How to Forgive Someone After a Betrayal
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How to Forgive Someone After a Betrayal



According to the American Psychological Association, a betrayal occurs anytime someone violates another person’s expectations and breaks their trust.


Whether it’s infidelity in a marriage or sharing information that a friend wanted to keep private, betrayal can be hard to recover from. It is possible, though.


For those who are struggling after a betrayal, such as an infidelity or boundary violation, the questions and answers below can provide more clarity and guidance.



Why Does a Betrayal Hurt So Bad?


When one person breaks another person’s trust, it can feel impossible to get over and move on. There are lots of reasons why betrayal is so painful and hard to deal with.


First of all, betrayal inherently involves relationships, from marriages and friendships to work relationships. This makes the other person or people’s actions feel personal, and it’s extra-hard to brush that off and move forward.


Betrayal also feels scary and confusing. It causes people to second-guess their relationships, wonder if they did something wrong, and wonder whether or not they can continue trusting the person who hurt them.


As this report from the journal Psychological Trauma points out, betrayal can even be traumatic. Research published by the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy explains that it can also contribute to anxiety disorders and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).


What Do I Do When I Find Out Someone Betrayed Me?


After finding out that they’ve been betrayed, a person might initially want to lash out or seek revenge. These feelings are understandable, but they can do more damage.


When someone finds out that they’ve been betrayed, a better approach is to take a step back and try to assess their feelings in a safe place.


Taking time away from the person who caused harm, if possible, is also a good idea. It gives the hurt person time to reflect without feeling pressured to get over the harm as quickly as possible.


Once the hurt person has had a chance to reflect and assess the situation, they can decide how they want to move forward. Perhaps they want to go to therapy, seek support from another professional, or end the relationship altogether.


Love shouldn't Hurt


Is It Okay to Forgive Someone Who Cheated?


This report from the Journal of Clinical Psychology reveals that 2-4 percent of married individuals engage in some kind of extramarital activity.


If one person is unfaithful in a relationship, that doesn’t always mean the relationship is over. If the person who cheated is truly remorseful and wants to work to fix the root problems in the relationship, there is hope.


This is where working with a therapist or counselor can be extremely helpful. An objective professional, such as a therapist, can help both parties assess the situation, name their feelings, and create a plan to move forward and prevent future infidelities and betrayals from happening.




How to Forgive Someone and Move On?


According to this report published by the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, forgiveness can reduce stress and improve the quality of life for the person who was betrayed.


There’s no one right or wrong way to forgive someone after a betrayal. Everyone is unique and has different steps they need to go through when it comes to forgiving those who hurt them.


That being said, these tips can be helpful when it comes to practicing forgiveness:

  • Write a letter: Writing a letter to the person who caused harm is a good way to express one’s feelings in a measured, thoughtful way. Some people don’t even send the letter; they just write out their feelings and then file them away.
  • Talk to someone: Talking to an objective third party can help someone who’s been betrayed to look at the situation differently and work through their feelings without pressure or judgment.
  • Take your time: There’s no need to rush to forgive someone after they’ve caused harm; it’s okay to take space and time to work through one’s feelings before deciding how they want to proceed.





Why Is It So Hard to Forgive? 


The healing process after a betrayal is complicated. It can take a long time, and it’s rarely linear. For many people, it’s hard to simply forgive the person who hurt them and move on as though nothing happened. Forgiveness also often involves another complicating part: Grief & Loss.


A person can say (and mean) that they’ve forgiven the other person or people. However, that doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten how badly they were hurt by what that person did.


Those who have been hurt shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty if they’re struggling to forgive. They should remember that forgiveness and healing are processes, and they can go on for a while (sometimes even forever).



How Much Time and Space Can I Take Before I Need to Forgive?


The person who’s been hurt should take as much time as necessary to heal before trying to forgive and move forward. However, when someone can address the situation calmly, without acting irrationally or wanting to take revenge, that might be a sign that they’re ready to progress.


Working with a therapist is helpful here because they can give an objective view. They can also assist the person who’s been hurt to identify when they might be ready to forgive.


If you are struggling to forgive a betrayal from your spouse/partner, and are questioning whether you want to continue in the relationship, you may be a candidate for Discernment Counseling.




Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives by providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. We publish quality material for your own education. Our publications are researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.




Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

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