Tearing at the Fabric

Of the space-time continuum

Betrayal trauma


You get better at dealing with the trauma and the pain. But it is an under reported form of PTSD, betrayal trauma.

I struggled to understand why I wasn’t “just getting over it,” to start with. Society’s dominant discourses suggest that when someone betrays you, you get angry and feel relieved that person has chosen to take their cheating arse several hours away, not to disturb your new peaceful life without any longer having to monitor their behaviour.

So why was I so heartbroken?

The reason a very long term spouse is so permanently rocked, shaken to the core is about bonding, core values, and living a completely different version of the partnership than the cheater.

George S. Everly Jnr outlines in Psychology Today, the effects of betrayal by your most trusted, most beloved, as some of the worst, most misunderstood PERMANENT trauma. This was supposed to be your best friend. Lover. Most trusted partner in life. No way they would – or even could – hurt you so unbelievably callously.

No way!


It’s easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend. —William Blake

So what is betrayal? Well you certainly know it when you experience it. It is a gut-wrenching experience, a searing knife into your heart. You feel it before you even think about it. Then when you start thinking about it it plagues you day and night. Betrayal is treachery, deception, and violated trust. It can appear in as a broken promise, duplicity, lies, sexual affairs, and even affairs of the heart. The injury is so great some people seem to never recover.

It’s real.

It has permanent effects on the betrayed.

Ask BG’s mum. 15 years later, and she is still reeling. Quietly. Her very adult children (mid 60s down to mid 50s) feel it. They can see – and themselves feel – the effects. You don’t – can’t – just pull your socks up and move on if the love felt real.

Betrayal by an intimate partner violates these core human desires and needs! It destroys the core assumptions upon which all enduring relationships must rest. Dr. Jeff Lating and I have written extensively about the important role that violated assumptions concerning yourself and others plays in the development of PTSD (Everly & Lating, 2013). Betrayal represents the traumatic death, not of a person, but of a relationship. So as you might expect individuals who have been betrayed by a partner in a trusting psychologically intimate relationship experience many of the symptoms of PTSD. They will often report guilt, depression, psychological numbing, suspiciousness, hyper-vigilance, withdrawal from others, nightmares, and continually (almost addictively) reliving both the positive moments (longingly) and the negative moments (painfully) of the relationship, especially the moment of the revelation of the betrayal. And again as you might expect the betrayal engenders a terrible loss of self-esteem, the rise of self-doubt, the inability to trust again, and the desire to avoid relationships in the future.

I see my exhausting hypervigilance, constant scanning of EVERYONE as a symptom of my permanent trauma. I am seriously controlling myself, and talking myself down internally with BG ALL THE TIME! That I am beginning – just beginning – to deal with ever-so-slightly better is thanks to tens of thousands of dollars worth of therapy…

And a fuck ton of self awareness.

Dr Kevin Skinner, who is a registered CSAT amongst his qualifications (Roger’s love addiction certainly sits under this umbrella…) explains the trauma, to especially women, well in his book, How Betrayal Trauma Manifests Itself.

So, for all those unknowing innocents. For those who have never loved deeply, with every part of you, someone who betrayed you, not just once, but again (and again…) please know that the trauma is intense. Real.

And permanent.

We learn to manage it better if we are mindful, and seek professional help, knowledge and guidance.

But it will affect us forever and always.

I can feel my (broken heart syndrome) pulse racing chaotically as I type this.

I have lived with this trauma, trying to deal with it, being told I need to get over it, without any understanding of how it FEELS to doubt yourself, feel in your gut that the perpetrator of such pain has not made the changes to their thinking, or actions, for far too long.

I am getting there…but it takes an enormous toll. And life will never be so innocent, I don’t know if I will ever love, or believe in another person, or even myself, ever again.

15 thoughts on “Betrayal trauma

  1. Betrayal trauma is so, so hard to deal with on a daily basis. I’m 16 months into true healing. I’m exhausted from the choices my husband made. Trudging along though since there is no other choice.

    • Exhaustion, LTI. Oh yeah! I’ve been emotionally exhausted since I found out about being duped about “our friend” he was fucking in my homes, cars, everyfuckingwhere. I scan EVERYTHING people do. Everything I do, checking for danger. I am healing. But it is slow, and I fully believe, never over. You are never healed, always on that healing path.

      Keep trudging, I think it becomes slightly lighter the further you drag yourself along that path xxx

  2. It is life changing.
    I am a different person now. Maybe that’s a good thing…I don’t know. I just know that my thoughts on life and love and commitment are different and it colours every decision I make now.

    I would like to get over it. I have not found how. I expect I must get on with it as part of me instead.

    I hope that the paranoia that comes with this settles.


    • It is life changing, Anne. Completely. It tips everything we thought we knew – especially about ourselves – down the drain. Rebuilding, with altered, shaky foundations is far harder than you expect. We see infidelity and divorce all around us, and think it is a matter of, “moving on.” Looks simple really.

      I was away from home when my mother was dealing with it. A shorter marriage at 18 years than mine, at 30, and a different kind of bond/attachment. But my little brother has since told me she cried every single day for a very long time. I never knew that. I saw strength, healing, rebuilding, at the time. But now I see she also sought a new relationship quite quickly, and had a couple of minor disasters. I did not want anyone else. And thought I would stay single. I might still. This thing with BG is certainly not for sure, and I am self aware enough not to put too many eggs in this new basket. It’s important to feel you are healing, and good on your own. To avoid what my youngest told me, that her Dad said he’s “still grieving that he couldn’t make it work with her mother.”

      Ugh, that just pisses me off, so much! HE couldn’t make it work! Not us. Him. FFS. You have what YOU wanted, what YOU chose, Roger! I have a damn broken heart. I am working bloody hard to rebuild. I offered, worked so, so diligently, fucking pretty much prostrated myself and begged him, imploring him that I had done what I promised him, what I needed to do to forgive him, trust myself, after his long affair with Leanne.

      No one will ever be allowed to steal my power ever again. I certainly won’t be gifting it to them like I damn well did Rog!

  3. Yes, the exhaustion!!! It is draining to fight this mental battle every day.
    One time in therapy my husband said he didn’t think I’d ever get over his affair. Our therapist said she believed I want to -more than anything- but just haven’t figured out how yet. And she was dead on. I’d love to not think about it or feel the pain of it ever again. But that’s just not how it works.

    • So true. It is not how it works. No magic wand, sprinkling fairy dust over what they chose. Roger said I would never get over it.

      So he did it again. More lies. Seeking other women while I thought we were working on healing.

      I don’t believe you ever heal. Not completely. You just keep working on being much better. And that’s absolutely okay. Life. It’s a journey. Never static.

      We are just all trying to be better if we are semi-decent humans. Keep going, HTH! You’ve got this xxx ❤

      • I think him believing I would never get over it is a factor in him wanting divorce. His loss really. He is losing a spouse that was faithful. I’m losing a man that cheated on me and couldn’t step up after. It hurts but I know I’ll be good. And hope that one day I’ll be in a healthy relationship where I think “so this is what its supposed to be like”.

      • Good girl! So proud of you. So sensible.

        Despite the pain, we have to be longterm better off if they can’t make the changes, be patient, caring and truly loving to us after they caused such agony. Loyalty is such a rare and precious trait, I feel. I had no idea how rare. That you could be incredibly loyal and loving to a man who appeared to love you back, just as much, but it is all just a cover for him to ensure he can do whatever the fuck he likes, with no thoughts of the consequences, or heartbreak he may be causing the woman who adores him.

        I’ll never understand it. Apparently good women are a dime a dozen? Just trade them in for the next one 😜

  4. I too believe you are forever on the ” healing journey”. It doesn’t end. We can get better and live our lives but it will always be there. We will always know that someone we loved and trusted completely is capable of betrayal. All illusions gone. Strength to all on this road.
    Kate. Xx

    • Thanks, Kate. It taints future relationships with doubts, too. And that is super sad from the get go.

      Strangely, I’m not super worried I might be being cheated on. Maybe I’m just stupid, because my bestie told me several times I was too trusting and Rog could well be up to no good with Leanne. I just thought she was jealous, and that wasn’t me…I had a “better” relationship than that. We talked. We discussed that you leave before you have an affair. If the relationship was that broken, get out first.

      Ugh. So trusting. So dumb. So used.

  5. Pingback: We All Have Been Betrayed But It is One of Life’s Best Lessons – Emotional Sobriety Means Healing Mind, Body, and Soul

  6. Pingback: We Are Permanently Changed by Trauma. – Emotional Sobriety Means Healing Mind, Body, and Soul

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