When you do something that breaks the trust that your partner has in you, you cause emotional damage. Unlike physical damage, which can be seen, emotional damage can be hard to detect from the outside, but just as damaging, if not more so, than physical damage.
Because emotional wounds can’t been seen, it’s often difficult to tell they’re even there and even more difficult to assess the amount of damage or even understand how to help fix it.
Although I’m not a medical doctor, it seems than emotional wounds and physical wounds have a lot in common. Since all of us have experienced physical pain, or even unintentionally caused physical damage to another, understanding their similarities can help us understand how to best help others who may be emotionally hurt. This is a crucial step in helping them rebuilding trust.
First, the amount of damage done can vary in emotional wounds. Just like physical wounds, not each and every one needs emergency surgery or even a visit to the doctor. Some little wounds, both physically and emotionally, seem to heal on their own.
Yet it’s important to realize that sometimes, if not all times, even with these little emotional wounds an apology can go a long way in helping things heal. I literally can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a person say “Out of all they years we’ve been married, I’ve never heard my spouse apologize for anything.”
With all those wounds and no apology over time, it’s no wonder they ended up in therapy, and no wonder those wounds never healed properly. Each year hundreds of millions of Band-Aids are sold to help those little wounds heal better. So next time you cause a little wound, be sure to at least offer and apology to help things heal faster.
Major wounds are a different story. In the words of singer Taylor Swift, “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes.” In these cases, a simple apology and the assumption that the wound will heal itself over time can actually do more damage than good.
With major wounds, two things are important to remember:
First, major emotional wounds take time to heal. Even with proper treatment, time is a necessary component to help them heal. While time is not the only factor, it is an important one that must be honored. Just like with a major physical wound, big emotional wounds take time to heal, and this time can not be rushed.
Second, time does not heal all wounds. I’m not sure who made up that saying, but it has misguided and hurt more people than it has helped, I’m sure. With such poor advice people may just simply sit and wait and assume time will take care of the wound by itself.
What ridiculous advice! If I broke my arm today and said “Oh well, time heals all wounds” and did nothing to help it heal, then time will do little to make it better on its own. In fact, time may work against proper healing if at first I don’t get some medical attention to get things going in the right direction.
With severe emotional wounds, along with time, deep conversations, sorrow, tears, anger, frustration and maybe even a short, or long, course of therapy may be necessary to help things heal properly. Simply ignoring it and waiting for time to do its duty will not be sufficient.
Further, during the healing process, one must be sure not to actually cause more damage. If I play tennis with a broken arm I likely am making things worse, no matter how much time I let go by.
With emotional wounds, people often blame the victim for the damage caused. “You should have known better” or “How many times did I tell you this was a bad idea?” While blaming the victim may be an attempt to help things heal, it clearly only makes things worse.
Furtner, victims often blame themselves. This does little to help things heal, either. Comments such as “I’m such an idiot” or “I deserve it for after what I did” only make healing harder as the wound is open, and salt poured in, again and again. Healing from a wound is hard enough; adding insult to injury only makes it worse.
While we are all anxious to fix a broken heart and move on to brighter days, we must honor the healing process and give it due time, and diligence, to help things heal properly.
As one client said to a spouse who was anxiously trying to fix her emotional pain from the recent passing of her father, “I need you to be the right kind of fixer.”
So next time you or your partner experience emotional damage, be the right kind of fixer. Don’t make a big deal out of everything, but don’t try to use a quick Band-Aid to fix a bullet hole that you or others may have caused.
Broken bones and broken hearts can heal. It takes time, and it takes the right kind of fixer to heal properly. Since we all make mistakes and cause both big, and little, emotional damages to each other, and experience both also, we must all learn how to heal to help keep love alive.
For more tips on keeping your love alive, visit www.panhandlecouples.com.
Remember, couple relationships are easier than you think, but harder than you act.