worn path that loops around on top of itself creating an endless ring. You already know this path. You know where it leads, you know what it looks like. You’ve been there time and again, going around and round.
On the other side is a new path. This one stretches out into the distance. You can’t see very far down it. It’s unclear where it leads, how long it will take to travel it and what you will encounter on the way. But this path also seems to represent opportunity. Your old path brings you back to the same place over and over again. This new path appears to at least go somewhere new and provide a chance for things to become different.
So, you stand at the crossroads and deliberate. You have not asked for this challenge; you did not want to find yourself at this fork in the road. This challenge has in many ways picked you. Nobody, and I mean nobody, volunteers to be a betrayed partner. It is a position that no one wants. Most partners are just like I was at the beginning of things; trying as hard as they can to find the quickest way out of the pain. In fact, it may be that I am just making you angry with all my talk of growth and accepting the challenge. I would have been pissed off if someone talked to me about that at the beginning too. However, eventually I needed to hear about hope and healing and freedom. I needed to understand that I was in the middle of a change process that was going to eventually be worth every dreadful, crappy, excruciating minute. Without that, I couldn’t have kept putting one foot in front of the other.
So, you stand and face a pivotal, life-altering question: will you accept the challenge? Will you go down the new road? Will you leave what you know behind and head out into the uncertain world ahead, launching yourself into the hope that this new untried journey will lead you to deliverance. You nod once to yourself, and you slowly tentatively take your first steps.
This is where it gets interesting…