According to a study done by the American Psychological Association, 1 in 3 marriages in the United States experiences at least one instance of infidelity. When someone discovers their partner has been unfaithful to them, it can be a confusing and emotional time. As a result, they may experience betrayal trauma. Betrayal trauma happens when trust or well-being has been violated in a relationship. Is there any hope of healing from betrayal trauma? Yes. Healing is possible—even if your marriage can’t be healed, it’s never too late for you to heal. Isaiah 58:8 (New Living Translation, NLT) offers this assurance, “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal.”
Check out 7 essential steps to help you heal from betrayal trauma in marriage.
1. Spot the symptoms of betrayal trauma.
Being betrayed by a husband or wife can cause a person to experience mental and physical health struggles such as:
2. Realize that setting boundaries does not make you the bad guy.
After a person is betrayed by their spouse, they may feel guilty or even bad when they set boundaries. Boundaries are not meant to punish the guilty spouse but to keep the innocent spouse safe. The sooner you realize setting boundaries doesn’t make you the bad guy, the sooner you will begin to heal.
3. Build up your self-esteem.
One of the worst casualties of betrayal in marriage is when the betrayed partner’s confidence and self-esteem take a big hit. The good news is that self-worth can be built up again. Start by taking thoughts captive (see 2 Corinthians 10:5). Be willing to look at all negative thoughts about yourself and discard any that don’t align with God’s Word.
4. Feel your emotions.
Emotions don’t go away if they are ignored, suppressed, or numbed. Here’s an exercise to try: Keep a Feelings Word List handy. If you need one, contact New Life Ministries by calling 800-639-5433. When it is difficult to name an emotion, look at the Feelings Word List to help pinpoint your feelings. Putting a name to the emotion you are experiencing makes it easier to express your feelings to your spouse and ask for what you need.
5. Grieve the loss of trust.
One of the most critical steps to healing betrayal trauma is to grieve the loss of trust. It’s okay to cry, be angry, be confused, and feel sad about the losses experienced. By grieving the losses your spouse’s betrayal caused, you validate the severity of your spouse’s actions. This will help you begin to heal more authentically.
6. Take care of yourself.
Part of healing is for the betrayed partner to learn to take care of themselves physically and emotionally. Start small by exercising gradually each day by taking small walks. Then, increase exercising each day to at least 30 minutes. In addition, eat healthy foods. And make sure to take time to get enough sleep at night. If the stress of living with an unfaithful partner is too much to handle, consider separation for a while. Separation from an unfaithful spouse can give some much-needed emotional and physical relief.
7. Be willing to wait to trust your spouse until they’re trustworthy.
Actions speak louder than words. So, a cheating spouse must earn trust back by seeing a licensed counselor, understanding what led them to be unfaithful, and making amends. Ultimately, only you can decide whether to trust again. See a counselor in the New Life Counseling Network for help knowing whether an unfaithful spouse can be trusted again.
If you’re experiencing betrayal trauma in your marriage, please know we are here for you! Call us at 800-NEW-LIFE.
By Kimberlee Bousman