Are you feeling devastated after finding out that your partner has been using adult webcam sites, or even messaging other women behind your back? Perhaps he left for work one morning and accidentally left his computer open, leading you to discover his secret? Maybe you even found out he has been having an affair with someone else?
If you feel like your heart has been ripped out and crushed, and you are not sure how to move forward, you might be experiencing partner betrayal trauma.
What is betrayal trauma?
Betrayal trauma is a trauma perpetrated by someone you trust, such as a romantic partner. It is most common in relationships where you rely on your partner for emotional comfort and security. It does not mean that these relationships are unhealthy or undesirable—these things are expected in a committed relationship.
Partner betrayal damages the trust, safety, and security in your relationship and can be extremely painful. Betrayal traumas often stem from sex addiction, pornography use, and sexual affairs.Partner betrayal damages the trust, safety, and security in your relationship and can be extremely painful. Click To Tweet
When you experience betrayal, it cuts to the very core of your being. As Jennifer Freyd’s research in betrayal trauma theory points out, to heal from partner betrayal trauma, the first step is to focus on yourself and your healing journey. While you may have depended upon a person close to you, this dependence is the reason the betrayal was so traumatic.
After the betrayal, you can question your entire relationship, doubt who you thought your partner was, and even doubt yourself.
Fortunately, when seeking professional help in overcoming betrayal trauma, some experts can assist you. They will help you understand your emotions and to get back in control of your life and feelings. From this, you can determine whether to continue your relationship with the betrayer or start a new chapter in your life.
Most common betrayal trauma responses
Betrayal is an emotional assault, resulting in a complete loss of trust in the relationship you once knew. Betrayal trauma can feel like a physical abuse—as if you have punched in the stomach. It activates fight or flight within you and causes emotional injury.
After the betrayal, it is normal to go through a wide variety of responses and feelings. Thoughts such as “I am crazy,” “I shouldn’t have called him on this,” and “I am a controlling partner” can run wild through your head. However, you are a victim of betrayal trauma and you are facing similar symptoms to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Some of the most common symptoms after finding out about partner betrayal are:
- Sleeping difficulties
- Bad dreams or flashbacks
- Feeling a roller coaster of emotions
- Struggling to stay present in the moment or engaged
- Struggling to concentrate
- Memory loss and brain fog
- Constant worry and intrusive thoughts
- Running the situation over and over again in your mind (also known as rumination)
- Lack of caring for yourself
- Keeping yourself isolated
Other physical symptoms of betrayal trauma include fatigue, migraines and headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shaking and shivering, loss of appetite, muscle pain, and weakness.
It is vital to ensure you are eating well and taking care of your nutrition to alleviate these symptoms.
How long does betrayal trauma last?
According to studies, on average, betrayal trauma can last anywhere between eighteen months to three years. Every person has a different recovery journey. It is important not to compare or have high expectations of recovery time. The specific situation, history of trauma, and actions that you take will affect how long the betrayal trauma lasts.According to studies, on average, betrayal trauma can last anywhere between eighteen months to three years. Click To Tweet
If the partner who has caused the betrayal agrees to work on their issues and seek help, recovery can be a faster process for the trauma victim. If the betrayer decides to go to therapy, this process can be even more effective. As the betrayer begins to acknowledge his wrongdoings, understand the impact of his actions, this can significantly help the victim’s healing process. If the betrayer does not seek help or attempt to understand the effects of his actions, the victim’s recovery process can be delayed and cause more difficulty for the victim, and the relationship’s dynamic.
Therapy, direct relationship coaching and a good support network help recover from betrayal trauma quicker. It also helps rebuild self-esteem and create healthy relationship boundaries that are crucial for the victim to have, regardless of whether the other partner is willing to do so.
How to recover from betrayal trauma
Recovery from betrayal trauma is possible. Getting individual therapy, relationship coaching or counseling, and reaching out to supportive people are the most effective ways of making the first step towards recovery. Start with smaller steps and then move up to more significant actions.
Rebuilding trust in a relationship, and focusing on yourself is crucial in the beginning. Strengthening your self-worth and self-love is a huge part of this. It will help you eliminate false thoughts of self-blame, self-hatred, and feelings that you are not good enough and cannot trust anyone ever again. Understanding what partner betrayal is and that it is not your fault is essential. Here are four steps that will help with your betrayal recovery journey.
1. Open up to a safe person
Seeking help and sharing your feelings with someone you trust is a vital first step towards betrayal trauma recovery. It is crucial to find someone you trust, whether it is someone in your family, friend group, coach, or therapist. It may be easiest to use a therapist, as they are outside of your circle, experienced on this issue, and are non-judgmental. If you are planning on having a relationship therapy with the abuser, first seek individual therapy. In relationship therapy, you will usually receive guidance on things you both need to work on, and it is often not beneficial straight after betrayal trauma. Before you can do this, you need to focus on yourself as an individual.Seeking help and sharing your feelings with someone you trust is a vital first step towards betrayal trauma recovery. Click To Tweet
Here are three ways to identify a safe person:
- They are non-judgmental.
- They do not blame you, dismiss your feelings, or minimize what the betrayer has done, e.g., “I don’t know what the big deal is about him doing that?”
- They will not tell you what decisions to make, e.g., “You need to forgive him and continue the relationship.”
When seeking a safe connection to share with, look for the above and identify as early as possible if it is the right person to share your feelings. Recognizing what to look for in the person you want to confide in and trusting them in the process is a crucial part of your betrayal recovery.
2. Be kind to yourself
Start by taking baby steps one day at a time. When you are betrayed, you can go into a downward spiral of self-blame and harsh thoughts. However, the person who has caused the trauma is the one at fault. It is their actions that have caused a whole heap of turmoil within you. They may suffer from an addiction to sex or pornography, which is an unfortunate condition but not your fault! It may be their addiction that resulted in them having an affair.
If your partner has abused you, including carrying out physical or sexual assault, the situation is more serious. In that case, he most likely needs psychological intervention, and you should make sure that your safety is your top priority.
It is common to start blaming yourself for the betrayal. This is something you need to avoid doing in your trauma healing process for your own well-being.
Here are some ideas on how you can introduce kindness to your day:
- Count down to five when having a negative thought about yourself to interrupt it. Consistently do this over and over again throughout your day.
- When you wake up, commit to doing something for yourself that is nice and something you will enjoy. Have a bubble bath, call a friend, cook a special meal, or visit a friend.
- Speak to friends and family who make you feel loved and happy about who you are.
Be kind to yourself and choose to do something pleasant every morning that you look forward to. These small pleasures will help you heal from betrayal trauma.
3. Create boundaries
Boundaries after partner betrayal would sound something like this: “You won’t be sexual with another person,” “You will go to therapy,” or “You will not look at pornography.”
If you have been experiencing abuse and betrayal blindness for a long time (not allowing yourself to connect the dots and see what is going on), creating boundaries will not feel comfortable. When you set them for the first time, you may dread that you are risking losing your partner’s love.
You can start small by creating an agreement with your partner. He has to agree to do or not to do certain things, and you can tell what you will do if the contract is violated.
If you live with your partner who has hurt you and committed the betrayal, establishing boundaries around the home is a good place to start. Making your home a safe place where you feel respected is essential. It is especially important if you have children.If you have been experiencing abuse and betrayal blindness for a long time, creating boundaries will not feel comfortable. Click To Tweet
To establish your boundaries, ask yourself:
- What do I need right now in my home to feel safe?
- What do I think is best for me in this situation?
- What is one thing that is happening right now that I need to set a boundary around?
The benefits of setting boundaries will bring you inner peace, more self-awareness, and confidence in stating your needs.
4. Take care of your physical health
Physical wellbeing may feel like the last thing on your mind right now. To help you heal from betrayal trauma, this is crucial for your brain to function as best as possible and cope with the grief you are experiencing. It will also help reduce the severity of the trauma symptoms you experience.
Taking care of your physical health includes trying to sleep around the same time every night, waking at a similar time each morning, and eating nutritious foods that your body requires. Keep hydrated and drink plenty of water. Getting at least thirty minutes of exercise into your daily routine and getting out in the sunshine is also beneficial for your health.
The benefits of taking care of your physical health wellbeing help your mood, give you increased energy, and confidence throughout your healing journey.
Here are some suggestions to improve your physical wellbeing:
- Have a list of ways to care for yourself physically and mentally, and each day select two that you are going to do for yourself that day.
- Ask a friend or a family member to choose two options from your list for you to do that day.
- Make a list of healthy yet tasty meals to prepare for yourself to eat—avoid junk food as much as possible.
Making a personal commitment and taking care of your physical health will assist you through your trauma. Allow yourself to prioritize your needs. Any form of physical exercise will help to alleviate your trauma symptoms and will stimulate your happiness hormones endorphins.
Women worldwide have learned to heal from betrayal trauma and stress disorder caused by relationship betrayal. Now it is time for you to start your recovery journey. It won’t happen overnight, but you can take your first step forward today.