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. I ran out of gas on the side of the road and had to be rescued by a friend because I couldn’t figure out what to do next. I couldn’t decide what to name my new kittens so I named them Black Cat and Grey Cat. I had too many ‘almost’ car accidents to count. I lay awake until 7 a.m. having panic attacks. I shaved just one leg (many times). I rode my bike into oncoming traffic, I went through many cell phones (dropped in glasses of soda, puddles, orange juice), I lost my two indoor cats outdoors (I eventually found them). I was short-tempered, tired, teary, and couldn’t concentrate.
Here are some things betrayed partners frequently experience during the first few months after discovery:
- Forgetting things
- Clumsiness, accidents
- Sleeplessness or a desire to sleep all the time
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mixing up words when talking
- Inability to complete small tasks
- Wanting to isolate
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- A sense of overwhelming fear
- Unstoppable crying or the inability to cry
- Anger, rage or frustration
- Racing thoughts or an inability to ‘turn your mind off’
- Intrusive thoughts of real or imagined scenes of your partner’s sexual behavior
- Twitching eyes, legs, arms
- Loss of appetite or increase in appetite
- Body aches
- Feeling numb, robotic, or disconnected
- Sour or churning stomach
- Guilt or shame
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Frequent illness
During this initial stage, whatever you are feeling and experiencing, you are normal and others have experienced the same. You are on a wild emotional ride, and betrayed partners have reported an incredible variety of feelings and experiences during this time. Be patient and gentle with yourself and do not expect more from yourself than is possible during this early period. Your bodily system is handling more than normal and is overwhelmed. You may be searching for the right thing to do or an action to take, but kindness, patience, realistic expectations, and lots of self-compassion are needed during this phase.
This blog was originally published October 24, 2016 and updated March 4, 2021.