Betrayal trauma can be one of the most devastating and challenging experiences one can face. Dr. Sheri Keffer defines betrayal trauma as the act of being unfaithful to a spouse or significant other when there has been a commitment to exclusive fidelity. Dr. Keffer further comments in her book, Intimate Deception*, “Emotional traumas happen under the skin and don’t show up like flesh wounds caused by a gunshot or stabbing.”
Each time I hear a woman try to gloss over the “under the skin” trauma, I grieve. Until I learned to put that pain into words, I couldn’t get past the fight, flight, or freeze stage. My body remained in a continual heightened state. Thankfully, I received effective counseling and coaching to empower me to face the pain.
There is hope for healing and the courage to overcome.
Let’s explore 9 proactive steps you can take to discover hope, courage, and healing when dealing with betrayal trauma.
1. Acknowledge the Pain
The first step towards recovery is to acknowledge the pain and trauma caused by betrayal. Dr. Keffer’s book, along with Dr. Dan Allender’s book, The Wounded Heart*, gave me permission to accept and acknowledge the pain I felt upon hearing about my husband’s porn struggles.
Through reading and processing the information in these books, I found validation for these wild feelings and emotions. Through counseling, I finally gave myself permission to grieve. Betrayal can leave you feeling broken, hurt, and confused, but acknowledging these emotions is a crucial part of the healing process.
2. Seek Support
Most of us need a neutral third party to help us process a traumatic experience. We aren’t born with the innate ability to recognize the trauma, process the emotions quickly, and move forward without any aftereffects. Therefore, reaching out for support is essential in navigating the healing journey.
Surround yourself with a trusted network of friends, family, and professionals who can provide a safe and understanding space to share your thoughts and emotions. Support groups and online communities can also be invaluable because these communities connect you with others who have gone through similar experiences.
3. Educate Yourself
As you move from the initial shock into more healing, understanding the dynamics of betrayal trauma can be empowering. Educate yourself about the nature of betrayal, the impact it has on individuals and relationships, and the available resources for healing.
Here are some helpful books besides the two previously mentioned: Healing the Soul of a Woman*, 7 Ways to Choose Healing*, Beyond Messy Relationships*, Uninvited*, Waymaker*, and Cherish*. Listen to podcasts such as Java with Juli. These affiliate resources can provide valuable insights and strategies to navigate through the recovery process.
4. Prioritize Self-Care
In the midst of trauma, self-care often takes a backseat. However, taking care of yourself is vital for healing, and it was something I didn’t do well. God created us to be holistic in our lives. Engage in activities that bring you joy, practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques, prioritize healthy eating and exercise, and get enough rest. Take time for you, whatever that looks like.
A friend of mine related what happened after receiving some difficult news. She realized she needed some time alone to process the news and subsequent emotions. Brilliantly, she conveyed the struggle to her husband and asked for a couple of days at a hotel nearby where she focused on rest, sleep, nutritious food, journaling, and prayer. She didn’t have all the answers at the end of those few days, but she felt emotionally prepared to face the difficulty and return to her life. Healthy self-care acts as a holistic foundation for rebuilding your emotional and physical well-being.
5. Establish Boundaries
Often, those of us dealing with betrayal trauma, don’t know how to establish healthy, loving boundaries. Dr. Cloud and Townsend’s books about boundaries are great resources for understanding relational boundaries. The process of identifying your boundaries takes time. Be patient as you learn more about this area. Then, establish some simple boundaries for yourself.
The next step often feels daunting, too. Clearly communicate your needs and expectations with your loved ones related to the boundaries you’ve established. This step is crucial for creating a safe and secure environment that supports your healing journey.
6. Practice Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a complex and personal process that can lead to profound healing. It involves releasing resentment and choosing to let go of the pain caused by betrayal. Forgiveness does not mean condoning the actions; it is an act of freeing yourself from the burden of anger and resentment, allowing space for healing and growth.
And you may need to forgive the betrayal more than once. I had to make the choice to forgive my husband daily and sometimes more often than that. As I worked through the steps to heal the pain, issues arose that created new resentment. Or maybe it was old resentment coming to the surface. I’m not sure. I simply know I had to make the choice again to forgive before I could heal this next layer.
7. Cultivate Resilience
Building resilience is an essential aspect of recovering from betrayal trauma. Resilience enables you to bounce back from adversity, grow stronger, and rebuild your life. Focus on developing coping mechanisms, such as practicing gratitude, maintaining a positive mindset, and embracing personal growth opportunities. You probably won’t recognize this step until you look back on your healing process. If you’re working with a counselor or coach, they will most likely see it in you before you do. Building resilience will enable you to face future challenges with confidence.
8. Embrace Continued Growth
Healing from betrayal trauma is an ongoing process that requires patience and time. Embrace opportunities for continued growth and self-discovery. I remember attending a Healing Prayer workshop a few months after our marriage crisis. I felt out of place, nervous, and like I was wasting my time. But, as I tried to practice the techniques, God met me and allowed me to revisit a painful memory to find healing. It wasn’t something big, but it taught me to learn and grow through these kinds of opportunities.
Each step taken towards healing brings you closer to a better version of yourself.
9. Choose Hope
Hope is essential for your healing journey from betrayal trauma. I still cling to the words “It doesn’t have to be fatal” when I look at my recovery journey. And I love to give that hope to others as well.
Our world focuses on the negative, the impossible. But God tells us he does something new for us even when things look the most bleak. Hold onto this belief. Surround yourself with truth-telling positive people, engage in activities that inspire and uplift you, and remind yourself that you are significant. This kind of hope isn’t wishful thinking. It is hope based on the unchanging, all-powerful God of the universe.
Have you experienced betrayal trauma? Where are you in your recovery process? I’m thankful for the counselors and coaches who walked this recovery path alongside me. They encouraged me every step of the way. If you feel alone and hopeless, please reach out. I understand those feelings, but I want you to know you can experience a future filled with love, joy, and true healing. Let’s talk.
*This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.