Editor’s Note: Sara Kuburic is a therapist who specializes in identity, relationships, and moral trauma. Every week she shares her advice with our readers. Find her on Instagram @millennial.therapist
“Am I allowed to be upset about this?”
I frequently receive this question in both my sessions and from my Instagram followers. Without fail, this question is asked in the context of something their partner has said or done. It’s often served with caveats: “Maybe I am being dramatic,” or “Maybe she didn’t mean it,” or my personal favorite, “It’s not like he cheated on me.”
When did the bar become so low?
“At least they didn’t cheat on me.” For many this phrase is meant to offer perspective and comfort, but it can actually induce a sense of guilt and forced gratitude.
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This narrative suggests the right to be upset is reserved for those with unfaithful partners. Yes, people who have been cheated on have every right to feel betrayed, but what about the rest of us? Many people have lived through seemingly common experiences in our relationships that have left us feeling betrayed and hurt.
Am I feeling betrayed?
Betrayal occurs when our trust or confidence has been broken or when our pivotal expectation has been violated by someone whom we trust. Betrayal is also accompanied by several emotions that intensify our experience:
- Disappointment because the other party failed to meet our expectations
- Shame that our trust has been exploited
- Anger because we have been mistreated
- Resentment for being treated unfairly
- Distrust of other people because we are scared of being hurt again
10 relationship experiences that can leave us feeling betrayed:
- Being taken for granted
- Having our vulnerability or insecurities used against us
- Being lied to/ having information withheld from us
- Having our promises broken
- Being humiliated or put down
- Feeling unsupported
- Feeling the other person withdraw emotionally
- Perceiving a lack of commitment
- Having our privacy violated
- Seeing unreciprocated efforts
What can I do if I am feeling betrayed?
Evaluate the relationship
Do you feel safe bringing up your feelings and concerns with your significant other? Is this a relationship you still want to be in? These are important questions to ask yourself before attempting to reconcile with your partner. Understanding how much hurt has been inflicted can help you determine if your healing journey will be with them or a solo mission.
Communicate to your partner how you feel
Communicating how you feel may be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary. Be honest about feeling betrayed and share with your partner the actions or words that led to this feeling. Doing so can lead to reconciliation, and it can also change the patterns and trajectory of the relationship. The point of communicating is not to accuse but to provide your partner with an understanding of how you are experiencing the relationship.
Set or adjust boundaries
In some instances, you may feel betrayed because your partner has not fulfilled your needs, has hurt you, didn’t meet your expectations or infringed on your sense of autonomy.
Here are three reasons why this may have happened:
- You didn’t set a boundary/didn’t know you had one until it was violated;
- Your partner didn’t know what your boundary was;
- Your partner did not take your boundary seriously.
Regardless, now is the time to clarify the boundary and the consequences that follow if it’s violated again.
Betrayal is incredibly painful. If you choose to continue the relationship, it’s important for you to take steps toward forgiving your partner. This often takes time and can feel incredibly unfair. It’s important to remember that if you hold on to pain, distrust, and resentment, it can hinder the growth of the relationship.
Sara is open to answering questions from readers. You can reach her at SKuburic@gannett.com
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