"The first step toward getting somewhere is to decide that you're not going to stay where you are."
I listened recently to a woman speak about how she'd lost 150 pounds off her 300-pound frame. It wasn't the first time she'd lost weight. She spoke about drastic diets that led to drastic weight lost which led, drastically, to more gain. She spoke about exercise plans that started off strong but waned after a few months. She spoke of her daily weigh-ins, which felt alternately hopeful and humiliating. And she spoke, mostly, of the crushing shame of wanting something that seemed easy for everyone else...but impossible for her.
So what worked? Being gentle with herself. Instead of grand plans, she implemented a one-small-step strategy. Each day she did...something...that fed her goal. It might be a walk. It might be a healthy meal. It might be saying 'no' to dessert. But each day, she nourished her goal in a meaningful way.
And her body responded to these thoughtful choices by becoming more healthy. By shedding the shame, along with the weight.
We carry so much weight after betrayal, even as many of our bodies shrink from lack of eating and too much stress. We often carry deep shame. That this happened to us. That it says something horrible about us. That our marriages are now somehow marked as deficient. Less than.
Some of us are emotionally paralyzed. We can't imagine leaving but staying seems equally impossible. Others vacillate wildly between resolutely packing our bags and dissolving into tears in the front hall, with our hand on the doorknob.
We lose faith in our perception of the world, which seems huge and frightening and filled with people whose intentions we can no longer trust. Our future looks foggy. Our past, foggier still.
But the constant in the midst of all these whirling emotions is often one thing: shame.
Shame makes us crazy. It makes us desperate. It separates us from the world. It paralyzes us.
The woman desperate to lose weight (her doctor made it clear there was no other option) discovered something amazing. Shame cannot survive alongside self-care. By refusing to participate in her own humiliation and emotional battering, she learned to care for herself. She found her value, apart from her physical shell. And that's what allowed her to inch forward. She had decided, as J.P. Morgan notes above, that she was not going to stay where she was.
None of us wants to stay in the swirling hell of betrayal. But even when we don't know which direction to head, we do know how to care for ourselves. We do know how to be gentle with ourselves.
It begins with our story. It begins with letting ourselves off the hook for a choice made without our knowledge or input. It begins with doing something kind and meaningful for ourselves each day. It begins when we assume agency for our lives. As Carl Jung said, "I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become."
Maybe your step is refusing to back down when he tells us to "let it go". Maybe it's going for a walk and counting the daffodils instead of pulling the covers over our head. Maybe it's calling up a compassionate friend and beginning the conversation with "I need to tell you something and I just want you to listen and be my friend..." Maybe it's making an appointment with a therapist who understands PTSD and betrayal. Maybe it's a three-day-weekend by yourself to clear your head. Maybe it's putting his bags at the front door and changing the locks. But whatever it is, make sure it honours you.
To get to a place of self-love and self-respect, a place where shame no longer lives, you need to decide that you no longer want to be where you are. That it's time for change.