Cheating, Betrayal and Self-Blame

Cheating, Betrayal and Self-Blame

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to explore one of our automatic responses when someone cheats or betrays us: blaming ourselves and thinking “it’s my fault.”

First a quick update:

“Narcissism and “Generation Me” 
Listen to my hour-long controversial interview from last year with Professor Jean Twenge from San Diego State University as we discuss and debate narcissism, self-love and self-esteem, here.

Now, let’s talk about cheating, betrayal and self-blame.

From my audio book, “Secrets to Getting Over It”:

“I was once in a relationship where my then girlfriend lied, betrayed, deceived, and cheated on me. Without going into all the details of the relationship, it’s suffice to say that what she did was to cheat on me and do her best to cover it up and to actually lie and deceive me. Unlike the situation with Paul and Jill, where one could argue there were specific triggers, there were no triggers in my situation. There was nothing directly leading to the betrayal which then leaves me wondering why this happened.

At an intellectual level, I understood why this happened. My then girlfriend, we will refer to her as Anna, had low self-esteem, low self-confidence and a poor self-image. She didn’t really like herself, was raised with constant criticism, condemnation and judgment and she was never told by her father that she was beautiful although her sister was often praised by her father as being beautiful. Thus, Anna grew up with low self-esteem, not thinking she’s special, not even believing that she deserved to be treated as well as I did treat her. Anna also didn’t have a very strong structure. She didn’t have a good example from her father so she didn’t have the strong foundation of morals and values. Thus, at an intellectual level it was obvious why Anna did what she did but nonetheless, as a human being, my automatic response was to question myself, to doubt myself and to ask “Did I contribute to this?  Am I to blame?  Is there something wrong with me?”  After all if Anna really loved me, she wouldn’t do this to me.  If I were really truly special, Anna wouldn’t do this to me.

And this is where we get caught up.

This is what truly screws us up: when we start to doubt ourselves, when we start to possibly blame ourselves for the other person’s choices, reactions, and responses.  So in the case of Anna who’d never been raised with praise, who’d never been told by her father that she was beautiful, she was constantly insecure and she constantly needed validation and reassurance from anyone and everyone even though at the subconscious level she didn’t believe she deserved it.

And yet still I questioned myself “Is there something wrong with me?

In other words, even if I were to have done something that might have led Anna to feel invalidated or not special enough, it still becomes her choice about how she’s going to respond.

When we blame ourselves and we start to think that it’s our fault, we automatically take on guilt and shame.  And when we do this, we will start to punish ourselves: Blaming ourselves, feeling guilty and then punishing ourselves and subconsciously preventing ourselves from getting close to anyone else. At that point, we start to feel sad and depressed and even resentful and bitter, not just towards our self but towards the other person.

So what I’m saying to you now is, first ask yourself “Do you in any way feel that you were to blame or that you contributed to the other person’s response, reaction, choices or betrayal? If so, how? What did you do?  If you truly did do something that you feel was wrong then we need to get to the level or forgiveness. In my case, I was trying to help, rescue, and change Anna.  I believed that if I could just love her enough, I could change her. And so therefore, at some level I also felt that I had failed. Once we create expectations for ourselves and of others, we set up ourselves for disappointment and for harsh condemnation and judgment. I’m not at this point saying that you don’t set standards for yourself and for others; I’m saying that we need to be clear in knowing the difference between standards and expectations; expectations that either you or someone else cannot meet; expectations of perfection or expectations that simply cannot be met.

To further drive home this point, that we are never responsible for other people’s choices or actions, consider what were my choices upon learning that Anna had lied, betrayed, deceived and cheated on me?

My choices were many.

I could have easily found a way to pay her back to hurt her, I could have done many hurtful, vindictive and vengeful things to her, but I chose not to. If I had done something bad, painful, and hurtful to her, one might argue that, “Yes, she deserved it”, but again it’s not her choice about how I respond, it’s my choice and I am solely responsible for my choices and my behavior, regardless of the level of my pain or the level of my hurt. If you can truly understand this then it becomes easier to forgive the other person as well as yourself. You see, something we forget is that in every moment we have choices and yes, Anna had choices in those moments when she could have cheated or not cheated.  I had choices in my moments about how I would respond to learning of the news that she had cheated.

How do you now respond to those people who have betrayed you, rejected you, dumped you, abandoned you, or hurt you in some other perceived way?”

From my audio book: “Secrets to Getting Over It” (available next week on my website)

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist

Facebook Comments
6 replies
  1. Avatar
    Jessica says:

    I to was betrayed by someone who looked me in my eyes. And told me he would never hurt me considering he knew about my past how hard growing up for me was. I had past history with this man. We reconnected back four years later and have been together for 3 years. The women who he cheated on me with harassed me and then told me he got her pregnant of course I didn’t believe because I trusted. Him but my wist fear became real when he finally told me just a few weeks before the baby was due. But he told me he made a mistake and that he loves me and wants to be with me but now all I feel is insecurity and me pushing him away!!I’m so hurt but love him how do I move on with him still??

  2. Avatar
    Patrick says:

    Dear Lu,

    I am sincerely humbled and touched by your kind words and compliments. It gives me greater purpose, drive and inspiration knowing that I can help.
    And wow, you do have lots of hats and responsibilities. I also honor you.
    Thank you and I send you blessings.

  3. Avatar
    Lu Cluff says:

    Hello Patrcik…Your news letters are great and I look forward to them. I have posted two statements on the fridge that I read every morning before the start of my day. “we are never responsible for other people’s choices or actions” and “Believe in yourself – You deserve the best!”
    These two statements have many times helped me to make the right choices as I wear the many hats of..wife,mother,senior parent caregiver,grandmother,on call child care provider,children’s life skill coach and partner in my husband’s and my business,friend. Thank you from the bottom of my heart..God Bless..Keep up the good work.
    Sincerely..Lu Cluff,Ontario Canada.

  4. Avatar
    Patrick says:

    Dear Bob,

    yes, we tend to automatically blame ourselves even when the other person might have obviously committed the betrayal and lie. We do this even more so as children – we blame ourselves when we see our parents unhappy, depressed or even arguing.
    I will expand on this topic next week…

  5. Avatar
    Bob Marconi says:

    I agree with you about blaming ourselves. It has happened to me many times over many things.

    The hardest thing to do is not blame myself. Intellectually it’s easy to do. But depending on the severity of the problem/situation, it’s emotionally much harder to do.

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