You have just discovered your husband’s pornography addiction or the other woman. Your safe world or life as you know it has shattered/come crashing down. We want to provide you with some essential truths and tips/strategies for coping with this sudden devastation and also talk about what you can expect of yourself in the moments and days immediately following betrayal.
Today I’m happy to introduce you to Sharon Snooks. Sharon is an Associate Therapist here at OnlyYouForever. She is a Registered Social Service Worker in Ontario Canada and Sharon has a real passion for working with clients who are recovering from trauma.
Of course, betrayal is one form of trauma and so I will often refer betrayed wives to Sharon and her work with them has been very much appreciated. So today Sharon is going to sharing five things betrayed wives need to know when they are confronted with the very real, very raw emotions and the profound impact of betrayal.
Let’s jump in here by just setting the stage a little. We’re speaking mainly to wives, although some of this could be translated to betrayed husbands too, and to wives who really have just discovered their husband’s betrayal and are staggering under the shock and really feeling like their world has been shattered. Maybe just give us a quick overview of what you’re going to cover and then let’s dive in!
We’re going to look at what you can expect from yourself in the immediate aftermath of this discovery, what is normal including trauma reactions and first steps in your healing journey including creating safety – a safe place and setting boundaries and basic self-care.
Betrayal is a deeply traumatic experience: your life is going along as normal and then suddenly there’s a big discovery which changes everything. This discovery becomes a turning point: you think about your life before the event, and how things are different afterward. With infidelity, your view of your life, and of who your husband is has to totally change. This change becomes a real threat to your sense of safety and you begin to feel a sense of hopelessness.
My first message to the betrayed wife – it is not your fault! You could not have prevented this – husband is responsible for his behaviour. It’s normal to feel dumb – how could I have missed this? Some wives even start to feel like they’re going crazy due to the overwhelming shock of the discovery. On top of that many people will start to look back on their life in the run-up to the discovery, and interpret things through this new filter of “my husband betrayed me”, which totally changes how they see things. You start to question everything you thought you knew about your life.
It’s normal to trust your spouse. It isn’t normal, in a healthy marriage, to scrutinize everything your spouse does as if they might have an affair. So the way you acted up until the discovery was perfectly normal. You were living a normal life, and are now in abnormal circumstances. You couldn’t have seen it coming.
Another thing it’s really helpful to look at is trauma symptoms. Knowing what these are, and what to expect, can help validate this experience. Trauma has physical, emotional, behavioral, and even spiritual effects. Physically it can stop you sleeping, and create feelings of nausea. Emotionally, it can either create extreme feelings of anger or lead to a sense of numbness where you don’t really feel anything. Grief is also a factor: wives grieve for the marriage and husband they thought they had. Worry is also a huge issue as now you start to wonder how your life is going to look now.
On the behavior side, many women withdraw from their social circle due to the embarrassment and shame around an affair. Mentally you often end up feeling flooded and drained, just being overloaded by every thought in your head. Spiritually, some wives struggle with feeling betrayed by God: if you believe you married the right person, who God wanted you to marry, how did this happen?
In the midst of all this, I’d encourage betrayed spouses to keep trusting themselves- trust your gut instinct and learn to rely on your instinct to spot things like this in the future. You may come through this trauma wiser and better able to tell if your spouse is really on the road to recovery or if they’re at risk of repeating their betrayal.
Let’s turn to look at what the first steps in the healing journey will look like. The first thing you need to find is a sense of safety and security. Maybe you used to find this through your husband, but now that’s been taken away. Even your trust in God to provide safety can be challenged.
Safety is emotional and physical. Start by looking at what makes you feel safe? Simple practical things like sleeping alone, or having a safe space, can create a feeling of safety and a place you can retreat to. Safe people are a great thing to look out for- who helps you feel safe. Looking at these practical steps helps you to feel more in control and gives you some steps you can take to start feeling safer.
Another really important thing to look at is self- care. This can sound selfish but in the beginning days after a betrayal its so important to look after yourself. This can be as basic as eating and sleeping, exercise, doing something for you, and the importance of routine – for you and especially if you have children. It’s so easy to stop taking care of yourself in these traumatic situations, and this only serves to make everything feel worse. So work on maintaining self-care and a feeling of normalcy for you and the children. Be gentle with yourself- you might not be able to do everything you want to, but there’s always something.
During the initial time after a betrayal, it’s ok to almost put the emotions and thoughts surrounding it “in a box on the shelf” and do whatever you need to do to get through the day. You can deal with all of that later when you choose to. Everything will be moment by moment, so just focus on dealing with each step, and try not to think too far ahead. Just focus on being well in the moment.
Finally, remember: people do get through this. There is healing. There is hope.
If you want to work with Sharon or learn more about her professional background, check out her bio page on our website. She does have some availability at the moment so if you’d been through betrayal or would like to work with Sharon on other issues feel free to reach out to her.