Dealing with betrayal is never easy. I’m not going to limit this to cheating, because there are several forms, and no matter the depth of the betrayal, you begin to question everything that happened in your relationship. Every memory, every “I love you,” every kiss, every single moment. It seems like no matter how many questions you ask, no answer is good enough to answer the main question: Why? Why was I not good enough for you to be fully committed to me? Why, in rough patches of our relationship, did you choose to betray me?
Even with all of the questions, there comes a day when you must ask yourself an even more important question: Should I stay or should I leave?
This decision is not easy, and regardless of your decision, the journey will be long and hard. On one hand, if you decide to leave, sure you’ll feel empowered, because you chose yourself over staying with that person. However, now you have to start your journey of healing; a journey that is anything but easy.
On the other hand, if you decide to stay, your journey will be a double-edged sword. Deciding to stay means deciding to save your relationship. Deciding to save your relationship means simultaneously healing as an individual and as a couple. This will take hard work, so it is imperative that both parties are committed to each other as well as committed to doing everything in their power to save the relationship.
If you are the one who was betrayed, know that this isn’t your fault. Betrayal happens because someone doesn’t respect you enough to consider your feelings. That is something that they have to live with and work to make up. During this time, your focus first has to be on yourself. You made the decision to stay because, despite everything, you love them more than anything in the world, but now, whether you know it or not, that love has taken a hit. You may still love them the way that you did before, but now that love is accompanied by paranoia, trust issues, self-esteem issues, and probably even anger.
As someone who has had her fair share of betrayal, understand me when I say this: Everything you are feeling right now is valid. You are allowed to be angry, hurt, still in love one day, hating their guts the next day. If your partner truly wants the relationship to work, they will understand that this process will not be linear. You are also allowed to change your mind at any point. If you begin the individual process of healing and you realize that you don’t want to disturb the newfound peace within yourself by shifting to healing the relationship, that is completely okay.
Likewise, if you make it past the individual healing process and you still want to save the relationship, you are allowed to back out at any moment. Saving a relationship means you’ll have to cater to wounds both opened and closed. There will be conversations that leave your heart so heavy that you may decide it’s too much to handle. There may be new information that comes up that impacts the individual healing you’ve already made it through. When in doubt, always choose yourself first.
If you are the betrayer, I will try not to be biased with my advice to you. However, I will say that I do not believe in mistakes when it comes to betrayal. Whatever the act was, you made a choice in that moment or in those moments to neglect your partner, and that is a choice you will have to deal with. That is a choice that you will have to make up if you are given another chance.
The first step to making amends with your partner is admitting your wrongdoings. For whatever reason, this seems to be the most difficult task for betrayers. In my personal experience, when I found out about my now ex-boyfriend’s cheating, I gave him ample opportunity to be honest with me. I even showed him evidence of his wrongdoing, and yet he stood on the hill of “I don’t know who that is” for almost two hours. This was then followed by excuses and what I did to make him step out on me. If you are the betrayer, newsflash: You did it because you wanted to, not because of your partner.
Once you’ve admitted to your wrongdoings and hopefully apologized, you now have to enter a state of healing and waiting. I know what you’re thinking: “If I’m the betrayer, what am I healing from?” I can only assume that if your partner has decided to try to save the relationship, you must be a good person outside of your act of betrayal. During this time, it is important to forgive yourself for what you did. This doesn’t mean brush it off and act like it didn’t happen, but forgiving yourself takes you on a reflective journey, and it allows you to truly pinpoint the areas you lack in that caused you to make the choice to betray your partner. You will be no good to your partner and your new, healthy relationship if you are still beating yourself up for past indiscretions.
The last and most important duty you have is to be patient. Simply put, you screwed up. There is no rulebook anywhere that says your partner has to stay with you. There is no timeline that shows when forgiveness and reconciliation will occur. There is only you and them. This process will be tough because, while there may have been other areas your relationship lacked in, the main target will be on you and your betrayal. If this is who you want to be with, you must give them all the time they need to heal both individually and collectively, you must answer every question truthfully, and most importantly, you must prove to them that you will never betray them again.
Regardless of your role, I commend you for making the decision to save the relationship. This may be the hopeless romantic in me, but real love always wins. Real love conquers all.