Like Quarterflash sang to a lively beat: “I’m gonna harden my heart, I’m gonna swallow my tears”… This was my anthem for quite awhile.
When you are betrayed first you go through the disbelief and shock, and then eventually the anger shows up. Anger at them sure, for betraying us, but the harder anger to deal with is the one we focus on ourselves – how could I have been so naive? So stupid as to believe them? Cue the music.
We beat ourselves up and make resolutions that it will NEVER happen again. Ever. The italian proverb never sounded so true: if a man deceives me once, it is his fault. If he deceives me twice, it is MY fault. So it is normal – not wanting to be a fool – that those of us who have been hurt and betrayed would be very reluctant to trust again. We put on the armor, we harden our hearts, we look suspiciously on each and every motive and action… we play our own defense. And we end up cutting off any and all hopes at another healthy connection because we see reflections of the past one showing up everywhere we look.
It order to get yourself ready to re-enter a relationship after having been devastated in a previous one, there are several steps we can take. But I will warn you that in any scenario, you will need to give yourself the essential yet often painful gift of time.
Taking time alone to heal is as logical and natural as it would be if you had a broken arm. Give it rest, don’t go swing dancing for a few months. Build it back up to where it was. But emotionally we figure we don’t need to treat our wounds with such thoughtfulness and patience. We tend to push ourselves – I should be over this, I should be further along, why is it so hard to move past this…? We beat ourselves up. And sometimes we fear being alone – our self-esteem won’t allow it. We need someone in order to feel worthy or of value.
Shush those urges – they are probably what got you into the unhealthy relationship to begin with. Instead, be your own best nurse. Practice some much needed self-TLC. Check the vitals – are you healed and healthy enough to consider another relationship? How long has it been?
Are you still protecting yourself or are you more open to others? Most importantly – what is your motivation for seeking another relationship? See, if it is still coming from a place of neediness, it will NOT be right.
I had an ocean deep fear of not being a good judge of character. I was a recovering codependent, so I knew that I was naturally going to be drawn to a man who would need me. I didn’t know what to do with a healthy man – and frankly didn’t even imagine a healthy man taking an interest in me because he wouldn’t need my nurturing help. What else did I have to give? So for awhile I kept my distance out of fear of repeating the unhealthy pattern. I didn’t trust myself because I wasn’t yet healed of my own issues.
But I did trust God, and I realized that He was my protector, and could do a much better job at it than I could. He could see men’s hearts and true motives when I could only see their actions and hear their words. I resolved to proceed with caution, fighting to keep my heart open and my trust in my Protector. Daily I would ask HIm to close the door if it was unhealthy, or to open to eyes to signs that this person might be unsafe.
Now clearly my job was not just to trust, but also to work on myself and get rid of that codependent part of me that had managed to run my life amok. With His help, I could take an honest look at myself and explore why I did the things I did…once I could fix those unhealthy patterns (usually lies I believed about myself) then I knew I could make better choices. For me this also looked like 3 years of seeing a therapist who was a specialist in abuse. But whatever it may look like for you, enter new relationships from a place of health and wholeness, having done your work on yourself. For some of us that takes longer than others. And resolve to never again lose yourself and doubt your judgment because of a man.
So our job is always to trust in Him – His job is to protect and guide, fight and provide. And He will. He does. Every minute of every day – He is working on your behalf. Rest in that, and open yourself to relationships that are healthy. If we only harden our hearts we will miss out on what God has for us – we weren’t meant to be hardened people, self-protective and self-sufficient. We are meant for community, fellowship, love and connection. So yes, take the time in the ER to heal your heart, but don’t lose your faith in all of humankind. He was not trustworthy. Duly noted. Learn your lesson, forgive yourself and him, and don’t allow the betrayal to poison your life. Move on with someone who is trustworthy – God. I found that a trustworthy man was not too far behind.