How to be thankful when you’ve been betrayed by the one you love
Being betrayed by the one you love is one of the most painful things that can happen to anyone.
You loved this person with all your heart and soul.
You made a public commitment to him or her, in front of witnesses, family and friends.
You changed your life for them.
You may have had children together, whose feelings are now involved in the aftereffects of whatever the betrayal has caused.
You left home for them, you may have changed your religion, left your job, moved to a new place, said goodbye to family and friends.
You loved this person so much that you became one with them, socially, legally, and spiritually.
You let down the boundaries at the edges of yourself, to let them in, and then you made new boundaries, wider boundaries, that had space in them for both of you.
This person you loved and trusted so much has become a part of you… a part that you have now discovered, in some surprising and painful way, is rotten to the core.
Few discoveries could be more painful, disturbing, and shocking.
The foundations of your world have been shaken up.
Nothing is as you thought it was.
It is hard to know whom to believe, or what to trust.
Finding out that the person you loved and trusted most in the world has betrayed you, is a trauma of tremendous proportions. There is no getting around that.
I am not going to issue stupid platitudes such as “You’ll get over it” or “It wasn’t meant to be “or “It’s better you found out now” (Than when? After you had 5 kids with them instead of 4?).
I promise you never to say, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
I am not going to blow unicorn-colored smoke up any part of your anatomy.
Getting over a profound betrayal of this type is going to take at least several years.
It’s a tremendous injury. If you have just found out about the betrayal, you are still in shock. Your body and mind use shock to protect themselves, to shut down all non-essential functions to allow you to cope with a severe emergency. Shock is there to protect you as you begin to absorb the enormity of what has happened and figure out how to heal.
After the shock wears off, you have to go through all the stages of loss and grief: anger, denial, bargaining, depression, etc. Which one of those sounds like fun? None of them. That’s not what you signed up for when you said “I do”.
In the days, weeks, months and years after you discover a betrayal by the person you trusted most in the whole world, your whole life is going to have to change. The assumptions you based your life on have been shown to be faulty. Some of the things you believed were the case have been proven to be untrue. There are practical decisions to be made, and legal things, and logistics, and moving, and helping your children cope with whatever has happened, and getting a job. Sometimes it’s all you can do to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, day by day.
I’m not going to say that time heals everything, because that’s simply not true. Time by itself does not heal anything if you just let time go by without doing the healing work required to recover from any severe trauma. Hard work and social support and, if necessary, getting professional help (whether that means legal, psychological, or housekeeping help), are the things that bring healing, and all of those take time.
But is the healing ever complete?
Let’s say you’ve done all the hard, healing work. You’ve rebuilt the foundation of your life to no longer have the person who betrayed you in it. You’ve come out of shock and gone through the stages of grief and you are at, or almost at, acceptance:
This is what happened. This is what you’ve done to deal with it. This is what you’ve got.
But you will never go back to the way you were before you met this person and fell in love with them.
If you have ever truly loved someone, that love has changed you. Love is a transforming force.
You can be angry for years, and then one day, you may find that you have run out of anger. All the anger is used up. And you may discover that beneath the anger, the love is still there.
And that’s when the real pain begins.
How do you reconcile yourself to being without the person that you love so much? And to knowing that the reason you have to live without them is that they did not love YOU enough to do what had to be done to make things work? They did not love you enough to stand up for you when it really mattered, to tell the truth, to defend your marriage, to speak up in court? They did not love you enough to prefer you over others, to defend you to their family, to appreciate the life you’d built together? That out of all the choices that they had to make in life, and although you had chosen them and put them first, they did not choose you?
That hurts. There is no way around it.
But here’s the thing. You can’t control whether someone loves you or not. You can’t control the strength of someone’s character, or what they prioritize in their life, or how they handle challenges and choices that life puts in their path. You can only control you.
If you have loved someone so much that their betrayal of you hurts this much, it’s because YOU know how to love.
If you have loved someone who turned out not to be trustworthy, it’s because YOU know how to trust.
If you were blindsided by their cheating, their dishonesty, or whatever they did that made it all come crashing down, it’s because you had no place in your own heart, mind and soul for dishonesty and lying and cheating and hateful behavior: not even in your wildest imagination and dreams.
In the end, it does not matter that they were not able to love you as you deserve to be loved. It does not matter that their character proved to be lacking in the ways that would have been needed to make things work. All of those are issues for them to work out, for their own soul, for their own accounting with God.
The issues for you are these:
So what is there to be thankful for in a situation like this?
You can be thankful for your own ability to love, for the power and strength of what you believed to be true.
But it’s all come crashing down! It’s ruined and gone. Your life is a shambles, everything you thought was true about this other person turned out to be a lie.
Yes, you found that out.
It was a horrible experience.
It was one of, if not the most, awful things you’ve ever gone through in your life.
You can be thankful that, for whatever reason, the truth about this person’s real behavior, feelings, and intentions was revealed to you when it was. Painful as it was, coming face to face with that awful truth has allowed you to rebuild your life on a more solid foundation.
So that’s another thing to be thankful for: that you were able to find out the truth, when you did, and make the changes that you had to make accordingly.
In the end, it doesn’t matter that he or she did not love you, or did not love you enough. It doesn’t matter that he or she was not trustworthy, or honest, or faithful, or true.
It matters that YOU are.
It turned out that this person you believed in, was not a match for you, and so they have been removed from your life.
It hurts because you had made a space for them, and now that space is empty.
It hurts because you loved them, and believed in them, and wanted the best for them: and they did not show that they were worthy of your love, your belief, and your trust.
You loved a flawed, imperfect human being (as we all are) and you did everything you could to make their life, as well as yours, the best that it could be.
They didn’t do their part, and that’s why they have been removed from your life, so your efforts can be used in more productive ways.
But you tried. You did everything you could. If your efforts could have made a difference, they would have.
Betrayal is about the other person’s failure to live up to their half of the contract you two made.
When one party to a contract doesn’t honor it, the contract is null and void.
Whatever contract you made with that person, whether in marriage or business or any other type, was not going to work — because you were not each contributing to it equally.
Therefore, you have now been released from that contract, and that too is something to be thankful for.
So let’s review. How can you be thankful in the face of profound betrayal?
But most of all, when you’ve been betrayed in love, remember this:
It’s not important, in the end, that someone else was not able to love you as you deserve to be loved.
What’s important is that you are capable of love.
Because they couldn’t love you as you deserve to be loved, in the end they did not deserve YOUR love.
That’s why they were taken away.
The real source of your continuing pain, after all the other healing work has been done, is that you still love them. You will always love them, even though they did not turn out to be worthy of your love.
But here’s the thing about love: it is not based on worthiness. It just IS. After all is said and done, this person has been removed from your life because whatever they did has made sharing a life with them impossible.
And what are YOU left with?
You have the memory of their betrayal, and the scars of how you’ve healed it.
And you still have the love.
You have all that love, with no place to put it.
The love that you still have, is that person’s gift to you. Even though THEY are no longer able to receive it directly, YOU still have it to give.
What you do with that love is up to you.
It’s yours to bestow on the world as you wish.
You can bestow it on yourself, your children, your home, your pets, your plants.
You can pour it out in your work, your hobbies, your social connections, or causes you believe in.
It is your love and it is your gift to the world.
And it was stimulated to grow and flourish in you, by that imperfect person who has ducked out of your life and is no longer there, and who has left a giant gaping hole in your heart.
You can fill that hole with love, and share it with whoever or whatever you wish.
And now that love is no longer being wasted, because you are no longer pouring it into a bottomless pit by bestowing it on someone who doesn’t deserve it and can’t give it back.
So if you’ve been betrayed by someone you love, remember this:
And those are all things to be profoundly thankful for.