How Do I Forgive My Spouse? Why Can’t I Get Over This? (Part 2)
Posted On December 17, 2021
You remember every detail of that moment. It represents the change from Before and After. You know that Before you would sometimes get a sinking feeling in your stomach. But you couldn’t figure out exactly what was wrong. You just had a vague sense of something being off.
Then came the day when time stopped. You learned about the thing your partner had been hiding. It felt like being sucker punched. The kinds of things that cause this level of relationship crisis are:
- an affair
- hurtful lies
- money secrets
- an inappropriate text
- personal information shared with others
- deeply hurtful accusations or criticisms
- an uploaded video
You felt like the earth tilted on its axis. You struggled to breathe. You wanted to curl up in a ball on the floor and howl in pain. Some of you actually did. The shock derailed any thoughts you had Before. Then, you panicked.
After hasn’t felt much better than the moment you learned this shocking thing. Since that day, you have felt waves of the same feelings that came over you in that moment of discovery. This catastrophe contaminated every other part of your life.
Everything that you held dear came into question.
Every memory has been run through the filter of this new information. You question whether each tender moment meant anything at all. If your partner really loved you the way they said they did, they never could have hurt you this way. So, they must have not have loved you at all.
You sift through every part of your life to find clues that tell you why this happened. You want a clear answer so that you can prevent ever feeling this way again. You reason that if only you know, then you will be ready to move on.
But there isn’t a clear answer to “why.” No answer is completely satisfying. There are always holes and sticking points to it.
You had a decision to make: “Should I work through this with my partner or call it quits?” It seemed like an impossible decision to make. You know what you have always said: “If you ever cross this line, we are over.” Now the worst has happened, but everything is much more difficult than you expected it would be.
Your partner was genuinely sorry. They clearly regretted their choices. They set out to make amends.
After a while, your partner started suggesting that they have worked hard enough. They start to get a little impatient. They tell you it’s time to move on, put it in the past. It’s been months, but you are still reeling.
Why can’t you simply put it in the past?
These are some of the reasons why it still hurts so much:
1. This situation changed how you see your partner.
The you who existed Before didn’t see this coming. Nor did you prevent it. This causes a personal crisis. It makes you doubt your own perceptions. Everything that you knew about yourself comes into question. You reevaluate whether your life is on the right track.
Realizing that they could and did hurt you this way changes that. It makes you question if you ever knew them deeply at all. It makes you reevaluate everything that you knew about them. Most people sift through their history to examine whether there were warning signs. You question your partner’s values and beliefs to see if they still match up with yours. You are checking to see if they are the person who you knew.
2. This situation changed how you see yourself.
You wonder if other people question your judgement. You imagine them criticizing the choices you made that led to this crisis. And the decisions you are making as you go forward. It changes how you fit in with your friends and family.
3. You can’t let your guard down.
For most people, a crisis of this size turns on hypervigilance. Hypervigilance is when you look for signs of problems everywhere. You feel keyed up and on edge all the time. You check each new event carefully as you look for signs that it could happen again. It's hard to turn this off.
4. There’s no “right” choice—only messy paths forward.
You have to make big decisions about the future. You thought those choices were already made, so you feel back at the drawing board. There is no way for the future you were working towards to come true. It has been tainted and will never be the same again.
Any choice you make is filled with pain. The choice to end the relationship has far-reaching repercussions that affect more than the two of you. The choice to stay means repairing the damage to the relationship. Damage that you didn’t cause, but still have to help clean up. Every path forward is painful. It’s enough to make you avoid making a decision at all.
5. Everything is a trigger.
Before you went through life so blissfully ignorant. After, you are hyperaware of every change. You are reminded of this problem everywhere you go. Each reminder causes a flood of memories, thoughts, and emotions. Even when you try to distract yourself or redirect your thoughts, another trigger comes along that brings back the hurt. You are tempted to change everything to stop the reminders, but that might not be possible. So you slog through your life, managing the overwhelming sense of disappointment. Dread now colors everything.
This is why healing takes so long. Relationship crises touch every part of your life. Each piece must be cleaned up one by one. You will need to be intentional and thoughtful as you move forward so you don’t get stuck in any one place. Getting stuck is so easy and tempting.
There is no denying that the whole situation is unfair. Your partner has had a lot longer to process the new information. Often, it doesn’t feel like a betrayal to them; it feels like one piece of a much bigger puzzle. You need to come to terms with even this part.
So, what can you do about it? In part 3, you will get some specific steps you can take that will help you move through the hurt towards healing.
Need help healing from a hurt in your relationship? Couples Coaching can help. Schedule a free consultation to learn more.