Betrayal is one of the most painful and challenging experiences to overcome.

When we think about betrayal in terms of relationships and breakups, we tend to focus on infidelity one partner going out and cheating. Many of you reading this have likely experienced that sort of betrayal in your split; maybe you found out your ex was carrying on an affair behind your back, or he or she had hooked up with someone at a bar.

Infidelity and the feelings of betrayal can extend beyond just want happened during the official timeline of your relationship.

Perhaps your ex went out and started dating someone new just days after your breakup; in a case like that, you’re likely to be feeling betrayed as well. Betrayal can extend even beyond that kind of infidelity too.

Betrayal is about a breach of your trust, your boundaries, or your values. When someone cheats on you, or when he or she starts dating someone new immediately after splitting from you, that’s almost certainly going to be a breach of your trust, boundaries, and values, but even if your situation isn’t reflected in any of that sort of betrayal, odds are the relationship you’re healing from did bring a sense of betrayal in some way.

Maybe you trusted him when he said he’d love you forever-and then he broke that promise when he left. Maybe you thought that you’d finally met someone who would treat you well, but then you were betrayed when she started putting you down and treating you poorly. You might even be feeling betrayed but you’re not sure why, and that’s ok too; sometimes we’re not aware of our own boundaries and values until we really look closely.

Whatever your own situation, a sense of betrayal is probably part of your breakup journey. Today, we’re going to focus our attention on how to cope with that feeling.

Jumping Out of the Hamster Wheel

One of the most common and most natural responses to feeling betrayed is to start asking yourself what I call hamster-wheel questions. These are the questions we tend to start obsessing over as we try to make sense of what happened. These questions include:

  • Why did he or she do it?
  • What is wrong with me?
  • Why aren’t I enough?
  • Who else knows about it?
  • What did I do to deserve this?
  • What else has he or she been dishonest about?

Why do I call them hamster-wheel questions? Because no matter how long you spend on them, how much you think about them, or how badly you want to figure them out, you’re never going to get anywhere. Just like a hamster in a wheel, your mind will run itself exhausted, but you’ll still be right where you started.

I’m going to share with you a secret about your brain if you ask it a question, it will do everything it can to find an answer.

We’re going to dig deeper into this truth, and learn how to use it for your benefit in a couple weeks, but for now, it’s important to understand that those hamster-wheel questions only dig you deeper into the hole.

If you ask yourself “Why aren’t I enough?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” you’re not going to create any closure or clarity for yourself, but your brain will do everything it can to find answers to those questions, until you’re so overwhelmed with self-criticism you can hardly move

So, just jump out of the hamster wheel.

Understand that it’s natural for those self-doubting questions to pop up, but the best thing you can do is just turn your attention elsewhere. We will cover in more detail how to do this later on.

Stop the Social Media Self-Harming

This is one of the easiest traps to fall into, and so one of the most important strategies for you to take on is to quit the cyberstalking!

These days, we are all connected through some forms of social media. Odds are you have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat account; or whatever new platform has become popular in the last month. And if you’ve recently gone through a split, odds are you’re still connected with your ex on any platform you are both on. You know the temptation here you is for you to jump on Facebook or Instagram to see what your ex is up to and find yourself spending hours scrolling through their pictures and posts, and, oh boy, does it hurt.

I call this social media self-harming. Watching what your ex is up to without you, while you’re still processing a split, is only ever going to cause you fresh heartache and pain.
A few years back, I was working with a woman named Chelsea whose ex had left her for a new, younger girlfriend.

Chelsea would see them on Facebook posting pictures dancing at clubs, going on trips, out for dinner. Every picture cut Chelsea straight to the heart. Her ex used to complain that Chelsea wasn’t fun or interesting enough, and now she was seeing her replacement online and the new girlfriend seemed to have all the young, fun, interesting qualities that Chelsea had been criticized for lacking.

Every time Chelsea would go on a cyberstalking tour, she’d end up in tears, feeling even worse about herself.

I helped Chelsea see that this was a cycle she needed to eject from, so she unfriended and unfollowed her ex on social media-and found that it allowed her to refocus her attention and start to
move on.

Months later, Chelsea ran into the new girlfriend at a grocery store. At that point, Chelsea had moved forward with her own life, and so meeting the new girlfriend in person didn’t hurt. Out of curiosity, Chelsea struck up a conversation, and guess what?

Chelsea discovered that her replacement wasn’t nearly the perfect dream girl that she’d built up in her head. The woman only seemed to able to talk about clubbing and partying. She wasn’t all that interesting, and without the Instagram filters and perfectly-angled Facebook selfies, she wasn’t even as pretty as she looked online.

A few weeks later, Chelsea’s ex was begging her to take him back; he was talking about missing how interesting and fun Chelsea was, and how the woman he left Chelsea for was dull and one-dimensional.

Chelsea decided that she was better off without her ex- and there’s a valuable lesson here.

We all tend to curate a very particular image online. If your ex has a new boyfriend or girlfriend, he or she is probably going to post only the most glamorous snapshots and selfies they can manage. All of that is only going to hurt you, and it’s going to feed the self-defeating stories you have about not being good enough, but more often than not, the picture we get from social media is far from the full truth.
Stop comparing your behind-the-scenes to your ex’s staged highlight reel, and stop the social media self-harming.

Evaluating and Re-Establishing Your Boundaries

When we’re in a relationship, we tend to make compromises.

That’s a necessary part of the game, and when done mindfully, it’s a healthy part of relationships.

Maybe you love Indian takeout if it were up to you, anytime you didn’t feel like cooking dinner and just wanted a quick meal, you’d be calling up the Indian restaurant down the street but perhaps your partner isn’t wild about Indian food, and prefers Thai. In a relationship, maybe the two of you agree to alternate between the two-Indian food one week you order in and Thai food the next. That’s perfectly reasonable; maybe you’ll even discover a new type of food you’ll love!

Although compromising is important, personal boundaries are also vitally important. Your personal boundaries define what is acceptable behavior in a relationship and what is not. Your boundaries are yours, and no one else can tell you what they should be. For some of us, casual flirting might be fine, as long as it doesn’t turn into anything physical or seriously emotional. For others, that sort of flirting already crosses a boundary. There’s no right answer, only what is true for you.

In relationships, sometimes boundaries start to slip. We want to make our partner happy and we want to make the relationship work, so we can be tempted to ignore our own boundaries. When we compromise our boundaries, however, we’re not just being flexible or accommodating with our partner–we’re sacrificing our values, and when we sacrifice our values, we lose an important part of who we are.

Remember last week when we focused on the loss cycle? This boundary-sacrificing pitfall becomes particularly dangerous when we’re in the bargaining stage of the loss cycle, but oftentimes it was already at play in the relationship before the split.

As you move forward, it’s important for you to evaluate and re-establish your own personal boundaries. As you cope with betrayal, you have an opportunity to become conscious of where you may have been sacrificing your boundaries and values.

For this exercise, turn to a blank page in your breakthrough journal. First, spend at least a few minutes writing out the areas or ways you feel betrayed by your ex, either during your relationship or through the split.

Next, spend some time identifying the boundaries that were crossed. If you’re feeling betrayed, one or more of your boundaries was crossed, and it’s important to bring clarity to this.

Some are clear and simple maybe you feel betrayed by your ex cheating, which crossed the boundary of sexual fidelity. Others are more subtle maybe you felt betrayed when your ex would go a day or two without responding to your calls, which crossed a boundary of yours about communication.

Remember, there is no right list when it comes to personal boundaries; boundaries are your own no one else’s. Now, spend five minutes evaluating where you get to strengthen your boundaries or vour commitment to them. You might see where some boundaries were crossed and you were quick to respond; maybe you found out your ex was cheating and you ended the relationship right there.
You might also see some boundaries that you bent or ignored and started sacrificing your own values. Maybe your ex would become verbally and emotionally cruel when he or she drank, but you let it slide or ignored it. Maybe she started guilting you about spending time with your friends, so you sacrificed something important to you for the sake of keeping her happy.

Make a list of the boundaries you’re identifying, and highlight the ones that you think you could improve your commitment to in relationships. This is going to be vital insight for you when we turn our attention to dating again and clarifying your ideal relationship.

One client I worked with, Gina, discovered in our time together just how much she’d sacrificed her boundaries in her relationship. Gina’s ex-husband, Simon, would constantly criticize her appearance. He told her he didn’t like when she wore her hair up, so Gina started wearing it down all the time. He would tell her that she looked like a man from certain angles, and Gina quickly started feeling overwhelmingly self-conscious about her looks, convinced that she was unattractive.

Simon didn’t like spending time with Gina’s family, so Gina started visiting them less and less, making excuses about being too busy. He didn’t like her spending time with friends either, so she started cutting back there too. Her social life dwindled until her friends stopped even inviting her out.

At the time, Gina thought she was just showing her husband how much she loved him, but she didn’t realize there were unhealthy dynamics going on. Looking back in our coaching sessions, she discovered just how much she had sacrificed and how many of her boundaries she’d crossed. She realized that she had a lot of boundaries to rebuild before starting a new relationship.

Making Small Changes Now

When dealing with betrayal and crossed boundaries, it’s important for you to begin re-establishing your own sense of autonomy that your life is yours, and that you get to create it however vou want.
One of the most forwarding coping strategies is a simple one.

Start making small changes to your life that strengthen your sense of self, which is going to start rebuilding your confidence and increasing your happiness.

Think about some of the compromises you made in your relationship whether healthy ones or unhealthy ones. Now that you’re not in that relationship, you get to focus all your attention on You.

Maybe you’ve gotten used to splitting your takeout orders between Indian and Thai food, but now you get to just stick with that Indian food you love. Maybe the furniture in your bedroom isn’t arranged quite how you would choose, but the two of you compromised on it, so you get to change it to how you want it.

Maybe you wanted bright orange curtains, but your ex wasn’t into it, so the two of you chose beige well, now you get to go full-neon orange!

Wear a new color, get a makeover, visit a different supermarket, drive a new way to work; if you do what you’ve always done, you will get the same results, and you’ll stay in the same mindset.

Any small changes like these might not seem like a big deal, but redesigning your life as you want it is going to propel you forward into the passionate, fulfilled future you want.

In your breakthrough journal, write a list of small things that you can do starting right now to reflect what you want your life to look like. Choose at least one of these to put into action