Here’s a list I hope you never need.
It’s a help list for anyone who has been blindsided by betrayal.
You’ll move through several stages of healing after betrayal, especially if the person was someone you loved and trusted for a long time. This may help through the first crisis stage.
1. Breathe deep. Your life has just radically changed. Keep breathing.
2. Find a space that feels safe. For several days (or many more), demand space from the person who betrayed you. He/she may try to explain or apologize, but you won’t hear much until you’ve found your footing. You need time to adjust to a new reality.
3. Know that you do NOT have to make decisions about the long term, except for choices about children - Where will they stay? And, what will you say to them about the situation? Other than that, give yourself time. You can’t think clearly when you’re emotional so put off all big decisions. Your mind will jump to all sorts of questions and needs (How am I going to pay rent? I have to move!), but it is impossible to be logical right now. Practice being in a space of non-decision.
4. Be kind to yourself:
a. Take baths. Go on walks. Do what makes you feel good. It’s not the best time to do that house maintenance project you’ve been putting off.
b. Eat nourishing and healthy food, if you can eat at all. You may lose your appetite completely. Or, you may begin to eat a lot. It’s OK. You’re under a lot of stress so eating habits may change.
c. Though you may find it difficult, try to sleep. Turn off the computer at night. Read inspiring books before bed. Meditate. Do whatever you can to calm down and rest at the end of the day. If you have trouble sleeping, your doc can help with short-term medication. Don’t beat yourself up, here, ok? You need rest, and you may need help finding it.
d. Watch your thoughts. Betrayal is never your fault. No matter what was said, you have worth. You have value. You are beautiful.
a. Get your heart pumping when you feel pressure mounting. Take a walk, run up a hill, feel your lungs burn. Do burpies, if you like those. Moving your muscles can be a good way to work with intense emotion.
b. Gentle exercise is needed too. Something relaxing. Childs pose in yoga may be all you can handle for awhile. Totally fine.
6. Especially after betrayal, emotions can be intense. Cry. Get angry. Wrap yourself in a blanket and listen to sappy love songs. Fall apart into your beer/nachos/oreo ice cream. It’s ok. In fact, it is necessary. Repeat often.
7. Stop falling apart sometimes. You need an emotional break for a few hours, or a few minutes. It’s OK to turn it on and off.
8. Other people. Do’s and don’ts.
a. Don’t hide. You need others.
b. Talk to people, but know that it’s hard for some to witness what you’re going through. Not everyone will know what to say. You’ll probably receive terrible advice like “God never gives us more than we can handle” or “Every cloud has a silver lining.” People just feel helpless and don’t know what to say. Happily, you’ll find out who your best friends are. They are the ones who simply listen, who bring you food, or check in on you.
c. Don’t over share personal details. It seems crazy now, but you may decide to patch things up down the road. If others know too many details, they may stand in your way.
d. Sometimes a whole community of people held a secret along with the betrayer. It’s an awful truth of betrayal- others are often involved. It sucks. Don’t be surprised if you discover this.
e. Be vigilant about only allowing healthy, positive, loving people into your life.
9. Find a pastor, counselor, or therapist. You need support, and if you’re having trouble sleeping or eating, your friends and family aren’t enough. If you want to learn more about yourself, now is the time… once you work through the crisis stage. The window is open to explore yourself - relationship patterns, attachment style, future dreams, what you compromised for.
10. Along those same lines, explore or rely upon prayer and spirituality. Faith will sustain you for years to come, if you let it. And, God/Universe/Allah/Energy/whateveryoucallit is there waiting for you, living in peace and love. Always peace and love.
11. Don’t do anything (or anyone) out of vengeance. Love should be positive and clean for all parties involved. Just because someone treated you poorly doesn’t mean you have to right to spread it around.
12. Don’t watch movies for a while, or if you do, watch comedies. Avoid relationship dramas, for 8 out of 10 of them are about betrayal.
13. Start a gratitude list. At first, it will feel impossible but find little things you’re grateful for. “I got out of bed today. I ate part of a banana. I made it through the Minions movie without bursting into tears. Mom says she loves me.” It’ll get easier. I promise.
Please, please, please know that you are not alone.
I’m going to make this list available on my website as a freebie for anyone who needs it. But, before I do, I’d love to hear any feedback. Is there something more that should be on the list? Something I missed?