Ashley Hudson LMFT
7 Strategies You Can Do to Heal After a Friend Betrayal
Updated: Sep 25, 2022
Do you remember a time you experienced a friend betrayal? I’m sure you do. A friend is a person who cares and supports you. The last thing you might expect is feeling deceived by someone who is supposed to have your back. In this article, I discuss examples and reasons for a friend's betrayal. In addition, I review helpful strategies you can do to recover and heal after a friend betrays you.
Examples of a Friend Betrayal
As a therapist in Orange County, I have heard several examples of how individuals feel betrayed by their friends. It’s hard navigating the social world. Particularly, trying to figure out what is a good friend and how to be a good friend. Sometimes, people will share private information about their friend to someone else. Sometimes, others will talk negatively behind their friend's back.
A common friend betrayal is when a friend drops their close friend because of their new romantic relationship. The close friend goes from spending a lot of time with their friend to none at all. A person can feel like their friendship isn’t of any value anymore.
At times, a person can be overly self-centered. They might betray a friend by not reciprocating in the friendship. The friendship can feel one-sided where someone is left putting in all the effort.
Lastly, if a friend is going through a major life event such as a loss, mental health problem, or illness, they are going to be seeking out their close friend for support and comfort. It can be painful if that supposedly close friend is nowhere to be found when they desperately need them.
Why a Friend Betrays You
There could be many reasons or motivations why a friend betrays you. Some friendships aren’t healthy from the beginning. When listening to individuals talk about their social conflicts, I can’t help to think these friends weren’t good friends in the first place. A friend who does not treat their friendships with respect and kindness has a higher chance of betraying their friend’s trust.
Another motivation could be the friend is angry and is having a difficult time communicating that anger appropriately. The friend does not know how to resolve conflict so, they purposely hurt others to take out their frustration. This betrayal is more direct and purposeful.
Another explanation could be having difficulty juggling friendships and romantic relationships. People who have a fear of abandonment or lower self esteem have a difficult time seeing themselves outside the romantic relationship. The romantic relationship becomes all-encompassing and all consuming. Thus, the other friend is left high and dry.
The Effects of Being Betrayed by a Friend
I Feel Hurt.
It is incredibly hurtful when a friend betrays you. Most people feel broken trust and emotional pain. You love and care for the person who betrayed the friendship and that is painful.
I Feel Disappointed.
Your friend did not meet your expectations. Your friend has been there for you in the past however, not this time. You probably banked on the fact your friend would never have done this to you, but you were “proven wrong.”
I Feel Confused.
How can my friend do this? I thought everything was fine between me and my friend and now, it’s not. Some individuals turn inward and consistently ask themselves, “what did I do wrong?” Sometimes, a friend's betrayal might end a friendship all together. The person is left with no closure and incredibly confused.
I Feel Doubtful.
Being betrayed by a friend can leave you feeling doubtful of other friendships. You might not want to reach out to others for emotional support for fear of getting betrayed again. You might be telling yourself, “If this person betrayed my trust, then I am sure others can too.”
I Feel a Sense of Loss.
In extreme situations, a possible result of the betrayal is the end of the friendship. Your friendship meant a great deal to you. You invested a lot of time and energy into the friendship. You can feel a sense of grief and loss because the friendship is now over, or the friendship isn’t what it was anymore.
How to Recover from a Friend Betrayal
The first step in recovering after a friendship betrayal is to clarify any misunderstandings in the friendship. It could be your friend is going through psychological or emotional struggles which is clouding their judgement and insight. Talk with your friend and clear up any misinterpretations. If your friend is willing to listen attentively, respond with compassion, and reflect on their part in the situation; that can be a good sign of recovery.
When going through a friend's betrayal, it’s important to be aware of all your feelings. Take the time to sit with your feelings and recognize all your emotions. It is crucial to name those feelings by verbalizing to someone you trust, “I feel hurt by my friend who said negative things behind my back.” When we name those feelings, essentially, we are validating and acknowledging those feelings are important and significant to us!
How to Heal After a Friend Betrays You
1. Reflect on the friendship
Reflect on the possible red flags that went on in the friendship. “Has this friend had similar offenses in the past?” When you take time to think about the friendship, you might figure out maybe this friend wasn’t as much of a friend as you thought they were.
2. Assess on what qualities you want in a friendship
A betrayal in a friendship is a good opportunity to think about what qualities you wish in a friendship. As you go through stages in life, there might be certain qualities you are looking for in friendship. For example, in this season, you are struggling with loss and you notice yourself gravitating towards friends who are emotionally available for you. I suggest writing down qualities you want in your friendships right now.
3. Give your other friendships a chance
A lot of times, we get so wrapped up in the friendship that is causing conflict that we forget about the other wonderful relationships you have. After you figure out what qualities you want in your friendships, identify which current friendships have those qualities you are looking for. Put effort and time towards those friendships that meet your needs.
4. Surround yourself with love and support
Healing is a painful and slow process. It’s super beneficial to surround yourself with people who love and support you. For example, reach out to any family members or trusted loved ones that will offer you emotional support.
5. Do not partake in retaliation
Feeling betrayed by a friend can lead to feelings of anger. If you aren’t in control of your anger, sometimes you can lash out especially at people who have hurt you. Some examples could be gossiping, spreading emotionally harmful information, or betraying back. Hurting others because you are hurt disrupts the healing process. Retaliation only keeps you in the thick of the betrayal.
6. Forgive or not forgive?
You have two options accept the misunderstanding and apology from the friend or accept the friend doesn’t have the qualities you are looking for in a friendship. At that point, you can make the choice to forgive or not forgive. Moving forward and healing is ultimately coming to a state of forgiveness where you accept the result. If that means, giving your friend an opportunity to improve the friendship or putting effort into making other friendships more meaningful. The act of forgiveness is for you not for the friend who betrayed you.
7. Find professional help
Lastly, depending on the type of betrayal and the amount of emotional pain seeking professional help can be effective. Healing from a friend's betrayal encompasses a lot of emotional energy and big emotions. It can be incredibly helpful to have a professional who’s a third-party help guide you through that process.
Any type of betrayal is going to be hurtful especially coming from a friend. Being aware of the motivations and effects of the betrayal will help you begin the recovery process. Allow yourself to recognize and name all those valid emotions. Reflection is crucial in the healing process. Reflection gives you the opportunity to understand your needs, assess your friendships, and decide how you want to move forward.
Needing more help:
Sometimes the pain of a friendship betrayal can become problematic, or you might be experiencing more symptoms than warranted. Specifically, teens and young adults who are trying to figure out where they belong in the social world. During this time, it’s inevitable to come across friends who you might feel betrayed by. I help teens and young adults navigate through depression, anxiety, grief and loss, and life transitions in a safe and therapeutic space.
If you are in the state of California and looking for therapy services, please feel free to contact me to schedule a free consultation.