7 Dissociation Symptoms In Abuse Victims

Dissociation Symptoms When Your Husband Lies, Cheats, & Abuses You

Richard Blankenship is the clinical and administrative director for the Capstone Center for Counseling, DBT and Relational Trauma at the Capstone Center for Sexual Recovery and Transformation. He founded of the International Association of Certified Sexual Addiction Specialists, where he served as president for 13 years, and a founding board member of the Association for Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS). He developed the first graduate course to be taught on sexual addiction along with a colleague, and guest lectures in a variety of university-level courses.

He is married with two children and has worked with churches and counseling centers for over 25 years.

What Is Dissociation?

Richard: Dissociation is, basically, a splitting off of or a detachment. It’s a big word that can sound really scary, yet, it manifests itself in different degrees. It’s something that we all do. We dissociate from difficult experiences. Even daydreaming is a form of mild dissociation, when you’re just checking out of something.

Dissociation is a coping skill in some ways and, at times, it can be healthy. At other times it can be unhealthy.

How Does Dissociation Occur?

Anne: That’s good to hear, that it can sometimes be healthy, as I have experienced quite a bit of dissociation since my ex-husband’s arrest. What does it look like in terms of a wife who is in trauma? So a woman who is experiencing the emotional abuse or the trauma of finding out about her husband’s porn use or his infidelity?

Richard: Whenever women find out about problematic sexual behavior, or chronic porn use, anything on that continuum, they’ll develop a lot of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One of the things that comes when you’re in a traumatized state is a level of dissociation.

It can be as basic as just zoning out for a few minutes, some daydreaming, maybe even some fantasy of being in a better place, or it could go over to some very extreme levels where people lose touch with reality. More often than not, we see it early on when people are in a state of shock from the betrayal. They may just be staring straight ahead with a blank look. Dissociation
actually does have a continuum that it runs on from fairly minor to much more extreme.

Anne: The reason why I wanted to talk about this is because I found myself not hearing my children when they were talking to me and I wasn’t doing anything else. They would say something, and I would realize that they had been saying something to me and that I did not hear them for like, I don’t know how many times they said, “Mom, Mom, Mom.” Then I was like, “Oh, yeah, what is it?”

What Are The Symptoms of Dissociation?

I was available and ready and willing to talk to them, but just didn’t hear them until they had said my name a few times. I would say that mine would be on the very minor level of zoning out for a little while, but I found myself doing that frequently, so I thought, “Oh, I need to learn more about dissociation.”

I just wanted to see what does an expert have to say about, first of all, this level of dissociation—which I’m sure many of our listeners are experiencing—do you have any tips for that? Then, also, perhaps talk with our listeners about more extreme levels of dissociation and what that could mean for them and how to get help?

7 Symptoms Of Dissociation

  1. Memory Loss
  2. Forgetfulness
  3. Inability to concentrate
  4. Zoning Out
  5. Imagining the same scenario over and over and over
  6. Getting somewhere and not knowing how you got there
  7. Feeling disconnected from yourself

Richard: What you described, is very normal for any betrayed wife as they’re going through, especially, that initial shock and devastation when they discover the trauma. It can go to a variety of different presentations. When you get over to the extreme ones, you see people who are not grounded in reality, they check out to the point that they can actually be in
dangerous situations and not realize they’re in dangerous situations.

One extreme example I had was with a betrayed woman who was trying to cook for her children and she had started a fire on a gas stove. The thing ignited curtains and the kitchen was starting to burn and she was just sitting there, not realizing that there was actually a fire going on for quite a while. That would be an example of some pretty extreme dissociation.

How Does Dissociation Relate To Trauma?

It can vary across the recovery process for women. As they’re going through the healing process, it may be that they get much better over time and a lot of the dissociation goes away. There are many worse ways people could cope with something. Now, obviously, if you get to the extreme of dissociating when you’re driving a car, you get in a wreck, or the kitchen’s on fire and you don’t realize it. Obviously, those are very unhealthy extremes where someone is really checking out of reality.

Dissociation is healthy in situations like minor surgery, coping with physical pain. Sometimes a doctor or a nurse might even ask the patient to create a beach scene or a mountain scene and check out when they’re doing that. I’ve done that and seen that with people who, perhaps, were going for something as basic as a root canal and used dissociation into a fantasy as a way to get through a difficult time, a difficult procedure.

Anne: I have actually done hypnotherapy, and you’re a certified clinical hypnotherapist. I want to talk about this briefly, because I wonder if my training with hypnotherapy served me well and enabled me to disassociate appropriately through the pain. I’ve never thought about that before, until now, but all of the sudden, I’m like, “Hey, maybe I have a cool skill that I was able to
employ when things got really difficult.”

How Is Dissociation Treated?

Richard: A friend helped her daughter in the emergency room after an auto accident. As her daughter got stitches, she held her daughter’s hand and said, “Where do you want to go?” And helped her visualize a beach scene. That’s healthy dissociation.

Anne: Okay, I love this. I’ve actually been doing visualization with my son every night. I haven’t thought of it as dissociation, until now. I helped him put all his negative emotions about school into a box: “I don’t want to do my work. I hate doing schoolwork.” I asked him if he could pick up a pencil to do his schoolwork while holding the box full of negative statements.

“No, I can’t,” he said.

I said, “Well, where do you want to put the box?”

“I’m going to dump it out in a river with fish that think that stuff is delicious. They ate it all up.”

I said, “Can you pick your pencil up now?”

“Oh, Mom, I can do my assignment now,” he said.

He has improved significantly in his schoolwork. Whereas before, his intrusive thoughts like, “I don’t want to do this. This is boring. I hate this.” were getting in his way. Now he’s able to get his work done even if he occasionally thinks negative thoughts.

Techniques For Dealing With Dissociation

Do you have any tips for me without that low-level dissociation? I want to be present. I want to be able to connect with my children, but I’m having a hard time concentrating?

Richard: If it’s chronic, I recommend EMDR treatment, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. That that often helps women who have a lot of pain to process, process it quickly and reconnect with the present moment.

How Mindfulness Can Help With Dissociation

Basic grounding is another technique. Take a moment, breathe, feel the floor beneath your feet, some things that you know can bring you into the present moment. A lot of even the relaxation techniques can help out there.

Anne: Mindfulness. If I’m unable to concentrate, perhaps touch the couch, feel the couch fabric, touch my child’s arm. Bring myself into the moment by stating his is a couch, this is my child.

Richard: Exactly, overwhelming emotional pain takes women out of the present. Some women stop trusting their emotions. She might not realize when she’s panicking, or angry, or perhaps depressed, even health issues may go undetected.

Can Trauma Cause Symptoms Of Dissociation?

Anne: Readers, how are your symptoms? Please scroll down and comment to let us know how this effects you. Do you see women just naturally improving as they heal, and they go through the recovery process, maybe as time goes on a little bit?

Richard: Absolutely. One of the reasons I love working with women is that I do see them get well. It’s a very difficult journey, especially in those first few months, but most of the women make it. I actually see women return, not only to their previous level of functioning, but often a higher level of functioning.

As things improve, dissociation from trauma typically improves, attention span improves, you’ll find less memory lapses. At first, women will misplace the car keys or even forget how to drive home from work. But as women heal, they become more connected, more present, more able to be emotionally present in their relationships.

Anne: That is exciting news. I’m feeling pretty normal and I’m doing quite well in this dissociation thing. I’m feeling more validated.

Dissociation As A Coping Mechanism

Richard: If you think about it, you could have become a drug addict, you could’ve become an alcoholic. You could have turned to all kinds of destructive coping mechanisms. If the worst thing that you did was dissociate a little bit and had a few memory lapses, in the grand scheme of things, I’d say you’re pretty normal and doing pretty good. I can think of far worse ways that betrayed wives could be coping than occasionally checking out.

It’s also important to remember that there is a lot of hope. It is temporary. It’s not something that has to last forever. It is something that may help you get through some very difficult moments. You just don’t want it to become chronic.

Anne: Right. What would you say the difference is between a healthy use of dissociation to take a break from the pain and numbing? When I first started recovery, many people said, “Don’t numb your emotions.” But in Barb Steffens book, Your Sexually Addicted Spouse, she recommends taking a break from the pain, sometimes. Watching a movie to take a break from the pain wasn’t a bad thing. So I had some compassion with myself and gave myself permission to take breaks from the pain.

Richard: If it’s healthy use, it’s going to be very temporary. If you go to the dentist, they’re going to numb your mouth, but it’s temporary. It’s something to help get through a specific situation or period. If you find yourself numbing your mouth all the time and you can’t talk and you can’t eat, obviously it’s a problem. So if you start dissociating as a way to cope with everyday stress, you know it’s not healthy.

Can Dissociation Be Cured?

However, when dealing with betrayal, women are going to feel numb, at times. Other times, they’re going to be feeling things so intensely that they express in some extreme ways.

Anne: I think viewing it within the framework of the APSATS multi-dimensional partner trauma model is helpful, right? The first phase of safety and stabilization, you’re starting to establish safety for yourself and your family. Then grieving and processing, where there might be a lot of pain during that first and second phase, and those might be the appropriate times to utilize a break from the pain.

Then, the third phase of connecting, if we find ourselves continuing to try and numb out or continuing to disassociate, that might be where we need to look at that and say, “Wait a minute, this is not a healthy way to live. I am safe now. I don’t need to use these coping mechanisms anymore.” Is that kind of what you’re suggesting?

The Varying Degrees Of Dissociation

Richard: Yes, that’s correct. I don’t ever want pathologize a woman who’s been through betrayal because they happen to be numbing out or having trouble focusing early on in that journey, when they’re trying so hard to stabilize and just get a sense of safety and stability back. During those times, it’s normal to have those times of checking out. It’s just that, as a long-term coping skill, that’s probably not one you want to be using.

It’ll take time and it’ll take some practice, but you’ll get there.

One of the things that was pointed out to me in some research on dissociation was that Christians are often taught to dissociate at a certain level. Think about it, even as a kid, “Put on your Sunday best.” You could’ve had a horrible family fight and, yet, you’re still supposed to go to church and look like nothing’s wrong. Well, in a sense, there’s some dissociation. It can be somewhat like the dissociation you might feel, if you are dealing with a supervisor at work and you’ve been traumatized on the job. Perhaps you dissociate some to get your job done. I’ll give you another example of healthy dissociation.

Let’s say that you’re about to have brain surgery and the neurosurgeon had a fight with her husband. I sure hope she can dissociate from the fight and be present while they’re in that operating room. Things like that are examples where dissociation can actually be very functional.

Healing From Trauma-Based Dissociation

Anne: Wow. I didn’t anticipate that it would be a discussion of the healthy uses of dissociation. I thought that it would be that it’s always bad. This is fascinating to me and so exciting that I’m not as terrible as I thought. That’s so cool.

Richard: I don’t think you’re anywhere near terrible, Anne. I tell betrayed wives this all the time, you’re not crazy. I think that’s what’s happened with so many because of their husband’s gaslighting. You get to where you think you’re crazy. Whenever I tell women they’re not crazy, they often break down with tears and say, “I really thought that I was.”

Anne: Yeah. Well, now I’m seeing dissociation as a natural progression to my trauma. Also, I’m seeing where I have used it in healthy ways, both in terms of my own visualization and then helping my son visualize. To my listeners, Yay! You’re not crazy! I’m not crazy!

Anne: The first step to healing is making sure that you are safe. To know if you are safe takes some time and some education. We’ve set things up so that you can know what your level of safety is, starting with “How to Heal: Stages of Betrayal Trauma Recovery,” with Coach Cat. Then, “Am I Being Emotionally Abused,” with Coach Gaelyn, “Detecting and Confronting Gaslighting,” with Coach Sarah, and then “Setting and Holding Healthy Boundaries,” with Coach Sarah.

How Dissociation Protects Against Trauma

You need to know what types of behaviors will hurt you. If you’re constantly being harmed and in pain, you’re either going to confront it continually (constant fighting) or avoid it (no connection).

Next week, we’re going to talk about how people get into patterns of fantasy or dissociating as a way to just deal with everyday stresses in life. That is what addicts do. That’s dangerous and we don’t want to go down that road.

Please let us know what you think and how you feel about dissociation symptoms by commenting below.

What Does Restitution Look Like?

Receiving A Restitution Letter

I received a restitution letter from my ex-husband in the mail last week. I’ve been pondering and thinking about this. In the meantime, my church had their semi-annual conference. I was praying to know God’s will for me and to hear his voice and to know how I should talk about this.

In conference, they talked about a drunk driver who had killed a wife and a husband. In that story of forgiveness, they were at the courthouse and saw the mother and father of the drunk driver and they all broke down in tears and gave each other hugs. It was a beautiful moment of forgiveness.

That is a beautiful story, and I really loved that story. Also, that doesn’t happen very often in this situation because the offense is not very clear to people. It’s clear to us. It’s clear to me. I’m sure it’s clear to you, but, to our in-laws, it’s not very clear. They can’t see the abuse for what it is, and they can’t see the infidelity for what it is. It’s not very clear to clergy. It’s not clear to therapists.

What Does It Mean To Forgive? What Does It Mean To Make Restitution?

The idea of forgiveness is difficult in a situation of abuse because the offense cannot be agreed upon much of the time. The person is denying it or acting like it’s our fault. That story would be very different if the parents of the drunk driver claimed that, “No, your son and your daughter, the ones that were killed, they were drunk. It’s their fault that now our son is in jail. It’s their fault that our son was drinking. It’s their fault that this accident happened.” That would be a very difficult situation.

I’m not saying that forgiveness is not also the answer for that situation, but that drunk driver was held accountable by the law. He was held accountable by his own parents and by society. That’s not happening with abusers and porn users. They’re not being held accountable.

We, as women, our job, I feel like, is to muster the strength from God to hold them accountable in the way that we can. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so I study sometimes from the Bible and sometimes from the Book of Mormon.

Forgiveness Can Exist With Boundaries – People Who Will Not Make True Restitution Are Not Safe

In the Book of Mormon, there is an ancient prophet named is Nephi. He and his family build a boat. They come from Jerusalem to the American continent around 600 B.C. Nephi has two brothers, Laman and Lemuel, who I would call addicts and abusers. They frequently abuse Nephi. They tie him up, they scream and yell at him. They beat him.

They are frequently called to repentance, and they frequently “repent.” They say, “Okay, we’ve changed. We’re sorry, we’ll do the right thing,” and then they don’t. They never really change. Nephi forgives them over and over and over and over. If we stopped here, we might think, “Okay, this is what God wants us to do. He wants us to be like this strong prophet and forgive over and over and over.”

Yet, once they make it here to the Americas, as Nephi’s praying about it, he gets the clear answer that he needs to get away from them. He gathers up his family and he actually separates from Laman and Lemuel. That’s when the two groups form, the Nephites and the Lamanites.

The Nephites are people of God who obey the commandments and Lamanites are not. Lamanites are angry, they’re always wanting to fight. After this separation, a man comes to the Nephite place and starts preaching against Christ. Jacob, one of the prophets, contends with that man and confounds him in all his words.

Is Resititution Required For Forgiveness?

Then, God sets a boundary and says, “This man is going to be struck down.” After the man who is preaching against Christ is stopped, then Jacob says this, in Jacob 7:23-24:“And it came to pass that peace and the love of God was restored again among the people; and they searched the scriptures and, hearkened no more to words of this wicked man. And it came to pass that many means were devised to reclaim and restore the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth.”

Meaning the Nephites loved the Lamanites. They wanted their brothers and sisters to obey the commandments, so they could all live together in peace, in one family. Jacob goes on, “But it all was vain, for they delighted in wars and bloodshed, and they had an eternal hatred against us, their brethren. And they sought by the power of their arms to destroy us continually.”

The Nephites continue with their boundary in verse 25, “Wherefore, the people of Nephi did fortify against them with their arms, and with all their might, trusting in the God and rock of their salvation, wherefore, they became as yet, conquerors of their enemies.”

I don’t want you to think of yourself as an enemy to your husband or your ex-husband, but I do want us to become an enemy to Satan.

How Can We Forgive Something So Hurtful? Especially When There Is No Restitution?

One woman who works in the anti-abuse sphere she said, “I don’t believe in evil,” on her Instagram. I could not disagree more. I do believe in evil. I’ve seen it in my ex-husband’s eyes and in his face. He really, genuinely, looked possessed. His eyes were glazed over, it was like he wasn’t even there when he would assault me verbally, or when he would punch walls, or he would scream and yell. It was so scary.

It was like those Nazi films, where Jews knowing they’re going to be killed, plead for mercy. They’re desperately begging, “Please, stop hurting us! Don’t kill us.” And the Nazis, without remorse or stopping to think, force them into the shower, where they are killed with toxic gas. There was no way to reason with the Nazis. There was no way to say, “Help, please stop.” They would not stop. No matter how much the Jews pleaded for mercy or kindness, they refused. That is pure evil.

There are several different types of abusers, and several different types of porn users, so not all of them act like this. But in essence, many women we are begging and pleading for peace in our homes and their refuse to stop doing things that harm us is, in essence, what happens. Later in the scriptures, it talks about a group of Lamanites who do repent. They bury their weapons of war and they refuse to take them up again, even when people are attacking them. They show humility, a willingness to submit to God’s will, honesty, and accountability. In repenting for the things that they’ve done, and for a history of violence, and a history of wickedness.

How Can We Know If Restitution Is Real?

Today, I want to talk about how we can know if this person has really changed.

The restitution letter I received validates my no-contact boundary in that I can clearly see absolutely no change. I am not exactly sure why he sent this. Either, number one, someone broke up with him, or he’s had a really bad day, or he felt super bad that we were thinking about going on a trip and he couldn’t come with us. There’s that.

If he wrote it of his own volition and didn’t tell anyone about it, and is not using it as a, “Look, I wrote this restitution letter and she still won’t talk to me,” kind of a thing. If he really, genuinely wrote it, and hasn’t used it to brag to other people as part of his story of being a victim, then I can see that, perhaps, there’s some part of him that understands or can see the harm that he’s caused.

Just a tiny, tiny part.

I’m hoping that’s the case and that this will continue. If, on the other hand, this was instigated by clergy, or a therapist or someone that said, “Well, she doesn’t talk to you, maybe you need to write a restitution letter,” so it was instigated by someone else. Now he can say, “Well, I’ve written a restitution letter and she still won’t talk to me,” then I don’t really feel like this is any sign of him recognizing what he’s done wrong.

There’s one other possibility. My son wanted a new bike that cost about $375. Perhaps he wanted to give me some money toward that bike, but didn’t want to simply give it out of the goodness of his heart. He wanted “credit” for it. So he wrote this disingenuous restitution letter instead to get credit, rather than simply stating, “I heard you needed some money for our son’s bike. Here you go.”

Those are my three theories, and none of them is impressive.

I want to give two analogies before I read this letter and talk to you about it. The first analogy is the analogy of a tree, which is in Lundy Bancroft’s book. In the back it says, “How do I know if he’s changing?” It gives you a list of that. I’m going to go over some of that right now.

Is Forgiveness Really Necessary After Betrayal?

If you can imagine that your life is a beautiful oak tree, and it’s very large and you have spent years and years and years planting it and digging around it and nourishing it, and it’s grown and it’s beautiful.

Then you get married, and your husband just starts hacking off random branches all the time, and you’re asking him to stop. You’re saying, “Please, please, please don’t do that. I love this tree. It really means a lot to me, please don’t do that,” and he just keeps doing it. He’ll hack off a branch and then he’ll say, “I’m so sorry I did that. I love you. I really care about you,” and the next thing you know there’s another branch out in the driveway that’s just sitting there. You’re like, “What is going on? I thought we already talked about this.”

Then, one day, in my case, he came, and he ripped the entire tree out. All that was left was this gaping hole. That’s the first analogy I want to use.

The second one is as if a murderer broke into my home at night, killed my family with a machine gun, left my house in complete and total disarray. The walls have bullet holes all over. There’s blood all over the place, and he walked out, and did not acknowledge what had happened, was not arrested, was not held accountable in any way, and then told people, “Yeah, I just went to this home and then I got attacked, and there was all this crazy stuff that happened, and I had nothing to do with it. I am the victim in this situation.” Okay, so those are the two analogies that I want to bring up.

What Is Involved In Restitution?

Now, I want to tell you a little bit about the reality of what happened on this day, that he’s trying to make restitution for. In 2015, we spoke at UCAP. Before that, and after, he just was escalating. I cancelled all of our speaking engagements.

A few weeks before UCAP, he put holes in a bunch of our walls, he broke his door. He was extremely violent and scary. At that time, I thought, “Well, this is just part of the recovery process.” We spoke at UCAP right after I said, “You’ve got to shut down your website, I can’t do this with you anymore, this is a sham,” and he got more and more and more angry.

That summer, we went to Legoland. On the way there, I was driving, he grabbed my head in the car very violently, and screamed at me to shut up, in front of my children. I was so terrified. I jumped out of the car with my kids. I ran into the Legoland hotel. I just sat there and cried for a while and then handed my kids to my parents.

I thought, “Well, I guess I can’t leave them in the car.” As I was walking back to the car to get him, I was praying out loud like, “Please, I need a miracle. I need a miracle. I cannot do this anymore.” Got him out of the car.

The rest of the day, at Legoland, he screamed at me in public in front of my parents and a bunch of other people. On the way home, I was sobbing uncontrollably, still driving.

Why Restitution Is So Important To Consider Carefully

Just to try and get him to calm down and stop, I said, “I want you to know that no matter how abusive and terrible you are to me, I will always be respectful to you. I’m sorry if I was not respectful today in confronting you about your abuse,” more or less. Can’t remember exactly what it was, but it was something like that.

He looked at me with the most evil look in his eyes and said, “Good, how do I know you’ll never act like that again?” There was no remorse, there was no anything. There was no acknowledgement of me crying. I was so taken aback by his response, I was horrified.

The rest of the trip, I tried to avoid him as much as possible. I had him sleep on a different bed. He was wondering why he couldn’t be close to me after that. That being said, just a quick recap. Before we got married, he lied to me, he was abusive.

I told him he needed to go to therapy, he said he would, continued to lie to me. About once a month, a serious verbal assault, screaming, yelling in my face two inches from my face, continues to do this, lies to me about his pornography use. I believe, now, manipulated me and lied to me about his pornography use our whole marriage.

Then, after UCAP, still using pornography, still lying about it. Not only to me, but to large groups of people, as he’s doing public speaking. Then, being arrested for domestic violence, then doing nothing to acknowledge what has happened at all, and not trying to get back in the home, not trying to repent, not trying to take accountability, not being honest, not being humble in any way. Then he files for divorce claiming that it’s because I’m not forgiving him, or something like that.

How Can We Know That He Is Remorseful?

This is the letter I received:

Anne,

Our son informed me that you may be going to Legoland during your trip to California over Spring Break. I’m glad to hear that you are taking the children to California, and possibly Legoland. I hope it is a safe and enjoyable vacation for all.

I am writing to apologize for my negative and hurtful behavior during that trip to California and Legoland in 2015. I acted in an irritable manner and said and did hurtful things during that vacation that made it difficult for you and the rest of the family to enjoy that vacation. I am sorry. It’s hard to have the memories of that vacation overshadowed by the difficulties I caused. I hope you can forgive me and enjoy the upcoming trip.

I have enclosed a check for $300 as a token of my apology as an effort to make some restitution for the difficulties I caused during that trip to California and Legoland.

Most Sincerely,

John

His name is not John, I’ve changed it to protect his anonymity and to protect my anonymity.

Restitution Does Not Minimize Abuse

Let me talk about the $300 check first. He refused to give me $100,000 back in pre-marital assets. I used money from before our marriage, and money that my parents gave me and that my grandma gave me and money that I had from a condo that I owned, partially to pay off his law school loans.

That’s money that I earned before we got married, and he refused to give it back. Which confused me so much because our whole marriage was a lie, and he lied to me before we got married. I expected him to, at least, be accountable for that, and say, “Yeah, I will give you back the $100,000 that you had before we got married,” but he refused.

This $300, I cashed the check, but it means nothing to me without the full restitution for that $100,000 in pre-marital assets, including all of the financial difficulties that I have had, as a result of his choices.

With the two analogies I gave, this is as if there’s still this gaping hole in the ground and the tree is still gone and he’s sending me a letter with a tiny stick in it saying, “Remember that time that I knocked off a tiny little branch on the north side of the tree. It was the branch that was three branches up? I’m so sorry about that little branch, here is a branch to make restitution for that little branch.” He’s literally not acknowledging the giant tree that was destroyed, or the gaping hole that was left.

Forgiveness Comes From Full Acknowledgment Of The Sin

Similarly, with the analogy of the murderer, he’s saying something like, “You know that one time I came into your home. I am so sorry that I forgot to wipe off my feet and this is to make restitution for the dirt I left on your carpet. I am so sorry for the dirt I left on your carpet that night, in 2015.” This is not what a restitution letter looks like. I don’t know what this is, but it totally validates my no-contact boundary. I will continue to hold it until I see full restitution.

Lundy Bancroft in his book, Why Does He do That, which I recommend to everyone, he says: “My 15 years of working day in and day out with abusive men have left me certain of one thing. There are no shortcuts to change, no magical overnight transformations, no easy ways out. Change is difficult, uncomfortable work. My job, as a counselor, is to dive into the elaborate tangle that makes up an abuser’s thinking and assists the man to untie the knots. The project is not hopeless—if the man is willing to work hard—but it is complex and painstaking.

“For him, remaining abusive is, in many ways, easier than stepping out of his pattern. Yet, there are some men who decide to dig down inside themselves, root out the values that drive their abusive behavior, and develop a truly new way of interacting with a female partner. The challenge, for an abused woman, is to learn how to tell whether her partner is serious about overcoming his abusiveness.”

Is Change Possible After Someone Has Been Abusive?

Abusiveness, at BTR, includes lying, manipulating, porn use, infidelity of any kind. We’re throwing all of these serious behaviors into the category of abuse, which is the only way that we can look at it.

Lundy Bancroft goes on to say: “The first challenge with an abusive man is to motivate him to work on himself. Because he becomes attached to the many rewards that his intimidating behaviors bring him, he is highly reluctant to make significant changes in his way of operating in a relationship. This reluctance cannot be overcome through gentle persuasion, pleading or cajoling by the woman.

“I am sorry to say that I have never once seen such approaches succeed. The men who make significant progress are the ones who know that their partners will definitely leave them unless they change, who demands that they really confront their abusiveness. In other words, the initial impetus to change is always extrinsic, rather than self-motivated. Even when a man does feel genuinely sorry for the ways his behavior has hurt his partner, I have never seen his remorse alone, suffice to get him to become serious about changing his behavior.”

Lundy Bancroft says, “The majority of abusive men do not make deep and lasting changes. For an abusive man to make genuine progress, he needs to go through a complex and critical set of steps.”

Will Restitution Explain The Behavior?

I’m going to read some of these steps to you, so that you can know how he’s changing. You’ll see through this, that this letter that I received is not anywhere near any of these steps. This letter doesn’t even make restitution for Legoland.

It doesn’t talk about abuse. It doesn’t talk about him grabbing my head. It doesn’t talk about him lying to me during that time. I’m pretty sure he was using porn during that time. It doesn’t say anything about the lies or the manipulation. It doesn’t even make restitution just for that one moment, let alone the whole tree. Right, it doesn’t even make restitution for the one branch.

Here are the things that Lundy Bancroft says we need to look for:

“1. [He] admits fully his history of psychological, sexual, and physical abusiveness toward any current or past partners he has abused. Denial and minimizing need to stop, including discrediting your memory of what happened. He can’t change if he is continuing to cover up to others, or himself, the important parts of what he’s done, including the lying.”

How Do I Know He Has Made Restitution?

There has been no indication with my ex that he has lied to anyone about his porn use over this time. For example, that he was online dating and going to a singles congregation long before our divorce was final. Whereas, I stayed true to my marriage vows the entire time, until the very day that the divorce was final.

“2. [He needs to] acknowledge that the abuse was wrong, unconditionally. He needs to identify the justifications he has tended to use, including the various ways that he may have blamed you, and to talk in detail about why his behaviors were unacceptable without slipping back into defending them.

  1. [He needs to] acknowledge that his behavior was a choice, not a loss of control. For example, he needs to recognize that there is a moment during each incident at which he gives himself permission to become abusive and that he chooses how far he will let himself go.

One of the key things that Lundy Bancroft says over and over again is that abuse is not losing control, it’s when they start to try to assert control on the situation. They may think, “Man, if she found out the truth, I would be toast. In order to control the situation, I’m going to lie.” That is abuse right there.

What Does Full Restitution Require?

Lundy Bancroft goes on:

“4. [He needs to] recognize the effect his abuse has had on you and your children and show empathy for those. He needs to talk in detail about the short- and long-term impact his abuse has had, including fear, loss of trust, anger … And he needs to do this without reverting to feeling sorry for himself or talking about how hard the experience has been for him.”

Again, he is not the victim here. The tree did not just randomly fall on him as he would like others to believe. He ripped it out on purpose. This acting like the victim thing, it goes really far with people who don’t know the truth, and that’s why they do it and they can justify their actions, but it’s not true. It clearly shows that they have not changed.

“5. Identify in detail his pattern of controlling behaviors and entitled attitudes. He needs to speak in detail about the day-to-day tactics of his abuse. Equally important, he must be able to identify his underlying beliefs and values that have driven those behaviors, such as considering himself entitled to constant attention, looking down on you as inferior, or believing that men aren’t responsible for their actions if ‘provoked.’”

Or in thinking that men are better than women, or they are more important than women, for some reason or another.

“6. Develop respectful behaviors and attitudes to replace his abusive ones. You can look for examples such as improving how well he listens to you during conflicts and other times … He has to demonstrate that he has come to accept the fact that you have rights and they are equal to his.

Why Is Remorse So Difficult For An Abuser?

“7. [He needs to] re-evaluate his distorted image of you, replacing it with a more positive and empathetic view. He has to recognize that he has had mental habits of focusing on and exaggerating his grievances against you and his perceptions of your weaknesses to begin, instead, to compliment you and pay attention to your strengths and abilities.”

He needs to do that with other people too. The lies that he’s told his parents and family members and friends and people that he meets and new clergy, they need to know that he has lied and that he exaggerated the weaknesses and that the weaknesses are just regular weaknesses that people might have like, “She didn’t clean up the dishes,” or something, whatever they have chosen to focus on and give reasons behind, “Because she’s disrespectful,” or whatever, and realize because she’s human, not because she’s a bad person.

“8. [He needs to] make amends for the damage he has done. He has to develop a sense that he has a debt to you and to your children as a result of his abusiveness [and the choices he has made]. He can start to make up somewhat for his actions by being consistently kind and supportive, putting his own needs on the back burner for a couple of years, talking with people who he has mislead in regard to the abuse and admitting to them that he lied, paying for objects that he has damaged, and many other steps related to cleaning up the emotional and literal messes that his behaviors have caused.”

One reason I know this restitution letter is not a sign of true repentance is that just a few weeks ago, I sent through my dad, information about how we could make the children’s schedules more consistent to really help them in their emotional stability. He wrote back and said, “My personal and professional life is more important, so no.” He was absolutely not willing to put the needs of me or his children ahead of his own needs. That’s another sign to me that he is absolutely not repentant. Lundy Bancroft goes on:

Why Abuse Thrives Without Restitution

“9. Accept the consequences of his actions. He should stop whining about or blaming you for his problems that are the result of his abuse, such as your loss of desire to be sexual with him, the children’s tendency to prefer you, or the fact that he [has lost his family or] is on probation.”

Or is out of the house, or any other consequence that he has received as a result of his actions. He needs to accept that rather than trying to blame you for it somehow.

“10. Commit to not repeating his abusive behaviors and honor that commitment. He should not place any conditions on his improvement, such as saying that he won’t … [swear] as long as you don’t raise your voice [for example]. If he does backslide, he cannot justify his abusive behaviors by saying, ‘But I’ve done so great for six months, you can’t expect me to be perfect.’”

No, if he’s still thinking that a good period earns him chips to spend on occasional abuse, or occasional porn use or occasional infidelity, he has not changed. He is not changing.

“11. [He needs to] accept the need to give up his privileges and do so. This means saying goodbye to double standards, to flirting with other women, to taking off … while you take care of the children, or that he’s allowed to express anger, while you are not [allowed to express anger].

“12. Accept that overcoming abusiveness is likely to be a lifelong process. He, at no time, can claim that his work is done by saying, ‘I’ve changed but you haven’t,’ or complain that he is sick of hearing about his abuse … and that ‘it’s time to get past all that.’ He needs to come to terms with the fact that he will probably need to be working on his issues for good and that you may feel the effects of what he has done for years.”

They don’t just go away after a month of him trying to be better.

“13. Be willing to be accountable for his actions both past and future. His attitude that he is above reproach has to be replaced with a willingness to accept feedback and criticism, to be honest about any backsliding and to be answerable for what he does and how it affects you and your children.”

Bancroft asserts that, “Abusive men don’t make lasting changes if they skip any of the above steps and some are easier than others.”

He says, “Most of my clients find it fairly easy to apologize, for example. In fact, an abuser may weave apologies into his pattern of abuse, so that when he says ‘I’m sorry’ it becomes another weapon in his hand. His unspoken rule may be that once he has apologized, no matter how cursory, or devoid of sincerity, his partner must be satisfied; she is not to make any further efforts to show her feelings about his mistreatment, nor may she demand that she fix anything. If she tries to say anything more about the incident, he jumps right back into abuse mode, saying such things as, ‘I already told you I was sorry, now shut up about it.’

How Abusers Justify Their Actions Without Making Restitution

“But even a genuine and sincere apology is only a starting point. Many of my clients make it through the first three steps. They admit to a substantial portion of their abuse, they agree that their actions resulted from a choice rather than a loss of control, and they apologize. Then they dig in their heels, at that point. An abuser’s sense of entitlement is like a rude, arrogant voice screaming inside their head. It yells at him, ‘You’ve given up too much already, don’t budge another inch. They already talked you into saying your abuse is all your fault when you know she’s at least half to blame because of [what she does]. She should be grateful to you for apologizing, that wasn’t easy to do. She’s lucky you’ve gone this far. A lot of guys [wouldn’t even do that].’ That voice drags him back into the mud of abuse.

Step number four, for example, demands that the abusive man accept his partner’s right to be angry. He actually has to take seriously the furious things that she says and think about them rather than using her emotional pitch as an excuse to stuff her opinions back down her throat. When I explain this step, clients look at me as though I had an eye in the middle of my forehead. ‘I should do what?? When she is yelling at me, I am supposed to just sit there and take it??’ To which I reply, ‘More than that, actually. You should reflect on the points she is making and respond to them in a thoughtful way.’”

Abusers often think, “I don’t mind changing some of what I do, as long as I don’t have to give up the attitudes and behaviors that are most precious to me.” Porn use is one of those things.

When Does Forgiveness Become A Possibility?

Bancroft says: “At some point during the first few months that a man is in my program, I actually stumble upon the core of his privilege like a rear bunker on his terrain. He may abandon a few of his forward positions, but this fortification is where he surrounds himself with sandbags and settles in for a protracted war. A client may agree to [answer his wife’s questions in a calm voice], for example, but when I tell him he needs to [stay engaged in a conversation even if it’s uncomfortable], he draws the line. If being a respectful partner requires [him to stop stomping out of the house when his wife is trying to talk to him], he’d rather be abusive.

“An abuser who does not relinquish his core entitlements will not remain non-abusive. This may be the single most overlooked point regarding abusers and change. The progress that such a man appears to be making is an illusion. If he reserves the right to bully his partner to protect even one specific privilege, [to protect his job, or his church standing, or his reputation] he is keeping the abuse option open. If he keeps it open, he will gradually revert to using it more and more until his prior range of [intimidating] behaviors has been restored to its full glory.” Including lying and porn use.

Bancroft says: “Abusers attach themselves tightly to their privileges and come to find the prospect of having equal rights and responsibilities, living on the same plane as their [wives], almost unbearable. They resent women who require them to change and persuade themselves that they are victims of unfair treatment because they are losing their lopsided luxuries. They can’t change unless they are willing to relinquish that special status.”

Signs That He Is Not Remorseful

Here are some signs that he is not changing.

  • He says that he can only change if you change too.
  • He says that he can change only if you help him change, by giving him emotional support, reassurance, forgiveness or spending a lot of time with him.
  • He criticizes you for not realizing how much he has changed.
  • He criticizes you for not trusting that his change will last. He criticizes you for considering him capable of behaving abusively, even though he has, in fact, done so in the past and you should know that he “would never do something like that,” even though he has. Something like, “Well, I would never lie to you,” when he is lying to you.
  • He reminds you about the bad things he would’ve done in the past, but isn’t doing anymore, which amounts to a subtle threat.
  • He tells you that you’re taking too long to make up your mind and that he can’t “wait forever.” as a way to pressure you to not take the time you need to collect yourself and to assess how much he’s really willing to change.
  • He blames his behavior, the situations, or his choices on you.
  • He says, “I’m changing, I’m changing,” but you don’t feel it.

This is really good information that you can find in the book Why Does He Do That?

I’m so grateful for the scriptures and for prayer and for books like Why Does He Do That? that help me know what true repentance looks like, what I am looking for. I will not accept anything less than that, in terms of abuse and infidelity.

True Repentence Involves Restitution

Abuse and infidelity are so damaging to relationships and to homes. The chaos that they cause is so severe that the Spirit cannot be in my home with that chaos going on. To protect myself and my children, I choose to hold a no-contact boundary.

Now, in my ex-husband’s case, if he were to fully repent, it would look something like, “I’m going to start working on repaying the $100,000 of pre-marital assets that you would never have given me had I not lied to you from the very beginning. I am going to work on rooting out my abusive thought processes and focus on your feelings and putting you and the kids first. I am going to work toward having a good relationship with you.

“I’m going to help you feel safe and these are the ways I’m going to do it: I’m going to do a polygraph. I’m going to let you know all of the lies that I told you over the 10 years that you were involved with me. I will be going to this therapist, who is an expert, and invite that therapist to call you for feedback about what happened and how I can be more safe. I feel fine about the no-contact boundary that you hold, but I would really like you to talk to my therapist about these things.” Something like this.

Basically, he needs to come replant that tree, refill in the dirt with beautiful topsoil that is full of nourishing vitamins for that tree. He needs to water it and fertilize it and take care of it and grow it and protect that tree as that tree grows and grows and grows until it is the size that it once was, which would, literally, take 30 years.

Forgiveness Can Happen With Hope

That is what restitution looks like. That is his only way to peace. Unless he acknowledges what he does, what happened and what the truth is, to himself and all the people around him, he’s just going to be running and hiding from his behaviors and from himself. There’s no way to get away from yourself.

Women, God believes in boundaries. There are so many examples of boundaries in the scriptures. I’ve found them throughout the Bible, where Christ sets boundaries. I know some of you are not Christian, you are welcome here. I don’t know many other religious texts, so I’m sorry, I cannot speak to those. In my personal religious texts, he loves boundaries. There are so many times where he says if someone is evil or this is happening, then cast it out.

I also read the allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5, which says over and over again that those wicked branches need to be cut off and burned. If he is using porn, if he is unfaithful, if he is abusive, those are the types of branches that need to be cut off, or you cannot find peace in your homes.

I don’t know why my specific church leaders have not decided to talk about boundaries yet. As I have prayed about this every conference, pray, “Please, please bless that someone talks about boundaries,” it has not yet happened. I’m not sure why that is.

In the meantime, I am talking about boundaries. God has asked me to do this and here I am. Please establish safety in your homes so you can feel the peace and know the beautiful life that God wants you to have. He loves you and he hates abuse and he hates pornography use. He hates infidelity and adultery. The reason why he hates it is because he knows it hurts you, and because he loves you.

Boundaries Are Necessary With Forgiveness

You do not have to expose yourself to these types of behaviors in the name of forgiveness. You can have a peaceful happy home. When you’re safe, forgiveness is easy. Well, I wouldn’t say easy, but it’s much easier.

Because I hold a no-contact boundary, when I received this letter, I had such a peace in my heart that I knew I was doing the right thing. I don’t know what this letter is or what it means, but I forgive my ex for being possessed, really the only thing that I can describe it as, and living in an alternate reality, because he, apparently, can’t do any better.

I forgive him for being ineffective, or being unable, whatever is holding him back from an absolute refusal to be honest. I don’t know, I don’t know what it is, but I forgive him for that. I hope that he will repent, because I’m still dealing with his abusive actions and him putting his own needs above my needs and the children’s needs. I probably will be dealing with that for a very long time.

Boundaries enable me to find peace and forgiveness, which is what I really need to have a peaceful life. I need to thank everyone again—I’ve been doing this every week—for your patience as we are developing this website. We’ve had problems with the logins. We’ve had problems with all kinds of things and I am working so hard to try and fix them. This website is a lot more complex than the old website, because it enables us to do a lot of things that we weren’t able to do before, but that means fixing the problems is a lot harder. Things are getting much better and I appreciate your patience.

When Can Restitution Happen?

Starting May 1, we’re coming out with many more Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club sessions. Go to the website, btr.org, and click on Join Recovery Club, and you can see there the new sessions that will be available starting May 1, which is really exciting. We’ll have sessions every single day. We encourage everyone to join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club.

Then, we’re encouraging everyone to take How to Heal with Coach Cat, that will give you a personalized plan for all the different topics that you may need. For example, you may need Coach Laura’s Separation and Reconciliation, like, “Am I going to reconcile?” topic sessions. There’s other topic sessions that you may need in your specific situation.

I’m praying that I’m saying the right things. I want to only teach what God wants me to teach and that is my intent. I don’t know if that’s what I always do, but I really want to be this voice. The voice of boundaries and the voice of safety. I hope that in the process, can save you years of confusion and pain.

That checklist is really helpful to take you step-by-step through all the information that you need. You can click on links to go to other information, btr.org/checklist. I ask all of you to share that in your secret groups and online to just be like, “Hey, women need to know about this, because this is how you can get to safety.”

Until next week, stay safe out there.

 

Viewing Betrayal Through The Lens Of Domestic Violence

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne. Staci Sprout is a Licensed Psychotherapist, author and publisher. With 20 years of experience as a therapist and social worker in a variety of settings from community mental health in hospitals to private clinical practice. Staci is also a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, that is CSAT.

Since 2006, she has dedicated her practice to helping individuals, groups, and couples in recovery from sex and relationship addictions. She conducts trainings on sexual ethics for professionals and is an experienced retreat and conference speaker sharing the story of her recovery from childhood trauma and multiple addictions. She lives near Seattle, Washington with her husband, who is also in recovery.

Anne: Welcome, Staci.

Staci: Thank you, Anne, glad to be here.

How Domestic Violence Involves Various Types Of Abuse

Anne:   Staci, you published a book in which you self-identify as a recovered female sex addict, among other addictions. Yet, in your memoir, you also share your experience of being betrayed by two different sex addicts you were in relationships with, one after another. Do you also identify as a betrayed partner?

Staci: Yes, I do. I am a survivor of betrayal, absolutely. Although, the focus of my book was on educating people about sex addiction and what that can look like, and how it can connect to childhood trauma.

There’s lots of overlap of other kinds of experiences, including as an older person meeting, and falling in love and being betrayed by two different men. There’s more in the book. But the emotional infidelity of one that I was engaged to, at the time, was terribly wounding for me. I didn’t understand what was wrong, really.

We went to two different couple’s therapists to try to get help for what I now call emotional domestic violence through his infidelity. It was unclear if it was a physical infidelity. It was absolutely clear it was, at least, an emotional infidelity, but, at the time, I was too dependent on him to leave. I just couldn’t imagine life without him.

How Does Domestic Abuse Relate To Trauma

Eventually, he broke up with me, which was a great gift he gave me at that time. Then, I wrote also that another man’s sexual infidelity, which was incredibly painful. Thankfully, by that time, I was in a different place. I was able to be more independent on my own. I was able to end the relationship.

Some couples choose to stay together, or they choose to reconcile, as long as both people can agree on the offense of the infidelity, the lies, and the other wounds caused by the betrayal. As long as the offender is willing to change the behavior and repair the damage they have caused. In my original relationship there was just no identification of the offense. I was just called too sensitive, or overreactive. Neither therapist could see it.

If people can recognize it and want to repair, it’s not easy. I’m happy to report that in my work, as a therapist, helping couples reconcile successfully is one of the most wonderful and rewarding parts of the work I get to do.

Anne: With your experience with those therapists who were not able to identify what was happening, did you feel betrayed by them, as well?

Staci: At the time, I felt angry. I felt enraged, but because they were in an expert position and I was in a struggling couple, I didn’t know for sure. There was some gaslighting in there. I guess I can look back and say that they tried the best they could, but I think that healing from betrayal needs to be looked at from a domestic violence lens. That is what enables therapists to treat it effectively.

Why Betrayal Is Domestic Abuse

Now, looking back, I think they lacked insight. They lacked training. They lacked perspective. I don’t, now, feel so betrayed, but it certainly was, at the time, an additional—one of my colleagues calls it therapy-induced trauma. It felt traumatic at the time and our relationship ended. At the very least, ineffective, in terms of helping us get to resolution. At the time, yeah, it did feel like a betrayal.

Anne: Many of our listeners have had that experience of going to a “specialist” and having it not be identified. Then, having the trauma of that experience just pile on with the trauma that they were already experiencing.

That is why I appreciate that we agree that this needs to be addressed from a focal point of domestic violence or abuse. Because within that context, is the only way to appropriately approach this type of situation without re-harming, or re-traumatizing the victim of the chronic manipulation.

Why Domestic Violence Can Involve Betrayal

Staci: Yeah, I see that in the people that come to me for therapy, as well. I started a group for betrayed partners. One day, we were sharing stories about the members of the group, and how many therapists they had been to that had blown them off. I think the most was six, before they got into my practice.

Yeah, there’s a lot of need for more training and education, and healing. There are a lot of therapists who have had wounds of this type in their own life, that they haven’t worked through one way or another, so they’re not able to help other people with it, until they can get that healing themselves.

Anne: Tell me more about your private practice, as it relates to betrayed partners.

Staci: Right now, I would say partners healing from sexual or relationship betrayal makes up about one-quarter of my practice, maybe 30 percent on any given time, if I add in couples. Most of the betrayed partners that I’ve seen have been female. There have been three males that I have worked with over the years.

Domestic Abuse Can Be Isolating

As I mentioned, I have had a group that is very helpful for women to come together and talk about what it’s like to be betrayed and really do the work of unhooking the blame of self that either the individual can place on themselves, or the addict or the person doing the betraying can place on them, or the therapist who doesn’t understand, or the culture who is judgmental. Definitely, support groups are really powerful.

I see them in individuals and couples work and they teach me all the time about the devastation that they they’ve experience as they’re stepping into more and more empowerment. One of the things we do is called an impact letter, where they make a formal accounting of the harm they’ve suffered.

As part of that, and I know part of the conversation you and I have had before, one of the things that does come up for partners are sexual problems in their life, that are as a result of being partnered with someone who betrayed them, or in the cases of the people who I see who have sexual addictions and have been acting out that addiction and hurting their partners.

This issue of partner’s sexuality and the wounding in relationship really hit home for me when I was giving a presentation a few years back at a conference called, “Restoring Hearts,” for women impacted by sexual betrayal. That’s an annual conference, takes place this year in April, in Bellevue, Washington.

What Are Some Responses To Domestic Violence?

When I presented, I was going through the stages of grief and the complexities of grief partners can experience. One of the women in the audience, she said, “After I found out about my partner’s betrayal, I went out and, unbeknownst to him, had an affair. How do you grieve when you’ve done something like that?”

I was so honored by her bravery to be so vulnerable in a room of people. It helped me to have a broader lens when I’m getting to know partners and what they’re going through in their grief, that some of the problems around their sexuality are very complex. The ripple effects of the betrayal can be multi-layered and very devastating.

Anne: I talked with one very reputable therapist. I asked her, “What is the percentage of betrayed women that you work with, who also end up having an affair, for example, or going into alcohol addiction, or something like that?”

She thought it was about 50 percent, which I was like, “Whoa, we need to address this on my podcast, then, because that means that there is a percentage of listeners who, as a result of their betrayal, are reacting with other unhealthy behaviors.” In your experience treating betrayed women, what do you hear about the unhealthy sexual behavior that they have struggled with?

Sometimes Domestic Abuse Causes Unhealthy Responses

Staci: You mentioned alcohol, or other drugs. Certainly, I hear about use of that outside of what they would’ve used before or starting to use something that they didn’t use before, as a way of trying to numb the pain. In terms of sexual behavior, the most common examples that I have heard over the last 12 years or so have fallen into three themes.

One area of sexual problems are things a partner did while they were in the relationship with the person who acted out, their sexual addiction or their sickness, and encouraged that partner, or coerced them to do things that made her feel uncomfortable or regretful, or ashamed.

I hear things, not usually at first, because when partners struggle with sexual behavior, as a result of being betrayed or in relationships with someone betrayed, they often feel tremendous shame. They’re dealing with lots of other issues and chaos and safety up front. Sometimes these particular issues don’t come out until later, when they’re out of the biggest chaos and they’re feeling safer.

Domestic Violence Can Feel Shameful And Lonely

Over the last 12 years, or so, I hear partners talk about sexual struggles in three distinct areas. The first area is things that they did at the encouragement or coercion of their sexually addicted, or sexually sick partner, that made her feel uncomfortable, regretful, or ashamed.

Summary of things I’ve heard over the years, generally, would be a woman looking at pornography with their partners regularly, and they didn’t want to, but they did it to go along with or because he was so insistent, going out to clubs, aka sexual exploitation organization, or joining burlesque communities, which are communities based on erotic engagement as opposed to heartfelt connection, typically.

Women who are coerced, or talked into, or influenced into creating pornography with their partner, participating in other activities with their partner, that are outside their comfort zone, feels like a toxic stretch, or they’re coerced into trying new sexual positions or techniques that they don’t want to.

In fact, the driving factor behind these influences are what I call outside-in, or often pornography-driven, sexuality, or addictive sexuality. They don’t originate from the organic, creative, heart-centered connection of the couple, and their developing sexuality. The pornography, or other artificial sexual stimulation, or these outside communities become a very toxic third-presence in the sexual relationship and dominate the process, and it’s horrible. That is a wounding I hear about a lot.

There Can Be A Sexual Component to Domestic Abuse

We talk a lot about what does the sexually sick person, or the sex addict do, and all of that can also evoke great shame for partners, “I can’t believe he did that. I can’t believe he did that to me.” That’s a whole additional category of shame that partners often take on.

I think what you and I are trying to have the courage and strength to talk about is that this is a category of things that partners are coerced into doing. They get caught up in the outside-in drive for many reasons. The underlying feature is it’s not their genuine, authentic sexuality. They would not have come up with the idea, and they go along with it.

Then, later, what I hear about as they’re working through their grief processes, they have to grieve those experiences as part of the cost of partnering with someone sexually sick. It’s really tough for them.

My message to them, because they feel so much guilt and shame, is that you cannot evaluate your behavior outside the context of your love or connection with someone who is seriously sexually sick. It is contextual behavior.

Why Women Have A Hard Time Leaving Domestic Violence

The pressure that sex addicts, or people who are sexually broken can put on partners can be relentless and incredibly confusing. They can be threatened, or blackmailed, or chronically manipulated and it can be overwhelming.

Some partners suffer from Stockholm syndrome, which is a psychologically term for someone dependent on an offender, who then goes along with, or even becomes complicit in behaviors in order to survive.

Ultimately, the healing work focuses on defining and claiming one’s own authentic sexuality, “This is what I want. This is not okay with me.” The areas they’re not sure about, then they get to explore that.

I think that’s one thing that is missed in the conversation of so-called porn being an okay way to explore sexuality and there’s no harm caused by it. It’s missed this dynamic of the force of it on people who get addicted to it and then the force that they bring to their relationships. We’re seeing that with women of all ages.

A key piece of work that people do, when they have succumbed to that, and they realize, “This is not what I want, and I never wanted it, but, because of the relationship, was engaging in it.” They have to express their grief at the partner’s abusive influence on them and forgive themselves for their actions in the context of their own betrayal. They can, and they do, so that is a beautiful thing.

How To Honor Your Self After Domestic Abuse

Another area that I hear partners struggle with, in terms of their own sexuality in relationships with betrayal in them, is changing their own appearance after finding out about an affair with another woman or discovering their husband or partner’s porn habit. I do see that sometimes partners react in changing who they are.

They may not even be aware of what they’re doing. They just suddenly want to do something different with their appearance. I see sometimes they dye their hair, or they get Botox or a facelift, or they get a breast augmentation surgery. Sometimes, their partner who is sexually sick encourages this as part of controlling the partner’s appearance, which is harmful. Mostly, I’ve seen these changes right after discovery of the lies, affair, porn addiction.

While I totally support a woman’s right to choose how she expresses her beauty, there are times when the shock of betrayal creates a reactive urge to compete with the other woman, or the women in porn and becomes another outside-in or porn-driven expression. It’s more about becoming like someone else than expressing her true self.

If a recently betrayed partner wants to make a significant or permanent change in her appearance, I just try to explore her motivation and gently. I don’t want to judge any woman for wanting to look how they want to look, but I do want to prevent regret if it’s just a reaction to the betrayal and the discovery and the shock.

Why Is Sexual Betrayal Considered Abuse?

This is one of the ways I feel like the sexual betrayal is so clearly abuses the partner’s sexuality, because it devastates, often, her sexual self-esteem. These reactions can be an attempt to reclaim it, which reclaiming that sexual self-esteem is awesome. Again, I emphasize they’re not at fault for their partner’s betrayal, nor should they have to compete with anybody else to get their attention.

Anne: I’m glad you’re bringing this up. I’ve had several friends who have had breast augmentation surgery after the discovery. Not that they would have them removed, per se, but it is a source of regret. I really appreciate the gentle way in which you’re addressing this.

Staci: One thing I want to add is, as part of my training as a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, I learned about some specialized assessments and screening tools that help partners identify how their partners sexually problematic behaviors have impacted their life.

There are three tools that I think listeners might be interested to hear about. One of them is free, called the Betrayal Bond Index and one of them is $6.50, and that’s called the Partner’s Sexuality Survey, or PSS.

There Are Tools To Help With Domestic Abuse And Betrayal

The Partner Sexuality Survey looks at 11 dimensions of a partner’s sexuality. The Betrayal Bond is a 30-question test. It gives you a preliminary response, when you take it, what your results are.

There’s another tool that you can take, if you see a CSAT, it’s called the Inventory for Partner’s Attachment, Stress and Trauma, or IPAST. That’s a much more comprehensive overview of how the experience of sexual betrayal has affected partners and looks at previous relationships and how to cope. I find it really helpful.

There’s so few resources, in general, for partners, and to have an entire assessment tool to look at, “What are some of the common areas that betrayal affects people?” I very much appreciate having it. I think it could be interesting for anyone to take the Survey, or the Betrayal Bond Index, and see how they come out, and talk it over with someone they trust.

Anne: A link to all of these assessments, so just go to btr.org, and search Staci Sprout, and there you will find the article that has the links to these assessments. It’s awesome. I really appreciate it. We want to help the women who are dealing with this, especially with those own behaviors that they’re having a really difficult time with, that they need help with, so that they can feel more peace in their lives.

What Are Some Impacts Of Domestic Abuse?

Staci: Mm-hmm.

Anne: For the women who have actually acted out themselves, women who have had an affair, women who have been seeking anonymous sex with other men, can you talk about that?

Staci: Yes. This is another facet of what can happen that may not come out in the very beginning of treatment. It may be a while before a partner will say, “Hey, there’s this other thing I need to talk about it, and I don’t want to talk about it, or it’s hard to talk about.”

Sometimes, we’ll talk about it right away, but, usually, because of shame, they stay silent until they feel really, really safe. Like the woman at the conference who confessed to an affair post-betrayal, is an extremely vulnerable and volatile time for partners, as you know. If they want to stay in the relationship, many that I get to talk to say they think about do they want to cheat. They were cheated on, maybe they want to cheat. Retaliatory affairs do happen.

According to some research I’ve read, they are more common with betrayed male partners, but it can happen with both genders. It’s a very high-risk time, because, after you find out about the betrayal, you’re feeling traumatized, disconnected, you want to fight, or run, or freeze. The relationship is so horrible, typically, that the partner’s in shock or anger, or they’re confused and hurt. Their emotional needs are very high.

How Safety Can Bring Healing From Domestic Violence

We would hope that a betrayed partner, who would open up to someone else outside the relationship, like a friend or acquaintance, or coworker, might be met with understanding and support. Sometimes, that person actually moves into emotional enmeshment, or initiates a sexual intrigue on either side, which can progress into a physical affair. Participation in this may be a passive aggressive expression of rage.

In some cases, the partner is vulnerable and opens up to someone new, and then they’re groomed during that time, by a predatory person, which adds another injury to the betrayal they’ve already suffered. What I say, when partners tell me about these kinds of experiences—well, it kicks me into an assessment mode, because my response is different depending on what’s going on.

The first thing I would ask, if someone was participating in an emotional or physical affair outside their partnership, is to find out if they feel like it’s a problem or not. I’ve not actually had a partner say, “No, it’s fine. It’s no big deal,” but I would just make sure.

Because if someone didn’t feel like it was a problem then they may be using that as an attempt to exit the relationship. If that’s really clear, I would, “Then let’s support you to do this directly, rather than to risk discovery, a blow-up, and resulting devastation of a really dramatic exit.”

Mostly, partners are ambivalent. They want to stay if there’s healing, if they’re respected, if there’s sobriety, if there’s fidelity, if there’s truth. Sometimes, keeping another relationship on the side, even in an emotional way that’s not acted out physically, is an expression of their ambivalence about the relationship. I try to help them sort out what their values are about the relationship and are they willing to be all in versus the pain of holding a secret.

Why Shame Can Be An Effect of Domestic Abuse

Other times, the affair partner is what I call an effort at forced empathy. What I mean by that is where they do what’s been done to them in an attempt to force their partner to understand their own pain. Which is a little different than just retaliation, right, where you’re trying to express an action that will retaliate or hurt someone.

Maybe it can be mixed up in there together, but, basically, in these cases, if their behavior is trying to get the empathy they so much need, then I would offer perspective that it’s not very effective.

If someone wants to reconcile, I really encourage them to stick with that process, because, oftentimes, if their partner is not showing empathy, it’s actually a capacity issue, a psychological capacity issue. A partner, because of their wounding, has not developed the complexity in their brain to be able to hold their heart empathy. That is a treatment issue where they need to get support and treatment, so they can have the capacity to do that.

The reconciliation process, which I support people to do formally with therapists who are experienced in it, it requires fidelity on both sides in order for people participating to feel safe enough to do it. I would encourage them to hold onto their decision to make a best effort at reconciling.

How Abuse In A Relationship Thrives In Silence

They don’t have to commit to permanent reconciliation until they do get that empathy, but I encourage them to let go of any outside detractions or distractions or infidelities if they want to try to achieve that. That empathy does come, eventually, in most all the people who stick with the work that I see, those couples, but it can be painstakingly slow.

Getting support while one is going through that, while you have a partner who doesn’t have empathy yet, is so essential, because, otherwise, how could anyone do it, really.

I ask partners, also, when they’re thinking about their values, what is their overall vision and purpose of their life. That, typically, clarifies whether or not infidelity fits in. It’s messy and complicated but healing happens. It’s just life. I’m trying to take it, as they say in recovery, one day at a time.

Anne: It is a very difficult, complicated, painstaking process. I agree with you. It does happen, it can happen, and that is the best-case scenario for most couples—I would say all couples to have a beautiful, happy, empathetic relationship. That’s what everybody wants, even if they don’t know how to get it.

I love this forced empathy concept. I had never heard of it before you brought it up. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since we originally talked about doing the podcast. I’ve been thinking about how I try to force empathy with my children, and how they probably are not capable of that empathy yet. I think just knowing that that concept exists and having that in my mind will probably help me a better parent. I’m grateful for you for bringing that up.

Why Self-Awareness Is Important In Healing From Abuse

I want to end with the very difficult and, perhaps triggering, question for our audience is that, if you have participated in these behaviors, are you a sex addict? If, within the context of your relationship with a sex addict, you too have participated in sexually unhealthy behaviors, does that make you a sex addict? How would you address that question?

Staci: That is a great question, because I think a lot of partners fear that. Two things to keep in mind, if you’re trying to sort that out. Number one, have your behaviors come in reaction to being betrayed or are they independent of betrayals?

That would be one thing to be curious about. In other words, someone who’s influenced by a sex addict in the context of relationship, or they’re betrayed and then, in reaction to that devastation, start looking at porn, maybe their checking up on their partner and then they start looking at it more, or have a retaliatory affair, or trying to get the person to understand by having an affair, forced empathy. Those are context-specific behaviors.

With sex addiction, typically, we see that they occur related to other triggers. The pattern is much longer, over a period of time, can come and go, like binge-purge, binge-purge, but it’s not contextual to the betrayal. I think there’s a difference between a woman self-identifying as a sex addict and acting out that behavioral pattern in relationships, because sex is often relational.

Although, for women sex addicts, there is a distinction between women who engage more in relation-based sexual acting out and women who engage in more objectification, that kind of non-relational sexual acting out.

How Does Addiction Relates To Domestic Abuse

When you hear someone say, “Oh, I’m more a sex addict,” and someone else might say, “I’m more a love addict or relationship addict,” they self-identify as sex addicts and they act out in relationships. Maybe they have serial relationships, a whole bunch at a time, maybe their deceptive, maybe they mix in more objectifying behaviors like pornography.

Anne: Okay.

Staci: I run a group for female sex and love addicts. There is definitely overlap in terms of women in the group who have been betrayed. But, what makes them feel more like they are sex and love addicts is, even though they had one betrayal that was profound and damaging, they also had a repeat pattern with various relationships where they were not betrayed.

In fact, they were often in the role of betrayer. We’re looking at pattern over time. We’re looking at who instigates the betrayal. Those are things that, I think, women tend to then identify more as sex and love addicts.

Why Sexual Addiction Is Domestice Abuse

Anne: Sex addiction and betrayal trauma are very complicated. That’s why we have a podcast. That’s why we’ll never run out of things to say on the podcast because, from our perspective coming from the abuse angle, that the lying and the porn use and the infidelity are the abuse in and of themselves. In conclusion, Staci, would you like to share anything else with our audience?

Staci: For me, personally, I identified as a sex addict because it made the most sense to me on some level that was just about me and my own self-identification and didn’t mean I wasn’t also a betrayed partner of a sex addict. I was both.

I always tell people who are trying to heal, just work on the thing that’s killing you the quickest. Only worry about the labels as much as they help you find help. I now call myself a recovered sex addict, because I no longer struggle with preoccupations or obsessive thoughts or ritualized behaviors or sexual acting out. I don’t struggle with that.

I also respect that there are people who still struggle with those things and maybe it originated in the betrayal partnership, but it’s taken on a life of its own, or maybe there’s a long pattern of it that goes back to childhood, or maybe it started with porn use and it hasn’t gone away. The sexual harm that’s out there is vast, but so are the resources for healing that sexuality, the sexual betrayal, the sexual patterns.

Connection Is Key In Domestic Abuse Situations

I wanted to segue into something that I’m really passionate about right now, which is I’m starting a newscast. It’s on Facebook Live Friday’s at 5 Pacific Time. It’s called sex addiction in the news. I would encourage anybody who’s interested in this topic to check it out. It’ll be once a week and just a half hour or so, or even send me stories, if you find news links related to healing from sexual addiction and partners who are healing from betrayal trauma.

Join Staci’s Newscast On Facebook

I think part of the problem is we don’t talk about it. When we don’t talk about it, we can’t self-define. I’ve had a lot of women write to me after they read my book, “Naked in Public: A Memoir of Recovery from Sex Addiction and Other Temporary Insanities,” and tell me they identified with parts of the book but not with others.

It’s just about trying to get stories out there where people are feeling safe and get into the conversation, so people can define what fits and what doesn’t so that they can know where to get help and where to get relief.

Anne: Absolutely. If you struggle with sexually compulsive behaviors, if you’re struggling with other addictions, either as a result of or in the context of a betrayal or if this is a pattern that you’ve had throughout your life, I recommend Staci’s site to you. It’s stacisprout.com.

Begin considering your own compulsive behaviors, whether within the context of the betrayal or outside the context of the betrayal, but simply so that you can get the help that you need to find the peace and the happiness that you deserve.

Domestic Violence Can Feel Hopeless And Confusing

I need to thank everyone profusely for your patience. I’ve been creating automated emails for all the services and things have been crazy. If you’ve gotten random emails from me. Some of you got emails from services that you purchased in October. It’s just been insane. The website is coming along. It’s very exciting.

We have changed the topics so that you can take any topic either individually with a coach or, if lots of women sign up at the same time, you can take it in a group setting. That way, we were able to meet all the needs of any woman at any time. That took us a long time to figure out. Thank you for being patient with us as we evolve. I really appreciate that.

A lot of women are getting a lot of good feedback on that checklist, so please print it out, slip it under the door of your clergy, take it to your therapist, talk to people about it. It’s a really good resource and I want every woman to know about it.

Recently, the LDS Church came out with a new policy that women can take someone else with them in an appointment where they’re going to talk to their clergy about their husband’s abuse. I want to encourage all of you who are LDS to always take a trusted friend, a safe woman, or a safe person with you, who understands the abusive nature of pornography addiction, when you go in to talk to your church leader about your husband’s behaviors.

Also encouraging you, when you go in there, to tell your church leader, “These are the things I am going to do to establish safety. These are called boundaries, and I need you to support me in these boundaries. This will make a huge difference in the ability of women to get healing.

To Address Abuse, We Must Know What Abuse Is

I’m very, very grateful for that policy and I really, truly believe that God directed that. I’m grateful that He answered our prayers.

I have some crazy news. Are you ready for this? I don’t know if you’re ready for this, but I received a restitution letter in the mail yesterday. I’m going to talk about it and how I feel about it and where I’m at with it.

Stay tuned for next week’s podcast, because it will be an update on my recovery, what’s going on with me. I think that you’ll find it very, very interesting. In fact, I want to tell you all about it right now, but you’ll have to wait until next week.

If this podcast was helpful to you, please rate it on iTunes. Every single one of your ratings helps increase our search engine rankings and helps women who are isolated find us. We’d also appreciate it if you would go to our website and comment on any of our posts or pages. The more engagement we get, the better our site ranks on search engines.

Our goal is to find every woman who needs us, so every woman can have access to the checklist, every woman can save years and years of pain and confusion if they understand what’s going on, and if they know what to look for.

Until next week, stay safe out there.

How To Save Other Women Years Of Pain & Confusion

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne. I’m very excited to have my new friend, I’m going to call her Lisa, from Georgia, but that’s not her name, and that’s not where she’s from. We spent the weekend together at Determined to Rise, and that’s what I accidentally introduced her as over and over to people, because I had trauma brain and did not remember her actual name or where she really was from. The handy part is now we can use the name, that I accidentally called her all weekend, on the podcast, to protect her anonymity.

Anne: Welcome, Lisa.

Lisa: Hello, Anne, thanks for having me.

Anne: We had a very long drive from Salt Lake City down to Zion to attend the Determined to Rise retreat. There were about 80 other women with us and it was a really, really nice weekend where we could really connect with other women and experience the strength in numbers of knowing that we’re not alone.

How Connection Can Help In Healing Your Pain

One of the things that Lisa mentioned on our drive home was that a lot of women have the desire to spread the word about Betrayal Trauma Recovery because, before they found Betrayal Trauma Recovery, they didn’t realize that there were so many women experiencing similar things.

Maybe the details are a bit different, but similar emotions of not knowing what to do, of trying to figure out what to do next, of the pain and the confusion that come along with the abuse and the infidelity that we’ve all experienced. Lisa, why do you feel like women who find BTR really want to help spread the word about BTR?

Lisa: You were just talking about the Determined to Rise conference. I wouldn’t have known anything about that if it hadn’t been for the BTR podcast because there’s not a lot of resources in my area. Even the counselor I’m seeing isn’t trained in this area. She doesn’t know about resources like books and things that you suggest on BTR. I just want to do my best to help other ladies find it quickly, more quickly than I did.

Why Trauma Is Painful and Confusing

Anne: I’ve had women write me and say, “Had I found BTR sooner, it would’ve saved me years and years of pain or years of confusion.” Is that how you feel?

Lisa: Initially, just friends and maybe counselors and books, I would read them and listen to it, and it just didn’t resonate with me. As I dug further, I started learning words like betrayal trauma. I didn’t even know that’s what I had. I didn’t know those are the words I needed to search for. I just started stumbling across things.

I had to weed through a lot of things that were not helpful before I could get to the things that were. Even with books and things like that, that are suggested, sometimes, you’re just not in a place where you can sit down and read and comprehend a book.

BTR, for me, was just something consistent, weekly, that I could turn on and listen to. It took time, but I learned to trust the advice you were giving, because what you were saying was resonating with me. I was able to take your advice. It was just good for me when I found BTR because it was a consistent voice of reason that I could turn to. Listening doesn’t take nearly as much brain power as sitting down and studying, or something like that.

Others Who Have Felt The Pain Can Help You Heal

Anne: As evidenced by my trauma brain over the weekend, right. Women who experience trauma have a difficult time processing written information.

Lisa: Yes, definitely.

Anne: We also have a very difficult time remembering things.

Lisa: Absolutely, yes. Writing things down is very important for me to make sense of things and to remember things. It’s great with the podcast, I can go back and re-listen. Before I got on with you, I was re-listening to a few things.

Anne: I am grateful for your patience as you listen to the podcast. It was nice to meet you in person. One of the things you mentioned in the car is that you really wanted other people to know about BTR. You said, “On the podcast you mention that giving the podcast a rating helps increase the views on search engines. Is there anything else that listeners can do to help spread BTR, so that other women can find it?”

Why Trauma Brings Confusion

Lisa: I’m not, probably, going to have my own podcast or website or blog or anything like that. It may be difficult to talk about these things with people in person. I want to do my best to promote you and people like Determined to Rise. I want to promote those in the best way that I can, to help other people.

You’ve mentioned giving the podcast a rating. I had done that. I just went back and listened to some other podcasts, and you mention posting on the BTR site. I’m not sure exactly what that means, and you also mentioned posting in our secret groups. If you could just explain that better to us?

Anne: I would love to. The first thing I want to do is talk about why it’s so important that women can find us online. Like you said, you were searching for things that you didn’t know to type betrayal trauma into Google, because you didn’t know what it was, right? That you didn’t know what you were searching for exactly.

Lisa: Right.

Betrayal Trauma Is More Than Just Hurt

Anne: Then, finally, when you found the word “betrayal trauma” you found us. You found Betrayal Trauma Recovery. As women are searching around, they search for words like, “infidelity,” “cheating,” “pornography addiction.” Lots of women are searching for narcissism stuff, lying, “how do I help my marriage.” It’s very rare that a woman who’s having marriage troubles goes immediately to Google and types in “betrayal trauma.”

My goal is to help women get this information as soon as possible. Making sure they can find us online is really important. The first thing I ask people to do is to have people rate the podcast on their podcasting service, either Google Play, or iTunes, or their Android app. That five-stars means that Google starts paying attention to it, or iTunes starts paying attention to it.

Podcasts with a lot of ratings, that rating just helps give it more visibility. That’s what we need if someone types in infidelity, for example, we might pop up because it’s one of our search term words, or another one of our key words is narcissism, and we might pop up. Then they might say, “Oh, I’ve never heard of this betrayal trauma thing,” and they might go from there.

Connecting With Others Can Ease Pain

The second thing you talked about is commenting on the site. The way that search engines work is the more interaction, the higher it ranks on Google. I want to stop for a minute and talk about our new website. Satan hates it.

My web developer is amazing. She’s done over 100 websites, she’s incredible. She’s telling me that she’s coding, and then crazy mal-code is just pouring in. She’s fending it off like an internet warrior. We have, I would say, other-worldly opposition to what we are doing. I’ve just run into road blocks over and over and over again with what we do, just in terms of the technology and stuff.

The more interaction a website gets, the higher it ranks on a search engine. If a lot of people comment on a post, for example. You would go to the article section of the new site, this might change, so everybody be flexible as the new site is being built and we’re optimizing it, but that’s where all the podcasts are in written form.

Why The Pain From Betrayal Trauma Is Unique

You can read the podcast if you are in a really good place, or you can just push play and you can hear it from that page. At the bottom, you can comment. You can just do little comments like, “Thanks so much for sharing,” or whatever. You can comment anonymously. Each comment dings Google, and Google says, “Oh, someone’s interacting with this site,” and it increases our search engine rankings. That’s another way to help Betrayal Trauma Recovery rank higher on search engines.

Then, the third thing you were talking about is sharing it in a secret group. Many of you are member of secret groups or private groups where you live. For example, The Georgia Mom Coalition, or LA Moms, or all different kinds of groups that you’re in on Facebook.

One way to do it by keeping some distance between you and BTR is saying something like, “Hey, a friend of mine is going through this, and she told me that BTR was really helpful to her, and she wished other people knew about it. I just wanted to get it out there that this is a resource for women in this situation.” That tends to work really well. If you feel like saying, “Hey, I’m going through this and these guys have really helped me,” then it just helps get the word out.

Shared Stories Of Trauma Can Help Shift Through Confusion

Lisa: That is very helpful. You did mention the BTR Facebook group, which I have not figured out how to join yet, can you give us some steps to joining that?

Anne: Yes. Okay, there’s two ways to do it. The first one is you can friend Anne Blythe, me. A-N-N-E B-L-Y-T-H-E on Facebook, and then send me a private message on Facebook and say, “Hey, I want to join your BTR secret Facebook group. I will get you in there. There are about 1,200 women in there right now, give or take a few women. I’m bad with numbers. I’m not giving you the exact numbers, but its around there.

Sometimes I miss messages, because so many people are messaging me on Facebook. If you’re not added right away, message again. Just be like, “Hey, you must have missed me. It’s me, Lisa from Georgia, let me in your group,” and we’ll let you in. In order to make sure it’s a safe space for women to share, we do have group guidelines and we set boundaries around those guidelines. We have volunteer admin that work in the group.

If your sharing does not meet the group guidelines, your post will be deleted, and you’ll be given a one-on-one warning and some mentoring. Then we have had to block some women from the group for not posting according to the group guidelines.
Our goal is to make sure the group is safe. One of the guidelines, for example, is that you don’t give advice. This is not the right place for advice. This isn’t where people are asking for advice.

How Comfort Is Found After The Pain

If you want to comfort someone or let them know that you are there, then you could say, “I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. This is very painful, and this is what I did in this situation and it helped me. Whatever you decide will be the right thing for you.” Those type of responses are safe and help women feel safe.

The types of responses that we moderate and usually end up deleting are when women say things like, “You need to get divorced right now,” or “You need to do this. You’re crazy if you don’t do this thing.” That is just not a safe space for any of us. Those are the types of comments that need to be reported. If you’re in there and you get some things like that, then just report those to the admin and they will be able to confront those people and resolve that safety issue.

The second way to get into the secret group is joining our email list. If you go to the website, there’ll be a pop-up that pops up, or you can scroll down to the very bottom and you can put your email in. You’ll get an email once a week from BTR.
On some of those emails, there are direct instructions like, “Number one, friend Anne on Facebook.” You can click on that and it’ll take you directly to my Facebook page where you can friend me. If these instructions, you did not write them down, or they seemed overwhelming, then just go put your email into the website, and push Join and we’ll send you some emails.

Healing From Pain Begins With Feeling Safe From Abuse

Lisa: That’s perfect. Being technologically challenged as I am, if I join this private Facebook group, are my friends that I have on Facebook going to be able to see that I’ve joined it, or know that I’m a part of it in any way?

Anne: No. The secret group is different than a private group. A private group will show up maybe on your profile, or other places, that you’re a member of it, or people can see. With a secret group, there’s no indication that you’re a part of it. You could “Like” our public page, for example. We have many women who “Like” our public page and people can see that you’ve liked it. If you want to be anonymous, don’t “Like” our public page and you can just be in the secret group.

Lisa: Sometimes you’re comfortable sharing with someone or talking to someone about it, but, sometimes, unsafe people are on your friend list and it invites unwanted questions. That’s why I don’t want to share it with all of my friends on Facebook.

Why Pain And Trauma Feels Confusing

Anne: Interestingly enough, several women have found out, once they get inside the secret group, that there are people in there that they know. Especially here in Utah, where we have a large population of women from Utah in the group. When that happens, take a deep breath, and say, “Wow, we’re in this together,” rather than thinking, “Oh no, now she knows.” I’ve found that I’ve made some of my best friends finding out, “Oh, we’re both in this same situation,” and we’ve had a lot to connect about. Which has been really rewarding.

Lisa: Right, right. Yeah. Isn’t this fun.

Anne: It’s like you’re interviewing me.

Lisa: I have another question for you. We’ve talked a lot about the technical ways we can spread this. Have you heard of anyone or seen any success with maybe people printing the checklist and leaving it in places where a lot of women would be visiting? Like I go to a doctor’s office that’s mostly catered to women. Do you think they would be open to having the checklist laying there for women to see?

Trauma Causes Pain and Fog That Feels Hopeless

Anne: I think they might. I’ve been to a doctor’s office that had little cards in the bathroom that talked about physical abuse. I remember looking at it and thinking, “This doesn’t apply to me,” which was really interesting because it totally did.
I wonder if this type of information, especially the checklist, which is not at all the same as the domestic violence checklists that say like, “Does he control your money?” or “Does he control your transportation?” Because when we’re considering, “Are we abused or not?” and we go to those types of checklists, we’re usually only two out of ten on the list.

This checklist is not so much what to look for, but how to establish safety. “How do I know if I’m safe? How can I create safety in my life?” For women who are still in the trauma fog, having this on a desk somewhere where they could read it while they’re in the waiting room, would really be helpful. So yes, yes, yes, yes. That’s a good idea.

I have other women who have taken it to their church leaders. Printed it out and said, “Hey, if you have a woman come in, give this to them.” That has been very successful, and the church leaders have also found it very helpful to realize, “Whoa, okay. Wait a minute, so I’m not supposed to counsel with this couple.” Some church leaders are open to it and others are not, but just sliding it under their door might be an option, or maybe not.

Why Betrayal Trauma Can Hurt Immensely 

Lisa: Okay, just wanted to double-check and be sure it was okay with you that we print those out and hand them out.

Anne: I am always improving things at BTR, so if you have a copy of it and it’s three months old, always go to the website and download a new one, because it’s most likely been updated since you printed it. You’ll see things evolving over time, with BTR, as I learn better ways to describe things, as I learn more words for this experience.

As all of us know, it’s an ever-evolving process to be able to describe what we’re feeling and what is happening to us. I try to update the website over time, and all the materials over time, when I have a new and better way to describe something.

Lisa: I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to be interviewing you. It’s probably not how this is supposed to go.

How Isolation Causes Fear and Pain

Anne: That’s the cool part about this podcast is it’s by trauma survivors for trauma survivors and we can make it whatever we want. Tell me about your experience being around so many women, having come from an isolated state of not talking to anyone who you felt really understood.

Lisa: Here, in my town, I hadn’t found any groups that I felt comfortable going to, just because they didn’t focus on my specific need, and then just having such a hard time finding a counselor. I felt like they were listening, but maybe didn’t really get it.

I have friends and family that know that I’m separated, and they know that I’m hurting, but still, again, they don’t know the details or, maybe, how to listen with understanding. Being around all these women, even if their situations weren’t the same, or if they hadn’t experienced the same thing, it just felt like they knew how to react appropriately, and the right things to say.

What Can Help With The Overwhelming Pain?

It felt so good just to be able to talk and not worry about filtering what I was saying, or trying to remember what I had already told them, or “Is this person safe or not?” or “When am I going to run into them at the grocery store?” or “Do they know my husband?” All these things that are constantly going through your mind at home and trying to know how to talk to people.
None of that was there, and I was able just to talk and share my story and not feel judged or getting good advice or bad advice. Sometimes, you just want to talk and have somebody listen. It was a really great experience.

Anne: It was a good experience for me too. I really enjoyed the personal interaction. I enjoyed being able to give people hugs. I enjoyed crying with people. That sounds really awful that I would enjoy crying with people, but it was just nice to have that personal connection and feel things as a group. I really appreciated that.

We decided to partner with Determined to Rise because they do in-person events. That’s their specialty. At BTR, I decided to do only online things. It was for that same reason, it’s very difficult for women to get out of their homes. It’s very difficult for them to drive down the street. They’re afraid, “Oh, what if someone sees me pulling up to this therapist,” all of the concerns that women have when they start to go for help. We’ve tried to figure out a way, at BTR, to work around those, so that women can feel the strength from other women online.

Others Who Have Felt Trauma Can Be Lifelines For Your Pain

Lisa: I want to throw out there that I’m sure donating helps continue how you all are already working on spreading the word. I don’t know, I just want to throw that out there, because I think everybody should donate. I want to help you guys any way I can.

Anne: Thank you. We do need your donations, and I appreciate you bringing that up, especially right now with this website rebuild and all the problems that we’ve been having. Like I said, Satan hates it. Your donations really help us cut through that, because when I started Betrayal Trauma Recovery, it was just me with, literally, no money, crying in my basement.

Because of your donations, I’ve been able to purchase a really nice microphone, so the sound has improved. I’ve been able to purchase really nice editing software so that I can edit the podcast better. I wanted to express this at Determined to Rise, Betrayal Trauma Recovery was built by all of us.

There’s no way I could’ve started it without the emotional support of all the women that were listening, all the donations small and large, and knowing that there was someone on the other side of the microphone listening to me. Because, when I would feel just so dark and sad and just be speaking into a microphone in my basement, the support that I’ve received has been overwhelming, and there’s no way I could’ve done it without you and without the coaches.

Why Betrayal Pain Hurts So Much

I’m very, very grateful that this is a organization by trauma survivors, of trauma survivors. It feels like a community that I’m a part of that I’m proud of and I’m grateful for.

Lisa: If you can say Satan hates it, you’re probably doing something great.

Anne: Yeah, I think he hates women. I really do. I just think he hates women in general.

Lisa: That’s funny.

Anne: He hates us. The next Determined to Rise will be in Bear Lake, Utah in September. We’ll talk more about that later. In the meantime, as you will not have the opportunity, most likely, to be around women who understand your situation, or understand how you’re feeling, I invite you to join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club.

Like I mentioned, it has a session every single day. It’s a very safe space, especially because it is professionally facilitated by an APSATS coach. Right now, I really want everybody to take Emotional Abuse, is it Happening to Me, because a lot of women know that there’s something not quite right.

Then they find out about the porn, but when they also realize that the lies and the gaslighting and the manipulation are a form of abuse, it’s very intense for a little while to realize, “Holy cow, I’ve been abused for 20 years and I didn’t know,” or, “I’ve been abused for five years and I didn’t know.” I’m really hoping that women can turn their focus to that for a little while, to get really educated about emotional abuse.

Abuse Causes Confusion But Connection Can Help

If you can’t afford to take the class, the best way to get educated about it is to read Lundy Bancroft’s book called, “Why Does He do That?” It was life-changing for me. If I had the money, I would literally fly over everyone and dump this book out of planes. I think it would change everyone’s life.

Lisa, thank you so much for coming on today and thank you for your questions. I’m sure many other women have those same questions. Thanks for talking today.

Like I mentioned, things are evolving on the website, so now topic sessions can be done as individual sessions, or, if a lot of women sign up at around the same time that you do, you might have the opportunity of experiencing those topics in a group setting. We’ll be changing our website a lot in the next few weeks, so watch out for that.

If this podcast is helpful to you, please rate it on your podcasting app. It helps women who are isolated find us. Go to the website, find the Blog section—that’s what it’s called right this very second, but by the time this podcast airs, it might be called something else—find this particular podcast episode, scroll down to the bottom, and comment. That helps us a lot too.

Until next week, stay safe out there.

How To Talk About Your Divorce Due To Porn Use & Abuse

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne. I have Caroline on the podcast today. She is a BTR client who recently got divorced. We’re going to talk to her about her experience and what she went through and how she’s feeling now.

Anne:  Welcome, Caroline. You’re in this post-divorce situation. When people ask you why you got divorced, what is your response?

Caroline: Although I knew about my husband’s pornography addiction from the beginning, I didn’t know what that entailed. In the end, he refused to get help, refused to get treatment. It wasn’t because he had a pornography addiction, but it was because he did not want to get help, even refused to believe that he had an addiction to begin with.

How To Handle The Questions About Divorce and Abuse

Anne:  When you say that to people, do you think they respond well, or is it a triggery experience to have to talk about it with people who are wondering why you got divorced?

Caroline: It’s definitely a panic zone because you don’t know how people will react. Some people are very educated on pornography addiction, and others aren’t. They believe that it’s normal. The reactions vary. It’s only been in the past few months that I’ve felt like I can actually say the word pornography, when I’m talking about my divorce.

Anne:  You mentioned that you knew about his pornography use while you were dating, or before you got married. Did you see any other red flags?

Caroline: As I was thinking about post-divorced, I was incredibly surprised at how many red flags there actually were. I think I just refused to see them. One characteristic that I’ve learned, through BTR, is that addicts are narcissists and the term gaslighting.

What Are Some Red Flags of Abuse?

Some of those narcissistic traits were that our dates were always extremely lavish and expensive. It seemed that he just had untapped funds. From the get-go, date one, he wouldn’t give me hardly any time alone, always had to be around me, knowing what I was up to, surprise visits. He would fake sick at work just to come see me. It felt like he almost forced himself into my life.

I was flattered at the time thinking, “Wow, this guy really likes me. He’s so cute. He’s got all this money. He’s got a good job,” but now I see it as him being controlling and insecure and practicing those narcissistic traits. He was a strong member of his church up until a few months before we met.

He had a lot to say about his inactivity in the church and a lot of excuses how he was being treated unfairly. He undermined his parents while still having them in the palm of his hand. He constantly seeked praise and validation down to the littlest things. If he wiped off the counter, he would say, “Hey look, look what I did. I wiped off the counter,” just fed off of what other people thought of him constantly.

Is Narcissistic Abuse Easy To Spot?

Anne:  I want to make a clarification there. I would not say that all porn users are narcissists, meaning they might not all be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. However, I do think that porn users exhibit narcissistic behaviors, whether or not they’re diagnosed. I think that’s probably what you’re saying.

Caroline: Yeah.

Anne:  I was just thinking about my ex. He contacted some people in my life, because he was trying to get information about filing taxes before we were divorced but while we were separated. He said things like, “I love Anne so much. I need to make sure that I do this for her,” and just went over and above how amazing he was for filing the taxes.

He really felt like he needed tons of praise for just every day normal things that, literally, he had to do. If he wouldn’t have done it, he would’ve been breaking the law. It’s like, “You’re not going to get a ton of praise for filing your taxes. Every single person has to do that. I don’t know why you’re the hero for filing taxes.”

What Are Abusive Narcissistic Behaviors?

Being educated about what narcissistic behaviors are is super important for women so that they can know, “Oh, that was not a man being completely and totally in love with me. That is love-bombing. That’s about them, not about me. This is an unsafe situation. I need to take a step back.”

Which, what woman wouldn’t want to be love-bombed. That’s what we see in romantic comedies. Our culture tells us, “When you meet the right person, these amazing things will happen.” That amazing situation is meant for a romantic comedy, it is very similar a narcissist love-bombing.

Caroline: Yeah, exactly.

Anne:  That’s what you experienced there, yeah. Now, when you look back, do you realize, “Wow. Here is a very sick person. I didn’t realize how sick he was. I got manipulated and pulled into that alternate reality that he lived in,” or do you see someone that you thought had the potential to be an amazing person and chose not to?

Why Women Stay In Abusive Relationships

Caroline: I saw a lot of potential in my ex-husband. Mainly, I saw him becoming like a voice against the addiction and influencing so many people, especially the youth. I saw him mastering his personal wellness and becoming a spiritual giant and cherishing me as his wife. I really saw him and I creating a family and becoming a mother, and him becoming a father.

He talked about all sorts of different things when it came to the family and being a major influence and support to his own mom, who is a widow. I think he had many opportunities to face his addiction and many opportunities to get help. Many times, where I saw authentic reaction to what he was doing, sadness for what he had done.

Then, the next day it would be like that realization never happened. I definitely believe that he knew, to a degree, what was happening and what was going on. In the end, I feel like he almost hated himself. Then, that was where a lot of the praise and the validation had to come through to make up for that. A lot of the mourning is because you do see their potential. Somebody told me, while going through my divorce as I was having a lot of confusing and conflicting thoughts about my decision, because you feel like such a relief and, at the same time, you really miss them, and you are mourning the loss of that potential in that person. You can see it so clearly, after spending time with that person.

Why Narcissistic Abuse Is So Difficult To Recognize

It’s so hard, because you want to take them by the shoulders and shake them and tell them, “Hey, I believe in you. I see you. I hear you. I love you. You’ve got all this untapped potential right there, if you would just take it, it’s right there.” You can’t make anybody do anything. They have to be the ones to decide and actually admit, and then take the steps that are needed to recover and go into healing.

Anne:  In the meantime, our job is to keep ourselves safe so that if and when the person does decide to change, we have not been continually harmed through their either non-changing, or their process of change.

Caroline: One thing that Sarah, from BTR, my coach, helped incredibly with was that boundaries should be set in those instances. Before, I just thought marriage was this free-for-all when it comes to each other’s feelings, because, “Well, we’re married.” But she taught me that boundaries are good and that they need to be set, even inside a marriage, in order to keep yourself safe.

How Do Boundaries Help With Narcissistic Abuse?

Anne:  Especially when you’re married to someone who’s making very sad choices. What do you wish you would’ve known earlier in your marriage?

Caroline: I wish I would’ve known that pornography addiction fuels other addictions and behaviors. That it’s never just, “Oh, I look at porn, and then my day goes on and my life goes on.” I wish I would’ve known more the emotional and physical consequences of that addiction. I wish I would’ve known to ask more questions through our dating life and be very specific and unafraid of the answers.

I wish I would’ve known to put my needs and desires as a priority, and to have this lesser sense of urgency when it comes to getting married, but that it would be okay to just take our time. I think another big thing for me was that I didn’t need to settle, just because he was showing interest in me. Instead, I wish that I would’ve realized that I could have everything that I want in a man and that I deserve the full package.

What Constitutes As Abuse Within A Relationship?

Anne:  At BTR, when we say the full package, what we mean is someone who is not abusive.

Caroline: Yeah, isn’t that ironic.

Anne:  We’re not looking for this like, “Oh, he is a professional soccer player, and an ex-Navy Seal, and he has a million-dollar business.” No, no, no, that’s not what we’re talking about. We are talking about a man that we can partner with, who is not abusive.

Caroline: Yeah, for sure, just somebody that’s on the same track that I am. I want a lot out of my life.

Anne:  Let’s talk about your age for a minute. We’ve had women on the podcast and BTR clients who range from all different ages and all situations. Caroline, how old are you?

Caroline: I just turned 22.

Anne:  How long were you married?

Caroline: Three years, almost to the day. I was 18 when I got married.

Is It Possible To Heal From Narcisstic Abuse?

Anne:  And no children now, right?

Caroline: No kids, nope.

Anne:  What active steps are you taking now to heal from the trauma that you experienced from being married to an abusive man?

Caroline: One of the biggest things that has helped me heal through my divorce is affirmations. I have them posted all over my apartment. Just small things that help remind me of who I am and where I want to be, and that divorce does not define me, or that it wasn’t a failure either. I’ve also found it super helpful in the last little bit to share my story. There’s so many people my age who have been married for one to three years that are finding themselves in the same place.

In the neighborhood that I grew up in, there’s between two years younger than me and two years older than me, there is 11 of us that are married, and six of us are now divorced. It’s been super helpful for me to reach out to them and just talk to them and converse with them. We have a little Facebook group page where we can share our thoughts and feelings and progress with each other. That’s been super helpful.

How Pornography Is A Form Of Abuse

Anne:  With those six, I’m assuming pornography was part of the equation?

Caroline: Six of them are now divorced due to pornography and one because of complications with homosexuality.

Anne:  One thing I find very concerning right now is that young people are thinking that, if they talk about it, that they can somehow avoid it. That has not been my experience. In fact, for the thousands and thousands of wives I’ve talked to, many of them had a lot of conversations with their boyfriends and fiancées about pornography.

Pornography users lie. A conversation about it, or asking the right questions is not going to lead us to the truth, usually. The only thing that will lead us to the truth is observing their behaviors and getting really in touch with, “What do I need? When do I feel safe? Who am I?” being in our own recovery space so that we can observe those unhealthy behaviors in someone else.

Why Abuse Is So Hard To See

Caroline: Yes.

Anne:  For example, a lot of people think, “Well, if I am open and I’m kind and I don’t shame the person, then it will give them a better opportunity to tell the truth.” I think that is the wrong way to go, because we’re still trying to “help” that person or manage that person. They, literally, need to be able to be honest, regardless of whether their wife or girlfriend is angry, is happy, is sad. Their honesty cannot should not depend on the way that their wife reacts.

Caroline: Absolutely.

Anne:  Right now, when people talk about pornography addiction, that kind of is floating around there that women have the responsibility to not be too angry, or not be too shaming, or not be too this or that. If they do it really great, then he will open up. That just puts the blame of lying on her still, where it does not belong. It is fully his responsibility to tell the truth, regardless of how she reacts.

How To Set Healthy Boundaries To Escape Abuse

Caroline: Yes, for sure.

Anne:  BTR does not advocate for divorce. I did not want to get divorced. I felt very strongly that I needed to keep my marriage covenants. I felt very strongly that I needed to set boundaries to be safe. I was in that place of setting a very firm no-contact boundary and, also, not filing for divorce.

I’m sure that you’ve heard other people say, “Well, if you set these strong boundaries, then you’re going to end up divorced,” like it’s your fault, rather then you’re setting boundaries for safety, and if they choose to still abuse you, it’s still their fault that the divorce is happening. What do you say to people who might ask you, “Well, you’re divorced now, and you went to BTR, I guess BTR believes in divorce”? What would you say to them?

Caroline: Well, my first reaction is laughing because, before I went to BTR, I definitely wanted to make things work, but I was exhausted, and I had put off scheduling an appointment for a long time, because I was nervous, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

Safety Is The Most Important Thing When Dealing With Abuse

The best thing that happened was that my coach helped me to identify my core values, that all my decisions should be made based off of those core values that we established. It was very explicit that BTR is not an advocate for divorce, but that we should also make sure that we’re in a safe situation.

The decision did come from me. In fact, when I called my coach and told her, she was actually quite surprised that that was my decision.

Anne:  Did you feel supported by your coach?

Caroline: Yes, I definitely felt support from her. The support came as helping to identify myself and work through and make progress, rather than, “You did the right thing, and you’re going to be so much happier.” It was, “You’re a strong woman. You can do anything that you put your mind to.” That said it all.

How Is Abuse Viewed Within Our Culture?

Anne:  My experience with the domestic violence shelter, when I went, basically, everyone was like, “Okay, when you get divorced,” and I didn’t want to get divorced. I felt like, “These women aren’t listening to me. How can I get help in my situation? How can I get help as an abused woman with a pornography user in my home, when I don’t want to get divorced?” I felt very uncomfortable.

I think a lot of therapists, if you start telling them, “Okay, these are the real behaviors I’m seeing, they’re very unsafe,” therapists, or the domestic violence shelter, or other helping professionals, they’re like, “Well, your only option is divorce.” Then, clergy is the opposite like, “Well, forgive, love and serve, even if you’re being abused. Someday, maybe he’ll not abuse you anymore,” which is also crazy.

At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, I wanted to make it very explicit that we do not advocate for divorce because, somebody like me, when they come and they want to get help, and they want to get to safety, but they also don’t want to get divorced, I want them to feel safe here, because that’s what I needed and I could not find.

How Does Abuse Escalate?

I could not find anywhere that held a place for, “Yes, you’re being abused, and we understand you don’t want to get divorced.” Most places, it’s like black and white. They either have to deny you’re being abused, in order to save the marriage, or you have to get divorced right now, even if you don’t want to.

Caroline: After talking with my coach for the first and second time, we talked about boundaries. I came up with some boundaries that I was going to set with my ex-husband. Once the boundaries were set in place, things really took a different turn. It made him very upset, much more abusive. It’s a different side to my ex-husband that I never had seen. To me, setting a simple boundary, I saw his true colors.

Anne:  Was it shocking to you?

Caroline: Oh yeah. I had never seen him react that way at all, just completely livid. He’d never really yelled at me like that but was throwing things. Just completely different than I had ever seen him before. This wasn’t a boundary of no physical contact.

What Are The Different Types Of Abuse?

We had been seeing a therapist who specializes in pornography addiction and the therapist told me that my ex-husband would have to make the appointments from here on out, because, at that time, for months and months, I was the one that was making the appointments and taking him to the appointments.

The therapist said, “Nothing’s going to change until he wants to do this.” The boundary that was set was, “You need to make your own appointment to go see this therapist.” That’s when he blew up.

Anne:  When I realized that my relationship was as abusive as it was, and that I hadn’t seen it as abuse, I was shocked. It sounds like that was a moment for you, where you’re like, “Whoa, he’s abusive.”

Caroline: This was a very simple thing. There was no even talk of consequence, it was just pleading with him, “Just please go. That’s all I’m asking you. One hour every two weeks,” and it was just chaos trying to ask him to do very simple things.

Is Gaslighting A Form Of Psychological Abuse?

Anne:  Without being totally berated, yeah. I was just shocked when I found out how abusive he really was. When I was managing him and when I was not setting boundaries, I don’t think I ever would’ve been able to see the level of his abusiveness.

Caroline: That reminds me. When I was just barely discovering Betrayal Trauma Recovery, I was surfing around on your website just trying to get more information. There was a list of behaviors and examples of gaslighting on your website.

Consequently, I’m sitting at work in front of my computer, and I’m reading these, I just had the biggest epiphany. Every single sentence that was listed, every bullet point was just like, “Yes, this is how I’ve felt. I’ve never been able to put words to it.”

That’s the moment that I decided, “Okay, something has to change, and I’ve got to get help to figure out what needs to happen and what needs to change.” I just remember reading those. It was huge for me.

How Do You Realize You Are In An Abusive Relationship?

When people ask me about BTR, or my divorce, and then they go into their own struggles with their spouse who is a porn user, I always refer them to that. It’s the same reaction, I can see it on their face. Every single time, its just, “Oh my goodness, this is putting into words what I’ve never been able to say.”

Anne:  I think it goes from knowing that your husband uses porn and being frustrated about that and trying to figure that out to realizing that you’re in an abusive relationship.

Caroline: Yeah, I never would’ve classified it as an abusive relationship until then.

Anne:  Yeah, so the shift from, “I’m worried about my husband, he uses porn. This is annoying, it hurts me,” to, “He is abusive,” that is one of the most traumatizing shifts in paradigm. But, once that shift in paradigm happens, I think women are getting stronger at being able to be like, “Okay, so this means I really need to set boundaries because all the love, service and forgiveness is not going to help the situation out.”

Caroline: Right, absolutely.

How Do You Move Forward After Abuse?

Anne:  You found BTR at 22. There are some women who are finding BTR at 40. After 20 years of marriage, some of them are finding it at 50. After 30 years of marriage, or women who are finding it after two or three divorces. What are you watching for in your future relationships?

Caroline: The biggest thing that I watch for now is how they treat me and how they treat themselves, how they take care of themselves and their sense of personal wellness. I definitely don’t have it honed down yet, because I still find myself having belief issues or trust issues.

Anne:  Which is part of the trauma, I think.

Caroline: Yeah, for sure. I can see the progress I’ve made when it comes to that. How they interact with other people, if they’re constantly seeking validation, or having to be the center of the conversation, or reverting stories back to them, interrupting people. The characteristics of narcissism is definitely what I look for.

How Do You Overcome Narcissistic Abuse?

Anne:  What about you? What kinds of things are you continuing to do as you progress in your healing?

Caroline: Something that I do regularly is I write about my thoughts. I don’t hide from that place of asking the hard questions of myself or facing the trauma that is constantly triggered as time goes on. If I am triggered, I like to come home at the end of the day and write about it. Sometimes I keep it, and sometimes I throw it away as a symbol, like gesture of, “Goodbye, I’m done with you. I’m done with this feeling.”

I notice that I’m a lot more self-aware with my thoughts. Exercise and being outside has helped astronomically throughout the process of just feeling whole again, and able and strong. Just staying connected to my feelings overall.

Anne:  It sounds like also just staying connected to reality.

Caroline: Yeah.

How Self-Care Can Help In Healing From Abuse

Anne:  In order to be with an active porn user, who’s actively abusing you, you’re either always fighting with them, so there’s this constant chaos, or you have to live in their reality, which is not reality.

Caroline: Mm-hmm.

Anne:  I remember one day I walked out of the house. I was walking outside, and I looked up and I felt the sun on my face, and it felt so new. I was like, “Gasp.” I looked at the birds and I remember the birds flying by and I remember looking at a tree and it was swaying. It was almost surreal, like, “Is this real? This is reality.”

I just thought, “Wow, I’ve been living in this fog inside my house with this abusive situation, and my reality has been so skewed I don’t see reality for what it is.” I started trying to do that too, just walking outside, letting the sun be on my face. I garden.

Self-care is on my list of what I’m doing now, to heal and to grow. I like the journey of it and I’m okay, but it’s a really crazy journey and I’m not doing fantastic at it, but at least I’m making small steps forward.

Why Support Is Important When Dealing With Abuse

Caroline: Yeah.

Anne:  Caroline, I know that your mom has listened to the podcast and that she’s really familiar with BTR, so a lot of the things that you are learning, she also knew because she listened to the podcast, how has that helped you as you’ve progressed in your healing?

Caroline: Well, obviously, the introduction to BTR by my mom was super helpful. I am forever grateful for the education that my mom has about pornography addiction, because that’s what it boils down to, is gaining an education about what this addiction does. Being able to have my mom there as a support was super helpful. Being able to take the emotion out of the sadness that her daughter is going through this and being able to look at the facts and be acquainted with the addiction was very helpful.

Nobody wants that to be their friend or their daughter or their sister. For a brief moment, there was that reaction from my mom of, “You need to keep trying,” and then the next day she called me, and she goes, “Honey, I know, and I was wrong and I’m sorry. I’m here for you.” She had to take the emotion out of it, which she was only able to do because of the education that she has.

Information Is Key In Handling Narcissistic Abuse

Anne:  I wish everyone who was going through this had a mom who was also listening to the podcast.

Caroline: For sure.

Anne:  Caroline, thank you for being here today. I’m so grateful that you found BTR.

Caroline: Thank you, Anne.

Anne:  I’m going to do a mini Spring Fund drive right now. We really appreciate all of you who are interested in volunteering. Unless you have a super special skillset, like you’re a professional grant writer, and you can commit 10 hours a week to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we have realized that we need to actually hire a professional grant writer and hire other professionals who will be able to do the jobs that we need.

Instead of asking for volunteers, I’m now going to ask you just to donate so that we can take Betrayal Trauma Recovery to the next level. For example, I hired a web developer who’s been doing a great job. You’re going to notice that our website is changing quite a bit. When you go to the site, you might think, “Oh, where is this?” or, “Where is that?”

We’re optimizing it right now, for all the women who come to make sure that it’s very clear. It takes time to do that, and we have to keep doing different versions of it. I am literally praying right now, as is Coach Cat, about the best way to get women the information that they need. Do we run it as a class? Do we run it as a topic-based support call package, for example? We have not figured it out yet. We’re praying that we will make the right decision.

There Is Hope After Abuse

As things evolve, our goal is to just make sure we give women the best services possible. Because we’ve been through it, we know what that means, and we know what to look for in order to make BTR a safe place. Will you consider please, making a recurring donation to BTR to cover operating costs?

I love my job. I want to continue doing it. Go to btr.org, scroll all the way down, and you’ll see the donate button at the bottom of the page. Again, super grateful for your patience as we optimize our services and optimize our website.

If this podcast is helpful to you, please rate it on iTunes or the podcasting software that you use. We’re on Google Play, we’re on Android. Every single rating increases our search engine rankings and helps women who are isolated find us.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club is the place to be to process what you’re going through with safe women and professionals, so we encourage everyone to sign up for Betrayal Trauma Recovery today. Until next week, stay safe out there.

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 hisdearlyloveddaughter.com. 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 12stepscriptures.org. 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 hisdearlyloveddaughter.com. You can find links to it from our site btr.org.

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 btr.org 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.

How To Rebuild Confidence In Your Marketable Skills

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne. I have Brittany Larson with me today. She’s an experienced communications professional with an extensive background in crisis communications and public relations. She leads the public relations department at the Summit Group. Brittany recently launched Livlyhood, a community for women who work. She’s going to cover some topics today for women who are thinking about getting back into the workplace.

Anne: Brittany, let’s start off with your advice for women who are getting back into the workforce, either after a hiatus because they’ve been raising their children, or they’ve been too traumatized to work, or women who have, perhaps, never been in the workplace in the first place.

Brittany: Just in general, I think it’s a really exciting time to be a woman. Flexibility has never been more on the table, or more expected. It’s a really exciting time to get back into work if you’ve been raising your kids, or maybe you want to try something new and different. There are so many barriers that we don’t face that even our mother’s generation faced.

How Joining The Workforce Can Help Self-Confidence

My number one piece of advice for women who, say they’ve been raising their kids, and they’ve decided to go back to work, or maybe they need to supplement their income, or they want to completely change their direction is to balance patience with determination.

We often talk about the stereotype of women being told no, or they are too afraid, or shy or concerned about figuring out what they’re worth. You have to find that balance between being patient, but also being determined. If you’re coming back into the workforce after years of not building up your résumé in that way, you’re going to have to be patient. If you are determined, you’re going to be rewarded.

The way I think of it is like a scale. One side of it is your employer, and the other is you. When you first start out, either at a new career, or you’re getting back into things, or you’ve just graduated from college, the scale is tipped drastically in your employer’s favor. You maybe have a coin or two, because you have a degree or a trade skill, or something like that.

How To Handle Negative Emotions About Self-Esteem

As you gain experience, those scales can slowly start to shift. It will take time. You really can make your own way now, and that’s something that I find really encouraging, as a woman.

Anne: Many women that listen to this podcast are not wanting to work. They are forced to work because of their situation. There are some really negative emotions around that, because they have been, for example, abandoned or they’ve had to file divorce because of their husband’s abusive behaviors. There’s a lot of extra baggage that comes along with being forced to look for a job when you don’t want to. Really, you want to take care of your kids, or because you’ve been enjoying a job that has a really low pay, and you’re like, “Oh, this job’s not going to work anymore, because now I have to support my family.”

There’s another scenario here, which is many addicts are not very good with jobs. They get fired sometimes, because they’ve been looking at pornography at work or because their social skills are very poor. There may be women listening to this who have always been the primary breadwinner and their husband has had difficulty with jobs, or women who have always been in poverty because their husband’s jobs have always been terrible, or they’ve been switching jobs a lot. I just wanted to put that out there about the serious negative emotions that can surround work when a woman is in trauma.

How Your Passion Can Build Your Confidence

Brittany: I got married later than maybe I had originally anticipated and really had to figure out how to provide for myself and support myself through college. I think that a lot of it is about lowering your expectations, which sounds so negative, but when you’re going into it and you’re not doing it because you’re passionate about it or you love it. Which I will tell you, I don’t really think that’s a thing.

I’ve always resented that part of my millennial upbringing that work is to be enjoyed and it’s supposed to fulfill you. I really, truly think that work should be a piece of your life. Whatever trauma that you’re recovering from or, like you said, if you’re being forced to work, and you’re having to do something that you don’t want to do, I would try as much as possible to focus on what it’s enabling you to do.

Your eight hours on your shift may not be the best thing that’s fulfilling you, but if it’s enabling you to provide for your family, if it’s helping you to heal, if it’s giving you an identity outside of your home, or maybe your specific situation that you’re going through, if you can focus on those things, that’s what I’d suggest.

Increase Self-Esteem Through Skill Development

Anne: As women are looking to come back into the workforce, or thinking about it or considering it, let’s talk about how they can develop skills in nontraditional ways.

Brittany: There’s so many ways to gain knowledge that you couldn’t get access to even just a few years ago. I would suggest if there’s something that you’ve been interested in, start educating yourself about it, whether it’s learning a new language or developing a craft skill or going on YouTube and learning about design.

There really is no limit to what you can figure out and train yourself to do. There are so many options for women to develop skills that don’t cost a lot of money whether it be classes at your library or finding a woman who’s willing to mentor you. You don’t have to be limited to having a four-year degree. Actually, trade skills are increasingly going to become more important. Maybe you’re going to school for six months instead of getting into debt and going to school for four years.

I think that there’s a lot of different ways to attain that knowledge that used to be very limited. Figure out what it is that you want to learn then find someone who’s doing what you want to do. Find someone that can help you do that.

Being Marketable Is A Self-Esteem Builder

Anne: I frequently have women who message me who would like to volunteer for us. The cool thing is they’ve been developing amazing marketable skills. For example, one of the women who volunteered for us is now able to be the social media director of another non-profit because of the skills she learned through volunteering for us. Right now, I’m actually looking for a volunteer to find grants. Grant writing is a wonderful skill to learn and it’s actually marketable. Through the mentoring that we do here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we’ve been able to train many women to have marketable jobs, which has been really exciting for me to see them grow and learn.

Also, good for them, because when women are in trauma, at least at the beginning, a lot of times they want to work on something like this, because their whole world is revolving around their healing at the time. Then, when they’re healed it’s more and they feel like, “Oh, you know what, I could take two grant writing classes at the university, or I could take this certification and be a professional grant writer.” Then they can apply for jobs elsewhere.

If you’re interested in social media or grants, or anything involving non-profits, reach out to a non-profit that you appreciate. Volunteer for them. Gain some skills through that. Be mentored that way. That’s another way to gain skills in a nontraditional way, but also to gain, I would say, nontraditional skills.

Being A Valuable Part Of The Workforce Can Bring Self-Worth

So many people are looking for people to run their social media nowadays, or their blog, or website editing, or other things that many companies need. A lot of women, once they get those skills and they’re really good at it, they can put an ad up on KSL, “I can run your social media.” If you’re not in Utah, KSL’s the most popular classifieds. What suggestions do you have to gain confidence in the workplace? I think confidence is so important as women are looking to join the workforce again.

Brittany: This is something that I struggle with. I can usually fake it ‘til I make it. I would say that’s the same with this. If you become the cheerleader of the people around you, it only does good things for you. It will open up doors and, if anyone has something to say about me, I build confidence up in other people on my team of 12.

I really try hard to be an example of building them up publicly. I have a little bell in my office, so when they do something awesome—and they all think it’s really cheesy and annoying, but I ring my bell, because I just want them all to hear about this awesome thing that their team member’s doing. I compliment them in really specific ways. I try not to be superficial about it, “You really did a good job of presenting to this client,” or, “I can tell you’ve really improved in this specific way.”

Your Self-Confidence Is Contagious

Another thing that I’ll say is to assume that you’re going to fail, especially if you’re coming into a new position, or you’re working, and you don’t want to be. You always have something to learn. Having that attitude will actually give you more confidence. It may seem counterintuitive but owning that you always have something to learn will only help other people around you feel more confident in what you’re doing, because nothing makes me more nervous than someone who’s overly confident who shouldn’t be.

I think, when you’re humble about it and own that you’re not perfect, you help other people lift you up, and then you can do that in return. Then, the last thing I’ll say is to always ask. I love what Sheryl Sandberg says in “Lean In,” and that is that women just need to raise our hands more.

I could say, again, if you’re coming back into the workforce and that’s not an environment that you’re used to, ask questions. There really are no stupid questions. Be prepared for rejection, be prepared that people might think that it’s a weird or a different question, but you can bounce back from that and gain confidence along the way.

Volunteer Work Can Build Self-Confidence

My favorite saying from a blogger, I’ll give her a shout out, her name’s Emily Ley, and her trademark saying is, “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.” That runs through my mind all day long.

Anne:  With Betrayal Trauma Recovery, everyone who works for or volunteers for Betrayal Trauma Recovery—so all of our coaches have experienced it themselves, they’re well into their healing process. Me, I’m still recovering from an abusive relationship that was really, really intense and super traumatizing, all of our volunteers are.

I was talking to our board chair, and I told him it’s kind of rough, sometimes, one of the volunteers has a really bad day. She had to file for divorce that day, for example, or she got a legal notice. We all have to be very flexible to work around the trauma episodes that might happen or the very difficult things knowing that many of us are single moms. I said, so that’s probably our main weakness. He said, “No, that is your biggest strength.”

How Your Skills Can Help Others With Self-Esteem

You understand what it’s like to be an abuse survivor. Everyone in your organization does. Even if you say the wrong thing, or even if you make a mistake—one of our coaches is amazing, she is so on the ball, and so responsible. One morning, she accidentally set her alarm for 4 p.m., rather than 4 a.m., to get on one of our groups. She missed the group, and she felt terrible. The night before, she’d been through some awful things. We are all working together to provide both the people that work for us and volunteer for us, and also our clients so much grace. Our non-profit culture is amazing that way.

Brittany: I don’t think I have a single friend that has a traditional career. I have some friends who are teachers, but then, in the summer, they do crazy cool stuff, or they’re doing research on the side. I have a bunch of friends who work in public relations, because that’s what I do. A bunch of them do freelance on the side. There’s just a lot of different ways that you can either supplement your traditional 9 to 5 job.

Being Flexible and Resourceful Is Essential To Self-Sufficency

Cool examples that I like to share, I have a friend who makes really good money selling designs on Amazon. She is a stay-at-home mother. She’s got three kids under four, and, basically, put her husband through grad school by selling on Amazon. She completely figured out how to use Adobe Illustrator through YouTube videos. I think that’s one of the coolest examples that I’ve heard. She was so determined to do it during naptime, and whenever her kids went to sleep.

I have another friend whose husband was diagnosed with cancer about three months after they got married. They’ve been married for years now, and he’s still going through treatments. It’s really hard for her to have a traditional job. I just think this is really neat. She’s got a coloring book Instagram. Coloring book companies pay her to film adult coloring books. She’ll do the mindfulness ones, she just did some for Star Wars a few days ago. She’s actually supplementing their income by making these really fun and creative videos.

How Life Experience Can Increase Self-Confidence

Another really, really cool example, there’s a ton of women who teach English to children in China online in the morning before their kids are even awake. I have a few friends from church who are doing that, who are in the single mom, trying to figure out what’s next group. It’s been a really good bridge to their next thing.

There aren’t limits. I don’t think this is probably the best thing to do if you’re trying to put food on the table, because it’s really, really tough to find consistency in the beginning, but I will say that I can name off the top of my head five friends who quit their 9 to 5 jobs because that side hustle ended up giving them more flexibility and more money in the long run.

Anne:  Yeah, and there’s so many different ways to do it. So many women who are in trauma, they’re recovering, and so their reading books about abuse, or reading books about porn addiction, or sex addiction, and they’re just so immersed in it. I get a lot of women saying, “Oh, I want to be an APSATS coach.” I tell them get a lot of recovery down, two to three years first, and then see if you’re still interested in it.

Working Can Help With Healing And Self-Worth

I have been in this field, in this industry, for seven years, working for other organizations and then starting my own organization, so I know this is my calling. I’ve found a lot of women, once their out of the crisis stage, and they’re two or three years into recovery, they start thinking, “Wait a minute, you know what, my true love is interior design. I’m sick of talking about recovery.”

You might’ve volunteered for Betrayal Trauma Recovery, for example, or another non-profit that you’re interested in during the interim, and built up some skills, maybe design skills, maybe social media skills, whatever they are, but then, once you’re feeling peaceful, you’re stabilized, you’re safe, then start to think, “You know, if I had to talk about this every single day for the rest of my life—”

I know a lot of women, once they’re stabilized and in recovery, they might want to schedule a support call once every six months if something happens, but, other than that, they’re on their way. They’re looking to the future. If you’re still in trauma, or still trying to heal from trauma, you don’t want to make major life decisions about the whole career track that you’re going to go on, or whatever. You want to be stable before you make giant, life-changing decisions like that.

The Workforce Can Be Empowering For Self-Esteem

Right, yeah, that makes total sense.  I think what’s nice about something like this is you can experiment. You can see what you’re drawn to. You can always adjust and figure out what you enjoy, like you said, after you’ve healed.

Anne: It’s always a process, and that’s okay. We need to enjoy the journey.  In terms of women in the workplace, what can women do to set themselves apart?

Brittany: Again, one of the reasons I started Livlyhood was because I feel like women are either known as being passive and not asking for what their worth, or their the other extreme and they’re intense and they’re crazy and other words I won’t say. To set yourself apart, removing emotion from your work, I actually think is really important.

I don’t mean don’t be a woman, and I don’t mean don’t have passion in what you do, but I’ve always found that really focusing on the task at hand sets you apart. I’ve had a lot of female bosses who, unfortunately, I think let emotion rue the day, and you didn’t even get to see through that to get to the great work that they were doing.

Skill Building Is An Essential Part Of Self-Confidence

If I was coming into the workplace after going through something really emotional, I would try really hard to separate those things as much—like I said earlier, focus on what you’re getting out of your job. Is it to put food on the table and help support your family? Is it to develop a skill that you hope will be a long-term career?

Then just to be a beacon of positivity. I know we talked about building up other people around you, but I think one thing that can be tied to that negative emotion, or maybe being too intense, or on the flip-side, where you’re passive, you’re not pushing for what you deserve, is to be positive. Be positive about how you react to getting a last-minute assignment. If you have to cover for a friend’s shift, be positive about it.

It’s crazy how that is so rare, and how often I am told, when I really have to work on that. That’s not my natural disposition at all. I’m quick to try and solve problems, so I like to point out problems. I’ve been surprised, especially this is something I’ve worked on over the last couple of years, when I react positively how well that’s received.

Forming Healthy Connections At Work Can Help Self-Esteem

I actually got a note from my boss a couple months ago, after I did a public shout out to a team member. He said, “This is why people love working with you.” I really needed that that day. I think that that’s one way that we could really be different is to be positive.

That doesn’t mean you have to be Pollyanna. That doesn’t mean you have to fake it. I really hate the like, “Just smile and everything will be okay.” That’s not at all what I’m saying. I think if you can find the good in other people, they’ll find it in you.

Anne: I’ve had serious trauma triggers. Just a simple work thing, could turn into a really big trauma trigger. You could have a really intense work thing happen, like a boss betray you, or abuse you, and your trauma could be really intense from that. If you have to work now, which many women do, or they don’t have to but they choose to, still making sure that they’re working on their recovery.

Learning Marketable Skills Can Increase Self-Worth 

Brittany: That just made me think that I am very, very sensitive and I care a lot about my work. I think, in most cases, I lean too heavily on it being so much of who I am. One thing that I keep learning as I get older is that it’s not personal. I think that could be really helpful for someone who’s healing from trauma that it’s going to feel personal.

The way my mom describes it, which I think is kind of funny, is if you slowly build up your armor, protecting yourself in the sense that you’re not vulnerable, but you just know, “This isn’t about me, this is about the bottom line. This isn’t about me, it’s about my co-worker.” Being able to get to that place, it’s hard for anyone, but the sooner that you can get there, the more productive you’ll be.

Anne: I agree, and it takes a while to heal from that. When you’ve been traumatized, everything is personal. When you’re suffering from PTSD, it is so painful and difficult just surviving.

Thriving In The Workplace Starts With A Healthy Self-Outlook

Brittany, I appreciate you taking the time. Brittany’s website is livelyhood.com. It’s with a Y, so it’s L-I-V-L-Y, hood, H-O-O-D.com. We encourage you, if you’re interested in workplace issues, to check out her website and message her, you can ask her questions. If you have comments, you can also comment on our website. Go to btr.org/podcast, and you can find us there.

I would like to publicly thank the woman who runs our social media. I can’t say her name on the air, but she is amazing and wonderful, and she works really hard. Also, the dedicated volunteers that help with Betrayal Trauma Recovery and our coaches who work tirelessly to help women all over the world through one-on-one coaching and support groups.

Gain Confidence Through Developing Skills In The Workforce

The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club is going strong. You get access to an APSATS-facilitated session every single weekday, and two on Tuesdays. We did that so that women can get as much support that they need for a very low cost, because we know that many women going through trauma are also having financial difficulties.

Coach Rae is partnering with Dr. Jill Manning to do How Do I Protect and Heal My Children? Dr. Jill Manning will help her facilitate that group. We’re also going to be starting the groups Workbook Study Facing Heartbreak and Healing My Self-worth and Self-image and, also, Understanding and Managing Triggers. If you’re interested in any of those, we already have women registered, and those will run as soon as they’re filled.

If you register, please make sure that you link to that description page in your secret Facebook groups and let other women know, “Hey, I’m taking this. Join,” and we will start that group as soon as it fills. I appreciate everyone who tries to help get the word out about BTR.

I just have a quick story. One of my friends recently went to a church training on this topic. The gist of the training was that both the husband and the wife are hurting. This leaves out the fact that the woman is a victim and that the husband is a perpetrator.

Working Can Be Empowering For Self-Healing

We know that men are hurting from their addiction and from their sad choices, but just because they are making sad choices doesn’t mean they need to be held accountable. Part of that, “Oh, I need help,” kind of a thing is also manipulation that they do to keep the women and to keep other people from holding them accountable.

This training was by a really good therapist, apparently, who doesn’t have training in abuse. Please help get the word out about BTR. Abuse is so misunderstood and so frequent with men who use pornography, that women really need to understand the abuse piece, in order to heal and make sure that the emotional abuse has stopped, and the trauma has stopped.

Thank you to all of you who are donating, who are posting about BTR on Facebook or other places to let people know.

One other bit of exciting news, we’re in the process of building an awesome new website, so if you see some weird stuff going on on our website, please excuse it for now. Or if you see typos, please let us know so that we can change it and get ready. I just wanted to let everyone know that you might see some kind of weird stuff. If you can donate to help us upgrade the website, we would really appreciate it. Until next week, stay safe out there.

How Does 40 Years Of Painful Abuse & Betrayal Affect A Woman?

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne. I am honored to have a client on the podcast today. Her name is Florence. Florence is 75-years-old, and she has experienced a lot of trauma throughout her life, multiple, multiple times.

Florence: Thank you, Anne, it’s nice to be here. Thank you for having this organization, it’s something I wish I’d had 45 years ago.

Anne: Florence, I wanted to ask you, over the years, how has it change? How did you relate to it, say in your 30s or 40s or 50s? Did you try different things?

Florence: I have engaged several processes in trying to figure what was going on. I think this is, probably, one of the most challenging issues that a spouse can be called upon to deal with. I tell my husband, and everybody I know, that I’m everything I am today because of him, because I had to survive.

How Trauma Effects Functioning

Anne: How old were you, when you and your husband married?

Florence: I’ve been married forty-four years. I was introduced to his illness, but I didn’t know it was an illness, three days after we were married.

Anne: You were about 30 at the time?

Florence: Yes, in my early 30s. My first reaction was devastation and fear. Back in those days, women didn’t have the same options that they do today. I had just moved my two daughters and myself to a new location, where I had no friends and no associates and very little opportunity to find gainful employment to support myself. In doing so, I had cut off any support systems that I might’ve had, and I was really on my own.

Anne: Were you married before this?

Florence: I was.

Anne: You had children?

Florence: I was, I had two—

Anne: Okay, so you had two daughters coming into this marriage.

Betrayal Is A Form Of Abuse

Florence: They were five and eight. I went very deep into a place of trying to comprehend. I didn’t call myself a spiritual person at that time in my life. I did not have a religious persuasion, and I found myself searching. In order to do that, I did what I think a lot of people do, from what I’ve read, is that they explore with their spouse, trying to figure out what it is that their spouse is looking for and needing. Of course, that leads one into, probably, the darkest places on earth, because it’s a world of debauchery.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that that was not for me. I had to make a heartfelt decision and tell my husband that I could not live that kind of life with freedom of sex with other people and going to nudist camps and pornographic exhibitions. It was just not the right thing for me at all. It hurt my heart, it didn’t help my heart. He apologized and swore that he would never make those bad choices again, and we started over. Until the next time.

By the next time, I became aware of his activities, I knew enough to go for help. We both went through a lot of counseling. He was identified as a sex addict. That being said, there were not the organizations that there are today, like the SLAA, 12-Step programs. He went through a lot of one-on-one counseling, but it came trailing back in.

What Is The Abusive Cycle?

The problem was, I didn’t realize that he had regressed back to those activities. I only was experiencing the negative behavior and the abuse, which, after 20, 25, 30 years of marriage, you get to the point where you do your own thing, you make the best of it, and if somebody wants to be a damn fool and act like a child, let them be a damn fool and act like a damn child. You just can’t let your life be run by that, you know.

Anne: Did you know you were being abused, or did you just think of it as, “Oh, my husband’s—”

Florence: I knew I was being abused and I knew he was sick. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, because the last year has been a year of repeated difficulties and such a challenge. I remember back when my youngest daughter was 15-years-old, and she and I took a trip out west, when we visited a childhood friend of mine. He asked me face-to-face, “What’s wrong? You’re not right.” I said, “Well, my husband isn’t right, he’s sick.” I didn’t elaborate on it. How could I? I didn’t have the words for it.

How Does Abuse Stay Hidden?

I remember thinking many years later, the only people that I could tell that to were people that I’d known for a long time, who actually had some confidence in me, because I became aware of the fact that nobody would believe me. People will say, “Oh, he’s so charming,” “Oh, he’s such a sweet man.” He is, and he’s a beguiling, needful child.

What do you do, go out on the street and bang a drum, and say, “I’m being emotionally abused by a man who can’t show me love, or who can’t relate to me?” You can’t do that. Nobody will believe you, so you try to create wellness within a challenging situation. That’s what I did for years, until it all broke open. For the last ten years, I thought he had frontal temporal lobe disorder.

It makes the second time I’ve misdiagnosed him in my life. Obviously, I’m not much of a psychotherapist. Because of his anger, I felt that his actions were typical of frontotemporal lobe dementia. In fact, I actually got him to go to a neurologist. It was really embarrassing and a waste of time, “It’s not Alzheimer’s, I’m right, it’s frontal temporal lobe.” Well, I wasn’t right. Yeah, it’s very hard when you get older.

What Is Betrayal Trauma?

Things don’t work the way they used to, when sex isn’t what it was when you were kids. Every now and then, you get an opportunity to enjoy one another to some extent, and he gave me an STD. That was a rude awakening. He had been back to his old tricks. It took me four months to get him to come clean. He’s been in one-on-one therapy, and three SLAA meetings a week since then, of his own volition. He’s reading everything, voraciously, that he can on the subject. It’s better late than never, I guess.

Anne: Wow. For our listeners, I just want to talk about SLAA for a minute. What she’s referring to is called Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. There are multiple different types of 12-step for sexaholism. There’s SLAA, there’s SA, there’s SAA, there’s SALifeline. I personally do SALifeline. Now that we’ve had this overview, it sounds like, in the beginning, the way that you dealt with it was you tried to meet his needs, and then, as you got older and it just kept happening and happening, you started detaching. How would you say your reactions to him are now? Right now, at 75 and him 80?

Florence: It’s been like a fast forward of an earlier movie of everything that ever occurred. I go in a circle. Some days I’m distraught and I’m in pain, and I feel sorry for myself. Then I go through days where I am so angry. Those are not bad days, because I let him have it. I tell him that he cannot sit there and put on the TV and not answer my questions that, after all, I’ve had all these years of going without. The least he can do is respond to me and pay attention.

How To Deal With Trauma And Abuse

I’m more demanding, and I don’t accept his disassociation. Some days, I feel like nothing’s ever happened, we’re the best friends that we’ve always been. It’s like a circular thing that goes around. I’ve been able to grapple with this, because now I can be honest with our friends and our family and everybody knows. The freedom to be honest and forthright makes it possible to handle and work with.

Anne: Absolutely. Without it, it’s impossible. Now that we’re in this different age, I’m 40, the first place we go, when we have something happen is we start searching for things online. We go to social media, “Let’s see, is there a group like this on Facebook?” What thoughts do you have about women who are starting to search for this and think about this five years after marriage, or ten years after marriage? If you could go back and talk to yourself?

Florence: You can’t help them. You can’t fix them. I made a very concerted decision many, many years ago. Considering the pain and the grief and the disappointment and the challenges, probably 10 years into the marriage, that marriage wasn’t just for me to feel comfortable and happy, it was a family. I was going to build a family out of the dregs of this mess, if it killed me. I think I did it.

Trauma Is Not Easy To Live With

Our children are very bonded, they laugh a lot. They say, “We don’t care what happens to the two of you, we’re bonded, and that’s it.” They spend holidays together and we had all the children and grandchildren with us for his 80th birthday last year. I feel very successful for that. It was in a different age. Today, there are avenues for healing, and that I think anybody who’s identified with this kind of illness needs to get to the best possible resources.

Anne: I agree with you. At the beginning of recovery, especially now that there’s so many resources, women are very excited, and their husbands are very excited like, “Oh, recovery is going to be awesome, it’s going to be amazing.” Then 5, 10 years down the road, it’s a lot harder than they thought, and not the easy way.

Florence: It never goes away, and you end up being the caregiver. This has been my counterargument to my husband and all of his attempts to heal himself, as it was really convenient now that you’re 80 and impotent, you made these choices to have a responsibility. That responsibility is to their partner and their families. As somebody who’s suffered from it my whole life, you can’t give me back the past 20 years.

How Connection Can Help With Trauma

I didn’t know you were doing this. I knew you were being a jerk, but if I had known he had gone back to illicit deviant sexual practices, I wouldn’t have stayed. I might’ve had the chance to build a life with someone who might’ve genuinely been able to care and show real regard. I miss that, and nobody can give that back to me. That’s where the anger comes from.

I was told by a lot of professionals, “Oh, you need counseling.” I tried that. I’m sure this isn’t true across all mental health professionals, but what I found was that most therapists are not equipped to deal with this kind of addiction. They tend to try to use their behavior modification, which they’ve learned in graduate school somewhere, “If you do this, then he’ll do that. If you do that.” It doesn’t work.

I went to four sessions with one therapist, and I just walked out. I said, “This isn’t good for me. I’m getting angry about this.” I quit going. I’ve also challenged my husband on the fact that the SLAA thing is very self-absorbing. They’re all involved with taking care of themselves and getting better and praise God. You know, it’s like, “Wait a minute, you’re still just thinking about yourself. First, it was sex, and now it’s your healing process. Where does that leave me?” It still leaves me on my own. It still leaves me wanting and wanting.

Why Abuse Is So Misunderstood

Anne: Florence joined the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club. When you found us, how did you feel?

Florence: It was good to know that I wasn’t alone. Most people just don’t get it. They think your husband’s a philanderer, of course they are, but there’s so much more to it than that. The best thing that’s happened to me in the last year is the ability to be honest, to speak my truth. I am still sad about the loss that I’ve had in my life.

There are people that have worse lives, and I’m not going to bemoan all the good things, but I think that people need to re-evaluate who they are and what they want. I do think that a lot of women, myself included, were raised with low expectations and low sense of self. We didn’t really know when we weren’t being treated well. We may have known it, but we didn’t think we had any right to do anything about it.

Anne: I appreciate you sharing your story. I’m so grateful that you found Betrayal Trauma Recovery.

What To Do For Betrayal Trauma

We have a checklist that I’ve been developing for a year, for women to know exactly what they need to do when they find out about porn. If they find porn on the computer, if they have an inkling of, “Maybe my husband is looking at porn, or maybe he’s having an affair,” or have an inkling of abuse, this checklist is intended to save women years and years of their life, to save women of going through that cycle of trying to figure out what’s going on, and put safety as their first priority, so they can get to safety immediately.

My life goal is to save women from years and years of pain and confusion. I want to get this checklist in the hands of every single woman all over the world, so that right when she suspects it, she knows exactly what to do.

Please plaster this all over the internet, put it on all your secret Facebook groups, let women know. At the end of January, we had almost 20,000 RSS subscribers. You are making BTR happen, thank you. It is changing lives. I’m so grateful for all of you who are part of this movement to create more peace and more happiness in this world. Until next week, stay safe out there.

Determined To Rise Above The Lies, Infidelity & Abuse

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne. Today, I have Sara Nye and Kelly Smith, two of the three co-founders of Determined to Rise, which is a non-profit that provides in-person retreats and events for women in trauma. We decided to officially partner with them, because our missions are very similar, but we do two different things. I’m really excited to have Sara and Kelly on the call with me today.

Anne: Sara, your first event was in Bear Lake, Utah. It was the fall of 2017. Can you tell me why you decided to start Determined to Rise?

Why Trauma-Informed Resources Are So Important
Sara: We decided to start Determined to Rise because we’d realized there weren’t really events out there for us that were as big as we wanted, as inclusive as we wanted, for the price point that we wanted, and with as many professional aspects as we wanted. We just felt like we might be able to do it better, and we thought we’d go ahead and give it a try.

Anne: I had three women from my local group here, that I meet with in person, go to your event, and they absolutely love it. That was my first inkling of, “Hey, I want to partner with these guys, because they do such a great job. Cali, what surprised you about the first event?

Cali: It surprised me that we were able to pull it off at such a large scale. We had so many women there. I think we had 82 women, and we were just three women trying to pull off this huge event. It surprised me that we were able to get the speakers that we did.

Why Are Connections With Other Trauma Survivors So Vital To Healing?
We got high caliber therapists and professionals. We were able to do crafts and meals. The connection that these women had with each other, was something that we wanted to create—not that it was surprising, but it was very rewarding to see those connections form.

Anne: I just want to add here that Sara and Cali are trauma survivors themselves. This is a retreat by trauma survivors for betrayal trauma survivors, who have experienced so many of the things that we all have experienced. Sara, what surprised you about the first retreat?

Sara: The thing that surprised me is I went into this retreat knowing that we were going to provide a lot of connection, a lot of fun, a lot of emotional processing, but what I didn’t expect was the lives that we were able to change. Some of these women I’m still in contact with, and they continue to update me on how their lives have changed since the retreat, how their confidence has grown, how they’ve been able to learn to implement boundaries in their lives, and how they feel better than ever. That’s not something I anticipated, that really surprised me.

How Seeing Others In Their Journeys of Healing Can Help Trauma Survivors
There was one woman, in particular, who almost didn’t come to the retreat. I actually had to talk to her three times on the phone, before the retreat, to calm some of her fears. Because it could be scary to put yourself out there and connect with strangers, but it’s so good. It was so good for everybody there. That’s what she said. She said, “You know, I came out of my shell, I showed up, and it changed my life.” I still talk to her all the time, and she’s just doing better and better and better.

She was actually chronically ill before the retreat, not able to walk. She had to have help to get around. Now she’s living on her own, she’s happy, she’s active again, she’s healthy. It tears me up a little every time I talk to her, because that’s something that, literally, changed somebody’s life for the better, and I didn’t expect that.

Anne: I love when women who have been through betrayal trauma and have been abused get together and feel the strength and the beauty that all of us have. For some reason, it just helps to see other women who are smart and beautiful and capable who have been through similar things and think, “Okay, this isn’t me. This is not my fault, and this is something that I can recover from.”

When Is The Upcoming Retreat For Determined To Rise?
Anne: Cali, tell me about the retreat you have planned for March.

Cali: In March, we have a big retreat planned down in Southern Utah, over by Zion’s National Park. We are currently having people enroll. It’s going to be on March 2nd through 4th. It’s called, “The Warrior Within You Retreat,” and we’re going to do things like self-defense classes and archery classes, different kinds of events to empower the warrior within each of us. We, again, have a high caliber of therapists and professionals coming—and we’re very excited.

Anne: If you don’t live in Utah, and you don’t know anything about Utah, you could fly into Salt Lake City, or you could fly into Las Vegas and rent a car. It’s about a three, four-hour drive from either place. Is that about right?

Sara: It’s about 3 hours and 15 minutes either direction, and we also have carpools available from both Salt Lake City, Idaho, Arizona, Las Vegas. We have a whole carpool page set up just for people to connect, who would like to ride together and share the gas.

Why Hearing From Trauma-Informed Specialists Can Be Helpful In Healing
Anne: That’s great. It’s also fun to get to know new people and play carpool karaoke.

Sara: There’s actually a 15-passenger van headed up from Arizona, so it’s going to be—that one’s going to be a fun one. Everything that is included includes lodging, food, all of the workshops, all of the classes, a T-shirt, a gift, a swag bag. We want to make sure that everybody feels just as included as everybody else at the events.

For what you’re getting for the price is amazing. These speakers are really great speakers. Geoff Steurer is our keynote speaker for this one coming up in March. He is one of the founders of the Southern Utah chapter of the Utah Coalition Against Pornography. He was just so excited to come do that for us. He’s actually going to be staying the whole weekend, just to hang out with the women, and talk to them and give them guidance one-on-one, with no extra charge. That’s pretty big in and of itself.

Anne: I’ll be down there. We’re going to do a giveaway for an APSATS coaching session, so if you come make sure you enter!!

Why Empathy Is So Powerful In Healing From Trauma
Anne: Cali, for locals in Utah and, hopefully, for locals all over the country, eventually, Determined to Rise provides Self-Care nights.

Cali: We try to do one every other month or so. It’s just on a smaller scale. Rather than an overnight retreat, we do a self-care night at a smaller location or at someone’s home. We can just sit with each other, get to know each other, and connect. It’s a really good opportunity for people who don’t really have those connections to be able to come and make a friend, or talk to somebody, just put themselves out there.

It’s not necessarily all about recovery, or anything like that, it’s just about connecting with women who are more, or less, in your situation or can empathize with your situation. We’ve done things like Paint Night, where we’ve brought in someone to teach us how to paint a painting. We’ve done a Valentine’s Night. We’ve all come to someone’s house and just did a big game and treat night. We try to do these every other month, and they’re a really good experience for everybody. We’ve had a lot of really good feedback.

Why Having Women Who Understand You Is So Vital After Trauma
Anne: Even before you start thinking, “Okay, how am I going to recover from this?” just being around other women who you can be honest with, and they react appropriately. They give you a hug, they tell you they’re sorry, they’re not like, “Oh, really? What did you do?” “Oh, well, maybe if you lost a few pounds,” you know, some crazy thing that we’ve all heard from someone who wasn’t safe. We don’t say stuff like that, because we know what it’s like.

Cali: Yeah. I think, at the first retreat, that was the thing that was so powerful for me, was being around 80-something other women who just got it. I didn’t have to put on a mask, I didn’t have to pretend, I didn’t have to hold back, or try to be anybody that I wasn’t. I could just be myself. I could talk about the hard things, or I could not and it was okay, because they just understood either not wanting to talk, or wanting to share.

That synergy that you feel, when you’re surrounded by that many women who get it, it’s like a buzz of air. It was tangible. You could just feel this energy of belonging and connection and comfort. I’ve never felt it as any other way. It’s such an amazing feeling.

How Is Gaining Connections Helpful When Healing From Trauma And Betrayal?
Sara: I had a lot of women tell me that same thing, that just the feeling in the room, just being in that environment with so many women, was just so powerful to them.

I did want to add, too, our first two events have been in Utah, but we do want to branch out. The plan is to, eventually, be able to take this to everybody who needs it, to have it close enough that anybody who needs it can have it. If people have ideas about locations where there might be enough interest to do an event on this scale, they’re more than welcome to email us and start that conversation about where this is needed and how. Because that is the ultimate goal, is to be able to include everybody.

Anne: The website is determinedtorise.org. Sara’s email is available there, if you click on their Contact button. Those of you familiar with the podcast, when you go to their site, you’ll see that out podcast is on their site, because we provide two different resources for the same mission. We provide the coaching services, and support calls and support groups online, as well as a podcast and the transcription of the podcast on our website.

When Betrayal Trauma Feels So Hurtful, Having Empathy and Connections Can Help
We don’t do anything in person and Determined to Rise is providing that in-person real life, face-to-face, actual—you know, you can give someone a hug contact, which is also so important. If you’re interested in getting involved with that, please email Sara from their Contact page. Sara and Cali, thank you so much for being here today.

Anne: You’re welcome. I will see you guys soon, in March, I’ll be down there and I’m so grateful for all of the good work that you do with your non-profit. Women all over the world are doing such exciting things to help each other and, as we all get stronger, there is an army of healthy women. We’re going to change the world together, it’s really exciting.

Consider Making A Donation

Why Reaching Out Helps So Much In Recovery From Betrayal Trauma
When I started Betrayal Trauma Recovery, I knew that all our service would be online, because women are so isolated. It’s so difficult to get out of the house because of childcare, or because of your location, or because of all kinds of different factors that make it very difficult for women in this situation to get out of their homes. I know you need in-person contact, but in the meantime, please join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club where we have a session every single weekday and two on Tuesdays, where you can interact with women online.

These are face-to-face meetings, you’ll see their face, you can talk to them, they just happen to be on a computer, rather than in person. Also, schedule a support call with one of our coaches. Our support groups run differently than any other groups you’ll see. We do have days and times when they run, so you can see, “Oh, okay, this is going to run on Monday, it’s going to be at 8:00 p.m. Eastern,” but it doesn’t start until it fills. Right now we have women enrolled in the workbook study, Facing Heartbreak. That one is very inexpensive. It’s 16 weeks, it’s $320.00. Coach Ray runs that group.

We Recommend Covenant Eyes Accountability and Internet Filtering on Each Device

What Types Of Resources Are The Most Helpful For Trauma?
We also have Setting and Holding Boundaries that is going to be on Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. We have women signed up for Healing my Self-worth and Self-image, which is just a one session group with Coach Sarah, which is very powerful, and then Coach Cat’s group, So I Have Betrayal Trauma, Now What? Where Coach Cat takes you through the betrayal trauma healing stages and helps women understand, perhaps, where they are, and where they need to go.

We have an awesome opportunity where Coach Rae is going to be co-facilitating a group called, How Do I Protect and Heal My Children with Dr. Jill Manning. They will be facilitating that group together, so that will be on Saturday, March 17th at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. That does have a particular start date because of Dr. Manning’s schedule. I created the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Checklist to save women from 7 to 30 years of pain and heartache.

How Can I Continue My Healing From Betrayal?
I’ve had so many women say, “I wish I would’ve found you 10 years ago.” “I wish I would’ve found you 20 years ago, my life would’ve been different.” Please let people know about that checklist and let them know about us. The healing process does take a long time. We recommend that women start with Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club, it’s the most inexpensive way to get out of isolation and get the support that you’re looking for. Purchase a support call package and then look at our different groups and see where you are and which topics would work for you.

Thank you, always, to those of you who have rated us on iTunes or any of the other podcasting apps that you use. Every single rating that you give us, or every comment that you put on the BTR site, increases our search engine rankings, and helps women who are isolated find us. Women are searching online for this, and I don’t want them to find, “Seven Ways to Better Communicate with Your Spouse,” I want them to find the truth that they are not at fault, that they are beautiful and loved, and they can set boundaries to find the peaceful life that they need and deserve. Until next week, stay safe out there.

Spiritual Crisis In The Face Of Betrayal

Spiritual Fracture Caused by Betrayal

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne. I have some very exciting news. So many of you are in dire financial situations because of your husband’s addiction, or his actions, or him abandoning you, or your ex-husband’s decisions. We have created some amazing PDFs that you can print out and take to local businesses, or your church leaders, or people that you know, to ask for donations to be donated to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, which is a non-profit so their donations are tax deductible, on your behalf, so that they can pay for your services.

Click here to access those PDF’s – they’re at the bottom of the page.  We have several different downloads that explain our services, what their donation goes to, so please check that out so that you can get the help that you need.

Secondly, we’re running our groups a little differently than we have before. The groups are listed in order of like right when you first suspect you’re being abused, or right when you first suspect that your husband might be viewing porn or lying to you. There is So My Husband Has Issues – Now What? That group is to help you understand what it takes to establish safety and heal from betrayal trauma. We have groups that are for women who—they’ve realized, “Man, I think I’m being lied to. I need a therapeutic disclosure and a therapeutic polygraph.” Coach Sarah does that group.

Why Reaching Out For Support In A Spiritual Crisis Is So Important

Whatever stage you’re in, go ahead and register for that group. Once you’re registered, please share that link in your secret Facebook groups, or send it to your friends, and say, “Hey, I registered for this group. Join me if this is the stage you’re in.” Once that group fills, we will run it. This way, we can meet your needs right when you have them. You don’t have to wait until August for a divorce group, or until September for a separation group, if you’re thinking about separation right now.

Whatever stage you’re in, we can help you where you’re at. Right now, women have registered for “So My Husband Has Issues – Now What?”“How Do I Heal and Protect my Children”“Detecting and Confronting Gaslighting”, and “Setting and Holding Boundaries.”

If you’re interested in any of those topics, we have women already registered for those, and they’re going to run as soon as they fill, which will be really soon. You register for those by going to the Services page, then click on the group, or groups you’re interested in, it will take you to the page that has the word Register. Click on that, follow the instructions, and that’s how you join the group.

How Does A Spiritual Crisis Impact Families?

Today, I have the co-authors of the book, “Love and Betrayal: Stories of Hope to Help you Heal from your Husband’s Pornography Addiction.” Carmel Parker White grew up in a ranching community in western Montana, and she’s lived many places throughout the United States. She has a doctorate in Life Span Human Development, and she has taught at universities in Alabama, Kansas, North Carolina, and Utah.

Her educational experiences have cultivated a lifelong interest in the factors that influence the trajectories of people’s lives. Carmel is familiar with the impact of pornography in a marriage, as well as the spiritual and emotional issues that women face when married to a pornography addict. She has two grown daughters and one granddaughter, and she currently lives in Sandy, Utah.

Her co-author, Natalie Black Milne, was born and raised in a small southern Utah community. She’s recently taken on the challenge of integrating her background in communication studies with graduate work in Family and Child Studies at the University of New Mexico. She is familiar with the devastating impact addictions have on the family and is also passionate about becoming a voice, promoting the sanctity of the family. She, along with her husband and three sons, live in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

Why Do Many Women Experience A Faith Crisis with Betrayal Trauma?

Anne: Welcome, Natalie and Carmel.

Natalie: Thank you.

Carmel: Thank you.

Anne: As we’re talking today about betrayal trauma, and how it impacts women and how it impacts families, we also know—and we’ve had several guests on the podcast talk about the impact to a woman’s spirituality, and the spiritual crisis that women go through, when faced with this trial. Natalie, let’s have you go first. What is your feeling about how betrayal trauma impacts spirituality?

Natalie: That is one of the trickiest aspects of how a husband’s pornography addiction affects the woman, because there are so many different layers and levels to it. Just in a brief explanation, it’s something as simple as it causes them to question everything, to question their beliefs, to question their relationship with God, to question if they are even able to receive communication with God.

How Normal Emotions After Betrayal Can Lead To Spiritual Crisis

Then, it causes them to also question, and even wonder, if they’re ecclesiastical leaders are even giving them sound advice. A lot of that is based on the trust that they’ve lost, namely, in men and in God himself. It just becomes a really hard thing for women to navigate, because it shakes that very foundation, that spiritual foundation and their connection with God.

Carmel: Anne, when we interviewed the women, I just wanted to mention that, for them, it was oftentimes their intense emotional reactions. Their anger, or their pain, that would get this started. The betrayal would occur and then all of those intense emotions could also be projected onto their spiritual experiences and their feelings about God.

Anne: That’s interesting. Also, the fact that the intense emotion is—I assume—this is what happened with me. It was more than just the betrayal of my husband, but it was also, like Natalie just mentioned, the bad advice I received from my church leaders, or the harmful advice, that harmed me even more. Right, so I’m questioning that, and then I’m having really intense emotions, which, frankly, is normal, right? Men might think, “Why is she acting like this?” But, for us, if we acted any differently, that would be weird.

Is A Spiritual Crisis Common After Experiencing Betrayal?

Natalie: Yes, right. I agree with that. What was interesting, though, is for a lot of women, that level of intensity was the first time they had really experienced that, and some of them even wondered if that was okay, or if, say for instance, God would be looking down upon them for that. It caused them to question that. We had to assure them, just as their therapist did, that that’s a very normal response, and you should be responding that way.

Anne: I write in a gratitude journal every day, and one of the things I wrote for a few days is I kept saying, “I’m so grateful for my anger.” I was like, “Yeah, I am grateful for my anger, because how else would I feel? This is the only sane reaction to this insane situation.”

Carmel: Yes, exactly. It’s often our emotions that warn us that we feel something deeply, and that we need to deal with it. In this case, the intense emotions that come from the betrayal cause us to reexamine everything, because of those emotions.

What Is A Spiritual Fracture?

Anne: In your book, you talk about a spiritual fracture. Can you tell me more about that?

Carmel: Yes, that’s a term that actually came from Dr. Kevin Skinner. From his perspective, women were trusting their husbands that they would be reliable, and they wouldn’t let down their commitments, and they wouldn’t let them down. When that commitment, or trust has been broken, women begin to see people and relationships that they thought were safe as not safe anymore.

They start to ask themselves about all relationships, “Is this a good relationship? Can I have my needs met?” Then this just, over time, becomes a spiritual problem, because they start to wonder if God will do the same for them. They wonder why God didn’t warn them, and they wonder why God didn’t prevent this kind of pain.

How Spousal Betrayal Often Leads To Spiritual Trauma

Anne: We’ve been told in church, if you do this and you do this and you do this, you will have a happy and peaceful life. Your marriage will be beautiful, and you’ll have this wonderful family. Then we’re like, “I did all of those things, and I am not getting the things you promised me.”

Carmel: It’s as if the contract women—women start to feel like, “This contract has been changed. I did all what I thought I was supposed to do, and now I don’t have the outcome. How does this work?”

Natalie: Exactly. When they join into that union as husband and wife, most people who are married do that also in a contract with God. When that most personal and spiritual and special relationship has been so badly damaged, and for a lot of women just out of the blue, you can see the fracturing that would take place across the board. “If I can’t trust my husband, then who can I trust? Can I trust my best friend? Can I trust my sister? Can I trust God himself?” It’s just because that relationship is the most intimate relationship they have, next to God himself.

How To Trust God Again After A Faith Crisis

Anne: Can a person who has experienced betrayal trauma trust in God again? My own personal feeling is that I am still working on this. I’m not sure if I trust. I want to trust God again. I’m working through that. In some ways I absolutely trust him. In other ways, I’m kind of like, “Eh, I don’t know.” Tell me about what you found.

Carmel: Over a period of usually years, they did begin to trust God. They did begin to realize he’s the only one they can count on, that they can’t count on anyone else but God. God will be there. It took, for many women, years to get to that point where they felt like they could trust God again.

Natalie: Right, and something that I noticed, not just with these women, but with my own life and life in general, I think a lot of that trusting comes down to women can logically think God is all loving, all powerful, and he is my father. I can trust him. But they don’t trust him in their heart, and I think a lot of it is because they don’t trust themselves in trusting him.

Covenant Eyes

How To Build Faith After A Spiritual Fracture

They want to trust him, but they think, “Well, I’ve trusted before and look what happened,” or, “Maybe I don’t trust how I receive communication from him. I’m not confident in my communication and those feelings with him.” To me, I see that it’s that dance between trusting him, but then also trusting myself that I can trust him, or that I know or I have the proper skills to be able to.

Carmel: I might add one more thing on top of that. It’s that women, when they are going through this, they question themselves just as much as they question their husbands and other people. They lose confidence in their ability to make judgements or to make a good plan, or a good direction for them to go. They’re questioning everything, including themselves.

Anne: For me, it’s, “I did those things. Will I receive the blessings that you promised me?” I have not yet, I guess, experienced that, in some ways. Part of me, now, is like, “Well, I will trust when I see it.” I’m trying now to be like, “Okay, I can trust before I see it,” but after what I’ve been through, it’s very difficult to wrap my head around that.

Why A Spiritual Fracture is Comprehensive

Natalie: That’s where I think that term spiritual fracturing is so comprehensive, and a lot of it is based on that very thing. You don’t just question your husband, your relationship with God, you question yourself. There’s just a spiritual fracturing on so many levels.

Anne: I want to clarify that the women themselves aren’t making these spiritual fractures. These spiritual fractures are happening to them, as a result of someone else’s choices.

Carmel: Right.

Natalie: Correct.

Anne: One of the ways that their spirituality is fractured is by going to a clergy member, or a church leader and asking for advice, or asking for help and not receiving the correct advice, or not receiving help. For me, that’s the most common reason why women don’t trust, or have a difficult time trusting clergy after betrayal trauma. Is that your experience from the women that you interviewed.

How Does Addict Accountability Help In A Spiritual Crisis?

Carmel: I want to say, first of all, that most clergy don’t have extensive exposure to addiction and addictive behavior. They don’t realize what they need to do to help either the husband or the wife. For the wife, they need to communicate that, “I care about you. God cares about you. We need to heal this. You’re as important as your spouse.” But then the clergy also needs to understand that, sometimes, the spouse will lie to them. Sometimes the spouse will minimize what’s going on. Sometimes mercy looks an awful lot like enabling behavior.

Anne: I did a survey. The women that I surveyed said the way they would feel most supported by their clergy was if their clergy held their spouse accountable in some way.

Natalie: Yeah.

Anne: Rather than just saying, “Oh, don’t look at pornography again, and you, wife, you need to communicate better.”

Natalie: Right.

How Untrained Clergy Leads Women Into Spiritual Fracture After Betrayal

Anne: Right? There was none of that, that he would hold him accountable for his abuse and pornography use and lying, and then support her. Because, in that dynamic, oftentimes, she ends up being abused by the spouse and sometimes then clergy saying, “Well, you need to change something about you, in order for this to stop.”

Carmel: I was just going to say women get that exact response from clergy that, “Well, it’s really not that bad. It’s not like he’s addicted.” The clergy needs to understand how women view it, in addition to, you probably shouldn’t be making the call if he’s addicted or not. Usually, clergy don’t have that kind of mental health training. They can get more information to say, “I really don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m going to get some more information.”

Anne: My church leader said to me, “Well, what difference does it make to you, if he’s looking at pornography?”

Carmel: Oh, wow.

How Unclear Messaging From Untrained Clergy Can Lead To A Faith Crisis

Anne: Yeah, he said that, and I was like, “It’s adultery.” He was like, “Well, it does not say that in the church handbook.” I was like, “I don’t really care what the church handbook says, Jesus said it in the Bible.” Getting in a fight with my church leader was not fun. It was totally miserable. Then there’s always this discussion—not always, but frequently a discussion about forgiveness, and that is when wives, we say, “Wait a minute. Forgiveness is one thing, but trust is another thing.” What are some mistaken assumptions about forgiveness that you discovered when writing your book?

Natalie: We, specifically, centered on three or four different ones, and I’ll just tell you those right now. A lot of women believed that, “I can’t enter in the process of forgiving until I feel perfectly safe, comfortable and ready.” If you choose that route to forgive, you will probably never find yourself forgiving, because you’re never again going to feel perfectly safe, or perfectly comfortable or ready to forgive. That becomes a personal journey of trying to figure out in your mind exactly what forgiveness is and what it looks like.

How The Forgiveness Paradigm Impacts A Spiritual Crisis

That’s something else that leads right into a mistaken assumption is that forgiveness happens immediately. Absolutely not, forgiveness is something that is personal, and individualized, and it’s going to take time. To just say, “Oh, I forgive you,” some women automatically said that as soon as their husband confessed, but then realized over time that, “Wait a minute, I don’t really forgive him. I said that because I thought that that’s what I was supposed to say.” But to realize that true forgiveness takes time, and it’s actually a miracle that happens within the heart.

Another mistaken assumption would be that forgiving my husband would be the same as admitting that my anger toward him was exaggerated or unjustified. Some women believe that, “Oh, if I forgive him, then that means that my anger wasn’t real, or that it was, like I said, over-exaggerated.” That anger is real, and because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that that anger isn’t going to resurface. Anger and forgiveness are two separate things.

The last one that we talk about is, “When I forgive my husband, I in turn make myself weak and vulnerable. I’m better off denying my pain in order to make peace.” That is absolutely untrue, and the exact opposite is true in that it takes a lot of strength and a lot of resolve to be able to forgive in the proper way. Women, over time, start to learn that forgiveness is for their own peace and their own progress and that forgiveness and trust are two completely different things.

Donate To BTR

How Peace Can Be Felt In A Faith Crisis

Trust is definitely on the man. If that trust is going to be rebuilt, he has to prove that he’s trustworthy. Forgiveness is between a woman and God, between those two that miracle of forgiveness can take place in it’s own time and in it’s own way. Trust, the husband definitely has to be the one to restore that.

Anne: Forgiveness is a gift that we give ourselves that brings us peace—

Carmel: Yes.

Anne: —and that brings us perspective, whereas trust is a gift we give others when they have shown that they are trustworthy. For me, for example, I really feel like I have forgiven my ex. I feel like he did the best he could with the resources that he has, and it’s really bad.

Natalie: Right.

Anne: The best he could is terrible, but I feel like it is the best he could do, under the circumstances. With the addiction that he has, with the upbringing that he had, whatever, right.

Why It’s Important To Preserve Sense Of Self During A Faith Crisis

Natalie: Absolutely.

Anne: I feel very at peace with that, but I do not trust him. Every time I have even attempted to engage with him, I am attacked, or blamed for the situation, so I hold a no-contact boundary because of the trust issue.

Carmel: Sometimes you may forgive them for one part of hurt that they caused in your life, but, later, something else comes up that you think, “Well, I thought I’d forgiven him for everything.” You may have to forgive them for how he’s hurt you and then how he’s hurt the kids. Sometimes you have to go through those different processes.

Anne: Financially, for example.

How Healing Can Happen After Betrayal And Spiritual Fracture

Carmel: It does just take time.

Anne: Yes. I think time has to be a factor, I agree. I was going to say, with some of the addicts I’ve seen, time only makes it worse because they’re not improving at all.

Natalie: No.

Carmel: No.

Anne: It’s not a pretty picture. Thank you, Carmel and Natalie, for being here today. Thank you for your work. I think it’s so important that all of us are considering these issues. If you want to learn more about their work, their website is loveandbetrayal.net. You can find their book on our Books page at btr.org/books. We’d love to hear your comments about this episode and spiritual situations that you have found yourself in. Please comment on our site.

Our Betrayal Trauma Recovery club is going strong. We have Betrayal Trauma Recovery club sessions every single weekday, and two on Tuesday. If you’re looking for a very inexpensive way to get a lot of support, that is a really good option for you. We really appreciate your ratings on any of the podcasting services that you use. Every rating that you give us, or every comment that you put on the site, helps increase our visibility on search engines, and helps women who are searching and isolated, find us and get the right information to know they’re not crazy, and to know they’re not alone. Until next week, stay safe out there.

How To Hold A Parallel Parenting & No Contact Boundary

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne. We’re gonna talk about parallel parenting today. We’re going to also talk about no- contact, which is a boundary that some women would like to set with someone in separation, or sometime in divorce. This is a really safe boundary for someone who is dealing with a narcissist, or someone who is dealing with an abuser.

Related: Detecting & Confronting Gaslighting

I myself hold a no-contact boundary. I’ve had lots of women ask me questions about this. “How do you do it with kids?” “How do you do it in these situations?” We’re going to do a series about parallel parenting and no-contact. This is the first one in our series.

Why Are Boundaries So Important In Separation and Divorce From An Addict?

Related: Setting & Holding Healthy Boundaries

Anne: I want to welcome Coach Sarah.

Coach Sarah: Thank you, Anne, it’s great to be here.

Anne: We have a client, Kate. Welcome Kate.

Kate: Hi, Anne. Hi, Sarah.

Coach Sarah: Hi.

Anne: Kate is a little nervous.

Kate: Very nervous.

Anne: We’re huddled around the microphone in my basement, so it’s going to be very fun. I want to let Kate start here by talking about her current situation with her ex-husband. What’s going on, the triggers she has, and then we’ll have Sarah have some input. Sarah has a Boundaries group that runs—if you’re interested, you can go to our Services page and check that out. No-contact is a very protective boundary needed for situations like abuse, or narcissism, that I experience, and that Kate also has experienced. I’m just going to have her start, and we’ll go from there.

How Do I Determine What Type Of Boundary Is Best?

Kate: I recently divorced—was final this last October. I was married for 35 years, 3 children. I have a 17-year-old daughter living at home with me still, and 2 adult married children. I get triggered when I get an email, or a text from my ex-husband. It feels like any healing that has happened in my life unravels the minute I see a text or read an email.

I really feel strongly that I need to have a no-contact boundary. He has not respected the boundaries that I have requested and implemented in my life, but I still need to be safe, and continue the healing process from my marriage, and the betrayal, and the narcissism, and the porn addiction that I lived with every day of my life, for 35 years.

Anne: You told me a story about an email he recently sent to you about how he wanted to “co-parent”, can you talk about that for a minute?

Related: Covenant Eyes filtering software protects my family.

What Are Examples of Boundaries For Gaslighting?

Kate: One Sunday morning there was an email from him. It said something to the effect of, “Would you consider looking at this religious video, because I want to set a united front with our daughter, in her use of social media?” Well, there wasn’t any link that he provided, so I didn’t understand what he was talking about, but I knew exactly, the minute I read the email, what was going on.

This is what I call his “pretend parenting” that he’s done throughout our marriage. He comes up with a great idea we can implement in our family, and with our children to help them with whatever challenges we’re having as parents. I get on board and start to get excited about doing something as partners, together, to help our family.

When we start to present it to our children, he opts out. He goes quiet, he doesn’t talk. He starts doing something else, getting distracted, and our kids are looking at me and looking at him. Then he just starts to shrug his shoulders when they look at him like, “I don’t know what she’s talking about. She’s crazy,” and the new idea, whatever it is, is dead before it’s hit the ground running.

Can I Set Boundaries With A Narcissistic Ex?

Our children have always been conflicted when this happens, and so have I. I look like this person who’s on a quest all by herself to force our children to give up their phones before bedtime, or a new curfew. I knew this was another attempt at his pretend parenting. He does it to make himself feel good about being a parent. But then, he doesn’t want to do the hard work of implementing strategies that help our children grow and learn and have boundaries in their own life.

Even though I responded to it and said, “There’s no link,” that’s all I wrote, he never sent another email with a link, and it hasn’t been discussed ever since. As soon as I read the email and realized the dynamics that were going on, I could tell, “Okay, this is another trigger for me, because it sends me back to times when I would get excited about co-parenting with him, and then he would leave me hanging.”

Anne: I’m going to speak for Kate for a minute, if you don’t mind, since I know her quite well. Throughout my friendship with her, she’s told me several instances of emotional abuse, due to her ex.

Kate: Yes.

What is a No-Contact Boundary?

Anne: Setting a no-contact boundary seems like it would be a good plan at this point. I want to tell you one of—an example from my parenting situation. When my ex says “co-parenting” I believe what he means is during his parenting time, he would like to be able to drop the kids off at my house at will, or he would like to be able to tell me what to do. Rather than being able to have a meaningful conversation where we come to an agreement, it ends up always being a power struggle because he acts like a narcissist. There’s no way to get around that.

Kate’s dealing with that same thing. I want to introduce the concept of parallel parenting, which a lot of people haven’t heard of. When I first started going through my divorce, co-parenting was always coming up, and no one ever said anything about parallel parenting. Sarah, can you just briefly tell our listeners what parallel parenting is?

Is Parallel Parenting A Boundary?

Coach Sarah: I can. Parallel parenting is an arrangement in which, typically, divorced parents are able to parent by means of disengaging. That’s the important part there, the ability to disengage from each other in situations where they have demonstrated that they’re unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner, with that controlling behavior that you’re talking about, with what I would call the “good guy gaslighting” that I heard Kate just talk about. It allows for, basically, an arrangement to be made where one parent might make and assume that some decision-making responsibility in different domains. That way there’s very little actual interaction between the parents.

Anne: If I could just summarize that in layman’s terms it would be you do what you want with the kids when they’re with you, and I’m going to do what I think is best for the kids when they’re with me. We don’t need to talk about this unless someone’s going to die. If there’s some kind of crazy emergency, then we can go through a third party, or we can go through a mediator, or some type of third-party so that we can agree.

Coach Sarah: Exactly.

Anne: Is that—

How Can A Parallel Parenting Boundary Work In A Situation With A Narcissist?

Coach Sarah: Yeah. Usually what that means is that major decisions—and even sometimes this can be separated out like one parent might make school decisions, another one might make medical, then the day-to-day kind of things, unless there’s some big thing going on, you just do you when you’ve got the kids, and I’ll do me when I’ve got the kids, if you have shared custody.

One of my former clients had to go to court to get her ex to sign off on allowing their kid to have play therapy. The judge actually ordered that they use this specific email system that monitors the emailing. There are a number of different programs, or organizations or businesses—I don’t know what the right word is—that you can go to that that’s their job, right, is to be that third party in situations like this.

When Does A Parallel Parenting Boundary Not Work?

Anne: Kate, what are your thoughts about it?

Kate: As I’ve read about parallel parenting, it makes a lot of sense, and it sounds great. Yet, when I read about it, I think, “Well, my situation is different because this,” or “My situation, that won’t work for me, because I don’t have a third-party.” Really, my ex-husband doesn’t parent my daughter. I have sole custody. She’s with him occasionally, but she gets to decide when she’s with him. It’s not a regular basis, so he really doesn’t have a lot of say in decisions about her. I don’t know, what we need to combine on.

It just seems like he interjects himself into my life randomly. Really, for no reason that I can see. Like for instance, I’ve asked him to send the child support alimony check in the mail. Just the other night, he texted me and said, “I’m dropping off the check, I’ll leave it under the doormat on your front porch.”

I’ve asked him not to do that before, because it’s not secure. It’s not a safe option, and, yet, he doesn’t respect that request. He just doesn’t want to buy a stamp, basically, and he wants to interject himself into my life any way he can.

Can Boundaries Help Me Heal From Narcissistic Abuse?

Coach Sarah: Mm-hmm. I love a number of things that have been said. How Kate was saying, “I think he just wants to interject himself into my life.” I agree. I hear someone who’s trying to hook you, trying to bait you. My ex is actually very much like this as well. I’m very familiar with dealing with these kinds of emails, and things like that. As far as the boundaries are concerned, I think part of what we have to do, first, is understand the gaslighting behavior that’s going on as well.

Yes, there’s boundaries, but, oftentimes, if we can’t see past the gaslighting, we’re just going to get confused about what’s actually going on, and why is this happening, then we get distracted. The thing that we need to understand about the gaslighting is, ultimately, the result is more important than how they gaslight us. What happens when we’re being gaslit? We get confused. We’re not sure like, “Do I need to respond to this email? Do I not need to respond to this email?” We just get in that powerless place again.

Kate: Those were the exact thoughts going through my mind. Like, “What do I do? Do I just ignore this?” Even though I didn’t see him come to my door to drop this check off, I felt myself triggered. I went down in my basement to just get away from possibly seeing him, or even hearing him at the door.

What About Boundaries When Dealing With Triggers?

Coach Sarah: There’s a number of things that can be done. I have a number of people—and this is something that I highly recommend to women that are in a situation where they have an abusive person in their life that they’re trying to minimize contact with or no-contact.

Do you have safe people who you can say, “You know what, I just got another email from my ex. Will you please read it, and let me know if there’s anything I actually have to respond to? Is there anything important? Is there any money, or talk about the health of the kids, or anything that I actually have to respond to? Because, otherwise, I don’t need that. I don’t need that triggery feeling. I don’t need the re-traumatization of it.” If you have safe people, I think that’s one of the most brilliant things that we can do. It doesn’t hit them the same as it does us. That’s a fantastic boundary to put up.

Anne: Right. With that, I think even just seeing the email in the inbox is triggering. If we can block them on our email and block them in our phone and have them send the email to that safe person, and, say, just send it directly to that person, so that we don’t even have to see when it pops up in our email. I think that is the best-case scenario, because then that person’s not triggered by seeing an email.

How Do I Get Help To Set Boundaries With An Abusive Ex?

Because my dad wrote my ex and said, “I will not stand for this abuse anymore. I have instructed Anne to block you on her phone and on her email. From now on, you will only write to me.” I never even have to worry about seeing an email in my inbox. I know I’m never going to get a text, because I’ve blocked him.

I want to tell a funny story really fast. One day I received a text that said, “Watch out, I’m going to get you.” It was from an anonymous phone number. I immediately called the police, and they started tracking it, because I thought, “This is my ex, or something to do with my ex.” Well, the police called and said, “It’s coming from your neighborhood.” Like that “When a Stranger Calls”, like, “The call is coming from inside the house!”

It was like that, and I was like, “My neighborhood?” He’s like, “Yeah, it’s one of your neighbors.” I was like, “Oh, my word.” He’s like, “Do you think maybe he’s having an affair with one of your neighbors, or stuff like that?” I was like, “I don’t know.” I said, “Which neighbor?” The police officer wouldn’t tell me, so then he said, “Let me just go talk to your neighbor, and see what’s going on.”

What Can I Do To Protect Myself From My Abusive Husband?

He went and talked to my neighbor, and he called me and said, “You know, it’s [blank].” I won’t say her name. She’s one of my really good friends, and I had come around the corner in my car, and she had almost run into me with her car. She was totally just joking around, and I forgot to put her phone number in my phone. She just was like, “Watch out, I’m going to get you!” as a joke.

In that moment, I had to call the police, I had to do all these things. It was such a triggery time for me, so I don’t answer phone calls from anonymous numbers, because I don’t know if that anonymous number might be from him or not. I really try to put people that I trust, like my neighbor, who I love—she’s awesome—in my phone, so that I don’t have days like that where I’m like, “Oh my word, I have to call the police.”

Sending it somewhere else is really important, which might be one of these apps, for example, like Family Wizard, or something like that. Maybe you could set up the app, make him think you’re reading it, but then ask someone else to open that app up for you, and then block him on email on your phone.

How Does Gaslighting Harm Me?

Coach Sarah: We have to back up a sec, in my opinion, because I want to go back to the gaslighting. We go back to that example that you used about the email, where he wanted to co-parent, or he wanted you to look at this video, because “We want to make sure our kids are doing well with the screen time, and duh, duh, duh.”

When a person is psychologically abusive, which is what gaslighting is, it’s emotional and psychological abuse, one of the most damaging ways that they can gaslight us is when they use our values against us. Right, so it’s this trying to hook us by hitting on our value of being a good mom, or our faith, or different things that they know are values to us that can cause us to engage with them, with, likely, no intention of actually following through.

They just want to be in control. They manipulate the situation so that they can get us to engage with them again. What we have to do in that moment is, first of all, recognize that that’s what’s going on, that our values are being used against us, and remind ourselves of what the actual truth is.

How Do I Break Free From Gaslighting?

The actual truth is I’m a good parent, right. I don’t need to watch this video. Me and my 17-year-old daughter, we’re doing great. We ground ourselves by reminding ourselves back of whatever the truth is. Then, even going further to what you were talking about, about just blocking. Right, just straight blocking so that you don’t even have to deal with that.

This is multiple layers here, right, because not everybody can go to straight blocking. Some people can. Those like Kate, like myself, that have full custody, we can do that. We don’t have to interact as much, or we can go completely no-contact, but not everybody can. When we’re looking at things like completely blocking the email, sometimes what a hurdle is for us is that goes against our own nature, our own values. Like, “That seems so mean,” like, “That’s so harsh.”

Just to completely cut somebody out of my life, especially when they’ll probably send emails like, “Why are you being so mean,” and, “You’re being unfair, cutting me out of my kids’ lives.” I don’t know if you guys have heard any of the stuff like that, but my ex will say stuff like that. Saying the things that sound good but are really empty. When our values are challenged, there’s a conflict. The conflict is between our safety or a traditional definition of what co-parenting is.

How Can I Value My Own Healing From Betrayal Trauma?

We have to really decide what’s our biggest value here, and my biggest value is I need to not go into an emotional tailspin and be re-traumatized every time I see his name pop up in my email account, or as a text. Because that has become the priority of my biggest value, then that empower us to make those kind of super-protective boundaries that might seem a little dramatic. They’re not, they’re completely necessary. Does that make sense?

Kate: It does. It always feels like, when one of these things come up, I have to choose between my own safety and what’s best for my daughter. It feels like my ex-husband almost has me convinced that me interacting with him is what’s best for my daughter. I know, intellectually, it’s not, because of past experience.

It feels like I have to put my safety on the backseat, and let him do the driving, because we have to co-parent our daughter. Like today, I had to be at a grandson’s birthday party, and he was there. I don’t know how to get around that situation, because I don’t want to force my adult children to have to have separate parties, or—I lived through that as a young mom with my parents who were divorced. They expected me to have separate parties for each set of grandparents, and that just didn’t work. It just feels like I have to put my safety needs, and my emotional security second.

What Are Creative Ways to Manage Boundaries?

Coach Sarah: How creative can we get with your boundaries? Because, sometimes, especially when we’re in a place of trauma—I don’t know about you all, but my creativity goes kind of down the toilet. I am not creative. How creative can you get?

Kate: No ideas come up.

Coach Sarah: Can it be—and then what we do is we start brainstorming. How many different options? How many different doors can we look behind to see what are the options for boundaries, so that you don’t have to completely give away your safety? Maybe you can’t have it quite as safe, which means he wouldn’t be there, but what are your other options?

Anything ranging from, “You know what, today, I can’t make this party, but I’m going to take him out on this special Grandma Day, or we celebrate his birthday.” Or, it might be, “I’m going to go in with the mindset that I’m going to see my ex, and I’m going to have an ‘escape plan’.” That’s my boundary is that I’m going to have outs, where, if I need to leave the house, I’ll go run an errand like, “Oh, I see you need some candles. I’ll go to the store and get some candles.”

What Can I Do About A Toxic Situation?

Just make up creative things, for reasons to get out of the situation if it becomes toxic, or if it becomes traumatizing to you, that you have already prepared and exit plan. Because then, again, you feel at least a little bit more in control. When you’re there, and you don’t have an exit plan, you feel trapped, you feel powerless. Boundaries are meant to make us feel safe and empowered. That’s what we’re looking for in situations like that is how creative can I get around my safety, and around the boundaries that I can implement.

Anne: The reason I wanted to do this in a series, and I wanted to do it with Kate, is sort of a test case, because I assume that many of our listeners have this same issue where they would like as little contact as possible with their abuser, or with the person who’s betrayed them, because they’re still not safe. They don’t feel safe, and they don’t know how to do it.

Coach Sarah: If you’re not comfortable setting a protective boundary of absolutely zero email contact, or texting contact, or you don’t have the ability. Maybe you don’t have the safe people like Anne and I do, one of the thoughts, as well, is that you can just not respond. Just because he sends you an email or a text doesn’t mean you have to respond. I have found that to be a particularly potent response is a non-response, because part of what they’re trying to do is get us to engage. If we don’t engage, oftentimes, they can start backing up a little bit. If we don’t give them that reaction.

I Try To Co-Parent But My Ex Refuses

Kate: I have done that with texts that I know I don’t need to respond to. Like he would text me, “Have you seen my camera charger?” or, “Can you find this in our files?”

Coach Sarah: Do you even need to get those texts?

Kate: I don’t. I don’t, because it’s just another way for him to assume that I need to take care of things he’s lost or be his mommy. The problem with my ex is he’s a narcissist, but he’s a covert narcissist. He portrays himself as this really easy-going person, who’s really friendly and carefree. But his response, if I were to block him, or if I don’t answer a text or an email, is he portrays me to other people that he’s the victim, that I’m the abuser, and that I’m not co-parenting with him, and—

Anne: That’s exactly how my ex is too. Before I implemented the no-contact, I was getting crazy texts like, “Why don’t I have diapers?” I’m like, “You can go to the store and get diapers,” or “Why don’t I have this, or that?” Just anything he could do to hook me in, but he seems like this such nice guy on the outside.

How Can I Overcome The Opinions of Others?

Coach Sarah: Those that are in the arena are the ones whose opinions matter. Those who are getting dirty and bloody with you, fighting in the trenches. The spectators, those that he’s able to sway, those are the people that are the spectators, and their opinions, although they might not be fun, they’re not the ones that we have to let influence us.

We can choose to be like, “You know what, you’re just a spectator, you are not my people who are in the arena getting dirty and bloody with me. Those are the people whose words matter, and whose opinions matter. I know those people will allow me to speak my truth into this situation.”

Kate: I just finished a Rising Strong class with my therapist, who’s a Brene Brown trainer, and I was so disappointed, because I wasn’t—

How Can Disengaging With My Narcissistic Ex Help Me?

Coach Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Kate: — at the end of the class, I didn’t feel like I had risen, strong enough.

Coach Sarah: Know, it is a process.

Anne: Absolutely, it’s a long process.

Coach Sarah: I know that we’re going to do this as a series. What Anne and I were hoping that we could have you do is have a goal of something that you would like to try with this parallel parenting idea of disengaging. Right, how can you disengage maybe just a little bit more than you have been.

It might be a little bit of a stretch, might be a little bit out of your comfort zone, initially, right, because potential pushback, but in the long run will increase your safety, will decrease your triggers, and help you build some of that resiliency. Talk about rising strong, how are you going to be able to build that resiliency, and rise fast, if you’re constantly being dinged and, basically, harassed.

How Can I Extend My Boundaries To Keep Myself Safe?

How can you implement something that’s going to, maybe, extend your boundaries just a little bit more? Push out the safety just a little bit more than you have, than right now. See how that goes, we can check in with you the next podcast and see how that went, what the successes were, how it might’ve helped you, any potential pushback, or fallout from that boundary, and then we can, hopefully, learn a little bit from your experience and some other ladies might get some insight. Does that sound good to you?

Kate: Great, I would definitely like to take the step of blocking his phone number and his email and maybe using this app to have some kind of third-party situation. I don’t have a trusted person that would be willing to do what Anne’s dad does.

Anne: At least right now you don’t.

Kate: At least right now.

My Ex Is Abusive To Me

Anne: I want women to know that it is possible. I think the number one thing that stops women from doing this, and getting to safety, is they don’t think it’s possible. Like what you said before, they don’t get creative about how to do it, because they just think, “It’s not possible, so I’m not going to try. If women think it is possible—this is possible, and with faith, I can accomplish this. Now, how do I do it is the key.

Coach Sarah: It feels counterintuitive. It goes against most of our natures where we’re loving and we’re caring and we’re nurturing, and that feels really cold to just say, “I’m going to cut you out of my life, because you are dangerous. You are harmful.” We feel like we need to have somebody give us permission to do that. It’s not just that we feel like it’s not possible, we don’t feel like we have permission.

I think it’s important that we give ourselves permission to go ahead and do that, because it’s necessary. It’s not us being mean. It’s not us being cold. Those are the old lies of the gaslighting, those are not the truth. The truth is that you deserve to be safe, so you can give yourself permission to take this protective step. I think that’s really important.

How To Focus On My Own Healing From Betrayal Trauma?

Kate: That’s a good point. I think women, in general, but especially in my religious culture are trained, and expected, to be nice and to get along and do anything, even at all costs, for the family and for children especially. That’s really going against that expectation, that cultural training, that religious training, for me to cut someone out of my life, especially someone connected to my children and grandchildren.

I would like us all to get along and work cooperatively, but this is a person that cannot work as a team in any situation. It’s just not safe. I would really to not have those texts and emails coming to me by next time. I just think the idea of an app, or a third-party is a great idea. Some buffer zone between me and my ex, to keep those triggers from happening, and then blocking him on my phone.

Coach Sarah: Yes.

Kate: It would be hard, but it would be good, especially because we have some financial issues that we still need to work out from the divorce decree, so that’s going to be extra challenging.

How To Build Resiliency With An Abusive Ex?

Anne: I’m not sure, but as you research that app, Family Wizard, or any other apps, I think some of them have the financial stuff too, that you can go through. If you’re listening, and you have the answers to this, will you please comment below, because this is new territory for so many people. If you’ve been using an app, like Family Wizard, or a third-party app, and you’re an expert at third-party technology to keep us safe, please comment on our site, and let other women learn from your experience.

Coach Sarah: A really good start on some action steps to help make these goals become a reality for you, and create a little bit more safety for you, a little less trauma, and hopefully building some resiliency for you. I’m excited to see how these things go for you.

Kate: Thanks, Coach Sarah. I appreciate your help.

Small Goals Can Help Bring Peace and Healing

Anne: We will check back in with Kate and Coach Sarah in a little while and see how Kate did with her goals. Again, I want to restate her goals to block her ex on her phone and block her ex on her email and research an appropriate app to have contact with him about her financial things and about her daughter that still lives at home.

Those are the three goals that she has made for herself today, and I am really excited to see what happens. No judgement here, if nothing happens, because we’re all just progressing any way that we can, and, no matter what happens, we love you Kate.

We’re doing our groups a little bit differently now at BTR. Our main goal at BTR is to meet women’s needs where they are. We have several different groups available on the Services page. You can sign up at any time for any of these groups and as soon as they fill, they will run. After you see what groups we have available, and you register for the groups that apply to you, go ahead and post the link for the group description page in your secret Facebook groups, or our secret Facebook group.

Are There Others Who Have Gone Through Betrayal Trauma?

Let members of those secret Facebook groups know, “Hey, I joined this group from Betrayal Trauma Recovery. Join too and as soon as it fills, it will run.” Sarah runs four groups. She facilitates Setting and Holding Healthy Boundaries, Detecting & Confronting Gaslighting, Healing My Self-worth & Self-image, and Therapeutic Disclosures & Therapeutic Polygraphs. Sarah, will you take a minute to describe your Detecting & Confronting Gaslighting group, and your Setting and Holding Healthy Boundaries group?

Coach Sarah: It’s so important, because gaslighting damages our intuition, our voice, our connection to reality, which, without that, how do we keep boundaries, if we’re disconnected from our reality? How do we know what our values are? How do we make decisions clearly about whether or not we can stay in a relationship? All of these things really have a huge connection back to gaslighting, so it’s one of my favorite groups to facilitate. Click here to register for the Detecting & Confronting Gaslighting group.

Why Are Boundaries So Important With Abuse?

My group Setting & Holding Healthy Boundaries helps so many women. We use the Vicki Tidwell Palmer book: Moving Beyond Betrayal.  that we use in that group, she talks about healthy boundaries being one of the best forms of self-care that we can do, and I agree. Again, because so many times we’re convinced that, “If I give myself permission to have the boundaries that I need to have in order to feel safe,” then we feel mean, or we feel like we’re being vindictive.

What the truth is all we’re doing is keeping ourselves safe, and this is a great group that helps us understand “What is the actual process of forming good boundaries,” and making that request to our spouse in a way that is both healthy, but solid. There’s not any kind of wishy-washiness to it. There’s a firmness that allows us to feel strong, and to have our voice heard, and to feel really clear as we’re delivering our boundaries. It’s a great course.

Anne: To check out the groups we offer, click here. Again, if this podcast was interesting to you, we’d love to hear your comments. Also, please rate it on iTunes. Every single time you comment, every single time you rate us on iTunes, it increases our search engine rankings, and it helps women find us.

How Can I Find Help?

When women are searching out there for, “Why is my marriage going bad?” or “What can I do?” I don’t want them to find, “The 10 Ways You Can be More Sexy,” or “How to Improve Communication.” I want them to find the truth, because those types of articles just keep them in that abuse cycle, and that porn user will just continue to abuse them and blame them, and the hurt will continue.

Our job here, at BTR, is to stop that hurt by educating women about what the truth is about their situation, that they are worthy of love, that they are beautiful, and that they deserve to be treated well. Until next week, stay safe out there.