Attachment Injuries in Couples: Healing After Betrayals

by: Dr. Dino Zuccarini, C.Psych.

An attachment injury occurs when a partner is betrayed or abandoned, and trust is violated at a moment of critical need for support and care. The injury can be traumatic as the injured partner is left with a sense of helplessness, isolation, and intense fear about the other’s availability (Johnson et al. 2001; Zuccarini et al. 2013). These traumatic incidents occur when a partner’s belief and faith in the reliability and dependability of the partner is shattered. Examples of these types of injuries include marital affairs, emotional affairs, money mismanagement, violation of boundaries, abandonment at times of need during pregnancy, alignment with parents over partner, child-rearing conflicts, and lack of support during illness, among others. These traumatic incidences become a barometer of the offending partner’s trustworthiness, dependability, and reliability. The attachment bond between partners becomes frayed as a result of these injuries.

In these instances, clinicians at CFIR will address the lingering hurt and anger and heal the frayed bond. The emotional processing of these events is essential to the healing process.  Attachment bonds are emotional bonds.  The emotional accessibility and responsiveness to the injured partner’s experience facilitates recovery and healing.

Trusting Again in The Aftermath of Emotional Injuries

by: Dr. Dino Zuccarini, C.Psych. & Dr. Lila Z. Hakim, C.Psych.

Our ability to trust another person is core to our being able to create and sustain close intimate relationships. When we are able to trust another, we reap the emotional rewards of feeling connected to others. Trust is an antidote against any sense of isolation and non-belonging as it allows us to develop relationships in which others can be experienced in a manner that feels emotionally safe and secure. We initially learn to trust others in our relationship with our parents, then our peers, and eventually our relationship partners. Sometimes when we have difficult early relationship experiences we lose our bearings in terms of whom to trust and how to trust another person.

Trust can be eroded when we are hurt, frightened, or angered by the behaviour of those to whom we are most attached. Emotional, sexual, or physical abuse or neglect in our early years, or past and current relationships can breakdown our capacity to trust another, particularly when abuse or neglect occurred by someone who we expected to be a source of safety and security for us. At other times, betrayals and emotional injuries arising from a perceived lack of support from our relationship can also alter our sense of the other person’s reliability, dependability, and trustworthiness. Sexual and emotional affairs, betrayals, and emotional injuries in close couple relationships also erode and create serious ruptures to the attachment bond between partners. These types of emotional injuries in our family of origin and our relationships with friends and partners can leave emotional residue. These injuries then become triggers that are activated in our relationships and that block us from feeling safe and secure with others.

We help you to learn how to trust again in the aftermath of different types of incidents that have eroded your trust in relationships. 

The Couples Therapy Service at CFIR offers clients comprehensive assessment, psychotherapy, and counselling to address a wide range of relationship and/or sexual issues for both individuals and couples. In terms of treatment, we offer individual, couple, and group therapy to help you to develop stronger relationships, heal relationship injuries, improve or add new relationship skills (e.g., communication, problem-solving and negotiation skills), and address sexual issues that interfere with sexual satisfaction and fulfilment, regardless of sexual orientation.

Read more about our Couples Therapy Service.