Betrayal Trauma

No One Ever Plans to be Betrayed

When You Discover Your Partner’s Been Unfaithful

Many people live in long-term, intimate relationships with a general feeling that something isn’t quite right, that something is off. They can’t quite get their significant others to open up, to share, to be present in life. But in their wildest dreams they never suspect what they eventually discovery to be true: their loved one has been unfaithful, even chronically so. For those who are married or in relationship with sex addicts or chronic cheaters, the experience of discovering their partner’s behavior is not just pain, but traumatic.

Betrayal is Traumatic

Human beings are wired to be in secure relationships, to have “primary attachments” with whom they journey through life. This is important for our physical and emotional health. When our primary attachment relationships are threatened, our brain is wired to automatically respond with fear and panic. For those who discover that their primary attachments have been betraying them—that the real story of their relationships hasn’t matched what they believed to be true—the result is trauma. Research now confirms that those who discover that they have been in relationship with sex addicts or chronic cheaters experience symptoms of trauma and can even develop PTSD.

Symptoms of Betrayal Trauma

Trauma affects us physically, emotionally, and mentally. Its symptoms often go unnoticed or are mistaken for other health problems. Below are lists of trauma symptoms by category. If you are experiencing a number of these symptoms, contact an intake specialist to set up an intake appointment.

Continuous Fear/Terror
Increased Worry / Anxiety
Episodes of Rage
Persistent Sadness
Emotional Numbness
Intense Shame of Guilt
Feeling Detached from Others
Inability to experience positive emotions
Sense of Being Violated
Feelings of Worthlessness
Involuntary Remembering of Discovery
Experience of Reliving Discovery
Nightmares of Discovery / Acting Out
Intrusive Thoughts
Loss of Memory
Persistent Negative Beliefs About Self
Loss of Hope / Trust in Others or the World
Loss of Core Beliefs
Difficultly Concentrating
Feeling Detached from One’s Own Body
Feeling Detached from Reality
Sense of Time Slowing / Stopping
Avoidance of Reminders
Difficulty Sleeping / Staying Asleep
Feeling “keyed up”
Ongoing Fatigue
Easily Irritated
Loss of Interest in Significant Activities
Reckless or Self-Destructive Behavior
Increased / Excessive Risk-Taking
Hypervigilance / Always “On Alert”
Exaggerated Startle Response
Muscle Tension
Rapid or Increased Heart Rate
Severe Changes in Appetite
Severe Changes in Weight
Increase Use of Social Media
Increased Unnecessary Purchases
Increased Use of Alcohol or Drugs
Stomach Pains/ Cramping
Digestive Issues
Chronic Pain
Chest Pains / Tightness
Sever Change in Sexual Desire
Disruption to Menstrual Cycle
Increased Sense of “Clumsiness”
Numbness, Especially in Fingers / Toes

The Numbers on Betrayed Partners…

Percentage who feel deeply violated by husband
Percentage Reliving Discovery
Percentage triggered by sexually suggestive images
Percentage who lose interest in enjoyable activities
Percentage who blame themselves for his addiction

Percentage who report difficulty sleeping
Percentage 'always angry' at spouse since discovery
Percentage who feel they've lost support network

How does betrayal trauma affect the brain?

In this video, our Founder and President, Jake Porter, explains how the brains of betrayed partners experience trauma.

Betrayal Trauma Treatment

Betrayal Trauma is a form of complex trauma. It is not as simple as having lost trust. Betrayal Trauma is multidimensional.

Partners of addicts deserve care and healing for themselves.

Sometimes partners are eager to receive their own treatment and support after discovery of addiction. Other partners do not understand why another person’s behavior should require treatment for them. Research shows that partners of addicts regularly experience trauma at the discovery of infidelity or deception in their relationships, and their own treatment is often necessary for their own healing and the leading of the family system.

Treating the Partners of Addicts

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    Rejecting the Co-Addiction Foundation

    Older models of treatment for the partners of addicts began with the assumption that addicts marry or establish relationships with co-addicts. From this starting point, partners of addicts were considered enablers who in some way knew about or contributed to the addict’s acting out behavior. We reject this notion.

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    Understanding Partner Trauma

    Recent research has discovered that the partners of addicts experience symptoms similar to those associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Those who have suddenly had their worlds turned upside-down by learning of wide-scale dishonesty and infidelity experience multidimensional trauma that creates a number of triggers. Treatment must first attend to this trauma before moving on toward attempts to grieve losses or rebuild trust.

Treatment Approach for Betrayed Partners

Below is a general outline to the phases of treatment for betrayed partners at Daring Ventures.

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    We begin every treatment process with a thorough assessment of the client’s needs. Because no two people are exactly the same, no two treatments will be either. Every person deserves the care they need.

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    The initial phase of treatment for most betrayed partners involves re-establishing a sense of safety and learning the basics of self-care and boundary setting. During this phase, most partners work toward a disclosure process with their spouses.

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    Once partners have regained a sense of safety and have completed the disclosure process, they must begin the difficult work of grieving their sense of loss and working to rebuild trust in their relationships.

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    The underlying dynamics of the relationship must be addressed and transformed. Often during this phase of treatment, partners begin to explore their own histories to gain a better understanding of themselves and their relational patterns.

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    In the final phase of treatment we work with partners to revision their lives, both individually and relationally. Drawing from their own core values, partners chart a course for their lives.

Reach out today and start your journey toward healing.