If you’ve ever felt betrayed by a family member, you’re not alone. In fact, most people, at some point in their life, feel betrayed by family, friends, or a business relationship. When family betrays you, it may feel particularly painful as these are supposed to be the people we can trust most according to most typical expectations. Here are some tips how to deal with a family member who has betrayed you and how to recover from a betrayal so that you can get over the hurt and move on.
Examples Of Family Betrayal
Some of the most common family betrayals that people experience are:
Judging by these examples of family betrayal, you can tell that some are more devastating than others. However, any betrayal of trust eats away at the foundation of any relationship.
A lie told with a straight face while looking into your eyes is a betrayal of trust and it hurts. When your brother says nasty things about you behind your back, that is the type of backstabbing that is hard to ever forgive. When your partner betrays their marital vows by cheating on you, that may be a betrayal that ends the relationship.
Real Life Example Of Family Betrayal
Do you want to know a real example of family betrayal? The kind that cuts like a knife and ruins lives? Let’s just say it is the story of two sisters. I will make a long story short here but it begins when my little sister betrayed my big sister. My little sister was working for my big sister and she helped to steal my big sister’s clients out from under her (maybe she thought she was justified at the time). Sounds bad, right? Well, it is worse. My big sister was cut so deep that she never recovered financially or otherwise. This was the beginning of a massively hard time for my big sister where she struggled to stay a float and to parent her child. It was also a hard time for my little sister who became an alcoholic and struggled to live life. I think the sister that was betrayed felt sad and angry and confused and frankly had a hard time believing in life again. I think the sister that did the betrayal felt sad and angry and confused too. I think she already had a hard time believing in life and this only made matters worse.
They worked towards forgiveness but never really achieved it for the long term. I wish I had a happy ending here but it is not happy. Betrayal has so many unintended consequences. You can’t fix the things that go off track as a result or the betrayal. My big sister never did become financially secure and able to provide for her daughter a stable home again. It is now about 20 years later and I wonder sometimes what a big difference it would have made to my niece’s life who got lost in the shuffle. My little sister died and I think she was still full of sorrow about betraying my big sister when she left us.
From the outside, you may say, get a grip people. Move past it. But when betrayal knocks at your door, it cuts you nearly in half and leaves a huge scar. It makes you question yourself, your relationship with others, the purpose of this thing called life, and if it is really worth living when what you thought you knew, you didn’t know. What you thought was solid, wasn’t solid. When love turns against you, it can feel that you don’t have much left to live for. I believe these feelings are similar in both parties, that is, if the betrayer bothers to have any remorse. I share this story of betrayal so you can see what a mess it leaves behind. It is best to live by your family values and never betray. However, if you find yourself on either end of a family betrayal, work on addressing the underlying issues and making things right because time doesn’t heal everything. You have to do the work to make the healing happen.
What Do You Do When Your Family Betrays You?
When family betrays you, it can feel like someone has literally stabbed you in the back. Depending on the severity, betrayal trauma is a real thing. Either way around it, take some time to get away and think before you respond in a rash way.
When someone you care about betrays you, recovery can be a challenge. There is a lot of personal work you need to do so that you can find a way to move on. Here are several suggestions for what to do when you are betrayed by family.
1. Connect with your feelings
In order to start recovering, you need to know how you truly feel. When you get in touch with your true feelings about the situation, what emotions are you experiencing? Anger? Sadness? Fear? Surprise? Shame? Loneliness?
It may take some time to really know how you feel after the shock wears off. Name your feelings so that you know what you need to work on. This will allow you to start processing the pain.
2. Resist revenge
Even if you are not the vengeful type, you may have an overwhelming compulsion to get revenge in some way. Don’t. It won’t serve you to stoop to their level. Rise up and be the better person. You will be glad you did later on. This feeling is temporary and you will find yourself on the road to recovery sooner if you let go of your urge to retaliate.
3. Separate yourself
The best thing you can do for yourself when you’re feeling betrayed is to separate yourself from the person who betrayed you. This means physically, emotionally, and electronically. Don’t respond to text messages, don’t communicate with them (or about them) on social media, just remove them from your day-to-day. It will start to bring you peace. Keeping in touch will only encourage the urge to seek revenge. You need space to process your feelings.
4. Dig deep
There are a variety of reasons why someone might betray someone else. Dig deep and try to figure out why this happened. Were they just careless? Was it deliberate? Could it have been unintentional? Trying to understand the real reason someone might betray us can make getting over it a little easier.
You may want to read about psychological reasons for betrayal. As pointed out on ArcGIS, “Betrayal can be caused by many things including jealousy, greed, power, and fear. These reasons can push people, even as close as family, to act against you for their own personal reasons even if it means causing you pain.”
Lots of times the act of betrayal may occur because of lots of little things have left a person feeling angry, disconnected, or without a way of communicating with you. No matter the reason, it does not make the betrayal OK. It may however, make it easier to understand and easier to learn from.
That being said, it may be a puzzle you will never truly solve so you may have to make peace with that too.
5. Consider the relationship
Sometimes betrayal comes when you’ve drifted apart as a way of getting your attention again. How strong is your relationship? A betrayal from someone you’re not close to is much different than a betrayal of a spouse or sibling. Consider the person involved and what their motive may have been.
How much damage was done? How much does this relationship usually add to your life? Was this a one time mistake or a pattern of behavior? Consider whether the family member has offered a sincere apology. Consider if it is possible to patch things up.
6. Seek counseling
Sometimes a third, neutral, party can help you understand your feelings, why something happened, and how to move on. If you’re having trouble recovering, it may be time to seek professional help.
If you are feeling angry at yourself for feeling so much sadness and anger, try to cut yourself some slack. It is hard to know how betrayal feels unless you have been through it yourself. It really can be devastating. There are counsellors who offer extra long crisis sessions to help you work through trauma if you are experiencing a significant betrayal.
7. Talk it out
Once you’ve given yourself some time and space from the immediate pain of the betrayal, talk it out with your family member and try to understand what happened.
Want to know what to say to someone who betrayed you? My advice is tell them how it made you feel. Don’t hold back. Tell them everything you need to say it get it off your chest. Then, give them a chance to explain.
Tell them exactly how they hurt you. And listen as carefully as possible to their reasons and their apology. It may not heal the relationship, but it will help you move on.
What does betrayal do to a person?
A serious betrayal by family can wipe you out. It can empty your trust accounts and make it hard to trust anyone. The thing is, however, we need to be able to trust. In order to be a joyous person, we want to believe. That is why it is so important to give yourself the time to work through the betrayal.
Betrayal can hurt people in ways that can make it hard to find happiness and peace in life, for both the betrayer and the betrayed. I have seen this and felt it. However, I have also experienced healing from a betrayal so I would like to leave you with a hopeful quote.
In The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R.Covey says, “So while trying to restore trust may be difficult, it is definitely worth it. Even if trust is not restored in the particular relationship you’re working on, your efforts to restore it will increase your ability to build trust in other relationships. As in almost every other aspect of life, breakdowns can create break-throughs. Challenges and mistakes can become some of our greatest opportunities to learn, grow, and improve.”
Feeling betrayed by a family member is painful and sometimes, unforgivable. But if the betrayal was unintentional or there’s a way to salvage the relationship, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. Keep in mind the old adage though, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Another powerful way of thinking about it is, “Once is a mistake, twice is a pattern.” Repeat offenders don’t deserve a place in your life anymore. It’s time to remove them from your life and move on with healing yourself for your own wellbeing.