Sometimes in relationships people do things that are extremely hurtful and can cause us a lot of pain. Feelings get hurt and trying to reconcile how someone you love can also be the perpetrator of your pain is extremely difficult. Human being are flawed and we all make mistakes, some greater than others. Where I find people often get stuck is in trying to make sense of what has happened.
Our defenses are incredibly powerful coping strategies that we implement – both consciously and unconsciously – to protect ourselves from feeling the full expression of our emotions. These most often come into play in our relationships with those we are closest to. In my office, I see individuals or couples come in feeling unable to move on from certain injuries that have taken place, and getting stuck on the question why? “Why did she do that to me” “Why did he treat me that way and think it was okay” “How could he do that after everything I have done for him” “How could she not see what impact this would have”
I think it is difficult to answer these questions, in large part because often the answer never actually soothes us nor does it provide us with the relief we were hoping to get from our desperate pleas for clarity. People often refuse to accept what is real and keep getting tripped up by their defenses as they try to not face what has happened.
I think where we can create some room for ourselves to heal is in our ability to realize that accepting something does not mean we are okay with what took place. When we think of being okay with something, we think of being at peace with it, and not having a strong – often negative – reaction to it. There are many things that can happen in a relationship, for example, being cheated on, that may be impossible for a person to be okay with and yet sadly many are faced with this reality. You don’t ever have to feel it is okay that someone has hurt you. We have to accept what has happened. It is real and while taking some time to be in disbelief is sometimes necessary, trying to pretend we weren’t hurt or that things are fine isn’t healthy. The longer we stay in this place, the longer we suffer. Instead, by honoring that both the experience and the pain it has caused are real, we can properly grieve without using defenses to cope and move forward in a healthier and happier direction.