June 13th, 2022
How to Heal From a Betrayal Without Losing Your Sense of Self
Yep. I’m going there…
Talking about betrayal can feel — well, taboo as hell. That’s because it’s typically been shoved under the rug.
But the experience is so universal, right?!
As a collective, why aren’t we talking about this more openly?
Thankfully, there are voices out there working hard to destigmatize betrayal recovery and empower countless women along the way. Gilza Fort Martinez is one of those voices.
With 30+ years of experience in conflict resolution, interpersonal relationships, and women’s life transitions, Gilza has truly earned her title of the Tough Love Healer.
This powerhouse of wisdom joined me on my podcast, and we talked about how to heal from betrayal and recover your sense of Self afterward.
That’s right — we pulled this shit out from under the rug. And we looked at it square in the eyes so we could bring you authentic answers to some of your toughest questions.
Let’s dig in:
Why do people cheat?
Me: So let’s talk about cheating. Because that really feels, to me, like the ultimate betrayal. So why do people do it?
Gilza: This is always the 64 million dollar question with some individuals. There can be a relational pattern, like un-attending and overall neglect. Or, the person who’s cheating may have his or her own individual reasons that are trauma-based. “Let me do to you before you do to me.” It could be from the narcissist kind of perspective: needing attention, and particularly with men, needing the adrenaline high. Each couple is pretty unique in what created the perfect storm. But the average couple usually has some kind of relationship situation, and each individual partner comes in with their own little baggage full of emotional stuff. It could blow up in the infidelity area.
Was the affair discovered or disclosed?
Gilza: So huge. I’m still old school, and I see a lot of my clients in person because I love to watch what happens with people and their bodies when I ask that question.
Me: Absolutely — the discomfort.
Gilza: Exactly. If this betrayal was disclosed, odds are, you’re looking at somebody who at least has some level of remorse. Some level of intention to maybe regroup. It really helps me to eliminate the sexual addiction stuff almost right away.
Me: How is that?
Gilza: When the affair is discovered, if you see somebody backpedaling — “Well, we just haven’t had sex in months,” or “You’re not paying attention to me” — those are either individual concerns that the person has or they are statements about the relationship. Not in the sense of blame, but rather, “there are needs that aren’t being met in the relationship, and we don’t know how to express these things.” It helps me to determine if they’re an addict if they’re saying things like, “I can’t help it. It’s just something that happened. It’s really not my fault.”
Me: Absolutely. So let’s say the relationship is discovered — which is probably most of the time. Few people disclose, right? Is that your experience that more infidelity is just discovered than disclosed?
Gilza: Yeah, more often than not. Some people do disclose, but it usually gets discovered. One partner notices the differences in behavior, and the changes in schedules and timing. And they start to wonder.
Me: And then they start to look…
What does it take to be the couple that can heal after infidelity?
Me: How do you determine if this is something that a couple is going to be able to get through and work on or not? What are you looking for?
Gilza: An affair can be a wonderful opportunity for a couple to regroup and say, “Oh my gosh, we have totally neglected this and neglected our relationship. And now — we got it.” And I’ve had people regroup and grow from that. It requires a clear understanding. Are you committed to wanting to be in this relationship? Because we can teach people how to communicate, how to fight fair, and how to do reflective listening. Those are skill sets. The only thing you and I can’t give people is willingness, right? The desire to want to do the work. It could mean that you’re going to do therapy. It could mean that you’re going to take some emotional hits. It could mean that you’re going to have the tolerance to hear the questions and repeat your story to your partner.
How should the betraying partner deal with their guilt after cheating?
Gilza: Well, sometimes a little bit of separation is necessary. So everybody can do their own individual work. Or, at the very least, I’ll have an individual session with each of them. But with the betraying partner, essentially, it’s not your turn right now. It’s important for your partner to know why you did what you did. However, we can’t focus on you right now. And if you really need to focus on you, then I’m going to help you find somebody who can give you space and time to work through whatever is happening for you. But it can’t be in the couple’s session at this time.
Me: Thank you. Really, thank you. Take a seat. It’s not your turn. It’s not your turn.
Gilza: And I feel bad because, very often, these people are sincerely in pain for hurting their partners. Everybody has options here and how they want to live their life. Both partners have a choice to stay or go. So we’ve got to be able to learn how to take our turn.
Me: Yeah, that’s right. And I have this crass image about this sort of thing. When someone gets something off their chest like that — they had an affair — even if it was disclosed… Oh God, they feel so good about it! And then they’re like, “Great! Okay, time to move on.” Sure, it feels really good. You just took a giant shit, and you feel great. But the other person is covered in your shit right now. Let’s give them a minute. Give them time. And also, help them clean themselves off because YOU did it.
Gilza: We’re back to that ownership. Can you at least give some piece of understanding of why you did it, from your ownership? It’s crucial to create that foundation to see whether a couple can overcome it and become connected again after a betrayal.
How does the betrayed partner recover their sense of Self?
Gilza: We talk a lot about if couples want to re-engage or not, but it has to start with the betrayed partner. How do you feel about yourself? Where is that big internal critic that we all have inside? How prominent is that voice that’s telling you, “This is my fault” and, “Oh my God, what did I do?” Does that voice ever get soothed? Disclosure of this kind is devastating. It’s a tidal wave of emotions. So I really encourage them to rest their mind and body. The healing of themselves starts with that. Then, we’re going inward with a personal inventory. Where are you now? What things are aligning with you? Who I am at 50 is not who I was at 20. I encourage them to be with themselves, but so many women don’t like to be alone.
Me: We don’t know how to do it.
Gilza: Trusting yourself and going back to your instincts has to do with getting to know yourself. And we can only really do that quietly. Give yourself an opportunity to see where you are now. And then we can figure out if you’re going to re-engage with either that partner or somebody else. But we really have to focus on you first. We have to put the couple’s work on hold. You’ve got to have a place to stand in order to create the time and the space.
Me: This has been such an incredibly informative and important conversation. Gilza, I’m so grateful. I appreciate it. I think it’s going to impact and help so many women and all my listeners of both genders. Thank you so much.
If you’re in the infidelity trenches right now, you may feel like you’ll be stuck there FOREVER.
But Gilza says it best, “Regardless of what your rabbit hole is, there are ways out.”
And I’m here to help you take your first step toward relief.
Take my Should I Stay or Should I Go quiz and receive some much-needed clarity during this messy time.
Whichever route you choose, willingness and hard work will be required. But the prize is a fulfilled life, emotional wellness, and maintaining your precious sense of Self.
And you fucking deserve that, love.