Trying to move on after discovering your spouse led a secret life? That’s the dilemma facing wealthy New York City surgeon who learned that his former beauty pageant wife had been moonlighting as a call girl throughout their marriage — and had amassed almost a million dollars! The surgeon, who was seeking to annul their marriage, settled the case with his ex just before a public hearing scheduled in July, 2021.
The discovery of a spouse’s double life is often the trigger for divorce. While signing divorce papers symbolizes the end of a painful chapter, it is just the beginning of recovery from betrayal trauma. Learning how to build trauma resiliency is essential before a wronged spouse can learn to trust again, and find new love.
How To Heal From Betrayal Trauma
You enter into marriage expecting your partner to be a source of comfort and stability. When the person closest to you is also the one who hurts you, you experience betrayal trauma: lingering pain that is felt long after the breach of trust occurred. Signs that you’re struggling with betrayal trauma may include:
- Emotional reactivity: heightened reactions to minor events.
- Hypervigilance: feeling “on guard” 24/7.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Difficulty sleeping and eating.
- Substance abuse.
- Feeling numb.
- Difficulty trusting others.
When you’re unable to regulate your nervous system, you may have a hard time concentrating at work, co-parenting effectively, and completing basic tasks. The visceral memory of betrayal may cause you to doubt whether anyone can be trusted.
Getting into another relationship before you’ve healed may provide temporary comfort, but it won’t solve your problems. If you continue to doubt that an intimate relationship can be a safe harbor, you will either do things to keep partners at a distance, or seek excessive reassurance that may drive partners away.
Learning trauma resiliency skills will help you bounce back from your attachment wounds. This means that you will develop strategies to calm an overactive nervous system so that you can relate to partners in healthy ways. Consider the following to assist you on your healing journey:
- Educate yourself about betrayal trauma.
- See a trauma-informed therapist.
- Practice mindfulness to develop internal resources.
- Seek support from “safe” people (family, friends).
- Address substance abuse issues or other impulse control disorders.
How To Know If You Can Trust A New Partner
Remember, your relationship should be a source of comfort; this is especially important after experiencing betrayal. Actions, not words, will show you that someone is trustworthy. Be on the lookout for:
- Consistent behavior. Trustworthy people do what they say they’re going to do. Trustworthy people own their mistakes and don’t make you feel that their mistakes are your fault. Trustworthy people let you know what they’re thinking and feeling.
- Superficial charm. People who are untrustworthy seduce us through good looks and charisma. If you’re dazzled by someone’s shiny exterior, you may be blind to their dark side .
- Red flags. Proceed with caution if you encounter the following: anger management issues, untreated mental illness or addiction, financial disarray, and a history of broken relationships that are never their fault. A trustworthy partner will empathize with your experience and want to make you feel secure.
- Conflict resolution. How does this person resolve differences? Look for someone who problem-solves in a calm manner. Beware of someone who shuts down or gaslights.
Keep in mind that an overactive nervous system can make you misinterpret the actions of a trustworthy partner. While you don’t want to overlook red flags, you also don’t want to automatically assume your interpretation of an event is the objective truth. When you’re feeling anxious, ask yourself if there’s evidence to support your fear, or if memories of the betrayal are coloring the way you look at things. Building trauma resiliency takes time but is a necessary step towards having the kind of relationship you deserve.
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