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Understanding Relationship, Sexual, and Intimate Betrayal as Trauma (PTSD)

For most people affected by serial sexual or romantic infidelity of a spouse, it’s not so much the extramarital sex or affair itself that causes the deepest pain. What hurts committed partners the most is that their trust and belief in the person closest to them has been shattered. For a healthy, attached, primary partner, the experience of profound and/or unexpected betrayal can be incredibly traumatic. One 2006 study of women who had unexpectedly learned of a loved one’s infidelity reported such women experience acute stress symptoms similar to and characteristic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sadly, it’s only in the past few years that the aftermath of intimate partner and marital betrayal has been considered a legitimate area of study. Today, family counselors and psychotherapists are slowly gaining insight into the traumatic, long-term emotional effects of betrayal of a closely attached partner. As part of this professional growth, those specialists who deal day-in and day-out with marital infidelity and relationship betrayal have become much more open to spotting and treating the oftentimes fragile, rollercoaster emotional state of cheated-on spouses – both male and female.

61 Comments to
Understanding Relationship, Sexual, and Intimate Betrayal as Trauma (PTSD)

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  1. This is a very interesting article on betrayal as a form of trauma. I believe it is critical to think of betrayal in these terms so as to help victims make sense of their own behaviors and symptoms. Please see my article “Understanding Betrayal Trauma in the Wake of the Jian Gomeshi Story” for more information on this important topic and an explanation of how people who have been betrayed experience emotional triggers that cause them to re-experience the feelings and sensations associated with having been betrayed.

  2. Finding this article is something I am thankful for. I hope to reference it when I start therapy. In my situation he cheated on and off w the same home wrecker. Abandoning me for her. Her for me. Pretending he wasn’t involved again, building up our relationship only to be blindsided again. He then used my fears to control me. He manuIpulated me with acts of kindness followed by some huge fall/repeated trauma. I walked on eggshells. Started ignoring red flags. Only to have him accuse me of lying/cheating.

    I’ve finally gone no contact as much as possible. We have a daughter together so I’m can’t really be free but at least I moved and we live in two cities connected only by ferry. But a year since the last major Betrayal I’m still extremely traumatized. I suffered from all of the reactions list and still do in many cases.

    I don’t want this man any longer. I’m relieved that way finally. But his engagement to the home wrecker (he was engaged to her before and others before her/me) …. A woman who has questionable morality, as does he…..they now want to be part of my daughters life. I’ve had sole custody the entire time. His infidelity started when I was pregnant…. He never lived with us except for 2 months as part of his set up for a big fall. Anyway my trust issues have me reliving the nightmare at full intensity as it related to them being around my child. He has even asked our daughter to lie to mommy for him.

    I am really hoping therapy helps but wish the courts recognize this as emotional/psychological abuse.

    • I should add all this trauma happened for 7 years. Before the trauma started we were happily living together in a committed relationship. Planned the pregnancy. Things changed… Red flags… Denial/lies…. You all know how it goes. Relief at confirming my worst fears then living the ongoing nightmare.

      Know you aren’t crazy. We won’t feel this way forever. Just reading this article means we accept we have a form of PTSD and there is help

    • Hi. Sorry about your situation. I have been there. Look up Boarderline Personality Disorder. Xx

  3. I’ve read my way through this article and all the comments and have come to realize that my wife suffers the same way as you all. Thing is I didn’t cheat. Never have. Years ago, I left my wife’s house (weren’t married at the time) with a few cans of beer (from her fridge) and went to a small party at a friends house. one of those friends I had had a stupid public 1 night fling with before my wife and I had ever met. I even told her where i was going and when I would be back. Nothing was said. A few months later she was at work and the same friend I mentioned before had an accident and smashed her front teeth. I asked my wife about a dentist and she went ballistic.

    Ive had to make all sorts of concessions to my wife. No longer do I see any of those friends. I carry very little money and often walk on eggshells because she says I owe her. She says I betrayed her and cheated on her. I feel I didn’t but also somehow feel that her repeatedly using “what did you do?” as a weapon is unfair. What did I do? I’ll tell you. I gave her what she wanted. I gave up all the things which linked me to that group of people. I gave up carrying cash. I gave her access to my email, and my phone.

    I was happy to do this to keep her happy. Problem is she is happy…for a time. We make plans, we’ve built a business, then something, a tv show, a comment about a girl or even gossip sets of triggers in her and our world turns upside down for the next week or so. I’m demonized, hated, occasionally swung at and am at a loss as to how I should proceed.

    sometimes I even wish I had cheated and was actually guilty of the crimes Ive been convicted of. Sadly it is getting more and more difficult for me to continue this relationship.

    I dont know what to do….

    • Glad to see people including betrayal as causes for PTSD. But isn’t it becoming obvious that ANY form of betrayal is a loss, and the more it happens, so there are the triggers which take you back to that pain and realisation? I think it’s just as relevant in non-marital relationships. Young people need to consider what they want from relationships and what they’re prepared to give – seriously, before they end up being totally confused and traumatised by interpersonal relationships. The main thing is upfront honesty. It’s the deceit that hurts most, not the ‘act’ of betrayal. It’s like saying how you feel when you’ve been let down, or when people seem to be excluding you, and knowing what you want to do about that. Understanding about co-dependency and autonomy and how to deal with change and loss in relationships, whether it’s a close friend in childhood, a casual partner in your twenties or a long term sexual partner. We know and feel the signs but not how to respond or if, how and when to let go.

    • Dear tired, I know this may be difficult, but I hope you will continue to show love to your wife. Most likely she has dealt with sexual abuse when she was younger, since unfortunately about 1 out of two of us have been! I have and am on the other side of being married to a sex addict for over 30 years only finding out 4 years ago. It has been so damaging, I still don’t no if we will make it, he has stayed clean this past 4 years, but seems to think that’s enough and doesn’t think about healing my wounds brought on by him. It’s hard on us women who have been betrayed, and even on those who haven’t because they usually have friends who have been! Love Love Love, keep being extremely open, and maybe consider some talk therapy Hope the best!

    • I’m experiencing this exact same thing. Every single part. Has anything changed for you? Have you found any resolution?

    • Married 35 years, I never cheated although yes, there were a couple of occasions I could have that were unknown to my wife. It’s been 7 months since I found out my wife had affairs throughout our marriage… I am realizing that her accusations of me being unfaithful to her were possibly a symptom of her own guilt. She was relentless at times in accusing me of things I had no part of… don’t mean to stir your pot but all I can say is, pay attention friend… my wife presented herself in a way that it was unthinkable that she would cheat. Emotional sickness runs deep and can manifest itself in ugly ways. Good luck.

  4. Let me add my name to the list of infidelity PTSD survivors. I think I am surviving, anyway – but some days just barely. It’s been 5 years since the first disclosure of my H’s 10 year affair and then several more years of disclosures of other infidelities and “slips” (lying about porn use, strip club, etc.). Yes, we’ve had tons of therapy. Yes, we’re still together. Yes, he has made many amends. Yes, the nightmares have stopped. Yes, life goes on. The problem is I am still blindsided by triggers. Not so often anymore, but just as intense. I have either the desire to flee or freeze for the most part. When we went to a wedding last summer on our anniversary, I shocked myself by going into “freeze mode” quite out of the blue. During the wedding and subsequent reception, I felt like a block of wood. If I have nothing going on that day, with the “freeze” response, I may lie in bed for hours, unable to move. With the “flee” response, I actually get into my car and start driving – never for more than a night, but still – I feel like I just have to get out of my house. And my H may be doing nothing more than watching T.V.! Saw the premier of “Wayward Pines” last night. I thought – that’s exactly how I feel! Like the main character, I woke up in a strange town (in my case, a strange world 5 years ago), having no clue how I got there – all my safety nets were gone, and no one wanted to help me, nothing made sense, and I started questioning my own sanity – what is real? What’s not real? My H deceived me throughout our entire marriage – coming up 40 years this summer. No wonder I feel like I’m in a fun house! But it’s anything but fun! I do hope I find a PTSD specialist who believes in this diagnosis for betrayal, b/c that’s what I know I have. Good luck, everyone.

  5. Year three started just after February of this year. I seem to be getting worse. Losing all faith in God and people. We are still together she is the first and only women I have ever been with sexually. Year 14 of marriage starts this year this month. How do you make the flash backs stop when your own home, car, and work are triggers? In her 2 year affair they cheated in all those places! Should I just move on? She is trying but it doesn’t help. Some nights I just wish I won’t wake up!! (I am not suicidal by the way) My whole existence was my family and none of anything matters anymore, I honestly don’t care about anything!! Suggestions???

    • Since I am still going through my journey, I lament I haven’t come across any “Holy Grails” yet that will catapult us to complete healing. That said, what’s helped me so far has been ongoing therapy, immersion in our local BAN group for ongoing peer support (, tons of reading and research on my own, and a lot of the self nurturing mentioned in the article. My H has often been willing to engage in deep dialogue and witness my pain with incredible patience and validation (and sometimes not). But the times he’s willing, that’s helped as well. I also want to look into EMDR and cognitive restructuring, both techniques used for PTSD victims. As coordinator of our local BAN group, I’ve met many spouses who are now divorced. I’m beginning to wonder if that may not be a viable alternative, because even though they have residual pain, they all seem to be much happier now and more at peace! I guess the best suggestion may be “Don’t Give Up”. Your life is worth it. Remember there is still much beauty and joy in the world and much to do to lessen the suffering of others on this planet. Maybe these trials help us become more compassionate to others who are struggling. Peace be with you.

    • starting year three, I know it’s difficult, ask if there are some of those things or places that can be changed, move , new car, new job. I know all this may not be possible, but something to consider. I’ve been in my home 24 years and since finding out about my husbands sex addiction I’ve considered us moving, since some of his acting out was here ,and his confession. And I find some of us who have been betrayed need to look at our positive traits to give us feedback that were good people.

    • are you ok, how did things turn out, how does your soul feel ? I can relate and want to share stories, because hearing you was like hearing my own mind,
      please let me know how you are feeling.

      Thank you

  6. My story is long and complicated but suffice it to sat that My wife and I have been together for about 20 years and love each other very much.

    Several years into our relationship through mutual consent we decided to try swinging. My wife was at the time bicurious and we both wanted to explore things more. We had a few threesomes with other men, met several other couples and went to several parties. My wife even had one to one sessions with one of the guys we had a threesome with. That went on for several months with my full knowledge and agreement. Overall we had some good and some not so good experiences but things fizzled out as our children got older and it became harder to hide it from them.

    A couple of years later my wife came home from work and confessed that she had slept with a work colleague something that she now says she doesn’t remember. At the time I remember her saying it mean nothing to her it was just sex and that she loved me very much. At the time I remember feeling hurt but put it to one side after all we’d swung for a number of years.

    Several years later (about 10 years ago) I found out that my wife had slept with several men over a number of years. At the time she was working in the care industry working very long hours and would often go to work on Friday morning and not return until the following Monday evening and it was during these times that she slept with several men she worked with. She’s says it was because she was lonely and they paid her attention. I first noticed something was wrong when she would often be moody and distant. She would also frequently question me about where I’d been and what I was doing if I was even a few minute late home. It felt like she didn’t trust me and thought I was having an affair which I wasn’t. I would often ask her what was wrong but all she would say was she was fine. This behaviour went on for several years until one evening whilst at work and totally out of the blue she phoned me and confessed. To be honest it was a relief as I had long been suspecting the worst. We spent many hours talking about it and as I love her and have done for 20 years I decided to forgive her and move on. I still remember to this day saying that I fully expected her to do it again even though she assured me she never would.

    Fast forward 10 years and although we are still together and love each other very much I still suffer from a number of issues as a result of her affairs.

    For example over time I have become more and more anxious when she goes out for the evening with friends especially if I know she is going to be drinking as I know this often makes her horny and lowers her inhibitions. I would like to point out that as far as I know she has been completely faithful to me since her confession 10 years ago and I know that the issue is all in my head but I just can’t seem to get over it. It is not very often that she goes out without me but in the days leading up to her going out I become more and more anxious. Then when she does go out I can’t relax, I feel extremely anxious and I find myself imagining the worst while counting down the hours and minutes until she’s home. It probably don’t help that a couple of years ago while out on a works do someone spiked her drink and she came home in a zombie like state. God knows what happened or could have happened to her. I wanted to call the police and report it but she wouldn’t hear of it.

    Another issue that I have suffered from now for a number of years is erectile dysfunction which deep down I believe is as a result of the trauma caused by the affairs. I can and do get erections but often find it hard to maintain them while having sex and often find it hard to enjoy sex. This however is where things really get fucked up. My wife and I often talk about our fantasies while having sex and one we both enjoy is the thought of her having sex with a black man with a really large cock. The reason this is so fucked up is that one of the guys she slept with was black and had a large cock. I can’t explain why I get so aroused by this fantasy and why at the same time I feel so bad about it. Maybe this is the cause of the erectile dysfunction. Either way I’m left to deal with the reality of erectile dysfunction and the way that it makes me feel. Perhaps the only saving grace in all of this is that my wife for the last few year has developed a really low sex drive to the point that we can often go for weeks or even a month or two without having sex. God know’s how I’d cope if she had a normal sex drive and I was unable to satisfy her. I suspect that perhaps we probably wouldn’t still be together as you can only go for so long feeling sexually frustrated without doing something about it.

    So there you have it my story of how I’ve coped or not after discovering my wife’s affairs. Perhaps it’s time I went and got some therepy.

    • You are the one who wants the big black cock, not her. That’s why you have Ed. You are gay. That’s why you did male threesomes. Straight men want wwm not mmw.

    • Jack, your last comment was correct, sounds like you and your wife may need to consider some therapy {sex addiction}Sex is not love, it can be a way to show love.

    • you’re situation was similar to my own. My husband was a sex addict and I agreed to swing thinking it would keep him from cheating. The odd thing was I would fanatasize about him in the act of cheating. Years after my divorce that is not the case anymore. I feel healthier mentally now that I’m away from him and the situation. The next relationship I’m in I will not sacrifice myself for their needs. Also I want a relationship that consists of only two faithful people.

    • Jack,
      Swinging & taking other lover’s, having 3 somes, group sex, orgy parties… Black cocks etc…
      All of this is bullshit. None of which should ever be embraced or welcomed into any marriage or committed relationship. All this crap should have been done & experimented with & gotten out of your system / her system long before your wedding ceremony. How people welcome this or participate in it & then wonder why there’s problems & infidelity in their relationships, Really?!? I don’t get how people can be so inept? Sex between you & your partner should be a personal, beautiful, special, private & sacred experience, not something people should be sharing like a buffet… You share a pizza not spouses or partners. This comment was a reply to you Jack but, it’s to any & everyone who gets involved with swinging, partner swapping or whatever you want to call nothing but a sure way to destroy your relationship. Those that participate in this crap shouldn’t bother to be or get married. In marriage there’s no room for other sex partners end of story.

  7. I too am constantly suffering from anxiety since finding out about my husbands affairs. He had a two year affair with a woman he had been friends with for more than 30 years that apparently was “just sex” for him but not for her. Then at the same time an emotional on line affair with a much younger woman that became sexual when he went to visit/meet her. He doesn’t believe that when we are apart that I am anxious, that when I have to go grocery shopping I am anxious because I may run into her, that I can’t seem to trust him, even though I really want to, because of the anxiety. I get knots in my stomach when I feel I’m being lied to, and so far the feelings haven’t been wrong. I honestly don’t know why at this point, that I care if he’s lying because if he is this time I will leave. His on line emotional/sexual affair was to have ended but he’s been unable to cut off from her completely because he’s afraid of hurting her. She suffers from depression and anxiety as well. He’s lied to her also regarding our relationship, telling her that he is separated, but we never have been. I want our marriage to work I just need to figure out how to trust him again. I know he needs to firstly, have absolutely no more contact with this other woman before I can begin to move on. He has said he wants our marriage to work, that his relationship with this other woman makes no sense, but he cares deeply for her. He sympathizes with her about her anxiety and depression but doesn’t believe that this can happen to me suddenly just because he cheated.
    After reading this I feel a little less crazy knowing that anxiety can be triggered because of infidelity.

    • Maizie:
      Your husband is still struggling with misplaced priorities, sympathizing with the other woman. Until that stops, you cannot move forward together. My H witnessed the total destruction of his wife’s spirit (me), yet continued to ask whether he should “call her just one more time” and let her down easy, etc. In our first counseling session, he asked the therapist if it was the right thing to do, the decent thing to do – to call his AP for “closure”. The therapist looked my H in the eye and said: “OK. She’s an intelligent adult, right? She knew exactly what she was doing, right? And your wife had no clue, right? Then, I’m puzzled. Why should you feel sorry for the other woman, when it’s your wife, sitting right beside you, whom you vowed to honor and cherish for life, and whom you have just completely shattered. Shouldn’t your wife be your only priority and responsibility?” That really got to him, and I think helped move him forward. He told me she faded from his grip shortly thereafter. I hope you two can find a counselor like the one we had, and that your husband comes to realize YOU are his only priority and responsibility. Good luck. Re: the anxiety – there are ways you can make it manageable physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Keep working with your doc, holistic practitioners, counselors, resources etc. It is totally normal to feel this way. It will go away. Sending all good wishes!

  8. This is the best article I’ve read on the subject.

  9. With all due respect, trauma isn’t automatically equivalent to PTSD. Infidelity can be emotionally and financially traumatic, but that trauma absolutely does NOT rise to the level required for a diagnosis of PTSD. Unless there is a DV issue, there is no threat to life or any of the other threats thst are required for a diagnosis of PTSD. So please, stop disenfranchising people with PTSD by labeling every upsetting issue as “traumatic” and every trauma as “PTSD.”

    • Betrayl Trauma has been documented and researched for years and has been primarily used in terms of child parent relationships. It has only recently been recognized as something that is common with primary/spousal relationships.

      As someone who has experience both PYSD and Betrayl Trauma as a result of a spouse, I can tell you the PTSD was much easier to deal with in terms of symptoms compared to the Betrayal Trauma.

  10. I am feeling all of the symptoms described, but wonder if this is actually what I am experiencing, as his betrayal was an emotional affair years ago with another woman, and ongoing too-connected co-dependent relationship with his mother and an addiction to spending.

  11. This is me… My husband has been telling me and my family members, including my adult daughter, that I have a mental illness. Recently he has been trying to have me diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I know I have something, but I never though it was BPD.. My husband cheated online for t he first 6/7 years, I read texts and saw photos I read sexual conversations between them and horrible things he said about me. I kept it to myself for about 5 years.. then confronted him.. he denied it.. eventually 18 months or so later he admitted to it but only ever said it wasn’t about me. We NEVER discussed it at length. About 18 months ago he and my closest friend started an emotional relationship where he knew she was attracted to him but he always said he had it under control. I’m a mess. BUT I don’t think I have BPD

    • You don’t have BPD, he does. Look up projection xx

  12. I recently found out in May of my husband’s emotional affair and found out the true nature of it in July which he then threatened to commit suicide when I unloaded every last ounce of frustration, disappointment and anger in response to the continual lies, deception and utter disregard for me and the needs of our family. I have struggled since to get a grip on my emotions but found hope in the notion that my reactions are in fact legit. The stress, emotional turmoil coupled with his infidelity and suicide attempt have really sent me spinning. Although our marriage was on the rocks before this happened, I am still struggling to decide if I can even rebuild my trust in him and rebuild our marriage. any suggestions for how I can heal for myself? He’s getting the help he needs.

    • I’m not sure because I’m dealing with all this too! I feel like a crazy women at times!!My husbands wanting to change some of my bounderies that I had set with him, even though he’s stopped acting out, he’s very emotionally draining, he gets close to me and shows a little affection, then takes it away from me, very jeckle and hyde personality. So I don’t feel safe changing my boundaries. It’s hard to build any trust. I’ve just started EMDR therapy to help with PTSD. I hope it works!!

  13. Who lives happier and healthier lives? Partners of cheaters who got divorced or partners who stay with the cheater?

    • I been wondering the same thing and would like some answers to your question

  14. Thank you for this article. I found it very insightful and let me know, that I am not crazy in my thoughts and feelings. That though it happen 2 years ago, and I only fully found out a year ago, that it is normal for the feelings to still be there. I keep being told by people, and her, that it’s been two years, I should be over it. But, I am not. And every single faucet of life shows cheating spouses, and it’s getting really hard to deal with the constant triggers. Will it always be thus? Will I always have these feelings of hurt and anger?

  15. I did enjoy reading this article. I’m so grateful that there is finally some recognition of the trauma symptoms that the partners of sex addicts experience.
    I was in a relationship with a sex addict for 44 years, who did not seek the professional treatment he needed, which caused further trauma to myself. First discovery for me was in 2006, a time when many professionals where they themselves questioning if this was even an addiction. The partners of sex addicts where not even taken in to consideration, except to be labeled as co-addicts, which further fueled the ongoing trauma for me.
    I left my relationship in 2011, thinking that once I was on my own I could more easily move forward with my life. There was no where for me to seek a professional help, where I could find fully educated people with regards to identifying the partners trauma. The therapist I did meet with only further continued to add to my trauma, where I continued to experience many symptomatic symptoms of PTSD.
    I emerged myself with distractions in the five years following me leaving the relationship, pretty much keeping by self busy everyday, to the point of exhaustion. Then I started to notice after five years out of the relationship that my body was screaming out to seek the help that I very much needed. I felt shame as many books on the topic where stating time frames as to when we the partners should be moving through the experience. In my experience there are no specific time frames, as we the partners have to identify when we are ready to tackle our own recovery.
    So partners stay strong and know that when you are ready, there is now the help we need out there for us.
    We are true warriors, as we strive to find the safety within ourselves that we need to recover.

  16. It’s 2.5 years for me and I do feel crazy. As much as I pay myself on the back for my progress on being able to be compassionate, I screw my mind with mistrust and shame. Then comes the resentment of being put in this position. Along with not knowing the whole truth. Seeing a character side exposed to you that you’re totally unaware of for 20 years makes you feel like such a sucker. This is the hardest thing for me to get through.He knew of my past pain of being cheated on yet he did it. He keeps denying the extent. He doesn’t know how to help.We have been floundering around what is inevitable. He stopped having sex with me 7 months ago.I think my outbursts took their toll.L couldn’t feel more desolate. I shattered inside,Ripped to shreds. His explanation was he was bored. I can’t make him see how cruel this all is. Infidelity is the saddest destruction of a loving soul. I miss the way I was.

    • Jen, it’s been a little over a year since I found out about the affairs my wife carried out during our 35 years together. I too find myself genuinely giving it up to be compassionate… you know, forgive and move forward kind of thing. Then I have days that I’m just really pissed that I’m even in this position! The cheater has NO clue what that does to your insides. I’ve found myself lately, being able to let go of my unconscious efforts to try and assume her fault and blame and have begun to truly LET her own her own decisions. I’m finding it’s what I’ve got to do to reclaim MY life experience. I have felt so robbed and cheated out of my life as I’ve known it…. trying to sort it out and reclaim myself, that’s important for me. She had affairs early in our marriage that I always suspected but never confirmed. I caught her a year ago, a 4 year affair. I did not take it well. 5 months apart and we decided to try to salvage the train wreck. Sometimes, I just don’t know… but I know how much she has meant to me so I have to give it my best. But often find myself wondering, am I a fool? Often, I am in conversation with an attractive single woman and wonder if there’s another person out there that could love me the way I’ve loved my wife???! That sounds kinda strange I guess but at the end of the day, it’s these kinda things that make me wonder if my wife REALLY “gets it?”! My rant is over but I was feeling your pain Jen… wanted to share.

  17. How about this:
    I was married for 15 years to a narcissist who crowed to the world about how much he loved his amazing wife, and that he was “the luckiest guy in the world”, while he shut me down sexually by never showing any interest(“too stressed from work”, “it’s my medications”, etc.)after having initially been just fine in our first couple years together, was incredibly selfish and always putting himself first, and prone to frequent angry outbursts over nothing, a true drama queen.
    I knew that he’d been having emotional affairs online, where he spent every extra moment on his smartphone or laptop, enmeshed in the lives of strangers he’d never met but who were his “best friends”. Always women, but they ranged from straight and single to married, as well as gay women. It was more of an attention-getting thing, as his ego was like a bucket with a hole in it, never enough attention or praise. God forbid there be one critical word and the pouting and anger would begin. After $10000 out of pocket for couples counseling that he pretended to be listening to but kept returning to his cyber-acting out, I just gave up on it, and lived with the hurt of knowing that he cared more for online strangers all over the US. Everyone we knew thought he was the most terrific guy in the world, and it just beat me down to think of trying to leave and start over, even though the few times I told him I would, he panicked and begged me to give him another chance, until it began again. I remember feeling like I was losing my mind sometimes when he’d tell me I was making a big deal out of nothing,it was all very platonic.
    Early last year, he was diagnosed out of the blue with terminal cancer, and 7 weeks later he was gone. During that time I was the ultimate good wife, taking care of him and even doing hospice at home until he had to be admitted to a hospice hospital 2 days before he died. The day we learned of his shocking diagnosis, I was driving him to the hospital for the week of biopsies, etc., and he actually said to me:”I have to create a private group on FB”. When I asked why he would want to do that, he responded:”Because I *need* my support group around me!” Yup, he wanted all of those not-real ‘friends’, not his flesh and blood supposed soulmate. I didn’t say anything then because he was now the ‘poor cancer patient’, right? Do you know that I had to ASK him to add me to that group a week later when I realized that he hadn’t?? I told him he probably might want me to have access to tell them how he was doing if he wasn’t able to… “oh yeah, okay” was his response. When he added me, I found that it was a group of over 30!!
    The whole 7 weeks, he never once wanted to have a talk about us/me in the future, etc. I didn’t push for it, but waited for him to bring it up, and he never did, then was suddenly gone. After he died, I made my peace with the person he’d become, and just tried to remember the first few good years. After all, he had truly suffered in his last weeks, so who was I to even think about putting my needs out there?
    Fast-forward to 6 weeks ago, when I was looking in his phone for a house-related document he’d had on it. I’ve had his phone & computer all this time, but never had any reason to even turn them on until then. What I found there blew me completely out of the water:
    Those emotional affairs were indeed platonic after all, because he didn’t need them to be more, because:
    He had been seeing prostitutes on every single business trip, 1-2 x per month, all over the US and Canada, for years and years!!!! He had saved emails requesting appointments in advance of every trip, confirming and then responding afterwards with how great it was, including details… Even saved links to the online reviews he’d written about his *experiences*!! The more I looked, the more I found: recently he had taken out memberships at not one, but 4 online hookup sites as well as having secret email accounts he used. I knew he was a selfish prickly, but I NEVER, ever, ever thought he had the confidence or ability to pull something like that off, and never, ever suspected he would do this!!!
    Now I’m in a place where my whole life was a lie, and it’s beyond maddening not to be able to confront him because he’s dead. If I could just have him back for five short minutes!!! So yes, betrayal trauma is a very, very real thing, take it from me.

    • Wow… just wow. I’m so sorry for your experience. Prayers

  18. Wow everyone. Blown away by all the comments here!!! I will share some tidbits from my experience and what helped me.

    Was in a 7 year relationship with a cheater. Hardest thing ive ever done but best thing i ever did was end it! After trying many other times… I see my past self in some people here and just know i found a new amazing partner (of 2yrs now) who makes me so happy. He is honest and i trust him 100%. After being cheated on in the same ways you all have, i didnt think a thing like that was possible. So i just want all of you to know that you deserve happiness and not the heartache that cheaters never fully stop with.

    I remember reading a reddit thread about fidelity, right after being cheated on. A few posters had commented that they knew with certainty that their spouse would never ever cheat. I remember thinking they couldn’t possibly know that and other rationalizations.. FFWD to today and i know deep down feeling that is what i had hoped for and cannot believe id say it today about my new partner!

    Couldn’t agree more with the narcissist comment! Someone who does that could not possibly truly love you. I stopped lying to myself that a person can change. I read a book called Attached and it really opened my eyes I highly recommend it. And i set standards for myself telling myself what i was no longer willing to accept and stuck to it because i knew deep down what i had to do.

  19. After years of unhappiness due to covert emotioinal abuse by my husband,(including an attempt to leave 15 years ago- which I actually did for four months, including no direct contact but my family pushed me to give him another chance as he was “so devastated” by the loss of his family -we had two young children) I decided I was going to make this relationship better or leave. A year into my new mind set things were going pretty well, I had fallen back in lover with him, only to discover that he had been having an affair (supposedly only emotional -dont believe that at all) with a previous co-worker. I now believe that has been going on for over 5 years. I realize now that he may have been involved in this behavior our entire marriage. With multiple partners, both men and women and while I always wanted to think his covert abuse was not something he premeditated and just part of the nasty legacy handed to him from his FOO. After much education on narcissistic abuse, I am fairly certain that everything he did was on purpose to manipulate and control me so he could hide his sex addiction. Needless to say I am saddled with C-PTSD. It is insidious and seeps deeper within you with every bcontinued lie and deceptful behavior. We are together, I had hoped that we could survive this. He SAID he wants to still be married to me, I wanted to believe but his actions speak much more to me than his words. I am fairly sure that he discarded me a long time ago, just never divorced me. That would make him look bad and his secrets might come out in the open. No he wants me to be the one who leaves so he can continue to play the victim with his minions. Unfortunately these last four years have probably given him more than enough time to hide assests, perfect his plan to make me out to be the crazy one and continue to abuse me through the divorce (that I hope I get the courage to pursue) by making sure I get as little as possible. My gut tells me the right thing to do but my heart wont let me do it. I guess I still love the man I thought he was, but as time goes on that candle is slowly burning out as daily he becomes more distant emotionally to me, while claiming all the while that it is me he loves. I don’t know how much more I can take. He has destroyed the person I once was and this shell of a person (who puts on a smiling, functioning facade) is what is left. I’ve made many changes personally to improve myself but it doesn’t make the symptoms of PTSD go away. And I am deathly afraid that if I do divorce him they still will not stop. That I will continue to be obsessed with finding the truth, that this will truly never end. It hurts even more when everything that has happened was planned and premeditated to use me throughout our 25 years of marriage. Not dealing with this properly has led me to self-inflict injury to myself. I guess I was a perfect choice for his needs being sexually abused as a child (never told anyone) and subtly emotionally abused by my FOO throughout my life. My biggest regret is for my sons who now as young adults I see struggle in all their relationships in life (work, friends, financially and romance.) I see one becoming an abuser and the other likely to be the type abused by others. It sickens me to know that I knew all along our family was dysfunctional and attempted to make it better, only to discover how bad it really was/is. My husband used all of us in his attempt to get his own needs fulfilled and had little true regard for what his behavior would do to us. I wish I had never met this man. He has destroyed everything that he promised to love and care for. THEY can fricking have him. I do wish that he would just pass away so the rest of us can attempt to heal. I wouldn’t wish the pain of this on anyone (well maybe one or two of his other women will be the new receiptients of his “toxic love” let them begin to know the REAL him.) This betrayal is the worse than death as it lingers in your soul, i’m afraid forever. I don’t believe I can ever trust ANYONE again. Very sad.

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