How to handle betrayal in a relationship

How to Get Over Betrayal in a Relationship

What does betrayal mean in a romantic relationship? Is it only infidelity, adultery, or cheating? Not really. Betrayal may come in many forms. Your partner running into somebody else’s arms indeed feels like the highest form of betrayal.

But, how about not making the relationship a priority? Breaking promises and marriage vows? Emotional cheating? Financial infidelity? Lying or withholding information? Disclosing personal information that’s been shared in confidence?

All of these are different types of relationship betrayals. If your partner has betrayed you in any of these ways, you might be wondering how to get over betrayal in a relationship and why betrayal hurts so much?

So, how do you get past the betrayal, and what are the ways of healing from betrayal trauma? I encourage you to keep reading. Because in this article, we’ll explore why betrayal hurts so badly and have a look at 15 steps to get over betrayal in a relationship.

Why Does Betrayal Hurt So Much?

Betrayal in love (and in general) means violating someone’s trust and confidence. When people get into a committed relationship, they agree upon a certain level of commitment.

They make agreements in good faith and believe that both partners will hold up their end of the bargain. So, when one partner can’t commit to what they’ve promised, the betrayed partner’s world turns upside down( understandably so).

It destroys their self-esteem and makes them question their self-worth. The betrayed partner starts to doubt everything the betrayer says and does. The breach of trust has done a number on the relationship, and heartbreak’s pain is no less painful than physical pain.

Both partners respect and live by similar core values in any healthy relationship and trust that the other person won’t deliberately hurt them. When someone betrays their partner’s trust, it shakes the foundation of the relationship.

It feels like we’ve put our trust in someone who didn’t deserve it. It leaves us feeling shocked, confused, and insecure. How can we trust people again after someone so close has shattered our trust?

We start to live in constant fear of betrayal. All humans crave emotional intimacy and connection. A partner’s betrayal makes it difficult to trust people, preventing us from forming meaningful relationships.

Losing our trust is a terrible loss, and that’s why betrayal hurts so much—wondering how to get over betrayal in a relationship? Let’s get to it.

Related Reading: Trust and Betrayal - How to Repair the Fractured Relationship?

15 steps to get over betrayal

There are no specific guidelines on how to get over a betrayal in a relationship since the road to recovery is different for everyone. But, following these 15 steps will help you to recover from betrayal in a relationship.  

1. Acknowledge the betrayal

Someone you trusted with all your heart has betrayed you and smashed your heart into smithereens. It’s devastating, yet you find it unbelievable. You can’t understand how and why your partner would do something like this to you.

So, you resort to denial. No matter if the betrayer had intentionally hurt you or not, your trust has been violated. Acknowledging it is the first step to heal from the betrayal trauma and move past it. 

2. Name your emotions

How do you feel about the betrayal? Angry? Shocked? Sad? Disgusted? Ashamed? You might experience a whirlwind of emotions.

Instead of trying to deny or suppress them, name them. Don’t use denial to conceal hurt feelings. It’s crucial when you’re trying to get over a betrayal in a relationship.

3. Don’t blame yourself

When someone betrays you, your self-esteem takes a hit. It’s normal to blame yourself for your partner’s actions.

While replaying the betrayal in your mind, you might feel like if you were fulfilling your partner’s emotional and physical needs, they wouldn’t be resorting to somebody else.

Related Reading: Life Lessons Betrayal in a Relationship Can Teach You

But betrayal is always a choice. A bad relationship doesn’t give anybody a free pass to do whatever they want. 

4. Spend some time apart

It would be best if you had some time to process what has happened. No matter how desperately your partner tries to contact you and ask for forgiveness, don’t give in.

Let them know that you need some time alone to process and think clearly. It doesn’t mean you’ve decided to break up with them. Taking time away helps you to come to terms with the betrayal and find clarity.

Recovering from betrayal in marriage isn’t easy. You’re torn between leaving the relationship and repairing the damage.

Whatever you end up doing, taking some time away is crucial to your mental health and emotional well-being.

5. Grieve the loss of trust 

People grieve the death of their loved ones because losing someone close is a loss. Betrayal is also a loss of trust, and it’s normal to experience grief after being betrayed.

So, be prepared to go through the five stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance while getting over a betrayal in a relationship. Not everyone goes through all of them. You might not even experience them in this order.

But allow yourself to grieve in your way so that you can deal with the loss in a healthy way.

6. Avoid the temptation to retaliate

You are probably already aware of the saying, ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.’ You must be furious with your partner for betraying your trust. It’s normal to feel the urge to inflict pain upon your betrayer and make them suffer.

While there are many positive ways of getting over betrayal in a relationship, retaliation isn’t one of them. If anything, it’ll only delay your healing process. No matter how angry you are, don’t resort to betraying your betrayer.

Related Reading: Prevent the Damage from Betrayal in a Relationship

7. Open up to someone you trust

Being deceived by someone you love might make you feel like you can’t trust anybody at all. But, seeking emotional support from your loved ones is a crucial factor in the recovery process.

If you feel ashamed and don’t want to share the gory details of your partner’s betrayal, you don’t have to. Just talk about how you think about the incident. However, make sure you speak to someone who can stay neutral and offer you their brutally honest opinion instead of adding fuel to the fire.

No trusted confidant around? You can always confide in a relationship expert and ask how to get over betrayal in a relationship.

8. Develop a game plan to overcome betrayal

Now that you’ve had some time to process the incident, it’s time to devise a plan for recovering from betrayal. Yes, you still are feeling betrayed, shocked, and devastated. You’re having a hard time coping with betrayal.

But you can’t heal if you keep dwelling on how they’ve wronged you or reliving that painful memory by replaying it in your head. It’s time to decide how you want to move forward. Do you want to forgive your partner and rebuild the relationship?

Thinking of a temporary separation, or do you want to end it for good? Do you want to start meditation and journaling? Want to take a therapist’s help to heal your broken heart? Figure it out and get ready to begin healing.

9. Reflect upon things

Once you feel in control of your emotions again, it’s a good idea to spend some time engaging in introspection. Reflect on your relationship, how things were before the betrayal and how things need to change if you want to give your partner a chance to redeem themself.

When you’re dealing with betrayal and thinking ‘how to get over a betrayal in a relationship,’ it’s normal to feel like your partner wouldn’t hurt you like this if you did things differently. While there’s plenty of scope of improvement for all of us, your partner’s betrayal is their choice and has nothing to do with your self-worth or behavior.

If there were issues in your relationship before the betrayal took place, both of you need to find ways to fix the problems if you want to continue the relationship. But your partner needs to take responsibility for their actions and show genuine remorse first.

Related Reading: The Damage of Betrayal in Marital Relationships

10. Have a conversation with your partner

You might not feel comfortable with the idea of confronting the person who betrayed you. But, for your peace of mind, it’s important to communicate with your partner and let them know how their actions made you feel.

If they’ve been asking you to listen to them, you can give them a chance to tell their side of the story. Notice if they try to justify their action or feel genuinely sorry about it. Use ‘I’ statements when you speak, make sure not to lose your cool, and do it gracefully.

11. Try to forgive 

Forgiving doesn’t mean overlooking, accepting, or excusing the wrong that has been done to you. You don’t even have to get back together with that person if you don’t want to.

You can think of giving your relationship a chance only if the person genuinely seems remorseful. But, even if they aren’t, forgive them for your sake. To truly heal from a betrayal, you’ll need to forgive the person and let go even if they don’t deserve your forgiveness.

Watch this video to know how to forgive someone:-

12. Pull the plug

Was this your partner’s first betrayal of trust? Do they recognize the pain they’ve caused you? Have they accepted the responsibility for their actions and asked forgiveness? Are they repeated offenders, or was it an unintentional isolated incident?

End the relationship if this wasn’t their first time betraying your trust. If you stay in a relationship with someone who keeps breaking promises and hurting you, you’re enabling them, and there’s no reason for them to stop.

13. Be open to trusting again

You don’t have to trust someone blindly. Start with little things and take small calculated risks.

If you’ve decided to give your partner a chance to regain your trust, give them incremental trust instead of trusting them like before. 

14. Learn to trust yourself again

Trusting yourself is one of the most crucial steps to take when you’re dealing with betrayal. To trust others, you need to trust your ability to make sound judgments and adjust your trust indicator slightly.

15. Take care of yourself

You’ve been through a lot, and it’s time to make yourself a priority. Moving on isn’t something that happens overnight.

But, you need to start with small steps, regardless of whether you decide to end or rebuild the relationship, practice self-care and regain your confidence.

Related Reading: How to Forgive Your Husband for Betrayal


Even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment, the pain of betrayal will eventually fade, and you’ll be able to leave it in the past. The betrayal doesn’t have to end your otherwise great relationship, though.

If both you and your partner are willing to go the extra mile, it’s possible to rebuild trust in your relationship and stay together.

Signs and How to Start Healing

If someone close to you has ever broken your trust, you’ve probably felt the sting of betrayal. This pain can leave deep wounds.

Any type of betrayal can cause emotional distress, but you might experience lingering trauma when someone you depend on to respect your needs and generally help safeguard your well-being violates the trust you’ve placed in them.

Betrayal trauma typically refers to the lingering pain and turmoil experienced after:

  • betrayal by a parent or other childhood caregiver
  • betrayal by a romantic partner

When you rely on someone for basic needs as well as love and protection, you might accept a betrayal in order to ensure your own safety.

You might also find yourself accepting the possibility of future betrayals — something that can begin to degrade self-esteem, emotional well-being, and the ability to form attachments with others.

Betrayal trauma was first introduced as a concept by psychologist Jennifer Freyd in 1991. She described it as a specific trauma that happens in key social relationships where the betrayed person needs to maintain a relationship with the betrayer for support or protection.

Betrayal trauma theory suggests harm within attachment relationships, like relationships between a parent and child or between romantic partners, can cause lasting trauma.

People often respond to betrayal by pulling away from the person who betrayed them. But when you depend on someone to meet certain needs, this response might not be feasible.

Children, for example, depend on parents to meet emotional needs along with food, shelter, and safety needs.

Similarly, someone who lacks financial or social resources outside of their relationship may fear that acknowledging the betrayal and leaving the relationship could put their safety at risk.

This fear of the potential consequences of acknowledging the betrayal might prompt the betrayed person to bury the trauma. As a result, they may not fully process the betrayal or remember it correctly, especially if it happens in childhood.

Relation to attachment theory

Though experts originally applied the concept of betrayal trauma to children betrayed by caregivers, it became clear that this type of trauma could also happen in other relationships.

Let’s take a step back to the basics of attachment theory — attachment comes before betrayal, after all.

Your earliest childhood relationships are so significant because they lay the groundwork for later relationships. When these bonds are strong and secure, they pave the way toward secure attachments in adulthood.

Insecure bonds, on the other hand, often lead to shaky or troubled relationships.

A parent bringing a child into the world has a responsibility to protect and care for that child. This responsibility forms an unspoken agreement between parent and child. The child looks to the parent to prioritize their well-being, and they typically trust their parents entirely — until the parent lets them down.

In a romantic relationship, you might not need your partner to survive, but you probably depend on them for love, emotional support, and companionship.

These relationships also rest on agreements — the boundaries defining the relationship. Partners in a monogamous relationship, for example, generally have some shared understanding of what defines cheating and agree to trust each other not to cheat.

A partner who cheats betrays the terms of that understanding.

The trauma of betrayal can affect physical and mental health, but the specific effects can vary depending on the type of trauma. Keep in mind that not everyone experiences trauma in the same way, either.

Childhood trauma

The effects of betrayal can show up shortly after the trauma and persist into adulthood.

Key signs include:

  • trouble recognizing, expressing, or managing emotions
  • anxiety, depression, and other mental health symptoms
  • nightmares
  • physical pain or stomach distress
  • panic attacks
  • thoughts of suicide
  • difficulty trusting others
  • attachment issues
  • eating disorders
  • substance use

Children who experience betrayal may also end up dissociating, or detaching from reality to avoid memories of the abuse.

If your parent fails to protect you, this betrayal can so deeply contradict what you expect that you end up blocking it in order to maintain the attachment. Blinding yourself to the betrayal and your fear of future betrayals helps you survive in a relationship you believe you can’t escape.

Your ability to “forget” becomes a coping mechanism. Yet while dissociation might help you cope with the trauma, it can also affect your memory and sense of self.

Infidelity trauma

Betrayal in a romantic relationship usually takes the form of infidelity, though other types of betrayal, such as financial betrayal, can also provoke a trauma response.

The discovery of infidelity often leads to:

  • loss of self-esteem and self-worth
  • numbness
  • anger
  • guilt
  • difficulty controlling emotions
  • intrusive thoughts about affair details
  • loss of faith in others
  • suspicion and hypervigilance
  • depression, anxiety, and other mental health symptoms
  • physical symptoms, including insomnia, pain, and stomach distress

Betrayal blindness can also happen in the context of romantic relationships.

Maybe you don’t exactly need your partner to survive, but you might still feel unable to leave, for any number of reasons — children, lack of options, no income of your own.

Relationships also fulfill important belonging and social connection needs, and a betrayal can leave you wondering how you’ll get those needs met in the future.

Instead of staying alert to signs of cheating, you might choose (often unconsciously) to ignore or overlook clues in order to safeguard your relationship and protect mental health.

After a betrayal in a romantic relationship, you might find yourself dealing with ongoing trust issues and self-doubt. Even if you choose to give your partner another chance, it might take months, even years, to successfully rebuild trust.

If you dealt with childhood trauma by dissociating or blocking out what happened, your memories will eventually resurface, especially if something similar happens to trigger their return. Blocking them again may not be an option. Even if you do manage to shove your memories away again, this won’t help you heal.

The route to recovery may not look the same for everyone, but these strategies can help you take the first steps.

Acknowledge instead of avoid

Healing often requires you to first come to terms with what happened.

When you don’t address the betrayal, your turmoil can spill over to other areas of your life. You can’t erase it, so no matter how carefully you try to suppress what happened, you might catch yourself replaying those memories when you’re with friends, caring for your children, or driving to work.

Leaning into a trauma like infidelity might seem too painful to even consider. In reality, though, acknowledging it allows you to begin exploring the reasons behind it, which can help kick off the healing process.

Instead of getting trapped in an unrelenting cycle of self-doubt and self-criticism, you can begin coming to terms with underlying relationship issues, such as lack of communication or intimacy, and explore ways to resolve them.

Note: This doesn’t mean the blame for the betrayal lies with you. Choosing to cheat is an unhealthy response to relationship problems.

Practice accepting difficult emotions

Plenty of unpleasant emotions can show up in the aftermath of betrayal. It’s common to feel humiliated or ashamed. You might also feel furious, vengeful, sick, or grieved. Naturally, you might find yourself trying to avoid this distress by denying or trying to block what happened.

Although hiding from painful or upsetting emotions might seem easy and safe, avoiding or masking your emotions can make it more difficult to regulate them.

Putting a name to specific emotions — anger, regret, sadness, loss — can help you begin navigating them more effectively.

Recognizing exactly what you’re dealing with can make it easier and less frightening to sit with those emotions and slowly increase your awareness of them. Greater emotional awareness, in turn, can help you begin identifying strategies to cope with those feelings more productively.

Turn to others for support

Opening up about betrayal isn’t always easy. You may not want to talk about childhood trauma or your partner’s affair. Plus, once someone has betrayed your trust, you might have a hard time trusting anyone at all.

Yet people need emotional support, especially during stressful times. Your loved ones may not need to know exactly what happened, but they can still offer companionship when you don’t want to be alone and distraction when you can’t get away from your looping thoughts.

It’s perfectly OK to politely let your friends know when you’d like guidance and when you’re just looking to share feelings without any well-intentioned advice.

You may want to step carefully when discussing a partner’s cheating with mutual friends. Gossip can make a difficult situation even more painful, so you may want to save the in-depth details for your most trusted loved ones.

Focus on what you need

After a partner cheats, most people need some time to decide whether to end the relationship or try repairing the damage. This isn’t something you should feel pressured to decide right away. A relationship therapist can offer support and guidance as you consider whether you believe rebuilding trust is possible.

As you begin to recover from the initial shock of trauma, pay extra attention to your needs:

  • Instead of lying awake cycling through distressing thoughts, try aromatherapy, a warm bath, or soothing music to relax and improve your sleep.
  • Instead of skipping meals when you feel nauseous or have no appetite, snack on energy-boosting foods and keep yourself hydrated.
  • Favorite movies and familiar TV shows can calm and comfort you, but try to mix in some other hobbies, too. Yoga, walking, reading, or gardening all offer mood-boosting benefits.

Trauma can be hard to confront on your own. Professional support can make a big difference in the healing process. In therapy, you can begin to acknowledge and work through a betrayal before it causes lingering distress.

Therapists trained to work with survivors of abuse and neglect can also help with unpacking long-lasting effects of childhood trauma. If you have attachment issues, for example, a therapist might help you identify underlying causes of insecure attachment and explore strategies for building more secure relationships.

Most mental health experts recommend some form of couples therapy when attempting to heal a relationship after infidelity.

It’s also important, however, to work with a therapist on your own to:

  • examine any feelings of self-blame
  • work to rebuild self-esteem
  • learn healthy strategies for coping with difficult emotions

When someone you love and trust does something to shatter the foundations of your relationship, the resulting trauma can be severe.

You can heal, though, and you might even come back stronger as you rebuild your sense of self and gain tools for developing healthy relationships. Ready to take the first steps? A therapist can offer guidance along the way.

Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.

How to survive betrayal in a relationship: three tips from a psychologist

Trust is a fragile tool, and the ability to believe is the basis of a full-fledged interaction with the environment. Faced once with deceit or betrayal, you can completely lose faith in people. How to deal with disappointment, says Svetlana Mikheeva, specialist of the Moscow Psychological Assistance Service.

Speaking of betrayal in a relationship, most often people mean physical betrayal: it is this side of deceit that serves as a weighty argument for parting. At the same time, disrespect for a partner or emotional detachment seem to mean less, as if they are not taken into account, and therefore are not considered serious reasons for breaking up. nine0005

But deceit has many faces. Even the smallest lie can lead to significant consequences: a complete breakdown of trust in a couple, lack of understanding or conflicts with others.

Betrayal is a violation of fidelity to someone, failure to fulfill a duty to someone, leaving a friend, partner in trouble, as well as adultery or treason.

Some of the types of betrayal may be hidden behind the façade of outwardly prosperous relationships and seem not to be counted. This may happen because some actions, thoughts or feelings are not taken seriously by people, they are not given importance, or they simply prefer not to notice. At the same time, a feeling of insincerity in the relationship is still in the air, which is why claims against each other, dissatisfaction can grow in a couple, and quarrels flare up more often. nine0005

If any of the following are bothering you, discuss them with a partner. This way you will clarify your relations, review them and change something:

  • failure to fulfill agreements, promises;
  • lack of respect, criticality, negative assessment, negative comparison;
  • emotional coldness, alienation, fading of interest, attraction;
  • insincerity (lie), concealment or suppression of information, association with another against a partner; nine0018
  • emotional betrayal, low loyalty, superficiality of relationships.

What to do if you are faced with betrayal

  • This requires courage and honesty both to yourself and to your partner.
  • Find time and frankly discuss the situation, the negative feelings that have arisen in connection with it. nine0018
  • Review your expectations and try to consider trade-offs together.

First of all, you need to deal with your feelings - to restore internal trust in yourself, and only then switch to the outside world - to relationships with other people. To do this, remember:

You are not fully responsible for the betrayal. There are at least two people involved in a relationship, so everyone contributes.

What happened does not make you worse, but shows that in the union the moment has come to clarify, change, transform something. Or there was someone nearby who is not worthy of your trust. There is reason to think: perhaps there was an excessive openness or, perhaps, naivety? nine0005

It is important to separate psychologically from the person who betrayed you this pain?”, “Is it possible to forgive and start trusting again?”. Often we evaluate other people, especially close ones, by ourselves. Listen to your feelings, feelings and honestly answer: can you forgive another in this particular situation? Yes, this is not easy, because close relationships involve deep interaction with a partner, involvement in his life, identification with him. We come together because of common interests and values, world views, goals and aspirations. Betrayal can show that the common plans were only an illusion. nine0003

Be yourself under any circumstances

Do not let the ground be knocked out from under your feet, try to look for resource states, your points of support. If you were nevertheless betrayed, try answering the following questions:

  • What lessons can be learned from what happened?
  • How to prevent a recurrence of what happened in the future?
  • Why did this situation arise in your life right now? With this person? nine0018
  • What vulnerable aspects of your personality were highlighted?
  • What meaning does this situation have for you?

Betrayal is a certain stage, another challenge that makes us more responsible and stronger. It teaches you not to give up, not to withdraw, but to recover, remaining yourself. It happens that the emotional pain inflicted by a loved one is so deep that only a specialist, a professional psychologist, can help. It is important not to close yourself off, not to be alone with experiences, but to discuss the origins of the origin of these feelings and possible scenarios for their living. nine0005

In the capital, specialist assistance can be obtained free of charge at appointments at the Moscow Service for Psychological Assistance to the Population. 24-hour psychological emergency telephone number - 051 (from a landline phone), +7 (495) 051 - from a mobile phone. The psychological support chat on the website also works around the clock.


Press service of the Moscow Department of Labor and Social Protection

How to survive betrayal: advice from a clinical psychologist

Betrayal can take many forms. A loved one who has an affair on the side, a close friend who spreads bad rumors about you, a business partner who ran away with money and left you to deal with creditors are just a few typical examples.

In my work, I come across such stories from time to time, and what strikes me most is the emotional reaction it causes in those who have become its victims. It inflicts wounds, confidence crumbles to dust, and shame often hides under rage and amazement. nine0005

Some react to betrayal by hiding from the world and avoiding communication altogether. Sometimes they try to keep the fact a secret - especially when it comes to personal life. A victim of adultery may be reluctant to make the incident public for fear of public stigma.

The one who has been betrayed is not to blame for what happened, but may feel responsible for it and feel shame. In therapy, I often ask clients, “Why are you so ashamed? Did you cheat/steal/lied/spread rumors? nine0005

By hiding from others information about an event that is painful for us, we thereby deprive ourselves of the opportunity to receive support or see what happened from a different point of view. Because of this, we begin to blame ourselves for being naive or to argue that we ourselves provoked the betrayal. Isolation dooms us to loneliness and alienation, which can eventually lead to depression. But to successfully heal trauma, we need just the opposite.

1. Allow yourself to reflect on what happened. nine0004 Some take action immediately, but it's perfectly fine to give yourself time before reacting. This is especially important if you have thoughts of revenge.

2. Take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and be kind to yourself.

3. Try to protect yourself from further damage that the "traitor" can inflict on you. For example, if a business partner turned out to be financially unscrupulous, deal with financial issues as quickly as possible. If you have been cheated on, but you have decided not to break off relations yet, protect yourself from possible diseases. nine0005

4. Tell someone you trust about your experience. No time to hide. Communicate more often with those who appreciate you, know your best qualities well and will help you not to drop your self-esteem.

Learn more