One of my earliest childhood memories was sitting in my back yard watching snails slowly glide across the cobblestone path toward our flower patch. Even if I didn’t get up early enough to see them skid by, they were sure to leave a shiny twisted trail of hardened goo to let me know they’d been there. Whether my dog’s nose sniffed their shell to stop them in their tracks or I picked them up to get a peek at their squirmy underbelly I was most captivated by how slowly they traveled. It’s no wonder my dog and I didn’t stay long, as garden snails crawl at about 3 feet per hour – now that’s definitely moving at a snail’s pace.
Healing can often feel like it’s moving at a snail’s pace too. It felt that way for me. There were days when it seemed like I’d always be in pain or when things appeared hopeless. There were times I grew weary of listening to my own words. I crawled through frustrating setbacks, wept in moments of defeat, and continued to drag my weary self along an unknown path. I wanted things to change…yesterday. But somewhere inside me I guess I knew that if I kept fighting for me, that eventually, I would see a light at the end of the tunnel. I held on to the stories of others that had gone before me and found true healing. Knowing change was possible brought me hope.
Why does it take so long to heal? Why does it take so long for the one who has betrayed us to get it?
The Greek word for trauma means “to wound.” Your husband, fiancé’ or boyfriend’s sex acts have deeply wounded you. Deep wounds need deep healing – and surely the wounds of intimate sexual deception need to be cleaned out as well. I spoke with a friend of mine, Jamie, who is a critical care nurse. Over the years she and I have compared notes about the similarities between physical and emotional wounds. Jamie told me about a medical process called debridement which cleans out the dead tissue and bacteria from seriously infected sores.
“Jamie shared, If the wound isn’t cleaned out right, the healing stops. In fact, the wound gets worse. Hidden infections grow and there’s a risk of permanent damage. I often let the patient know that the wound can seem larger after treatment. It can frighten them if I don’t. After we remove the debris it often looks worse before it gets better.” (Intimate Deception: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Betrayal, page 255-256).
That sounds just like what happens when I’m working with a couple on getting into truth-telling, therapeutic full disclosures, healing from past and present traumas, and sobriety from sexual infidelity. No one really wants to dig deep and do the work. It’s pain staking, vulnerable, and time consuming. Most people are looking for a fast track – a quick ticket to get to the other side of all this. But the truth is, if the one who betrayed us doesn’t come clean, the infection and shame from deception continues to grow. If we don’t get into our own trauma recovery work, the pain from the betrayals continue to fester. It can eat us alive. Neither person heals well. I know this isn’t what we want to hear. Healing means we have to tend to our wounds and make ourselves a priority – even though it takes time and focused work. If we move forward with the perseverance of a snail we can get to a better place.
I often share this thought with women to offer courage in the midst of incremental change. “The Hebrew word picture and meaning for lust (ava) is “the strong nail that hooks you to itself,” in contrast to the ancient Hebrew inscription for hope (qave), which is “what comes after the nail.” (Intimate Deception: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Betrayal, page 256).
Over time, as the one who betrayed us unhooks himself by taking responsibility for any breaches in his sexual sobriety, by reaching out to his sponsor, 12-step group members, therapist and trusted confidants; those changes can bring us hope. While recovery is not a perfect path, hope is what comes after the nail. Staying honest and moving through this process with integrity and hard work helps to rebuild trust.
- Frank T. Seekins, Hebrew Word Pictures: How Does the Hebrew Alphabet Reveal Prophetic Truths? (Scottsdale, AZ: Hebrew World, 2016), 183.
- Seekins, Hebrew Word Pictures, 172.