A story of coping by Richard Bleil
Sarah, my wife, cheated on me. The cheating hurts (as I’ve discussed before), but the real problem is the betrayal.
Okay, I’ve talked about that before. That’s not what this is about. Rather, I wanted to talk a little bit about how I have dealt with the myriad of betrayals I’ve had to deal with in my life. Not just Sarah, but by people I trusted like my bosses who failed to support me, students and people who reported to me stabbing me in the back and starting rumors to try to get me fired (successfully, I might add, because my bosses betrayed me by failing to support me or even get my side before making decisions), being stood up on dates…God, is it so much?
Okay, there are many things I have tried to deal with the aftermath of such betrayal, some of which worked, and some just didn’t. I’ve spoken of my drinking disaster before. The question becomes how to deal with betrayal and pain in a constructive way.
Constructive. It means channeling your anger. You want to do something that is helpful, healthy, just…not destructive. So many people turn to alcohol and drugs, or acted out against those who betrayed them, but these only make things worse. I’ve been stood up many times, but stalking is not only a problem because of the harm it causes to the victim, but it can also land (and rightfully so) the stalker in prison. Trust me, I’ve even thought about vandalism, but this, again, is destructive and can land you into a LOT of hot water in fines and prison.
Nope. We want something constructive. Let me tell you a couple of things that I do.
First of all, physical work is a great way to work out angry frustration. For this to work, you need a project, and I recommend avoiding things like electric power tools. If possible, use hand tools; go back to the days of barbarism. If you’re building a deck, use your angry energy to cut boards to the proper size with a good old-fashioned handsaw. Nail the boards down an old-fashioned hand-held hammer. This works out a lot of energy, and you get a new deck. Now how can you possibly beat that?
The night that I found out that my wife was having an affair, we had a huge storm. She was out and not due back until later that night, and a massive branch fell into our yard. I didn’t have an ax, but I did have a chain saw. It was a great way to work out my anger by cutting that blasted limb from limb to limb (so to speak), and worked out my anger physically by hauling the large heavy pieces to the dump.
Speaking of beating, if you don’t have a project, try getting a good physical work-out. Beat a punching bag, although, frankly, I don’t have access to one. But lifting weights, riding a bike (really fast but safely), running, it’s all a great way to work out angry energy. A casual walk is okay, I guess, if you want to reflect, but usually at this point the idea is to work out the anger, and keep your mind off of what had happened for the time.
Reflection is important. Don’t get me wrong. Each betrayal would invariably result in my reflecting on myself, and asking the hard questions, and I’m better for having done so. But, there are times that this is more destructive than productive. If you’re angry, reflection is more likely to lead to even more anger. If the wounds are fresh, self reflection often is like pouring salt into them. It’s okay to take time to feel hurt, to be angry that you were betrayed, and to begin the healing process before the hard emotional work needs to be done. You’re like a plugged up kettle; the pressure from the steam is building, and you sometimes need to let it out!
But, sometimes, I’ve been unable to get out and do something physical. There are days you are forced to hold things in. If your boss has given you a written reprimand at work at 10 A.M., you still have to work, you still have to hold your head up, and you still have to have that calm and professional demeanor, even though your mind is burning with fury. This is a difficult thing to do, especially holding your emotions in when you are around somebody who betrayed you. I’ve had students start false rumors about me in efforts to get me fired, and been investigated based on these rumors (those investigations, by the way, always proved my innocence, because, well, I am innocent). Now I have to teach, and somewhere in that class is the perpetrator, and I don’t even know who it is. But, it’s not like I can scream and cry and throw things around, because that would just give a new reason to lose my job, and rightfully so.
I find, in these situations, it’s helpful to be kind to others. I know, I’m suggesting to do something nice when you’ve been betrayed. I didn’t say it would be easy, but there it is. I’ve done things like buy groceries or meals for others, I’ve fixed a flat in a parking lot, or sometimes I just post a request for kind acts for my friends on Facebook and ask them to describe what they did if they were willing to participate. It really is an ego boost to know that you can, and have, risen above the petty actions of others when they’ve betrayed you.