By Krystal Kuehn, MA, LPC, LLP, NCC
It is bad enough when a stranger or foe betrays you,
but when it is someone you believed to be a close and
trusted friend, partner, or spouse, it is especially hurtful.
It might feel like you were taken advantage of, deceived,
humiliated, despised, cheated, or stabbed in the back.
Oftentimes it comes as a surprise. That is why it is so
painful. You would not expect to be hurt so badly from
someone you thought you could trust. So you are left
in disbelief and unbelievable pain.
Anyone who has experienced betrayal in a relationship knows how difficult it is to recover from such an experience. The person you thought you could trust and count on is no longer the person you believed them to be. So you wonder what happened. Were you just wrong about them all along or did something change? Maybe your relationship changed and so did their loyalty to you. Maybe something in either or both of your lives has changed and they became insensitive to you. Or, maybe you both grew apart and in different directions.
There are many reasons that cause people to betray one another. Sometimes they are very deliberate and intended to hurt the other person. And sometimes they are consequences of choices that are made with no intention of doing any harm to anyone. Looking out for one’s own best interests can cause some people to disregard relationships they once valued. They may feel the relationship is in the way or not as important anymore. Feelings change. And as feelings change so do one’s actions and choices. An individual that feels their needs are not being met in a relationship might feel that the relationship is no longer important or worth investing in. Therefore, they might seek to get their needs met elsewhere. This changes the relationship. Eventually, it grows apart and opportunities for betrayal emerge.
Betrayal is a destructive force that leaves many ruins in its path. Betrayal changes everything. Relationships and all those affected will never be the same again. The damage done can be irreparable. Trust is lost. Wounds run deep. Anger persists. Hearts are broken. Self-protective walls are erected. Pain is long and lasting. And we wonder…. Can trust ever be restored? Do wounds ever heal? Will anger cease to exist? Can hearts be repaired? Will the self-protective walls ever come down? Does the pain ever go away?
Not only does betrayal change relationships, it changes individuals. Something happens inside of them. They might find it difficult to ever trust again. They might be more guarded and protective of themselves for fear of being vulnerable again. They might learn to be more discerning and less naïve. Their expectations of others may change. They may reflect on their own role and responsibility in the relationship and what went wrong. They might try to understand, empathize, and forgive. They may be motivated to grow from the experience and learn more about themselves and others.
The pain of betrayal is very real and has a significant impact on the lives of all those who have experienced it. It is one of those painful life experiences that have the power to change people’s hearts and lives forever. If you have ever been betrayed, you cannot change what has happened to you or make the pain go away. You need time to grieve and feel angry. You need time to be comforted and encouraged. You also need time to restore your faith in yourself and others. Betrayal hurts and there is no fast and easy way to heal from its affects. It takes more than time. It takes a heart that will not harden. It takes a commitment to believe in others again. Relationships do change as a result of betrayal; but ultimately, how it changes you is what matters most.