Outside of Hollywood and NYC, a lot of people may not know who Harvey Weinstein is, nor his wife, Georgina Chapman. But none the less, his story of how he sexually, emotionally and spiritually abused others has touched them. It isn’t just because they are appalled by Mr. Weinstein’s behavior or are sympathetic towards the victims of his actions. It is due to the fact that they identify with his wife, her public betrayal and the difficult journey that lies ahead.
Ms. Chapman too, is a victim of her husband’s behavior. Like other people in her situation, she has not only been betrayed by her husband, but most probably, by others close to her. People who discover that their partners are cheating, often find out that those whom they trusted the most, not only knew about this behavior, but were complicit in hiding it. Whether the betrayal is by family members, children, friends, colleagues, or employees, the disrespect and lack of protection by those once considered near and dear, compounds the pain, loss and damage of the behavior.
Betrayed partners often feel like their world is collapsing around them. It isn’t just due to the shocking revelations about their partner’s inappropriate behavior. It is also a result of not knowing who their partner is anymore and what their relationship has been about. What was real and what was fake? They discover that they have been lied to and manipulated in order for their partner to continue their behavior and that their partner didn’t value their commitment to the relationship more than their narcissistic pleasure. Suddenly, the relationship feels like it is nothing but a facade.
Most betrayed partners want to know everything about the acting out behavior. They want this information for two reasons. First, they want to know all the players, behavior and timelines so they have some control and won’t be blindsided by another disclosure in the future. Secondly, they need this information to reconstruct reality. All the lying and manipulation has made them doubt themselves and no longer trust their gut. Most often, they have been gaslighted, where they have been attacked as being too jealous, insecure or paranoid and made to feel wrong by their partner when they questioned things.
Betrayed partners worry for their health and what diseases they may have been exposed to. I always recommend that they get tested for STDs and ask their partners to do the same. It is often the case that cheating partners do not admit to everything that they have done. They often withhold the worst details for fear of the worst consequences. Any partner that puts their need for power, pleasure and affirmation before all else, cannot be trusted to have protected others.
Most often, betrayed partners choose to remain in the relationship while they are recovering from the shock and trying to find their bearings. It takes betrayed partners a great deal of time to heal and determine if they want to remain in the partnership. Many have compelling reasons to stay and try and work it out. They include keeping the family together for the sake of the children, not wanting to be alone, maintaining a life that they have built together, economic reasons and despite it all, often a love for the person.
In order to heal, betrayed partners go through a mourning process. They are dealing with the loss of their relationship and struggle with profound anger and sadness. They also experience symptoms of trauma. Some have intrusive thoughts or images related to their discoveries or what has been disclosed to them. They struggle with feelings of insecurity, abandonment, anxiety and depression. They become preoccupied with checking up on their partner to make sure that they are not being lied to. They ruminate about details and have sleep disturbance. It is not surprising that all of these symptoms makes betrayed partners feel very disconnected in their relationship, isolated from their support system and disinterested in sexual intimacy for a long time.
The road ahead for the Weinsteins, like other couples struggling to recover from betrayal, is long and hard. This is particularly true when the behavior has been chronic and significant. It will take a long time and a lot of consistency for Mr. Weinstein to earn back trust and and demonstrate that he is a man of integrity. It will also be a long journey for Ms. Chapman to heal and let herself be vulnerable again. I hope she is surrounded by supportive people who can help her navigate this complex time.