Betrayal Trauma

Affected by a partner's porn use or unwanted sexual behavior

When a husband has had multiple affairs or compulsively watches pornography, or a wife has emotional or sexual relationships outside of the marriage, or a significant other engages in sexual behavior that puts himself and his partner at risk for STIs, injury, financial calamity, social embarrassment, or legal jeopardy, the outcome can be overwhelming and shocking. Recovery from infidelity is difficult. 

Discovering that your partner has been sexual outside of your relationship is painful, even devastating. But what if this behavior continues, even after you've threatened, pleaded, yelled, changed your body, your hair, your sexual behavior, did more, tried to be more, begged, understood, and forgave? Even after your partner promised he or she would never be unfaithful again? It is easy to feel confused about this kind of sexual behavior. It goes beyond one affair or a bad habit. It seems like your partner can't or won't stop, no matter what you do. 

Those in a relationship where these behaviors have occurred often feel lost. They don't know where to turn. And they feel like their life will never be the same again. In fact, research shows that people who've experienced this kind of infidelity may actually suffer from trauma. They may begin to have symptoms similar to those with PTSD. Partners of recovering addicts know that even when the addict seems to be getting better, the partner may be feeling worse. Even if the addict gets into recovery and stops acting out behaviors, the partner may continue experiencing symptoms of what is called Betrayal Trauma. 

Partners who are recovering from someone else's sexual betrayal know it's hard work to focus on their own healing. If you have been affected by someone else's sexual behavior or if you are experiencing symptoms of trauma because of your partner's sexual betrayal, don't go through it alone. Let me join you on this journey and help you find a path to your own healing.

Choosing to stay in the relationship or leave are not easy choices. Both require hard work. Partners and addicted loved ones can heal and regain intimacy when both parties are willing to get support and take steps toward their own recovery. With the help of specially trained therapists and the support of others who have been there, the betrayed and the addicted partner can find hope, love, and growth out of pain and despair. I want to help you face these choices and build a healthy foundation to support the rest of your life, in or out of the relationship.

Have You Been Affected by a Partner's Sexual Betrayal?

Are you wondering if your partner's sexual behavior has negatively affected you? Answer these questions to see how your answers compare with partners of sex or pornography addicts.

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What is Betrayal Trauma?

Sexual Infidelity Causes Symptoms of Trauma for the Spouse or Partner

When we choose to partner with a special other, we are choosing to do more than just move in together or share our lives with the other person. We are literally beginning a process of changing to adapt to our partner. We allow ourselves to attach to the other person in a way we aren't with anyone else. Our partner becomes the most important person in our lives. Not just because we say so. Our biology agrees. Our biochemical makeup begins to change, adapting to this other person so that we can be intimate, we can trust, and we can co-exist together in a way that works. Our brains and our hearts believe that we are safe. Attachment carries an expectation that our partner has our backs and will be there for us, through thick or thin. No matter how stressful the day gets, at the end of it we can relax into that sense that we are home because of our significant other. When that sense of safety, belonging, and trust gets disrupted by sexual infidelity, that rupture is traumatic. Our primary attachment relationships are one of the most important ways we create safety for ourselves in this world. With sexual betrayal, that source of safety has now become a source of immense pain and fear. Research shows that partners who've experienced unfaithfulness in their primary relationships may begin to have symptoms consistent with PTSD. This is even more true when the betrayal occurs over and over again. That is what is called Betrayal Trauma.

Partners may experience any or all of the following trauma symptoms:

  • Nightmares or upsetting dreams
  • Questioning your attractiveness, intelligence, or worth
  • Physical symptoms (panic, racing heart, trembling, fatigue)
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the betrayal
  • Thinking if you were better at ____ your partner wouldn't have cheated
  • Using substances to numb your feelings
  • Difficulty with task completion
  • Obsessive thoughts about the betrayal
  • Engaging in your own affair in retribution or to numb the pain
  • Staying busy to not thinking about it
  • Intrusive thoughts about the infidelity
  • Can't rest or sleep
  • Having a hard time keeping up with daily chores that used to be easy
  • Avoiding emotional or sexual closeness with your partner
  • Feeling depressed and/or anxious
  • Unable to feel safe
  • Needing to investigate or try to find evidence of partner's acting out
  • Feeling irritable or rageful
  • Having anger outbursts at partner or others
  • Isolating from others
  • Unable to eat or overeating because of your feelings
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Inability to function at work
  • Trying to make sense out of the behaviors by attempting to get all the details

If you are experiencing any of these, please reach out today. We can help. You do not have to walk through this alone. Many others have been where you are and are finding healing and recovery.