Will Finding Out If I’m Codependent Help Me?

Definition Of Codependent

Many women wonder, “What is codependency? What does it mean to be codependent? Am I codependent?”

They also wonder how codependency is different from betrayal trauma.

Coach Rae, what does it mean to be codependent and why is the term sometimes offensive to wives of sex addicts.

Coach Rae: Codependence started as a way to designate the struggles expressed by partners of addicts and also the behaviors and coping mechanisms exercised in order to survive that type of dynamic. Even when psychotherapists refer to the term codependent, they are referring to a combination of other behaviors or issues. Whether it’s a term we’re hearing someone else use about their own lives, or whether it’s a term we’re coming to on our own, it can be tense when our feelings about the term is different than someone else might interpret the term.

Anne: When I hear the term codependent, I think that I was codependent before my marriage, and that’s why I ended up marrying a pornography addict. But from your description, you’re saying that it’s a set of behaviors that develops as a coping mechanism after the marriage. Is that your understanding of it? That’s blowing my mind! Because the way I viewed it before felt like, since I’m codependent – all of the problems in my marriage are my fault. But what you’re saying is, that my abusive husband’s behaviors were so traumatizing that I developed a set of coping skills around in. 

Coach Rae: The way you describe it as the coping skills we develop is the one we relate to more. You’ll often hear about women who choose addict husband’s are carrying baggage from their past, but sometimes they’re not. I can’t tell you the number of times I hear a woman say, “I grew up in an extremely functional family, with parents who are loving, spiritual, and connected.” These women struggle more to understand how they ended up in the relationship with an addict, versus women who grow up in an abusive situation who marry someone similar to their father.

One thing I think you highlight, that’s important, is the ability to take something that once felt like a loaded indictment, like, you caused all this chaos in your life,  That feeling of being blamed or cornered or labeled, doesn’t mean that you need to be stuck there.

Anne: Just right now, I’m feeling a little more open to codependence, thinking, maybe I could look at this a little more. Maybe I don’t need to be so defensive about it. I felt a lot of anxiety about being labeled codependent. Already I’m feeling a little more open to the idea that maybe I did develop some coping mechanisms in relation to the abuse that are unhealthy that I need to work on.

How Do You Feel About The Term Codependent?

I’d like to know what our readers think about the label codependence. Does it help you? Does it trigger you? Will you please comment on this article at the bottom anonymously. I look forward to hearing what you think about it.

How Being Defined As Codependent May Be Hurting Women

Coach Rae: In addition to looking at all the different ways the word codependent can be valuable in terms of understanding our experiences, one of the things I know is critically important is that the term can be triggering, offensive, and re-traumatizing word to some of us. Through APSATS, one of the things that I’ve learned that I really didn’t get anywhere else, was increased sensitivity, as a coach.

For a lot of women, just that initial instance of being called a codependent, or even worse, being called a co-sex addict can be really terrifying. For example, a woman who just found out about their husband’s sex addiction after years of not knowing anything, and the word sex addiction feels like a huge, heavy, dangerous, dark weight that suddenly just dropped in your lap. And by calling her a co-sex addict, it links her to a term that has so much threat potential for her life and her family. Imagine being refereed to as a co-murderer? That little co prefix to some of us implies that we are cooperating or collaborating or connection to this thing that we don’t want anything to do with – it can really be damaging and overwhelming.

Wives who have the term codependency thrust upon them often feel likes it’s an indictment upon them for choosing their husband. And the way I address this with my clients is that there may be some reasons you chose your partner. That indictment of I chose him, and that’s a negative reflection of me or a condemnation, overlooks or minimizes the fact that they may have lied to us, manipulated us, or deceived us. Knowing that seems to diffuse the guilt associated with choosing an emotionally unhealthy husband.

Women also think that the term codependent implies some sense of self-denial or self delusion, like we’ve somehow put our head in the sand.

We put our head in the sand and blinded ourselves to this reality that’s right in front of us. Unlike other chemical dependencies like alcohol or drugs which happen in front of your eyes, sex addiction or porn addiction, almost always happens in darkness and secrecy. Unlike other addictions, where you would almost have to be physically blind in order to not see it happening, this is the exact opposite of that. It’s difficult for women when they feel that the term codependent suggests that they weren’t attuned to their relationship, that they didn’t have enough self awareness – that somehow they should have known. I hear that one a lot, “How did I not know!?” Or other people ask them that same question.

And the last one, and this is the one that hits closest to me, is often when we hear the word codependent, it results in feeling like we’re not being seen, heard, or validated. It sometimes translates into being told that we shouldn’t focus on the wreckage of our partners abuse. It’s like us screaming and yelling for help because our house is on fire, and others telling us, “Don’t worry about the flames, just go water your own flowers.”

So that’s one of those visceral ways that hearing the term codependent can trigger a lot of trauma and pile up hurt in wives of pornography addicts.

The Best Way To Safely Approach Codependency

Anne: That’s why it’s so important that women get qualified APSATS coaching because we can be re-traumatized or have secondary trauma from therapists who tell us, “I know you’re house is burning down, but don’t focus on that right now.” For me, when I went to therapy, the therapists never addressed the fact that I was being abused continually – they told me to focus on myself. But focusing on myself didn’t stop the abuse when I don’t know how to set boundaries around my husband’s unhealthy behaviors.

I have secondary trauma because of some harmful ways my church leader dealt with the situation, secondary trauma from several of the therapists that my husband worked with. Getting APSATS trained coaching for yourself is so important, so you can feel compassionate support, and to be able to have a clear plan to get yourself to a safe place is key.

Coach Rae: When we’re experiencing betrayal trauma – when we’re in that safety and stabilization phase, and that can happen any time during recovery, it doesn’t necessarily happen when you first find out. But when you’re in that safety and stabilization phase, you’re not processing information in a way that healing can happen. 

It’s important to be able to not expect ourselves to be doing work on codependency while we’re in the throws of the first stage. I’m glad you brought up treatment induced trauma. I’m really proud to be trained by an organization like APSATS. I’ve been in S-Anon 12 Step recovery for seven years before I started coaching. I’ve been through years of therapy and three different coaching trainings, and it wasn’t until APSATS that I even heard the term treatment induced trauma. With all my experience working with sex addiction and all my coaching training, it really shows the level of quality of training of APSATS in providing what partners of sex addicts need.

When you have a client whose husband is seeing a therapist and there is conflict there. I’ve heard women who are on the receiving end from treatment induced trauma issued by their husband’s therapist or pastor.  Those are the situations that APSATS trains us for.  

Secondary Trauma – An Extension Of Betrayal Trauma

Anne: Being a survivor of treatment induced trauma myself, and being a survivor of church leader induced trauma – being aware that it can happen and getting the most qualified help you can get is essential. Especially if you’re dealing with someone who exhibits narcissistic personality disorder behaviors, they can convince all the people around them of their alternate reality. You can feel so alone and scared. Having a community and a coach who can help you navigate you that from a safe space is so helpful.

Coach Rae: I like to present to women, if you’re having trouble recognizing what is  codependence versus what is a response to the trauma in your marriage or your relationship, look at it from a lense outside of pornography addiction or sex addiction and sometimes it becomes clearer.

Anne: I think that’s an interesting distinction. Look at yourself outside the context of your relationship with your husband, and look at yourself inside that context and see what types of behaviors are keeping you from safety.

Tell me about your training. What is APSATS and why is is so important to get a specially trained coach to deal with gaslighting or narcissism or other behaviors that active addicts exhibits.

Specialized Coaching To Navigate Issues Related To Betrayal Trauma & Codependency

Coach Rae: APSATS stands for Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists. It was started by Barbara Steffens who wrote the flagship book, Your Sexually Addicted Spouse – which first posited the idea that what wives of sex addicts were demonstrating with the coping strategies and survival skills was actually symptoms of trauma, called betrayal trauma, not necessarily some sort of kind of broken relationship dysfunction they brought with them into the marriage.

When I first encountered APSATS, I was excited to find the first organization that existed specifically to train and certify professionals to support partners of sex addicts, not about sex addiction itself, not about general addiction family dynamics, not about marital counseling. It was specifically oriented toward supporting the traumatized partners of sex addicts. It’s a trauma informed approach and partner oriented approach to this situation. It supports the partner’s safety and well being, rather than putting the focus on the addict or abuser.  

Anne: At BTR we recommend that women  begin attending free SALifeline 12 Step meetings and work with a free sponsor, and that they also engage professional help from an APSATS coach.

If you want one-on-one help with exploring codependency or trauma with Coach Rae, or any of our other coaches, please schedule an appointment today. Our coaches are specifically trained to help you see determined if your behavior is a result of codependent traits you’ve developed throughout your life, or trauma you’ve experienced in relation to your husband addictive or abusive behaviors. 

To schedule an appointment with Coach Rae or any of our APSATS coaches, click here.

Embracing The Unmanageability Of Life – The Analogy Of The Drowning Swimmer

To Healing The Traumatic Experiences Caused By Our Husband’s Sexual Addiction And Related Behaviors Like Narcissistic Personality . . . 

This morning, I was studying in Matthew Chapter 9, a man approaches Jesus and he says in verse 18, “My daughter is even now dead; but come and lay they hand upon her, and she shall live.”

It made me think of my soon-to-be-ex-huband who has filed for divorce and made no effort to be reunited with his family. I knelt down and I prayed, “God, my husband is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon him, and he shall live.”

At this point, I feel like he has died spiritually and physically in my life, since I no longer interact with him in any way. My greatest desire is to have my husband be whole and be home. Because I’m in this state of sadness and grief because of my husband’s spiritual death and removal from our family, the next verses 20-22 really help me.

“Behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; they faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.”

So I think of those two scriptures, back to back. It is unlikely that my husband will allow himself to be healed due to his current mindset. I have no idea. But I am seeking healing, so I can be healed.

I can be made whole from the pain and trauma I’ve been experiencing by touching the hem of Christ’s garment.

As I prayed this morning, I had an incredible peace come over me. It was comforting and warm. The feeling I had was all will be well. I will keep you safe.

Admitting Life Is Unmanageable Is The Foundation For Healing

Admitting our life is completely unmanageable can help us find peace. For many of us, admitting this seems like giving up. Or the powerlessness of our situation seems to increase the trauma.

I was single for a long time, didn’t get married until I was 31. And during my single years, I would date people and it wouldn’t work out, and I had an image in my mind that I was in drowning on a stormy sea. The water was extremely choppy, splashing in my face, and I could barely keep my head above water. I could see God in a boat, far away from me, and He had thrown in a donut shaped life preserver. The life preserver was attached to a rope, and He held the rope.

Every time, I reached out to grab the life preserver, God would pull it away, out of my reach. My head would go under water, and I’d come up again gasping, again, trying to grab it. He would again pull it away. I could never reach safety.

Working With A Trained Professional To Be Safe From Gaslighting

One of my character defects is OCD. I have a hard time being present when it hits because my mind can’t let go of my worries and get distracted by my thoughts. She suggested to me that I wasn’t working good recovery.

So I took a break from BTR and I fasted from the internet for three days to get back on track, and get God in my center. My soon-to-be-ex-husband had recently posted a post about me on Facebook, gaslighting everyone, saying that I was the cause of the divorce. I needed to get God back in my center.

She suggested that I write down all the things in my life that are unmanageable. It was quite the list: my housework, my children’s behavior, my hair, working out, eating vegetables – what wasn’t unmanageable!

At the top of the list was the consequences of my husband’s abusive behaviors and his choices. After I talked with my sponsor about how my life is unmanageable, I meditated about the image of me drowning and God being in my life – seeing him, seeing him sort of help me, but that I can’t really get the help I need.

I asked God, why do I feel this way?

The thought came to me that the reason the water was so choppy was from my own flailing about, from my kicking. The reason the water seemed to be attacking me, was that I was attacking the water. And every time I desperately tried to reach the life preserver, my own movements pushed it farther away from me.

I got the impression to stop moving and float on my back. When I did, the scene panned out and I saw myself resting quietly on the water.  The life preserver floated near enough to me for me to easily grab it, but I didn’t need to. And then I saw that I was surrounded by life preservers, and surrounded by boats. Angels were in the boats, just waiting to help me. Christ was there. I had all the help I needed.

God said, “I’ve given you this water to support you, and the air to breath. I’ve given you everything you need.”

My Recovery From Narcissistic Abuse 

I’ve been regretting my thrashing around and my lack of trust. When my life became unmanageable, that’s what I did. I didn’t know what to do, I just wanted to save my family.

God is telling me to relax and He will take care of me and He will provide for me. I’m a lot like the children of Israel. God split the Red Sea for me, and I walked to safety on dry ground, and then I started complaining. Instead of finding peace in gratitude and trusting, I started thrashing about. But I’m learning to live one day at a time, and trust the daily manna God is sending me to take care of my three children.

I have faith that God can heal me.

I’m grateful to God for telling me to start this podcast, all the volunteers that work with me here at BTR.

If you need one-on-one help, please schedule an appointment with one of our APSATS trained coaches.

If you would like to be added to our secret Facebook group, friend me on Facebook, and then send me a private message and I can add you to the group.

Do I Need To Attend 12 Step To Heal From Betrayal Trauma?

Material from this post is taken from the S-Anon Blue Book, Copyright by S-Anon International Family Groups, P.O. Box 17294, Nashville, TN 37217, (615) 833-3152; reprinted with permission.



The Serenity Prayer Helps Feel Peace When Trauma Is Triggered Through Betrayal

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time,
accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.

Taking as He did this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it.

Trusting that he will make all things right
if I surrender to His will
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. 

What Are SAL 12 Step Betrayal Trauma Meetings?

SAL 12 Step is a fellowship of women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other so that they may solve their common problems and help others to recover.

SALifeline (Sexaholics Anonymous Lifeline) uses the S-Anon blue book for our meetings and for our study. The only requirement for membership is that there be a problem of sexaholism in a relative or friend. SAL is not associated with any religion, political party, or any other organization. Our primary purpose is to recover from the effects upon us of another person’s sexaholism and to help families and friends of sexaholics. If you are wondering if something like SAL will work for you, here is a checklist to consider:

S-Anon Checklist To Determine If You Need To Attend a Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group

*reprinted from S-Anon 12 Steps with permission.

  • Have you often felt hurt, ashamed, or embarrassed by someone else’s sexual conduct? 
  • Are you afraid to upset the sexaholic for fear that he will leave you?
  • Have you sometimes found yourself searching for clues about someone’s sexual behavior? 
  • Have you ever fantasized, obsessed, or worried about someone else’s sexual problems?
  • Have you ever made threats to others or promises to yourself like, “If this happens again I’ll leave” that you didn’t carry out?
  • Have you ever tried to control somebody else’s sexual thoughts or behavior by doing things like throwing away pornography, dressing suggestively, or being sexual with them in order to keep them from being sexual with others?
  • Has your involvement with another person or their sexual behavior ever affected your relationship with your children, your co-workers, or other friends and family members?
  • Have you often lied to others or made excuses to yourself about another person’s sexual conduct?
  • Have you had money problems because of someone else’s sexual behavior?
  • Have you engaged in sexual behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable or ashamed or is physically dangerous, fearing that if you don’t the sexaholic will leave you?
  • Have you ever felt confused and unable to separate what is true from what is not true when talking to the sexaholic?
  • Have you ever thought about or attempted suicide because of someone else’s sexual behavior?
  • Have you often used sex to have peace in the family or to smooth over problems?
  • Does sex (for example thinking about it, doing it, talking about it, or worrying about it) play an all consuming roll in your relationship?
  • Have you ever felt abandoned emotionally because of your partner’s use of pornography or masturbation?
  • Have you ever helped someone get out of jail or other legal trouble as a result of his/her sexual behavior or feared that this kind of thing could happen?
  • Have you often thought that the sexaholic’s behavior was caused by other people such as friends, or sexual partners, by society in general, by his/her job, religion or birth family?
  • Have you ever suspected that someone was inappropriately sexually interested in any of your children?
  • Do you feel alone in your problem?

How Do I Know If SAL 12 Step Is Right For Me In Healing From Betrayal Trauma?

If you can answer yes to even some of these questions you may find help in our free online or in-person betrayal trauma recovery groups.   

For me, I replaced the sexual words with the word “anger” to also help me determine if a betrayal trauma recovery group would work for me. In addition to my husband’s abusive behaviors, he also had a pornography and masturbation addiction. 

  • Have I often felt hurt, ashamed, or embarrassed by someone else’s anger, or am I afraid to upset my husband for fear that he would leave me? The answer is yes. 
  • Have I sometimes found myself searching for clues about why someone is angry? Have I ever made threats? Yeah. When the abuse episodes would happen, I would just be like, “I cannot take this anymore. I can’t take this.” 
  • Have I ever tried to control someone else’s anger? 
  • Have I often lied to others or made excuses to myself about another person’s anger? Yes. I have. 
  • Have I felt confused and unable to separate what is true and what is not true when talking with someone who is angry? Yes. 
  • ave you ever felt abandoned emotionally because of your husband’s anger?
  • Have you often thought that your angry husband’s behavior was caused by other people such as friends or you or by society in general or by his job or religion or by his birth family?

I did use sex sometimes to smooth over problems or to have peace in the family. I didn’t ever feel emotionally connected during sex and so I told my husband that I would not initiate sex anymore, but that he was free to initiate. He only attempted to initiate sex twice in a six month period, and both times seemed totally inappropriate because there was no emotional connection.   

The S-Anon Blue Book

The S-Anon Blue Book is a book that shares the collective experience of women who have been betrayed by sex addicts. “It offers hope for recovery to people whose lives have been or are being affected by sexaholism of a spouse, parent, child, or other relative, even a friend or acquaintance” (S-Anon, xvii). 

I also use the same principles to heal from emotional abuse and physical intimidation. 

“We have found that by applying the spiritual principles of the 12- steps to our lives we are able to be happy and productive whether or not the sexaholic chooses recovery.” Or whether or not the abuser chooses recovery. “The joy we have found in our new way of life makes us want to share the experiences that have made our recovery possible . . . While the various tools of the program and the fellowship itself support our recovery, we have found that a study of these steps from a S-Anon (http://w.btr.org/2gpnzlc) perspective while aiming to incorporate the principles into our lives is essential for recovering from the destructive effects of sexaholism” (S-Anon, xvii).

The S-Anon blue book includes personal stories and suggestions, based on the experience of other women in trauma, and how they put the principles of the 12 Steps into practice. With each step “there is a description, in general terms, of the devastating impact of the disease of sexaholism and the impact it had on women’s lives and a recounts the events and realizations that led to a new way of approaching the problem and the solution” (S-Anon, xvii). 

Stories are included for each Step. “Most of us have found it very helpful to become aware of how others in S-Anon applied the principles of the steps to their lives. These stories are intended to be a sampling of S-Anon experiences. There are as many stories as there are S-Anon members, and these examples are by no means exhaustive.” (S-Anon, page xvii) And that is why I started the podcast so that you can hear more stories of SAL members who are working the steps with a sponsor. 

“Having found that we all have some inner resistance to letting go of unproductive attitudes and behavior, we have included a section called Practicing These Steps. These sections briefly describe some of the ways we have come face to face with our resistance to change and offer ideas that have helped many of us work through our own impediments to recovery.  We also present some questions suitable for individual writing, discussion with a program sponsor or friend, or discussion within the group itself. Again, the examples in the S-Anon Blue Book are only examples of some issues we have addressed in the course of our recovery and the issues addressed in the questions are not intended to be a complete list of all the possible issues or emotions that may arise when an individual member approaches a particular step” (S-Anon, xviii). 

You will not find anything in the Blue Book based on a specific religion, although working the 12 Steps is a spiritual process. “The designation “God” does not refer to a particular being, concept, or force, but only to “God” as each of us understands that term” (S-Anon, xviii). 

I am a Christian and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Betrayal Trauma Recovery is not intended to push that. I only say that because I’ll often be sharing my own experiences from my own point of view. Other BTR volunteers also share from their own religious point of view.

“If the sexaholic behaviors mentioned in the S-Anon Blue Book seem in any way vague or nonspecific, let us reassure you that we are not avoiding the reality of any individual experience. No matter what manifestation of sexaholism you may have encountered in a relative or friend–be it compulsive use of pornography or masturbation, fantasy, sexual violence, affairs with women or men, sex with children inside or outside the family, sex with animals, with prostitutes or other strangers, telephone sex or other use of electronic media, withholding sex–it could be any of these things. We assure you that you are not alone” (S-Anon, xix).

Talking with other free recovery group members “you will find others who have lived with these same types of sexaholic behavior and have experienced similar feelings or reactions to sexaholism.” 

“We consider sexaholic behaviors to be symptoms of a disease–unacceptable actions taken by sick people who are powerless over lust” (S-Anon, xix). “Many of us have overcome powerful feelings of shame or guilt that arose out of being so closely connected to this “shameful” disease. We have come to understand and accept that we are not responsible for the actions of others and that those burdens of shame and guilt are not rightfully ours to carry. Our solution depends on keeping focused on our own personal path of recovery and allowing the sexaholic to do the same” (S-Anon, xix).

The Right To Be Safe From Abuse That Often Coincides With Pornography Use & Infidelity

One thing to consider here and it’s very important, and this is the situation that I was in is that “everyone has the right to be safe from harm no matter what the circumstance is. Sexual contact with others can expose the sexaholic to diseases that are incurable and even fatal; in some cases these diseases can be passed on to the sexaholic’s wife and even to children through pregnancy. Sometimes wives of sexaholics are coerced into participating in unwanted sexual activities and such activities may even be a part of a pattern of domestic violence that includes physical abuse” (S-Anon, xix) 

Protecting Yourself From Sexual Abuse Due To Pornography Use

Women “who find themselves in a sexual situation or a life situation that felt unsafe or even life threatening report that it was sometimes necessary to make tough choices to protect themselves and their children. The experiences of those who face these situations and are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases or violence suggest that those in similar circumstances consider taking some or the following actions: ask a doctor for tests for sexually transmitted diseases and follow the doctor’s advice on self-protection in the future. Remember that a negative test does not prevent a person from contracting a sexually transmitted disease from sexual contact after the test is done. Limit or abstain from sexual contact with the sexaholic for as long as necessary to maintain personal safety and recovery” (S-Anon, xx).

I would add here – as long as necessary to maintain emotional safety as well. 

“Arrange with a friend, relative, or neighbor for a safe haven to go to on short notice. Obtain the phone number of an agency that can provide immediate assistance and a safe place to go to. Leave money and an extra set of car keys in a place where they are readily available, and if necessary, call the police for protection” (S-Anon, xx). In my case when I was physically attacked, I went to the InstaCare and the doctor called the police and they came and arrested my husband.

“Many members, even those who have been active in other 12-Step programs, have found that placing the focus on themselves in SAL recovery can sometimes lead to a crisis in relationships or the surfacing of some painful personal issues. While we believe SAL is invaluable and consistently helpful over time, many in our fellowship have also sought the assistance of professional helpers like therapists, clergy, and doctors to help handle crisis situations or deal in depth with personal issues. S-Anon does not claim to be all things to all people, and we are grateful for the specialized help available from others. The S-Anon program offers a way of living based on the 12-Steps that is applicable in all life situations, as well as the support of people who know first-hand what the newcomer is going through because we have been there too. This is the healing power of S-Anon. You are not alone. Recovery is possible. We invite you to join our common cause” (S-Anon, xx).

SAL Betrayal Trauma Recovery Groups Are Free For Any Woman Who Has Been Cheated On In Any Way Or Experienced Abuse

Just a recap, SAL stands for Sexaholics Anonymous Lifeline, frequently called SALifeline. Our meetings are for women only. We do not have men in our meetings. Many of us have been abused by men or have been betrayed by men and so having a man in our meetings is very uncomfortable. SAL meetings enable me to feel safe and grow. We start and end meetings with prayers from the heart, and our meetings are interfaith.

I’ve frequently quoted the introduction to the S-Anon blue book, pages xv-xx. I hope that helps you in your journey of discovering if this program would work for you. I’m working the steps, working the program, and I’m grateful for your friendship and fellowship. 

When you attend SAL, you will also be able to find a sponsor to guide you as you work the steps. In addition to finding a free sponsor, we encourage you to also receive therapy or coaching from an APSATS (Association of Partners of Sexual Addicts Trauma Specialists) certified therapist or coach. 

What Is Betrayal Trauma?

Thanks to those of you who’ve rated the podcast, each rating helps us rank higher in search engine queries and helps other women find us. And I’m so happy for those of you who have decided to schedule coaching appointments with our amazing coaches

When I tell people about betrayal trauma, sometimes I get some strange looks. Many people don’t know about betrayal trauma, and most people don’t understand it.

Understanding Betrayal Trauma

Women who have been betrayed by their husband feel emotionally isolated and doubt their own personal worth. In fact, many suffer from symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is called Betrayal Trauma.

Women suffering from Betrayal Trauma often take extreme measures to outwardly appear perfectly in control—yet inside they really feel out of control, crazy, and unloved. In my case, I started speaking out in public to avoid the mess that was happening in my home.

A pornography and sexual addict is self absorbed and has little to no emotional connection with others and that’s how my ex-husband is. Living with him brought feelings of confusion and fear into my life. I didn’t feel emotionally isolated as much and many women do feel that, but I did feel emotionally numb and I was constantly hustling for a feeling of fulfillment. In my case it took the form of remodeling my house, publicly speaking about pornography, becoming involved in the anti-pornography movement. I was constantly trying to fix things, just fix, fix, fix, fix, fix. I had many of the characteristics of post traumatic stress disorder. 

Apart from my obsessiveness about my house and changing the world, everything else started to slide. My PTSD symptoms reached a point where I didn’t want to do anything hardly. I had always been interested in nature and outdoor activities before, and I stopped working out or taking care of myself physically.

I didn’t want to go out with my friends, I didn’t want to even go to parties or activities. To others, my home seemed cleaned and organized, and I seemed on top of everything, but inside I often felt totally out of control and unloved, unsafe in my own home, even though I barely admitted it to myself.

What’s Wrong With My Marriage?

I sensed that something wasn’t right in my marriage from the very beginning. For the first 18 months, when I questioned my husband about his rage and abuse, he lied to me. After he told me about his pornography addiction 18 months in, he supposedly started recovery, but his abusive behaviors never stopped.  When I questioned him about pornography during the “recovery” years, I was told that “Everything is OK,” in spite of the fact that there was still consistent anger and resentment.

During those five years, I felt pacified. I continued speaking about pornography addiction and my experience, appearing “in control”. Even getting to the point where my husband and I spoke together five times. But then the behaviors escalated rapidly to the point where I knew I needed to set boundaries. I thought: He’s ruining my life and our family. I feel afraid and worried.

Am I Going Crazy?

Betrayal Trauma for me is most acute when I have my addicted ex-husband in my center, rather than God. A pornography addict is unstable, unable to follow through, and in my husband’s case, abusive and angry. Having a person like that in my center created chaos in my life.  

  • We moved six times in five years.  
  • The threat of him swearing or physically intimidating me through punching walls or screaming in my face was ever constant.
  • Several times he suddenly threatened to kill himself in front of our children.
  • I was constantly trying to create stability on a foundation of quicksand.  Ever building, but never getting anywhere.

Then there were amazing times. Times when he was peaceful and emotionally connected. Times that I trusted him and felt safe. I chose to believe that these times were the reality of my marriage and that the chaos and abuse were just a fluke.  I did not see the reality of my situation because I wanted desperately to save my family.

His resentment grew and grew and grew until eventually he lashed out and attacked me physically. After he was arrested for domestic violence the trauma was so intense. I remembered all the things he said about other men who abandoned their families and couldn’t pull it together to repair their relationship. 

I just thought, wow, that was all talk. He does not know how to do that. I watched carefully for clear signs of him attempting to repair and saw none.

On this path of healing and in recovery I’ve embraced these truths. I am not the cause of my ex-husband’s addiction and I can’t change or fix my addicted spouse. HE is making his own decisions of his own free will. I have been deeply injured by the deceit and the disrespect and the anger in my marriage. It’s only with God’s help that I can truly heal and thrive. 

Staying on this path of healing and recovery is really important for me and it’s very difficult. I work with a qualified therapist and I work the 12 steps with a sponsor. I’m slowly coming out of having my spouse in the center of my world. He was at my center and I wanted to do everything to help him and to save my family. 

When he lived with us, I thought that I didn’t need to recover. Well I thought I was kind of in recovery. I didn’t understand what recovery was. I thought recovery was kind of like going to groups every once and awhile, every once in awhile going to a therapist, but really just reading about things. I didn’t realize that there were actual action steps and things that I could do everyday to be in recovery. 

Back then I also thought if he would just stop and get better that everything would be ok but it’s not that simple. I was in trauma. I was living out an emotionally frenzied life with fear constant in my life. The first step to healing is to remove myself from the person who continues to traumatize me completely and set a boundary to remain free from that abuse until he shows he is trustworthy and emotionally safe.

Many times my addicted ex-husband came quickly back into my center – especially when he sent texts blaming me for the breakup of the marriage, blaming me his decision to divorce. That has been really difficult. I’ve worked with my sponsor quite a bit. 

That’s when the trauma really hits. For me the betrayal trauma feels like anxiety, it feels like fear, it feels like pain, sorrow, and sadness, and sometimes it just gets so intense. It’s so intense I feel like I might die. There have been times when I have been laying in my bed and I just scream and yell and pound the bed or in the shower.

I just fall down to the ground and just lay in the shower and cry and cry and cry. It is so painful. I’ve learned through this that one thing I’m good at is accepting the pain and just feeling it. I do that quite often when the pain gets really intense, and then sometimes I do choose unhealthy behaviors like shopping for things I can’t afford, fix things, compulsively doing projects. 

Why Does My Husband Hate Me?

I recently had to increase my boundary because my ex wrote some extremely abusive and triggering emails. After my dad read the emails, he insisted that I block his number and emails and have my ex only communicate through my dad. Since then, the constant fear has subsided a bit.

My boundaries that I’ve set are based on love, and safety and respect for myself and for my ex-husband. My boundary of no contact enables me to connect with God and put God in my center. 

So with consistent effort and time and the grace of God I think I’m starting to heal. I’m starting to choose a healthy lifestyle. It’s hard. I’m still having trouble eating well and exercising. I’m still having trouble sleeping. 

One healthy thing that I’ve been doing is yard work which has been really healing for me. Another healthy thing is reaching out to friends and my sponsor. 

Last spring, I had a major slip up where I went and bought topiaries that I couldn’t afford especially with the divorce so I had to return them and it was really embarrassing. I feel humiliated by my actions and my compulsive behaviors when I’m in trauma and that trauma response is just trying to get out of the pain. 

When I’m connected with God and God is in my center I feel much more at peace and much more calm. 

Betrayal Trauma Affects Everyone Differently

A lot of people isolate, and I started publicly speaking about my experience. I regret that now because it put my family in danger. Also I didn’t know I was being a hypocrite because I didn’t understand that my husband was not in recovery and not doing recovery behaviors at the time. Now it’s really humiliating and embarrassing and I feel like wow, I set myself up as an expert when I didn’t know anything. 

I’m still in that stage of not knowing anything so this podcast is more just sharing this experience with you of where I’m at now, not that I’ve arrived or that I’m anywhere but that I’m still living in trauma working through it everyday, trying to have God at my center and trying to do God’s will. I’m so grateful that you’re here with me listening to this journey and that I know I’m not alone.  

Why Am I So Confused? Why Can’t I Figure Out How To Save My Marriage?

Even now, I don’t know exactly what happened.  I suspect that my husband lied to me many times.  I still deal with the anxiety, fear, sadness, heartache, and stress of the betrayal every day.  Not to mention the difficulty of being a single mom of three small children.  With the betrayal comes worries about the future, worries about money, and what will happen. It’s extremely stressful.

I entered recovery because I desperately want to feel peace again. I want to feel safe in my life. And I’m working it everyday, grateful for my support group, my sponsor and my therapist.
Please consider attending a free betrayal trauma recovery meetings. They are online and in-person, so you can attend anywhere in the world. As you attend your meeting, you will also have the opportunity to find a free sponsor.

Appointments are available through our website with women specifically trained to guide you through this process.

How Do I Protect & Heal My Children From My Husband’s Abuse?

How Do I Protect & Heal My Children?
3 Hour Class
Led by Coach Rae
REGISTER – Saturday 3PM Eastern (USA) – March 17, 2018
Limited to 12 participants (minimum 6)

For most women reeling from the trauma of sexual betrayal, one concern tends to rise above the rest: “How can I protect and heal my children from the impact of what’s happening?” The good news is, you’re not alone in your question. The better news is, we’ll help you find answers!

During this highly-interactive group session, join Coach Rae and special guest Dr. Jill Manning for a three-part exploration on this important topic:

  • First, as an experienced marriage and family therapist, one who specializes in treating betrayal trauma in partners of sex addicts, Dr. Manning will introduce the primary factors involved in creating a safe and healing environment for children in the aftermath of sexual betrayal.
  • Next, you’ll be invited to ask YOUR specific questions, scenarios that relate to your unique family dynamics. During this process, you’ll also listen and learn from other women living in similar situations. 
  • Finally, Coach Rae will close with 30-60 minutes of group coaching time, designed to help you identify your individual takeaways and goals moving forward—action steps to integrate the information and awareness you’ve received from Dr. Manning.

Originally designed for women whose relationships DON’T survive the impact of addiction and abuse, “How Can I Protect & Heal My Children?” is also appropriate for women who are healing within their recovering relationships.

Here are some of the questions commonly asked by women in this support group:

  • What if my kids are exposed to porn while they’re with my husband or ex-husband? How can I prevent this from happening in the first place?
  • My children are misbehaving in ways they didn’t before discovering my husband’s addiction. Are those two things related? And if so, how do I deal with that?
  • As a mother, I know what my kids need to heal from this family trauma. The problem is, my husband or ex-husband disagrees completely, which has resulted in even more conflict. How can I convince him, or what if I can’t?
  • Are my requests on this topic reasonable, or am I overreacting? Are my expectations realistic? What boundaries are appropriate under these circumstances?
  • Should my kids be in therapy? If so, how do I choose the right therapist?
  • I can’t afford specialized help for my family. Is any family counseling better than none at all?
  • My partner blames me for our separation and/or divorce—because I’m the one who finally said, “enough is enough.” Now, he’s telling the kids that I’m the reason our family isn’t together. How do I deal with that?
  • Though my husband is no longer acting out sexually, his attitudes toward me are still very abusive. How can I protect my children from internalizing this example of marriage and family?
  • I hate that my kids have been hurt by their father’s actions and my responses to it. How can help them heal from this family trauma?

For more details, email Coach Rae at rae@btr.org