Life dilemma: What to do when a family member breaks your trust

There’s nothing quite like having your father walk you down the aisle but what about when he sells you down the river? Meghan Markle discovered the answer to that question the hard way this week, just days before her wedding to Prince Harry. Can you come back from such a huge betrayal? Registered psychologist, Seija Herat, believes we can, but advises it takes some effort.

It's the news that has shocked royal watchers worldwide. Not only has Thomas Markle Sr. admitted to staging - and selling - paparazzi pictures of himself which sold for a reported $180,000 but he has told a US publication he is now pulling out of attending his daughter's wedding altogether. "He's now decided not to go because he doesn't want to embarrass the Royal Family or his daughter," reports TMZ.

Kensington Palace have released a statement in the wake of the shock allegations saying, "This is a deeply personal moment for Ms. Markle in the days before her wedding. She and Prince Harry ask again for understanding and respect to be extended to Mr. Markle in this difficult situation."


Meghan and Harry have asked for respect for her father in the wake of the scandal

While not all of us can relate to having our personal lives splashed on the front pages of worldwide publications for money – we can relate to having our trust broken.

What’s particularly sad about Megan’s experience is the betrayal of trust by such a close family member. While she's already faced estranged family members selling stories to the press, her father is someone she no doubt thought would always have her back. In the lead up to walking down the aisle she should be enjoying her last days of singledom while trying to find moments of peace in amongst the wedding stress – not dealing with the heartache, confusion, and embarrassment on a global scandal.

Yes, being hurt literally hurts, but why does it sting so badly when someone in your family messes with you on such epic levels? And can we ever move past the pain?

Registered psychologist, Seija Herat, believes we can, but advises it takes some effort.

Take time to work through the complicated emotions 

Herat explains that the symptoms of betrayal are similar to the stages of grief. “We need time to work through the hurt and the different emotions associated with the situation,” she says. “We view our family as supportive and trusting – we never expect them to cause us any harm. There’s a sense of disbelief or denial. When we’re betrayed by a loved one, these feelings are intensified. Engaging in some reflection or mindfulness, yoga or exercise can be a good way to process and detach and give us perspective. Acceptance is often the greatest hurdle and we often avoid the pain or hurt by trying to block it off or bury it, but longer term this only creates greater hurt or complicated emotions.”


Be clear on whether the person has betrayed you or there’s been a misunderstanding

“Taking a step back is important as it gives us time to work through feelings and not be impulsive or reactive when we are upset or angry,” explains Herat. “We often make poor choices or say the wrong things when we are upset so having a chance to cool down and think about how we feel is very important.”

Remember everyone processes emotions and feelings differently

There’s no right or wrong way to feel in this instance. “Having time to look after ourselves and our wellbeing - self-care - is very important to heal and recover from hurt,” says Herat. “It’s important to reconnect with people and interests that can provide some level of emotional support. It gives us a chance to share our thoughts and feelings and can help with reaching a decision on whether to forgive, as well as piecing things together.”

Take into account that your pain may manifest itself in different ways

Everyone reacts differently to being hurt. According to Herat, the most common reactions are, "Anger, sadness, guilt and shame (particularly if the betrayal is public." If you notice yourself withdrawing or keeping people at a distance, it might be time to face your pain head on and deal with the issue at hand. 

Embrace the happy ending you create for yourself 

Sometimes it might feel like we’ll never get over the pain but our inner strength is more powerful than we think. Herat explains that for the most part, it’s in our DNA to bounce back. “We can work through most things – humans are incredibly resilient. However, it is dependent on the individual and the family dynamics. Every family dynamic is different. Sometimes professional advice such as counselling and psychology can be useful as we can talk confidentially in a safe space to work out what we feel, and what we would like to do about it.”

While there’s no guarantee Meghan will ever forgive her father, it no doubt helps to know that there’s one man she can rely on no matter what – future husband, Harry.

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