Learning that you’ve been betrayed by your partner plunges you into a painful cycle of loss and grief.
Often the discovery comes as a shock, and the losses are more than you can even calculate.
– To begin with, you can no longer trust your partner or spouse (as they deliberately deceived you, and lied to your face.)
– Also, you feel you aren’t able to trust yourself (because you didn’t see the signs, and you experienced gaslighting.)
– And there’s the loss of the relationship you thought you had (which now feels like a lie and a fantasy.)
– Plus there’s also the loss of the future you expected, and had planned (as you cannot think ahead; and the whole of life has changed.)
Kubler-Ross and the Grieving Process
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who studied death and dying, has identified five common stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These are experienced in betrayal trauma, too.
Note: These stages are experienced a number of times, and are neither discrete nor linear. Also, grief follows its own schedule, is unpredictable, and often hits us unexpectedly.
For example, if betrayal is related to a sexual addiction, you might attempt to reduce the shock by telling yourself that at least your partner didn’t have sex with a real person (This relates to bargaining and denial).
But later you remember that he used webcams, and he paid real women to take off their clothes. Your response to this might be rage and disgust (which could also be equated with experiencing anger).
The next day, you feel too worn out and sad to motivated yourself to do any work (a sure indication that you’re feeling depressed.)
Then, as time goes by, and you start to find out more about the changes in the brain of a sex addict, you might have days when you feel you understand why your partner had succumbed, and done all those awful things. (This is the acceptance stage.)
Note: A crucial point that should be made related to acceptance is this doesn’t mean excusing what your partner has done. It will never be OK – and should never be OK.
Instead, acceptance is more about coming to terms with the fact that reality has changed for you.
It is also about starting to rebuild your life.
This is not possible in the first stages of grief, when time stands still, and you cannot think at all. With acceptance there’s a movement. We feel there’s been a change.
The grieving process takes time. A lot of time. It takes much longer than you think it will take. It takes a lot longer than you want it to take. The losses are like tree roots that spread out underground. The roots go down so deep. They’re extensive and wide.
How to Treat Yourself when you are Grieving
First, be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to feel the pain and sadness. Let the tears flow. Allow yourself to rant and rage. Allow yourself to be antisocial. You’ll also feel exhausted a lot of the time.
And be patient with yourself. Grief and loss are terrible.
But it won’t go on forever. The pain will subside. You’ll emerge from the tunnel, and eventually you’ll feel those positive emotions you cannot picture now.