Have you ever been hurt by someone close to you, someone that you didn’t expect it from? Of course you have, it happens to everyone, just as we all cause pain to loved ones without meaning to. Every one of us is at times insensitive, or we make decisions without knowing that we lack some facts. Then, too, there are the times that our worst impulses get the better of us and we cause real pain and lasting harm, like when one spouse has an affair.
If it’s serious enough, we’ll usually have someone tell us not to be quick to end the relationships, but what about being too quick to reconcile? My impression is that a lot of people don’t see this as a danger, and believe that a fast reconciliation is for the best.
Let me explain why I might see it differently. I’ll use a married couple as an example (although the principle can be applied to any significant relationship). One of the partners has an affair, it comes out in the open, and that person moves out. In short order, they talk, the one partner moves back home, and they go on with their lives, happy to put it all behind them and to be past that crisis. The kids, in-laws, and all their friends breathe a sigh of relief.
Yet, one year, or three, or five later, they’re barely speaking and the “d” word comes out when they do. What happened? They rushed back together, didn’t successfully address the problems that led to infidelity and crisis, and over time the unresolved issues ate away at the marriage like rust on an iron bar. They were sure they wouldn’t let it happen again, but it did.
There are a lot of reasons why people rush to reconcile, two in particular. First, there is the anxiety to get back to normal, to once again be on safe ground and out of further danger. The second involves preserving the relationship as a first priority, such that looking at its trouble spots seems best avoided.
Either way leads to glossing over serious issues, cracks in the foundation that need real work, and before long tension and mistrust are simmering under the surface until they can’t be kept underground anymore.
There’s probably a catalog of reasons why people avoid tough, touchy, tender issues, but you must. The timing may be slower if necessary, but it still must be done. Serious things cannot be swept under the carpet without creeping out again at some time and in some form, and in a way that you won’t have control of.
It doesn’t sound very pleasant, but you will either have your pain now or later. True, it’s hard work, but slowing down to restore weak foundations will make for a better outcome in the long run, indeed you may be able to rebuild it stronger than before.
Mike S., MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 1997 as an EAP Counselor. He has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in Social Work with a specialty certificate in alcohol and drug abuse treatment from Western Michigan University. Prior to joining Empathia, he worked as a substance abuse counselor and in a program for adolescent sexual offenders. Mike likes reading, music, movies and travel.