Suffering an affair is devastating. Learn the signs of betrayal trauma, and how you can begin to heal.
Victims of affair betrayal might feel ashamed, hurt, or devastated. It can seem like a worst fear coming true. If you’ve experienced this, you’re not alone.
For some, it helps to understand how a partner’s affair commonly impacts people, and how to keep moving forward. Sometimes partners are also acting out or having multiple affairs due to a sexual addiction, making things even more complicated.
Here’s a look at what betrayal trauma might involve, and how you can find help and begin to get better.
A Type of PTSD
Many who’ve experienced betrayal in relationships may believe it’s their fault, even when others don’t see it that way. On top of that, the ability to trust a current or future partner can be greatly impacted.
Some may experience what’s called betrayal trauma following a partner’s affair, or other frequent acting out behaviors. This is a type of post-traumatic stress (PTSD), as identified by John Gottman, a world expert on relationships.
Signs of betrayal trauma might include any of the following:
- Intrusive thoughts about the affair or related events
- Disturbing dreams
- Self-blame for what happened
- Broader feelings of shame and guilt
- Feeling hypervigilant or “on guard”
- Feelings of depression
- Trying to avoid feelings, memories, or reminders of what happened
- A decrease in self-confidence, and second-guessing yourself
Many of these are similar reactions to what others might experience with PTSD. However, feelings may be specific to your partner and relationship, and make it difficult to trust others and even your own judgment.
Sexual Addiction Patterns
If your partner has a pattern of uncontrolled and worsening sexual behaviors, they may be acting out due to a sexual addiction. This may involve affairs or other betrayals of trust in the relationship.
This can be particularly confusing, and you may have feelings of anger, wanting to help, immense hurt, or any combination of these. It’s important to understand that your partner’s behavior is not your fault.
Impact of Past Trauma
It’s also common for those experiencing betrayal trauma to have had emotional difficulties prior to a partner’s affair(s). Many people have experienced betrayal in the past, or may have had childhood events that impact trust and self-perception.
You may have experienced PTSD previously, or what’s called complex PTSD. These symptoms may look different, involving occasional flashbacks or feelings of fear and shame. Often these are triggered in relationships, by the people closest to us. It’s not uncommon for those who have affairs to experience these symptoms as well.
Healing from Betrayal Trauma
Because betrayal can be both shocking and disappointing, it can take some time to process what happened and begin to feel normal again. Many have a natural inclination to avoid feelings about what happened, because they can seem overwhelming.
However, shutting down thoughts and emotions may actually make things worse. When trauma occurs, people may reconsider certain beliefs about themselves and the world. Those with betrayal trauma may decide that there is something wrong with them, or that no one in the world can be safe or trusted.
While these thoughts are understandable, they are tainted by the events that have occurred, and not on all of the information available. By thinking about what happened, processing it in your own way (such as by journaling or talking to others), you can begin to heal these thoughts.
It’s not uncommon for people to have difficulty moving through this stage on their own. They may feel “stuck” in the moment, as if they’re reliving it, or just can’t move on.
Therapy approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you understand your own thought patterns and emotions. You can learn to notice, challenge, and change these thoughts. As your thoughts change, your symptoms of betrayal trauma will get better.
If you feel stuck, and symptoms of betrayal trauma aren’t getting better, this is when therapy can help. I’ve helped many people understand and heal from betrayal trauma, as well as their own sexual addictions. You can heal and learn to trust yourself and the world again. Visit here to learn more and set up an initial appointment.