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Intimate Partner Betrayal Trauma

A couple sits on a couch, both looking upset. She is facing towards the camera and he is facing away

That devastating series of emotions you feel after someone close to you has betrayed your trust is referred to as betrayal trauma. Similar to post traumatic stress disorder, this condition can affect you both mentally and physically and may lead to the development of unwanted behaviors as a way to cope with the complex feelings that you may go through. Although you may feel devastated right now, healing is possible.

What is Betrayal Trauma?

At the very heart of all betrayal trauma lies a violation of trust. You cannot experience betrayal if there is not a deep sense of trust and safety in that relationship. 

While betrayal can occur with friendships and even during business transactions, the trauma of being betrayed appears to be most crushing to the heart and soul when it comes from an intimate partner. This type of deception can lead to you questioning the security and sincerity of your entire relationship.

Due to a chemical response in the brain, social and intimate relationships form deeply emotional connections with others. These connections may become more complex if you depend on the other person for support in some way.

Social connections are important in life, and this is especially true if you are close to someone who you need for support, nurturing, and security. Ultimately, you begin to trust those who you are close to, especially an intimate partner. Once that trust has been broken, you may go through an uncertain time trying to recover from the trauma this act has caused in your life.

Examples of Betrayal in a Relationship

There are many ways that a partner can betray your trust. Depending on the level of connection you have with your partner, you may feel some of these ways more deeply than others. Your own unique personality can also determine how much each of these means of betrayal will hurt you


Perhaps the most common way that a partner may betray you is through infidelity. While cheating is typically viewed as sexual interaction with another person outside of the relationship, infidelity can occur in other, more subtle ways as well.

  • Emotional Engagement: When your partner has strong feelings for another person.
  • Physical Engagement: When your partner has a physical or sexual attachment to another person.
  • Chronic Porn Use: When your partner turns to pornography to become aroused or to become intimate with you.

In all of these cases, this type of betrayal can leave you feeling like you are not good enough and that maybe your partner does not even want to be with you. Although this could be the case, your partner may have an underlying issue that needs to be addressed, especially if the two of you are going to try to make your relationship work.


Addictions can cause trauma in the form of betrayal, most notably if your partner keeps his or her addictions secret from you and then you find out about the deception. This deception can crush the trust you have in your partner and make you wonder what else this person is hiding from you.

Sex Addiction

If your partner is addicted to sex, this will most likely result in many instances of infidelity. You may always wonder if, or even when, your partner will cheat on you again.

Porn Addiction

Not only can porn addiction lead to a physical abusive relationship, it can prevent your partner from being able to get intimate with you or may require him or her to engage in increasingly outlandish fantasies or sexual play. You may feel that you are not good enough or attractive enough to turn your partner on.

Why Does Betrayal Hurt?

Building relationships is often vital to survival by having another person to be there for you and to help to provide the essentials of everyday life such as shelter, food, and clothing. When your partner betrays this trust, he or she did so in a way that you had no control over the situation that negatively impacted you. This can severely damage your self esteem.

Certain chemicals in the brain are responsible for deep connections. When these connections are broken through betrayal, this results in trauma. The brain releases stress hormones in response, which are likely to affect you in a variety of ways.

How Betrayal Trauma Manifests

Each instance of betrayal affects you in mental, emotional, physical, and maybe even in sexual ways. Here are some, but not all, way that betrayal trauma can manifest: 

  • You may feel ill-equipped to handle unexpected situations. 
  • You may feel insecurity and distrust in your relationships or even in situations where safety and security are expected. 
  • You may feel shame about the societal norms about sex addiction and/or infidelity. This could result in isolation from others or internalization of your feelings and struggles. 
  • You may blame yourself – if only you had more sex with your partner or had been more supportive. The truth is that the infidelity or betrayal perpetrated by your partner has nothing to do with you. 
  • You may feel secondary trauma if you feel that you are not managing the crisis as well as you should. It’s important to remember that you are entitled to your own personal recovery process. 
  • Future sexual activities may become scary for you if you experienced sexual infidelity. The potential for re-traumatization, violations of your boundaries, or fears of disease contraction may seriously limit your interest in sex. 

talking about betrayal trauma

Ways to Heal Betrayal Trauma

Although you may wish to forget that the betrayal ever happened, until you address the underlying issues, the trauma may continue to eat away at you and manifest itself in emotional and physical ways. Whether you try to work it out with your partner or choose to end the relationship over the betrayal, you will need to take time to recover from the trauma.

You may go through phases that are similar to going through grief. Although this may not be a physical loss like the death of a loved one, it is still a loss of what you believed the relationship was. You may wish to get help from a therapist to overcome the impact of this loss.

Partner Support Recovery 

Regardless of how you choose to move forward with your relationship – whether you stay, leave, or are still undecided – Begin Again Institute offers a Partner Support Program that is included in the cost of our 14-Day Men’s Intensive

In fact, we are the only facility in the country that offers a Partner Support Program that runs parallel to our men’s program. The former President of the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists. In this 10-hour Partner Support Program help you restore your sense of safety, gain clarity and understanding, and helps you create a solid plan for your future.

Eventually, to overcome betrayal trauma, you will need to learn how to trust again. Throughout the recovery process, you need to learn to not blame yourself for your partner’s actions. Take care of your mind and body to stay healthy. Get the support that you need from friends, family, or a skilled therapist so that you can overcome the trauma and move into the life that you deserve.

  • Category: Partners of Sex Addicts
  • By Ryan Pryor
  • November 23, 2020

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