When trust is broken and betrayal occurs in a relationship it is a traumatic blow to the relational bond. Relationship experts often refer to this as an attachment injury because it harms the deep connection between two people in a relationship. For the betrayed partner this attachment injury is often felt as a deep relational trauma.
The way that we bond to our mates is a profound puzzle. We are only starting to understand what happens inside the chemistry of our brains and bodies as we couple up and two become one. What we do know is that in this mysterious bonding, we actually start to physically operate as one biological organism. “Numerous studies show that once we become attached to someone, the two of us form one physiological unit. Our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing and the levels of hormones in our blood.”
As we bond with our partners, through intertwining our lives, having children together and creating memories, we become more and more interdependent with one another. This is not codependency. This is healthy, normal, mutual dependency. It is what makes relationships beautiful and sought after. We all want this special someone to attach to and intermingle our lives with. In fact, attachment researchers talk about the paradox of attachment, “The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become.”
If it is true that when we attach to someone healthy and functional, it feels good and provides a sense of security, grounding, safety and wholeness, then the opposite is also true. When that attachment is breached or damaged it can affect our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health in teeth-rattling ways.
Instead of grounding us, it puts us in free fall. Instead of security we experience fear. Because our partner has caused us such deep pain, they now feel like a threat to our well-being rather than a source of comfort and rest. Sue Johnson, the founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples says that betrayal traumas, “overwhelm coping capacities and define the…relationship, as a source of danger rather than a safe haven in times of stress.”