05 Feb Can A Breach Really Be Healed?
By Naomi B. Rather, LCMHC
My website was recently hacked and this breach to my cyber-security left me feeling exposed and vulnerable (and of course annoyed!) That got me thinking about the many ways that our sense of safety in relationships can be breached, and how treacherous the road to recovery can be.
When our partner does something that we don’t expect, or doesn’t do something that we do expect, we can experience this as a breach in security; a rupture to the connection between us. Whether these breaches are small (like my husband forgetting something I asked for at the grocery store) or large (see below), depending on what we do with them, their impact on the relationship can be significant. If we have a way to navigate a conversation with our partner in the wake of a breach, and are able to recognize and step out of the negative cycle, the experience of the breach can actually deepen our closeness. Without these things, it can drive distance and disconnection.
*For example, if we were in a social situation and a friend made a joke about my husband using private information that I had given her, he might perceive in that instant that I was not trustworthy. And if he laughed it off and chose not to bring it up afterwards, or he tried but I shut him down, how likely would he be after that to confide in me? But if afterwards I sincerely apologized for the breach, and explained that I just didn’t know how to approach him with my needs, in a way that made sense to him, and I listened without defensiveness to his experience of the breach, he would probably be willing to take another risk. And in the process, I would learn how to talk to my husband instead of about him.
*If I called my husband to help me because I’d run out of gas or gotten a flat tire, and he instructed me to call a friend because he was watching a football game, I might perceive in that instant that I was less important to him. If I protested or attacked and he told me to “get over it”, how likely would I be after that to make him primary in my life? But if he could really take in how his reaction had hurt me, perhaps sharing with him an old belief I had about not being worthy, and he could explain that he had probably been sitting on some unexpressed anger at me for an unresolved issue, I would probably be willing to take another risk and ask him to show up for me again in the future.
These are smaller breaches, but if a couple has many of them, the cumulative effect can be a wedge between them that seems insurmountable, without any “smoking gun” to point to and blame for the distance.
What happens when the breach is significant?
*For example, if I secretly opened a credit card to conceal my spending from him, my husband might perceive that he could not trust me to be honest with him in other ways. How likely would he be after that to take me at my word, regardless of the issue? To repair a breach like this, I would have to examine my behavior and be willing to reveal to him perhaps my deepest insecurities. It would require tremendous courage to approach my shame and not run from it. And he would undoubtedly need to fully express, without my becoming defensive, how this breach had injured him and our relationship.
*And what for most of us is the worst breach, if I discovered that my husband were being emotionally or physically intimate with another woman, I might perceive that I was somehow not enough for him. How likely would I be after that to allow any emotional or physical closeness between us? To repair this most primal breach, my husband would need to first take an unflinching look at the steps that led him to such a choice. He would need to explain it to me with a kind of stripping away of any defenses, and to answer my questions, no matter how uncomfortable or ashamed he felt in the process. And I would need to feel held enough to reveal to him the devastating impact his behavior had had on me, on my confidence, on my sense of worth as a human being and on my trust in our future as a couple. And we would somehow have to be able to accomplish all of this without reverting to our negative cycle.
With the help of an experienced EFT clinician, even this most significant breach can be healed. What EFT provides us is a mechanism to change the negative cycle and to make the kinds of repairs needed after small or significant breaches. And in the process, it builds in us a tolerance for discomfort, and for revealing ourselves to one another in our most lonely or shameful moments. EFT teaches us how to reach for and show up for each other, even when we have no prior experience. EFT heals breaches.