Anna Fels wrote a piece on betrayal in the NY Times a few weeks ago.  I've been too busy to write about it, but since I had a few minutes today I wanted to share it here.  Here's a link to her article:

What I found really enlightening about the piece was that she was writing about the impact of betrayal upon relationships.  In working with sex addicts, their partners, and families, betrayal is a word that always surfaces.  It's incredibly damaging to find out about one's partner's hidden sexual behaviors.  The impact can be traumatizing on the partner and on the relationship.  I had to pause and reflect after reading Fels's piece on betrayal.  She writes about betrayal in general: financial, sexual, and other types.  She states that it is the secrecy, lies, and manipulation that carry the most damage to a partner and to a relationship.  This echoes very strongly what I hear from partners all the time: As painful and traumatic as the sexual behaviors are, there is another layer of damage simply in the betrayal through secrecy and deceit.

As professionals and those in recovery, we need to be mindful of this betrayal.  The impact of this betrayal is SIGNIFICANT upon a relationship.  For sex addicts, maintaining sexual sobriety is vitally important.  Yet we must also recognize and address the deeper relational wounds that arise out of holding secrets.  Mending back together the shattered shards of reality takes time, patience, and sensitivity.  We need to honor this process, as it is unique for each partner and relationship. 

I think that as addicts are better able to understand this additional component they will more easily move towards empathy and partners will be more readily validated in their healing journey.  I hear variations on what Fels describes in her piece, but I am curious if this lines up with your experience.  Let me know how you experience the impact of betrayal.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (8)

There is a huge amount of abuse of therapists of the betrayed spouse. It's like being betrayed and traumatized over again. A lot of csats and marriage counselor do not understand or are to ignorant to accept this.
It's shameful that very people that are supposedly helping you are actually causing further abuse because of the old school idiots like Patrick carnes and his many idiotic followers.

May 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie


Sadly, there is a lot of re-traumatization that happens from the community of therapist trying to help. It takes humility for a therapist to recognize that what they are doing might not only not be helping, but might actually be harming their clients. And although it's one of our most important ethics to do no harm, so few of us have the humility to admit that we need a different approach if we are going to adequately help people. I'm sorry if you were someone who personally experienced this failure of the therapy community.

May 3, 2014 | Registered CommenterDan Drake

My experience with the deceit, deliberate manipulation of just about every aspect of my life was as devastating as the sexual betrayals. My partner deliberately coordinated and manipulated my entire life to make it easier for him to act out both on line and in person. Now that I know some of the intense planning and maneuvering of my job hours, my sleeping, his covering up lies, etc. I feel as if he simply stole my life from me for years. I look back on how he did this so heartlessly--some of the betrayal was around destroying my career!--I am dumbfounded. All so that he could engage in SA/C acting out. So yes, those "collateral" behaviors of deceit and betrayal feel as scary and devastating--and the longer I know what happened (ing), the sexual betrayal--though horrible--continues to recede into the background of the relationship and love betrayal that came with it--how l was not real to him at all.

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClare


Thanks for sharing, though your story is heartbreaking. I'm sorry to hear about the patterns of manipulation and deceit that your partner used for years . . . It's really hard to make sense of the addictive behaviors in and of themselves, but add to that the lying, secrecy, and deception, and it's even more confounding.

I hope you have found some safe people you can share with, as well as a healing community for you in this. Sex addiction often involves so much more than the actual behaviors, and many people that haven't been through what you've been through simply don't understand.

Thank you for sharing your vulnerability here, Clare.

August 8, 2014 | Registered CommenterDan Drake

Yes this article describes it perfectly. My biggest loss was the loss of my own story, my own memories, my own experience of our love. it was all gone in one second. It was all challenged and turned on its head. I wasn't just staring into the jaws of having to contemplate letting go of someone I was deeply in love with, but trying so hard to reconstruct my reality about the whole relationship. It was horrible. really really horrible. Still is, but then its only very recent.

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGail

I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your story - that what you thought you had all came crumbling down. Reconstructing reality is such a difficult, delicate, and painful task, yet it can be done. I hope you have some people who can help support you through the process. Thanks for your comment.

March 3, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Drake

I feel I have been betrayed and traumatized by my/our therapists. First by labeling me a "Co-dependent" I hate to hear that frase! I've seeing how this label gives my husband an out of his responsibility. If my husband had diabetes, would I be a co-diabetic? Second, by demanding that I "lay the law or else" them shaming me for not being willing to do it "their way" or in "their timing" hey, when do I stop being hit? Can somebody help me take my steps on my own pace with a little understanding and kindness. How about a little compassion? How about allowing me the time to heal and grow and prepare to get on my feet. What about time for me to prepare myself emotionally, as well as financially before cracking the whip? Why can' I have this freedom and couching without being shamed?

April 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

Thanks for your comment. I'm sorry to hear that you've felt labeled and pushed by the people you turned to for help. The original betrayal is extremely painful and damaging, but then to feel betrayed by the people who are supposed to help . . . That's a whole new level of pain. I hope you can find some support that doesn't label you or force you. You may want to check out - there are some partner specialists who can help.

April 11, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Drake

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
« Sexual Addiction - Fact or Fiction? | Main | How does online porn affect us? »