What Is Betrayal Trauma?

Over the coming weeks we will be exploring this term of Betrayal Trauma to really get to grips with what this means and what the ‘trauma model’ is about. We will start today by looking at the concept of trauma and how it applies to the experience we have as partners and wives of men with compulsive or addictive sexual behaviours. Over the next two weeks we will unpack some of the common symptoms and experiences we share and will conclude by looking at the stages of trauma healing and recovery. This will give you an insight into what you can expect when working through the healing process with a trauma trained professional, such as our APSATS trained coaches here at BTR.

The Trauma In Betrayal Trauma

To begin to explore the idea of betrayal trauma, it is helpful to understand trauma from a holistic standpoint. The word ‘trauma’ has its roots in the Greek word for ‘wound’ which is a pretty good description of any kind of trauma. It is the wounding effect of an event, situation or instance upon us. Various dictionary definitions of the word converge on terms describing the ‘distressing’ or ‘disturbing’ nature of the events that produce trauma, which could be defined as the lasting psychological state produced by such events. Some trauma events are accompanied by physical trauma (ie wounds to the body), while others are limited to the psychological impact, that on the mind and spirit. Interestingly, whilst they are, arguably, more common, psychological traumas are often misunderstood, misdiagnosed or entirely unnoticed, due to their lack of visibility to the outside world. A physical trauma, like a gunshot wound or a broken leg, is harder to ignore after all.

Whilst all traumatic events are different and all people exposed to trauma have a unique interaction with it and bring different tolerances to emotional stress and different levels of resilience, trauma produces a number of typical symptoms in those who experience it. These symptoms are likely to consist of some of the following (From Your Sexually Addicted Spouse):

  • Helplessness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Immobility
  • Reliving the event
  • Hypervigilance
  • Anxiety
  • Nightmares
  • Intrusive images
  • Withdrawing
  • Avoidance
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Phobias
  • Flashbacks
  • Denial
  • Oversensitivity
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Dissociation
  • Inability to eat
  • Overeating
  • Rage
  • Health problems
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Immune/endocrine system problems

A good friend of mine, and a respected colleague and mentor has often reminded me that “trauma does not tell time” and left untreated, exposure to trauma and post-traumatic stress (the after effects of a traumatic experience) can develop into a more chronic condition, that of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. PTSD is a chronic and life altering condition that affects both the mental and physical body significantly and can, in some cases, be a lifelong condition.

So, What’s Betrayal Trauma?

Betrayal Trauma is a collective term for the relational trauma suffered when a person on whom you though you could rely, a person you trust, violates that trust significantly. Jennifer Freyd, of the University of Oregon, describes the generic application of the term ‘Betrayal Trauma’ in the following way: Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that persons trust or well-being: Childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated by a caregiver are examples of betrayal trauma.

For our purposes, we are addressing Betrayal Trauma in the context of the relational Trauma suffered by the spouse or partner of a person exhibiting secretive and problematic sexual behaviours and the associated abusive behavioural issues.

Betrayal Trauma, sometimes referred to as Sex Addiction Induced Trauma or Partner Trauma, is becoming more widely recognized worldwide, however more education and awareness are needed in the field before the previous treatment modalities can be laid to rest entirely. In particular, it is helpful to mention the overriding model in the treatment of these ‘partners’ thus far – the ‘co-addict’ model. Whilst I have been unable to find one single definition of co-addiction, I was able to find a paragraph that I felt summed up collective thoughts on the experience: A co-sex addict is someone who is married to, or in a significant relationship with a sex addict and demonstrates a common set of behavioral characteristics.  These characteristics include:

  • Denial
  • Preoccupation
  • Enabling
  • Rescuing
  • Taking Excessive Responsibility
  • Emotional turmoil
  • Efforts to control
  • Compromise of Self
  • Anger
  • Sexual Issues

Like sex addiction, co-sex addiction can range in severity, and some individuals will find they experience a few of these characteristics.  

In short, the co-addict model, describes women in relationships with sex addict as ‘sick’ and in need of treatment for their co-dependent behavioral patterns that enable their partners addiction to continue. It emphasizes the need to ‘let go’ of the addict’s behavior, stay on your own side of the street and labels behaviors that are better explained as reality testing, safety seeking behavior, as controlling and exerts the theory that co-addicts are addicted to the addict in their relationship.

The Symptoms May Be The Same, But The Reasoning Behind Them Is Drastically Different

The theories expressed in the co-addict model do not hold true to the experiences of the women I interact with. These women are, for the most part, emotionally healthy women. They often have no history of dysfunctional relationships nor codependent tendencies. The key piece of information to recognize here is also that they often have NO CLUE what the addicted partner is doing in their secret sexual world and, if they did, they would not usually look to cover that up, hide and enable it.

It is true that the reality of learning that your partner is a sex addict is a hard one to come to terms with but it is neither true nor fair to assert that partners are complicit in this behavior. Ask any woman that finds out they married a sex addict if they would have pursued the relationship in light of the full facts and the answer will be a resounding NO 99% of the time. Ask sexually addicted men if they gave their long-term partners the opportunity to make such a decision by laying out their problematic sexual behaviors right from the start and again, you will hear a resounding NO 99% of the time. Coincidence? Maybe not…?  

There is a growing recognition that the behaviors exhibited following the discovery or disclosure of sex addiction in a committed relationship are better understood through the lens of relational trauma. The trauma here being connected to the sudden revelation that the person you are closest to, that you feel safe with and trust, that you are supposed to be able to rely on, has deeply wounded the attachment between the two of you. Where there was previously, a reasonable expectation of relational safety, there is now a minefield of potentially harmful and unsafe situations and occurrences.  Similarly, the lying, manipulation, and emotional abuse may be continuing – even after a disclosure.

Such a wound, touching the most intimate places of our lives and the most intimate of our self-beliefs, can be very damaging indeed. Given that overwhelming impact of trauma is the sense of being unsafe, some of the previously labelled co-addict behaviors, become redefined as ‘safety seeking’ behaviors and change from unhealthy and controlling to understandable and reasonable. The response to these behaviors also changes, from needing to step away from those behaviors, to looking for relational solutions. Instead of being told to keep on her own side of the street, she is now encouraged to speak for her needs for transparency and honesty in her relationship. Far from encouraging a victim mentality (as the ‘Trauma Model’ is sometimes accused of doing) this actually encourages a sense of self value, of empowerment and of equal entitlement in the relationship. Those responses sound a million miles from those of a codependent by the way!

We love hearing and sharing in the experiences of our readers and would love to know how you have felt about some of the labels that have been assigned to you as you’ve sought out help and support for this issue. Do you identify with the trauma model? How does the redefinition of your behaviors as reasonable attempts to find safety in an unsafe situation make you feel? Please comment and let us know and join us next week as we delve deeper into this topic and understand the common symptoms and responses we experience. Until then, take good care of yourselves.

Coach Cat xx

To schedule a Support Call with Coach Cat, click here.

Luke 18: The Parable Of The Unjust Judge

Helping Widows – Women Married To Pornography / Sexual Addicts

The parable of the unjust judge explains a lot about how to care for widows who are hurting because of their husband’s spiritual death, often caused by his pornography use and subsequent lies and hypocrisy.

In Luke 18:2-9, Jesus teaches the parable of the unjust judge. A widow comes to the unjust judge and asks him to hold her “adversary” accountable. At first the unjust judge does nothing. He’s unhappy with her continued requests for help. He decides to pacify her with words.

Jesus Teaches That Leaders Need To Do Something To Protect Widows

Jesus adds here, listen to what the unjust judge “saith”, making a point that there is no action done on his part to avenge the widow.

The unjust judge placates her, feigning righteousness, “Will not God avenge you? You pray to Him all day and night, and He listens to you. I’m sure God will help you. When Jesus comes again, will He find that you have faith?”

Christ targets this parable “unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.”

As this kind of widow myself, when I read this scripture, it rang so true to me. I have found myself in this exact situation. 

We know the judge is unjust. So this is an example of what not to do.

One of the most common examples of a widow petitioning for help is a wife wanting her church leader to hold her husband accountable for breaking his covenants: lying, pornography use, and abuse. She does this because she loves her husband and she wants to save her family.

Related Behaviors Of Porn Users

Active pornography users exhibit some or many of these behaviors, but the severity differs from individual to individual:

  • Lying
  • Manipulation
  • Gaslighting
  • Lashing Out In Anger
  • Neglecting Emotional Needs Of Family Members
  • Emotionally Abusing Family Members
  • Neglecting Household Duties and Other Family Responsibilities
  • Narcissistic Traits

Men who exhibit these behaviors have lost the privilege of being in a family. It’s emotionally and spiritually unsafe for wives and children to be exposed to these types of behaviors. Women who have lost their husbands to pornography need to be protected. Support people need to hold their husbands accountable. They need to “avenge” these spiritual widows to enable the family to heal. 

Many times, at the very beginning of the disclosure / discovery process, widows don’t recognize the lying, manipulation and abuse. So she too might not understand that setting boundaries and holding her husband accountable is the only way to safety.

Because she is compassionate, she too may think that being supportive, forgiving, and loving is the answer – but what judges and widows miss is that setting boundaries and holding someone accountable is the most compassionate, forgiving, loving thing you can do for a person who desperately needs to cleanse the inner vessel. Luke 5:37 “And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.”

Since there is a lack of specifics and guidance when it comes to policies about how to help pornography users and victims, women are not given consistent help. In my work with thousands of widows all over the world, the responses and ways to deal with it are all over the map – even if the behavior in the men is fairly consistent.

Telling a woman that her husband hasn’t committed adultery because is he hasn’t actually slept with someone isn’t helpful because she knows full well that Jesus himself said it is. She also knows full well how she feels. Her heart is breaking, her family is at risk because he has committed adultery in his heart.

“Freedom from accountability means that the abusive man considers himself above criticism. If his partner attempts to raise her grievances, she is “nagging” or “provoking” him. He believes he should be permitted to ignore the damage his behavior is causing, and he may become retaliatory if anyone tries to get him to look at it” (Why Does He Do That? 58).

It is essential that friends, relatives, courts, and communities understand . . . and give the woman the most complete support and protection possible, while simultaneously taking steps to hold the abuser accountable” (Why Does He Do That? 101).

Abusers think that their wives dwell on grievances and refuse to forgive “because she sometimes attempts to hold him accountable rather than letting him stick her with cleaning up his messes – literally and figuratively” (Why Does He Do That? 142).

Contrast that parable with Acts 7:24-25 

24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed . . .

25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.

I interpret that to mean, when he saw the suffering, he defended her and avenged her. He supposed that other leaders would have understood how that God by his hand would help her save her family and heal her marriage – by holding her husband accountable for his misdeeds and helping him through the process of sincere, back-breaking repentance. But they simply told her to pray and read her scriptures, and that God would help her. Have faith, they said. But they understood not that they should be God’s hands to help.

In light of the pornography epidemic, and the lack of understanding around the topic, including the severe emotional and financial suffering of the widows involved, Acts 6:1 seems especially pertinent: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring . . . because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.”

5 Chaotic Gaslighting Tactics Of Pornography Users

Coach Sarah will be educating us about gaslighting tactics today! Welcome, Coach Sarah!

Our APSATS coaches will help you discover your husband’s gaslighting and how to deal with it. Coach Sarah is APSATS trained and an expert in helping women find safety in when faced with gaslighting in their relationships. Click here to register for her group Detecting & Confronting Gaslighting.

Coach Sarah: Thank you, Anne! I’m glad to be here with you today!

Anne: Coach Sarah, has everyone gaslighted at one time or another in their life? Why do “we” as humans gaslight sometimes?

Why Do People Use Gaslighting?

Coach Sarah: Yes, I believe everyone has gaslighted someone at one time or another in their life. Those of us who gaslight unknowingly usually do so for a few reasons (or a combination): out of an unawareness of how we’re really feeling; a shame response; a defensive response (like self-protection); or a lack of good communication. 

For example, the mom who tells her son that he likes salad, when he clearly does not, is not aware/in touch with the feeling of being weary of her son complaining about the food that she makes. She doesn’t want to hear another complaint, so she desperately says, “C’mon, you like salad.” The mom is trying to get her son to feel a certain way about the salad.

A non-gaslighting exchange would be something like: “Son, I know salad isn’t your favorite, but it really hurts my feelings when I work hard to make you healthy food and you complain. Even if you’re not excited about eating the salad, could you please not complain? Thank you.”

Why Are Addicts Prone To Gaslighting?

Well, when we look at basic components of what is involved in addiction, we look at a few key things:

  1. People numbing feelings with their “drug of choice”
  2. People who act outside of their beliefs and morals, which reinforces their shame center
  3. People who are in active addiction have a need to keep their behaviors secret/hidden, so that they can continue to feed their addiction

So, if someone comes to me and asks if I’m angry, and I’ve numbed out my feelings, I am very likely to tell them they’re wrong (even though they are correct); add in the shame center, and I’d likely turn it back around on them and tell them that they’re the one that is angry. If I’m in active addiction, and someone comes to me saying they feel like I’m distant (and I am, because I’m acting out), I’ll likely tell them they’re imagining things, so that they doubt their reality, and stop looking into my behaviors. 

What Are The Gaslighting Tactics That Pornography / Sexual Addicts Use?

I don’t think they use different tactics than other people who gaslight, but I do think the way the tactics sound/are used can be specific to their pornography use/sexual acting out. To start, there are four main tactics people use to gaslight:

  1. Redirecting responsibility
  2. Discrediting your reality
  3. Saying you need or dismissing your psychiatric/coaching/12-step help
  4. Highlighting and criticizing your character flaws

These tactics often overlap.

For example, let’s say you’re out to dinner with your husband, and he’s flirting and staring inappropriately at the attractive woman that is your server. You make a comment about how you feel like he’s behaving inappropriately with this woman, and it hurts you and makes you feel like you are not important to him. His response:

  • “I am not doing anything inappropriate” (discrediting your reality).
  • “If you weren’t so insecure, you’d be able to see that you’re completely over-reacting” (highlighting and criticizing your character flaws).
  • “Besides, if I did flirt with her, it’s because you’re over there complaining and being cold towards me” (redirecting responsibility). 
  • “This is just something your therapist made up – did she tell you I’m not allowed to talk to anyone but you?” (dismissing your therapist).

To our listeners, what types of gaslighting have you experienced? Please comment on this post at the way bottom. How has gaslighting affected you?

What Is The First Step To Recognizing Gaslighting When It Happens?

Coach Sarah: I think the first step is being able to realize when one of three things is happening:

  • You’re confused – things don’t make sense
  • Things get flip-flopped and the other person plays the victim in the situation – you are getting blamed for things that aren’t your responsibility
  • Any time you are told your feelings aren’t “right” or “okay”, etc. 

Anne: As a Coach, how to you help women establish emotional safety in their home, so they don’t experience this type of manipulation and abuse anymore?

Coach Sarah: Honestly, Anne, this is a long process. The absolute first thing I do with my clients is help them to get reconnected to their reality and truth by validating their experiences and feelings. Often, they don’t get this at all in their marriage.

As they begin to get reconnected to themselves, I begin to teach them how to identify the different aspects of gaslighting, so that they can put boundaries in place to protect themselves, as well as help them brainstorm around ways they can respond/engage when they realize their spouse is trying to gaslight them. Finally, I give them a space to practice using their voice, so that it grows strong and they are empowered to use it with their gaslighter(s). 

To schedule a call with Coach Sarah or any one of our amazing APSATS coaches, click here.

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We’re here for you. Until next week, stay safe out there!

Surviving & Thriving Through Divorce

12 Sessions, includes original materials
Led by Coach Rae
The group will start as soon as it fills.
Limited to 6 participants (minimum 3)

Surviving & Thriving Through Divorce is a four-month program for any woman whose marriage does NOT survive the trauma of sexual betrayal. Unlike other programs that support all partners of sex addicts (regardless of their relationship status), this group focuses exclusively on the needs of divorced, divorcing and separated women. With advanced training in grief and divorce recovery coaching, Coach Rae seeks to help women heal from the multi-layered impact of this experience: first, from the underlying horror of betrayal trauma, then from the secondary (sometimes deeper) trauma of divorce itself.

During our safe and supportive group sessions, participants will utilize original material written by Coach Rae, to address 12 key topics of divorce recovery for partners of sex and pornography addicts, including:

  • Discovery Day: The beginning of the end
  • Decision = The “D” Word: How did I decide to divorce?
  • Disintegration: How do I now relate to my ex husband?
  • Detailing the Damage: What have I lost in this whole experience?
  • Death Spiral: How am I experiencing grief in response to my divorce?
  • Divorcing Homes, Divided Hearts: How is this divorce affecting my family and social relationships?
  • Does Divorce Equal Failure? If my marriage failed, what does that say about me?
  • Deconstructing Sex, Intimacy and Womanhood
  • Date Night? Where am I at with the idea of future romance?
  • Discovering Me—Who Am I, Anyway? What’s my identity in the aftermath of this experience?
  • Designing Our New Lives: What kind of post-divorce life do I want?
  • Declaration Day: How will I say goodbye to my once-married life?

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

I’m Anne. If you’re wondering who I am and why I do this, I’m just a regular woman who is recovering from her ex-husband’s sexual addictions and related emotional and physical abuse, and subsequent abandonment and divorce.

Coach Rae is here today to talk about what it takes to thrive before and during a divorce from a sex addict.

Divorce Does Not Cure Betrayal Trauma

When we discuss a topic like divorce, I need to pause and say something that is really important to me. Here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we’re very supportive of marriage. We do not want to suggest that divorce is a way to solve or resolve or heal from betrayal trauma. On the contrary, we know that some relationships do recover and we proudly support sheroes who experience healing within safe and stable relationships.

We also know that some relationships do not recover for a variety of reasons. We are equally as proud to support those sheroes who heal from separation and divorce.

Anne: Coach Rae, as you interact with women who are both in relationships of divorce or are divorcing, how do you see the trauma expressed in both of these situations?

Coach Rae: What I have concluded, Anne, in working with women who are in relationships and those who are healing from the aftermath of a relationship, is that it is an equal but opposite proposal–so there is healing to be done, regardless. Some women are able and successful due to some circumstances not in their control to heal within their relationship.

The reality is that women who do this healing for their own sake whether they are in a relationship or outside it, it is still healing and trauma and requires a great deal of support from others along the way.

Anne: What are the three most common challenges women have in dealing with the trauma during and after a divorce from a sex addict?

Coach Rae: Without a doubt, the number one most common challenge I encounter with the women I work with is grief. Grief is a really enormous issue. It’s multi-faceted. It’s complicated. Even under the best of circumstances, divorce involves a lot of grief. Divorce by itself is an independent trauma. So when you take the trauma related to a divorce and layer it upon sexual betrayal trauma, it further complicates the ways that grief can and does show up in any given woman’s life.

One of the things I mention when talk about grief and divorce, even with those who are anticipating or who have initiated divorce, or in situations where divorce is the healthiest option available, that divorce or end of marriage can feel like an amputation – a part is cut off; even if it’s a choice or a situation that you may know will save your life, it’s still bleeding, it’s still hemorrhaging . . . you may have needed it to save your life, but you know that it is still going to include major life changes and major impact; it’s going to change your life no matter how you look at it.

One of the things I often tell women is that when you know someone is dying, you can predict or figure out how you think you will feel when that person is gone. Ultimately, however, you don’t know how you will feel until it actually happens. It is similar with grief and divorce. You may anticipate what it might be like to go through it. Dealing with this in addition to all of the transitions you are going through with a divorce can be, without question, one of the most difficult things women face as they go through a divorce.

Another one is that everything is in a state of transition: relationships are changing; roles in relationship with others are changing; the boundaries that define and function in these relationships are changing. This is another thing that women don’t necessarily anticipate.

For example, if a woman who has reached a point of divorce, either through his choice or hers, and she has done a lot of recovery up to this point, if you take a topic such as boundaries and she already knows how to set boundaries with her husband, now she has to take a look at the relationship and figure out what boundaries look like in regard to her now ex-husband.

The third biggest challenge – which actually makes me cry the most because it is so incredibly hard, yet such an incredible breakthrough when a woman actually exercises this on her own – is self care. We discuss self care a lot in these circles, whether it is women healing in a divorce or in a relationship and it is difficult in all circumstances.

However, it becomes more challenging during the process of a woman extricating herself from a sex or porn addict. The additional financial strain and work and parenting stress are increased, while at the same time reducing the opportunity for self care. I find that women need to be really strategic and intentional when it comes to making this a priority. Sometimes we have to learn it the hard way. I remember during my own divorce 15 years ago and how I was burning the candle at both ends.

Even though I didn’t have kids, I was working full time and going to art school full time and I was completely and utterly exhausted. My wake up call that finally got through to me and made me realize that self care was no longer an option was when I ran a red light and stopped within inches of broadsiding a van full of kids. I realized that burning the candle at both ends might have felt valiant and successful, but there was a high cost coming with it as well. So self care has no substitute and a lot of women struggle with it.

Anne: I’m struggling with this the most, in addition to the financial stresses. All of these things you mention – the grief, the changing of roles in becoming a single mom – I have definitely experienced them.

What Betrayal Trauma Symptoms Do You Experience?

To our readers, what trauma have you been experiencing in relation to your separation or divorce? What is the most surprising thing and what is the worse thing? Please go comment on the bottom of this post. Tell us about anonymously your experience. We would appreciate you sharing things that maybe you are embarrassed to share, such as: do you miss your abusive husband?

Other things that are socially unacceptable such as something like people expected me to be relieved when my divorce was final because I had experienced abuse, but I was not relieved at all. I was extremely grief stricken because my ex had not made different choices. I was sad for him, for me, and for our children. I would really appreciate your feelings and thoughts about what you are going through with this.

Rae, how can women find some degree of peace even during a divorce process, as opposed to thinking that healing will only come after or as a result of the divorce?

Coach Rae: One of the things I really encourage women to do is to accept whatever emotions come up in them as authentically and in-the-moment as they can. Divorce is a huge learning curve – a dizzying curve that goes so fast there isn’t time to catch up or keep up. Emotions have an odd way of creeping up at less than ideal times! Remember how I just spoke about grief being unpredictable?

When I was going through my divorce I remember one moment when I felt more grief – pure sadness and loss – than at any other time. It was the moment when I found an email that his then-girlfriend sent to him saying she was going to call him the next morning at 7:00AM to wake him up. Somehow I had given all of my crap that I had found about his hidden sexual life less emotion than finding this little, silly, everyday intimate exchange.

This has been a good example to me of realizing that something so “small” compared to the bigger things still needed to be felt. I needed to feel all of the emotions. My advice in helping women through a divorce instead of waiting until the end is that whatever you are feeling, when it comes up, there is probably a reason you are feeling it in that capacity, in that moment. It is probably far more normal and healthy than you may tell yourself. Divorce is full of tough stuff. It’s full of tough challenges.

When those tough things happen, no matter how tough it is, put on your big girl panties, stare it down with whatever support network you need to make it happen, and get it done and then celebrate! Holding your own in court, finding a job that will pay you well enough, moving a dead rat from the garage – whatever it is, make it happen! Just yesterday one of the women posted a story that I got her permission to share with you. It really exemplified this in my mind.

She wrote: “I did something I detest this morning. It’s the worst chore in the universe and I didn’t ask for help! I cleaned my hair out of the shower drain! It was nasty, wet, and smelled like rotting sulfur. I almost puked repeatedly. Maybe I’ll be okay without a man to do the gross things for me.”

I think this crystalized how good women really are at surviving and thriving through this yucky, tough stuff, and maybe we have less reason to be afraid of those things than we might think. The last thing that may have a little different manifestation for everyone is understanding that a key to getting through a divorce and healing through the process is leaning on whatever degree or form of spiritual connection and support you possibly can.

Just as divorce is a time when we have to learn to do so much new on our own, by ourselves and for ourselves, it is also a time to learn to lean on others in ways we have not before. Going back to my divorce, I know there is no way in the world I could do it without feeling supported by God, without believing that despite the incredibly intense pain I was feeling, I knew that someone bigger and stronger was taking care of me and would make sure I would survive the experience.

During my divorce I remember watching a movie with a mom and young child who had been living with child’s dad who was a drug addict and dealer. It was a very unhealthy situation. The mom was pulling the kid out of the home and taking him away so he would not be exposed to all of the dad’s stuff.

The poor little kid was screaming bloody murder as the mom was pulling him from the home and putting him in the car. All he knew was that he was being taken away from his daddy. He was yelling and crying and kicking at his mom. I remember watching this movie when I was in the middle of my own brutal and excruciating pain and feeling like this little kid. I was so stirred up by all of the hurt. The only thing that really made me tolerate all of this was that I had someone like that mom–someone who was looking out for me and actually doing what was in my best interest even if it felt so completely, totally wrong to me at the time.

Anne: That example hits the nail on the head for me. In fact, the past even three days, I have been telling God that I want to listen to what he has to say, that I love Him, that I want to do what you want, but why aren’t you listening to ME? Your story is one I can use. Thank you for sharing it.

Luckily in my experience I have been able to have a lot of support.

How Does A Support Group During & After Divorce Help Women Deal With Betrayal Trauma?

Coach Rae: When dealing with betrayal trauma, medical research proves that for trauma survivors to speak openly, and in many cases, over and over, actually helps to repair the very real psychological and physiological injury the brain sustains due to the trauma it has experienced. When we bring these women together in these small groups of 3-5 women, it is safe.

We invite them to have focused time, space, and attention to give them the opportunity to share their experiences. It is a unique combination in divorce recovery of letting go of the old and letting in the new. Sometimes this feels like it’s going to split a person in two, in opposite directions.

But within this small group environment, that experience of amputation–like something has been cut off and life is different and hemorrhaging from what it used to be–serves to stop the hemorrhaging. The healing is cohesive and communal. Ultimately, it puts power back into the hands of women who are truly trauma survivors and allows them to navigate the divorce process within a safe, structured community of survivors. There is really no better way to heal from the experience of betrayal trauma or divorce trauma.

I’m so happy women are getting the help they need through this coaching group. Our next Surviving and Thriving Through Divorce group begins April 11, 2017. We only have one spot left.

Coach Rae, after a woman register for BTR Surviving and Thriving Through Divorce Group, what happens next? Is there a particular structure and what topics do you cover?

Coach Rae: Over the course of four months we cover 12 topics related to the experience of divorce or separation from a sex or porn addict. I won’t go into a lot of detail because they are listed on the BTR website. Within each 2-hour session, I make sure that in addition to having a designated topic for that night, we build in time to get to know each other’s lives and experience to give women a chance to ask a variety of questions.

A lot can and does happen throughout a divorce and it’s important to be able to give updates or share developments and checkins. We ask and answer questions like, “What is one boundary I have honored this week” or “What is one risk I have taken this week?” or “How have I enjoyed my singleness this week?” or “What is one sign of healing I have observed in myself?” or “What is one vision of my future I have explored this week?”

Through these conversations in addition to our topic, we make commitments to one another for things like self care and action steps that actually help us move through the process instead of sitting in the grief. One thing that is my favorite at the end of my individual and group coaching is asking each woman to complete this sentence: On the topic of ___________, I’m proud of myself for______________.

We end each session knowing we dove deeply into things that may have been uncomfortable, perhaps intense, and that may have really stretched someone is important because it helps women to recognize that within a particular area there is something that they can be proud about.

Anne: Is being divorced any easier than being married? I think people look at sex addiction in one of two extremes: you need to get divorced or stay married and ignore it. I personally have felt more comfortable in the middle, setting healthy boundaries and waiting to see what my spouse would do because I believe in marriage and I had no intention or desire for divorce. What are your thoughts? Does divorce stop the hurting?

When those papers are signed, how was it for you? For me, betrayal trauma was pretty the same before and after the papers were signed. In fact, in some ways the trauma got worse so I knew that divorce in and of itself was not the solution to my trauma.

However, I did know my no-contact boundary was super important for my healing. I needed to stop the trauma from happening in order to heal but the trauma never stopped. It kept coming every time I had an interaction with him it was another traumatizing event–where he was abusing me, withholding money, blaming me, claiming he was the victim. Because I held the no-contact boundary I was able to see him for who he really is.

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