Understanding Betrayal Trauma Theory
Betrayal trauma was first introduced as a concept by psychologist Jennifer Freyd in 1991. She described it as a specific trauma that happens in key social relationships where the betrayed person needs to maintain a relationship with the betrayer for support or protection.
Betrayal trauma theory suggests harm within attachment relationships, like relationships between a parent and child or between romantic partners, can cause lasting trauma.
People often respond to betrayal by pulling away from the person who betrayed them. But when you depend on someone to meet certain needs, this response might not be feasible.
Children, for example, depend on parents to meet emotional needs along with food, shelter, and safety needs.
Similarly, someone who lacks financial or social resources outside of their relationship may fear that acknowledging the betrayal and leaving the relationship could put their safety at risk.
This fear of the potential consequences of acknowledging the betrayal might prompt the betrayed person to bury the trauma. As a result, they may not fully process the betrayal or remember it correctly, especially if it happens in childhood.
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Is Anxiety Causing You To Overwork
5. How Long the Infidelity Has Been Going On
An affair that is quickly confessed along with true remorse and the desire to do whatever is necessary to help the betrayed partner heal, has the best chance of success if it never happens again.
On the other hand, a partner who finds out that the betrayal has been going on for weeks or months, or even that it is still active, is fundamentally more damaged and finds it much harder to heal. For most women, it is not just a passing affair any more. It is a fully developed relationship of secrecy, passion, and emotional connection, stealing love and commitment from the existing partnership. For most men, it is the sabotage of being cuckolded by another male who has taken his woman from under his eyes and sold him out as a brother.
The person outside of the primary relationship, who has been willing to be a co-betrayer, often feels that he or she has claimed possession of the infidel. That individual may not be willing to be dismissed and can become a deterrent to a relationships potential healing.
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Given the seriousness of these potential emerging issues and the ways they may combine, it is understandable how much influence they may have in whether or not the relationship can heal and over what period of time.
How do two people who do not want to lose their relationship navigate the process of broken trust to a possibility of reconciliation?
How does a betrayed partner ever learn to believe the other again?
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Make Sure There Is No Third Party In Your Relationship
It is easy to let others in, like friends, parents or children. They become the third leg to help stabilize the relationship, either subconsciously or not.
Venting your anger to your mom or a friend is healthy, as long as it doesnât interfere with the direct communication you make to your partner.
And an even bigger no-no is complaining to the children about aÂ;parent. This can damage their relationship with himÂ;orÂ;her and can create unhealthy dynamics between the couple.
Leaving Events Early Or Canceling Last
I go home. I leave early, I leave big events, I leave when I want to stay because I can only handle so much. I wish people knew I left because I felt like I needed to. I wanted to stay. Brittany P.
Tell people yes to coming to events or friend outings and cancel last-second because I cant pull myself together. Im sure they assume I just dont care, but it breaks my heart. It steals so many precious memories from me. Erin C.
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Risk Factors For Infidelity
Data suggest some factors correlate with increased infidelity. Some risk factors for infidelity include:
- Being male. Men are almost 80% more likely than women to have engaged in an affair.
- Living in a big city. This may increase odds of infidelity by 50%.;
- Being young. Twice as many infidelity cases take place among people aged 18-30. Fewer cases are reported for those over age 50.
It is important to keep in mind that these factors are results of studies. Just because a person is in one of these categories does not mean they will cheat. If you are worried your partner is cheating, consider them as their own person. Anybody can engage in infidelity or be cheated on.
Ptsd Is A Very Real Illness
PTSD is a debilitating anxiety disorder that occurs after a traumatic event, like war combat. Experts estimate 8 million adults have PTSD to varying degrees each year in the United States. Like depression or other mental and behavioral issues, its not something that a person can snap out of.
Symptoms arise anywhere from three months to years after the triggering event. In order to be characterized as PTSD, the person must exhibit these traits:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom . D. installed security cameras in his home to monitor threats and had terrible nightmares.
- At least one avoidance symptom. D. didnt like crowds and would avoid activities that included a lot of people.
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms. D. had a very short fuse and would get frustrated easily when he wasnt understood.
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms, which includes negative self-esteem, guilt, or blame. D. would often say to me, Why do you love me? I dont see what you see.
D. once described his PTSD to me like a constant waiting game for ghosts to jump from around the corner. It was a reminder that bad things happened, and that that feeling might never stop. Loud noises made it worse, like thunder, fireworks, or truck backfire.
There was a time we sat outside watching fireworks, and he held my hand until my knuckles turned white, telling me the only way he could sit through them was to have me next to him.
He also had explosive outbursts of rage, which left me in tears.
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Why Can Discovery Of An Affair Cause Such A Strong Reaction
The main reason I see for this is that an affair or a betrayal of this magnitude is an incredible blow to the marriage bond.;Discovering an affair or discovering porn or sex addiction is a betrayal of trust that shakes your belief in your most important relationship and leaves you feeling vulnerable.
Trust is a fundamental component required for a marriage in order to flourish. Think about it: if you had everything going great in your marriage except for trust, how great would your marriage be? Or even if you had someone you wanted to be friends with and you had everything in common and just got along perfectly but you couldnt trust that person AT ALL, how far would your relationship develop before you decide its not worth it?
So you can see how important trust is.;And infidelity destroys trust. Now I disagree somewhat with Orman here but he says an affair is often experienced as a fatal psychic wound or a death blow to the relationship. I guess I agree if he is saying that is often how it is experienced;but Id more frame it as a potentially lethal blow. And its mostly up to the betrayed spouse to decide if that blow is going to be fatal or not.
Of course, my bias is to save the marriage and help couples recover from that blow. We have written various materials on the subject including episodes on and , as well as an intensive 30-day course, which well look at later on. But lets agree on the severity of the blow that infidelity causes.
Post Infidelity Stress Disorder: Causes Symptoms And Treatments
In the wake of the discovery of an affair, you are likely to experience a wide range of thoughts and feelings, ranging from numb to feeling completely out of control and crazy.; This is the result of Post Infidelity Stress Disorder . These are normal reactions to an abnormal situation, and we want to help you work through some of the reactions. Lets take a closer look at the causes of, symptoms of, and treatment for PISD, along with some tools to help you minimize the potentially damaging impact of these reactions.
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Healing From Infidelity: The Divorce Busting Guide To Rebuilding Your Marriage After An Affair
Meant for Christians and religious couples, so may be alienating for some
Focuses on what to avoid
“Anatomy of an Affair” confronts the harsh reality that no marriage is safe from adultery. Leveraging years of couples counseling, author Dave Cardera pastor and counselor specializing in adultery recovery and preventionhelps readers understand what drives a partner to cheat and how to recognize the red flags before it happens.;
This book takes a deep dive into infidelity and why people have affairs from a religious point of view. Carder shares tips for cultivating an adultery-proof marriage as well as providing additional insights with supplemental charts and personal assessments.;
Through real-life stories, clinical insights, and current data, “Anatomy of an Affair” gives both happy and struggling couples advice on healing from and avoiding infidelity.
Ways To Improve Relationships
Even though relationships can be hard for someone with PTSD, social support can be beneficial by boosting self-esteem, providing togetherness, putting a focus on others, and helping the person cope with stress.
People with PTSD can work on improving their relationships by having an understanding support system, working on relationship skills, being honest with their feelings, and finding ways to relax and loosen up with other people.
Their loved ones can help themselves and the person with PTSD by:
- Not seeing or treating the person like he or she has a permanent disability
- Not being overly sympathetic
- Not feeling responsible for the problem or the healing
- Learning about symptoms and that theyre not the persons fault
- Engaging in social experiences without the loved one
- Working on healthy coping strategies
- Making positive lifestyle changes and engaging in self-care
- Trying to avoid becoming codependent
Also, professional treatment can help people with PTSD and their loved ones. Both parties can rely on individual, group, couple, and family therapy to help work through their symptoms and relationship problems. The person with PTSD may need more intensive treatment provided through an inpatient program.
Focus On What You Need
After a partner cheats, most people need some time to decide whether to end the relationship or try repairing the damage. This isnt something you should feel pressured to decide right away. A relationship therapist can offer support and guidance as you consider whether you believe rebuilding trust is possible.
As you begin to recover from the initial shock of trauma, pay extra attention to your needs:
- Instead of lying awake cycling through distressing thoughts, try aromatherapy, a warm bath, or soothing music to relax and improve your sleep.
- Instead of skipping meals when you feel nauseous or have no appetite, snack on energy-boosting foods and keep yourself hydrated.
- Favorite movies and familiar TV shows can calm and comfort you, but try to mix in some other hobbies, too. Yoga, walking, reading, or gardening all offer mood-boosting benefits.
Withholding Love Sex And Your Relationship
When a partner is unfaithful, it can make you feel like you have lost all control of your life. One way you may feel you can take power back is by withholding from your partner.
This may mean you are withholding love, trust, sexual intimacies, and information about your life, or you may be withholding the possibility of mending your relationship as a form of punishment.
Regardless of the way you carry this out, you may feel that by withholding from your partner, you will protect yourself from feelings of being hurt. The;fear of being cheated on again is there, and you may start suffocating yourself.
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You Must Care For Yourself
Caretakers in relationships with people with PTSD often forget to take care of themselves.
I developed guilt associated with personal fulfillment or enjoyment, because its easy to get sucked into an unhealthy cycle.
When I wanted to hang out with friends without having to spend an hour talking D. down or not check in consistently while I was traveling for work to let him know I was safe, I felt guilty.
The partner of someone with PTSD will have to be strong a lot of the time. To do this, you must take care of your own mental health.
Wen agrees. When youre in a caretaker role, you have to put the mask on yourself first, she says. It must be a conscious effort to carve out time for yourself. The caretaker has to stay strong if they are to become a support system, and they need to have support and healthy outlets to maintain that.
After years of baby steps forward and monumental steps back, I ultimately made the decision to end the relationship.
It wasnt because I dont love D. I love him and miss him every moment.
But the issues surrounding PTSD that needed to be addressed called for dedicated commitment, time, and the help of a professional things he didnt say he was opposed to. Still, he never made the choices to show he was ready.
The guilt, sadness, and feeling of defeat were all encompassing. For two months I barely left my apartment. I felt like I failed him.
Mental Health Consequences Of Cheating
Part of the reason cheating comes as such as huge blow is because it actually impacts our mental health, causing increased symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as other distress.
Infidelity is one of the most distressing and damaging events couples face, M. Rosie Shrout of the University of Nevada, Reno, told PsyPost following a study she co-authored on the impacts of infidelity. The person who was cheated on experiences strong emotional and psychological distress following infidelity.
In the study, which was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Shrout and her research partner Daniel J. Weigel interviewed 232 college students who had recently experienced infidelity. Not only did their research discover adverse mental health consequences, but those who had been cheated on increased symptomatic behaviors such as poor eating habits, substance use, unsafe sex, or over-exercise.
When we look at what causes the psychological distress, it largely comes down to broken trust, decreased self-esteem, feelings of abandonment, and a loss of control, according to New York-based psychotherapist and relationship expert Lisa Brateman. We question how we could have missed the signs and often blame ourselves for the cheating partners behavior.
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The Trauma Of Infidelity Can Evoke Symptoms Similar To Ptsd
Blindsided by the one you love, the one you married.
Learning about your spouses infidelity can be emotionally and physically devastating. The emotional damage is reflected in what some mental health professionals call Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder for the stress and emotional turmoil experienced afterward.
Psychologist Dennis Ortman, author of Transcending Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder, describes the term as not to suggest a new diagnostic category but to suggest a parallel with post-traumatic stress disorder, which has been well documented and researched.
In Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder , re-experiencing the trauma repeatedly is the first of three categories of symptoms described. The disorder is marked by flashbacks of war for veterans, nightmares of the accident for car wreck survivors, and painful memories of abuse for survivors of intra-familial trauma.
So, too, in PISD husbands and wives will replay the painful realization of betrayal. Even after the initial fall-out, people will have recurring thoughts of their partner with another.
Psychologist and certified sex therapist, Barry Bass, adds, Like trauma victims, it is not unusual for betrayed spouses to replay in their minds previously assumed benign events, those times when their spouse became defensive when asked a simple question, or the late nights at work, or the text messages from unnamed friends, all of these become viewed as possible deceitful acts.
Can You Get Ptsd From Dating
Well, the thing is, dating PTSD;is really real. After having been in one too many abusive relationships, having been cheated on, used for everything I had, and;being hurt without any respite from it, I developed PTSD.
I stiffen up when I feel like guys might have an interest in me. I have nightmares about my exes. Occasionally, if I see someone who looks like one of my exes, I start getting panic attacks.
My dating and relationship;PTSD is real;and, frankly, its affected me in ways that I dont really think that people can fully grasp. And if you’ve been thinking, “Do I have PTSD?” especially after leaving a turbulent relationship, this is what its like to get post-traumatic stress disorder;from your dating life.
1.;You wonder, almost daily, if any of the people you dated even feel remorseful for what they did.
I wonder this a lot. I also try to push this thought down into my subconscious, because I know that the answer is obviously no.
Most of my exes thought they were Jesus Christ on Earth; why would they ever actually admit to themselves that hitting me, cheating on me, or sexually assaulting me was wrong?
2.;When someone tells you that they love you, your response is often, I wish I could believe you, or, Thats nice.
Its happened to me about 30 times or so.
These days, I actually have trained myself to say the L-word back. Even so, Im not sure I can mean it. I dont feel love anymore.
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