by Dr. Kendra A. O’Hora, LCMFT
These blogs are always the hardest to write.
But I know you need this. I know you need validation, love, support, and direction. Couples who are healing after infidelity, an affair, or betrayal are so so important to me.
Your journey is delicate and I’m here to help offer some gentle space for you to practice kindness with yourself and your relationship during this time. Why?
Because I’ve seen the wounds of infidelity and betrayal surface during this global pandemic and wreak havoc on relationships.
And more importantly, because I want you to understand you’re not abnormal, unforgiving, or unloving if these wounds surface. And you’re also not alone.
First, before we can dig into the three ways your betrayal wounds have resurfaced during COVID-19, I want to explain the concept of the body remembers. If you’re a reader and you like science, research, and very thoughtfully explained concepts, check out Bessel van der Kolk’s book The Body Keeps the Score.
If you’re looking for the cliff notes, I’ve got you! We’re all a bit tired, stressed, and frazzled during these times. So, here’s the short version: your body remembers.
Your body codes and stores everything you’ve been through. Some memories stick out more and are easy for us to recall. Other memories fade into the deep recesses of our minds. Nonetheless, your body remembers.
If you’re a woman, than your body has an uncanny and scientifically proven better episodic memory system. This means that you’re better at recalling events and details, in the form of an episode.
So, if we start with the baseline that our bodies remember then we need to understand that they are remembering for a reason. Thus why we should never criticize or shame our body for remembering.
Most of the reasons our bodies remember are actually linked to survival. The body wants to ensure that the NEXT time it’s faced with something it is well prepared. Well prepared to protect, avoid, freeze, run, hide, fight, strategize, etc.
And so, the body remembers.
If you’re human (I’ve been watching too much WestWorld) your body is not comparing itself to other people. Your mind might. But your body does not sit around and think “dang, I’m really scared right now BUT I’m not as scared as someone in a house fire so I think I’ll just get over whatever survival instinct is coming up.” Instead, your body remembers.
And then what happens?
Your body will often take the last thing, or the most impactful thing, you’ve been through and remind you (for some, flood you) so that you are better prepared this time.
Sometimes our bodies remind us in ways that don’t make sense. And sometimes we use our minds to battle our bodies and convince them they shouldn’t be reminding us.
I’ve heard SO many partners say to their spouse:
“It happened a year ago! How long are you going to punish me?”
“If you keep bringing it up you obviously lied about forgiving me.”
“Are you seriously going to bring this up in every fight?
If you betrayed your partner I know you already have a lot of grief, shame, anger, and pain you have to sort through. Also, if your relationship has healed then I know that you have put a ton of effort into understanding what led you to the affair and how you can avoid ever being there again.
This journey is not easy so I commend you for doing the work. That being said…please hear me when I say, your partner is not, in the middle of a global pandemic, bringing up your affair for fun.
These wounds are surfacing for three reasons:
Anger, Grief, and Fear.
Goodness I wish this wasn’t so. But our bodies are mysterious and beautiful and we are well served to trust and love them. And to your partners credit, in the midst of a global pandemic these emotions are common, reasonable, and normal.
During COVID-19 we’re angry about a lot. We’re angry about our freedoms, our restrictions, our leaders, and our loss of control. We’re angry about how our boundaries have been tested and challenged. And, we’re angry about what we think is fair, just, right, and needed. We’re angry about people not being protected and we’re angry about how people are choosing to follow or not follow the rules.
And so, our bodies remember.
Our body remembers how the betrayal brought up this exact same anger.
During COVID-19, we’re also experiencing intense grief. We’re grieving for the couples who have cancelled their wedding plans. We’re grieving for the families who never got to say goodbye. We’re grieving for the doctors and nurses and therapists and first responders who are crippling in their own pain and in some cases, hurting themselves. We’re grieving for the seniors who won’t go to prom or walk across a stage. We’re grieving for the moms who have had to deliver without a partner or who have had to be separated from their baby.
And so, our bodies remember.
Our body remembers how the betrayal brought up this exact same grief:
And lastly, we are a fearful people right now. We’re fearful about whether we have enough resources. We’re fearful about the choices our leadership are making. We’re fearful for our friends and family members working in hospitals. We’re fearful we’ll get COVID-19. We’re fearful we’ll give it to someone we love. We’re fearful we’ll lose someone we love. We’re fearful about what our children are missing out on and how it will impact them for years to come. We’re fearful for the college students who just had to return home to chaos or the young students who are stuck in abuse at home. We’re fearful we won’t be able to recover financially. We’re fearful of what’s next.
And so, our bodies remember.
Our body remembers how the betrayal brought up this exact same fear:
There are many reasons and ways our bodies are remembering. The thoughts are not the same, they are very different. But as you can see, the emotions surfacing are the same.
I work with clients just like you. I know you don’t want to be thinking of the betrayal, it’s the last thing you want to be thinking of. But yet it’s still there.
These are just three ways you are noticing the betrayal surface. I want you to know that bringing up the betrayal because your body feels anger, grief, and fear is normal.
In healing from betrayal we need space to continue to integrate these experiences into our relational landscape. And we need dialogue to help us heal together instead of shame each other or fight with each other.
If you are looking for that avenue, I’m here. Whether you’ve just started your healing journey or it has resurfaced during COVID-19 and caught you off guard, I’m here.
I have a free e-guide for next steps and an even better e-book to help you navigate this overwhelming and scary season.