Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Betrayed By Love

Can There Be Love After Betrayal?

Kathleen Mary Andersen
For “Opinion Magazine”
July, 2010

"We always come back to ourselves,
which is where we must find what we
need to be safe and happy before we
can share love with anyone again."

When we love or care deeply about something or someone -- we have opened the door to betrayal. Relationships are seldom easy and they do not provide a promise of safety, no matter what we imagine in the joyful early stages. In spite of the bruises I have felt, I still remain a romantic at heart. Loving someone forces us to stretch and grow, hurt and heal in a way that no other experience provides. However, taking things at face value will never be the same once that dream has shattered by betrayal.

There is no deeper fulfillment than love; and, therefore, betrayal can drop us to our knees and make us believe that we will never trust again. So what is “betrayal”? Could it be the life script we have produced, does not have the endings or emotions we thought we wrote? We want to make sure we do not have another miserable relationship ending. When the real ending happens, we are crushed. We cry, we hurt, we are in pain. The hero – “yourself” faces defeat and anguish. This is not the way I envisioned it.Then suddenly what emerges is the reality of what the relationship really was. The areas we glossed over, covered with sand to hide the flaws -- suddenly comes to light and is clear. Ok, maybe things were not so perfect. We can write our part in the play of life but we cannot write another person’s character lines, nor take responsibility for the change of script.

Any one of us can experience betrayal in our personal relationships. No one is immune. Whether we have been hurt in our family relationships, our marriage, our business or our friendships, we can emerge from the pain with greater self-worth, reclaim our lives, and learn to love and trust again. We begin a new “play” of love but maybe leave openings for the “improv” from the other person. Unfortunately, many people try to shield themselves in ultimately destructive ways especially testing everyone they meet.

Trust is built in stages. We start out trusting cautiously. Over time, if our experiences and instincts allow it, we may begin to trust unconditionally. We are likely to trust someone who meets our deepest emotional needs. If there is a sexual relationship, the bond may become very deep. We feel safe and therefore allow ourselves to become vulnerable. If we discover suddenly that what we thought was true is not true (for example, that someone was dependable when he or she proves not to be) we experience emotional chaos. Trust is often the most difficult element to recover. It can be a vicious cycle.

We may feel betrayed when an "unspoken contract" is broken. Sexual, physical or emotional disappointments feel like betrayals because we have the unspoken belief that our partner will keep us safe in all ways. We assume that we won't be misled or deceived; therefore, if someone keeps important information from us because it might be upsetting, it is betrayal. If your partner withholds his or her true feelings about their emotions or we are not loved for who we really are, it is a betrayal. But this is the “script” we wrote, not the script with interaction from someone else who is the author of their own play or life drama.

Reactions to betrayal are similar to reactions to death. These reactions might include shock and denial, shame and self-blame, hostility, anger, vengeance, jealousy, or seeking refuge in judgments and interpretations. There are no wrong reactions in this grieving process, but some people get stuck. Sticking in “stuck mode” of hate may allow you to avoid feeling pain. Anger becomes an armor from a loss of feeling and the death of our spirit. It is amazing that our feelings or directly our “ego” feels more pain that perhaps a cut on your hand.

If you are hanging on to one of these reactions long after the betrayal and seem to be obsessing about it, stuck in the grief process, you may need help to begin healing. Getting unstuck allows you to explore your inner experience and discover the cause of your reactions. What are we really grieving? Someone we knew was wrong for us? Was this opinion the one that that led to this end. Did we have unrealistic expectations, romantic fantasies, fear of failing, fear of being alone. Childhood fears do carry over to our adult life. Did we grow up being told “do not to be a failure”. It is unrealistic to think that a relationship doesn't require a lifetime of work. And the win and lose in relationship isn’t always up to just us.

So, you have been betrayed! Felt that your life has fallen apart. Carry around what feels like a big hole in the middle of our body. A hole where our heart used to be. We can use this devastating experience to increase our self-worth, reclaim our life, and learn to love and trust again. Begin by admitting and accepting that what happened is only the opinion of another person, not necessarily how things are. Did the other person have a ditty bag full of personal issues and “baggage”?

In the end, we always come back to ourselves. This is where we must find what we need to be safe and happy before we can share love with anyone. The popular musician Sting said that his best writing was born of pain. Creativity can teach us about ourselves and re-engage us with life.
Develop a support system that is independent of any future primary love relationship. One of the criteria for a healthy relationship is that both of you can live without it. Your relationship cannot be all that sustains you. Next, examine any possible role that you played in the betrayal. This deepens your understanding of yourself and helps insure that you won't repeat your mistakes. Did you not recognize the warning signs? You may have to explore childhood experiences that have conditioned you to behave in ways that prevent you from getting your adult needs met. Finally, commit to improving communication and dialogue in all your relationships. This is skill building. Whether you are a man or a woman, it is irresponsible to assume that if you are not good at communication, others will make allowances. It is your responsibility to know yourself, your feelings, your desires, your needs, and be able to communicate them. We are all capable of increasing our emotional intelligence and our ability to communicate it. Communication isn’t always verbal, it can be in writing as well. Say or write what is on your mind.

The human heart can survive many things but when someone we love and trust betrays us, it can painfully shake the very foundation of our faith in humanity. Sometimes it can cause us to loose our sense of “self”, we may spiral into a deep depression or even become withdrawn from others and possibly suicidal. Loss of love hurts! Painful experiences help us learn about ourselves. If you are in the process of self-discovery, your best relationships are yet to come. Choose them wisely and trust again. As the saying goes, “time heals all wounds”.
Kathleen Mary Andersen is a free lance writer living in Seattle. She is the author of “Myth and Mystery of the Pacific Northwest” and “The Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. She has written for “Beyond” and “Quest” magazines in England and has been a free lance writer with Opinion since 2004.