For many years, I frequently heard my clients discuss their partners, often overlooking or dismissing any signs of betrayal in their relationships, even when the evidence was glaringly obvious.

    Despite the unmistakable signs of ongoing betrayal, some of these clients would persistently turn a blind eye.  As a counsellor, I interpret this behaviour as a powerful psychological defence mechanism-denial. 


    However, as quoted by Fern Schumer Chapman, Psychologist Jennifer Freyd introduced a relatively new concept back in 1991 called Betrayal Blindness. This concept highlighted the role of cognitive mechanisms in suppressing awareness of betrayal to protect oneself from the pain and trauma associated with it. She coined the concept of betrayal blindness to describe the specific state of denial some people stay in after being betrayed.

    Betrayal blindness has been linked to the instinctual responses of fight, flight, or freeze. People freeze when they can’t fight back or have nowhere to run. The overwhelming nature of the betrayal immobilises them. Failing to acknowledge the betrayal in such circumstances becomes a form of psychological self-preservation, such as blind self-protection



    When a client comes to counselling and shares that her husband is regularly watching Porn, unfortunately, it can be a devastating trauma.
    Discovering that a spouse is involved with betrayal porn can have profound effects on a marriage, especially if the wife has adopted betrayal blindness. Here are some potential impacts:

    Trust Erosion:

    1. Learning about the husband’s involvement with betrayal porn can shatter the foundation of trust in the marriage. For a wife who has been unaware or in denial of previous betrayals, this revelation may deepen feelings of mistrust and uncertainty about the husband’s fidelity and commitment to the relationship.
    betrayal porn

    Emotional Distress

    The discovery of betrayal porn can trigger intense emotional distress for the wife, exacerbating feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and betrayal. It may also evoke feelings of anger, resentment, or betrayal as she grapples with the realisation that her husband has been engaging in secretive and potentially harmful behaviour.

    Communication Breakdown

    The revelation of the husband’s involvement with betrayal porn can lead to breakdowns in communication within the marriage. The wife may struggle to articulate her feelings and concerns, while the husband may feel defensive or ashamed, hindering open and honest dialogue about the issue.

    impact on intimacy

    Impact on Intimacy

    Engaging with betrayal porn can create barriers to intimacy and connection within the marriage. The wife may have trouble trusting her husband and withdraw emotionally or sexually. Conversely, the husband’s consumption of betrayal porn may lead to unrealistic expectations or comparisons that undermine intimacy and satisfaction in the relationship

    Seeking Support

    The wife may feel isolated or alone in processing her feelings about her husband’s involvement with betrayal porn, particularly if she has been grappling with betrayal blindness. Seeking support from trusted friends, family members, or a therapist can be crucial in navigating the emotional turmoil and making decisions about the future of the marriage.

    betrayal sex


    One lady came to me for therapy after discovering her husband was using an online dating site.   Her husband admitted that he went to these sites for sex and nothing else; he said he was happy in his marriage and didn’t want to break up.

    My client was angry at herself. She admits she now saw all the red flags indicating something was wrong but chose to ignore them.

    The impact on the wife was devasting; the following are examples of what impact this had on her: 

    Cognitive dissonance

    (this occurs when a person holds two contradictory beliefs at the same time)

    My client experienced psychological dissonance upon learning about her spouse’s ‘betrayal sex.’  Despite evidence of betrayal, her subconscious defence mechanisms led her to deny or minimise the significance of the betrayal, creating internal conflict between her emotional reactions and her cognitive understanding of the situation.

    Emotional Suppression

    (when you actively push uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, or memories out of your consciousness)

    In response to the shock and distress of discovering betrayal sex, my client suppressed and compartmentalised her emotions as a coping mechanism.  This emotional suppression can lead to a disconnect from her feelings, making it difficult for her to fully process and express the pain, anger, and sadness associated with the betrayal.

    Undermined Self-Esteem

    (It makes someone less confident, less powerful, or less likely to succeed)

    After discovering the betrayal sex it profoundly impacted my client’s self-esteem and self-worth.  She questioned her attractiveness, worthiness, and value as a partner, internalising feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness because of her spouse’s infidelity.

    Stained Intimacy

    (Betrayal barriers to intimacy)

    My client struggled to engage emotionally or sexually with her spouse, fearing further betrayal or rejection.  This then can lead to a cycle of emotional distance and disconnection.

    Relational Confusion

    (feeling anxious about how you behave around your partner)

    Despite evidence of betrayal, my client clung to illusions of stability or normalcy, which led to uncertainty about whether she should confront the issue directly or stay as things are.

    Impact on Mental Health

    (the emotional toll of ‘betrayal sex’  can have on a person)

    My client experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety as she grappled with the trauma of betrayal and the cognitive dissonance of betrayal blindness.




    betrayal blindness


    The array of symptoms associated with ‘betrayal blindness’ closely mirrors the main issues my client initially brought to our sessions, such as depression and anxiety. The complexities of navigating betrayal and its aftermath extend far beyond mere acknowledgement. While the journey to recovery from such a relationship is far from a quick fix, it’s essential to recognise that healing is possible.

    However, it’s essential to acknowledge that healing from betrayal blindness requires patience, self-reflection, and support. In the coming weeks, we’ll delve into strategies for moving forward and navigating the path to healing and restoration in the aftermath of betrayal. Stay tuned for our next instalment, where we’ll explore practical steps and resources for rebuilding trust, restoring intimacy, and reclaiming a sense of wholeness in the wake of relational betrayal.


    Freyd, J., & Birrell, P. (2013). Blind to betrayal: Why we fool ourselves we aren’t being fooled. John Wiley & Sons.



    The information on Linda M Cowan’s Blog is only intended for educational and informational purposes.  It is not meant to replace professional psychological or psychiatric advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

    If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, or if you think you may have a medical emergency, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your healthcare provider or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.