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Managing the Difficult Emotions of Relationship Betrayal

Last Updated: July 29, 2021

Guest Author
Guest Author

Want to write for the Covenant Eyes blog? Share the story of your journey to freedom from pornography. Let us know how you overcame porn or how Covenant Eyes has made a difference in your life or the lives of those you love.

I started to feel it around mid-morning. My body felt hyper-sensitive, the sun through the window hurt my skin. When the air came on, the cold air made my legs ache. My heart began to pound in my throat. My hands were sweaty and slippery. I was in the middle of writing a blog post and suddenly I didn’t know how to spell my name. Flooded with confusion, pain, and sadness, I went from being relatively fine, to feeling like a hot mess. Do you know this feeling?

These feelings aren’t new to me. I’ve dealt with them my whole life. I’ve learned I can do certain things to ride the waves of emotion that threaten to completely overwhelm me.

Your emotions can be warning signs.

These are the warning signs. If your body reacts to a trigger with flight or fight symptoms, all the blood gets diverted to your hands and feet so you can either run away or punch somebody. You feel every single air movement like needles on your skin. Your thoughts race. Your chest tightens. You can start to shake. You can’t tell the difference between reality and the stories you tell yourself. This is probably an anxiety attack. Anxiety will often involve fear of the future.

If there is a slow quiet ache of sadness without cause, it may be a warning sign of depression. The body responds with exhaustion. You are always tired, no matter how much you sleep. When you lay down, you can’t slow your brain down enough to rest. Racing thoughts are usually about you, not about other people. “I caused this. I am not good enough. I am a waste. It would be better to just die.” The body aches all the time. It’s like you have brain fog– like you are heavily medicated but without any of the benefits. It feels impossible not to cry. It doesn’t matter if you are at work, on the bus, or in the grocery store. The tears will come. I can’t tell you how many times I have hidden in the frozen foods section as tears slipped down my face. Cleanup on Aisle 9!

I recently spoke with some women from our Bloom community who have been betrayed by their partners through pornography use. Betrayal by someone in a position of trust is devastating and can cause debilitating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Over and over again, they described similar experiences:

  • “I’m a zombie. I can’t feel anything.”
  • “I am on auto-pilot. Just going through the motions.”
  • “I am not functioning at all.”
  • “I’m a mess.”
  • “I’m a waste.”
  • “I fail at being a human.”
  • “I’m in an emotional prison.”

Here’s the thing. Any kind of trauma can deeply affect your heart, mind, and body. Sometimes there is a clear trigger, but sometimes it just comes out of nowhere.  Left untreated, trauma can lead to long-term, serious mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. It’s all related.

Seeking help is the most important step you can take.

If you have felt these symptoms for more than a few weeks, you need to get help. Treatment is the bravest and most important step you can take. Finding a therapist that works with your personality and your goals for healing is one of the best investments you can make in yourself. This needs to be your therapist, not your couple’s therapist or your partner’s therapist. You might need medication. You will definitely need a safe person to talk to. You will also need to learn some coping skills to keep you safe as you navigate your emotions without resorting to numbing and dangerous behaviors.

That morning, my anxiety attack lasted three hours. I used every tool I have to ride it out. I chatted my best friend. I drank cold water. I put on silky, smooth lotion. I wrote about it in my notebook. I did a lot of deep breathing. I tried to stay in the moment. I took a walk for my lunch hour. The symptoms began to ease. I was able to keep working. I was able to cope.

If you are looking for a practical way to deal with your swirling emotions without resorting to risky numbing behaviors, download this worksheet for a quick exercise to help you cope more effectively.

Related Covenant Eyes articles:

Alisha GearyAlisha Geary is the Director of Content Development for Bloomforwomen.com. Bloom is an online community dedicated to helping women gain confidence, hope, and resilience through professional therapeutic support, educational resources, and an empathetic community.

  • Comments on: Managing the Difficult Emotions of Relationship Betrayal
    1. Jay

      Hi, I’m a 50 something man who has used pornography since my early teens. Ive been married and divorced twice. First wife decided she was lesbian (that does great things for a man’s ego), and my 2nd marriage of 20 years, my wife encouraged me to use porn. It meant that I would leave her alone. We only had sex around 20 times during this loveless marriage. During the last couple years of the marriage she cheated on me and then left me for another man.

      I have found a wonderful Christian woman. I’ve been completely open since our first date about my addiction. She let me know that it absolutely must stop and I agreed. I’m now married to this beautiful woman. During the engagement period, while we were separated, I fell and watched porn and masturbated. I told her what I did 3 days after our wedding.

      It crushed her. I have wounded this most beautiful and loving woman and turned her heart off like a switch. I have not viewed porn since (4 months) and have been going to counseling with her for the last few months. I have CovenantEyes filter on all my computers and phone. I’ve turned my life over to Christ. I read the bible every night for an hour and then pray for another half hour. Most of my prayers are for my bride whom I hurt. I am ashamed and so sorry for what I did. She’s the last person I ever wanted to hurt. I’m sick-at-heart for what I’ve done.

      My love was sure that she had found the her knight in shining armor and now knows that he just another guy who has lied to her. She said that she has forgiven me, but nothing is the same. Your article is about how women are affected after the man betrays them through the use of porn. I pray you can tell me what I can do, as a man who hurt their love, to help her heal.

      I know there is no magic wand. I know its going to take time. I know there are going to be a lot of lonely nights and raw emotions. I just want to help. I want my wife to know I would walk through fire to make things right. I just don’t know what the right thing to do.

      God bless your for your work. I ask for your advice and your prayers.

      • Chris McKenna

        Hello, Jay – you’re right that there’s no magic wand. You’re doing the right things. Now it’s a process of waiting, praying, and loving. There are related articles at the bottom of this blog post that are written from a wife’s perspective. Have you read those?

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