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What to do when you've been betrayed...

Why does it hurt so much!?  It has been said that only someone that you love or care for can hurt you.  There is no stigma to betrayal - it can happen to ANYONE, regardless of age, race, gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation!  To blame yourself for the betrayal is wrong, and a serious waste of time.  You cannot undo the betrayal.  It is beyond your control.  It is something that you did not know about, did not approve of, and it was something you could not stop.

There are many reasons why people betray their spouses/significant others.  You are not a trained marriage therapist, and it is not your job to psycho-analyze the person who has betrayed you.  To expect yourself to have 'seen it coming' or 'recognized the signs' beforehand is outrageous.  The problem is NOT within you, it is the betrayer's problem.  Many internet addicts try to fill a void that was left in them from their childhood, unmet by their parents or caregivers.  Some suffered sexual abuse as a child or young adult; some had happy childhoods.  There is no definite sign or signal that your loved one will or will not become addicted to the internet or have a cyberaffair.

Have you confronted your betrayer?  Did you find out 'accidentally' about his/her online indiscretions, or did he/she tell you about them first?  Has your spouse/significant other given up spending time with you or your family and is logged onto the internet continually?  Has his/her behaviors, habits and personality changed for the worse?  The first thing to do before confronting your betrayer is to think about what you might hear.  This is very frightening, but you must ask yourself, "What am I afraid of hearing?"  Your partner may deny what you're saying, he/she may make fun of you or put you down, he/she may reject or leave you, he/she may become violent.  But remember, CONFRONTATION IS AN IMPORTANT STEP - the secret is out.  YOU ARE ON EQUAL FOOTING AGAIN.  Remember to stage a confrontation on your terms.  You must choose the time, the place, what you must say, how much information you want to get, and when you want to end the confrontation.  There are also times when confrontation is NOT possible, and it is important that you express your emotions to a professional counselor or a healthy, helping ear.

After the confrontation, you must forge ahead.  According to Dr. Riki Robbins, there are five waves of pain:


Walk through the pain, DEAL with it.  If you push it down inside and deny it, it will surface again at a later time...and possibly be more detrimental to you.  Talk to someone.  Get counseling.  If you have an insurance plan, most have a behavioral or mental health section that can refer you to a licensed therapist.  This will save you a lot of money and worry.  Take care of yourself.  Eat right, exercise, and continue your positive activities you had before you knew about the betrayal.  And don't be afraid to get angry!  Dr. Bonnie Weil gives an acronym to deal with anger:

 A - Admit you're angry! Give yourself permission to be outraged...don't feel guilty or apologize for your rage - you've been insulted!
 N - Negate your negative urges.  Don't retaliate by having an affair yourself, becoming violent with the betrayer, indulging in overeating, drinking, drugs or getting yourself fired from your job.
 G - Give vent to your feelings of anger - HARMLESSLY.  Punch a pillow or punching bag, take a furious run, stomp steps at an aerobics class/stairs/stair machine, yell at the top of your lungs in a vacant house/apartment.
 E - Evaluate any contribution you've made to the betrayal - REMEMBERING THAT YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME.  Did you set limits?  Did you enforce the limits?  Did you make your needs known?  Did you distance your significant other, focusing more on children or work?
 R - Remember the love that you had for your betrayer at one time.  There WAS a reason you got involved in the first place, right?  (:

Depending on the individual who has been betrayed, sadness and grieving will follow the initial rage.  Dr. Weil has an acronym for this as well:

 G - Give permission to yourself to be sad. You are entitled!  The more you try to fight it, the longer the sadness will last.  SEEK HELP IF YOU FEEL SUICIDAL OR PARALYZED BY DEPRESSION.
 R - Resist the exhortations of others to "Smile, you'll feel better!" or "Forget your troubles."
 I - Invest time in mourning what has happened and the relationship.
 E - Eliminate guilt, shame and fear.  Don't beat yourself up with "if only's."  Don't expect yourself to function perfectly at work, school, or in your social life.  Pretend you've had an operation and need time to recover.
 F - Focus on your future.  You are moving toward peace, forgiveness and a rebirth.  This, too, shall pass...WHEN YOU ARE READY.

Find a licensed marriage therapist, counselor or psychologist who is familiar with cyberaffairs and internet addiction.  If you do not feel comfortable with your therapist, or feel that you are not being validated by your therapist, DO NOT continue to see him/her.  It is your prerogative to get the best help from a professional.

Having phone sex, cybersex, and fantasy sex IS cheating - DO NOT let friends, family, counselors or your spouse tell you otherwise!  While it is a less threatening form of sexual betrayal, there is NO GUARANTEE that the virtual affair won't move into a real-time affair.  Many CyberWidows have been 'brushed off' by friends and loved ones who were ignorant to what a cyberaffair really is.  You can cheat without having intercourse, as cheating is not keeping a promise to your loved one.  A deliberate deception is a 'white lie' or withholding information.

YOU MUST draw a line in the sand.  YOU MUST set limits.  YOU MUST enforce these limits, and communicate in no uncertain terms what behavior is/is not acceptable to you.

unless noted, text copyright 2000-2003 laura e