The Cause and Effect of Partner Betrayal Trauma

The Cause and Effect of Partner Betrayal Trauma

Trust is the cornerstone of intimate relationships. When that trust is broken, it can send waves of trauma through the person who has been betrayed. This trauma is referred to as Partner Betrayal Trauma (PBT). Understanding the causes and effects can help in healing and finding the road back to trust and intimacy.

Causes of Partner Betrayal Trauma

  1.  Infidelity: One of the most common causes of PBT is when one partner is unfaithful. This betrayal might involve physical relationships, emotional affairs, or both.
  2. Financial Betrayal: This occurs when one partner hides, squanders, or manipulates the financial resources without the knowledge or consent of the other partner.
  3. Deception: Lies, whether about significant matters or small, can erode trust and lead to feelings of betrayal.
  4. Addiction: Discovering that a partner is grappling with an undisclosed addiction—whether it be to substances, gambling, or even sexual behaviors—can be traumatizing.
  5. Emotional or Physical Abandonment: If one partner is emotionally unavailable, neglects the other, or abandons them during times of need, it can trigger feelings of betrayal.

Effects of Partner Betrayal Trauma

  1.  Physical Symptoms: Just like any other form of trauma, PBT can manifest physically. Symptoms might include insomnia, fatigue, weight changes, or even unexplained aches and pains.
  2. Emotional Turmoil: The immediate aftermath of discovering a betrayal might involve shock, anger, sadness, or confusion. Over time, these feelings might evolve into depression, anxiety, or feelings of worthlessness.
  3. Cognitive Impacts: Individuals may struggle with intrusive thoughts about the betrayal, constantly replaying events in their minds. There can also be challenges with concentration and decision-making.
  4. Self-Esteem Issues: One of the most profound effects of PBT is on the individual’s self-worth. They may start questioning their value or wonder if they were “good enough” or if they did something to deserve the betrayal.
  5. Trust Issues: Naturally, someone who’s experienced PBT may find it difficult to trust again—not just their partner, but others as well.
  6. Relationship Struggles: Even if the couple decides to stay together, there may be ongoing challenges. These might include communication breakdowns, intimacy issues, or heightened sensitivity to potential future betrayals.
  7. Avoidance: Some individuals might try to cope by avoiding reminders of the betrayal, isolating themselves, or even using substances to numb the pain.
  8. Hyper-vigilance: The betrayed partner may become excessively wary or watchful, always on the lookout for signs of another betrayal.

Healing from Partner Betrayal Trauma

Recovery from PBT is a journey and often requires both individual and couples therapy. The betrayed individual might benefit from trauma-focused therapies, while the couple might find healing through couples counseling that aims to rebuild trust and facilitate communication.


Partner Betrayal Trauma has deep-reaching effects on an individual’s well-being and the health of the relationship. Recognizing the causes and effects is the first step to understanding the pain and finding a path forward. With time, therapy, and support, it is possible to rebuild trust and find healing.

Also Read:

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Five Things a Good Betrayal Trauma Therapist Won’t Tell You

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