What is Relationship Betrayal and Trauma?

Relationship betrayal is one of the most painful human experiences. The resulting trauma refers to the damage that is caused when someone experiences a betrayal in their primary relationship that damages the trust, safety and security of the bond they have with their partner. Discovering that someone we trusted has deeply hurt us pulls the reality rug out from under us. A damaging aspect of betrayal is that our sense of reality is undermined. What felt like solid trust suddenly crumbles. Our innocence is shattered. We’re left wondering: What happened? How could this happen? Who is this person? The way that we bond to our spouses is a profound puzzle. It is a process of intertwining our lives, having children together and creating memories, we become more and more interdependent with one another. This is not codependency. This is healthy, normal, mutual dependency. It is what makes relationships function, providing safety and security. However, when that attachment is breached or damaged it can affect our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health in deeply painful ways. Instead of grounding us, it puts us in free fall. Instead of security we experience fear. Because our spouse is the source of our pain, they now feel like a threat to our well-being; a danger rather than a safe haven or a source of comfort and rest.

Betrayal puts us in a situation where we need to discern what’s best for us. It’s complicated.

Perhaps love is still alive and our partner admits his or her mistake and expresses remorse. Would it be a courageous risk to give our partner another chance or a foolish mistake to trust again? Rather than act impulsively, we may serve ourselves by taking time to sort out our feelings and find some clarity about what’s best for us, our relationship and our family.

Understanding the Chaos.

The shocking discovery of betrayal in marriage induces feelings of chaos, confusion, and debilitating despair. Betrayal creates such intense emotions for the afflicted spouse that the memories and trauma may remain for months, even years. Betrayal trauma is a condition that parallels the symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and is caused when someone experiences betrayal and deception within their primary relationship; this betrayal damages the trust and safety of the relationship and calls into question the bond they have with their partner. You may experience tremendous anxiety, high stress, fatigue, depression, despair, grief, fear, and other serious symptoms.

First Steps

The first steps to responding to the chaos that has consumed your life is to understand the nature of addiction and to find support. Dealing with a partner's sexual addiction can feel different than other addiction. It can feel like all the winds and storms are coming directly at you; it feels like it is a personal attack.

Your Feelings are Completely Normal

While the trauma from betrayal is real, it’s possible to heal. With helpful support, you can take steps to reveal vulnerable feelings that lie beneath the initial anger and outrage. Your heart can be made whole, your life can be made brighter, and you can ultimately be released from the sting of betrayal and its accompanied trauma. Counseling offers a safe place to reveal feelings, work through grief and anger, uncover longstanding issues and provide helpful support and guidance.

Contact us for an appointment and find support, hope, and healing.

The Stages of Trauma

No. 1


This stage is the initial discovery of your partner’s betrayal and deceit. This new information may cause you to engage in extreme behavior, depending on your individual nature and personality. While many lash out, others shut down in response to the tragic reveal. Loss of composure is a natural physical and emotional reaction.

No. 5


As your anger tones down, you start to look forward in wonderment at life ahead. Where might you go from here? What is in the future? If you have children together, how do you continue as a family? These thoughts, these questions begin to weigh heavy within you. Bargaining, compromising your personal wellness, even the thought of excusing some bad behavior from your spouse, may suddenly seem less daunting than heading into the vast unknown. However, neglecting to attend to the true damage in your relationship, you will inevitably be led towards further damage and devastation down the road.

No. 2


Denial follows shock in part because you are unable to fully comprehend and grasp what has happened. It all seems improbable that this, your intimate relationship, has been impaired by your trusted partner. Your disbelief and desire for it all to just go away can lead you to reject the reality of your partner’s betrayal.

No. 6


This stage may be considered the wild card of all the stages, because it can take place simultaneously with all of the other stages. Life feels dark and everyday living has become harder and harder to handle. What once brought you joy, no longer seems to excite you. You, yourself, may even begin to engage in unhealthy behavior as a method of coping or as a distraction from your despair. Overall, you are feeling fragmented, broken, and are losing hope with life; the reality of your situation feels beyond your capacity to bear.

No. 3


Once the realness of the situation begins to settle, you soon find it difficult to remain focused on anything other than your partner’s deceit and betrayal. You begin to wonder and fear over all possible, detailed deception practiced by your spouse, and you examine if there was any truth to your relationship at all. You analyze and question yourself, investigating upon something you might have changed to prevent this damage from occurring. You are caught in a cyclone of painful details and frenzied analysis concerning yourself, your partner, and the relationship you have together.

No. 7


At this point you are able to acknowledge and honestly accept the actuality of what has happened and are ready to take action and find a way to move forward. This stage is one of courage. It is recognizing that something has been broken and cannot stay the same. Whether moving in step with your partner or alone, you understand the process ahead will be hard. But you are ready to feel emotionally, mentally and physically healthy again.

No. 4


Recognizing your behavior has little or no impact upon your partner’s behavior, you become enraged with the profound pain your partner's choices have caused. In moments, it feels as if you partner has intentionally injured you and your relationship, leaving you with heated anger. This is an incredibly normal response, even if uncharacteristic to your personality.

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phoenix AZ