Partners of Sex Addicts: Dealing with Betrayal Trauma Triggers

Betrayal Triggers: A picture of a woman negatively reacting to discovering something about her sexually addicted husband on her phone.
Being triggered by betrayal flips the trauma switch “on.”

See Understanding Betrayal Trauma: Trauma Triggers for Partners of Sex Addicts for further discussion of betrayal trauma.

As a wife or partner of a sex addict or intimacy anorexic, you can expect to spend a significant chunk of your recovery time on the emotional rollercoaster. Doubt and fear are only a few of the feelings you will be visiting. You will probably become familiar with shock, anger, despair, shame, powerlessness, grief and every other emotion in between. Like the chorus of one of those ‘somebody done somebody wrong’ songs, the feelings will repeat time and again.

Trauma triggers and the emotional rollercoaster are particularly troublesome in the first few weeks and months following discovery of your mate’s sex or porn addiction, after learning about additional betrayals, or discovery of intimacy anorexia. Your sense of emotional safety is likely to be absent or shakey at best. Recognize that you are vulnerable, that your stress cup is already overflowing and it won’t take much to put you into a mini emotional meltdown.

§  To the degree possible, avoid setting yourself up to be in triggering situations where you might not be able to emotionally protect yourself. If you find yourself in a triggering situation, try to limit your exposure to prevent being flooded by pain.

§  Set boundaries around which conversations you will participate in and which ones are best avoided.

§  Preplan a means of escape for triggering environments (e.g., your own transportation or access to transportation, establish a time-out or a dead stop boundary for triggering conversations, etc.).

§  Identify, build and then regularly use a support network.

§  Accept that your support network for dealing with triggers may be entirely different from the support system you use for other issues. Look for others who have some understanding of sex addiction betrayal and will not judge you for what you choose to do or not do, but will gently hold you accountable for taking care of yourself in times of crisis.

§  Anticipate predictable and unpredictable trigger events and preplan who you will reach out to for help and connection in those moments.

§  Know that painful feelings will be lessened or relieved when you own them, talk about them with someone who can validated them, or in some cases engage in problem-solving. Trying to ignore them, divert them, stuff, or numb them may provide a momentary respite but will actually heighten your pain in the long run.

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.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, does not create a client-therapist relationship, and is not a substitute for care by a trained professional. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors, omissions, losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

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6 thoughts on “Partners of Sex Addicts: Dealing with Betrayal Trauma Triggers

    1. Jeffrey. Glad the tips were helpful. I craft the words and leave the setup to my webmaster. I’m only tech savvy enough to recognize that by “theme” you’re probably not referring to the theme of the article, but not enough to really know how it was set up. The webmaster’s name is Linda Chapman of


  1. Great blog here! Also your site loads up fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

    1. Thanks Jean. I’m embarrassed to admit I’m a complete tech dinosaur. I know how to type in the words, paste an image & hit the publish button. All the other properties of the blog are thanks to my webmaster who set it up. May I ask what an affiliate link is?

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