Why does betrayal hurt so much?
When a partner’s infidelity comes to light, we very often wonder why infidelity hurts so much. Not only do we suffer psychologically, but also physically. It is not uncommon for our health to decline. There are headaches, heartaches and muscle aches, accompanied by sadness, depression and a loss of meaning in life. Betrayal is so severe because it occurs unexpectedly and disrupts the existing order. We do not expect it, so we do not prepare ourselves in case of disloyalty on the part of our partner. When it comes to light that the other person has crossed boundaries, we often do not know how to behave. We would like the cheating party to move out of the house immediately and disappear from our sight. We are unable to be in his or her presence because we are torn by anger and hatred, which is still mixed up with love. How do we live with the knowledge of betrayal? First and foremost, it is worth acknowledging all the difficult emotions and, at the same time, appealing to the Inner Adult. When a partner enters into an intimate relationship with a third party, we begin to critically assess our own attractiveness. This translates into a decline in self-esteem. Sometimes our self-esteem is so severely eroded that we begin to enhance our beauty. In such situations, let’s invoke the Inner Adult to remind ourselves of our qualities. Betrayal hurts because it creates a crisis of confidence. We feel that our previous world has fallen into ruins. We wonder if we will ever place our trust in any person, now that it has been so badly eroded. Sometimes we are inclined to believe that everyone is disloyal. Generalising not only underpins cognitive errors, but also closes us off to close relationships with other people. When a partner’s infidelity comes to light, we are accompanied by a sense of shame. Very often, we do not share our pain with anyone because we do not want to admit that someone else turned out to be ‘better’/’more interesting’ than us. Anger that we trusted the wrong person also comes to the fore. We prefer others not to know about our ‘failure’. We thus condemn ourselves to experiencing difficult moments alone. It is easier to survive them if we have friends and relatives next to us who will show us support. Our partner has caused us a great deal of pain, which is why hatred comes to the fore. Initially, it is not uncommon for us to want to take revenge for our suffering. At the same time, we still love him or her. Our brain cannot tolerate ambivalence. A situation in which love is mixed with hatred is very difficult and exhausting for it.
In the rest of this article, I will describe how to pull yourself together after a betrayal.
Stages after betrayal
Knowing the stages of grief after a betrayal enables us to better understand what is happening to us in the moment and what it is due to. Self-awareness makes it easier to get through this difficult time. The different phases may follow one another, sometimes seeing a larger jump between them or a return to an earlier one. Grieving after a partner’s betrayal lasts from a few weeks to several years. Some people never manage to come to grips with the problem, thus closing themselves off from close interpersonal relationships.
We distinguish between the following stages after a betrayal:
-Shock and disbelief – when we find out that a loved one has let us down, we find it difficult to understand. We recall the moments together and begin to deny it. This natural defence mechanism of our psyche tries to protect us from information that we have not managed to prepare for. At the same time, it explains why we move away from friends who have informed us in good faith of our partner’s infidelity. We want to protect his or her image in our head and the status quo. We want to believe that the other person loves us and there has been some mistake. Sometimes we even blame the lover/lover, claiming that he or she is purposely bringing confusion into our lives.
-Anger and accusation – when we realise that an infidelity has occurred, we begin to blame our partner for the situation. It is not uncommon for us to cross out all the fond memories, recognising that they were born on a lie. We see all the worst in the unfaithful beloved. We see the other party as insincere, dishonest, weak and stupid. We then observe a devaluation of the partner, i.e. a belittling of their value. The aforementioned attitude is also a defence mechanism of the psyche that makes it easier for us to function. Since the loved one was worthless, it hurts less to leave.
-Recovery – at some point our resources run out. We no longer have the strength to destroy our partner’s record collection, to reproach them for their hurt and bad taste. We return to emotional balance in order to go out to work. We learn to function in spite of the knowledge that betrayal has occurred.
-Rebuilding confidence in ourselves and others – betrayal takes a toll on our self-esteem and interpersonal relationships. Initially, we feel inferior because someone else has taken our place and has become close to our partner. At this stage there is a strengthening and stabilisation of our self-esteem. At the same time, we stop seeing in every person we meet someone who is bound to hurt us. We open ourselves up to repairing the relationship or creating a new one.
-Resolution – this stage of mourning a betrayal can be encapsulated in the words: leaving/staying. We make a decision about what we want to do about the situation. Are we interested in repairing the romantic relationship or building a new one with a clean slate. Each of us makes this difficult choice ourselves, keeping our own values in mind.
How to recover from betrayal
Esther Perel, a well-known psychotherapist who specialises in romantic relationships, distinguishes
3 stages after a husband/wife betrayal. These are:
-Crisis phase – the betrayed person experiences difficult emotions that translate into resentment and arguments with the partner. She talks about her pain and suffering. He asks different questions and often returns to the same issues. The role of the partner who has cheated is to patiently answer them in a way that is free of aggression and anger. At the same time, it is not worth pursuing the truth when one does not feel ready to confront it. The crisis phase is fraught with ambivalence. Love intermingles with hate, the desire to save the relationship with the will to break up;
-The meaning-making phase – the betrayed person searches for an answer to the question, what hurt me most about the situation? Did it bother me that my partner invited a third party into our bedroom and slept with them in our bedding? Or is what hurt me most the building of an emotional bond with a work colleague? In contrast, the person who has been unfaithful reflects on what was missing from their ongoing relationship. Both parties go through this phase on their own, or possibly benefit from individual psychotherapy;
-The visioning phase – some people work on the relationship on their own, others benefit from couples therapy. Support from a professional often proves crucial. Despite the best intentions, we are not necessarily heading in the right direction. For example, we misinterpret what led to the relationship crisis. Sometimes we lack assertive communication techniques or are unable to talk to each other without accusing each other. Couples psychotherapy helps to identify the source of relationship problems and to express our needs in a healthy way. Some people correct what was working badly in the previous relationship. Others rely on the status quo. There is no shortage of relationships in which the betrayed party assumes the role of victim and constantly reproaches the infidelity. Sometimes partners decide to separate.
Reacting to infidelity
Reacting to betrayal involves getting in better touch with one’s emotions. Suppressing them is counterproductive. Sally Winston and Martin Seif, in their guide Free Yourself from Intrusive Thoughts and Memories, point out that the more we repress something, the more it pushes back. Taking this into account, it’s worth accepting difficult emotions and looking at what they’re talking about. Despite appearances, they won’t kill us, even though they seem strong and overwhelming. By accepting them and showing curiosity about them, we will feel a distinct relief. Let’s talk about our emotions to the partner who has been unfaithful. We often have difficulty doing this in an aggression-free way. When we confess: I feel jealous at the very thought of you taking her to the theatre and denying me that, we feel weak and stripped of dignity. Meanwhile, it is precisely honesty and communication from the level of our own emotions that brings us closer to regaining our inner balance. Repressed emotions often return; it is their repression that harms us, as it causes psychosomatic symptoms and increases the risk of depression. We can share difficult experiences with a friend or a psychotherapist. Let’s take care of our emotions.
How do I move on with my life after a betrayal?
Many of my patients ask me how to live after betrayal and not go crazy. This shows how strong emotions are faced by those of us whose trust has been damaged. These often go hand in hand with intrusive thoughts that suggest to us various unpleasant visions related to our partner’s infidelity.
How can we deal with this situation?
Suppressing our emotions, as I mentioned above, does not help us at all. The more we run away from them, the harder they chase us. When we accept them and acknowledge our right to experience them, we will feel better. Let’s not be ashamed to tell a trusted person about them. A friend, sister or psychotherapist will listen to us and give us the support we need. It is also worth accepting the intrusive thoughts that arise in connection with the betrayal. At this point, I would like to point out that this does not mean shaking them off and treating them on a par with the truth. Let us accord them their proper rank. When they haunt us, let us say to ourselves: they are just thoughts. When we have cooled down and want to know the answers to some questions, we can talk to our partner. If we don’t feel ready to confront the truth, let’s not initiate it. There will be time for this stage of grieving after betrayal. If we want to salvage the relationship after infidelity, it is worth considering couples therapy. By not working through the problems, we increase the risk of recurrence. Between two people, despite our best intentions, we often fail to get to the root of them. We make the wrong diagnosis and thus take the wrong direction. Sometimes we lack knowledge of assertive communication techniques. Even when deciding to separate, it is worth forgiving your partner for cheating on you. Let’s do it for ourselves, not for him. The longer we nurture our feelings of hurt, the harder we will close ourselves off to close relationships with other people. It is possible that we will start to reject potential partners for fear of being hurt again. Forgiveness and rebuilding trust can be helped by individual psychotherapy. Life after betrayal is not easy; the wounds that have been created need time to heal.
Is it possible to forget betrayal?
Not being able to forget seems a very tempting prospect, especially when we feel the strong pain caused by the betrayal. We would like to get rid of it and return to times that we perceive as happy. Is it possible to forget the betrayal? Unfortunately, it is not feasible. Nature has specifically programmed us to remember difficult events. This allows us to spot alarm signals in time and avoid getting hurt again. Fortunately, this does not mean that we are doomed to suffer. How to live after the betrayal of a wife/husband? This issue will be discussed later in this article.
How to rebuild a life after betrayal?
How to live after a husband/wife betrayal? It is best to allow yourself to go through all the stages of grief. Let’s not rush the process; it goes at a different pace for everyone. When we notice our emotions and express them, and then learn from the situation, we will slowly begin to regain our emotional balance. This does not mean that we will immediately open ourselves up to a new love or saving our current relationship. We will probably initially just go to work, raise a child and pursue our passions. Over time, we will feel ready to give the other person credit. Finally, we will decide whether we want to rebuild the relationship or create a new one. Some of us do not want to live alongside a person who has let them down. There are also times when an affair turns into something permanent and it is the partner who leaves us for a lover. Below are the key stages of separation after infidelity.
-Displacement of the break-up – if we have lived alongside the other person for a while, we have created our own rituals and plans with them. When a partner disappears in an unexpected way, we feel we are losing ground. We try to deny it, as this initially protects our psyche, but conjuring up reality does not help in the long run.
-Acceptance of the situation – at this stage we don’t yet gain distance or stop reacting emotionally, but we realise that some things we can’t change. The break-up becomes a reality for us.
-Coming to terms with the break-up – our emotions weaken, we stop dwelling on the break-up and focus on daily activities. We slowly find inner peace.
-Learning lessons and forgiveness – at this stage, our self-awareness comes to the fore. We gain the opportunity to learn something from the situation and then come to terms with the non-ideal reality. A healthy sense of self-esteem and trust in other people returns. We stop harbouring resentment.
-Opening up to a new relationship – we remain objective and believe that we deserve good love alongside another person.
How to rebuild a relationship after betrayal – is it worth it?
Is betrayal the end of a relationship? I devoted an earlier article to this question. Here I will just point out that not every relationship deserves to be saved. Much depends on the situation, our values and the attitude of the betraying partner. When there is sincere regret and a desire to improve after episodic infidelity, it is easier to rebuild the relationship. There are times when the other person tries to put the blame on us, this is a sign that the relationship is better off ending for its own sake.
How do we live together after infidelity? If we decide to give our partner a second chance, then we will have to start working on rebuilding trust. Without it, it is impossible to walk through life together. Suspicion in a relationship will prove tiring for both parties and will begin to drain our inner resources. It is normal to distrust a partner at first, but over time, when we see a marked improvement on their part, we may give them a little credit. If we don’t know how to take this step, it’s worth considering a break-up.
Can you deal with infidelity without the help of a professional?
Wondering how to live after an emotional betrayal that has hit you hard? Whether you are planning to get back together with your partner or are considering a break-up, psychotherapy can be a huge support for you. Infidelity destroys self-esteem, confidence and takes away our sense of meaning in life. The solid foundations on which we based our daily lives disappear. This entails changes and the difficult emotions that accompany them. It is not worth suppressing them, as we will only intensify them. If we have no one to talk about them or feel overwhelmed, with the help of a psychotherapist we can deal with them. How do you pick yourself up after a betrayal when you want to save the relationship? How to live after a betrayal? In such a situation, consider couples therapy. Strong emotions often make it difficult for us to come to an understanding and target the source of problems. We focus on those aspects that are not central to the relationship and overlook those that play the most important role. A psychotherapist will give structure to our conversation, create a safe space for communication and allow each party to speak. Some people succeed in working through betrayal with the support of substantive psychological literature and following the exercises contained therein. However, this requires a great deal of openness, self-awareness and good contact with one’s own emotions. If you feel that this task is beyond you, do not be ashamed to seek professional help. The psychotherapist remains impartial and does not judge or judge us.
Bottom line – how do you live after betrayal?
What to do after infidelity? Although infidelity casts a shadow over the existing relationship with your partner, deprives us of faith in people and self-esteem, the pain eventually passes. It is hard to believe at first, as difficult emotions accompany us and our suffering seems endless. As cliché as it may sound, time proves to be an invaluable support, especially when we consciously go through the stages of mourning a betrayal. It allows us to gain distance and put certain problems into perspective. When emotions subside, objectivity comes into play. We realise that certain events cannot be erased from our lives. It is only up to us to nurture a sense of hurt or to build relationships with people based on the lessons learned. How to rebuild a life after betrayal? In this article I have shared some useful tips. They are not completely exhaustive because everyone’s story is different. If you feel that you want to talk about it and get individual help, get psychotherapy.