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.

Quote of the Day

Reclaim all that you are

We’re conditioned to believe that our worthiness and power come from being chosen. We meander around, hoping those who surround us would validate our existence and goodness. Your worth comes from choosing yourself, and your worth comes from reclaiming all that you are; to speak, feel, and do without the need for permission, or fear of what others would think.”

Salmal Helal

Your worthiness and power do not come from being chosen. They don’t come from being noticed, affirmed, or treated as special by anyone at all.

You are beautiful as you are. You are beautiful because you are you.

You don’t need anyone to validate you, or give you your sense of value and worth.

Today is the day to believe in yourself, to reclaim your power, and to honour yourself.

You are enough. That’s all.

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 ….

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.

In the Bad Times Remember the Good Times

the poison leaves bit by bit

In the bad times, remember the good times.

Remember you don’t always feel this way.

Remember there are days when you laugh and dream again.

Remember there are days when you see life differently.

 

And though the truth was devastating

It is better that you know.

It’s worse to be in darkness and to live a fantasy.

Transparency is better than the secrets and the lies.

At least your eyes are open. Everything is in the light.

 

And as the weeks turn into months

And the months turn into years

You see the change has lasted.

There’s reason to believe.

Day by day your trust is growing, and you’re starting to relax.

Perhaps you’ve a turned a corner.

Perhaps it’s safe to breathe.

The Beginning. The Middle. And the Plot Twist.

I sat with my anger long enough until she told me her real name was grief

Imagine you’ve been driving through a city, a concrete jungle, for the last hour. As you drive along the road you see homeless people sitting on the sidewalks. There’s graffiti on the walls. Everything is grey, dirty, drab and depressing.

Then you enter a tunnel, a long tunnel that goes under the river.

When you emerge, there are blue skies, bright sunshine and golden fields of corn – fields and fields of corn for as far as the eye can see.

“Wow. This is so weird”, you think to yourself. It’s like you’re living on a different planet now. It feels so strange. So unexpected. So surreal.

Now imagine you’re 12 and you’re living with your parents. One day, when you come home from school, they sit you down and tell you they have something important to tell you. Then, your mom gently explain that they are not your real parents. Your older, married sister is actually your mother. She had you when she was 14 years old and your grandparents adopted you, and raised you as their child.

Or, imagine you had grown up believing your father had been killed in an accident when you were an infant. Then, one day, when you are researching your ancestry, you learn your father is not dead at all. In fact, he is serving a life sentence for murder, in another State.

Or imagine, you have been happily married for the last 25 years. Your spouse is a well-respected member of society, a successful professional in his field, and an adoring father. Then, one evening, he breaks down and tells you he’s being black mailed, and there’s something you should know. He’s been involved for years in series of affairs, and one of those women is threatening him now.

Secrets. Shocking news that comes out of nowhere. Unimaginable scenarios.

Why do find these secrets so hard to accept? Why do secrets change us, and affect us so profoundly?

On some level, learning a secret is nothing more than being given new, more up-to-date, information. From that perspective we should be able to accept, analyze and process the information.

But that is not what happens.

What happens is we become disoriented. Cut off from ourselves and our life.

What happens is we start asking questions like:

  • “Who am I?”
  • “Who are you?”
  • “Why on earth would you deceive me like this?”
  • “Who can I trust?”
  • “What is real?”
  • “How do I go forward and live my life now that I know these awful truths?”

We also are flooded with a torrent of emotions. We feel:

  • Foolish (for having been deceived).
  • Angry (for being disrespected and lied to).
  • Lost and disoriented (because reality has shifted).
  • Fearful (of our ability to trust our intuition, to trust those around us, and to distinguish truth from lies).
  • Isolated and alone (since we’re living with a secret, a secret that is shameful, and which marks us out as different).

The author Jane Isay does an excellent job of explaining why these twists in the plots of our lives affect us in such acute and devastating ways. Here’s what she has to say about the matter [1]:

As human beings we live the stories we tell ourselves. This internal narrative makes up the core of our identity. Every day we tell and retell our story. But when a secret is revealed the movies of our lives are shredded … and when our reality is shredded, so are we.”

This is such an accurate and insightful description. It summarises well why we’re shaken to the core.

For when secrets are uncovered and we learn some awful truth, appearance and reality no longer match up.

And we don’t know what to do with the shredded bits of film.

[1] Isay, J. (2014). Secrets and Lies: Surviving the Truths that Change our Lives.

Quote of the Day

I know it's a hard lesson to learn

Loving yourself starts with respecting yourself, and love shouldn’t equal pain.

If the person you love is breaking your heart and causing you to live in anxiety then that isn’t love at all.

Remember that.

“Honey, you are sacred land. Choose your travellers wisely.”

Della Hicks-Wilson

The Girl on the Train

she was so used to lies

Trust is about listening to your gut instincts. It is weighing up the facts, as you believe those facts to be. We do this from birth onwards. In all areas of life. We do our best to work out who and what we can believe.

In The Girl on the Train (by British author Paula Hawkins) we are faced with a conundrum related to belief. We aren’t sure if the narrator is someone we should trust. We get the sense she’s cagey, and is unreliable.

For example, we know Rachel gets drunk, that she has blackouts and tells lies. Hence, she could have been mistaken when she tells us what she’s seen (a crime that we’re drawn into, and we also want to solve.)

And there are more reasons to doubt her – for she’s jealous of the life her ex-husband has formed with his new baby and young wife. A family Rachel’s stalking for a large part of the book.

But maybe Tom’s too charming, and he’s not the man he seems. There’s hints of an affair, and of a darker, scary side.

Perhaps he’s not trustworthy? Should we start to question him? We feel our head is spinning. We don’t know what we should think.

I won’t reveal the ending. You might want to read the book. But this highlights a struggle and a very basic truth …

That life is complicated if we don’t know who to trust.  

If you have been gaslighted by a person in your life – who said your intuitions and your judgments were all wrong – you’ll know how very hard it is to figure out what’s real, to always feel uncertain, and to question everything.

The Finest Liar in the World

the real difficulty

The real difficulty is overcoming how you think about yourself”.

I wonder how you felt about yourself when you learned your partner was unfaithful to you. What did you believe that said about you?

And often we get insights into how we see ourselves – our basic worth, our value, and what we might deserve – when we picture in our heads what we think others will say.

You know, the comments that are whispered by our friends and family. The comments that are nasty, and are usually ‘put downs’.

But why does this upset, and cause us so much pain?

Because deep down inside we believe those words are true.

And that is the crux of the problem right there.

What To Do About It?

1. Can I begin by suggesting you list all those beliefs – the imaginary comments that cause us so much grief. For example:

“There’s something wrong with me.”

“No-one’s ever going to love me.”

“No-one’s ever going to want to be faithful to me.”

“I’m inferior to others (not as pretty, attractive, sexy, smart, funny, intelligent …. (Fill in the blank).”

“Let’s face it, I’m not sexy. My body’s horrible.”

“I’ll always be rejected – just because I am me.”

“It doesn’t matter what I do, or how hard I try, I’ll never measure up or be good enough.”

“Everyone will think that I deserve to be rejected … because everybody knows that I’m inadequate.”

2. Now select the one belief that resonates the most, the one that you repeat to yourself most frequently, and:

– Try to identify where that belief came from. Who said it? What were the circumstances? Why did you accept it as being true at the time?

– If you could go back to that time, how would you talk to yourself to prevent that negative belief from taking root? What alternative, or contradictory, ‘evidence’ can you offer to undermine this faulty belief?

– Think of someone who loves you, and who knows you really well. How would they describe you? What different words would they use? What would they say to contradict your beliefs?

The Truth

The truth is you deserve to be loved and treated well. You are truly beautiful. You have amazing qualities.

Remember who you are. Don’t listen to the lies.