Has A Betrayal Stolen Your Holiday Spirit? How To Take Steps Toward Healing

The “most wonderful time of the year” doesn’t quite live up to its billing for anyone whose holiday itinerary includes healing psychological wounds after being betrayed by a spouse, friend or someone else close to them. 

“A betrayal can tend to make you hyper-vigilant about every aspect of a relationship, and that’s an exhausting strategy for living life,” says Susan Stautberg, co-author with Elaine Eisenman, PhD, of Betrayed: A Survivor’s Guide to Lying, Cheating, & Double-Dealing (www.bouncefrombetrayal.com). 

“And it can be even more exhausting during the holidays if family or social gatherings cause you to be around someone you would just as soon avoid, or if you’re experiencing your first holiday season after a traumatic breakup caused by a betrayal.” But there are steps you can take to begin healing as you head into the New Year. 

“The true key to unlocking a new and better future is a superpower called resilience,” Eisenman says. “That ability in each of us to survive, and to position ourselves to go forward.” What better time to do that than as you start a New Year, which also can be a new chapter in your life as you work to put bad memories behind you and look to a better future. 

Eisenman and Stautberg offer a few tips for handling a betrayal this holiday season and beyond: 

Let your recovery happen at its own pace. 

Holidays follow the calendar, but your recovery won’t be so easily scheduled. It might be nice to think you’ll have all the ill feelings behind you by Christmas Eve or New Year’s Day, but recovering from a betrayal isn’t like checking something else off your shopping list.  “Listen to your own body and mind,” Stautberg says. “You’ll be over it when you’re over it.” 

Stay clear on your identity and self-worth. 

“Don’t overlook your achievements in the face of all the flying emotional debris,” Eisenman says. Remember your core strengths – no matter how long ago it was that you used them – and maximize them. 

Do not relive the betrayal to everyone who asks how you are feeling. 

Say it is over and you are moving on. The more you are trapped into reliving the story the less strength you have for bouncing forward. 

Forgiveness is up to you. 

Perhaps well-meaning family members or friends tell you, “It’s the holidays. You need to forgive.” Yes, it can dampen the mood to hold a grudge in the midst of all the merriment. But forgiveness, if it occurs, takes place only after the healing process is complete. “Forgiveness is never the goal,” Stautberg says. “The only goal is to move strongly and confidently into your new future.” If you believe forgiveness is crucial to moving on with your life, then it needs to happen, she says. But if you don’t feel it is necessary, you can give it a pass – holidays or no holidays. 

Spend time with those who make your life “merry and bright.” 

Yes, there are people who will betray you, but if you reach out, there are more people who will support and honor you. During the holidays, those are the people you want to surround yourself with, Eisenman says. It might even mean changing a few holiday traditions, such as which annual parties or family gatherings you attend, but it could be worth it. Find those supportive people and keep them close. Here’s the good news for anyone whose holiday spirit has been dampened by betrayal. “Despite the initial trauma, pain and humiliation,” Stautberg says, “most of us recover from betrayal and become stronger and wiser as a direct result of the devastating experience.” 

About Elaine Eisenman, PhD

Elaine Eisenman, PhD, co-author with Susan Stautberg of Betrayed: A Survivor’s Guide to Lying, Cheating, & Double Dealing (www.bouncefrombetrayal.com), currently serves as an independent Board Director for DBI, Inc. (NYSE), as well as for AtmosXR and Miravan, both privately held companies. She is the Managing Director of Saeje Advisors, LLC, an advisory firm for high growth ventures. Former Dean of Executive and Enterprise Education at Babson College, she works closely with CEOs and their executive teams to create cultures that accelerate growth. She is a frequent speaker on the topic of turning risk into opportunity. 

About Susan Stautberg

Susan Stautberg is Governance Advisor to the portfolio companies of Atlantic Street Capital, a private equity firm. She is also President and CEO of PartnerCom Corporation and Chair Emeritus of the WomenCorporateDirectors Education and Development Foundation (WCD). Susan addresses groups around the world, including leading business schools and CEO conferences. She has written or been featured in numerous articles including The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times and her on-air experience includes OprahThe Today ShowCBS Evening NewsCNN and many others.