Linda: When trust has been severely damaged, there are ways to promote the healing process: 1) being willing to live in the unknown, 2) holding the tension of the opposites, 3) cultivating a vision of recovery, 4) putting anger and hurt aside to go straight for love, 5) taking responsibility and 6) renewing the commitment.
When trust is severely damaged in a relationship, there is a period of time where it is unclear whether the trust will grow back. It’s normal to doubt. When we wonder if the trust is repairable, it’s difficult to live in so much uncertainty. Many people lose their relationship at this point because they cannot bear not knowing. The feelings that dominate their experience are fear and hopelessness. Many people succumb to the intensity of these feelings, and because they can’t tolerate being is so much unknown, they let go of the relationship. It’s a shame because, for many of these people, a great deal of love remains. Yet they can’t hold the tension of the opposites.
Consider the case of Jaden and Maya. After their first child, a baby girl, the well-being of their relationship took a nose-dive. Jaden had been suffering in silence for months, feeling resentful and burdened with the financial responsibility of taking care of the entire family. When he finally spoke up to announce to Maya that he would be leaving the family, she was blind-sighted by the news.
These two spent over six months in a horrible place of not knowing. It was especially difficult for Maya to live with so much uncertainty because she was clear that she wanted the relationship to continue. Maya knew that she loved Jaden, but every day she lived in fear that it could be their last. Fearing that he would pack up and move out, she didn’t speak of her distress, imagining that anything she might say would precipitate the end. Maya was especially afraid to get angry, concerned that any expression of anger could be the very thing that drove Jaden over the edge to leave. Maya walked on eggshells for months.
In Maya’s words, “During the time it was clear to me that Jaden didn’t care if the marriage made it or not. I was so ashamed of being such a miserable failure as a wife that I didn’t let any family or friends know we were in a painful situation. It was crystal clear to me that the nature of Jaden’s commitment to the marriage was weak. I had to be willing to live in the unknown. He said our marriage was a trap from which he was attempting to escape. I psychically held on tight. I repeated, “I love you, and I believe that we can work this out somehow. I was clearly holding the commitment for two.”
Jaden remembers what assisted him to stay put during a shaky time. He did not run away when he was feeling trapped in a world of adult responsibility that he didn’t yet feel ready to take on. “Getting into bed and silently looking into Maya’s eyes healed me. We wouldn’t dare to speak for fear of setting off an unpleasant reaction. We communicated with eye contact and touch alone, allowing the pleasure bond of our sexual relationship to heal us both. There were times when the joy of our sexual connection was about the only thing holding us together, and we used that to guide our way to each other. Those were the times that we were going straight for love.”
For this couple, the sexual connection was a bond that sustained them. For another couple, it might be their devotion to their children. It is of utmost importance that each couple finds one area where they connect well to use it and enlarge it. Each couple is responsible for discovering what allows them to fight for the relationship. That purpose will help them while they navigate a difficult passage as these two did.
Maya: “I held the vision that the relationship could work. I was willing, to tell the truth about the depth of my caring. I learned to hold the tension of the opposites. Right alongside the anger I felt when he withdraws his love from me, I could still contact my love for him. I clearly stated to him, ‘I care about you; I’m committed to this relationship even if your commitment is shaky right now. I love you, and I believe that there is a way to heal our relationship.’
“I hold a vision of our learning from this breakdown, to become stronger individuals. We can come through this painful ordeal with our marriage intact and even better. I know from my own past experience that I can change my life. I see that I have complained too much, and that’s over. I see that I haven’t given you the attention that you need, and I can change that right now. I can see that it’s a hardship for you to support the three of us alone and I can bring some money into the household right away.”
Jaden: “When Maya took responsibility for the ways in which she had harmed the relationship, it was a major turning point. And when I saw Maya demonstrate her new commitments by not complaining and showing more attention to me, I could see that I had been part of the problem by stoically holding my feelings inside. I hadn’t been honest with her about how jealous I was of her closeness with our baby girl and how deprived I felt. Her commitment brought forth mine. It wasn’t easy for me to be vulnerable, but I pushed myself to come out of hiding.”
Eventually, Jaden did find the strength and courage to express his loneliness, fear, and sadness about missing the simplicity of their single life before they became parents. He told me how grateful he is to Maya for being wise enough to hold the commitment for two when he was in his word, “feeble.” They both learned a great deal that helps them today to be more honest and open with each other. Both of them are completely committed to exposing their innermost feelings and taking good care of their partnership so that it never falls into disrepair. Both Maya and Jaden are doing great now and are so happy that they made it through that very dark time.