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How to Heal from Betrayal Trauma in 5 Steps

There is nothing I have experienced quite so dark as the consuming sadness that follows an intimate betrayal. If you have experienced this trauma, I am so sorry. There is nothing I’m going to be able to tell you that will erase that pain. But if you find yourself searching for answers about how to heal from betrayal trauma, I do believe I can offer some solid advice.

I warn you, though, I’m not going to say the things you’re likely used to hearing. What I have to say may even sound a bit trite to your broken and hurting heart. But I am saying these things having been where you are, and so I ask you to simply stick with me to the end. You may be surprised.

Learning How to Heal from Betrayal is About You, Not Your Marriage

There are tons of resources out there, all claiming to have the answer to how to heal from betrayal trauma. Many will tell you you’re co-dependent. I won’t be one of them (though you might be). Sadly, many will tell you that your only healthy option is divorce. You certainly won’t hear that here.

On the other hand, others will tell you that saving your marriage is the only Biblical option. We don’t believe that either. We do believe God has a good plan for you, and it may or may not include a healthy marriage. Only He knows.

Truth be told, in this article, I’m not going to address your marriage much at all. (For help restoring a broken marriage, you can check out this page.) I don’t believe the healing of your heart is dependent on what happens in your marriage. Instead, in this ministry, we believe the true healing of your heart is possible only through the power of God.

Our Theme Verse:

We very much want to see your marriage restored. But more than that, we want to see YOU be healthy and whole and deeply in love with your Lord and Savior. Which is why our theme verse for this ministry is Jeremiah 17:14.

Oh Lord if You heal me, I will be truly healed;
if You save me, I will be truly saved.
My praises are for You alone! Jeremiah 17:14

So let’s get to it. If you’re wanting to know how to heal from betrayal, here are five steps we believe will bring you to the healing that Christ offers.

Step One – Make Sure You’re Safe

I know it feels like you need to figure out the whole rest of your future right now. But I promise, you don’t. In fact, my advice is that you don’t make any big decisions for at least a month. That is, unless you are in danger.

Sadly, when there is infidelity, especially if it is chronic infidelity, there is very often abuse (in one form or another) as well. If the situation has escalated, and you are in immediate physical danger, please get yourself and your children to safety. From there, you can take your time and figure things out with God’s help.

Additionally, please don’t be physically intimate with a spouse who has been unfaithful until he has been tested and cleared for all the STDs. You have enough to heal from. There is no need to put your life or even your health in any further danger.

But if you are safe from any immediate danger where you are, it’s okay to put off making the big decisions about the future for a little while. You need some time to work through the shock and deep grief. A little time will also help to better inform the decisions you will eventually have to make.

How to Heal from Betrayal Trauma in 5 Steps

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So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16

Step Two – Learn to Know Who God Is

There are three stages to the healing process from any trauma:

  1. Safety and Stabilization
  2. Remembrance and Mourning
  3. Reconnection and Integration.

I talk more about the non-linear journey through these stages of healing in this post (click to read). Right now, we’re not talking so much about the journey through the stages, but about how to heal from betrayal as you dive into that first step.

I truly believe the best way to achieve safety and stability in your life is by getting to know who God is, and then learning to understand who you are in Christ.

The best way to achieve safety and stability in your life is by getting to know who God is, and then learning to understand who you are in Christ. Click To Tweet

Is This Pain God’s Fault?

When I first discovered my love’s infidelity, I took that betrayal and turned it on God. I blamed Him for the sins of my husband. I know I’m far from alone in this reaction.

We know God is sovereign, and so we take that knowledge and twist it into some sort of distorted lie that tells us the sin is somehow His fault. The sooner we can speak truth into that lie, the sooner we can get our feet on some solid, stable ground.

1 John 1:5 – This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.

*Here’s a little story about the journey God took me through as I was learning to trust Him and His love for me again. I pray it blesses your hurting heart. (Click to Read)

How Can I Get to Know Who God Really Is?

The Bible makes it clear that sin is not God’s fault (Proverbs 19:3). He doesn’t cause it (James 1:12-18, Matthew 15:19-20), He isn’t responsible for it (Jeremiah 31:30), and it breaks His heart (Genesis 6:5-6, Ephesians 4:30).

Once we stop blaming Him for our situation, and put the blame right where it belongs (on the ones who have chosen sin) we can then begin to learn who He really is.

There is no relationship on this earth worth more to us than the relationship we have with our God: Father, Son, and Spirit. These relationships are cultivated through Bible study and prayer.

As you get to know who God is, you will discover what true faithfulness looks like and be overwhelmed with how He has demonstrated it to you. You will learn to understand perfect love – pure, and complete, and you will be blown away as He lavishes it upon you. You’ll begin to understand absolute truth, and how to trust Him in all circumstances.

Most importantly, as you get to know God, you will find true stability as you realize how safe and secure you are for all eternity as His dearly loved child.

To help you get started in further study on who God is, you can check out this series I wrote a while back (click to read), but don’t stop there! Just dig into Scripture on your own every day and let God teach you about Himself! He is SO good!

Step Three – Know Who You Are In Christ

Learning who God is builds the foundation you need to find stability, but learning who you are in Christ is what will change your whole reality. This is where true healing is found.

The trauma of betrayal has likely reeked havoc on your identity. It certainly did mine. But once you understand who you are in Christ, you’ll be far less vulnerable to the destructive nature of other people’s actions and opinions.

Once you understand that God chose you, it won’t matter as much when people don’t. When you realize that you’ve been declared righteous because your sins have been covered in the perfect blood of Christ, you won’t need to strive for the approval of man. And when you realize that you are the beautiful masterpiece of the Lord God Almighty, you will be able to hold your head high with confidence in your Creator, no matter what people say about your appearance, or how they make you feel.

Healing will come as you learn and then believe each piece of the identity God has given to you as the child he dearly loves.

This study through the book of Ephesians is a great place to start finding your identity in Christ. Or, if you’re looking to start with something more simple, this post might help you find your identity through the fog of betrayal.

Step Four – Learn How to Discern God’s Will

Once you’ve made it through those first three steps, I promise you, you’ll be shocked to find how stable you feel, even when the world is still in absolute chaos around you. It is from that place of safety and stability that you can begin to make some decisions about your future.

Now that you know who God is, you KNOW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He can be trusted. As you move forward learning how to heal from betrayal, you can do so with confidence, knowing God will lead you through each step.

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.

Ask for Wisdom

Let’s face it, there are some huge decisions in front of you if you’re in a position in which you’re having to figure out how to heal from betrayal. And chances are, every Christian you know has a strong opinion about what you should or should not do. Unfortunately, they’re probably not all the same opinion.

The good news is, the opinions of people aren’t what you’re seeking. You want to know what God thinks about what you should do. That means you’re going to need Him to give you some supernatural wisdom.

Good news! Here is what God says about that.

James 1:5-6 – If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.

Just ask Him! And be sure that your trusting in Him alone for the answer.

Seek Answers through His Word, Fasting, and Prayer

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16

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We certainly need His grace to help us figure these things out, and we have been invited to come boldly before Him and ask. So ask! Then, dig into Scripture to find your answers.

I can’t tell you how many times God has answered my VERY specific questions from day to day through my regularly planned Bible reading.

THIS is where the sovereignty of God comes in! He already knows what we’re going to need, and when we’re going to need it. He is perfectly orchestrating the answer. So have a daily Bible reading plan, and stick to it. God will use it to speak to you! (2 Timothy 3:16)

We can also seek God through fasting. The Bible demonstrates time and again that it is a discipline used by those who wish to fervently seek Him. (Acts 13:1-3, 14:23, Esther 4:16, and MANY more)

If the answers don’t come quickly, then wait. Sometimes that’s what God is asking us to do. Sometimes He’s asking us to be patient while He works.

Psalm 27:14 – Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Step Five – Learning How to Heal from Betrayal will Demand that You Follow God with Your Whole Heart!

As you seek God for the answers on how to heal from betrayal, and how to move forward according to His will, I promise you, He WILL give you those answers. You’re going to be blown away by how clearly He shows you what to do! But, I can guarantee those answers are going to seem totally crazy sometimes.

Like for real bonkers!

There will be times when what God is asking of you goes against everything that the experts have told you. Do it anyway.

There will be times when people will actually get angry with you for doing what God has asked. Sometimes they’ll even be Christians! That’s okay. Just obey Him.

It may seem like total insanity, even to you. But this is how we heal from betrayal! Healing comes in learning to follow God with your whole heart. Do it, and never look back!

How God Worked When I Obeyed

One of our counselors got angry with me because I told him God was telling me to do something he didn’t think I should do. He actually stopped seeing us as a result. I did it anyway, and I have never regretted it!

Friends, I’m not asking you to do anything I haven’t had to learn to do myself.

But when I look back at that decision, it is clear that it was one of the most pivotal moments in our journey to healing. In the aftermath of that decision the floodgates of restoration flew open!

More importantly, I can decidedly mark down that moment, when I decided to listen to God’s clear leading with confidence and not worry about the opinion of even a very educated man, as the moment when true healing took root in MY HEART!

I praise God for His clear leading, and I rejoice that He gave me the courage to obey! It thrills me to my core that through my obedience He produced such wonderful results!

I have absolute confidence He will do the same for you!

*How about you? What have you learned about how to heal from betrayal trauma?


More Resources for How to Heal from Betrayal Trauma

This list is just the starting place. It’s what lays at the heart of healing. But our whole ministry is dedicated to this healing journey. We have a lot more to offer as you figure out what to do next.

I suggest you start here, with our Healing from Betrayal Trauma Page. From there you’ll be able to find any other tools we offer that might be helpful to you.

Link to the Healing from Betrayal Trauma Category Page
Healing from Betrayal Trauma

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***Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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13 Comments

  1. AnnMarie

    This is so encouraging! Oh how I wish I had known these steps for healing when my first husband left me for another so many years ago. These specific steps, backed with your personal experience and scripture will help many heal from the trauma of betrayal. Even after all these years, the James verse still speaks to my heart- our generous God will give us wisdom, but do not waver…faith in God alone!

  2. Tiffany Montgomery

    These 5 steps to heal from betrayal trauma are spot on. I think #5 “Learning How to Heal from Betrayal will Demand that You Follow God with Your Whole Heart!” is the one that we most easily get stuck at… It’s so much easier to give it a half-hearted effort but when we give it our all God honors that commitment to Him in beautiful ways.

    • Cherith Peters

      Amen Tiffany! Learning to know God, and learning who we are in Him requires intention, but it isn’t really “hard” to do. Learning to discern His voice and understand His will is a little more tricky, but deciding to follow Him with our whole hearts is very very difficult! As long as we’re all tied up in this fallen flesh, our pull to do things our own way and in our own strength is SO strong! Our pride is relentless. It takes constant stubborn determination to keep our gaze laser focused on Him, and our will in check! But when we do… oh the joy and peace and victory that we find!

  3. Aryn the Libraryan

    This is going in my bookmarks! Even ‘less traumatic’ betrayal is still traumatic, and these are excellent steps for recovering from betrayal trauma. Whether your husband has physically or digitally broken trust, these are necessary for healing!

    • Cherith Peters

      So true Aryn! Pornography is still cheating. Lust is not faithfulness. When the promise to forsake all others has been broken again and again, our hearts break, and the only hope we have in our brokenness is in the healing that comes from God. Nothing else will work.

  4. Heather

    It breaks my heart that so many women find themselves in this situation. Your advice is full of wisdom and truth and I’m thankful that you are obedient to God in sharing your story and the lessons you’ve learned.

    • Cherith Peters

      Thanks Heather. It is so sad how the enemy has stolen so much from so many in the area of marital faithfulness! God made this amazing, beautiful picture in marriage for the world to understand Him and His love for us, and we have absolutely ruined it. Which is why I am thankful for His sovereignty, and the understanding that His purposes and plans do not depend on us, because we would surely all be doomed! But praise God, He will accomplish everything He intended to accomplish in spite of us! I just hope to surrender to Him enough that I can be used by Him to be a very small part of it!

    • Cherith Peters

      I sure hope it is Erin! When I was in the darkest part of my story I found very little help available that pointed me toward God. Of course, He is always faithful, and provided everything I needed to find my way back to Him, but I really want to help fill that gap I found when it was me.

    • Cherith Peters

      Thanks LeeAnn! Yes. Hebrews 4:16 is on the wall in my kitchen. It is one of my go-to Scriptures. It reminds me of a truth I am prone to forget – I have been invited into the presence of God, and He delights in my boldness to come to Him with my troubles and ask for His help. I also love the truth that is found when the verse is read in context, which is that Jesus fully understands our weaknesses and faced everything we face, yet without sin. So He is fully equipped to empathize with our need, and offer to us the solution. Whether it is healing from betrayal, or anything else, He has the answer, and He IS the answer!

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