Relational trauma (also referred to as betrayal trauma and attachment trauma) occurs within the context of an intimate relationship where there is an expectation of safety. It is defined as a violation of trust and is also described by mental health professionals as an attachment injury, which occurs when one partner violates the expectation that the other will offer comfort and caring in times of danger or distress.
It makes sense then that sex addiction and infidelity is experienced as an “attachment injury” and creates a profound rupture to the couple-ship. Emotional responses to infidelity mirror those of other traumatic events including shock, repression, denial, intense mood fluctuation, depression, anxiety, and lowered self-esteem. Behaviorally, individuals who have been betrayed demonstrate the need to question the betrayer repeatedly and experience hyper-vigilance, intrusive thoughts about the infidelity and, often, obsessive thoughts of acts of revenge or punishment.
Because trust is the foundation for a healthy relationship, broken trust is the most critical injury for couples recovering from betrayal trauma. Therefore, the primary goal of therapy is to heal relational trauma by restoring trust and intimacy. To neglect relational trauma even in the early stages of treatment is to create further dysregulation and crisis for the couple in later stages of recovery.
Individuals experience excruciating pain when their relationships are in turmoil. Often, relational ruptures result in feelings of hopelessness and despair. However, with professional guidance, skills, resources and tools, the majority of relationships have the capacity to heal.
Read Great Betrayals here.