“Those who don’t know the value of loyalty can never understand the cost of betrayal.”  – Unknown

The worst part about betrayal is that it doesn’t come from your enemies, it comes from people you know and trust.  It is one of those character-defining actions that speak volumes about a person’s integrity. Likewise, your behavior following a betrayal also speaks volumes about your emotional health.

Disloyalty, once committed cannot be undone. It’s permanent and so the emotions that follow are powerful. They can’t be swept under the rug and forgotten. So, it’s necessary to allow yourself to feel your feelings and let them run their course.  It’s not uncommon for victims of betrayal to experience intense feelings of insecurity and inferiority.

The most important aspect of betrayal to note, is that it isn’t about the one who’s been betrayed, it’s about the one committing the betrayal. Your partner didn’t cheat on you because you weren’t good enough. Your boss didn’t tell lies about you and throw you under the bus, because there’s something wrong with you. Their behavior is about them, not you. These things happened because of character flaws in the person committing the betrayal.

“An honest enemy is better than a fake friend. Pay more attention to what people do and less on what they say. Actions, not only speak louder, they’re more difficult to fake.” – Zero Dean

The thing to always remember is that you cannot control what another person says or does, all you can do is control how you react to it. It’s normal to want to seek revenge, to lash out and tell everyone that will listen that this person is a liar, cheater, back stabber, to gather everyone on your side and point fingers, but you must, must, must always take the high road. Seek comfort in your support group but go no further. It is foolhardy to garner sympathy from social media, coworkers, or the betrayer’s friends and family. All that does is make you look unstable. You know what they have done and that will have to be enough.

The Pattern of Betrayal

When someone betrays you, it generally follows the following pattern of behavior:

  • First, they have to justify their actions, so they create scenarios where you are responsible for their behavior. (I should cheat because he/she’s been ignoring me/didn’t do what I wanted/didn’t spend enough time with me…or whatever lame excuse works for them) This is something they keep repeating to themselves until they convince themselves of it’s validity.
  • Next is the act of betrayal.
  • Followed by repeatedly telling others their justifications. The more they repeat the story that you are somehow to blame for their actions, the more they believe it. This allows them to let go of any responsibility for their behavior, because they have made it your fault and it gathers supporters, who bolster their confidence.
  • When confronted about the betrayal, they will often try to gaslight you, by trying to convince you that your memory is faulty, or that you’re misinformed or unstable.
  • The last step is usually character assassination, where they tell their version of the event, whereby your behavior was so horrific that it drove them to do what they did. In this version they are the victim and you, the villain and they tell it to anyone that will listen.

You can spend a phenomenal amount of time trying to understand why, someone you cared about, betrayed you, but betrayal is not a rational act. It’s committed by selfish, twisted, unhealthy, irrational people. The important thing is not to internalize it. It wasn’t your fault, regardless of what anyone says, so you have to clamp down on that little voice inside you that wants to make it about you.

“Trust is built in drops and lost in buckets.” – Kevin A. Plank

Some people can get past a betrayal. In some cases where you have an admission of guilt, amends-making, followed by repeated transparent, appropriate behavior, to rebuild trust, it is possible. Though it’s not something I would recommend in the majority of instances.

Anyone can lie, cheat, or stab you in the back – once, but it’s up to you if they get to do it a second time.  I’m a firm believer that the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior and once someone has betrayed your trust, the relationship can never be the same again. A broken trust can never be fully restored to its original state and bad behavior can never go unchecked in a relationship, or else it is an invitation to repeat the behavior. There always has to be consequences.  Those consequences sometimes have to be that that person no longer gets to be a part of your life.

As difficult as that may be, removing someone from your life, who doesn’t treat you with respect, or as a person of value, is a plus not a minus, it’s an act of self-care. Oprah always says that, “Your life is always speaking to you,” and I agree fully. When someone hurts you deeply, this is the Universe’s way of telling you not to go this way. It’s not your door.

The best thing you can do with the emotional anguish that follows a betrayal is to use it as motivation for self-improvement.  Let it fuel your actions, get in that gym, start that business, go back to school, write that book. This type of pain is high octane fuel and there is no motivation like it, so don’t waste it.  The best way to make someone regret betraying you is to become your best you, find your purpose and your joy and if you happen to see them down the road someday, you can always say, “How you like me now?”

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