Getting Over the Torment of Betrayal

there are no shortcuts

There are no easy answers for recovering from betrayal. It’s not the kind of thing you get over easily. But I’d like to offer you a few suggestions that might be of help at this difficult time.

1. Try to achieve some degree of detachment. One way of doing this is to try to take yourself out of the picture (temporarily) and to view yourself, and what has happened, as a compassionate and caring ‘outsider’.

2. Admit to yourself there’s a hole in your heart, and allow yourself to grieve over all the different losses. The intense and painful feelings will likely ebb and flow. Allow them to surface. Don’t suppress your emotions. Also, you can’t speed up this process. In the end it will backfire. Instead, you need to experience, and work through, all the feelings.

3. Don’t keep it to yourself. You need support at this time. Maybe try to find someone who’s survived the same betrayal, and who knows what it is like, and is further down the road. We need to feel understood, and to have our story witnessed.

4. Fight off any tendency to blame yourself. It’s natural to think we must have played a part. But it usually has nothing to do with us at all. And that is the truth – even though it’s hard to see when we’ve just been triggered, and our feelings are intense. Keep repeating to yourself that  this isn’t about me. And focus on the good things that others say about you. These are the real facts. Hold on to these truths.

5. Once the shock has diminished (or has worn off a little) try to think about a plan for your recovery. This is best worked through with a counsellor. Here, it is important to remember that time is not a healer. You will need to be both active and deliberate in your healing.

6. Be alert to the danger of idealizing the past, or of completely demonizing the person who’s betrayed you. It’s easy to deceive ourselves, and wrongly start believing that everything was magical before we learned the truth. At the same time, it is common to believe that everything must have been a total lie or some kind of fantasy. Usually, the truth will lie between these two extremes.

7. Try to work towards creating a new tomorrow that is better than today (and maybe better than the past). It doesn’t help for us to fixate on what could or should have been. The past is history now, and we’re on a different page. Please don’t let this bad experience destroy the rest of life.

Trust Me

If you knew

When your trust has been betrayed then it’s natural and instinctive to ask yourself the question, “Should I trust this individual?” Perhaps this is a question you are asking yourself now.

And I’ve often heard it said that ‘nothing’s certain in this world’. We have to take a chance. In life, there are no guarantees.

I understand this point. Be we don’t always blindly trust. We try to be as certain as it’s possible to be. And there are checks and balances in every area of life. These help to keep us safe, and they provide security.

For example:

  • Restaurants must adhere to health and safety regulations.
  • Our different health professionals are required to train for years, and they’re closely supervised before they practice on their own.
  • If we smell gas in our home, and we suspect there is a leak, we want someone who’s certified to check it out for us. We don’t just ask a neighbour or a family friend.

How do we build trust?

1. There’s a quote I came across in a great podcast recently which highlights the components that make up healthy trust. Here’s what it said:

Trust is an active responsible engagement with the unknown.”

This draws attention to the fact that trust is not just an emotion (athough it may include gut instincts and some powerful feelings, too.)

Instead, it’s based on checking out whatever needs to be checked out. And this will likely vary, depending on the person. (For example, was your partner using webcams, or an online dating site, or did they see a prostitute, or have countless affairs? All of these require different checks and balances.)

And you’re absolutely right to want to have safeguards in place. We need to feel secure, or it’s impossible to trust.

2. A second quote I came across is somewhat similar to this. It states:

Trust is the ability to tolerate the unknown.”

Tolerating the unknown is going to be more challenging if you trusted him before, and you were lied to, and deceived.

But even if you’ve moved on, and you have a different spouse, the trauma of the past will still affect the way you feel. We bring our history with us into new relationships.

In both these situations, it’s a choice we have to make … to tolerate the fear that is attached to the unknown. It’s ‘mind over emotions’ when we first decide to trust. But, hopefully, we’ll find that this gets easier with time.

And that’s if we decide that it is wise for us to trust ….

Project Hope

purple tulips

All is not as it should be.

But all is as it is.

And as it is

we can still see wishes in stars

and new leaves sprouting on trees

and shapes in the clouds

and silver webs with tiny owners

and flowers tilting toward warm sunlight

and love in our children’s eyes

and hope in the mirror.

Yes, it is as it is.

But it is also what we make it.”

L.R.Knost

 

So, no matter how despairing or desperate you feel,

No matter what has happened, or how dark the future seems,

Lift your eyes, and look around you.

Notice all the signs of spring.

Those beautiful reminders that life can be reborn –

Despite the bleakest winters and the coldest, harshest storms.

Quote of the Day

learn to be ok with people not knowing your side of the story

Learn to be OK with people not knowing your side of the story. You have nothing to prove to anyone.”

This is an important lesson to learn …

Not everyone will want to know the truth.

Not everyone will care, or understand.

There are plenty who are jealous, who see you as a threat.

They’d love to see you suffer; and they’d love things to go wrong.

So it doesn’t matter really matter if they “get it”, or they don’t.

Their viewpoints and opinions should remain irrelevant.

The only thing that matters is to take care of yourself

And shield yourself from people who have zero empathy.

Betrayal and the Dark Night of the Soul

but somehow the page stayed empty

Learning that you’ve been betrayed by your partner plunges you into a painful cycle of loss and grief.

Often the discovery comes as a shock, and the losses are more than you can even calculate.

– To begin with, you can no longer trust your partner or spouse (as they deliberately deceived you, and lied to your face.)

– Also, you feel you aren’t able to trust yourself (because you didn’t see the signs, and you experienced gaslighting.)

– And there’s the loss of the relationship you thought you had (which now feels like a lie and a fantasy.)

– Plus there’s also the loss of the future you expected, and had planned (as you cannot think ahead; and the whole of life has changed.)

Kubler-Ross and the Grieving Process

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who studied death and dying, has identified five common stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These are experienced in betrayal trauma, too.

Note: These stages are experienced a number of times, and are neither discrete nor linear. Also, grief follows its own schedule, is unpredictable, and often hits us unexpectedly.

For example, if betrayal is related to a sexual addiction, you might attempt to reduce the shock by telling yourself that at least your partner didn’t have sex with a real person (This relates to bargaining and denial).

But later you remember that he used webcams, and he paid real women to take off their clothes. Your response to this might be rage and disgust (which could also be equated with experiencing anger).

The next day, you feel too worn out and sad to motivated yourself to do any work (a sure indication that you’re feeling depressed.)

Then, as time goes by, and you start to find out more about the changes in the brain of a sex addict, you might have days when you feel you understand why your partner had succumbed, and done all those awful things. (This is the acceptance stage.)

Note: A crucial point that should be made related to acceptance is this doesn’t mean excusing what your partner has done. It will never be OK – and should never be OK.

Instead, acceptance is more about coming to terms with the fact that reality has changed for you.

It is also about starting to rebuild your life.

This is not possible in the first stages of grief, when time stands still, and you cannot think at all. With acceptance there’s a movement. We feel there’s been a change.

The Reality

The grieving process takes time. A lot of time. It takes much longer than you think it will take. It takes a lot longer than you want it to take. The losses are like tree roots that spread out underground. The roots go down so deep.  They’re extensive and wide.

How to Treat Yourself when you are Grieving

First, be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to feel the pain and sadness. Let the tears flow. Allow yourself to rant and rage. Allow yourself to be antisocial. You’ll also feel exhausted a lot of the time.

And be patient with yourself. Grief and loss are terrible.

But it won’t go on forever. The pain will subside. You’ll emerge from the tunnel, and eventually you’ll feel those positive emotions you cannot picture now.

 

Love, Marriage and Fairy-Tales

 

until I knew what love was not

A few days before dying of ovarian cancer, the writer and filmmaker Amy Krouse Rosenthal submitted a moving essay to the New York Times. In essence, it was a love letter about her husband, Jason, a man with whom she’d shared the last 26 years. “He is an easy man to fall in love with.” she begins. “I did it in one day.

What Rosenthal penned was truly beautiful. She painted a picture of a man who was kind, caring, attentive, fun-loving, intelligent, artistic, a great cook, a great father, and so on.

Amy was 51. The couple had recently become empty nesters. There were new career opportunities. Exotic places to visit together. All the usual kind of wonderful things.

And then tragedy struck. A gnawing pain in her right side turned into a lethal diagnosis. Amy and Jason put their calendar away, and focused their attention on today.

Life-interrupted. A devastating story. But what lingers on is the depth of their love. Both Amy and Jason describe their marriage as having been a fairy-tale relationship. At least, as much as it is possible – in real life, and in the real world.

A fairy-tale relationship. A fairy-tale marriage.

Isn’t that exactly what we wish for ourselves when we tie the knot, and repeat the words “I do”?

We enter the relationship with hopes and dreams. We picture a long life of love and happiness. And that’s not so naïve. It’s the way things should be.

But what if there’s deception and broken trust? What if there’s betrayal and infidelity?

If this becomes our story, is it still possible to describe our marriage as a fairy-tale?

The cynic (or the partner who’s been traumatized) would probably say no. It is not possible. It isn’t even close to being possible.

In the childhood fairly-tales, love’s intense and magical. It usually culminates in a wedding, and some “ahhs”.  There’s no mention of the struggles, of the ups and downs of life. There’s no talk of the heartaches, or the trials we might face.

But being tested in the fire can reveal a genuine love. A love that’s plumbed the depths, and a love that has survived.

So perhaps this kind of love can be a fairy-tale as well …

Yet, what we really wanted was that other fairy-tale.

Quote of the Day

a sign of progress is

A sign of progress is noticing your mind is turbulent, and not trusting how you see yourself during that time.”

I think this quote kind of says it all.

When we’re in the midst of a surge of emotion, we know for a fact that we’re not in our right mind.  We know it’s highly likely that we’ll over-react, and our view of reality is going to be warped.

So this is really not the time to reflect on our life – because we can’t be objective when our brain’s on overdrive.

And it’s also not the time to analyze ourselves – as we’ll likely to be harsh, cruel, and hyper-critical.

Tomorrow we’ll feel different.

We can trust ourselves tomorrow.

But for now, we need to step back, hit “pause”, and disengage.