Betrayal: Understanding It and Starting To Heal

The greater the love and loyalty, the involvement and commitment, the greater the betrayal.

James Hillman

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

Sir Walter Scott

Secrets, lies, cheating.  They’re all forms of betrayal, and they all destroy trust.

As a therapist I have seen my share of emotional havoc wreaked by betrayal; and, as a divorced woman I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of deception.

When facing a mate’s lies it’s important to remember that their lying says absolutely nothing about you and everything about them.  Either they were cowardly and couldn’t face you with the truth, or they have a diagnosable psychiatric condition like sociopathy (now euphemistically called Anti-social Personality Disorder).  Neither explanation makes them particularly appealing.

Unfortunately, you invested a good part of your life loving and trusting this person, so expect a hefty amount of cognitive dissonance and grief. Those feelings will dissipate, but not before you’ve danced more than a few pas de deux with them. Expect to feel outraged. Thoughts like: “How could s/he do this to me?” are the coin of the realm.

Bad things happen to everyone.  There’s no inoculation from betrayal.  You can be the best partner on earth and still be treated poorly. Actually, people who are pathological liars and sociopaths (both of whom are often narcissists) have an innate sense of who is a good mark.  They usually choose a hard-working, open-hearted soul who will be devoted to them. I am not referring to one-time liars here, but people who have lied throughout a relationship.  Not the person who had a one-night stand, but the adulterer who had a series of extra-curricular trysts. Not the person who made a silly financial mistake, but the one who repeatedly withheld information, lying by omission.  The virtuous mate persists in seeing their partner in the best light, despite evidence to the contrary.  Why? An honest person does not think others are duplicitous; it simply doesn’t occur to them. They habitually assume the best; and, everyone is subject to inertia (a body at rest stays at rest and a body in motion stays in motion). Normal responsibilities, like laundry, car-pooling the kids, and working are distracting. The luxury of trusting someone means not examining every little nuance for signs of secrets.

So, how do you wrap your mind around this situation and move forward?  First of all, if you are honest and forthright other people are, too.  I know it’s easy to question one’s judgment, but you are much wiser now than when you entered into this relationship.  In the future, you will be more cautious, but not so much that you lock up your heart.  Give yourself time.  You will heal.  Everything truly happens for your highest good, even though it may be impossible to see that now.

Here’s a radical thought: be happy you trusted someone.  It says something wonderful about you.  Everyone gets taken in by someone sometimes. Con artists are charismatic. They use their wiles to manipulate.  Be glad you found out the truth.  It may be a bitter pill, but there’s an antidote: loving yourself and living joyfully.  You may not be there yet, but you will be. People recover from the loss of their rose-colored glasses every day.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

Nicole Urdang

Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM is a Holistic Psychotherapist in Buffalo, NY. She holds a New York state license in mental health counseling and a doctorate in homeopathic medicine from the British Institute of Homeopathy.