Staying In A Marriage After Betrayal

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne. Wow, I have Esther Hosea on today. She is a blogger at We’ve been having technical difficulties.

Anne: Both Esther and I have been feeling a lot of—what do we call it—opposition to doing this podcast today. I’m just touched right now, and grateful to have her on the podcast. This woman is a woman of faith.

In 2016, Esther discovered that her husband of nearly 17 years, and the love of her life, had a serious sexual addiction and had been repeatedly unfaithful throughout her marriage. I’ll let her talk more about that. Esther, I want you to start with how would you have described your marriage before you found out about your husband’s infidelity?

Betrayal Trauma Can Feel Life-Shattering

Esther: Before I found out, I would have called our marriage an idyllic marriage. I would’ve said that we had pretty much a storybook relationship. We were best friends, we’re each other’s favorite person in the whole world. We’ve always enjoyed spending time together. All of our friends, all of our family, a lot of them looked to us as the example for marriage. It seemed really great.

Anne: What was it like to realize that everything you believed was a lie?

Esther: It was devastating. It shattered my whole world. I’ve described it to people like a puzzle. If our life is a puzzle and, before that day, I felt like my puzzle was all together, all the pieces fit. It was a really pretty puzzle. That day, when I found that out, it was if someone took that puzzle and just threw it. The pieces went everywhere. Maybe some of them even broke and went under pieces of furniture or something.

For the next however many months after that, it was this scramble, this panicky scramble to try and find all those pieces and get them to fit back together. Except now, I realize that they don’t fit. All those perfect pictures that I thought I had, it isn’t what I thought it was, and it doesn’t fit together like I thought it did.

How The Discovery Of Infidelity Causes Trauma

Anne: Yeah, I think that’s how all of us feel when that discovery happens. We’ve talked about D-day on the podcast before, which means discovery day, the day you find out that your reality that you’re living in is not actual reality, right?

Esther: Right.

Anne: It is mind-bending. How did you navigate the fog after D-day?

Esther: If I’m being honest, I would say that the first, at least, three months, maybe longer than that, after the first D-day, I didn’t navigate it. I went into this deep, deep, deep fog and I didn’t know which way was up. I didn’t even really try. I’d call it a zombie phase where you’re dead on your feet. You’re getting up and you’re going through the motions and you’re getting done the things that HAVE to get done.

Being Betrayed Causes Deep Despair

I have very few memories of that time. It was almost like I was just a robot, or something, going through that time. I don’t know, my brain was just off. I really, really struggled with my relationship with God during that time. I didn’t understand how he could let the happen. I had spent my whole life following him, praying for my husband and for our marriage.

It felt like God had betrayed me too. I was angry. I was really angry with him. I would pray and say terrible things to him. It was an awful time, but he pursued me through that time and was patient with me through my tantrums. After several months, I did eventually start to believe what he says in his word about me, about him. Eventually, I got through that fog by believing truth.

Anne: I want to quote you. You said that during that time, he “pursued me with reckless abandon.” I love that image of God pursuing us. I’ve felt a similar thing during the worst fog that I had, which was a nine-month period after my husband’s arrest. I couldn’t feel God at all, in spite of my prayers, in spite of my scripture study, in spite of everything that I was doing to try to obey the commandments and do the right things.

Trauma Causes Fog, Confusion, and Hopelessness

That was such a difficult time. Now, out of the fog, I can see him during that time. I’m just so grateful for his patience with us, because what we went through, that fog, is a classic trauma response where we are very wounded and can’t process things. He is there, even if we can’t feel him.

Esther: And he’s so patient. The scripture, especially the Psalms, and, also, Lamentations, helps me to be at peace, I think, with that time and to recognize that—I wouldn’t even say like God was just okay with it, I think he appreciated that I was coming to him with my raw honesty.

I wasn’t holding back and pretending that everything was fine when it wasn’t. I was screaming at him when I wanted to scream at him, and, I think, being real. I think he wants our authentic selves. He knows we’re broken. He knows we’re ugly and he just wants us to come to him as we are.

Anne: Either during this time, or after this time, talk to me about some of the “Ah-ha” moments that you experienced.

How Can We Honor Our Values In The Midst Of Trauma

Esther: For me, one of the first and biggest “Ah-ha” moments was when I got to the place where I had to be okay with the idea of my marriage ending. I was a child of divorce and I had vowed that I would never ever, ever get divorced. I clung to that. God brought me to a place where I recognized that I had made my marriage into an idol.

I had put this “I won’t get divorced” above God. I had decided that, almost, that if God asked me to leave my marriage, I wouldn’t. I would rather stay married than do what He was asking me to do. I had to get to a place where I said, “Okay, God, I’m going to follow you. I’m going to do what you want me to do, even if that means I’m going to be a divorced person,” which was this terrible thing in my mind.

Anne: This is where it gets really tricky, I think, for women of faith, because there’s these values and conflict. Also, this “idol.” I never thought of this until you said it, but worshipping our marriage over obedience and safety, knowing that what God wants for us, what God’s will is for us is to be in a safe, spiritual situation. It’s not to be in this dangerous situation with someone who’s being duplicitous.

Betrayal Trauma Is A Normal Response To An Abnormal Situation

Esther: A passage that struck me really hard recently is—I’m not going to remember the exact reference—but it’s in Malachi. It’s the passage where God talks about how he hates divorce. He’s talking to the men of Israel. They’re asking why isn’t He accepting their worship.

He says, “Because I saw the vows you made to your wives and I see that you’re being unfaithful to them.” He says, “I hate divorce,” but the message behind that is more than I hate divorce, I hate seeing my daughters abused. He demands their faithfulness. He says, “Come back, and be faithful to your wives.”

Anne: Absolutely. The reason why God made commandments was to keep people safe.

Esther: Yes.

How To Find Healing And Hope After Trauma

Anne: If everyone in the world obeyed God’s commandments, the exploitation and the abuse and the harm done to other people, if everyone was honest, would disappear. That’s the point of the commandments. That is lost, I think, when you don’t obey the commandments, it actually harms someone else. It’s not just for your own like, “Oh, good, I’m going to go to heaven,”—

Esther: It’s for our safety, yeah.

Anne: I was reading my scriptures every day, and I kept thinking, “You need to create this plan that helps you study the scriptures using the 12 steps.” Because I do SALifeline, which is a 12-step program for betrayal trauma. I have a Master’s degree in curriculum instruction, so this type of thing of developing a study plan is in my skillset.

One of my podcasts, Luke 18, about the unjust judge. So many of my podcasts have come out of my scripture study and the way that I’ve been marking my scriptures since I started this. If you’re interested, it’s I am so grateful for how he showed me about boundaries. This very dark purple pen, so that it would really pop out of each page. I was finding boundaries on almost every single page as I did my scripture study in the morning. It was amazing.

How Healing From Trauma Can Be Guided By Faith

I’m really grateful for His guidance through the scriptures. I think its sad, because so many women are so traumatized that picking up their scriptures just seems so overwhelming. It just seems like, “There’s no way. Why would I do that? I’m not getting any answers, I’m mad at God. God has abandoned me. He hasn’t kept his promise, because I’ve obeyed the commandments, and here I am in this awful situation.” That power that can come from the scriptures during this very difficult time is sometimes lost.

Esther: Absolutely.

Anne: You mentioned that one of your “Ah-ha” moments was that you wanted to cover yourself in truth. What did that look like for you?

Esther: Before I talk about covering myself in truth, before that, he had asked me to start the blog. That was really terrifying to me, because I was still trying to live in the secrets. I didn’t want the whole world to know, so it was really scary to just put it all out there. But, in starting the blog, because I wanted it to completely point people towards Christ, everything that I wanted to write, I had to find out what the Bible had to say about it.

If I wanted to write about boundaries, I had to find out what the Bible has to say about that. If I wanted to write about telling the truth, everything that I wanted to write about, I had to go to scripture first, and find scripture to back up what I wanted to say. That became how I covered myself in truth, because I was studying and studying and studying, finding all these verses. Then, those would be in my head.

Finding Connection Is Essential In Trauma-Recovery

Every day for months, just scripture going through my head and going through my head and going through my head. That has massive effects on our life. I suddenly started seeing lies everywhere, and myself, not just my husband.

He would ask me a question, and I would give my normal “oh, I’m fine” answer, trying to minimize my pain, or trying to pretend like I was okay. That wasn’t truth. I learned through that time to just let everything that came out of my mouth—I mean as much as possible, because I’m still human—be saturated in truth. It changed everything.

Anne: The truth shall set you free.

Esther: Absolutely.

Anne:     There’s so much confidence that I gain knowing that this type of sin is wrong and that I am doing God’s will to set a very firm boundary around it.

Esther: Yes.

How Faith Can Help In The Midst Of Trauma

Anne: I don’t know if I would have that really firm confidence if I didn’t know it was coming straight from God. Especially because my particular church leaders, at the time, weren’t really supportive of what I was doing, or they couldn’t really understand it.

They thought I was not being faithful. It just gave me the confidence that I needed to stand up to, I would say, just either my church culture or society, or people who don’t understand this, and it brought me a lot of peace.

Esther: I had talked earlier about making my marriage an idol. I believe that’s another thing I had made an idol of is the teachings of the church. Instead of following just scripture, I had allowed man’s interpretation of that to shape me. I became more dedicated to that than to the Word itself.

Like you said, there are so many churches that don’t get it all right, especially in this area. I don’t think it’s intentional. I think there’s a lack of understanding and a lack of education in this area, years and years and years, probably centuries of tradition has gotten in the way of what the Bible actually says about it.

How Can I Feel Peace After Being Traumatized By Betrayal?

Anne: Sexual sin is old.

Esther: Right.

Anne: We’re talking Sodom and Gomorrah.

Esther: Oh, absolutely.

Anne: It is the deepest sin that we have as humans. It is the most destructive.

Esther: Absolutely.

Anne: Well, I guess aside from murder. It is so deep in our culture, and so ingrained in “what it means to be a man” and, also, “what it means to be a woman,” how we are supposed to interact, and all of those, we would say, roles, rather than the relationship that God wants us to have, and focusing on a peaceful, loving relationship. I think part of that is coming from centuries of sexual sin.

Esther: Yeah.

Connection Is An Important Part In Trauma-Recovery

Anne: You talked about how you started speaking the truth. That’s one way that you dealt with your anger and negative feelings toward your husband. Talk about other ways that you dealt with it, especially after you decided to stay.

Esther: For me, I had been so isolated for so long. This does kind of go along with the truth part of it. We decided that we were going to come out—I don’t know if that’s the right word, or the right way to say it. We weren’t going to hide anymore. My husband went in front of our church and confessed everything to them.

We told our children about it, they’re preteens through teenagers, so old enough to understand, and our friends. I found others. I found Facebook groups, and all kinds—to come alongside me. People that I knew in real life and people that I virtually know, just got help.

The Bible talks about as iron sharpens iron being with other believers. I think that was really important for me. Another way that I was able to get through was just to get support from other believers, and then also through my blog, to be that support.

How Does Faith Help With Recovery From Betrayal Trauma

One of my life verses has become 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, which says, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

I found that, as I walked in obedience with the blog, God just started bringing women into my life who were hurting. I was able to share what he had done for me with them. There was something about that that was healing for me, not them. Them, too, hopefully, but for me to share the comfort that God had given me with someone else, it somehow miraculously, also was healing for me.

Anne: My experience was similar. I was praying just so much after my ex’s arrest, and he was given a 14-month probation with a No Contact order from a judge. I knew I needed a separation, I knew I needed space, so as I prayed and said, “God, should I file for divorce, or should I amend the No Contact order? Should I allow him to talk to me?” I just kept getting this answer to, “Be still. Be still.”

One day, I told my mom, “Mom, I got an answer.” She was like, “You did, that’s awesome! Which one is it?” Because I was only praying about these two things, divorce or amend the No Contact order, those are the only two options. His answer was, “Start a podcast.” I told my mom, “I’m supposed to start a podcast.” She was like, “Okay,” so I started podcasting, and that’s all I did. A few months after that, my husband, at the time, he actually filed for divorce, and so I never had to make that decision.

Esther: Isn’t that just like God? I mean, to make it so you didn’t have to do it.

How Trauma Can Become A Part Of Our Strengths

Anne: No. Because I was committed to my marriage vows and my marriage covenants. I knew I couldn’t break them, and I had no desire to do that. I just was waiting on God to let me know what sort of man is he? Not God, what sort of man is my husband? Is he really a godly man, who can make the changes and repent, or is he not? I found out that he wasn’t. I was heartbroken about it, of course.

Esther: Isn’t it so like us to limit ourselves to A and B. I did that so much too. We’re going through and we say, “Okay, I can do this, or I can do this.” I’ve seen this all over the place as I speak with other women, too. “Well, it’s this or this.” “Well, it’s this or this.” I’m always saying, “Or it’s C. There’s a C. There’s a C, D, and E, actually.” I feel like that’s a huge part of betrayal trauma, is that we get stuck in A and B. “These are my two choices.” There’s almost always more choices.

Anne: Yeah. I think God was just waiting for me to be at the right place where he could show that other choice. Now it’s opened up this amazing world for me. You’ve experienced this same thing where there are so many women out there who are going through this. Had we not been able to tell the truth, had we not told the truth, we would never have found each other. There’s so much power in truth.

Esther: Absolutely.

Healing From Trauma Requires Hope

Anne: After all the opposition that we’ve had in recording this podcast, I’m feeling right now that that’s what God wants for this particular podcast, is to encourage women to open their scriptures.

Esther: The beat of my heart is to see women turn to God through His word.

Anne: We’re having a board meeting tomorrow to vote on the mission and the vision of BTR, to build a worldwide army of women, empowered to create, set and hold boundaries, to stop the pornography epidemic. I see that army as an army of righteous women, an army of women confident because they read their scriptures, and because they have the spirit of God in their lives.

I think we can do it. I really do. I think that, if we each open our scriptures every day, we can stop this pornography epidemic. I don’t know how. I don’t know when. It seems like a crazy goal. I have to believe that it’s possible, right?

Esther: Absolutely, and with the God that we serve, shouldn’t we be setting crazy goals? I mean, he is the creator of heaven and earth. He holds everything together with His power. Why would we limit him to something that wasn’t crazy?

Anne: That’s a good point. It is pretty crazy, the things He’s done, when you think about him.

How Betrayal Trauma Influences Our Faith

Esther: Absolutely.

Anne: Then I think about the parting of the Red Sea, right. It gets a little intense.

Esther: This is small compared to that.

Anne: It seems bigger to me. For some reason, stopping pornography seems harder than parting the Red Sea.

Esther: Also, don’t you think we know that God—He created the world, so, therefore, he’s in control of nature, right?

Anne: Right.

Esther: So parting the Red Sea, we’re comfortable with that falling within His realm of influence, or whatever. But this, this is people. This is the hearts of people. Our God is able. He’s sovereign. He’s in control of everything. While he does allow sin, he is able to conquer this.

Anne: Because so many women are praying and praying and praying and praying and praying for their husband’s hearts to change, and it’s not happening.

Setting Boundaries Is Important After Betrayal 

Esther: For a lot of them, yes. We don’t know the end yet. Earlier I said that we had this idyllic marriage. Which was true, but I also did know about the pornography. I didn’t know about the infidelity, but I knew about the pornography long before all of this D-day, and all of that. I knew there was a struggle there.

I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed and, even though I would’ve said our marriage was idyllic, there were signs that I’d ignored. I spent many, many, many years crying out to God for my husband, that he would turn from that. For a long, long, long, long time it seemed like that prayer wasn’t being answered. It had to get really bad before it finally did change.

It had to get to the point where he was repeatedly unfaithful in really, really, really horrible ways, but he did, eventually, change. If someone would’ve told me 10 years ago, I would’ve said what you said, “My husband hasn’t changed.”

Anne: You just think like, “How bad would it have to get?” Like for my ex, it’s really bad, and he hasn’t changed yet. That is my hope for those of us whose husbands are not showing any signs of change. Then those boundaries are our only option. In my case, I really would love for him to change.

Emotional Abuse Causes A Traumatic Response

Actually, I would be open to him coming back and having our family be whole again, if he were capable of doing that, but I lost hope in him, while I have also increased my faith and hope in God. Which has been an interesting journey. Letting go of that idol of the marriage, or letting go of that idol of my husband, and putting it in God. God put me on this path.

I want to talk for just a second about the emotional abuse that pornography users frequently exhibit. Before you found out about your husband’s addiction, you perceived it as the ideal marriage with a few red flags that you discounted. Now, living with your husband in recovery, when you look back on his behaviors, do they look different now? Do they seem a lot worse than they did at the time?

Esther: Oh, my goodness, yes. Actually, I have a whole post on this. It’s called, “How to Know if Recovery is Real.” For all those years, he would tell me, “I did struggle with pornography, but I’ve quit.” Every time that he got caught, it was, “Okay, this is it. This is it. This is it.” I remember thinking, “How will I ever know if it really is real, because it’s just a matter of time before I find it again?”

Trauma From Infidelity Can Be Healed But It Takes Work

Now, now I know how I’ll know if it’s real, because everything changes. Everything changes. He is a totally different person. Yes, now I look back and see, like you said, abuse. It was an abusive relationship before. Even though I didn’t feel like it was, now, in hindsight, I can see that the manipulative ways that they communicate, and the lies, and then all the—I don’t know what the right word is, but the tactics, maybe, to deflect from those lies and to keep us where they want us.

It was downright abusive, but now I see the fruits of the Spirit. He’s loving. His love, it doesn’t just flow to me, it flows to everyone. He has started seeing people in a way he never did before. Just this past weekend, we had people over from his work for dinner, because he felt this call from God to have these people over for dinner.

So he did, and we sat there all evening talking with this couple. He wasn’t just looking for an opportunity to tell his next great story. He was listening to them. He was interested in them. It was love. Love flowed out of him. He’s at peace. That’s huge. Before, everything was so not peaceful.

Anne: Right, chaos.

What Does Recovery Look Like After Betrayal Trauma?

Esther: Now there’s peace. Yeah, chaos, exactly, chaotic. He, I think, looked for conspiracies everywhere. Always felt like everyone was out to get him. There was this—yeah, kind of craziness about him sometimes, where now there’s peace. He’s trusting God. When things happen at work that feel like, “Oh, do these people not like me? Are they out to get me?” he’s like, “You know what, God’s in control, so whatever happens, it’s going to be okay.”

He’s not obsessing about it, he’s just leaving it in God’s hands. That’s peace, and it wasn’t there before. Patient, kind, good—that’s a big one—faithful—don’t get me started on that one. Faithful is obviously a big one, but, yeah, he’s faithful in ways he never was before. Not just sexually faithful, but faithful in all ways. He’s gentle with me in ways he never was before.

He’s interested in what I’m doing. I’m not here just to serve him. He rushed home from work today to set all this up, so that I could sound professional on this podcast with all the right equipment and everything. He’s interested in me, he’s taking care of me, instead of me just being here to take care of him.

Betrayal Abuse Is A Form Of Relational Control

Anne: We’re looking for four things: accountability, honesty, humility, and a willingness to surrender to God’s will. Without those things, they cannot recover, or they are not in recovery without those things. Us too, recovering from betrayal trauma, even though its not our fault, we didn’t cause anything, is like recovering from a terrible accident. The way out is the same thing, honesty, and a willingness to surrender to God’s will.

God’s will is awesome. He wants us to be safe. He wants us to be loved. He wants us to have a wonderful, loving relationship. That is the purpose of marriage. It is not to be abused. I’m so interested in bringing this to light, of so many people who think their marriages are ideal, and then, later, when they look back, when they’re in recovery, realize, “Wow, no. It was an abusive situation.”

I was the same way. I was being abused for seven years. My husband was arrested for domestic violence. At the time he was arrested, it took me a few weeks to realize, “Wait a minute, he really is abusive.” For about three weeks after, I thought, “No, this is my wonderful, loving husband.” It’s so hard to wrap your head around abuse.

How Healing From Trauma Begins With Hope

That’s one of the things that I’m really trying to help people understand are the correlations between pornography use and abuse, because the world just thinks, “Wow, pornography. It doesn’t hurt anyone or anything.” If women know when someone’s using pornography, there’s always going to be some element of abuse. It might not seem extreme. It might be very subtle, but there’s always some element of abuse happening. I think it helps us have the confidence to set those boundaries that we need to set to be safe.

Esther: Right, definitely.

Anne: Esther, thank you so much for coming on today. Again, for those of you interested in hearing more about her story, or the “Ah-ha” moments that Esther has as she studies the scriptures, her blog is You can find links to it from our site

Esther: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you having me. Anne, it was awesome. Thank you, also, for what you do.

Why Does Trauma Feel So Isolating?

Anne: Please visit to learn more about what you need. The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club and support calls, and also what you need to know, the classes that we have available. Coming up soon will be Coach Sarah’s class, called Healing Your Self-worth. Coach Rae, has changed her name to Coach Gaelen, and so Coach Gaelen will be doing How do I Protect and Heal my Children, with Dr. Jill Manning on April 14th. We have spots left there.

We have some women registered for the Separation and Reconciliation: How do I Reconcile, if I want to? All the different classes are available from our Services page. Just go to Services and scroll down, and click on Classes, and you can see all of the options. I’m so grateful for all your donations that have made the website possible.

We’ve had lots of hacking problems and just tons of problems that we did not anticipate, so, if you are able to donate, we would really appreciate your donations right now, to make sure that this website is secure, and its robust for all of the things that we need to make Betrayal Trauma Recovery a worldwide organization that helps women establish safety in their lives. If this podcast is helpful to you, please rate it on iTunes. Also, it would help us if you came to our website and commented on our articles. All the interaction that you do, either by way of rating something, or commenting, increases our search engine rankings and helps women find us. Also, when you register for a course, if you feel comfortable, post it in a secret Facebook group. It doesn’t have to be a BTR Facebook group, it could be any secret Facebook group that you’re a part of. Say, “Hey, I’ve signed up for Understanding and Managing Triggers at BTR. Join me, I’m excited about this course.” That way, women can find out about the classes that we have and get to safety. Until next week, stay safe out there.



3 Reasons Finding Out What Happened Never Helps You

Anne:     Ashley, I’m going to let you introduce the topic for today and talk about what you did, and how it affected you.

Ashley:  I discovered my husband’s addiction shortly after we were married, and I was, obviously, devastated and completely traumatized. He had withheld things from me and lied to me. That created a distrust in our relationship and caused me to question everything that he had ever told me, that I had ever experienced with him. I just, from the beginning, could not stop looking through his computer and through his phone and, really, any device, anything that I could verify or find information on, I would search into the late hours of the night and into the morning. That was just a response to my trauma and I’ve learned since then that it’s not useful. It has not helped me and it really only harmed me and caused me further pain.

Anne:     I want to contrast your story with the story of many women that I’ve spoken with, who have said, “I had this impression that I needed to check his phone, and I checked it and I realized he was having an affair,” or, “I had this impression that I needed to look at his computer and I looked at the computer and I saw this.”

What Are Safety-Seeking Behaviors?

Ashley:  Yeah.

Anne:     In some cases, women really benefit from a safety-seeking behavior, and in some cases it starts driving them crazy and really keeps them in the abuse cycle. Today, we’re going to focus on when it is unhealthy.

Ashley:  Right, right.

Anne:     I also want to cover why we call these safety-seeking behaviors as opposed to co-dependent behaviors. At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we use the trauma model, meaning, once you’ve experienced trauma, you are trying to create safety in your life again. We do not believe in the co-dependent model. Some people are co-dependent, and they’ve been co-dependent for a long time. They were co-dependent with their friends in junior high. They’re co-dependent with their family members. If you’re not co-dependent with anyone else, and you’ve never acted co-dependent before, and then you found out about your husband’s addiction and suddenly someone’s telling you you’re co-dependent. No, you are doing safety-seeking behaviors, trying to establish safety in your life again. The purpose of BTR is to actually help women establish safety. A lot of the time, when women are obsessively checking their husband’s computers or phones, that’s not helping them actually establish safety, even though that’s their goal. Would you say that that’s what you were looking for at the time?

Why Its Important To Feel Safe

Ashley:  Yes, for me, it was the only tool I had at the time. I didn’t have any recovery resources, and I was just trying my hardest to, like you were saying, establish safety with the little amount of knowledge that I had, and that was the only thing I knew how to do.

Anne:     Yet, those behaviors didn’t get you safety.

Ashley: No. That’s correct, they did not provide me with the safety that I was desperately seeking.

Anne:     In your case, Ashley, you’re telling me it drove you crazy. What were the three reasons why this was an unhealthy thing for you to do?

Ashley:  For me, the three reasons that searching my husband’s computer was not helpful, number one, it doesn’t solve the problem. Number two, it made me feel absolutely crazy, and I lost trust in my own intuition and my own self. Number three, it kept the focus on him and prevented me from creating and establishing safety for myself.

Why Safety-Seeking Doesn’t Help In Recovery

Anne:     Let’s talk about that first reason for you. Why did it not solve the problem?

Ashley:  It did not solve the problem because, even if I found evidence of something and then confronted him about it, he would deny it and gaslight me. That was not motivation for him to change. It would just be me showing him these things, or I couldn’t find anything. Because I wasn’t listening to my own intuition, I was looking for the cold hard evidence and trying to convince him and trying to explain to him and trying to show him the reasons why he needs to get help and to change, instead of looking to myself and saying, “What do I need to feel safe?”

Anne:     I can see why this wouldn’t solve the problem. Because it’s kind of like talking to a two-year-old. “Okay, please don’t throw the food on the floor.” They do not say to you, “Oh, you are right, I was showing the food on the floor. That is inappropriate, I am so sorry. I will never do that again.”

Ask Yourself “What Do I Need To Feel Safe?”

Ashley:  Right, exactly.

Anne:     Two-year-olds don’t say that. The way that they react is not any reasonable mature fashion. Even when you presented him with evidence, it’s not like he said, “Oh, yeah, here’s the evidence. Facts are facts, and now I will stop lying.”

Ashley:  Right, it’s not logical. You can’t reason with addict-mode.

Anne:     Because of that, that probably is exactly why you have the second reason, which is you started to feel crazy.

Ashley:  Yes. For a year and a half, I searched my husband’s phone and computer, and I tracked him on his devices, trying to find something because my gut kept telling me, “Something is off.” I just continually had this feeling of, “Something is not right. He’s not telling me the full truth about something.” I could not shake this feeling. I would confront him and say, “Hey, I have this feeling that something is off, and you’re withholding information from me.” He would say, “No, everything’s fine.” I would just think, “Okay, but why am I having this feeling.” Instead of trusting myself and making boundaries for safety, I would search everything. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I found nothing. That just made me feel crazy, because I had this conflicting feeling with the evidence that I was—or lack of evidence, I should say, that I was not finding on the computer, or on whatever device. It was a very confusing and crazy feeling to look for something that you feel like should be there, and it’s not.

How Trusting Yourself Increases Safety

Anne:     At the time, I assume that his behaviors were emotionally unsafe.

Ashley:  Correct, they were.

Anne:     Were you thinking, “Okay, there’s got to be a reason for why his behaviors are emotionally unsafe”? Did you even have words for that at the time? Looking back now, hindsight is always 20/20, can you see they were unhealthy?

Ashley:  Those were little flags that were popping up in my mind saying like, “Okay, someone who’s working recovery actively, I don’t feel like they should be doing this, or saying this, or acting this way, or treating me this way.” I would have these flags come up. That’s when I would confront him. The evidence that I was ignoring, at the time, was the emotional abuse and the irresponsible behaviors

Emotional Abuse Indicates Unsafe Behaviors

Anne:     Did you know you were being emotionally abused at the time?

Ashley:  I don’t think I would have, at the time, labeled it as emotional abuse, because I was so early in my recovery and in my healing process that I was just barely learning about boundaries. I knew it was not right, but I just made excuses and I bargained and tried to rationalize it, and make sense of it, but, yes, it was emotional abuse that I’m not sure I was completely aware of at the time.

Anne:     A lot of people don’t understand that when you’re being emotionally abused, you don’t know it.

Ashley:  Right.

Establishing Safe Boundaries Is Essential In Healing

Anne:     So many people say, “Why doesn’t she get out,” or whatever. You’re like, “Because I didn’t know.” Which takes us to your reason three that searching his computer and searching his phone kept you focused on him and didn’t allow you to establish emotional safety in your life.

Ashley:  When I was obsessed with looking through his history in his computer and trying to find evidence, I spent so much emotional energy on that, that I was neglecting myself and not doing self-care and not creating boundaries, and doing the things that would provide real, lasting safety for myself. As I started to learn about boundaries and what that really meant, and what a healthy boundary was, I just played around with it a little bit. I was still learning. I didn’t know how to implement a healthy boundary completely, so I would try. I had this little glimpse of feeling safe-like and empowered. I felt like, “Oh, maybe this is what safety is, and maybe I don’t need these behaviors. I don’t need to search these things, I can just create boundaries.” I would start to make some boundaries, and I would break my own boundaries. I didn’t know how to make a healthy boundary, so I’d make a controlling statement. Over time, as I began to create healthy boundaries consistently, I began to experience real safety. I could feel the difference. When I look back, I don’t know how I made it through that time of chaos and dysfunction. The moment when I created firm, healthy boundaries, and I felt that peace and that assurance and that safety, it was just a turning-point for me and for my recovery.

How Safety-Seeking Behaviors Can Be Self-Sabotaging

Anne:     For example, me, I told mine that if he looked at porn, I would divorce him, before I got married. I set a boundary before I even knew he was a porn addict. Then, when I found out that he looked at porn, it was like, “Wait a minute, I don’t want to just immediately file for divorce. Whoa, wait, how do I do this?” I was so confused. Many women say, “One of my boundaries is that I have to have access to his computer.” Then they say that’s one of their boundaries, “And that I get to check his cookies, and that I get to check his phone. That’s my boundary.” Can you share with me the boundary that you set where you actually started to feel safe? Because we know that that “boundary” of “I have to be able to check his phone” is not really what we’re talking about here.

Ashley:  Right, that will not provide safety. The first boundary I remember setting and holding, that provided safety for me, was actually not sleeping in the bed with him, because I did not feel safe. Not because he was looking at porn, I could prove it, but just because he was not emotionally safe for me, and that was enough for me to say, “I’m not going to sleep in the bed with you.” Eventually, that led to me creating a boundary that in my home I needed to feel safe. Part of that, for me, was having a husband who would be completely honest with me and would be actively working recovery. When I made that boundary, I was ready to hold it. I had said that many times. Then, just two weeks after, I did find out that he had lied to me about something, I knew at that moment that I needed to, and I wanted to hold the boundary. I did, and I asked him to move out. That created the most safety that I had felt during our marriage, was asking him to move out, and having my home be a safe haven for me. At the time, I can say with confidence that I was not doing it in order to manipulate him into doing certain things. I could feel the difference between the control—

Anne:     And the safety.

Ashley:  Yes, yeah.

Safety Starts With Setting Boundaries

Anne:     When I started doing that, I could feel it too. For me, I never set a boundary before the judge set the boundary for me, and the police.

Ashley:  Right.

Anne:     It was a God-given boundary of no-contact when he was arrested, and the judge said, “You have a no-contact boundary.” I could’ve broken it, but I was like, “Whoa, this is what I need to do.” I felt safe for the first time. It was amazing, just that peace that came that I could go home and [inhales] I could breathe, having that safe space. The key to setting boundaries is safety. How can I feel safe? You don’t always have to tell the person what that is, and you don’t always have to decide what it is beforehand, because you cannot decide a boundary for every single thing that happens. You might not know that he’s going to throw a shoe at you, for example. You couldn’t, beforehand, say, “Okay, if anyone throws shoes at me, this will be my boundary.”

Ashley:  Right.

Anne:     It would be, at the time, thinking, “I feel very unsafe. This is what I will do in order to feel safe again. I’m going to call the police,” or whatever it is that you decide. Having a community around you to help set these boundaries is super important, because without having a sponsor or a support person—now, I know Ashley really well, so I know that she works SALifeline 12-step for betrayal trauma and her qualified professional was really helping her decide which boundaries were safe for her. Do you think you could’ve set boundaries as well as you did without your sponsor and your qualified professional?

Feeling Safe Begins With Healthy Boundaries

Ashley:  No, definitely not. Absolutely not, no. I’ve gone 20-something years without any boundaries in my life or learning how to set boundaries or what a boundary is. I didn’t even understand that concept of boundaries for so long that I needed someone to guide me and to show me what a healthy boundary looked like, because there’s no way I would’ve learned to do that on my own. I was lost, completely, in the beginning. I needed to see examples of boundaries. I needed to see examples of women making and holding boundaries. I needed someone to listen to me talk through boundaries and allow me to contemplate on whether or not they were healthy boundaries that provided safety, or if they were manipulative statements to control.

Anne:     In this case, the control was all motivated by a desire for safety.

Ashley:  Absolutely, yes.

Anne:     Not just because you’re just a controlling person, right?

How Feeling Secure And Safe Helps With Recovery

Ashley:  Oh, no, no. I was trying to control my environment so that I could feel safe and secure.

Anne:     Exactly, exactly, which trauma survivors do. That is okay, and it’s totally natural. I don’t ever want any of our listeners to feel guilty about these things, but just how can we move toward actual safety, rather than spinning our wheels trying to get safety, but not getting anywhere, right.

Ashley:  Right.

Anne:     Ashley, for our listeners who are right now obsessively checking their husband’s phones and computers, what advice would you have for them?

Ashley:  In my experience, those behaviors of searching through my husband’s devices and tracking where he is, and constantly being on alert never brought me real safety and stabilization in my life. The only thing that created stability for me was making and holding healthy boundaries and learning about boundaries from the beginning. Educating myself about what boundaries are and what they look like, and what they don’t look like, and then interacting with other women who are in similar situations, but maybe are a few steps ahead of me. That really helped me to, again, creating safety for myself, instead of seeking it out by controlling my environment or by searching continually through my husband’s computer. If you have not yet met with one of the BTR APSATs coaches, I highly encourage you to do so. They will be able to help you create these boundaries that will provide safety for you in your relationship and in your life.

Being Safe With Healthy Boundaries Leads To Stability

Anne:     Well, Ashley, thank you so much for coming on to talk about that rough spot in your life, where you obsessively checked your husband’s phone and computer. Thank you, Ashley, for coming on. Ashley’s in our community a lot sharing her experience, strength and hope. I am so grateful to know her.

Ashley:  Thanks, Anne.

Anne:     Our new website is launched, and it is still under construction. I want to thank those of you who have donated to make that possible. If you go to the Services page now, you can see that we have three major offerings. We have the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club, which is client-led sessions every weekday. There’s no topic assigned, there’s a check-in process. You can look at the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club session format to see how the sessions are run. After the check-in, women can talk about whatever is happening to them right then, and what topic they need to talk about. It’s client-led. Then we have support calls, and then we have classes. A specific topic, that women need extra support on, like our Setting and Holding Healthy Boundaries class, or Detecting and Confronting Gaslighting. If you’re a member of Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club, you get discounts on support call packages. What we recommend for every single woman is to join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club, purchase a 12-support call package, and then, I think every woman needs to take How to Heal: The Stages of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, Emotional Abuse: Is It Really Happening to Me, Detecting and Confronting Gaslighting, and Setting and Holding Healthy Boundaries. Those four classes are the essential fundamental things that every single woman needs. After that, there’s different types of classes like Therapeutic Disclosures and Polygraphs, Separation and Reconciliation, Relapse Preparedness, a divorce class. All of those are listed on our Services page. We’ve set up the new website to try and help women understand the different services we have, and how they build on each other, and how they work together to provide you with a very well-rounded recovery experience that can support you while you’re getting all the education, the validation, and the tools that you need to recover. Until next week, stay safe out there.