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Betrayal in Love and Handling It Well

Mini-Love-Lesson #208

Synopsis: The agony of betrayal; what the recently wounded can do to recover; learning to heal and protect oneself; five most things not to do; the no blame inventory with seven crucial questions for betrayal avoidance and recovery.


Stabbed in the Back?

What to do when someone you love, and who you were sure loved you, seriously betrays you?  They did what you thought, hoped and believed they never would.  They were treacherous betraying you and the love you shared and it hurt so very very much.  You trusted them and they violated that trust.  Now it is hard to believe that someone who loves you could do such a thing.

Agonizing questions arise.  If they could hurt you this way does that mean they are not who you thought they were, you were not really important to them, your love relationship with them was false, something is seriously wrong with you or this wouldn’t have happened; they are evil, sick, wanted to hurt you, or what?   Painful quandaries and confusions abound along with sorrow, anger, destabilization, insecurity, profound disappointment and pervasive mistrust.  Do you give up on them, end the relationship, retaliate and get even, figure ways to punish them, or do you forgive them, just suffer through it and try to keep going, look for a way to start over, seek outside help individually or together, or what?

Recently Wounded? – Go Hide for Awhile!

If you feel stabbed in the back and it pierced your heart, the first issue is about finding safety from further hurts where you can start to heal.  We do not tend to handle things well when we are wounded.  We do not think straight, make good decisions, understand things clearly, have good judgment, see things accurately, do emotionally laden work well or even, if forced to fight, do it very well.  Everything we try to do may result in more harm or hurt, and yet we want to do something to end our suffering and make it all go away and be better.

Consider doing what wounded animals do.  Find a cave and hide out in it licking your wounds, helping Mother Nature start your healing process.  Your hideout cave maybe a cabin in the wilderness, staying with a friend or with family, getting a hotel room or just locking the door where you live and staying inside.  While you are there it’s okay to cry, weep, rant, rave, thrash around, pound, stomp, eat comfort foods, sleep a lot or do anything that is not destructive to yourself or others, or do anything valuable and important.  If you want to be with loving accepting others as you do all this, that’s fine.  Maybe you can do the same for them someday.  Alone is okay too for a while or with loving pets around.

When you are ready, and at first in small doses, help your healing by starting to study and learn what you need to from this love betrayal experience.  To assist you with that, just keep reading this mini-love-lesson, and then go to some other mini-love-lessons at this site.  I recommend that you next go to our series (in the Subject Index Problems and Pain all beginning with the words Dealing With Love Hurts) starting with the one called “Dealing with Love Hurts: First Aid Tips”.  Then you might do well to look at “Changing Your Emotions Via Love and Love Smarts” and “Through Heart Break Recovery to Full and Lasting Love”. These have been known to help and do much good.

Lasting Hurt from Older Betrayal

Sometimes it takes a long time for a love betrayal to cure.  Occasionally we can get stuck along the path of healing and not progress.  For both of those conditions some think it is because we need to learn something we are dodging, need to focus on something were not seeing yet or otherwise need to add to or alter our way of dealing with a love betrayal experience.  For those situations and possibilities, let me suggest you first finish reading this mini-love-lesson and then go on to “Dealing with Love Hurts: Pains Crucial Guidance” and “Trust and Mistrust in Love”.  I have gotten feedback on how much those two mini-love-lessons have helped others; I hope they help you too if needed.

Learning to Heal and Protect Yourself from Love Betrayal

Learning gives us options we did not have before.  So, let’s learn a little bit about love betrayal and some options we have for dealing with it.

Unfortunately, betrayals in love relationships of one sort or another are all too common.  Consider the research on marital infidelity.  Study after study shows that in the developed world well over 50% of married and unmarried couples face one or more problematic affair issues or crises at some time in the course of their love relationship.  The good news is most couples handle it, stay together and often even grow from it.  Nevertheless, it usually involves agonized dealing with lies, deceptions, broken promises, damaged trust, and the hard long work of relational healing.  What you learn now may help you avoid much of that.

Of course, there are a lot of ways love betrayals happen besides through duplicitous infidelity.  Sometimes they are quite complicated and confusing.  A son chooses not to follow in his father’s professional footsteps and the father expels the son from his family life feeling betrayed by the son.  But by his acts, has the father betrayed his son and, in essence, betrayed what loving fatherhood is really all about?  A daughter steals from her parent’s savings desperate to pay for her inclusion in a good but costly private, drug addiction, treatment program which her parents refused to help with.  Who really has betrayed who in this case?  Long-term and dear friends breakup over the public revealing of each other’s most intimate secrets, blaming each other for having started it.

Another issue is how value systems differ.  One person may see an act of betrayal as small and mild, while another as huge and severe.  “I only had sex with your brother once, and it wasn’t very good sex either, and besides that I was drunk so it shouldn’t count for much.  Actually, I think I did it just to get back at you for all the times you neglected me.  So, in a way it’s really your fault” said the rationalizing wife to her furious husband.  A lots of people assume their loved ones have the same values and also value things to the same degree as they do.  On close examination, that is hardly ever exactly true.

Lots of couples, families and friendship groups consciously and subconsciously fake values similarity for the sake of harmony until something comes along to reveal the differences.  When that happens, betrayal often is painfully felt and angrily accused. As you can see, love betrayal might seem more simple than it is until you start learning about its underlying causes and dynamics.  Not understanding that has caused lots of misinterpretation difficulties and wrong conclusion mistakes for many love relationships.  Consequently in love betrayal situations, it is best not to rush to judgment and to proceed slowly and carefully.

What Not to Do

1. Get Revenge. One option is vengeance.  I had a professor in graduate school who was fond of quoting “vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord God”, then adding “that’s because people can’t handle it”.  In my counseling career, the biggest thing I ever saw revenge accomplish was making divorce lawyers rich.  Otherwise, it did not work, brought on escalating retaliations, hurt children and other family and was a big waste of effort and time.  link “Anger and Love”.  Know that in love betrayal situations, recovery and revenge are usually antithetical.  Maybe you have heard, the only kind of revenge that works is living well.  I agree.  Go after living well, happy and wonderfully well loved.  Then show it off when you get the chance.

2. Live in Victimhood. Some people discover being a long-suffering victim has some advantages, at least for a while.  People feel sorry for you, give you attention and do stuff for you sometimes.  Also you do not have to do the work of finding out how to succeed at real love.  Furthermore, if you are good at being a martyr, there are those who are looking for someone in need of saving for example, professional damsels in distress, “frogs” and “beasts” who do not really turn into princes, and those who think themselves too weak to ever leave their rescuer until a better rescuer comes along.  You can do far better.

3. Never Love Again.  Some people are so hurt by betrayal, especially repeated betrayals, they decide to permanently withdraw from all attempts at love.  That is a lot like one might feel after food poisoning and wanting to never eat again.  We all thrive on the food and the medicine of love and we malfunction without it.  Remember, all forms of real love do us good starting and including healthy self-love, pet love, friend love, spiritual love, altruistic love and all the others.  Then, if you learn and practice the right stuff about romantic love, you much more likely will succeed there too.

4. Beat-up on Yourself.  Victims of love betrayal often are too hard on themselves and too good at self condemnation.  Commonly there is inner self talk which sounds like this.  “I must not be worth much for someone to hurt me like that”.  “It’s got to be that I’m not lovable or they wouldn’t have wanted to hurt me like they did”.  “How could I have been so stupid”.  “Everything I did was probably wrong”.  “If I had only tried harder”.  “It’s all really my fault”.  “I’ll always get betrayed and/or abandoned because I just don’t have what it takes”.  “I’m not good enough to get lasting real love”.  That kind of depressive thinking happens a lot in those who are programed to think that way.  You can learn to think in far more accurate, positive, energizing and love productive ways. “Healthy Self-Love and Not Giving Your Power Away” and “From Self-Love to Other Love and Back Again”.  Use those and you won’t be betraying yourself with self blame.

5. Play the Endless Anger and Accusations Game.  Some people who feel betrayed in love are endlessly angry and accusational about it.  Anger gives you a sense of power when you feel powerless and that can help for a little while.  A better power comes from learning from it, then letting it go and moving on to new better ways of doing love and life.  As is said in all sports “you can’t win them all”, and even if you could it usually might mean you should have been playing in a tougher league.

Now, those 5 above might sound hard-hearted, and we all might need to cathartically do a little of some of them when hurting.  The point is not to get stuck there – it is not healthy or self-loving.

Conduct a Rigorous Non-Blaming “Learn from It” Exam

If you learn enough from a love betrayal and grow from it, you may not have to experience love betrayal again.  To learn from it, you have to not dodge but straightforwardly examine it.  The exam has to be rigorously honest and as accurate as possible.  Blame does not lend itself to honesty or accuracy and that is why it has to be non-blaming.  Blaming yourself, or others, or God, the stars, fate, etc. may have some cathartic value but not much else.  A productive, good learn from it exam means facing and dealing with tough questions.  Here are seven you might do well to begin and continue with.

1. What did I do that helped (not caused) me to get betrayed, and how can I not do those things again?

2. What do I need to learn about betrayal, it’s workings and its causes so I can better protect myself from betrayal and its emotional pain in the future?

3. How are my betrayer and I different; are we too different?

4. If I continue our relationship, am I strong enough to go through more betrayal, or am I too vulnerable and too susceptible to a reoccurrence to risk it?

5. If I forgive my betrayer, can I also realistically protect myself well enough to stay/be okay as I explore and figure out what to best do with this relationship?

6. How do I need to change and add to my thinking about trust, people who are and become trustworthy, and those who are not and do not?

7. Can I, should I, and will I dare to love without trust?
If your suffering from betrayal goes on too long or is too excruciating, get some help from a love-knowledgeable professional.

One More Little Thing

Who are you going to talk this over with, because this is really a good one to talk over with others, and while you’re at it would you mind telling them about this site and all its free, mini-love-lessons?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question: What might cause you to betray someone you love, and how do you feel about that?


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