Disenfranchised Grief (A Complicated Grief)

Our society has a poor relationship with grief. It’s a topic we avoid. It is too uncomfortable.

Yet, when we’re faced with betrayal there’s a multitude of losses that we’re forced to confront, and to try to integrate. They include:

– The loss of the relationship/ marriage you believed you had had (was everything a lie and a fantasy?)

– The loss of identity, self-worth and self-esteem

– The loss of the person you thought you were married to/ believed you were in a relationship with (as they clearly deceived you and had a hidden side)

– The loss of the future you imagined you would have

– The loss of emotional safety in your marriage (and possibly physical safety, too, if there have been affairs/ hook ups, and so on)

– The loss of confidence and trust in your spouse (will you ever be able to believe a word he says?)

A Complicated Grief

And the grief of betrayal is a complicated grief. In many ways, it remains hidden for the person hasn’t died. Also, you may still be in a relationship with them. And the emotions you experience are both intense and complex. Some examples are:

– The fear of judgment (since you know people will talk; they will look for any weaknesses and tear you both to shreds)

– A powerful sense of shame (an inappropriate emotion as, clearly, you’re a victim, and should not be blamed at all) 

– In addition, betrayed partners and spouses are usually traumatized, and they frequently suffer from PTSD.

Dealing with the Taboos

Also, it’s true that betrayal, and a sexual addiction, are still taboo topics in society today.

– This leaves us feeling very isolated and alone.

– You have to wear a mask, and pretend that you’re OK.

– You can’t talk about the losses and what you’re going through.

– You can’t talk about the pain, and how long it lingers on.

This is disenfranchised grief, a grief that’s difficult to bear. It is formally defined as being:

the grief connected to a loss that is unrecognized by society at large.[1]

What to do About it

Not sharing your experience will impede recovery. Being silenced by the world won’t enable you to heal.

So, if you can, share your story, and talk about your grief. Find someone who will listen, and who really understands.

You deserve to be supported. 

Don’t carry this alone.

The only cure for grief is to grieve.

[1] https://www.affairrecovery.com/newsletter/founder/infidelity-how-betrayed-grieve-properly

Why does Betrayal Kill your Desire for Sex with your Partner?

After betrayal, it can be hard to enjoy (or to even want to have) sex with your partner. You can feel there’s a wall that you just can’t break down. What are some possible reasons for this?

1. To really let yourself go, and enjoy having sex, you first need to feel safe and secure with your spouse. However, if they’ve cheated on you then it’s hard to feel safe.

Even if happened a long time ago.

Even if it wasn’t an actual affair, and your partner was addicted to online sex.

The fact, is we don’t feel safe anymore. And that makes it hard to be spontaneous now.

2. Related to this, if you’ve experienced betrayal then it’s likely you’ll feel some anxiety and doubt around having sex. There will be lingering questions: “Why wasn’t I enough?” “Am I pretty enough? “Is he happy with me?” “In his mind, is he judging and criticizing me?”  

Anxiety and safety can’t co-exist.

3. Sex has now changed from being a tease and a game, from something that is fun and which turns you on, to something with requirements, and a rating scale. (At least in the mind of the one who was betrayed).

4. When it comes to sex, we really want to feel desired. And we’d previously believed they had eyes for us alone. But, if our partner’s looked elsewhere, then we don’t feel we’re desired. Their actions sent the message that they wanted something else.

5. Eroticism is fuelled by curiosity, by a sense of the unknown, and of mystery. However, if we discover the unknown is betrayal by our spouse, then then this mystery and intrigue aren’t appealing any more!

6. If you contract an STD because your partner chose to stray, then self-preservation will prevent you wanting sex. There’s as instinctive response to protect your life and health.   

7.  Also, if your partner has deceived you, and has deeply damaged you, then abandoning yourself may now feel impossible. This resistance that you feel, and the lack of true desire, can be your body’s way of showing you your value and your worth. It is saying “Only give yourself to somebody who cares.”

How to Cope with Emotional Numbing

After being traumatized it’s common to feel as if you can’t make sense of life anymore. You’re just going through the motions; you’re not living anymore.

Initially, this is a way to cope, and protect yourself from further pain.

However, although there may be value in your brain shutting down, emotional numbness stops us living a full life.

What are the symptoms of emotional numbing?

– Feeling disconnected from the world around you (feeling zoned out, like you’re living in a fog; feeling like you’re an observer rather than a participant in the world)

– Feeling disconnected from your body and mind (finding it hard to feel anything at all)

– Feeling disconnected from the person you once were (feeling you don’t know who you are anymore)

– Feeling you don’t care about what happens to you (which can result in us putting ourselves in potentially dangerous situations)

– An inability to function in social situations

– Wanting to withdraw and self-isolate

– Feeling empty, hopeless and hollow inside

– An inability to concentrate and focus

– Memory loss (in general, and related to specific events surrounding the traumatic incident)

–  Having zero interest in activities we previously enjoyed

– Feeling tired and lethargic all the time (accompanied by a deep desire for sleep, or the desire to block out the whole of life.)

What can you do about it?

1. Probably the most helpful option is to find a therapist or counsellor who is experienced in dealing with trauma. He or she will have a range of techniques they can use to help unlock buried emotions (such as EMDR).

2. Try to work on identifying your feelings. Naming subtle changes in your body and emotions (such as noticing if you have butterflies in your stomach) can help you get in touch with yourself again. They are sending you a message that you’re still alive.

3. Mindfulness exercises (where you are checking in with different parts of your body) can also alert you to small, subtle changes in your body and breathing. These can help you to notice you’re still able to feel – and also that you’re able to control how you feel (even if this ability is somewhat limited.)

4. Find creative outlets for expressing your emotions (such as journaling, creative writing, painting, writing or music etc) The more you get into the flow, and regularly invest in these activities, the easier you will find it to access and release trapped emotions.

5. Try moving your body. Often physically moving (such as going for a walk) can jolt us into feeling more alive again. This is partly the result of endorphins being released. Also, this bypasses our need to think – which can be good.  

Your trauma is not your fault. You couldn’t have prevented it.”

Signs that you’re Starting to Heal from Trauma

Signs that you’re starting to heal include:

1. You’re not living in denial. You are able to acknowledge that you’ve been through something shocking. Something really devastating. Something that has turned your whole world upside down.

2. You have faced, and are now working through, the negative emotions – all the terrible, disturbing and distressing emotions.

3. At some point in the past you admitted to yourself that this was way too big for you to handle on your own. Hence, you’ve reached out for support from safe, understanding people.

4. You’re aware of the effects that the trauma has had on your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Thus, you’ve been consciously addressing, and caring for, your health.

5. You’ve been putting healthy boundaries around your life. You know that you have limits, and you must protect yourself.

6. You’ve been nurturing, and loving, and caring for yourself. You have balanced expectations, and don’t demand too much.

7. You’re OK with the fact that your healing ebbs and flows. You know you might go backwards, or plateau from time to time. But it’s all part of the journey – and you’ve learned to live with it.

8. You know that you’re resilient; so much stronger than you thought And you know you’re not alone, even when you feel alone. You know that other people have experienced similar things. This knowledge gives you courage, and it helps you persevere .

Your healing is about you. It doesn’t need a stamp of approval. Don’t worry about how long it takes, or how ugly it seems. It’s about you, and what you deserve.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Sadder

Sometimes a loss is most keenly felt by the absence of something else.

An empty chair at a table for two, is a symbol and reminder that we’re now on our own.

A bare third finger when a ring has been removed reminds of commitments that are no longer there.

The silence in the room – no more laughter and loud screams – remind us of the family that use to fill this space.

The closet that looks empty and the carpet that is clean both testify to change, and to lives that have moved on.

When those losses hit with force, we’re reminded of good times and are conscious, once again, of the hole they’ve left behind.

If you’re in that place today, then allow yourself to grieve.

There’s no shame in being sad when you’re struggling with loss.

And that wrenching pain you feel – it reminds you that you cared

That you opened up your heart

 … And you miss the life you had.

Can Trust be Rebuilt?

Ultimately, the worst kind of pain does not come from your enemies, but from those you trust and love.”

What is necessary for trust to be rebuilt after you’ve discovered that your partner has betrayed you?

To be honest, you may never fully trust them again – and it won’t be the same kind of trust as before. However, there is still a place for hope. Often progress can be made. But the following are essential for rebuilding trust:

1. The betrayer must have made a total break with the affair partner, or be actively getting help for a sex addiction (if that is the cause of the betrayal). They should also have someone they’re accountable to, someone they check in regularly with. This must be someone you (the betrayed partner) trust as well.

2. The betrayed partner must believe in their heart that the offending partner is wholeheartedly and freely choosing them again. They have to really believe that the choice is genuine, and that their partner is unlikely to change their mind on this.

3. Related to this, the betrayed partner or spouse must really feel that ‘you love me’; ‘that you love me more than anyone, or anything, in the world’, and ‘you can’t bear the thought of life without me.

That is, the decision to hold on to the relationship cannot be because the betrayer:

– doesn’t want to be exposed,

– or to lose their reputation,

– or to lose the respect of their family or kids,

– or to lose the family home, or a lifestyle they enjoy.

4. The betrayer must take full responsibility for what they did. They must convey a deep and genuine remorse for hurting you, and for totally wrecking your life.  They can’t ‘half get it’, downplay it, or push some of the responsibility onto you, or anyone else.

5. They need to really get what this has done to you. This is quite different from being overcome by feelings of shame. Feelings of shame are often self-focused. They actually prevent us from getting inside our partner’s world, and from fully empathizing with their pain.

In fact, we can get so totally consumed by feelings of self-loathing and self-rejection, and shock at what we did and who we became that we can’t be there for anyone else.

However, the betraying partner has to ‘get’ what they have done, and broken, devastated and desolate you feel. This is absolutely crucial.

5. Part of processing and coming to terms with betrayal includes going over the same ground, and asking the same questions again and again.

For trust to be rebuilt, the perpetrator must remain patient and understanding, and be committed to not reacting to what is said (which could be hard at times!)

Also, they must honestly and fully answer any questions you have – and even encourage you to probe even deeper.

That is, they have to give you the time and space you need to process the betrayal – which could take some time! This is especially important in the initial months.

Risky Business

As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself… The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.” – Bessel van der Kolk

Sharing our deepest secrets and pain

Secrets don’t have to be shared with everyone. But we need to find someone we can share them with.

However, choose that person carefully.

This is often the most difficult part of all – because you don’t want to make things worse for yourself.

You don’t want to share with someone who will criticize and judge.

Or with someone who will secretly (or not so secretly) be quietly glad that your hurt and suffering.

That is the last thing you need at this time.

So you need to find someone who you’re sure will empathize. Someone who will ‘get it’ and be there for you.

Why do you need courage?

Talking makes it real.

Once you’ve stated it out loud, you can’t pretend it didn’t happen.

Be ready for that.

That’s where courage and strength come in.

That’s why you need to be prepared – and to brave and strong.

Not so brave and strong that you don’t fall apart – because there’s a very good chance that you will fall apart. There are going to be months of falling apart.

But brave enough for you to admit to yourself that:

“This is my story.”

“This happened to me.”

“This is my life.”

“The unthinkable happened.”

Facing up to those truths is devastating. It takes courage.

But doing that enables the healing to begin.

For you have taken the first step in your recovery.

Measuring Up

We live in a world full of comparisons.

Does she have a sexier figure than me? Does she look younger, or better for her age? Is she so much smarter? Have a better career? Do people think that she is funnier than me?

I suspect it all begins in the early years of life when we start fighting hard to get our parents’ attention.

But it’s a process that continues for the rest of our life.

And it’s a process that leads to insecurity, as well.

For at any point in time we could cease to measure up – and we could lose the affection of those who matter most.

Like our family, or close friends.

Like our partner, or our spouse.

Yet each of us is different – individual and unique.

And we start to lose ourselves when we make comparisons.

But comparing’s so ingrained, such a feature of our lives, that it’s hard to switch it off. To stop weighing up our worth.

Yet we cannot love ourselves if we reject part of ourselves.

If we always see some defect, or we view ourselves as flawed.

And those differences in outlook, in personality, in interests and experiences, in qualities and looks, are what make us so unique.


Not a clone.

And being youjust you it’s a gift you give the world.

You touch and nourish lives in an individual way.

If only you could see that this person who is ‘you’ is precious as you are.

You don’t need to strive, or change.

You are free to be yourself.

There is no need to compare.

Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” – Iyanla Vanzant

Lies We Tell Ourselves In The Aftermath Of Trauma

Trauma is not what happens to you. Trauma is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you.” – Gabor Mate

The impact of trauma isn’t always physical. The wound may be hidden from the eyes of the world. It can also create problems if you don’t connect the dots and recognize how much you need to get support and help.

So what kinds of lies might we tell ourselves – that slow down our healing, and prevent us getting help?

Lie #1: My situation isn’t as bad as others’ situation. Trauma is trauma. This is not a competition. Denial doesn’t help, and comparisons are futile. The fact is you’ve been wounded and your life is not the same. Diminishing your suffering won’t help your heart to heal.

Lie #2: I shouldn’t let this bother me. Trauma changes us profoundly, and it needs to be worked through. You can’t just bury trauma. The effects won’t disappear. Also, you deserve to be supported, and your story should be heard. What happened here is major. It was not a trivial thing.

Lie #3: There is something wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with you. All those symptoms and reactions are absolutely normal when you’ve been traumatized. You are not going crazy. You are reeling from the shock.

Lie #4: I deserve what happened to me. Don’t believe this for one minute. You did not deserve this treatment. That person chose to hurt you. You did not cause this at all. I wish that you could grasp just how beautiful you are.

Lie #5: It will all be Ok if I can just avoid the triggers. Because the root is still untreated, you will always be at risk of suddenly being triggered (often unexpectedly). Also, you can’t avoid all triggers as they’re simply everywhere!  

Lie #6: My physical symptoms having nothing to do with my mental health. It’s well-known that the body and mind are intertwined, that stress can cause health problems, and can interfere with sleep. Your body is reacting to what you’re going through.

Lie #7: This is just who I am now. We may feel that we’re broken but with help our life can change. In time we can recover some of our old self again.

Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally. (However) when someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.” – Danielle Bernock