Five Reasons Betrayal Hurts So Badly


A partner of a sex addict experiences a level of pain that is indescribable.   The hurt is so profound and complex, partners often wonder if it will ever get better.  The partner's experience of devastation is valid.  In fact, research supports that betrayal impacts individuals in a uniquely painful way (Freyd, 2008). 

It is understood that individuals betrayed by a loved one experience symptoms similar to going through a traumatic event. But there is a much deeper level of pain to betrayal that can have lasting effects beyond just posttraumatic stress symptoms. 

To understand the depths of your pain and the powerful way it impacts your life, here are five reasons why betrayal hurts so much:

1)    Betrayal is relational.  The closer you are to someone, the more devastating it feels when they betray you.  You would not, for instance, feel the same level of devastation if an acquaintance lied to you versus your spouse.  When someone you love and trust hurts you, it’s difficult not to generalize this experience and fear that other people in your life could easily hurt you as well.  This belief is unsettling and can impact your ability to be open and vulnerable with others.

2)    Betrayal threatens our instincts.  We are hard-wired for belonging and connection.  After we select a partner and emotionally attach to them, we naturally believe that they will never hurt us.  When we are betrayed, our judgement and intuition about this person is now called into question.  No longer believing that you can trust your gut feels scary.

3)    Betrayal is traumatic. No one plans on being betrayed.  You are in a relationship because you believe that your significant other is safe, trustworthy, and will not hurt you.  When betrayal occurs, these beliefs are shattered in an instant making you question your views about yourself, your world, and the people in it. 

4)    Betrayal is confusing.  When intimate betrayal is not something you would ever do and thus outside of your values, it's difficult to comprehend how someone could do such a thing. Trying to make sense of someone’s betrayal is exhausting and can lead you to believe it is somehow your fault.  Our mind wants a simple explanation, and unfortunately the quickest solution leads us to blame ourselves (or doubt ourselves), even when it’s not our fault.

5)    Betrayal feels personal.  When you are betrayed, it’s personal. When it's someone else, we find every excuse to not make it about them.  Although irrational, this personal bias exists for a reason.  When faced with extreme pain our mind tries to quickly make sense of it in order to regain safety — the logic is, if I can figure this out, I will no longer feel as hurt.  With no good explanation on hand, we resort to the simplest solution, which is, it must be something about me. 

If you have been betrayed, therapy can help.  Working through your thoughts and feelings will allow you to break free from the grips of betrayal.  If you would like to learn more please contact me at my Bellevue, WA practice to see if working with a psychologist could be beneficial.

Freyd, J.J. (2008) Betrayal trauma.  In G. Reyes, J.D. Elhai, & J.D.Ford (Eds) Encyclopedia of Psychological Trauma.  (p. 76). New York: John Wiley & Sons. 

Who Really Has Control in Your House?

Do you feel helpless and exhausted reacting to your kids all the time?

“How many times do I have to ask you to...unload the dishwasher, do your homework, clean your room, stop fighting with your brother, ect.) ?!”

“I’ve had it, we are going home!”

“I am going to pull this car over if you don’t stop fighting!”

Do the statements above sound familiar?  As a child and family counselor, one of the main things that I have noticed in my work is that parents are often reacting to their child's behaviors instead of responding to them.  This can be an overwhelming and exhausting pattern, feeling like you are constantly policing your children’s behaviors.

One of the hardest things for parents to understand is that children are constantly learning new ways to express themselves and what a parent perceives as a disrespectful behavior could be a cry for help.  The answer I have found is taking back control and responding to your child, instead of reacting to them.

Responding vs. Reacting

REACTING is driven by emotions - your child hasn’t done his homework after you have asked him repeatedly to get off his phone and focus in - he doesn’t make a move and continues to play his game so, you react to him.

“I have asked you 3 times to get off your phone and do your homework! You are so lazy! No more phone for a week! Do I really have to stay on top of you every day?”

He gets up, leaves the room and slams the door to his room, the remainder of the night is tense as you feel angry, disrespected and hopeless - when will this get better?

Reacting to children's behavior make parents feel as though their kids are always in control, and as a parent you are playing catch up.  I also find that many parents are not reacting in the way they would like to in those moments; they come into my office ashamed of their melt downs, but unsure how to do anything else.  This is where responding to your child’s behaviors comes in handy.

RESPONDING is driven by the idea of seeking connection- same child has not done his homework and continues to sit on the couch playing on his phone.

“Hey bud, what’s up? I noticed that you don’t seem to want to do your homework today, is there something I can help you with?”

“School is stupid and I don’t want to do homework it’s too hard and I don’t get it.”

This gives you an opportunity to respond to your child in a way that connects you.

All of this sounds logical and should be easy to implement right? Not easy, but doable!  This process takes patience and practice, but in the long term, you will be showing up as the parent you want to be, and in the process you will build a strong connection with your child while teaching emotional intelligence.

*Breathe*Respond Don’t React*