I end up talking with people on this theme several times a year.
There are people who feel terribly betrayed. Especially when a spouse leaves the gospel. Apostatizes.
There are other situations in the same realm, that create the same emotions:
- a mother whose only boy has died, and who can’t have any other children, and who feels betrayed that God has left her without sons;
- a father whose wife has become an alcoholic and whose children are losing their way;
- someone whose interaction with food has gone terribly wrong and who can’t stop gaining weight;
- people recovering from disasters who feel that calamity should not have befallen them;
- a kid who wants to serve a mission but who has developing mental illness issues that medication doesn’t quite resolve;
- the list goes on.
But some how the strain of a spouse abandoning the gospel seems to strike people just as deeply sometimes, it seems a permanent unfaithfulness and abandonment, endangering children, the love of a couple and having a core sense of failure. It is a serious form of affliction for many.
Affliction, especially affliction that seems permanent or life altering, causes a number of emotions. A sense of loss, pain, hopelessness, bereavement and others. Bitterness and betrayal seem to be two of the hardest to deal with. In some situations (such as a spouse who has an attack of the “middle aged crazy” or who has been unfaithful) the emotion seems unavoidable.
Many people who have read my blog know that I’ve been reading 12-step literature in the hope that it would apply to grief. It does, a little, sometimes. I’ve written about that too.
But, and this is a big but, there is one area where there is a 12-step group that has feelings of betrayal and resentment down cold. That group is Al Anon. Al Anon is a group for people who have an alcoholic in the family (one of the sub-groups is for kids who have to deal with an alcoholic parent). They have a lot of literature. But, a constant theme, over and over again, is dealing with feelings of betrayal, resentment and the need to control someone else.
Yes, I’d advocate anyone with those emotions to seek counseling. But, you can read things (e.g. here on the official site, and an excellent collection of essays on-line here). No matter what is causing the feelings (and alcoholics often are unfaithful, mentally ill, betrayers — that is all part of the disease), they have an excellent tool set to help you while a professional gives you additional support.
No question, I value The Anatomy of Peace. But if you need more, there are books like One Day at a Time in Al-Anon (available for 12 cents or so used on Amazon and probably in your local library) that can help with the emotional states, to give you encouragement and hope in dealing with the pain, confusion and anguish.
That can help you find peace.
Because it is peace and patience that you need. In patience keep men their souls is a modern reading of a scripture verse that we need to remember. Love is long suffering, patient, kind, not manipulative. The response to the feeling of betrayal is not revenge, control, or anger. Those do not heal or help.
The response is to seek the spirit of God, to embrace the power of the love of Christ and to let charity do its work, much like God does with us.
Which is what I’ve attempted to tell people who ask me for my advice, from what I’ve observed with those I’ve seen going through the process.
Also cross posted in slightly different form at my personal blog — and yes, if you feel the sense of betrayal or anguish many spouses feel when their partner has abandoned the Church, this is exactly the sort of thing you can start looking at to cope.
My thanks to C. L. Hanson as well, for the pointer to Faces East a forum for people in this exact situation.