Dealing with betrayal
Let’s talk specifically about the different types of betrayal, and how to deal with the feeling of betrayal itself.
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Dealing with betrayal 

Why does betrayal hurt so much? At times, dealing with betrayal can feel practically impossible. When someone stabs you in the back, destroys your trust and forces you to consider moving on, putting your head back on straight is harder than it seems.  

Our recent article on betrayal talks about how to move on from a bad experience. Before you read that, though, let’s talk specifically about the different types of betrayal, and how to deal with the feeling of betrayal itself—the feeling of losing your sense of stability and safety.

Types of betrayal 

Romantic relationship betrayal

Betrayal comes in many forms. One of the most painful types of betrayal is romantic betrayal, where your partner deceives, lies or hurts you in a relationship-defining way. In fact, relationship betrayal is so potent that somewhere between 30 and 60 percent of all romantic partners who’ve experienced betrayal in their relationships report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or depression. 

Like PTSD, romantic betrayal has long lasting aftereffects. As psychologist Dennis Ortman reports, “Similar to trauma victims, it is not unusual for betrayed spouses to replay in their minds previously assumed benign events. Those times when their spouse became defensive when asked a simple question, or the late nights at work, or the text messages from unnamed friends—all of these become viewed as possible deceitful acts.”

The impact of romantic relationship betrayal can lead to overwhelming feelings of distrust, a rift in the physical relationship between partners and much more. 

Although the most common kinds of romantic betrayal involve cheating, abuse, ghosting and gaslighting, there are many other kinds of relationship betrayal. For instance, you might feel betrayed by a partner who is constantly working, makes plans and cancels them, or lashes out at your family. 

Friendship betrayal 

Why does betrayal hurt so much? If you’ve ever been betrayed by a friend, you know the answer: because betrayal always comes from the people you trust most. In this way, friendship betrayal can hurt more than any other kind. When a close friend turns around and deceives you, it can feel like your whole world is falling apart.

Maybe you’ve just had a health scare and your friends ghosted you. Maybe you’re going through a divorce and your BFF hasn’t been around to talk. Or maybe your friend swooped in and started dating someone you had your eyes on. In any case, friends that betray you can make it hard to open yourself back up to the prospect of new friendships with others. 

Family betrayal  

In life, we learn almost everything about love, attachment and connection from our family. As infants, the way we’re brought up can have a distinct impact the kind of attachment style we develop with our partners and friends. 

“We unconsciously expect our romantic partners to act as our parents did, and therefore, we act in certain ways due to these expectations,” says Krista Jordan, PhD, a Texas-based psychologist and couples therapist. “These tendencies play out whether or not we realize it.

When we’re betrayed, the way we deal with that betrayal is closely related to how we attach to our family. For these reasons, being betrayed by family is almost worse than anything else. 

Whether a family member stole money from you, disowned you, disapproved of your partner, refused to accept your sexual orientation, failed to show up for an important life moment or didn’t offer you help when you needed it most, the emotional wounds that come from family betrayal are prevalent and long-lasting. 

Dealing with betrayal 

Before you start the long and difficult process of moving on from betrayal, it’s important to take some time to yourself in order to process what’s happened. Here’s some tips for dealing with betrayal before deciding what to do next. 

Allow yourself a moment to feel

Like the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship, betrayal triggers the stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, eventually, acceptance. Other feelings, like confusion and grief, will likely show up as well.

When these feelings happen, it’s important not to stifle them. You might want to try and avoid the pain or drown it out with vices, but doing so won’t actually make that pain go away. Instead, you’ll only be suppressing those emotions for a time, and when they do resurface—which they inevitably will—they’ll be much stronger and more volatile.

Additionally, not feeling your emotions in a moment like this might lead to unintended consequences. You might lash out at a partner, scold your pet or blow up on a colleague over a minor issue. By contrast, giving yourself space to grieve now will give you some control back over the emotional rollercoaster that is betrayal. 

Get in touch with people

Yes, you’ve been betrayed by someone. But that doesn’t mean the rest of your network isn’t there for you. Reaching out to friends, family, your partner, a therapist or even a life coach can give you a safe place to express your feelings and receive guidance. 

In fact, talking to people about the betrayal can help you regain some of your independence and control. 

Do things you love

What brings you peace? What brings you joy? It can feel difficult to want to do anything once you’ve been betrayed, but engaging in activities you love has huge benefits when you’re dealing with betrayal.  

If you love to exercise, go for a long, head-clearing run. If you’re a gamer, find your favorite video game and give yourself a night off. If you like massages, a glass of wine and a good meal at a restaurant, a dinner with your family, an evening of snuggling with your pet… you get the idea. 

Don’t agree to anything with the betrayer… yet

Betrayal is a rollercoaster. Sometimes you feel like hurting the person who stole your trust. Other times, all you can think about is forgiving them and making things right. But whatever you’re feeling, do NOT act on it—


Eventually, you’ll need to make some choices about how to move on. But making a huge life choice about the nature of your relationship with the betrayer is not a good idea right after their deceit comes to light. 

Otherwise, you might get caught up in feelings of confusion, anger, grief and empathy, and the decisions you make won’t reflect your true needs or desires. 

Work on yourself

Yes, the term “doing the work” has exploded on TikTok, Instagram and other places… and yes, it’s been oversaturated to death. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t truth to working on yourself.

In light of betrayal, think about some things you want to change about your life. Having a new goal to focus on—other than dealing with your fraught relationship—will give you something to do and help take your mind off what you’ve been through. 


I can’t stress this enough: if you’ve been betrayed, journaling is absolutely key. A journal is one of the best ways to harmlessly let out any and all thoughts, feelings and emotions you’re experiencing in the wake of earth-shattering information. 

This is a tip that comes from personal experience. When I experienced betrayal at the hands of a partner who had been cheating on me with a friend, I was distraught, emotionally unwell and, most of all, angry.

SO angry.

And while my anger felt justified, it wasn’t fair of me to take those feelings out on the people around me. Rather than let it bleed into my friendships and family connections, I decided to journal about my experiences. 

Not only did journaling help me keep my relationships intact, it also helped me avoid saying anything overtly mean or nasty to my ex-partner.

(Not that it wouldn’t have felt great to say those things… but, years later, I’m much happier that I didn’t. By journaling, I was able to gracefully exit the relationship with a clear mind instead of saying awful things to another person.)

So, if you’re in the throes of betrayal, this might be the best tip out there: journal, journal, journal

Don’t be alone

Isolation after betrayal is never a good idea. When you’ve been betrayed, it’s easy to start ruminating, obsessing and having dark thoughts. Being alone when those thoughts happen means there’s nothing to distract you from them.

But after betrayal, distractions can be absolutely crucial. In those first few weeks and months after you’re hurting, keep yourself occupied with friends, pets and family. 

How to move on from betrayal 

Once you’ve taken time to sit with betrayal and process it, you’ll want to start thinking about how you’re going to move on from the experience. Will you end the relationship? Try to repair things? Or do you still need time to understand exactly what happened?

To learn how to move on from betrayal, read our blog about the subject—or talk directly to one of our life coaches

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