While you and your spouse would never dream being unfaithful, subtler types of betrayal do exist, many of which do damage in both the short and long term.
Betrayal is almost always a core emotional component of marital disputes. Let’s talk about what betrayal (not physical infidelity) in a marriage can look and feel like to the one who feels betrayed. Here are just a few phrases* from women and men who have felt betrayed by their spouses.
I always have vague sense that something is wrong, that my spouse and I have a disconnect.
It’s like I feel humiliated when my spouse teases or speaks about me in front of others or even when we’re alone. I know he’s joking, and it’s not really abusive, but it still feels like I can’t trust him.
I feel ridiculed. I feel shamed.
You know, anxiety or fear when your spouse gets together with certain friends. I get the sense that this particular group of her girl friends look down on me, it’s like one in particular is always smirking.
I have to try and ignore or suppress feelings concerning certain people, specifically those who interact with my husband in a particular way. There is one colleague who is border-line flirtatious and acts like she knows something I don’t. I have no doubt my husband is faithful, but is he betraying me emotionally? Do they laugh together about me?
It’s a hard-to-describe “change” that comes his personality when he is around this group. Around them, he “pulls back” from me. Like he’s a co-worker not my husband.
It’s a feeling you get, that she doesn’t respect or admire you, even if she loves you. It took me a long time to figure out that she often puts me down, but she does it really subtly.
Feeling uncomfortable or anxious when she emails or uses social media with some friends. I don’t feel confident she is talking about topics that are not related to our marriage, and I hate feeling paranoid.
I feel suspicious only around a certain situation or person, but I’m not suspicious around others. Since it is a close friend and these two get together and hang out occasionally away from their husbands, I have no cause for jealousy (I’ve never been the jealous type), but so why do I feel jealous?
Is she using a friend as a therapist? Does she tell her every argument or bumpy patch she goes through? I don’t feel like this with her other friends.
If we go out to dinner, the women in our group make jokes about their husbands: Bob’s always doing this. He won’t eat that because he’s like a five year old. You know, they are subtle put downs, meant to be funny, but they feel like masked aggression. My wife did this a few times with this group and when I told her it hurt my feelings, she said, “Are you kidding me?” I’ve never joked about her that way.
*Some of these phrases have been shortened, or paraphrased.
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Last reviewed: 30 Jan 2014