This week I would like to introduce all of you to a colleague of mine named Kelly McDaniel. Kelly is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist and the author of the groundbreaking book Ready to Heal that addresses female sex, love and relationship addictions. In her book, she outlines four cultural beliefs that impact women and their ideas about worth, love, and sex. For this reason, her book resonates with women who have been betrayed and women who themselves have been the betrayer.
Kelly is currently working on a new book about Mother Hunger. Mother Hunger is a term that Kelly coined to describe the aching sense of loneliness, worthlessness, and longing for something more that so many of us carry around inside. She connects these persistent and haunting feelings with the absence of nurture, protection and guidance that many individuals experience in infancy and early childhood. According to Kelly, like it or not “our mother is our first love and her care/or lack of care imprints deeper and earlier than other caregivers, leaving a lasting imprint.” “Mother Hunger” in turn shapes the relationship with ourselves and with others and creates susceptibility to addictions or compulsions in our own lives or the lives of those we partner up with.
For many betrayed partners, the journey of healing includes not just addressing the trauma of partner betrayal but also the trauma of the first betrayals that may have been experienced in childhood.
The vast majority of betrayed partners I have worked with have what I call multi-layered trauma. They have experienced some level of childhood neglect or abuse (less than nurturing parenting). As a result, many betrayed partners experience a double whammy where existing childhood wounds made up of fears and insecurities about themselves, their self-worth and their ability to do relationships with others well, get re-activated. The current adult betrayal trauma can feel like it simply affirms your deepest darkest fears about yourself that you have carried since childhood – that somehow you are unworthy, not enough, and undeserving of love, fidelity and loyalty.
This is the multi-layered trauma that most betrayed partners are faced with. The current adult betrayal activates or piles on top of childhood betrayal and now there is one large throbbing wound that is screaming for relief. The failures of the cheater compound the failures of your parents or caregivers and combine to make most betrayed partners feel like there must be something truly wrong, bad or unlovable about them that the most important people in their lives have let them down again and again.
Because of the way that partner betrayal trauma can re-activate childhood trauma it is vital that betrayed partners get help and support to heal both of these layers. Understanding the wound created by Mother Hunger and how that has manifested in your life and relationships is a key part of this healing process.
To learn more about Mother Hunger, you can click the link below to access a free working paper written by Kelly McDaniel called Mother Hunger: The Legacy of Missing Maternal Love.