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What to Do When a Family Member or Friend Betrays You

Layne believes in sharing life experiences. Acceptance and surrender are two important ingredients for personal growth.

What does it take to forgive?

What does it take to forgive?

What to Do When Someone Betrays You

Many of us have been betrayed at some point—by family (brothers, sisters, husband, wife, mom and dad), in friendships, in relationships, and in business. As isolating as it may be to be let down by people close to you, it's important to realize that you are not alone. No one is immune to being let down. So, it's less about how you were betrayed and who betrayed you, and more about how you handle it and rebound from the feeling of being let down and the hurt of the deception.

The Worst Ways Someone Can Betray You

  • Infidelity
  • Sabotage
  • Backstabbing
  • Gossip
  • Abandonment
  • Theft
  • Humiliation
  • Judgment
  • Disloyalty
  • Lying

Here are some coping mechanisms and steps that I took to deal with the hurt of being betrayed by a sibling. I hope these tips can help you, too. Also, consider sharing your story below.

It is not uncommon to be in shock when someone has wronged you.

It is not uncommon to be in shock when someone has wronged you.

1. Get Feedback From Others

After slowly opening up to people close to me about my personal situation (my significant other and a few close friends), I started to get some feedback. I was hoping for neutral feedback, and I certainly received it. Indeed, I was able to confirm how messed up everything was. It felt good to be validated.

Advice:

  • Let yourself be mad
  • Look for advice from a trusted source
  • Look at things in black and white (no gray)
  • What's done is done
  • Just because you have a relationship with this person does not mean anything if the mutual respect isn't there
  • Get real with reality. You were cheated (this applies to relationships too); accept that you were tricked, duped, made a fool, naive, whatever you want to call it.
Betrayal is a horrible feeling, but there are ways to break free.

Betrayal is a horrible feeling, but there are ways to break free.

2. Take Action and Make a Plan

When I say take action, action can be a lot of things. If you are in a relationship and were cheated on, you need to decide if you are willing to stay and repair that relationship (think long-term, can trust ever be repaired?), if you were cheated in business, figure out what legal laws may protect you or how to rebound from financial hardship. If you were abandoned, think about how you can remain strong and support yourself—reach out to those who you trust. If you are feeling overwhelmed by emotions, go see a counselor and vent.

Advice:

  • Consider the long-term and think about what will make you happy and help you to find closure.
  • Make up your mind about that person—can you ever trust them again? Have they apologized? Would you accept it? What if they never do?
  • Take care of yourself. Put yourself first.
  • Learn your lessons. Don't repeat this mistake again (being naive, letting your guard down, not speaking up, telling too much).

3. Make Up Your Mind About This Person

Decide what kind of relationship or category this person will fall into in your life. If it's a significant other who cheated on you, maybe acknowledge the fact you will never be able to trust them again. If they keep coming back into your life, tell them it's over . . . change your number, move. If it's a business partner or someone who stole from you, never let them in again. They showed you once how they can be. In my situation, I knew my relationship would forever change with my sister. Think about self-preservation!

Advice:

  • Keep those who have proven themselves as worthy of your trust near you; get support.
  • Always keep your guard up around this type of person—don't give too much of yourself away, ever. Not again.
  • Decide if their mistake has changed your relationship towards them for good; if yes, cut your losses.
  • Don't feel as though you have to give of yourself; you don't always have to be a "good person." Protect yourself emotionally around them.
Speak your truth.

Speak your truth.

4. Speak Your Truth

I simply cannot feel the same way about my sibling anymore. It's so sad and hurtful to admit this. She has not acted with transparency in her life . . . and that is her choice. My choice is not to give too much of myself away. I have to see her at holiday events still, but I generally keep things dry. A year ago, I wrote her a three-page letter. I explained all of my feelings. It was a very charged moment, and it didn't go over well. I'm pretty sure I got the middle finger in my face. That hurt and infuriated me, but it felt good knowing I spoke my truth.

Advice:

  • Write a letter—this is more passive, but it's super therapeutic. Let it sit a few days and then revisit it so that you make sure it's written exactly how you want it.
  • Tell them to their face how you feel (if it's safe and makes sense)
  • See a counselor and vent
  • Explain why you are creating healthy space or distance

5. Learn to Accept and Move On

I finally had to decide that life unrolled the way it did because it is out of my control. I could not have foreseen the actions of my sibling. I have accepted that my identity and my life path will come solely from my life choices. What she has chosen for her path is for her own reasons.

Advice:

  • Accept what has happened
  • Know that you cannot change history
  • Make a decision to trek on independent of the hurt
  • Focus on yourself and your trajectory
  • Don't worry about them (trust me, they aren't worried about you, do not waste your energy).

My Personal Story

I have been betrayed in life and I know I've betrayed others. I've experienced it in love and friendship, via broken promises and breaches of trust. My most recent experience of betrayal runs deep, however, because it involved my sibling and was so unexpected.

Life was pretty stable and balanced when my parents were both alive. We had a family business and we all lent a hand—it supported our family for years. Just after my father passed, my oldest sibling and her partner cleared out all business documents from our family home. I was in school and working a second job at the time, thank goodness, but it happened abruptly and without any communication. I, therefore, lost my primary job and my health insurance as did my other sibling. They soon moved the business to an undisclosed location.

What I Learned

What hurt me the most about this whole scenario is that I wouldn't have done what my sister did to my sibling and me, but here's what I had to do and here is what I advise you to do:

  • Face the music and acknowledge what happened
  • Don't make excuses for the other person
  • Know that betrayal is not a reflection of your worth, but the other person's morals and ethics
  • Understand that what has happened was out of your control (do not beat yourself up, even if business-related; sometimes it just takes learning)

Can You Forgive? Healing From the Hurt

You've probably heard before about how forgiveness will bring you peace. To forgive someone who has wronged you is the ultimate step towards spirituality. I truly believe this, and it's okay for me to admit that I have yet to forgive my sibling.

I have learned to forgive though. I've forgiven failed relationships in the past and hurt from loved ones on various levels. I'm sure too that we've all dealt with gossip and lies in our formative years. You can certainly learn to forgive. I think the secret here is knowing when you are ready—you will feel it in your heart.

I'm not quite there yet, but I am aware that the day I forgive is the day that I will experience ultimate freedom from the hurt. I wish you the best in your journey, too.

How to Forgive Someone

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Layne Holmes

Please share your story, tips, and advice.

Katrina on July 18, 2020:

My younger sister recently changed her religion. In order for her to be baptize she needed to repent her sins that she did to others. I finally had the guts to ask her what she told my bestfriend that cost us our friendship. My sister actually betrayed me by telling my bestfriend what was confidential between me and my sister. My bestfriend became aloof and did not want to hangout with me anymore. My sister ruined my relationship with my bestfriend by stabbing me on my back. I was really hurt.

Sandra on June 13, 2020:

Years ago my niece and boyfriend betrayed me. He started giving her rides to work due to her car being broken. One day she says my boyfriend raped her. The cops later found a video of them both going into a hotel together and she was willingly with him having a nice time. This hurt so much especially coming from my niece which I loved almost like she was my daughter despite that she was only 11 years younger than I. Some years later my sister is getting married and my niece is being invited to the wedding. What are your thought? What is right and wrong? Should I be upset that my sister is inviting her ignoring my feelings? Also, I did forgive my bf for his actions and I forgave her too but she never apologized or spoke to me again. So not sure what are your thoughts/opinions?

Layne Holmes (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 13, 2020:

Hi younger sister. I know you are frustrated and hurt. The hurt is so far beyond the financial loss, but we try to grip something tangible to be mad at them about. The financial loss hurts, but it's that pain of know they have forever changed your dynamic, especially if you once trusted them. I do trust the universe, however. I have seen the ways in which betrayals get leveled out. I hate to say it, but some of those betrayals are leveling out now. These people will go through their own struggle when they are faced with it. Keep doing you and practice raising your good energy.

Younger sister on February 03, 2020:

I have been betrayed many times by my siblings. My sister stole money from a small business I had until it went bankrupt. Then they all moved to another country, I was left alone. So after many years of sacrifice and being jobless I started another business but this time I said nothing was quite about how I was prospering. The business grew and I was finally in a good place only to now see how another sibling has copied everything I have done and started a business competing for my customers. I feel so upset I don't understand and I so wish I could tell him how selfish and backstabbing he is.

Layne Holmes (author) from Bend, Oregon on November 25, 2019:

Hi E in Washington. I am sorry to hear this and I know exactly how this feels and the hurt. It isn't about the material things, it's the way you felt towards them and they way you see them as a person that has changed. It's the upset you feel when you know how they are, what they're about, and their lack of morals—their lies and their selfish and sometimes manipulative behavior. I did have someone tell me to sever contact. You don't have to forgive until you are ready. And truly, there will be a day where they realize and wake up to what they have done. I don't know if it will be in this conscious lifetime, but the way energy works—people don't get away with burning others forever. I'm sorry for your hurt and the betrayal. You are not alone. Do what's best for you—even if that means cutting them out of your life.

E in washington on November 25, 2019:

My sister betrayed me. Hijacked my inheritance. I thought there wasn’t a will. Find out 6 years after mothers death there is a will. My sister took everything. Family pictures , real estate, mother personnel effects. She said I have no right to anything. She even goes to the extent to tell hurtful stories of something my mother my have said. Wants to rob me even of my relationship to my mother. The way to preserve myself is to sever all contact. I will be praying about this to God. I know he is always there for me. And possibly some day I will be able to speak to her again. It’s not the stuff it’s the deceitfulness. How many other lies and abuses has she perpetrated through our life’s.

Layne Holmes (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 11, 2019:

Hi Younger Sister—I am also a younger sister and have been through something VERY similar. I had tons of questions and could not understand how a family member would only think of themselves. I've also struggled to watch family members with "everything" or "excess" still be unhappy. It makes me think they are unaware of the abundance in their life. If I can tell you anything that has helped me get through what you're describing (the sobering financial situation aside) . . . I've had to switch my feelings and thinking from disbelief, anger, resentment (e.g. not understanding how a sibling could be so heartless) to realizing that maybe life for them isn't all rainbows in butterflies. How disconnected must one be to be oblivious to the situations around them? Is that all they are operating for? I've learned to feel sorry for my sibling. I feel sorry for them because they damaged a relationship, they are not happy, they have it all, yet they are unsettled in life. The best thing I could do was invest my energy into myself—focusing on my goals and aspirations, and not the betrayal. I still carry anger. I still see their selfishness, but in my heart, I know they are sick. I am making my own magic happen the best way I can. Sure, some days I am frustrated when the disparities are rubbed in my face, but all the greats in the world are self-made. Give yourself all the energy you've been giving her. Just because you're blood-related doesn't mean you need to like her . . . you can still LOVE HER as a compassionate human. But preserve yourself. That's where you can direct your energy. Good luck.

Younger sister on October 11, 2019:

Both my sister and I were abandoned by my mother in the 1960s we were brought up by child minders and a loving father. We were after atime primarily brought by my grandparents. My sister hated it and I flurished. They died and I was heart broken my sister not so much. My father was left the estate. Now my sister has sold a house to our father, put clauses in his will and is now selling our family home. Things were not so good when my grandmother died. I was there for the wake my sister was not and has so remorse that she wasn't there. Now she has cohersed my dad to sell the estate. It is like living the nightmare of my grandmothers funeral again. I hate my sister but why would she do this as she has lots of money,

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