You didn’t see it coming. But your broken heart tells a different story. You’ve been betrayed. The pit in your stomach, the inability to think clearly, the loss of security and everything you thought you knew. You question your future, your kid’s future, and worry settles in like an uninvited cat. You’re faced with decisions on how you will respond. What do you do next?
How Should You Respond?
The feelings of betrayal can be so intense that you can feel completely off your game and unlike yourself. I think that is where the phrase, “beside myself” came from- feelings of betrayal give us a sense that we are outside of ourselves powerlessly watching the bad thing happen. Last week, we discussed what true repentance looks like, and without true repentance, reconciliation is not possible. If you missed it, click here to read.
How do you put together the pieces again, and make sure that you move forward instead of get stuck in anger and bitterness?
- Determine the state of repentance your partner is experiencing. Repentance means that your partner identifies the gravity of the injury, makes reparations and commitment for change. Last week’s post addressed the steps in true repentance. Click here if you missed it.
- List your needs: this may be difficult if you haven’t been in the habit of recognizing and asking for your own needs. You may be out of practice when it comes to identifying what you need, because you’re used to feeling other’s needs first. Take some time to list some things that you’ll need, in order to move forward. Maybe you need your partner to go to counseling, go to a 12 Step program, come clean to your family, switch jobs, join a marriage group at church with you, or take a parenting class.
- Determine if reconciliation is an option. Remember, forgiveness does not mean that you have to trust or reconcile with the other person. You do not. Reconciliation is a much different process than forgiveness. Forgiveness can be done with or without the offending person’s repentance or willingness. If the offending person has proven himself emotionally safe, trustworthy and remorsefully repentant, then reconciliation can be an option. If he only offers lip service, without true behavior change, then reconciliation is not a safe idea. If the offending person offers no admittance of wrongdoing at all, he is showing you that he is not a safe person to trust again.
- Recognize your own part, if appropriate, in the breakdown. I’m not saying that the betrayal is your fault. Not at all. However, it is important to identify your contributions to the breakdown of the relationship whatever they may be. Maybe you ignored some warning signs, or neglected to set good boundaries in the beginning. Maybe your people picker was broken and you picked the wrong person. Maybe you tolerated disrespect too long. This is an important step to your recovery because it prepares you for self-forgiveness.
- Determine what Forgiveness looks like for you. Forgiveness is choosing to no longer hold the person accountable for that particular transgression. It’s as if the trial is over, the sentence is in place, and you no longer have to be the judge, the jailor, or the enforcer. You may be experiencing fear of getting hurt again, but don’t let that fear determine whether you forgive or not. Forgiveness may mean that you reach out to the person and offer to take steps toward reconciliation. Or, forgiveness for you may mean wishing the person well, and keeping your distance.
- Signs of forgiveness. How do you know if you’ve really forgiven or not? Well, you’ll experience less anger, hurt and fear when you are with or when you think about that person. You feel confident that you can take care of yourself, and wise about decisions you make. You feel compassion for the other person, and truly wish the best for him/her. Whether or not they have changed, you have peace with yourself and extend peace toward him/her. Forgiveness is the freedom from the power of past pain.
Before agreeing to “Work things out” after betrayal, it is important to take the time you need to discern your true feelings about this. Since trust has been broken, it takes time to see whether your partner has what it takes to repair trust. True friendship and love cannot exist in an unsafe relationship, so give yourself permission to take your time and space to determine the safety of the relationship.
Have you ever received an apology you knew wasn’t genuine? The classic example is when a brother and sister are fighting and their mother makes them say “sorry.” The children’s eyes are downcast with furrowed brows. One is kicking the dirt beneath his shoe and the word “sorry” is more grunted than spoken. Each child knows that saying “sorry” is what’s required, but neither say it willingly.
Apologies are hard to give, except for when they come too easy. Today, we are going to talk about when “sorry” isn’t enough- when the hurt is so deep and the offense is so bad that a simple “sorry” is not going to cut it.
Years ago, I heard about a principle that changed the way I give and receive apologies. I call it The 20% Rule. It’s an old Jewish tradition. If your neighbor accidentally kills your $100 cow, they pay you for the value of the cow and then they add 1/5 of the value on top. The $100 is for the cow, and the $20 is to repair the relationship.
The 20% Rule takes into account not only the value of the cow, but also the value of the relationship. When your neighbor gives you 20% on top, it’s as if he was saying, “I’m really sorry about that cow, and I hope that we can still be friends.” The 20% is for the pain. The 20% is for the offense. The 20% is for the relationship breakdown.
If you’ve been hurt, offended or even betrayed, then you know how important “making amends” really is. But what does “Making Amends” look like? Feel like? Sound like? How do you know when Sorry is really sorry? How do you know if you can trust again? Here are some things to think about when you have been done wrong.
What is your cow worth? If you’ve been hurt, and the other party wants reconciliation, think of how much your cow is worth. The word “Sorry” is rarely enough for big hurts, so think of what you need to make it right. If it’s your spouse, will you require him/her to move into another room? Separate bank accounts? Commit to counseling? Find an extra job? Get into treatment for his/her addiction? Move out? Get some accountability? Your Cow is worth his/her effort to make things right. If you find he/she is not willing or able to make things right, replace what was lost, or take responsibility for his/her part, then you know that he/she is not ready for the relationship.
- Hold out for your 20%. If your heart is hurting over the wrong that’s been done, that is a clear message that the relationship is still broken. It may not be severed, but it is broken. You will need a little extra to love again, to trust again, and to feel safe again. You can’t force these feelings, nor should you. It’s ok to take your time with healing, waiting and seeing, and keeping your verdict status as “out.” Your 20% may look like quality time together, or listening to your needs, or time for intimacy, or special gifts, or helping out with house or kids. You should see some extra effort so you feel valued again.
- What will it take to trust again? Take time to list several things you need and want in order for you to trust your partner again. These things are specific to you and your needs. Your trust, more than anything has been shattered, and will take time and effort to heal.
What if the other person doesn’t replace the cow or cough up the 20%? What if he/she doesn’t see the necessity? What if the other person doesn’t hold the same value for the cow or the relationship? What is the person wants to buy you a goat or a chicken instead? Oh, this is a real pickle! Because it appears as though the person is sorry, and they talk as if they regret their actions, but when it comes to taking full responsibility and valuing the relationship, they just don’t. Their actions and their words are not congruent. This is a difficult spot for you to be in, because you may have to make serious decisions in order to value yourself, your cow, and your relationship. Only you know when enough is enough.
- The bright side. Every bit of emotional and financial investment you put into your relationship adds up. Your relationship can become richer, deeper and more fulfilling when the 20% Rule rules the day. You can be at peace with your partner, and that although mistakes happen, forgiveness is possible. Intimacy is possible. Happiness will come back. Trust will come back. Couples who face betrayal and the path to forgiveness with these concepts as their guide, often come out stronger and better than before.
The 20% Rule is a great guide in reminding us all that the relationship is more important than the cow, that it’s ok to value yourself, and that investing in the relationship is worth it.