Betrayal comes in many variations: a friend gossiping about a secret you shared in confidence; a relative taking advantage of your hospitality to steal from you; a spouse engaging in an affair.
But regardless of what form betrayal takes, the results share something in common.
“Betrayal destroys trust, and since trust is the foundation of all relationships, it’s no wonder that betrayal does such damage,” says Elaine Eisenman, PhD, co-author with Susan Stautberg of Betrayed: A Survivor’s Guide to Lying, Cheating, & Double-Dealing (www.bouncefrombetrayal.com).
These two successful business women say they themselves have experienced betrayal professionally and personally. But the good news, Stautberg says, is that despite the initial trauma, pain, and humiliation, most people survive and recover from betrayal and become stronger and wiser as a result.
“Recovery is not a single point in time; it is an ongoing process,” she says. “One day, you’ll discover there are simply more ups than downs. Hang on to that because it will steer you through darker moments.”
In the meantime, Stautberg and Eisenman offer a few suggestions on how to guard against letting someone’s betrayal define your life:
Listen to your gut. Your gut instinct is an incredible natural warning system, Eisenman says. “It can help you sense a betrayal before it becomes a reality,” she says. Instead of closing your eyes or creating excuses for someone else’s odd behavior, listen carefully to your uneasy feelings. Those nagging doubts can help you avoid a betrayal, or at the very least, lessen the impact of one.”
Hold onto your power. Even while you are navigating through a fog of deception and hurt, you do hold some cards. “You just need to step back and see them,” Stautberg says. For example, you alone decide whether or not to forgive your betrayer. “By recognizing and addressing the new challenges, making decisions about your next steps, and retaining your sense of self, you reclaim your power,” she says. “Those who recover best never relinquish power to the betrayer.”
Have the courage to move forward. It’s important to face the fact you aren’t in control of certain events and you will never create a perfect do-over that will fix everything, Einsenman says. “To begin the act of recovery look the nasty circumstances in the eye and see them for what they are,” she says. “The fallout from betrayal says more about the betrayer’s values than it does about you, so toss the bad stuff in the garbage and put a permanent lid on it.”
“Hurt, setbacks, and diabolical events touch all of our lives; there is no escape,” Stautberg says. “But inside all of us are the keys to unlock our courage and strength, and that’s how we move on and build a better future.”
About Elaine Eisenman, PhD
Elaine Eisenman, PhD, co-author with Susan Stautberg of Betrayed: A Survivor’s Guide to Lying, Cheating, & Double Dealing (www.bouncefrombetrayal.com), currently serves as an independent Board Director for DBI, Inc. (NYSE), as well as for AtmosXR and Miravan, both privately held companies. She is the Managing Director of Saeje Advisors, LLC, an advisory firm for high growth ventures. Former Dean of Executive and Enterprise Education at Babson College, she works closely with CEOs and their executive teams to create cultures that accelerate growth. She is a frequent speaker on the topic of turning risk into opportunity.
About Susan Stautberg
Susan Stautberg is Governance Advisor to the portfolio companies of Atlantic Street Capital, a private equity firm. She is also President and CEO of PartnerCom Corporation and Chair Emeritus of the WomenCorporateDirectors Education and Development Foundation (WCD). Susan addresses groups around the world, including leading business schools and CEO conferences. She has written or been featured in numerous articles including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times and her on-air experience includes Oprah, The Today Show, CBS Evening News, CNNand many others.