“The scars you can’t see are the hardest to heal.”
Human beings are wired to connect, and to feel secure in a close relationship. It’s an innate need. It is natural and healthy.
And when that bond is broken, and our trust has been betrayed, our basic sense of safety is greatly undermined. It is difficult to trust and be vulnerable again.
So what do you do with the anxiety and fear that hits you out of nowhere, and destabilizes you?
1. First, it’s important to understand that this reaction (feeling intensely anxious) is instinctive and automatic. It’s experienced by almost everyone who has been betrayed. It isn’t something to feel guilty or bad about. It’s your brain and body’s way of taking care of you. Just acknowledging this fact, can often help to calm us down.
2. Rather than resisting the anxiety and fear, it is better to embrace it, and accept the way you feel. For it never really helps to deny reality.
3. Sometimes being angry that you have to deal with this can help you to work through the strong feelings that you have. Be furious with your partner for messing up your life. You never asked for this. You didn’t bring it on yourself. And yet you have to deal with all the worry and the fear!
4. Consciously question the anxiety and fear. Ask yourself:
Why do I think I can trust my partner now?
What evidence is there that this is a reasonable conclusion to draw?
What is he or she doing differently today that leads to that conclusion?
Being as objective as you can be, ask yourself: On a scale of 1-10, where one in not trustworthy and ten is not trustworthy, how trustworthy would you rate your partner as being today (not yesterday or tomorrow)?
5. Try to deal with the anxiety together as a couple. It can help rebuild the bond, if you both can understand that anxiety is normal, and is part of life – for now.
What really helps is if you can reach the place where you can both say (without judgment): “Yes, we could have predicted this would happen today/ tonight/ in this situation. We know it’s going to happen again and again. And we know it’s really difficult for both of us.”
6. It can also help if the betrayed partner can see that your anxiety reveals how much they really mean to you. You want to trust again. That’s why you’re seeking reassurance.
7. If you’re the betrayed partner, do your best to figure out what will help you worry less, and will give the reassurance that will help you to feel better. If you can say what you need, then your partner or spouse can do their best to meet this need for you.