You address it.
You run towards it like a buffalo runs into a storm.
Head on. Knowing that if run away from it you'll be stuck in the storm far longer than facing it.
Maybe you don't know what betrayal anxiety is. Lets chat about that for a second and then you can go on to my real life example.
First lets talk about betrayal trauma. Simply put its when someone who is supposed to love, protect, and support you end up betraying you. Most commonly are affairs within a committed relationship.
So when I say betrayal anxiety I'm talking about the anxiety that its going to happen again. An emotional affair, lust, physical affair, viewing of pornography, or anything of the sorts. Someone who experiences this feels shame that they are inadequate to meet their partners needs, feels insecure about their relationship, about the way they look, and sadly they have the magic ability to have intense waves of sadness, anger, and withdrawals for what seems like no reason unless you actually pinpoint whats going on.
Ok. So now you're like...how do I face that head on? How do I even approach that situation time after time?
Here is what I did. See if it helps you understand how to help your relationship and/or your betrayal anxiety.
The other day my family and I were at the beach. We were all so excited to be there. Quarantining hadn't been the most enjoyable thing in a townhouse so even the simple idea of a beach sounded like heaven. We were stoked to be picking up some of our Arizona kids to have them join in on the sunny vacation.
We got to my brother's house that was a hop skip and a jump from the beach. The kids unloaded and couldn't wait any longer to swim in the salty water.
We headed over with a wagon full of snacks, towels, sunscreen, chairs, and body boards. I couldn't wait to create memories with our kids!
As I was walking through the thick sand giving my calves a workout hauling the wagon behind me the kids picked a spot to toss their sandals and ran towards the water. I started unloading the wagon, setting up chairs, and sat down to begin soaking it all in. Jeremy, my husband, was getting our baby ready (the "ours" in "Yours mine and ours") and then meeting us here. Couldn't wait!
It was busier than I thought it would be but I did not care one bit. We were at the beach!
I started looking around to see the fellow beach goers and thats when it hit. You guys...my heart sunk. Ugh. All of my excitement for the day was gone.
There were beautiful bodies everywhere. Nice bums with string bikinis walking around everywhere. EVERYWHERE!
I started getting sick to my stomach. All of the sudden I was hyper aware of my Covid-19 body and felt ashamed for every inch of my physical existence. It didn't matter that my body had just created a beautiful human being the year prior. It didn't matter that I had recently lost almost 30 pounds and had dramatically altered my mindset and relationship with food. And the fact that I had on a super cute new swimming suit I was SO excited to wear for the first time didn't even matter. Ugh.
None of that progress mattered in that moment. I couldn't stop myself from body shaming and panicking!
Ugh. They were EVERYWHERE! Nice ,tan, young perfect bodies!
I knew that I'd be watching my husband's eyes like a hawk. We would leave in a fight with me "catching him" gawking at one of them. I just knew it.
It brought me straight back to my previous marriage. We couldn't go anywhere without him double-taking, or even TRIPLE-taking...staring WAY too long at any sort of attractive women in our presence. Clearly lusting after their bodies. Clearly letting his thoughts turn to envisioning.
It made going anywhere miserable. Literally, anywhere.
I became accustom to walking into our destination and eyeing the room for "her"...the girl who I knew he would fixate on. I'd come up with a game plan to stay far away from wherever "she" was. Theme parks, church, grocery stores, swimming pool, restaurants, etc. I was literally a pro at it. Not necessarily a pro at preventing the lusting and fixating but a pro at locating "her" and ruining my own night with the gut wrenching anxiety I would feel knowing I wouldn't be what was on my husband's mind that night. Meanwhile all of this would turn to a big fight about me "over reacting", and "making things up", and him trying to convince me that he was looking at her because he thought he recognized her from somewhere or he was actually looking at a sign behind her.
Hm. Yeah, no.
Here's the thing... this wasn't me anymore!
I had worked SO hard to not be THIS. A jealous, anxiety ridden wife who was terrified that her husband would lust after any female he laid eyes on. I had worked hard to LOVE MYSELF as I was...whatever that was at the time. To offer grace to myself and know that my body isn't the most amazing thing about me...thank heavens. I didn't HAVE to do this with Jeremy. I didn't HAVE to live this way with him. He is amazing at always loving me and my body no matter how I show up. He is SO good at that.
Also? Since being married to me he has always tried hard to be respectful of our marriage and the natural boundaries that are set by our commitment.
It wasn't him.
It was me.
I wasn't too excited that this betrayal anxiety decided to pop up at the beach that day. It sucked. I wanted to relax and ENJOY my time with our family. And? I didn't want to ruin this time for Jeremy as well by creating a situation that maybe just wasn't there.
So? I sat there running my fingers through the sand and trying hard to breathe deep. I was trying to gain control of my thoughts. I was trying to calm my rising heart rate. I was trying to NOT have this be a full blown trigger. "Please, God, please help me figure this one out" I pleaded.
I could sit there and do nothing...or I could do something.
I walked up to my husband and grabbed him by the shoulders.
I looked him in the eyes and said "Look. There are beautiful bums in string bikini's everywhere. I know that it may be hard to not check them out constantly. What I'm asking is that you do your best and I'll commit to do my best as well. OK?"
He hugged me, agreed to be mindful...and I walked away having a huge burden lifted off of my shoulders.
I did it. I faced it! I didn't let betrayal anxiety ruin a beautiful sunny day at the beach with my family!
We have the choice to ignore what we are feeling. To run from our triggers and let our anxiety grow and grow until it eats us up inside with irrational thoughts that aren't actually reality.
Or? We have the choice to acknowledge it. To talk things through and face what's happening. To be a team and work together to keep an open line of communication even when it's embarrassing and awkward.
The more we choose to communicate, the easier it becomes. Im pretty sure over the past 3 years Jeremy has talked more about feelings than he has his entire (almost) 38 years on this earth. It's the only way we could work through all of the crap we have both been through and make it out still married!
The best part of this whole post is that even though Jeremy hugged me and agreed to do his best that day, he misunderstood what I said. He literally thought there were homeless people, "bums", all over the beach and he couldn't figure out why I would ask him to do his best!!
It wasn't until about 5 minutes later that he laughed and realized what I meant and was thankful. Ha!