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How Do You Handle Betrayal?

photo: Morgan on flickr

photo: Morgan on flickr

Dear Meli,

Jan and I have been best friends for about ten years. I met her through my job, and we immediately hit it off. We have been through a lot of stuff together, and I always thought she had my back. Recently, I found out that she has been saying bad stuff about me to a mutual friend. I didn’t believe it at first, but then I heard that she’s been saying the same things to someone else. I confronted her about it, and she said it wasn’t true, but I could tell she was lying. I’m not sure what to do now. She still acts like we’re good friends, but I don’t trust her anymore.

Bothered and Betrayed

Dear Bothered,

I am so sorry for the betrayal you must feel! It sounds very painful and disappointing.

Given that your “friend” isn’t willing to admit (yet?) that she said what you heard, I imagine there’s no further conversation to have with her directly. It is a dramatic lesson in the power of gossip. If there is a lesson for you to take away, this might be a good one. Did you ever hear her talk about others in a similar way, and allow that to continue? …or even participate?

I ask this of you, even though it may be tender, because – in all (terribly embarrassing) honesty – I have been on both sides of this experience! I cannot express the deep remorse I feel from having hurt another in this way.

Here are a few things I want to say about your question – with more tenderness than can be conveyed on the page:

1) Don’t assume that she doesn’t love and care about you because of her carelessness. She may be someone who tends to focus on what she doesn’t like about others, and life. It most likely comes from her own wounded past and mistaken beliefs. I am not saying you should trust her. I’m only suggesting that you can be assured that whatever she said is nowhere near all of what she feels about you. (I say this to support the healing of your own grief.)

2) Take the opportunity to ask yourself two painful questions:  a) How is what they are saying true about me? and b) How am I like this person in this situation?

3) Ask yourself if you saw warning signals somewhere along the way and ignored them. And, if so, commit to doing it differently in the future.

4) Finally, if you don’t trust this person (which is certainly understandable, and perhaps wise), it may be time to find yourself a new person to hang with. It may be that in many years, you could re-connect with this person and feel differently with them. But if this were a possibility, it is liable to take a long time. Trust youreself first (always.) And if your intuition says stay away, do that as nicely and with as much kindness as you can muster.

Blessings and Love to you in all you do,


What is your experience with betrayal? Share your comments below!

Have a question for Meli? Interested in a private session (in person or Skype)? Contact her at meli@ohmygodlife.com

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2 Responses to How Do You Handle Betrayal?

  1. Shiloh Sharpe June 28, 2016 at 5:20 pm #

    I think my worst experience with betrayal was a best friend in high school. I know she had a domineering mother and may have envied me in some ways, and she was a teenager, so I have to let that go. We never made up. When my partner, very rarely, says some condescending comment to me, I take it personally, and I guess see it as a betrayal. He said something about me to one of my friends one time and she held it against him He’s clueless in that regard – how destructive it is. Stems from his own insecurities I know. If someone seriously betrayed me, I’m sure that would end the relationship. I need to be able to trust.

    • Melissa Phillippe June 29, 2016 at 9:27 am #

      Thank you for this tender and open-hearted note, Shiloh!

      For me, there is always this balancing act, too…trusting and also following my inner knowing. Not being vulnerable where it is not safe or good self-care. Trust is imperative for intimacy, after all. I have stepped back from friendships even after forgiving…it’s one thing not to carry a resentment with me along my own path and quite another to remain open to a repeat of the pain. 😉

      It’s the same thing in personal dynamics when there are challenging communication-navigations to be made. When I know that’s what I’m headed to, I pray for the ability to remain compassionate, loving and kind, while I also staying self-caring and self-respecting.

      Even still, the experience or feelings of betrayal happen sometimes, of course. We are tender beings, after all.

      But I do find that when I back off emotionally from the situation enough to assess from an observer’s view, I see (as you have clearly done in your description of your high school friend) that whatever the transgression, it was not about me. Ever. (The feeling of disappointment when I see this is emblematic of the port of me that would prefer to be a victim. For if I am a victim, then I get to be right, and they must be wrong. Tidy! LOL)

      I think this is more challenging in our most intimate relationships because, hopefully, we trust the most there. So we are unguarded, which is a good thing. All the more reason to practice the art of not taking things personally, and all the more difficult, too! I think of it as the PhD program in not taking things personally… :-)

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