One moment of betrayal can rock a years-long friendship, leaving both of you feeling disoriented regardless of which side the betrayal came from. Whether you told your best friend's most intimate secret or it was your trust that was broken, you may now believe there is nothing that can be done to keep the friendship from careening off the cliff side. However, you may be able to save the friendship, provided you want to do so, once you understand the implications of betrayal.
The Meaning of Broken Trust
No matter which one of you committed the act, the effect is most likely that the importance of your friendship itself has been called into question. From passing along gossip to making a pass at your friend's paramour, an act of betrayal indicates that you are willing to fulfill your own immediate interests at the expense of your friend's interests. Furthermore, such acts can make the wronged party feel insecure, even endangered, as betrayal translates to a form of rejection from someone on whom the betrayed relied for psychological needs such as belonging, according to Julie Fitness, Macquarie University Psychology Professor, in her chapter for the book "Interpersonal Rejection," entitled "Betrayal, Rejection, Revenge, and Forgiveness: An Interpersonal Script Approach."
Betrayal By Disengagement
While betrayal can take the form of isolated, hurtful acts, it can also take a slow-release form that is equally painful, if not more so: that being disengagement. This process involves one friend pulling back in ways that are not always obvious, such as failing to defend the other friend from insults, according to Brene Brown in her book "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead." This type of betrayal can result in not only feelings of instability, but also self-doubt, as it's much harder for the betrayed party to name a specific incident that caused the lack of trust.
Repairing With Forgiveness
Before there can be forgiveness, you each have to examine the importance of the friendship. Because betrayal signals a lack of prioritization of the friendship, restoring your bond is more likely if the betrayal was a one-time, instantly regretted slip rather than a pattern or disengagement. Fitness notes that guilt for betrayal is indicative of empathy -- the offending party feels bad because the offended party feels bad. Therefore, feeling guilty actually offers hope; it suggests that the friendship is still valued. Forgiveness can be achieved if the offending friend genuinely apologizes, confesses the lesson learned and promises to behave differently in the future.
If one or both of you cannot stomach the idea of mending the friendship after such a betrayal, or if you have realized that a lack of emotional investment was at the heart of the betrayal, you may have to find ways to move forward. It is natural that friends, even best friends, sometimes grow apart as they grow individually. Try to learn a lesson from this experience -- perhaps what qualities you need in a confidante or how you can better reinforce friendship bonds next time. Allow yourself to grieve the good memories you had with your best friend, relying on other friends and family members as needed for support.
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