Beyond a Broken Heart

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Beyond a Broken Heart

By The Fix staff 03/28/18

Addressing relationship trauma associated with sex and love addiction is an important part of recovery, whether you will be staying together or not.

Image: 
An unhappy couple in a bedroom.

In recent years, the idea of trauma has become more mainstream. Initially trauma and the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder were discussed in relation to people coming back from war. Then, medical professionals began to realize that a host of negative experiences, including abuse, neglect or accidents can also trigger a trauma response.

Trauma can also occur within a romantic relationship, and not just those that are abusive. Betrayal of trust, whether through infidelity, financial deception or anything else, can leave people experiencing the real effects of trauma, according to Fenella Price, sales and marketing director for Serenity Health and Substance Misuse, a UK organization that connects patients with rehab clinics and counseling services.

“Betrayal in a relationship — whether it is caused by an affair or other forms of covert activity that are deliberately hidden from a partner — can cause a great deal of trauma to the affected party,” she says. “This kind of breach of trust can incur a wide range of psychological symptoms from personality changes to attachment issues.”

In order to heal from relationship trauma, it’s important to understand how and why the situation occurred, and for both parties to get treatment, whether or not they plan to stay together.

“It is possible for relationships to survive a betrayal in a healthy and productive way. It will, however, take time,” Price says. “Individual and couples counseling will allow both partners to gain a deeper insight into their partners and themselves, and hopefully figure out how to move forward and avoid the detrimental habits that may have existed beforehand.”

The first step is to identify any underlying issues that may have led to the betrayal, including sex or love addiction on the part of the betrayer. Although not all betrayals can be explained by these conditions, they often play a role in the events that lead to relationship trauma, says Christopher Yiannakou, the director of Serenity Health.

There has been some debate over whether these behaviors are truly addictive, so Yiannakou says that it’s important to find treatment centers that specialize in understanding love and sex addiction.

“There is a lot of prejudice and shame surrounding sex and love addiction, with many people deeming it to be a result of sheer lack of willpower or an inability to connect with others on a deep level,” he says. “There is a common misconception that the addiction is not real in the same way that an alcohol or drug addiction is. This simply is not the case, however. The problem can affect a wide range of people and demographics, and is not simply the cause of a greedy attitude towards sex.”

People who are battling love or sex addiction often find themselves engaging in risky behaviors compulsively, despite the negative consequences, in much the same way that people with substance use disorders do. Because of this, it’s important that people seek professional help to overcome their condition, Price says.

“Many people who have the addiction are either married or would like to get married, and treatment is a very effective way of helping them achieve the monogamy they seek,” she says. “Secondly, the addiction can hugely impact a person’s mental health and stability, with certain hookups and liaisons often serving to compound their negative emotions and habits.”

Although it may seem unfair, the partner that was betrayed should also seek professional counseling, both to understand their partner’s actions and to better manage their own response by healing their emotional and psychological wounds, Yiannakou says.

“Getting the partner to seek treatment such as counseling services can be one of the only ways for a relationship to survive, as the addiction can cause much hurt on both sides,” he says.

Sometimes the partner might resist treatment, or feel that they shouldn’t have to do counseling for what they see as someone else’s mistake. However, even if the couple chooses not to be together, it is important for both partners to address trauma from the betrayal in order to have functional relationships in the future.

“The psychological scars caused by a betrayal-related trauma can follow a person into new relationships, causing trust issues,” Yiannakou says. “In this way, if a person wants healthy and happy relationships in the future, therapy at recognized treatment centers for love addiction may be a very helpful and healthy route to go down.”

Get more information on Serenity Health on the website or on Twitter.

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