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The Dancing Work of Pain

The Dancing Work of Pain {Ann}

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I didn’t grow up in a family that shared feelings, so I never really learned how. I often answered the question “How do you feel?” with “I don’t know” and truly meant it. I didn’t know my inner world. After I revealed my affair, I didn’t want to deal with the hurt and pain that began slicing up my inner world. I felt like a failure with a capital F. I thought it would be easier if I ended it all right then and there. Yeah, right. Easier for who? We had no gun, knives are too messy, and the strongest medication in the cabinet was Tylenol. So I chose, we chose, to live in the chaos that followed the revelation.

In choosing to live in the chaos, my hurt and pain looked me square in the eye and challenged me to a staring contest. I dared not look away even though I didn’t like it. Facing my pain brought up mounds of shame and guilt. I wanted to run! But gradually I learned the value of sitting with my pain.

An author named Lauren Slater wrote Welcome to my Country: A Therapist's Memoir of Madness. Slater suffered from abuse and self harm as a child and evolved into a therapist. She offers these words on pain and suffering:
“And so I began, slowly...to think about staying in suffering instead of always trying to climb out of it. Do not mistake me. I don't mean I learned to embrace pain, whose boiling body frightens me as it scalds the skin of its victims, nor, in the parlance of New Age-speak, to accept pain, for acceptance is far too sweet a word, and I doubt very many people loosen their limbs and lie pliantly in the lap of hurting. I mean I learned, quite simply--in these technical times, when the hope for new remedies is daily dangled before our eyes--to acknowledge pain, to sit still in its mysterious presence and feel helpless... What sets me apart (from my most troubled clients) is simply a learned ability to manage the blades of deep pain with a little bit of dexterity. Mental health doesn't mean making the pains go away. I don't believe they ever go away...I have not healed so much as learned to sit still and wait while pain does it dancing work, trying not to panic or twist in ways that make the blades tear deeper, finally infecting the wounds.”

There really is no way around the pain from an affair. If you thrash around or go berserk while the blades are nearby you'll be cut deeper and bleed more. If you turn to drugs, alcohol, porn or sex to medicate the pain, again you thrash and cause more pain. The only way to deal with the pain from an affair is to move straight through it, slowly.

Ben and I moved straight through the pain of the affair the best we could. How we handle pain and suffering has a direct correlation to the depth of our relationships. The more we run from our pain, the more we run from intimacy. The more we stay engaged with our pain and reality, the deeper our relationships. Face the truth, and let it do its dancing work on your soul.

How have you avoided pain and suffering?

Betrayed and Betrayer: Rescuing your marriage from the affair.