As Teri and Tamara have discussed so far this week, trauma is not necessarily something that happens that creates Post Traumatic Stress, but is often times things that may seem small that happen to us when we are growing up or events that occur as adults. As Teri said, a trauma reaction is when the victim transfers the abuse experience to that moment and feels like they are transported in a time machine back to the traumatizing event. Today I want to discuss with you the traumatizing affects created from an affair.
When most people think of affairs, they do not relate it to trauma- unless they have been the one cheated on in an affair! This person understands all too well how traumatic this is and what trauma reactions are triggered from it.
What makes an affair traumatic is three-fold:
Breaking trust: When a spouse believes that their marriage vows are sacred and they can believe their partner will be with them and stay with them no matter what (that's what our vows say, correct? In sickness and in health?), it creates a bond of trust that is like no other relationship. When that is broken by infidelity, the person who is cheated on can feel like their whole world is shattering. At that moment when they find out, everything they once believed is no longer what they believed. This creates a trauma response.
Rejection: The partner immediately feels rejected. What was wrong with me? What do I not have that this other person gives them? They usually personalize it rather than see it as a symptom of the other person or the relationship itself. This rejection can again trigger a trauma reaction down the road.
Abandonment: In a relationship, besides physically leaving, infidelity is the ultimate form of abandonment. The partner is leaving the relationship, usually emotionally and physically, to bond with another person. The cheated on partner feels completely abandoned and alone. This can trigger a trauma response as well.
What would a trauma response look like with infidelity?
Some examples would be if you have been cheated on and your partner is texting someone, you may initially feel that panic or sick feeling in your stomach. They could actually be texting a friend or family member but it still creates that feeling to you. That is a trauma response. When everything came out with Tiger Woods several years ago, we counseled a lot of people who were having trauma responses, literally reliving how they felt when they found out their partner was cheating. A certain song could trigger a trauma response. Even a partner getting dressed up for work or wearing a new cologne could make a partner wonder if something is going on and give them that old feeling of panic. These are all responses that are traced back to the trauma of finding out and being afraid of being rejected and abandoned all over again.
This is a VERY difficult way to live. That is why is is so important to get professional help when you are going thru infidelity recovery. You can learn to tame the trauma responses and come back to a more healthy reality. But it takes help to do it.
Thank you for reading this week. Tomorrow Joleen will finish out our blog and give you more resources. Have a great week!
*Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC, LCAC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling. We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville.