Infidelity-Induced Trauma: Infidelity Survivors and Partners of Sex Addicts
“Finding those emails was the worst moment of my life. I knew nothing would ever be the same. I would never be the same.” M.
Discovering your spouse’s infidelity rips through your life like a bomb, leaving you feeling like your life and spirit have been blown into a million tiny fragments. You may be struggling to determine what was real in your relationship and what you can trust to be true in the future. Unfortunately, this struggle is compounded by the shock you are experiencing as you try to wrap your mind around the reality of infidelity. This is infidelity-induced trauma.
For betrayed partners, learning about the cheating and the subsequent discovery of the pattern of lies, manipulation, and sexual and emotional betrayals is more than just painful, it is traumatic. The slew of responses the betrayed spouse experiences is referred to as infidelity-induced trauma. When the infidelity occurs in the context of a sexual addiction, it is referred to as sex addiction-induced trauma or pornography-induced trauma.
Infidelity-induced trauma involves a number of symptoms that can fluctuate radically across the course of even a short period of time. It can feel as if you are on an emotional roller coaster over which you have no control. Feelings range from disbelief to fear to anger to grief and despair.
Flashbacks of what was seen, heard or felt when the infidelity was discovered is common. Nightmares or disturbing dreams may occur. The betrayed partner characteristically feels compelled to search for evidence in an attempt to reconstruct the spouse’s movements in order to determine if he is now being truthful or if there is more. Betrayed partners are hyper-alert to signs of additional betrayal, obsessive about his whereabouts or current behavior, and confront their spouse with repetitive questions about the infidelity.
Paradoxically, even though betrayed partners get caught in the trap of chronic information seeking, they simultaneously avoid other reminders of the betrayal that may trigger their pain, such as sex scenes, love songs, family photos, etc. Others may engage in, or fantasize about, raging or revenge activities such as revenge spending, revenge sex, or telling his friends, family or co-workers for payback.
Betrayed partners frequently experience a range of physical symptoms. The include sleep disturbance, appetite changes, restlessness, confusion, spacing out or difficulty concentrating, emotional or physical exhaustion, onset or exacerbation of medical disorders, withdrawal, panic attacks or depression.
All of the symptoms associated with infidelity-induced trauma and sex addiction-induced trauma are similar to those that occur in the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experienced by combat veterans, disaster survivors, rape survivors and survivors of abuse. Although many betrayed partners seek counseling, especially marriage counseling, therapists are notorious for failing to recognize and treat the trauma that infidelity survivors and partners of sex addicts experience. Without addressing the underlying trauma healing is impaired for both the betrayed partner and the wounded relationship. To find a counselor trained in treating infidelity and sex addiction-induced trauma, seek a Certified Clinical Partner Specialist.
Dr. Janice Caudill is the founder and Clinical Director of McKinney Counseling & Recovery. MCR offers individual, couples, group therapy and multi-day intensives for partners of sex addicts and wounded hearts struggling with sex addiction, infidelity, love addiction or love avoidance, intimacy anorexia, or relational trauma in the McKinney, Plano, Allen, Richardson, Frisco, Carrollton, Lewisville, Dallas and surrounding areas.
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