3 Ways Recycling Pain Heals Sexual Betrayal in Marriage
Part 13 of the Codependent in Colossians Series
by Kim Pullen
Instead of ignoring the pain following the disclosure of our spouse’s sexual sin, we choose to use our trauma as a catalyst for growth, digging deeply into God’s Word in search of spiritual healing and transformation.
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”
When I reflect on the day I learned about my husband’s infidelity, I’m amazed I was able to take care of my three young children. Even today, I can barely recall those first few months. I felt like I existed in a vacuum where nothing could penetrate my wall of anguish.
Through the fog, I stumbled my way into several support groups where I found others who were quite familiar with the crucible that is sexual betrayal. Locked in a blizzard of pain, we formed a kind of emotional guide rope to keep each other from getting lost in the storm.
New ladies joined the group and I found myself placing their hands on guidelines I myself had clung to so desperately only months before. With some amazement, I realized I was healing. What’s more, I rejoiced in the realization I had something to give others even though I was relatively new to recovery.
Jesus Did It First
The betrayal Jesus suffered at the hands of Judas, his disciples, and the very people he was dying for had an infinitely higher cost and reward than infidelity. With the psychological burden of humanity’s redemption resting squarely on his shoulders, it is astounding that Jesus had the will, strength, or self-denial to meet anyone’s needs but his own.
Yet, between Gethsemane and Golgotha and “overwhelmed to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38), Jesus deliberately and purposefully met the spiritual, emotional, and/or physical needs of at least seven people. There was the servant of the high priest (Luke 22:50-51), the weeping daughters of Jerusalem (23:27-28), the soldiers who crucified him (v. 34), the thief beside him (v. 43), and his distraught mother (John 19:26-27).
So when the Apostle Paul stated he would joyfully shoulder Jesus’ incomplete afflictions for the church (Colossians 1:24), what in the world did he mean? And how in the world does focusing on others when we’re in pain help us to move through the healing process?
#1 Takes Our Eyes Off Ourselves
Paul understood the power of “not only looking to our own interest, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). Against his better judgment but to prove a point to the Corinthians, he boasted about his physical trials as a servant of Jesus. He was imprisoned multiple times, flogged mercilessly, stoned and left for dead, lost at sea and shipwrecked, in constant danger, periods of time without food, water, clothing, shelter, or sleep, and a marked and wanted man (2 Corinthians 11:21-30).
And those were nothing compared to the emotional burden Paul bore for the churches for which each of his 13 New Testament letters attest. But Paul didn’t fixate on any of his trials because like Jesus, he recognized that he was given a purpose to fulfill and only he could do it.
In our pain, it is so easy to isolate and bury ourselves in the vicious cycle of unanswerable questions about porn or adultery. Why does my spouse cheat on me like this? How could this type of betrayal happen to me? When will the pain end? What am I going to do if he doesn’t stop? If it’s porn, who could make such smut? Why does he watch it? If it’s adultery, where and how often did they meet them? Are they still meeting?
We need to process our pain, but we can’t bathe in it unendingly. We have to take our eyes off ourselves so we can learn to see our pain with new eyes.
#2 View Our Pain Objectively
Even though I’ve been attending support groups for more than six years, I’m still surprised to hear other women, new to recovery, say things I’ve said myself. What’s more, it helps me take a step back and see my pain more objectively since others experience similar circumstances.
When we are in the thick of our pain, we can’t see clearly. It’s like playing the board game, LIFE. Sitting as a plastic peg in your plastic car, you can’t see further down the road of your “life” than the space in front of you (“PAY DAY”). But pull back so you can see the whole board and your entire perspective changes. Now you are seeing life from God’s perspective.
That’s what happens when we recycle our pain. We see it with new eyes. We see its root, its causes, and its patterns as they are reflected in others’ lives. And because we view it from “above”, we can analyze it with less emotion and more logic. Even more, we can visually trace a safe path out of the woods when all we felt before was fear and frustration.
#3 Propels Us Toward Healing
Once we see our situation from an objective perspective and map out an escape route, each step becomes more and more empowering. Every step in the right direction fills us with strength and determination to keep moving forward. It’s called momentum.
It’s the same feeling you get after you’ve successfully completed two weeks of a weight-loss plan or completed your work to-do list in half the time it took you when you started your job. It’s a healthy shot of dopamine to the brain. This type of positive reward propels us toward healing.
A Warning about Spouse-bashing
But be warned about the artificial rewards that come from complaining about or trashing a spouse. This is a well-concealed trap of Satan and a fast track even deeper into the woods of hopelessness.
Sharing the pain of our spouse’s sexual sin should feel like walking a fence. We want to be honest with our feelings, but we also have to obey Scripture which says, “Do everything without complaining” (Philippians 2:14). Also, “don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29).
Complaining causes us to view our situation from a worldly perspective. It robs us of faith and the power to change ourselves, or to empower others to be transformed by the renewing of their mind.
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