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Helping People Heal from Infidelity and Betrayal

A couple in therapy look at one another

Next Friday, August 31, 2012, GoodTherapy.org is thrilled to welcome Dr. Laurie Moore, who will present Healing Betrayal Caused by Infidelity, a FREE CE teleconference for GoodTherapy.org members available with 1.5 CE Credits. We encourage you to join us for this exciting event, so if you have not already, register today!

Working with clients who are suffering from betrayal caused by infidelity is complex, including grieving stages, posttraumatic stress (PTSD), and additional factors. This article refers to infidelity as a breach in agreed emotional and sexual monogamy. Some couples agree to open relationships or polyamory, which is a different situation. Infidelity as defined in Wikipedia is “a breach of an expectation of sexual and or emotional exclusivity.” This involves a lie and broken promise, causing feelings of intense betrayal for many people.

Infidelity has become a common problem. Some infidelity statistics state that over 50% of both men and women engage in infidelity (Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 2012) and others say 30% to 60% (Wikipedia, 2012).

Those suffering from infidelity betrayal commonly go through Kubler Ross’s well-known stages of grief:

  1. Denial: This didn’t really happen or it’s not really as upsetting as I feel it is.
  2. Anger: How could you?
  3. Bargaining : If only I had communicated differently, this would not have happened.
  4. Depression : I feel helpless. Nothing I can do changes this discomfort.
  5. Acceptance : I have been hurt and disillusioned but I am at peace with myself.

The experience of grief due to infidelity includes additional factors that are absent from grief occurring from a death. Grief due to death is felt in a finite situation that contains an end. It is understood that the one who is gone is gone from the body permanently. Grief due to a breach in trust has no finite or predictable container. The one suffering finds him- or herself in unpredictable circumstances, which often feel very dismantling and excruciatingly unsettling.

Feelings that challenge self-confidence and worth are more common to infidelity betrayal than loss alone. Death is socially expected. Infidelity is shunned. The one who is betrayed is prone to feel guilt, shame, and embarrassment because the situation remains privately hidden or is condemned by a variety of reactions when exposed.

When death is the cause of grief, a solo journey is required. When betrayal is the cause of grief, two people are involved, so the situation is more complicated. Once one is lied to, the relationship is uncertain. This person can’t tell whether he or she is being lied to or told the truth. The one experiencing this challenge is often upset again in the aftermath of the partner relationship. This is different than the one abandoned by a death whose loss cannot re-emerge in a repeating scenario.

Clients with heartache caused by infidelity and betrayal can also go through fight-or-flight syndrome:

Fight: Arguing with, controlling, or managing the person who betrayed me will solve this.

Flight: Leaving will solve this.

Once fight or flight proves useless, a person will seek comfort in other ways. By assisting this person to fully meet the helplessness, sorrow, anger, anguish, disillusionment, and heartache that has come, peace can be found.

I have found that client-centered talk therapy, hypnotherapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and the 12-step program are all deeply valuable for clients healing from infidelity. I also use my own Success Love Now (SLN) process effectively in these situations. Here is how and why each of these methods is valuable.

Someone who is suffering from loss and feeling isolated due to the taboo nature of this loss needs to be witnessed compassionately and caringly. This in itself helps to relieve the tremendous burden one carries from feeling alone. When being accepted within the context and emotions one is truly feeling, without being corrected or judged, peace can start to return. Acknowledging your understanding and compassion for a clients’ diverse set of feelings can be a profound help to a suffering client.

Because the shock of betrayal can be extreme, disrupting normal life in many ways, EMDR assists the hurting person to digest the deep emotions that are arising. Just getting through the day becomes a challenge for people who are betrayed. EMDR makes the healing time for this upheaval much faster in many cases.

Hypnotherapy allows the person who was hurt to re-find stability, meet parts of him- or herself that were hurting before the situation occurred, heal parts of him- or herself that are hurting now, and find a new basis for equanimity that is deeper than the circumstances. Taking a client into a deep, relaxed state in which the client can bring in peaceful parts of him- or herself to help the hurting parts enables a client to rebuild self-esteem and strength.

S-Anon Twelve Steps allow people to find the value in surrender, the gift in their challenge, and the support of others enduring similar pain. Twelve Steps also help the one who was betrayed to find out if addiction was involved in the betrayal, as commonly is the case. Letting your client know that S-anon is an option can be a valuable part of her or his healing process.

SLN provides a new framework for the person to feel empowered and at ease within the undesired circumstances. Encouraging the client to focus on what his/her purpose and aim are for him- or herself and gratitude for the good that is occurring within the context of the undesired happenings is beneficial. This will bring a client out of a victim mode and into a creative mode.

Of course, if the person who was betrayed plans to stay in the relationship, couples counseling and counseling for the one who was betrayed are necessary.

When working with clients who have been betrayed due to infidelity, it is important to understand the complexity of loss, mixed with PTSD, combined with humiliation–this situation causes a long period of overwhelm and readjustment. When the client is treated with compassion, the healing can go well.

Sources:

  1. Infidelity statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved August 20, 2012, from http://www.statisticbrain.com/infidelity-statistics
  2. Infidelity. (n.d.) Retrieved August 20, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infidelity

Related articles:
Cheating
Can a Couple Recover From Infidelity?
In-Depth Map for Three of the Eight SUCCESS LOVE NOW Steps

© Copyright 2012 by www.GoodTherapy.org Santa Rosa Bureau - All Rights Reserved.

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Comments
  • isabel August 24th, 2012 at 2:30 PM #1

    while being in the situation is a horrible experience and I wish for none,having been there,is there is something that can help then it is to try to convince yourself that it was NOT your mistake.i have blamed myself for my former boyfriend cheating on me and it didn’t help things.it only made me feel ugly about myself and did nothing to heal me.and oh friends that understand you are an absolute asset at such a time.

  • Tommi August 24th, 2012 at 3:00 PM #2

    When I found out that my husband had cheated on me I was in such shock that it was very hard to accept that he could have done this to me, to our families. After all I felt like I had done for him over the years, for his career, for our marriage, it was the ultimate betrayal. He wanted to stay and work on it but I couldn’t. I couldn’t get over that he had chosen to go to another woman with our issues instead of coming to me. Maybe he thought that he was trying to keep me from his darkest demons but he didn’t realize just how many he would then cause me to have.

  • Kenneth August 24th, 2012 at 11:33 PM #3

    Being betrayed in a relationship can hurt like tiny pieces of glass.I have had to experience this recently and trust me the recovery is not easy!

    I look forward to this webinar and will hopefully learn something to help myself get completely out of this dark period of my life.

  • Paul August 25th, 2012 at 4:29 AM #4

    Men are sometimes betrayed by their loved ones too, so I hope that much of this therapy can be geared toward men who are hurting as well.
    I find that many times research like this is slanted as it looks at the betrayal of infidelity only through the eyes of a female, and while I would think that yes, most of the time it is the men who are running around on them, there are times (hello, Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart) where women are the ones in the role of the betrayer too.
    For men I think that it is sometimes doubly hard to go through this, because while women son’t necessrail mind playing the role of the one who was wronged for men it is so emaculating and they feel they have to hide the shame.
    That’s pretty hard when you need to heal, but feel like you can’t talk to anyone about what you have faced.

  • Dr. Laurie Moore August 25th, 2012 at 8:59 AM #5

    REPLY FROM TEACHER OF THE UPCOMING WEBINAR: I work with men as well as women who have been betrayed. Everyone has been betrayed in some way at some time (though not always by infidelity or partner love). Betrayal is a theme we all go through in some way so the focus is on healing the broken heart. I have a book coming out on this topic in general in a few months.

  • lance August 25th, 2012 at 10:16 PM #6

    healing from betrayal is not an event but rather a process.it takes a lot of work and courage to overcome something that has hurt you so very much and that too from someone you thought was so close to you.it is a betrayal of trust amongst other things and it is never easy to cope with that.it needs constant work and although it is not impossible to overcome,the right settings,places,things and company can make the process a whole lot smoother.

  • Rachel Martins August 25th, 2012 at 11:49 PM #7

    Any form of betrayal be it from a partner a friend or sometimes even someone you trusted at the workplace can be painful.More than the result of the betrayal I think what hurts the most is the fact that you put your trust in this person who did not deserve it.I think this feeling that comes after having been betrayed is a fight with the self more than what the other person did.

    And we all know how difficult that can be.If something from the outside hurts us we can just dismiss or get away from it.But when the origin feels to be from within us it becomes just so much more difficult to cope.

  • Amy August 26th, 2012 at 4:32 AM #8

    My appreciation goes out to Dr. Moore by pointing out that it does not always have to be betrayal by an actual physical relationship that can doom some couples. My husband turned to internet porn and that felt like just as much of a betrayal to me as I think it would have for him to have had an affair with an actual person. In some ways it was worse because I had no idea what I was up against or the extent to which he relied on that porn addiction just to make it through the day. I am still not sure how extensive this damage is, as I an astill reeling from the discovery and I guess he is dealing with his own demons too. It is very sad, as I thought that this would be the person that I would spend the rest of my life with, and he has gone and hurt me so badly that I am not sure that this will be the case anymore.

  • jerry August 26th, 2012 at 11:20 AM #9

    betrayal can be minus the physical aspect too,i have to agree.i have been on the receiving end of this myself and i was cheated on emotionally.i don’t think i have fully recovered from it because i still find that the episode comes in the way of any relationship i try to forge even though it happened years ago…i really want to attend this online seminar but im not sure i will be free on the friday…any chance this will still be available recorded because i will have enough time during the weekend.

  • Dr. Laurie Moore August 26th, 2012 at 5:03 PM #10

    There is a lot to uncover when a betrayal has occurred…both for the one who betrayed and the one who was betrayed. My heart goes out to everyone who is in this situation and suffering. I have seen couples come into deeper union and love then before when choosing to both heal and change after a disrupt of this sort. Of course it is always an individual choice. Porn addiction is now as common as alcoholism. With good help, much can be altered and deeper love can be found for both partners bot for self and one another. S-Anon and SLAA are great resources as is couples and individual counseling..

  • Alison August 27th, 2012 at 4:20 AM #11

    I want to say that I could forgive and forget but knowing myself, I just don’t think that I could.
    How can you ever get past the fact of someone cheating on you?
    Especially when you are married? Breaking that sacrament, that’s not just breaking the promise to me, but to God.

  • Dr. Laurie Moore August 27th, 2012 at 9:57 AM #12

    Thank you for all these valuable and important comments everyone. I want to make sure people know that the webinar is for therapists who are members of GoodTherapy.org. It is designed to train counselors on ways to help people who are healing from betrayal. If you are seeking help to heal from betrayal for yourself, I encourage you to read articles written for people who are wishing to heal from infidelity.~~~
    I wish you peace and success in your healing process.
    Laurie Moore, Webinar Teacher

  • cam g August 27th, 2012 at 4:07 PM #13

    So you have to be a therapist to do the webinar?

  • Tiara August 28th, 2012 at 2:17 PM #14

    I was looking forward to the webinar too but it seems like it is only for therapists,should have paid attention earlier,it is mentioned there ;)

    relationships are something wherein a deep connection just CANNOT happen until and unless you let your defenses down to a certain extent at least.And when you do that the sword of betrayal can hurt you beyond death. It is an unbreakable cycle as I see it. Any work around to this common problem that each one of us faces but not many know how to deal with??

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