To a many of us, friendships mean everything. We often view our friends as an extension of ourselves, people we can confide in, laugh with, be vulnerable with, and cry with. We trust our friends with our deepest, darkest secrets; we trust our friends not to hurt us, protect our secrets, and to share in our happiness. We never, in a million years think that a friend would be capable of betraying our trust.

Unfortunately, betrayal is one of those circumstances we will all face at some point in our lives. However, the type and severity of the betrayal often differs from person to person. For many of us, hiding betrayal can seem like our only option as we cringe against letting persons that betrayed us know they have hurt us. We often elect to suffer in silence through disloyalty from a friend, partner, or family member out of fear of displaying vulnerability. Needless, to say hiding, denying, disguising, or minimization of emotions can create lifelong negative feelings that can color how we see ourselves and others. Betrayal committed against us by a friend or partner can create challenges with self-esteem, self-doubt, trust issues, and a negative world view.

When a partner betrays us by being unfaithful, we can’t imagine our next love interest remaining loyal. Betrayal becomes further complicated when a partner has been unfaithful with a friend. Disloyalty between the people you trust the most can and often does seem like adding insult to injury. Not only was your partner unfaithful but the person you typically share your innermost feelings of shock and pain also betrayed you. Persons that have been betrayed by both a partner and friend often begin to question every interaction that occurred between their partner and friend, trying to re-evaluate conversations, looks, touches, etc., they previously assumed were innocent. When our best friend deceives us, we begin to think all friends are incapable of maintaining loyalty to the friendship. In this way, we set ourselves up for a vicious cycle and program our minds to believe that betrayal is something we’ll just have to learn to live with. But infidelity of any kind can bring about wisdom and invaluable lessons to be learned. And we can take action to cleanse our spirit of the grim past and, in a sense, betray our own betrayal.

Signs Your Partner Maybe Cheating with Your Friend Include:

He/she has started dressing differently

He/she finds any and every excuse to spend time or engage in outings with your friend

He/she avoids being in the same room as you’re your

Your partner and your friend share intimate jokes which appear to be lost on everyone else

Your communication with your friend changes, he/she avoids discussing our partner or they seem to bring up topics that involve your partner all the time.

Your communication with your friend has decreased, he/she seems to be avoiding you

Your partner has become defensive and irritable

Your partner and friend seem uncomfortable around you

Your partner has longer days at work

Your partner seems kinder and empathetic to your friends concerns than yours

Your partner is more affectionate with your friend, often taking any opportunity to touch him/her, e.g., hugging for an awkward length of time.

Your partner and your friend engage in flirtatious banter

Your partner has retreated into himself/herself

He/she insists they need space from you and the relationship

Your partner seems to turn your friend for support

A year ago, I began working with a 35-year-old woman I will call Tiffany. I began seeing Tiffany for negative feelings pertaining to depression, low self-esteem, self-doubt, “feeling of loss of control” over her life, and overcoming resentment. Tiffany struggled with what she characterized as “utter stupidity” when it came her inability to “see what was going on right in front of her”. According to Tiffany she often dismissed her feelings as paranoia as she trusted both her partner and her best friend. Tiffany blamed herself for “over sharing” with her best friend the intimate details of her love life and finding what she could only describe as “true love” with her partner. She often shared details of her romantic life without solicitation, encouraging her friend to find the same.

Tiffany and Bryce had been in a relationship for more than 3yrs before it started to develop cracks. She noticed Bryce wanted to spend more and more time away from her, insisting he needed time to be alone. Bryce no longer wanted to daydream” with Tiffany about their future together, rather, he did not want to talk about their future at all. Tiffany feeling like she could possibly be losing Bryce reached out to her best friend Leah for support. Tiffany confessed to Leah her feelings of losing the best thing that ever happened to her”, her suspicions Bryce was seeing someone else, and her sudden feelings of inadequacy in the relationship. Feeling increasing frustration with Bryce’s behavior, Tiffany began to complain to her friend about no longer feeling appreciated in the relationship. However, unlike their previous talks Leah began to aggressively defend Bryce insisted that perhaps Tiffany did not fully appreciate what she had in him. Feeling guilty Tiffany decided her friend was right, she needed to show Bryce how much she valued him and the relationship.

As time progressed Tiffany felt less and less like a priority in Bryce’s life, she knew he was being unfaithful, yet she couldn’t prove it. Tiffany would frequently employ Leah’s assistance with “getting through to Bryce”, but nothing seemed to work. In fact, Bryce became more and more distant. She also noticed whenever he spoke with anyone except Tiffany he appeared cool, collected, and charming, especially around Leah. Feeling isolated Tiffany was just happy she had her best friend to convey her feelings to Bryce.

Although, Tiffany came into counseling professing complete “cluelessness” about her boyfriend’s relationship with her best friend, she had observed the “signs” nearly a year before but chose to ignore them. Tiffany acknowledged during her therapeutic journey before catching both Bryce and Leah in the act she “knew but counted face the fact the two people she loved could betray her in that manner”.

Interestingly, most of Tiffany’s anger was not against the people that betrayed her, but herself. Therapy allowed Tiffany to decrease self-doubt, regain faith in herself, move beyond the betrayal, and accept the changes in her life.

Betrayal leaves us at a fork in the road. We can choose to act in ways that either favor or impede personal growth: we can become stuck in a bad moment forever or we can put it behind us for good.