Betrayal is the willful slaughter of hope. ~ Steven Dietz
Betrayal may be described as simply the breaking of trust. It’s when we trust someone and they break that trust (and usually our hearts at the same time).
Betrayal is probably the most hurtful of all things that could possibly be done to you. And one of the hardest to get over. Let’s look at each type of betrayal and what is necessary for recovery from this betrayal.
There are different types of betrayal:
1. Being betrayed while trusting someone who is supposed to be trustworthy. (ie parent, caretaker).
The first two scenarios are issues with the person we trust. The second two scenarios are issues with ourselves. Betrayal usually results in a fight or flight response. So say the “experts.” But it is a very complicated matter. Classic psychology describes betrayal as a breaking of the social contract. That definition is disturbingly dry.
Betrayal really is the slaughter of hope and many times it’s the slaughter of your dreams, your life, your soul. Betrayal is the knife that cuts through your life and leaves it tattered and torn.
4. Being betrayed after trusting someone who has demonstrated that he or she is not trustworthy.
When I took back my exhusband after inappropriate dalliances with other women, most of the time it was because I wanted to believe he wouldn’t do it again. Another part of me simply wanted the agony to cease. When he was tired of her or tired of the deadlock we were in, he would return to me, promising to love me and swearing nothing was really going on with her. And I would drop the divorce proceedings and the plans to move out. I was emotionally exhausted and I wanted to believe whatever he said.
Setting up to end a relationship because of your partner’s behavior is a study in exhaustion, physical, emotional and mental. And when you have a history of abuse and abandonment not to mention 3 children to raise on your own, you are more than happy to put aside the ending and hope for the best.
But this usually leads to repeating this pattern and being surprised by the same old thing.
I’ve read articles by people who insist that there is life after infidelity and maybe there is for some people. But NOT when there continues to be infidelity and NOT when you are such a basket case you don’t know what is real and what is not and whether you are coming or going.
Betrayal on this level is really an issue with the person being betrayed. The questions I eventually had to ask myself was: What is with you anyway? Why are you continuing to put up with this? What IS IT that is keeping you here with this crazy person who lies, cheats and mortifies you over and over again?
Instead of having the flight response which we SHOULD have, we tend to have the FIGHT response, fighting for something we can never really have and if we could have it (this lying cheater) WHY would we want it?
The cure for betrayal at this level is usually leaving and fixing the problem which is YOU if you are putting up with this over and over again. You’re never going to change the lying, cheating, sack of cow manure that you have partnered with. ‘t aint gonna happen. The only cure in this situation is to extricate yourself from it, do your life inventory and figure out what is going on? What is the struggle here? Who are you really trying to “win over”? Someone in the past? Someone who betrayed you?
Why do you keep choosing losers? My broken chooser is choosing losers. Is that You? What are you looking for? What do you need to WIN OVER?
When we take cheaters back it is because we’re trying to “win” over that which has defeated us before. We’re trying to defeat the forces that threaten us and we think we can do it by winning someone over who can’t be won over, by making a faithful person out of a low-down, sneaking, lying, bananahead.
It also keeps us having to fix ourselves when we’re so focused on fixing someone else or our relationship. When he stops cheating, all will be well.
Except that all can’t be well until YOU are well and if you’re in this situation I have some bad news for you: You are not well.
DO YOUR WORK.
Find out who your struggle is really with, find out what unfinished business you have, find out why you have this need to win over an unwinnable situation.
It’s NOT your fault that you are with a cheater but if you continue to be with this cheater or other cheaters, well you have to look at that and take some responsiblity. You can find out what holes in you need to be filled and how to let go the struggles to win. You can do this. Really.
3. Being betrayed after trusting someone too soon.
This usually happens when you buy the hearts and flowers and I love yous and ignore the warning signs early in the relationship. Then later on, it’s BLAMMO time. You get it right between the eyes. You cannot believe that this person who loved you so deeply and completely early on has done this to you. You simply can’t believe it.
The cure for this level of betrayal is to step back, early in the relationship, when you are being swept away by the rush of new love, and figure out what else is going on. Has your new love been a cheater before? Lying? Sneaking?
I was once with a guy who was dating me while waiting for his ex girlfriend to move out. He didn’t seem to end a relationship until he started a new one. He had kids all over the place and debt coming out of his ears. There was a lot of underhanded behavior that I would have seen had I stepped back a minute or two. But I was convinced that I was different and special and he wouldn’t do “it” to me. Even when the red flags were raised, I dismissed them.
Later when he couldn’t pay me money he owed me, disappeared for weeks at a time, and told me different stories all the time, I was shocked and betrayed. WHY? I vacillated between a fight or flight response. I would fight, get upset and flee…then I would go back and fight and then give up and flee. All that fighting and flighting got to be exhausting and told me I didn’t really know what to do.
When someone tells you who they are, believe them. I SAW, with my own eyes, the way he disrespected his soon to be ex girlfriend and yet, I wouldn’t believe he’d do it to me.
Wrong. What he does WITH you, he’ll do to you.
Step back and OBSERVE early in the relationship.
Learn to walk away from people who are betraying others. Even if he or she explains that the ex is the worst person in the world, look at how they are conducting the breakup.
Listen to stories they tell to others when he or she is with you. Are they lying to others to get out of things? Do they show remorse about it? Love is an action. Decency is an action. Trustworthiness is an action. Stupid is as stupid does. Handsome is as handsome does. Etc etc. WATCH how they treat others in the early stages and, as hard as it is, figure out if you want to be treated like that 6 mos or 6 years from now. Because you will be.
AS HARD AS IT IS when you are wrapped up in the rush of new love, please step back and look at what this person is telling you by their actions with others. And behave accordingly. If he or she is acting duplicitous toward others, RUN RUN AWAY!!!
2. Being betrayed after trusting someone who has earned our trust by acting trustworthy over a certain period of time.
This is probably the most heartbreaking of all betrayals. You did step back, you did observe, you insisted this person earn your trust and they did…and they were there for you over and over again, and you trusted and then one day SNAP, it’s gone. They do something that breaks your heart and trust is lost. The worst scenario is when they know it and they don’t care or even worse, they blame you.
This is grief. Pure and simple. It hurts and it’s hard and it’s probably the hardest thing in the world to work through. It doesn’t mean you’ll never love again or even that you made a mistake this time. You did everything right and still you were betrayed. How does that happen? I don’t know, but it does.
The thing is that if you’re working through your issues with scenarios #3 and #4, #2 should not happen to you too often. It happened to me with a friend, someone I would have trusted with my life, and it took me about 3 years to get over it. I had deep, incredible sorrow. I couldn’t even speak of it. I had befriended this person when her best friend disappeared into a relationship. We had sworn to never do that. We were there for each other in every possible way for over 8 years. I loved and depended on this person and she loved and depended on me.
Then one day she got into a relationship and she was gone. I couldn’t believe it but I hung on for 2 years hoping she’s come back, hoping she’d remember everything we said. She KNEW what it was like to have a best friend disappear like this. Everything about her told me that she would realize what was going on and that she would figure it out and come back and be my friend again. I had faith in her and I had 8 years of faithful friendship and impeccable behavior, of her always doing the right thing, to back that up. I had faith. There was no reason not to.
Then one day she announced that she knew what she said but this was “different.” Never in a million years did I think she would or could rationalize like that. It also hurt me that I thought she was irreplaceable, a unique and special person in my life. The closest person in my life. And she replaced me with a relationship and obviously no longer wanted or needed me as a friend. Didn’t miss me and I missed her terribly. I thought that if there is one person in your life that you can love and trust in a way you can’t with your parents or your partners or your siblings, you don’t throw that away. She transferred her trust in me to her relationship and I was no longer necessary. She once told me that she had felt like a “placeholder” for her friend, just something a friend did in between relationships. I now felt like that placeholder and could NOT believe it. Simply couldn’t believe it.
The hardest part for me about the betrayal was believing it. So much time passed and I was numb and in shock. I just could not wrap my head around it. How could I have been that wrong? How could she have changed that much?
And I was there for her when her best friend betrayed her. No one was there for me when she betrayed me. I couldn’t even deal with that. It hurt SO MUCH.
I didn’t fight it. Something in her voice and her demeanor told me she didn’t want to hear it and didn’t really care. I went into high alert flight mode. I wished I could flee to the ends of the earth. I was so horribly grief-striken. I fled and never looked back.
It stung for a long, long time. I grieved for a long, long time. And until my current best friend hounded me in law school, I wasn’t getting close to anyone. But then my best friend kept trying to be my friend, kept pursuing that friendship. And she was good and nice and funny and I liked her. I never let her be what my other friend was but we are very close and absolutely there for each other and she fills the role of “best friend” the way one would expect.
With this scenario all you can do, really, is grieve. Grieve and know that one day it won’t hurt and it won’t sting and you can go on and love again. Because if you do your grief work, you can.
1. Being betrayed while trusting someone who is supposed to be trustworthy. (ie parent, caretaker).
This scenario comes from not being loved or being molested or abused by a parent or caretaker as a child. This sort of betrayal leads to betrayal trauma and is akin to PTSD. It’s a difficult thing to work through but it is possible to work through it. Again, it takes a lot of work, a lot of life inventory type work, writing angry letters and getting in touch with your sorrow and your rage.
Most children who were betrayed by a caretaker or parent have gone numb. It’s a repression of feelings that are too difficult to work through. It’s a type of PTSD. This is a flight of mega proportions. Just numb out, just tune out, just become a big flat nothing. Flight. The ultimate flight.
My therapist told me that I recounted my early life events, traumatic as they were, like a movie I had once seen. This detachment and dissassociation is a sure sign of PTSD and/or betrayal trauma.
The way to work through this is with a good therapist, good support systems, good friends and grief work. It’s a few years of work but it can be done. It really can be. I worked through my trauma and PTSD in about five years of intense work. It really doesn’t abate without working through it.
No matter what kind of betrayal you are facing or have face, the way to work through it is much the same as the work we’ve done:
1. Grief work. Grieve for what you lost, including a level of trust that was there once.
2. Be good to yourself during this work. This is ULTRA important when doing betrayal work. You must must must take frequent breaks and be good to yourself. This is IMPERATIVE.
3. HAVE SUPPORT. You cannot possibly go through this kind of work without support. Go to therapy, go to support groups, go to retreats, conferences, 12 step meetings, online support (though face to face support is INVALUABLE ). GET SUPPORT anywhere and everywhere possible.
4. Do your affirmations that it is possible to love and be loved and that you are a good person deserving of all good things. This is important.
Never give up.NEVER GIVE UP.
Being betrayed is one of the most heartbreaking and horrible experiences. Remove the victim and do your grief work while being good to you. NEVER NEVER GIVE UP.
It IS possible to love, deeply and completely, after betrayal.
But it’s only possible if YOU love YOU first.
A bad thing happened. It’s not your fault. But you are healing.
You can and will heal. Promise.