Partner Betrayal Trauma: Part III
Trying to make sense of your betrayal story and searching to put together the pieces of a discombobulated puzzle is common and normal. You may find yourself back at start, dizzied with bewilderment and unanswered questions. This is because it is not just the pain that is so difficult to process but it's the confusion around destabilization and not being able to make sense of the narrative. While searching for answers, it's not uncommon to look to the person who caused the betrayal.
Many unsettling feelings and reactions arise as a result of this, such as a laser focus on your partner and a need to know about your partner's current state of recovery or motivation for change. However, healing in the aftermath of betrayal means being responsible for your own recovery, safety and sanity rather than your partners. This may sound difficult to accomplish because as more information comes out and insecurities increase, it becomes easier to devote most or even all of your energy and focus on your partner and what they did. Further, it becomes increasingly more anxiety provoking to focus on fears about your partner's next move. Tracking your partner's behaviors or seeking consistency between their behaviors and actions can be a stepping stone towards healing, but it is important to note that their actions are not the only tool for your recovery. In fact, individual recovery is possible even when your partner chooses not to seek help.
Trying to make sense of this starts with you. It may feel difficult to individuate yourself on your course of recovery while simultaneously seeking to be comforted by the person who betrayed you and has also been your go to person. I understand the pain of doing everything to fix this mess and then finding out you may not be able to, and I understand the exhaustion that comes with constantly being in a state of hyper-vigilance as a result of the PTSD symptoms that ensue.
It is important for us to define recovery and how to return to a state of cohesion between a healthy mind and body. Recovery for betrayed partners involves self care, healthy boundaries and learning to trust others again. Learning to trust others always starts with trusting ourselves and learning what our needs are in order to start feeling safe again. Exploring them in a nonjudgmental way may help you start to notice patterns that are keeping you stuck, rather than safe.
Consider reflecting on what you might be telling yourself in light of the betrayal and what the inner dialog you have with yourself sounds like day in and day out. Do you blame yourself? Are you isolating yourself? Ask yourself, do the negative cognitions you think outweigh the positive ones? Upon exploring these feelings, there is often a pattern of questions being asked inwardly such as :
How did I not see this?
Am I a fool if I stay?
Is there something wrong with me?
Does my partner's inability to be honest mean I am less worthy, less lovable, or broken?
Below are 7 helpful starting points/tips to consider while in your recovery journey no matter what stage of recovery you are in. These are good starting points to refer to when the internal dialog you experience sweeps in:
1. Educate yourself about betrayal trauma: When you learn about betrayal trauma, you are giving yourself the gift of knowledge. Below are 3 resources for betrayed partners that are helpful guides to refer to for psychoeducational purposes: Mending a Shattered Heart: A Guide for Partners of Sex Addicts Stefanie Carnes Facing Hearbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts Stefanie Carnes and Mari A. Lee Moving Beyond Betrayal Vicki Tidwell Palmer
2. Join a group
The isolation that comes along with the betrayal after finding out about your partners infidelity and/or sexual addiction can have devastating impacts. You may experience judgement by others or feeling like you can't tell family or even your closest friends. This is very common but it also leaves you isolated at a very difficult time. Finding the right group with women who are on a similar journey can remove that sense of isolation as well as the shame that partners often feel. You don’t have to be alone in your hurt.
3. Get individual Therapy by a trained CPTT: A Certified Partner Trauma Therapist (CPTT) is a therapist trained by the International Institute for Trauma & Addiction Professionals (IITAP) in working with people who have experienced betrayal trauma. They understand the nuances and complexities of betrayal trauma and have a skill set that many other therapists do not. Our therapists can guide you through what might be the most challenging part of your life.
4. Identify your support systems and utilize them: Sharing your feelings doesn't always have to mean disclosing everything involved in the betrayal you are experiencing. Sometimes all you really need is someone to listen and provide empathy. Find a person or people who are good listeners. Consider: How do you feel when you speak to this person? Can they take your feelings and needs into account? On the other hand, if you do eventually feel comfortable sharing details about the betrayal with the people or person closest to you, remember that they are close to you for a reason and they probably would be ok with getting an education about what happened and what led your partner to this. 5. Figure out what self care looks like for you and how to operationalize it: Focusing on your self care in recovery is not selfish, it is necessary. You get to worry about yourself and do what keeps you sane and safe. Sharing one of my favorite quotes about self care: “True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from”- Brianna Wiest. That often takes doing the things that require the biggest stretches. In this, we find growth.
6. Assess your hyper/hypoarousal: Consider what your nervous system needs in order to feel internal peace even if momentarily. Breathwork, smelling essential oils, moving your body out of its current state by exercising, or taking a 15 minute walk, journaling or other forms of catharsis...did someone say rage room?! The effects of betrayal trauma can be emotional and also physical. When you are in chronic stress your body is also in constant stress. This can result in an inability to process words, emotions, or even food- so in higher levels of trauma your sleep cycles are compromised and you are more likely to have physical issues. Your body and mind are trying to make sense of what happened. If you are someone who has complex trauma on top of this betrayal then the feelings above are more likely to be exacerbated. Clues can be found in your autonomic response history to help you understand your perception of safety and what you need to do to create healthy connections.
7. Making Decisions: Hit the pause button on making any major decisions right now. Empowering yourself with information about infidelity and process addictions is important so that when you are ready to make a decision, you are informed and have the ability to do so with clarity. In doing all or some of the above, you must remind yourself that beyond any doubt you are worthy of love, respect, and a healthy partnership. Sending light, Desiree Nazarian How can Seen Therapy help? If you are interested in learning more about Seen Therapy and how to deepen your connection to yourself and others contact us today for a free and confidential 15 minute consultation. Call: 1 800 607 7922 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
***Seen Therapy provides individual, group, and intensive therapy for women seeking healthier connections and healthier lifestyles. Specializing in therapy for Mental Health challenges, Trauma/PTSD, Women’s Sexual Health and Intimacy difficulties, Betrayal Trauma, and Sex and Love Addiction*** ***Seen Therapy is starting a new 12 week therapy group for Betrayed partners. To learn more about the group or get support from a therapist or Certified Partner Trauma Therapist at Seen Therapy, contact us today****