Elena Riedo, Psy.D.,CSAT,PSOTP
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist
COGMED -QUOTIENT Provider for Adult ADHD
"Give An Hour" Provider for U.S. Military
Highly Specialized Treatment
You found out, now what?
If you are the spouse or partner of someone struggling with sexual addiction, the pain and trauma of discovering betrayal and secrecy can be devastating. Sexual addiction never just affects the addict themselves–while the addict receives treatment, partners and family members silently feel the impact of the addiction for years afterwards. This is even more true if they don’t seek specialized counseling. Choosing a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist and Partner Specialist ensures that the treatment you will receive will be highly specialized to address the real problems that one has to face when dealing with relational trauma and betrayal. Using proven methods based on research, in treatment you will get the support you need and the focus will be kept on your own process of healing and recovery from the pain.
After discovering betrayal, you may feel alone to make important decisions regarding yourself and, if you have a family, your children. You may be struggling just to survive the day to day, not knowing what to believe anymore, who to trust, confused about what to do next. Questions like: Should I stay or should I leave? Whom should I tell? Is this an addiction or just an excuse? Is there any hope to restore a healthy relationship? Is there something wrong with me that I was not able to prevent this? Was our relationship ever real? How is this going to affect the children? Should I stay for them?
You may feel pressure to make immediate decisions, especially in regard to staying or leaving the relationship, remember that you do not have to figure this all out alone or in one day. Above all, please remind yourself over and over again: you did not cause it, you cannot control it and you cannot cure it. If you remember nothing else, please know that we know this to be true. In therapy the first thing we will address is your emotional and physical safety. Trauma recovery requires re-establishing safety. That means setting boundaries and having clear and certain consequences for infractions/violations from the beginning.
I understand the profound impact this moment has on your life. Trauma and sex addiction, if left untreated can result in profound relational wounds, disintegration of the family structure, divorce and generational trauma affecting children and sometimes , children’s children. Today there is hope in the form of proven and tried methods developed by clinicians trained to heal just these types of problems. In a safe and nurturing environment, it is possible to overcome the impact of another’s sexual addiction on your life and on the life of the ones you love and to restore serenity.
What Is Trauma Bonding?
(Used with the expressed written permission of Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. 2015)
Everyone deals with stress, but when it comes with danger, fear, anxiety or risk, it can become traumatic. When this trauma is tied to a relationship, it can form a “trauma bond.”
Trauma bonding happens when someone uses fear, sexual feelings, sexual physiology and excitement to entrap someone else. It is a result of continuing cycles of abuse where alternating reward and mistreatment form an emotional bond that is not easy to break. This bond is basically a compulsive relationship fostering specific patterns of compulsive behavior.
Because those in these types of relationships have experienced extreme situations and feelings, it becomes particularly difficult to get out and away from the abuse. A trauma bond often becomes a life pattern which is repeated. After creating one, you are likely to have other similar relationships with comparable patterns. Trauma bonds can also form almost instantly and last “forever,” surviving even the death of the abuser. Even though the relationship comes with violence or degrading actions, the victim is generally extremely loyal to the abuser.
Situations that create trauma bonds often have some common characteristics. Strong trauma bonds are often present when the relationship has certain elements, such as:
How Can Trauma Bonds Be an Addiction?
Trauma bonds are often born from a biological need for intensity and can become an addiction, much like alcohol, drugs or sex. Victims become addicted to these relationships because they are both compelling and mood altering. When people have a trauma bond that has become addictive, they continue the relationship even though there are negative consequences, they lose the ability to decide to leave the other person, and they obsess over the relationship. A trauma bond addiction also results in losing sense of the right priorities in life to keep the relationship and obsession with it going.
Unfortunately, an addictive relationship can bring out other compulsive behaviors, such as alcohol and drug abuse, gambling, compulsive working, sex addiction and eating disorders. In fact, it is rare to come across a traumatic bond without other addictions woven in and those with addiction are generally vulnerable to traumatic bonding.
Do I Have a Trauma Bond?
Identifying the existence of trauma bonds in your life is an important first step. To recover from trauma bonding, the victim has to accept the relationship is not healthy and view the compulsive patterns as a problem. These patterns could include the following:
What Is a Betrayal Bond?
Dealing with betrayal is no easy task. Someone who has been betrayed feels abandoned, but sometimes it’s hard to see the abandonment because the betrayer is still part of the victim’s life. For some, this betrayal can form an intimate bond, even though it is negatively affecting the victim’s life and well-being.
Betrayal bonds are highly-addictive attachments to those who have hurt you. Exploitive relationships often become betrayal bonds and with them also comes deep shame. Someone in a betrayal bond is essentially addicted to the relationship with a person who is destructive and hurtful.
Forming Betrayal Bonds
In general, betrayal bonding happens because a major betrayal occurs and then a promise is made to heal, make better or compensate for what happened. Victims of betrayal bonds see the promise as so appealing, they ignore their intuitions and continue the relationship. Promises are usually used to betray in the following methods, many times in combination with each other:
Betrayers are good at reading their victims and engaging with their damaged emotions, such as pain, abandonment and the feelings associated with the wounds left by others. There are many situations that can form the betrayal bond. Some of the most common situations that result in betrayal bonding patterns include:
All of these scenarios come with extreme intensity, importance or both, and include exploitation of power, trust or both. In betrayal bonds, the victim is involved, or even intimate, with someone who is dangerous.
Knowing If a Betrayal Bond Is Present
The first step in recovering from a betrayal bond is acknowledging there is a problem. Indications of a betrayal bond include an inability to separate from the betrayer, self-destructive denial, and misdirected devotion. The following situations may indicate a betrayal bond exists in your life: