5 Steps For Moving Beyond Betrayal

Betrayal comes in many forms. We may feel betrayed when someone disappoints us. We may feel betrayed by a friend who broke a promise. Our spouse may forget our birthday or anniversary, and we feel betrayed. Or you may have experienced a more significant betrayal, an emotional or sexual affair.

All of these instances involve a breach of trust. Someone we depended on to support us, to always have our back, has let us down. Because we trusted this person so much, the betrayal creates a deep wound.

I help you regain trust. What steps would I advise? Can the relationship ever rebound to become a place of safety, love and caring?

Yes. But openness and communication are key.

What are the important steps that I advise to help repair a relationship?

 It is very important to clearly explain your hurt. How has this special person hurt you and hurt your feelings? Once the problem is understood, the repair work can begin.

Last week Jason and Dorothy came into my office, both feeling very upset and wounded. Two weeks before they had attended Jason’s high school reunion. Dorothy felt quite threatened by Jason’s actions with his previous high school sweetheart. It was helpful to both of them when she could specifically recount some of the hurtful behaviors and explain why they were threatening to her.

At first Jason thought she was over reacting. But as she explained, he more clearly understood her pain and was able to comfort her and commit to different behaviors if such an instance should occur again. It was important that he reassured her about his love for her.

2. Commitment. Both parties need to exhibit a strong desire and commitment to repair the hurt. This involves not just a verbal pledge, but agreements about changing behaviors and actions on an on-going basis.

Allison told me about her disappointment with her long-time best friend. She felt her friend, Darcie did not show any interest when Allison discussed the difficult life hurdles she had experienced during the last few years. The final straw occurred when Allison was quite upset and through her tears explained her challenges in detail to Darcie. She felt Darcie merely brushed them off and changed the subject to discuss one of her own problems.

When Allison tried to tell Darcie how much this hurt her, she felt that Darcie dismissed her feelings and accused her of over reacting. It hurt Allison even more because she did not feel a commitment on Darcie’s part to repair the hurt. Some relationships take more effort than others to turn things around. Sometimes, there is not enough commitment to make the necessary changes to repair the wounds.

3. Openness and Honesty. Both parties need to agree to transparency in all communications. Often one partner becomes jealous of email or text communications between the other partner and an outsider.

Merely explaining that the outside relationship is not threatening is not enough. Giving your partner access to all communications shows a commitment to repair things and helps rebuild trust.

4. Forgiveness. In order to move on and rebuild a healthier relationship, you need to let go of past hurts. Some hurts we feel occur by accident: our friend or spouse may be surprised that an event or comment hurt so deeply. In other instances, trust may have been broken due to a series of lies or an affair.

It is necessary as you begin to repair the damage and commit to rebuild your relationship, that you also work to forgive.

Sam had been struggling with a gambling problem for a few years. He had tried to cover his tracks through a series of lies and attempted cover-ups. When his wife, Julie confronted him, his first impulse was to continue his lie. But as the facts unraveled, he was forced to face his problem and the tangled web of lies.

After constructing a plan to put their lives and their finances in order, Julie also had to work to forgive Sam. The long history of lies and empty promises made it even more important for them to rebuild trust and communication. Sam’s recovery would be supported by Julie’s forgiveness.

5. Learning new behaviors. Most people do not learn healthy communication patterns in their family as they are growing up. However, these patterns can be learned. I emphasize the need to learn how to resolve differences in constructive ways. I emphasize the importance of learning how to express caring, and how to nurture one another.

I explain that when each person feels cared about and supported, true bonding and intimacy can be formed. This creates a special closeness that greatly strengthens the relationship and keeps other people or hurtful issues from coming between you. I believe that the hard work necessary to strengthen a relationship forms an indestructible bond.

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