Life isn?t always a straight road. Sometimes, you have to fight to prove yourself again.
Photo by Edu Grande on Unsplash
by: E.B. Johnson
Earlier this week, I wrote a little about betrayal and overcoming unexpected heartbreak. Betrayal is one of the hardest and most humbling parts of the human experience. Whether you?re betrayed by a friend or a lover, getting deceived by the ones we care about most is a hard pill to swallow, and an even harder obstacle to overcome. Betrayal is more than a loss of trust, it?s a loss of self ? and that goes doubly for the betrayer, who too experiences an array of emotions and negative fallout that can make it hard for them to find their way again.
If you?ve betrayed someone, it?s imperative that you learn how to understand the patterns and triggers that bring you to your worst impulses. Stop hurting the people you love and start getting honest with yourself and the world, in order to create a future you can actually be proud of. You?ll never be happy until you learn how to trust in yourself and others, but you have to make a commitment and put in the work to get there.
What is betrayal?
At it?s most basic level, betrayal occurs when we take advantage of the trust and confidence of others. We can betray the trust of our friends, our family members, our co-workers, our spouses and our children. Betrayal can take place in a number of different ways, and in any interpersonal relationship where two or more parties find themselves sharing secrets, confidences or a certain level of mutual respect of trust.
Betrayal is damaging, but the worst of its effect actually comes from what?s known as ?betrayal trauma? or, the fallout that occurs when you?ve injured someone?s trust, their sense of safety or their sense of security, peace and wellbeing as it relates to you.
Part of avoiding betrayal is knowing what betrayal looks like, but it can take place on a number of different levels, in a number of differeny ways. If you?ve betrayed someone?s trust, the first step in getting back is not only knowing what betrayal is; it?s also about learning how to spot betrayals before you fall into their traps. There are a number of different ways in which we can betray the ones we love, and not all of them are as cut-and-dry as a romantic affair.
The different types of betrayal.
When we think of betrayal, we often think of sexual affairs or dramatic best-friendships come to a cataclysmic and televised ending. Betrayal isn?t always that simple, though, and it isn?t always that black-and-white. Sometimes, we betray the people we care about most without ever realizing what we?ve done.
Emotional affairs are betrayals that take place without sexual infidelity.These affairs can be both brief or longterm, but they are especially damaging because of their complex nature. While a physical infidelity is generally easy to end (with limited attachment), an emotional affair is a deep one, and harder to walk away from than something that?s strictly physical.
Putting yourself before your partner
Relationships are all about giving and taking equally, in a continual ebb and flow that keeps us in check while keeping us in sync with our loved ones. Betraying that give and take isn?t just about bringing a third party into the relationship. It can also be about putting yourself and your needs (selfishly) before your partner?s. When you lose sight of your compassionate love and develop a ?me, me, me? mentality ? you?ve betrayed your loved one and what you once promised them, whether you realize it or not.
Putting on pressure to change
When we truly love for someone or care about them, we don?t expect them to change; we love them regardless of their flaws. Pressuring someone to change, or bullying them into doing things in a more convenient way for you is toxic. More than that, it?s a betrayal of the common trust that friends and partners should share between one another: the confidence of knowing that you can be yourself, no matter what.
Getting distracted by life and work is normal, but when we allow it to pull us away from the people that matter, it can feel as a betrayal of sorts. Emotional distancing occurs when one half of the relationship suddenly begins to experience a lack of emotional, spiritual or intellectual connection with their partner. Rather than addressing the issue, they begin to drift ? leading to a major gulf and the other partner feeling lost and hopeless in the wake of it all.
Committing an act of betrayal never feels good. Not for long, anyway. For that reason, many who engage in a betrayal of trust engage in withholding information, as a means of justifying their behavior. Withholding information from your friend or spouse is the same as lying, and the consequences and effects are just as damaging (if not more so).
There are an array of abusive and controlling behaviors that also double as outright betrayals of the trust and understanding that should come naturally with any healthy relationship. If you use your friend or partner?s vulnerabilities or insecurities against them in a moment of distress, you are betraying their trust and their affections in a way that is both poisonous and unacceptable.
Lying is the age-old standard when it comes to betrayal, and it is the act that we engage in most often when it comes to stabbing the people we purport to care about in the back. Telling a lie is the most basic violation of basic human decency, and it?s one of the most damaging and painful things we can to our loved ones and relationships ? no matter how we choose to look at it.
Failing to take a stand
Our friendships and our romantic relationships are all about teamwork, and that means sticking up for one another when the going gets tough. If you can?t stick up for your friends or loved ones when they need you, then you?re betraying their trust and ? ultimately ? their confidence in you altogether.You have to take a stand for the people you love, and you have to make sure their boundaries are as honored as you?d honor your own.
Every partnership or friendship comes with the understanding that you will both respect the boundaries of the other person. When you stop respecting those boundaries and start taking advantage of your friend or love, you?re betraying their trust in your and the mutual sense of respect you both should share for one another.
Sexual infidelity is one of the most common forms of betrayal and one of the most disruptive forms as well. There are a number of reasons that someone might engage in an extra-relational affair, and they range from temptation to addiction. Betraying someone?s trust sexually is wound that often never heals, and it is one of the hardest forms of betrayal to recover from, no matter how long or deep your relationship might be.
The ?why? behind betrayal.
Betraying the trust of those we claim to care for is a complex concept. While sometimes betrayal occurs on the back of a false friendship, most betrayals occur between individuals that actually care deeply for one another. Why?Why do we hurt the people that we?re supposed to care for. Well, there?s a number of reasons and some are more surprising than others.
Looking for control
Many of those who betray their partners or spouses are doing so in the search for conquest or control. Those with betrayal in their hearts get to act as puppet masters in their grand scheming and subterfuge, leaving one party in the dark while they string the other party along endlessly.
These types of ploys are all about keeping the victims powerless and the betrayer powerful, and it?s addictive and damaging game to play. Betrayal can feel like a powerful act, but it never lasts for long. The truth always comes out and with it, a reversal of power.
There?s no denying the fact that we commonly lie to and betray people that we actually care for. While this might seem self-defeating (and it is) it?s also an extremely common form of self-sabotage that occurs when one partner is struggling from a skewed self-perception or low-self esteem. Cheating, lying and deceiving are some of the oldest forms of self-sabotage in the book, but it takes some radical inner-reflection and honesty to accept that.
Grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss or change of any kind. It is not pathological and it is not a personality defect. It does not occur only when we lose a spouse, a child or a parent and it most definitely does not make us weak or less worthy for experiencing it. Grief occurs in a number of ways, and if you don?t resolve it, you?ll quickly find yourself looking for self-destructive outlets to alleviate your pain.
A loss of identity
When we lose our sense of self, we start to look for it in strange and unexpected places. We can lose critical pieces of our core identity when we go through major life events like death, marriage or even the loss of a career. These major upheavals cause shifts in our personalities and the way we see ourselves, forcing us ? often ? to reach blindly into the world in search of something that can reconnect us with our meaning again.
Physical, emotional or mental instability
On a very primitive level, we expect to feel safe in our homes, our communities and our relationships. When we lose that sense of safety, it can have some serious consequences for our sense of self as well as our mental and emotional wellbeing. Hitting physical, emotional or mental stumbling blocks can tumble us into some downright destructive behaviors, and actions that are not only out of character, but toxic to us and the ones we love as well.
The best techniques for moving on after betrayal.
Those most self-help articles and books are geared toward the victims of betrayal, it can be difficult to rebuild your own life after you?ve betrayed the trust of someone you care about. Learning how to build open and meaningful relationships is hard, but it?s even harder to rebuild them after a breach in that sacred and universal trust. If you?ve betrayed someone you love, use these 7 techniques to get back on track and find your way back to the truth again.
1. Open up
The first step in regaining the trust of anyone we?ve violated is opening up to them with the entirety our truth. Whether you?ve snooped through your best friend?s things or committed the most heinous of acts behind your spouse?s back, if you want to get back on the right track, you have to start by opening up and you have to do it before you get caught.
Open up ? and start that process with yourself. Be honest about what you?ve done, and be brutally honest with yourself about why you?ve done it. You weren?t possessed, and no one made you do what you did. You made conscious choices and you acted on them, and now you?re at a crossroads where the only way home is through.
Get real about who you are and what you need. Be clear about what you need to communicate to your friend or loved one and do it without flinching. You don?t need to pile on extra shame, and you don?t need to engage in over-the-top deprecation. Open up about where you?re at and what you?re feeling, and have the decency to show your friend or partner the respect of a heartfelt apology.
2. Make an honesty pact
Once the poison is out in the open, start dealing with it by committing to an honest and open future. It?s going to take time to prove yourself again, but that?s what an honesty pact is all about; doing a little each day to prove that the partnership is a beneficial one.
Make an honesty pact with the person that you?ve hurt and commit to a more honest channel of communication in future, even if those truths are hard to speak and even harder to swallow. We can generate more honesty in our lives by being ready to hear the truth ourselves.
Be patient, and be open with your feelings as they?re happening, rather than waiting for them to fester in the darkness. Be honest with your needs as much as you?re honest about your emotions, and remember that you?re not a mindreader nor a body language expert. Guessing games equal disappointment every time, so be honest about what you need out of your honesty pact.
3. Answer the questions
When we?re confronted with our betrayal, it can be hard to stomach it, let alone here the litany of hurts we?ve caused as a result of our poor choices and behaviors. The problem is, though, that we don?t get to choose how we hurt people, and we don?t get to choose how they resolve that pain. If you?ve hurt someone and they have questions ? answer them, and don?t shy away from the truth (because, after all, the damage is done).
Avoid getting your defenses up and try to keep a cool, level-headed and even tone throughout the conversation. Don?t interrupt them, and don?t try to rose-tint the things you did by laying things on thick, or skirting the details that make you more uncomfortable to share.
Part of being in a relationship ? be that a friendship, romantic relationship or work partnership ? is having a mutual and understood level of trust the inalienable. It also means owning up and helping our friends resolve their grief; especially when we?re the cause. Even if you think the question is stupid or repetitive, answer it, and don?t get sharp and don?t shift the blame.Rebuilding starts with answers, and you?re the only one who can give them.
4. Stop invalidating the feelings of others
One of the most toxic behaviors patterns of those who betray the people around them is their constant invalidation of the feelings of those people. In order to live more comfortably with their own guilt, betrayers often dispute and downplay the feelings of those around them. When their partner starts to question their behavior, they?ll change the topic or jump in to flip the script, absolving their guilt and turning the conversation into another beast entirely.
If you?re truly seeking to repair a relationship that?s been tossed onto the rocks thanks to your careless or hurtful actions, then you have to quit invalidating the feelings of others and listen to them when they communicate how they?re feeling.
You don?t have to agree with what your friend, spouse or partner says. You don?t even have to entertain it as a reality, but you do have to listen to it, and you do have to give them time to express the way they are feeling ? as well as the needs they might have. Don?t change the subject, and don?t tell them they?re being ?silly? or ?hard to deal with?. We all have feelings for a reason, and those feelings deserve to be respected; whether they are based in reality or not.
5. Practice patience
Patience is key when it comes to healing not only our relationships with others, but also our relationships with ourselves. Coming back from betrayal is a process, for you and the person that you?ve injured. As such, you have to be patient and understand that there?s going to be an ebb and flow for both of you, and not everything is going to be as smooth as you might like.
Understand that regaining trust might take longer than you think. Understand that you may never regain that trust at all. Time ? as we understand it ? doesn?t really exist, especially when it comes to healing. Accept that you can?t force things to move faster, and accept that the process is going to take as long as it takes.
Apologies are rarely the end of a matter, rather, they?re just a starting place. Be patient with yourself on your journey toward honesty, and be patient with the injured party too. It took time to get you into this mess, and it will take time to get you out. None of us is perfect, but all of us can be better?when we make the conscious decision to be.
6. Stop making excuses and start taking responsibility
We use excuses to rationalize our actions and justify the poor behaviors we make the conscious decision to engage in. The problem is, however, that these rationalizations and excuses make it impossible for us to tap into true healing or recovery from our poorest instincts and urges.
Stop making excuses by facing up to you reality honestly and openly. Quit blaming the people around you for the misfortunes that continue to befall you,and step out into the unknown with the knowledge that we?re all just doing the best that we can.
Taking responsibility starts with accepting our personal role in the way things happen around us, and it ends with the realization that you alone are responsible for the way you react to the stressors and obstacles that life chooses to throw your way. Make plans, and take risks, but stop blaming others for the poor life choices you make. The only person who can choose to betray the trust of your loved ones is you.
7. Focus on recovery, rather than results
When we?re trying to fix something, we want to see instant results. But that?s not how recovery works. Coming back from living a life full of betrayal and deceit isn?t easy, but it is possible with time. If you want to become a better person and you want to stop lying to the people around you, you have to keep focused on our journey back to honesty, rather than the instant sign posts that validate the direction you?re moving in.
Focus on the positive intentions that rest in your heart, and make them the center of everything that you do. Be patient with yourself and compassionate; understand that everything good worth having takes time, and every wound needs open space and clean air to heal.
A breach in integrity is a hard thing to overcome. It?s a humbling experience and one that is yo-yo?s, despite our desperate efforts to force it into some kind of predictable space. When you betray someone, the stakes are high, and that makes the stakes even higher when we?re trying to recover and find our way back to honesty and happiness. This crisis might lead to a deepening in your relationship, but you?ll never know until you see your way through the fires of recovery. Trust yourself and the process. It?s an up-and-down.
Putting it all together?
Betrayal is a complex subject, and a complex and damaging event from which we have to find healing. Losing the trust of our friends, family and loved ones can be one of the most painful experiences we can endure, but it?s up to us to fix the wrongs we?ve created and find our way back to healthy and balanced relationships. That?s a journey that takes time, however, as well as a wealth of knowledge and commitment to a cause that?s bigger than ourselves.
If you?ve betrayed someone you care for, don?t invalidate their emotions or demean their expression of emotion. Take some time to understand what you?ve done and why you did it, and communicate that with your loved one when you?re ready (but before you get caught). Commit to an honest future, answer their questions and start taking responsibility for the hurts you?ve caused. Though we may not mean to injure those we love with our behavior, we do, and we don?t get to choose how they heal and find their resolutions.Focus on your recovery and have patience with the process. This pain wasn?t caused overnight and it won?t heal overnight either. Give yourself the timeand space you both need to heal, so you can find a path to a better tomorrow.