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Betrayal Trauma Recovery + Treatment for Infidelity

What is Betrayal Trauma?

Betrayal trauma is a type of trauma that can occur if there is a significant breach of trust in a relationship. Betrayal trauma theory, introduced by psychologist, Jennifer Freyd, suggests that when betrayal occurs within a key relationship, it has the ability to cause long-term symptoms of trauma.

Betrayal trauma can stem from any situation that upends the trust and expectations of a relationship. Some examples include:

  • Emotional or sexual infidelity
  • Discovering lies or duplicity
  • Financial deception or exploitation
  • Physical, emotional or sexual abuse

A betrayal of trust can be extremely painful, and can impact your sense of emotional safety in your relationship, as well as your mental health. Research suggests that those who experience a significant betrayal in a major relationship can develop common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While many betrayal trauma survivors experience betrayal within a romantic relationship, survivors of childhood trauma have also been known to relate to betrayal trauma, especially if their primary caregiver inflicted physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

Post-traumatic stress after betrayal trauma happens because many people see their relationships with their partner or primary caregiver as an essential source of love, emotional support, safety, and protection.

When that reality is disrupted by one or several betrayals, it can leave a survivor feeling distraught, confused, unsafe, and ultimately traumatized. To feel as if you have been duped by someone you thought you could rely on can cause deep, lasting wounds in current or future relationships.


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Signs and Symptoms of Betrayal Trauma

Betrayal trauma manifests in various ways. Beginning to understand betrayal trauma can help you and/or your partner take the next steps towards healing. Some signs and symptoms of betrayal trauma can include, but are not limited to:

Physical Symptoms:

  • Panic attacks
  • Isolating from a support network
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Using substances or risky behaviors to cope
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Body aches and pains
  • Stomach distress
  • Increased heart rate

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Experiencing distressing nightmares
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Hypervigilance towards partner
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Diminished self-esteem and self-worth
  • Difficult emotions and emotional outbursts
  • Intrusive thoughts about the betrayal

Sexual Symptoms:

  • Decreased libido and aversion to sexual activity
  • Fear of sex with your who betrayed you
  • Discovering STI’s from your partner
  • Flashbacks and intrusive thoughts during sex
  • Feeling sexually undesirable to your partner
  • Engaging in performative sex with your partner
  • Experiencing inability to orgasm during sex with your partner
  • Feeling unsafe sexually with your partner
  • Pain or general discomfort during sex

Spiritual Symptoms:

  • Loss of faith in spiritual beliefs
  • Anger towards faith/higher power
  • Feelings of being punished by faith/higher power
  • Feeling unprotected by faith/higher power
  • Feeling confused about yourself and the world you thought you knew
  • Disruption or abandonment of once held values

Can My Relationship Recover from Infidelity?

Infidelity can be a debilitating discovery and it often consumes the focus of the relationship. Though it can be a long road, recovering from infidelity can be possible with patience and empathy. If a couple makes the decision to begin healing from betrayal trauma together, it is best for both parties of the relationship to be on board and open to the process.

Reconciling after infidelity requires patience. There are many hardships and emotions that can arise during the healing process. You and your partner are likely both in pain and it can take time to get to a place of mutual understanding. Improving communication, rebuilding trust and developing empathy are paramount to understanding how the infidelity occurred, and repairing the relationship together.

For many couples, attending couples therapy after discovering infidelity can be a natural next step. Sometimes, couples will struggle to communicate their feelings and needs. A couples’ therapist can be a helpful neutral party to help you navigate your specific goals and course of treatment.

Can Betrayal Trauma Recovery Help Partners of Sex Addicts?

An underlying cause of chronic infidelity and betrayal is sex addiction. Sex addiction can take many shapes and forms. The discovery of betrayal is often difficult to fathom for the betrayed partner. When the infidelity also includes compulsive sexual behavior, it can add additional layers of confusion and complexity.

The discovery of sexually compulsive behavior can leave you with mixed emotions. It is common to feel hurt, confused, scared, ashamed, angry, dissociated, manipulated, and sad. Betrayed partners often struggle to decide if they should stay with their partner, given the betrayal and nature of addiction as a disease.

Partners of sex addicts can potentially benefit from betrayal trauma recovery. Working with a therapist trained to navigate the complexities of sex addiction can provide couples experiencing betrayal trauma a path forward toward healing.
The pain of betrayal trauma can leave you feeling isolated. Support groups can offer a source of community and support while healing.

The many layers of betrayal trauma are real, and your experience is valid and deserves attention. While you may find yourself holding it all together for the sake of the kids, or while your partner goes to treatment, prioritizing your own path of healing is of utmost importance at the start of your much-deserved journey to healing.

How Do I Begin Betrayal Trauma Recovery?

No one asks to be betrayed. You may feel resentful at the very thought of entering into treatment. But taking the step to begin the recovery process is a gift for yourself. Whether you are healing on your own or with your partner, asking for help can help a you explore, and better understand, why the betrayed happened, identify any potential betrayal blindness, and learn how to move forward from the trauma inflicted.

If you are ready to begin your recovery journey, Modern Intimacy therapists are available to help. For more information on how Modern Intimacy can help with healing betrayal trauma, feel free to schedule a free 30-minute phone consultation. A member of our staff will be happy to answer your questions and help you get started.