What is betrayal trauma? First, let’s look at the definition of betrayal. “Betrayal” is the act of betraying someone or something: violation of a person’s trust or confidence, of a moral standard, etc. 2: revelation of something hidden or secret.
Now you may be asking, how do I know if I have betrayal trauma? If you have or have had a spouse with substance abuse addiction, a pornography/sex addiction, a gaming addiction, a spouse that has lied to you repeatedly, or a spouse who has cheated, you probably have betrayal trauma. If your spouse has used the words, “You’re crazy,” when addressing you, then you or they may be suffering from betrayal trauma.
What does betrayal trauma look like?
- Emotional dependency: extreme emotional reactions (quick shifts from rage to sadness to hope and back again).
- Hypervigilance or hoovering: detective work in hope to self-protect. (Searching phones, computers, office, browser history, call logs, etc.)
- Isolation – avoid your spouse or others so that no one finds out. May even neglect your children and hide away.
- Denial/codependency – noticing inappropriate behaviors but choosing to say or do nothing to avoid conflict.
- Obsessive eating, spending, exercise.
- Insomnia, Brain Fog.
- Anxiety/panic attacks, feeling your life is in a whirlwind and out of control.
- Lack of safety in the marriage, financially, sexually, emotionally, physically.
- Obsessive thinking and worrying.
- Easily Triggered (PTSD) – spouse comes home late and it throws you into aggression or rage.
- Feelings of being crazy.
- Creating stories out of fear – trying to combine unrelated events in order to predict future betrayal.
If you’ve acted out in these ways, then you’re possibly experiencing betrayal trauma. And if you are, the first words I want to say to you are, I am so sorry. This is not your fault. You are not responsible for his or her addiction and behaviors.
After learning a little bit of betrayal trauma, some of you may be questioning whether or not your spouse has an addiction. Often people falsely correlate addiction with homeless people on the streets; however, many people with addictions are high functioning, have normal appearance, and are successful at work. But it’s the disconnect, isolation, hiding out, escaping, and numbing episodes that tip the spouse off to something being wrong. Why? Because addiction doesn’t like healthy relationships.
Now let’s take a moment to understand addiction and what it may look like.
What is addiction? It is being dependent to a particular substance, thing, or activity to a point that it isnegatively impacting your life. Another explanation is, “Addiction is when you’re using something to lessen pain or give you pleasure — and the rate and duration of its use increases to the point your life becomes unmanageable. [It’s] if you’re doing something you don’t want to do, but can’t stop doing it.” – Brannon Patrick, LSCW, CSAT (The Betrayed, The Addicted, The Expert podcast, “How do I know I’m an Addict or have Betrayal Trauma,” Ep.1).
If any of these words resonate as truth, I’m here to tell you that YOU’RE NOT CRAZY and there is HOPE. I came up with my own acronym for HOPE: “Healing Our Pain Effectively.”
I had reached the point of hopelessness. I felt I’d done everything I could for my marriage and the only other option was divorce. I was exhausted. We had gone to three different therapists, which my spouse rarely attended. He was constantly telling me to leave him alone and that I’m crazy for thinking he was involved in pornography and drinking (even when I smelled it or caught him). I was doing everything in my power to hold my family together, and the only one working for it. Then one day, I was researching addiction and the most miraculous words showed up in my Google search: betrayal trauma. That day, everything changed.
I finally discovered the missing piece I was searching for. The “I, me” piece. The piece to help me understand and validate what I was going through. But it also allowed me to focus on myself and learn what it is I am doing to cause pain and dysfunction in my marriage and home. I finally found a place where I can get the right type of help for myself, regardless of what happens in my marriage.
Now, let me clarify. I am in no way saying that I am accountable for my spouse’s addiction. Just as he is capable of picking out a new car, he is the one who picks/chooses his daily behaviors. But what I am saying is that I am 150% accountable for how I react to his addiction or treat him in general as a human being and son of God. My behaviors, reactions, or lack of reactions are my choice and I must own my choices in order to effectively heal.
After all this reading, you might be anxiously asking yourself, “So now what? Where can I get help for this?” If you fall into the category of betrayal trauma, you need the right type of specialized help. Find a therapist that specializes in betrayal trauma. A good place to start is Therapy Utah in Lehi, UT. If you’re not located in the Salt Lake or Utah County area, then research betrayal trauma online.
There is so much information out there including online betrayal trauma courses at therapyutah.org. In addition, one of my favorite podcasts is The Betrayed, The Addicted, The Expert by Brannon Patrick, LCSW and Coby and Ashlynn Mitchell. You will gain a lot of insight and self awareness from these resources.
If you’re in a place of hopelessness, I want you to know I understand. I am there with you on this journey, and there is hope. There is a way to heal and become whole again. The help is out there. And this article is the first of many to come that will help you, too.
In closing, to whomever is reading this, believe that there is hope. Have faith that Heavenly Father knows you, that He is with you, and that He has not abandoned you in your darkest hour. You are not alone and there is the right type of help out there.
“God rarely moves the mountains in front of us, but He always helps us climb them.” – Sheri Dew
I have been there for my husband, my daughters, my friends, my parents, my in-laws and my extended family, some more than others and everyone in between. I am imperfect and sometimes feel "not good enough." But I am here trying. I am here being a taxi driver, nurse, dermatologist, garbage man, teacher, friend, parent, disciplinarian, employee, boss, swim teacher, soccer coach, basketball coach, sister, daughter, aunt and so much more. Being there comes with so many blessing, but other days, “being there” is just what it sounds like, the day in/day out drudgery of “being there.” But I am still here loving my children and husband. I'm here trying to love myself. Even though I know life is a crazy, I am here every day, showing up the BEST I can, loving, shaping, and praying that if I stay here, my kids, husband, and myself will grow up strong, loving, and capable. And I am here to write and share my story and trials because I want to be here. I hope my mistakes, blessings and trials will help others because I chose to be here.