Recovering from Betrayal and Hurt

It takes time to heal when there has been a betrayal. Sometimes betrayals are so hurtful that the relationship never recovers. Other times, the emotional investment is such that people want to work to grow together rather than apart. There is no “one size fits all” prescription here; we all have to decide which path is best for us.

Important guidelines for those who are interested in healing from betrayal:

  1. In order for there to be meaningful change, first there has to be accountability. Those who have done harm must take responsibility for any acts or words that inflicted pain. There is no room for telling another “you just need to get over it.” Uttering these words is a huge roadblock to healing.
  2. After accountability comes the space for learning lessons. What have you learned from this experience? What would you do differently? How has this changed you? Even the person who felt wronged often finds that a crisis provides huge growing opportunities for them. It isn’t the way one would prefer to learn these lessons, but frequently our greatest growth occurs during painful circumstances.
  3. The healing process is a bumpy one because there will be many times when something triggers the painful memories. The person responsible needs to be prepared to acknowledge the pain as many times as it takes. An interaction might sound something like this:

“I’m feeling sad today because of that movie we saw; it reminded me of _______.  I just need to hear that you love me and won’t do that again.”

“Okay. I know it hurts all over again when something reminds you. I love you and I never want to hurt you again.”

Be willing to acknowledge the pain as many times as it takes – in so doing, you actually encourage healing and letting go. This builds trust and demonstrates that there is the depth of love that supports understanding. Interestingly, refusing to talk about it ever again means it is never really over.

  1. Deciding to work on the relationship means there is a willingness to forgive. Forgiveness is a process but it always starts out with resolution to fore-go dwelling on the hurt or betrayal. Letting go and rebuilding trust go hand in hand.
  2. Reconciliation means choosing to start over. After the acknowledgement phase, it is important to consciously refuse to keep thinking about it and go on with your lives. Your relationship is obviously much more than the crisis that occurred or you wouldn’t still choose to be together. Sometimes you will have to remind yourself “this is now, it’s not the same as back then”. That is of course, assuming the same things aren’t happening.

When the relationship is not salvageable, there is still a healing process that needs to occur. If you are the person who hurt or betrayed, your healing involves acknowledgement of what you did, identifying what you’ve learned, and forgiving yourself. If you’re either stuck in denial or in guilt, find a therapist who can help you move forward.

For those who have felt harmed, growth comes from looking at any lessons learned, rebuilding trust in yourself, and becoming willing to trust in others again. I believe that trusting others always starts with trusting ourselves, knowing that we will be our own best advocate and protector. If you don’t believe that about yourself, it’s important to do some work on your self-esteem and assertiveness.

Next: Knowing Who You Are

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