Terrified those you love are going to let you down? Or that they’ll abandon or hurt you? You’re not the only survivor with this fear of betrayal—most of us have struggled with it after abuse.
Relationships are nerve-wracking even for someone who’s never been traumatized. It’s human nature to want to be loved and, when we get close to someone, we want to keep them by us.
And, our history has given us a bad impression of relationships. We’ve witnessed people betray us—either by abandoning or abusing us. (Or a combination of both.)
So how do you overcome this, so you can enjoy forming new relationships? This blog has that answer.
Why Your Fear of Betrayal is So Strong
Betrayal happens when our boundaries are repeatedly disrespected or ignored. This can be as literal as a sexual assault or something more subtle like a friend continuing to bring up a triggering topic even after you’ve asked them to drop it.
Boundaries are the key to healthy relationships and, when they aren’t respected, we hear this message: “Your needs don’t matter to me.”
For us survivors, this translates into: “I don’t matter.”
Obviously, this hurts. It was a (false, but still impactful) message we were constantly told in the past by our abusers. So, when a new friend or partner betrays us (intentionally or accidentally)—it brings this belief right back up the surface. Ouch.
This is why we fear betrayal. We’re afraid of being told, once again, that we don’t matter.
Loving Yourself through a Betrayal
I wish I could write a blog on how to avoid people who will betray you, but I simply can’t predict the behavior of other people. So, instead, I’ll show you how to handle betrayal if it ever happens. Once you know how to cope with it, your fear of betrayal will decrease.
So, how do you handle a betrayal? Well, first—you understand why it hurt so much.
Any betrayal, large or small, reminds you of the times you were told you don’t matter by your abuser. That message comes back up in your mind and your wounded inner child feels abandoned once again.
Essentially, having your boundaries disrespected in any way is this emotional trigger. It creates the same emotional response you had to abuse, even if this new betrayal wasn’t malevolent.
All triggers are handled with self-kindness first. Give yourself an inner hug, show up for yourself and say “I am here. I am safe. I do matter—the other person just chose to disrespect my boundaries. That’s a reflection on them, not on my self-worth.”
If you struggle with positive self-talk, check out this blog on building true self-love after abuse.
Self Care for Betrayal
Your heart is wounded when you face a betrayal. You’ll most likely feel alone and, like I mentioned earlier, like you don’t matter. So, to heal this, treat yourself like you do matter. Like you are an important human being who deserves kindness.
You can do this with self-care, since it’s essentially you saying “I’m going to do something loving for myself. I’m going to listen to my needs—even when those around me refuse to.”
Self care can come in hundreds of different forms, so here’s a blog to inspire you with my top 50 suggestions.
Coping with the Fear of Betrayal by Saying “I Matter Because…”
Self care is a step in the right direction. It’s choosing to show up for yourself with love—and that’s exactly what you need to handle both the fear of betrayal and (if one happens) an actual betrayal.
But, you also have to address the core hurt you’re feeling too: the belief that you don’t matter. That’s what hurts the most.
So, tell yourself reasons why you do matter. Here are a few ideas:
I matter because I am a human and all humans matter.
I matter because I have the potential to change lives for the better.
I matter because I had the strength to survive my past.
I matter because I have pets that rely on me.
I matter because at least one person loves me and genuinely enjoys my presence.
I matter because my strength inspires other survivors.
I matter because there are people who will come to love me—even if I haven’t met them yet.
I matter because I add to the diversity of the world.
All you need to do is repeat statements like these to yourself—similar to using affirmations.
To start, comment below with an “I matter” phrase, or at least one way you’ll take care of yourself the next time you’re facing the fear of betrayal (or an actual betrayal). These comments will help other survivors, not to mention that I love hearing from you!