This article was written by Dr. Kevin Skinner on behalf of Bloom
“I almost feel paralyzed. Like I can’t stop thinking about my marriage and questioning if any of it has been real. Did he ever really love me or have I just been lying to myself? Have I ever been good enough for him?”
I sat in silence for a moment after being asked this question, and looking over the table and into this woman’s eyes swollen with tears, I searched for a way to tell her that what she was feeling was completely normal. Many women, in fact, have described to me their struggle to sleep, eat, and even take care of themselves or others around them after discovering that their spouse has been unfaithful to them. Whether it was infidelity, looking at pornography, going to strip clubs, or sexually acting out in other ways, these women felt helpless and unsafe with their husband’s behavior.
I remember speaking to one of my colleagues about these things one day. She, too, had noticed that many women who she had been visiting with were experiencing similar emotions that I had observed in my clients. She suggested that the women she had been working with were showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As I began to review my clients who were dealing with their partner’s infidelity, it quickly became apparent that my colleague was right – my clients were also showing signs of PTSD. In fact, my client’s symptoms paralleled exactly those of PTSD with the exception of a fear of life.
It’s since been determined that trauma can be a result from betrayal in a relationship. As therapists, we call it Betrayal Trauma.
In an effort to learn more about the trauma caused by betrayal, my colleague and I teamed up to create one of the first, if not the very first, assessments looking at betrayal trauma. That was nearly 10 years ago, and since that time, we have had thousands of betrayed spouses and partners from all over the world complete our assessment.
Using our research, we have found seven common symptoms of betrayal trauma:
A large majority of women feel utter despair upon discovering their partner’s sexual behaviors. They feel as though they are alone and there is no way of improving their situation.
Lack of Safety
Most women question their safety and experience difficulty trusting those close to them. They begin to re-evaluate any and every meaningful relationship they have.
Nearly all women feel their partner will continue to act out unfaithfully, despite the awareness of the betrayal. They lose any sense of hope that their partner will stop their behavior.
Relive the Event
Just about all women relive the betrayal and question their thoughts and motives, particularly when their partner tries to get close to them. The traumatic experiences they’ve been through continue to replay in their minds.
A great deal of women have a hard time participating in things that they previously enjoyed. The pain of the betrayal they feel pulls them away from day-to-day activity and makes them feel paralyzed.
Negative Mood and Self-Talk
Almost all women feel ashamed about their partner’s betrayal. They begin to believe that their partner’s behavior is a reflection of their self-worth and value.
Difficulty Fulfilling Roles
Many women express difficulty in fulfilling important roles (that of employee, parent, etc.) since discovering their partner’s sexual behaviors.
As a therapist, I feel relieved in knowing that there is a name to all these feelings so many women are experiencing, and I’ve seen that same relief time and again in my client’s faces when I tell them that they are facing betrayal trauma. If you or someone you know is suffering from betrayal trauma, there is hope, lots of it. Education, social support, and professional assistance are the steps to pull those in trauma out of the dark, and into brighter days ahead. Bloom for Women is the place to start.
Providing an online support community for women, Bloom is a resource of support and education for women working to recover from betrayal and broken relationships. Get answers from experts, connect with women like you, and begin the healing process today. Click here to watch the video.