Managing the aftermath of betrayal is a relational task. This means you need support from others. In addition to having a good therapist, having a few safe, empathetic, and supportive friends can make a huge difference as you heal from the pain of betrayal.
Before discovering betrayal, your primary relationship probably functioned as your “safe base,” providing you with a felt sense of belonging, connection, and security. When relationships are functioning well, they provide this type of secure base, and this in turn provides a launching pad for the rest of life. The more secure you feel in your primary relationship, the more able you are to move into the world with confidence – to take risks and be your authentic self.
Betrayal trauma damages this sense of security. When you experience betrayal and your safe base is eroded, damaged, or disappears altogether, you suddenly find yourself in a state of free fall. Betrayal chips away at your sense of emotional, sexual, spiritual, and financial safety.
To tolerate this type of uncertainty, not to mention the damage to your relationship, you need other people to fill in the gaps – to provide you with an alternative safe base for a while. You need a community of support that can walk with you and love you, providing helpful direction and care as you face the overwhelming emotions that come with deep betrayal.
One of the ways to build this type of support is to thoughtfully and carefully look at your friends and family members, evaluating their suitability and availability, and selecting a few to invite into your inner circle. These are the folks to whom you will tell the details of what has happened – the people who will help you to carry and work through your betrayal story.
How do you know who to invite into your inner circle? What makes someone a safe person? Happily, there are some easily identifiable qualities. Safe friends and family are those who:
- Respect and maintain your boundaries and do not gossip or share information that they have been entrusted with.
- Do not jump to conclusions about what you should do regarding your relationship, instead supporting your need to answer that question for yourself.
- Do not immediately turn against or judge your significant other, instead giving you the space and sounding board you need to work through your feelings, while encouraging you to maintain an open and gracious attitude toward your partner.
- Understand that you are in a process that takes time and are willing to be in that process with you, rather than rushing you toward “being done and moving on.”
- Do not collude with you in pretending things are better than they are or deciding things are hopeless, instead holding a middle ground attitude and simply hearing your feelings as you bounce through the different emotions and reactions that betrayed partners typically have.
- Do not stoke your fear by telling you horror stories about things that have happened to other people or by joining you in imagining your worst-case scenarios.
- Have wisdom to share, and offer sound, thoughtful responses to the questions you ask.
- Are available and responsive when you need support.
Finding one or two people who are able and willing to provide this type of friendship and support can make all the difference. They give you a safe base to reach for and lean on when your primary relationship no longer provides this. They can hold your feelings with you, offer comfort, calm you down, and even join you in laughter. My hope is that you can find and reach out to at least one person who can walk with you in this way as you journey toward recovery. Because you are absolutely worthy of this attention, affirmation, and care.
About the Author:
Michelle Mays, LPC, CSAT-S is the Founder of PartnerHope.com and the Center for Relational Recovery, an outpatient treatment center located in Northern Virginia. She has helped hundreds of betrayed partners and sexually addicted clients transform their lives and relationships. Michelle is the author of The Aftermath of Betrayal and When It All Breaks Bad and leads the field in identifying and crafting effective treatment strategies for betrayed partners.
Braving Hope is a ground-breaking coaching intensive for betrayed partners around the world. Working with Michelle will help you to move out of the devastation of betrayal, relieve your trauma symptoms and reclaim your life.