Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, wrote this post on January 10, 2017. It is a log of her journey through abuse, betrayal trauma, and healing. At this point in her healing, she often felt self-blame for her abusive husband’s behavior. We have chosen to include it here so that abuse victims can observe what the healing process looks like… and to offer hope that it won’t always hurt so deeply.
Sometimes I get some strange looks when I tell people about betrayal trauma. Many people don’t know about betrayal trauma, and most people don’t understand it.
Understanding Betrayal Trauma
Betrayed women feel emotionally isolated and doubt their own personal worth. In fact, many suffer from symptoms similar to Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). This is called Betrayal Trauma.
Betrayal trauma victims often take extreme measures to outwardly appear perfectly in control—yet inside they really feel out of control, crazy, and unloved. In my case, I started speaking out in public to avoid the mess that was happening in my home.
Betrayal Trauma Causes Emotional Pain
A pornography user and emotionally abusive man is self absorbed and has little to no emotional connection with others and that’s how my ex-husband was and still continues to be. Living with him brought feelings of confusion and fear into my life. I didn’t feel emotionally isolated often. I did feel emotionally numb and I was constantly hustling for a feeling of fulfillment or completely exhausted and paralyzed. In my case it took the form of remodeling my house, publicly speaking about pornography, becoming involved in the anti-pornography movement, or copious amounts of TV watching. I was constantly trying to fix things, just fix, fix, fix, fix, fix. I had many of the characteristics of complex post traumatic stress disorder.
Betrayal Trauma Can Affect Women’s Self-Worth
Apart from my obsessiveness about my house and changing the world, everything else started to slide. My C-PTSD symptoms reached a point where I didn’t want to do anything hardly. I had always been interested in nature and outdoor activities before, and I stopped working out or taking care of myself physically.
I didn’t want to go out with my friends, I didn’t want to even go to parties or activities. To others, maybe my home seemed clean and organized, and I seemed on top of everything, but inside I often felt totally out of control and unloved, unsafe in my own home, even though I barely admitted it to myself.
What’s Wrong With My Marriage?
I sensed that something wasn’t right in my marriage from the very beginning. My ex-husband lied to me for the first 18 months when I questioned him about his rage and abuse. After he told me about his pornography use 18 months in, he supposedly started recovery, but his abusive behaviors never stopped. When I questioned him about pornography during the “recovery” years, I was told that “Everything is OK,” in spite of the fact that there was still consistent anger and resentment.
I felt pacified during those five years. I continued speaking about pornography and my experience, appearing “in recovery” or “happily working through the inevitable trials of life”. Even getting to the point where my husband and I spoke together several times about his miraculous recovery from pornography addiction. But in 2015, then the behaviors escalated rapidly to the point where I knew I needed to set boundaries. I thought: He’s ruining my life and our family. I feel afraid and worried.
Betrayal Trauma Can Make You Feel Crazy
Betrayal Trauma for me is most acute when my abusive ex-husband creates chaos in my life. Though my boundaries are strong, there are times when I do feel afraid… I guess that’s part of this journey and I want to be real with you.
While we were married:
- We moved six times in five years.
- The threat of him swearing or physically intimidating me through punching walls or screaming in my face was ever constant.
- Several times he suddenly threatened to kill himself in front of our children.
- I was constantly trying to create stability on a foundation of quicksand. Ever building, but never getting anywhere.
Abusers Groom Victims
Then there were amazing times. Times when he was peaceful and emotionally connected. Times that I trusted him and felt safe. Eventually, I came to understand that he wasn’t “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. He wasn’t a great guy that lost it once in a while. He was an abuser, who wore a “nice” mask, and every once in a while the mask would fall off and I’d see the truth. The good times were just the grooming part of the abusive cycle. It’s a sad reality and the grief is very difficult to cope with at times, but it’s also the truth and I’d much rather have the truth than lies.
His abusiveness grew and grew and grew until eventually he lashed out and attacked me physically. After he was arrested for domestic violence, the trauma was so intense. I remembered all the “I’m better than him” things he said about other men who abandoned their families and couldn’t pull it together to repair their relationship.
Betrayal Trauma Victims Can Seek Safety
I just thought, “Wow, that was all talk.” I watched carefully for clear signs of him attempting to repair and be safe enough to come home.
I saw none. I still see none. I have never seen any sign of repair.
On this path of healing I’ve embraced these truths. I am not the cause of my ex-husband’s abusiveness and I can’t change or fix my him. He is making his own decisions of his own free will. I have been deeply injured by his abusive behavior. It’s only with God’s help that I can truly heal and thrive.
When I lived with my ex, I thought that I didn’t need support.
Women Can Heal From Betrayal Trauma
Back then I also thought if he would just stop the abuse and get better that everything would be ok but it’s not that simple.
I was living out an emotionally frenzied life with fear constant in my life.
The first step to my healing was to remove myself from the person who continues to traumatize me completely and set a boundary to remain free from that abuse until he shows he is trustworthy and emotionally safe.
Many times my abusive ex-husband caused me more trauma – especially when he sent texts blaming me for the breakup of the marriage, blaming me his decision to divorce. That has been really difficult.
What Does Betrayal Trauma Feel Like?
That’s when the trauma really hits. For me the betrayal trauma feels like anxiety, it feels like fear, it feels like pain, sorrow, and sadness, and sometimes it just gets so intense. It’s so intense I feel like I might die. There have been times when I have been laying in my bed and I just scream and yell and pound the bed or in the shower.
I just fall down to the ground and just lay in the shower and cry and cry and cry. It is so painful. I’ve learned through this that one thing I’m good at is accepting the pain and just feeling it. I do that quite often when the pain gets really intense, and then sometimes I do choose unhealthy behaviors like eating a lot or watching a lot of TV.
Why Does My Husband Hate Me?
I recently had to increase my boundary because my ex wrote some extremely abusive and triggering emails. After my dad read the emails, he insisted that I block his number and emails and have my ex only communicate through my dad. Since then, the constant fear has subsided a bit.
My boundaries that I’ve set are based on love, and safety and respect for myself and for my ex-husband. My boundary of no contact enables me to connect with God and put God in my center.
So with consistent effort and time and the grace of God I think I’m starting to heal. I’m starting to choose a healthy lifestyle. It’s hard. I’m still having trouble eating well and exercising. I’m still having trouble sleeping.
One healthy thing that I’ve been doing is yard work which has been really healing for me. Another healthy thing is reaching out to friends.
When I’m connected with God and God is in my center I feel much more at peace and much more calm.
Why Am I So Confused? Why Can’t I Figure Out How To Save My Marriage?
Even now, I don’t know exactly what happened. I suspect that my husband lied to me many times. I still deal with the anxiety, fear, sadness, heartache, and stress of the betrayal every day. Not to mention the difficulty of being a single mom of three small children. With the betrayal comes worries about the future, worries about money, and what will happen. It’s extremely stressful.
I sought out support because I desperately want to feel peace again. I want to feel safe in my life. I started podcasting to get my voice back. To speak the truth. To share my experience. Other women have reached out and shared their horrific experiences.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Abuse Victims
Then together, as an organization, we created Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group . BTRG is an online support group for emotional abuse, psychological abuse, and sexual coercion victims. Many husbands even rape their wives. So women have to deal with that. We encourage all women who are confused or not sure where to start to join our community and receive a free downloadable checklist for victims of emotional and psychological abuse.
My hope is that women can understand that what they’re living in is the fog of abuse and make their way to the peaceful life they deserve.
You Can Find Safety & Peace Again
No matter where you are on your journey to healing, know that BTR is here to support you.
I am so happy to have found other women who know how I feel. It’s hard when people don’t "get it"
Thank you for sharing!! It’s so helpful to have a name for what I am going through!
I was in a loving relationship with my husband for 13 years and we have three beautiful kids together. Things started changing when he got this new job that paid more, i started getting suspicious but i could never confirm anything
How, when will I ever recover if I’m the dissonance, the trauma fog, the recurring emotions and memories that disrupt my sleep? Truly stumbling into others “who get it” to connect with . . . Godcidental
Why had you never left him?
I didn’t know I was a victim of abuse. I believed his lies and was in the fog of his manipulation. It’s not easy for victims of emotional and psychological abuse to understand what is happening, and often we turn to couple therapy, pornography addiction recovery, or other means of trying to resolve “anger issues” or other problems. The key to getting to safety is being able to recognize that what we are experiencing is abuse – which is why I started Betrayal Trauma Recovery:). I understand every victim who doesn’t understand she’s not safe, and therefore isn’t making her way to safety. We welcome victims who are trying to figure out what is happening to them. BTR also supports a victim’s path to safety – in whatever form that takes.