By Sarah Tolmie
Reader Question: “After 30 years of marriage, my partner and I cannot get over a betrayal and we are done. We are in our mid–60s. I do not know how to begin again. I don’t know where to start. How do you move forward from something like this at our age?”
It is understandable to find yourself at a loss and wondering how and where to begin again? There is so much you have lived and loved together…for better for worse…. and to begin again alone must feel daunting and scary. The loss will feel very big.
As a marriage therapist, as well as someone who works at end–of–life and grief, what I understand about your experience is it is like a death has occurred. The death of a marriage. All the feelings of shock, trauma, anger and grief, and then some, are very real and active. There is no other way forward than feel the feelings. Your feelings are legitimate, real and valid. Feeling the feelings gives them sacred witness and information comes forth from them to guide you to next actions.
I have worked with many couples through betrayal and many make it through together and many don’t. When we begin couple therapy to heal a betrayal and infidelity, the damage to the relationship is often treated like a death. We begin by understanding that the ‘old marriage’ has ended. They can’t, and don’t want to go back to that marriage. They must create anew.
Healing hurts, and restoring trust and re–imagining into a new life and love to stay together takes work. Healing hurts, and separating out of the relationship and re–imagining into new life and love alone, also takes work. Either way, whether couples do the work and stay together, or do the work, and like yourselves, part, there will be a rebirth. New life always follows death. It is the unstoppable cycle of life and creation. And there is nothing more ‘transformative’ than death.
Betrayal is a trauma. A trauma is an ordeal you didn’t sign up for, you didn’t consent for, you had no resources and support for, and you can get stuck in. Relationship therapy is also a bit like an ‘ordeal’ – it is not easy and sometimes not pretty – but with therapy you do consent to the ‘ordeal’. An ordeal that we consent to is also known as a ‘rite of passage’ and a rite of passage is a journey of transformation that you invite into your life for growth and evolving. Therapy as a rite of passage is something you sign up for with a guide and facilitator and resources and ultimately at the end, there is transformation.
Consider reaching out for the assistance that can come with a good therapeutic ‘rite of passage’. Whilst it can be intense it can also help to accelerate your healing and renewal and return you into the fullness of life and love.
New life is powered by the energy of love. Love for life, love for family and friend, love for the creative beauty that is always visible to see in the world if you dare to look. And love for yourself. The journey ahead is very much about discovering and loving yourself again and fully. Love for your hurt parts, love for your flawed parts, and love for the core goodness and uniqueness of you.
I wish for you transformative heart healing.
Much love, Sarah x
Sarah Tolmie – Life & Love: Sarah is a marriage therapist, life & love and relationship coach, end–of–life consultant, an independent and bespoke funeral director and holistic celebrant. She provides holistic care, mentoring, guidance, healing and transformation for individuals, couples and families at their most important times of life & love – at end–of–life, in love & relationship, and in ritual and celebration. Sarah has a series of online courses – “Creating a Miracle Marriage. Online Course for Couples” and “How do you feel? Using the intelligence of our emotions to heal and be whole in Life & Love and “Landscapes of Life & Love and Loss. Traversing the pathways of dying, death and grief”.
To find out more, visit sarahtolmie.com.au.