“Repairing relationship damage is often a process, not a one-time event.” ~LMB
Many struggling marriages and long-term relationships are struggling due to a major hurt (e.g. affair) or a hurtful pattern (e.g. emotional abuse). Affairs are marked by countless lies, deceptions, and convincing denials. Along with the lies are often days, weeks and even years of hurtful interactions, moodiness, selfishness, and cold brush-offs. Similarly, relationships impacted by anger often exhibit a long-standing pattern by one partner toward the other (and often toward other family members, as well) of angry outbursts, emotional abuse, and almost daily harsh interactions. You cannot heal from these hurts overnight. And you certainly can’t heal from them via a single apologetic conversation.
Trying to move on from the hurts you have caused by “getting on with life,” will slow down, if not totally stall, your “moving on.” Not wanting to talk about it, hear about it or focus on the pain caused by your actions only intensifies the pain you caused. The problem with your trying to move on, without doing the necessary repair work, is that pain doesn’t go away just because you changed or you chose the relationship rather than the affair. If you get angry every time your partner wants to talk about it, then that pain sits in your partner’s chest like a 500 pound barbell day in and day out. S/he then feels tasked with the job of accommodating you by silencing, pretending, and “moving on.” S/he does this for your benefit—even though you’re the one who caused the pain. This, as you can imagine, stops couples from moving on.
The idea that you don’t want to talk “too much” about the painful past is selfish. Affairs, anger problems, emotional abuse and the like, are problems that cause daily pain for a very long time. If you truly want to repair that pain, then hunker down and repair. When your partner talks about the hurt or an incident from the past where you hurt them, hear them out. Look them in the eyes, let them know you understand how that impacted them, apologize, and show them that you will not repeat that again. And when they want to talk about what happened or the impact of your behavior again, show up. Repair is not a one and done conversation; it is a pattern of accountability, compassion, and support done consistently over time. The better you are able to do this, the quicker the recovery. Recovery from deep hurts, though, takes time. Put in the time and stop pleading to just move forward.
Challenge: If you have hurt your partner via a pattern of behavior or a significant event, then put the time into healing it the right way. Stop trying to move past it and instead delve into it—with your heart, compassion, and support—for your partner.