In the first part of my blog, I introduced ideas around reactions to betrayal, disappointments and pain in relationships. It is not uncommon that persons who come to therapy share experiences where they were wronged or injured; at times by those they love and trust. A number of questions can arise in such situations… “Should I give my partner another chance?”, “How will I know when I would have forgiven my son for what he did to me?”, “How will I know that the same situation will not repeat itself? I do not want to go through this again.” These are very difficult questions for a person that has been wronged to ask and to make sense of.
As people, we very often need to understand why we have been wronged. Keeping an open channel of communication with the person that has contributed to the wrong-doing, may possibly give the person that has been wronged the possibility to widen their understanding of why and how this happened to them. Numerous research explains the importance for the person who has contributed to the wrong-doing to demonstrate that they are taking responsibility for the action that has caused pain to the other person in the relationship. The person who has contributed to the wrong-doing may feel shame and guilt, and could also be going through an experience of loss of the relationship they have wronged (since they are now also living the repercussions of their action). This may be painful for the person who has been wronged to hear or witness, but it could also be relieving to know that the person that hurt him/her is experiencing remorse and has taken responsibility for their contribution in the wrong-doing.
While my point is that it may sometimes be useful for the person that has been wronged and the person that has contributed to the wrong-doing to communicate, some may feel inclined to talk about this experience all the time; leaving both parties constantly reliving the painful and shameful experience. Possibly structuring a safe period of time where this communication can happen, can support both parties to not fall into this trap. By safe, I mean a time of the day where both parties are in a calm state, where children or others who are not involved in this are not witness to the conversation, and also where both parties know when the conversation will come to an end, and will have the opportunity to de-stress and compose themselves after the conversation prior to shifting to other activities.
While many may opt for reconciliation with the hope of ‘things being the way they were’ prior to the injury, the way that things were prior to the injury, led to the injury. While it may be a struggle, it is very useful to take advantage of the opportunity to learn about the buildup that led to the wrong-doing, and also to learn about how to be different in a healthy way in the relationship for both parties not to go through the same pattern that resulted in the injury.
Rebecca Cassar is a Family Therapist practicing the Systemic Approach. She specializes in offering therapy to families, couples and individuals who are experiencing distress in their relationships.