How To Prepare For Infidelity & Abuse While Hoping It Never Happens Again

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

What Is Relapse Preparedness When It Comes To Betrayal Trauma?

Anne: What is relapse preparedness, and what made you start thinking about this whole relapse preparedness thing?

Coach Rae: My vision for relapse preparedness kind of evolved from three separate ideas or awarenesses—which all happened to collide in precisely the right right time and space!

First, within my capacity as a coach—as well as just being a woman among women recovering myself from sexual betrayal trauma—I hear on a daily basis the deep fear and anxiety women express that their guys might relapse: in other words, that their partners will step away from recovery and healing, returning instead to their previous patterns of compulsive and secretive sexual behavior. So, at a very basic level, I’ve always known that relapse is a topic of significant concern to us women who are surviving and healing from sexual betrayal trauma.

Secondly, because I work so closely with professionals who treat and support clients who are the sex addicts or porn addicts in the relationships, I’d begun to hear these professionals (people I really admire and respect) talking about relapse prevention strategies—ways that sex and porn addicts can structure their recovery plans to meaningfully minimize the likelihood of their return to compulsive sexual behavior.

And honestly, listening to these professionals address this legitimately loaded topic, so passionately and proactively, with their sex addict and porn addict clients, I felt kind of left out of the party! I mean, I recognized that as partners of sex addicts, my clients and I can’t do the footwork involved in preventing a relapse—but the idea got me thinking that, even if the job of preventing a relapse doesn’t fall within our reach and responsibility? That doesn’t mean we need to sit back passively and leave our emotional fate in the hands of the sex addicts or porn addicts with whom we share life. That planted the seed for me to begin asking myself and my colleagues, “So if we can’t actively prevent the pain and trauma of a possible relapse, what kind of productive and proactive actions can we take, on our own behalf, in the meantime?”

How Can We Heal From Betrayal Trauma While Also Preparing For The Worst Case Scenario?

So THAT brings me to a third awareness that brought this whole relapse preparedness idea to the forefront for me, and this one goes back to 2013, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. At that time I was working part-time as a freelance writer for various publications, and one of my clients hired me to write an article on Active Emergency Preparedness, basically encouraging families to (a) plan and prepare for the “worst-case scenario”—in this case, natural disasters—while (b) simultaneously hoping and praying those worst-case scenarios wound never become necessary.

My subtitle for that article was “Just in Case.” And so, fast forward a few years, when I began to brainstorm ways that partners of sex addicts can actually DO SOMETHING with their concerns about relapse, rather than just sitting and waiting for something that may or may not happen, I stumbled into this fantastic metaphor or point of comparison between those two otherwise unrelated “unwanted experiences.” And that’s how my passion for “Relapse Preparedness” was conceived, developed and eventually born!

Anne: So obviously, as you describe in the Covenant Eyes article, you’ve lived through the whole relapse experience, and it’s something you encounter with many of your coaching clients, too, right? I’ll bet a lot of our listeners know more about relapse than they’d like to. But for anyone listening who hasn’t been through that, can you describe some of the feelings women commonly express in the aftermath of a relapse?

Like I said earlier, relapse is something women tend to fear deeply—and with good reason: it’s something that does happen, and when it happens, it brings with it a whole deluge of painful emotions.

For women who choose to stay in their relationships after discovering their guys’ compulsive sexual behavior, there’s an incalculable amount of emotional risk involved. When that emotional risk is met with ongoing incidents of sexual acting out, the wounds from a woman’s initial discoveries often deepen, worsen and fundamentally destabilize her past, present and future efforts toward betrayal trauma recovery. I hear my clients describe this experience as:

  • ripping the scab off their wounds
  • pulling the rug out from under me
  • stabbing me in the back
  • taking me for granted
  • betraying me with a kiss
  • breaking my heart all over again
  • knocking me back to square one

Through these and other expressions, women reflect their discouragement, despair and disappointment with the process of recovery in which they’d placed some degree of tentative, fragile and courageous hope and faith.

How Did You Feel When You Found Out Your Husband Was Lying to You?

Beyond these expressions, which I’m guessing most of our listeners have heard or even felt before, there’s another very unique and singular aspect I observe in my clients’ emotional response to repeat sexual betrayal—and that aspect is internalized grief, self-doubt and self-indictment.

We’ve all heard that saying, “Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me twice. Shame on me.” That concept is deeply and organically present for women who decide to try and salvage their traumatized relationships. I often hear my clients say they feel stupid for believing that their guys might successfully change. They often say they feel “pitiful and pathetic” (the two P words) for choosing to stay and for hoping to experience healing rather than a recurrence of harm.

In the aftermath of a relapse, a client may feel like she somehow asked for or allowed this to happen, expressing fear that she did something to trigger to the relapse, or she’ll express regret over something she didn’t do to support his recovery. Without a doubt, across the board, clients express an increase in their emotional distress and a decrease in their  hope and faith in recovery—which makes sense, especially when their early attempts at healing within the relationship are seemingly invalidated by this sexual relapse and the betrayal trauma that accompanies it.

What is a “relapse,” anyway. Is it different than a “slip?” Does it matter what we call it? And what if my husband and I disagree about this?

So, I’m one of these people for whom words really matter; when I can define and articulate something, it’s easier for me to process, understand and make peace with that subject, whatever it is. So I’m going to give you the standard, traditional, recovery-world distinction between a slip and a relapse—then I’m going to give you permission to  scrap those distinctions and redefine relapse in whatever words serve to help you “come to terms” with relapse preparedness:

When addiction specialists use the term “slip,” they’re often describing a one-time or short-term lapse back toward compulsive sexual behavior—a lapse that ends with some kind of swift and serious self-intervention. When an addict “slips,” he generally gets his butt “back on the wagon” relatively quickly, and while that slip is considered a setback, it doesn’t necessarily undo all of the positive recovery work that he’s been doing to that point.

For sex addicts, for example, a slip might involve clicking on an inappropriate website, viewing something sexually explicit, then stopping himself before allowing that behavior to draw him back into the vortex of chronic and compulsive sexual acting out.

Relapse In Pornography Addiction Includes Going Back to Emotionally Abusive Behaviors As Well As Sexual Acting Out

By contrast, when addiction specialists use the term “relapse,” they’re often referring to an extended period of sexual acting out—one wherein the addict does NOT stop himself, engage his recovery tools, or reach out for help to avoid getting sucked back into his pattern of compulsive sexual behavior. Relapse is often characterized by an addicts’ resistance to getting back on track, and it often involves an extended period of secrecy, some serious loss of sexual sobriety, an interruption in his detox from the neurochemical effects of sexual acting out. Relative to the work we do here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery, a relapse deeply damages an addict’s efforts toward relational healing, holistic recovery and restitution for the harms he’s inflicted upon his family.

Now, all of that said, when I coach women through relapse preparedness–or through any aspect of sexual betrayal trauma, really—I remind my clients that labels are personal, purposeful and powerful. I also remind them that part of trauma resolution involves reclaiming our own independent sense of self-autonomy—which includes stating OUR OWN TRUTHS, even when those truths are different from how others perceive it.

So what does that have to do with the difference between a slip and a relapse? In my work with clients, that means empowering trauma survivors to label their guys’ addiction- and recovery-related behaviors using whichever definitions equip and inspire them to take meaningful, effective and positive action on their own behalf. I’ve watched so many women struggle under this conversation, wherein a guy says, “ABC doesn’t mean that I’ve relapsed,” but she says, “It certainly feels like a relapse to me!”

How To Opt Out Of A Conversation With Your Emotionally Abusive Husband

My best advice to a woman who feels trapped in that merry-go-round conversation is to simply “opt out” of the argument, step off the merry-go-round, and create for yourself your own working definitions for whichever behaviors impact you in relevant ways. You may need to get creative about how you communicate and converse with your guy when discussing these topics—but don’t let that stop you from seeking and securing your own sense of clarity about it. You don’t need his permission to define a relapse that violates your own boundaries—and you don’t need to apologize for it, either.

As The Wife Of A Porn Addict, Do I Have to Expect Relapse?

Anne: I’ve heard some porn addicts and recovery specialists say that “relapse is part of recovery.” Does that mean that relapse is unavoidable?

I’m gonna be straightforward and honest with you about this: I am not an expert in addiction recovery for porn addicts and sex addicts; my expertise lies in the field of recovery for women traumatized by the behaviors of porn and sex addicts. I desperately want to believe that relapse isn’t “unavoidable”—that women needn’t buy into the suggestion that relapse is going to happen, despite their addicts’ most dedicated recovery work.

There’s a small but loud voice that runs deep inside of me, one that screams, “Absolutely NOT! Relapse isn’t a ‘necessary’ part of addiction recovery!” And at the same time, I recognize the limitations of my training—and stand here with enough humility to say, You know what? I’m NOT the most qualified to answer that question—so instead of pretending that I am, I’m going to throw myself into something I DO know that I can do—and that is helping women prepare for the “possibility” of relapse if or when that day ultimately comes.

By Preparing For A Relapse, Am I Asking For One?

Anne: What would you say to women who worry that “preparing” for a relapse is giving him “permission” to do it?

For me, this one goes back to the concept of acceptance versus approval. In my work with women, I am very, very, very honest—that’s because I believe that most women have been lied to more than enough for one lifetime, and I refuse to participate in perpetrating even one more iota of deception-induced trauma in the women I’m privileged to know and coach. As I reflect my clients’ truth back to them in our coaching sessions, I encourage them to be equally, gut-level honest with themselves and with their loved ones. This often translates into accepting (or even embracing) a potential reality that makes our skin crawl, rather than denying (and therefore, resisting) a reality we wish wasn’t true.

When my clients and I talk about “preparing for relapse,” we are discussing an uneasy-yet-realistic threat to their hard-fought safety and stability; in doing that, I assure women that exploring this reality cannot and will not magically “invite it” to happen. On, the contrary, by preparing her to respond to a day she hopes will never arrive, she can actually stand even more firmly and confidently within her self-protective relational boundaries—in ways that fully honor and emphasize her right to respond in healthy ways to unhealthy behavior.

Common Mistakes When Anticipating A Relapse

Anne: Are there mistakes women sometimes make when approaching the idea of relapse preparedness?

Coach Rae: I would say yes and no. I tend to think that any woman who even entertains the idea of relapse preparedness is ahead of the game—she’s less likely to be caught off guard if or when that threat to her safety comes knocking at her door. That said, the women I know who do relapse preparedness most successfully avoid making some natural and understandable assumptions.

For example, relapse preparedness doesn’t work if you expect the process to be one-size fits all—in other words, Jane Doe’s relapse preparedness plan won’t adequately protect and serve Jenny Doe. Another example, relapse preparedness doesn’t work if it only happens in your head—in order to effectively implement the plans you create for yourself, those plans need to exist somewhere you can tangibly reach them in the midst of a potential trauma response. Relapse preparedness doesn’t work if it becomes a point of obsession and emotional overwhelm.

In other words, relapse preparedness SHOULD empower you to make your plan and tuck it away for the future; it shouldn’t heighten your anxiety into a constant, long-lasting and ever-present posture of imminent anticipation. Lastly, relapse preparedness won’t protect and serve you from chronic, frequent or ongoing sexual betrayal. This is easily the “mistake” I fear the most on behalf of my clients. When I encounter women who are experiencing their guys’ relapse on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, I encourage them to pursue a different form of betrayal trauma recovery care and coaching, one that focuses primarily on self-protective emotional, physical, sexual and relational boundaries.

How To Avoid Triggers When Preparing For A Relapse & A Return of Narcissistic Behaviors

Anne: What if even thinking about a relapse triggers my anxiety and trauma?

My response to this one might surprise you. But honesty, if thinking about a relapse does NOT trigger your anxiety and trauma? (a) You’d definitely be in the minority, AND (b) I’d be concerned about your vulnerability to denial, disassociation and/or disconnection from the impact of sexual betrayal trauma.

The good news is, betrayal trauma recovery coaching is all about tools: It’s about empowering women to rally their resources to meet triggers, anxiety and trauma with skill, with self-awareness and with meaningful steps toward our recovery endgame: post-traumatic growth! As I coach my clients through relapse preparedness, I offer them an entire spectrum of support resources to increase their tolerance for our discussion.

For example, in my Relapse Preparedness coaching group, I both open and close each 2- hour session with a different exercise, meditation or activity—so that when our four-week process comes to a close, participants leave with at least 8 ways to soothe their triggers about sexual relapse—or about any other betrayal trauma topic, for that matter.

Anne: Tell me more about the Relapse Preparedness support group. What will I get from the group that I won’t get from doing this on my own?

Coach Rae: Within this month-long support group, we’ll spend 8 hours of live group coaching time with an exclusive focus on relapse preparedness. As I said, we’ll open each session with a healing meditation or emotional grounding technique, then segue into a short participant checkin, just to get us all present and engaged within our group time and space. From there, I’ll speak for 10-20 minutes, to introduce our primary focal point for that session (each week’s objective is different, and builds upon work from the previous week).

During this section, I share my personal experience with this topic, as well as some “highlights” (insight, inspiration, encouragement, etc) and “lowlights” (pitfalls, stumbling blocks or common challenges) I’ve learned when coaching clients through their experiences of relapse preparedness (or sometimes unpreparedness!). At some point during each session, I pause and give participants 5-10 minutes of private work time—basically, inviting you to reflect and record your insights, questions and challenges in the moment—because in my experience, that is far more effective than asking/expecting you to do it AFTER our group session ends and you go back to life in all of it’s distraction and busyness.

After that, we’ll all come together again to share those reflections, request/receive/provide feedback as needed, and offer support for one another’s individual work through our shared group processes. We always close with another meditation or self-soothing exercise, along with individual participant checkouts and self-care commitments for the upcoming week.

Before and between each week’s live session, I provide clients with a collateral series of worksheets and journaling questions, designed to help you structure and strategize your individual relapse preparedness plan.

The live coaching sessions are designed to provide context, comprehension and community support as you complete your plan, with the help of those worksheets. I recommend participants set aside 1 (minimum) to 3 (maximum) hours per week between sessions, in order to get the most out of the month-long group.

In addition to the worksheets and live coaching sessions, I’ll assign each participant a relapse preparedness partner. This allows you and your partner to process together (safely, and in a more private one-on-one relationship) anything that comes up for you between the sessions themselves. Some participants engage their partners quite actively, while others do not. That’s ultimately up to you and the partner I assign to you—and I do my best to pair women with similar needs, priorities, available time/schedules, etc.

Bottom line, leave with (a) a comprehensive understanding of relapse preparedness in general, (b) tools to manage the fears, anxiety and expectations that accompany this unique internal and external work, (c) a small circle of support from other women who’ve participated in group with you, and (d) your very own detailed and individual relapse preparedness plan, something you can file away (digitally), print and secure in your own private space (hard copy) and/or share with others who comprise your personal support system (which may include close friends, therapists, coaches, counsellors, etc).

Anne: So, what if I love this whole relapse preparedness concept, but I can’t afford the group?

Coach Rae: First of all, by all means read my article on Covenant Eyes, titled How Can I Prepare for My Husband’s Next Porn Relapse? Next raise the topic with your betrayal trauma survivor friends, in your recovery or coaching groups, and with your coach or therapist. In other words, begin a dialogue! You’ll provably find that as you begin initiating the conversation, others will respond accordingly.

We have a wide and wonderful variety of listeners here at BTR, including women in different kinds of relationships, and in various stages of their recovery from betrayal trauma. Who do you think would benefit—or benefit most—from Relapse Preparedness Planning?

I honestly recommend this group for anyone who’s choosing, even one day at a time, to stay in a relationship wounded by sexual betrayal trauma. Going back to that analogy of Hurricane Sandy and emergency preparedness? I encourage women to explore what strategies could and would equip them in the event of a relapse—and once that’s done, you’ll likely find that your fear of a relapse subsides significantly—which frees you up to enjoy the beauty and benefits of your hard-fought recovery!

Anne: Coach Rae, I know you’re a big fan of quotes—so are there any quick and easy little tidbits you can leave for our listeners on this topic of relapse preparedness?

One quote that I’ve always loved is this one: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” I like to relate that to engaging in this process of relapse preparedness in the context of recovery: as long as we remain in the relative safety of that “take no risks” approach, we’ll also remain in the relative isolation of missing our greater purpose and potential.

Another quote I like says this: “A bird sitting upon a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch—her trust is in her own wings.”

Finally, very recently I was reminded of an AMAZING quote by the Baal Shem Tov (Jewish author, teacher and philosopher): “Let me fall if I must; The one I will become will catch me.”

Healing My Self-Worth After Abuse

Healing My Self-Worth & Self-Image
2 Hour Class
Led by Coach Sarah
REGISTER – Saturday 1PM Eastern (USA)
The group will start as soon as it fills.
Limited to 12 participants (minimum 6)

This group is lovingly crafted to:

1) Help you see where childhood messages, our culture, and the betrayals we’ve faced have damaged our self-worth and self-image.
2) Find inspiration to see yourself in a new way.
3) Teach you tools to combat this on-going struggle.

“Perhaps, we should love ourselves so fiercely, that when others see us, they know exactly how it should be done.” – Rudy Francisco.   

In our culture, our self-worth is often derived from our self-image.  This is the exact opposite of how we find freedom, confidence, and peace from the endless striving to be something or someone else.

Add to that the damage done by the unrealistic representations pornography puts out there, or the comparison to affair / acting out partners, and most women dealing with betrayal trauma have had their self-worth and self-image shattered.

This group aims to help you see yourself differently, and empower you to love yourself fiercely – connecting you to a place of truth that, with work, will not easily be taken away from you ever again.   

In this group, we will:

  • Take a look at the negative messages we’ve come to believe about ourselves from childhood, our culture, our marriage/relationship, and the betrayal we’ve endured.
  • Identify the lies in these negative messages, and work to reframe them to reflect the truth about who we really are.
  • Work through a few tools to help us connect with our self-love, and craft mantras that will help us.
  • STAY connected to that self-love when the gremlins pop up and try to rob us of our peace and self-love.

For more details, email Coach Sarah at

Anne: Sarah, why is the topic of self-worth/self-image important to you?

Coach Sarah: I have met a lot of women as a coach in this area – brilliant, beautiful, caring, amazing women.  And almost without fail, they do NOT see themselves this way.  Because they are traumatized, they feel weak, broken… almost like “damaged goods”.  I deeply desire to help women see themselves differently… as forces to be reckoned with; loving, giving, funny, intelligent…  because once a woman really, truly connects with this – no one can take it away from her again!  She KNOWS her worth, and she won’t settle for less!  And I’m convinced that our self-image – the way we view ourselves, correlates directly with our self-worth.  

Wives Of Pornography Users Have Lower Self-Worth / Self-Image

I think our culture has done a pretty “good” job of giving women inferiority complexes.  There are so many messages/images of how a woman should look, act, walk; what kind of job she should have, what interests she should carry, etc.  Where our women are impacted differently is, I think, the comparison isn’t as broad – it has become very specific and personal – because it’s not just “society at large” that is sending out these messages, our spouse has been fantasizing or actually been sexual with these images/people.

Society, at large, hasn’t made a commitment to “choose” us, but our spouse has… and yet, their betrayal makes it feel like they are not choosing us.  Many struggle with connecting that to not being desirable enough, and this is a huge hit to how we value and see ourselves.  

How Can We Learn To Love Ourselves After Betrayal?

There are a few things, and I share them in my group, but one that really stands out is a blog I read by Glennon Doyle.  It was a paradigm shift for me… one that helped me see how beautiful this life is that I’m creating, and how our focus is so often on the wrong things.  That’s all I want to give away on that one right now!

The First Step To Loving Yourself

About a year into my coaching in Austin, I did a retreat for my ladies.  As I was putting it together, and thinking about each woman specifically, one thought kept playing over, and over and over: “She deserves to be pampered.  She deserves to know what it feels like to be loved well.”  Even if the “addict” is involved in a legitimate recovery, and is working hard, it’s a LONG road, and often, sobriety and personal recovery trumps the relational aspect of things, so the woman is still left feeling lonely, or not loved well.  It’s so difficult to not internalize this.  Women get “used to” it, and can often translate that to their worthiness.  When I connected these dots… well, that’s when I started focusing on building my clients up, discover their worth, and connect to the fact that they are worthy of such love.

The Key To Self Worth Is Knowing Your Worth Isn’t Based On Your Husband’s Perceptions Of View

Without a doubt, the key to self-worth is being able to silence every negative voice (including your own); every “should or shouldn’t”, and give yourself permission to like, and love whatever you like and love about yourself.  Doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks – what their opinions of you are, or what is likeable / lovely.  It only matters what you think/like/love!

If you could say something to the women listening, regarding self-worth, what would that be?

Sarah: Your worthiness is NOT based on someone else’s ability or INABILITY to accept, appreciate, or value you.  You are worthy of being cherished, and loved well. Start by loving yourself well!


Understanding The Behaviors Of Pornography Users

I have Amy Kate back with us this week. Amy Kate is an advocate for partners of sexual addicts. She is a survivor two marriages that ended as a result of sexual addiction. She has six amazing children. She is trained by the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS). She is also trained by the American Association of Sex Therapy. She is also a customer service representative at Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is an accountability and filtering software that is one of many tools that we need to use in our own recovery, both for the safety of ourselves and families.

Amy: Hi. I’m glad to be back.

Anne: We are going to talk about demystifying the behavior of sex addicts today. Being a recovering drug addict I’m sure has its advantages when you are talking about your ex-husband’s sexual addiction and how that worked and how devastating it was. Can you talk about the definition of insanity and where you were in that process of serving your husband’s behaviors and being in the chaos and not able to figure out exactly what was happening?

When we are in a relationship with an active pornography addict or an active sex addict, why is there some much chaos? Why is it so difficult to get to the bottom of what is really going on?

Amy: To a non-addict person, when you see these behaviors that are insane–this is kind of what they look like–and they make absolutely no sense; you are unable to wrap your head around why they do the things they do. I tend to think this all comes from cognitive dissonance.

The brain wants homeostasis. It wants everything to be calm and centered and make sense and not be chaotic. Cognitive dissonance is the theory that when you have a certain set of beliefs and moral standards and your actions don’t match that, it creates its own chaos and a super uncomfortable feeling inside of you.

So we have someone who knows that porn is some version of cheating, they know they aren’t supposed to, they know they are hurting their wife, they know that having that affair is going to devastate their wife, but they are still doing it. In order to have those two things balanced within the brain, something has to change.

They have three choices:

  1. They can change their beliefs so they can decide that cheating is somehow ok. They can decide that porn is ok. This doesn’t usually happen though because usually our beliefs are our beliefs.
  2. They can change the action: they could stop doing the behavior but that is not as easy as it sounds.
  3. Or they can change their perception. When they change their perception, this is where you tend to see all the other crazy-making behaviors that drive us insane.

Anne: talk about that. Do you mean their perception of their wife?

Amy: Their perception of everything starts to change. Essentially, when they are changing their perception, they are changing their reality to make their behaviors fit what they believe. We’ll use lying which is probably one of the most rage-igniting things when it comes to partners. The lying drives us insane.

But the addict will change the way he views things like the female he is talking to all of the time and ends up having an emotional affair with, “she is just a friend; I don’t even think she is pretty! I have no idea how that porn site is in the history. Maybe it’s a virus…” He is creating this reality that is not even real. The ironic part is he starts to believe it. T

he brain has to come back to that homeostasis where things have to make sense or it’s a horribly uncomfortable feeling. So they start to believe their own lies which is insanity! This is what it feels like to me as a recovering addict. When I am in this place, it feels like insanity.

Anne: Especially because then you have two totally compartmentalized lives going on. The one life where you are this good person where you don’t engage in these behaviors and your explanations make sense; and then your other life where all of these things are actually really happening. You really are engaging in these behaviors. You really are lying so it is almost like you’ve got Jekyll and Hyde going on in the same body.

An Emotionally Abusive Husband Is Like Jekyll & Hyde

Amy: Jekyll and Hyde was originally an analogy for an alcoholic. The boxes and compartmentalizing is a huge part of addiction. When the addict is actively engaged with his family, his addiction doesn’t exist; he closes that box and it doesn’t exist. And then when he is acting out in his addiction, his family does not exist.

They are two completely separate worlds so when they collide, like the wife finds something in the history on the computer, he has to figure out a way to make the two make sense. Lying is usually a really good way to do it. Justification is another way they can alter their reality and perception of what is going on, to make things balance out.

For example, they will say things like, “It’s just porn. It’s not a real person so it’s not that bad. It’s not cheating. I’m a man; I can’t help it. I have a high sex drive and besides, all men look at porn. It’s a guy thing. It’s what they do. I only do it a few times a month. It’s not a problem.”

Women In Pornography Are Exploited & Abused

Anne: Yes, these justifications are very interesting I think, especially when they say, “The woman in pornography want to be exploited and abused.” When you look at it from the porn industry point of view, we know the women who are in the porn industry are not treated well. Many of them are on drugs. Many have been exploited. they are miserable doing their job. The time they spend in the pornography industry is very, very short. Many don’t spend a lot of time because it’s so difficult for them. 

I’ve talked to someone on the other end, who produced porn for a while and then stopped producing it, and he said, “I always knew I was ruining the lives of the women I filmed but I just never thought about the people who were watching it and how their lives were also being ruined.”

So I think it is very difficult for them to realize they are hurting their wives, themselves, and also the woman who is being exploited, the women in the pornography. And so it is very important to teach people that pornography creates a demand for sexual exploitation and that demand must stop…that as long as people are viewing pornography there will also be exploitation and sex slavery.

All of these justifications surrounding this make it very difficult for men to see the truth that they are using and exploiting other people and harming themselves and other family members. So instead of accepting this, they end up blame shifting and lying and all the things you are talking about.

Amy: My analogy that I have for my own addiction is like I have this little person in my head–I say it’s a little demon–it has one goal in life: to get me to use my drug, whatever my drug of choice is, be it porn or like mine was drugs. It will do the craziest things and twist words to convince me that these lies make sense–like I deserve to take this pill because I have had a really bad day…or I really deserve to watch that porn because my wife won’t have sex with me. and the addict literally believes it even though a sober brain knows that it doesn’t make any sense. So it’s all balancing back to the cognitive dissonance where it needs to balance itself out.

Anne: Let’s talk about blame shifting. This is another way addicts balance themselves out.

Blame-shifting Is A Form Of Manipulation & Emotional Abuse

Amy: That’s a super fun one – I’m being sarcastic of course! It is so damaging to women because one of the big ones is the addict will blame the way the wife looks or the weight she has gained or the activities that she is willing to do . . .” if she did such and such sex act I wouldn’t have to watch porn . . . or if she took care of herself and lost some weight, I wouldn’t have to look at porn . . .or if she wasn’t such a mean, demanding person, I wouldn’t need all of this stress relief . . . or I’ve had a really bad day at work and all my customers are awful and I’ve been treated like crap by my boss and I deserve this treat.”

When You’re Husband Tells You, “You Ask Too Many Questions.”

Anne: In my case, I was “too much.” I asked too many questions, I was too consistent, I was too demanding and controlling because I am a woman of my word and I have integrity. I was trying to figure out what was going on, and I was not going to stop until I had the answers. In my marriage, I was “too much” although in the end he told me that I was not attractive and he began to go down that route. It was very hurtful to me. These comments ring in my ears still…the blame types of things. You can’t get better if you refuse to take responsibility for your actions.

Amy: Right. My ex was very good at projecting. He started isolating himself from the family. We would have things we were going to do, like carve pumpkins. I would invite him to come and he would say he was working in his office and he wasn’t. Or I’d say, “Let’s go to the park”–anything I tried to get him to engage in with the family he continued to refuse.

When Discovery Day came out, he said he cheated because I did not want him involved in his life. He literally would flip everything around. Then he would say things like, “I didn’t want sex enough.” The reality was that I was sex-starved and turned down all the time.

Anne: Mine stopped initiating. Mine didn’t initiate to begin with, I did, and then I stopped and I’m sure he tells people that I would never have sex with him. He only initiated twice during the six months when I didn’t initiate. Both of those times were immediately after I had been severely emotionally abused. I wasn’t safe and then he didn’t ever try when I did feel safe. But he doesn’t tell people that because he didn’t initiate safe sex for six months…that gas lighting is pretty intense and traumatizing–part of the emotional abuse.

Amy: Yes. And the gas lighting for me made me feel crazy because I didn’t know my reality. This is a hard thing to describe, to not know my reality, but when everything is twisted and all I had was him and me in the beginning–I didn’t have anyone to tell me this wasn’t making sense or it wasn’t right–I didn’t know what was up or down due to the gas lighting. He would say something and then 5 minutes later I would repeat it back and he would say that he never said it. By the end of the conversation I was questioning what was really said. I really didn’t know.

Anne: Or they say, “I know I said that but it’s not what I meant. I meant this other thing…” And the woman remarks that it is in fact what he said and meant…

Educating Women About What To Expect When They’re Married To A Porn User

Part of the reason we bring this up is not to rehash our own trauma; it’s to educate women about the behaviors they can expect so they know they are not crazy, so they can observe their husband’s behavior to know if he is emotionally safe. My number one goal with Betrayal Trauma Recovery is to teach women what safe behaviors look like so they can begin to establish safety for themselves because you cannot heal from trauma if trauma continues to happen. 

I want to review these things quickly. We have lying, justifying, blame shifting, and gas lighting. We’ve talked about gas lighting before. We have several podcasts at We also really recommend the book, “Why Does He Do That?” It can be found at There are many books we recommend to become more educated about these things. The one we recommend most is the “Why Does He Do That?” by Lindy Bancroft. This book will teach you the safe behaviors you are looking for in terms of emotional safety.

I’m so grateful you were here today, Amy Kate, and for all that you have been through and the fact that you are using this now to educate women, especially in your job as a customer service rep for Covenant Eyes.

Amy: Another awesome book that is one of my favorites is, Worthy Of Her Trust. It gives a very clear picture of what true repentance in recovery really looks like. I know for me, I went through a lot of “Am I expecting too much; do I have this crazy vision of what recovery looks like?” When I read that book it helped me to realize that yes, what I was imagining should be happening was actually supposed to be happening. For me this helped to undo the gas lighting that was happening to me.

What A Man Can Do When His Wife Won’t Talk To Him

Anne: That’s really great to help women understand what they are looking for. My ex tells people, “What could I do? She wouldn’t talk to me.” I think that he doesn’t understand that I could very clearly see through his behaviors exactly what was happening.

Someone who really loves his wife and wants to be back with his family doesn’t shut down their bank account. He doesn’t stop giving them money. He doesn’t go to a singles congregation. He doesn’t threaten her and say, “I’m giving you a three-week deadline. If I don’t get back in the house in three weeks then I’m going to do get my own apartment.” These are not the types of things that people in recovery do. So I could clearly see even though I was not talking to him during his behaviors. I love that there is a book that helps with this. Thank you for recommending that.

Amy: The APSATS difference is literally night and day compared to any option out there when it comes to the healing. The coaches that are at BTR are great. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting two in person and the others I have talked to multiple times online and they are amazing women with hearts of gold; they are so, so passionate about helping other women change their lives. If I could offer any parting words it would be to get yourself in your own recovery, no matter what is going on with him, there is hope for you. Your life can change. It can get better. You don’t have to stay stuck right where you are. It will get better.

Anne: You are worth it! This is what I want to say to these women. YOU ARE WORTH IT! God loves you and He wants you to be safe. There is a little bit of cognitive dissonance with us because we think that God wants me to submit to my husband or he wants me to be a loving, kind, service-oriented wife…so there is the cognitive dissonance with the wives of sex addicts who are wanting a whole, peaceful, loving family. God is telling us, “Please, I love you. You are worth it. Establish safety for yourself.” Starting with an APSATS coach is an excellent way to do that because from the get go, they can help you establish safety in your life.

Amy Kate, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate you being with us.

If this podcast was helpful to you, please rate it on iTunes. We are also on SoundCloud. Every rating helps women who are isolated and need our help to be able to find us. Your donations are what makes this podcast possible, so please donate today!

Until next week, stay safe!

Coping With Your Husband’s Porn Addiction, Infidelity & Abuse

Today we have Amy Kate, an advocate for partners of those with sexual addictions and a survivor of two marriages that ended as a result of sexual addiction. She has six awesome kids and is trained through The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS), as well as the American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy (AASAT). She is a fierce warrior determined to point women to freedom and healing found at the feet of Jesus. She is also a customer service representative for Covenant Eyes and can be found at Welcome Amy Kate!

Amy: Thanks for having me.

Discovery Day: The Day Everything In Your Life Falls Apart When You Find Out About Your Husband’s Affair

Anne: We are going to talk to you about your personal story. We know that you went through two marriages due to sex addiction. Let’s focus on the second marriage and what happened there. Can you tell us what your life was like before D-day in your second marriage?

Amy: I was divorced from my first husband who was a porn addict and I met this guy who was everything I never imagined existed. He was soft, sweet, feminine but not in a weird way; he was just a super, awesome guy. I was actually not a Christian at the time; neither was he. We dated for a couple of years and then we bought a house together and we went to church where we both were saved. When we got saved we got convinced for living together so we got married.

I already had six children from my first marriage and he was a very good step dad. My children were rather young. It was a pretty normal like. I had the kind of relationship that my friends were jealous of because my husband was always home, he would do chores, he didn’t leave his underwear on the floor!, he looked like a model man. Life was good. I had all kinds of health problems but despite this, he was just good.

In 2010, after a couple of major surgeries and a foreclosure on my house, we moved and everything began to change in the relationship. He was very different and I couldn’t figure out why. Of course I thought it was me or my kids; it couldn’t possibly have been him. I started to create my own world outside of him. I had been a stay-at-home mom, which I loved, but I opened up a photography studio. We were a pretty normal couple.

Should You Believe Your Husband When He Says He Doesn’t View Porn?

We didn’t go to church which is unfortunate; I kept trying to get him to try new churches but he was resistant. As time progressed, he got more and more distant; I began to see more anger and our sex life pretty much disappeared. One day, September 20, 2012, I was on his computer (we had each other’s passwords)–we didn’t have anything to hide, right? I looked at his history even though I’m not sure why–he swore he never watched porn – and I believed him.

I saw a bunch of meet-up groups in his history and all of the profiles he looked at were female. I thought this was really weird but I brushed it off thinking he was looking for a tech meet-up group because he is a tech guy. As I kept looking and seeing the female profiles, it was literally like a lightbulb went off and out loud, to myself, said, “My husband’s having an affair.”

But I couldn’t see anything so I ended up combing through his computer to find something and I couldn’t find anything. So then I went upstairs and got his phone and I began to look through it; I didn’t find anything until I found the Google voice app. At this point I took the phone downstairs and I promptly read two years worth of texts from his affair partner. This was my first D-day. As I am telling this, I can still feel the emotion I felt when reading the texts from her. At first I thought it was just virtual but it wasn’t. By the end of the texting I realized that they had actually met in person.

What Happened The Day You Found Out About Your Husband’s Affair?

Anne: For our listeners, maybe some of you are not familiar with the term “D-day” which I have used a lot on the podcast. It means “discovery day.” The day the addiction was discovered, the day you discovered your husband was lying to you, that he had a secret life; in my case, my worst D-day was when my husband was arrested for domestic violence and I realized the behaviors I had been experiencing for the last seven years were emotional abuse and physical intimidation.

That day, when everything came to a halt. This is what we refer to as D-day. We would love to hear about your D-day and experience. If you go to you can find this podcast and comment anonymously about what happened to you. We also have a secret FB group if you would like to join our community. You can join for free and share your stories there as well.

Amy: If I can actually piggy-back on your story, I think this is one of the most healing things a spouse can do–to tell her story. The more you tell your story, the more healing that happens. This is what I have experienced as well as the women I have worked with. Telling your story is super hard but there is so much healing in sharing. Please tell your stories. 

I confronted my husband and he tried minimizing and lying. Then I decided to relapse myself. I am a recovering drug addict and in my cabinet in my kitchen was some tequila.(one of my clients had flown me down to Florida to shoot their wedding and they had party favors of tequila that had their names on it). This day I grabbed it and my own relapse began and did not end for quite awhile. I wanted to kick him out but I was too busy yelling at him so I didn’t kick him out.

Then I tried to get to the whys and of course, it was all me–everything that I was doing wrong. I went into the “I have to be a perfect wife” because I drove my husband to an affair. It lasted a little while–longer than it should have and then the relapse got worse for me and he was still doing things that I didn’t know he was doing yet; Ied the “recovery” by handing him books and finding him therapists and trying to teach him how to help me. The entire time everything was getting worse for us.

When Pornography Addiction “Recovery” Is A Way For Your Husband To Abuse You

There were more fights. He was getting borderline violent; he didn’t actually hit me but he would trap me in rooms when I wanted to leave a discussion or he would try to force his way into rooms if I didn’t want to have a discussion then and there. The behaviors really escalated. About 15 months of this chaos and unfortunately I did my own sexual acting out; I thought it was revenge and that it would make me feel better. All it did was make me feel worse. T

o this day, it still breaks my heart that I did that. So 15 months later, nothing was better; everything was worse. I clearly had PTSD at this point. The symptoms were there. I was a twitching mess. So I kicked him out. Two days later, the floodgates opened and I found out about all of the porn and the men and the prostitutes and everything else that went along with the sex addictions. For 15 months I thought it was just an affair. And then everything else came out. When he did all of the admitting, he was really broken.

You could see he was legitimately broken. Because I have so much history about recovering from addiction, I know that change is possible. I let him come home because now I had an answer. This is why we haven’t been able to heal–because of addiction; and now we could fix the addiction. I tried to control his recovery because he still wasn’t doing it.

Can I Sleep Around Because My Husband Did (Should I)? Will I Feel Better If I Act Out Too?

Anne: Were you still active in your addiction at this time?

Amy: Yes. I wasn’t fully committed. I would have bouts of sobriety and then I would relapse again. I was still active. Apparently this is my response to a D-day–it was my response; I don’t do this anymore.

Anne: You’re having ups and downs with your own recovery during this time and then you get the bombshell of finding out that he has been looking at porn, that he has been with other men, he’s been visiting prostitutes…where were you then?

Amy: I was a weird mix of terrified and shocked yet hopeful. Again, I believe in the power of recovery. I know that an addict can change. I know it because I changed and I know a ton of addicts that have changed. Actually, some of the addicts I know who have changed are some of the most authentic people you will meet. So I know that change is possible. But I was terrified.

Anne: I feel the same way. Even with what I have been through, my ex-husband is not in recovery…but I have been praying every day that Christ will revive him–literally bring him back from the dead. I watch him and I want so badly for our family to be together even though he is my ex-husband now and even though I hold a no contact boundary because of his lack of emotional health, I still want our family to be together.

I am with you there! I absolutely believe that addicts can change. This is really what breaks your heart. And also what gives you hope! As you are hoping for him to change, what were you doing?

When Gaslighting Leads You To Feel Crazy

Amy: I did my research but it was the wrong research. I ended up in the female co-sex addict codependent books and didn’t find the right path to healing for a long time. I was slowly starting to recover me because I had lost me at this point. I was unrecognizable. Within a couple months of him moving back home after the second large disclosure, that is when the PTSD got insanely bad. Nothing changed when he came home.

All of the behaviors that come along with addiction were there–he was still lying to me, he was angry, he was blaming me for stuff, we were having circular conversations that were making me feel insane. I did not know my reality. Is what he just said true? Am I going crazy?

I really wrestled with this one for a long time. And then I got some form of agoraphobia. I was so triggered whenever I left my bedroom that I basically lived in my room for a year. I remember there was a period for a couple of weeks where just going to the bathroom was traumatic, which sounds traumatic but it really was…I would put my hoodie on and put my hood over my head; for some reason this made me feel safer. I would then literally run to the bathroom like there was this monster in the house going to get me and then run back. My bedroom was like my cocoon. It was the only place I felt safe.

C-PTSD Symptoms Found In Wives Of Sex Addicts Due To Their Related Behaviors Of Abuse & Manipulation

I missed a lot of my life for almost a year in this place. During this, my husband was acting out and claiming his sobriety from the rooftops and that “she’s just crazy.” Actually, later I found out, just after the divorce so not long ago, that his therapist had suggested to him multiple times that I needed mental help because he was afraid for my own safety. My ex-husband chose not to address it with me. He didn’t even acknowledge it despite a trained therapist saying, “Your wife needs help.”

Anne: Was he sleeping in the bedroom with you at the time?

Amy: After he moved home, he was in the bedroom for a very short time and then he was on the couch.

Anne: Ok. So he was not in the bedroom with you and so thus you felt like you had a little bit of a safe place.

Amy: yes. It was my cocoon. We were in a chaotic cycle where the behaviors progressed and he pushed me; once he grabbed my arm because he was arguing and I said we needed to stop the conversation, and he tried to force me to talk to him; he did it so hard that my arms bruised. I didn’t realize this was physical abuse. This thought never crossed my mind. One time he pushed me into my car. He began to get mean with the kids. Everything was escalating and my children were really suffering because mom’s locked in her bedroom and Dad’s gone crazy. It was a really, really rough time period.

Many Women Hit Rock Bottom Before Seeking Help For Betrayal Trauma

Then the depression really kicked in. I stopped eating. I literally did not care about anything. I have a brain condition that gives me migraines. I was on meds for it and I did a bunch of research on how many I would need to take to commit suicide. I counted them out and went out to my car to take them all. This part is a little hard because I have kids I love and I was so depressed that they didn’t even matter. As a mom, this is really, really hard to admit but this is how low things got. I should explain that I have no family and my ex had isolated me from my church and from my friends and so I was literally alone.

Betrayal Trauma Can Lead To Thoughts Of Suicide

So I was sitting in my car with this bottle and I hadn’t been to church in a couple of years and all of the sudden I kept hearing, “Call Robin.” She is a woman from my old church. Robin and I were never close. I knew her and I liked her but it’s not like we were good friends. But I kept feeling this, “Call Robin. Call Robin. Call Robin.” I was like, “I don’t want to call Robin. I’m done with life. I can’t do this anymore.” Somehow I summoned up the nerve to call Robin and I went over to her house and I vomited my entire story onto her. This is the first time I had ever told my entire story. She had no advice. She just listened.

By the end of it, I got angry. All of the sudden I asked her for a sharpie. She was looking at me like I had three heads but she got the sharpie and on my wrists I wrote, “Live free.” That day, I decided I was done and that I was not going to end my life because he couldn’t fix his. This is really when recovery started for me.

Anne: Wow. You have a really powerful story and I really appreciate your candor in sharing this with us today. I am really sorry for all of your pain. I can hear it in your voice. So many of our listeners have felt similar feelings to what you felt. When you decided to recover yourself, what were your first steps?

Amy: The first thing I did was go back to church. I knew that I was so far in a pit that I could not get out of it by myself. I began to read my Bible all of the time and I stopped to listening to secular music and surrounded myself with the word of God. I actually sought out people for the first time and told them my story. I needed help. I was desperate that I didn’t care if you were a rock. If you could help me, I was going to tell you my story because during all of this, I found out that one of my six children was struggling with pornography. It was really bad.

Many Women Loose Faith In God After Experiencing The Lies, Gaslighting, Narcissistic Behaviors Of Pornography Addicts

I began going back to church. I found a couple of different websites that had me doing exercises on visualizing what I wanted my life to be, what my values are; I learned the word “boundary.” I had never heard it. I started reading books and piece by piece, I started getting better. Then I found a FB support group and this is where things began to take off because people understood and I wasn’t crazy; I needed people to tell me I wasn’t crazy because I wasn’t sure. Now I call them my tribe. It’s what it felt like–a tribe, people who had my back.

Anne: Like I said earlier, you can join our secret FB group by going to, scroll down, and select to join our community. Add your email and we will send you an email with the instructions about how to join this group. It’s so fantastic that you were able to find a support group through FB. Now that you had this support, what happened next?

Amy: I figured out what boundaries where and I made them. He faked it for a little while; he was good at faking. Things were not changing and I kicked him out and I filed for divorce. It wasn’t what I wanted but I was literally dieing and so I felt like I had no other options. Somewhere in there I got the job at Covenant Eyes which also significantly helped my healing. We were a month away from divorce when I heard about a program called Teen Challenge, designed for drug addicts. It’s a year-long, live in program.

I felt led to tell my husband at the time that I would stop the divorce and see who he was if he would commit to go to Teen Challenge. At first, when I felt like this is what I was supposed to do, I told God no. We argued about this a lot because I was done and did not want to do this anymore. But I listened and resentfully submitted.

Anne: I totally get it! I have had so many moments like this where I did the surrender process but I did not want to.

Amy: It was like, “I know you want me to do this. I don’t want do this but I will obey anyway because I trust you. So I offered it to him, mostly because I didn’t think he would say yes, but he did. He went away for a year. He quit his job. He lived in the program for a year. He got better for a couple of months and then relapsed in Teen Challenge–or so he told me.

Now he says he didn’t relapse. He has changed the story so many times I do not know the truth, but either way, we was not getting better. He graduated Teen Challenge and seemed better but not good. I was still very afraid of a relapse. There were a lot of red flags to me. He moved in with our pastor for awhile so I could see how he could handle life on the outside. My landlord in the house we lived in gave us 30-days notice because he was selling the house. So I had to find a new rental that would accept my brood of children and animals, while I’m working full-time and still dealing with trauma, so I actually let him move home to help me.

We got the new house and it spiraled very, very quickly over the summer. He went from a fairly soft, sweet guy back to the old bad behaviors of physically threatening me, the anger, the lying…and then I caught him with porn and I kicked him out.

Anne: I can’t imagine what you are feeling–actually I sort of can…so you send him away for a year; you’re doing what God asked you to do; you have faith in God. He has been through the program and he moves back home and it all falls apart again. Right? I’m imagining you were completely devastated at this point?

Amy: I began to go back into PTSD land, where I lived with all of the PTSD symptoms. What made me make the decision to kick him out was the agoraphobia came back again. At this point, I had regained my life. I was an active mom. I was who I was–fun, light, doing things outside in the world, I could handle football games with my son, I was me again–and then this relapse during the summer began and I said, “no. I’m not going there again.”

I gave him a two-week warning and literally, nothing happened. He made no steps towards fixing his relapse. I gave him two-weeks notice and kicked him out.

Anne: How are you feeling about God at this point?

Amy: I’m angry. 

Where Is God When We Are Experiencing The Pain Of Infidelity, Abuse & Abandonment?

Anne: I would be too! I’m thinking God’s told you to send him to this year thing, you’ve been doing life alone, he comes back and he basically hasn’t changed at all. So it’s like, “God, why? Why didn’t you have me end this a year ago?” we’ve all been through this thought process before.

Amy: I just went through a year of basically hell while he was in rehab and he isn’t out even two months and relapses…what am I missing here? Something isn’t adding up. Yes, I was angry. I felt betrayed by God

Anne: I can imagine. What did you do to repair your relationship with God?

Amy: I had to tackle a couple of big triggers: music. I love worship music but all of my worship music reminded me of my husband so I stopped listening to this. One song talks about taking back what the enemy has stolen. For the longest time this song resonated with me and my husband; we were going to take back our marriage. I decided to flip this song around. It wasn’t about my marriage anymore. It was about what the enemy stole from me. One of those things was my faith in God. He didn’t get to have that. He got my marriage but he doesn’t get to have my faith. He doesn’t get to take the pieces of me that I like.

Recovering Your Faith In God After Betrayal

Basically, I declared war on Satan so I tackled every trigger I had around it. Honestly, I yelled at God a lot. I yelled at him some more and more. Every time I did it I felt like he was saying he understood but he had it. I kicked out my husband and he moved 900 miles away. In this process I met Coach Rae. Between Coach Rae and learning what I learned at APSATS, it was like everything flipped and made sense and just in that short period of time, I have done more healing than I did in the two years before that.

Anne: Coach Rae is amazing!

Amy: She is. We got divorced and it was final and I offered reconciliation. If it required repentance and recovery, this has not happened. He has abandoned the kids and has no contact with them at all. Right now this is the hardest part watching my teenage girls going through this abandonment.

Anne: Yes. My ex moved from a city he was living in temporarily back to the city where we lived. He told his friends that he was so excited to move back so he could spend more time with his kids and then from the day he moved back, he did not see the kids for 4 weeks…I know this is not completely abandoning them but it is so interesting that these men do not realize the impact their decisions are having on other people.

I’m so sorry for your children. It stinks but it is so good to know that so many other women understand and are walking this path with us and that we do have support from them. We have amazing professionals like APSATS coaches who help walk us through. We do have God. We are not alone in this journey even when we feel like we are.

Amy Kate will be with us again next week, talking about demystifying the behaviors of sex addicts, a theme she has learned being trained by APSATS and also in her training with the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy (AASAT). I look forward to talking about his aspect of how to understand these behaviors if they do not make any sense.

If this podcast was helpful, please rate it on iTunes. We are also on SoundCloud. Every rating increases our visibility with women who are isolated and need our help. Betrayal Trauma Recovery is a 501(c)(3) and your donations make this podcast possible. Please click here to donate and keep this information coming. Women need it badly!

Thank you, Amy Kate. I will see you next week. 

If you need support, consider joining Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club.

Stay safe out there!

How To Set Boundaries For A Narcissist

Boundaries? “Um, what boundaries?!” That’s the dilemma Coach Rae found herself facing fifteen years ago, at the end of her first betrayal trauma marriage. Before there were books and groups designed to simplify boundaries for partners of porn and sex addicts, Rae learned a TON of tough lessons the hard way — lessons she now shares openly, humorously and passionately.

If you’re new to the concept of boundaries — register for Coach Sarah’s Setting & Holding Healthy Boundaries group. Coach Sarah addresses these common FAQs about boundaries.

  • What’s IS a boundary, anyway? 
  • Why do boundaries matter?
  • Can anyone set boundaries?
  • Why are boundaries so scary for women in trauma?
  • Will boundaries really get me what I want?
  • Won’t boundaries actually push him away?
  • What boundaries are “reasonable” for women like us?
  • What consequences are appropriate for boundary violations?
  • What if my husband won’t honor my boundaries?
  • What if my husband responds to my boundaries with anger?
  • Are boundaries forever? What if I change my mind?
  • Does my own behavior need boundaries?
  • Boundaries are confusing! So where do I even start?


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

This week, I’m excited to talk about one of my very favorite subjects — boundaries. Actually, if I’m going to get really specific about it, I’d call this topic, “the basics of boundaries,” or “boundaries for beginners,” or “boundaries from the ground up,” or even, as I’ve occasionally entitled such conversations, “Boundaries? What boundaries?!” 

Because honestly? When I press the rewind button on my own recovery, reflecting back to where my own experience of boundaries (or lack thereof) began more than 15 years ago?

Boundaries really wasn’t much of a word in my relational vocabulary. Sure, I could probably recite the Webster’s dictionary definition by heart — because if you haven’t learned this about me yet, I’m a pretty classic “word nerd.” But when it came to applying that word to my closest personal, professional and even community relationships?

Yeah. No. Not a chance. I definitely did not know anything about that. 

You see, I grew up with this absolutely lovely (albeit admittedly hyper-idealistic) concept about interpersonal relationships, and that concept went something like this:

The Fantasy Of Love Without Boundaries

Number one: I like you. 

Number two: Not only do I like you, I actually even love you. 

Number three: I love you so much, in fact, I’m prepared to lay down my life for you. And that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Loving you even more than I love myself?

Number four: Now that I’ve forsaken all others and laid my life down for your own, I’m happy to sit back, relax, and trust you to return the favor. I mean, my life with you is a fulfillment of our destiny is it not? What more could I ask for? What could possibly go wrong?

Number five: So, I’m now eagerly waiting, for you to love me with that same, dedicated, self-sacrificial love that I gave you. I’m ready anytime, honey! My arms are open wide, and my heart’s a blank canvas. Let’s get this party started, baby! 

Number six: (and stick with me here, because this is where the fantasy gets really good) — because of this love we now so seamlessly share, while I’m busy liking and loving and living and laying myself down for you, you’re doing all of those same things for me, right? Because surely, mutual self-sacrifice is an exercise of equal proportions… isn’t it? I mean, if I lay down my life for you, and you lay down your life for me, then obviously, I’ll meet your needs, you’ll meet my needs, and both of us will ride off into the endless, needless, boundary-less sunset together.



Healthy Love Must Have Boundaries

Okay, I’ll admit it. I probably read one too many novels growing up. And chances are, my outlook on relational boundaries didn’t get me off to a terribly mature or realistic start. On your behalf, I hope that you got something a little bit more mature and realistic than I did.

But honestly? In this work I do with women healing from sexual betrayal? I can’t tell you how many fairytales turned horror-stories I’ve heard that begin this way, scripted by women with no greater (and no lesser) desire than to love and to be loved by the men we’ve so carefully chosen.

You see, when I began my journey of recovery from sexual betrayal trauma, near the beginning of the end of my first marriage, I was convinced that love could (and would) conquer all. Even as the reality of my shattered relationship came into focus, I FULLY believed that with God and faith and grace and forgiveness on my side, I could fix anything and everything that had fallen apart between us. 

Except that… when push came to shove, I couldn’t.

Boundaries Keep Us Safe When Our Best Fails

Not for lack of love or effort or commitment, but rather because of an invisible-yet-irrefutable line, one that divided the space in which I functioned from the space wherein my husband did.

That line, truth be told, was there all along, precisely as it should have been, plain as the nose on my face, letting me know where I ended and where my husband began. I simply never noticed its presence before, mostly because I’d never learned to look for it, to recognize it, or to respect its importance.

Because that line wasn’t one to which I’d grown accustomed to seeing or sensing — at least not until the moment that life as I knew it left me no other choice — I truly didn’t know the limitations of my ability to rescue my marriage, any more than I knew the imperative of protecting myself from my husband’s hidden sexual life. 

Boundaries Are Essential When Faced With Your Husband’s Sex Addiction & Abuse

By the time my relationship ground to a screeching halt, mangled with the wreckage of sexual betrayal trauma, I’d fallen into a state of complete and total panic, pouring into a surge of desperate self-preservation. From deep within that haze of hurt and fear and those horrible, horrible discoveries, I didn’t know what saving “us” might ask of me: I just know that, having invested and abdicated so much of myself into that man and into that relationship, there wasn’t any part of myself that I wouldn’t sacrificed, all in the interest of saving that marriage—never mind how utterly unhealthy it would have been for me to do what it took to satisfy my husband’s sexual appetite. 

Thankfully — and this is where my story gets a little bit lighter and a little bit brighter — in the fifteen years since my first marriage went belly up, I’ve grown a whole lot smarter and a heck of a lot stronger when it comes to recognizing that invisible line of relationship demarcation—the one I now lovingly refer to as a healthy boundary!

With the help of my own professional support team, I’ve learned more than I ever knew I’d never known about boundaries,  even within the fully functional and faithful relationships in my life—never mind the ABSOLUTE necessity of healthy boundaries within relationships traumatized by porn addiction, sex addition and other related forms of compulsive and abusive sexual behavior. 

In circles and communities like this one, when we introduce the topic of boundaries, it’s often in the context of managing or minimizing the impact of our partner’s behavior. That’s an entirely legitimate approach, and kudos to all of you for the work you’ve already done in those areas! I hope that by sharing this kind of odd and alternative story about my own boundaries (excuse me, I mean my non-boundaries) I’ve piqued your interest in going “back to the beginning,” as it were—and maybe I’ve inspired you to reflect upon your own most basic, most foundational and most original perspectives about boundaries.

Now at this point in our conversation, I’m going to pause here for a moment, and ask you about your early experiences, trials and errors within this realm of relational boundaries. Did you enter your childhood knowing where that line was, that point of demarcation between yourself and the person you love? Or did you, like me, learn that lesson the hard way, losing (or nearly losing) yourself beneath the back-breaking, soul-sucking weight of sexual betrayal trauma? How do you define a healthy boundary?

And, how has your concept of boundaries grown or changed along with your recovery? We invite you to share your comments anonymously below — and if this podcast has helped you, please consider rating it on iTunes, so that more women in trauma can find the support they need to recognize, understand and explore the value of healthy personal boundaries.

How To Learn About Boundaries When You Need Them The Most

Now, for those of you who’ve spent any time at all listening to our podcast, following us on social media or working with one of our BTR coaches, you know firsthand how often (and how emphatically) we encourage trauma survivors to seek safety and stability — those two key components that must be in place for meaningful healing and recovery from sexual betrayal. Because of our training through APSATS, The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists, we don’t mess around when it comes to those two priorities—and it’s because of that emphasis that so many of our clients learn to survive (and ultimately to thrive) beyond the paralyzing pain of sexual betrayal. 

But here’s something cool you may not yet know: 

Because we believe so firmly in the power and priority of safety and stability, we’ve recently added two new opportunities for BTR listeners to “zero in” on all things boundaries! Coach Sarah (that’s Sarah with an H) has a six-week support group titled Setting & Holding Healthy Boundaries — a group that explores a comprehensive process for identifying, crafting and deciphering all aspects of setting boundaries. Because Sarah’s support group fills up so quickly, we offer it repeatedly as soon as it fills. For more info email Coach Sarah: