No one’s safe.
Every single relationship you have—whether with friends, lovers, or family—is at risk of betrayal.
Yet it’s always a shock when it happens.
You find out he cheated on you. She told your secret and now everyone knows. He broke his promise to you. She verbally attacked you in front of everyone.
Trust is the foundation of good relationships. Betrayal destroys that trust. It can kill the relationship, and it does something even worse to you:
It makes you afraid.
Will you ever trust anyone again?
Many of us have personal histories littered with treachery, lies and backstabbing. The only times we’ve been safe have been when we’ve withheld our trust. Don’t trust anyone, and you won’t get hurt.
It doesn’t help that the modern prescription for betrayal is forgiveness.
“Just try to understand their point of view, dearie. Let it go. Holding onto anger hurts you more than it hurts them.”
That’s the last thing you want to hear when you’re wrestling with the enormity of what happened. Your world just turned upside down. You could care less about extending the olive branch of understanding. You want justice!
And your heart won’t rest until it’s proven, once and for all, that what they did to you was despicable (and bad karma to boot).
But here’s the thing:
What matters is not so much what the other person did to you.
Whether they pay for their actions is beside the point. They have their own life to live and their own choices to make. Payback is between them and their higher power.
What matters is how it’s affecting you.
You’re hurting. Your pain has ripped away your peace. Your health is suffering. And it’s not only affecting you; it’s affecting your loved ones, who are looking on helplessly.
How can you get back on the road to healing as fast as possible?
You do it by telling yourself a new story.
Here’s how it works.
When someone close to you breaks your trust, your first thought is often, “I can’t believe they did that.”
And your second thought is, “I can’t believe I was so stupid as to trust them.”
We take betrayal personally. Instead of seeing it as an act of weakness in the other person, we see it as weakness in ourselves.
We allowed ourselves to be exploited. We allowed ourselves to be used. We stupidly put our trust in someone who wasn’t trustworthy. Had we only been smarter. Had we only been savvier. Had we only trusted our instincts.
Somewhere, in the depths of our pain, we decide that the only way out of this self-flagellation is to pin all the awful things we’re feeling onto the other person. Everything is their fault.
Often, the ways in which people betray us are quite minor compared to the emotional anguish they cause.
He talked to another girl at the party. Is that really reason to accuse him of unfaithfulness and threaten to break things off?
She said something awful and didn’t apologize. Is that really reason enough to start a feud that lasts for months?
It is if you’re feeling vulnerable and angry with yourself.
Maybe you wish you’d handled things differently. Maybe you’re feeling the despair of seeing your hopes go down the drain. Maybe it hurts to be angry with someone you once cared about so much. Maybe you can’t silence the tape of how you were done wrong. Maybe you fill the hole in your heart with thoughts of vengeance.
Which leads me to conclude that it’s not really about what the other person did to you.
It’s about how your mind took that experience and ran with it.
The real culprit here is your mind.
That wonderfully unruly meaning-making machine, that can spin a story out of an innocent glance.
Experiences are always neutral. They only acquire meaning and significance when we interpret what happened.
We turn the facts into a story, with villains and heroes and a moral. If we have to make up bits to fill in the narrative gaps, we do. The process is so seamless that we don’t even notice we’ve inserted guesses rather than facts.
For example, have you ever noticed how you can go through the same experience as your friends but describe it completely differently? You talk about it afterwards, and your stories don’t match up. It’s not that anyone is lying. It’s just that you’ve made sense of the same experience in different ways.
You can’t change what happened.
But you can change what it means to you.
Betrayal is often the ultimate wake-up call, teaching us we need to end toxic relationships and take better care of ourselves.
So rewrite the story of your experience. Instead of focusing on the evildoing of the villain, focus on the redemption of the heroine. (That’s YOU!)
How are you going to rise even stronger from this experience?
How are you going to become wiser, savvier, more compassionate, and clearer about what you expect from your relationships?
What have you learned, and how will all your future relationships be better as a result?
You’re the author of your life. You decide on the meaning of your experiences.
Give this one a happy ending.