“We are all damaged. We have all been hurt. We have all had to learn painful lessons. We are all recovering from some mistake, loss, betrayal, abuse, injustice or misfortune. All of life is a process of recovery that never ends. We each must find ways to accept and move through the pain and to pick ourselves back up. For each pang of grief, depression, doubt or despair there is an inverse toward renewal coming to you in time. Each tragedy is an announcement that some good will indeed come in time. Be patient with yourself.”
Finding out our partner is looking at porn, betrayed our trust, had an affair, or has a possible sex addiction is frightening. For most, a feeling of the world crashing down around them is experienced as we try to make sense of the reasoning and what led up to an affair or betrayal of trust. A feeling of hopelessness engulfs someone as they find out – usually accidentally – that the one they love and trust the most is also the one that has broken that by seeking someone else.
Unfortunately, most that go through this heartbreaking experience become overwhelmed with feelings of regret, resentment, hatred, and worst of all, self-blame. This can and usually does lead to broken homes, isolated partners, worried children, and a chaotic ending to a relationship that once was full of love and life. However, it is important to realize there is a path to recovery for those that seek help and guidance in regards to healing from betrayal trauma. The term betrayal trauma was first introduced in 1991 by Jennifer Freyd. At a conference, Freyd stated “Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person’ s trust or well-being.”
So, how do we heal?
1. Know you are not alone
Pathways to healing have been used and improved upon before and especially since the term betrayal trauma has been used to describe the experience. For those in desperate need of healing, it is important to remember that you are not alone and you are not to blame. When discovery of a partner looking at pornography, engages in problematic sexual behavior, lies, cheats, manipulates, steals from you, or has an affair most feel alone and ashamed. For many, sex is a difficult discussion, especially when it comes to betrayal. Our first impulse is usually to push others away thinking no one will understand.
2. Seek professional help
Healing takes time and effort. Whether you stay with your partner or not, it is important to heal from the damage done in a relationship to either repair your current one or ensure you don’t carry that unresolved trauma over to your next relationship. This is why seeking a therapist trained in this area is so critical after a betrayal of trust. Trauma can wreak havoc on our minds and bodies and many experience symptoms such as headaches, physical pain, muscle tension, intense anxiety, racing thoughts, and so on. A well trained therapist can help you in managing these symptoms as well as cultivate a safe space to process the pain experienced as well as work towards healing. Trauma thrives in feeling helpless and ashamed. People need and deserve to be actively supported so they can take charge of their lives again and restore their power.
3. Get Connected
The steps towards healing from betrayal as well as repairing a relationship are personal and spiritual for many. Cultivating a sense of community will help expedite this process and move you out of feeling trapped and hopeless. Along with working with a mental health professional, it is imperative to build support systems in your life and to reach out for help. Religious groups, volunteer organizations, trusted friends and family, and other local or online communities. There is even a massive movement of free support known as S-Anon throughout the country with meetings specifically for those affected by sex addiction.
4. Practice Self-Care & Self-Compassion
Learning to shy away from self-blame and self-destructive behaviors such as excessive eating, drinking, substance use, and isolating is key in healing from just about anything and betrayal is no exception. A good therapist and a solid community can be great accountability in ensuring we are taking time for us. We can only heal if we do things that foster healing. Take some time for yourself to enjoy the things you used to love, engage in hobbies, get enough sleep, and spend time with people that build you up. Remember that recovery takes time and that time is lessened with effort combined with self-care.
5. Lean into Forgiveness
To forgive is to move forward. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to forget what has happened to you or even that you have to stay with your partner. Forgiveness does not mean excusing immoral behavior or even condoning it. It is about learning to let go of grudges and resentment and moving forward with one’s life instead of drowning in the past. A tired and true phrase to help emphasize this is that ‘Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’. Of course, we are going to hurt and be angry when our trust is betrayed, but we also deserve to not allow that betrayal to dominate the remainder of our lives. This is where individual, group, and couple’s counseling can really help two people move towards one another again or, if necessary, learn to separate with minimal damage. After all, we all deserve to heal and learn from our downfalls.
If you are ready to take the next step and receive the support you deserve please click here to connect with one of our therapists. We have locations in both North Dallas (near Richardson, Carrollton, and Addison) and Grapevine (near Southlake, Colleyville, Euless, and Bedford). Lifeworks specializes in Sex Addiction, Love Addiction, Porn Addiction, Anxiety, Depression, and Trauma. We have a diverse staff that works with children, teenagers, and adults in individual, couple’s, and group therapy settings.
About the Author
Nick Overbeck is both a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor. Nick has nearly a decade of experience in mental health including college counseling, trauma informed treatment, career counseling, suicide prevention, crisis intervention, addiction treatment, promoting mental health in working professionals, and working with loved ones of those affected by addiction and/or mental illness.