Is Pornography Addiction Just An Excuse For Awful, Abusive Behavior?

Is Sex Addiction Just Another Excuse?

While this seems like a logical question, it’s really not an either-or situation. This question implies that either a) sex addiction is real or b) people engaged in hurtful, sexual behaviors outside their primary relationships are using it as an excuse.

In my opinion, both of these can be true, but let me say straight away – it’s not a good excuse. It’s a reason, but not an excuse. Sex addiction no more justifies the addict’s behavior than alcoholism justifies crashing your vehicle head on into another, destroying the lives inside. I imagine that there are individuals who claim, and truly believe, “I can’t help it, I’m an addict.” However this is very faulty thinking. And I want to offer this to the partners of addicts, in hopes of empowering you in a difficult situation… you can accept that there is such a thing as sex addiction without accepting sex addiction as something to tolerate. 

Pornography Addiction Is A Reason For Cheating, But Not An Excuse

Sex addiction may explain why our partners do what they do, but it does not excuse continuing to do what they do. Any addict who says “I can’t help it, I’m an addict” is shirking responsibility for his behaviors. He may actually have tried to give it up and failed. He may truly believe he can’t quit. I would tell him, you haven’t found the right help, or at some point, you quit doing what you needed to do to beat it.

Yes, an addiction is going to make quitting harder, but it does not make it impossible. And to partners who are hearing this statement, I would encourage you not to accept it. Addicts, like all of us, are 100% responsible for their choices, actions, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, and when those things aren’t working for him, only he can change it. They are responsible to live a mature life, despite what happened in their past. 

When Your Husband Blames His Infidelity On Pornography Addiction Or Sex Addiction

When an addict blames his family of origin, his wife, the stressors of the job, etc. for his addictive behaviors, what he’s really saying is “it’s hard to stop,” or “I don’t know how to stop,” or “I don’t want to work that hard.” This is where we partners need to have a clear understanding of our values, our boundaries, and a plan of action for what we are going to do when our boundaries are violated. The feedback loop of addiction took years, sometimes decades, to develop into the addictive cycle that it is, and the good news is, that that same neuroplasticity that allowed to brain to be rewired for addiction, will also allow change for its recovery.

However, that addiction, as we said, took years or decades to become the ingrained pattern that it is. Wives and partners don’t have decades, or certainly we don’t want to wait decades, for that brain to rewire itself again. And we shouldn’t have to. And we don’t have to. And so the addict has a choice; he can enter a recovery process or continue in his addiction and suffer the consequences. 

Wives Have Choices Concerning Their Husband’s Pornography Addiction

Partners have a choice as well. In his workbook Partner’s Recovery Guide: 100 empowering Exercises, Doug Weiss lists 6 options for the partner who is sexually betrayed:

  • Stay and continue being abused
  • Stay and be uninvolved
  • Stay and be overinvolved
  • Stay and both recover
  • Stay conditionally
  • Divorce

I might further divide divorce into two categories – divorce with and without a healing program for myself.

These choices include some that for some people are acceptable and some that are not. We are all different. We all have different, but equally valid ideals we are trying to live out. Someone might ask why in the world would someone stay in a relationship and let the addict stay as he is. But there are some women because of age, education, or financial position, who truly do not feel they have the choice to leave, and who do not want to fight this battle.

And they may come to the conclusion that I’m going to stay in this relationship and I’m going to be happy, whichever way I can. And some people can do that. Some people can make the best of a really good situation, they can live separate lives in the same house, and pursue their own interests, and do the things that they want to do. Others would have a very difficult time with them this. And they might choose, if they have the means, to separate or divorce.

In my work with wives, most have chosen to stay, at least for awhile, and work on their marriage. And I have seen great success among these women. Sometimes their husbands get into recovery and their marriages make it, sometimes they don’t. But in nearly every case, what I find are strong women who learn to intentionally live out their values, who develop and enforce healthy boundaries to protect those values, and to learn to navigate the very muddy waters of healing with or without their husbands. 

Some of these women have husbands who are trying and succeeding. Some have husbands who are trying and struggling. Some have husbands who are trying and failing. And some have husbands who are not trying. It is not for me or anyone to tell any partner what choice she should make for herself or what decision suits her life best. We are all experts in our own lives, as to what’s best for us.

But in this situation, it is very easy to become overwhelmed, to not have a clear direction of which way to go, to have some real difficulty in making decisions. And there are many things that complicate that. Is it the things I said before like finances and conflicting values. Is it having children and wanting to do what’s best for them? These are all things that could play into our decisions. It’s not something that’s easy to go through, and I don’t recommend any woman going through this alone.

APSATS Professionals Can Help You Deal With Your Husband’s Pornography Addiction

There are professionals with excellent training to help partners of sex addicts. The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS) provides thorough training for professionals who wish to walk with partners through this process. APSATS trained coaches and counselors recognize the experience of partners as betrayal trauma. Not co-dependence, not co-addiction, but relational trauma.

This support can come in the form of individual coaching, face-to-face and online support groups, where you process what you’re going through and receive validation, be heard and find understanding. There are face-to-face and online work groups, that lead partners through a workbook which is helpful in addressing all the overlapping layers of healing and processing that partners deal with – while providing the strengths of a group and the guidance of a trained coach. There are even Facebook groups where you can do the same healing work without the constraints of time and location. 

What I have found over and over again, in the women that I work with, is that they are amazingly strong. They are strong already. It takes a lot of strength to pick yourself up from a situation you didn’t cause, you didn’t contribute to, and may not even have been aware of, and go get help for yourself. It is so much easier to say “He’s got the problem, why do I need to do the work?” but I like to compare this to a person who’s been injured in an accident. If you’re in a car accident, and it’s not your fault, you can shake your fist and get angry and yell it’s not my fault, but that’s not going to make you heal. It’s very unfair, but when we are hurt physically or emotionally, the person who hurt us can’t heal us. Especially when they are themselves ill-equipped to cope with their own problems in life, much less ours.

And so we we have a choice to help ourselves, or to leave things as they are. And most women I know don’t have the time or energy for that. We are careers to succeed at, children to love and raise, friendships to enjoy. And while this all may seem in limbo, we want those things back, and we want to embrace them fully, and bring our best to those situations. When a betrayed partner walks into my office – and they may be crying, they may be cursing, they may feel lost or just completely overwhelmed; the three things I want them to know, on that day, are 1. this is not because of you, 2. you have the strength it takes to get through this, and 3. you are not alone in the battle. It takes strength to walk in my office. These women have all said “I’m not living this life. I don’t know how to change it, but with help, I’m going to.” And I’m really proud of them.

I want to encourage any woman who is in this position to really take stock of what’s happening in her life, and make the decision for herself. Do you want to stay this way, or do you want to change it for you? Because no one else is guaranteed to change it for you. And I can speak from personal experience, that this process, as grueling as it is, as unfair as it is as, as angry, sad, and frustrated as we are in the beginning, will end well if we choose to make it so. It may not end in a specific way we’re hoping for, but we can get through it and thrive in spite of it.

I can honestly say 100% of the women that I worked with they have come out stronger, better, happier, and more empowered. I won’t say that 100% of them are grateful for this experience, and I would venture to guess that 0% of them would want to go through it again, but many of them, myself included, recognize that this trial as the reason they are stronger today and are living a very intentional life around the things that are important to them. 

If you are the wife or girlfriend of someone who has repeatedly betrayed you, and you find yourself struggling, please reach out to the excellent trained coaches at All of their coaches are APSATS trained. Individual coaching, group coaching and Facebook support is available to get you the support you need as you navigate your healing.

To schedule a support call with Coach Laura, click here.

Why Do Sex Addicts Do What They Do? | Betrayal Trauma

As I work with betrayed women, they often ask, “Why do sex addicts do what they do?” This question is often asked out of anger or fear. And so I explore a little more deeply, and what I find is that they are usually struggling with fear, sadness, and overwhelm around the following…

Can My Husband Really Be Addicted To Sex?

The meaning of their partner’s behavior. They may be asking…

  • Can a person really be addicted to sex?
  • Why my partner, why this addiction?
  • Isn’t this just an excuse for their bad behavior?

The reality of their relationship.

  • Was any of it real?
  • Does he love me?
  • Is there any hope?

Feelings of self worth.

  • Is this my fault?
  • What does this say about me?
  • Aren’t I enough?
  • Can I fix it?

The scope of this article addresses the first of these issues – the questions around their partner’s behavior. I want to address each of these points separately. And in the answers, I hope that I can alleviate some of the pain and hurt that partners experience. 

Sexual Activity Outside Of What Is Supposed To Be A Committed Relationship Is Wrong, & It Has Nothing To Do With You

I want to encourage any reader who has been betrayed by their partner to understand this – addiction or not – sexual activity outside of a what is supposed to be a committed monogamous relationship is wrong. And painful. And not your fault. If you’ve been betrayed, the one who betrayed you is 100% responsible for his actions, his lies, and the damage he has caused, and the presence of an addiction does not change that. There is evidence that sex addiction exists, but betrayal is betrayal. And if you do not want or are not ready to hear about the addiction part yet, stay tuned until next week when I address, Is Sex Addiction Just Another Excuse?

Some partners accept the term sex addiction, but want to understand how it happened. Some don’t accept the term and believe that becoming addicted to sex just isn’t possible. Let me address this question first.

Sex Addiction Is Real

The current research shows that sex addiction does exist, and we know this by looking at the diagnostic criteria considered to identify addictions in general. Depending on whose research you read or what diagnostic criteria treatment facilities consider, there are anywhere between 7 and 15 criteria used to identify addiction. All seem to include the following 7, (and only 3-5 are needed by some to make a diagnosis)

The seven are are:

  • Concept of “tolerance” which states that the amount of a substance or behavior needed to achieve the same desired effect increases over time (or there is a decrease in the effect of the substance/behavior if if the amount does not increase over time).
  • Withdrawal phenomenon – when the substance or behavior is taken away, definite withdrawal symptoms occur.
  • Time lost to the behavior increases – time spent engaging in the behavior itself, time spent in the cycle of behaviors (time engaged in the behavior, time recovering, and time thinking about the next opportunity) occupies an increasing amount of the person’s day, and spending more time than intended
  • There is a persistent desire or compulsion to engage in the behavior
  • There is a reduction in healthy or socially accepted behaviors, roles etc. (such as time spent engaged in hobbies, household chores, family time, etc).
  • Use continues despite severe negative consequences (loss of job, arrests, physical effects)
  • Repeated unsuccessful efforts to stop

While not everyone who engages in harmful, extra-relational sex is an addict, many men and women who are seeking (or avoiding) treatment, exhibit these characteristics.

Masturbation Creates A Chemical Feedback Loop

Of course, this still leaves the question of how this these characteristics develop in the first place. And the answer to that lies in understanding the feedback loop associated with addiction development. With any addiction, be it to food, sex, gambling, or substances, neuroplastic changes begin to occur in the brain because of repeated use. While sexual activity does not involve ingesting or inhaling a substance, there is a chemical component to pornography exposure and sexual activity that acts like a drug on the brain.

Any time an individual engages in something that feels good, makes us excited, happy or proud, dopamine is released as a reward. The release of dopamine increases the “feel good” experience, and strengthens the neural connections that exist between the behavior and this “feel good” result. This connection causes us to seek out the same dopamine increasing behaviors again in the future, each time reinforcing the positive feelings that come with them, creating a feedback loop that becomes harder and harder to break. Over time, the brain is rewired to seek out these behaviors in a compulsive manner. And while pornography and sex are not “substances,” they can result in a “chemical dependency” because of the dopamine that is released.

A Husband’s Pornography Addiction Equals Abuse & Neglect For Wives

Now we are left with the question of why addiction develops. And this has more to do with the environment in which the addict exists (and has existed in the past) than with the physiology of addiction development. Many people go through similar circumstances; yet why does one person develop an addiction and the other does not? And I think what partners want to know is, why this? Why sex addiction? And this really does come from a place of pain, because of all the addictions, this one feels so personal.

And this is completely understandable, because a long-standing sex addiction usually ends in abuse and neglect of the partner, in it’s various forms… This can be in the form of physical abuse, verbal abuse, blame-shifting, gaslighting, manipulation, lies, etc. Trust and intimacy in the primary relationship is virtually destroyed by the presence of ongoing pornography use and sex addiction. 

What Causes Pornography Addiction?

But let me address the question of why sex addiction? Why my partner? And why me?
Doug Weiss states that there are six types of sex addicts. They are:

  • biological
  • trauma
  • psychological
  • intimacy anorexia
  • sex addiction with mood disorder
  • spiritual

Within these types, lies often, the reason addiction takes hold. With trauma and psychological sex addictions, for example, early experiences, family of origin, childhood events, may all play a role in the development of sex addiction. Any addiction is a sign of emotional immaturity, because once sexual behaviors reach the level of addiction, they are then being used as a coping mechanism. The level of emotional maturity that an addict has, is usually no greater than the level that he was at it when the addiction took hold. In other words, if a young boy is exposed to pornography at the age of 10, and at the age of 12 begins to use it as an escape from stressful life circumstances, then that is when he stops developing emotionally. He now has his “go to” coping tool for dealing with life’s problems. Had it been alcohol that had been readily available to him during this period of his life, chances are he would have used that instead. 

Sex Addiction Is At It’s Core, Emotional Immaturity

So, in a nutshell, addicts are exposed, typically at a younger age, to whatever their ultimate “drug of choice” is going to be. They may use it infrequently at first, or out of curiosity or boredom, but with prolonged exposure, it becomes their coping tool. And once that occurs they are now caught up in the feedback loop earlier described, and the addiction takes hold. That explains, very simply, why this, why him? But why me?? When answering this question, I always recall a line in one of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption (has nothing to do with addiction…)… “Bad luck, I guess. It floats around. It has to land on somebody. I was in the path of the tornado.”

There are some in this field, I’m sorry to say, that will tell you that you knew on a subconscious level, that your partner was “broken,” and that you’re broken, too. And that the broken you was drawn to the broken him. But when you consider how successful the addict is at hiding his secrets and living a life of duplicity, I find this hard to accept. The characteristics observed in partners that some say are signs of brokenness and codependency, are also known to be symptoms of trauma.

To schedule a support call with Coach Laura, click here.

Teaching Children Personal Safety To Avoid Sexual Abuse

I’m interviewing Kimberly Perry, author of Say “NO!” and TELL! A Creative View of Personal Safety for Maisie (girls) and Daxton (boys).

Her professional underpinnings for this endeavor include 15 years of teaching and coaching in public and private schools in California, Michigan and North Carolina while specializing in preschool to 5th grade. I also earned a Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology and a Masters of Arts in Teaching.  After teaching Personal Safety to over 1000 elementary students, she was inspired to write the Say “NO!” and TELL! book series.

Inspired After Discovering The Heartbreaking Statistics On Ever-Increasing Instances Of Child Sexual Abuse

Anne: Why did you write a book about personal safety for young kids? 

Kimberly: While serving as a Health and Physical Education Teacher in the Michigan public school system, I taught Personal Safety for over 1,000 elementary students and wondered why I had not been taught these prevention strategies when I was a child. The need to empower children with self-care skills and people safety tools is critical for well- being.

My professional underpinnings for this endeavor include 15 years of teaching and coaching in public and private schools in California, Michigan and North Carolina while specializing in preschool to 5th grade. I also earned a Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology and a Masters of Arts in Teaching. How can it be that at least 2 out of every 10 girls and 1 out of every 10 boys are estimated to be sexually abused before their 14th birthday ( Every eight minutes, Child Protective Services responds to a sexual abuse report ( According to the CDC, about 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abuse before the age of 18. 

Kids need to be empowered with Personal Safety skills and tools so they know what to do when a questionable encounter happens. 

Kimberly: Personal Safety is learning how to keep your body safe or sexual abuse prevention for kids. Kids learn to say NO to unsafe touches by protecting their bodies with boundaries to prevent or stop sexual abuse. The Say NO! and TELL! books empower kids with Personal Safety by using a THREE-phased approach ™ based on a proven and straight forward sequential method.

  1. Teach body awareness with basic hygiene (bathing), health (nutrition) and safety (swim) concepts
  2. Explains boundaries with more unique safety concepts such as Internet, stranger and people safety.
  3. Introduce Personal Safety – prevention awareness of safe boundaries for private parts.

Boundaries define personal property and allow us to take care of it by setting limits on others and internal limits within ourselves. The boundary of saying “NO!” defines ownership, lets others know that we exist apart from them and we are in control (Cloud 29, 43-44).

Part I has a story about Maisie Monarch or Daxton Dolphin where the characters embark on a journey of growing up and preparing for a migration trip. Parents teach them Personal Safety before they go and ask open ended questions throughout the story for you to define your family terminology and values. Part II of the book has 8 scenarios, in which I researched the predator and turned those tactics into life skills for kids, such as privacy, private moments, guard your eyes and ears, safe secrets, bribes, threats, safe games, etc.

The solutions section has numerous tools like a quiz, a Personal Safety Family Plan, resources and a removable section for grown-ups with stats and the THREE-phased steps in details with practical ideas.

Talking Point #3: Grown-ups need to empower kids with Personal Safety early because kids develop a natural curiosity about the human body when they are young. Say NO! and TELL!  is a creative faction, read-aloud book for grown-ups to read to their young kids age 5 to 9.

What Is The Best Age To Begin Talking To A Child About Body Safety?

Kimberly: Kids develop a curiosity about the body and the gender identity parts early and is a natural part of developing body awareness. Pre-school through elementary school age (3 yrs. to 9 yrs.) is an important time to teach kids about private parts (using real anatomical words), boundaries, safe touches which feel comfortable, “your body belongs to you!” and it is okay to say “no thank you” to any touches, and privacy is okay too as you grow independent. Only safe caregivers may see, examine or clean your private parts, while you are really young, when you still need help.

In the Say NO! and TELL! books, each child-friendly concept builds on the others forming a strong foundation of wellness, while being considerate of preserving innocence and balancing naivety with wisdom. Please note this book does not cover reproduction, which is saved for an age-appropriate time at your discretion.

Grown-Ups And Kids Need To Have A Personal Safety Family Plan In Place For When They Encounter A Questionable Encounter

Anne: Talking to kids is important, but what should they do when they are exposed to a questionable encounter?

Kimberly: A basic Personal Safety Plan includes: memorizing address and phone number, a family code word or “danger” plus a check-in rule. Kids need to know how to dial 911, understand who are the safe givers and trusted grown-ups and make a list of the top five to contact, TELL if ANYONE ever tries an unsafe touch or does anything inappropriate with private parts, and keep telling until it stops.

Also, kids need to memorize (SAY NO, GET AWAY, TELL and KEEP TELLING):
Remember to say “NO!”
GET AWAY if you can!
TELL someone
KEEP TELLING until it stops! Take a stand!

Say NO! and TELL! books can be purchased at You can see more about the program at

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Classes – Healing From Abuse The Proven Way

Hi Everyone! I’m Coach Rae, and I’m one of the APSATS Certified Coaches here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery. I’m also a Certified Professional Life Coach, Couples Relationship Coach, Divorce Recovery Coach and the Coaching Coordinator for our entire team of coaches here at

For this week’s podcast, it’s just all of you and me! And honestly, I’m excited about that—because if you haven’t yet had a chance to learn this about me? I am deeply passionate about the work that I do with women healing from sexual betrayal trauma. And more often than not, that passion translates into me having a lot to say, whenever Anne offers to hand me the microphone! 

But all jokes aside, I am grateful to share this “on-air” time with you this week, and here’s why: within the next few days, I’ll be starting three new support groups for women healing from sexual betrayal trauma. I’ve been busy answering email inquiries from many of you who are planning to join me, so it’s nice to go ahead and connect with you by voice along the way.

So with the time we’ve got here today, I’m going to give you a marathon “sneak peek” into some of the highlights I’ve found are important for women who are healing—specifically within a group recovery context—from the impact of sexual betrayal trauma.

Is A Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Right For Me?

For those of you who have already registered to join me for an upcoming group? I hope this podcast leaves you excited, and counting the days until we get started! For those of you who’ve been wondering if a BTR coaching group might actually be exactly what you need? I hope this podcast will further pique your interest, ignite your own passion for your own healing, and provide some clarifying reassurance that your intuition is leading you in precisely the right direction. And finally, if BTR coaching groups just aren’t your thing right now? I hope you’ll pause to honor your own self-awareness about that—and l invite you keep listening anyway, because as we continue our conversation, I’m going to share a few of my personal recovery anecdotes, drawn from eleven years of my own healing work in groups just like the ones I’m now privileged to coach. I’ll tell you about my number one own most difficult challenge in early recovery, one of my favorite quotes to help me balance self-acceptance and self-improvement, along with the number one most helpful commitment I’ve ever made to my own healing process. 

Before we go much further though, I’ve got a question for all of YOU! Because our theme today is healing within groups, I’d love to hear about the pros and cons you’ve encountered in various recovery circles. What would you say is the number one thing you get from a healthy group of recovering women? What’s that special “something” you just don’t get on your own? Or from a book? Or from individual work with a coach or therapist or clergy person? Have you had any negative group experiences, environments that felt unhealthy, unsafe or unproductive? And if you had one suggestion for coaches like me, who develop and facilitate groups of women healing from sexual betrayal trauma? We would really love to hear those comments too! We invite you to share your thoughts anonymously below—and if this podcast itself helped you, serving as your virtual audio “support group,” please consider rating it on iTunes! Doing so helps other women in trauma find us more easily, discovering (sometimes for the very first time) a community of women who understand this whole experience.

The Advantages Of Group Healing For Betrayal Trauma & Related Behaviors Like Gaslighting, Narcissistic Traits, Emotional Abuse

Now, I’ve been part of a lot of different groups over these past 11 years, facilitated by different leaders, functioning within different guidelines, meeting different goals and objectives and priorities. In reflecting back over these groups and analyzing the ones wherein I’ve found the most healing? I’ve identified my favorite group format for live, realtime, interactive coaching groups.

By the way? Let me pause and toss something out here, quickly. When I refer to a “live” coaching group, I’m referring to the most “traditional and interactive” coaching group format we offer here at BTR. So, when you sign up to join me for a live coaching group (for example, my Sisters In Recovery group beginning this week), we meet at a specific time and day of the week—just as you would if you attended a local support group, therapy group or recovery meeting. Here at BTR, we use a pretty classy virtual meeting platform called Zoom—and the cool thing is, you can “join” our coaching sessions in whatever manner works best for you—whether that’s logging in “on screen” from your computer, tablet or smart phone, or dialing in “off screen,” meaning audio-only, from an phone—land line or cell phone. Like Sisters In Recovery our live coaching groups meet weekly for a predictable period of time, one that’s a pretty manageable commitment for most women, even within the transitional challenges of trauma recovery. 

So, back to my favorite format for live coaching groups: one I’ve begun to refer to as, “First and Then.”

Learning To Accept Ourselves & Then Figure Out What We Want After Betrayal

I initially heard this “First and Then” concept suggested by one of the smartest (and incidentally, one of the most spiritually down-to-earth) therapists I’ve ever met in this field of sex addiction recovery. In his signature “cut to the chase” style, this guy was answering questions from a room full of women, all of whom were desperately seeking that ideal-yet-elusive balance between self-acceptance and self-improvement. In response to this struggle, this therapist uttered a suggestion that has now become one of my favorite quotes for trying to keep my recovery life in balance:

“FIRST,” he said, “make your peace with where you are today. THEN, when you’ve done that, make yourself grow in the direction you want to be tomorrow.” 

Those two sentences have helped me keep my head on straight more times than I can count, during seasons when circumstances would have otherwise set it spinning—and it’s become one of my favorite reminders when designing groups for women healing from betrayal trauma. 

You see, even though I think it’s wonderful for women in recovery to focus on topics and workbooks and other kinds of study materials? You know, the kind that make us stretch and grow in future healthy directions? I honestly don’t think we can grow forward without first engaging some quality time and space to share and process the most pressing, most present, day-to-day incidents that, let’s face it, tend to happen for women who share life with men who are sexually struggling or recovering!

So these days—nearly seven years after hearing this therapist’s “First and Then” suggestion—when I design live coaching groups for women healing from betrayal, I utilize those same two sentences to orient our communal recovery process. At the beginning of every group session, I first invite each participants to talk about the week you’ve had since our last meeting, sharing the highlights and lowlights of your life and relationship. I do this by providing a shortlist of checkin questions I’ve carefully written, questions I call “Soul Celebrations—Pausing to Honor What’s Present in My World.” These questions introduce a broad spectrum of sharing prompts, such as:

  • What is one thing I’ve accepted this week? 
  • What is one boundary I’ve created, communicated or reinforced?
  • What is one risk I’ve taken this week?
  • What is one self-esteem affirmation I’ve been practicing?
  • What is one way I’ve enjoyed my relationship or my singleness?
  • What is one personal goal I have recently set, advanced or achieved?
  • What is one old idea I’ve challenged, changed or discarded?
  • What is one new tool I have recently utilized in action?
  • What is one fear I have faced, rather than running away or avoiding it?
  • What is one hurt I’ve been feeling most deeply?
  • What is one anxiety I can recognize, identify and/or address?
  • What is one sign of healing I have recently observed in myself?
  • What is one milestone I have celebrated this week?
  • What is one area in which I’ve been using and practicing my voice?
  • What is one vision for my future I have been exploring? 


What I what need to share with the group tonight is… fill in the blank.

You’ve probably caught onto the point of these checkin questions, but to put them back into our “First” and “Then” context? Designing a group format with time and space for women to share their “make peace with where you are today” stuff? It genuinely and effectively serves to clear some much needed mental and emotional airspace! Once these “where you are today” stories have had their moment to be seen and heard?

That’s when the fun starts with, “Then… make yourself grow.” 

By the way, one more little side note? These Soul Celebration questions, tucked within the context of a broader personal checkin tool, is something I provide to all of my coaching clients, women who join my groups or who see me individually. My clients often get the most from their coaching time by going through this checkin process, or one similar to it, before (or at the beginning of) our scheduled sessions, something I chalk up to an extension of my “First and Then” philosophy. 

So, let’s move onto the second half of “First and Then”, and let’s take this group Top Ten Betrayal Trauma Topics as an example of “grow in the direction you want to be tomorrow.” Unlike most of the coaching groups we’ve offered here at BTR, Top Ten Betrayal Trauma Topics is intentionally, literally all about you and the direction you want to grow! 

When women sign up for this particular group, I do something somewhat special, somewhat unpredictable but ultimately, very meaningful—I let each of our participating women nominate the topics you want to dedicate time exploring, discussing and debriefing during our three months together. This ensures that your deepest needs get addressed, and that your individual recovery goals get priority time and attention. 

Believe it or not, I don’t do this simply as an act of politeness or as an attempt to guarantee client satisfaction. I do this because at its foundation, recovery from trauma involves taking our own self-empowered steps toward self-agency, self-advocacy and self-determination. In other words, by inviting you to identify what you need the most—all within a safe and reassuring circle of other women, doing exactly the same thing—I am actually preparing you to practice a skill that’s crucial to solid, long-term trauma resolution! In other words, if taking steps to name and reclaim your own healing sounds like “the direction you want to be tomorrow,” joining my group, Top Ten Betrayal Trauma Topics is a pretty safe stride in that direction—seeing as you’ll actually start making progress before our first group session even gets started. 

My Personal Experience With Betrayal Trauma & Abuse Recovery

So, you ready for one of those personal anecdotes I promised, the one about my own biggest challenge in early recovery? 

Now that I think about it, I’m actually kind of embarrassed to say this out loud, after that whole monologue about self-empowerment and self-advocacy! 

Because when it comes right down to it, the place where I got myself almost irreversibly stuck—was on that very question: 

“What… do I… need?” 

Sounds pretty simple and straightforward… right? I mean, by that point in my life, I’d been married, divorced and remarried. I spent two blissful years in art school, resulting in a career I absolutely loved—one that took me halfway around the world to work in a country most people only dream of even visiting. I’d even made a few really major life decisions, like choosing to move far, far away from my loved ones, and “making peace” with the fact that I’d never have children. Sure, life had thrown me a few difficult curve balls—but heck if I didn’t swing my bat and knock those curve balls out of the park.

From the outside looking in, I wasn’t the girl who had any problems figuring out what she wanted, what she needed, or how to get there. 

And for a number of years, my insides matched those outsides. I was a pretty authentic human being, and I prided myself on being exceptionally self-aware, spiritually mature and nothing if not adaptable.

What Does Mental Health Look Like When Faced With My Husband’s Cheating & Abuse?

In fact? In reality? I’d become far too “adaptable” for my own good.

I had adapted myself to life with a man whose preferred sexual relationship seemed to be with… porn. 

I had adapted myself to life with a man whose rallying cry was, “I know need to do better”—but somehow, never quite translated that knowledge into action.

I had adapted myself to life with man I loved, a man whose own needs were emotionally all consuming. I knew that I knew that I knew that he needed me—but along the way I truly forgot that I had needs too.

I forgot that I COULD have needs.

I forgot that I SHOULD have needs.

And I forgot that my needs mattered.

I forgot that my needs weren’t a currency to be begged, borrowed or traded for safety under the emotionally abusive tyranny of my husband’s porn addiction. 

Ultimately, I forgot the girl whose needs I could no longer remember. 

If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a thousand times, to the point that I know my experience with it isn’t unique. So with that little disclaimer, and at the risk of sounding painfully cliche, I’ll bottom line this for you:

I’d become someone I no longer recognized. 

For whatever it’s worth, I care too much about all of you to sugarcoat this next part—so I’m gonna give it to you with as much brutal honestly as I can possibly stomach:

Climbing my way back to that girl who had needs, required me to do something that was utterly and paradoxically intolerable:

In order to resurrect and reconnect with my needs, I had to be willing to let myself be needy.

Having Needs Is OKAY!

Now I don’t know about all of you, but as a young, single, modern American woman? I believed that being NEEDY was about as appealing as having leprosy. 

Needy wasn’t cute. 
Needy wasn’t fun. 
Needy didn’t get you a great guy, or an award, or a promotion.

In other words, needy didn’t make my list of desirable character qualities.

So when it came time for me to be needy, all in an effort to identify WHAT I needed (that was actually the easier part) followed by figuring out HOW to meet those needs once I knew what they were? 

THAT was a lesson I couldn’t learn without the wisdom, experience and strength of other women—other women who, incidentally, had already been there, done that and lived to tell about it. 

So, time for another side note here—If you’re someone like me, a woman who’s forgotten what your needs are, or you blanche at the idea of trying to ask for what you need, feel like your needs are important, or believe that your needs are worth fighting for? In fact, if you, like me, have forgotten the girl you once were—or, you want to reconnect with the girl you are apart from this whole sordid sexual betrayal mess? I’d specifically invite you to consider joining my six-month Facebook coaching group entitled, The Spiral Path: Who Am I Beyond Betrayal Trauma? this specific group is really something unique and usual, so I’ve recorded a special 13 minute video clip about it, click here

In addition to the video, you’ll also find an expanded description of this coaching group, a list of the topics we’ll explore during our six months together, and a link to the registration page, where you can signup to join us when the group starts this upcoming week.

Now, remember how I promised to tell you about the most important commitment I’ve ever made to my own healing process? I can summarize that story for you in three short words: 

My. Weekly. Group. 

When I began recovering from the pain and trauma of my husband’s porn addiction, suffice it to say I was stressed to the max. I didn’t have children like so many of you do, but I was working full time in a deadline-driven industry, commuting 3-5 hours daily, acting like a blissfully happy, successful, newlywed Superwoman to the world around me—all the while feeling like a battered woman within the private world of my own soul. 

When I joined my first support group—let’s just say, it’s not exaggerating to say that group saved my life. Every single Wednesday night, when I turned my key in the ignition of my car, to drive toward that meeting, something intense inside of me kicked in… and I started bawling. Like, I’m not talking about a few delicate tears rolling down my face—I’m talking about the stuffy, sticky, smearing, throbbing kinds of tears—the ones I’d been holding hostage inside my body all week long, suppressed to the degree that simply turning that car key signaled my desperate opportunity to finally let it out for awhile: It was like my body and soul knew that, as I drove to this meeting and spent one hour each week talking with other women who understood and CARED about me? For that ONE hour I didn’t need to be Superwoman, or Wonder Woman, or Proverbs 31 woman—for that one hour, I could be a sobbing, suffocating girl on the floor… one who was learning, one hour at a time, how to pick myself up and start breathing again. 

So, why am I telling you this story? Because, when I coach women healing from the trauma of loving someone with a porn addiction, sex addiction, or related forms of abusive and compulsive behavior? Encouraging women like us to join a group is one of the most critical appeals I find myself making. It’s a step toward strength and support for which there really is no substitute—without some circle of empathy and empowerment around us? Healing at its deepest, truest and most practical? It doesn’t ever happen. Women who try to “tough it out” or “suck it up” through wave after wave of betrayal trauma? Those are the women who continue to break down inside—unseen, unheard and unhealed—suffering alone, despite their loneliness.

As a woman in recovery, those are the stories that most break my heart. And as a woman who coaches others women through sexual betrayal trauma? Those are the stories that remind me why I fight so hard to break down barriers that prevent women in trauma from getting support.

Now, here’s an important factor to highlight. When I say that, eleven years ago, my weekly group saved my life, it’s important to note a really smart and intentional decision I made about that group, one that could have been a make-or-break factor in my ability to maintain the supportive connections my healing would require:

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Support Groups Can Safe Your Life

When I chose that group, I chose a group that was literally one mile away from my front door. In other words, I chose an option for support that was nearly as convenient as humanly possible—and I made a commitment to be there, no matter what, every. single. Wednesday. night. Unless I was out of town or on my deathbed, every Wednesday night at 7 o’clock, I turned that key in my ignition, let the tears flood in, and drove that one mile to my support group—where I walked in the door to be met by a circle of women who still hold me together, on days when facing a world filled with sexual betrayal gets overwhelming, even for me. 

Fair warning, here: when I say what I’m about to say next, it has the potential to sound somewhat lazy, dismissive or self-indulgent. So just trust me when I say, I needed this permission in early recovery, and I’m thrilled to extend it to any one of you who might happen to need it, just as much as I did. 

Here goes:

It’s okay to choose a support group that’s easy.

Sure, there are times when healing and recovery require us to summon some inner tough love. 

But honestly, at the beginning? I needed something something that was so convenient, accessible and straightforward, (a) I didn’t need to figure anything out and (b) didn’t have any built-in excuses to discourage me from getting started.

Eleven years ago, I wasn’t on Facebook—so a support group one mile away from my house was about as good as it got. But here we are, a decade-plus later, and where do I find myself? I now do a huge portion of my coaching support for women via Facebook—in very private, safe and facilitated spaces that offer more convenience than I ever dreamed of in early recovery! Through these groups, I like to believe I’m giving my clients that permission to “choose a support group that’s easy.” With zero expectations for you to show up on a specific day, or time of day? No need to brush your hair, brush your teeth, or climb out of your PJs? 

Well, betrayal trauma recovery coaching doesn’t get more convenient than that. 

So, here’s the crux of this point: If showing up on a schedule, in that traditional live, interactive group coaching environment feels like more than you can commit right now, I’d love you to check out my four-month Facebook-based group, using the popular workbook Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts. Not only is this a flexible, convenient and affordable healing environment—it’s also the perfect place to start, if you have no idea, well, where to start! I’ve actually written and recorded an entire podcast worth of detailed information about this Facing Heartbreak group.

One closing note about this Facing Heartbreak group? This workbook format has been so popular with our BTR audience, we’re adding space for six more clients in a brand new group—just because you’ve asked us to! Remember, all of these groups I’ve mentioned today are starting this week, so if you’re interested in joining one of them, please don’t wait to sign up! Registration will closing on all three groups, within the next few days. If you have any questions we don’t answer online, you can email me directly anytime at

So as I say goodbye today, I’m wondering: Did I made good on my promises to you? Has this podcast inspired your enthusiasm for your own healing? Has it helped you figure out what kind of group support, if any, you may need to deepen your own recovery from sexual betrayal trauma? And have you gotten at least one or two helpful nuggets, reflections from my own meandering world of early recovery comings and goings?

If so, please join one of our support groups.