Regardless of whether an injury is physical or emotional, what keeps us from healing is that all wounds that don’t heal are burdened with a foreign body that needs to be cleaned out, at the root of the problem, says Wendy Strgar in this post on her Good Clean Love site.
That's because what caused the wound is still there, like a sliver in a finger that, if left, will simply fester as the body rallies to destroy the foreign object.
Emotional pain can be harder to deal with than physical injury because there's nothing to point to, no blood, no broken bone. The culprit himself, our husband, is often so busy deflecting blame and minimizing the damage that he simply compounds the problem. He too urges us to "stop crying", tells us "it's not so bad" and insists that we "get over it." Or he accuses us of staying "stuck in the past", insists that we're "dwelling on the pain." But the past, unless effectively dealt with, is our present.
Dealing with it can be so painful, however, that we avoid it, staying in a some sort of limbo where we can't move forward, but we also don't deal directly with our injury.
Naming that injury is crucial. I resisted calling my husband's affairs "betrayal" or agreeing with a friend that what I was experiencing was "post-trauma". It all seemed too dramatic. Trauma was for war veterans and rape victims, not run-of-the-mill wives of philandering husbands. But finally admitting – and naming – my pain was a pivotal point for me. It was sweet relief to acknowledge the depth of what I'd been through...and to be able to point the way forward. What's more, my response to what happened began to make sense. I no longer thought there was something wrong with me that I couldn't "get over it", I understood that my pain was so deep and so profound that I needed self-compassion not criticism.
There is no "right" way to deal with this. There is only our own truth. For many, many of us, betrayal is trauma. It is an emotional injury that, left untended, will fester and continue to infect our relationships with others and with ourselves. It will manifest itself in unhealthy behaviours...and in poor health: headaches, ulcers, anxiety issues, GI problems.
When we treat our injury, and our response to it – guilt, rage, shame, resentment – like a foreign body that threatens our well-being, we become more willing to go deep to remove it. It's frightening to go to that place where our darkest feelings rest...but there is no other way forward. At least no other healthy way.
And know this: When you shine a light on that darkness and name the injury, your heart cracks open enough to let the sun in.