Women come to Betrayal Trauma Recovery often feeling confused, crazy, alone, and disoriented as a result of their partner’s abuse and betrayal.
This glossary is intended to help women identify abusive behaviors. It offers helpful terms and practices that will aid women in their journey to safety and healing.
A way of thinking that reduces others to mere objects or servants and leads to the misuse or cruel treatment of a person. The aim of the abusive behaviors is control. Abuse is not just physical assault; emotional, psychological, spiritual, sexual, and financial 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”.
Abusers skillfully keep their victims in a cycle that makes escape seem impossible and the abuse difficult to detect. This cycle 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.
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 of withholding truth, affection, attention, and focus from his partner and/or children is extremely destructive emotional and psychological abuse.
The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists. APSATS coaches have specific training in providing support to partners, families, addicts and communities regarding the impact of abuse, sexual addiction, and betrayal trauma. An APSATS coach may or may not also be a therapist, depending on training and certification.
Please note: An APSATS certification does not necessarily mean experienced or qualified. Since sex and pornography use is abusive, it is best to find a therapist who specializes in trauma and 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 where 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 a self-care that the most proactive action that a woman recovering from trauma can take.
Boundaries are essential to recovery from betrayal trauma. Boundaries provide a plan for women to know what to do in an unsafe situation. Boundaries can help provide clarity.
Boundaries can be carefully predetermined, or they can come up naturally as a predictable consequence.
Boundaries are not things to be said. They are actions to keep a woman safe. They do not need to be stated in order to take action.
Some real-life boundaries to help illustrate this definition:
I will only live in a home with people that I trust.
When my husband has been attending an abuse intervention program for two years and has not been abusive for at least as long, I will begin speaking to him again.
I will not read any emails from people who I know to be abusive.
My kids and I do not spend time with people who feel sorry for my abuser and try to tell us that I shouldn’t be separated from him.
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 nearly adequately enough in trauma and abuse 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.
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.
In the context of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, our coaches APSATS-trained. APSATS certification is a rigorous process that takes up to two years of supervision after the initial training.
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.
See D-Day or Discovery.
Discovery or Disclosure Day. Also known as DD. See Discovery and Disclosure for details.
Detachment occurs when the partner of an abuser removes herself emotionally from the devastating emotional effects of the abuser’s choices. Often, this takes place once she has separated from him and the traumatic bond has begun to erode. See Traumatic Bond.
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 sociological model that is often presented to couples in troubled relationship, intended to place 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 CSATS/other “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 diagnose an abusive marriage is like trying to diagnose cancer using a cheese grater. It simply makes no sense.
Any behavior that harms the emotional wellbeing 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 recovery 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.
An abuser imagine sexually perverse activities in his mind involving other people, including his own wife or children in his mind but justify it by saying he didn’t actually do it.
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.
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.
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 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 a traumatic bond. This manufactured tether is strengthened every time the cycle re-occurs. While an abuser may claim he feels “close” to his partner, he is mistaking “closeness” with the traumatic bond: one cannot be “close”: or “intimate” with someone they are abusing. Because his partner is meeting his needs he feels dependent upon her.
Similarly, the manufactured tether creates a sense of dependence on necessity for the partner, causing her to believe that she needs her abuser and cannot live or continue to function without him in her life.
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 because “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.”
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.
Includes self-centeredness, need for attention, lack of empathy, and grandiose ideas of self.
While not every abuser will necessarily have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, most will exhibit traits of narcissism or other Cluster B Disorders.
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.
Any activity that degrades other human beings to the status of an object. This includes pornography, strip clubs, prostitution, sex with self, affairs, fantasizing, identifying people by body parts and appearance, rather than personality traits and strengths.
A parent, caregiver or spouse.
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. 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.
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.
Healthy, recovered women have chosen to seek safety from an abusive relationship. They know that they are not the problem. They see clearly the affect of the abuse on themselves. They are no longer in trauma (though they will still feel the effect 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.
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 by abusers who identify themselves as “sex addicts” to describe a return to their sexually perverse behaviors after a period of sobriety.
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 of 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.
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.
An abuser who identifies himself as an “addict” may confess to a “slip” when he has committed infidelity against his wife and family but does not want to suffer from negative consequences. He will justify and minimize his sexual perversion to make it sound like the behavior(s) was/were a. for a brief period of time, b. less explicit than past infidelities committed or c. that it was confessed more quickly than past “slips” (these are common minimizations but abusers find many ways to minimize their sexually perverse behaviors).
This is a form of manipulation as there are bold-faced lies told; this is also a form of psychological abuse and marital abuse.
Sobriety coupled with accountability and an appropriate abuse cessation program may be a sign of recovery. However, an abuser who claims to be “sober” yet still engages in any abusive behaviors toward his partner and family is not in any kind of recovery and may be using his sobriety as a weapon to control and harm his family.
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. APSATS coaches, here at BTR, are professionally-trained individuals who have been through the trauma themselves and are able to help navigate the new reality.
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 traumatic event itself.
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 (and can be managed through support groups, coaching, meditation, mindfulness, and other practices), triggers are a way of your 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.
A term used by an abuser who identifies himself as a “sex addict”. 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.