One subject you’ll see addressed a lot out here is the trauma of betrayal.
It was once thought that co-dependency* or co-addiction were the only things betrayed women suffered from, but research is finding that over 70 percent of women who’ve been betrayed show up with clinical signs of PTSD.
The general thought on trauma is that psychological trauma occurs during a severely distressing event, and if the person hasn’t been taught how to cope with that event (or hasn’t been allowed to cope with that event), damage to the mind can occur.
So for the purposes of my work with women I take this approach:
The trauma of betrayal occurs when someone has
frequent or intense feelings of being unsafe when
their partner turns outside the marriage for
a relationship or sex.
If it happens often enough, it can cause PTSD.
Many people don’t believe betrayal can be traumatic, yet while the feeling of being unsafe because of betrayal may be less acute than a soldier feels when a when a bomb goes off nearby, the damage can last just as long.**
It also doesn’t just affect the wife. When she’s betrayed, she also has to consider her children, her family, her church, her friends, her career… her entire life.
Still In The War
And in this situation there’s no coming home from the war; in fact, the war may be going on in her own home, on her own TV and in the ads that arrive in her mailbox. Our society forces sexual images on us, and they serve as constant reminders that the threat is around every corner.
A post-war veteran can return home. But the wives, in effect, are still in the war.
But that’s just the trauma caused by the betrayal. There may be another type of trauma at work: Relational Trauma.
This happens when he’s impatient with her healing (“It’s been three months; aren’t you over that yet?!”), when he plays mental games with her (“I know you think you saw it, but I wasn’t looking at that woman! You’re crazy!”), or when he subtly threatens her with repeated betrayal if she doesn’t give him what he wants—in or out of bed. These things may amount to a form of mental abuse, whether or not he’s intentional about it.
Other Types of Trauma
It’s not just in the home, feeling unsafe happens outside the home all the time. The woman knows that even if her home is safe, society does force sexual imagery upon her husband, literally banking on his visual betrayal.
It may be that even her friends and family will call her names because she doesn’t like his porn use.
And then there’s the common occurrence where someone in the helping profession subtly blames her for his acting out (“Your ______ caused him to feel the need to step out.”) This is known as Treatment Induced Trauma.
There have been many professionals who’ve misunderstood the trauma model. They say ‘it only causes women to become victims,’ but actually the opposite is true.
This is because the trauma model gets to the heart of what’s really going on and addresses it effectively. Then the woman is actually able to make progress more quickly and completely.
I’ve seen my clients begin stabilizing within a month or two because of this approach (combined with other techniques I use) versus a couple years using traditional approaches.
So I don’t care if I’ll be misunderstood as ‘only creating victims.’
I’ve seen something different in the women I work with… they become heroes in their own lives.
If you’d like validation for you feelings, keep reading on this website where you’ll find many articles giving a voice to your pain.
*FYI: over the years, the term co-dependency has been twisted to be applied to anyone who wants to fix their painful situation, but the initial definition of co-dependency referred a person who needed the addict to stay addicted because, in helping the addict, it gave the person a reason for living.
When it comes to co-addiction however, another reality is at play: God created our bodies to release chemicals that cause us to bond to others–even just a 15 second hug can cause us to bond to a person. I believe he did this to keep families together, because it keeps the wife from taking the children and leaving the first time the man does something hurtful.
**One researcher who studied this is Dr. Barbara Steffens, co-author of Your Sexually Addicted Spouse. She had been doing research on her clinical patients, sat down with the list of common symptoms and looked over them next to another doctor doing research on PTSD. After realizing the list was the same, she later took the cases to a brain researcher name Dr. Joseph Amen, one of the foremost in his field.
After one look he said, “These wives have PTDS.”
Since then other clinicians have performed similar research. I don’t know the names of the following doctors but one therapist reported that 98% of her betrayed patients had clinical signs of PTSD. Another doctor found 100% of them did.