The Connection Between Betrayal, and Trauma

You could feel betrayal trauma if a parent or romantic interest betrays your trust. Your relationships with others, mental well-being, and sense of self-worth may all be impacted by this trauma, but assistance can help you recover.

Emotional pain can result from any betrayal. However, if someone you count on to respect your needs and work to protect your wellbeing betrays your trust, you might feel long-lasting trauma.

Betrayal trauma is usually used to describe the ongoing suffering and turmoil felt after:

  • Parental or other childhood carer betrayal
  • A romantic partner’s treachery

When you depend on someone for both your fundamental needs and for your affection and protection, you might put up with a betrayal in order to keep yourself safe.

Additionally, you can come to accept the likelihood of betrayals in the future, which can harm your sense of self-worth, emotional stability, and capacity for attachment.


In 1991, Jennifer Freyd, a psychologist, developed the idea of betrayal trauma. She identified it as a special trauma that happens in critical social interactions where the betrayed person has to keep a relationship with the betrayer for support or protection.

Betrayal trauma theory implies injury within attachment connections, like relationships between a parent and child or between romantic partners, can produce enduring trauma.

When someone betrays them, people frequently react by severing their relationship with that person. But this response might not be practical if you rely on someone to meet certain needs.

Children, for instance, rely on their parents to supply their emotional requirements in addition to their demands for food, housing, and safety.

Similar to this, someone who doesn’t have access to social or financial resources outside of their relationship can worry that admitting the betrayal and ending the relationship might endanger their safety.

The betrayed individual may try to forget the experience out of fear of the repercussions of acknowledging the betrayal. As a result, especially if the betrayal occurs when they are young, they could not completely understand it or recall it accurately.


Betrayed children were the focus of betrayal trauma research at first, but other types of relationships can also experience this form of pain. Let’s go back to the fundamentals of attachment theory since, after all, attachment occurs before betrayal. The foundation for later relationships is laid in your early relationships as a child. When these ties are solid and stable, they help children form stable attachments as adults. On the other side, fragile or difficult relationships sometimes result from insecure bonding.

A parent who brings a kid into the world has a duty to look after and safeguard that child. Parent and kid have an unwritten understanding regarding this duty. The child expects the parent to put their needs first, and they normally have complete faith in them until the parent disappoints them.

It’s possible that you can live without your partner in a love relationship. However, you undoubtedly rely on them for affection, comfort, and company.

Additionally, the agreements that define these relationships serve as their foundation. For instance, partners in a monogamous relationship typically have an understanding of what constitutes cheating and agree to trust one another not to do it. The terms of that agreement are betrayed by a cheating partner.


The impact of betrayal trauma on one’s physical and mental health can vary based on the sort of trauma experienced. Remember that not everyone reacts to trauma in the same way.

1. Traumatised childhood: Betrayed victims may have symptoms soon after the incident and even years afterwards. Key indicators are:

  • difficulty understanding, expressing, or controlling emotions
  • anxiety, despair, and other signs of mental illness
  • nightmares
  • physical discomfort or abdominal pain panic attacks
  • suicide-related difficulty challenges with connection and trust
  • eating problems
  • usage of drugs

In order to prevent memories of the abuse, children who have experienced betrayal may also dissociate or disconnect from reality.

If your parent doesn’t shield you, this betrayal may be so profoundly at odds with what you anticipate that you end up blocking it in order to preserve the bond. You can remain in a relationship you feel you can’t leave by blocking out the betrayal and your dread of further betrayals.

Your capacity to “forget” turns into a coping strategy. However, dissociation can also have an impact on your memories and sense of self, even though it may help you deal with the trauma.

2. Sexual assault trauma:

Infidelity is the typical kind of betrayal in romantic relationships, but other kinds of betrayal, such financial betrayal, can also cause suffering. When infidelity is discovered, frequently:

  • a diminished sense of self-worth and self-esteem
  • resentment guilt difficulty regulating feelings
  • unwanted ideas about specifics of the affair
  • losing faith in other people
  • suspicion and heightened alertness
  • depression, anxiety, and other signs of mental illness
  • physical signs, such as sleeplessness, soreness, and abdominal discomfort

Relationships between people can sometimes result in betrayal blindness. Even if you don’t necessarily need on your partner to survive, there may be a variety of factors, such as children, a lack of other options, or the lack of a source of independent income, that prevent you from leaving. Relationships also help people meet crucial requirements for social connection and belonging, and when those needs are betrayed, it can be difficult to know how to meet them in the future. To protect your relationship and your mental health, you might decide (often unknowingly) to dismiss or overlook evidence as opposed to remaining vigilant for indicators of infidelity.


When someone you rely on for assistance betrays your trust, it can cause trauma. It could happen because of:

  • abuse that is physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual
  • ignore, manipulate, and commit adultery
  • dishonesty, such as with regard to money issues, debt, or other covert actions

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms can also be brought on by trauma brought on by betrayal.


After being betrayed in a love relationship, you could continue to struggle with self-doubt and concerns of trust. Even if you decide to give your partner another chance, building trust may take months or even years to accomplish.

Your memories may ultimately reappear if you dissociated from or blocked out the trauma of your childhood. This is particularly true if something similar happens to set them off again. There might not be a way to block them once more. This won’t aid in your recovery, even if you are able to push your memories back out of your mind.

These techniques can assist you in taking the first steps towards recovery, even though everyone’s path may not look the same.

1. Accept instead of avoiding:

You must frequently first come to grips with what happened in order to heal. No matter how hard you try to forget what happened, you can find yourself revisiting those memories when you’re among friends, taking care of your kids, or taking the commute to work.

A trauma like adultery may make leaning into it too painful to even consider. But once you acknowledge it, you can start looking into the causes, which might help the healing process. You can start accepting underlying relationship concerns, including a lack of intimacy or communication, and look into solutions rather than being caught in a never-ending loop of self-doubt and self-criticism.

2. Practise embracing challenging feelings:

After a betrayal, unpleasant feelings may surface. You could feel: embarrassed, indignant, or seeking retribution, unwell, or in mourning

Of course, you can try to escape this discomfort by trying to ignore or block what occurred. Although suppressing or masking uncomfortable emotions may seem safe and easy, doing so can make it harder to control them. You can deal with certain emotions more well if you give them names, such as wrath, regret, or grief.

Sitting with your emotions can be easier and less terrifying if you can identify them. A greater understanding of your emotions can then guide you in developing effective coping mechanisms.

3. Obtain assistance from others:

It’s not always simple to talk openly about betrayal. You might not want to discuss it. A person who has violated your confidence may also make it difficult for you to confide in others. However, humans require emotional support, particularly when they are under pressure. Although they may not need to be aware of every detail, your loved ones can still provide distractions when necessary and company when you don’t want to be by yourself. It’s acceptable to ask your pals for advice and to communicate your feelings in a respectful manner. You might want to tread lightly when bringing up a partner’s infidelity with shared friends. You may want to reserve the specifics of the matter for your most trusted friends because gossip can make a terrible situation even worse.

4. Think about what you need:

Most people take some time to decide whether to leave the relationship or try to mend the harm when a partner cheats. You shouldn’t feel compelled to make a decision on this right now. You can get assistance and direction from a relationship therapist as you decide whether you think it’s possible to regain trust.

As you start to come to terms with the trauma’s initial shock, pay close attention to your needs:

  • Try aromatherapy, a warm bath, or calming music to relax and improve your sleep instead of lying awake and going through upsetting thoughts.
  • When you’re feeling queasy or have no appetite, instead of skipping meals, have a snack and stay hydrated.
  • Favourite films and TV shows might offer solace and peace, but try to incorporate some other pastimes as well. Yoga, exercise, reading, and gardening are all beneficial for elevating mood.


It might be difficult to deal with trauma on your own. The healing process can be greatly influenced by professional support. Before it results in protracted anguish, you can start to acknowledge and deal with a betrayal in counselling.

The long-lasting impacts of childhood trauma can also be explored with the aid of therapists skilled in working with survivors of abuse and neglect. A therapist can assist you in identifying the root causes of insecure attachment and in exploring techniques for creating more secure connections if you have attachment issues, for instance.

When seeking to repair a relationship after infidelity, the majority of mental health professionals advise some kind of couples counselling.

However, working alone with a therapist is also essential to:

  • Examine any self-blame feelings.
  • Attempt to rehabilitate your self-esteem.
  • Discover constructive coping mechanisms for challenging emotions.


When someone you love and trust does something that threatens the foundation of your relationship, it can be quite painful.
However, you might even recover stronger if you learn how to develop healthy connections and rebuild your sense of self. Are you prepared to start moving? On the road, a therapist can provide direction.





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