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  • Writer's pictureKatie Kroening, LCSW;CADC

Tame the Dragon

Tip-of-the-Day: Tame the “DRAGON”

DRAGON: The Betrayal Trauma

PROBLEM: Don't let the "DRAGON" rob you of restored relationships.

Often in relationships couples experience infidelity. Due to rising tension in the relationship, and difficulty repairing emotional injuries together, partners sometimes escape pain by opening the door to relationships outside the marriage.

When the betraying partner is remorseful and fully willing to do whatever it takes to repair with partner, there's hope. If the non-betraying partner is willing to understand what may have been missing for the betrayer (this is a slow, delicate healing process and a counselor is hugely helpful), even more likelihood of repair; this takes time and must be handled skillfully and carefully.

As time goes on in the healing process, even if things are going well, at times THE DRAGON is back in the room!!! This derails the healing process!!

If couples don't know how to handle the "DRAGON" when it reappears (triggering feelings that arise due to cues that remind partner of the betrayal-this is a trauma reaction), couples lose sense of safety in the here-and-now and sabotage what may have been a hopeful relationship recovery. Wounded partner may have difficulty differentiating "then" from "now".


After a time of healing, when the injured spouse gets triggered and the "Dragon" once again appears, INSTEAD OF: pushing partner away or yelling, name calling, berating the partner that had betrayed you...DO: share RESPECTFULLY the feelings and the hurt that were just triggered, let your partner be the comforter of your pain. Notice the evidence of your partner now with you and for the relationship...if there are new behaviors such as willingness to attend counseling, willingness to take responsibility for the betrayal, willingness to meet your needs, then, the Old Dragon is dead and something new is happening...unless the injured partner is willing to forgive and give trust again, there cannot be a healthy fully healed relationship. This is not to say that forgetting or lack of boundaries and trustworthiness is an option...but, if you keep the dragon in the room moving forward, you for sure will have an anxiety filled, triggering, codependent dance. There's hope and a better way.


Couples can have better relationships than ever when they are willing to be totally honest, humble, take ownership, build safe relationship boundaries, and work hard to repair what was missing and toxic in the relationship. Both of you have work to do. If you're able to choose to forgive, if the betraying partner is fully remorseful and actions prove it, if other partner is willing to also change and repair, then your marriage has hope. When the "Dragon" appears, take time to process together the hurt that just came up for you, give your partner a chance to comfort you and be a safe foundation for you as you share the pain your partner caused...this will be healing for both of you...YOUR OWN HARSH REACTION WILL RE-INJURE THE RELATIONSHIP; remember to share respectfully...betraying partners, remember to listen, understand, validate and apologize, as many times as needed...

Author: Katie Kroening, LCSW; CADC

FOR HELP: call (815) 707-4806 for help healing from infidelity. Healing is possible.

Resources: After the Affair; Not Just Friends; His Needs, Her Needs; Love Sense; Hold Me Tight; 5 Love Languages

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