Have you betrayed someone?

What may seem like a small transgression to you, may be devastating to the person whose trust you lost. Make amends and allow time to forgive and forget.

OddNaari OddNaari Dec 10, 2013

What may seem like a small transgression to you, may be devastating to the person whose trust you lost. Make amends and allow time to forgive and forget.

 It was in college when a friend told me something in confidence, and I inadvertently blurted it out to others in a moment of weakness. I still remember the look on her face, when she said-"I trusted you and you broke that trust, now I can never trust anyone again." From Julius Caesar to the Beatles, stories of betrayal have always led to huge emotional upheavals in people's lives. Betrayal is being disloyal or unfaithful, deceive, reveal secrets, and to disappoint the hopes or expectations of another in a trusted and established relationship. It also means violating certain rules of relationships such as respecting privacy, not criticising one another in public, and not disclosing shared confidences to others. All of us at one point or another have been betrayed to some extent and it is a risk we take when we trust another person. Most of us have betrayed others in ways that appeared trivial to us but the other person found devastating.

The message betrayal sends
When we betray someone, it sends out two messages- first, that we value our needs as more than that of our partner and second and more crucial, that we do not care enough about the relationship. While most research on betrayal has happened in marital/romantic relationships, betrayal by same-sex friends, parents and children is not uncommon. The workplace is another common context for interpersonal betrayal.

The emotional cost of betrayal
What might appear a small transgression to one, may be a profound betrayal to another. It has been shown that women may find their partner's lying about or not disclosing a date with another woman an even more serious betrayal than the actual event. Humiliation and public shame increase the cost of betrayal. Research has shown that the more public the betrayal, the more intense the pain. Anger and hate are two common reactions to betrayal. Anger leads to confrontation while hate may lead to emotional withdrawal. The other major reaction is a lack of trust in intimate relationships. Violation of trust may affect an individual quite deeply and impact their ability to trust the same person again and also other intimate persons in their life.

If you've betrayed someone, DO NOT:

Make excuses such as-"I went out on a date with your friend because you have been neglecting me". It does not convey the fact that you understand how upset your partner is, or that you realise that it was not the right thing to do. Justify and avoid making statements like-"I was just kidding when I joked about you at the party," or "It was a small dinner with another woman, don't make such a big deal of it"-makes the betrayed person feel invalidated. Instead tell her you realise you've hurt her by your behaviour and ensure that you don't do it again. Go into denial mode as this could be the worst form of response when a betrayal has been discovered. It leaves the partner rejected, hurt and feeling that the relationship is not important to the betrayer.

Acceptance and restitution
To win forgiveness, a betrayer must reassure his or her partner/friend that the act was a lack of judgement on their part, rather than a deficiency in the relationship. He/she must convey that the relationship is still of primary importance, and that almost any sacrifice would be made to repair and restore it. It means saying-I am genuinely sorry for having caused you so much pain. Forgiveness is not easy especially if the betrayal has caused much pain. Just saying sorry will not necessarily lead to immediate restitution of the relationship. It takes time and effort for both forgiving and forgetting to occur.

Dr Prabha Chandra is professor of psychiatry, NIMHANS, Bengaluru. She specialises in mental health problems related to pregnancy and postpartum.


Related Stories

Copyright © 2017 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today.