The following is an interview with a client, Natalie. When Natalie was pregnant with her third child, she learned her husband had been using hookup apps. That was four years ago. The couple have subsequently divorced. Natalie shares some of her experience of recovery from betrayal trauma here.
1. Can you share some of the lessons you learned about grief? The most important thing is to give yourself permission to grieve. That is absolutely crucial. The feelings are going to find a way to come out anyway. So, it’s better to express them, and to go ahead and rant and cry when you feel you need to. That is so much better than repressing your emotions, and having them wreck your physical health.
Don’t go it alone either. Find someone to share your feelings with. I know not everyone is going to be a safe person. But it really helps if you can find at least one other person you can be totally honest with.
And finally, accept that the grief journey is going to take time. A lot of time. It’s also going to follow its own course. You can’t predict when you are suddenly going to find yourself in a pit again. But that’s OK. You just go with it. Your subconscious minds understands your healing journey, even if feels like a mystery to you.
2. What else helped with the recovery process? Being alert to potential triggers, especially at times when I felt very vulnerable. It helped me maintain some control of my emotions. Also, there are potential triggers I can deal with now that I couldn’t have dealt with early on.
3. What about forgiveness? What are your thoughts on that topic? Forgiving him wasn’t really something I wanted to think about, at least not initially. I put it on the back burner and just ignored it completely while I was working through the grieving process. Maybe I’ll come back to it later. Maybe I won’t.
The most important issue for me has actually been forgiving myself for getting into a relationship with someone who treated me so badly. I think it’s instinctive to beat ourselves up when something like that happens … and we know that other people are going to throw bricks, too.
But you don’t know the person you are committing is going to treat you like that. Honestly, who of us would choose to hook up with someone who was going to damage us so deeply?
Also, my ex was very careful at covering his tracks. I had to forgive myself for trusting him so deeply (but aren’t we meant to trust those closest to us???), for thinking the best of him, and for believing him when he told me his flights into online sex were in the past.
And I do forgive myself.
Yes, I am wiser today … but there is something beautiful in being soft and trusting, too. I don’t regret being that kind of person, either.
4. How has the betrayal affected your self-worth and self-esteem? At first it devasted my self-esteem. I thought there was something wrong with me. That I was inadequate in some way. Not beautiful enough. Not sexy enough Not …. whatever … fill in the blanks. But I’ve moved beyond that now.
Today, I don’t take any of the blame. I can see it was his problem. Not mine. Commitment is a choice. Infidelity is a choice. Choosing to use hookups is a choice. Perhaps it took a while to get to this place but I can now honestly say that I treated him well, was probably as good at sex as the next woman. I am also comfortable with myself as person. I like who I am. And perhaps that is the most important thing of all.
“At your absolute best, you still won’t be good enough for the wrong person. At your worst, you’ll still be worth it to the right person.” – Unknown
5. Any final thoughts or comments? Although the pain is intense at the start, it really does lessen over time. The scars begin to heal, and you find yourself again. There comes a day when you can look back and say, you’re in a place when you can start to live once more. And that is a very good day!