When terrorists blew up the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo the world, like me, was understandably outraged. This was a wanton act of insanity and brutality. Cartoonists from around the world got revenge by wielding their pens to mock, expose, and ridicule terrorism.
But nobody (to my knowledge) called attention to the fact that these satirists lobed the first grenade. They mocked others’ religion and sacred values. They poked the bear and they got mauled. The terrorists’ reaction was of course extreme, violent, and totally uncalled for. But are not satirical artists responsible for their risky provocations?
This is a tough topic; I do not want to blame victims. At the same time, victims are often responsible for contributing to (not causing) other’s reactions.
This can be the case in betrayal. While betrayers’ acts are insane, brutal, extreme, violent, and totally uncalled for, they may in fact be reactions to their partner’s provocations. I do not blame the betrayed for the betrayer’s actions, but I do hope the betrayed has a clear conscious and did not poke the bear.
“How might I have contributed to (not caused) my partner’s betrayal?”
The list of possible provocations is endless: anger, neglect, selfishness, fear, anxiety, blame, pushing a partner away, moodiness, reactivity, withholding affection, being emotionally unavailable, putting up walls, being aloof, controlling, nagging, lying, criticism, making false accusations, on and on.
The person who reserves the right to act like this and expect their partner to like it has a dilemma: they can’t have it both ways!
To win back the betrayer (if that’s your goal):
- Ask forgiveness for your role in provocation.
- Do your best to meet your partner’s needs.
- Be generous, transparent, and vulnerable.
- Be the kind of person you were when they first fell in love with you.
- Deal with your own fear of abandonment, insecurity, and mistrust which feeds your actions that contributed to (not caused) your beloved’s reactions.
One connects with their partner better with kindness, mercy, grace, forgiveness, fun, humor, gentleness, tact, and love than chronic accusations, scolding, interrogations, third degree, or unhappiness. Try a little tenderness and see what happens.
Do not “wound” from a hurt position. Being betrayed doesn’t give you a license to abuse anyone.
Remember, just as their betrayal had a negative effect on you, you might be having a negative effect on them. Look carefully for negative feedback loops, vicious cycles, and “co-created chaos.”
Next: How to Trust Again