Betrayal is probably the most devastating loss a person can experience. To be betrayed, the person must first experience trust in the betrayer. It is impossible to be betrayed if you did not trust that person in the first place. In trusting another person, we believe they won’t hurt us. When they do, many of the assumptions and ideas we held about them are broken. It is like a death. But perhaps most importantly, we also lose trust in ourselves and our ability to recognize a person who will protect us and one who will harm us. This loss of one’s own self-confidence is perhaps the greatest of the losses that we suffer.
Brene Brown, talks about how we can build and lose trust. She compares it to a jar of marbles. Over time, when we find we can rely on someone, we add marbles to the jar. If they betray us in some way, we pull some marbles out. The health of the relationship depends on how many marbles are in the jar over time.
Some betrayal occurs with no forewarning. This is difficult because it leaves you shell shocked and devastated. But perhaps the most common form of betrayal is when one of the participants no longer cares enough to put time and energy in, letting the connection slowly atrophy, leaving you feeling alone and unlovable.
It need not be this way. There are steps we can take to heal. Instead of punishing yourself and obessing over the many details you should have ‘seen’ earlier and holding on to your ‘story’ of betrayal, give yourself permission to heal. What can you learn from this agonizing experience? What lessons can you now apply to create happier and better relationships moving into the future? Listen to your intuition. Question behaviour that creates feelings of hurt within you. Pay attention to the warning signs along the way. It’s easy when you love someone give them the benefit of the doubt even though actions tell you, you are not their priority. It is important to set boundaries. Only allow respectful and loving connections. For women in particular who identify as givers and nurturers, if someone is regularly exhibiting behaviour that causes you hurt, it is time to step back and re evaluate, for both your sakes.
Recognise that inside all of us, is an unprotected child who is devastated and needs to heal. One great way to start this process is by finding those people in your life that you rely on and trust. Lean into them and accept their support and love. Once betrayed it is easy to distrust everyone but this won’t help you recover. Gift yourself the opportunity to pick up the pieces and start again. Start by learning to trust yourself again. Think of all the great decisions you have made. Reflect on the people who have kept your confidence and stuck by you. Think about those people who have had your back and stood by you through thick and thin. Most of us are lucky enough to have one or two people who fall into this category. Don’t punish current partners for the mistakes of former ones and you will maximise your ability to build strong and happy relationships
Sometimes the worse betrayal comes from silence. People can think that it’s easier to say nothing than allow you to be aware of what is really going on. In the words of Martin Luther King; ‘There comes a time when silence is betrayal’. Feelings at such times can be very intense as we are confused, hurt and bewildered. Our emotions are raw and we can act irrationally. Give yourself the time and space to assess the situation and be objective.
Coming to terms with hurt inflicted on you by people you love and trust is a huge thing. So first and foremost be kind to yourself. Although it is normal to want to retaliate and seek revenge for the hurt you have suffered, this is not to anyone’s benefit. Betrayal teaches you not only about others but more importantly about yourself. Did you allow others to constantly cross boundaries? Did you call them to account when they crossed the line?
When giving away your love and trust, ask yourself, ‘Do they deserve it?’ Because sometimes they don’t. You will never be the same after a serious betrayal but it’s important to realize that everyone at some point will and probably should experience it. It builds your empathy muscle for others. On some level it serves an important purpose and forms the grist that you need to think about your own life, what it means and who you want to be.