(real names have been changed or omitted)
With shaking hands I dialed my mothers number on my cell phone and waited while it rang. She picked up and I spoke "I have proof he's been unfaithful. I'm filing for divorce." Stunned silence ensued. Then she replied she'd be right over. I hung up the call on my iPhone and stood there clutching the phone, my mind racing and heart pounding like it would burst from my chest. When she arrived fifteen minutes later I opened the door. I started to speak but instead ran to the bathroom suddenly consumed with dry heaves. I was sick to my stomach. My body was shaking and I felt like my whole world had just been tossed on a tilt a whirl. I wanted off this ride from hell that I would later realize was trauma due to betrayal.
Betrayal is not pretty.
That night ironically the book my daughter wanted to read at bedtime was about Jesus and betrayal. When I came to the page illustrating Jesus on the cross and how he was betrayed, my daughter touched my arm and asked "Mommy... what does betrayed mean?" I paused as tears wet my eyes. Her question touched too close to home. Why this night? Of all nights I had to read this book and answer this question? I reminded her of how a little girl at school had recently been rude to her. I explained how when someone is blatantly rude to you at least you know where you stand with them. You know if they are repeatedly rude to you for zero reason that they dislike you, whatever their personal reason or issue may be.
But... what if someone who you thought was your friend... someone who had treated you kindly to your face, had given you the indication you could trust them, that you could confide in them and you fully believed they had your best interests at heart. What if you believed all these things but later found out they had not truly been your friend due to negative behavior(s) toward you behind your back? That they had turned on you? Betrayed you?
I asked her which friend she would rather have?
The answer was easy she said. The true friend.
As difficult as it was to have that conversation with my daughter I'm glad I did. It was such a teachable moment. It's during the times of trials we learn the most. I reminded her that Jesus would never betray her, that He loved her more than she could ever imagine, that He was the most loyal friend she would ever know.
Betrayal trauma was a term I had never heard until after my divorce was over and I was trying to heal. I did not realize this is a real thing but it certainly makes complete sense. When we are betrayed it is traumatic. Other people like to tell us "why can't you just get over it??" but the truth of it is we are trying to grapple with two very different realities. One, this person promised forever and loyalty yet they were living a secret life behind closed doors from us yet sharing the same bed. It creates so much mind bending out of body numbing crazy-making because we are trying to differentiate what is real and what is not. We feel violated by our own partner. Not to mention we feel re-victimized each time someone shuns us for getting a divorce, each time another woman now acts like we're the plague because she feels threatened we are divorced and in her distorted mind might take her husband, and then being blamed for being cheated on because so many people ignorantly believe if you were cheated on you must not have been doing your "wifely duties" ie; giving your husband plenty of wild sex. When in reality you were giving him plenty of sex and nothing could have ever satisfied him because the truth is you now realized sadly you were married to a depraved disgusting sex addict that also likely is closeted in some way, lied about his orientation and or also saw prostitutes and doesn't even know the names of the many partners he's had. He likely also has a porn addiction and some type of other addictive behaviors whether it's drug, alcohol, gambling, spending, etc. You sit there in utter shock that you could have been married to someone so morally despicable and grotesque and wonder why oh why you couldn't have gotten someone decent.
We are now faced with a very uphill battle of trying to find acceptance of our situation. I cannot tell you this will be quick as the process is a very slow one and telling you anything other than that would be a lie. It will be a slow and long tortuous process but it will take place and you will get better. There will be the grieving process of mourning the relationship, the marriage, the family, what we wanted for our children, for our future. It's completely normal to feel a whirlwind of mixed emotions; of rage, numbness, bewilderment, sadness, hurt, disappointment, etc... it's necessary to go through all the feelings and feel them. To numb with distractions or substances is to delay your healing. To push aside feelings or to stuff them is to delay healing. I would highly recommend getting yourself into therapy with someone who is very experienced with narcissistic personality disorder, grief counseling or both. These types of therapists will help you greatly in your healing process.
With betrayal it's definitely not just an ordinary breakup or divorce. You may feel rejected, dumped, discarded, replaced etc. It's normal to feel that way. If you were with a narcissist they likely betrayed you and already had someone lined up to take your place. Because a narcissist does not like being alone and must have supply at all times to feed their ego and gets easily bored they probably already have someone they are seeing or have maybe even promised to marry as soon as your divorce is final. This can be another devastating blow to us as we realize this person views other people as disposable and does not truly value them as individuals. Narcissists do not value people. They date and marry them to use them and abuse them. They are never faithful. You and their other partners could have been anyone. They literally do not care about you or the hurt they have inflicted on you.
With betrayal trauma the best way to begin healing is to take the necessary steps. To either go no contact or if you have children only engage in the absolute minimum contact needed to share information about the children. It will be very imperative that you do this to limit your interactions because repeated interactions with a narc causes us to spiral back in our progress. And from here forward we want you to not only heal from what you've endured but to actually thrive despite a hurting heart.
Jennifer Gafford is a writer, speaker and divorce coach who helps guide parents through the pain of trying to co-parent with their narcissistic ex, and shares tips for custody and healing. She began her website gracepowerstrength in 2012 and over time her blog and audience grew to over a million views. Jennifer was married for twelve years, has two children and is very well versed in the facts regarding narcissistic abuse and the challenges involved in healing. Today, she shares daily posts and stories on Instagram for thousands of followers regarding npd abuse and believes everyone deserves a life of peace, love and freedom.