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.
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.
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.