How Do You Recover from Betrayal Trauma?
“The worst thing about betrayal is it never comes from enemies.” ~ Unknown
What is betrayal trauma?
Betrayal trauma is associated with traumatic events that some may even consider being normal, such as lying, backstabbing, cheating, or any form of secret sexual activities in relationships. This form of abuse is practiced by family members, close friends, and romantic partners on whom a person emotionally depends and from whom individuals normally expect respect for their needs. Because we rely on someone for our primary and more complex needs, we may accept this form of abuse in fear of losing a relationship and consciously or unconsciously decide to deal with the feeling of chronically being hurt.
Can you have PTSD from being cheated on?
Betrayal trauma is a severe condition that may cause several psychological problems and even mental disorders such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Lies and cheating in a relationship cause high levels of stress. Accepting or ignoring such abusive behaviours to stay in a relationship may cause chronic stress affecting normal functioning on many levels, from degrading one’s self-esteem, anticipating that something terrible will happen, and even reliving the past traumatic events.
Like people who have experienced a threat to life, people who have experienced the potential loss of a relationship and, more importantly, trust are at risk of developing PTSD. The core of these two experiences is similar because it involves losing a sense of security and a threat to one’s physical and psychological integrity leading to extreme shock at first and continuing to other loss-related emotions that continually heighten the risk of developing PTSD.
Why is betrayal so painful?
A person who is insignificant to us can’t cause significant feelings. When we face the unexpected interruption of strong bonds that we have created and developed with someone, the feeling is similar to actual loss due to death. When a strong belief that someone will care and respect us is knocked down, deep feelings of disappointment and confusion are unquestionably what’s left.
The shock that we experienced manifests itself in various physical and psychological responses. We may feel overwhelmed and start to behave differently than our usual selves. Betrayal trauma could change our sleeping and eating habits, lead to panic attacks, anxiety, depression, nightmares, or health issues, and physically unexplained illnesses. We may start to have sudden mood swings and intense emotional outbursts, difficulty concentrating, and relive the traumatic event.
What is the ultimate betrayal?
The ultimate betrayal in a relationship is rarely just cheating. The actual root of betrayal is emotional infidelity. Relationships are built on honesty and earned trust. All partners have some kind of agreement on honesty. Whether it is a spoken promise or just an expectation, it serves them to securely bond and be confident about the reality that they’ve been creating together.
Therefore, lies are the ultimate betrayal interrupting the authentic relationship and closeness between two people and shaking the awareness about a victim’s reality. Although possible, honest communication is hardly rebuilt after the lies have been told since a person who has been lied to has difficulties trusting another partner with anything s/he says. When the spoken word has lost its value, the offender’s behaviours will need to speak for itself.
However, hope for reconciliation can still exist. Fixing trust issues is possible, but both partners have to be aware of the long road of regaining it. The offending partner should sincerely apologize, understand and take full responsibility for such action, commit to ensuring something similar won’t happen again, and be patient with another partner’s trust issues.
Betrayed partner, on the other side, should take a step back and consider the reason for lying. Although betrayal is an intense emotional experience, leaving us shocked and hurt, fogging our sense of reality, we should acknowledge our emotions with openness to another person if we’re about to forgive and stay in a relationship. Try to talk it out by expressing how you feel and giving the offender a chance to explain and understand the reasons behind it. It’s healthy for both sides to practice forgiveness, and once the problem is discussed, it shouldn’t be brought back in future fights.
How do you recover from betrayal?
Whatever you’ve been going through, it is always possible to recover and find strength within yourself. The actual trauma of betrayal isn’t that rare to occur compared to how rare it is recognized. The confusion, tension, and worry we feel are justifiable when facing dishonesty by those we should expect nothing less than sincerity. It is a person that we trusted most who attempted to distort our reality. However, hope and healing are absolutely possible. Help from a trained professional should ease the healing process directing us to essential aspects of a problem and pointing out our strengths to regain our sense of security, trust in people, and, eventually, live a fulfilling life again.
Source: Gorman, L. & Blow, A. (2008) Concurrent Depression and Infidelity, Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 7:1, 39-58,
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