Ask Us – Feelings of Shame

In this post we will briefly answer a question that was asked by one of our clients.

Here’s today’s question …

“Why do I struggle with shame over my partner’s betrayal? He was the one who broke his promises, yet I feel completely worthless and ashamed. Why is that?”

There could be a number of answers to this question. Here are a few possibilities:

1. Think about bullying, or abuse in general. When we’re singled out for some kind of mistreatment, we pick up the message “I am not worth treating well.” (Note: You are worth treating well but this is the faulty message we believe in response to being mistreated.) That message is especially powerful if it comes from someone very close to us – like a parent or spouse.

2. If we think highly of someone, and their attention or approval means something to us, then we treat them with great respect and care. Think of the way royalty, celebrities or CEOS are treated.

In contrast, if we are ignored or treated badly, we feel that we don’t matter. That we’re not important. That we’re not worth respecting or caring about.  

3. We honour our partner by being faithful to them, and treating them as someone who is special to us. After all, we’ve deliberately chosen to enter into a exclusive relationship with them, and them alone.

Hence, when our partner betrays us, it communicates the message “You’re not really that special after all. I don’t just want to have sex with you”. Hence, we feel inadequate, as if we have failed, as if we are faulty, and not worthy of love (and not certainly not exclusivity).

This affects our self-esteem, and our identity. Here’s what Brene Brown has to say about shame:

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling, or experience, of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

Note: You could substitute faithfulness for connection, here.

If you have been betrayed by your partner or spouse, then this sense of shame is absolutely not deserved. You need to resist it with all your might.

Don’t let the lies become your own beliefs.

Don’t let that person define your worth.   

“Know your worth. Know what you deserve. Don’t ask for it. State it.”

13 thoughts on “Ask Us – Feelings of Shame

  1. Shame is such a powerful feeling and it makes you very vulnerable. It’s good to re-evaluate our thoughts and opinions about ourselves, to check if there is really something to feel ashamed about.
    I think it’s hard work but it can be really fruitful.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks for adding your thoughts here. I really agree with you. It is very important we check to see if this is something we ought to feel ashamed – and usually it isn’t! And it is worth all the hard work to free ourselves of these wrong feelings (and the related wrong beliefs).

      Liked by 3 people

  2. With regard to #3, I think it’s also common to feel shame for having made a seemingly terrible choice in picking a mate. (“How could I have been so wrong?” or “How could I have deliberately have chosen someone who would do this?”)

    Liked by 2 people

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