Welcome to “Love and Sex Today.” I am Dr. Doug Weiss and today’s topic is really going to be important. It’s going to be on “Betrayal and What To Do.” I have listened to thousands of men and women who’ve been betrayed. They’ve been betrayed sexually. They’ve been betrayed emotionally. Woman who have been betrayed by their best friends, their family members, all kinds of betrayal. I know what to do with betrayal and today you’re going to want to read this. You’re going to want to pass this on because you know someone who’s been hurt. You know someone who’s been lied to and maybe betrayed. Maybe their relationship ended in an affair or other kind of pain. This is going to help them so please pass it on. Today’s topic is really close to my heart because I have seen so many people who’ve been betrayed in my more than 30 years counseling men and women. This is a real issue.
I want to start off with—what not to do when you’ve been betrayed. When you’ve been betrayed, it’s really important that you do not blame yourself. It doesn’t matter what the issues are in the relationship. You can get counseling. You can get help. You can try to address those issues. You’re not responsible for the emotional decision, the moral decision, the spiritual decision of your spouse or partner betraying you. You’re not responsible for a friend betraying your trust. You’re not responsible for the choices that other people make. They made a choice to betray you. That was their choice. There may have been circumstances. There may have been alcohol or drugs. There may have been a lot of variables, but bottom line, they made the choice, you didn’t. So you don’t want to turn it on yourself. Because if you do, it could be an endless road of trying to change things that have no bearing on whether you might be betrayed again.
Also, you don’t want to blame the other person. The other person might have hit on them or given them the energy that, “Hey, I’m available,” but that person did not make a lifetime commitment to you. That person didn’t say they’d be faithful to you. The person you are with said they’d be faithful to you or implied that, so the betrayal is on their shoulders. It is not some other person out there who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong circumstances.
There is so much that goes on in betrayal. We’re going to have a post on the six types of cheaters. You might want to catch that one. It’s going to be really helpful to understand what your partner might have been thinking. But regardless, they made a decision that hurt you and that hurt is real. It automatically sets up a grief process in your life. You signed up for happily ever after. You signed up to be loved, cherished, supported, and encouraged. Even if you’re not married, there’s this kind of agreement that we won’t cheat on each other, right? So this betrayal is going to automatically initiate a grief process for you. I’m going to walk through that grief process and then I’m going to give you some tips on what you can do.
Grief is real and you’re going to hit it, okay. You’re going to be in shock. I know what shock looks like. I’ve been in the same room with hundreds and hundreds of men and women who have found out their spouse or partner has cheated on them. It’s like a lightning bolt of energy goes through to the top of their head all the way through their body. I’ve seen men and women crawl up in a ball and cry and wail and scream like an animal. I’ve seen shock and it’s painful and if you’ve gone through that, you know what I’m talking about. That’s normal. You’re not crazy. What’s happening is you don’t have a way to process it, so it overloads your system and you end up having that kind of pain.
The next stage is denial. Denial is kind of like the feeling that nothing is going on. “It really didn’t happen, or he really only did kiss her, or she really only did give him a hug, or they’re just friends.” Denial can go on for decades, denial about an event you know about, denial that things are actually going on. I’m surprised at how many couples never have conversations about self sex, about pornography, about their social media habits, their texting habits. Sometimes this goes on for years before someone kind of acknowledges what’s really happening.
The next stage is anger. We did a post on anger. You might want to go back and look at that one because you’re going to need to do that anger work. You’re going to need to engage the rage. Otherwise, you’re not going to heal because that bullet’s going to stay inside of you unless you aggressively deal with that rage. I would strongly encourage you to read that post, “Flush Away Your Toxic Anger.” As always, if you need counseling about any of these things, you can call my office at Heart to Heart Counseling Center at 719-278-3708. We’ve helped thousands through these issues, and anger’s definitely a part of it all.
Then there’s bargaining. Bargaining is when you’re trying to grapple with a painful reality and create alternate variables—“If this variable was different or that variable was different then this wouldn’t have happened. If he wouldn’t have been in a bar. If she wouldn’t have been at the hotel lobby. If they wouldn’t have been on a trip. If they wouldn’t have got in the car together.” Maybe the bargaining is, “I need to lose weight. We need to have more sex. I need to dress sexier. I need to get a better job so I can give her more money.” Whatever it is, those are bargaining things you try to do with yourself to try to minimize your pain or to stop the betrayal from happening in your life again. There are so many things that can lead your partner to a decision to betray you, but it was a decision to betray you. Bargaining is a phase that can last for weeks, months, or even years of you trying to take responsibility so you can change the potential of this happening in your life again. It’s a normal part of the process, but it can be a very long process and you want to get it as short as possible.
You want to put all the responsibility back on the person who made the choice and then deal with it that way. You can grieve the loss of their character and the losses in your relationship. The faster you go through the process of putting the responsibility where it belongs, you’ll be able to grieve better and quicker. It’s still going to be painful, even if you go through this aggressively as you can. It could take a good year for you to get through to every stage of grief and there are things you can do to help yourself.
The next stage is sadness. This is where you’re really grappling with the fact, the reality that your relationship is no longer unscarred. You’re going to have this scar the rest of your life. I’ve seen couples move past infidelity and other types of betrayal, financial, emotional betrayals. Sadness is when you start to move towards accepting this has really happened, this is now part of my story. It’s not a part of my story that I had any choice in. It’s kind of like being in a car accident and someone else hit you. You didn’t choose that, but you went through the process and the healing that cost you time, energy, and sometimes thousands of dollars. Couples come and do three and five-day intensives at my office. It costs them money but they get to go through the healing process at an accelerated pace. Accelerating the healing of betrayal is really, really helpful.
The last stage is acceptance. Acceptance is when you really accept the fact that you have been betrayed, head on—no sugar coating it. Then you will move towards probably one or two places. You either accept the fact that this is your story and you stay and work on things and make this relationship as good as possible. You move through the pain, carry the scar, and you do the best you can. Or, acceptance for you might be, “Hey, this isn’t for me. I didn’t sign up for this. This is not the kind of person I am. It’s not the kind of person I want to be with,” and you’re unable or unwilling to repair the relationship. You accept that about yourself and you make the appropriate steps to do what you need to do. Acceptance puts you in a place where you decide what to do once you accept the facts of what’s happened in your life and your relationship head on.
Now, what to do? You want to have really good self-care. The most important thing I can tell you to do is give yourself 60 or 90 days before you make a major decision. Let yourself heal under the normal circumstances of your life, but you really want to up your self-care. If you’re not exercising, start exercising. If you haven’t had a massage in a while, get an appropriate massage. If you need to look at your life and improve areas, whether it’s financial, find support relationships. You want to carefully choose who those will be because not everyone can handle this information.
I also strongly recommend you really think about telling family members after you’ve made your decisions, because if you decide you’re going to stay, you may not want to involve them in the pain and grief that you’re going through. It’s unnecessary for them to endure your grief if you decide to stay, and they may not want you to be with your spouse or partner for decades. But you can get support from support groups. You can get support from other friends that will be in and out of your life.
You also may want to get professional help. I mentioned my counseling center, 719-278-3708. We’ve helped thousands, literally thousands of men and women get through betrayal. We’re really experts in this area. Or, find someone in your area that you feel you can talk to. We have trained counselors all over the country in this process, so there is help for you. You don’t want to stay in that place of hurt. You want to take that bullet and start moving it out of your life. You want to start living as well as you can, but you might need some support and you might need some counseling. If you do, that’s okay.
I will tell you, when you go to counseling, it may open up other areas of pain in your life. That’s okay. You want to address those. You want to be as well and whole and happy as you can to have great love, great sex, and a great life. You may need to look at some different things and just give yourself some time. This is going to be a process. You’re not going to get through this in a few weeks. It doesn’t matter where you go for counseling. The grief is going to take a while. The losses are going to continue to reveal themselves to you and the pain of betrayal is going to affect the way you might live, places you go, people you stay in relationships with.
Betrayal is real. Let yourself just be validated that your pain is real, your hurt is real, your losses are huge, and you’re a hero. You’re going to get through this one way or the other for yourself. If you decide to stay in a relationship, you’re going to be the one who is the hero in the story, the one who took the bullet out and began to walk again. If you’ve been betrayed, you want to be encouraged and seek some help and support.
I hope today has been really, really helpful for you. I want you to go to loveandsextoday.com and subscribe there. You can find a free chapter to one of my books. Write a review on iTunes and share this post with people who’ve been hurt. One of you who leave a review will be selected for a private conversation with me. They tell me it’s priceless, fun and engaging. We will get into something you want to get into and see if we can help you move something along in your life. Remember always, have great love.