Man with hand on woman's shoulder as she struggles with something like betrayal trauma

What is Betrayal Trauma?  How does it impact me?

Betrayal trauma refers to the emotional and psychological distress experienced when an individual’s trust is broken by someone they are close to, typically in the context of a committed relationship. This trauma can occur in various forms, such as infidelity or sexual disloyalty.

In committed relationships, trust forms the foundation for emotional intimacy, security, and the overall well-being of both partners. When one partner engages in sexual disloyalty, such as having an affair or engaging in other forms of intimate encounters outside the relationship, it can result in profound emotional pain and a sense of betrayal for the other partner.

The experience of betrayal trauma can be intense and long-lasting, often causing significant distress and psychological symptoms.

Some common reactions to betrayal trauma include:

1. Emotional upheaval: The betrayed partner may experience a wide range of emotions, including shock, anger, sadness, disbelief, shame, and humiliation. These emotions can be overwhelming and may fluctuate over time.

2. Loss of trust: The breach of trust through sexual disloyalty can lead to a significant loss of trust in the relationship and the partner involved. Rebuilding trust can be a challenging and lengthy process.

3. Impact on self-esteem: The betrayed partner may experience a blow to their self-esteem and self-worth. They may question their attractiveness, desirability, and personal value as a result of their partner’s infidelity.

4. Intrusive thoughts and triggers: Betrayal trauma can result in persistent and intrusive thoughts about the infidelity. Triggers, such as certain locations, objects, or situations, may evoke intense emotional reactions and reminders of the betrayal.

5. Relationship difficulties: The impact of betrayal trauma can strain the relationship significantly. Communication breakdown, decreased intimacy, increased conflict, and difficulty in rebuilding trust are common challenges faced by couples after the revelation of infidelity.

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Emotional Upheaval:  There are various psychological concepts that can help us understand the impact of betrayal trauma on individuals. One such concept is the acute stress response, which is a natural reaction to a traumatic event.

woman showing about 4 difference emotions at the same time, emotional upheaval

Betrayal trauma can trigger a cascade of intense emotions, similar to a traumatic experience, leading to emotional upheaval. These emotions can overwhelm the betrayed partner and disrupt their daily functioning.

Another relevant concept is attachment theory, which explores the dynamics of emotional bonds between individuals.

Betrayal trauma can shatter the secure attachment that exists within a committed relationship, leading to feelings of abandonment, insecurity, and betrayal. The betrayed partner may experience a deep sense of loss, as the person they trusted and relied upon has violated their trust.

There are several Eternal Principles that address the impact of betrayal and the importance of trust within committed relationships. 

1. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14): Eternal Principles emphasize the sacredness of marriage and fidelity within committed relationships. Adultery, which includes sexual disloyalty, is considered a violation of the commandments and can have severe consequences on individuals and families.

2. “Trust is earned through demonstrated behavior. It cannot be demanded as a right” (Elder David A. Bednar): Trust is a vital component of any relationship, and it takes time, consistent actions, and open communication to rebuild trust once it has been broken.

3. “Repentance and forgiveness are God’s gifts to us” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland): Repentance and forgiveness are essential principles. While the process of healing from betrayal trauma may be challenging, both the betrayer and the betrayed can seek forgiveness, healing, and redemption through sincere repentance and the application of Christ’s Atonement.

4. “Healing comes in the Lord’s time, not ours” (Elder Richard G. Scott): Healing from betrayal trauma is a process that requires time, patience, and reliance on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The journey towards healing may be different for each individual and couple.

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Loss of trust: is a significant consequence of betrayal trauma. It can have profound effects on the individual’s emotional well-being and the dynamics of the relationship. In the field of psychology, several concepts help to understand the impact of trust and its loss in the context of betrayal trauma:

1. Attachment theory: Attachment theory suggests that humans have an innate need to form secure emotional bonds with significant others. When trust is broken in a committed relationship, it can disrupt the attachment bond and lead to feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety.

2. Cognitive dissonance: Cognitive dissonance refers to the psychological discomfort that arises when there is a mismatch between one’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. In the case of betrayal trauma, the betrayed partner may experience cognitive dissonance as they struggle to reconcile the image they held of their partner with the knowledge of their infidelity.

3. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Betrayal trauma can lead to symptoms resembling those seen in PTSD, such as intrusive thoughts, hypervigilance, flashbacks, and emotional reactivity. The traumatic experience of sexual disloyalty can deeply affect the betrayed partner’s sense of safety and security.

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When exploring Eternal Principles, we find that the concept of trust and fidelity in committed relationships is highly emphasized.

Here are a couple of relevant quotes:

1. “Infidelity is the breaking of trust that occurs when you keep intimate, meaningful secrets from your spouse.” – Sheri L. Dew, an LDS author and speaker, in her book “The Power of Everyday Missionaries.” This quote emphasizes the importance of trust and the damaging nature of keeping secrets, particularly in the context of infidelity.

2. “Marriage is meant to be a beautiful and fulfilling union between husband and wife, a relationship that allows both partners to grow and progress together.” – Elder Robert D. Hales, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the LDS Church. This quote highlights the ideal of marriage as a nurturing and supportive partnership, which can be profoundly affected by the breach of trust caused by sexual disloyalty.

dictionary definition of self-esteem

Impact on Self-esteem: Psychologically, betrayal trauma can profoundly impact an individual’s self-esteem and self-worth. Here are a few key concepts that help explain this impact:

1. Attachment theory: Attachment theory suggests that our early experiences with caregivers shape our ability to form secure attachments in relationships. When a partner engages in sexual disloyalty, it can shake the foundation of secure attachment, leading to feelings of rejection and unworthiness.

2. Cognitive distortions: Betrayal trauma can trigger negative thoughts and cognitive distortions about oneself, such as feeling unlovable, undesirable, or inadequate. These distorted beliefs can contribute to a significant blow to one’s self-esteem.  This becomes magnified when Satan adds his torments.

3. Shame and guilt: The experience of betrayal can be accompanied by intense feelings of shame and guilt. Shame involves a belief that one is fundamentally flawed or unworthy, while guilt arises from a sense of responsibility for the betrayal. Both shame and guilt can deeply impact self-esteem.

In the context of Eternal Principles, teachings about self-worth and healing can provide additional insights.

Here are a couple of relevant quotes:

1. “Remember, you are spirit daughters of the most majestic Being in the universe. He loved you before the world was formed. You have divine attributes because you are a daughter of God. You are of infinite worth” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf). This quote emphasizes the inherent worth and value individuals have as children of God, which can be a source of strength and healing during times of betrayal trauma.

2. “I testify that the Atonement of Jesus Christ can heal your heart; it can heal your relationships; it can heal your soul” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf). This quote highlights the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which LDS doctrine teaches can bring comfort, forgiveness, and the opportunity for growth and renewal in the face of betrayal.

Certainly! Let’s delve deeper into point #4 and explore it further by incorporating relevant concepts from the field of psychology and adding relevant quotes from LDS (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) doctrine.

Intrusive Thoughts and Triggers: Betrayal trauma can lead to the experience of intrusive thoughts and triggers, which are powerful reminders of the infidelity. These thoughts and triggers can bring back intense emotions and memories associated with the betrayal. In the field of psychology, this phenomenon is often understood through the lens of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a psychological condition that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Intrusive thoughts are a hallmark symptom of PTSD, characterized by recurrent and distressing memories, images, or thoughts that intrude into the individual’s awareness. These intrusive thoughts can be triggered by various cues in the environment, such as specific words, sounds, or places associated with the traumatic event.

In the context of betrayal trauma, the individual may experience intrusive thoughts related to the infidelity, replaying the painful events or imagining scenarios associated with the betrayal. Triggers can be external, such as encountering the person or place where the infidelity occurred, or internal, such as experiencing certain emotions or thoughts that remind them of the betrayal. Eternal Principles tell us that intrusive thoughts and triggers that are not good are from Satan, “that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually” Moroni 7:12.

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Eternal Principles tell us that the concept of healing and finding peace in the face of betrayal trauma can be found.

This can be a long and pain filled journey, not unlike what one might experience if they were trying to recover in a hospital after being hit by a truck while out jogging.

1. “Forgiveness does not require us to forget the betrayal or the harm. It does not justify or condone inappropriate behavior. But it does require us to let go of our pain, to stop dwelling on the past, and to move forward with faith, hope, and love.” (Elder Kevin W. Pearson)

This quote emphasizes the importance of forgiveness as a part of the healing process. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting the betrayal but rather letting go of the pain and allowing oneself to move forward with faith, hope, and love.

2. “Healing comes when we have faith in the Savior, repent of all that we can, and ask for His help.” (Elder Neil L. Andersen)

This quote highlights the role of faith, repentance, and seeking help from the Savior in the process of healing. It suggests that healing from betrayal trauma can be facilitated through a combination of personal efforts, reliance on Jesus Christ, and seeking divine assistance.

couple fighting

Relationship difficulties: Betrayal trauma can significantly strain a relationship, leading to various challenges that couples may face.

Here are some key aspects to consider:

a) Communication breakdown: Trust is a fundamental element of effective communication within a relationship. When trust is shattered due to infidelity, it can be challenging for the betrayed partner to engage in open and honest communication. Therapy can help couples develop new communication strategies and rebuild trust to foster healthier dialogue.

b) Decreased intimacy: Sexual disloyalty can cause a decline in emotional and physical intimacy between partners. The betrayed partner may experience a loss of desire, increased emotional distance, or difficulty in being vulnerable again. Rebuilding intimacy requires patience, understanding, and addressing both emotional and physical needs.

c) Increased conflict: The revelation of infidelity often leads to heightened conflict and arguments. The betrayed partner may express anger, resentment, or a need for reassurance, while the unfaithful partner may feel guilt, defensiveness, or a desire to avoid confrontation. Couples therapy can assist in navigating these conflicts constructively and finding ways to rebuild trust.

Drawing from psychological perspectives, several concepts can help understand and address the impact of betrayal trauma:

a) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Betrayal trauma can result in symptoms similar to PTSD, such as intrusive thoughts, nightmares, hyperarousal, and emotional numbing. Understanding the potential psychological impact and seeking professional help, such as trauma-focused therapy, can aid in the healing process.

b) Attachment theory: Betrayal trauma can disrupt the attachment bond between partners. Anxious attachment styles may become more pronounced, with the betrayed partner displaying heightened insecurity and seeking constant reassurance. Avoidant attachment styles may intensify, leading the unfaithful partner to distance themselves emotionally. Working on developing secure attachment patterns through therapy can be beneficial.

Eternal Principles offer perspectives on trust, forgiveness, and healing that can be relevant in the context of betrayal trauma:

a) Trust and forgiveness: “Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf). Eternal Principles emphasize the importance of forgiveness in healing relationships. Rebuilding trust takes time, but cultivating forgiveness and demonstrating repentance can facilitate the healing process.

b) Seeking divine assistance: “We are not alone in our challenges” (Thomas S. Monson). Eternal Principles encourage individuals to seek divine guidance and support when facing difficult circumstances. Prayer, faith, and seeking guidance from spiritual leaders can provide strength and solace during the healing process.


It’s important to note that healing from betrayal trauma is a complex and individual process.

Seeking support from a qualified therapist or coach who specializes in relationship issues or trauma can be beneficial.

Therapy can provide a safe space for processing emotions, exploring the impact of the betrayal, and working towards healing, whether individually or as a couple. Additionally, open and honest communication, patience, and a willingness to address the underlying issues that contributed to the betrayal are crucial for rebuilding trust and repairing the relationship.

Remember, this is a general overview, and the specific experiences and responses to betrayal trauma can vary from person to person.

If you are struggling with betrayal trauma, please visit Healing with WORTH and get the help you need!

The WORTH program information for women

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