By · @IzumiTherapy  ·  · 4.1K Shares

[This article focuses on a relationship the offending partner has taken responsibility for betrayal and the goal is to stay together. If this has not happened, see Not “Just Friends” by Shirley Glass for ideas on how to start the process of acknowledgment]

When an earthquake hits, heavy damage can be done to roads, buildings, and bridges; even the ground itself is weakened. Aftershocks can damage already weakened structures, and can be as powerful as the initial quake.

Betrayal, Cheating and Infidelity Issues? How to Deal With It…In a similar way, when an affair or indiscretion comes to light, the partner who was cheated on has an initial strong reaction. Aftershocks; caused by unexpected triggers—events, memories, words, thoughts; can damage already weak self-esteem and trust. The best way of dealing with betrayal aftershocks is a Trigger Plan.

Sexual liaison, an emotional relationship with someone else, or casual online contact all break the unique and protective world that exists within a relationship. For the partner who discovers the betrayal, life gets turned upside down; your main source of emotional support becomes the source of intense, deep hurt. The shock of a severe and unexpected betrayal creates deep reverberations which affect everything from daily functioning to work performance to connection with your partner.

The original discovery of the affair can be a powerful shock that knocks over everything you knew about your relationship. Emotional triggers to the betrayal can then stretch an already taxed emotional system to the limit. When one’s emotional system cannot recover; recurring and intrusive images, thoughts, and feelings can cause severe stress—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may result.

One of the key elements in healing from an affair is what John Gottman calls “atonement”—the partner who had the affair making amends for the betrayal. A second essential aspect of healing is to deal with traumatic aftershocks.

Tips on dealing with the trauma of cheating:

1. Get Your Needs Met

Clearly ask your partner for what it is that you do need, as a positive request. Ask for as many of these needs as necessary (and for as long as necessary). Your partner’s role job is to try to meet your needs as much as possible. “I need to hear how important I am to you” is a specific need, focused on you.

2. Plan for triggers to happen

Create some signals you can both understand. Talk about the plan together when things are calm, as when triggered you will not be able to say, “I am triggered now and what I need is…”

A trigger plan involves:

1) Identifying potential triggers

2) Signal(s) for either of you to bring attention the fact that you are triggered,

3) Specific actions—needs.

Deciding what you need when triggered is up to you, not your spouse. Whether you need physical distance, a hug, an apology, or time with nature may vary from moment to moment; you can address this in your plan, and it is okay to have needs change. Having your partner be attentive and respectful will help both of you move through conflicting needs.

3. Stop Self-Blame

Planning for triggers does not mean that you are hampering your recovery as a couple “If only I could get through this” increases self-blame. Also, “If only I had…” thoughts do not help. These thoughts are ineffective ways of trying to get control of an uncontrollable situation. Your partner made the choice to step outside the bounds of your relationship; that is painful and unchangeable. Focus on what is going well, what both of you are doing well through the process of healing.

4. Avoid Time-ing Yourself

There is no time limit for the trauma of betrayal. Some people struggle a year later. Triggers are a form of emotional memory; deep down in the brain they have quick access to limbic system responses and are long-lived because their purpose is to try and avoid further hurt. Unfortunately, the replaying of hurts does not help get on with your life. What does help is reassurance, self-care, and getting your needs met. In general, and with practice, after about 3-6 months hypervigilance starts to subside.

5. Practice Good Self-Care

Some examples of self-care: Yoga, walks, a favorite comedy movie, a good book, sitting by a fire or beach with a good friend or pet. Creating daily rituals of care is essential.

6. Seek Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for support. It is a lot to go through yourself and a guide can make the difference between rebuilding your relationship or ending it.

Knowing that triggers may come and having a plan ready is the best way of dealing with the after-trauma of cheating. As you manage the tremors, you will build confidence that you can get through this. As your partner provides needed reassurance, you will slowly rebuild trust.

John Taylor

John has been a respected relationship therapist for over 15 years, specializing in helping couples at their breaking point find deep connection again. Based on beautiful Vancouver Island, Canada, he helps couples around the world master the arts of connecting, communication, and building love. He gets couples the skills and tools they need to become experts at creating a deep, passionate, mutually satisfying relationship.


He practices good relationship skills in his own life and is happily, enjoying his second decade of marriage with his wife, 3 children, and Labrador Hikari (“sunshine”).

You can read John’s relationship advice on his blog at: Information on therapy programs, including intensive couples counseling retreats can be found on his website at

What Do You Think?

11 Comments | Join the discussion

  • lola Aug 23, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Just remember when communications stops then all is in danger

  • Justdon'tknow Jul 7, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    I found messages just the other day to an ex if his. We have only been together for 7 months but it was going good till now. I’m not sure what ill do here but i do know it hurts like I’ve been cheated on. Worst thing is he thinks he did nothing wrong

  • Linda Jul 3, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    After 5 years and 2 break ups I finally decided to take care of myself and what I needed to do.
    He’s telling everyone that we broke up because I want to get married and he doesn’t .
    Ok so why then did he give me a ring and ask me to marry him???
    He just kept telling me someday…. Someday….
    I guess he meant when he needed me to take care of him….
    We are both over 50…….
    I just wanted someone to love me and want to be with me….

  • anum Jul 3, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I don’t want to recover want him so bad I give him everything love trust respect and he just cheated on me

  • anum Jul 3, 2015 at 10:31 am

    I’m so stressed I want him back buh don’t know how I’m really I’ll after the love betraval I’m so hurt don’t know what to do I can’t stay away from him help me out :\'( need him back

  • MIZYAH Jul 2, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    I experienced all of the above mentioned here. I was betrayed. It’s true that until now I can’t move on just yet. I gave all my trust, love and now this is all I get. It’s barely 2 months now since we broke up and with this article I read, it helps me recover slowly.

  • Sera Jul 2, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    For me this involves two instances with the same girl. It took me almost two years to trust him again and now I am back at square one.
    He doesn’t understand he thinks I should be over it by now but everyday it is a constant battle between my mind and my heart.
    It has only been since March that this last happened. Lord only knows how long it went on for this time or if sex was involved. ….
    The cheater doesn’t understand what this does to the cheated on person
    Especially if the cheater still claims to love the person they cheated on and still wants to be in a relationship.
    Everyday I fight this
    The mornings are the worse

    • Jaded   Sera Jul 6, 2015 at 10:02 am

      My mornings are the worst too!!! First thing I think about every day.

  • Gerald Jul 2, 2015 at 10:44 am

    I have been on this sight for 2weeks:-) Im divorced but I have all my answers I need for a future relationship

  • KC Jul 1, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    That is exactly how I felt–every time I drove to work I had to go past her house and it took me hours to feel better. I think this went on for about a year for me. I agree with the self-care–essential!


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