Rebuilding a relationship after betrayal can be a challenging process. Is it possible? Yes, when both people are willing to do the hard work to recreate something new. Now, if you’re the betrayed, I can already hear you saying: “But I didn’t do anything, why should I have to do anything to create something new?”
You don’t have to do anything at all.
You can heal yourself and move along. However, if you’re willing to do your work to heal (by moving through The 5 Stages from Betrayal to Breakthrough you won’t miss any steps), you can use the trauma as a catalyst for transformation.
While rebuilding requires work on both sides, it’s also important to know that It’s not your fault that your partner made the decision to betray. That was their choice. Whatever led them to betray is for them to work through and while there may be reasons, those reasons are never an excuse for the behavior.
So while betrayal destroys the old relationship along with the rules that went with it, rebuilding (whether you’re rebuilding yourself only or rebuilding yourself and something new with the person who hurt you), it’s your opportunity to become the strongest, most confident, resilient and healed version of you because of it. It’s your opportunity to set new boundaries, decide what no longer works for you and make decisions based on what you may see so clearly now.
For the betrayer, it’s an opportunity to heal whatever led to their decisions while also rebuilding the broken heart and trust of the person or people who’ve been hurt. When you’re willing to dive in and heal what led to your choices, you have an opportunity to move through destructive emotions like shame, regret, remorse and more; helping you become someone you can respect and be proud of.
So while someone betraying you isn’t your fault, it’s definitely your opportunity.
If you’re the one who betrayed, it’s important to realize this….
If you’ve been gifted the opportunity to make things right, realize it’s a golden and precious opportunity. It’s not a given, something to be expected and certainly, not something to take advantage of. It’s an incredible second chance that needs to be taken seriously and treated with the utmost care and respect.
With that in mind, here are some steps that may help:
- Acknowledge the pain that’s been caused: Both parties need to acknowledge the pain and hurt caused by the betrayal. Hear it with an open mind and heart. Remember, betrayal is one of the most painful of the human experiences. If your heart has been broken, you were blindsided, lied to, disrespected, taken for granted and all of the other things betrayal brings, be honest about the pain and confusion it’s caused.
- Communicate openly and honestly: Clear communication is essential in rebuilding trust. A rock solid foundation begins with trust so anything leaving the betrayed questioning where you are, what you’re doing, what your intentions are, and anything that creates a sense of fear or anxiety needs to be addressed…a lot. Have an open and honest conversation about what happened and how each person is feeling. Then go above and beyond to create a sense of safety and security.
- Take full and complete responsibility: The person who betrayed must take full and complete responsibility for their actions and be willing to go the distance to rebuild what’s been shattered. No excuses, no blaming, no denial. Own it. That’s how you begin to heal because when we make excuses or blame others, we hand our power over to the opportunity, the addiction, the trauma, the excuse.
- Set clear and specific boundaries: It’s important to set boundaries to ensure that the betrayal does not happen again in the future. Boundaries can be around many topics that’s important to you, so it’s a time to look at what you may have been tolerating that’s no longer acceptable. For example, maybe you didn’t speak up because you didn’t want to upset your partner. Now is the time to set new boundaries based on what feels right and safe for you.
- Get support: Support is crucial when you’re healing from betrayal. Get support from someone who gets it and can help. And, be sure they’re highly skilled in betrayal because if there’s one thing that keeps us stuck, it’s simply unpacking our story over and over again without a strategic plan to move forward from it.
- Be patient: Rebuilding trust takes time, it’s not something to rush so be as patient as you can.
- Focus on the future after healing the past: Heal the past fully so that you can create something entirely new. Consider an official ceremony memorializing the death of the old relationship in order to birth the new. Grieve the old relationship so it’s clear that it’s no longer an option. Then, focus on creating something new based on what you may both be ready for now.
Remember, rebuilding a relationship after betrayal isn’t going to be easy. It can be the hardest…and the most transformative work you’ll ever do. At the very least, it’s an opportunity to use the experience to grow, learn and evolve. When we do, we’re stronger, better and wiser for everything and anyone going forward.
Founder and CEO, The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute