How to Move On From Betrayal
Betrayal is of the most devastating and heart-wrenching human experiences. At one moment, everything is blissful and the next, your life has been turned upside down.
What makes betrayal so painful is that it is not an act committed by your worst enemies, but it is an act that has been carried out by those you love and trust the most. Many often use the expression “I’ve been stabbed in the back” to describe an act of betrayal, and it couldn’t be closer to the truth. An act of betrayal cuts wounds so deep only infinite time can ease the shocking pain and challenges that manifest from such experiences.
Betrayal can happen to anyone from all walks of life. It can occur in the form of cheating, lying, stealing, or revealing secrets. It happens when someone crosses a line that you never thought you had to draw because it never even occurred to you that they could have the capability to do such an act. But regardless, they have.
How Betrayal Impacts Our Lives
If you’re reading this article, you have probably encountered some sort of betrayal in your life. When you have experienced such deception, it most likely came with many thoughts and emotions that negatively impacted your wellbeing. At the time, it’s normal to experience anger, sadness, and heartbreak. It’s normal to question how such a thing could have occurred and wonder how you could have possibly missed the signs. Betrayal hurts because someone you love and care about chose to hurt you. When you have put such a large emotional investment into a person and only for them to turn around and cause you suffering, you feel as though you lost a part of yourself.
This feeling of heartbreak is normal for a short duration. Sadly, too often these thoughts and deep emotions prolong and begin to impact every aspect of your life.
You may blame yourself for what happened, causing you to distance yourself from other relationships. You may also start to believe that you need to get revenge for what happened, as such, you permit the individual to continue to rent space in your mind resulting in unnecessary pain being inflicted on you. You may become hypervigilant, where you experience constant feelings of jealousy, paranoia, and lack of trust in even healthy relationships which can be damaging down the road. Or worse, you begin to believe that you aren’t deserving of healthy relationships and instead choose to blind yourself to the betrayal, allowing the other person to continue to walk all over you.
These outcomes keep you stuck in a place you do not deserve to be.
Although we cannot change what someone else did to us, we can change how we respond to the circumstances.
Amid betrayal, we have a choice. We can choose to mend the relationship or cut ties altogether. But the most important component when it comes to moving forward is preserving our inner peace and happiness, and even forgiving ourselves for what happened so we can forge ahead.
How to Cultivate What You Want in the Midst of Betrayal
We can get our lives back on track despite what someone else has done to us. But it’s important that we go through these steps so that way we can truly heal and move on.
Take Time to Grieve
Undoubtedly, you will most likely be overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions when you experience a betrayal. Betrayal inevitably comes with a sense of loss, whether it be losing trust in your partner, the future you imagine yourself having, or a part of what makes you who you are.
To heal, you must grieve. If you’ve heard of the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – you will know that grief is a messy, painful process. However, the only way out is through… through the pain… through the highs and lows. By allowing these thoughts and emotions to ebb and flow, you will be able to effectively process what happened so that way you experience less pain down the road.
Reflect on What Happened
One of the behavioural responses I mentioned earlier was avoiding the betrayal and not acknowledging what happened. This can be a natural and often subconscious response as a way to protect ourselves from experiencing the stressful impacts of the situation. However, avoidance can keep you trapped in a relationship or situation that is toxic and prevent you from communicating your needs.
It’s essential to acknowledge and reflect on what happened so that you can not only address the short-term issue, but ensure happiness and peace in the future. By suppressing your thoughts and emotions, you may end up in other future relationships that are just as if not more harmful to your wellbeing.
When betrayal occurs, it’s important to take time to reflect. This may mean distancing yourself from the person (physically and digitally) to come to terms with how their actions impacted you and if the relationship is something you want to continue.
A great way to reflect is through journaling. I recommend starting with these prompts:
- What happened? How did they betray you?
- How did this betrayal make you feel?
- What are the long-term consequences of their betrayal? (i.e. an ending of a relationship, a loss of a significant material possession, etc.)
I recently read a quote that said, “Forgive yourself for the blindness that let others betray you. Sometimes a good heart doesn’t see the bad” (unknown).
Despite what your mind or even the other person is telling you, the betrayal was not your fault. Perhaps there were other actions along the way that lead to this betrayal that you may not be proud of, but that was not an excuse for someone else to hurt you.
An exercise I’d like you to try doing is writing yourself a forgiveness letter. This past summer, I got coached through Frame of Mind Coaching and a main issue I was tackling was holding on to a mistake I had made in the past. My coach had me write a letter to the person I was at that time…to tell her I forgive her… to tell her that she is going to overcome and learn from her mistakes… to tell her she is a good person.
Although my adversity wasn’t about betrayal per se, this forgiveness letter lifted a weight off of my shoulders. This letter is something I can turn to when I find myself engaging in negative self-talk or continuing to bash myself for my mistakes. Your forgiveness letter can be something you turn to too when you find yourself believing someone else’s choices were your fault. Forgive yourself for not seeing that you deserve better so that you can discover the people and experiences you are deserving of.
Make a Choice
After we come to terms with what happened and how their choices have altered our lives, we now have to make a choice. Do we repair the relationship? Or, do we cut ties altogether? How do we decide what to do?
Here are some questions to ask yourself (and answer honestly):
- Was their betrayal hurtful or inconvenient at the moment? Or are their actions cataclysmic?
- What is the benefit of repairing the relationship? What does repairing it look like? What does the other person have to commit to in order to repair it?
- Is this a one-time behaviour? Does the other person want forgiveness? What makes this person and relationship worthy of forgiveness?
- Will continuing the relationship allow you to experience happiness and joy? Or will you find yourself resenting the person and obsessing over what happened if they are involved in your life? Will their involvement create peace or pain?
- Is this something you can truly move on from?
I recently listened to an episode on The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast about this very topic. The President of FOM Coaching™, Kim Ades, said, “We teach people how to treat us.” When we are making this choice, we need to remember that we are our number one priority. We need to prioritize our happiness and wellbeing over all else. If accepting them back into your life will bring you more joy, then accept them. If not, you owe it to yourself, no matter how hard it may be, to walk away.
Have a (Potential) Conversation
You don’t owe anyone a conversation. A conversation is for you and you only. If you have decided to cut ties, you don’t actually have to have one. But if you feel it will bring you more peace by informing them of your decision then it’s worth having.
But a conversation is a must if you want to repair your relationship. This conversation is about safeguarding your happiness and it’s important to communicate how their actions hurt you, and your wants and needs going forward.
Before you have this conversation, it’s important to know exactly how you want to communicate beforehand. I suggest you grab a journal and answer the following questions:
- What would you want to say to this person who broke your trust?
- Why did their actions hurt you? How did they make you feel?
- What would happen if they were to choose to act like this again?
- Why do you want to repair the relationship?
- What do you want and need from them going forward?
When you do have a conversation, I suggest you hit all the points given in your answers to these questions. This will allow you to effectively communicate so that the other person has a clear understanding of your priorities and to put in the time and work to repair their wrongdoings.
You owe it to yourself to not prolong the pain. To move forward, you must recognize that you deserve better and you can find better.
After you’ve gone through all the motions, moving forward calls for a period of reflection so that way you can have clarity on how you would approach betrayal if it were to happen again. Here are some journaling prompts to think about:
- How might you handle a betrayal in the future? Would you handle it in the same way as past betrayals or differently?
- What kind of relationships do you want to have?
- What kind of people and experiences do you deserve in this short life you’ve been given?
Maybe it’s not clear as to how you can move on through your naked eye, but with the help of a support system, others can show you what you deserve and help you discover what you truly want going forward. It’s important to lean on and leverage your support systems whether it be therapists, coaches, or even other friends or family members. Others can always see better than we can.
In any adversity, there’s always a hidden gift. Try to find the silver lining in their choices. Maybe by discovering their true colours now, it actually prevented more hurt down the road. Maybe their actions allowed you to clearly see that their treatment of you is not acceptable and because of this, you have been able to communicate your wants. Maybe their choices have allowed you to find new and better people and finally live the life you are deserving of.
Listen to, Lost, Betrayed, and Heartbroken, on The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast! In this episode, President & CEO of Frame of Mind Coaching, Kim Ades and her daughter, Ferne Kotlyar, explore the topic of betrayal through a coaching case study.
Written by Guest Author, Hailey Rodgers