Have you recently (or not-so-recently) discovered that your partner is having an affair and are looking to understand how surviving infidelity PTSD is possible?
Many people are surprised that infidelity can cause PTSD, but it is true. Discovering infidelity causes significant trauma akin to physical or emotional abuse, death of a child or parent, or some other life changing occurrence. Furthermore, the trauma that results from discovering infidelity can also bring up unresolved issues from past trauma, mixing with your present situation to make the PTSD even worse.
It is very important to seek professional help if you are struggling with PTSD. Unresolved trauma can rear its head over and over again. In the meantime, I am going to share with you the signs of PTSD and give you some recommendations about how surviving infidelity PTSD is possible.
1. Resorting to self-blame
For many people who suffer from emotional and physical trauma, self-blame is very common and a huge indicator of PTSD.
Do you blame yourself that you partner strayed? Do you think that if you had only been nicer or funnier or skinnier or had more sex with them, they wouldn’t have cheated on you?
Do you chide yourself for being so clueless that you didn’t see the signs, that you missed the fact that your partner was stepping out on you?
Let me tell you, your partner’s infidelity is NOT YOUR FAULT.
Infidelity happens for many reasons, but it doesn’t happen because of things that you didn’t do. More often than not, infidelity is something that happens not because someone seeks it out but because two people meet and there is an attraction that proves irresistible.
Blame is a double-edged sword, but if anyone must be blamed, it’s those who couldn’t resist, who proved weak in the face of temptation and who lied to you over and over.
I know it’s hard, but work to not blame yourself, because you are not to blame.
2. Struggling with unstable emotions and disorientation
Do you find yourself struggling with a wide range of emotions?
Do you find yourself crying one minute, raging another, way too happy and then back to the tears? Do you find yourself sitting in the car and looking out the window, only to realize that an hour has passed?
People who struggle with PTSD struggle with unstable emotions and disorientation. The pain is so extreme that it renders their emotions uncontrollable. Because of the power of these emotions, their brains are overwhelmed, and disorientation is the result.
Time will help with emotions that are out of control—they are strongest right after, but they dissipate as time goes on. Oftentimes, without help, they don’t go away completely, but they can, at the very least, be managed. And when managed, the disorientation will be resolved.
For now, have awareness that the wide range of emotions that you are struggling with are completely natural. Chiding yourself for feeling them, for not staying calm, for being angry with life and at the same so very sad, will only make the emotions worse. Accepting them as a part of the healing process will allow them to help you do that—heal.
3. Obsessing over intrusive thoughts
Do you find yourself obsessing over the images of your partner committing infidelity? Do you regularly chide yourself for missing the signs? Do you question your self-worth and wonder if you are worthy of love? Do you spend more time in your head than you do in the moment, living your life?
Unfortunately, our powerful brain—the thing that distinguishes us from every other animal in the world—can be our worst enemy. Our brain loves to run negative memories over and over, ones that serve to reinforce all of the bad thoughts that we have about ourselves, our loved one and our lives. These negative thoughts don’t serve us in any way and can actually make healing more difficult.
There are ways to deal with these intrusive thoughts. The first is to become aware that the intrusive thoughts are just that—intrusive and not necessarily productive. Next, accept that the thoughts are not serving you, but that they should not be chased away. Let these thoughts float through your head and don’t try to analyze them or give them any power. And then let them go.
It’s also important to remember that the thoughts will probably come back and that you will have to practice this awareness over and over. Ultimately, with time, those intrusive thoughts will dissipate.
Another useful tool for reducing the power of intrusive thought is by doing something that will occupy your brain. Yoga and meditation are excellent tools for managing intrusive thoughts, but reading, watching TV, and sleeping also work. Whatever you can do to give yourself a break from those thoughts, even for a little while, will help you manage them and reduce their effect on you.
4. Giving in to trust issues
Many people who are trying to understand infidelity PTSD find that they have developed significant trust issues.
When the person who we love the most—whom we have put all of our hopes and dreams, who we trust more than anyone else—betrays us, our place in the world is profoundly affected. Instead of seeing the best in people, we are instead left believing that people are ultimately evil and that trusting ourselves and our emotions with anyone will only cause us pain.
When your partner has been unfaithful, it is important that you spend as much time as possible with those who love you and those you can trust. One person has betrayed your trust, not everyone, and being reminded of that regularly will help restore your faith in people.
With time, and help, you will learn that trusting people is possible and that even that person who betrayed your trust might be worthy of it again.
5. Struggling with hopelessness
Are you struggling with the belief that nothing will ever be the same again? That happiness will be forever out of reach, that you will never love again and that life can not possibly go on?
It is important that you understand the nature of hopelessness around PTSD. A key part of PTSD is depression, and when we are depressed, the belief that anything will ever be okay again is inconceivable. When we are depressed, we are simply incapable of believing that life will get better.
But let me promise you that, with time and treatment, the feeling of depression and hopelessness will fade. Life does go on; you will love again, and that happiness will once again be yours.
Again, spending time with people who love you is an excellent way to manage the hopelessness. You might not believe them in the moment, but having people remind you that you will get through this and that life will go on is an essential part of the healing process.
Surviving infidelity PTSD is not only possible but probable with time, treatment, and awareness.
Again, getting professional treatment for your PTSD is essential. Talk to your primary care physician right away and they can help you access the treatment that you need.
Time is the ultimate healer. I know it’s hard to believe it now but, as time goes on, you will feel better. Life will be worth living again. The pain might not be gone but it will be less and it will be manageable.
For now, keep your head up, believe that the future is there, accept where you are right now, and get some help.
You will get through this, I promise.