Women come to Betrayal Trauma Recovery often feeling confused, crazy, alone, and disoriented as a result of their partner’s abuse and betrayal.
A way of thinking that exploits human dignity and relational rights inherent in expected social norms. Behavioral outcomes of the pattern of thinking are evident in being treated as an object, being subjected to covert forms of coercive control and cruelty, misuse or cruel treatment of a person. The aim of the abusive behaviors is control.
Abuse is not just physical assault. Abuse is deployed in tactics that impact emotional, psychological, spiritual, sexual, and financial well being. These strategies are known by the abuser. The results are devastating and severe to the partner, as well as any children in the home.
Abuse are just as devastating with severe consequences on women and children. Women in non-physical abusive relationships often minimize their situations by saying, “He doesn’t hit me, so it isn’t abuse.” (This is a result of trauma.)
Abusive people don’t lose control. They (are trying to) assert control through lies, manipulation, anger, sexual coercion, partner rape, physical intimidation or violence.
Pornography use is emotional and sexual abuse, even if the pornography user identifies himself as an “addict”.
Abuse-by-Proxy (See “Parental Alienation”)
When abusive men continue to terrorize and attempt to control victims using the family court system, by harming the children, and utilizing “flying monkeys”, this is abuse-by-proxy.
Abusers may practice abuse-by-proxy by:
- Claiming “parental alienation”
- Sabotaging shared children’s relationships with therapists, teachers, doctors, etc.
- Refusing to co-parent in a healthy, constructive way
- Inserting themselves into the victim’s personal life
- Continuously bringing the victim to court
- Threatening or actually involving CPS or law enforcement simply to terrorize the victim
- Attempting to convince (gaslighting) the child(ren) that the victimized parent is unhealthy, abusive, and/or in any way a less desirable parent than the abuser
- Neglecting the basic emotional and physical needs of the children
Abusers skillfully keep their victims in (a cycle) patterns of emotional, social, and psychological entrapments that makes escape seem impossible and the abuse difficult to detect. These patterns can includes the following phases:
- Grooming– attentive, kind, helpful, apologetic, promises to seek help, admits there is a problem in the relationship
- Tension– any behavior from the victim that the abuser sees as offensive (including the partner asking for the abuser to seek treatment for the abuse he admitted to during the grooming stage) creates resentment which builds up
- Abuse– physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, spiritual
- Denial– gaslighting; minimizing; victim-blaming; bold-faced lying; turning friends and family against victim
Not all abusive episodes go through this cycle. For example, lies to deceive are ongoing, and a form of controlling a wife.
Recognizing and accepting full responsibility for thoughts, feelings, perceptions, choices, etc., and the outcomes of those actions and choices.
Taking responsibility for actions by acknowledging the abuse, working diligently to change behavior with a qualified abuse specialist, and doing the incredibly hard work that Lundy Bancroft describes as “living amends”.
An abuser’s partner and/or children are never responsible for any aspect of the abuser’s decisions or behaviors. She cannot cause, cure, or control it.
Long-term accountability (current research indicates 3-5 years) paired with an appropriate abuse intervention program can be a sign of recovery for the abuser. However, short-term bursts of accountability are part of the abuse cycle, used to groom the partner.
Abusers who identify themselves as “sex addicts” act out when they commit infidelity against their partner whether with another living person, themselves (through masturbation), virtually, or through fantasy.
Addict Brain or Addict Fog
In the CSAT community, Addict Brain/Fog refers to a period of emotional withdrawal by the abuser, directed toward his partner and/or children.
However, this practice strategy of withholding truth, affection, attention, and focus from his partner and/or children is extremely destructive emotional and psychological abuse.
This form of therapy causes secondary trauma to victims of abusers because it places blame upon the partner of the abuser, basing the actions of the abuser on the premise that his abusive decisions are a result of attachment issues.
Marriage counseling and/or therapy are detrimental when abuse is present because abuse is the problem of the abuser. The partner is the victim and she cannot change anything about herself to make the abuse stop.
Betrayal Trauma is the devastating result of a partner being traumatized by her spouse or partner’s infidelity (including pornography use). Sufferers of Betrayal Trauma experience emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual symptoms that can disrupt daily life. Healing from Betrayal Trauma is possible only if the abuse is stopped (whether by ending the relationship or setting strong boundaries in place so she cannot be abused), and the sufferer is surrounded by a strong support system.
Transferring fault to another person in order to avoid accountability. Blaming another person for the abuse or compulsive sexual behaviors. For example, saying, “If you wouldn’t do ____, then I wouldn’t look at pornography/hire prostitutes/yell at you/fill-in-the-blank.”
Boundaries are the pathway to safety. Boundaries are not a way to control another person. Boundaries are the most powerful form of self-care. It is the most proactive action that a woman recovering from trauma can take.
Boundaries are essential to recovery from betrayal trauma. Boundaries enable women to safely care for themselves while navigating actions of abuse by their husband. Boundaries can help provide clarity.
Boundaries can be carefully predetermined, or they can come up naturally as a predictable consequence.
A Certified Sex Addiction Therapist. While CSATs seemed to be the only group available to help women of partners who acted out in disturbing sexual ways for many years, research is now showing that CSATs are not trained adequately to clearly see the abuse patterns deployed by the men they are treating (which is devastatingly painful to the partners of abusive men.)
We at BTR strongly suggest a Betrayal Trauma Recovery Coach for women who have been or are being abused and Center for Peace for abusive men.
A practice of speaking with an abuser on a regular basis whether in person, over the phone, or in writing, where he has the opportunity to inform his partner of any sexual misconduct.
Some find check-ins helpful in determining whether or not they want to continue in the marriage. However, many abusers use this practice to manipulate their partners, often lying and minimizing their sexually perverse behaviors.
BTR’s coaches provide professional support and offer insight, validation, and direction for wives of porn users and sex addicts. All BTR coaches are also trained by an ICF-accredited organization.
A label sometimes put on victims of abuse to encourage taking some level of responsibility for the situation. This model is false and negates the reality of betrayal trauma and Complex PTSD.
Detachment occurs when the partner of an abuser removes herself emotionally from the devastating of the abuser’s choices. Often, this takes place once she has separated from him and the manufactured relational tethers have begun to erode.
When a partner’s previously undisclosed sexually perverse behavior is discovered. This is most often a traumatic, shocking, and/or sometimes dangerous event for the woman. It can be discovered without any warning, or it may be suspected and D-Day (Discovery Day) confirms it.
D-day is traumatic. The woman’s sense of reality is shattered, and she often finds herself experiencing distorted feelings of guilt or blame, confusion, intense fear, nightmares, despair, insomnia and so on. See Trauma for more details.
The Drama Triangle is a psychological theory that is often presented to couples in troubled relationships.The application of this theory places blame on both parties. However, in the abusive marriage, there is no Drama Triangle: there is simply an abuser and his victim.
The abuser will use all three roles in the Drama Triangle (victim, rescuer, and persecutor) to control and harm his partner, and when she reacts to his abuse she will often be labeled by him and/or poorly trained “professionals” as any of those three roles (victim, rescuer, or persecutor) because she is simply in horrific trauma and is trying to cope with it.
Using the Drama Triangle to try to describe the relational dynamics of an abusive marriage is like trying to diagnose cancer using a cheese grater. It simply makes no sense.
Any behavior that harms the emotional well being of another.
A state in which a person can be open and vulnerable with another person. Several factors play into feeling emotionally safe.
Emotional safety happens when you feel loved, adequate, and safe to share your feelings, and your partner is showing healthy relational behaviors. If you share your feelings and thoughts, he does not get angry, throw a fit, judge, criticize, mock, or ridicule you.
When your spouse or partner spends his or her emotional energy, time and attention on someone other than you, gaslighting you to protect his behavior.
A powerful tool to connect with others, respecting an individual’s situation and sitting with them in their pain, rather than trying to fix or lecture.
When we feel empathy for another, we acknowledge and/or validate their pain as we place ourselves in their situation. Empathy is the ability to recognize and respond to another’s pain, taking responsibility for your part in causing that pain (only if appropriate).
Empathy can also be a torturous tool in the arsenal of an abusive man, used to tell his partner that she is not empathetic if she does not condone his behavior or if she is hurt by the things he did in “the past” (even if the past wasn’t very long ago at all).
To enable is to give someone permission to keep doing something.
Those who do not immediately support and believe the victim are enabling the abuser.
The practice of using stored images of sexually perverse activities in his mind involving other people, including his own wife or children resulting in sexual pleasure or arousal with or without masturbation.
Faulty Core Beliefs
Deeply held beliefs that are not true.
For example, we may have come to believe early in our life that we need to earn love, or that we are unlovable, or that we somehow caused this trauma and pain ourselves. BTR coaches are trained to help you rediscover your self-worth.
Fight, Flight, or Freeze
An acute stress response that happens when our physical, mental, or emotional safety is threatened—or when we perceive that our safety is threatened.
Physically, we might experience rapid heart beating, rapid breathing, trembling, becoming paralyzed with fear, etc. Our body is literally reacting to a threat and goes into a type of survival mode.
A tool used by abusers to harm their victims. They psychologically manipulate in order to distort reality, causing a feeling of craziness, also referred to as crazy-making.
A feeling of profound sadness and loss. After discovery, the woman experiences stages of grief such as grief over the fact that the reality she thought she had is false, and that her life has been shattered to the core.To fully heal, a betrayed traumatized woman must allow herself to grieve. Through her grief, the woman can find ways to grow.
Abusers seek to silence the inner voice of their victims, also called the gut, or intuition, the inner voice that warns when something is not quite right. Listen to that voice: it will tell you when you are in physical, emotional, or sexual danger. Research has shown that the intuition of women in abusive relationships is almost always correct.
Women honor their emotions when they are able to recognize, name and respond to those emotions as they occur. Women in abusive relationships may have a difficult time naming or even expressing emotions due to the type of coercive control they experience. Self-validation is key to successful emotional honoring and to mitigating emotional denial that may lead to a lack of safety. (Occurs by recognizing that what we feel in the moment is real and to be willing to learn from the emotion, rather than pushing it down to avoid the pain) We can honor other’s emotions by respecting the fact that, at the end of the day, it’s our responsibility to own our emotions and how we choose to handle them.
Behavior or circumstance when a partner is unfaithful in a committed relationship; undisclosed sexually perverse behavior, including pornography use, masturbation, fantasizing, sex with others, and emotional affairs constitute infidelity and are therefore abuse.
An intense desire to satisfy physical appetite. A form of infidelity, if directed towards a person outside of an exclusive relationship such as marriage. Sexual abuse occurs in marriage and committed relationships when the abuser treats his partner like an object to satisfy his addiction.
Manufactured Emotional Tether
As part of the abuse pattern cycle, the abuser comforts his partner after a period of excruciating emotional/psychological/sexual/physical abuse and the ensuing comforting and promises made (often including intense sexual “intimacy”) culminates in an emotional tether, trapping the victim to the abuser. This manufactured tether is strengthened every time the cycle re-occurs. While an abuser may claim he feels “close” to his partner, he is deceptively using/misrepresenting the idea of “closeness”. One/one cannot be “close”: or “intimate” with someone they are abusing. The manufactured tether creates a false/deceptive relational experience for the victim, entrapping her in the coercive tactics of the abuser.
Generally, the manufactured tether cannot be broken without a period of separation.
Abusers who act out in sexually perverse ways minimize their addiction behaviors by:
- Justifying their inappropriate sexual behavior with attitudes such as, “guys do this all the time” or “it was just pornography, not an actual affair.”
- Rationalizing: “It just popped up on my screen.”
- Blame-shifting, saying they “turned to pornography/affair because [wife/partner] won’t have sex with them.”
Multi-Dimensional Partner Trauma Model
The framework used by certified betrayal trauma specialists, namely therapists and coaches, to help them through the betrayal trauma healing process. This model has three distinct stages that are not necessarily linear: 1) Safety & Stabilization, 2) Grieving & Processing, 3) Reconnecting.
Patterns of behavior that may include at some level of execution, self-centeredness, an apparant need for attention, refusal to offer empathy, or grandiose ideas of self.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a difficult diagnosis to receive. At BTR, we do not pathologize men with this condition, however, we can recognize the patterns of behavior commonly deployed by abusive men , most will exhibit traits of narcissism.
A boundary wherein there is no contact between the abuser and the victim. It can include blocking phone calls, texts and emails, and only allowing communication through a third party. This is a good boundary to consider when there is repeated and consistent abuse.
Objectify (Now termed “Cognitive Rape”)
Any activity that degrades other human beings to the status of an object. This includes activities of pornography, strip clubs attendance, sex behaviors with prostitution, sex with self, affairs, fantasizing, identifying people by body parts and appearance, rather than personality traits and strengths. Objectifyiny/cognitive rape is the stealing of virtue or rights of another human being without their consent.
Parental Alienation Movement
The Parental Alienation Movement is a widespread, abuser-friendly movement that enables abusers to control victims and children.
The basis of the Parental Alienation Movement is that children of abusive men should be forced to spend time with their abusive fathers, especially if the children are afraid of their father or prefer their mother.
Abusers claim that victims “alienate” the children from them, but the reality is that children of abusers simply prefer the non-abusive parent.
When abusers claim “parental alienation” and courts side with the abusers, victims are re-traumatized and children are harmed. This is known as abuse-by-proxy.
A parent, caregiver or spouse.
When victims display behaviors that are not consistent with their character as a result of the abuse, they may be taking protective action. This term is used instead of “reactive” or “mutual” abuse.
When an abuser continues to terrorize and/or attempt to control the victim after separation and/or divorce.
The spectrum of post-separation abuse is wide, but can include:
- Physical violence
- Refusal to meet the children’s physical and emotional needs during their parenting time
- Financial abuse through continuous litigation
- Continued gaslighting, manipulation, lies, and coercion
Any material, written or visual, used to arouse sexual feelings in a person. It is also used to satisfy sexual desires and is a tool used to degrade humans into sexual objects. Further, pornographic material is often created using underage girls and human beings who have been sold into sex slavery. To support the pornography industry is to support child sex slavery/sex trafficking. At BTR we firmly stand behind the truth that all human beings who view pornography are choosing to support an industry that fuels modern day child slavery. We find this despicable. Likewise, we do not parse out pornography to levels such as soft or hard. Any image, digital, print or visualized used in secret for personal satisfaction is abusive to the marriage relationship.
Attempting to justify or explain a behavior to make it appear logical. For example, “I didn’t do anything wrong; it just popped up on my screen.” Or “I wouldn’t yell at you if you didn’t get so crazy.” Any attempt to justify his behaviors based on circumstance or on the behaviors/feelings of the abuser’s partner and/or children is rationalizing and is abusive.
Recovery (For Victims)
Healthy, recovered women have chosen to seek safety from an abusive relationship. They know that they are not the problem. They see clearly the effect of the abuse on themselves. They are no longer in trauma (though they will still feel the effects of the abuse periodically and can deal with the triggers in a healthy way). They are physically and emotionally healthy and wake up most days feeling that life is mostly good and they are happy to be alive.
Recovery/Restoration (Of Abusers)
Healthy, recovered men have not been abusive for at least 3-5 years (which includes being completely faithful to their partners and/or families if they are still married), have been in an appropriate abuse intervention program for the appropriate length of time, have dedicated their lives to living amends, and contribute in a healthy way to a peaceful society. If their partners pursued divorce, then the man in recovery pays child support and alimony, is supportive in whatever ways his ex-partner has requested, is supportive of her boundaries, and when/if she decides to engage in a new marriage, he continues these supportive behaviors without relapsing into abusive behaviors toward his ex-partner and/or children.
A term used in the “so called sex addiction community” to describe a return to their sexually perverse behaviors after a period of sobriety.
Safety & Truth-Seeking Behaviors
Often referred to as “Policing”, “Controlling”, or “Wearing the pants”, these behaviors are choices made by partners of abusive men to try to discern the truth in the marriage and family when the abuser refuses to tell her, or only tells bits and pieces of the truth. Examples of safety and truth-seeking behaviors include: putting filters on devices, checking phone, tablet, and computer histories, using GPS tracking to monitor where he is going, etc.
Tools to help in the healing process. In betrayal trauma, self-care refers to more than just getting a pedicure and crying on the shoulder of a trusted friend. Self-care is a choice a woman makes to learn to love herself. A woman using self-care understands that no one can take better care of herself than she can. It is one of the most loving things she can do for herself.
Examples may include but are not limited to:
- Giving herself permission to sleep when tired
- Using paper plates
- Joining the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group
- Physically taking care of herself
- Spending time in nature
- Practicing living in the moment (mindfulness and/or meditation)
- Expressing gratitude
Feeling of not belonging, unworthiness. Intensely painful emotion that causes us to want to withdraw from contact with others. There is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt = I did something bad. Shame = I AM bad. Shame is the appropriate response to violation of social contracts. While guilt is the appropriate response to the violation of personal contracts. Contrary to popular belief, shame does not cause addiction or abuse. All people feel shame, but not everyone chooses to be unfaithful or to abuse someone as a result.
The preferred term at Betrayal Trauma Recovery for a woman who has chosen to seek safety from an abusive relationship.
Like the term “relapse,” a slip is a reference used in the “so-called addiction community” for the return to any type, degree of sexual behavior that violates the fidelity of the relationship, contributes to a loss of sexual fidelity. This is a form of abuse often rationalized by abusers during their recovery process.
A term used in the sex addiction community for the period of time where compulsive sexual behavior has stopped. This does not mean the man who abuses his partner is healthy or non-abusive. It simply refers to a cessation of use. Sobriety coupled with accountability and an appropriate abuse cessation program may be a sign of recovery.
Abuse creates deep wounds. Trauma is the resulting emotional state created by the wounds. Betrayal trauma has a multi-dimensional impact with emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial effects. When a woman discovers the reality of her situation, that her husband is abusive, her reality is shattered. She often realizes she has been lied to and manipulated by a person who went to great lengths to protect his compulsive sexual behavior. Traumatized women often experiences a wide range of thoughts and emotions. It is crucial to find help and support as soon as possible. At BTR, our coaches personally experienced abuse and trauma in their relationships. Along with specialized abuse training positions, our team of coaches help women navigate more effectively our clients experiences.
A trigger is an experience which causes a person to recall a traumatic memory. It will throw the person experiencing it back into the emotions of the initial traumatic event, often producing additional trauma responses — this is complex-post traumatic stress. After betrayal, symptoms such as confusion, sadness, grief, anger, despair, and resentment may manifest. Sometimes the trigger can be noticed (being yelled at by someone) and sometimes it sneaks up and sabotages (walking down an aisle at the grocery store).
It is important to be aware that your body and “felt sense” are telling you something important when you are triggered: listen to your intuition. While the physical and emotional reactions to triggers may be painful, you can learn to manage the triggers though good coaching and support. Triggers are a way of the body and mind letting you know that your boundaries have been crossed in the past and may be crossed again.
A skill that is developed as a woman finds safety from an abusive relationship: sharing emotions and experiences with safe people who will gently help her on her journey to healing can help women learn vulnerability, thus aid in healing.
A term used in the sex addiction community to identify a struggle with behavior or emotional management. Most often used in the past-tense to describe his state of being before he re-engaged in sexually perverse behaviors. This is an abusive term, used to exonerate sexually perverse abusers for their infidelities, as it implies that they put great effort into their sobriety before falling prey to their lust.
A term for self-improvement programs based off of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Trauma research indicates that self-improvement programs are destructive to traumatized women. A woman must be completely safe from abuse before entering into any type of self-improvement program. Often, once she is safe from abuse, she finds that the “defects” of character that she felt compelled to work through are no longer a part of her being.