Sexual Betrayal Trauma Recovery
The discovery of your partner’s sexual affair can feel surreal. You may feel that your whole world has fallen apart feeling devastated, broken-hearted, and disoriented. Your partner who was considered to be a source of love, comfort and safety has now become the cause of anxiety, pain, and fear. The life you knew, the life you thought you knew, no longer feels real. The life that you built together has shattered into a million pieces. The pain is so deep and overwhelming that you wonder if life will ever feel normal again.
Betrayal trauma causes deep attachment injury pain with the one we love and trust the most. It often blindsides you sending you into a shock wave. It often pulls the rug out from under your feet, leaving you with no emotional stability. If you rely on your partner for financial security, you may feel stuck in a negative toxic relationship.
Often, a partner is left isolated and alone because of feeling scared to share this extremely painful experience that holds embarrassment and shame preventing you from receiving the emotional support at a time that you need it the most. Your mind is swirling with so many unanswered questions and ruminating thoughts about the affair or infidelity. However, what is most essential is that you ground yourself and begin to feel safe to start the recovery process.
Signs and Symptoms
- Feeling that you are on an emotional rollercoaster.
- Experiencing PTSD Posttraumatic Stress Disorder symptoms
- Emotional dysregulation and inability to control moods.
- Feeling like you are going crazy.
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing.
- Engage in unhealthy or risky behavior.
- Feeling helpless or trapped in the situation.
- Low self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth
- Unable to stay in the present moment.
- Feeling numb and going through the motions
- Difficulty remembering things.
- Challenges in making decisions.
- Anger towards your partner
- Feeling guilty and responsible that it was your fault
- Experiencing ruminating thoughts about the affair
- Loss of connection and trust
- Anxiety, panic attacks, depression
- Insomnia and sleep disturbance
- Stomach problems, headaches, body aches
Complex Trauma & PTSD
Complex trauma is experienced by chronic deep relationship wounds caused by emotional, physical, and sexual betrayals that destroy trust within the relationship and marriage. Betrayed partners experience emotional dysregulation, moderate to severe distress, and relational disconnection. Cognitive neuroscience explains the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and the brain’s automatic fight, flight, or freeze physiological response to traumatic events. The mind and body perceive threatening and dangerous situations by implementing adrenaline and cortisol stress hormones.
When a sexual betrayal occurs to a partner, the discovery causes a sustained state of emotional danger and a long-lasting threat due to the numerous discoveries of information regarding the affair and infidelity that maintains the threat response system in the body. Betrayed partners experience challenges in staying in the present moment, concentration, memory, and making good decisions. When the brain experiences a threat response due to trauma, the executive functioning in the brain’s pre-frontal cortex becomes negatively impacted, causing impairment in consciousness and decision making.
As a result of this emotional rollercoaster, PTSD Posttraumatic Stress Disorder symptoms, including hypervigilance, startle response, defensiveness, shakiness, being on guard, and intrusive thoughts, cause difficulty in daily routine and may stay over several months or longer. The betrayed partner experiences challenges in regulating emotionally, maintaining the balance of emotions, thinking clearly and logically, racing thoughts in your mind, feeling that you cannot control your moods, and not being able to implement adaptive coping skills to calm yourself.
According to The Body Keeps Score by Dr. Bessel de Van der Kolk, as a result of the discovery of the infidelity, betrayed partners report numerous medical health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, chronic pain, disoriented eating, and heart attacks.
Recovering from the discovery of an affair is one of the most challenging chapters of your life. Commit to healing yourself despite the suffering and deep pain of the sexual betrayal. I am here to provide guidance, hope, and healing to establish a whole, healthy self and an opportunity to move forward with your life in the direction that you desire.
Coleman J. (2008). Surviving betrayal.
Courtois, C. A. (2009). Understanding complex trauma, complex reactions, and treatment approaches. Christine A. Courtois, Ph.D. and Associates, PLC, Washington, DC. Available at http://www.giftfromwithin.org/html/cptsd-understaning-treatment.html.
Freyd J, et al. (2005). Betrayal trauma: Relationship to physical health, psychological distress, and a written disclosure intervention. DOI:10.1300/J229v06n03_04
Goldsmith RE, et al. (2012). Betrayal trauma: Associations with psychological and physical symptoms in young adults. DOI: 10.1177/0886260511421672
Scheinkman M. (2005). Beyond the trauma of betrayal: Reconsidering affairs in couples therapy. DOI: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.2005.00056.x