How to Release Guilt and Self-Blame After Being Betrayed

Are you wondering if it is your fault?

Posted Oct 07, 2020

It is inevitable to wonder, “Why did this person that I loved, respected, and trusted betray me? Didn’t they value our relationship and share the same feelings?” It is reasonable to wonder, “What did I do to make them act this way?” You can go round and round on a hamster wheel trying to make sense of this, without getting anywhere. Why? Because it has nothing to do with you.

Certainly, you can come up with something to blame for this behavior. “Maybe if I had more sex with him, he wouldn’t have cheated on me,” or “maybe if I was more generous with my sister, she wouldn’t have stolen from me,” or “maybe if …” These are all rationalizations for someone else’s behavior. And in reality, they are excuses, because everyone has a choice on how they are going to handle various circumstances.

For some people, betrayal is opportunistic. They may not have been planning such behavior, but an opportunity arose, and apparently, it was just too tempting to resist. A common example: "I was drunk, and she came on to me.” This diverts the responsibility to alcohol or another person and argues that the betrayal was really circumstantial and not their fault. This person’s defense is “weakness” and will likely plead for forgiveness. However, he or she has shown you that they are guided by their immediate pleasure and were not thinking about consequences for themselves, and certainly not thinking about you.

For others, betrayal is calculated. Betrayal is used as a weapon to cause pain and harm to someone. It is used as a vindictive ploy. In this situation, there is usually brewing disdain, and betrayal is a chance to lash out.

Another form of betrayal falls under the art of deception. This can manifest in the form of scams or lies. Someone is wanting you to believe what they are saying, trying to gain your trust, feigning a relationship, and then they betray you. This can include phony emails, phone calls, or texts, pretending that you have an urgent situation (an unpaid bill, or that you are going to lose your insurance, or your bank account has been compromised, or you won a big prize) and then needing you to give them information to verify your identity or bank account. Clearly, they don't care about the damage caused by this form of betrayal as the focus is to get what they want.

Both opportunistic and deception betrayal are common in sexual assault. A perpetrator sees an opportunity, feigns a relationship to position oneself as a friend, and then uses your trust against you.

For example, there may be an increased number of assaults the day before someone leaves a military duty station or at a party on the last day of a school year. Why? Most likely this occurs because the perpetrator is leaving and believes he can get away with it. The victim may wonder if this was the result of a long-time planned event or impulsively seizing upon an opportunity? A victim may wonder, “Was this person ever my friend?” It is confusing.

Betrayal is confusing. Confusion is part of the game as it relies on trickery. You are made to believe one thing, and then another person breaks the rules for personal gain. The emphasis is on personal gain or furthering a self-serving agenda. They valued their own gain more than they valued you.

The betrayal happened because of the decisions and actions of the perpetrator… not because of you. People have many choices and many ways to communicate. It is deeply disappointing, but not your fault that someone else chose to lie, cheat, and steal.

It is not your fault someone else made the decisions that they made. Betrayal is a big eye-opener. It shows you about the character of whom you are dealing with.

Sadly, those who betray others may think they are “winning” or “getting away with it.” But like I said in an earlier blog post, “Why Am I Still so Angry After All of These Years,” people who do wrong, in spite of their rationalizations, know what they did is wrong, and eventually, they will have to pay the price for their actions. Your task is to grieve your losses and disengage.

Action Step: Focus on the positive things in your life (despite all of the losses and hurts). Find one thing, or maybe two or three, where you can fill your heart with peace and gratitude. Just because someone else was a jerk, you can heal and move on. There are many positive things still waiting for you. I call these flecks of gold along the path. When you are down, all you may see is dirt. But there are and always will be positive flecks waiting to be discovered. You may even have a few gold nuggets waiting for you on your path. Disengage from the past and work on focusing on what lies ahead.