Guest post by Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, LMFT
Feeling betrayed can make it harder to move on after a breakup.
Going through a divorce or a breakup stirs some very difficult feelings for the majority of people. There are several reasons why people divorce or end a relationship, and based on them you may have a harder or easier time moving on.
There is a big difference between divorcing or breaking up when the two of you have grown apart as opposed to when your partner betrayed you. Your emotional pain will be vastly different in those two instances. According to a relationship therapist, a betrayal trauma theory suggests that individuals who experience betrayal from a trusted person or group may experience severe emotional and psychological harm, including symptoms of trauma.
When you feel betrayed and hurt, the challenge is staying civil. It’s also very difficult to move on because betrayal trauma can make you completely consumed and overwhelmed with negative feelings. You may be drawn to find the answers to why this happened or what you have done wrong to deserve this kind of treatment.
If you remain focused on feeling betrayed, you will stay stuck in bitterness and frustration. How do you overcome betrayal so you can continue with your life?
1. Acknowledge your feelings to honour yourself
First, know it’s completely understandable how you feel. Betrayal from a romantic partner hit you the hardest. We are mammals and we are simply designed to attach to other beings and have romantic relationships. When a betrayal such as your partner having an affair or wanting to leave you disrupts this bond, this hurts you hard.
You may have the desire to lash out and make your partner’s life miserable. This is normal. You’ve been hurt and these are natural emotional reactions in response to lingering pain. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and work through them.
2. Seek help to process difficult feelings
Acknowledging your emotions allows you to recognise you’ve been hurt, and it’s not how you like to be treated. By acknowledging your emotions, you are honouring yourself, learning to build better boundaries, and recognising what works and doesn’t work for you. Betrayal hurts, and you were not responsible for it. This leads us to the next tip which can change a lot for you.
3. Determine the focus of your emotions when you’re feeling betrayed
When feeling betrayed, it’s quite natural to focus on questions such as,” Why did he do this to me?” and, “What did I do wrong”? You are basically trying to empathise with him and his reasoning while opening yourself up to potentially more hurt and feelings of inadequacy.
Empathising with your partner is not necessarily wrong, but when you are trying to move on, it can be a trap that keeps you emotionally entangled and stuck on him.
In addition, this kind of mindset can lead to further scrutiny and judgment of yourself. This can drastically diminish your self-esteem. If you are like many women, you already do enough self-criticism.
Similarly, if you stay emotionally focused on his negative qualities, you will stay stuck. Even if you feel like you hate him now, this only means that you are emotionally preoccupied with him.
How to focus on yourself to effectively heal after a breakup
Instead of wondering about him and figuring out his mindset, it would be more helpful to focus on yourself and start the healing process. I don’t mean to analyse what went wrong that made him betray you, but figure out what it is you need in life. What brings you joy and happiness?
Answering this question will help you work towards creating the life you want for your future relationships. This is the time when you can draw clear lines with what does and doesn’t work for you. This is the time to realise what kind of partner isn’t good for you in a romantic relationship.
Naturally, you are angry due to the betrayal. Although women are not encouraged to express or acknowledge feelings such as anger, working through this anger can help you learn about yourself and live an authentic and happy life. This takes some effort, but it’s liberating and helpful in healing after a breakup or divorce.
4. Stay active and keep yourself occupied
After a betrayal and breakup, you may struggle to maintain your regular daily activities during the initial stage of grief.
If you have a chance, you may choose to take some time off work. To heal after a breakup faster, surround yourself with good, positive friends and family for emotional support.
If you are taking time off work, don’t stay at home the entire time. Take a trip. Visit a good friend or relative.
If you are taking time off work, but don’t want to take a trip, perhaps you can reengage in an old passion or engage in some activities that will require you to learn something new.
What about those paragliding classes you never had a chance to take? Or that painting class you kept putting off? Doing any kind of creative or adventurous activity will stimulate your brain and help you avoid ruminating about your painful feelings. If you are going back to your old passions, avoid doing things you’ve done with him. Right now focus on those things you were doing before meeting him this will have a great impact on your mental health.
Continuing to work can be a better choice for some during this period of grief. You may have a few important projects with deadlines. This will help you maintain some normalcy in life and thus feel more in control. Maintaining your focus on work helps distract you from your breakup or divorce. But be sure you take care of your physical and mental health. Read more about self-care tips when you are feeling down.
5. Keep a positive perspective
Going through difficult times like this is not something you signed up for, but it’s helpful to know you can get through it. You’ve experienced difficult times before, you may have childhood trauma, and you’ve managed. Remember the resources that helped you during those times. Keeping a positive mindset and surrounding yourself with positive people can make a huge difference in your recovery from betrayal.
It’s possible you’ll emerge with something better in spite of this difficult situation. Remembering this will give you hope and strength to carry on and have healthy relationships in the future.
About the author:
Dalila Jusic-LaBerge is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specialises in working with accomplished women who struggle in relationships. She utilises a mindfulness-based, body-mind oriented therapy to help women heal trauma and old wounds that prevent them from enjoying love and life. Visit her website here.
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.