It’s inevitable, really. Being in families and in close friendships means someone is going to let someone else down. The range of that disappointing action is really wide: it can range from the things that hurt your feelings to things that feel like a death. I’m not weathering one of these storms at this exact moment, so it seemed like a good time to write about this.
Here are 5 things that have helped me when I need to care for my own heart/ not die/ move on:
1. Don’t give this thing more power than it deserves. Whatever happened between you doesn’t erase everything that has ever happened between you. Your history is not erased. This one thing doesn’t get to trump all previous wonderfulness.
2. Try to stay focused on today. Don’t assume that your future together is ruined. Don’t jump so far ahead that you make up a whole story in your head about the next two decades. This one incident, behavior or mistake isn’t necessarily predictive of what will come next. Don’t believe that something is a pattern without a lot of evidence.
3. Invite humility to be your co-pilot through this ordeal. You weren’t the one who was careless or cruel this week, but it could easily be you next week. To believe that you “would never” do such a thing or say such a thing really helps no one. None of us knows how we will handle job stress, challenging kids or mental illness until we’re in the thick of it. The same goes for the aging process and financial difficulties. It might be wise to lop off some of that judgement. The first time I heard the song “Take Me to Church,” the phrase “that’s a fine looking high horse” hit home. That’s me more than I’d like it to be. Jump down off that horse.
4. Find people who don’t fan the flames. The times that I’ve struggled in my marriage, I have intentionally gone to my friends who think I am lucky to have Bryan for a husband. They regularly let me know that I hit the jackpot with him and that I need to appreciate him more. People who never understood what I saw in him in the first place are not going to be helpful to me when I need to be reminded of his goodness and love. My friends that adore my husband turn me back towards him when I need that.
5. Allow time and space to take away the sting. Words that burn or actions that devastate all smart less with time. The initial discovery or encounter is usually the worst you will feel. It’s like a sunburn—it gradually becomes less painful and less tender.
Our hearts will heal, even if that doesn’t feel possible at first. Your heart might be changed, but that’s not always a bad thing. Remember the Leonard Cohen lyric, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Look for the light.