dry rose flower next to broken heart shaped cookie

Betrayal: The Anatomy of Broken Trust

Have you been lied to, betrayed, hurt (by a partner, a coworker, or a friend) and instead of showing your anger, you swallowed it? Did you start intellectualising the situation – trying to understand it, finding excuses for their behaviour?

Sometimes, when we make excuses for others and hastily try to be grateful for the experience, we end up ignoring our own pain. But that pain doesn’t just disappear; it sticks with us and affects our future relationships, as I discussed in a previous article.


First of All, What is Betrayal?

According to a study on ScienceDirect.com, betrayal refers to the feeling of being harmed by deliberate actions or neglect from someone considered trustworthy. It can take many forms—like sharing secrets, being disloyal, cheating, or outright lying. Betrayal can leave you feeling shocked, heartbroken, and stuck on what happened. It can make you question yourself, your worth, and leave you simmering with anger. Sometimes, it’s not just a bump in the road—it can completely change the course of your life.

Fourteen years ago, a deeply unsettling revelation shook my world when my then beloved husband confessed to being involved with my best friend at the time. It felt like a sudden blow to the gut, leaving me reeling from the double betrayal. The initial shock was overwhelming, rendering me unable to even process the entirety of his words. In the aftermath, I found myself shattered and adrift, struggling to piece together the fragments of my shattered reality. The ensuing emotional tsunami engulfed me, leading to divorce, ill-fated relationships, and a prolonged period of self-imposed isolation. Hyper-vigilant and distrustful, I scrutinised every subsequent relationship for signs of betrayal, unable to grant anyone the full extent of my trust.

I have done all the ‘don’t do’s’ – I told no-one about it, I played the ‘being strong’ and mature card, I went into understanding both parts and I left myself bleeding inside.

By seeking support and embracing vulnerability, I could learn from the experience and overcome it more effectively.

I now recognise the telltale signs of betrayal and understand intimately both the pain of being betrayed and the consequences of betraying another.

So, What Can You Do if You are Hurting?

First off, it’s okay to feel hurt. Don’t pretend you’re fine to keep up appearances. It’s not necessarily about trying to understand and forgive the other person (at least not before understanding yourself) as soon as they hurt you. So, ask yourself the question: “Does it hurt?”

Break a plate, defend yourself, and let the other person know somehow that their behaviour has hurt you. Cry for your loss. Don’t repress emotions – it’s like holding a balloon under water – it takes a lot of energy from you and will surface anyway.

Don’t linger too long in the victim role either – learn from your experience, figure out what you want and don’t want from your relationships anymore, and set clear boundaries (what is and isn’t acceptable).

Examine your wound closely – which part of you is suffering? Could it be the Ego? When have you experienced this in the past – is it the first time or have you been through similar experiences before? Which person from your past has done this to you? Have you forgiven them or is it unfinished business?

When it’s time to move on, find closure. Maybe that means having a talk, returning some belongings, or saying goodbye in your own way.

Ask a friend to support you when you’re tempted toward behaviours you might regret (e.g., revenge – even if it seems sweet, it’s not).

Write down your thoughts and feelings—it can help you process what you’re going through.

Don’t indulge in self-blame – opt for self-compassion. Focus on your well-being.

Regardless of what made you feel this way and regardless of the impact, it’s important to:

  1. Acknowledge that pain is part of life,
  2. Know that it will diminish over time,
  3. Understand that you can make positive changes in your life to help you feel better and start moving forward.

Remember, it’s okay to hurt, but it’s also okay to heal and move forward. How have you dealt with situations like this before? What helped you get through it?

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