The fear of betrayal one experiences after an infidelity may be due to the traumatic experience of that ordeal. However, given that you said you have moved on (and it sounds like you have since you have worked through all the steps of moving on) but the fear still persists, this fear — or at least the root of this fear — may well have nothing to do with that infidelity. Rather, it may stem from before this incident — before you were cheated on, before you even got together with your ex.
In other words, your ex’s infidelity didn’t cause your fear of betrayal. It merely brought it to your awareness. More specifically, it is probably the reflection of deeper fears you have surrounding love, relationships, and most of all, yourself.
Example: My Experience with Heartbreak
For example, after I was let down by G in university, there were times when I wondered if I would ever find someone I like. My subconscious conclusions from the episode were that I wasn’t good enough to be loved, that I could never find love and that perhaps I was destined to be alone. The experience of liking someone, opening my heart to him, and not having my feelings requited crushed my heart (and ego). Deep down I felt like shit, an experience I’ve already detailed in my moving on series.
There were times when I thought that all my relationship and singlehood woes would be resolved if things had worked out with G back in school. However, it didn’t take long before I realized that these thoughts — fears — had nothing to do with G or our connection not working out. Rather, they had everything to do with my own inferiority about myself and my appeal as a woman — all of which I already held years before meeting him. I never thought about them out loud, but subconsciously I already had these hang-ups.
So why did the G event surface these fears? Well, for the first time in my life, I acknowledged to myself that I wanted to be with someone. For the first time in my life, I opened my heart to someone. And for the first time in my life, the reason for my singlehood was not because “There’s no one I like at the moment” or “I’m not looking for a relationship now,” but that “The person I like doesn’t want to be with me.” To have the possibility of a great relationship dangled in front of me and then ripped away so abruptly only made me feel the raw-wound effects of not being deserving of love.
“I’m not good enough”
“I’m not good enough to be loved”
were my deep seated beliefs that came roaring from that episode. These limiting beliefs had always been in me; the episode merely brought them to light.
Deeper Roots Beneath Your Relationship Fears
Now Anna, if you have truly moved on from that infidelity, chances are your fear of betrayal has deeper roots that extend before that infidel relationship. These roots may be from your past or from other fears about yourself. If so, you need to look past that infidelity because your fear doesn’t have (or at least, no longer has) anything to do with the infidelity. You need to look (1) earlier into your past, before that relationship, and (2) deeper into yourself, beneath your day-to-day thoughts and feelings, for your answer.
For example, Person X can experience a betrayal and conclude, “I may get betrayed again,” “There is no good man/woman out there in the world,” and “This new guy/girl I just met may seem nice but who knows if he/she is going to cheat on me after we get together?” These may seem like common fears but they are in fact terminalistic, fear-based conclusions.
However, someone else say Person Y can experience a betrayal too but walk away with the following thoughts, “It’s just this one-off — I’ll meet a good man/woman who will be true to me,” “There are plenty of great, honest, and loyal men/women in this world and I just need to meet the right one,” and “This new guy/girl I just met seems terrific! I look forward to seeing how things will unfold.”
Why the radically difference in thinking between X and Y, despite the same circumstances?
One possibility is that X has always been negative self-beliefs prior to the betrayal, such as, “”I’m not good enough to attract the person I like,” “I’m not deserving of love,” and “I may never find someone who loves me.” All the result of negative self-esteem, lack of positive experiences with love, constantly seeing relationships fail, or all of the above.
Hence when the betrayal happened, X could only see the negative aspects of it — negative aspects that corroborated his/her existing negative beliefs. These negative fears then filled his/her consciousness and became the dominant part of his/her thinking. While it may seem like these fears are the result of the betrayal, they aren’t. They are merely a reflection of X’s negative self-esteem that has been there since before the betrayal.
So what if the betrayal never took place, you ask? What if the relationship worked out and there was never any infidelity? Well, one possibility is that the person would naturally realize that his/her negative self-beliefs were false and let go of them. Quite unlikely though. The more dominant possibility is that his/her negative self-beliefs would manifest in other ways, even with a loving and authentic partner. Can you relate to the following?
- Fear that your partner is seeing someone behind your back, even though he/she has never done anything to deserve this fear
- Feeling that you are not good enough for your partner, even though he/she doesn’t think that way
- Feeling that your partner doesn’t love you enough, even though he/she has always been loving towards you
- Fear that your partner is going to leave you one day, even though there are no signs that the relationship is going wrong
- Possessiveness over your partner, because you fear losing him/her someday
- Feeling like your partner is hiding something from you, even though he has always been truthful with you
On the other hand, Person B, not having existing negative self-beliefs, gets hurt from the betrayal but doesn’t walk away with a lingering fear of relationships. After moving on from the episode, he/she has renewed faith in relationships. He/she sees the betrayal as what it is — a one-off betrayal of trust by someone he/she used to love and trust, as opposed to proof that he/she is not deserving of love or that he/she will continue to be betrayed in future romances. The incident doesn’t get blown up into something that it isn’t.
Uncover and Let Go of these Negative Roots
So here’s what I recommend:
- Identify your limiting beliefs about love and relationships. What are the beliefs keeping you from entering a loving relationship? The fear of being betrayed is one, but there are likely more. Write them down.
- Understand your childhood stories driving these beliefs. How did these beliefs come about? Underneath each belief lies a story, usually originating from childhood. This is especially so for persistent, long-running beliefs. To break them, you need to understand the stories first.
- Let go of your childhood stories. Refer to steps three to five of the exercise at the end of the childhood stories article.
- Replace with new, empowering beliefs about love and relationships. Now that you have let go of these stories, what empowering beliefs can you replace your limiting beliefs with? For example: “I don’t deserve to be loved” can be replaced with “I deserve love like anyone else. In fact, I am love.” Another example: “I’m not good enough to be loved” can be replaced with “I’m perfection and there’s nothing wrong or missing in me.”
I hope this helps, and I wish you all the best in overcoming this fear and finding the love that you deserve.