Many women who have been betrayed and abused wonder why their husbands do what they do. They wonder why they end up feeling so confused after confronting them with a discovery. They wonder why their husband lies when the proof is right in front of them and they know their wife can see it.

Anne, Founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, and Amy Kate, a certified betrayal trauma specialist who is also trained by the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy and recovering drug addict, talk about the most common tactics sex addicts use that women need to know. Amy is also a two-time Shero herself, you can read her story here.

3 Options A Sex Addict Has To Balance Their Mind

Sometimes, when a woman observes her husband’s behavior or has a conversation with him, it doesn’t make any sense to her. Amy says this has a lot to do with cognitive dissonance.

“Cognitive dissonance is the theory that when you have a certain set of beliefs, morals and standards, but your actions don’t match that, it creates its own chaos and you get a super uncomfortable feeling inside.” -Amy Kate, trained by the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy

For the wife, her husband’s actions don’t match what they thought his beliefs and standards were. Many times, his actions don’t even match his words, which is why she ends up so confused.

In fact, most of the time, she’s right, he really does have those beliefs and standards. But then why is he looking at porn? Why is he abusing her?

Amy addresses these questions.

“You have someone who knows that porn is cheating, they know they shouldn’t do it, they know they’re hurting their wife, they know that having that affair is going to devastate their wife, but they’re still doing it. In order to have those two things balanced in the brain, something must change.” -Amy Kate, trained by the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy

3 Options A Sex Addict Has To Balance Their Mind

  1. They can change their belief to make cheating okay. They can decide that cheating is okay, but it usually doesn’t happen because their beliefs are their beliefs and they’re usually deeply held.
  2. They can change the action. They could stop the behaviors, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
  3. They can change their perception. The change their perception by using other behaviors that make their wives crazy, therefore, justifying their acting out behaviors.

Usually, they go with Option 3, change their perception.

They can’t just change their perception of their wife. That wouldn’t be enough, so they have to change their perception of everything.

“When they’re changing their perception, they’re changing their reality to make their behaviors fit what they believe.” -Amy Kate, trained by the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy

Once they’ve changed their perception, they’ve created two separate lives, two worlds. When those two worlds collide, such as when his wife finds porn in his search history, he desperately needs to balance them, so he pulls out the tactics that leave his wife feeling confused.

While not all sex addicts are the same, mental health professionals have been able to identify certain tactics that addicts commonly use.

5 Tactics A Sex Addict Uses That You Need To Know

  • Lying and Minimizing
  • Justification
  • Blame-shifting
  • Gaslighting
  • DARVO

A Sex Addict Must Lie And Minimize To Protect His Other World

The saying goes, “Addicts lie. They lie a lot.”

Women will hear it often as they enter the betrayal trauma/sex addiction community. The lying is the reason they are told to trust actions and patterns, not words.

  • “I looked at porn last week.”
  • “I don’t know why that’s in the search history. That must have been one of the kids.”
  • “It was just one time.”
  • “That was the first time I looked at porn in two years.”
  • “I struggled with it as a teenager and a little before we got married, but I’m better now.”
  • “I don’t know how she got my number.”
  • “I didn’t know it was THAT kind of massage place.”

The lying and the minimizing just keeps adding up. Soon, they start believing their own lies, but sometimes, the lying isn’t enough.

A Sex Addict Must Justify His Behavior To Make It Okay

Justification is, basically, how they “defend” their actions. Really, it’s just a poor excuse, just like addiction is an excuse to be abusive.

  • “It’s just porn. It’s not a real person so it’s not that bad.”
  • “It’s not cheating.”
  • “I’m a man; I can’t help it.”
  • “I have a high sex drive and besides, all men look at porn.”
  • “It’s a guy thing. It’s what they do.”
  • “I only do it a few times a month. It’s not a problem.”

Remember: It’s an excuse. It doesn’t make it okay. That’s just what they’re trying to do, make it okay.

A Sex Addict Must Have Someone Else To Blame So He Isn’t The Bad Guy

Blame-shifting is possibly the most common tactic that addicts use to make their behavior okay. It’s probably also the most damaging to the wife.

“It is so damaging to women because one of the big ones is the addict will blame the way the wife’s looks or the weight she has gained or the activities that she is willing to do.” -Amy Kate, trained by the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy

The addict needs to make his wife the bad guy so he can have a good excuse for doing the things he does. If she’s the bad guy, he can have a pity party and act out. If she’s the bad guy, he can be abuse her. After all, she deserves it.

  • “If she did such and such sex act, I wouldn’t have to watch porn.”
  • “If she took care of herself and lost some weight, I wouldn’t have to look at porn.”
  • “If she wasn’t such a mean, demanding person, I wouldn’t need all of this stress relief.”

It’s bad enough he’s looking at porn, but now his wife is too much this or not enough that? She should do this or stop doing that?

Sometimes, he’ll even blame other people for his stress.

  • “So-and-so called in sick, so work was very stressful today, I just needed to relieve some of this stress.”
  • “If only the (name of athlete) hadn’t lost the game, I wouldn’t have had to relieve some stress.”
  • “I’ve had a really bad day at work and all my customers were awful and I’ve been treated like crap by my boss. I deserve this treat.”

It always has to be someone else’s fault. Addicts don’t know how to take accountability for their own choices or actions.

A Sex Addict Must Gaslight So His Wife Doesn’t Figure Out What’s Really Happening

Gaslighting (you can read more about it here) is used to make someone believe that what they thought was real isn’t real.

Gaslighting can be used innocently. For example, a mother may tell their child that they like a certain food just to get them to stop complaining about it and eat it. This isn’t a great thing to do either, but it’s an example of someone using it not to hide a deep, dark secret or a harmful behavior, but simply because they aren’t recognizing that they’re frustrated with their child.

Gaslighting can also be used to hide a deep, dark secret or harmful behavior. It can be used to make someone distrust themselves and their “gut” feelings. This is what addicts usually do.

Most of the time, they don’t know that’s what they’re doing, but that’s what they’re doing.

Amy shares a personal example of how her ex-husband would use gaslighting.

“He would say something and then five minutes later I would repeat it back and he would say that he never said it. By the end of the conversation I was questioning what was really said. I really didn’t know.”

Anne shares that her ex would say things like, “I know I said that, but that’s not what I meant. I meant this other thing…”

A Sex Addict Must Be The Victim Or His Behaviors Are Not Okay

Most of the tactics already shared show how the sex addict makes himself out to be the victim. However, many of the tactics that addicts use, other than gaslighting, are used internally.

This one, on the other hand, like gaslighting is used externally, and is somewhat of a culmination of all the other tactics.

DARVO.

Deny the behavior, Attack the individual who’s confronting, Reverse the Victim and the Offender role.

This usually happens in a verbal interaction between the addict and, most often, his wife.

What starts out as a confrontation about, maybe, a text she discovered to or from another woman turns into how the wife does this and that and how poor him just isn’t good enough and can’t do anything right.

Suddenly, he’s the victim and the wife may find herself apologizing, begging for forgiveness, and/or consoling her husband.

This is emotional abuse and is not acceptable. For more information on sex addiction and abuse, please read here. For more information on how to spot emotional abuse, please read here. For more information on DARVO, please read here.

A Sex Addict Uses His Tactics Because He Must Use His Drug

Amy talks about how it feels to have an addiction.

“For my own addiction, it’s like I have this little demon in my head that has one goal in life: to get me to use my drug, whatever my drug of choice is, be it porn, prostitutes—mine was drugs.” -Amy Kate, trained by the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy

Addicts will usually do anything to get and use their drug. It doesn’t make sense to their victims, but that’s how they prefer it. As long as they can keep their victim confused, they’ll never discover the truth.

Amy leaves one final word for women who have been betrayed and abused.

“If I could offer any parting words it would be to get yourself in your own healing, no matter what is going on with him, there is hope for you. Your life can change. It can get better.” -Amy Kate, trained by the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy

Anne wants women to know, “YOU ARE WORTH IT! God loves you and He wants you to be safe.”

Both Anne and Amy also recommend the books Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft and Worthy of Her Trust by Stephen Arterburn and Jason B. Martinkus. Links for purchasing both books can be found here.

At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we believe that addicts and abusers can change.

Until they seek recovery, as they seek recovery, or even if they don’t, Betrayal Trauma Recovery provides a safe place for women as they navigate through the confusion and chaos caused by their husband’s betrayal and abuse.

Many women have found hope and healing through Individual and Group Sessions. To join a BTR Group Session, click here. To schedule an Individual Session with one of our Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialists, click here.

Full Transcript:

I have Amy Kate back with us this week. Amy Kate is an advocate for partners of sexual addicts. She is a survivor two marriages that ended as a result of sexual addiction. She has six amazing children.

She is a certified betrayal trauma specialist. She is also trained by the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy. She is also a customer service representative at Covenant Eyes.

Covenant Eyes is an accountability and filtering software that is one of many tools that we can use in our own recovery, both for our own safety and our family’s safety.

Amy: Hi. I’m glad to be back.

Anne: We are going to talk about demystifying the behavior of sex addicts today. Being a recovering drug addict, I’m sure, has its advantages when you are talking about your ex-husband’s sexual addiction and how that worked and how devastating it was.

Can you talk about the definition of insanity and where you were in that process of serving your husband’s behaviors and being in that chaos and not able to figure out exactly what was happening?

When we are in a relationship with an active pornography addict or an active sex addict, why is there some much chaos? Why is it so difficult to get to the bottom of what is really going on?

Amy: To a non-addict person, when you see these behaviors that are insane—that’s kind of what they look like—and they make absolutely no sense. You are unable to wrap your head around why they do the things they do. I tend to think this all comes from cognitive dissonance.

Your brain wants homeostasis. It wants everything to be calm and centered and make sense and not be chaotic. Cognitive dissonance is the theory that when you have a certain set of beliefs and morals and standards, and your actions don’t match that, it creates its own chaos and super uncomfortable feeling inside of you.

You have someone who knows that porn is cheating, they know they shouldn’t do it, they know they’re hurting their wife, they know that having that affair is going to devastate their wife, but they’re still doing it. In order to have those two things balanced in the brain, something must change.

They have three choices, essentially:

  1. They can change their beliefs so they can decide that cheating is somehow okay. They can decide that porn is okay. This doesn’t usually happen though because usually our beliefs are our beliefs.
  2. They can change the action. They could stop doing those behavior but that is not as easy as it sounds.
  3. They can change their perception. When they change their perception, this is where you tend to see all the other crazy-making behaviors that drive us insane.

Anne: Talk about that. Do you mean their perception of their wife?

Amy: Their perception of everything starts to change. Essentially, when they’re changing their perception, they’re changing their reality to make their behaviors fit what they believe. We’ll use lying, which is probably one of the most rage-igniting things when it comes to partners. The lying drives us insane.

The addict will change the way he views things like the female he is talking to all of the time and ends up having an emotional affair with, “She’s just a friend, I swear. I don’t even think she’s pretty!” “I have no idea how that porn site is in the history. Maybe it’s a virus…” He is creating this reality that is not even real. The ironic part is he starts to believe it.

The brain has to come back to that homeostasis where things have to make sense or it’s a horribly uncomfortable feeling. They start to believe their own lies which is insanity! This is what it feels like to me as a recovering addict. When I am in this place, it feels like insanity.

Anne: Especially because then you have two totally compartmentalized lives going on. The one life where you are this good person where you don’t engage in these behaviors and your explanations make sense and then the other life where all these things are actually really happening.

You really are engaging in these behaviors. You really are lying, so it is almost like you’ve got Jekyll and Hyde going on in the same body.

Amy: Jekyll and Hyde was, originally, an analogy for an alcoholic. The boxes and compartmentalizing are a huge part of addiction. When the addict is actively engaged with his family, his addiction doesn’t exist—he closes that box and it doesn’t exist. Then when he is acting out in his addiction, his family does not exist.

They are two separate worlds so when they collide, like the wife finds something in the history on the computer, he has to figure out a way to make the two make sense. Lying is usually a really good way to do it. Justification is another way they can alter their reality and perception of what is going on, to make things balance out.

For example, they will say things like, “It’s just porn. It’s not a real person so it’s not that bad. It’s not cheating. I’m a man; I can’t help it. I have a high sex drive and besides, all men look at porn.” “It’s a guy thing. It’s what they do.” “I only do it a few times a month. It’s not a problem.”

Anne: Yes, these justifications are very interesting I think, especially when they say, “The women in pornography want to be exploited and abused.” When you look at it from the porn industry point of view, we know the women who are in the porn industry are not treated well.

Many of them are on drugs. Many have been exploited. they are miserable doing their job. The time they spend in the pornography industry is very, very short. Many don’t spend a lot of time because it’s so difficult for them. 

I’ve talked to someone on the other end, who produced porn for a while and then stopped producing it, and he said, “I always knew I was ruining the lives of the women that I filmed but I just never thought about the people who were watching it and how their lives were also being ruined.”

I think it is very difficult for them to realize they are hurting their wives, themselves, and also the woman who is being exploited, the women in the pornography. It’s very important to teach people that pornography creates a demand for sexual exploitation and that demand must stop—that as long as people are viewing pornography there will also be sexual exploitation and sex slavery.

All these justifications surrounding this make it very difficult for men to see the truth that they are using and exploiting other people and harming themselves and other family members. So instead of accepting this, they end up blame-shifting and lying and all the things that you are talking about.

Amy: For my own addiction, it’s like I have this little demon in my head that has one goal in life: to get me to use my drug, whatever my drug of choice is, be it porn, prostitutes—mine was drugs.

It will do the craziest things and twist words to convince me that these lies make sense—like I deserve to take this pill because I have had a really bad day, or I really deserve to watch that porn because my wife won’t have sex with me.

The addict literally believes it even though a sober brain knows that it doesn’t make any sense. It’s all balancing back to the cognitive dissonance where it needs to balance itself out.

Anne: Let’s talk about blame-shifting. That’s another way addicts balance themselves out.

Amy: That’s a super fun one—I’m being sarcastic, of course! It is so damaging to women because one of the big ones is the addict will blame the way the wife’s looks or the weight she has gained or the activities that she is willing to do.

Blame-shifting Examples:

“If she did such and such sex act, I wouldn’t have to watch porn.”

“If she took care of herself and lost some weight, I wouldn’t have to look at porn.”

“If she wasn’t such a mean, demanding person, I wouldn’t need all of this stress relief.”

“I’ve had a really bad day at work and all my customers are awful and I’ve been treated like crap by my boss and I deserve this treat.”

Anne: In my case, I was “too much.” I asked too many questions, I was too consistent, I was too demanding and controlling because I am a woman of my word and I have integrity. I was trying to figure out what was going on, and I was not going to stop until I had the answers.

In my marriage, I was “too much” although in the end he told me that I was not attractive, and he began to go down that route. It was very hurtful to me. These comments ring in my ears still—the blame types of things. You can’t get better if you refuse to take responsibility for your actions.

Amy: Right. My ex was very good at projecting. He started isolating himself from the family. We would have things we were going to do, like carve pumpkins. I would invite him to come and he would say he was working in his office and he wasn’t. Or I’d say, “Let’s go to the park”—anything—I was trying to get him to engage with the family, but he continued to refuse.

When D-Day happened, he said he cheated because I did not want him involved in my life. He literally would flip everything around. Then he would say things like, “I didn’t want sex enough.” The reality was that I was sex-starved and was turned down all the time.

Anne: Mine stopped initiating. Mine didn’t ever initiate to begin with, I did, and then I stopped and I’m sure he tells people that I would never have sex with him. He only initiated twice during the six months when I didn’t initiate. Both of those times were immediately after I had been severely emotionally abused.

I wasn’t safe and then he didn’t ever try when I did feel safe. But he doesn’t tell people that because he didn’t initiate safe sex for six months. That gaslighting is pretty intense and can be very traumatizing. Gaslighting is part of the emotional abuse.

Amy: Yes, and the gaslighting, for me, it made me feel crazy because I didn’t know my reality. This is a hard thing to describe, to not know my reality, but when everything is twisted and all I had was him and me, in the beginning—I didn’t have anyone to tell me this wasn’t making sense or it wasn’t right—I didn’t know what was up or down due to the gaslighting.

He would say something and then five minutes later I would repeat it back and he would say that he never said it. By the end of the conversation I was questioning what was really said. I really didn’t know.

Anne: Or they say, “I know I said that but it’s not what I meant. I meant this other thing…” And the woman remarks that it is in fact what he said and meant…

Part of the reason we bring this up is not to rehash our own trauma, it’s to educate women about the behaviors that they can expect so they know they’re not crazy, so they can observe their husband’s behavior to know if he is emotionally safe.

My number one goal with Betrayal Trauma Recovery is to teach women what safe behaviors look like so they can begin to establish safety for themselves because you cannot heal from trauma if trauma continues to happen. 

I want to review these things quickly. We have lying, justifying, blame-shifting, and gaslighting. We’ve talked about gaslighting before. We have several podcasts at btr.org. We also really recommend the book, “Why Does He Do That?” It can be found at btr.org/resources.

There are many books we recommend you read, to become more educated about these things. The one we recommend most is the “Why Does He Do That?” by Lindy Bancroft. This book will teach you the safe behaviors you are looking for in terms of emotional safety.

I’m so grateful you were here today, Amy Kate, and for all that you have been through and the fact that you are using this now to educate women, especially in your job as a customer service representative for Covenant Eyes.

Amy: Another awesome book that is one of my favorites is, Worthy of Her Trust. It gives a very clear picture of what true repentance in recovery really looks like. I know, for me, I went through a lot of “Am I expecting too much? Do I have this crazy, not real vision of what recovery looks like?”

When I read that book it helped me to realize that yes, what I was imagining should be happening was actually supposed to be happening. For me, this helped to undo the gas lighting that was happening to me.

Anne: That’s really great to help women understand what they are looking for. My ex tells people, “What could I do? She wouldn’t talk to me.” I think that he doesn’t understand that I could very clearly see through his behaviors exactly what was happening.

Someone who really loves his wife and wants to be back with his family doesn’t shut down their bank account. He doesn’t stop giving them money. He doesn’t go to a singles’ congregation. He doesn’t threaten her and say, “I’m giving you a three-week deadline. If I don’t get back in the house in three weeks, then I’m going to get my own apartment.”

These are not the types of things that people in recovery do. I could clearly see—even though I was not talking to him—through his behaviors. I love that there is a book that helps with this. Thank you for recommending that.

Amy: The betrayal trauma model difference is literally night and day compared to any other option out there when it comes to the healing. The coaches at BTR are great. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting two in person and the others I have talked to multiple times online and they are amazing women with hearts of gold. They are so, so passionate about helping other women change their lives.

If I could offer any parting words it would be to get yourself in your own healing, no matter what is going on with him, there is hope for you. Your life can change. It can get better. You don’t have to stay stuck right where you are. It will get better.

Anne: You are worth it! This is what I want to say to these women. YOU ARE WORTH IT! God loves you and He wants you to be safe.

There is a little bit of cognitive dissonance with us because we think that God wants me to submit to my husband or he wants me to be a loving, kind, service-oriented wife. There is the cognitive dissonance with the wives of sex addicts who are wanting a whole, peaceful, loving family.

God is telling us, “Please, I love you. You are worth it. Establish safety for yourself.” Starting with a Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist is an excellent way to do that because from the get-go, they can help you establish safety in your life.

Amy Kate, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate you being with us.

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Until next week, stay safe!

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