How BTR Services Will Help You Recover From Betrayal Trauma

Workbook Study: Journey To Healing & Joy
15 weeks
Led by Coach Laura
REGISTER – The group will start as soon as it fills.
Limited to 12 participants (minimum 6)

Each of our lives is a story; and right now, your story is filled with the pain that comes when we experience sexual betrayal.

This group uses the workbook Journey to Healing and Joy – A Workbook for Partners of Sexual Addicts written by Marsha Means as a supplement to a book she wrote with Barbara Steffens, Your Sexually Addicted Spouse.

In this 15 week Facebook group, Coach Laura will walk with you as you travel your own path to healing and joy. The suggested reading and healing exercises included in this workgroup will help you to better understand and process the trauma you’re experiencing. During these 15 weeks, you will walk alongside other women who share in your pain, your struggles, your hope, your victories, and ultimately your joy. We will explore together why labels like “codependent”
don’t really serve us on this journey – even if we are, because it’s trauma that we’re healing from.

In the safe community of this group, you will

  • Come to terms with your reality, so that you can better face it, address it, and grow in it
  • Explore and process the many emotions you are struggling with – anger, shame, sadness, fear, decreased self-esteem, loneliness – and develop a plan and learn strategies to handle these feelings in a way that is healthy and authentic
  • Learn the beautiful freeing practice of detachment and develop skills leading to your personal empowerment
  • Develop a self-care plan that goes beyond “eating right, sleeping well, and exercising” (though those are important, too), but also includes supportive, nurturing relationships, within and outside of this group, dealing with our negative thoughts, false beliefs, managing triggers, and finding and practicing ways to relax and find joy, exploring what it means to be who you are, what your values are and how to put those into practice
  • Grieve your losses
  • Create and enforce boundaries through the development of effective consequences
  • Explore the idea of forgiveness without pressure to act before you’re ready or before it’s healthy
  • What it takes to trust again
  • How to get your needs met
  • Find your voice and speak your truth
  • Begin to develop a plan to live a life of authenticity based on your values, rather than your fears

By the end of 15 weeks, you will have a plan in place for your healing, and yes, even for joy. You will have grown in your bond with this community of women who share in your struggles, and you will recognize within yourselves and each other your strengths and your unique gifts that will enable you to thrive beyond betrayal.

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery. I’m Anne. Coach Laura is here today to talk about her upcoming Facebook group which is Journey to Healing and Joy. Click here to see the date and time and to register now. We are very excited about this group. She’s been preparing for this awesome group for a long time. Welcome Coach Laura!

Coach Laura: Thank you. I’m very happy to be here today.

Online Support Groups For Abused Women

Anne: So Laura, why did you decide to do the Facebook format with this workbook, Journey to Healing and Joy?

Coach Laura: I participated in a couple of FB groups myself, both as a co-coach and as a participant. Once I was participating, I realized how many benefits there are. One of them is that it is affordable–less expensive than many in-person groups and a lot less expensive than one-on-one coaching. The amount of privacy that is provided is ideal. It’s considered a secret group on FB which means that only those in the group know you are part of the group or even that it exists. FB is there for participants 24/7 so there is no more waiting until later in the week to go to a coaching session and talk about something that is on your mind. You can get up at any time of night or morning and talk about the things on your mind. 

The nice thing is someone is going to get back to you right away. I will be on there often several times a day. In the meantime, other group members may have something to offer, even if in no other way than in encouragement. The other thing I like about FB is that I feel like I can give an almost one-on-one level of support to each individual even though it is a group because in the FB group I have to be sure that everyone gets equal time within a certain time frame. Sometimes we have to just skim the surface with different topics. Here on-line I give everyone equal attention but I’m not constrained by the clock; this is very beneficial to the women in the group. 

Anne: Our FB groups have been very popular. We have been running the Spiral Path and Facing Heartbreak with Coach Rae and Intimate Treason with Coach Kat. Coach Laura is amazing! We are very excited to get this FB group going to give women more options for support. So Coach Laura, tell us about the unique training and knowledge you bring to the table that women may benefit from.

Coach Laura: My initial training is in the area of the sex addiction itself. I did the training through the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy. I did actually follow up with that to get certification to work with those sex addicts and the partner, although today I am more interested in working just with the partners and occasionally couples. There was a very strong intimacy anorexia component to this training so I am very comfortable working with women who are struggling with this particular issue in their marriage. 

While I am a partner myself, I am very familiar with betrayal trauma from a personal experience standpoint. After finishing training with AASA, I really wanted to be trained by APSATS – the Association of Partners of Sex Addiction Trauma Specialists. I knew I really wanted the in-depth knowledge and up-to-date information on how to address partner trauma. I had experienced it myself but it was wonderful to get the training by Barb Stephens and get all of the up-to-date information on it.

Professional Support Services For Wives Of Sex Addicts

I have also completed the coursework to be certified in therapeutic separation in order to assist couples who are interested in exploring how various forms of separation can help them explore the future of their relationship. I want to say a little about this because I don’t ever want anyone to think that I am encouraging separation. What I have found in this training is that probably 99% of us are in a form of separation from our partners anyway because it includes a psychological separation. What this training has given me is a 10-step process or framework to help them go this period in a structured way and really look and see what they need to make the relationship work.

Lastly, I have training as a Stephen’s Minister which means I can offer Christian-led coaching. I am very well versed in client’s processing grief and spiritual questions. Not that I have the answers to all of those questions necessarily but I am definitely comfortable sitting with people in their grief and processing those questions with them.

Anne: Those are good things to know, Coach Laura. Just in case women are not interested in the  journey to Healing and Joy FB group, they can get these services from you by scheduling a support call. We have several clients working through these issues with you right now. This is what I love about our groups and coaches–they are experts in these topics, helping women in groups and in support calls.

Coach Laura, what principles stand out most as you coach women through this process?

How Do I Heal From My Husband’s Cheating?

Coach Laura: All of the APSATS coaches on BTR follow the APSATS model of having the three phases of trauma healing: safety and stabilization, grieving and processing, and reconnection. Of course this isn’t necessarily a linear process but among those stages, there are key principles that I work with my clients on.

In the safety and stabilization stage, I really stress the importance of values, living and setting boundaries to protect the values, and picking out the obvious safety boundaries—physical and emotional…I work with women on how to manage triggers and generally finally rest from this process because this healing and recovery process, especially if we stay with our spouses, can take a really long time. I really stress living out our values and making decisions based on them and protecting them. Self care is another area that is extremely important. All of these phases begin with the safety and stabilization phase. 

Then it continues into phase two, the grieving and processing phase. In this stage I especially like the Journey to Healing and Joy materials because it’s really helps people process through their grief and their strong emotions. The principles I focus on the most in this stage are expressing emotions and accepting them. Another area we work on with all three stages is trigger management. As most women are aware, we can be triggered by just about anything. We need some really good tools to help with these moments. This is an ongoing principle I work on.

Reconnecting After An Affair

Lastly, the third phase of reconnection is to me like the icing on a not-very-good cake! Reconnection is what we all want and what we all need. We need a community and a loving circle around us; everyone needs this but especially when we are going through a trial like this. This is the reason why sex addiction is so devastating to women–it breaks the bond with the person who should be most connected to us. 

If our husbands are on a healthy path, maybe that bond can be reconnected; maybe it can’t but I really strive to make that a goal when the women are ready to pursue that connection with friends and family with safe people, I often strive to make it something that can be found in my group.

Anne: Like members connecting with other members of the group so they feel that support and safety within the group itself.

Coach Laura, what is special or different about the journey to Healing and Joy workbook that you feel will benefit women in this group?

Coach Laura: I love the Journey to Healing and Joy for a lot of reasons. I am so excited to do this group because of the specific material I am using. First of all, I want to mention that this group will require the purchase of two books, worth every penny: The Journey to Healing and Joy workbook by .   This is a companion to the book Marcia wrote called Your Sexually Addicted Spouse, which I can’t praise enough. I think every partner, whether they are in a group or not, should have this book.

Anne: Both of these are available on the page.

Coach Laura: Barb Steffens is the founder of APSATS. It is her research in the book that has been instrumental in getting the word out about betrayal trauma. It is changing treatment options for women. After reading this book, women will have an excellent understanding of the trauma they have experienced and how to heal from it–they will be well on their way to that healing; they will also understand more about their partner’s addiction but not in a way that says, “Look. There are good reasons for this.”

There are reasons for how addiction is developed, but it’s not meant to defend the addict’s behavior. It’s about helping women understand that this is not anything they caused nor can they fix it. It’s a real thing and he is responsible for it. This is good news for a lot of women who are just in this process.

The Journey to Healing and Joy workbook encourages women to use the info in Barb’s book and apply it to their specific situations in powerful and meaningful ways. the workbook provides an opportunity for women to really process what has happened to them in this trauma, to help them to apply the information in very practical healing ways with all the necessary tools. 

Women will gain a clearer picture of their reality, learn to cope with their strong emotions, learn personal empowerment principles with tools like I mentioned before like having boundaries, learning to process detachment, self-care and soothing techniques, and the like. They will have a safe place to process and grieve their losses; most of all, they will begin to do what the workbook calls in chapter 8: Finding Way Your Way Back To You. This is what I want so much for the women I work with. We are all strong, normal, healthy women stuck in a really hard place. We have values and roles that are important to us; many women get thrown by this. This is what trauma and addiction does. I am really hoping for this FB format and this particular workbook to provide this safe place to get back on track and find their way back to themselves.

Anne: Some of the principles you mentioned, for example detachment, are impossible to learn without the support of a professional and a support group. Let me give you an example: I would talk to my mom and sister who are wonderful and extremely supportive. I love them and they are amazing and they wanted my relationship to work out; they would talk to me but they did not have a concept of how unsafe I was or how I needed to detach. 

And then I would talk to the professionals in my life, APSATS coaches, my therapist, and their description of detachment really helped me to understand what I needed to do to gain safety. It wasn’t that my mom and sister weren’t so supportive and amazing; when I explained to them what I needed to do from the assistance I received from professionals, my mom and sister said that they had never thought of that before…because they aren’t professionals in the field; they were just supportive people. For me to learn these important principles…no contact, detachment, boundaries…I really needed professional APSATS help.

Tools For Dealing With A Narcissistic Man

Coach Laura: I think that detachment is one of those things that is often misunderstood anyway because it sounds like you’re totally disconnected. That’s not what it is at all. It’s putting an emotional buffer between you and the chaos. It’s not checking out–in fact, checking out can be a red flag, a signal of being in an unhealthy place. this detachment says, “I’m going to be ok whether or not you’re okay….I’m going to practice my values and set my boundaries and your reaction isn’t going to slow me down. Honestly, it is hard to learn but definitely with a coach’s help there are tools that can make it easier to understand what it looks like.

Anne: Yes. The coaches are really well trained with how to explain this so it makes sense and helps women to actually apply it in their lives. So speaking of how, how do you describe your coaching style?

Coach Laura: I think of myself as a “gentle coach.” I don’t know if there is a style terminology for that. Like any good coach, I ask questions that challenge the women I’m working with to think about their situation anew in different ways if the current way isn’t working for them. In general, this is what coaching is. when you asked me this it made me think of an email I got from a male, which didn’t apply to me anyway, but he asked for a script disciplinarian type person. I kind of had to laugh because I know this isn’t me. 

I’m going to challenge the women that I work with. There is a lot of faulty thinking that we put ourselves through–the “I’m not good enough…because we’ve been blamed for this or we’ve gotten bad advice somewhere along the line.” I feel like I’m pretty direct. I’m willing to challenge people. I’m willing to ask them to come out of their box. I think this is why they are here. But I’m a really gentle person. This is hard and I know what it feels like. People who are coming to these groups looking for help are coming from all sorts of backgrounds and situations and the one thing they all have in common is they need compassion and gentle understanding. That is largely where I come from. 

I’ll never forget as I was going through this and in early recovery, my husband and I were going to his counselor (although he was to be ‘our’ counselor). We were seeing someone who did not have any understanding of partner trauma. I’ll never forget sitting in his office and saying to him how much I wish I could read my husband’s book he was working in. The counselor said, in a very strong, harsh way that I had a lot of problems with boundaries. I thought I was going to flip out! I thought, “I have problems with boundaries?!” 

Getting The Right Support For Your Husband’s Porn Addiction

I knew there was something wrong with this at the time. I realize now that what he should have said was that of course I wanted to look in there. My life had been destroyed by secrets and this was another place where secrets were being encouraged to be kept. If he had any idea what my process was, he would have validated my desire…and maybe he would have gone on to say that it wasn’t a good idea if I really wanted him to have a place where he could be honest with himself. I understand this now but there was nothing wrong with me wanting to know what was in that book. I did not have an issue with boundaries! I remember this experience and I want partners that I work with to understand that those things they wonder about and feel are all normal and understandable.

Anne: And they have had enough abuse–from their husband and from counselors, therapists, church leaders, other people–telling them they shouldn’t feel like this or that; that they need to forgive or stop thinking this or that…when the things they are thinking and doing are totally valid and normal and appropriate for the situation. I love BTR for this because it validates that we are normal for being angry, for not trusting him…that it would be weird to trust him…that some things wives are asked to do, those things are weird! We don’t feel comfortable with it and this is why BTR works for us.

Coach Laura: Yes. What is written in that book, from my standpoint, was a matter of my personal safety. There are people out there who don’t get it. I’m really looking forward to having this group as a place for women to come together with someone who does get it.

Anne: Yes! We all get it here! Sometimes we may not say the right thing; sometimes I may say something that doesn’t jive with someone or they aren’t sure what I mean…but in terms of understanding what it feels like to be lied to, cheated, and then blamed for it, you’ve come to the right place! We all understand even if we might express it differently.

I’m so excited that you are doing this group Laura and hope that many women will join so they will feel supported and validated in this process.

To schedule click here. Our groups are filling quickly so if you are interested in this, please sign up soon. We’ve had many of our FB groups fill quickly. After you sign up, Coach Laura will send an email giving you details about how and when to join the FB group.

Anne: If you can’t wait for that group, we have Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club available to you. You can sign up for it right away. We also have a few other groups. Click on to see what we offer. 

As always, all of our coaches are available for support calls.

Please post your comments below. We want to hear what you think. Comments help other women who are isolated feel a little more hope.

Also, we’re finding that when women find out about BTR, they say they wish they have found us sooner. If you are reading, please let your friends know about BTR. You might be surprised at how helpful they will find Betrayal Trauma Recovery. We would appreciate you spreading the word about our services.

Thanks for being here today. Until next week, stay safe out there!

How To Protect Young Children From The Damage Of Pornography Exposure

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery. I’m Anne. Kristen Jensen is here today – one of my friends from the anti-pornography movement. She’s amazing. I’ve known her for a long time. She is the author of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read aloud books, including the best-selling Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn Proofing Today’s Young Kids. We use this in our home; it’s one of my favorite books for kids.

I’ve known her for a long time. She is the author of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read aloud books, including the best-selling Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn Proofing Today’s Young Kids. We use this in our home; it’s one of my favorite books for kids.

She is the founder of, a website dedicated to helping parents empower their kids to reject pornography. Recently she was invited to testify before the Washington State Senate Law and Justice Committee on the public health crisis of pornography. Kristen is a frequent guest and speaker on podcasts, radio broadcasts, and is a leader in the Prevention Task Force of the National Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation.

Personally, she is a mother of two daughters and a son who is waiting for her in heaven. She lives with her husband in the beautiful state of Washington. She earned her BA in English Literature and her MA in Organizational Communication. Welcome, Kristen!

Many Parents Ask, “How Do I Check Cookies?” But, That’s Not Enough Anymore

Kristen: Hi Anne! Thanks for having me!

Anne: I LOVE Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr! Kristen gave me a copy and I’ve been using it with my 5-year-old and my 2-year-old. It is so helpful. I am so excited to announce that Kristen has donated three copies of Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr to our listeners. So if you have a child ages 3-6, you need this book! Please go to our Instagram profile @betrayaltraumarecovery. Follow us on Instagram; tag three of your friends who also have children ages 3-6 so they can be made aware of this really important resource for kids. The giveaway will end Wednesday at 6 pm. You will be notified via private message on Instagram.

Tell me, Kristen, why did you write a book about pornography for young kids?

Kristen: I saw that there was a problem. It took three years and then as I was speaking, I had parents of younger children–because our original book is for ages 7-11, even though therapists have used it for adults; the principles and concepts are for any age–ask if I could write a book for younger children. It took my breath away the first time I was asked that! Younger children are on the internet so we need to safe guard them and train them how to respond to bad pictures–to recognize what they are and have a plan of what to do when they see them.

Anne: I have your Can Do Plan taped to my 8 and 5-year-olds wall.

Kristen: Awesome! This is from the original book. It is great! The first three steps from the Can Do plan is to help children know exactly how to respond when they see it: close your eyes, tell a trusted adult, and name it when you see it. All these things help the thinking brain reject pornography. The last two, the D and O, are distract yourself and always keep the thinking brain the boss; I explain more about it in the book; these things help children deal with the shocking memories that pornography creates. These memories come back to haunt them and sometimes lure them back into curiously going and looking for pornography. It’s important to deal with the initial exposure and then the memories that this exposure creates.

Will Talking About Pornography With Children Make Them More Curious?

Anne: I talk with parents all the time. One of their concerns is that their kids are too young and that they shouldn’t talk about pornography with their kids because they are worried about curiosity and such. My response usually is that there is a generation of people who did not talk about sexual addiction, who did not talk about pornography, who did not openly speak about masturbation in their homes, and they are now a generation of porn addicts that my listeners are married to. We know that the “not talking about it” doesn’t work. I’m not sure what the consequences of talking about pornography with my children will be; I don’t know what they will be 30 or 40 years out, but I do know that the other way does not work.

So I am willing to say that this open dialog and layered communication about mental health, about sexual health is so important for our kids and this is a very appropriate way to begin the conversation and talk about it. I’m pretty comfortable talking about it because this is what I do for my job. I’m a professional in the industry. But for people who don’t say the word “masturbation” six times a day like I do, they may wonder how they do this. Your books are perfect for this. What do you recommend is the right age to begin talking about pornography?

How Do We Protect Our Children From Pornography?

Kristen: I always have been taught to not answer the question I am now going to answer! The question is, “How old are your children when they get access to the internet?” If they are 3 years old when they get access to the internet, then 3 is the time to start talking.

Anne: And the answer is not, “Then I will never give them access to the internet!” Access is going to happen whether we like it or not.

Kristen: That ship has sailed; that horse is out of the barn! However you want to say it, it’s gone. It’s all around. Everyone has a portal to porn in their pocket. This is a story that was told by a sex addiction therapist who did everything she could to protect her young son. She sent him to a private Christian school, hoping it would be safer than a public school. A classmate of his looked at his cell phone–at age 6!–and showed him pornography on it. We are living in a crazy world that allows access to this kind of material to children. T

he only way we can deal with it besides doing what we can with filters and having the family come together to work together to protect ourselves from pornography, the only other way I can think is to inoculate. We cannot control exposure. That is why inoculation started with small pox. A few could get rid of smallpox, to eradicate it from the earth because we went around and inoculated everyone. As soon as you start living in the real world, getting out of the bubble, we are going to have to face this head on…and help to make children safer as a result.

Women Who Are Married To Porn Users Want To Protect Their Kids From Exposure To Pornography

Anne: Our listeners live in the real world because they are dealing with their husband’s sex addiction. They are very aware of the pain and the chaos that this creates. They are trying their best to protect their children.

Kristen: I was just at the solar eclipse. During conversations, people ask what I do. When I tell them, you can tell they are clueless. They do not have a clue how pervasive this problem is. I tell them stats on marriage, divorce, kids being involved…it made me realize once again that so many people don’t even have an awareness of the problem. 

Anne: It’s not on their radar or they think it’s just out there and their kids are great kids and would never do that.

It’s Normal For Kids To Be Curious About Pornography, But It’s Not Healthy For Them To View It

Kristen: That’s a real mistake because kids responding to pornography is the most natural thing in the world. It’s normal. We are all biologically excited by naked pictures. We are wired to biologically respond. We are basically trying to teach a child to do something that their brain is very curious about. This is why we say this in my book–how it can feel like the pull of a giant magnet. We own that, we admit it. This is where there is so much safety. We don’t shame the child. We teach the child the truth that this can make them really curious. And that it can also be like rat poison. It tastes really good to the rats but once they start eating it, it begins to destroy them.

Anne: My son is eight now and I have been talking to him about pornography since he was 3. Now he will say things like, “Mom, why would people look at pornography if it’s so bad?” I say, “Because it makes people feel really good.” It’s the same thing with heroine. People do drugs because it feels really good! When they’re doing heroine or looking at porn they’re not feeling the consequences of their actions. They aren’t understanding it’s affecting them and everyone else; it just feels really good.

Kristen: This is exactly what we say in the book. It’s one of the questions that comes up: Why would people look at this? It’s because in the short term it’s exciting.

Anne: Right. So in your new book Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr includes 5 saftey rules to help children stay safe from sexting and sextortion. Can you talk to us about these 5 safety rules?

Kristen: We have realized that since the publication of our first book, one of the things that has become a big problem is sexting; but not only sexting but sextortion–where children, teens, and even adults are groomed online–where they get in a situation where they think they are in a friendship or a romantic relationship and they give pictures of themselves that are compromising at the very least. When pornographers (my word) get these pictures, they call it sextortion, meaning they are threatened if they do not produce more graphic photos. They are threatened with telling parents or putting it on the internet; they are told to give money…the FBI says it is the leading growing problem among kids right now. This is why we included these safety rules.

  1. If someone tries to show you bad pictures or videos, look away. Remember to turn, run, and tell.
  2. If you ever see a bad picture or video, never show it to another child. There is research that shows that this is exactly what kids do. They show it to another child. This is rampant. When I first saw a pornographic magazine, who did I show? My little sister! So this is the most common thing for little kids to do. They need to be taught, outright, and specifically, never to show a bad picture to another child. 
  3. They should never let someone take a picture of them without their clothes on. If someone ever tries that, they should tell their mom or dad or a trusted adult.
  4. Never take pictures or videos of yourself without clothes on. Kids these days are unfortunately producing pornography. They are producing child pornography.
  5. If you see a bad picture or video and it keeps popping up in your mind, go and tell mom or dad or a trusted adult; say, “I need your help to make the bad picture go away.” We have specific instructions in the back of the book on how to help children minimize those shocking memories of exposure to pornography.

Last fall I was invited to testify at a Washington State Senate Law and Justice Committee about the public health threat of pornography. With me was Mike Edwards who is the specialist on internet crimes against children for Washington state. He gave a lot of grim statistics. Then he told a story about a video they have of an 8-year-old boy who made this video of himself having sex with a 4-year-old. He put this video on the internet. Kids are doing this and it’s in greater and greater numbers. If we don’t want our kids to fall victim, we need to teach them.

Anne: Like I said before, I use this in my home and it is so helpful. For my listeners, Christmas is coming up and I want to tell you a funny story. The Porn Kills Love t-shirt from Fight the New Drug came out awhile ago. I bought one for my then husband who was “in recovery” and he wore it on Christmas. His family told him I had ruined Christmas! 

I would like all of you to go to our books page and purchase the books right now. Begin talking about it with your kids. If you’d like to ruin Christmas, give it to someone for Christmas!!

Kristen: The first year we sold Good Pictures Bad Pictures I thought there would be no sales during Christmas. The absolute opposite happened. Our sales went way up! And then I started hearing how people were buying them as gifts! What better gift than to provide the gift of protection from something so destructive. I think it makes perfect sense.

Anne: So this is my goal: everyone get the books and a Porn Kills Love tshirt and wear it on Christmas! Let’s start a revolution! We’re going to take back Christmas!

So Kristen, besides your books, what other resources have you created to help parents?

How To Help Protect Children In Your Community From Pornography

Kristen: we have lots on our website We have three free guides. One is a quick start guide to begin giving people an overall foundation of information. We then have the smart parents’ guide which is for those whose children have already seen pornography or for proactive parents who want to prepare for the eventuality; it helps parents face this without shame and freaking out; it helps them to know what questions to ask their child. It is very helpful in this regard.

Then we have a kit for people who want to take this to their community. We have an outline of a presentation to do your own presentation in your community or school or church. We are trying to help everyone in every situation, all parents who want to help their children. Whenever we do a blog, we usually have some kind of free download, whether it’s a series of questions or conversation starters, questions to ask a school administrator or a principle about how safe the school is; what have they done to protect kids from porn exposure; have they trained kids about what to do if they see pornography on the school computer or school grounds?

Anne: So for our listeners who are interested in getting more assistance, Coach Rae runs a group called How Do I Protect & Heal My Children?

Coach Rae and Lori Rubinstein, a child advocacy expert, will be speaking. Please register! Also, Coach Sarah is very good about coaching women about how to talk to their children about their dad’s pornography addiction and some of the things that happen around that….such as if police have been involved, criminal action, etc….Coach Sara is really good about helping you navigate helping your children in these situations.

I am so grateful you are here today and that you wrote these books, Kristen. Again, if you are interested in purchasing these books you can buy them on Amazon. They are Good Pictures Bad Pictures and Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. or you can go directly to to get more infomration. Remember we have this giveaway on Instagram. Go to @betrayalrecovery and tag your friends who have children and we will announce the winners through a private message!

Thanks for being here today, Kristen.

Schedule a support call with one of our trained APSAT coaches, trained by the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists; they also understand emotional abuse and can help you navigate your husband’s emotional abuse…or the abuse from your ex-husband. Many women are still being abused by their ex. 

If this podcast is helpful to you, please rate it on iTunes. Each rating increases our visibility on search engines and helps women who are isolated and who need help to find us. Until next week, stay safe out there!

How Do We Trust God, When Everything We Believed Was Fake?

Lisa Taylor is here with us today. Lisa is a pastoral sexual addiction specialist and a post-grad counseling student living in New Zealand. She has spent the last several years counseling and supporting women whose lives, like our own, have been impacted by husbands with sex addiction, sex offending, or sexual integrity issues. Her books on this topic include Beyond Betrayal, Beyond Betrayal Couple’s Guide and There’s What On My Phone? – a fictional story for youth who struggle.

She also runs an online community blog for partners at Welcome, Lisa.

Lisa: Thank you, Anne.

Women Who Are Betrayed Have Every Right To Question God

Anne: Lisa, you did a survey a couple of years ago on the topic of spiritual crisis in the lives of partners of sex addicts. Can you tell us about that?

Lisa: A couple of years ago when I was still working on Beyond Betrayal, it struck me that this was an important topic to get some information about to include in the book and at the same time Marsha Means who runs The Circle of Joy was interested in starting groups for people who are struggling with this aspect of the journey. We got together and asked what we all wanted to know and put together some questions, then we sent it out to Marsha’s mailing list and we had over 100 women get back to us and share their stories with us.

Anne: I bet you had a lot of pain that came back to you.

Lisa: Absolutely, a lot of incredible stories.

Anne: What was your particular interest in the topic?

Lisa: I guess the reason why I really felt like I wanted to include something about this in the book was because I had experienced this; I had a background since I was a little kid. Those who know me a little bit more know I am in my second marriage right now to a man who is recovering from his porn addiction.

My first marriage didn’t make it. And particularly as that first marriage was falling apart, I was very active in my local church. I hid a lot of abuse and went through a deep spiritual crisis that would last for years. I really questioned if God could still love me because I was being rejected by the church for making a stand and walking away from this poisonous relationship with a man who was not willing to get help for his sex addiction. He wasn’t even willing to stop lying. I really felt this was some of the lowest points in my life. I think having my faith pulled out from underneath me was part of why this was such a low, low time for me. I really felt that had there been support, had there been people talking about this, perhaps I wouldn’t have hit such a low point, perhaps it would have been an easier journey.

Anne: When you say you hid abuse, do you mean that you were abused by the church?

Lisa: Yes, unfortunately. Mine is one of many, many stories; they are all slightly different but a similar thread runs through all of them: somehow, it’s not the man’s fault, it’s the woman’s. If she decides to set a strong boundary that she is leaving if he does not get help….I got threatening letters form a pastor throughout the 4-5 years I was single, living as a solo mom in a different city with a full-time job. Eventually this resulted in a death threat. It was interesting because my mother, who also had to leave my father due to his infidelity, went through almost exactly the same thing. She got threatening phone calls and ultimately a death threat as well. I was really blessed that I had learned from her how to stand up to some spiritual abuse. She ended up bringing in the authorities over that. I basically had to stand up to this particular pastor who had been sending me these emails and said the same thing. I told him that if I continued to hear from him, I would bring in the authorities and share his letters with them because what he was doing was actually criminal.

Anne: My experience with my particular church leader was that he was in so far over his head he did not understand what was going on. Instead of referring out to adult protective services, he took it upon himself to play the “he said, she said…how do I decide who’s telling the truth?” When that happens, because sex addiction and lying are not a communication issue–they are an addiction issue, an abuse issue–it sets the woman up for more abuse by her church or church leaders.

In your survey, what did it reveal about spiritual crisis in partners of sex addicts?

Lisa: What is revealed was that over the 100 women who answered, more than 63% felt they had gone through a significant spiritual crisis as part of their journey–usually pretty close around their time of discovery. The only thing surprising about this to those of us behind the survey was that the number was this low. It was interesting to watch the women answering the questions. Some of them started out saying they didn’t go through spiritual crisis but as they continued to answer the questions, by the end where there was an open comment field, they wrote that they had not thought they had gone through a spiritual crisis but that they could then see that perhaps they actually did. This makes me realize that sometimes the types of trauma a woman is facing–including numbness–can be so overwhelming that they may not even realize they are having a crisis of faith, that their larger spiritual framework has become shaky in this. That was quite interesting just on its own. 

What we were also hearing was that for some women, the spiritual crisis centered around their broader belief in God, a Higher Power, but for a lot it was around the church and others who share their faith. For some women, it was both. When we looked at the women who were really feeling distrustful of God or their Higher Power, they felt they were “being duped” by Him. They talked of feelings of injustice–they had been solid, faithful women in their faith community and why would something like this happen to them? They had been solid and faithful in their marriage, why would something like this happen to them; it wasn’t fair. There were also women who talked about feelings of rejection from God or judgment. Some talked about feeling abandoned by God. A lot of them were experiencing similar things in the church–rejection at church and in their faith community, abandonment, and sometimes outright persecution…similar to my story and that of many women.

Anne: It is so sad, especially because the women are in so much pain and they want to go to their faith to feel comforted and understood. They have been rejected by their spouse and then they feel like they are rejected by God or their faith community so it feels so alone and so isolated and “who will help me?” It feels terrible. 

Did you notice if there was any particular type of partner?

Lisa: Yes. What came up in our results was that the more deeply a woman was involved in her faith community, particularly if she was like the spouse of the head of the community or was involved in some kind of ministering within the community, the more she felt it, particularly those wives of leadership; they really had their world rocked. We can only guess as to why this is. I have talked to a number of them about this and in examining their results to us, I would say that so much more of their world leans heavily on the acceptance of their faith community and a certain type of image. They had so much more to lose I guess from their husband’s story coming out. Most of them that I have dealt with over the years have to keep a high level of anonymity because of the fear of loss of their world if the issue should be discovered.

Another type of wife or partner who was likely to be hugely impacted were wives who had had a difficult past and had come to faith as adults. Often for these people their understanding of the world was that they had suffered a lot in their relationships in the past because they didn’t have faith and the faith community. They often think “Now I have this relationship and I’ve met a man who has this relationship so now we are going to have the ideal marriage.” When they find out that their ideal Christian husband or husband of their faith is actually struggling just as much as any guy they have dated previously or were married to, it really causes a crisis because they had a false understanding about what it would be like with someone who had faith. This is not to imply that they were naive or anything like that because churches teach that these kinds of problems don’t happen–it’s not implicitly stated but it is implied. So it’s really not a wonder how people that belong to a faith community don’t understand that this actually isn’t the case.

Another type of wife or partner who struggled a lot were those who had been spiritually abused or persecuted by the church–which we kind of already talked about–but the other was wives whose husbands had been very spiritually abusive to them over the course of the marriage. This is sadly all too common with sex addicts.

Anne: I had this sense that if I obeyed the commandments, if I was doing the best I could, if I was repenting and forgiving, if I was loving…then I would be blessed. Then I realized that all of my forgiving and loving and serving was actually enabling my husband’s abuse and that I was never taught to set boundaries and that basically my religion had let me down; I had said over and over that we don’t accept abuse and a person shouldn’t stand for it, but at the same time in the actual everyday practical living, it wasn’t brought up. I wasn’t taught how to set boundaries. I felt like God let me down, my community let me down because they didn’t prepare me for this situation. Then when I did bring it up and say this was the situation, they didn’t believe me and brought out love, forgiveness, and service instead of boundaries. It felt like they were all on the wrong side–that they were standing up and enabling an abuser.

Lisa: This is an oversimplification that we often see in churches where we want to apply a formula to a problem instead of actually looking at the specific ins and outs of this problem. Sometimes I summarize what you are talking about as “grace to him and nuts to you…we’ll apply the grace formula; you just need to forgive more and it will all be solved.” This is not true. We were talking earlier about your pastor being way in over his head. For those who like the “formula-like approach,” they are in over their heads very quickly. They do not understand that along with addiction comes a lot of lying, a lot of minimalized, rationalized, justified blame–it’s called addictive thinking; a lot of them aren’t aware of this. So they are going with a basic formula. A lot of the basic formula for faith communities is that we stand up for men and blame woman. Most of them would never think of it in this type of terms, but if you watch the pattern and the history of it and you have to side with one or the other, you side with the man. There may be others who disagree with me and I’m sure there are churches that this is the exception; I’ve seen some of the churches who are the exception to this and I’m thankful for them. But sadly a lot of them have a blame-women mentality. This is what I saw in my circumstances too. The boys all got together and wanted to believe what my first husband said. There were few people who asked me what my side of the story was. He was a pathological liar.

Anne: And even if they did ask you what your side of the story is, they tend to look at it as, “His side and her side and the truth is somewhere in between” rather than seeing it as the riddle of the knights and the knaves where the knights always tell the truth and the knaves always lie. So how can you determine who is a knight and who is a knave? This is the riddle of an addict and his wife. They are seeing it as the truth is somewhere in the middle when really there is someone telling the truth and there is a pathological liar. You need to believe the woman in this situation. She is telling you the truth and he is trying to manipulate and manage his image.

I tell people this and they tell me it’s too simple. Actually, it can be this simple, depending on the situation.

Lisa: It can. Sometimes it’s not but the reality is it can be really difficult for a woman to talk about these things. We are often not exaggerating. We are often holding some of our evidence back. Some of the stuff that is going on in our bedrooms and what we are seeing we’re not really keen to go talk to our pastor about it. I have this from other women too. Sometimes the evidence we are gathering is abuse in the bedroom or it’s neglect in the bedroom at a high order…funky stuff we have difficulty explaining which is clueing us into the fact that this guy is not who he says he is…there is something wrong. I’m sure there is someone who may be putting out there a perception that’s being jaded by anger, especially after she has had a gospel of abuse though. There is a lot more truth in what she is saying. She doesn’t have the impetus to lie and hide that he does.

Anne: I agree with you that if anything, she is holding it back. The interesting thing is that we constantly get accused of exaggerating…then we try to prove we aren’t and we look more and more crazy…it’s a downward spiral.

Lisa: It’s part of the factor that’s making this so difficult for women in a faith community situation. Her trauma symptoms are making her look really crazy whereas the husband has worked really, really hard to maintain a smooth image. We should be saying, “Wow, the level of emotion she is exhibiting proves the veracity of her statements. We should actually give credence to what she is saying…and his ‘too smooth’ should be getting picked up on people’s radar as ‘hang on, this alone should be a que that he is not being genuine or authentic with us.'” But people don’t catch this…they see it as opposite.

Anne: Rather than seeing it as genuine distress they see it as “she’s just crazy.”

Lisa: I think where sex addiction has gone to in even the last decade–where pornography has gone in the last decade–is so horrific that if people have not sat and considered the ways people can go off the rails sexually, it can really seem like, “Surely it’s not that bad. Surely he’s really not doing that. Surely it’s not as awful as you’re saying.” But it is. There are researchers and experts who will tell you it is that bad. It’s horrific.

Anne: Yes. Just as a podcaster I know because I hear these stories every day from women all over the world, as I’m sure you do too. 

Lisa: In terms of talking about woman being spiritually abused or persecuted by their church, and I’m sure between the two of us we could list dozens of stories, even just this morning I received an email form a woman thanking me for talking about the spiritual abuse issue on my website; she told me a little about her story which included when her husband’s infidelity was found out by the church, they began policing her sex life, telling her she needed to make herself more available and started actually asking questions on a regular basis about her availability. She said she began having sex with her husband because of pressure from the church. She began to hate sex. The good thing in their story was that both she and her husband began to see this as completely poisonous and that it was bringing up other problems in their marriage; they left the fake unity. The sad reality is that sometimes there is no answer to leaving the abuse outside of leaving a particular faith community. Some people leave all faith communities for a time due to this. I think this is understandable and I never criticize people of doing what they think they need to do to protect themselves.

Anne: You mentioned the survey also looked at spiritual growth. What did it show about this?

Lisa: The happy side of the story is that so many of these women–79%–said that through this journey of discovering their husband’s sex addiction or porn addiction, walking through the crisis, that they came to a stronger place in their faith as part of their journey. For a small percentage, this was instant. They “flopped” into God’s arms for comfort. One woman said this had always been her safe place and so she went there immediately. But for more women, it was part of coming through the spiritual crisis that led them to a strengthened faith. Others talked about having a qualitatively better relationship with God–they had always had some sort of relationship and now it was much stronger (I would say this was my experience as well, particularly in my second marriage; I had always had a relationship but now I feel like I get him in a deeper level, a much more “life giving” relationship, having gone through seven years of walking through this.)

Anne: I would be interested to know how women are reconnecting with God.

Lisa: For me it was my prayer time, my mediation time. I have heard from other women that it has been joining a support group and seeing other women’s faith and how it has strengthened them; and really loving them in a non-pressuring way, bringing them back to maybe a faith they had in childhood and they begin to reconnect with their faith and with God. Discipline as well–doing the 12 Steps; this can be an awesome way to learn to think again and re-engage your Higher Power, reconnect with God. There are different ways this happens, but the results are often the same where they are more at peace and feel stronger and feel more loved and supported.

Anne: Any thoughts on how or why women come to a place of spiritual growth as a result of betrayal?

Lisa: My faith is a Christian faith. The Bible talks about this idea that trials in general are going to grow us, to mature us. I think there is a little bit that abuse in the church causes us to rethink our faith. One of the survey respondents said they began to question everything they thought they had known about God. I think we really do. We start to look at it and wonder what in their beliefs is really core and important and feels fundamentally true; what is just baggage? For example, “We don’t have boundaries.” Or fundamental things about the nature of God and we begin to think more carefully about.

The nature of God itself is an enormous issue and people don’t often realize they are carrying contradictory pictures of God around with them; he is complex and mysterious. I don’t think we have to wheedle him down to something that fits in our pocket and say, “This is my pocket God.” But at the same time, He wants to show us his goodness to women at the time of their suffering. He talks about this in the Bible. His thoughts and His heart are so towards the suffering, the marginalized, the widows and the orphans–he wants justice for the widows and the orphans. I think we have a generation of porn widows and sex addiction orphans out there that God is so for and He wants to see them treated well; he wants justice for them; he wants to see them lifted up. I would like to see the church understand God’s heart in this and sometimes they are not.

The third other thing I see in this survey as a result is woman like myself who idolize marriage. This is something I probably learned in childhood. This fell by the wayside as part of this journey. Sadly, it took me two times before I was able to get this one to fall by the wayside. But in my second marriage to a porn addict I realize that marriage was never going to fulfill all of my great longings for love and relationship. This is something I could only find in God. For me, this was a big part of my spiritual growth. I’ve heard this from a number of other women as well.

Anne: Speaking of justice for the widows. I did a podcast episode about Luke 18 and the parable of the unjust judge and how the widow is asking him to avenge her and he says to go away…and in the end he realizes he knows a way to have her go away—“I’ll put it back on God” and tells her that God will avenge her in His right time. Then the judge doesn’t actually do anything. This parable explains perfectly that what the porn widows want is justice. They want their husbands to be held accountable by God and by the church for the abuse and infidelity.

I did my own informal survey and found that when this happens, the wife feels more supported. If there is accountability and the church holds the husband accountable for the abuse and infidelity, the wife feels supported and that yes, her faith does put their money where their mouth is; they preach these things and then take action to make sure that people are protected. So in stories where the church leader hears about the abuse and calls the authorities, the women feel better than when the church leader hears about the abuse and does not call the authorities, for example.

Lisa: The church could be helping with this spiritual crisis. They could be helping catapult women into the spiritual growth and circumvent the whole spiritual crisis situation if they were willing to get God’s heart faster and to do these things. I’m so glad you did that survey and are talking about this. I was thinking about writing this up myself because I see it as a theme among women; again and again I hear women feeling guilty for wanting justice…like they are doing wrong. I tell them this is coming from a healthy place in them. This is coming from God’s heart because he wants justice for you too.

Anne: In my faith tradition, one of our early leaders who is in a really bad spot asks, “God, where are you?” Many people who read about this think, “He was so patient. He was waiting for God”…and then there is a verse where he actually asks for justice from God. He asks God to avenge his adversaries. It’s interesting that this part is glossed over a lot. Here is someone who is an amazing leader in our church, whom everyone adores and reveres as a strong spiritual person ,and there he is asking for justice. What’s wrong with us asking for justice?

Lisa: A very similar story we often quote, I think it’s Isaiah 63, is where the Messiah is there is bind up the broken heart and release the captive. We all stop there and forget that Christ is going to declare the day of vengeance on our enemies. We forget that part of healing is actually for there to be some justice against those who have wronged the broken-hearted, the prisoner; God hasn’t forgotten that. He puts it right in there but we gloss over it because it can be uncomfortable.

Anne: It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I know some women who have seen that sort of justice take place in their husband or ex-husband. I have not personally observed this. Maybe someday; maybe in the next life.

As you’ve written your amazing book Beyond Betrayal and you’ve talked with women all over the world, what would you say to a woman who says she is in a spiritual crisis on account of her husband’s sex addiction?

Lisa: I would say it is so normal. Often she will feel like she is the only person who is shaking my fist at God. Not a chance. This is so normal. The majority of women are going to go through some sort of crisis like this. Please do not be ashamed of it. If you feel like you need to go outside and shake your fist at God and throw something at the sky and scream at him, do it! Do not be concerned about committing some sort of unforgivable sin or heresy because God is big enough. I think if a woman is keeping the lines of communication going, this is amazing. Keep it going even if it feels like there is nothing to say to God or no nice way to say it. Do it anyway because he is a good Father and a good parent can take this stuff. He knows how you are feeling. He loves you and He wants you to just pour out the poison to him. This is what you would be doing.

Anne: This reminds me of the 7th step which is prayer: I’m ready God for you to have all of me, the good and the bad. I’m willing now to let you see me in this vulnerable state rather than the “what I want or what my dreams or my hopes are;” I’m willing for you to see me as a broken person in despair.

Lisa: Maybe this is another part of the spiritual growth “is that we hit new levels of vulnerability with God and we find that we are still accepted, still loved….” I really did sense God’s love for me in the midst of my angriest days and the days I was shunned.

Anne: I went through about a 9-12 month drought where I could not feel God at all. It was frustrating because I was praying and reading my scriptures and I just felt trauma and sadness and horror; it felt like the jaws of hell were gaping after me. I spent a lot of time at church crying in the bathroom stall. I continued to pray and I continued to study my scriptures and eventually the fog lifted and now I feel his love every day. I worry because I know how awful it feels to be in that place where you pray and you can’t feel anything. So many women have told me this where they have said they have tried the prayers and scriptures and they don’t get answers so they give up. This makes sense to me. If I were that person I would probably give up to. And then I realize that I was that person for 9 months. I think I had so many spiritual experiences from before that time to draw upon during the drought that I just knew it would eventually work, even though I couldn’t feel it then. 

Lisa: Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a place of comfort.

Anne: So I had my group and very good friends and family. I had support and I was able to express how I was feeling and they were amazing. Instead of saying that I should forgive and I would feel better, they said what I was feeling made sense. When a person gets the platitudes of “forgive and you’ll feel better” the trauma is so intense that forgiveness isn’t even on the table at that point.

Lisa: Absolutely not. Surviving is on the table. And God gives that. In my personal interactions with God I felt no pressure to forgive; I just felt to survive it with him. In time forgiveness came up as something that made sense and I was ready for it. It was months down the road.

Anne: Actually, I did feel God. I just didn’t feel comforted. I felt Him and he gave me an answer consistently for 9 months–wait. I didn’t like that answer and I felt uncomfortable about it so I was mad and not comforted. I think this is a better way to describe it. So I was communicating with God and He was communicating with me and He was telling me to wait, be still. But I thought that wasn’t a solution! I think this is why I didn’t feel comforted. This was in between when my husband was arrested and he moved out of our home and he did nothing to get back into the home and 9 months later when he filed for divorce. During those 9 months of literally waiting, holding a no-contact boundary, waiting for him to do something to indicate that he was in recovery or maybe he understood what was happening, God said, “Wait.” It was the most uncomfortable, difficult, long, harrowing, awful 9 months where I could not feel comforted even though I would try and try. My sponsor finally said that what I really needed was a soft blanket and pillow and to climb into my closet and cry and see if that would help me to feel comfort. We got to the point where we were wondering if a teddy bear would help me! Now I’m feeling fantastic and I am so grateful to God for giving me the answer to wait and for helping me to know what no contact meant. He is the one that set the no contact boundary; the night my husband got arrested I had no idea this was going to happen…so I can see God’s hand in my life but only in hindsight. I couldn’t see it when I was in it during the moment.

Lisa: And in the moment what we sometimes need is a community that lifts us up; a community who says they will weep when someone is weeping. I’m not going to preach to you like Job’s friends. I’m going to sit here quietly with you and share your pain. This is one of my main messages to the church these days. You don’t understand if you’ve not been there. And that’s ok as long as you’re willing to keep your advice to yourself for now and sit and share the pain and pray for her and hold her up and ask how you can help. This is going to help them get out of their spiritual crisis. It’s one of the best things you can do. It’s such a hard journey.

Anne: Lisa, thank you so much for being here today. It is such an honor. I have had so many women say that Beyond Betrayal was the book that really helped them.

Lisa: Thank you. It is an honor to be invited to speak with you and to get to know you better. I’m so excited about what BTR is doing. I’m talking about it to everyone. You and your team, keep up the awesome work!

Anne: Thank you. This podcast is brought to you by your donations. Betrayal Trauma Recovery is a non-profit. Please donate today. Until next time, stay safe out there!