As a Betrayal Recovery Expert who works with those who have been betrayed by their intimate partner and are ready to let go of the grief, pain, and heartbreak so they can claim what’s possible for them on the other side of betrayal, one thing I hear often is, “Will I ever be able to love again?”
Whether that means loving the partner who cheated on you again, or opening yourself up to loving a new partner, the real question underneath is, “If I open myself up to love again, am I going to get hurt?” and “Will I ever be healed enough to choose to take that kind of risk?”
Here are a few things to consider about loving again after you have been hurt.
Love and Healing are Both Choices
Contrary to what you might think, healing and loving are both personal choices that only you can make. Whether the hurt you experienced was minor or life-altering, there is no requirement to heal, there is no timetable for recovery, and healing will not happen unless you decide that you are going to heal.
You might be shaking your head right now, wondering why anyone would decide not to heal. The answer lies partially in the concept of secondary gain.
Love, Betrayal, and Secondary Gain
Secondary Gain is an advantage attained by something that is otherwise negative. For example, someone who is sick might enjoy time off of work and getting to watch TV at home throughout the day. Being sick is a negative but catching up on TV is a positive. TV time is the secondary gain and might make someone stay sick longer so they can continue to catch up on TV.
Sometimes when we’ve been hurt in our relationships or had someone do something to us that was unfair, we receive attention or other positives from others. Whether it’s being treated to dinner out, sympathy, or the righteous indignation of a we are so on the same team and we are so gonna fight this together vibe, there can be much to gain from staying hurt.
When we heal, we cut ourselves off from the “benefits” and secondary gain of being hurt. So sometimes, we subconsciously choose not to heal.
How do I Heal my Heart and Love Again?
Healing your heart requires first, taking enough time to feel your emotions fully. To grieve, rage, cry, or simply sit in stunned silence. Second, it requires looking directly at the injury and addressing its root.
In the medical profession, when a wound is too deep, it is stuffed with gauze and intentionally kept open. That’s because it’s important to heal wounds from the inside out. When the outside, surface level of the wound closes too fast, it can cause infection and delay healing. Healing a broken heart must also be done from the inside out.
To heal from the inside out, you must be aware of what is broken, oozing, and unhealed deep within you and not just focus on the surface-level injury. Looking at the deep internal wounding that you have carried with you for your entire life is what brings healing.
Don’t Sugar Coat it, “Put on a Happy Face,” or Spiritually Bypass the Pain
Childhood trauma and pain. Mother/father issues. Addiction and abuse. Whatever is inside of you that has been glossed over and covered up for years is where to start. That’s where true, lasting, and authentic healing begins. Not with the most recent injustice, betrayal, or fight. Not with the other person and with what they did to you, but with you. Inside.
• This means taking time to be alone. In silence and stillness. Until you can be comfortable.
• This means journaling, crying, thinking, and attending to your own needs. Until you feel well-loved and cherished by you.
• This means getting curious enough to break out of the stories, beliefs, or expectations that you have carried with you and getting to the root of you. Until you are at peace being alone, silent, and still without defense, distraction, or the need to numb out.
When you can do this, then you are ready to love again.
How do I Open my Heart Again After Being Hurt?
To love is to risk being hurt. Sadly, there is nothing anyone can do to make loving safe or guaranteed. Choosing to open your heart means:
- Choosing to accept a certain amount of risk,
- Declaring yourself as someone who loves, and
- Knowing that you’ve got your own back and can take care of yourself and make yourself feel better, no matter what anybody else does or does not do.
Life, not just love, is risky. Whether it’s a virus your immune system cannot handle, a natural disaster, or playing the stock market, life is risky. We get into trouble when we believe (incorrectly) that we are in control.
While there are things we can do to minimize risk – vaccines, vitamins, watching the weather channel, keeping a stash of emergency supplies, or using a financial planner – none of us can guarantee what is (or is not) going to happen. Accepting a certain amount of risk is okay!
The only thing we can do is minimize risk by staying mindful about the amount and kind of risk we are willing to accept.
Declare Yourself as Someone Who Loves
Loving and receiving love are two very different things. You can love ice cream, pasta, puppies, or Jason Momoa, but they (probably) don’t love you back. And that’s okay! Loving feels good and brings joy all on its own. While it’s nice to be loved, love is not a tit-for-tat type of thing.
When you declare yourself as someone who loves you set yourself free to do just that. To love! If someone loves you back, it’s a bonus, but it’s not necessary to who you are and what you choose! Separating loving and being loved in your mind can really help.
Have Your Own Back
Circle back around to the beginning of this blog on healing. Having your own back means having the tools necessary to make yourself feel better no matter what happens to you. It means caring about how you feel enough to do what’s necessary to feel better, choose healing, and to keep choosing love by declaring yourself as someone who loves, despite the risk.
Falling (back) in love after being hurt by someone you love
Ironically, sometimes learning to love the person who hurt you again is easier than learning to love someone new. Why? Because you already know the person who hurt you. For good or bad, right or wrong, when two people go through a hurtful experience together, and when both of them are committed to learning, growing, and loving through that experience, the love that can develop between them can be even more significant, deep, and powerful.
Because you know each other’s shadows and each other’s light.
Because you know what to be wary of and how to protect yourself in various circumstances.
And most importantly, you know that you each have the ability to go within to manage, heal, sooth, and attend to yourselves.
Because the strongest relationships and the best kind of love, is love where each partner has accepted the risk, declared themselves as someone who loves – without needing something in return – and above all, who has their own back and is responsible for their own happiness and wellbeing.
Which might sound contrary to pop-culture and romance novels. But which, when you really think about it, makes complete and powerful sense!
An attorney, TedX speaker, and life and leadership coach, Lora Cheadle shows others how to move beyond soothing the symptoms of burnout and recognize and resolve the root cause, which is oftentimes betrayal. Whether that betrayal is from a person, system, changes in one’s body, or the realization that you’ve spent your life in service to a dream that was not your own, Lora show individuals, high performing teams, and groups of leaders how to break free from burnout to create meaning and satisfaction, both personally and professionally, so they can live, express, and create their lives fully before it’s too late. She is the author of the bestselling book, FLAUNT! Drop Your Cover and Reveal Your Smart, Sexy and Spiritual Self and is the host of the top-rated podcast, FLAUNT! Find Your Sparkle and Create a Life You Love After Infidelity and Betrayal.