Betrayal hit her like a thunderbolt. When one reader, Used & Cheated, found out that her partner of five years was allegedly engaged to another woman with whom he has a child, she was shocked.
She felt betrayed - after all, the two of them had been planning to get married and were on the brink of buying a house together (not to mention the many times she'd already forked out big bucks - up to RM60,000 - bailing him and his family out of tough spots).
She wrote in to Star2's agony aunt Thelma who advised her to seek legal advice as he had cheated her. Thelma also urged her to seek help in dealing with her emotions so that she'd be able to move on from this episode.
Used & Cheated is one of many who have been deceived in love. Cynthia recalls how she discovered that her boyfriend was not just two-timing her: he had four simultaneous "serious" relationships and was about to get engaged to one of the girls - the cards were printed and one found its way to her!
"I couldn't believe it. I wouldn't believe it at first. I thought, surely, the girl who'd sent this was crazy. I knew him so well and had met his family. Surely I'd know if he was getting engaged!" she recalls.
Turned out the engagement was real and the three women he'd been stringing along got together and gave him a piece of their minds … in front of his fiance and her family. "That was satisfying. But it took me a long while to trust again and even now, I don't trust fully," shares the 30-year-old.
Betrayal has a profound impact on the faithful partners, says counselor and couples and family therapist Bawany Chinapan. "Many times they shape their worldview from how their partner sees them and this betrayal of trust does shatter their self-esteem and confidence," she says.
Often, help is the best recourse in building back self-worth and confidence.
"There is a grieving period for the loss of whom they thought their partner was to them. Healing can be overwhelming and convoluted. You feel shock, disbelief and you may feel everything is collapsing," says Bawany, a senior lecturer at Help University in Kuala Lumpur.
"They need to find themselves again … build their self-worth, confidence and do some self-exploration with the help of a therapist or counselor. The need to process and deal with all the emotions in a safe environment and a trained expert can hold these emotions and help the healing process after a betrayal."
Learning to build trust again after a betrayal is the next step.
"Trust will come with the ability to talk about the difficulties in trusting another in a new relationship. Take it very slow and communicate this feat to the other person. If he responds with empathy and compassion, without being defensve, this will give you the space to trust again," she says.