No one needs to tell you that betrayal sucks. It’s a piercing pain formed from grief, anger and confusion. It steals your ability to trust, both in yourself and others. It calls everything into question and provides no easy answers.
There is no refuting the fact that betrayal is horrific. Only the sadistic would choose to go there and most that stumble into its path want nothing more than to be free of its grasp.
But turn that betrayal over, look to see what lies underneath.
There are some upsides to betrayal.
In the beginning, these assets are hidden behind the overwhelming pain. But they are still there, just waiting to be found as the mud and grime of the betrayal is washed away by time and tears. Some of these blessings are more easily harvested than others. See what you can find underneath your suffering.
When we are not experiencing pain ourselves, it can be difficult to empathize with those who are within its grasp. Betrayal is lingering pain, not easily forgotten. As a result, you may find that you are more understanding and gentle with those around you who are suffering. You can use that ability as a gift – help those that are in pain and your pain will recede.
Before the betrayal, you probably saw you and your partner as a team and you looked to him or her to take care of certain things. There is nothing wrong with a team approach, but a long relationship can slide into over-dependence. When you are betrayed, your trust in others is shattered, so you turn to yourself. You may be surprised at what you’re capable of when the “I can’ts” are replaced with the “I have tos.”
This pairs with self-reliance. When you have been betrayed, the first instinct is often to lash out at your partner, laying all of the blame at his or her feet. If you’re honest with yourself, after that initial anger is bled, you will also shine the light inwards. Not to blame, but to understand and take responsibility. You realize that you can never control another’s actions but that you can always control your response. You learn that you are ultimately responsible for your own happiness and well-being. It can feel like a great burden at first. But then you realize the freedom. You always have a choice.
If your partner resorted to gaslighting, story telling designed to make you feel crazy for questioning signs, the realization of betrayal can almost come as a relief. The “off” feeling or constant self-doubting is put to an end as the truth is finally revealed. Even with gaslighting, there a lucidity to be found. Often the betrayed have been unable to see the truth, turning towards some facts and away from others. The revelation of betrayal is like putting the last piece in a puzzle; the bigger picture is revealed.
Some find that betrayal ultimately strengthens their marriage, the pain leading to more open and honest communication. Betrayal deals a death blow to other relationships, one or both partners unwilling or unable to address the underlying issues. Regardless of the specifics, the betrayed often form deeper and more meaningful connections with someone in their lives. The time after betrayal is characterized by a loss of trust but also an increase in vulnerability. If someone can gain or hold your trust (a friend, a family member, or even your partner), you are unencumbered by many of the defenses that keep people at arm’s length. Those connections that are formed are priceless and can help you learn to trust again.
This is one of those deeply hidden gifts. At first, your confidence will most likely take a huge blow. You wonder what is so ugly or deficient about you that your partner chose another. You question yourself endlessly, berating yourself for being a trusting fool. Stop that insulting dialog for a moment. Think about your strengths. Your aptitudes. Think about how you are a survivor and you are making it through. Think about it and believe it. You CAN do this. You CAN move forward. You CAN trust again. You CAN love again. Think about it and believe it.
This is the ultimate upside. You cannot change the past. You cannot change your partner. You can cease the winless struggle of trying to make things not as they are. That’s your starting point. And where it leads is up to you.