In this post we will briefly answer a question that was asked by one of our clients. Here is today’s question:
Why is experiencing sexual betrayal such an isolating experience? It feels there is no-one who really understands. If I’d been bereaved, or in a car accident, I know that lots of people would offer me support. Why is this so different?
There could be a number of possible answers to this question. Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter …
1. Committed intimate relationships are attachment relationships. Apart from the relationship we form with our primary caregivers (usually our parents), these are the closest relationships we form.
When we enter into a committed relationship with someone, we automatically expect that person to be trustworthy, safe, reliable and honest. We expect them to love us, care for us, and be there for us. We don’t expect them to hurt and cause us harm.
In fact, we simply cannot function, and lead a normal life, if we’re constantly assessing if our partner’s still trustworthy.
Thus, when we learn that a relative or friend has been betrayed (and sexual betrayal is a serious betrayal), it is deeply disturbing and unsettling for us.
We realize we’re no different – so we too could be deceived. This is threatening and scary – so we want to keep our distance.
In a way, this strong reaction is a form of self-protection.
2. Another factor that might play into the way people react, is a fear of the emotions that a trauma can stir up.
People can imagine how they’d feel if it was them. They can picture the strong feelings, and how they might react. Again, this is unsettling to contemplate.
Hence, the safest thing to do, is to simply walk away. This keeps things superficial, and under their control.
Note: Sometimes our friends would like to help is, but they feel they’re at a loss. They don’t know what to say so they feel inadequate. As a result, they just say nothing, and act like nothing’s changed.
3. A third possibility relates to the fact that many have experienced a trauma in their past. Hence, our pain and trauma symptoms now remind them of their own. And they don’t want to face it. They would rather bury it. Hence, they cope with their discomfort by distancing themselves. That way, they can pretend that everything in life is fine (at least for them).