Betrayal is one of those things that you never want to experience, but you probably will more than once. There are massive betrayals such as cheating and infidelity, and smaller ones (but often just as heartbreaking) like gossiping, emotional-cheating, and lying.
Unfortunately, betrayal is part of adulting — your co-worker might throw you under the bus, your friend could reveal your secrets, or your partner could be unfaithful. All betrayals cut deep because they’re personal.
When someone betrays you, you’ll feel anger, sadness, confusion, and shock. Betrayal can present as a loss, but if you change your mindset, it can make you stronger and more resilient.
“Betrayal is a tough one,” saysSara Plummer Barnard, Relationship Expert. “It rips at our very ability to trust on a larger scale. Being vulnerable is a beautiful, brave gift to give. When duplicitous or just plain broken people take advantage of that, it tears at the very fiber of how we perceive humanity.” It’s hard to be open and honest if you fear your heart getting stomped on.
The destructive power of betrayal shouldn’t be taken lightly, which is why it’s not unusual for one to go from feeling betrayed to wanting revenge. The question isn’t just what to do when someone betrays you; it’s how to deal with that betrayal without hurting yourself or others in the process. It’s coming out on the other side, a little wiser and more courageous than you were before. I AM & CO asked experts for their advice on how to deal with the painful aftermath of betrayal and how to begin the process of healing.
What to Do When Someone Betrays You So That You Can Trust Again
Before you do anything, a good idea is to talk to someone that you’re comfortable with confiding in. You should feel as if you’re in a safe space where there’s no judgment so that you can speak freely. Discuss the next steps you should take, what your goals are in going forward, and if your relationship with the betrayer is something that you want to try to save and repair.
Make Sure You Have All the Facts
It’s easy to go into an emotional spiral when you think you’ve been betrayed, so it’s a good idea to take a breath, and see if you have all your facts straight before you take any kind of action. You don’t want to get upset if you’re mistaken about what you think happened. Never jump to conclusions, or you may end up making a situation much worse than it needs to be.
Dr. Laura Louis, a Licensed Psychologist, advises getting clarity. “It is important to communicate directly with the individual that you feel betrayed by. There are times when individuals can mistake a person’s distance or change in behavior as a betrayal when, in actuality, this person could be managing their own crisis that has caused a change in their behavior toward you.”
Don’t Play the Blame Game With Yourself
If we say that someone betrayed us, what we’re saying is that they betrayed our trust. Trust doesn’t always come easy, and there can be many steps to building that trust so that when it’s broken, it’s easy to go back and blame ourselves. We think that we trusted the person too easily, or we didn’t vet them enough. How could we be so blind to believe that they were trustworthy in the first place?
“When someone betrays us, our first instinct can be to resent ourselves for trusting,” saysStephanie Thoma, The Confident Introvert Coach. “Instead, take a step back and applaud yourself for doing so. If you trusted someone close to you and they didn’t mirror that trust, it isn’t a sign that you were unwise to trust them. It’s a sign of their humanity and something you can either talk through with a compassionate heart or choose to distance yourself from, [while] redirecting your energy to other people whom you do actively trust.”
Find Ways to Be Grateful
Gratitude may seem to be the furthest thing from what you’re feeling, but changing your mindset to being grateful can help you to see what to do when someone betrays you. Perhaps being betrayed is helping you to see that person as to how they are — not just as you want them to be, or maybe it’s showing you the flaws that were there in the relationship.
You’re probably not going to make the same mistakes again, and that’s always a valuable lesson. Be grateful that no matter how bad this betrayal was, you’re going to survive it and come out of it stronger and wiser than ever. Having anattitude of gratitude can change your perspective and help you handle not only this betrayal but any that happen in the future without feeling destroyed.
Consider Forgiveness as a Choice
Forgiveness is always an option, but it might be something that you’re too hurt even to consider. If you’re not at the point where you canforgive your betrayer, then don’t force yourself — it’s not your responsibility to absolve them of any guilt or regret that they may have. The bottom line is that forgiveness isn’t about the other person, it’s about you and not hanging on to those negative feelings that can keep you from moving forward emotionally. If you can be the bigger person — great, but it’s not required.
Self-forgiveness can help ensure your sense of well-being. “Betrayal is one of the toughest pills to swallow, especially if it happens to us young when we’re forming our views of how safe the world is,” says Sara Plummer Barnard. “Fortunately, forgiveness is our golden ticket out, back to the world of our own, creating where our power to be kind is magic.” Hanging onto bitterness and negativity won’t help you heal.
Confront the Betrayer
If you feel up to it, having direct communication with the person who betrayed you can help you healthily process your feelings. “While every scenario/relationship is different, in general, the best way to handle betrayal is to confront the betrayer as soon as possible,” says Dr. Nancy Irwin, Clinical Psychologist, and Primary Therapist atSeasons in Malibu. “Speak succinctly; use as few words as possible. Otherwise, you sound powerless.
Simply and clearly state, ‘I feel betrayed by you [fill in the blank.] This is unacceptable behavior for me.’ Do not use ultimatums … say nothing about the other person because they will automatically be defensive. State how you felt.” You may be angry but aim toward confronting them with compassionso that things don’t escalate. Give them the chance to apologize or express their regret.
One way to advocate for yourself is to fight back. You’ve tried talking to your betrayer, but they haven’t shown any remorse or made any attempt to rectify the situation, so you’re going to have to get tough and become more aggressive in getting what you need from them. “If your goal is not to be taken advantage of, like when someone has taken all your money or left the marriage, you want to fight to get back your money or your dignity,” saysClaudia Luiz, Psychoanalyst. “This fight can help heal and vindicate the betrayal.”
Focus on Self-care
Betrayal is a lot, and it affects you mentally, emotionally, and physically. It’s stressful, and when your body gets stressed, it releases the stress hormones, Cortisol, Adrenaline, and Norepinephrine, which can trigger tension headaches, raise your blood pressure, make your heart pound, and wear you down emotionally — to name just a few of the symptoms. The best thing you can do is slow down, chill out, and take care of yourself. Take a walk, go to the gym, get a massage, or meditate — anything that helps you to relax and de-stress.
Reassess the Relationship
By betraying you, the betrayer has put a microscope on your relationship — whether they wanted to or not. “When someone betrays you, you are learning something about their character and are pre-warned of a red flag that possibly this person isn’t as true to you, as you think,” says Dr. Sherrie Campbell, author of “But It’s Your Family: Cutting Ties with Toxic Family Members.” I would not waste a lot of time around anyone who betrays you. I think it’s best to get these people out of your life in one shot. If they are to prove their worth to you over time and are willing to do that work after they derailed [the relationship], that’s up to you if you want to go back in.”
Make a Plan
As I said earlier in this article, betrayal tends to change everything — you, the way you trust, and your relationships. Once you’ve worked through the betrayal the best way that you’ve been able, it’s time to decide on a course of further action. “Once communication has been established, and a true betrayal has taken place, it’s important for a person to make peace, move forward, and begin their healing process,” says Dr. Laura Louis. “You cannot control what others decide to do to you, but you can control what you accept and allow from others.”
It’s challenging to know what to do when someone betrays you, especially since it can feel like a significant blow to your self-esteem, your judgment, and your ability to make good choices. Reestablishing trust both in your instincts and with other people is key to your sense of well-being and ability to move on. There’s no guarantee that you won’t get betrayed again, but maybe next time, you’ll know what to do when it happens so that it doesn’t destroy you.