How to Seek Safety, How to Avoid Re-living Pain

How to Seek Safety, How to Avoid Re-living Pain: Safety Seeking vs Pain Shopping

So you have been betrayed. You are on edge, scared, suspicious, and basically you question every single thing occurring in your relationship, and worse, your own intuition. The internal dialogue runs something like this: betrayed partner,  “will I be betrayed again?”, and the betrayer asks, “what can I do to confirm my commitment to show my partner that I am changing?”. This dialogue is the crux of the betrayal dilemma and the way to move past a betrayal consists of reestablishing trust between partners and establishing the intuition of the betrayed partner. One way that a betrayed partner will sabotage this process is through pain shopping. In this piece, that accompanies the podcast, Safety Seeking vs Pain Shopping, I explain the difference and danger in Pain Shopping vs Safety Seeking. 

Safety Seeking

After a betrayal, betrayed partners become hyper vigilant. They are scared that the partner is doing something that is related to the original trauma, cheating etc. Safety seeking is the reassurance of the behavior and reestablishment of trust. It feels like snooping for the betrayer, or called snooper vision, but the reality is that this behavior is safety seeking. The betrayed partner needs to know that their safety is not compromised and the motivation of their partner is genuine. In order to know that a partner is motivated to change and is trying to rebuild trust, the betrayed partner seeks trust and the betraying partner needs to confirm their actions through submission to safety seeking behaviors. 

In my work, and unlike many contemporaries,  I do not discourage safety seeking. Some examples of safety seeking are disabling apps such as dating and social media, and tracking devices of a partners whereabouts. When I work with betrayed partners, I recognize the need for re establishment of their intuition.

Confirming Intuition 

 9/10 times a betrayed partner will have an episode, or many, of their intuition giving them hints that they are being betrayed. When they find out when their intuition is correct and their partner has lied to them and discredited their intuition, they are going to need to reprogram and get back into touch with their intuition. In order to do this, they need to confirm their intuition. Through sustained actions that prove that a partner is changing 

Pain Shopping 

Betrayed partners will continually look to be reassured. Some partners will go back and look at emblems of betrayal, this is pain shopping. Pain shopping is looking at reminders of pain that has been caused, not reassurance of present behavior, or safety seeking. Examples include, pictures of acting out partners, emails of betrayal, and starting to compare themselves to emblems of betrayal. This is dangerous because partners can become more traumatized and leads to feelings of inadequacy. 

Safety Seeking vs Pain Shopping 

Betrayed partners become sensitive to stimula that reminds them of betrayal emblems. People who look the same, or words and apps that trigger these feelings are stimula or emblematic of the betrayal and are subject to hypervigilance. Certain questions can be pain shopping. How did you lie to me, how much money did you spend, did you do anything with these people that you didn’t do with me, was it in front of our children, and these questions are safety seeking, initially. Other questions are pain shopping, such as what did she look like or do you compare my body to hers/his and these questions have no answer. Regardless to the response the betrayer gives, they are in the wrong. 

Moving Forward 

Stay Present, Be Transparent 

Get out of fantasy land as a betrayed partner. If you are comparing yourself to people, ideas, emblems of betrayal, you are pain shopping. It does not establish safety and it is sabotage to any work the betraying party is trying to do with confirming intuition and rebuilding your trust. Think, consistent, voluntary, transparency, over an extended period of time, this is the key to moving forward from betrayal. Give your partner transparency, let them look at your phone, let them track you through location, and give them the information they need to feel safe, but do not allow them to derail progress through new pain shopping narratives. 

Stop a Pain Shopper Narrative 

Tune into the pain shopping narrative, as it developers, and change the narrative that is happening when you are faced with a triggering question with no right answer. Read between the lines of the narrative to find insecurity, whether it is founded or unfounded. Get to the root of this insecurity and reaffirm your commitment to change through an honest conversation. Remind your partner that primary partners have nothing to do with the betrayal behavior, whether it was an addiction, need for conquest, validation, or what you have discussed previously, keep them present reminding them that it had anything to do with a partner. A betrayed partner needs to feel a shift in behavior. 

Through changing narratives, confirming intuition, and transparency, a betrayal trauma is surmountable. Re establishing trust takes a firm commitment in both parties and is not easy work, if you are struggling to move beyond a betrayal trauma with a partner and require counseling, please reach out directly [email protected]. Be patient, it takes time, and be kind to yourselves on this journey, try not to seek pain, see the other side, and have the hard talks, they get easier. 


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