Overcoming betrayal: 10 ways to deal with the pain

We’ve all been disappointed by someone in life, but betrayal is even worse.

Somebody you loved, cared about or trusted ripped your heart out and treated you like nothing. To say it hurts would be an understatement. It can shake the foundations of who you are and your own self-identity.

Whether you have been double-crossed by someone in a romantic relationship or it’s a friend, family member or work colleague the way to overcome betrayal effectively remains the same.

Here’s a guide about overcoming it if you’ve been betrayed.

1) Get in touch with your feelings

I don’t mean this in a weepy, wishy-washy way, but you need to get in touch with your feelings and accept what you’re experiencing from the act of betrayal.

Anger, sadness, disgust, shock, fear, confusion, loneliness, and shame are all common reactions.

Identify these emotions and face them: anger that someone you trusted and cared about could have done that to you.

Get in touch with your feelings Overcoming betrayal: 10 ways to deal with the pain

Sadness that life and people can be so disappointing. Your thoughts of the future may be full of pessimism. What’s the point if this kind of sh*tty things happen?

Disgust at somebody stooping so low. How can people behave this way and double-cross somebody close to them? It makes you want to literally puke.

Shock because the betrayal came out of the blue and you would never treat someone that way, so how could they?

Fear about the betrayal and its consequences whether it’s cheating in a relationship or a financial theft. What happens next as you deal with the fallout from this backstabbing? The fear can be intense.

Confusion: how did this even happen and how were you so blind? How did they manage to trick you so thoroughly right under your nose? It is baffling.

Loneliness can be common as you start to feel isolated by your situation and by the betrayal you’ve experienced. You may feel like nobody really gets it or can grasp why it’s getting to you on such a deep level.

You may find yourself focusing on the bad events that they deserve to happen to them and then even feel a bit guilty for your vengeful imagination. You may feel guilt and shame about your own angry and sad thoughts, blaming yourself for what happened and telling yourself to get over it already.

2) Don’t focus on revenge

When you’ve been betrayed one of your first instincts might be to hit back.


You may find yourself fantasizing about the look on their stupid f*cking face when they find their own account has been charged with fraudulent expenses, too, or when they see you’re dating someone new now and don’t give a sh*t about them anymore.

All this bitterness is like picking at an old scab. It won’t get you anywhere.

Ask those who’ve taken revenge if they feel a whole lot better after when that person who betrayed them also feels awful and experiences a big setback.

If they’re being honest they’ll tell you it just made them feel even worse.

Two minuses might make a plus in math, but in life, they just make a depressing situation even worse.

Instead, what you want to do is take that burning anger inside yourself, fully accept it, and then use it to fuel your own proactive mission and objectives.

As the shaman Rudá Iandê teaches in his free masterclass on embracing your inner beast, anger is not bad — at least it doesn’t have to be.

In fact, it’s as natural as a storm or a bellowing volcano. It just depends on what you use it for and whether you allow it to be manipulated by others.

Improve your life and work on your mission in the world, don’t focus on getting back at the person who did you wrong.

3) Be honest about what happened

You shouldn’t be ultra-focused on the betrayal in general but you also should not repress it. Face the feelings openly and process them.

Part of that is being honest about what happened and the person who did it to you.

Did a friend talk to your girlfriend about things you told him in confidence regarding relationship problems you’re having?

Did you find out one of your children has been using drugs and lied to you about quitting, maybe even several times?

Did your significant other let you down by becoming emotionally absent and away when you needed him or her most in a tough period of your life?

These things hurt, but not all betrayals are alike.

Was there malice involved or is the person just busy or selfish? Be honest about what happened and try to see it as an outside observer would.

What motivated this person to betray you and how can it be prevented from ever happening again in the future?

The betrayal might hurt like hell, but objectively speaking what led to it?

Clarifying this will help you move forward.

4) How much does it hurt?

The pain of the betrayal mostly depends on how close your relationship was and how intense and unexpected the betrayal.

If you were just betrayed by the only girl you’ve ever loved and found she’s been sleeping with another man and in love with him for a year then the betrayal is going to compound all your negative emotions and reactions.

how much does it hurt Overcoming betrayal: 10 ways to deal with the pain

But if you just collaborated with a work colleague on a project and then they took the credit and left you in the dust the betrayal is more commonplace and less personal.

In one case you will be torn up inside on a deep level. On the other, you will likely be angry and be warier about who you trust at work in the future.

Think about the relationship that the betrayal affected and how much it meant to you.

Was it really a meaningful relationship or was it a codependent attachment?

As Rudá Iandê explains in his free masterclass on finding true love and intimacy, many times we get lost in searching for external validation and forgetting our own worth.

5) Bring in outside talent

Sometimes a situation can genuinely flummox you. It hits you like a gut punch and leaves you in the gutter.

That’s where it can be a smart idea to bring in a friend or confidant to help you out.

Bring in some outside talent to provide a pair of fresh eyes and help you assess what’s happened. A friend who cares about you but isn’t personally involved in what happened is usually your best bet.

Just make sure it is someone you trust to give it to you straight even if it’s going to hurt.

That way you can count on them to tell you the truth about why they think the betrayal happened and what you should do next.

6) Look at the big picture

Part of dealing with betrayal is looking at the big picture and assessing where you’re at now.

Take time to reflect and meditate. Get in touch with yourself and love yourself.

Avoid self-blame but also don’t be afraid to take a hard look at your own thoughts and feelings and how your own reaction to the betrayal might have made your current situation better or worse.

Don’t focus on why the betrayal happened: focus on what it means and how it will affect your future going forward?

You’re going to need to acknowledge what occurred, but you don’t need to make it hurt even more. Just accept it and think about what comes next.

If you’re not ready for that yet just sit with the pain and reflect on your life.

What’s your big picture and what do you feel called to do next?

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7) Face your betrayer

When your period of reflection and inner stillness feels adequate it’s time to think about speaking to your betrayer.

Even if you never want to see them again after that in your life, this can be a chance to tell them what they did to you and make sure they understand the impact they had.

Try to avoid bitterness, shouting, and definitely don’t resort to physical fighting.

Think of this as a post-game report to let that person know how far they fell short of what’s acceptable but also for you to speak out loud and express what’s been bottled up inside you.

If meeting in person feels impossible then consider doing it over the phone or in an e-mail.

8) Make your boundaries crystal clear

Whether you want to have some limited contact again with the person who betrayed you or you want them out of your life for good, it’s important to make your boundaries crystal clear.

You won’t always be able to physically avoid them, particularly if they’re a work colleague you have an office next to or an ex who you share custody of children with.

But no matter what you need to let them know your boundaries: emotional and physical.

If you don’t even want to hug them ever again, for example, hurtful as it might be you need to let that person know that you’re not comfortable with physical contact.

If you want to try to move forward despite what happened but are still feeling sensitive then communicate that and let them know it will take a long time for your trust to regrow and you need to be handled with care and patience.

9) Put an emotional restraining order on yourself

What I mean here is don’t return to the scene of the betrayal emotionally or physically after it’s happened. Turn down their calls and texts. Don’t meet up for coffee or to hear them weedle their way out of what they did.

I’m not saying you need to stay angry forever.

But you need to give yourself time away from the person who betrayed you.

Don’t jump right back into that shark tank with the person who let you down and put that burden right back on yourself.

Let yourself have space and time and reflection. Let the fire simmer down and make it clear to them that you’re not ready for a big talk or some apology right away.

Take the time you need and let yourself build back up into a full person.

When you feel yourself reaching for the phone to call or even talking to a friend to complain about the betrayal then check yourself.

The more you focus on it the more that desire for revenge or resolution is going to fester. Let the anger burn through you pure and clean instead of making a bitter story about it that shapes the rest of your life and puts you right back at the next chapter in a horror novel.

10) Know when to walk away

If someone betrays you repeatedly or has done something that’s taken a giant chunk out of your heart you need to know when to walk away.

There’s such a thing as a second chance but third, fourth and fifth chances are a little iffier.

There comes a point where you’re just being masochistic.

Know when to walk away Overcoming betrayal: 10 ways to deal with the pain

You need to respect and love yourself. Put your foot down and end the cycle of codependence and self-blame. As much as you may care about someone there comes a time when you have to let them know that you can’t see them again until far in the future if they turn over a new leaf.

Don’t let yourself get played. An emotionally manipulative narcissist or an emotionally abusive person will take advantage of any perceived weakness.

It’s on them to work on their issues: it is not your job to fix them.

Sometimes betrayal is the end of the story, and accepting it fully can let the healing begin.

Moving forward

As you move forward after a betrayal take it easy on yourself. Even the strongest person can get rocked to their core by somebody they care about letting them down.

Give yourself time and space and let your injuries have time to heal. Don’t blame yourself for the emotions you’re feeling but also resist the urge to let them define you or become your “story.”

You had an awful thing happen to you, but you don’t have to enter the next chapter of your life being “that guy” or “that girl” who had X happen to them.

You can be you and you can step forward bravely despite the pain with optimism and courage.

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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