How To Get The Best Support Through The Holidays

Before we begin the podcast today, it is Giving Tuesday. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. We do have a goal of raising $5000 by the end of today. Please go to to help us reach this goal. Please mark your donation as recurring to support this podcast.

I’m so grateful to have one of our clients here today. Her name is Elsie. She found Betrayal Trauma Recovery and has been listening to the podcast and using our services. Welcome Elsie.

Elsie: Thank you for having me.

Marriage Before Discovering My Husband’s Pornography Use

Anne: What was your marriage like before you found out about your husband’s lying and emotional abuse and compulsive sexual behaviors?

Elsie: We got along well. He was egotistical but he was fun-loving and generally polite. He did have some anger issues–at least that’s what I thought it was. If I was to describe my marriage from the beginning in one word, it would be sexless. Because we were older, I think sex was not as much a priority for me as it may have been for someone younger but I did miss it. He didn’t seem to, however. After a certain period of “starvation,” I would mention it to him, he would defend himself, offer reasons for why it didn’t happen, and then make a half-hearted advance which usually left me feeling a little like a beggar. There was no initiation towards me. There was usually compliance if I said something about it, but there was no initiation towards me. After a while, it hurt a lot. I gained a lot of weight and became depressed. I didn’t know what was going on. I had no idea.

Anne: How old are you?

Elsie: 56.

Anne: When did you get married?

Elsie: 8 years ago but we were together for 10. I was around 45 when I met him and we married about 2 1/2 years later.

Anne: Was this your first marriage?

Elsie: No. We were not believers in God at the time. There was a conversion experience that came as this all happened. He suggested to me that we start going to church when I began to discover things. I went down this path and it was the best path I could have taken to help me deal with everything coming my way.

I Thought His Porn Use Was Casual, Occasional And No Big Deal

Anne: How did you find out about what was going on?

Elsie: The first time I discovered something was quite by chance. I was moved to pick up his IPod and look at it–which I never did. I had total trust in him. But something moved me to look at his IPod and I discovered he was looking on Craigslist at the personals. I questioned him about it and he said it was free pornography. I remember telling him that this was close to home because it was a city about 30 minutes away. I asked him why he didn’t look in Ontario, Canada.

Anne: So at the time, did you not think pornography was a bad thing?

Elsie: I looked at it as a casual-use and occasional thing for him and that it was no big deal. It made me uneasy; remember I was living in a virtually sexless marriage and he’s looking at this…but I had no knowledge of anything that I know now. I wrote it off and eventually I was moved again. He had gone to take a shower and something moved me to pick up his phone. I went to the all-male section on his phone and found his ad–the ad he had placed. This was the start of the ball rolling. I discovered he had actually linked up with someone. This was the first real element of infidelity that I found. It was the first of a lot. I was very disturbed by it. Something prompted me to go to Craigslist and plug in the email address and see if I could access the account he had. I did and discovered he had been on it for 14 months. He was off shore–home a month and gone on the rig for a month–and he had posted 148 postings in all the various cities he had been in. It was shocking to say the least. I contacted him about it and he was immediately defensive but the defenses began to build from the time I made my first discovery in September. This was my first step forward in me becoming the enemy.

Anne: I love that–there is no way you could get around his perception that you were the enemy. That’s really good.

My Husband Viewed Me As The Enemy

Elsie: There’s no question about it. I was. I was the one that had cracked the shell of secrecy. When I found his posting, I became a pretty determined bulldog in what I sunk my teeth into! I wasn’t going to let go until I got some answers! I had been advised by Christian people to let it go, to forgive him…and like I have said to you, I believe a lot of this was God-led, for my safety and probably for the sole purpose of just disclosing it and getting it in the open…bringing to light what was happening.

Anne:…because God loves you, right?

Elsie: Yes, ma’am, he does and he showed that through this traumatic experience, over and over again.

I Sought Out The Wrong Counselors, Untrained To Help With Sex Addiction

Anne: You mentioned a few things that were not super helpful like Christian people who mentioned forgiveness or sweeping it under the rug. Can you talk more about the things you tried or where you turned for help?

Elsie: I immediately sought out counseling. A counselor looked at me and said that what I was seeing was the tip of the ice berg. That resonated with me. He went on to some brash and harsh language and I immediately knew he was the wrong guy. So I sought out another counselor and found one. She basically took a bad situation and made it worse. she diagnosed him with PTSD, offered no counseling for me, on any level; every focus was towards him. I was not treating him properly, I needed to understand that he wasn’t well because he had PTSD…essentially counseling wise, I was abandoned. I continued and over the course of time, in 2014, I sought out a local church, contacted the pastor, met with him and explained my circumstances, and he vowed to do all he could. Of course, that didn’t help. I found that even he began to be bitter towards me because I was obviously “not forgiving” enough. This is a lot of what was called for–to be forgiving. I was never allowed to express anger. That would have been inappropriate. No one had any real answer at this point. I did eventually find a Christian counselor. We both went in individually and then together and it was some form of marriage counseling. She was ill-equipped, albeit a very good counselor, and she referred him over to someone else but the behaviors didn’t stop and one relapse led to the termination of his job and we couldn’t afford the counselors anymore. So it stopped and not long after that, I left for 3 months and I got a call from him one day saying he really wanted help. We got back together and met with a minister who began giving us spiritual counseling. I saw some change in my spouse. He seemed to be reaching towards God and it was the only change I saw. It lasted about 6 weeks. He saw a medical doctor who sought to help him with medication. This destroyed the peace that he had found–even though it was brief peace. The doctor treated him for low testosterone using a synthetic steroid or hormone. This was injectable toxicity when it comes to a sex addict!

Anne: So the doctor begins to inject him with testosterone and things get worse.

Elsie: He gave it to him to go home and do it himself.

Anne: If I had to guess, and I’m not a therapist, this is a two-fold issue here: a doctor is telling him that this isn’t a mental problem to work on and that all he needs to do is use a testosterone injection and it will solve his problem. So there is this mental shift and then there is the actual testosterone in his body. I’ve found that anything anyone suggests–no matter how small–to give them an excuse for their abusive behaviors removes the pressure from them to change and keeps them in the abuse cycle and the mental state of narcissism–or whatever the sexual mess of chaos they have going on in their brain. Any suggestion of it being something else if they are not in recovery can get them off track because they think they don’t have to be accountable for their behaviors.

Being Blamed For His Sex Addiction

Elsie: And he was not. In my opinion, any PTSD he was suffering from stemmed directly from my reaction to the discoveries! He was traumatized at being “outed” because he didn’t show any other signs of trauma; although serious childhood trauma that began years and years earlier, at a time in his life when it was well out of his control, play in. However, the general attitude was not one of recovery. It was “you’re the problem. Stop badgering me. Just be happy where you are.” And of course the constant promises that he wasn’t doing it anymore of course were not true. Until I found BTR, no one out there validated my experiences in any of this. Any time we sought help elsewhere, all help focused on him. Any focus on me said, “You’re making it worse.” I felt blamed in some ways. I was already being blamed by him.

Anne: Right. And then the help you sought out was also traumatizing. So how did you find BTR?

How I Found Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Elsie: This is very interesting. Let me preface it by saying that over the summer I took a course in Biblical human sexuality. During that time, I realized how very much I missed intimacy…gentle touch, kissing, flirtation, romance, and sex. And the class I followed this up with was a class on shepherding women in pain. Then I really began to recognize the abuse–this was just pure abuse.

So, I’ve had these classes back to back, hours and hours of crying, still no one to validate anything, and I cried out, “God, where are you in all this pain.” Tears were rolling down my face, snot bubbles, the whole shebang! I went into my room and got on my knees and begged God to bring me some relief. I know He was with me that night even though I didn’t feel it at the time. I was too emotionally distraught. Eventually I fell asleep. I woke up the next morning feeling remarkably refreshed, went to my computer, went to Covenant Eyes for some reason, and someone posting on a forum on there commented about BTR for women.

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I clicked on it and the rest is history! BTR was a God-send to me. This is to me, in my opinion, God’s answer to “Where are you in all this pain?” He brought me to BTR which has really helped a lot in making sense of what I have been dealing with.

There Is Validation For Us At BTR

Anne: This is why I started BTR–to make sense of what I was dealing with! I prayed and prayed to know what to do…should I let my husband back into the house, start talking to him, or do I file for divorce…I didn’t know. God’s answer to me was, “Start a podcast.” I was incredulous!

Elsie: And I am so glad! I’m glad God did that. If he had not, he would not have prompted me to come to you. It is a God-send. BTR gives women an opportunity to be validated. If I was to summarize it all in one word, there is validation for us through BTR.

Anne: I think it’s what God wants and needs us to hear: that we are not the problem and that he loves us and that all the blame and gas lighting and everything we have experienced made us question our worth; I think God wants us to know we are enough and He loves us.

How Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club Meets My Needs

So, Elsie, you joined Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club. How did it meet your needs more than any of the options you had tried before?

Elsie: I had never done any kind of group prior to beginning a BTR group. I don’t have anything else to compare it to but I think the BTR groups stand quite well on their own merits. They give support, feedback, and are run by APSATS trained coaches. Coach Rae is excellent. If you want to listen, you can; there is no pressure. The ladies, as well as the coach who has had her own experience, understood my plight. They understood the exact predicament that I was in. They offered tremendous support. It helps to know you are not alone and that there are other people out there who have sorted through it–like the coach–and others who are sorting through it and sharing ideas. If you throw something out there, someone will give you a little feedback on it and maybe expound on it a little further. This is excellent for those of us who need connection with others, who need validation…BTR offers this.

Anne: Women are trying to figure it out. They are working hard. They read books, are learning, and seeking out therapy. Unless someone who has been through it before and really understands it can help give them the words to say, it’s hard to describe exactly what is happening. It’s so liberating to hear someone else say the thing you were trying to figure out…and then you realize that is what you have been trying to say; you just didn’t have the words to say before now.

Reactive Abuse During Betrayal Trauma

Elsie: Yes! You are right. Remember that at this point I had been studying for several years now and nowhere that I had studied was this ever really expounded upon. I had never heard the term “reactive abuse” until Coach Rae brought it to me. I was often accused by my spouse of being very damaging to him and lashing out after the constant onslaught of anger towards me or if I tried to communicate with him I was belittled or shut down; he would just get up and disengage or yell at me or break things…a wide variety of totally negative behaviors. Then in time I would lash back and all the fingers would be pointing at me because now I had bruised the narcissist and was now the “bad guy.” I didn’t know that it was reactive abuse until one of the BTR coaches, Coach Rae, defined it for me. She connected me with literature that defined it very clearly. I realized that it was wrong–that I needed to stop being reactive and be more proactive in my healing.

Trying To Make Him Love Me Wouldn’t Ever Result In Feeling Loved

Anne: I think I did the same thing. All the ways that I really nit-picked him about cutting the tomatoes or his bonsai tree, or whatever it was…I think about those times and I would say to him then, “I just don’t feel loved right now.” He told me flat out: “I don’t love you. I love the kids more than you.” Or, “I can’t love you because you’re terrible.” I just didn’t feel secure enough. I think I was getting to this point where I was so irritable about little things. I’ve learned now that trying to make him love me wasn’t ever going to result in me feeling loved. I needed to set boundaries around that. This is how I could feel secure. At the time, that was all I knew how to do. I can see now how unhealthy it was but back then. I felt like I was grasping for reassurance and security in the strangest ways. It’s kind of embarrassing to think back on it!

Elsie: Do not be embarrassed! We grasp for any number of things to try to make sense of what we are experiencing. I lost 80 pounds and underwent plastic surgery. So, talk about drastic! I was 232 pounds at 5’11”. I went down to 153 pounds–my high school weight. My children were worried about me! I elected to have facial plastic surgery so I would look better. I worried about my aging…it was crazy…all the while believing that God wanted to heal our marriage. I still believe God wants to heal marriages but when it comes down to it, God heals the individuals as they draw more towards Him, and subsequently find the marriage healing. God does not place the institution of marriage above humans, in my opinion.

Individual Healing Before Marriage Healing In Sex Addiction

Anne: And there’s no way the marriage can heal without the individual being healed because abuse and pornography use are not marriage issues. They aren’t communication issues. They are abuse issues. Two people cannot resolve abuse. It has to be 100% the abuser taking accountability and making amends for his actions as well as seeking a change of heart. There just isn’t any other way around it. There isn’t any way to love and forgive and serve an abuser out of abusing you. It doesn’t work this way, unfortunately. I think we would like it to be this way because then we would have a little more control. I think all of us have tried the route of loving, serving, etc…, more.

Finding Help To Make Sense Of The Betrayal  

Returning back to your experience with BTR, before we close today, is there anything you would like to share with our listeners about your experience with Betrayal Trauma Recovery?

Elsie: Yes. I would like to say that this is not something that a woman can do alone. You have to have a community of women who understand what you are going through, what your experiences are, who, through your experiences and training can validate you and help you to make sense of this. My Christian counselor had encouraged me to get into a community–which I could not find, by the way. There were none in my local community. There wasn’t anything around me. When I found BTR and went to the Facebook page first, I discovered numerous women who were having the same experience I was having…some having separated and moved on, some fully healed, some in the process of healing, some just starting out…But collectively there is a unified understanding that fit. It fit my circumstances. It gave me a place to go where I knew whatever I would say concerning these circumstances would be well received and understood because the women in the group were experiencing the same things. I was amazed at how similar our stories were even though the specifics were different; the underlying abuse and gas lighting were very similar. I found a sisterhood in the women in BTR. I really like Coach Rae. She is the one I speak to. I bring my head into the conversation but she gives me another head to help sound off ideas. Two heads are better than one! I really, really like her. The Facebook group is there all the time–24/7. You can express your thoughts and opinions in a post–even if it’s 3 am and no one responds back right then. When you wake up in the morning, someone has stepped forward to say they are praying for you or they understand your pain or are validating it with a similar experience. It’s made a difference to me.

Free Betrayal Trauma Recovery Facebook Group

Anne: I’m so glad to hear that. When I began BTR, I wanted to provide women with all the things we haven’t had. I wanted to make it available all on-line so that women anywhere could find it. There are some women who are lucky enough to find an amazing therapist or some type of support group in their area. But there are more of us who have tried and tried and tried and been unable to find that community that we need.

Elsie just talked about our free Facebook group. It is not moderated by our couches but it is moderated by women who are in recovery. They help to moderate the group to make sure it’s safe. If you want to join this free group, go to and scroll down and enter your email. You will get a return email with instructions about how to join the free Facebook group. If you want to join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club, go to and join. Our Club gives you access to 6 APSATS-led group sessions per week. That’s one every weekday at different times with two on Tuesdays. Keep an eye out for this schedule as it will be posted very soon at The more women who join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club, the more sessions we will add. Elsie also talked about individual support calls with our coaches. Coach Rae is who Elsie sees; Coach Sarah, for example, is really good with helping women who are trying to help their children understand what is going on. Coach Lara is in a healthy and loving relationship with a recovered addict, as well as Coach Cat. Coach Rae is an expert at divorce. If you want to learn more, email Coach Rae at rae She is happy to answer questions about which coach may be best for you or we recommend scheduling with Coach Lara if you don’t know where to start; she can give you a lot of different options which provides understanding about which coach or group to join.

Recommended Reading: Your Sexually Addicted Spouse, by Steffens and Means

Elsie, thank you so much for talking today about your experience. We appreciate you as a client and are so grateful you found us. We are also grateful to God for bringing all of us together. My hope is that through His grace and through His mercy as we become healthier, and that we can become a force for good in the world–which is what I believe He wants from us. I think this is why He is gathering us all together.

Elsie: I agree. I encourage any woman out there who has the financial means to do so to contribute, to donate to BTR. This organization is truly a help and God-blessed.

Anne: Thank you so much for that. I would love to provide our services for free. During this horrific time for women, they are having serious financial problems. We understand that. The training our coaches receive and the things we do at BTR cost money to provide this for women. If we could, we would provide free service! We are in similar situations to our listeners. I am a single mom now and this is how I make my living, as well as our coaches. Please know our hearts are with you. We have been in these very difficult situations. Even a $2 donation really helps us.

Again, our goal for this Giving Tuesday is to raise $5000 that will help cover the costs of the website, podcast, the technical costs, and every service we provide at BTR. Go to Please make a generous contribution today and then a monthly donation to keep this podcast going and this information coming to you. If this podcast is helpful to you, please rate it on Itunes or whatever other podcasting service you use. Every single rating increases our ranking on search engines and helps women who are isolated to find us.

I want to do one more shout out to our new schedule for the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club starting December 1.  It is only $100/month which is about the same or less than one therapy session! It allows you to have access to 6 APSATS-led group sessions per week.

Have a great holiday season. Until next week, stay safe out there!

He Says He’s In Recovery, But Is It True?

Forest Benedict is a husband and father living in Fresno, California. He is also the first man I have had on the podcast! He is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a certified sexual treatment provider. Forest is the clinical director of an outpatient sexual treatment program in Central Valley California. He is also the program manager of the Sexual Treatment Provider Program at MidAmerican Nazarene University. He is the author of the highly-acclaimed book: Life After Lust, Stories and Strategies for Sex and Pornography Addiction Recovery. His book is based on his personal recovery journey experience and research. Welcome, Forest!

Forest: Thank you, Anne. I’m really grateful to be here.

Anne: Tell us about your personal recovery experience and the work you do now with sex addicts and their partners.

One Man’s Double Life With Pornography Leading To Full Accountability

Forest: What really brought me to do this work, like many people who get into this field, was that I was raised in a pretty difficult upbringing with an alcoholic father and had some difficult traumas. Even though I was raised to be religious, I found pornography at a young age and became addicted. I led a double life throughout my teen years. It wasn’t until I was about 24 years old that I decided I really needed to take my recovery seriously. Thankfully it was before I was married. I got into treatment. I took full responsibility for my recovery and felt led to do this work. So I got my Master’s degree and got to start working in a program that treated sex addicts and helped others on this path that I feel is a result of the recovery I have done.

Look For Visible Changes Of Real Recovery From Lust

Anne: Forest, in your experience, why is it essential for partners to look for visible changes in their addict husband’s life instead of trusting the verbal promises of changes that addicts often profess? My ex would often say things like, “I have a plan…” but I never saw a plan.

Forest: I think it’s essential because so many partners in this situation have been lied to for so many years. There has been so much secrecy that once the addiction is discovered, the addict usually really believes they are going to change and they want to change; but I will tell people, even in intake, that words mean nothing at this point. This has already been proven based on the past. An unhealthy and unsafe situation has been created because of words and so ACTION IS EVERYTHING–action that is not a performance, along with an attitude change. 

Signs Of A Porn Addict in Recovery

The biggest attitude change is humility…willingness to humble themselves and submit to the process, and willing to acknowledge the trauma they have caused and get out of the victim mentality where they act like they can’t do anything. There are different attitude changes such as learning to be patient with their partner. I talk about how the addict gets this burden off themselves and they feel this huge relief but then the partner carries it from then on. So they need to be patient with this process. This is another attitude change that a partner could see happening. Unless there are visible signs, there is no foundation to know that a change is happening.

Anne: Yes. If you say, “You need an attitude change…” and they say it has changed and question why we think it hasn’t…that’s a red flag.

Forest: Exactly. The defensiveness and pride, the need to be right and not willing to listen are not good.

Anne: In my ex’s case, he ended up writing my therapist. She wouldn’t share it with me because she said it was so abusive. She said the gist is that he admitted to being abusive BUT… and then proceeded to list the things I did. My therapist said that she would not read it to me because it was so abusive. This clearly showed that he was not taking responsibility. If you start with, “I’m really sorry I have been abusive BUT…” then clearly you are not in the humble, willing to submit place.

Forest: Yes. My wife tells me that if I apologize and put the word “but” after, it nullifies the apology.

Anne: What are some signs of an addict that may not be in recovery?

Signs Of NOT Being In Recovery From Porn Addiction

Forest: The prideful attitude, the defensiveness. Also, a lot of addicts initially think that if they are sober they are recovering. A lot of addicts need to learn how to take care of themselves and manage stress, manage their emotions.  If they are going to therapy and actually learning and practicing tools, I believe addicts need structure. Everyone I work with is assigned things they need to do on a daily basis to connect with themselves, their higher power, and their partner. Recovery is actually learning to care for themselves in a healthy way. I think a partner would notice if they began to do this…at least trying to do that and trying to move forward. If they can see that the addict in their life is trying to change the way they relate to themselves and to others, this humble attitude makes a difference.

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They won’t be perfect at it, but it is definitely not an excuse to relapse or to go back into passivity that led most of them into the situation to begin with. It’s hard work; especially when an addict comes from emotionally neglectful or abusive situations themselves. A lot of this is difficult work for them. I’ve always said that this is the hardest thing they’ll ever do. If they are willing to do it and keep at it and get an accountability partner and go to groups and do what they need to do, then it’s obvious they are investing in a lifestyle change and making themselves safer to be with.

BTR Aims To Help Women Establish Safety In The Wake Of Betrayal

Anne: At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, our number one goal is to help women establish safety from the addiction and related behaviors of lying, infidelity, porn use, gaslighting, emotional abuse, and some of the narcissistic behaviors that tend to come out in an active addict or someone who is “white knuckling” but may not be in recovery. Some of the signs I saw in my own situation were related to setting a “no contact” boundary after my husband’s arrest for domestic violence.  I was waiting for him to show some signs of recovery, and instead saw things like him shutting down my bank account, him berating me about the clothes he wanted me to pack for the kids when he would have them, or diapers…I wondered at his “inability” to go to the store to get diapers!

There were so many things he could have taken responsibility for to show that he was stepping up to the plate. Those ACTIONS are the things that are important. Part of what was so difficult during that time was that I was hearing from others that he was saying he wanted his marriage to work but that he couldn’t do anything because I wouldn’t talk to him.  He would play the victim and it was so frustrating.  I sometimes thought that someone needed to tell him what to do because he couldn’t figure it out. His solution was to file for divorce.

Know The Signs Of Emotional Abuse

But I think that knowing what the signs of emotional abuse are–this is why we have a book section on our website and I highly recommend that women read all of the books so they can have an understanding, even if they don’t suspect that porn is happening anymore or that infidelity is continuing–that they know what to look for to be aware of the emotionally abusive behaviors. 

From the wife’s perspective and from Betrayal Trauma Recovery’s perspective, we do not believe that the reasons matter…it could be a personality disorder…it could be an addiction…it could be trauma…it could be a myriad of different reasons why the behaviors persist, but to the wife it doesn’t matter. The more she tries to focus on the behaviors, the more she is sucked into the vortex of abuse rather than taking a step out and recognizing that he is the one responsible for figuring himself out. In the meantime, I need to stand at a safe distance and set boundaries so I’m not continually abused through this process.

Forest: Yes. I definitely agree with this. Anytime I mention that the addicts have a difficult challenge ahead of them because of their upbringing or background, it’s never to make an excuse for them or to say it’s ok. I agree that this is a healthy way to look at it because the partner can’t recover for him and there is no help in trying to figure out why. Partners ask why all the time and there is never a satisfying answer to that.

Anne: You’ve led a partner group for years now. How did this work inspire the piece in your article called, What My Wife Is Worth?

Women Often Struggle With Boundaries Because Of A Lack Of Self-Worth

Forest: I found that when we start to work on boundaries with partners in my group, they had a really hard time creating boundaries and enforcing them. As I helped them work through what was stopping them from doing this, I felt like a lot of them had difficulty seeing their own worth…getting to the point of seeing that they deserve to be treated well and to be in a relationship with someone who is healthy. I really felt it was related to this–self-esteem or their own worth. Jennifer Lamprey did an event for women called The Quickening and she asked me to write a piece from a male perspective. She thought it would be powerful to have a man speak to women.

It was interesting to sit down and write this piece in an hour. It was inspired. It came to me. Much of what I write takes hours and hours as I work to make it perfect. This came to me and I feel like it was one of the most validating pieces I have ever written, from my perspective as an addict in recovery. I wrote about what my wife is worth, that she is worth my best recovery efforts. I went into detail about what that looks like, that it’s not about how much sex I get or what mood she is in, that I need to be working hard at my own growth and healing. I feel like it really communicated well to the partners that they deserve to be in this type of relationship so they can set boundaries that do protect that worth and do communicate to the addict that they do deserve to be treated with respect and to be cherished. This is how this came about.

Anne: If you have comments about this episode, please scroll down and comment! We love it when you interact with us!

Forest, how does the article, What My Wife Is Worth and the partner version which is written from the wife’s perspective called, What I Am Worth help wives understand the addict behaviors that make up good recovery?

You Deserve Your Husband’s Best Efforts And So Much More

Forest: It says: My wife is a woman of infinite worth. Because of this, she deserves my best efforts. She deserves a husband who only has eyes for her. She deserves a husband in active recovery, not passively going with the flow. She deserves a husband who reminds her that she is not to blame for his past or present choices. She deserves a husband who actively opposes visual and mental lust in all forms, viewing it as the enemy of true intimacy.

It goes on like this…about being trustworthy, about not blaming her…It sets up this ideal but I don’t think it’s too unrealistic. It’s about recognizing that I do want to be treated that way, I do deserve to be the only woman. For the addicts, my intention is to call them up to a higher level of intentionality and commitment with their recovery. I find that often when this is read, it triggers shame but I hope this will be turned into the healthy guilt that leads to a realization that the addict can live up to this and that they do not want to continue living the opposite.

I love writing to inspire people. I feel like setting the standard and saying, “Let’s strive for this” is very helpful. I don’t want to sit in this mediocre place because it doesn’t help anyone achieve recovery.

Watch For Actions to Show True Recovery From Porn Addiction, Not Words

Anne: One of the things that happened to me because of my ex’s extreme case is that he went to therapy for years, I made him read things like this, I took him to conferences, etc…, and he really learned how to talk the language of recovery without actually doing the recovery work. I think the purpose of this episode of watching for those actions is critical…how is he actually treating you? Does he listen? Is he patient? If you ask a question, does he answer it without getting defensive? Is he willing to listen to your opinion? Is he willing to be, in John Gottmans’ words, influenced? Is he willing to be influenced by his wife or is he wondering why she is “bothering” him? When will the behaviors speak for themselves, is one thing wives always need to be looking for.

Forest: I totally agree with that. I love the idea of the wife catching him doing the right thing. It’s not like he is doing the right thing in front of her intentionally to perform or pretend but that she would be surprised when she walks out and he’s working on his recovery materials or when he says he can’t do something tonight because he’s really tired and might be triggered tomorrow by not getting enough sleep…catching glimpses of how he is changing his view. I know this is so difficult because of the lack of safety in the past when it’s all been a performance and when it looked like all the right actions. I am always emphasizing that addicts need to be seeing people who specialize in this and have certification because they may be putting on a performance for the therapist and the therapist needs to know if this is happening.

Anne: I want to talk about your book, Life After Lust. Why do you think it’s important for wives to read and not just addicts.

Life After Lust Helps The Addicts & The Spouses

Forest: Actually, I didn’t really think about the possibility that partners would read the book. I did write it for the addicts but one of the people who endorsed the book does partner work and she ended up doing a blog post later about how this book is fitting for lots of different audiences, including partners and she is a partner herself. It’s what I said about what my wife is worth–it gives partners hope that a recovery journey is possible. I think there is so much uncertainty in the beginning when everything comes to light and maybe they seek additional help or maybe they haven’t sought help yet and it can feel hopeless. 

Also, I put a lot of my own story into this book. It’s not like saying, “Hey, people can recover.” I’m sharing some of my own journey and what some of that can look like. I don’t present it like I’m perfect and everyone should follow me…I also talk about some vulnerable times in my recovery and how I responded to those. Some of that could make a partner nervous that I was struggling with lust and then got back on track. I’ve also been freed from acting out with pornography for over 13 years and so I feel like it is really possible. Just showing people it’s possible is hopeful. The other thing about it is that I am sensitive and aware of the partner’s experience.

I know when this lady read my book from a partner’s experience herself, she was worried that she would be triggered. She found herself really relieved and encouraged. I wrote the book in a way that honors partners. I’ve recommended books to partners in group settings that were so triggering…maybe the book went into tons of detail about acting out experiences and it triggered their trauma. In this sense, this book is safe for a partner to read and can also be very hopeful.

People Can Absolutely Change

Anne: It’s very interesting from my perspective because I speak with women all over the world about their experiences with their addict spouse. I absolutely know that people can change. If they make the decision to change and they work at it, they involve God in the process, and they are genuinely humble, accountable, honest and willing to submit to God’s will, anything can happen. Even right now, I, myself am in the process of changing and asking God to help me with certain character defects I have and things I am dealing with in my everyday life that I really want to improve. I’m not completely healed or changed yet but I have faith that as I continue to do these things, I can change. I believe this about everyone.

That being said, just because people can change does not mean they will. Sitting back and observing if they really are genuine and what they are doing to show that is what betrayal trauma recovery is all about. How do we establish safe boundaries while we observe from a distance to see if the change is real, deep and lasting…and is it sincere rather than just another way to keep me in the abuse cycle?

Forest: I think this is a really good way to look at this. I use a lot of language about partners keeping themselves safe and is the addict acting in such a way that makes it safe for them. I definitely wouldn’t recommend even trusting–I know partners often never fully trust even if the addict is doing great recovery–it’s unsafe to trust unless there is real evidence of change.

Our Focus As Wives, Come What May, Is To Stay Safe

Anne: I really appreciate your work for us and your writing is incredible. It’s all over the internet! You are doing great work to educate others about what it takes to recover. This is not our focus at betrayal trauma recovery–how the addict is going to recover or what he is going to do specifically–our focus is “come what may…whatever he decides to do, we will stay safe until we see these particular characteristics that we need to have a healthily relationship.

I appreciate those working with addicts who have the expertise who can help them because, as a wife who has been injured by that, we are not able to do it.

Forest: Yes, this can definitely get unhealthy when you feel like you are responsible for making sure they are doing all the right things or making sure you need to catch them if they do the wrong things. It’s so important for the addict to have their own accountability and therapist–whatever they need. Your organization is doing a great work in helping partners to work on their own healing and maintain a safe distance. It’s great to see.

Anne: You can find links to Forest’s website and his work via our site,

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A New Trigger, A Surprise and Success

My Current Struggle With Triggers And Anger

I want to do an update on how my own personal recovery is going.

I mentioned on a previous podcast that I am in my angry stage. For a long time I was just super sad, and now I am very angry. It’s mostly being triggered by my children, which I feel terrible about. They are immature because they are 8, 5, and 3 years old; they are children! For example, I’ll say to my son, “You need to do this.” He’ll ignore me and walk around so I’ll tell him again and he’ll continue to ignore me. Then I’ll say again that he really needs to do it and he’ll argue that I didn’t tell him to do it before. I know he is lying and that he heard me. This really triggers me as it’s the same types of things that happened with my ex. This feeling that I’m saying something but it isn’t registering, he isn’t hearing me, he isn’t taking me seriously…it’s very similar to what happened with my ex.

Addict Behavior Is Immature

Last night I was talking to a friend and she said, “You know, this is very common with all children. He’s not acting like an addict.” I told her that wasn’t actually true because addicts act like five year olds! They are immature. So basically I am face-to-face with the same types of behavior of my addict spouse…except that for 3, 5, and 8-year old children, this is appropriate behavior. They are learning how to tell the truth. They are learning how to listen and interact with people. This is appropriate for an 8-year-old but NOT for a 40-year-old man! Not at all!

So I’m seeing that these immature, age appropriate behaviors from my very young children are triggering the trauma of the same exact behaviors from my immature addict lying ex-husband who is almost 40 years old. This continues to come up for me. Previously in my parenting, I have been relatively patient and kind and understanding, so this is an entirely new place for me. I am working weekly with a coach right now, taking a 6-week break while I do so, and then I will check in with my therapist. I’m working the 12 steps to really focus in on these behaviors and help me with them.

12 Step And Betrayal Trauma Recovery

I want to do an update about the 12 Step Program and how we view it at Betrayal Trauma Recovery. When I first began podcasting, I was attending (and continue to attend) a 12 Step Betrayal Trauma meeting with SA Lifeline, which I love. I now attend monthly. For 18 months or so I, attended weekly. We do not talk a lot about 12 Step on Betrayal Trauma Recovery because the 12 steps don’t fit in with the trauma model. This does not mean they aren’t both very beneficial, nor does it mean I would discourage someone from attending a meeting. It has helped me immensely to draw closer to God and improve my life and to change. I’m so grateful for this.

Telling You To Work On Your Contribution To The Problem, While Still Being Abused, Is Counterproductive And Unethical

When a woman first discovers she has been lied to, that she is being abused, manipulated, and so forth, we at Betrayal Trauma Recovery don’t feel like it’s the exact right time to say things we often hear at a 12 Step meeting such as, “You need to clean up your side of the street, ” or “You need to learn to accept the things you cannot change.” I say this because when taken out of context or when these values or principles are applied incorrectly, they lead women to become stuck in the abuse cycle.

Boundaries And Safety First

Once they know how to set boundaries, once they realize they are victims, and once they realize these things are happening, the woman may recognize there are things she has to work on that has nothing to do with her spouse (either current or ex). She may find that in relation to the unhealthy abuse she has been experiencing, she herself has chosen unhealthy behaviors, and this may also be something she wants to look at. At BTR our first goal is safety. Boundaries are the only way to create that safety. So we aren’t going to tell a woman at this point to take a deep breath and “accept the things she cannot change” because we do not think that women should be okay with abuse while they “clean up their side of the street.”

In defense of 12 Step, I think they believe this as well. When a person is new to recovery and 12 Step, it can be common to believe that if they focus on themselves they can make things better….when in reality they are still being abused. This is one point I wanted to discuss today…why we don’t completely promote 12 Step. It’s not because I don’t personally work the steps, because I do. We believe that it is unethical for professionals to tell a woman to work on herself in the face of abuse.

Choosing The Right Professional For Your Healing

When looking for a professional, if they suggest there is anything that you can do to stop the abuse besides boundaries–such as being kinder or communicating better or explaining your feelings–we would not recommend that type of therapist. This will just keep a woman in the abuse cycle over and over again. We believe this is unethical; it’s why APSATS was started–so that the professional teaches there is nothing the woman did to cause it, there is nothing she can do to change it, and she needs to establish safety for herself. This is the first line of defense when going to a coach who is APSATS certified. This is our philosophy at Betrayal Trauma Recovery. All of our coaches have this philosophy.

You Are Amazing And Deserve To Be Treated With Respect

In Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That, he asks: “How can I support a woman who has been abused?” The author’s advice is what we use and recommend everyone use. That is to tell the woman she is amazing, she is strong, she has not done anything wrong or anything to deserve it, and she deserves to be treated with respect. We truly believe this about you.

At BTR we believe there is nothing pathologically wrong with you. You are a healthy person who is sometimes reacting in unhealthy ways to abuse, which is completely normal! All of us go through a phase of this–a phase of denial, of not understanding what is happening, of anger, of sadness, of depression…these are the normal, healthy reactions to abuse. It’s all part of the phases of healing.

We recommend Covenant Eyes Internet Filtering & Accountability On Every Device

From my personal experience, if you are wondering if you should get a betrayal trauma recovery coach, or join a support group with an APSATS coach, or if you should join a SA Lifeline group or a S-Anon meeting, you will find your way. Personally for me, my healing includes both – a SA Lifeline betrayal trauma meeting and working with a coach and therapist who understand betrayal trauma and abandonment grief. They understand abuse recovery. With my therapist and with my coach there has never been a time when they have suggested that improved communication skills or more love or forgiveness could have stopped the abuse from occurring. This has been so validating.

My Goal Is To Heal But I’m A Work In Progress

My goal in working with my coach and therapist and by continuing to work the 12 Steps is that eventually God will heal me and I will be better. In the meantime, I have to learn new tools so that when I am triggered I can keep my children emotionally safe so they know they are loved and cared for. I really appreciate your support. My betrayal trauma recovery journey is still in process. There are days that are really hard. The other night I ate potato chips for dinner…I couldn’t bring myself to do anything else. It’s not easy and I’ve been doing this for two years now.

I still feel in progress. I definitely feel more happy and peaceful than when I started. I definitely feel safer. My safety level has gone from 0 to 10. I feel supported and loved. The things I struggle with now are financial issues, parenting issues…things that will be difficult for a really long time. There is no quick fix with betrayal trauma. I think this is part of where the anger comes from. I feel like I’m left dealing with the consequences of my ex-husband’s terrible choices–not just for the night he sprained my fingers and was arrested–but from before we were married and he lied, from when he chose to watch porn and continued to decide to lie to me and abuse me and to manipulate rather than live in the truth.

Sudden And Unexpected Contact In My No-Contact Ordered Life

There is something interesting that happened this week that shows how much I have changed in the past two years. My ex showed up for our kids’ parent teacher conference. It was my appointment that I scheduled. (He looked on line at their account and found out when it was.) When I took my 8-year-old into his classroom for the meeting with his teacher, my ex was sitting right there! I did not want to sit in a meeting with him unless the first thing out of his mouth would have been, “I have made 9 years of terrible mistakes, one right after another, and I now understand how my actions have harmed you, and this is what I am going to do to make restitution, and this is how I am going to continue to make living amends to you until you feel safe.” Unless this was the first thing out of his mouth, I could not bear to be in his presence. I could not abide any small talk.

So I told my son that I wasn’t expecting his dad to be there but he should go ahead and talk to his teacher with his dad. 

I would take his 5-year-old brother to another meeting and then we would switch. So I took my 5-year-old to his kindergarten meeting and as I was walking out, my ex came in. I walked straight up to him and said, “You need to make your own appointments.” He looked at my face and, either he isn’t very smart or he was lying, he said, “Oh, I thought the school sent this for me and I didn’t realize it was your appointment.”

Staying On My Side Of The Street

My gut told me this wasn’t true so I told him this was my appointment and he needed to make his own from now on. I left and we switched kids. He brought our son back to the other room and as we were leaving, I didn’t acknowledge him but told my sons they could get their books from the book fair and then we would head home…I was just going to leave. My ex said, “Wait, wait. You’ve been coming to my appointments.” I told him this wasn’t true. He then brought up an appointment from last year with our son’s preschool…which was false…I did not show up for my ex’s appointment. I told him that if he wanted to argue about it, he could email my dad who we have third party contact through so that I can be safe…and I walked off.

My ex then put his hand on my shoulder and said something like he hopes that someday we can get along. I told him something like, “You have hurt me so much. You filed for divorce. You abandoned your family. Unless you admit your abuse and admit the things you have done and clean up your mess, we will never get along. You need to leave.”

Change Can Happen And I’m Proof

It was amazing because I said my peace. I asked him to leave and he left, which was a miracle. I didn’t want a fight in front of the kids. This is what I need in order to get along with him. Anything less than this I will not tolerate, because I do not “get along” with psychopaths or “get along” with people who lie continually to my face or to other people about what I have done. I don’t “get along” with people like that and I’m never going to. I don’t choose friends like that; I avoid them at all cost which is what I am doing with him. That I was able to speak and not break down, and not start screaming and yelling, and really going into it, and really giving him the “what for,” the fact that I could say a short statement and ask him to leave, is a sign to me that my recovery is working.

God’s Will, Gratitude, And Hope

Now what I need to work on is the ruminating that happened over and over again afterwards! I wondered about using different words, etc, but really what I did was perfect for the time and in line with God’s will, even though I am second-guessing myself. I still have work to do but I love that I saw progress.

I’m so grateful for the changes that have taken place in my life and for the friends and family and professionals in my life that have facilitated my growth. I’m also grateful for you for being here with me through my recovery journey. I hope we have many years of beautiful recovery together and that as all of us women across the world become more and more healthy, we can be a great change for good in the world.  I hope that all of us together can find peace and friendship and safety.

#GivingTuesday At Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Giving Tuesday is coming up–the Tuesday after Black Friday. It was designed for people who have really gone to town on shopping and capitalism so that they turn their hearts to non-profits and donate. As you know, Betrayal Trauma Recovery is a non-profit and we operate on your donations. We would really appreciate a donation from you! There is an option on our site to be a recurring donor. If you have the ability to set and forget a donation, even just $1/month, we would really appreciate it! It enables us to educate more and more women. Just a $10 donation helps us reach 100 more women. We are so glad you found us here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery! As you know, trying to navigate this topic on your own without the education and understanding is extremely difficult. We’ve been there. Please donate! Consider setting a recurring donation that can help us all year long.

If this article is helpful to you, please comment here. Every comment increases our ranking on search engines and helps women in isolation find us. Your comments help women to know that others are experiencing similar situations.

Until next week, stay safe out there!

The Five Stages Of Abandonment Grief

Have you ever wondered why sexual betrayal feels keenly similar—yet remarkably different—to losing a loved one who’s physically died? In my work with women healing from sexual betrayal, I’ve identified two words that completely reframe the experience of loss and trauma we so poignantly share. Those two words are…

Abandonment Grief

Abandonment happens when one party seeks satisfaction outside of his committed intimate relationship—at the expense of his partner’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. 

As survivors of sexual betrayal, we’ve all been abandoned in some way or another, to varying degrees and in different ways. Spouses who commit adultery abandon us by choosing other women for sexual satisfaction. Partners who are addicted to internet porn abandon us as their preferred and primary sexual connection, choosing “sex with self” (and onscreen images) instead of sex with us in our own bedrooms. Those who have emotional affairs seek relational intimacy with alternative third parties, diverting emotional resources away from us and our children.

Your Own Kind of Grief

In other words, sexual betrayal doesn’t result in the same kind of grief that’s triggered by other losses. Betrayal trauma creates its own kind of grief, one that’s reflected well in this quote by author and psychologist Susan Anderson: 

“Shattering is not unique to abandonment. It is the initial stage of all types of grief where significant loss is involved. But the shattering of abandonment is special. Your loss was not due to a death, but because someone acted on free will not to be with you.” 

Inspired by Susan Anderson’s book, Journey from Abandonment to Healing, I’ve begun to employ her unique and effective model for abandonment grief recovery with the women I’m privileged to know and coach. I love this abandonment grief recovery model SO MUCH, I recently spent one whole week training directly with Susan Anderson, to expanding my collection of tools and techniques to help clients heal and grow through grief. Today I’m proud to utilize this training throughout my coaching practice, through one-on-one coaching, our Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club sessions, and groups like Healing & Growing Through Grief.

Related: Covenant Eyes filtering software protects my family.

Following are some excerpts from Susan Anderson’s 5 stage model for abandonment grief, paired with coaching questions I ask my clients to explore for each one. Check it out and see if you don’t love it as much as I do:

S.W.I.R.L. = An acronym which stands for the five stages of abandonment:
S = Shattering
W = Withdrawal
I = Internalizing
R = Rage
L = Lifting


Your relationship is breaking apart. Your hopes and dreams are shattered. You are devastated, bewildered. You succumb to despair and panic. You feel hopeless and may have suicidal feelings. You feel symbiotically attached to your lost love, mortally wounded, as if you’ll die without them. You are in severe pain, shock, sorrow. You’ve been severed from your primary attachment. You’re cut off from your emotional life-line.

What has shattering been like for you? Can you identify at least one specific incident when you encountered shattering as a grief response to sexual and/or relational abandonment?


Painful withdrawal from your lost love. The more time goes on, the more all of the needs your partner was meeting begin to impinge into your every waking moment. You are in writhing pain from being torn apart. You yearn, ache, and wait for them to return. Love-withdrawal is just like heroin withdrawal—each involves the body’s opiate system and the same physical symptoms of intense craving. During withdrawal, you are feeling the wrenching pain of love-loss and separation—the wasting, weight loss, wakefulness, wishful thinking, and waiting for them to return. You may crave a love-fix to put you out of the withdrawal  symptoms.

What has withdrawal been like for you? Can you identify at least one specific incident when you experienced withdrawal as a grief response to sexual and/or relational abandonment?


You internalize the rejection and experience injury to your self-esteem. This is the most critical stage of the cycle when your wound becomes susceptible to infection and can create permanent scarring. You may beisolated, riddled with insecurity, self-indictment and self-doubt… preoccupied with ‘if only” regrets. “If only” you had been more attentive, more sensitive, less demanding, etc. You may beat yourself up with regrets over the relationship and idealize your abandoner at the expense of your own self-image.

What has internalizing been like for you? Can you identify at least one specific incident when you experienced internalizing as a grief response to sexual and/or relational abandonment?


Rage is a turning point in the grief process when you begin to fight back. You attempt to reverse the rejection by refusing to accept all of the blame for the failed relationship, and you may feel surges of rage against your abandoner. You rail against the pain and isolation you’ve been in. Agitated depression and spurts of anger displaced on your friends and family are common during this turbulent time, as are revenge and retaliation fantasies toward your abandoner. 

What has rage been like for you? Can you identify at least one specific incident when you encountered rage as a grief response to sexual and/or relational abandonment?


Your anger likely helped to externalize your pain. Gradually, as your energy shifts outward, it lifts you back into life. You begin to let go. Life distracts you and gradually lifts you out the grief cycle. You feel the emergence of strength, wiser for the painful lessons you’ve learned. And if you’re engaged in the process of recovery, you may find yourself ready to love again. When you Lift, it is important to take your feelings with you. Otherwise you risk losing connection with yourself once again.

What has lifting been like for you? Can you identify at least one specific incident when you encountered lifting as a grief response to sexual and/or relational abandonment?

So, What Do YOU Think?

Does SWIRL validate your experience of abandonment grief and sexual betrayal trauma? Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic! Schedule a support call with me. I look forward to connecting with you!

In service and support,
Coach Rae