The experience of going through infidelity (or any kind of betrayal) is the very definition of trauma. The very upsetting, confusing, surprising, scary event shakes most individuals to their very core and leaves a devestating wound that may take years to heal.
Some may understand that this is a traumatic event, but few understand the breadth or extent of the damage that has been done and how to address it effectively and adequately. Here are a few different circumstances:
- The “participating party” or “betrayer” is remorseful, genuinely sorry and truly repentant of their actions and willing to do anything it takes to restore trust and rebuild their marriage with patience.
- There has been spoken and/or unspoken hurt on the side of the betrayer. The betrayer feels justified in their actions. There may be some genuine remorse or guilt, but there is usually a “but…”
- There may be an effort on the part of the betrayer, however, as the days turn into weeks the betrayed parter still finds it difficult to trust or be close, vulnerable, intimate (in any way) – this frustrates or annoyes the betrayer because “I’m not doing it anymore…” “I ended it weeks ago…” “Why can’t you get over this already?”
- The betrayer feels no remorse, no guilt, feels completely justified and wronged or lonely long before he/she even made the decision or started the extra relationship. This individual may believe the betrayed spouse or partner needs to change first before any progress can be made.
While this is not necessarily an exhaustive list, one thing is true:
Regardless of prior actions, fights, disagreements, etc. the responsibility to make the decision to step out of marriage and dishonor vows/covenant falls solely on the participating partner. 100% of responsibility.
What Does This Trauma Look Like?
- States of emotional outbursts (anger, blame, agitation) to emotional numbing (depression, isolation)
- Hypervigilence – always looking out for “the other shoe” or further betrayal.
- Nightmares or insomnia (fear of having nightmares)
- Intrusive thoughts. Imagination runs wild (much worse if actual details are shared) see previous article.
- Loss of interest in activities, hobbies, etc.
- Can question validity of entire relationship / marriage. (Did I get conned?)
- Can potentially question / turn away from worldview, previous beliefs / values.
To the Betrayer
Please allow these words to sink in. This is a plea for you to pursue holiness and forgiveness. There is absolutely no excuse or reason for any behavior that takes you completely outside of your marriage. You may have one reason, you may have several, but you must take responility for all of your actions.
- You must answer any questions (with some limits) with complete honesty and transparency. See previous article. Trying to “protect” your spouse by withholding certain truths does not help. What they do not know will hurt them.
- You must be forthcoming with information without being asked “the most correct question” (i.e. “Where you with this person when…?” “No.” In reality you were there, but technically not at the specified time in the question – get it?) Your spouse isn’t a detective – be honest, truthful, transparent.
- You must wait your turn. You may have several hurts and complaints – you now, unfortunately, have to wait your turn to be heard. Remember, you need to take 100% of the responsibility.
- You must understand the devastating nature of the offense and the trauma it has caused (see above responses). While a good therapist can conduct a therapy session so that it is the most productive for both, you need to understand that your spouse is hurt and will most likely hurt you intentionally / unintentionally. This is normal.
- You must be patient. Days will turn into weeks and weeks into months. As long as you both are working towards restoration and reconciliation, keep going! You will get there!
- You must repent. To your spouse, to yourself, and to God. I’m not talking about living in shame and guilt. I am talking about humbling yourself in front of your God and your spouse and becoming the man/woman, husband/wife you were designed to be for God, yourself and your spouse.
- You must seek accountability / community. Chances are you know people who you can trust with this information. Whether it is a one on one with a mentor or a class or group. You are not alone and you need support through this time.
To the Betrayed
I touch on the initial response and confrontation in this article. It is so crucial during these initial steps to begin towards reconciliation and healing. The choice to pursue your marriage after betrayal is an admirable decision. While the majority of responsibility falls to the unfaithful party, you too have responsibility and a commitment:
- You must find community / support. This can be an incredibly lonely season and having the support of a pastor, small group, trusted friend or therapist will be so helpful.
- You must pray for your spouse. Pray for hope, pray for wisdom, pray for healing, pray for forgiveness and a forgiving heart.
- You must refrain from asking questions relates to “what” and “why.” Your symptoms of trauma is intensified when you know unnecessary details. “Why” questions will be answered in time.
- Your spouse may not remember every necessary detail or every date – that is OK. Continue to ask questions.
- You must forgive yourself. You did not make this decision. If you can truly take responsibility for shortcomings in your position as a spouse, please do so. We are all called to confession and repentance.
My Prayer for You
If you are currently going through a recent or past betrayal – I am so sorry this has happened or is happening – to both parties. God’s plan for your lives and for your marriage doesn’t look like the marriage you have or had before. It’s so much greater, it’s healthier, it’s more holy, there’s pursued growth and accountability. There is vulnerability, authenticity, and safe and secure intimacy. It is God centered, Christ-like, and stronger than ever. It leaves a legacy worth leaving. All for the glory of God who loves you unconditionally.
There is grief, there is pain, but there is hope. A secure hope. A forever hope.
Take action today. Call 317-572-7411 for help.