It’s a terrible feeling to be betrayed by the one you love. We tend to believe that only infidelity, affairs and cheating constitue betrayal (and they are), but there are other forms of betrayal and can be equally harmful to a relationship.
Dr. John Gottman, a world-renowned relationship expert quotes a phrase from his book, What Makes Love Last on betrayal: “Betrayal is the secret that lies at the heart of every failing relationship – it is there even if the couple is unaware of it.”
For distressed couples, loss of trust occurs daily and in many forms. These everyday betrayals are the most damaging, as contrary to popular belief; affairs are often the end result of broken trust that has been built up gradually over time.
Partners who experience betrayal start looking behind their backs for their spouse’s to hurt them again. Feeling shut out and alone, they start obsessing over questions like, “Can I count on you in my time of need?” “Will you be there for me?” “Do I even matter to you?”
With these looming questions at the forefront of their minds, partners feel emotionally unsafe, unstable and insecure.
When our world has been rocked deeply by the ones we love- whether through the discovery of an affair, dishonesty or repeated threats of divorce- sadness, anger, disappointment and fear emerge. Digging a way out seems impossible.
Amidst the internal battle of uncertainty however, children, finances and romantic history make reconciliation a valid possibility. Finding a place of healing and forgiveness is possible, but takes time and is an ongoing process.
First, couples need to speak their true feelings to one another so that both sides are willing to hear them and respond with tenderness and love. Hurt is at the core of anger, frustration and betrayal. Hurting the one you love through continuous acts of vindictiveness or infidelity is never justifiable, however these behaviors are indicative of damage that has already accumulated over time. Both partners need to realize that they are equally responsible for the distress that is occurring between them.
Second, couples need to understand that some of the strongest and most trusting relationships have been repaired after betrayal occurs. Couples soon move from “old” to “new,” and a strong sense of relief takes shape. Couples realize what brought them from a place of love and security to a place of loneliness and despair. They pick up the pieces and rebuild a deeper union than every before.
Third, couples need to attune, or lean in to one another. Attune is an acronym that stands for awareness, turning toward, tolerance, understanding, non-defensive responding and empathy. As you move through life together, continuously reaching for each other through attunement allows the opportunity to slowly build a secure foundation where you can express your needs freely. Instead of using the pain to seep in, you’re calling on your partner to notice you, reassure you, be there for you and help you heal.
It’s common for couples to get stuck and be too vulnerable to share their disappointments with each other. Couples therapy can be a healthy and positive benefit to healing.
Time is a crucial factor when dealing with betrayal. With time and the ability to see your significant other as a chance to be your source of comfort, solace and safety once again, that small amount of hope can be the driving force that gets you through the pain and to a place of renewed love and connection.
It is often painful, hard and uncertain. But even successful couples go through seasons of anguish. It is absolutely possible to repair the damage for those who are committed to staying together and seeing it through.