How do you know if it’s save to rebuild with someone or if it’s in your best interest to heal yourself and move on?
There’s something I teach called the Window of Willingness and here’s a brief description of it.
Imagine four levels representing where the window is the most open (level one) to gradually closing to the point it is completely closed (level 4). Now imagine a window when it’s open the widest amount. This is level one and it represents the greatest potential to heal and rebuild with the person who hurt you if you want to. Here we see deep remorse, empathy, apology and restitution. This person has completely owned what they’ve done. They are so remorseful and it may sound something like this. “I am so deeply sorry for what I did. I can’t even imagine the pain I’ve caused. What can I do to make it up to you?”
Now of course with betrayal it’s going to take a lot more than that, but you’re off to a good start if rebuilding is something you’re willing to consider. You still can walk away and you don’t have to rebuild if you don’t want to. But, if you choose to, at least there’s potential.
You can feel the window closing a bit more with this next level, level two. Level two is all about excuses. It would sound like this: “I did it because….” “I said it because…” You still may be willing to listen, but it doesn’t feel quite as good as when someone takes full and complete responsibility and ownership of their actions. Again, you don’t have to do anything if it doesn’t feel right to you and even if it does, it’s most important to heal yourself first. Having said that, if you are going to rebuild, there’s still more potential with levels one and two than with levels three and level four.
You can feel that window closing even more with level three. You know it’s coming when you hear the word “you.” It would sound something like this: “I did it because you…” “I said it because you…” I call this the two sided slap. In this case, you’re the one who’s been betrayed and as if that weren’t bad enough, now you’re getting blamed for it. You have very little to work with here because this person isn’t taking any responsibility for their actions.
When we don’t take responsibility for what we do or say, we don’t grow, we don’t change, we don’t take our power back. We essentially hand our power over to the opportunity, the weakness, the habit, the method of distraction, the trauma, etc.. In addition, if the betrayer doesn’t experience any consequences for their behavior because the betrayed isn’t using the opportunity to make changes to their boundaries and more, both are being denied the opportunity for potential growth and transformation which is waiting for them on the other side of their experience.
Lastly, there’s level four. With level four, there’s really nothing to work with. The person is taking no responsibility for their words or actions. At the same time, they may even be blaming you. Level three and level four are closely related and often occur together. It can sound like this: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re crazy. You really need some help.” If you’re trying to get through to this person, here’s where you’re likely to be exhausted, frustrated, confused, and you can even question your sanity. You may feel like you need to walk around with a pad and pen capturing what they’ve said to prove yourself in a desperate attempt to get them to hear your plea and agree with you. Here’s the most frustrating part to accept when you’re receiving this type of response.
You have very little to work with here.
While it’s always in your best interest to heal yourself regardless of what level someone else is displaying, with level three and level four, it’s in your best interest to heal yourself and move along. At this point in their consciousness, they’re incapable or unwilling to change. Your energy is best spent on your healing. You’re only exhausting your reserves further when you’re focusing on getting the other person to understand and agree.
- Level one is full and complete responsibility. You have something to work with you if you choose to do the work to rebuild yourself and potentially rebuild something completely new and better with the person who hurt you.
- With level two, they’re making excuses for their behavior.
- With level three, they’re blaming you for what they’ve done (don’t believe this for a minute.)
- And with level four, there’s nothing to work with here because the person isn’t willing or able to accept responsibility for their actions. They’re in complete denial about what they’ve done and the pain they’ve caused.
If this is what you’re receiving, it’s a great opportunity for you to learn why you’re accepting this. If you’re unsure about what’s happening, it can be helpful to imagine someone you love being in your position. What would you say to them? What is so clear to you when you see your loved one experiencing what you’re going through? Of course, get the right support to help you through it.
Navigating the challenging aspects of relationships can be exceptionally hard work. It can also be the most transformative work you’ll ever do. It can serve as the catalyst for your transformation and invite you to become a version of yourself you’re now ready to become.
Founder and CEO, The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute