Reality Fragmentation is when you discover that the reality you thought you were living is a fiction. Instead you have been living in an entirely separate reality, but you didn’t know it. One of the most emotionally damaging things you can do to a person is to make them doubt their ability to perceive reality accurately. Reality Fragmentation and the resulting disorientation create a feeling for betrayed partners that they are losing their minds.
After discovering betrayal, most partners often experience a period of time where they go into shock. Shock is the brain’s effort to protect us from what seems too overwhelming to deal with. A person who suddenly loses a loved one will often go into shock. A protective cloud will envelop them, numbing their feelings, holding all the implications of their loved one’s death at bay until they can absorb what has happened. This type of protective fog lets them get up, shower and get dressed, answer questions about funeral arrangements, attend the funeral and interact with family and friends.
According to a study of partners of sex addicts conducted by Barbara Steffens in 2006, 71% of partners demonstrate a severe level of functional impairment in major areas of their lives after discovery. I went through my own story of Betrayal Trauma many years ago. When I was in the initial crisis after discovery, life felt surreal and I did strange, silly, and downright dangerous things. I accidentally sprayed my hair with hairspray instead of mousse and dried it upside down into a strange and shocking Mohawk
One of my Clinical Team members at the Center for Relational Recovery told me the other day that in her betrayed partner’s group the women were talking and one of them said, “There is just no hope…I mean, even Michelle is divorced…there is just no hope with this addiction.”