Betrayal is an equal opportunity perpetrator of hurt. It doesn’t seem to matter who we are or what we have done. Once betrayed, we forget all of our own transgressions and see only the betrayal bubble in which we are caught. Betrayal causes us to doubt all that we knew and thought and felt to be true, leaving us wondering if we ever knew anything at all.
Women are somehow accustomed to being betrayed by the men that we love. It is almost like an unspoken societal expectation placed on us to expect as little as possible from the men with whom we share our most intimate selves. But what happens when the betrayal comes from the women, the best friends, with whom we share our entire selves; the friends who are our family; the women who cry and bleed and hurt and celebrate when we do. This betrayal cuts deep into our very being, unleashing a madness that has no explanation. Why? Because we never saw it coming.
There are certain codes among sisters and best friends and even just among women that are sacred, so sacred and understood they need not even be formally discussed. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Perhaps what is obvious to some is of lesser consequence to others. After all, when men betray us, they often need a woman’s assistance for complete success. These very women are also sisters, cousins, mothers, aunts and best friends, so maybe this is where it all starts….with us, the women – perpetrators of betrayal.
The proverbial rug was pull out from under me when my best friend of almost a decade was exposed for breaking a cardinal rule – she was encouraging another best friend to see my ex behind my back for close to a year. To compound it all, the collective decision was taken to go to lengths and take extreme measures to hide it from me, ‘to protect my feelings’, ‘because they didn’t know how to tell me’. The bobbing and weaving went on for some nine months before they thought I knew the truth. Never did I see it coming. As the rug was jolted away, I was somersaulted into the air. Those five seconds of flying, just before the full extent of reality had sunk in, aren’t so bad because there is an element of doubt – maybe it isn’t what it seems. Maybe she didn’t encourage the match. Maybe she didn’t host soirees for them to meet as I sat home in blissful ignorance. Maybe they didn’t change his contact name on the phone, desperate for me not to figure it out. During the tumble, I started remembering all the signs that I willingly ignored, knowing better along the way – the numerous times I asked what was wrong because I sensed the drifting; his friends joking to my acquaintances that my friend was his new plaything; his neighbour telling a co-worker that my friend would be there all hours of the night; an old friend seeing them together at undistinguished drinking establishments. My cousins greeting them while out for drinks, confused, needless to say. But after the somersaulting comes the landing. You would think that a dancer of thirty seven years would land with a semblance of grace and strength. However, the landing was more of a continuous roll, with an attempt at a tuck, down a flight of winding stairs. Then as reality hits, the confusion becomes clear.
Somehow I had decided to skip the banter of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ and ‘why’. Practicality prevailed, quickly forcing me to accept that this is what it is. Preserving some grace and dignity amidst what seemed to have been public humiliation was of utmost importance. There was also the prevailing element that if I became angry, I would appear as though this was really about my ex, and I surely couldn’t have that if I was going to appear graceful and unaffected. So at the bottom of the winding staircase, I checked for bruises as I decided that playing it cool was the just what the doctor ordered – a reasonable and hopeful prognosis after such a tumble. As I got my footing to stand after such a fall, the air seemed to be clearer on the way up and the prognosis was questioned.
When men betray us in relationships and marriages, anger is accepted and outbursts are expected. It is our right to end those liaisons and if we didn’t, and stayed with the betrayer, we would then deserve all other manifestations of infidelity, dishonesty and betrayal to come our way at their hands. So what was so different when best friends betray? Why are different levels of acceptability existent depending on who does the betraying? Instantly, it had all become clear and a new prognosis emerged – instantaneous cutting of ties.
I realised that I need not be concerned about how I appeared to betrayers. I was angry and I was hurt – why should I pretend I wasn’t? They lied to me; they hid the truth for an extended period; they had no idea how much I actually knew and for how long. They were so consumed with covering tracks that they didn’t see all the glaring signs that I knew what was developing. The moment it hit me and everything came full circle, was still painful, but some processing did occur.
Betrayal by others makes you start to betray yourself and all that you know to be right and true. It causes you to doubt all that you believed about yourself and about others. The challenge was to get past the betrayal and reconstruct some normalcy after this blow. Moving forward and leaving the lies behind isn’t as straightforward as it sounds because essentially you are moving forward without a huge part of you intact – your best friends. So betrayal is really so much more about a loss – a loss of your family, your people, and your support in times like this. So apart from actually dealing with the disloyalty, you are also dealing with dealing with it alone.
Society tells us that we must forgive in order to heal; we must let go of the pain and anger in order to feel free and be able to move on. Now forced to recover from this tragedy, I started to question forgiveness and how it actually works. Does forgiveness really come before the healing; does it come so THAT we can heal. I am not sure I believe that. I didn’t know how to force myself to forgive when I wasn’t actually feeling it. What made sense to me was to take some time to process it all, think about it, cry about it, be angry about it, and question it. As time passed, I got no answers, but I did get a sense of peace that I knew the truth and that I had cut it out of my life. There was a comfort knowing that I was not accepting disloyalty as part of my relationships and even though I lost two best friends, I now knew the that they never really were my friends. It was better knowing who they really were, than keeping them in my life so that I had the false sense of best-friend comfort.
Forgiveness didn’t come until after healing had started. Therefore, forgiveness is a by-product of healing, rather than being the catalyst for healing. According to Psychology Today, ‘’the other primary function of forgiveness is relationship detachment. Detachment from an emotional bond occurs at the point when you become able to think about your betrayer without significant positive or negative emotion. In other words, you’re “over it.” That kind of forgiveness is described as bringing “peace.” Unfortunately, detachment through forgiveness is rare’’.
Life after betrayal must be taken slowly. It entails some understanding, a lot of letting go, accepting that answers will not offered. Sometimes we have to accept that people have different standards than us. They see things differently and their truths tend to vary. We may never understand why people do what they do with no care or concern for the consequences. We can only control what we do in response and in the future. Life isn’t equal and God is not communist – he didn’t make us all the same. All that can occur is that a lesson be learnt – that lesson differs from one betrayed to another. You learn things about others and are reminded of qualities in you – all lessons in some degree or another.
My lessons are now clear. Even though I knew it before, it now took shape. I would never hurt those dear to me and remain unaccountable for my actions, more angry that they were angry at me for wronging them. I would say sorry if I transgressed someone. I could forgive transgressions in time but I would never forget the capabilities of those who betrayed me. I won’t let a deceitful experience make me believe that our entire gender is untrustworthy because I won’t let this experience make me bitter. I don’t need to share all of my experiences with those closest to me, in order to feel close to them. I may not be better than them, but I am different. I am me.
Do unto others
I’ve been guilty of not following this lesson. For that I am sorry.
It is always so easy to post on social media about our accomplishments, good deeds and intentions. It is far harder to post about all the ways we went wrong, all the ways we made situations worse, all the ways we were hurtful to others.
When we feel that we have been trespassed against, reactionary hate seems acceptable at the time. But is it really? We all understand and accept that two wrongs don’t make a right, until we feel the pain of betrayal, wrongdoing, accusations. Then somehow, that rule no longer applies to us. For this, too, I’ve been guilty of, and for that I am sorry.
There are some transgressions that are harder to move pass than others. For example, where I have happily forgiven my ex-husband for all that i felt he had done, understanding that it takes 2 to make a marriage work, I will still have no desire for a friendship with him. His transgressions were repeated, deliberate and well calculated.
But there are other types of hurt that are less intentional because the truth is…life is messy. Nothing is perfect. None of us are perfect. We make mistakes. And most of all, in retrospect, we could ALWAYS have handled things better than we did. This too I’ve been guilty of, and for that I am sorry.
Time really does heal all wounds, once we let it.
I am so happy that my friends and I were able to sit and talk things out like we probably should have a long time ago. But again, in retrospect, we didn’t exactly handle things as well as we could have.
There is a freedom in forgiveness and a peace in leaving anger behind that cannot be compared to any other form of happiness….except maybe in shopping.
Things may never be the same, and that’s ok. But at least, we were finally mature enough to do what needed to be done….forgive.