Betrayal by someone you love and trust can be one of the most devastating experiences in life. Betrayal by a parent can skew the way you see and trust the world for the rest of your life. Betrayal by a friend can leave you questioning if you even know yourself, let alone anyone else. And the betrayal of a spouse can bring your life to crisis. And you can find it crumbling around you.
Some years ago, a good friend of mine realized, at least $800 too late, that her trusted lead contractor had been charging her credit card with personal items. They worked together rehabbing many houses over the years. And needless to say, not only was she blindsided by being robbed by this man, she was heartbroken by the betrayal of a friend. She and her husband were, of course, very angry, and fired their business partner.
So how do you live day to day on assumptions and promises of honesty, integrity and loyalty, when you find, around so many corners, the people you let into your life are not who they seem?
Betrayal can be dealt with in three phases:
Knowledge is power
Get all the facts. Find out exactly what happened. And didn’t happen. From everyone involved.
But sometimes ignorance is bliss. You may not need every detail of an affair to understand what caused it. Only ask if it will help the healing process. Not to fuel the fire.
Did you find out or did they confess? If they stepped up and admitted their infraction to you, this is worth something.
Compare the severity of the betrayal to the importance and longevity of your relationship. Figure out if the depth and breadth of the breach approaches or exceeds that of your relationship.
There’s a difference between a mistake and a miscalculation. A mistake is doing something you don’t know is wrong. Even during a lapse in judgment, when you know something is wrong and do it anyway, this is not a mistake. It’s a calculation. And when this calculation has unintended or unexpected consequences, this is a miscalculation. Your reaction may be quite different if you know they really didn’t think they were doing any harm versus having to clean up their mess after being discovered.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Sometimes we get caught in the crossfire when someone is just trying to do what they think is best for everyone.
But many times people just want what they want, and don’t care who they have to hurt to get it.
And sometimes people do things that are just absent-minded. They don’t really mean to help or harm anyone. Things just happen. Sometimes that’s life.
People often feel justified in their bad behavior. Whether they felt wronged or felt the consequences were not severe enough to rethink their actions, understanding another’s thought process can be invaluable in dealing with betrayal.
An eye for an eye and a lie for a lie can get everyone into hot water. Acts of revenge often escalate the situation, instead of evening the score.
Once you’ve assessed the type of betrayal, and the motivations for it, determine if the importance of the relationship outweighs the severity of the betrayal.
2. Moving Forward
Meditate, pray and ask for guidance from your higher power. Engage your place of worship and their spiritual leaders.
Know this betrayal has nothing to do with you. Even if the other person blames you for everything, understand that anything another thinks, feels, does and says is because of them. And THEY made this choice, not you.
Perhaps what attracts you to certain people no longer serves you. Think about how previous experiences connected to this betrayal; how friends talk about other friends in your presence, how your partner’s last few relationships started and ended, how family members treated you and others in the past. Watch out for these warning signs in the future.
Learning from the experience
Every experience comes with a lesson. What can you learn from betrayal?
To be honest, loyal and have integrity yourself.
The consequences of your own betrayals.
To only take responsibility for what you can control; yourself.
To let others take responsibility for what they can control; themselves.
To let go.
To effectively process your feelings.
3. Processing feelings
Processing your emotions around the betrayal is ideally happening from the moment of discovery or confession on. Really, feeling all of the emotions that come up and just allowing them to be there when they happen is healthy, and will help you heal. Counseling is a great option. But just understanding that nothing needs to be done with the feelings, like screaming, fighting, or impulsive behavior, is a huge step toward maturity.
Feelings, even deep and devastating ones, are temporary. And they will lift if you let them go instead of holding on to them. Constantly complaining about the betrayal, reminding yourself or others of it, or plotting a betrayal of your own will not heal the pain.
Just like what they did has nothing to do with you, how you feel is not about them. They may have encroached on your life, but what you do with it now is up to you.