“I’m divorcing, so I don’t need help.”
Recently a client decided that the best and healthiest route for her was to end her relationship with her spouse. After all, he had cheated on her and his demeanor after discovery was removed, distant, and often passive aggressive. She came to therapy, told her counselor about her decision, and declared that she was done with treatment. Since she was divorcing, she no longer needed therapy or healing after betrayal.
Please don’t do this.
Whenever someone makes this type of decision I feel sad and worried for that person because the decision is so short-sighted. The belief that if you are divorcing the person who betrayed you, you no longer need help reflects the idea that your betrayer is the one and only problem and if you get rid of that person you will be fine. It ignores the bus crash of betrayal trauma that you have experienced, and the ways in which your relationship and the infidelity have impacted you.
Even worse, when you terminate therapy and don’t work through what has happened in your relationship, giving yourself room to grieve its loss and to heal, you inevitably carry your unresolved baggage from that relationship into the next one. You then manifest your unresolved issues on your next partner, which is not healthy, not fair, and not the way to have a successful new relationship.
Many (probably most) betrayed partners are left with significant trust issues. They are wounded around their sexuality and sexual self-perception, as well as how they think about other people’s sexuality. They feel unclear about what happened between them and their significant other. As a result, they are often limited in their ability to connect, be vulnerable, take risks, and be intimate in a healthy manner.
If time and attention are not given to working through the significant impact of relationship betrayal, these unresolved issues can and likely will affect your ability to choose a different type of partner next time and to be in a relationship in a different (healthier and more emotionally fulfilling) way.
I have worked with many betrayed partners who have a pattern of hitching their emotional wagons to unhealthy partners. Some of these clients have married sex addicts repeatedly. Others have experienced infidelity over and over. Still others pick addicts of different stripes, one time an alcoholic, next time a sex addict, then a drug addict, etc. Usually this is because the betrayed partner’s personal history and family of origin dynamics leave that person blind to the red flags that others would see and run away from. As such, working through your relationship history and understanding the unconscious forces that guide who you pick and how you enter relationships is vital if you hope to select better partners and have better relationships in the future.
If you are leaving your relationship, please give yourself the gift of getting good help and taking the time to sort through what has happened, to grieve what you have lost, to heal the wounds caused by betrayal, and to learn how to enter your next relationship with your eyes wide open and the ability to deeply connect in a healthy way.