Most people who experience romantic or sexual infidelity by their spouse are not most traumatized by the extramarital sex itself. The deepest hurt or pain stems from the fact that their committed partner has crushed their belief and trust in them, their closest partner. For the healthy, primary partner that’s attached, the experience can be unbelievably traumatic. Often, the betrayed spouse is left with a sense of profound, unplanned betrayal.
A 2006 study of women showed that those who had suddenly and unexpectedly learned about a loved one’s unfaithfulness showed acute stress symptoms similar to PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. It has only been recently discovered just how important this area of study is because of the long term, traumatic effects that emotionally challenge the betrayed partner.
The trauma that unfolds for the betrayed spouse usually reveals itself in one of these ways:
- Excessive emotional outbursts and frequent mood swings: recurring tears and rapid shifts from rage, hurt, sadness to hopeful.
- Hypervigilence that may manifest in “detective” type behaviors in order to self-protect such as checking bills, computer files, browser histories, phone apps, etc.
- An attempt to combine several unrelated events to try to predict future betrayals.
- Being sensitive to behaviors that are out of the ordinary such as: spouse returns later than expected, shuts off computer rapidly when you are around, stares too long at another attractive person, etc.
- Obsession with the trauma: tough to focus, is easily distracted or depressed, etc.
With a betrayed spouse, their reactiveness is intensified by the simple fact that they have been betrayed by the one person they counted on most. This only adds more insult to their injury because it wasn’t just anyone who hurt them but the one they usually can count on at all times.