The trauma of infidelity can change the way you view yourself. A previously confident person may suddenly spend their time wondering why they weren’t “interesting” enough, “good” enough or “attractive” enough to keep their partner faithful. For many who have lived through infidelity, the trauma is relived every time they watch their partners glance at their phones to read a message, pull out of the driveway to run an errand or arrive home from work later than expected.
Anything that reminds the person of the infidelity can later trigger trauma-related symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, distressing memories of the event, and more. This is true even if the person who has discovered the unfaithfulness has decided to leave their cheating partner. Unfortunately, the trauma follows a victim of cheating from relationship to relationship until the feelings of betrayal are resolved.
Why Infidelity Trauma Lingers
Many people attempt to get over infidelity by repressing their feelings. Others will seek talk therapy to try to work out the issue. However, the constant resurfacing of buried pain is caused by memories and tangible reminders of the betrayal that still lingers. This is one of the reasons why more and more people are seeking to either get over a “bad romance” or repair a love that has hit road bumps are turning to eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.
During EMDR therapy, while recalling the traumatic memory of discovering the infidelity, the patient will be instructed on how to make specific eye movements. This process is designed to bring them to a place where they can be exposed to the negative memories without having a strong, triggering response. It will help them de-couple the pain from the memory.
Ultimately, many patients are able to reduce or erase the psychological stress caused by certain memories in a way that resembles a hard drive being rebooted. Interestingly, only some people undergoing EMDR may be disturbed by an actual infidelity memory. Others may be sourcing their trauma from a touchstone memory that is exacerbating the stress of infidelity. This will require the therapist to attempt to identify and draw out the memories that are creating heightened triggering related to the current infidelity.
Why Is EMDR Effective for Treating Infidelity Trauma?
The research done on EMDR and couples suggests that EMDR benefits people living with the trauma of infidelity in a number of ways. When used with couples, EMDR can be a powerful tool for helping couples to move forward from both negative memories from earlier in life and negative feelings related to a partner. Here’s a look at the key takeaways for patients considering EMDR based on research findings:
- EMDR is an effective approach when couples therapy stalls due to the fact that the non-straying partner can’t get beyond the traumatic memories of discovering the infidelity. EMDR helps the non-straying partner get “unstuck” from the memory of the infidelity. It helps the partners focus on the future — on rebuilding their relationship and moving forward.
- EMDR can help to increase empathy between a couple.
When it comes to healing from infidelity, EMDR offers an opportunity for partners to pursue mutual understanding while taking steps to heal the cognitive aspects of trauma that may linger long after one has embraced the concept of forgiveness. Even couples who seek traditional couples therapy may find EMDR therapy to be effective when a “talking” approach stalls. When working with a trained EMDR therapist, the emotional safety of both parties is always a priority when deciding on approaches and benchmarks.