Series Two: Blog Forty-Three
Betrayal in relationship is having the rug pulled out from under you. The description of impact from cheating is beyond words. Betrayal is elementary to the life of an addict. There are levels of betrayal. When addicts act out they betray themselves. Values are undermined and inner safety is destroyed. Addiction behavior embodies treason and treachery that destroys trust in relationships from lying and deceit manifested by the reckless pursuit of satisfying addictive craving.
Perhaps the greatest treason is known in relational betrayal. It’s one sense of betrayal to be in a relationship with someone addicted to a substance. It is crazy making. Partners have abandoned themselves and have engaged unhealthy behaviors trying to save their addict lover from the throes of addictive substance. Yet, when the betrayal is relational, it is a dagger to the heart. Relational betrayal is devastating and paralyzing. The road to relational healing and recovery is long and arduous.
The road begins with full disclosure by the offending partner. I have witnessed at least a thousand disclosures as a therapist in my career. All of them are excruciatingly painful. There are many considerations involved in preparation for disclosure. Yet, there is no way to avoid overwhelming pain for both partner and addict in a disclosure of betrayal. There is no way to cushion the admission of cheating. For healing to occur, the “shit must hit the fan”.
It is common for a betrayed partner to lament with expressions like “where did this come from?”, “This is not who I married!”, “How could all of this happen and I not know?”, or in some cases “. . . not have a clue?”. These are common expressions of agony from betrayed partners.
Many times disclosure is piece-mealed. This is not unusual in that many addicts are unable to embrace the full truth of their behavior because they have invested in deception of self and others for a long period of time. Piece-mealing truth is agonizing to a partner who has been betrayed. “When does the next shoe fall?” is often the expression of turmoil. Not saying it straight always complicates the healing process
It will be necessary for an addict to learn to identify h/her cycle of offending behavior and to be able to explain when and where the behavior began and trace its development to full consummation. Sometimes addicts believe the behavior happened out of the blue. It never occurs in this manner. There is a buildup of behavior and triggers that must be identified before intervention can be made.
Once this is identified, it is important for an offending partner to reveal how h/she pulled off their betrayal behavior. This is called clarification which can only be done after a full disclosure has been made. This is a key component in the forgiveness process around the betrayal created by offending behaviors. Oftentimes, individuals who are in a committed relationship to an addict feel responsible for the behaviors of their addict partner. Even though it is not true, partners of addicts often wonder “what is it about me that deserved this awful treatment?” It is important for both the betrayer and the betrayed to understand and accept that violating values is a victimizing behavior. It is offensive. That makes the one who commits the victimizing behavior an offender. When we commit an offending behavior, we choose to victimize others. There is an offender in every one of us, which expresses itself through a mentality that “wants what I want when I want it”. This mentality is core to every offending behavior. It must be exposed for what it is—the epitome of narcissistic trait. What must be cultivated in the heart of the offending person is the capacity to tell on myself to the offended party. It is one thing for your victimized partner to recognize by h/her own insight that you, as an offender, have victimized h/her. It is a more powerful healing experience to the relationship when a perpetrator demonstrates awareness of ways in which h/she has victimized. This process becomes a way to “unbrainwash” your victim so that h/she understands that you “get it” that they were not responsible for your abusive behavior.
Some victims blame themselves by considering that they were too naive, not affectionate enough, not sexy enough, not attentive, etc. Others, ponder incredulously how they could ever have picked someone who would hurt them in this way?
Clarifying the obvious is a straightforward process in addressing betrayal behavior, reducing gaslighting, and addressing the crazy making experience that exists in the make up of every betrayal action.
Unraveling the betrayal behavior in terms of how you pulled off what you did when you betrayed is a way of reducing the insanity and confusion that exists through gaslighting betrayal behavior. You must expose your dishonesty, manipulation and control in your offensive actions. Exposing your offensive manipulative behavior is a powerful beginning toward healing the broken trust in a committed relationship.
I have created a tool called the “Letter of Clarification” which holds a process that has been utilized by many over the past 20 years to assist healing at this level of addressing betrayal behavior. You can purchase this tool by contacting my office at Psychological Counseling Services, Ltd 480-947-5739. The goal is to cultivate empathy for the partner betrayed as wells as toward self as the offending partner.
The betrayal action is not about the partner not being good enough. It is not about the offending partner being an evil despicable person. It is about a destructive behavioral response to a painful reality. Unpacking this reality is what clarification is all about.
Betrayal can be described through the metaphor of a shoulder separation. Until the separated shoulder is put back in place it will be always painful. Clarifying the obvious is a way of putting back in place a relationship damaged by betrayal. Ultimately, this occurs through common shared brokenness between two people. The identified offending partner must clarify and tell on h/himself to the betrayed partner. Eventually, coordinated by an experienced therapist, it will be helpful for the betrayed partner also to tell on h/herself about ways in which they have contributed to intimacy distance in the relationship. This is not to take on blame for the betrayal behavior but is to recognize and own their role in contributing to offending behavior on their part that adds to relationship distance. When two people embrace their own detached and separate contributions to intimacy distance, relational healing deepens.
Clarification is a deep, loving, intensive, and effective strategy designed to assist in relational healing from betrayal.
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