One thing I am learning the hard way as I get older is that, no matter how much we might love someone — whether it be friend, family, parent, spouse, work colleague. They will all betray you like a total stranger, given the right circumstances. So far in the past 18 months I’ve suffered major betrayals by: a best friend I’ve known for 20 years, my wife, her mother (my mother-in-law), and my father-in-law, and the former head of my department at work. Not just little things, either, but major issues that went right to the heart of the relationship I thought we had. I am, apparently, a poor judge of the state of my personal relationships, and of the appropriate amount of trust I place in those around me. It’s enough to force me to reevaluate whether I’m spending an adequate amount of energy looking out for number one. Once trust is broken by a major betrayal of that trust, how do you get it back? Will I always have the betrayal centermost in my mind as I try to deal with these people again? Or is the relationship over once a betrayal takes place? What is it about the human psyche that engenders betrayal? Is it a rationalization?
If the betrayal stems from a singular rationalization event — a weighted bet, as it were, that as to this issue, it will serve me better to place my own self-interest before all other considerations in the relationship I have/had with ________ — it seems to me a good indicator that the parties did not view or value the relationship itself in the same way. That is, one party valued the relationship differently than the other party, such that they viewed the risk that the relationship could or would be harmed by the rationalization event as less important or less weighty than the payoff they expected from the product of the rationalization.
Was the betrayal a miscalculation, a mistake, or a misunderstanding? Easily, that could be the case. But let me tell you how I know that, for example, the betrayal by my wife suggests to me that she doesn’t love me. In response to the betrayal, it is not enough for me simply to say, “I would never have treated you that way.” That could mean nothing more than that I’m a chump. If she had cheated on me with another man (this is not the betrayal at issue in this case), I think that my declaration that I would never have done that to her is essentially irrelevant. She knows, because she knows who I am, that I never would do that to her. I think that issue is a red herring that did not matter in her decision to betray my trust. So what was it that allowed her to betray me? Stay tuned.