How to Heal After You've Been Betrayed
I had the courage to admit I hated sex after I ended up back in therapy. I told my therapist the truth: After my husband shocked me by revealing his repeated infidelity, I was furious with him and furious at men in general. Why were so many of them willing to throw their families away for sex? I told her that I was done with sex forever. I didn't enjoy it, had never enjoyed it—I always seemed to hover above my body, feeling more used than engaged. It made me confused and angry.
Sex made me angry. And then ashamed for feeling angry.
My therapist took some notes. Then she said something that made me curious: Often people like me, people with a history of body issues and eating disorders, have a difficult time relating to their bodies. She gently suggested that maybe I needed to do some work to get in touch with my body—to become whole.
I turned her words over in my mind for the next few weeks. What if to fully understand myself, I needed to understand that I am a trinity: body, mind and spirit? And what if in order to live a whole life, I needed to embrace my physical, intellectual and spiritual lives, and not leave any part of me out?
What happened to me as a child is that I ingested so many objectifying messages about my body that I surrendered. Eventually, I forgot that my body is holy and wise and powerful—as much me as my mind and my soul. Instead, I agreed with our culture; my body was my currency to use to trade for attention, power, status and the right to exist. I became a bulimic because culture taught me that small, thin women are worth the most. Over time, I lost touch with my body. I stopped listening to it speak to me. I learned to care more about being desired than desiring, being wanted instead of wanting, and what I look like than what I'm looking at. I basically voted my body off the island. I decided it belonged to the world, not to me.
One afternoon my therapist said, "We need to host a reunion for you, Glennon. Bring you back to your body. Make you whole again."
"That sounds hard," I said. "Do you have any more pills?"
"No more pills," she said. "You gotta do the work, Glennon."
I hate that.
So I went to yoga to do the work. To try to host my own reunion. To make myself whole in the middle of the time I felt most broken.
One morning after beginning my yoga experiment, I dragged myself into the studio. The grief, fear and rage about what was happening in my marriage and my family weighed down on me like lead gravity. The receptionist told me that my usual teacher was out sick and pointed me toward an unfamiliar classroom. It was 1 million degrees in that room. I felt so upset by this. My life was hard enough without broken air conditioning with which to contend. As I planned my escape, the instructor walked in and said, "Thank you for coming to hot yoga. Let's decide on our intentions for class." I stared at her in disbelief. Hot yoga? What kind of fresh hell is this?
The rest of the students stated their fancy spiritual intentions, and all I could think about was how perfect all of their lives must be and how painful and hopeless mine seemed at the moment. By the time it was my turn to share my intention, I had tears in my eyes. I managed to say, "My intention is just to stay on this mat and make it through whatever is about to happen without running out of here."
As I choked out the last word, the room fell silent and the teacher looked at me with steady eyes. She said, "Yes. You just be still on your mat. Yes."
And for the next 90 minutes, I sat still on my mat. It was excruciating. All the ghosts I'd stuffed under my bed when I got married, all my fears for my family's future, all the pain and rage I'd been denying caught up with me as I sat. I had no way to escape, nothing to use to numb myself from the feelings. I just had to sit in the middle of it all. I had to stay on my mat and let it scare me. I cried until I couldn't cry anymore. And when it was over, I was still alive. I'd stopped running and faced my pain. I'd let it all come, I'd felt it all, and I'd survived.
Later that day, I rediscovered a line in When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chödrön, that had been pressing against my consciousness, not quite remembered, ever since my time on the mat: "So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn't sit for even one, that's the journey of the warrior."
The journey of the warrior. The warrior journey is staying present with love and pain. Feeling them both, letting them bubble up in my body and come and go without hitting an easy button to escape. Without overeating or boozing or shopping or sexing or snarking or scrolling my way off my mat. Believing that anger, unbelonging, loneliness, fear, doubt—all of these, too, shall pass. And I would survive them all, remembering that all the courage and wisdom I need to become the woman I want to be is inside my love and my pain. If I transport out of it, I will miss my transformation. I must stop being afraid of pain and start being afraid of easy buttons.
I've learned that sex is a lot like yoga. It's a time to feel instead of think, to be instead of do. It's a time to remember what my body is: a self, a teacher, a student, a vessel to accept and deliver love from the shore of me to the shore of God and others. And that my body is not valuable because of her size or shape, but because of her wisdom. My body and I reunited and became friends when I stopped abandoning her. When I committed to staying present with her, listening to what she tries to tell me and trusting her to know.
Stay in your body today. Sit on that mat and handle whatever is about to happen here without running out the door. Let the hot loneliness come, let it go, and let it leave you with the courage, wisdom and fuel you'll need to get your work done on this earth.
This is an adapted excerpt from Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton. You can find Glennon Doyle Melton at Momastery.com.