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The Mess of Betrayal: 3 Ways to Unpack and Heal

By March 28, 2024No Comments
mess of betrayal

Who wants to admit their life is a mess?

Discovering weaknesses in yourself never feels good.

I stood at the door, overwhelmed by boxes, paper, Styrofoam (I hate it), and piles of kitchen supplies waiting for their new home. For a quick minute or two, I considered closing the door, grabbing a book, and heading to the nearest coffee shop. The mess could wait.

But it couldn’t. It would still be there, waiting for me, stealing my peace of mind, and demanding action.

Over 15 years ago, I desperately wanted to run away from another mess—the mess of betrayal.

One I’d spent many years ignoring and creating simultaneously. I believed life was good even though there were signs that something wasn’t quite right in my marriage relationship. I pushed down the hidden trauma, believing it was better not to talk about it.

That’s the thing about messes. They don’t clear up until you deal with them.

Just like those kitchen supplies, your betrayal mess requires positive action to heal.

1. One box at a time.

Looking at a wall of boxes when you move feels overwhelming. At times, it could be a sense of accomplishment. You’ve made significant progress. Those boxes could also mean extra effort when you are worn out. Not only do you need to pack and move them, but you also must unpack them.

When dealing with a mess, such as betrayal from discovering your husband’s porn struggles, you need to focus on one item at a time. The avalanche of emotions and questions quickly overwhelms you. Often women tell me they don’t know where to start.

The best thing I did was start with a phone call to a professional woman I knew would help me figure out how to handle the discovery. That conversation changed the trajectory of my thoughts and actions. It also gave me hope that the outcome would be positive rather than destructive.

But the one box at a time continued as I worked through each emotion and question. I discovered I couldn’t work through more than one at a time. Do you feel overwhelmed? Get some help to start unpacking those individual boxes.

2. Find the home for each item.

In our recent move, an interior designer friend of mine volunteered to help me unpack, arrange furniture, and decorate. I gladly and quickly accepted her offer. In a matter of a few days, our new home looked put together.

However, some of the items weren’t in their proper homes yet, so it took a bit more time to figure out how to live in this space.

When dealing with betrayal trauma recovery, you deal with the most pressing issues first. Then, as you progress through the healing process, other items need to find a new home. For instance, how do you deal with distrust, anger, fear, and more? As you unpack each item, you may put it in a spot for now, knowing that you’ll revisit it later. Sometimes, you think you’ve dealt with a part of the betrayal well but discover you need to go to a deeper level. This is a normal part of the healing process.

3. Clear out the trash.

Unpacking all those boxes generated a mound of paper, Styrofoam, and empty boxes. At one point, the stacks became overwhelming and disrupting. It was time to clear out all that trash so we could keep working.

During my recovery process, I discovered a lot of trash in my heart, mind, and soul that needed to be thrown away. What kind of trash? False expectations about how life should be. (It’s not good to should on yourself!) Anger. The need to control everything about his recovery. False beliefs about God’s character. And more.

Wise counselors and coaches walked me through the process of allowing God to reveal the pieces of trash I hoarded. Sometimes that pile threatened to smother me before I could deal with it. Yet, with patience, guidance, and encouragement, that trash disappeared a piece at a time.

Today, when the trash threatens to pile up, I know how to quickly deal with it and get help when I struggle. What a relief!

Messes don’t disappear all at once.

Take a deep breath. You aren’t alone with your messes. Every person has messes in their lives. It’s part of being human.

You might deal with one type of mess quickly yet struggle to tackle another. Your best friend tackles that other mess efficiently but can’t seem to make progress in a different area. Please stop comparing your mess to anyone else’s. God wants to help you through each mess.

When the fledgling Israelite nation stood on the east side of the Jordan River, God told them he would lead them through every battle. Interestingly, he told them he wouldn’t remove all the obstacles at once because other obstacles would multiply too quickly for them to handle. God allowed them to deal with one mess at a time.

What mess of betrayal threatens to overwhelm you?

You can choose to ignore it, hoping it will go away. It won’t, but you can make that choice. Or you can tackle that mess one piece at a time. Ask God to show you the next step to deal with the mess. Get the help you need. Then celebrate each unpacked box that clears a bit more of that mess.

  • Kirsten D Samuel

    I empower Christian wives to discover they are seen, loved, and heard. These women find the freedom to be who they are beyond their partner’s struggles, and find hope that there is a life worth living.

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