Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures! We easily understand this with physical injuries. If someone gets badly hurt in an accident, she is likely to receive compassion and support. No one would frown on her need to have time off from her normal responsibilities, go to physical therapy, or rest. She is likely to be loved on with meals, cards, and more. Life’s pace would need to change to make room for recovery.
It is a different story when this same woman suffers a devastating, emotional blow such as being betrayed by the person that her life is most intertwined: her husband.
The kind of heartbreak that infidelity produces is severe. The grief has been equated to that of losing a child. Emotions are all over the place. Anger is a normal emotional response to betrayal. Tears can be incessant. For some, shock and numbness can set in. Insecurities shout, “you’re not enough.”
Emotional triggers become a way of life. The body responds with appetite changes, panic attacks, sleep disturbances, stomach issues, and even aggravated pre-existing health conditions.
Initially, to even speak to someone else about what you are going through can bring more pain and shame. Accepting that this is part of your life takes time. Who could be trusted with this sensitive information?
The truth is that many carry on in this life-altering reality without tending to their invisible wounds. The lack of self-care will take its toll on the individual. Self-neglect when facing something that impacts one so deeply is likely to incur negative consequences such as clinical depression, physical illness, becoming bitter, developing an addiction, getting stuck, and much more.
It is important to practice self-care when healing from betrayal trauma as a basic form of stewardship. Borrowing from the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, our bodies, thoughts, heart, and behaviors are our most obvious “talents.” Using these “talents” well to heal will move you forward to the good works God created for you to do as you get stronger.
Consider giving emotional trauma the equal respect that you would give to a physical injury. God does. When He looks at us He sees our heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Jesus calls the weary to come to Him to receive rest (Matthew 11:28). He is near the broken-hearted and saves those whose spirit is crushed (Psalm 34:18). God provides for basic needs in a time of distress (1 Kings 19:3-8). He collects our tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8). Your heartache hardly escapes His notice. Don’t let it escape yours.
Josh Spurlock says in his article on the theology of self-care: “Self-care isn’t selfish or self-indulgent, it’s good stewardship of the resource of our body that enables us to make the best use of it and the time God has given us.”
Here are a few obstacles that can hold you back from practicing needed self-care at this time:
Keeping a busy routine. Healing of any kind is difficult without a margin of time and energy. Some wives have overcompensated for a husband who has not been fully present at home. What activity, responsibility, or care could you let go of in order for you to tend to your needs during this delicate season?
Underestimating the impact. It is common in recovery for the investment of time, energy, and money to go towards the betrayer’s recovery. That’s understandable, as his brokenness has caused the crisis. As previously mentioned though, sexual betrayal is deeply traumatic for the spouse. You will also need care -- the sooner the better.
Seeing self-care as selfish. Wives and moms tend to be really good at caring for the needs of others. It is our God-given gift of nurture. When living with a hard-to-please spouse, many go the extra mile to make things work and life gets off balance. The idea of caring for oneself may feel foreign and sound selfish. This is a time to rethink this belief and turn to self-compassion and self-nurturing.
Feelings of unworthiness. Sexual betrayal can deplete one’s sense of worth, not to mention all the relational deceit, neglect, demeaning, and gaslighting that often precedes discovery. These enable us to feel undeserving and unworthy of good personal care. Remember that Jesus paid a high price so that you may have life and life in abundance (John 10:10). He considered you worthy of His perfect sacrifice. Stand firm on that truth. What others do, or don’t do, is not the way to measure your worth -- Jesus’ love is.
Being in a place of self-disconnect. Early in my healing journey, I was asked: “What do you enjoy doing?” Honestly, I found it hard to answer. It revealed how disconnected I had become from the person God created me to be. This was a turning point in my focus. I slowly, but surely, started giving myself permission to engage in healthy activities that were life-giving to me.
What do you enjoy doing? What deposits energy back to your heart and soul? What did you enjoy doing as a child?
Would you make a list of 20 items? Your list can contain things you already know you love and things you would like to try. This is a great place to start practicing self-care.
To inspire you, I’m sharing a list of 20 self-care ideas compiled by a wife while still in the shock stage of betrayal trauma. After allowing herself to ride the wave of hard-to-feel emotions, she would choose something from this list to help restore calm and recharge.
Prepare fruit-infused water and drink it.
Take a short walk.
Experience the sounds of nature.
Identify and memorize Scriptures that speak to my feelings.
Pause and name my exact feelings like: fear, anger, loneliness, frustration, disappointment, and sadness. Bring them to God and meditate on the corresponding Scripture I have memorized.
Find joy in Pinterest.
Go for a manicure or pedicure.
Listen to soothing music.
Turn on my aromatherapy spa.
Prepare a new recipe.
Organize something that gives me a sense of accomplishment and control.
Take a leisurely bike ride.
Find a magazine that I’m interested in.
Rest outside and listen to the sound of the wind in the trees.
Enjoy hot tea in one of my favorite cups.
Drive to the ocean.
Watch an episode of something I enjoy on TV.
Buy fresh flowers.
Take pictures of something beautiful.
“Window shop” at a favorite store.
Yes, healing from sexual betrayal is an extraordinary time in your life, and it does require extraordinary measures of stewardship, whether the people around you realize it or not. The important thing is you realize it and start moving in that direction one step at a time.