Being betrayed by someone you love deeply hurts a lot. It can upset your whole life and make you feel lost and alone. You might wonder why betrayal has such big effects. This article explains why betrayal trauma is so difficult to process and what it takes to start feeling better.
The Three Types of Injury from Betrayal
There are three main types of injury that happen after betrayal:
- Attachment injury
- Emotional or psychological injury
- Sexual injury
Let’s look at what each one means.
Human babies need a grown-up to take care of them. Without parents or caregivers, babies will not survive. The need for protection and care when young creates an attachment between child and grown-up that sticks around into adulthood. If babies do not have parents or caregivers to take care of them, to protect them, to help them, to feed them, or to nurture them, they will die. Because we need our attachment figure to keep us alive, we have it hardwired in the survival part of our brain to be able to give cues to this person to help them stay with us so they can nurture us until we are able to be on our own.
We do not just grow out of needing attachment when we become adults. The need for attachment follows us into adulthood, though our primary attachments change. As we leave our family of origin, we develop other attachments. When we choose a partner, we become each other’s main attachment.
If one person betrays the other, it breaks that trusting attachment. We find ourselves in a situation where the person we depended on to keep us safe has done exactly the opposite. All of a sudden, our partner now seems like both the source of comfort at times and danger at other times. This makes us feel very confused and unstable. We may find ourselves wanting to turn to the person we also want to run from. This is referred to as attachment ambivalence. We have two drives that are working against each other. This push and pull can make a betrayed partner feel crazy.
Many betrayals involve lying or hiding what someone did. Being lied to over and over again distorts your sense of what is real. It makes it really tough to trust yourself or your partner.
Over time, constant manipulation or deception can make you depressed or very emotionally unstable. Feelings spin out of control easily. Thoughts get stuck in anxious loops or angry rumination cycles. This comes from betrayal shaking your whole reality.
Another hurdle to healing is realizing that the lies and hiding have often happened many times and over a long period of time. Each lie feels like its own betrayal and the thought of healing from all those hurts can feel impossible. It can be so hard for the betrayed partner to regain a sense of safety in the relationship. There are so many unknowns in the future.
Sometimes partners turn to betrayal blindness as a mechanism to protect themselves. Betrayal blindness happens when the betrayed partner wants so badly to stay connected to their partner, but they see things happening that scare them and make them feel unsafe and distressed. They choose not to pay attention to the alarming things they see and feel in order to preserve the attachment and connection. However, this often leads to distress, anxiety, and dysregulation as the betrayed partner can now no longer trust even themselves and their feelings.
This dysregulation can cause the betrayed partner to pull away from their partner. It can cause panic and anxiety. The betrayed partner needs stabilization amidst the devastation they feel. When they see their partner is taking steps to own up to their mistakes and change, they can begin the process of figuring out how to feel secure again in that relationship.
Sexual intimacy involves deep emotional and physical vulnerability. Discovering your partner shared that special connection outside your relationship violates this sense of intimacy and closeness that you thought you had. Sexual betrayal often damages self-confidence. It can make positive and safe feelings about sex much harder. Being physically intimate again is extremely difficult for most people after this type of trauma.
Seeing constant reminders of the betrayal can set off panic attacks, flashbacks or other upsetting bodily reactions during sex even after healing the relationship otherwise. These wounds around sexuality very rarely solve themselves just by focusing on communication or connection. They take their own special care and treatment plan.
This topic often gets little attention when couples are trying to heal after betrayal. There are elements of shame that get mixed into this dynamic. When couples do try to become intimate after betrayal they can feel like they have to power through even if their body is telling them to stop. Another reaction could be they feel like they have to stop every time their partner tries to get close to them leading to further division.
There is a hard, messy ground of sexual injury and healing that couples must face. They need to learn how to work through this period of struggle and how to honor the triggers as they arise. They need to learn how to be present with their significant other again and how each partner can create comfort and safety in that experience. It can be so incredibly scary to be vulnerable in this way, but a betrayal trauma coach can help both partners through this process of healing. Healing after an affair is possible with the proper help and care.
The Six Stages of Healing from Betrayal Trauma
So how do we actually heal after betrayal or an affair? Just like physical wounds, healing emotional injuries happens in phases. Knowing the common stages can help you understand your reactions better. Here are the phases people usually move through:
Right after betrayal comes to light, most feel total shock and overwhelming pain. Basic functions like eating or sleeping are hard. Strong feelings take over and may spill out suddenly. Concentrating is nearly impossible with the constant inner chaos.
The main thing to focus on in this phase is trying to grip reality while also practicing self-care. Take things slowly and reach out for support during the roughest early days. Betrayal trauma coaches or counselors are invaluable in helping you work through the fog and devastation you may feel.
Over time, shock starts to lift and clarify things a bit. Realization sets in about what truly happened or how long it took place. Very intense feelings still come at times followed by periods of numbness.
Major work of this stage includes information gathering, setting boundaries, and stabilizing intense mood swings. Identifying your bottom lines around what you need for security or to consider reconciling is important now too.
As the dust starts to settle, focus turns toward building coping skills and daily rituals that sustain you. Getting professional support aids this greatly.
Core goals of stabilization include regaining a sense of control and empowering yourself again. Setting physical, emotional and relational boundaries boosts safety. Anger management techniques also help enormously if intense rage arises regularly still.
Reimagining Self Phase
During reimagining, deeper healing happens as you rediscover purposes and passions. Previously rewarding parts of life seem irrelevant after the betrayal discovery. Now you get to explore what comes genuinely from your soul. You can feel free to imagine a different life and discard practices that no longer serve you and your relationship.
This phase helps rewrite limiting beliefs, like that you deserved betrayal or will never trust again. As self-confidence grows, harm done by lies diminishes. Joy sparks back through engaging your real core self again.
The creating phase takes your reimagined sense of self and starts building things that reflect and feed it. This includes making conscious relationship choices guided by self-love and wisdom. Significantly, it also means boldly going after whatever calls to you most for fulfilling work, play, or self-expression.
Since emotions regulate much better now, creativity feels freer. Playfulness often returns to intimate connections should you choose rebuilding. Overall you function fully on purpose rather than out of habit now.
In the final thriving phase, maintaining wellness and peace become main aims rather than crisis coping. Self-care gets ingrained so you catch stressful patterns quickly and course correct. Guides from within direct actions now rather than outside validation chasing or betrayer pleasing.
Occasional painful memories surface but no longer control days on end. You appreciate lessons learned and brighter sides to having walked through deep suffering to become who you now are. You are able to feel hope for the future ahead as you learn to once again trust yourself and your new skills and outlook on life.
Healing After an Affair
Recovering from such a big shock has just as many layers of rebuilding over an extended time. But taking that healing journey – with solid support in place through betrayal trauma coaches or therapists – eventually connects you to fresh inner freedom and lasting strength that is hard to achieve in other ways. Understanding the common map that process follows helps greatly in enduring intense moments without losing hope.
Healing after an affair takes patience, courage and the right resources. Working with a specialist sets you up for success as does surrounding yourself with empathetic people to lean on.
Through the ups and downs, keep sight of the fact that you are healing. Let go of timelines and trust your body’s wisdom. And above all, practice extraordinary compassion for yourself. Recovery is a journey – it’s normal for it to feel messy and nonlinear at times.
If you commit to the process, healing from betrayal trauma will come. You will rediscover stability, happiness and hope. One day you’ll look back at this painful chapter with gratitude for how far you’ve come. Walking through the fire transforms us. While betrayal changes many things, your capacity to heal and love stays beautifully intact.
Why Betrayal Trauma Coaching Helps
A good coach nurtures your strengths while building new skills. They help light the path so you don’t get lost in shame or darkness. If the idea of sorting through this alone feels overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek out support.
Our team at Choose Recovery Services would be honored to be your guide as you walk your healing journey. We have coaches who have been where you are and who have found recovery on the other side. We are here to help. Contact us today to receive the support and care you need to begin healing.