How to Treat Betrayal Trauma to Heal Your Relationship

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When we fall in love with someone, we feel butterflies in the stomach and endless happiness if our feelings are mutual. Over time, we open up like a flower, showing what there is inside, we trust and become vulnerable. One person becomes the whole universe, the main source of energy and inspiration. Maybe it’s one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to face betrayal. Your soul breaks into a hundred pieces and each part starts bleeding. Emotional wounds need much more time to heal than physical ones, and they also leave scars that don’t allow you to completely forget about what happened.

To be betrayed by a close person is to face the strongest of your fears, make eye contact and try to stay on your feet even though your body is shaking, and you want to scream. Relationships are one of the best things ever that can make you both the happiest and the most unhappy person in the whole world. Everything is way too much complicated here. It’s difficult without them, but having got through betrayal once, it’s hard to make oneself try again and believe in the possibility of happily ever after or at least start dating online.

betrayal trauma symptoms

What Is Betrayal Trauma?

You might have heard about such a thing as a post-traumatic syndrome (PTSD), even though it was officially recognized as a disease only in the 1980s due to the efforts of American war veterans who experienced it. PTSD is often associated with people who have gone through the war, but the disorder can develop due to any traumatic event. And betrayal is one of the most traumatic emotional experiences along with the death of loved ones. In fact, betrayal is the death of certain beliefs, trust, close relationships – you didn’t die like people, but you died as partners who supposed to have each other's back no matter what.

Personal relationships can be very complicated, but many problems and barriers can be overcome. But when a loved one betrays, it is a whole different thing. This is no longer a problem that can be solved. It turns the whole world upside down. You start suffering from a betrayal trauma – your brain starts sending a signal that you are not safe anymore. This is a severe soul wound, the healing of which sometimes takes years. It can be one of the reasons why you refuse to meet women and start new relationships.

Betrayal causes great fear and activates a stress response. Among main betrayal trauma symptoms are increased level of cortisol in your blood (stress hormone), problems with the adrenal glands and digestion, fatigue, perplexity, depression, anger and rage, a feeling of deep humiliation.

Betrayal trauma can affect relationships with people. You may feel misunderstood, guilty, vulnerable. Even some thoughts about close relationships with someone may cause anxiety or panic. You may want to hide all the time. Even if people get rid of acute symptoms and the most severe psychological effects of betrayal, they may communicate but not allow other people to get closer because of inner fears. What is betrayal trauma? It’s when you try to keep an attractive and pleasant person at arm's (or even leg’s) length because you are afraid that this person may also betray you when you get closer and open up. They may suffer from betrayal trauma triggers – actions or words that may evoke the whole storm of emotions, having been experienced before.

What Is a Relationship Betrayal?

What is betrayal in love relationships in your opinion? If you think that it is only about physical cheating, then you are mistaken. There are many ways to destroy a relationship and get betrayal trauma without getting into someone else’s bed. Some people do certain things unconsciously and then wonder why the partner has changed their behavior and begun to actively avoid them. And even if the couple doesn’t break up right away and continue to be together, they can distance themselves emotionally. Betrayal trauma will manifest itself in outbursts of jealousy, sarcastic remarks, seemingly unreasonable insults, lack of sexual attraction and even body diseases or material problems. What relationship betrayal can be about besides physical cheating?

1. Lies

It can be a white lie when you gloss over some facts to avoid conflict and maintain peace in the family. And everything may be worse when it is about pathological lies when you deceive constantly and shamelessly. And the consequences will be deplorable for the partner in any of these cases because the truth will still be revealed. A betrayed person will feel exhausted, deprived of the right to choose, disappointed in ideals. This will be followed by fear, resentment, and distrust, which will lead to a family crisis.

2. Humiliation

“I am ashamed of your behavior!” “Can you succeed at least in something?” The above examples show how one partner constantly suppresses another, criticizing their abilities and making offensive remarks. Thus, they raise their self-esteem through the humiliation of the partner, neglecting their needs.

3. Refusal to emotionally support

Close relationships are not possible without the sensual affection of partners, which involves the ability to listen and hear, support and protect a partner, show appreciation and love. If this doesn’t happen, if a partner devalues your experiences, saying, “It’s not accepted in my family,” “You should solve your problems on your own,” “It’s your fault,” you feel rejected and unloved.

4. Emotional cheating

It also happens that one of the partners formally lives in the family, but in fact, spends all the time with another person. They share their emotions, secrets, money, hang out and exchange good morning messages. It looks like ordinary communication. But their spouse somehow feels betrayed, begin to be jealous, angry. The partner violates family boundaries, emotionally cheats, making you feel less valuable and necessary. This is a red flag because if they are of different genders, physical betrayal is only a matter of time.

Betrayal Trauma Symptoms in Relationships

betrayal traumaWhen a partner who was supposed to love and support you breaks your heart, you may feel physical, emotional or spiritual pain. You are overwhelmed with many incomprehensible and contradictory feelings. Your ideas about the person were mistaken. You understand that they hid their true self throughout all your relationship whether it is 10 months or 20 years. Maybe you have found out that your significant other cheated on your and violated your wedding vows. Or you may have found out that your partner was exchanging love messages with someone else behind your back. You understand that all happy moments in your family life were a lie. They betrayed you. Trying to understand the devastation that you feel inside, you cease to control yourself, you do not feel the previous connection with reality. The hardest thing is to cope with the betrayal of those who we have invested the most in our relationships with.

You doubt the honesty of any person who can become your potential partner

If you have faced betrayal, it can be hard to trust again and not project your fears onto every new person you meet in life, especially if they show sympathy and want to start relationships with you. Thus, you find excuses to avoid relationships and take them superficially. When you see at least some unpleasant signs, you overthink everything and exaggerate the “threat.” You are distrustful of everything and fear a new betrayal.

You become a cynical person

Each of us has a defensive mechanism that is activated in a dangerous situation. When you have a betrayal trauma, your defensive barrier is up whenever you see or hear something about happy relationships in which partners love each other and have each other’s back. You always see the worst in everything. You warn friends about the importance of being careful with partners. When you see a happy couple, you immediately begin to think about how much longer they will be together until betrayal and the breakup. The dark side of your inner self suggests that nothing lasts forever, that every union will end in divorce.

You guard your heart as an imperial treasury

You do not allow anyone to approach you if you see the possibility of starting a relationship with that person. And you do not allow yourself to become attached to anyone. You stop cultivating your hopes, and your expectations become too realistic and pragmatic, of course, to protect yourself. You persuade yourself to ask someone out on a date and try everything from scratch, but after a while, you find a lot of reasons to run away from any potential partner who could sincerely love you. Your philosophy sounds something like, “I will be better single forever than betrayed again.”

Your self-esteem goes down, and you begin to doubt yourself

You are wondering whether you are responsible for the fact that you were betrayed. You think about the past over and over again, coming up with different scenarios in which it didn’t happen. You suffer from the thoughts about whether you could have prevented betrayal if you made more efforts or gave more space to your partner. After all, you convince yourself that you were not good enough. And you are not sure whether you will be able to be good enough for a healthy relationship with someone else. You blame yourself and don’t love.

You become an “investigator”

You stop taking anything on trust. You doubt everything you hear. You are looking for loopholes and subtexts in the stories. You listen to whispers and gossip behind your back. You become paranoid by asking questions and not trusting the answers. And you promise yourself that you will never allow anyone to pull the wool over your eyes. Again, it’s about a defensive mechanism that turns on each time when you see a “danger” in the form of an attractive stranger who can potentially become your partner.

You actively work to change your mindset

You constantly remind yourself that not everyone will make the same mistakes as your ex and that not all people betray their partners. However, it’s hard to believe in that because your mental wounds are pretty fresh and painful. You know that you should avoid thoughts that destroy you and “train” yourself to stop waiting for the worst. You must allow yourself to believe. You must again permit yourself to love. However, even though you repeat these attitudes like a mantra, they don’t bring relief and improvement.

You may swear to never trust people again

When your soul is bleeding, and you don’t know how to get over betrayal in a relationship, you may swear that you will never fall into the trap once again. You believe that you are not able to trust again and get closer to anyone, even though your heart is looking for love. You have every right to build high-quality relationships in which “your” person will neither do anything wrong nor hurt you. However, you try to convince yourself that it’s not your cup of tea.

How to Get Over Betrayal and Build Healthy Relationship

Betrayal destroys assumptions about how to treat life and loved ones. A person has a rollercoaster inside their soul and feels like a victim, whose life has got out of control. They need to deal with strong negative emotions that may require the establishment of appropriate boundaries, knowledge about how to cope with emotions and talk everything through. Usually, both sides have an idea of why betrayal happened, but often there is no consciousness or motive. Regardless of whether you decide to stay or leave, it is important to heal the emotional wound as quickly and better as possible. That is why forgiveness is so important. Let’s find out what stages the betrayal trauma recovery process should have.

1. Change your philosophy and accept your pain

The experience of crises and losses is a normal part of life, which everyone can get through. We grow, find out new things, part with youthful illusions and learn to defend ourselves. This helps spiritually transform, temper, and nurture the inner core. You shouldn’t give up after the first failure and drown in a sense of self-pity. Even though each situation is unique, there are certain things you can do to reduce pain. When you learn about betrayal, you will most likely be plunged into an emotional whirlwind of anger, fear, and feelings of loss. You should understand that you are not going crazy. Others experienced the same pain and confusion but survived. Remember that you are not alone. Your feelings are a normal and adequate response to such a traumatic experience. You have not recovered yet not only from the loss of integrity of your relationship but also from the loss of illusions about a happy relationship. This may seem paradoxical, but as soon as you accept this pain, you will feel a bit better.

2. Take control of your emotionshow to get over betrayal in a relationship

How to let go of the past? The answer is within you. Why is it so hard for you to live further? Because you are fixated on feelings that you don’t want to let go. When you try to realize what happened to you, your thoughts and actions can get out of control. You probably become more intrusive, consider the details of the betrayal and the events that led to it. You should strive to defuse your anxiety as soon as possible. Distractions can serve as a temporary antidote to feelings of anxiety or emptiness. But if you want to get back on the track, then you should slow down, resist your pain, find out why it happened, and decide what you want to do about it. Recovering from betrayal can take some time, but you shouldn’t stop midway.

3. Decide whether you want to stay or leave

After the betrayal, you will need to decide whether you want to restore the relationship or break up. You will need to confront the ambivalence of whether to stay or leave a relationship. You must make your choice consciously. You will be able to make a thoughtful decision based on your circumstances and needs. “What can I expect from love?” “Can I trust my feelings?” “Does the partner suit me?” These are just some of the questions to ask yourself. A psychologist can help you sort your answers out. If you choose to stay, then you cannot be sure that betrayal will never happen again. The opposite option will help get rid of the traitor once and for all and start living from scratch. You will say goodbye to the past and start healing from betrayal trauma and create a new life.

4. Restore trust

One of the most damaging aspects of betrayal is broken trust. A sense of security is of utmost importance here. If a person cannot feel safe, trust cannot be restored right away. If you plan to stay with a partner, you need to focus on restoring trust. If you cannot forgive, then do not waste time on this relationship. Give yourself the chance to learn to trust yourself. Instead of focusing on your ex and betrayal, think of all the amazing people in your life whom you can trust, including yourself. Make a list of ten fantastic choices and decisions you have made in the past few years. The process of restoring trust can take a lifetime, but this does not mean that you must deal with the problems of trust daily. Trust can only be earned over time through commitment and continued efforts.

5. Find forgiveness

Forgiveness is the highest form of love that every person can give. Forgiveness is a voluntary act in which you decide to see the situation differently. Forgiveness helps you change the way you think instead of seeing the situation through the prism of anger, guilt, or fear. Forgiveness will extend your love of the world. At a deeper level, it can change the way of thinking, which includes the humanity and spiritual nature of all people. It's about your inner emotional discharge. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. You can forgive someone, but that does not mean that you have to reconcile. At a practical level, forgiveness is the reduction of your emotional burden and the healing of your heart pain. It's about your inner healing.

After the Recovery Process

If you consider all the consequences of this trauma in your life as part of one deep mental wound, you will be able to gradually move away from pain and shock, starting the healing process.

At the physical level, you will feel stronger and healthier. You will be able to sleep soundly and be ready for any challenges. At the mental level, you will be able to concentrate again, stop constantly tormenting yourself with memories and thoughts about what happened, and focus on positive thoughts and ideas.

At the emotional level, you will become calmer and more balanced, more confident and optimistic. But most importantly, having healed from the trauma, you will no longer allow the experienced betrayal to control your life. What happened will remain one of the most important chapters of your life, but it will no longer completely control its course.

You will realize that this experience has helped you become more confident, stronger and wiser as well as establish clear personal boundaries. You will surround yourself with people who support you, help you develop and accept you the way you are, avoiding those who are not ready to be a partner you deserve. Your greatest crisis can become your greatest gift.

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