Whether stemming from a friendship or a romance, betrayal is a bitter pill to swallow because it shatters trust and compromises the future of the relationship. Dealing with the emotional aftermath of betrayal is an important part of moving forward and finding opportunities for personal growth within a painful experience.
Accept the reality of the situation. Perhaps your friend shared your most guarded secret with somebody else, slept with your significant other or stole something from you. No matter what the betrayal, the first step in overcoming it is to admit and accept that it happened. Acceptance makes it possible to move forward, but it is also often the most challenging. The discovery of a trusted and valued friend’s betrayal is usually so shocking that it can be tempting to slip into denial as a way of avoiding the unpleasant feelings that inevitably accompany reality. The sooner you are able to accept that you have been betrayed, the sooner you can begin to heal from the wounds of that experience.
Actively process your emotions as they come. Betrayal typically triggers an avalanche of emotions in the victim. Despite the temptation to ignore, avoid or outright deny unpleasant emotions, the only way out is through. If you feel sad and want to cry, allow yourself to do so. If you feel angry and need to release, try to find a constructive outlet like exercise or journaling. As you work through it, you will begin to feel better and the pain will gradually lose its intensity. You should also make an effort to mourn the loss of the friendship as you knew it. Though the potential for a future friendship may still exist, this experience changed the landscape of that relationship.
Make a decision about the future of the relationship. After you’ve had some time to accept the betrayal’s existence and work through some of the most intense emotions, you need to start thinking about whether or not you would like the friendship to continue and if so, on what terms. Some factors to consider might include the severity of the betrayal and the sincerity of remorse felt by the betrayer, if any. Sometimes continued friendship is possible and the experience serves to strengthen the bond as valuable lessons are learned from it. Other times, though, it may be necessary to sever the friendship completely. Ultimately, only you can decide what is best for you.
Forgive your friend. Many people are reluctant to forgive because they think it condones the behavior of the betrayer but this is not the case. Forgiveness frees the victim from having to carry the emotional pain caused by the betrayal. Another common misconception about forgiveness is that it automatically reinstates the friendship. You can absolutely forgive your friend without having to accept her back into your life in any way. As a matter of fact, you don’t even need to tell your friend that you forgave her because forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself not the other person.
Kristina Barroso is a middle school English teacher, published author and freelance writer with experience in a wide range of subjects. She loves writing about parenting, relationships, education and more for publications like The Classroom and WorkingMother.
Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images