Whether you have discovered that your loved one has betrayed you, or your loved one has disclosed their behaviours, you will undoubtedly be experiencing a shock reaction. This can include:
- A racing heart
- Brain fog
- Ringing in the ears
- Feeling faint
- Tingling hands and feet
- Extreme restlessness e.g. pacing around
- Hot flushes
You have trusted them, this is a key way in which they have managed to keep their behaviours secret. You thought you knew them, now you are wondering who exactly you have been spending your life with and if any of the relationship has been real.
It is less common for the partner with addiction to disclose their behaviours. It is more likely that you have accidentally stumbled across something incredibly shocking. Or perhaps you have felt uneasy for some time and have gone searching (on a phone or through emails) for some kind of clue as to what is going on (often after failed attempts to engage your partner in a discussion about what is wrong). However you find out, the shock is usually accompanied by stomach dropping fear mixed with disbelief.
The initial confrontation about what has been discovered is usually met with denial, anger, further lies, distortion and minimisation. It is important for you to get a clear picture of what has been going on, how long for, how often and who with. Unfortunately most addicts will continue to withhold information, partly to avoid their own shame and partly to protect you. They will often operate “Trickle Truth”, disclosing information in dribs and drabs, only when further evidence is found or you are persistent with a particular line of questioning. Only when the truth is out can individual needs be identified. For the partner with addiction this means addressing the addiction.
Immediately after discovery of the relationship betrayal it is normal for you to:
- Feel ashamed (even though you knew nothing about what has been going on) and this might prevent you from asking for help (see our post on Shame).
- Feel torn between dealing with the threat (the addictive behaviours) and your own immediate needs - support from family, friends, a GP.
- Find yourself experiencing extremes of emotion - “I love them/I hate them”.
- Experience self-doubt - “ I’m not attractive enough”.
- Feel jealous of others perfect lives.
- Turn into a detective to assess the level of threat.
- Seek physical intimacy to try and re-establish closeness.
- Feel vindicated - “I was right, there was something wrong”.
Although you probably feel very alone just now, there is support available. You might choose to tell a non-judgemental friend (preferably someone who doesn’t have an agenda of splitting you up or keeping you together). Your GP can support you with physical symptoms. An impartial counsellor can support you on a one to one basis (for a list of trained therapists see ATSAC), or you might feel being in a group with others experiencing a similar trauma suits you better (see our course). It is time to look after you.
- by Aileen George