When I named 2016 the "Year of Living Loved", as is often the case, I had no idea how hard the year would be. It seems inevitable that driving a stake in the ground and setting such an ambitious goal would be the perfect set-up for multiple challenges to that goal. And they have come--in droves. Living loved requires letting go of the wounds of the past--of those times when we were not loved for who and what we are. It requires daring to believe that love is possible, that betrayal of trust is not a given and taking this plunge into belief can be downright terrifying!
It seems like nearly every week I hear from yet another partner of a pedophile. The stories are gut-wrenching and tragic. One common theme is the shock of discovery and the dawning of the realization that the man they love and have built a life with is not who or what they thought he was. Whether he is alive or dead, in prison or walking free, still married to them or divorced, the devastation and totality of this betrayal is unfathomable. How does one even begin to recover after learning that her husband and lover preferred sex with a child to sex with her? And how does one begin to love again?
Living loved, as I am learning, must begin with loving one's self. And while this is a big enough challenge without adding in betrayal and pedophilia, it can become overwhelming to the devastated partner. She may blame herself, believing that if she were just _____, he wouldn't have turned to a child. She may hold herself responsible for his crimes, or feel that somehow she should have known. It is incredibly difficult to love one's self after marriage to a predator! And if the discovery involved a public scandal, she may feel the wrath of a community, church or the judicial system.
Living loved is the dawning realization that at the core of who we are, there is love--it is God within. No, we are not gods, but as image-bearers of God, underneath all of the pain and wounds of our past, there is love--love deeper and wider than we can imagine, love that is pure and abundant. Living loved requires tapping into that love so that we can love ourselves and others from a source that is uncontaminated and without end.
My husband often quips that he is "waiting for the other shoe to drop." That expression pretty much sums up the stance that one takes after trust has been betrayed or love not been forthcoming from significant others in our life. We expectantly wait for evidence of betrayal or that we really are not loved as we thought we were. It is a trauma stance and as survivors of incredible interpersonal trauma, partners of pedophiles have to work on laying down that expectation and dare to believe that love is possible, that faithfulness and loyalty are not outdated concepts, and that we can trust again.
But we trust with eyes wide open. We trust with a strong connection to our second brain--the gut. Most of us can look back after the devastation of discovery and recall times when we thought something odd, or felt that something was off in our partner's behavior or attitude. That was our gut talking to us, we just did not have enough information to take it seriously or we discounted it and didn't pay attention to its warning. But now we pay attention and listen attentively to that intuitive nudge. We choose to trust until we have evidence that a person is not trustworthy. It is a gamble for sure but the only other choice we have is to remain in the devastation of our betrayal, to become bitter and lonely women who fear love and connection.
Brene Brown asserts that we break in community so we must heal in community. This year I am discovering the brutiful work of healing within an intimate relationship, that community of two. It is both brutal and beautiful! It takes courage and grit and most of all, patience when triggers come. It is a daily choice to trust and to believe and to recommit to both my marriage and my own personal healing. Because I am learning that living loved is a blending of both--it is living in authenticity and truth, showing up and allowing myself--that true self, that core of love--to be seen and loved. And the result? The result is glorious and transformative and is worth the work and grit that living in that sacred space demands.
Living loved is refusing to allow the pain of the past to dictate my future; it is a fight that is definitely worth the struggle! It is a goal I will continue to press towards, long after 2016 melts into 2017 and my hope is that you will as well.