Human beings have an innate need to feel safe and secure, both physically and emotionally. When we feel we've been betrayed or find ourselves unable to trust in a primary relationship, it can shake us up pretty badly. So what's the best way to handle issues with trust and betrayal? The first step is generally to get real with ourselves about what’s going on. Write down the facts as you know them, as well as your thoughts and feelings about the situation. Don’t let potentially harmful thoughts circle around and around in your head unchecked. Find some level-headed, trusted friends to talk to about the situation. Get that outside feedback. Having done this, make a decision about how important your relationship is with the person that has hurt you. Is the relationship over, or do you hope it can be saved?
If you're in a relationship that you don’t want to lose, think about doing what works. Your friend or partner cannot make your bad feelings go away, no matter how big a part they played in creating them. Take responsibility for your anger, hurt, and sadness. Try to share these feelings constructively, leaving judgment and accusation aside. Be specific about what caused the hurt feelings and what you want. It doesn’t help to say, “YOU DID THIS! THIS IS YOUR FAULT!” Nobody wants to feel like they’ve done wrong, and it’s incredibly hard to say “I’m sorry” when a person feels attacked or criticized.
Sometimes people keep secrets because they know what they're doing is wrong, and sometimes people keep secrets because they feel they are not doing anything wrong and simply want to avoid conflict. My partner has coffee with someone I don’t like and keeps that information secret. My spouse buys a golf club or beauty crème that is way expensive, and hides the receipt so that I won’t know. In these examples, I can probably trust that I am fundamentally safe and secure in the relationship; there are simply some communication issues that need to be addressed. The more I embrace my own inner sense of security, the more secure people will feel with me, and the more willing they'll be to be open and honest. It’s a cycle.
That being said, it takes two to make a relationship work. If I express my concerns with love and respect and my partner is not receptive, if my partner minimizes my hurt or makes excuses for being deceitful or unfaithful in some way, I need to think seriously about the level of betrayal and whether or not it's healthy for me to accept the parameters that my partner is setting for the relationship. I need to continue to work on being a confident, insightful, and effective communicator, and create a support network that may include but is not limited to the partner that has betrayed me. Betrayal in a relationship can be a turning point, creating the impetus we need to address unresolved tensions and create something beautiful, but it can also be a sign of profound dysfunction that will only grow more painful as the relationship continues. There usually is no easy answer or quick fix to trust issues in a relationship. Take your time, go easy on yourself, and trust yourself before all others. Things will come together in time.