The Trauma of Infidelity

So I know by this time you have probably talked to at least five people about being cheated on. There’s always that friend that really wants you to leave the relationship. And then there’s the friend or loved one that encourages you to stay. Perhaps says things like, “Think about the kids!” or, ” He’ll never do it again. When my husband cheated, I….” Either way you feel like an angry, confused, traumatized MESS! You can’t stop replaying the moment you found out, whether she was better than you, or even when you SHOULD HAVE known, but didn’t.

If this is you then keep reading…

Through my work as therapist, and personal experience, I have found that unbeknownst to most, infidelity is traumatic. The following research suggests that finding out about infidelity can be as traumatic as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is often seen in trauma victims and veterans. So in a sense, being cheated on can feel as if you have experienced the same trauma as a combat veteran. Below are three different ways that the trauma can be similar.


  1. Flashbacks- At any given time, you can be triggered by a something. It could be the smell of a new cologne your husband purchased while he was engaging in the affair. It could be any white Camaro you see, because the woman he cheated with drove this type of car. When you are triggered the brain sees this incident as if it were the day and time you found out, and can immediately go into fight or flight mode.
  2. Emotional numbing- Many times victims of trauma will have experience so much pain, that they will try anything to numb themselves or avoid the pain. According to expert Dr. Robert Mueller, “RageĀ or despair that comes after the initial shock of discovering the infidelity can be followed by a state of emotional hollowness.” Some people may try to use shopping, food, and even alcohol to avoid feeling the pain of the trauma.
  3. Hyper-vigilance- Many women my stay up all hours of the night checking phone records, smelling his clothing and making sure he was where he said he was all day. The slightest thing may set you off; he walks in five minutes late, he is a little less talkative, his phone rings. This is can even cause insomnia.

Many times, after an affair, you can begin to feel crazy as if you are being unreasonable and you cannot stop. This is due to the body and brain responding to the affair just as a combat veteran would respond to trauma. The best thing to do is reach out for support from a professional who specializes in trauma.

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