How to Deal With Betrayal

Three Parts:Taking Care of YourselfChoosing to ForgiveRebuilding Trust

Betrayal tends to come from unexpected quarters. This is because you can only be betrayed by somebody you trust. You might be betrayed by a co-worker in whom you confided, a family member, a romantic partner, or your best friend. Betrayal can also come from a group: you might feel betrayed if several of your friends spread a nasty rumor about you, or if you aren't invited to a family get-together. Whether you choose to rebuild a betrayed trust or not, you will deal best with betrayal if you take care of yourself and practice forgiveness.

Part 1
Taking Care of Yourself

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    Feel your emotions. When you have been betrayed, you may be overcome with anger, grief, and humiliation. Holding in your painful feelings can have negative effects on your health and your relationships. When you have learned of a betrayal, take time to name the emotion without judgment.[1] This will enable you to work through it without turning it on yourself or others.
    • It may help to write through your feelings. If you keep a diary or journal, try writing down exactly how you feel. If you don't keep a diary, write yourself a letter. You can also write a letter to the person or people who betrayed you, but wait a week before you decide to send it.[2]
    • Suppressing painful feelings can lead to health problems such as chronic pain, sleep deficiency, and even heart disease.[3]
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    Take time to yourself. It can be difficult to deal with betrayal when the person or people who have betrayed you are always nearby. If you were betrayed by a partner or a friend, ask them to give you space while you come to terms with what has happened. You might want to go away for a while. If you live with a partner who has betrayed you, you might want to ask them to find somewhere else to stay for a while, or to sleep in a different room.[4]
    • If the person who betrayed you is far away, take a break from correspondence. Tell them you will get in contact again when you feel ready to talk. If it feels helpful, set a date.
    • Disconnect from social media. Take a break from websites that give you unwanted information about the people who hurt your feelings.
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    Do not rush a life-changing decision. Betrayal can turn your world upside down. When you have lost the trust you had for someone, you may be tempted to cut them out of your life entirely. Wait before you make any big decisions, such as filing for divorce, changing your job, or denouncing someone publicly, as your feelings may change.[5]
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    Avoid retaliating. If you feel in danger of physically harming yourself or others, immediately seek professional help.[6] There is no positive revenge. Revenge in the heat of the moment is something that you will come to regret later. Time spent calculating a deliberate revenge is time spent at the expense of your own emotional healing.[7]
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    Find someone you can speak with frankly. Discussing the betrayal with someone you trust can be healing. A good friend or a therapist can help you clear your head and decide what steps to take. Remember that one betrayal doesn't mean that you can't trust anyone. You might even come to trust the person who betrayed you.
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    Take care of yourself. Physical health will help you through an emotional time. Try to eat well every day and get a full night's sleep. Exercise will boost your mood and help you sleep. If you don't have a regular exercise routine, try going for a brisk half-hour walk each day.[8]

Part 2
Choosing to Forgive

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    Try to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean that you are condoning the act of betrayal. It means that you are choosing to move on from feelings of resentment. Forgiveness can lead to empathy and compassion for those who have betrayed you. It can also lead to a greater sense of personal peace.[9]
    • Forgiveness can have a positive effect on your health and wellbeing. Choosing to forgive a betrayal can lower your blood pressure, improve your heart health, and diminish anxiety and depression.[10]
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    Let go of negative feelings. Focus on yourself instead of on the person who hurt you. Tell yourself you are not interested in letting the betrayal control your life or your happiness. When a negative thought comes to you, do not suppress it. Instead, greet it and tell it to leave. When it comes back, acknowledge and release it again.[11]
    • If you are having trouble letting go of the negative feelings, return to your method of self-care. Try visiting a meditation or yoga class for help releasing your negative thoughts.[12]
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    State your forgiveness, at least to yourself. To forgive is an act of self-care. You do not have to voice it to anyone else. If you feel like sharing your new mindset, you can tell the person or people who betrayed you that you have forgiven them. If you are unable or unwilling to resume contact, stating your forgiveness to yourself can help you move on from the pain of betrayal.[13]
    • If you would like to share your forgiveness without confronting those who betrayed you, write a letter. If you find yourself growing angry as you write, keep the letter and try again when your anger has ebbed.
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    Forgive without rebuilding. You can forgive the person who betrayed you without rebuilding your relationship. Some betrayals of trust mean the end of a relationship. If the betrayal involved partner or child abuse, it is unlikely that trust could or should be restored. To forgive doesn't mean that you think the act was right or justifiable in any way.[14]
    • If the person who has betrayed you has died or refuses contact, it will not be possible to rebuild a relationship. You will have to move forward into forgiveness without their help.[15]
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    Keep trying. If you are having trouble moving on, remember that forgiveness is a process. Big betrayals can define your life for a while, and it makes sense that they have to be forgiven multiple times. Even a small incident might need to be remembered occasionally before it stops hurting. Remind yourself that forgiveness is the goal.[16]

Part 3
Rebuilding Trust

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    Express your experience of the betrayal. Once you have named your own emotions, you can express them to the person who has betrayed you. State your experience of the betrayal without trying to influence the reaction of the person or people who betrayed you. [17] Start your sentences with "I" rather than with "You."
    • Practice saying it plainly: "I felt betrayed when you repeated something I told you in confidence." This will be easier for the person who let you down to understand than an accusatory statement such as "You betrayed my trust when you shared something I told you in confidence."
    • Try writing a letter first. If you think your writing better expresses your feelings, you can read it aloud to the person who betrayed you, or ask that it be read before talking.
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    Ask for an apology. If you have decided to continue your relationship with the person who has betrayed you, you will need to know that they are ready to rebuild. If the person who has betrayed you is not ready to admit that they hurt you, or attempts to blame you for their actions, it is not yet time to rebuild trust.[18]
    • "I" statements can help in this case, too. "I would really love to know that you understand why I am hurt." "I would appreciate an apology from you: it would mean a lot to me."
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    Reflect together on what happened. When all parties have agreed to rebuild trust, speak frankly and calmly about the hurtful events. Don't dwell on the parts that are hurtful, but make sure you share an understanding of what happened, why it happened, and why it hurt.[19]
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    Decide on your mutual goals. Find out whether or not you share the same desires for your relationship moving forward. Maybe you would both like things to return to how they were, or maybe you would like your relationship to take a different form. You might discover that you have different goals. Sometimes betrayal emerges from a relationship where one person has not been open with their needs.[20]
    • Positive change can come out of a reconciliation If you are work colleagues, for instance, you may need to work less together, or to work more closely on certain projects.[21]
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    Speak to a counselor together. If you are trying to recover from betrayal by a partner or another member of your family, you might want to visit a counselor together. Try to find a therapist who specializes in dealing with your particular situation. In cases of marital infidelity, seek a therapist who specializes in marital therapy.[22]
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    Be honest about the effects of the betrayal. Stay open with the person who betrayed you as you move forward. Share the fears that arise as a result of a betrayal, and listen to their fears in return. The best result of an unfortunate betrayal is a renewed commitment to a bond.[23]

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Categories: Managing Conflict and Difficult Interactions