When we think of betrayal, most of us automatically have images of a partner sneaking behind the back of the other and being engaged in a sexually illicit relationship. Emotional affairs can be equally painful. They involve sharing intimate details about one’s life with someone outside of the committed relationship.
Sexual and emotional affairs are widely recognized as relationship violations, yet there are other ways partners can betray one another that are also distressing. Financial infidelity can be devastating when one partner makes financial decisions or spends large amounts of money that is secretive in nature. There are multiple ways to destroy the foundation of a relationship.
If you ask most people what the foundation of a relationship is, likely you’ll get a response that includes the capacity to trust the other. Having integrity and being forthcoming is key to maintaining trust and creating safety. Yet, some people avoid being completely honest out of fear of conflict or a desire to please. They tell lies and engage in omissions, believing they are benefitting the relationship. Although the breach may seem less catastrophic, actually it is equally damaging. Lies and omissions are insidious and slowly erode trust…the very foundation of the relationship.
For those relationships in which there are covert lies based on not having a strong enough voice or fear of displeasing the other, the relationship work involves finding your voice and learning to live in the tension of having a different opinion, feeling, or dream. In those relationships where there are overt lies and one spouse tries to get the other spouse to doubt what their intuition knows is true, perhaps even suggesting you are ‘crazy’, this is a sign of something much deeper…a flaw in one’s character makeup. Those types of lies and gaslighting are catastrophic betrayals that are much less likely to be able to recover from.
Betrayal, no matter the origin, is a painful process for a couple to work through….it takes acknowledgement, deep listening, genuine empathy, accountability, asking for forgiveness, trustworthy behavior, and time to heal.