The Truth, The Betrayal Trauma, And The Abuse
***Podcast disclaimer: Early in Anne’s healing journey, as are many women, she was exposed to the codependency model for recovery from being married to a sex addict. She has since realized that she and other wives of addicts have truly experienced betrayal trauma.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery no longer supports the codependency model because it has been found to cause more harm than good. Betrayal Trauma Recovery strictly uses the trauma model for assisting women who are seeking peace and safety amid the chaos of their reality.
Anne continues to utilize the 12-step manual for developing and improving her own relationship with God. Anne now uses the trauma model for her own healing. You can find more about her thoughts on this podcast here.***
When women find out about their husband’s pornography use, it can be devastating and confusing. It can be like trying to put together a puzzle without all the pieces. It can be overwhelming to try to figure out what is really happening.
Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, talks about betrayal and abuse.
“Betrayal takes many different forms. The most common form of betrayal is lying. Other forms are emotional abuse, pornography use, infidelity, and being emotionally unavailable. Betrayal is breaking or violating a promise or trust and it creates emotional and mental conflict.”
The Betrayal Trauma And The Truth
Sometimes, our intuition, or “gut,” tells us that something is off in our marriage. These feelings can be brushed aside because, as far as we know, there is nothing that we can see that is wrong.
“Even without understanding the extent of the lies, I knew something was wrong.
“I felt my husband's hatred for me oozing out of him. He tried to hide it, but he couldn't. As I tried to figure out what was happening, his disdain for me grew.
“I have realized that, when my husband lied to me and cheated on me, he had to hate me more and more to justify his actions. Choosing to view someone in that light, to avoid accountability is a betrayal itself.”
Betrayal Trauma Is A Result Of Lies
For many women, the lies are the most difficult part of this whole experience. Lying is the most common form of betrayal and abuse.
“Lying enables someone to control a situation, essentially, exploiting the person or people they’re lying to. It enables the addict to control your perception of the situation and remain active in his compulsive sexual behaviors while maintaining his relationship with you.
“He has ‘reasons’ to betray you, which are actually lies. Sex addicts love to portray themselves as unable to control their hormonal urges, which is untrue. Without lying, an active abuser and an addict’s whole world falls apart.
“When someone lies to you, they take away your dignity.
“The philosopher Kant said that a person's intrinsic worth (human dignity) allows them to act as rational as possible and make their own decisions. When you're being lied to, it harms your dignity by purposefully withholding key information, that you need to make key decisions.
“Lies are traumatizing. When I realized I wasn’t living the life I thought I was, I began suffering intense trauma episodes of uncontrollable crying and panic."
“I learned, from sad experience, that there is no way to force someone to tell the truth. However, with God’s help, you can discover what you need to know to keep yourself emotionally safe.”
Betrayal Trauma Is A Result of Abuse
Once we discover our husband’s lies, it can feel confused. As we set boundaries, we can bring ourselves out of that fog of abuse and see the truth. For 8 signs that you are being abused, read here.
“After my husband’s arrest for domestic violence, I was so confused. I didn’t know the truth. My husband lied and blamed me.
“His explanation for what was happening was so drastically different than mine. It seemed like I was losing my grasp on reality.
“I began to pray for eyes to see and ears to hear the truth. Every morning, I would kneel and genuinely ask God to help me see the truth of the situation.
“Through this time, as I held my boundaries, God taught me what behaviors to look for to know if I was truly safe. God also showed me how to improve my relationship with Him by truly relying on Him to help me grow through the experience.
“As I attend support group, my relationship with God has improved, to the point that I confidently know the reality of my situation, and I’ve held appropriate boundaries and been blessed with an abiding sense of peace.”
See The Truth Through The Betrayal Trauma
Many women who are married to, or in a relationship with, a pornography user experience emotional abuse.
Anne talks about the different ways emotional abuse can happen:
“When a man uses pornography, or is, otherwise, unfaithful to his wife, it is common for him to be emotionally abusive to hide or deflect suspicion. Here are some common examples:
4 Signs Of Emotional Abuse
- When you bring up that he’s been distant, he becomes irritable and rants about how much he does for the family, how he’s never appreciated, how you don’t respect him, etc.
- When you bring up concerns, he dismisses the concerns and focus on issues he has with you - why the house isn’t clean, why the dishes aren’t done, why you don’t have sex more often, etc.
- When you tell him you’re afraid of his anger, he can't figure out why you are afraid - while becoming more angry or distant, rather than being able to take accountability and connect in a real way. He asks you how you could accuse him of such things - even though he's done them in the past while accusing you of things you've never done.
- Emotionally abusive men may also create the impression that their anger or infidelity is a product of how passionate they are. In reality, passion, kindness, and faithfulness are entirely compatible. Being dishonest, abusive, and unfaithful has nothing to do with passion.
“I experienced my husband’s hate, rage and physical intimidation. During the time we were together, I didn't realize I was in a verbally abusive relationship, but I did know that I couldn't handle the physical intimidation.
“I have since learned that the fear I felt, when he punched walls and kicked and broke things, was very real because physical intimidation is domestic violence. The physical and emotional abuse I suffered while trying to help my husband overcome his pornography addiction led me to the point of despair.”
You Can See The Truth But You Can’t Change The Abuser
Many women think that they can change their abuser. There are many ways that we go about trying to change the abuser.
Anne talks about how she tried to change her abuser:
“For years, I tried to manage the abuse by demanding he go to therapy, lecturing him, diffusing essential oils throughout our home, organizing, cleaning, and speaking out about pornography addiction.
“I tried to control the situation by going public—thinking that, if everyone knew about our situation, it wouldn’t happen anymore. With every abuse episode, I bounced back, doubled down, and tried a new scheme to fix my husband’s anger problems and hold my family together.
“When he was arrested for domestic violence, it broke me. I knew, then, that my life and my husband's abuse, pornography use, and masturbation were totally and completely out of my control.”
Emotional Abuse Can Cause Betrayal Trauma
Many women are confused because they feel uneasy about their husband’s pornography use and masturbation, but they may be told that they shouldn’t be bothered by it. However, their feelings are very valid and should be treated as such. If you are uncomfortable with your husband’s pornography use and masturbation, know that you are not alone.
Anne talks about how pornography use, and masturbation are abusive.
“A man who uses pornography and masturbates cannot be emotionally or sexually faithful to his wife. I am so grateful for the many resources that have helped me understand the toll that sexual addiction and abuse has taken on me. Living with an abusive sex addict was too much for me, and I am only now coming out of the fog.”
Many women don’t recognize the abuse they’re experiencing. Anne gives some examples of abuse that she has heard some of these women talk about.
3 More Signs Of Emotional Abuse
“A lot of the women I talk to tell me that their husband isn’t emotionally abusive, but then they describe emotionally abusive behaviors such as:
- Their husband watches football all weekend instead of participating in family activities. They attempt to explain to him that they don’t mind him watching sports but would appreciate it if he spent some weekend time with the family. He responds by grunting a half-hearted okay, but, the next thing they know, he’s back to watching the game—completely disconnected from the family and their needs.
- Their husband does something that hurts their feelings, and any attempts to communicate their feelings about the situation are met with silence or avoided.
- They want to discuss something, and the conversation gets tense. Their husband stomps out of the house, refusing to participate in the conversation, rather than saying in a calm fashion that he needs some time to think and that he’ll reconvene the conversation after a 30-minute break.
“Similarly, many women don't understand that stonewalling is a form of manipulation, and a form of emotional abuse.”
Stonewalling is when a person delays or blocks by refusing to talk about something, or give evasive answers. Anne continues:
“It enables a person to avoid what is good for the marriage, and both spouses, and manipulate the situation to their advantage. There is no way to handle stonewalling, except to connect with God in a way that helps me know what I need to do to keep myself emotionally safe.
“If you're being emotionally abused, you may think thoughts like, ‘Why does my husband hate me?’ Or ‘Why is my husband always angry and irritable.’ Or ‘My husband isn't attracted to me.’ Unfaithful husbands would like us to think that because it keeps us guessing—trying to figure out what's going on.
“Their stonewalling and other emotionally abusive behavior keeps us wondering what we did and deflects the attention from their completely inappropriate actions.”
Pornography Use Is An Excuse For Abuse
Many men will use their wife’s behavior (for example: confronting them about their behavior, insisting on honesty, etc.) to justify their own abusive behaviors. They will use that justification to build resentment toward their wives and excuse their abusiveness and acting out.
The best way to see your situation clearly is to set boundaries and get help. For help setting boundaries, try an Individual Session on Setting & Holding Healthy Boundaries. Anne sought help from a support group. For other tips on getting to safety read here.
“I started attending free betrayal trauma recovery meetings because I knew my situation was beyond my control, and that my own emotional health was steadily declining, as a result of the lies and anger.
“Dealing with lies, abuse and pornography, in my marriage, with a positive attitude and sheer grit didn't get me anywhere. For me, I needed to focus on myself and work to build a relationship with God, and let God lead and guide me daily about what to do.
You Can Get Help With Betrayal Trauma And Abuse
“Being in recovery from betrayal trauma has helped me change my perspective so I could see the truth about myself and my situation."
“After years of trying to manage situation beyond my control, I gave up and sought help. I received help from my support group, my mentor, and women who have gone before me. I started Betrayal Trauma Recovery to help other women who feel isolated, confused and worried.”
Many women aren’t aware of the lies, pornography use, and emotional abuse present in their marriages. If you aren’t sure if you are in an abusive relationship, read here. For additional help determining the abuse and the lies, try an Individual Session on Spotting & Stopping Emotional Abuse or Detecting & Confronting Gaslighting (you can read more on gaslighting here and here).
Anne hopes that you find validation and healing listening to and reading about other women’s experiences.
“I hope the stories women share on Betrayal Trauma Recovery, about their experiences being lied to by their husbands, being cheated on, and abused, will help you start your own journey to healing.”
You can hear some of Anne’s story here.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery offers Group (BTRG) and Individual Sessions. The BTRG sessions are a place where you can find validation and empathy and compassion from other women, just like you, who are dealing with the effects of betrayal trauma. Each group session is led by one of our highly-qualified coaches
Individual Sessions are with one of our qualified, experienced coaches. They are also women who have been through betrayal trauma and want to help you get through it too. They can help you navigate through the chaos that has been caused by your husband’s behaviors.