How to Find Hope When Things Gets Tough

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Reader’s Question

My husband cheated on me four times during the course of our 20-year marriage and after all these, I retaliated once by having a one-night stand. I went to counseling and was diagnosed as being in an emotionally abusive relationship. Now I cannot stand disappointment, anything negative, or fighting. I am trying to trust and let him back in after all this time because he is trying. I binge eat every time anything negative is said, and then I am depressed about that.

On top of all this, my daughter is graduating, getting married, and moving 1200 miles away this summer. We were super close and she is my only child. Plus, my parents are in grave health.

I am wondering whether there is hope for me, what to do, and how long a recovery could take.

Psychologist’s Reply

It sounds like you’ve gone through a very tough time. You also are in a period of transition, with your daughter leaving and your parents needing more care. Change is always difficult. However, there is hope. Some people may minimize or disparage hope as a concept, but it’s actually really important. Without hope, no one would work toward improving things. Without hope, no one would be able to visualize what their life could look like.

Here’s one exercise that anyone can do to try and put hope to use. Close your eyes and pretend that a miracle occurred while you were asleep and everything in your life is exactly the way you want it. Since you were not awake when it happened, you don’t yet know that the miracle took place. Visualize your day and pinpoint the things that would let you know that the miracle happened. What would be different? How would your behavior change? It could be as simple as when something negative is said, you don’t feel upset, or it could be something as complicated as your having a new job. Once you can recognize the little and big things that would be modified, then you will have some concrete things to work toward.

Another way to use your hope would be to go to counseling, either individually or with your husband. It seems like you have a lot of things to work on. Counseling could help you increase your coping skills so that you do not respond poorly to negative comments. It could assist you in rebuilding trust and learning better communication. A good counselor could also facilitate grief work involved in letting go of being a hands-on mother and becoming an active daughter.

Life transitions are very difficult and you deserve to spend some time processing them. It’s impossible to know how long recovery will take. It could take a long time or it could be faster than you think. The only way to know for sure is to just do it.

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