The other day, someone asked, “What is the worst-case scenario for someone going through betrayal trauma?” I’d never been asked this very interesting question, and I had to stop and think before answering. And the answer I came up with surprised me.
My first thought was that the worst-case scenario for someone dealing with sexual betrayal would be losing the relationship, getting a life-threatening illness linked to the cheating partner’s high-risk behavior, finding oneself on the brink of financial ruin because the cheater secretly spent large amounts of money, or watching the children suffer and be negatively impacted.
Those are all incredibly challenging situations, and I don’t want in any way to minimize the pain, difficulty, and loss involved with these types of very serious fallout from betrayal. However, I don’t believe these challenges are the worst-case scenario for betrayed partners.
Over the past two weeks, I have experienced three deaths. One of my good friends lost her dearly beloved brother to cancer, my best friend lost a mentor/friend, and I lost a woman who stepped into my life and mothered me during a pivotal moment in my young adult life.
In each of these situations, I was privileged to be included as these individuals entered their last few days and hours. I received the gift of witnessing three people passing from this life to the next while enveloped in the all-encompassing love, hope, connection, and support of loved ones. All three passed on while being physically held in the arms of their families. Two of them had their favorite songs sung to them by their loved ones as they made the transition from life to death. All three entered death with the hope of life.
You would think that death could perhaps be a worst-case scenario, but even that is not true. What witnessing these losses taught me once again (because I keep learning this lesson over and over) is that it is never the circumstances we are in that are the worst-case scenario. What matters most is what happens inside of us when we are faced with adversity or loss.
The true worst-case scenario unfolds if we allow betrayal (or whatever form of loss we are facing) to separate us and disconnect us from ourselves, our loved ones, and our Higher Power. When that happens, we lose our capacity for hope.
This does not mean that you, as a betrayed partner, will never feel hopelessness and despair. I remember plenty of times during my journey through betrayal trauma when I felt utterly defeated. However, these moments eventually passed. And even when they were happening, I sensed they were happening within a larger context.
That larger context was created by connection—connection to myself, to my community of supportive and loving friends and family, and to God. My knowledge that the periods of defeat were temporary was based on my belief that everything I was going through was going to shape me and grow me into more of who I was created to be. The crappy, awful, mounting sense of betrayal and loss that I felt was not the truest story that was being told in my life. The truest story was the story of who I was and what it meant for me to live my life feeling connected to my most authentic and hopeful self, to others, and to my Higher Power.
Allowing betrayal to create disconnection in our lives that separates us from ourselves, others, and God is the true worst-case scenario. The only way to prevent this is to examine what our core beliefs are about the challenges and difficulties that life presents us with, and to stubbornly refuse to allow those circumstances to separate us from what we know to be true about ourselves, from the love of those closest to us, and from our Higher Power.
My hope for myself and for each of you is that we will find ways to remind ourselves of the truest story that is unfolding in our lives: we are loved, we are valued, we are here for a reason. That is what is true, and no amount of loss or betrayal can make it untrue.