Brigitte Bardot in Love is my Profession 1957
You’ve put two years of your life—not to mention your whole heart—on the line, as well as some big dreams of a future together with this person you’re in a relationship with, and they unceremoniously dump you. Your best friend, in an inebriated stupor, divulges your feelings to someone she knows you’ve been secretly into for the past year. Your lover cheats on you with a meaningless hookup but desperately wants you back. Your trusted colleague steals your genius idea right before the big presentation and then takes all the credit. How do you move past the deep feelings of betrayal or grief to piece yourself back together, when you feel Tonya Hardinged, a pipe to the knees?
Dumped, betrayed, cheated on, stolen from … we’ve all been there at some point in our lives. We intuitively know we have to find a way to crawl out of that abyss so we don’t become a hopeless Bitter Betty/Bob. Here are some thoughts on how to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and pick up the pieces, so you can feel safe enough to be open to the possibility of trusting again someday soon.
I’m sure everyone can agree that trust is the foundation for a meaningful relationship on any level of connection, be it with friends, family, coworkers, or lovers. When that’s breached, it’s brutally painful, and it can turn you off from ever allowing anyone to get close to you, or taking a chance of putting yourself out there for that pain to level you again. But know this to your core: it’s impossible to truly experience anything worthwhile in the relational department, or feel connected to your own heart, without taking a leap of faith with your fellow humans and attempt to trust again.
The first step, when the shock and the immediate aftermath wear off, is to acknowledge the big feelings of grief and loneliness this betrayal is triggering in you. To really stay with the emotions as they roll through, while trying to loosen up on the narrative—the story points if you will—that you keep replaying in your mind. Stop the loop of vilifying them and recruiting others on board to do the same. Get quiet. Sit still. Write about the pain and the loss of trust, and discuss it with someone who is somewhat emotionally conscious, who’s not going to blow this up and rehash the drama with you repeatedly. Although it can feel good initially, in the obsessive re-telling, we can get stuck there unproductively. Instead, be with your feelings around the event, not the players who played their part in it. This will mitigate the damage. It will absolutely pass faster. And you will heal from it, so you become available in the trust arena again, versus stuffing your trauma away unprocessed and focusing on the bad guy.
If you don’t roll with the feelings, they will inevitably show up in every single one of your relationships going forward, through your unavailability, jealousy, anxiety, anger, suspicion, and the list goes on. Until that hurt finds a place to have expression, it will literally try to get your attention in all circumstances so you heal from it, and it will rip through all relationships. Yes, I’m sure you’re collectively groaning, “You mean, THEY did this to me, and I have to do all the emotional heavy lifting?” Yup! It’s how it works, my dear friend. Keep telling yourself that it’s actually easier to just dive deep in the wake of the hurt than tread water for years, creating walls and barricades with others. The rip-off-the-Band-Aid theory applies well here.
In this way, you’re consciously showing up for yourself in this disastrous moment when you feel unsafe and vulnerable, reminding yourself that you are your best bet. It’s always a risk to love, trust, and take a chance on another human being in any capacity. Someone will inevitably let us down, and we have to learn to recover and move into acceptance around it. You are your own best friend, and staying with your feelings and self-soothing will strengthen your connection to you. Everyone around us has the capacity to make mistakes, hurt us, be disloyal, or have a bad judgement call. You can’t insulate yourself from this 100% because they’re only human, and we need those connections to thrive. Remember again that you’re your own greatest asset at the end of the day, and you can count on YOU. Knowing you’ve got your back if it goes south makes it easier to trust going forward. This truth gives you the power of resiliency.
Seems obvious, right? Forgive the dumper, the stealer, the adulterer? Well, yes. But first, YOU! Somewhere in a moment of betrayal or after someone transgresses, we jump right to second-guessing ourselves entirely. We replay how we didn’t see the signs, missed the red flags, misread a certain situation, ignored our intuition. Basically, we blame ourselves as we try and wrestle control out of the uncontrollable: someone else’s behavior. We take ownership, somehow thinking if we had done something different we would’ve sidestepped the trust breach, so on top of feeling screwed, we beat ourselves up! It’s the one-two punch. Fun times. How about we just stop that madness in its tracks and give ourselves a huge break knowing we did the best we could with the tools we had. Fair enough, right? We can file away that info of reading the signs for another time so we can possibly get out ahead on the next go-around, but know that sometimes, a trust-blow could happen anyway, regardless, because that’s life!
So, we start with forgiving ourselves because only then can we work at extending that same courtesy to them in due time. But for you to feel whole again, it has to happen at some point. You can wait for that internal nudge, which, frankly, may never come if you’ve swallowed the bitter pill of anger and resentment. It’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. They’ve gone on with their life, and you’re stuck replaying their misdeeds, seething in your own pity party. Not pretty. Here’s a forgiveness fast-track: you can speed things up by praying for them. Even if you don’t feel it. Even if you don’t believe in it. It’s OK to “act as if,” and just quietly ask that they get everything they want and need to be happy. It’s a total contrary action, but it has the potential to set you free! Do it for two weeks and see what happens, and while you’re at it, ask the Universe to throw in some healing for you, so you can love and trust again fully. If you’re not a “pray-er,” it’s just putting out good wishes, even through gritted teeth, and watching how your heart softens—that’s the point. You have to live with your beautiful beating heart, letting it be flexible and forgiving toward you and others. Doesn’t mean you have to take them back, or spend time with them, or pretend all is OK between you, or that they are even trustworthy again. No, that’s not the mission here. It’s about you living with you, and moving through the pain by forgiving them, so you can drop the rock and feel lighter. What you choose to do with them in the long term and how you handle things going forward is up to you, after you’ve done the forgiveness thing.
The Leap after a Trust-Pass
Our capacity to love or create connection in all its dimensions is about taking a risk. There is no insurance that anyone is going to absolutely do or say what we need them to, for us to feel safe. The bottom line is, it’s all a gamble. Opening up to someone and trusting at any level of intimacy or friendship is a huge leap of faith on your part—but it’s what we do anyway, and we hope for the best. You might become more cautious about who you let in after being burned, by biding time, while watching who they are in various circumstances: how they speak about others, how they show up in their life, if they have integrity or a solid moral compass. It’s always a good practice in the self-care department to let someone prove their worthiness, because you are precious and deserving of gauging their safety before you fully let them into your life. Let that be your takeaway moving forward after a trust-pass, while acknowledging that you’re scared. Consciously decide to tread cautiously with others, as you deepen your connection over time and trust naturally builds. So, it’s less about fear driving things, and more about you responsibly honoring and protecting yourself.
By now you know that trust is the mortar that holds any good relationship together. It creates a safe container between people to exchange connection, friendship, vulnerability, or love—it can’t be sidestepped. And ultimately, that’s worth cultivating and showing up for, so you can have a meaningful life on the road ahead.