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.

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.

Can Couple Therapy Harm Marriages? When Counseling Harms You . . .

Dr. Jill Manning is here today. I am so excited to have her. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Certified Clinical Partner Specialist, who specializes in working with individuals impacted by sexual addiction, pornography, or betrayal trauma in their primary relationship. 

In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Manning is a researcher, author, consultant, and activist. She has been featured in numerous television and radio programs and, in 2005, was invited to testify before a U.S. Senate subcommittee about the harms of pornography on the family. 

She currently serves on the board of directors for the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists. You know that as APSATS. Our audience knows APSATS well, as well as the board of directors for Enough Is Enough. Dr. Manning is a native of Calgary, Alberta, and currently lives in Colorado with her family. 

Anne: Welcome, Jill. 

Jill: Thank you. I’m excited to be here. 

Will Couple Therapy Save My Marriage?

Anne: I am so excited to have you because so many women are wondering about couple’s therapy. I have women in my group who are asking, “Hey, I need a good couple’s therapist, where should I go?” That’s what we’re going to talk about today. I’ve seen two different situations with couple’s therapy that I’m just going to introduce this topic with, and then we’ll talk about it from there. 

Number one, many men are going to therapy, and the women aren’t seeing a big difference. They think, “Well, if we get a couple therapist, and I’m involved, then maybe I’ll see the improvements that I’m looking for.” There’s that element of it. 

Another element is that they’re seeing their marriage issues as marriage issues, or communication issues, rather than as an abuse issue, or as a addiction issue. Lundy Bancroft does not advise couple therapy in any way, shape or form, unless the abuser has taken full accountability for his abuse, and there have been no abuse episodes in the last two years. 

How Do I Know If Couple Counseling Will Help Us?

Then, on the other hand, that I just talked about, some therapists want the wife going in to make sure the husband is telling the truth, because the addicts often lie, or minimize, even to their therapists. This is a very complex issue, and so that is why I’ve asked Jill to help us unpack all of that, and make sense of it so that we can know what we need to do in our specific situations. 

Jill: Let’s jump in, because there is a lot to unpack, and this is probably a layered podcast need. I want our listeners to be realistic that I’m hoping we can cover some good ground today. It is complex, and any time we’re dealing with human beings, and especially human beings in relationships, there’s so many moving parts. Situations are unique, and I’m sure there’ll be listeners that may find exceptions to every guideline and rule I’m going to outline today. 

As a marriage and family therapist, who’s been working 17 years in this field, and specializing in partners for the bulk of that, this is an area I feel really passionate about because I see a lot of harm being done to individuals, and also to marriages themselves, when couple therapy is not timed well. The timing is really key, and we’re going to get into that today. 

What Happens In Couple Therapy?

The Rule Of Five. I want to introduce this idea of what I’m calling the Rule of Five- “rule” meaning guidelines. I want us to start right from the beginning, and let’s think of traditional couple therapy. 

Let’s start that as a reference point for this conversation. Because when we’re dealing with betrayal trauma and sexual addiction, I believe, as a clinician, that it departs quite significantly from traditional couple therapy. We need to have a good understanding of those differences. In traditional, your typical, run-of-the-mill couple therapy situation, there are five—again, this is the Rule of Five—five key goals for traditional couple therapy. 
supporting a couple in identifying sources of conflict.

Related: Covenant Eyes filtering software protects my family.

Helping each person in the relationship identify their own participation in conflict, and issues that may be coming up. 
would be helping a couple realize healthy expectations for the relationship and one another. 
defining how the relationship’s going to work: the boundaries, the roles, the division of labor, all of that. 
improving the skill set of a couple, whether that be communication, intimacy, conflict resolution. 

When Couple Therapy Makes Things Worse

I’m calling those traditional Rule of Five main goals in traditional couple therapy. There’s what we call indications and contraindications to traditional therapy. Again, I want to use the Rule of Five. There’s five main contraindications and five indications. 
Contraindication is a fancy word for saying things that we see where we would not recommend couple therapy, and then indications meaning things that would mean that that would be a good thing. 

Why Couple Therapy Won’t Help Your Husband’s Pornography Addiction Or Anger Issues

Here’s the thing—and many of my colleagues (that I do co-therapy with, and consult with) will readily acknowledge this—this is counter-intuitive, what I’m about to say. When sexual addiction comes to light, and there is a betrayal that surfaces, people like myself ask couples to do something very counter-intuitive: that is to not engage in couple therapy initially and, sometimes delay for a long while. 

That’s counter-intuitive because, when something like this comes up, the relationship is seriously, seriously compromised. It’s a major threat to the marital bond. Even if two people aren’t married, just the relationship itself takes a major hit. 

It’s counter-intuitive for us to say, “Hey, all this stuff’s come up that’s really harming your relationship, and we’re going to ask you to hold off on couple therapy, perhaps for a long while.” That’s counter-intuitive. 

The Only Way To Save A Marriage From Abuse & Infidelity Is To Hold The Perpetrator Accountable

I understand, and really empathize and sympathize and support people that have this issue come up. They think, “We need to get to a couple therapist ASAP, because we are in big trouble.” That makes logical sense, but here’s why—again, going back to the Rule of Five—five contraindications to traditional couple therapy. 

When Is The Right Time For Couple Therapy? The Rule of Five

Then I want to get into when is it indicated and a good thing, because timing is key. We know from research, Anne, that when couple therapy is not well-timed, it actually can put a couple-ship at greater risk for divorce and dissolution. 
I take this really seriously. I want listeners to know that my personal stance, as a clinician, is that I do my very best to do all that we can to keep relationships intact, especially families intact, when that is healthy and desirable to do so. 
It’s not always safe to do that, and it’s not always what’s wanted. All things considered, if that is wanted, and it’s healthy and safe to do so, I do my very best to make sure that that can happen. 

When Couple Therapy Goes Bad

Let’s get into contraindications for even traditional couple therapy. Listeners will start realizing, “Oh, okay, this fits with betrayal trauma and sex addiction pretty well.” 

  1. Physical violence, or any type of abuse, emotional, sexual, physical, financial. Any type of abuse that’s going on, that is not a situation where we would want couple therapy. 
  2. Mental illness or addiction problems, especially if they are active, and untreated, or in the early stages of being untreated. 
  3. If one person continues to engage in a relationship outside of the marriage. Now, having done work with pornography for years, I’m of the opinion and belief, and I believe there’s research to back this up, that pornography is a very insidious type of relationship outside of the marriage. 
  4. Is when one or both parties have decided to begin divorce proceedings. 
  5. If there’s a lack of empathy. If one or both parties is either not wanting to, or incapable of being empathetic to the other’s reality, that’s not a situation we want them to be in couple therapy. Do those five make sense?

My Husband & I Went To Couple Therapy And He Became More Abusive

Anne: Absolutely. When things got really bad for me, we had never tried couple therapy before, and I was like, “Okay, we have to do this, because we have to do something.” Things got a lot worse, and then he got arrested. 

For me, he became more abusive because it was like, “Oh, now’s the time I can unleash all my resentments toward her, and all my feelings, based on all my erroneous thought processes” that he had. He just became more and more abusive through that process. 

Jill: When we start couple therapy—I’m saying this, Anne, honestly and truthfully, as someone who has both been in couple therapy in my own relationship and also as a couple therapist. I’ve been on both sides of this situation. 

Truth & Safety Are Essential In Couple Therapy

When we enter that arena, called couple therapy, there’s two assumptions that are really important for us to be aware of. There’s an assumption of safety, and there’s an assumption of equality. 

In a situation with sexual betrayal and sexual addiction, there is not equality, especially if there is secrets, and dangerous secrets at that, and there is a lack of safety. 

If you have a traditional couple therapist in the room, that is not well-versed in the dynamics of sexual addiction, gaslighting, and the emotional abuse, and also the physical risks that this issue can bring up, it’s not a good situation to be in. 

The risk of gaslighting and the emotional abuse in really subtle, and sometimes blatant, ways can enter into that space. It pollutes the ability for that space to hold both people in an appropriate way, and for there to be healing to occur, because everyone’s protecting themselves in that. 

Will Couple Therapy Work For Our Situation?

Let’s talk about when it is indicated, when it is a good thing to do, because I think it sheds light on what I’ve just shared with the contraindications. In my practice, and when I look at the research and, also, when I just look at results, I see what’s working with couples around the country. 

Again, Rule of Five: there’s five things that I believe help make couple therapy indicated.

  1. Sobriety.
  2. There has been a disclosure. There’s different ways to get the truth out. I don’t want anybody to think that there’s a cookie cutter, only one right way to do that. The truth can come out in a number of ways. It’s common for that to be in a therapeutic disclosure, but it doesn’t have to be. I want a couple, before they’re going into couple therapy, that the truth is on the table. Both people, the secrets, everything’s out in the open.
  3. Trauma and mental illness have been appropriately treated and addressed, if those are issues in the mix. We know, in most cases, they are, right. Two-thirds of pornography addicts, we know, have a mental illness of some sort; 44% have a personality disorder, or traits, so chances are good that we do have mental illness in the mix. With partners, we know that, roughly, 70% experience PTSD symptoms, and experience trauma. Again, number three’s a big one that trauma and mental illness be appropriately diagnosed and assessed and treated. That’s big in and of itself.
  4. That there be empathy: the ability for both to empathize, which we all know with sex addiction, empathy in and of itself is a big roadblock for a lot of sex addicts in their healing. That can be a real process in helping them get back online with having healthy human empathy. 
  5. The desire to reconcile. 

Again, in overview, sobriety, disclosure, truth’s on the table, trauma and mental illness are assessed and being treated, there’s empathy, and we have a desire to reconcile. 

When those five things are in the mix that can be—and I don’t want to say for everybody, but, generally speaking, that is a good basis for the timing of couple therapy. 

Finding The Right Therapist To Treat Sex Addiction & Betrayal Trauma

Then, it’s also what type of therapy, and with whom. I really advise working with a couple therapist that’s very well-versed in addiction. If you can find someone that’s well-versed in sexual addiction, that can be enormously helpful, that’s going to understand the subtleties, you know what I mean. When I say small things, not that they’re less important, but just more subtle, they may be harder to detect, smaller in the way of being obvious in the room.

Is He Faking Empathy Through Empathy Training?

Anne: Two things concern me, when we’re talking about this. The first is that if empathy is not present, I have heard people talk about empathy training, and helping the addict learn how to mimic empathy, when they’re not actually feeling it, so that they can learn the mechanics of empathy, but end up faking empathy. 

They end up learning scripts for empathy, rather than actually becoming empathetic, which can cause a wife to be more confused, because she might be more abused by the empathy, being jerked around by this, “Oh, he’s acting empathetic now,” but he’s really still acting out, and she doesn’t know. Let’s talk about that first, and I’ll, hopefully, remember my second thing. 

Jill: One of the most important things that I want for partners to gain in their own recovery process is coming home again to their gut, reconnecting to their gut. Empathy really is hard for a human being to fake, because if someone’s really connected, and they have a good working gut, you’ll know. There’s something missing in that. 

For a strong therapist, that really understands how critical empathy is, both the reception of empathy and the giving of empathy, that she, in her gut reads accurately, whether that’s the real deal, or not, and whether he’s able to have the skills—and I know I’m speaking in a gender-segregated way here for ease of conversation—that’s really, really important. 

Does It Help When A Couple Meets With A Therapist, But Not For Couple Therapy?

I want to introduce a couple of ideas here that sometimes aren’t included in this conversation of couple therapy, Anne. I do see a place for couples meeting with a therapist, but it’s not in a true couple therapy situation. It may be treatment planning, it may be psycho-education, it may be preparation for a disclosure. 

I’ve met with many couples where they’re not ready for couple therapy, but, if the partner is okay and feels safe with him coming in to a session, he’ll be brought in to observe an individual therapy session with a specific goal in mind. 

She can also do the same. I have two women that I’m working with right now who are not involved in couple therapy, but they attend individual sessions with their husband. They are more of a witness and an observer of that process, which has been enormously helpful for them. 

A Skilled Therapist Can Help Couples Address Abuse & Porn Addiction Safely

Again, you need a skilled therapist that can set that up well, but that’s an option that can be a good in-between. Let’s say a husband who’s sexually addicted is struggling with empathy. There’s two scenarios that I could see working really well in the early stages of empathy training. 
One, two therapists and the wife and husband meet together in a joint session, and have a very specific set of interventions set up, where she’s able to be fully supported, and that process is observed on her behalf, and likewise for him. 

It’s Not Couple Therapy; It’s A Joint Meeting

It’s not couple therapy; it’s a joint meeting, and there’s specific work that’s being done around empathy. Also, for him to be brought in, let’s say, to an individual session of hers, or vice versa. Again, not couple therapy, it’s individual work, but there’s a power in being able to witness, and be able to call on the other partner to maybe answer a question, or to respond. 

Anne: Would that be the situation where if he is minimizing or lying to his therapist that the wife could weigh in and say, “No, no, no. These things he’s telling you are not true,” that type of a situation, so that the wife can know that what is happening in his therapy is leading to her safety, rather than he’s just spiraling in his own lies, in his therapy sessions? Do you know what I’m saying?

Jill: Yeah, again, there’d have to be a lot of safety built into that, right, because I would never want a woman to be speaking up and out about something, and then putting herself at risk after a session ends. We never want that. But, yeah, in answer to your question, there are ways we can set that up where she can be a reality check, and an important reference point for his therapist to get a read of what’s going on. 

When There’s Sobriety & Good Recovery Work On Both Sides, Couple Therapy May Be Okay

With all of this said, I want listeners to understand that, when a couple is choosing reconciliation, and there is sobriety and good recovery work occurring for both parties, that I am passionate about people getting to couple therapy as soon as we’re able to have them ready for that. 
I’ve had a couple of people recently suggest that I’m against couple therapy. It couldn’t be further from the truth. I am very much for it. 
I think it’s actually essential that the couple relationship itself be exposed to good quality treatment and healing. That’s absolutely necessary. 

Relationship Healing: The Weakest Aspect Of Recovery

In truth, Anne, I think it’s a part of the recovery process that we, as an entire community, are weaker in right now. I think, across the country, we’re doing a decent job of helping bring people into sobriety and helping to deal with trauma. I think the couple piece is the weakest aspect of recovery, right now, at least. 

I hope that will change in the upcoming years, but I want people to move into that work as soon as they are able. I think where I see a lot of harm done is when couple therapy is not timed well. Again, going back to the Rule of Five for contraindications and indications, if people use that as a guide, it really can help reduce the risk of timing that poorly. 

When Attachment Therapy Leads To More Abuse

Anne: Right. Let’s talk about attachment therapy for just a minute. Now, I did attachment therapy with my husband when those contraindications were present. The therapist that we did attachment therapy did not say, “Oh, wait a minute, you have these things present, and so we should not do attachment therapy.” The assumption in those sessions was, if addiction is an attachment disorder then the solution is attachment therapy. 

Jill: Right.

Anne: Can you talk about that for a minute? 

Jill: Really, really good question. Again, it’s counter-intuitive, because that really is the logic that’s being used by many, many people seeking therapy and many people providing therapy. If this is rooted in attachment wounds that have not been healed, or trauma that’s unresolved then, therefore, the solution would be attachment work. 

I get it, and we have to be really careful, because healthy attachment work must be founded on safety. Nobody attaches without lack of safety, unless it’s a really anxious, unhealthy, dysfunctional attachment, a trauma bond, let’s say. 

Can Couple Therapy Promote Healthy Attachment?

In terms of healthy attachment, safety must be there and we must have trust and respect, equality, consent. All of the elements of healthy intimacy also apply to healthy attachment. Again, the timing, I think, is critical with anyone that’s dealing with attachment wounds both in their histories, but also with one another. 

I recently spoke with an international trainer of Emotionally-Focused Therapy, which is one of the most common attachment-focused therapies right now, and it’s very well-supported in the research. 

It’s actually one of the top types of therapy I recommend couples seek out. I expressed concerns around some of the harm that I’m seeing done with attachment-focused therapy in sexual addiction recovery. Namely that people are engaging in that before safety’s established, and honesty’s established, or even sobriety. 

Anne: Or lack of abuse, right?

Jill: Right. They 100% agreed with what I’m saying today, that there must be sobriety, there must be honesty on the table, and some key things managed first, trauma, mental illness, addiction care, really put in place before we can help couples get to what they call softer emotions, and really looking at patterns. 

Here’s one thing, Anne, that I want to really, really stress, is that when couples go in for couple therapy, again, there’s this assumption of equality, and we look at patterns, okay. 

He does something and it invites her into a certain stance or behavior and then that reinforces the pattern and behavior for him. There’s this infinity pattern, if you could draw that out—you know, that figure eight—and they go back and forth in a dance, a relational dance.

Should You Go To Couple Therapy When Abuse Is Present In The Relationship?

Well, that works for a lot of common marital issues. That’s not a helpful perspective, though, if there’s such a weird power imbalance in terms of secrets and addiction—

Anne: And abuse. I think we should always include abuse here, right, too?

Jill: Abuse, yeah. Abuse is not in every single situation, but in many it is, you’re right. What I see happening is that if someone’s in attachment-focused care, and it’s poorly timed, or the therapist doesn’t understand the intricacies of sex addiction work, there’s this really harmful dance that can happen in which—and I’m going to completely paraphrase and overgeneralize with this. 

There’s a suggestion that, “Well, she may be withdrawing or being too critical, and then that invites him into looking at porn and acting out with prostitutes. The more he does that, that invites her into being more critical.” It’s ludicrous. It’s ludicrous to suggest that she, in any way, is to blame, or is participating in him acting out. It does so much harm in having women feel blamed for those behaviors. 

Anne: Absolutely, yeah. That’s what I worry about with couple therapy, is that very situation. Same thing with the abuse, right. It’s the dance of she asks him to cut the tomatoes and he feels shame, and so he yells at her and screams in her face. 

When Therapists Use False Equivalency Couple Therapy Fails

Jill: There’s something that we call false equivalency. We’re making a false equivalent of two behaviors, she’s critical and he’s acting out with prostitutes. Okay, yeah. 

Anne: Right, or she’s critical and he’s punching walls.

Jill: Right, those types of false-equivalencies I see as highly dangerous and harmful for both parties, as well as the relationship itself. We look at genuine patterns of withdraw-withdraw, pursue-pursue, withdraw-pursue, there’s all sorts of combinations couples can get into. We have to have that couple be at a place, again, where there’s sobriety, disclosure, trauma and mental illness have been addressed, there’s empathy being built, or there, and there’s a desire to reconcile. 

Looking At Patterns To Determine Direction in Couple Therapy

Then we can look at certain patterns, and we’ve got a level playing field. We have equality in the room, we have safety in the room. We can identify patterns where there is equivalency. With sex addiction there is not equivalency. 

She cannot cause or cure any of his acting out behaviors. When a man, for instance—I had someone recently suggest, “Well, I feel so much guilt and shame when she does this, therefore, that’s what causes me to act out with pornography.” 

You need someone that can completely kibosh that. That is immature nonsense. “No, you acted out with pornography because you do not have good skills yourself for dealing with loneliness, anger, stress, and your emotions. That is an individual issue.” 

Anne, actually, the irony is that as a licensed marriage and family therapist, I’m becoming more and more convinced that individual therapy (that may include some joint meetings), going back to psycho-education work and some treatment planning work can be effective. 

How Timing of Couple Therapy Affects Everything

The true couple therapy, I believe, needs to be postponed until we have that Rule of Five in place. At that point, I see incredible results. When couple therapy’s well-timed and we have that Rule of Five in place, I see people being able to really focus on attachment and really heal. 
Let me give a positive and negative example. I’m working with someone right now who has been in couple therapy for two and a half years. The focus has been attachment work and working on trust and intimacy and communication. 

She came to me two years into that two and a half years of couple therapy. She had some of the worst trauma I’d seen. She would be shaking in the room, uncontrollable shaking, that would seem to come out of nowhere. Extremely traumatized. Part of the focus of couple therapy was forgiveness, and I asked, “Do you have a safety plan? In your gut, do you feel that you have the truth?” The answer was no. 

What Happens When Couple Counseling Does Not Help Us Move Forward?

None of that had been in place. It made sense to me, “Hey, as a couple, they’re not moving forward, because she’s still on the seventh floor of a burning building.” We have to get her out of that situation before they can really work on the couple-ship. 
Lo and behold, they continue the couple work, and I’m now advocating for a second disclosure. He had done a disclosure, but in her gut she didn’t feel that it was complete and it had never been polygraphed. 

Now, I don’t want to suggest every disclosure needs to be polygraphed to be full and complete. It doesn’t, but, in a growing number of situations, we’re seeing polygraph have good results. In this case, she chose polygraph. Lo and behold, it comes out in a second disclosure, there was a whole category of acting out she knew nothing about. 

A Foundation of Trust is Essential in Couple Therapy

It was impossible for that couple to heal. He was in the couple therapy holding secrets that were quite dangerous, and she was in the session not feeling safe at a very deep level, a cellular level and was not safe with him. 

It’s not until we were able to put a stop to the couple there—well, actually, what happened was they stopped it. They spun out of it, because they decided together, as a couple, “This isn’t working.” 

Well, it wasn’t working because they didn’t have the foundation necessary to have it work. In the individual work, we’re finally getting some traction, and, guess what, they’re burnt out of couple therapy. 

I’m having a hard time getting them convinced that this could be a good thing, because they’ve spent two and a half years spinning their wheels and, in fact, doing more harm to the relationship and attachment. 

Focus on The Positive While Working Through the Negative In Couple Counseling

On the flipside, let’s talk about the positive. I’ve worked with a couple—she came to me, initially, I was able to collaborate effectively with his individual therapist. We were able to really do solid individual work, get trauma under control. We were able to get addiction under control. 

We had a polygraph disclosure, it took him three tries on the polygraph test to get the whole truth out. Each time he would fail, there’d be another category of behavior disclosed the next time. We finally got the whole truth out. 

After that point, we had 90 days sobriety established. We had a disclosure, trauma, and mental illness—depression for him, trauma for her—were being managed. We chose a therapist that understood addiction, but focused exclusively on couples. We launched them into couple therapy, and, guess what, they’re doing beautifully well. They’re really moving forward. 

Finding The Right Therapist is Vital in Couple Counseling

To me, it contrasts the power of timing that effectively. That’s when I see marriages really thriving and healing, and becoming stronger than they ever were. Timing is key, as well as finding a therapist that understands this issue. 

You may have to shop around a bit to be a good consumer of mental health services, just like we are with dentists, doctors, lawyers, any professional service. Be a wise consumer. 

How To Find The Right Counselor For Couple Therapy

Ask them what their approach is, share your concerns. Ask them, when you’re shopping for a therapist, ask them if there are any contraindications to couple therapy, in their view, and what the indications would be. I think that speaks volumes about someone’s theoretical background and approach to couple therapy. 

Anne: I think, also, someone who has a way of assessing a woman’s safety. That’s why I think APSATS is so important. The multi-dimensional partner trauma model with safety and stabilization as the first phase, to make sure that those things are addressed properly, both in terms of abuse and in terms of the truth, and all of the things that you need, right, to be able to have safety. 

The therapist that I did couples work with there was absolutely no talk of are you safe, what does it mean to be safe, how do we establish safety. There was nothing like that. It was “attachment will solve all these problems.” 

The Three-Phase Model In Betrayal Trauma Is Important When Working In Couple Counseling

Having those three phases of the model, the safety and stabilization phase first, as the number one thing, and then working into the other phases later. The second one, which is processing and grieving, and the third, which is reconnecting. 
It is so essential for women to make sure that they’re safe, and to make sure that their husband is actually in recovery, not just faking it, or not just going with the flow, so that the relationship doesn’t fall apart.

Jill: Exactly. I’m so grateful that you brought up the three-phase model. Typically, it’s in the middle to the later second phase of that that couple therapy, from my perspective, works well, or even the third, in some cases, if trauma’s been really elevated and severe. 

Certainly not in that first building safety and stabilization. In defense of colleagues that do couple therapy from the beginning, I’ve had them say, “Well, Jill, these couples are living together. Often, they have families together. We can’t deny the reality of their day-to-day world. They’re living as couples day-to-day, so we can’t just ignore that for months while they’re in individual therapy.” 

I understand that. I think there’s ways, if you have good individual therapists that have releases and can collaborate and coordinate important details, or to have occasional joint meetings, but it’s not couple therapy, and those boundaries are clear. I’ve seen that work extremely well. 

Safety Is Key For Strong Results From Couple Therapy

Where you’re being vulnerable with one another, sharing deep and vulnerable feelings, working on attachment, I just have never seen strong results, or good outcomes unless there is safety, and—well, that Rule of Five, going back to that. 

Anne: Yeah, I’m so grateful for that. Jill, you are on the APSATS board, and all of the coaches here, at Betrayal Trauma Recovery, are APSATS-trained. There are women who are a little jittery about seeing a coach in conjunction with a therapist, so, while I have you here, can you tell our audience why you think our APSATS coaches are so amazing?

Jill: Great question. I’m always happy to voice my support for what you’re doing, Anne, and APSAT coaches, because in my own practice, and I am a therapist, I see great benefit in coaches being included in a treatment plan. Of course, APSATS training, I believe, is so effective in helping people have the background and mindset along the lines of what we’ve talked about today, and really understanding safety, and the nuances of this. 

Therapists and APSATS Coaches: Both Have A Role To Play When Helping Women Heal From Betrayal Trauma

Ethically, I feel a need to distinguish—there is a difference between therapists and coaches, they’re not the same. That takes nothing away from either/or; they serve different roles. Speaking as a therapist, how I recommend and use coaches in my work with partners is coaches do not have the same limitations that I do legally and ethically, with cross state lines and work. 

I can have a specialist out in California that’s an APSATS coach be part of a treatment plan, and she’s able to speak more personally about her own story, is able to do really good goal-work and effective support in ways that, as a therapist, I may be more limited. 
Also, everyone has a different skill set. I think it’s a team approach. I tend to be very collaborative in my work, so I like having as many supports as possible, realistically, and within budget of course, that we can. 

In my experience, the APSATS coaches, and those associated with Betrayal Trauma Recovery have just really been able to meet needs that I, as a therapist, either am not specialized in, or don’t have the same experience with. It’s been a wonderful resource for my partners. I would encourage anyone that has concerns to, perhaps, work with both. 
Find a clinician you really like, because clinicians are going to have training in diagnosing things and working clinically with someone, therapeutically. I don’t see them as mutually exclusive, Anne. I would encourage people that, as you said, may feel jittery, or anxious about that, to contact both, and to explore how maybe both could be used in different roles in their treatment plan. 

Finding The Right Therapist Or Counselor After An Affair

Anne: We’ve had people contact us, for example, who have legal questions. We get random emails all the time, from women all over the world, and we’re not attorneys. None of our APSATS coaches have legal training. 

What the coaches are really good at is helping women know, “Okay, these are the questions you may want to ask an attorney,” or if you’re looking for a therapist, coach them through picking the right therapist. 

How do they know which therapist is the right therapist? How do they know that the treatment that they’re seeking is working for them? Coaching them through the process of maybe legal issues, or therapeutic issues, is what our coaches are really good at. Because a lot of women, when they first find out, or when they’ve been searching for a long time, they don’t know exactly where to go, or they don’t know what questions to ask, they’re not sure how to go about the process. 

Our coaches are really good at helping them navigate this whole world of sex addiction and abuse, and all of these things that are very complex, in a way that works for them. Just having someone to walk you through the process is, I think, really important. I wish I would’ve had that in my journey. 

Jill: Absolutely, I support everything you just said. My experience, I can’t speak for every coach that’s been trained with APSATS, but all the ones that I’m aware of have had therapy themselves around this issue. I think they’re really well-positioned to help partners explore looking for a good therapist and how coaching can fill a different, but important, role as well. 

Anne: I really appreciate you coming on today. We have a lot more to talk about. I hope it’s an ongoing conversation. It is so complex that I’m very grateful to have talked about the Rule of Five today, which can help women really understand when to time couple therapy. You’re awesome, Jill, thank you. That was amazing. 

If you’re interested in scheduling a one-on-one support call with any of our coaches to assess whether or not it’s the right time for couple therapy, click here. You can schedule with any one of our APSATS-trained coaches. 
We also have many support groups available. Please check out the group Detecting & Confronting Gaslighting. That will be starting very soon. As always, we’d love to hear your comments. If you have feedback, or questions, please comment below. Let us know what you think, let us know your experience. Until next week, stay safe out there.

How To Recover From Your Husband’s Lies, Infidelity & Abuse

Women In Abusive Relationships Can Find Online Support 

The consequences of your man’s sexual addiction may cause you to experience fear, anxiety, insomnia, depression, despair, hopelessness, or other mental distress, financial difficulties, and abandonment. You are likely suffering from betrayal trauma and need help. 

We have Jen from Utah with us today to talk about her journey to heal from betrayal trauma. She worked with Coach Cat in one of our workbook study groups, so Coach Cat is joining our podcast today as well. 

Welcome Jen and Cat! 

Before we start today I just want to mention that women all 50 states and over 20 different countries have scheduled support calls and joined our BTR Support groups! So wherever you live, our live online services are here for you! I think that it’s really exciting that Jen got to work with Cat even though Cat lives in the UK and Jen lives in Utah! We’re happy to have you both on the call today!

Jen’s Experience With Betrayal Trauma 

So Jen, let’s start with how you discovered your husband’s addiction. Can you tell us your story?

Jen: Looking back, I went through ten years of consistent disclosures of physical affairs. With each disclosure, he would give me there was a lot of like gaslighting and emotional abuse. It was my fault, I was to blame, not good enough physically, emotionally or sexually. 

He would eventually come out and tell the full truth, swearing he would never do it again, that this was the last time.  I didn’t know at the time that this could be an addiction. I truly thought he’s just a jerk. I’m not good enough. He’s just looking for something better because I don’t amount to what what he’s looking for. I went through about ten years of that. 

Hitting Rock Bottom Led to the Recovery From Betrayal Trauma

My latest big disclosure which was the big tipping point and led us to find recovery was two years ago. A religious leader pointed us to a counselor who ended up being specialized in this specific addiction. When she said the words like, ‘ You have an addiction. You need to go to group.’, It was still hard for me to grasp because I had told myself the story for ten years that it’s me, I’m the problem. I would never tell anybody,  not even therapists that we would go to. 

I was so ashamed and mortified and was sure that the therapist would say ‘Yea, you’re not doing this and you’re not that’, and give me a list of all the reasons why this is happening to me. So he had disclosed about a physical affair with a women at work. He continued therapy and I continued therapy. He went back and forth from, ‘Yes I want recovery, this is an addiction’ to ‘This is not an addiction and I don’t want this’. 

He hit his rock bottom and made a decision, and his choice fortunately for us was that he truly did want recovery. We were able to start our recovery journey. That is what has led me to where I am today. 

Support Groups Help Recovery From The Trauma Of Abusive Relationships

Anne: So you mentioned that there were the related behaviors of emotional abuse and gaslighting and lying. Have you found that as part of your recovery that you’ve also needed support and help to recovery from the experience from that abuse? 
Jen: Oh, 100%. It took me about four months of going to groups before I actually could admit I belonged there. I would sit there and think, ‘This is not where I belong! Do you guys not see me? I’m the problem, not him!’ 

Then we had an amazing counselor who worked with him and us to do a full disclosure.  When he read me his full disclosure it felt like a thousand pounds lifted off my shoulders and I realized that he is an addict, 100%. I had never heard everything laid out in a time line before, and it started making sense. 

In one of my groups, one of my friends had mentioned BTR. I started listening and it became my routine. I would turn on a podcast and I would exercise and it was like extra therapy when I wasn’t in counseling that helped me to learn the things I needed to learn. 

My friend then said, ‘Hey, they’re going to start an workbook group.’  I told her that I felt like I need that! That was the first time I was able to talk about my pain because I had buried it and truly convinced myself that I was the problem. 

There was no way I was going to be publically humiliated. I had made up the story and everyone would agree with me, ‘You’re right you really are the problem and these are all the things you need to change.’  It was too humiliating to even think about writing it out, let alone sharing it out loud.

Women Often Take The Blame For The Abuse They Experience 

Anne: Cat, Do you find that that’s common when women join support groups with BTR, that a lot of the time the women take responsibility for their spouses lying and abuse? 

Cat: That can definitely be the case. Whilst we don’t always see that extreme personalization of it with all the women I work with, I just kind of see this confusion. 

Where they’ve been told this lie for such a long time, that this on them that somehow this is their fault, that if they did this or if they did that… It is inevitable that they start to believe that stuff. So whilst not everybody is vehement in saying this is my problem, we definitely see a huge amount of confusion in terms of which are my bits and which are his bits.   

The truth is most of it is his bits and the bits that are yours were in response to the bits that were his- so yea it is sadly very common. That’s why it’s so important for women to have a safe place to talk it through with other women. 

The other thing that’s really important about a group that helps is people who have been through that process already. People who can just see straight through the middle of that and say, ‘no, that is not what’s happening here and here’s what I’ve learned about that.’

They can save us a lot of time in going through that agonizing process of trying to work out who’s to blame by just cutting straight through and saying, ‘It’s not you, it’s him. This is how I can help you to see that.’

Wives In Abusive Relationships Find Strength and Healing In Support Groups

Anne: I think one reason women hold onto that so much is because they have some control then. If it has something to do with me, then I can change and then I can change the situation. But when we realize that there is nothing we can do and that it has nothing to do with us, it is terrifying because there is literally nothing we can do to fix it. 

Jen: Oh I completely agree. I didn’t even realize I was such a control freak until I took this workbook group. I didn’t realize I was trying so badly to control. 

Anne: I don’t mean to call you out on this podcast right here in front of 8,000 women. But I’m not sure if it’s control so much as it is our desire for safety. We are desperate for safety. At Betrayal Trauma Recovery we call this ‘safety seeking and truth seeking behaviors’ which we’re entitled to and we deserve. It’s just that sometimes the way we go about trying to seek safety or trying to seek the truth sometimes backfires in our face. It sometimes doesn’t really help us become safer. 

Women Recovering From The Lies & Emotional Abuse Related To Porn Addiction Often Feel Overwhelmed

Cat: When you think about it, it’s like drowning. We’re drowning in this sea of confusion and emotional turmoil. And we will reach out and grab hold of whatever life line is in front of us. We don’t stop and say oh, is that the best course of action? We just want to get out of the water because it’s scary in there, right?  So it’s just kind of grabbing up and taking hold of whatever you can get your hands on to try and stay afloat. 

Jen: I definitely have used that analogy before. I’ve said I really feel like I’m out in the ocean, treading water and I can’t reach the bottom. Anytime I feel I’m safe to get a gasp of air, a huge wave hits me. I feel like that’s really what I lived like for ten years. 

Anne: Yes there’s so much pain. I used that example in the analogy of the drowning swimmer on the podcast. Where I thought that God was throwing me a life preserver, one of those round ones. Then the minute I reached out to grab it He would pull it away. And He just kept pulling it away. I felt like that too. 

Related: Covenant Eyes filtering software protects my family.

For our readers, scroll down and comment below How did you feel? Did you feel like it was your fault? We’d love to hear your thoughts. 

So Jen, how did being part of the BTR group help you work through the workbook. 

Jen: I first made the decision, I want to heal. I deserve to heal. I’m going to do this no matter how scary it is with everything I have. 

So I made that choice before I even started doing the exercises. What we do is answer the questions, take pictures of our writing and post them to the group. Putting myself out there like that and being completely vulnerable was so scary. 

Then, little by little we have like a comment from somebody in the group or Cat that would be so kind and gentle in pushing us to go further to dig deeper and be able to realize, wow it isn’t my fault. Or I do have worth and I am allowed to say no. And it just helped me to connect the dots.

The Power Of Vulnerability, With Brene Brown


Anne: So do you feel like the workbook really helped you process what had happened to you and what was currently happening to you?

Jen: Oh yes. It helped me to understand addiction, what was actually going on. It helped me to be able to grieve. We truly went through a grieving process of what I had lost and what I had gained. 

I was definitely able to get outside of myself. I feel like true growth really comes when you’re able to be vulnerable in healing. It was enabling us to be vulnerable and also to live in the present moment. What is real? What’s happening right now?

Growth In Betrayal Trauma Support Groups 

Anne: Cat, from your perspective, can you see growth in these women through that period of time?

Cat: It’s a 12-week workbook and there are six chapters. We spend two weeks in each chapter and you can absolutely see the growth. Certainly for the women who really dig in, who really commit themselves to the exercises. 

I have to say that when I looked back what really stood out to me about Jen as a particular client is that she really committed herself to just getting into the exercises and getting the most out of the brief experience that she could. 

One of the things that I love to do with a  Facebook Group particularly is have the ladies post their goals because there’s less of the live interaction. What are they hoping to achieve by being in this group? 

Looking Back, Women Can See Their Growth Past Betrayal Trauma 

And then right at the end of the group I’ll check back in with that and say, ‘Hey this is what you wanted to achieve, how did we do with that?’ Sometimes you don’t see in the moment the movement that you’re making so it’s a great way to look back and say, ‘Actually yea, I’ve made some really good movement on that goal and I feel closer to achieving it!’, ‘I’ve achieved it all together!’, or ‘Hey I’ve got a little more work to do.’ 

I always like to say that a Facebook Workbook Group doesn’t provide the full solution but it definitely gives you a really solid foundation. It can be a really helpful thing to help you think what else you might need to do after the workbook group is finished, where your strengths are and see what you’ve done really well. 

As Jen has said, one of the key parts of this book that really hit me when I worked through it and what women seem to take from this particular workbook is the grief section. It’s got a great section that allows you to really work through some of that, letting go of what you thought you had and processing the loss. You can actually be seeing movement of those women in that 12 weeks. 

Progress And Recovery From Betrayal Trauma Is Empowering

Anne: How would you see yourself now, Jen?

Jen: Oh this is hard for me because I feel like I am able to stand on my own. I’m able to notice myself, ‘oh I’m slipping back into those old behavior patterns’ and apply the things that I’ve learned. 

I feel like it gave me the confidence that I actually had within to be able to seek for more help or be willing to share and empathize with others. I actually have shared this book with a few people that have asked me after I had done the group who asked, “What are you doing?” I just said that I just got done with this amazing workbook! 

They would just kind of look at me funny. I would just say, ‘Anybody who has been betrayed by a spouse who is unfaithful should give this workbook a chance.’ 

My friend said, ‘ I got the workbook and started it. It is brutal but amazing! That is really perfect for this workbook. It was so brutal! I felt naked and raw. I hadn’t been seen for so many years. I now feel like I’m ready to show up in the arena unarmed because I now have a foundation of understanding. 

The opposite of ignorance is knowledge and I feel like I was able to become knowledgeable about addiction, about betrayal. Even about how I grew up. It doesn’t just hit only spouses. It goes all the way to how you were raised. Where these are coming from and own what is mine.

I just feel empowered. I just feel ready.  

YOU Are Of Great Worth, You WILL Get Through This!

Anne: That’s awesome! Jen, if you could go back and give yourself advice, I don’t know if there’s like one day that sticks out to you where there was a disclosure about one of your husband’s physical affairs or a particular moment where you were emotionally abused or where he was gaslighting you-  if you could go  back and give yourself advice because many of our listeners are in that situation right now, what would you tell yourself?

Jen: You know, I have thought about this and I would  definitely go back and tell myself I am more than worth it! That I will get through this, that this is his stuff and not mine, and that I don’t need to know all the answers right now. 

My needs are important. My feelings are valid. I would definitely talk positively to myself as opposed to beating myself up and talking negatively. 

Cat: I just want to say that it makes me burst with pride and emotion when I hear women talk about their journey through this thing that we call betrayal trauma. For me the greatest joy of the work that I do with women,  to see them talk positively to themselves, to see them show up for themselves. 

You CAN Be Your Own Hero

We talk about sheroes here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery and Jen you’re a shero. I love this idea that in the midst of all of the pain and the betrayal we can be our own heroes. We don’t need him to come in on a horse and pick us up and ride off into the sunset. We get to do that for ourselves. 

When we talk about the third stage of  trauma recovery we start to talk about post traumatic growth. We take this thing that was so disruptive and turn it into something that fits into the bigger picture of our life,  hopefully into something that will be an asset for us moving forward. 

When I’m listening to Jen talking I’m getting a real sense of that. We wouldn’t choose to walk this path but actually that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something useful along the way that can stand us in good stead moving forward. 

Some women never learn how to do that. Even when they don’t get betrayed, some women grow up feeling like things are their fault when they’re not. They grow up believing lies about themselves. 

If we can take anything out of this experience that’s positive, it’s that we don’t have to do that anymore. We get to learn how to love ourselves, how to offensively show up in our lives. That is just such a beautiful gift. 

When Women Recover From Betrayal Trauma, Miracles Happen

Anne: That is my goal for all the women in the world. I think if all the women in the world were in recovery they could stand up and say, ’Nope, this is what’s appropriate and this is what’s not appropriate, and set very strong boundaries

This betrayal stuff would either stop or, what would happen? I don’t know, all the men just go live with themselves on an island or I don’t know! They would either stop doing it or they would have to go somewhere else! Women are so powerful! You guys are amazing!

Jen: If you would  have asked me that question before this group, I would have said, ‘run- get out of their as quick as you can.’ But after the group and being in recovery I wouldn’t trade it because it has made me who I am and it’s led me to this journey of being able to love myself despite the pain that I’ve gone through. 

It’s given me a gift like Cat said and an opportunity to be able to connect and be able to empathize with other women that have felt similar pain. I wouldn’t have been given that opportunity had I not gone through that pain. 

I wouldn’t want to change the relationships I have been able to build and I wouldn’t even want to change the relationship with my spouse now. I never even knew marriage could be like this. It doesn’t seem fair that it took such painful painful things to get here but it definitely feels like a gift. 

Post Traumatic Growth Helps Women Feel Grateful For Their Experiences

I have so much gratitude for it. Definitely we have bad days and good days but it’s a journey and one day at a time, that’s why I’m even able to talk to myself positively like that and if I did go back I would definitely try and not internalize. I would tell myself how beautiful and strong I am. 

Anne: You are. You are beautiful and you are strong. And just like Cat I’m really, really proud of you and all of the women who take steps to pick themselves up and move forward with their own recovery regardless of what their spouse chooses. 

Jen: Exactly. Because we don’t have a choice you know. I could wake up tomorrow and my spouse could choose addiction. But I have proper boundaries in place and I won’t not show up for myself again. I have committed to myself that I will show up. I’m the only one that can consistently show up for me. 

Anne: Yea. Well thank you so much Jen for sharing your story today and thank you Cat for being here as well.  

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Coping With Your Husband’s Porn Addiction, Infidelity & Abuse

Today we have Amy Kate, an advocate for partners of those with sexual addictions and a survivor of two marriages that ended as a result of sexual addiction. She has six awesome kids and is trained through The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS), as well as the American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy (AASAT). She is a fierce warrior determined to point women to freedom and healing found at the feet of Jesus. She is also a customer service representative for Covenant Eyes and can be found at Welcome Amy Kate!

Amy: Thanks for having me.

Discovery Day: The Day Everything In Your Life Falls Apart When You Find Out About Your Husband’s Affair

Anne: We are going to talk to you about your personal story. We know that you went through two marriages due to sex addiction. Let’s focus on the second marriage and what happened there. Can you tell us what your life was like before D-day in your second marriage?

Amy: I was divorced from my first husband who was a porn addict and I met this guy who was everything I never imagined existed. He was soft, sweet, feminine but not in a weird way; he was just a super, awesome guy. I was actually not a Christian at the time; neither was he. We dated for a couple of years and then we bought a house together and we went to church where we both were saved. When we got saved we got convinced for living together so we got married.

I already had six children from my first marriage and he was a very good step dad. My children were rather young. It was a pretty normal like. I had the kind of relationship that my friends were jealous of because my husband was always home, he would do chores, he didn’t leave his underwear on the floor!, he looked like a model man. Life was good. I had all kinds of health problems but despite this, he was just good.

In 2010, after a couple of major surgeries and a foreclosure on my house, we moved and everything began to change in the relationship. He was very different and I couldn’t figure out why. Of course I thought it was me or my kids; it couldn’t possibly have been him. I started to create my own world outside of him. I had been a stay-at-home mom, which I loved, but I opened up a photography studio. We were a pretty normal couple.

Should You Believe Your Husband When He Says He Doesn’t View Porn?

We didn’t go to church which is unfortunate; I kept trying to get him to try new churches but he was resistant. As time progressed, he got more and more distant; I began to see more anger and our sex life pretty much disappeared. One day, September 20, 2012, I was on his computer (we had each other’s passwords)–we didn’t have anything to hide, right? I looked at his history even though I’m not sure why–he swore he never watched porn – and I believed him.

I saw a bunch of meet-up groups in his history and all of the profiles he looked at were female. I thought this was really weird but I brushed it off thinking he was looking for a tech meet-up group because he is a tech guy. As I kept looking and seeing the female profiles, it was literally like a lightbulb went off and out loud, to myself, said, “My husband’s having an affair.”

But I couldn’t see anything so I ended up combing through his computer to find something and I couldn’t find anything. So then I went upstairs and got his phone and I began to look through it; I didn’t find anything until I found the Google voice app. At this point I took the phone downstairs and I promptly read two years worth of texts from his affair partner. This was my first D-day. As I am telling this, I can still feel the emotion I felt when reading the texts from her. At first I thought it was just virtual but it wasn’t. By the end of the texting I realized that they had actually met in person.

What Happened The Day You Found Out About Your Husband’s Affair?

Anne: For our listeners, maybe some of you are not familiar with the term “D-day” which I have used a lot on the podcast. It means “discovery day.” The day the addiction was discovered, the day you discovered your husband was lying to you, that he had a secret life; in my case, my worst D-day was when my husband was arrested for domestic violence and I realized the behaviors I had been experiencing for the last seven years were emotional abuse and physical intimidation.

That day, when everything came to a halt. This is what we refer to as D-day. We would love to hear about your D-day and experience. If you go to you can find this podcast and comment anonymously about what happened to you. We also have a secret FB group if you would like to join our community. You can join for free and share your stories there as well.

Amy: If I can actually piggy-back on your story, I think this is one of the most healing things a spouse can do–to tell her story. The more you tell your story, the more healing that happens. This is what I have experienced as well as the women I have worked with. Telling your story is super hard but there is so much healing in sharing. Please tell your stories. 

I confronted my husband and he tried minimizing and lying. Then I decided to relapse myself. I am a recovering drug addict and in my cabinet in my kitchen was some tequila.(one of my clients had flown me down to Florida to shoot their wedding and they had party favors of tequila that had their names on it). This day I grabbed it and my own relapse began and did not end for quite awhile. I wanted to kick him out but I was too busy yelling at him so I didn’t kick him out.

Then I tried to get to the whys and of course, it was all me–everything that I was doing wrong. I went into the “I have to be a perfect wife” because I drove my husband to an affair. It lasted a little while–longer than it should have and then the relapse got worse for me and he was still doing things that I didn’t know he was doing yet; Ied the “recovery” by handing him books and finding him therapists and trying to teach him how to help me. The entire time everything was getting worse for us.

When Pornography Addiction “Recovery” Is A Way For Your Husband To Abuse You

There were more fights. He was getting borderline violent; he didn’t actually hit me but he would trap me in rooms when I wanted to leave a discussion or he would try to force his way into rooms if I didn’t want to have a discussion then and there. The behaviors really escalated. About 15 months of this chaos and unfortunately I did my own sexual acting out; I thought it was revenge and that it would make me feel better. All it did was make me feel worse. T

o this day, it still breaks my heart that I did that. So 15 months later, nothing was better; everything was worse. I clearly had PTSD at this point. The symptoms were there. I was a twitching mess. So I kicked him out. Two days later, the floodgates opened and I found out about all of the porn and the men and the prostitutes and everything else that went along with the sex addictions. For 15 months I thought it was just an affair. And then everything else came out. When he did all of the admitting, he was really broken.

You could see he was legitimately broken. Because I have so much history about recovering from addiction, I know that change is possible. I let him come home because now I had an answer. This is why we haven’t been able to heal–because of addiction; and now we could fix the addiction. I tried to control his recovery because he still wasn’t doing it.

Can I Sleep Around Because My Husband Did (Should I)? Will I Feel Better If I Act Out Too?

Anne: Were you still active in your addiction at this time?

Amy: Yes. I wasn’t fully committed. I would have bouts of sobriety and then I would relapse again. I was still active. Apparently this is my response to a D-day–it was my response; I don’t do this anymore.

Anne: You’re having ups and downs with your own recovery during this time and then you get the bombshell of finding out that he has been looking at porn, that he has been with other men, he’s been visiting prostitutes…where were you then?

Amy: I was a weird mix of terrified and shocked yet hopeful. Again, I believe in the power of recovery. I know that an addict can change. I know it because I changed and I know a ton of addicts that have changed. Actually, some of the addicts I know who have changed are some of the most authentic people you will meet. So I know that change is possible. But I was terrified.

Anne: I feel the same way. Even with what I have been through, my ex-husband is not in recovery…but I have been praying every day that Christ will revive him–literally bring him back from the dead. I watch him and I want so badly for our family to be together even though he is my ex-husband now and even though I hold a no contact boundary because of his lack of emotional health, I still want our family to be together.

I am with you there! I absolutely believe that addicts can change. This is really what breaks your heart. And also what gives you hope! As you are hoping for him to change, what were you doing?

When Gaslighting Leads You To Feel Crazy

Amy: I did my research but it was the wrong research. I ended up in the female co-sex addict codependent books and didn’t find the right path to healing for a long time. I was slowly starting to recover me because I had lost me at this point. I was unrecognizable. Within a couple months of him moving back home after the second large disclosure, that is when the PTSD got insanely bad. Nothing changed when he came home.

All of the behaviors that come along with addiction were there–he was still lying to me, he was angry, he was blaming me for stuff, we were having circular conversations that were making me feel insane. I did not know my reality. Is what he just said true? Am I going crazy?

I really wrestled with this one for a long time. And then I got some form of agoraphobia. I was so triggered whenever I left my bedroom that I basically lived in my room for a year. I remember there was a period for a couple of weeks where just going to the bathroom was traumatic, which sounds traumatic but it really was…I would put my hoodie on and put my hood over my head; for some reason this made me feel safer. I would then literally run to the bathroom like there was this monster in the house going to get me and then run back. My bedroom was like my cocoon. It was the only place I felt safe.

C-PTSD Symptoms Found In Wives Of Sex Addicts Due To Their Related Behaviors Of Abuse & Manipulation

I missed a lot of my life for almost a year in this place. During this, my husband was acting out and claiming his sobriety from the rooftops and that “she’s just crazy.” Actually, later I found out, just after the divorce so not long ago, that his therapist had suggested to him multiple times that I needed mental help because he was afraid for my own safety. My ex-husband chose not to address it with me. He didn’t even acknowledge it despite a trained therapist saying, “Your wife needs help.”

Anne: Was he sleeping in the bedroom with you at the time?

Amy: After he moved home, he was in the bedroom for a very short time and then he was on the couch.

Anne: Ok. So he was not in the bedroom with you and so thus you felt like you had a little bit of a safe place.

Amy: yes. It was my cocoon. We were in a chaotic cycle where the behaviors progressed and he pushed me; once he grabbed my arm because he was arguing and I said we needed to stop the conversation, and he tried to force me to talk to him; he did it so hard that my arms bruised. I didn’t realize this was physical abuse. This thought never crossed my mind. One time he pushed me into my car. He began to get mean with the kids. Everything was escalating and my children were really suffering because mom’s locked in her bedroom and Dad’s gone crazy. It was a really, really rough time period.

Many Women Hit Rock Bottom Before Seeking Help For Betrayal Trauma

Then the depression really kicked in. I stopped eating. I literally did not care about anything. I have a brain condition that gives me migraines. I was on meds for it and I did a bunch of research on how many I would need to take to commit suicide. I counted them out and went out to my car to take them all. This part is a little hard because I have kids I love and I was so depressed that they didn’t even matter. As a mom, this is really, really hard to admit but this is how low things got. I should explain that I have no family and my ex had isolated me from my church and from my friends and so I was literally alone.

Betrayal Trauma Can Lead To Thoughts Of Suicide

So I was sitting in my car with this bottle and I hadn’t been to church in a couple of years and all of the sudden I kept hearing, “Call Robin.” She is a woman from my old church. Robin and I were never close. I knew her and I liked her but it’s not like we were good friends. But I kept feeling this, “Call Robin. Call Robin. Call Robin.” I was like, “I don’t want to call Robin. I’m done with life. I can’t do this anymore.” Somehow I summoned up the nerve to call Robin and I went over to her house and I vomited my entire story onto her. This is the first time I had ever told my entire story. She had no advice. She just listened.

By the end of it, I got angry. All of the sudden I asked her for a sharpie. She was looking at me like I had three heads but she got the sharpie and on my wrists I wrote, “Live free.” That day, I decided I was done and that I was not going to end my life because he couldn’t fix his. This is really when recovery started for me.

Anne: Wow. You have a really powerful story and I really appreciate your candor in sharing this with us today. I am really sorry for all of your pain. I can hear it in your voice. So many of our listeners have felt similar feelings to what you felt. When you decided to recover yourself, what were your first steps?

Amy: The first thing I did was go back to church. I knew that I was so far in a pit that I could not get out of it by myself. I began to read my Bible all of the time and I stopped to listening to secular music and surrounded myself with the word of God. I actually sought out people for the first time and told them my story. I needed help. I was desperate that I didn’t care if you were a rock. If you could help me, I was going to tell you my story because during all of this, I found out that one of my six children was struggling with pornography. It was really bad.

Many Women Loose Faith In God After Experiencing The Lies, Gaslighting, Narcissistic Behaviors Of Pornography Addicts

I began going back to church. I found a couple of different websites that had me doing exercises on visualizing what I wanted my life to be, what my values are; I learned the word “boundary.” I had never heard it. I started reading books and piece by piece, I started getting better. Then I found a FB support group and this is where things began to take off because people understood and I wasn’t crazy; I needed people to tell me I wasn’t crazy because I wasn’t sure. Now I call them my tribe. It’s what it felt like–a tribe, people who had my back.

Anne: Like I said earlier, you can join our secret FB group by going to, scroll down, and select to join our community. Add your email and we will send you an email with the instructions about how to join this group. It’s so fantastic that you were able to find a support group through FB. Now that you had this support, what happened next?

Amy: I figured out what boundaries where and I made them. He faked it for a little while; he was good at faking. Things were not changing and I kicked him out and I filed for divorce. It wasn’t what I wanted but I was literally dieing and so I felt like I had no other options. Somewhere in there I got the job at Covenant Eyes which also significantly helped my healing. We were a month away from divorce when I heard about a program called Teen Challenge, designed for drug addicts. It’s a year-long, live in program.

I felt led to tell my husband at the time that I would stop the divorce and see who he was if he would commit to go to Teen Challenge. At first, when I felt like this is what I was supposed to do, I told God no. We argued about this a lot because I was done and did not want to do this anymore. But I listened and resentfully submitted.

Anne: I totally get it! I have had so many moments like this where I did the surrender process but I did not want to.

Amy: It was like, “I know you want me to do this. I don’t want do this but I will obey anyway because I trust you. So I offered it to him, mostly because I didn’t think he would say yes, but he did. He went away for a year. He quit his job. He lived in the program for a year. He got better for a couple of months and then relapsed in Teen Challenge–or so he told me.

Now he says he didn’t relapse. He has changed the story so many times I do not know the truth, but either way, we was not getting better. He graduated Teen Challenge and seemed better but not good. I was still very afraid of a relapse. There were a lot of red flags to me. He moved in with our pastor for awhile so I could see how he could handle life on the outside. My landlord in the house we lived in gave us 30-days notice because he was selling the house. So I had to find a new rental that would accept my brood of children and animals, while I’m working full-time and still dealing with trauma, so I actually let him move home to help me.

We got the new house and it spiraled very, very quickly over the summer. He went from a fairly soft, sweet guy back to the old bad behaviors of physically threatening me, the anger, the lying…and then I caught him with porn and I kicked him out.

Anne: I can’t imagine what you are feeling–actually I sort of can…so you send him away for a year; you’re doing what God asked you to do; you have faith in God. He has been through the program and he moves back home and it all falls apart again. Right? I’m imagining you were completely devastated at this point?

Amy: I began to go back into PTSD land, where I lived with all of the PTSD symptoms. What made me make the decision to kick him out was the agoraphobia came back again. At this point, I had regained my life. I was an active mom. I was who I was–fun, light, doing things outside in the world, I could handle football games with my son, I was me again–and then this relapse during the summer began and I said, “no. I’m not going there again.”

I gave him a two-week warning and literally, nothing happened. He made no steps towards fixing his relapse. I gave him two-weeks notice and kicked him out.

Anne: How are you feeling about God at this point?

Amy: I’m angry. 

Where Is God When We Are Experiencing The Pain Of Infidelity, Abuse & Abandonment?

Anne: I would be too! I’m thinking God’s told you to send him to this year thing, you’ve been doing life alone, he comes back and he basically hasn’t changed at all. So it’s like, “God, why? Why didn’t you have me end this a year ago?” we’ve all been through this thought process before.

Amy: I just went through a year of basically hell while he was in rehab and he isn’t out even two months and relapses…what am I missing here? Something isn’t adding up. Yes, I was angry. I felt betrayed by God

Anne: I can imagine. What did you do to repair your relationship with God?

Amy: I had to tackle a couple of big triggers: music. I love worship music but all of my worship music reminded me of my husband so I stopped listening to this. One song talks about taking back what the enemy has stolen. For the longest time this song resonated with me and my husband; we were going to take back our marriage. I decided to flip this song around. It wasn’t about my marriage anymore. It was about what the enemy stole from me. One of those things was my faith in God. He didn’t get to have that. He got my marriage but he doesn’t get to have my faith. He doesn’t get to take the pieces of me that I like.

Recovering Your Faith In God After Betrayal

Basically, I declared war on Satan so I tackled every trigger I had around it. Honestly, I yelled at God a lot. I yelled at him some more and more. Every time I did it I felt like he was saying he understood but he had it. I kicked out my husband and he moved 900 miles away. In this process I met Coach Rae. Between Coach Rae and learning what I learned at APSATS, it was like everything flipped and made sense and just in that short period of time, I have done more healing than I did in the two years before that.

Anne: Coach Rae is amazing!

Amy: She is. We got divorced and it was final and I offered reconciliation. If it required repentance and recovery, this has not happened. He has abandoned the kids and has no contact with them at all. Right now this is the hardest part watching my teenage girls going through this abandonment.

Anne: Yes. My ex moved from a city he was living in temporarily back to the city where we lived. He told his friends that he was so excited to move back so he could spend more time with his kids and then from the day he moved back, he did not see the kids for 4 weeks…I know this is not completely abandoning them but it is so interesting that these men do not realize the impact their decisions are having on other people.

I’m so sorry for your children. It stinks but it is so good to know that so many other women understand and are walking this path with us and that we do have support from them. We have amazing professionals like APSATS coaches who help walk us through. We do have God. We are not alone in this journey even when we feel like we are.

Amy Kate will be with us again next week, talking about demystifying the behaviors of sex addicts, a theme she has learned being trained by APSATS and also in her training with the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy (AASAT). I look forward to talking about his aspect of how to understand these behaviors if they do not make any sense.

If this podcast was helpful, please rate it on iTunes. We are also on SoundCloud. Every rating increases our visibility with women who are isolated and need our help. Betrayal Trauma Recovery is a 501(c)(3) and your donations make this podcast possible. Please click here to donate and keep this information coming. Women need it badly!

Thank you, Amy Kate. I will see you next week. 

If you need support, consider joining Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club.

Stay safe out there!

What Is Betrayal Trauma?

Over the coming weeks we will be exploring this term of Betrayal Trauma to really get to grips with what this means and what the ‘trauma model’ is about. We will start today by looking at the concept of trauma and how it applies to the experience we have as partners and wives of men with compulsive or addictive sexual behaviours. Over the next two weeks we will unpack some of the common symptoms and experiences we share and will conclude by looking at the stages of trauma healing and recovery. This will give you an insight into what you can expect when working through the healing process with a trauma trained professional, such as our APSATS trained coaches here at BTR.

The Trauma In Betrayal Trauma

To begin to explore the idea of betrayal trauma, it is helpful to understand trauma from a holistic standpoint. The word ‘trauma’ has its roots in the Greek word for ‘wound’ which is a pretty good description of any kind of trauma. It is the wounding effect of an event, situation or instance upon us. Various dictionary definitions of the word converge on terms describing the ‘distressing’ or ‘disturbing’ nature of the events that produce trauma, which could be defined as the lasting psychological state produced by such events. Some trauma events are accompanied by physical trauma (ie wounds to the body), while others are limited to the psychological impact, that on the mind and spirit. Interestingly, whilst they are, arguably, more common, psychological traumas are often misunderstood, misdiagnosed or entirely unnoticed, due to their lack of visibility to the outside world. A physical trauma, like a gunshot wound or a broken leg, is harder to ignore after all.

Whilst all traumatic events are different and all people exposed to trauma have a unique interaction with it and bring different tolerances to emotional stress and different levels of resilience, trauma produces a number of typical symptoms in those who experience it. These symptoms are likely to consist of some of the following (From Your Sexually Addicted Spouse):

  • Helplessness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Immobility
  • Reliving the event
  • Hypervigilance
  • Anxiety
  • Nightmares
  • Intrusive images
  • Withdrawing
  • Avoidance
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Phobias
  • Flashbacks
  • Denial
  • Oversensitivity
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Dissociation
  • Inability to eat
  • Overeating
  • Rage
  • Health problems
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Immune/endocrine system problems

A good friend of mine, and a respected colleague and mentor has often reminded me that “trauma does not tell time” and left untreated, exposure to trauma and post-traumatic stress (the after effects of a traumatic experience) can develop into a more chronic condition, that of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. PTSD is a chronic and life altering condition that affects both the mental and physical body significantly and can, in some cases, be a lifelong condition.

So, What’s Betrayal Trauma?

Betrayal Trauma is a collective term for the relational trauma suffered when a person on whom you though you could rely, a person you trust, violates that trust significantly. Jennifer Freyd, of the University of Oregon, describes the generic application of the term ‘Betrayal Trauma’ in the following way: Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that persons trust or well-being: Childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated by a caregiver are examples of betrayal trauma.

For our purposes, we are addressing Betrayal Trauma in the context of the relational Trauma suffered by the spouse or partner of a person exhibiting secretive and problematic sexual behaviours and the associated abusive behavioural issues.

Betrayal Trauma, sometimes referred to as Sex Addiction Induced Trauma or Partner Trauma, is becoming more widely recognized worldwide, however more education and awareness are needed in the field before the previous treatment modalities can be laid to rest entirely. In particular, it is helpful to mention the overriding model in the treatment of these ‘partners’ thus far – the ‘co-addict’ model. Whilst I have been unable to find one single definition of co-addiction, I was able to find a paragraph that I felt summed up collective thoughts on the experience: A co-sex addict is someone who is married to, or in a significant relationship with a sex addict and demonstrates a common set of behavioral characteristics.  These characteristics include:

  • Denial
  • Preoccupation
  • Enabling
  • Rescuing
  • Taking Excessive Responsibility
  • Emotional turmoil
  • Efforts to control
  • Compromise of Self
  • Anger
  • Sexual Issues

Like sex addiction, co-sex addiction can range in severity, and some individuals will find they experience a few of these characteristics.  

In short, the co-addict model, describes women in relationships with sex addict as ‘sick’ and in need of treatment for their co-dependent behavioral patterns that enable their partners addiction to continue. It emphasizes the need to ‘let go’ of the addict’s behavior, stay on your own side of the street and labels behaviors that are better explained as reality testing, safety seeking behavior, as controlling and exerts the theory that co-addicts are addicted to the addict in their relationship.

The Symptoms May Be The Same, But The Reasoning Behind Them Is Drastically Different

The theories expressed in the co-addict model do not hold true to the experiences of the women I interact with. These women are, for the most part, emotionally healthy women. They often have no history of dysfunctional relationships nor codependent tendencies. The key piece of information to recognize here is also that they often have NO CLUE what the addicted partner is doing in their secret sexual world and, if they did, they would not usually look to cover that up, hide and enable it.

It is true that the reality of learning that your partner is a sex addict is a hard one to come to terms with but it is neither true nor fair to assert that partners are complicit in this behavior. Ask any woman that finds out they married a sex addict if they would have pursued the relationship in light of the full facts and the answer will be a resounding NO 99% of the time. Ask sexually addicted men if they gave their long-term partners the opportunity to make such a decision by laying out their problematic sexual behaviors right from the start and again, you will hear a resounding NO 99% of the time. Coincidence? Maybe not…?  

There is a growing recognition that the behaviors exhibited following the discovery or disclosure of sex addiction in a committed relationship are better understood through the lens of relational trauma. The trauma here being connected to the sudden revelation that the person you are closest to, that you feel safe with and trust, that you are supposed to be able to rely on, has deeply wounded the attachment between the two of you. Where there was previously, a reasonable expectation of relational safety, there is now a minefield of potentially harmful and unsafe situations and occurrences.  Similarly, the lying, manipulation, and emotional abuse may be continuing – even after a disclosure.

Such a wound, touching the most intimate places of our lives and the most intimate of our self-beliefs, can be very damaging indeed. Given that overwhelming impact of trauma is the sense of being unsafe, some of the previously labelled co-addict behaviors, become redefined as ‘safety seeking’ behaviors and change from unhealthy and controlling to understandable and reasonable. The response to these behaviors also changes, from needing to step away from those behaviors, to looking for relational solutions. Instead of being told to keep on her own side of the street, she is now encouraged to speak for her needs for transparency and honesty in her relationship. Far from encouraging a victim mentality (as the ‘Trauma Model’ is sometimes accused of doing) this actually encourages a sense of self value, of empowerment and of equal entitlement in the relationship. Those responses sound a million miles from those of a codependent by the way!

We love hearing and sharing in the experiences of our readers and would love to know how you have felt about some of the labels that have been assigned to you as you’ve sought out help and support for this issue. Do you identify with the trauma model? How does the redefinition of your behaviors as reasonable attempts to find safety in an unsafe situation make you feel? Please comment and let us know and join us next week as we delve deeper into this topic and understand the common symptoms and responses we experience. Until then, take good care of yourselves.

Coach Cat xx

To schedule a Support Call with Coach Cat, click here.

Luke 18: The Parable Of The Unjust Judge

Helping Widows – Women Married To Pornography / Sexual Addicts

The parable of the unjust judge explains a lot about how to care for widows who are hurting because of their husband’s spiritual death, often caused by his pornography use and subsequent lies and hypocrisy.

In Luke 18:2-9, Jesus teaches the parable of the unjust judge. A widow comes to the unjust judge and asks him to hold her “adversary” accountable. At first the unjust judge does nothing. He’s unhappy with her continued requests for help. He decides to pacify her with words.

Jesus Teaches That Leaders Need To Do Something To Protect Widows

Jesus adds here, listen to what the unjust judge “saith”, making a point that there is no action done on his part to avenge the widow.

The unjust judge placates her, feigning righteousness, “Will not God avenge you? You pray to Him all day and night, and He listens to you. I’m sure God will help you. When Jesus comes again, will He find that you have faith?”

Christ targets this parable “unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.”

As this kind of widow myself, when I read this scripture, it rang so true to me. I have found myself in this exact situation. 

We know the judge is unjust. So this is an example of what not to do.

One of the most common examples of a widow petitioning for help is a wife wanting her church leader to hold her husband accountable for breaking his covenants: lying, pornography use, and abuse. She does this because she loves her husband and she wants to save her family.

Related Behaviors Of Porn Users

Active pornography users exhibit some or many of these behaviors, but the severity differs from individual to individual:

  • Lying
  • Manipulation
  • Gaslighting
  • Lashing Out In Anger
  • Neglecting Emotional Needs Of Family Members
  • Emotionally Abusing Family Members
  • Neglecting Household Duties and Other Family Responsibilities
  • Narcissistic Traits

Men who exhibit these behaviors have lost the privilege of being in a family. It’s emotionally and spiritually unsafe for wives and children to be exposed to these types of behaviors. Women who have lost their husbands to pornography need to be protected. Support people need to hold their husbands accountable. They need to “avenge” these spiritual widows to enable the family to heal. 

Many times, at the very beginning of the disclosure / discovery process, widows don’t recognize the lying, manipulation and abuse. So she too might not understand that setting boundaries and holding her husband accountable is the only way to safety.

Because she is compassionate, she too may think that being supportive, forgiving, and loving is the answer – but what judges and widows miss is that setting boundaries and holding someone accountable is the most compassionate, forgiving, loving thing you can do for a person who desperately needs to cleanse the inner vessel. Luke 5:37 “And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.”

Since there is a lack of specifics and guidance when it comes to policies about how to help pornography users and victims, women are not given consistent help. In my work with thousands of widows all over the world, the responses and ways to deal with it are all over the map – even if the behavior in the men is fairly consistent.

Telling a woman that her husband hasn’t committed adultery because is he hasn’t actually slept with someone isn’t helpful because she knows full well that Jesus himself said it is. She also knows full well how she feels. Her heart is breaking, her family is at risk because he has committed adultery in his heart.

“Freedom from accountability means that the abusive man considers himself above criticism. If his partner attempts to raise her grievances, she is “nagging” or “provoking” him. He believes he should be permitted to ignore the damage his behavior is causing, and he may become retaliatory if anyone tries to get him to look at it” (Why Does He Do That? 58).

It is essential that friends, relatives, courts, and communities understand . . . and give the woman the most complete support and protection possible, while simultaneously taking steps to hold the abuser accountable” (Why Does He Do That? 101).

Abusers think that their wives dwell on grievances and refuse to forgive “because she sometimes attempts to hold him accountable rather than letting him stick her with cleaning up his messes – literally and figuratively” (Why Does He Do That? 142).

Contrast that parable with Acts 7:24-25 

24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed . . .

25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.

I interpret that to mean, when he saw the suffering, he defended her and avenged her. He supposed that other leaders would have understood how that God by his hand would help her save her family and heal her marriage – by holding her husband accountable for his misdeeds and helping him through the process of sincere, back-breaking repentance. But they simply told her to pray and read her scriptures, and that God would help her. Have faith, they said. But they understood not that they should be God’s hands to help.

In light of the pornography epidemic, and the lack of understanding around the topic, including the severe emotional and financial suffering of the widows involved, Acts 6:1 seems especially pertinent: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring . . . because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.”

5 Chaotic Gaslighting Tactics Of Pornography Users

Coach Sarah will be educating us about gaslighting tactics today! Welcome, Coach Sarah!

Our APSATS coaches will help you discover your husband’s gaslighting and how to deal with it. Coach Sarah is APSATS trained and an expert in helping women find safety in when faced with gaslighting in their relationships. Click here to register for her group Detecting & Confronting Gaslighting.

Coach Sarah: Thank you, Anne! I’m glad to be here with you today!

Anne: Coach Sarah, has everyone gaslighted at one time or another in their life? Why do “we” as humans gaslight sometimes?

Why Do People Use Gaslighting?

Coach Sarah: Yes, I believe everyone has gaslighted someone at one time or another in their life. Those of us who gaslight unknowingly usually do so for a few reasons (or a combination): out of an unawareness of how we’re really feeling; a shame response; a defensive response (like self-protection); or a lack of good communication. 

For example, the mom who tells her son that he likes salad, when he clearly does not, is not aware/in touch with the feeling of being weary of her son complaining about the food that she makes. She doesn’t want to hear another complaint, so she desperately says, “C’mon, you like salad.” The mom is trying to get her son to feel a certain way about the salad.

A non-gaslighting exchange would be something like: “Son, I know salad isn’t your favorite, but it really hurts my feelings when I work hard to make you healthy food and you complain. Even if you’re not excited about eating the salad, could you please not complain? Thank you.”

Why Are Addicts Prone To Gaslighting?

Well, when we look at basic components of what is involved in addiction, we look at a few key things:

  1. People numbing feelings with their “drug of choice”
  2. People who act outside of their beliefs and morals, which reinforces their shame center
  3. People who are in active addiction have a need to keep their behaviors secret/hidden, so that they can continue to feed their addiction

So, if someone comes to me and asks if I’m angry, and I’ve numbed out my feelings, I am very likely to tell them they’re wrong (even though they are correct); add in the shame center, and I’d likely turn it back around on them and tell them that they’re the one that is angry. If I’m in active addiction, and someone comes to me saying they feel like I’m distant (and I am, because I’m acting out), I’ll likely tell them they’re imagining things, so that they doubt their reality, and stop looking into my behaviors. 

What Are The Gaslighting Tactics That Pornography / Sexual Addicts Use?

I don’t think they use different tactics than other people who gaslight, but I do think the way the tactics sound/are used can be specific to their pornography use/sexual acting out. To start, there are four main tactics people use to gaslight:

  1. Redirecting responsibility
  2. Discrediting your reality
  3. Saying you need or dismissing your psychiatric/coaching/12-step help
  4. Highlighting and criticizing your character flaws

These tactics often overlap.

For example, let’s say you’re out to dinner with your husband, and he’s flirting and staring inappropriately at the attractive woman that is your server. You make a comment about how you feel like he’s behaving inappropriately with this woman, and it hurts you and makes you feel like you are not important to him. His response:

  • “I am not doing anything inappropriate” (discrediting your reality).
  • “If you weren’t so insecure, you’d be able to see that you’re completely over-reacting” (highlighting and criticizing your character flaws).
  • “Besides, if I did flirt with her, it’s because you’re over there complaining and being cold towards me” (redirecting responsibility). 
  • “This is just something your therapist made up – did she tell you I’m not allowed to talk to anyone but you?” (dismissing your therapist).

To our listeners, what types of gaslighting have you experienced? Please comment on this post at the way bottom. How has gaslighting affected you?

What Is The First Step To Recognizing Gaslighting When It Happens?

Coach Sarah: I think the first step is being able to realize when one of three things is happening:

  • You’re confused – things don’t make sense
  • Things get flip-flopped and the other person plays the victim in the situation – you are getting blamed for things that aren’t your responsibility
  • Any time you are told your feelings aren’t “right” or “okay”, etc. 

Anne: As a Coach, how to you help women establish emotional safety in their home, so they don’t experience this type of manipulation and abuse anymore?

Coach Sarah: Honestly, Anne, this is a long process. The absolute first thing I do with my clients is help them to get reconnected to their reality and truth by validating their experiences and feelings. Often, they don’t get this at all in their marriage.

As they begin to get reconnected to themselves, I begin to teach them how to identify the different aspects of gaslighting, so that they can put boundaries in place to protect themselves, as well as help them brainstorm around ways they can respond/engage when they realize their spouse is trying to gaslight them. Finally, I give them a space to practice using their voice, so that it grows strong and they are empowered to use it with their gaslighter(s). 

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14 Signs Of Gaslighting – How To Spot Lies & Manipulation

Our APSATS coaches will help you discover your husband’s gaslighting and how to deal with it. Coach Sarah is APSATS trained and an expert in helping women find safety in when faced with gaslighting in their relationships. Click here to register for her group Detecting & Confronting Gaslighting.

Gaslighting – Why is it so important To Know How To Spot It?

I am CONVINCED that until a person can identify how they are manipulated, what they lost because of it, and what made them vulnerable to it, they will not be able to stay connected to their truth and their voice (or their intuition); they will not be able to gain clarity in their marriage and will be susceptible to gaslighting in other relationships as well. 

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is the attempt to convince another that what they perceive, believe, think or feel is inaccurate or untrue.

Gaslighting is a VERY complex, nuanced issue, but that is basically it in a nutshell. ANY time someone tries to make you doubt your reality – your memory, your judgments of a situation, the validity or your feelings, etc – they are attempting to gaslight you.  

Here’s a fairly “innocent” example – one that I realized I did to my daughter when I first started studying this. Here’s the gist: my beautiful, creative, DRAMATIC daughter would get upset about something, and inevitably start crying like the world was coming to an end. I would tell her, “It’s not that big of a deal. You’re acting like a TV fell on your foot, when really, all that happened was you stepped on a pebble.” Sigh. Was I trying to shame her, or invalidate her feelings? NO! I simply wanted my daughter to stop hurting (and maybe wanted small reprieve from the drama – maybe). But here’s what I (unknowingly) caused to happen within her sweet little head and heart: she had to question whether what she felt was okay; she now had to choose between honoring the very real pain she felt in that moment, or listening to her mother – someone she loved and trusted.  Do you see the effect of gaslighting at work here?

As I learned about what gaslighting is, and how NOT to do it, my response to my daughter changed to: “I’m so sorry you’re hurting right now. That must feel like a really big deal! Can I give you a hug?” The amazing thing – once I started validating her pain (even if I thought it was WAY over the top), she learned how to move through her pain and go on to the next thing.  Brilliant.  

How Can I Tell If My Husband Is Gaslighting Me?

Ideally, you’ll have a therapist or APSATS coach and a group of safe women who you can talk these things over with. These people are crucial to help you identify the gaslighting that may be happening in your relationship. Identifying gaslighting in our relationships can be scary, but it’s OH so important! I encourage you to sit with the list below, and consider how strongly you connect with each bullet. This list is ten signs that indicate you may be experiencing gaslighting in your marriage. As you sit with each statement, try to rate how strongly you connect with it. On a scale of one to ten (One being you don’t connect at all, ten being, “This is totally me!”) do you find:

  • You make excuses for your partner’s behavior to yourself, friends, and family.     
  • You constantly second-guess yourself.        
  • You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” many times every day.    
  • You often feel confused or “crazy.”            
  • You’re husband tells you what you are really thinking and feeling, but he is wrong. He doesn’t believe you when you tell him the truth about how you feel.                          
  • You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you feel a sense of doom.    
  • You sometimes lie to avoid the put-downs and reality twists.                    
  • You think twice before bringing up certain seemingly innocent topics of conversation.        
  • Before your partner comes home, you run through a checklist in your head to anticipate anything you might have done wrong that day, make sure everything is just right, or think of the “good” reasons you have for not having done everything perfectly.    
  • You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, and more relaxed.    

Manipulation & The Tactics Used To Gaslight

If you are in a relationship where there is prevalent gaslighting, you are likely experiencing MANY things. Three of the most common experiences are being lied to (whether through concealment or falsification), the crazy-making that comes with the mind games, and feeling confused about reality. 

Another way to tell if your husband is trying to gaslight you is by identifying whether one of the following common tactics is at work. There are four main tactics someone uses when attempting to gaslight:

  1. Redirecting responsibility by blaming you for the problems in the relationship.  The roles in the situation are reversed – he becomes the “victim”, and you become the “offender.”  “Well of course we’re having problems in the marriage!  You’re always so angry!”
  2. Discrediting your reality by saying the problems are your imagination or “faulty” thinking.  “I wasn’t staring at that woman! You’re just insecure!”
  3. Saying you need OR dismissing the help you’re getting (Therapy, coaching, support group, etc).  “You’re the one with the problems!  You’re the one who needs help!” OR “That’s not really what you want; your coach is the one telling you to say that.”
  4. Highlighting and criticizing your character flaws. “You are shrill, blaming, and controlling, so of course I’m going to watch porn!”

Okay, My Husband Is Gaslighting Me! Now What???

Now that you’re beginning to see and understand what has been happening, you can begin to stop “the dance” and start a new one. It takes a LOT of time, learning, understanding and practice – but you can stop the gaslighting and become more connected to your truth and your voice than you dreamed was possible! Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Pay special attention to the feeling of confusion.  If you start to feel confused, take a time out until you clear your mind. 
  • Stay connected to your FEELINGS. Many times we get sucked into gaslighting when we get caught in the “who has the best defense of their thoughts” game. When that happens, stop and ask yourself, “How am I feeling in this moment”. If you feel disrespected, or like your thoughts, feelings, or opinions are not being considered, take a time out.
  • Sort out what you know is true and what is a distortion. If he says something that doesn’t make sense, or you feel you are being blamed for something you don’t feel you should own, take a break and when you’re safe, ask yourself what YOU know to be true. 
  • Remember – no matter what is happening – you deserve to be treated with respect and loved well. If at any time you don’t feel these things are happening, give yourself permission to say, “That might be true, but I don’t like the way you’re speaking to me.” Or “I’d like to hear what you are saying, but I can’t hear you when you are raising your voice or calling me names.” Or “I’m not sure what to say right now, but I know I just feel like something is off. I need some time to clear my head.”  This is how you begin to regain your truth, voice, and power. 

Gaslighting is a VERY complex, nuanced issue.  For the past four years I’ve been teaching, coaching and continuing to study the topic of gaslighting. I’m STILL adding to what I bring to my teaching and coaching!  If you want to know more – more ways to recognize gaslighting when it is happening, more ways to opt out, or the ways you can plan for it ahead of time – I’d love to help you, schedule an appointment today.  

The Causes Of Betrayal Trauma: Lies, Porn Use, Abuse

Wanting to hold the relationship together, women attempt to put a puzzle together that’s missing more than half the pieces. The confusion surrounding what it happening is overwhelming.

Betrayal Trauma Is Caused By Emotional & Physical Infidelity, As Well As 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 definition is breaking or violating of a promise or trust that creates emotional and mental conflict.

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 distain for me grew. I have found 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, as a way to avoid accountability is a betrayal in and of itself.

Lying Is The Common Denominator In Betrayal

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 someone 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 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. But when you’re being lied to, it harms your dignity by purposefully withholding key information 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.

Confusion As A Result Of The Lies – Betrayal Trauma Can Be A Result Of Being Consistently Lied To

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 worked the steps, 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 SA Lifeline 12 Step 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.

Emotional Abuse Is A Form Of Betrayal

When a man uses pornography, or otherwise is unfaithful to his wife, it is common for him to be emotionally abusive in an effort to hide or to deflect suspicion. Here are some common examples:

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 – but 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 learned since that the fear I felt when he punched walls, kicked things, broke things, etc, was very real because physical intimidation in and of itself 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.  

For years, I tried to manage it 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, tried a new scheme to hold my family together, and fix my husband’s anger problems.

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 unmanageable.

Pornography Use & Masturbation Are A Form Of Betrayal

Many women are confused because they feel uneasy about their husband’s pornography use and masturbation, but are unsure if their feelings are valid.

A man who uses pornography and masturbates cannot be emotionally or sexually faithful to his wife. I am so grateful for the S Anon blue book that has helped me understand the toll that sexual addiction has taken on me. Living with a sex addict was too much for me, and I am only now coming out of the fog.

Emotional Distance Is A Form Of Betrayal

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 . . . 

1. 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 the family’s needs.

2. Their husband does something that hurts their feelings, and their attempts to communicate their feelings about the situation are met with silence or changing the subject. 

3. 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 enables a person to avoid what is good for the marriage / both spouses, and manipulate a situation to their advantage. There is no way to control 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 husband’s 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 did we do, and deflects the attention from their completely inappropriate actions.

Emotional Abuse and Pornography Addiction Generally Go Together

Lies, emotional abuse, and pornography addiction go together. All are forms of betrayal, and all lead to a husband feeling hate toward his wife.

I started attending free betrayal trauma recovery meetings because I knew my situation was out of 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 the Steps to build a relationship with God and have God lead and guide me on a daily basis about what to do.

Being in recovery for betrayal trauma has helped me change my behaviors so I could see the truth about myself and my situation. After years of trying to manage an unmanageable situation, I gave up and sought help. I received help from my SAL group, my sponsor, and women who had 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.

I hope the stories women share about their experiences being lied to by their husbands, being cheated on, and abused – I hope the stories you find on Betrayal Trauma Recovery will help you start your own journey to healing. 

Listen to how painful the experience was for me.

You Can Get Help To Deal With Betrayal Trauma

We have APSATS Coaching available on our site and a directory of APSATS therapists. APSATS is The Association of Partners of Sexual Addicts Trauma Specialists – a special training and certification for coaches and therapists to help women navigate their husband’s lies and help them heal from betrayal trauma.

Healing takes place in three phases:

1.  Establishing safety and stabilizing your situation.
2. Remembering and grieving.
3. Connecting

Our APSATS coaches can help you navigate through your healing process to make sure you are safe, help you through the grieving process, and heal through connecting again with your life and loved ones.

Click Here for more information.