On Marriage Advocates, we frequently discuss the importance of healing when a marriage has been broken. Prompted by something I read recently, I wonder if some interpret the suggestion “to heal” to mean “to cure” instead. I wonder if people mistakenly think healing and curing are interchangeable.
Heal: –verb (used with object)
1.) to make healthy, whole, or sound; restore to health; free from ailment.
2.) to bring to an end or conclusion, as conflicts between people or groups, usually with the strong implication of restoring former amity; settle; reconcile.
Cure: –verb (used with object)
1.) to restore to health.
2.) to relieve or rid of something detrimental, as an illness or a bad habit.
The Difference between Healing and Curing
There is a difference between the two processes. I think it’s possible that some may continue to feel their troubled marriage is stuck because they are looking for a cure when a cure isn’t possible, nor is it what they need.
I searched the keywords “healing vs. curing” online, and found several articles. They most often dealt with the medical field, but in much of what I found, terms like “body” and “mind” can be replaced with the words “marriage” and “relationship,” and “disease” and “illness” can be exchanged for “disconnectedness,” “withdrawal” or “infidelity.”
In her article “Healing vs Curing: They’re Not The Same” Carol Ritberger writes:
Curing and healing are not the same – not in their approach, what they require of the patient, or their results. Unfortunately, even with all of the advances, medicine is still measuring itself on curing, meaning restoring the body back to the state it was in before it became ill. It’s not looking at healing, getting the body back to better than it was before it became ill, because all the causes of the illness have been addressed…
The focus of curing is to address the needs of the physical body and to relieve it of any discomfort, aches and pains, symptoms, crises, and illness. It has little to do with treating the hidden contributors responsible for the formation of these effects. Instead, curing views good health as the absence of symptoms and the elimination of whatever is causing the body to not function properly, even if that means removing a part of the body. This approach means compensation and removal. For example, if a person is experiencing muscle cramps, the treatment is relaxants; if pain is present, then painkillers are prescribed… While this method certainly makes it easier for us to live physically, it doesn’t address the origin of the problem, only the effects. As a result, the perpetrators are still there and are continuing to gain strength, thus weakening the body’s ability to sustain good health. Curing looks at the how and what of illness.
Healing, on the other hand, begins with the soul and seeks to identify, transform, and remove any obstacles preventing it, the mind, and the body from working together in a unified manner. The objective is to make us better than we were before we became ill and to re-establish “wholeness” so that we can experience good health. It involves creating a harmonious internal space so we can explore the hidden contributors behind illness at a deeper level. We get in touch with who we are and are allowed to see just how powerful we can be if we free ourselves from the limitations of our conditioning. Healing views health as being physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in balance.
Healing deals with the source of illness and requires us to dig into our psychological coffers so we can uncover unhealthy thoughts, emotions, attitudes, beliefs, and core themes responsible for the formation of illness. It’s about reinventing our self-perception and restructuring our lifestyle so that it’s conducive to good health. We remove the sources responsible for the disconnection between the soul, mind, and body. Healing begins with awareness and ends with change. It asks us to release the emotional hurts buried deep inside and let go of the identities we’ve created around those hurts. The goal of healing isn’t fixing, it’s creating – creating a healthy self-perception, healthy thoughts, and healthy relationships.
In his article “Healing vs. Curing,” Robert Hirschfield references an interview he conducted with Dr. Paul Epstein:
Says Epstein, “They ask, “I have pain, can you fix me?’ ‘I have chronic fatigue syndrome, what can I do?’ ‘I have fibromyalgia, what’s your answer for me?” The question I ask is: “Is there a truth of your life that’s been bypassed?'”
Epstein says he wants to cure, but not as much as he wants to heal. The difference lies in the place of intention. “In curing, we are trying to get somewhere, we are looking for answers. In curing, our efforts are specifically designed to make something happen. In healing, we live questions instead of answers. We hang out in the unknown. We trust the emergence of whatever will be. We trust the insight will come. The challenge in medicine is not the choice between one and the other. We need both.
“The lesson I learned is never to be afraid to take people into the heart of their pain, because at the heart of their pain is the healing, and at the heart of the healing is the pain and the joy.”
Finally, in her article “Healing vs Curing” Dr. C. Patricia Fater, MD states:
Healing is the restoration of wholeness. This process is more meta physical than physical. We have all known people who have been cured of a disease, yet continue to be affected by it in every aspect of life, every day. This person may be cured, but may not be healed, if the disease process persists in negatively impacting life and relationships. Conversely, a person may be dying, unable to be cured, and in that process may have found a new level of peace, an honest and loving way to relate to him or herself and those around that may represent a spiritual or emotional healing that had been previously lacking.
Setting the Wrong Goal
I think when one is hurt or broken, they first go in search of a cure. They want the pain to stop and to be able to forget about what happened – put it far out of their mind. I think this applies to broken bodies, broken souls, and broken relationships.
The Right Goal: Healing
In the case of marriages, just as in the case of our selves, healing is what brings about true “restoration of wholeness” and balance. It may be harder to do and take longer to accomplish, requiring the more painful process of addressing and working through things instead of forgetting them. But the result is likely to be a marriage that is better than even before it was damaged.
If you want to improve or recover your marriage, don’t look for a cure. Try instead to heal.