Betrayal is a complex and devastating experience that leaves a lasting impact on anyone it touches. It can be defined as a breach of trust, where someone violates the confidence and expectations of another person. Betrayal can occur in many different forms, including lying, cheating, breaking promises, and disclosing confidential information. Despite the wide range of situations in which betrayal can occur, it’s a universal experience that has affected people throughout history. Here are common reasons why betrayal happens. Then, if you’re the betrayer, we’ll explore what to do to help the ones you hurt. None of these reasons excuse the behavior, but awareness always helps us understand. For the betrayed it’s important to see at the very least…that it had nothing to do with you.

First, a few common reasons why people betray another person:

  1. Selfish motives: One of the most common reasons for betrayal is self-interest. People may betray others to gain power, money, or attention. They may also betray others to avoid consequences or protect themselves from harm. In these cases, the betrayer places their own needs above the well-being of others.
  2. Lack of empathy: People who are unable to understand or care about the feelings of others may be more likely to betray others. They may be indifferent to the consequences of their actions, or they may believe that their actions are justified.
  3. Insecurity and low self-esteem: Some people may betray others as a result of their own feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem. They may feel the need to control or manipulate others in order to feel better about themselves. This type of behavior is often driven by a fear of rejection or a need for validation.
  4. Power dynamics: Betrayal can also occur as a result of power dynamics in relationships. In some cases, one person may betray another as a way to assert their power or control. This type of betrayal can occur in both personal and professional relationships, and can have serious consequences.
  5. Miscommunication: Betrayal can also occur as a result of misunderstandings or miscommunications. When expectations are not clearly communicated, it can be easy for individuals to betray one another. For example, one person may believe that they have a different understanding of a situation than another person, leading to a breach of trust.
  6. Lack of integrity: When people lack integrity, it can be easier for them to betray others. This can occur when there are no consequences for their actions or when others are not aware of their behavior. When the deciding factor around a choice is if someone will get caught or not, that’s an issue of integrity. My personal definition of integrity? “Doing the right thing…even when no one is watching.”

Betrayal can occur for a variety of reasons, including selfish motives, lack of empathy, insecurity, power dynamics, miscommunication, and lack of accountability or integrity. Understanding the underlying causes of betrayal can help us recognize and address it. Then do the work to heal the devastation it causes.

So let’s say someone betrays another and realizes the chaos it creates. They may feel guilt and a desire to make amends. They may feel tremendous shame for their actions. They may feel deep remorse and wonder if their actions could ever be forgiven. While someone betrayed has every right to heal themselves and move along, here are a few steps the betrayer could take to try to make things right. (Note: Of course it’s going to take lots more than this but here’s a good place to start):

  1. Apologize: A sincere apology is a good start to healing the relationship, especially when the betrayer is expressing deep remorse for their actions.
  2. Take responsibility: The betrayer should take full and complete responsibility for their actions and avoid blaming others or making excuses.
  3. Make amends: If possible, the betrayer should try to make amends any way they can to the person they betrayed in the form of taking steps to repair the harm they have caused.
  4. Change behavior: If the betrayal was a pattern of behavior, the betrayer needs to do the work to change it while demonstrating their commitment to change their behavior with the “whatever it takes” attitude going forward.

It’s important to note that the healing process can be difficult, and the person who was betrayed may not be willing or able to forgive the betrayer. However, if the betrayed is willing to do the work to heal, and the betrayer is willing to change everything that led to their actions, (along with helping the betrayed heal), it’s possible to have a new and even better relationship on the other side of their healing.

Dr. Debi
Founder and CEO, The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute

308: A Mini Dose of Dr. Debi: Trusting Again