The courage to love is a direct result of having loved and lost. We are born loving and trusting unconditionally. It is only after a betrayal that we learn to ‘be careful’ going forward. So we begin to love with caution, often planning for potential betrayals. But, like all living things, we have the innate ability to heal without much effort on our parts.
Lizards, trees, dogs, tigers and so on, all have the ability to heal. With time and support all living things will heal from most wounds; the extent of damage incurred will determine the amount of time and support needed. It takes time, rest and support in order for the healing process to work. But what sets us apart from all other living things, is the very thing that makes us human and ironically, prolongs suffering and delays our healing.
As human beings we have the ability to assign meaning and judgement to situations and behaviors, and while these abilities have useful applications, when it comes to matters of the heart, they can do more damage than repair. How we judge an event will dictate how our bodies respond to it. There are countless studies proving the placebo effect. What you believe to be true is true. If given a pill that’s supposed to heal you and you believe it will, studies show that the body behaves as if it has been given what it needs to heal, and the healing process starts. Without being told to do so, broken bones and cuts, start to heal almost immediately, and with the right support and time, they return to normal functioning. Without proper support and time, they can still heal but with limited capabilities. A broken bone needs to be set, supported and allowed to rest and once healed, careful and supported physical therapy is needed to insure a complete return to full mobility. Without this process of time and support, permanent disability can follow. The heart is no different. Unseen and unidentified, broken hearts will bleed and call us until the damage is discovered and given validation to heal.
We must give our hearts time and support to heal
Unfortunately, there is no x-ray for a broken heart, and often we can’t quite put into words the extent of the damage felt. And because we have been taught to identify a problem before treating or solving it, the heart goes untreated. This limited approach to healing can rick havoc on a marriage. We are social being and have a basic need to belong. This need drives us to connect with others on various levels of meaning. School connections, work connection, social connection, familial connections and the ultimate, marital connection.
The marital connection
The marital connection is ideally the one connection that allows for the healing support and time needed to recover from the others. A marriage is a conscious invitation into the deepest parts of yourself. And if you’re loving with a broken heart, there’s only so deep you’re willing to invite your partner in. Much like a broken leg or arm, a broken heart can only stretch so much; the scar tissue from previous hurts won’t allow for the expansion needed for deep full expression. But our need for this close and potentially healing connection encourages us to try and try again. This continued trying is like physical therapy for the heart. It stretches and pokes the heart to move and beat in ways that are often uncomfortable; yet, with the proper support, healing and expansion can occur enriching the marital relationship.
So if you find yourself behaving in defensive and guarded ways, there’s a good chance you’re loving with a broken heart. Defensive and guarded behaviors include, but are not limited to, lying about who you are, what you like or dislike, what you’ve done in the distant or not so distant past, what you want from your partner or what you can give; cheating physically, emotionally, financially or psychologically; withholding information, money, sex or time.
Creating a marital environment that can support and heal the wounds that causes these behaviors is the magic that sets a marriage apart from any other relationship. Not that you or your spouse are responsible for ‘fixing’ each other; YOU ARE NOT. But you do owe it to yourself, your spouse and the marriage to provide a safe, supportive and nonjudgmental space in which to heal and be healed. This can include a professional or the agreement to set aside a specific time and space to share and support each other without having what was shared used against you or your spouse later.
Having said that, just because you have a book on changing breaks in a car, doesn’t mean you should change your own breaks; so the help and guidance of a professional may be indicated, at least initially. Courage is about facing your fears and moving through them. Loving with a broken heart is about letting your guard down, and facing your fears holding hands naked, and hopefully so is your spouse. Pun intended.