There’s an old saying “Your word is your bond.”
It’s often applied when making an agreement between two parties. For instance, the belief that all you need to make a contract between two people is your word and a handshake.
At the core of that belief is trust. You are trusting one another to follow through with their word.
The same is true when making a commitment to a life partner. You are saying to one another that you will “honor and love” one another, or something similar.
Yet, what happens when your relationship is experiencing trauma and betrayal? When your loved one doesn’t act with integrity, it can feel traumatizing. More than one of my clients has described having “PTSD symptoms” from the betrayal they suffered.
After discovery of the betrayal, many clients have described struggling with:
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling overtaken by anger, anxiety or suspicion
- Depression symptoms
- Difficulty focusing at work
- Shock and numbness
- Devastated self esteem, embarrassment and shame
All of the above sound like classic trauma symptoms. And as a therapist who has helped many trauma survivors recover, I know that one of the most fundamental losses that occurs after trauma is the loss of trust.
After discovery, all the trust you have built up for each other is gone. And learning to trust again seems impossible. Yet it can be done.
Follow Your Own Pace
First, when learning to trust again do things at your own pace. Don’t rush the process. Or don’t allow others to pressure you to jump back into the relationship again.
You can’t move forward thinking that nothing happened. Instead, you need time, space, and support to process the situation. That means doing it your way.
While you may not know exactly what that means for you personally, here are some ideas to guide you:
- Tell your partner that you will be taking time and space
- Take private time to allow yourself to feel your emotions
- Use a journal to record and organize your thoughts
If you decide that working with your partner to repair the relationship is the best choice, that’s great. However, make sure it’s your decision, it’s in your best interests, and there is a solid long term plan in place to heal the underlying issues that led to the breach of trust.
Share Everything- Maybe
This one won’t be easy. However, it is important for healing from trauma and betrayal. So, sit down with your partner and insist that they disclose everything about the betrayal. But be sure that you use your wisest self. Many clients have shared with me that down the road they regretted pushing for some of the details. That’s because some of the images became triggers that were hard to move beyond.
But there is a reason why you need to do this. It’s because you don’t want anything left unsaid. You don’t want to be wondering about whether or not your partner has been entirely truthful. You also want to be sure that you are not just sweeping problems under the rug. That will make it very hard to rebuild the trust needed for your relationship to successfully overcome the problem.
And that’s why, first and foremost, there needs to be complete disclosure.
Insist on Accountability
What does this mean? Basically, your partner needs to prove that they can be trustworthy again.
They might complain that you are making them jump through hoops. And they are right! They sacrificed the trust that you shared. Thus, they are the ones that need to dig themselves out of the hole.
You could suggest some ideas for them to do this. However, they need to be the one doing that work. If they complain or are reluctant to act, those are signs that they are not ready to rebuild trust.
Remember That You Are Not Your Partner’s Therapist
Take note that during this process of rebuilding the trust lost from trauma and betrayal, you are not your partner’s therapist.
Granted, both of you must be open and understanding to one another. You certainly want your partner to discuss what they are feeling. However, it is not necessary for you to process with your partner all the reasons why they chose to be unfaithful. If they start doing this, hold the boundary with them.
Why Professional Therapeutic Support Is Necessary
When it comes to serious issues such as trauma and betrayal, you need professional help. Trauma shapes the nervous system in ways that are extremely hard to undo on your own. You both should consider working with a therapist in relationship counseling. However, you each ought to have your own, individual therapist too.
For you, this is so that you can have support in dealing with the trauma associated with your partner’s betrayal. You want someone who is focusing on your interests, not the relationship as a whole.
Trauma and betrayal are not easy to heal from. The reason why a lot of relationships end is because these issues are so great that it’s hard to move past them. However, learning to trust again is possible if you’re willing to do the work.
If you do want to rebuild your trust, please contact me. I can provide the needed support via relationship and trauma therapy.