“How do I know you won’t do it again?”
Have you been asked that question? Has your spouse, kids, partner, parents, people who love you…how many times have they asked you that question? I thought it was just a lack of trust due to my years of deception that led to my wife and kids asking me that. I found it it’s more than that. Its really a question of “how do I know you won’t hurt me again?”
This week, my wife traveled back to our home state to see her Mom. She’s in her 80’s and starting to have health issues. Late one night, my wife texted me, obviously upset. She had seen an old Facebook memory come up on her phone. It was a reminder of what life was like then, of my old behavior and the damage and hurt I had caused her.
The questions started coming quickly:
“What are you doing? Why didn’t you respond quicker? I get very worried leaving you alone. How do I know you aren’t going to go back to your same things again?”
Her hurt and pain and fear all exposed at once. My immediate response, no my immediate desire was to flee…or change the subject. Manipulate the situation. Talk about something else. Anything. Just not have to face her hurt. The hurt I caused.
That is how I responded to uncomfortable questions or concerns or anything else that was too intrusive. I fled. I would like to say how I used to respond. But that isn’t right. Or truthful. I instinctively want to move my wife or kids or whoever I am being challenged by off of the topic that’s causing me pain. Only, this time I didn’t.
What’s worrying you right now,” I asked? “What’s got you upset that you think I might be doing?”
I have been this brave before. Stepping into her hurt enough to ask what was causing it. But then going off the rails and becoming defensive and challenging. Saying things like “can’t you tell how different I am” or “I can’t believe you don’t see I am not like that anymore.” I stopped myself. I just shut up and listened.
“Its still there. The hurt. The triggers. I hate when they come up but they do. Constantly,” she said.<
“I am so sorry for that. I love you and am right here.”
And that was it. That was what she needed to know. That I recognized her hurt. I didn’t minimize it. I just listened, acknowledged, and supported. I didn’t try to avoid and I didn’t try to fix.
Tomorrow or next week or next month she will probably get triggered again, ask how she could possibly know I won’t do it again, and respond in hurt and anger. Pray for me that I can remember to step into her hurt, support her, love her, and pray for her. Just as she has supported me.