The betrayal of trust in a relationship is not only about discovering your partner’s affair. When one partner siphons off funds from the joint account without the other partner’s knowledge or gets involved in nefarious activities or becomes an addict, these also constitute betrayal in a relationship.
Financial betrayal is a kind of betrayal that plagues couples as much these days as betrayal due to extramarital affairs. Being betrayed in a relationship by someone you love is like being stabbed in the back. In such a scenario, you don’t know how to cope with betrayal in a relationship and you struggle to get back on your feet.
Mila and Adam were a happy couple. They resided in the suburbs of Columbus with their two kids but their world changed when Adam’s credit card overspending ravaged their relationship. All the while he spent lavishly, he insisted that he was getting great perks at his job as a salesperson.
Koreena also felt betrayed in a relationship in the same way. She got some money through her father’s will after he passed away, and she had deposited it in her joint bank account with her husband. She couldn’t have imagined in her dreams that her husband, David, would withdraw the money regularly. When she discovered this, she was devastated and went through all the signs of betrayal trauma. Not only because the money was gone but also because of the betrayal of trust in a relationship. Financial infidelity is as hard to deal with as infidelity itself.
Being betrayed by someone you love is the most harrowing experience, something that leaves you with a deep emotional scar, from which it is very hard to recover. If the relationship was going well and one partner ended up cheating, this feeling of being betrayed in a relationship can put the other partner through hell.
The consequences of emotional cheating can be just as lethal as those of a sexual affair because the partner keeps trying to find the answer to “Why did this happen?”. To heal a betrayed heart is the toughest task, but we are coming to that. We spoke to Psychologist Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT and couples counseling, to understand this sensitive issue better.
Can A Relationship Survive Betrayal?
“Betrayal in a relationship could be of subtler kinds. Lying or withholding information comes under the ambit of betrayal just like financial and sexual betrayal. If there’s any chance for the relationship to heal, then the partner who has caused the hurt must be completely honest and lay all their cards on the table as to why they betrayed their partner. They must show genuine remorse and the will to make amends consistently,” says Nandita.
To survive betrayal in a relationship is not easy but many couples do manage to heal a betrayed heart. In the above-mentioned examples of relationship betrayal, all those people have survived this crisis and are still together. When such an ultimate betrayal in a relationship takes place, walking out is often looked upon as the last resort by many cheated-on partners. Those who managed to answer the question, “Why did this happen?”, also found the answer to how and why this should not happen again.
Related Reading: Does Marriage Counseling Work In Solving Relationship Issues?
After 15 years, Cynthia and Sam’s marriage became long-distance because Cynthia had to start living with her ailing mother. Given the kind of blind faith Cynthia had in her partner, they felt this temporary arrangement could be worked out if they met every few months. But to Cynthia’s horror, she realized that the moment she got on the flight, Sam got into an emotional affair. She felt betrayed in a relationship.
Whenever they met, he would keep texting and when she asked him about it, he said, “It’s a girl I met online. We just talk about food and if I had anything to hide, I wouldn’t have texted in front of you.” Two years later, when she moved back, she saw that from texting, the relationship had moved on to 20 phone calls a day. “I felt cheated. I felt betrayed and foolish,” said Cynthia.
Nandita says, “Rules of society have dictated monogamy as the morally correct choice in order to promote a false sense of ‘civilization’ but we’re all genetically predisposed to non-monogamy. Our DNA resists monogamy in varying degrees. But that’s still no excuse for cheating on and hurting your partner.”
We, as a society, need to look toward polyamorous and non-monogamous relationships as relationship structures that are just as valid as monogamous relationships. In an open relationship or a polyamorous one, all partners indulge in consensual acts of falling in love, sexual intimacy, and forming other platonic but intimate bonds. This, however, does not excuse cheating, which is possible in a polyamorous set-up too.
Why does betrayal hurt so much? In her betrayal quote, author Sudha Murthy says, “When someone gets cheated, that person gets upset not because they have lost money but because he or she realizes that they have been foolish enough to be tricked.”
Rebuilding trust after betrayal
Can you heal after being cheated on and stay together? Yes, those who face betrayal can recover from it if the love is strong. Sadly, a betrayal does not come from an enemy, it is always from someone you love. And because of this betrayal in the relationship, you could be angry, but could you stop loving them?
If the betrayer acknowledges their mistake and wants to reconcile, chances are the betrayed partner will not hold on to the bitter feelings for too long. That’s how people survive betrayal in a relationship and focus on surviving an affair by reinstating love and trust.
Nandita says, “Healing will not be instant or an easy job. It’ll require constant efforts from the partner who has caused the trust to be broken. A few things that help through a betrayal are respect for each other through the process of healing, clear communication that they both want the relationship to heal and that they wish to get back to a committed relationship, and supporting each other through this crisis with compassion and with the understanding that it was a human mistake.”
We also spoke to counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam (Masters in Psychology and international affiliate with the American Psychological Association), who has been helping couples work through their relationship issues for over two decades. She shares her thoughts on how to get over betrayal in a relationship. “Betrayal can have a deep impact on a couple’s connection. A couple’s relationship undergoes a myriad of changes as the marriage goes through different phases and new equations are created.
“Infidelity could also be when you are caught sexting, this can have an impact on the mind, body and soul. Being betrayed in a relationship makes people feel helpless, unstable and insecure. I have seen that discovery of betrayal results in anger, silent treatment and resentment.
“Many people want to apologize for the consequences of betrayal in relationships and make things better but the partner who feels insulted and humiliated may not be in a frame of mind to be receptive to these apologies. That’s why I do acceptance therapy after the impact of the shock has worn off, and the betrayed partner can think logically and calmly. After accepting the situation, some betrayed partners want to take a break and go through therapy.
“Some people want to heal together and work through the sorrow of losing the primary connection. They start again as friends, then go on to being lovers, and then parents. We can see that trajectory sometimes when there’s betrayal in love relationships.
“Financial betrayal is also very common and I have seen a lot of ‘gold diggers’ but people who do this do not want to come in for therapy. So when such an act of disrespect happens, the love goes and they just co-exist, so behavior modification becomes key to their survival as a couple.”
8 Ways To Survive Betrayal In A Relationship
Why do people cheat on people they love? To answer this question we will refer to an experiment on love conducted by Helen Fisher where she proved that love can be of three kinds – romantic love, love from sexual drive, and love that leads to an attachment and a long-term relationship. But it is possible to divide these three kinds of love and love more than one person.
This is mainly the reason people end up cheating because they feel love for more than one person. Be it love or anything else, cheating is a choice. The betrayed partner is shocked that their wife or husband is cheating – or a long-term partner, for that matter – and reacts accordingly. But as time goes by, they also find ways and means to survive betrayal in the relationship.
Being betrayed by someone you love is heartbreaking. A betrayal could happen when it challenges a partner’s trust in any form. However, it is possible to rebuild trust. We will share with you 8 steps you can take to survive betrayal in a relationship. Here’s what to do when your partner betrays your trust:
1. Detach yourself and look at what happened
If you are dealing with betrayal from a lover, then it is important to step back from the relationship and understand why the person strayed. The betrayed partner often puts the blame on themselves and suffers from guilt. But in reality, long-term relationships are constantly changing.
One partner could evolve intellectually, another partner could develop different life aspirations. When that happens, one partner may start looking for other avenues to find their happiness. Sometimes when you step back and look at the path the relationship has taken, you could pinpoint what went wrong and why this happened. Then if both partners are willing, you could survive the betrayal in a relationship together.
Related Reading: How To Survive A Sexless Marriage Without Cheating
2. What do you want after betrayal in a relationship?
For instance, let’s say you have experienced financial infidelity at the hands of your husband. He took a personal loan he never told you about and when he found himself in a fix, unable to pay the EMI, he wanted you to help him with your hard-earned savings to bail him out.
Now you need to ask yourself if you want to continue being with this man. He may have taken the loan to buy you an expensive trip to Switzerland or it could be just to supplement his income. Was his betrayal unpardonable or could you forgive him? Will it be possible for you to pick up the broken pieces and rebuild your life after being betrayed in a relationship? If you are sure that it is possible, then you can survive betrayal in a relationship.
Nandita talks about a scenario where a partner forgives their partner for messing up, “If the betrayer is full of remorse, we should empathize with them too. Cancel culture doesn’t work and we must find out what led to this behavior and give them a chance to redeem themselves. This won’t work though if it’s a repetitive and relentless act of betrayal without any remorse. But if the person wants to change and wants to redeem themselves, then they should work on that aspect of their personality through professional help and their social support system.”
3. Can you deal with the psychological effects of betrayal?
There are a myriad of psychological effects of betrayal. Starting from shock, grief, loss, and anger to a lack of self-esteem and anxiety disorder, betrayal can have a life-altering impact on a person’s psyche. You have to first see if you are mentally equipped to go through these emotions on your own or if you need help from a therapist. If you’re looking for help, Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists can help you figure out how to manage your emotions.
If you want to survive betrayal in a relationship, then you have to find your psychological stability first. There is no shame in seeking help from a professional. In fact, you will be in a far better mental space a lot sooner if you see a counselor. In one of the most famous betrayal quotes, bestselling author Paulo Coelho says, “Because I have suffered. Because many times in my life I have tried to love with all my heart, and my love has wound up being trampled or betrayed.”
4. Take the time to grieve
There is no easy way to heal a betrayed heart. People around you might tell you to snap out of your dark mood but it does not happen that way in real life. You need to take your time to process your emotions and grieve. Facing betrayal is just like going through a dear one’s passing away or going through a post-breakup depression.
The grief is intense, and in order to survive betrayal in a relationship, give yourself time to grieve. Once you are through the process, you will be in a much better state to understand if trusting again is possible.
5. Don’t get stuck in the cycle of anger and revenge
Grief comes in five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Anger does take over the mind and is a natural reaction to betrayal in a relationship, but you have to ensure that you do not follow it up with vengeance. If you do, then you are stuck in a vindictive frame of mind forever.
You would completely forget yourself and get involved in the pursuit of vengeance. Ask yourself, is that really worth it? Is your life about pursuing the person who betrayed you or about the ones you love? There are better things you can do to recover from betrayal in a relationship: a) you have to see if you can consider it as a one-time breach of trust and reconcile, b) if you cannot, then look at how you can move on and find a new life.
Revenge is never an option, although many movies will tell you it is. Being betrayed in a relationship, your instinct might be to ensure the doom of your partner. But rise above it. You will be better off.
6. Do not wallow in self-pity
In case of any kind of betrayal, we have the tendency to wallow in self-pity. We keep thinking that something is wrong with us, which led our partner to do this. Or that we made the wrong choice in a partner. If you want to get over betrayal in a marriage, then you have to stop feeling like the victim in the larger scheme of things. You are not really the victim, you are just part of the scenario that’s all. Also, you have no reason to feel guilty if your husband cheated on you.
There is no denying the fact that being betrayed by someone you love is a horrible feeling. Take the case of Ling and Vijay. She is Chinese and he is Indian. They met in the US while working at an IT company. Vijay told Ling all along that he will settle down in Dubai after his stint in the US, and if they got married, Ling wouldn’t have to live in India.
Imagine Ling’s trauma when after marriage she found out that Dubai was just a ploy to make her commit, and she had to live in India at Vijay’s extremely conservative joint family home. She couldn’t deal with the pain of this betrayal. She kept thinking about how she could not see through a lying husband and kept doubting her own abilities to understand people.
But she worked through the pain, became a braver, stronger person, and moved out of India after a divorce. She doesn’t look at herself as a victim anymore. She looks at the betrayal as a lesson learned.
7. What do you expect from the future?
This is a very important question you need to ask yourself. Because how you look at the future will determine how you want to deal with the betrayal. If you have been betrayed by your husband but you have kids with him, then you might wonder if you should stay in an unhappy marriage with kids, or about the kind of impact the betrayal would have on your children. Most couples survive betrayal in a relationship by thinking of the children.
Also, in the case of financial betrayal, we have seen that after the initial shock, the betrayed partner often helps out the betrayer financially so that they can settle the matter and look at a better future. Nandita says that after the dust settles, the relationship will go through many changes – some of them may even be for the better. But it’s a long, committed process.
She adds, “It’s not possible to get back into the same relationship if you decide to forgive and move on. You’ll be starting from scratch and entering a new relationship altogether. You now view the relationship and your partner in a new way. If you’ve made the journey of healing so far, then it’s a matter of time to see if the relationship works out or not.
“When working with such clients, I’ve seen that their relationship doesn’t heal completely. It just continues in a different form. It takes a long time, more than 6 months, for them to get back on a rickety track. It remains a work in progress for a long time to come, sometimes for as long as they’re together.”
8. Can you forgive and move on?
Lastly, but most importantly, this is the question that will decide if you can survive betrayal in a relationship. You can forgive the person, but trusting them again after this betrayal depends on a few things. Did the transgression happen once, or if it had been a way of life that you only came to know later? How long have you been with the person?
If you are dealing with betrayal from a partner in a short-term relationship, then it can be hard to get over the trust issues. Getting over betrayal in a long-term relationship is sometimes a bit easier because you have known your partner for long, so the bond still exists. And if they have accepted responsibility for their actions and expressed remorse through amends, then forgiveness is possible.
We asked Nandita about the possibility and scope of forgiveness, and she said, “Forgiveness is possible. You can still build a successful relationship after cheating. It depends on the mindsets, personalities, commitment, and maturity levels of the partners. If the person seeking amends is able to empathize with this new aspect of their partner and realize that people are vulnerable and can make mistakes and are willing to forgive and move on, then this new relationship has a chance of survival.”
But forgiveness does not always mean that you go back to your partner. It could also mean that you close this chapter forever, separate from them, and move on. Trusting again after betrayal is a tough proposition and we hope these 8 points give you some clarity as to how to survive a relationship after betrayal.
There are a lot of reasons for which people betray others. It could be love, lust, greed, revenge, or jealousy. But in an intimate relationship, betrayal happens when a person cheats, messes up with finances, gets into nefarious activities or is even battling drug addiction.
Betrayal of any kind is painful, and it is very hard to heal from the hurt it causes. Though it’s difficult to say which the ultimate betrayal is, it seems cheating, plotting a partner’s death, and financial infidelity are the worst kinds of betrayals.
Betrayal is extremely painful because your trust in your intimate partner is completely shattered. Trust helps build all relationships. Playing with trust is like breaking down the foundation pillars of a building.