Betrayal Trauma Boundaries

Betrayal Trauma Boundaries

by Isabella Coronel
Published: Updated:

How to Put in Place Healthy Boundaries in Trauma Recovery

Establishing boundaries is a crucial skill. However, a lot of people struggle to set a new boundary or enforce already-established boundaries. Especially for those of us who have had traumatic experiences, setting and enforcing boundaries with another person can be incredibly challenging.

When you’ve been betrayed or have had your boundaries crossed, often called betrayal trauma, it can have serious consequences. Betrayal can affect your view of the world, yourself, and others. It is also known to affect interpersonal relationships.

So, what are some examples of betrayal trauma? How do you get past difficulty with boundary setting and other possible consequences? First, let’s define betrayal trauma and its potential effects. Then, we’ll discuss tips for setting healthy boundaries and how treatment at Catalina Behavioral Health can help.

What is Betrayal Trauma?

Betrayal trauma happens when a person or institution betrays someone they are supposed to protect or be faithful to. A common example is cheating in an intimate relationship. Having an unfaithful spouse or finding out about an affair partner can be traumatic, and the betrayed partner may develop betrayal trauma.

Another example of betrayal trauma is caused by childhood abuse. As a child, you rely on caregivers. All children should have parents or caregivers they feel safe with. When you experience abuse from a caregiver or parent, it can have a severe, long-term effect on the way you trust or build relationships with others.

When it comes to institutional betrayal trauma, negative experiences with healthcare providers and healthcare institutions, employers, and legal professionals are all common examples. You may lose faith in the healthcare system if it was supposed to protect or help you and did not. Betrayal trauma can also emerge from friendships and in other situations.

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What are the Typical Effects of Betrayal Trauma?

Betrayal trauma can make it hard to feel vulnerable, trust other people, or trust institutions. For betrayed partners, the relationship with the unfaithful spouse will be in need of repair. Even those who leave a relationship following a boundary violation might have trouble feeling emotionally or physically safe with future partners.

Other impacts of betrayal trauma can include but aren’t limited to the following:

  • Trouble setting or enforcing boundaries
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Problems with self-esteem
  • Physical symptoms
  • Intimacy issues
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Having been through betrayal trauma, especially if it was early in life, can make you more prone to re-victimization. Children who go through betrayal trauma may experience betrayal multiple times from different people, including in the relationships they have as adults.

3 Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries After Betrayal

Communicate Boundaries Clearly

A boundary is a dividing line; it is not meant to control the other person or tell them to do something. Instead, it is a parameter you set regarding what you will let into your life. Here are some tips for setting healthy boundaries with another person.

1) Communicate Boundaries Clearly

Boundaries work best when you give a clear outline of what you won’t accept and what will happen if the boundary is crossed. An example of a clear and healthy boundary is, “Please do not raise your voice. If that does happen, I will need to hang up the phone.”

2) Make a Plan for Boundary Violation

Often, boundary setting requires a plan for what you’ll do if the other person does not respect your boundaries. This is not a punishment for the other person. Instead, it’s a way to protect your own well-being. Using the example above, if a person continues yelling, that is a boundary violation.

It is hard to feel safe or respected when someone raises their voice. If they continue to yell, your plan for boundary violation would be to hang up the phone. It is critical that you follow through, even if it is a spouse or partner triggering your trauma boundary.

Not following through may teach people that they can continue taking advantage of you or that you aren’t serious about your boundaries. To be clear, this does not mean that it’s your fault when partners or other people in your life don’t respect boundaries; that is still disrespect. Reinforcing boundaries is a skill meant to protect your own health.

3) Establish a Strong Support System

Developing healthy, supportive, and non-toxic relationships is a big part of establishing an internal sense of safety after trauma. Seek friendships where boundaries are respected and heard, and look for the same open communication, affection, and interdependence (vs. codependence) in future romantic relationships.

It is also crucial to seek professional support if you struggle with boundaries. Setting boundaries can be a challenge, especially for trauma survivors, but it’s one of the most important skills you can have. Boundaries matter not just in romance but in familial relationships, friendships, at work, and in other parts of life.

How Treatment Helps With Betrayal Trauma

Betrayal trauma recovery is about helping you feel safer. In our treatment programs, you’ll work on developing important skills like regulating emotions, creating and maintaining boundaries, overall self-care, communication, and scoping out what kind of relationships or interactions are best for you moving forward.

We’ll also address the underlying causes of trauma and any mental health concerns that may have emerged as a result.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Boundary work is an important part of effective trauma treatment. In therapy, you can work on setting boundaries. People who have been through betrayal can have trouble establishing boundaries.

You may develop a “fawn” response or people-pleasing behavior out of the fear that people will leave or betray you again if you set boundaries or reinforce them. In reality, effective boundaries build stronger relationships.

Boundaries can take different forms. For example, if a partner slept with an affair partner or had multiple hookups without letting you know, physical boundaries could be extremely important. The betrayed spouse or partner, in this instance, risks STDs and STIs and has experienced a serious breach of trust.

Overall Benefits to Relationship Health

Research shows that relationship boundaries can help couples avoid infidelity. Having boundaries in your relationship and defining what counts as cheating is important because it means that you and your partner will be on the same page. There will be clear guidelines for what is and is not okay.

If you’re still in relation with a family member or another person who betrayed you, but you are unable or do not wish to stop talking to that person, boundaries are absolutely integral. Setting boundaries with family members can differ from setting boundaries with partners or a spouse.

Equal effort is required in a relationship, and if the person is unable or unwilling to work things out, you can leave. While it is perfectly reasonable to avoid contact with family members when applicable, not everyone can; boundaries can be a form of self-care in this instance and can help you preserve your well-being.

Our treatment team will help you identify the boundaries you might need to set and discuss how to do so in a way that is informed by your life and needs.

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Attachment and Security

Depending on your situation, you might want to work on an existing relationship where boundaries have been violated, or you might want to work toward secure attachment as an individual to help you prepare for future relationships or interactions with others.

People who have emotional, sexual, or boundaries broken in childhood are more likely to experience insecure attachment. It is important, in that case, to build healthy relationships where you feel secure. A betrayed partner in a relationship where your partner had a physical or emotional affair might also struggle with feeling secure.

If you want to work on an existing relationship where trust has been broken, it is critical that the unfaithful partner (or the person who betrayed you in another way) is also invested in building a healthy attachment and a sense of security with you.

Communication and Confidence

Communication and Confidence

Sometimes, people who have endured betrayal have trouble communicating and maintaining a positive view of themselves. Low self-esteem and patterns of unhealthy relationships are very common in childhood trauma survivors especially.

Trauma therapy can help you communicate, set boundaries effectively, and establish a positive view of yourself. For example, role-playing in therapy can help you develop the communication skills you want to have.

We’ll also work on general self-care so that you can develop a stable baseline, address painful feelings in day-to-day life, and find solutions on your own during challenging times. There could be a person in your life, like a family member, unwilling to take accountability or work with you; that does not mean your own health and stability need to be compromised.

General Mental Health

Treatment can help with the mental health concerns you might experience as a result of trauma. At Catalina Behavioral Health, we treat trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex PTSD in all its forms, depression, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, and other mental health concerns. Treatment can help relieve your symptoms and give you a better quality of life.

Our Trauma Treatment Programs at Catalina Behavioral Health

Catalina Behavioral Health offers a variety of programs. As far as levels of care go, we have detox, residential inpatient, and outpatient treatment programs.

Our outpatient trauma treatment programs are ideal for those facing betrayal trauma who are able to work, go to school, or fulfill other life obligations while in treatment. If you have manageable symptoms but want to work through trauma without concurrent substance abuse, one of our outpatient trauma treatment programs is likely the right fit.

If your symptoms make it hard to engage in daily life activities, a higher level of support, like inpatient treatment, may be ideal. That way, you can create safety and peace in a supportive environment. Inpatient treatment lets you focus strictly on healing without daily life triggers or distractions.

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

People with concurrent substance abuse, which is common among trauma survivors, may need to start with our detox program to help them get off of substances safely and successfully.

Catalina Behavioral Health will provide a free intake assessment and work with you to decide on the right starting level of care. During that intake assessment, we’ll also ask for a brief overview of your personal history and current symptoms.

In our trauma treatment programs, we offer an extensive range of research-backed therapies and treatments. Trauma therapy and treatments at Catalina Behavioral Health include but aren’t limited to:

This is by no means a full list of the therapies used in our programs, but they are some of the therapy types people in trauma treatment may benefit from. Treatment for dual-diagnosis disorders (mental illness or mental health concerns with co-occurring substance abuse) might look different and may include addiction-specific treatments.

To find out more about what our trauma treatment programs can do for you, connect with our admissions team today. We’re here to answer your questions, verify your insurance coverage for treatment at Catalina Behavioral Health, or help out with anything else we can.

Reach Out to Catalina for Betrayal Trauma Support Today

Catalina Behavioral Health is a top-rated treatment center specializing in mental health, addiction, and dual-diagnosis disorders. We have a variety of trauma-specific programs and accept most forms of private health insurance, and some forms of AHCCCS plans.

Our friendly admissions team is here to take your call 24/7. Call the phone number on our website now to talk about treatment options for you or someone else in your life.

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FAQs Regarding Betrayal Trauma Boundaries

What boundaries to set after betrayal?

The boundaries you set following betrayal depend on your needs and the specific situation at hand. If a spouse breaks the boundaries of your marriage, you’ll likely want to outline and agree on what counts as cheating in your relationship together. Then, you can set the boundary that you aren’t okay with those specific actions.

What is the broken record boundary?

The “broken record boundary” or technique is when you act as a “broken record,” repeating or re-instilling the same boundary repeatedly. This technique can be critical in situations where a person tries to push back on your boundaries, change the subject, or manipulate you.

For example, let’s say that you have a family member who speaks negatively about your body. You do not want them to keep making these comments, so you say, “Please do not talk about my body.” If they do talk about your body again, you can use the broken record technique by saying, “Please do not talk about my body” as many times as you need to.

What is the therapy for betrayal trauma?

The best therapy for betrayal trauma can depend on the specific traumatic event you endured and how you choose to move forward. If you found out about a spouse’s affair partner and both of you want to rebuild trust, couples therapy is ideal. You might also see an individual therapist alongside couples therapy to support your own healing and emotional health.



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