Betrayal and Trauma and Getting Vulnerable Again

A natural response to trauma is focusing on keeping yourself safe. Identifying safety is a natural part of the healing process. However, one of the most common things that people can struggle with after dealing with betrayal trauma is identifying when they should again take chances with partners.

Dr. Bréne Brown identifies 3 qualifiers of someone getting vulnerable:

  • Uncertainty
  • Risk
  • Emotional Exposure

In order to connect with someone, you have to navigate through these 3 elements. However, you can see why they would be triggering to you if you’ve been betrayed by someone. In our relationships, we need to trust that the other person won’t try to hurt us when we open ourselves up. Oddly, we also can’t build trust unless we’re willing to take some chances.

Mindful Acceptance of Risk

It’s so natural after being hurt to build walls of protection. I don’t think it’s a good idea to knock all of these walls down immediately. In fact, I’ve also seen people do this right after betrayal, and it’s not gone well at all. Although sometimes couples will have some intense spark, this usually results in resenting each other and old problem patterns tend to return.

Another problem for many people who’ve been betrayed is that they can be critical on themselves for struggling to trust again. I encourage people to instead validate those untrusting voices and respect what they’re actually there for. These are simply warning signs. Your mind and body are doing what they’re supposed to do! Oddly, when people remind themselves, “it’s ok to feel scared and suspicious right now… I’m just trying to protect myself,” they’re able to make some changes.

At this point, you can ask yourself, “what risks are tolerable right now?”

Here are some examples of these risks:

  • Opening up about something that you’re struggling with.
  • Sharing something that you appreciate about your partner.
  • Letting your partner touch you.

Sitting with the Risk

When you take a chance and open yourself up, I recommend that you sit with how you feel about it afterwards. Identify whether or not anything has changed for you. Do you feel more open? Do you feel more connected? Do you feel more scared or unsafe?

If you feel unsafe, it’s completely fine. Try to not to pull too much meaning into it. It may only be a momentary feeling. So instead just see how long it lasts and whether or not it passes. If it lingers, you it may be beneficial to talk with a therapist who has training in either EMDR or Somatic Experiencing to work on the ongoing trauma that is still around. Or it may also be helpful to engage in some couples therapy to help open up in a safer more balanced setting.

Remember, vulnerability and connection are always a process. They take time. So try not to be too hard on yourself through the process.

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If you’re in the Dallas area, and you’re in need of a therapist who can help you with reconnecting in your relationship, please feel free to contact us.

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