What is Betrayal Trauma?



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Mellissa Ruff

Thirty something mom | Married to her best friend | Writer, leader, and child of God!

Betrayal trauma is a very REAL thing.

Betrayal trauma is a term that describes when a committed partner has betrayed us (sexually, emotionally, etc.) which has caused incredible damage to the trust, safety of the relationship, and, in most cases, our identity and sense of self.

Betrayal: the act of betraying someone or something or the act of being betrayed; violation of a person’s trust or confidence, of a moral standard, etc.; the revelation of something hidden or secret

Trauma: a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury; an emotional upset

When betrayal happens in this capacity, the betrayed partner has been traumatized. Their world has literally been turned upside down. There are mental, physical, and emotional consequences.

Most of us are flung into a whirlwind of emotions, not knowing who to trust or what steps to take next.

Experiencing this level of betrayal shreds the belief that our partner is safe, wants to honor our commitment to one another, loves us, and wants to make us a priority.

Betrayal trauma is usually accompanied by different forms of dishonesty, all of which cause further trauma to the betrayed spouse. These forms include, but are not limited to:

Gaslighting: an attempt to make (someone) believe that he or she is going insane (as by subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation).

Minimization: to reduce or keep to a minimum; to underestimate intentionally.

Denial: refusal to satisfy a request or desire; refusal to admit the truth or reality of something (such as a statement or charge); refusal to acknowledge a person or a thing.

Manipulation: to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose.

This type of trauma takes the very person that is supposed to love us, support us, and be a safe haven for us and turns them into our perpetrator. There is panic, confusion, anger, fear, shame, guilt and so many other emotions that flood our system which impairs our ability to function because we are often on high alert.

Our brain and body instinctively go into fight, flight, or freeze mode.

For the majority of women going through betrayal trauma, it is terrifying and not short-lived. The process of healing is long. There are long-term impacts that will need to be worked through over time. 

On average, many studies show betrayal trauma healing takes anywhere from 18 months to 5 years.

Right now it may feel daunting, but there is healing and restoration for us through God. “Life will be brighter than noonday and darkness will become like morning. You will be secure because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.– Job 11:17-18 

There is hope.

One of the first things that we can do is join a community. Having women around us who “get it”, who have “been there” is, undoubtedly vital to healing from betrayal trauma.


Stop Simply Surviving & Start Thriving

Join the Live Free Wives Community

If you haven’t already, take these next steps:

  1. Seek the Lord.
  2. Seek out a solid Christian counselor that is well versed in betrayal trauma.
  3. Seek out a community like Live Free Wives!

Praying over you. You are worthy. You are a child of God.

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