The Pain of the Betrayed After an Affair

What Past Clients Have Told Me

An affair can the most devastating person experience the betrayed spouse experiences in their lifetime. I’ve had people tell me they would rather go back to Iraq and be shot at than to experience their spouse’s betrayal again. I’ve had a woman say that her husbands affair was worse than her child passing away. Just because an affair is so devastating doesn’t mean a marriage can not be rebuilt. An affair can be put behind you if the trauma is properly dealt with.  

If the Involved spouse doesn’t really know how traumatic their actions have been for their injured spouse, that can serve as a severe hinderance to recovery. The involved spouse just won’t “get it” and fail to be a resource of support and compassion. 

Research has shown that at least half of betrayed spouses have high levels of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression after an affair. 

You're Not Crazy

Many times, injured partners feel they are going crazy after discovering their spousehad an affair. But instead of going crazy they are exhibiting very normal and healthy defense mechanisms that are meant to help them survive.

Some of the common feelings and reactions include:

  • Intrusive memories about the affair, feeling like their mind can't control the onslaught of questions about the affair. 
  • Flashbacks, or reliving the discovery of the affair, and feeling like they did the first time they heard about the affair. 
  • Nightmares about the traumatic event.
  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the affair. 
  • Feeling emotionally numb.
  • Avoiding activities they once enjoyed.
  • Hopelessness about the future.
  • Having problems with their memory. 
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships.
  • Rage, irritability, or anger. 
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame.
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Being easily startled or frightened.
  • Hearing or seeing things that aren't there.
  • Experiencing amnesia by forgetting all of the affair or parts of it. 
  • Feeling like the affair did not really happen, as if it were a dream or "covered by a fog."
  • Feeling like they are outside observers, like they are watching this happen to someone else. 

These are symptoms of trauma can come and go. Individuals may have more trauma symptoms when things are stressful in general, or when they run into reminders of what they went through. They may hear a car backfire and relive combat experiences, for instance. Or they may see a report on the news about a rape and feel overcome by memories of their own assault. And if they feel like their spouse is talking to their affair partner again they will freak out. 

Recovering from an affair for most people is difficult, but not impossible

What is Trauma?

Trauma is a deep emotional wound. It is something that combat veterans experience as well as those who have been raped, mugged, physically and sexually abused, held hostage, hijacked, victims of cult abuse, terrorism, bombings, witnesses of homicides, the sexually assaulted, battered, and tortured, and of course, those who have discovered their partner has had an affair.

What specifically makes this so hard to recover from? Intentional human causes are the most difficult traumas to recover from, followed by unintentional human traumas. Recovering from an affair isn't as easy as recovering from being mugged or witnessing a riot. The simple reason for that is the injured spouse thought he or she knew the betrayer. The betrayer was someone he or she once thought was safe and dependable. The pain of an affair hurts worst when injured spouses feel their partner was someone who wouldn't in a million years have an affair. 

The betrayed partner’s pain from an affair creates feelings of being stigmatized, being marked or different, or feeling like an outcast. This type of situation can cause betrayed spouses to lose faith and trust in humanity, in love, and in themselves.