How Betrayal Trauma Manifests Itself



Excerpt from Dr. Kevin Skinner, Clinical Director, LMFT, CSAT-S • Jul 19, 2018

In 2005, I wrote an assessment. This was one of the first assessments, if not the very first, that looked at trauma that stemmed from a spouse’s sexual behaviors. Since that time 10 years ago, thousands of people have completed our assessment.

The results have been stunning—and alarming. After poring through the data, it has become clear to me that thousands of women and men are suffering deeply due to their partner’s sexual behaviors outside of their relationship. Here are some categories, questions and results from our research:


Fear and Questions of Safety

I feel violated due to my partner’s sexual behaviors.

  • Never (2.87%)
  • Occasionally/rarely (9.86%)
  • About half the time (9.65%)
  • More often than not (25.05%)
  • Always (52.57%

Relive the Event/Experience

When my partner tries to get close to me or we are sexually intimate, I cannot help but question whether my partner is thinking about me or things he/she has done.

  • Never (2.66%)
  • Occasionally/rarely (11.53%)
  • About half the time (15.96%)
  • More often than not (27.05%)
  • Always (42.79%)


I avoid sexual contact with my partner since discovering his/her behavior.

  • Never (11.66%)
  • Occasionally/rarely (24.89%)
  • About half the time (23.32%)
  • More often than not (23.77%)
  • Always (16.37%)

Negative Self Evaluation and Mood

I feel like my partner acts out because I am not good enough.

  • Never (9.89%)
  • Occasionally/rarely (21.61%)
  • About half the time (23.22%)
  • More often than not (23.22%)
  • Always (22.07%)

Emotional Arousal (e.g. Anger, Irritability)

After discovering my partner’s sexual behaviors, I find that I am increasingly angry in response to my partner.

  • Never (2.10%)
  • Occasionally/rarely (17.06%)
  • About half the time (23.13%)
  • More often than not (34.58%)
  • Always (23.13%)

Duration of the Disturbance

How long have you been experiencing the symptoms described in this assessment (e.g. recurrent thoughts, feeling anxious, being afraid)?

  • Less than one month (3.77%)
  • 2-3 months (4.95%)
  • 4-6 months (5.42%)
  • 7-12 months (10.85%)
  • More than one year but less than two (16.51%)
  • More than two years but less than five (25.47%)
  • More than five years (33.02%)

Distress or Impairment in Social, Occupational, or Other Important Areas of Functioning)

It has become difficult for me to fulfill important roles (that of employee, parent, etc.) since discovering my partner’s sexual behaviors.

  • Never (11.53%)
  • Occasionally/rarely (26.82%)
  • About half the time (30.35%)
  • More often than not (21.88%)
  • Always (9.41%)

In reviewing the data above with many other responses, it became clear to me that the PTSD criteria model was a legitimate way to look at responses to infidelity and other sexual behaviors outside the marital bond. Betrayal trauma due to a partner’s sexual behaviors is common, and the symptoms are real. And, If left untreated, this condition can trigger additional mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Full article here



4 responses to this post.

  1. What incredible research and statistics. My partner and I tried to be as honest and open in all areas of our relationship. Yet I feel as being his third long term partner, and one after a relationship with a woman who treated him terribly our honesty and respect unconditional love and not fearing how our words would be taken wrongly allowed us to have a very deep level of love. My partner had had prostate cancer and this impacted his ability at times, he was deeply ashamed of this. Worried how I would react. We were totally open about it. things improved greatly and he shared that with me he never felt in adequate or a need to perform.
    I feel so little real information is shared honestly and openly about sex. The crap that is written in magazines and tv movies. Expectations and that it will be wonderful. The shame of body image. Aging, odours, natural odours that have the pheremones being sanatised and destroyed by chemicals.

    The pornogrpahy industry showing ridiculous situations fantasies, and all that goes with it. Fictional and not reality but often the only way many see the sexual act displayed. Sigh.

    Sex and sexuality, expectation and reality. Not being honest, not communicating about what you like, and how before you marry or commit to a relationship with someone who may not really be on the same page or need as you are in the sex department.

    I know that my partner and I were very very lucky but we did work very hard at communicating and not judging. When he became ill with his cancer, he told me it would be OK if I had sex with someone else I told him how touched and appreciated I was by his very kind words. I told him it meant a lot to me but he meant more and I knew at this point in his life if I did that even with his blessing it would hurt him. I also told him that I was quite happy if I needed to to masturbate, something he quite enjoyed being present for. lol he found it fascinating.

    I feel sex is one thing but a sexual relationship and a commitment to being a couple goes deeper than sex. Many women find masturbation satisfies them better than sex with their partner. Have they shared it with their partner maybe not.

    I am a very open and willing person in relationships within reason and my being in charge of my situation(not sure that makes sense) So if any person I was in a relationship with say went off and had sex with say a paid sex worker or an affair. I would much prefer that it was a safe hygiene where the sex worker was not taken advantage off, but a ‘professional’ than if the person had an affair. Firstly I would want to know why my partner had done this, and what I was not willing to do to satisfythe need. If I was nt willing but the person told me and still needed that to help then it would be to me no different to other therapies that help people cope. It is a business transaction, not emotional. If it was an affair, why? would I want the person still to be in my life if they did not want to be with me, I dont think so. As I age Sex is important but it is such a transient thing dependent on so many things. Both parties feeling like it at the same moment, weariness, children, stress, work, finances, body image, making noise and disturbing neighbours, having different desires (consenting adults ones) comfort levels, education regarding sex. some people seeing it as a necessity but not enjoyable, other loving it. Not feeling satisfied by it. feeling inadequate.

    It is really a tragedy that so much is put upon sex in a realtionship. If you are really having such incredible issues in regard to your partners sexual needs (as long as they are in regard to consensual adults) than perhaps love is not what you have but a dream of what you thought it would be.

    I believe you have to be honest before committing to live with someone. Be honest with yourself too. If you can not communicate about sex, openly with the person that might be a red flag.

    I have never been married as I see it as a institution by the religious organisations to keep woman powerless and certainly in our history as chattels and owned by their spouses. Even now many religious services continue to have obey for the woman to say to the man but not the other way.
    When in fact what you enter into is a a business of sorts. You are supposed to be today a partnership equal(cough cough choke choke)

    Relationships like any business takes a lot of work, communication and give and take. Understanding of differences, and respect from both parties. No one owns the other person and or control anyone else. No one is better or worse. But sadly that is not what seems to be reality.

    Marriages /relationships evolve over time, change heaps from the early days. My parent who did divorce, told us their children when we were all still a family, that imagine the person you think you are in love with is throwing up or has diarrhea and you have to help them. That they have an injury and can no longer have sex. Or their looks are disfigured would you stop loving them.

    My way is not going to be anyone else’s way. We had trust, openness, respect, honesty,
    we fought, we would work through the reasons we fought after wards, and we both learnt we were not mind readers. Accepting our minds thinking process, expectations understanding, cultural, age, gender and family upbringing along with our ideology of what our relationship would be was one of unconditional love. along with lots of laughter and communication and not the sort of we need to have a chat. Neither of us were uptight about sex.

    now my partner is dead (10 Years ) his legacy is I doubt I will have another relatisonship of live in, I know what I need and sex is not the most important thing in any real realationship as time goes bye. The thing I miss most is touch, the little touches that a couple have just in the day to day life, and laughter.

    god I have blabed on!

  2. Wow that’s incredible

    You had a special
    Relationship and that is rare

    Thank you
    For sharing

    I have to
    Reread later

  3. […] post on Marty’s See below Martys blog C PSTD A mindful way to heal. How Betrayal Trauma Manifests Itself. Marty’s ” blog is designed for daily support […]

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