Staying In A Marriage After Betrayal

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne. Wow, I have Esther Hosea on today. She is a blogger at We’ve been having technical difficulties.

Anne: Both Esther and I have been feeling a lot of—what do we call it—opposition to doing this podcast today. I’m just touched right now, and grateful to have her on the podcast. This woman is a woman of faith.

In 2016, Esther discovered that her husband of nearly 17 years, and the love of her life, had a serious sexual addiction and had been repeatedly unfaithful throughout her marriage. I’ll let her talk more about that. Esther, I want you to start with how would you have described your marriage before you found out about your husband’s infidelity?

Betrayal Trauma Can Feel Life-Shattering

Esther: Before I found out, I would have called our marriage an idyllic marriage. I would’ve said that we had pretty much a storybook relationship. We were best friends, we’re each other’s favorite person in the whole world. We’ve always enjoyed spending time together. All of our friends, all of our family, a lot of them looked to us as the example for marriage. It seemed really great.

Anne: What was it like to realize that everything you believed was a lie?

Esther: It was devastating. It shattered my whole world. I’ve described it to people like a puzzle. If our life is a puzzle and, before that day, I felt like my puzzle was all together, all the pieces fit. It was a really pretty puzzle. That day, when I found that out, it was if someone took that puzzle and just threw it. The pieces went everywhere. Maybe some of them even broke and went under pieces of furniture or something.

For the next however many months after that, it was this scramble, this panicky scramble to try and find all those pieces and get them to fit back together. Except now, I realize that they don’t fit. All those perfect pictures that I thought I had, it isn’t what I thought it was, and it doesn’t fit together like I thought it did.

How The Discovery Of Infidelity Causes Trauma

Anne: Yeah, I think that’s how all of us feel when that discovery happens. We’ve talked about D-day on the podcast before, which means discovery day, the day you find out that your reality that you’re living in is not actual reality, right?

Esther: Right.

Anne: It is mind-bending. How did you navigate the fog after D-day?

Esther: If I’m being honest, I would say that the first, at least, three months, maybe longer than that, after the first D-day, I didn’t navigate it. I went into this deep, deep, deep fog and I didn’t know which way was up. I didn’t even really try. I’d call it a zombie phase where you’re dead on your feet. You’re getting up and you’re going through the motions and you’re getting done the things that HAVE to get done.

Being Betrayed Causes Deep Despair

I have very few memories of that time. It was almost like I was just a robot, or something, going through that time. I don’t know, my brain was just off. I really, really struggled with my relationship with God during that time. I didn’t understand how he could let the happen. I had spent my whole life following him, praying for my husband and for our marriage.

It felt like God had betrayed me too. I was angry. I was really angry with him. I would pray and say terrible things to him. It was an awful time, but he pursued me through that time and was patient with me through my tantrums. After several months, I did eventually start to believe what he says in his word about me, about him. Eventually, I got through that fog by believing truth.

Anne: I want to quote you. You said that during that time, he “pursued me with reckless abandon.” I love that image of God pursuing us. I’ve felt a similar thing during the worst fog that I had, which was a nine-month period after my husband’s arrest. I couldn’t feel God at all, in spite of my prayers, in spite of my scripture study, in spite of everything that I was doing to try to obey the commandments and do the right things.

Trauma Causes Fog, Confusion, and Hopelessness

That was such a difficult time. Now, out of the fog, I can see him during that time. I’m just so grateful for his patience with us, because what we went through, that fog, is a classic trauma response where we are very wounded and can’t process things. He is there, even if we can’t feel him.

Esther: And he’s so patient. The scripture, especially the Psalms, and, also, Lamentations, helps me to be at peace, I think, with that time and to recognize that—I wouldn’t even say like God was just okay with it, I think he appreciated that I was coming to him with my raw honesty.

I wasn’t holding back and pretending that everything was fine when it wasn’t. I was screaming at him when I wanted to scream at him, and, I think, being real. I think he wants our authentic selves. He knows we’re broken. He knows we’re ugly and he just wants us to come to him as we are.

Anne: Either during this time, or after this time, talk to me about some of the “Ah-ha” moments that you experienced.

How Can We Honor Our Values In The Midst Of Trauma

Esther: For me, one of the first and biggest “Ah-ha” moments was when I got to the place where I had to be okay with the idea of my marriage ending. I was a child of divorce and I had vowed that I would never ever, ever get divorced. I clung to that. God brought me to a place where I recognized that I had made my marriage into an idol.

I had put this “I won’t get divorced” above God. I had decided that, almost, that if God asked me to leave my marriage, I wouldn’t. I would rather stay married than do what He was asking me to do. I had to get to a place where I said, “Okay, God, I’m going to follow you. I’m going to do what you want me to do, even if that means I’m going to be a divorced person,” which was this terrible thing in my mind.

Anne: This is where it gets really tricky, I think, for women of faith, because there’s these values and conflict. Also, this “idol.” I never thought of this until you said it, but worshipping our marriage over obedience and safety, knowing that what God wants for us, what God’s will is for us is to be in a safe, spiritual situation. It’s not to be in this dangerous situation with someone who’s being duplicitous.

Betrayal Trauma Is A Normal Response To An Abnormal Situation

Esther: A passage that struck me really hard recently is—I’m not going to remember the exact reference—but it’s in Malachi. It’s the passage where God talks about how he hates divorce. He’s talking to the men of Israel. They’re asking why isn’t He accepting their worship.

He says, “Because I saw the vows you made to your wives and I see that you’re being unfaithful to them.” He says, “I hate divorce,” but the message behind that is more than I hate divorce, I hate seeing my daughters abused. He demands their faithfulness. He says, “Come back, and be faithful to your wives.”

Anne: Absolutely. The reason why God made commandments was to keep people safe.

Esther: Yes.

How To Find Healing And Hope After Trauma

Anne: If everyone in the world obeyed God’s commandments, the exploitation and the abuse and the harm done to other people, if everyone was honest, would disappear. That’s the point of the commandments. That is lost, I think, when you don’t obey the commandments, it actually harms someone else. It’s not just for your own like, “Oh, good, I’m going to go to heaven,”—

Esther: It’s for our safety, yeah.

Anne: I was reading my scriptures every day, and I kept thinking, “You need to create this plan that helps you study the scriptures using the 12 steps.” Because I do SALifeline, which is a 12-step program for betrayal trauma. I have a Master’s degree in curriculum instruction, so this type of thing of developing a study plan is in my skillset.

One of my podcasts, Luke 18, about the unjust judge. So many of my podcasts have come out of my scripture study and the way that I’ve been marking my scriptures since I started this. If you’re interested, it’s I am so grateful for how he showed me about boundaries. This very dark purple pen, so that it would really pop out of each page. I was finding boundaries on almost every single page as I did my scripture study in the morning. It was amazing.

How Healing From Trauma Can Be Guided By Faith

I’m really grateful for His guidance through the scriptures. I think its sad, because so many women are so traumatized that picking up their scriptures just seems so overwhelming. It just seems like, “There’s no way. Why would I do that? I’m not getting any answers, I’m mad at God. God has abandoned me. He hasn’t kept his promise, because I’ve obeyed the commandments, and here I am in this awful situation.” That power that can come from the scriptures during this very difficult time is sometimes lost.

Esther: Absolutely.

Anne: You mentioned that one of your “Ah-ha” moments was that you wanted to cover yourself in truth. What did that look like for you?

Esther: Before I talk about covering myself in truth, before that, he had asked me to start the blog. That was really terrifying to me, because I was still trying to live in the secrets. I didn’t want the whole world to know, so it was really scary to just put it all out there. But, in starting the blog, because I wanted it to completely point people towards Christ, everything that I wanted to write, I had to find out what the Bible had to say about it.

If I wanted to write about boundaries, I had to find out what the Bible has to say about that. If I wanted to write about telling the truth, everything that I wanted to write about, I had to go to scripture first, and find scripture to back up what I wanted to say. That became how I covered myself in truth, because I was studying and studying and studying, finding all these verses. Then, those would be in my head.

Finding Connection Is Essential In Trauma-Recovery

Every day for months, just scripture going through my head and going through my head and going through my head. That has massive effects on our life. I suddenly started seeing lies everywhere, and myself, not just my husband.

He would ask me a question, and I would give my normal “oh, I’m fine” answer, trying to minimize my pain, or trying to pretend like I was okay. That wasn’t truth. I learned through that time to just let everything that came out of my mouth—I mean as much as possible, because I’m still human—be saturated in truth. It changed everything.

Anne: The truth shall set you free.

Esther: Absolutely.

Anne:     There’s so much confidence that I gain knowing that this type of sin is wrong and that I am doing God’s will to set a very firm boundary around it.

Esther: Yes.

How Faith Can Help In The Midst Of Trauma

Anne: I don’t know if I would have that really firm confidence if I didn’t know it was coming straight from God. Especially because my particular church leaders, at the time, weren’t really supportive of what I was doing, or they couldn’t really understand it.

They thought I was not being faithful. It just gave me the confidence that I needed to stand up to, I would say, just either my church culture or society, or people who don’t understand this, and it brought me a lot of peace.

Esther: I had talked earlier about making my marriage an idol. I believe that’s another thing I had made an idol of is the teachings of the church. Instead of following just scripture, I had allowed man’s interpretation of that to shape me. I became more dedicated to that than to the Word itself.

Like you said, there are so many churches that don’t get it all right, especially in this area. I don’t think it’s intentional. I think there’s a lack of understanding and a lack of education in this area, years and years and years, probably centuries of tradition has gotten in the way of what the Bible actually says about it.

How Can I Feel Peace After Being Traumatized By Betrayal?

Anne: Sexual sin is old.

Esther: Right.

Anne: We’re talking Sodom and Gomorrah.

Esther: Oh, absolutely.

Anne: It is the deepest sin that we have as humans. It is the most destructive.

Esther: Absolutely.

Anne: Well, I guess aside from murder. It is so deep in our culture, and so ingrained in “what it means to be a man” and, also, “what it means to be a woman,” how we are supposed to interact, and all of those, we would say, roles, rather than the relationship that God wants us to have, and focusing on a peaceful, loving relationship. I think part of that is coming from centuries of sexual sin.

Esther: Yeah.

Connection Is An Important Part In Trauma-Recovery

Anne: You talked about how you started speaking the truth. That’s one way that you dealt with your anger and negative feelings toward your husband. Talk about other ways that you dealt with it, especially after you decided to stay.

Esther: For me, I had been so isolated for so long. This does kind of go along with the truth part of it. We decided that we were going to come out—I don’t know if that’s the right word, or the right way to say it. We weren’t going to hide anymore. My husband went in front of our church and confessed everything to them.

We told our children about it, they’re preteens through teenagers, so old enough to understand, and our friends. I found others. I found Facebook groups, and all kinds—to come alongside me. People that I knew in real life and people that I virtually know, just got help.

The Bible talks about as iron sharpens iron being with other believers. I think that was really important for me. Another way that I was able to get through was just to get support from other believers, and then also through my blog, to be that support.

How Does Faith Help With Recovery From Betrayal Trauma

One of my life verses has become 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, which says, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

I found that, as I walked in obedience with the blog, God just started bringing women into my life who were hurting. I was able to share what he had done for me with them. There was something about that that was healing for me, not them. Them, too, hopefully, but for me to share the comfort that God had given me with someone else, it somehow miraculously, also was healing for me.

Anne: My experience was similar. I was praying just so much after my ex’s arrest, and he was given a 14-month probation with a No Contact order from a judge. I knew I needed a separation, I knew I needed space, so as I prayed and said, “God, should I file for divorce, or should I amend the No Contact order? Should I allow him to talk to me?” I just kept getting this answer to, “Be still. Be still.”

One day, I told my mom, “Mom, I got an answer.” She was like, “You did, that’s awesome! Which one is it?” Because I was only praying about these two things, divorce or amend the No Contact order, those are the only two options. His answer was, “Start a podcast.” I told my mom, “I’m supposed to start a podcast.” She was like, “Okay,” so I started podcasting, and that’s all I did. A few months after that, my husband, at the time, he actually filed for divorce, and so I never had to make that decision.

Esther: Isn’t that just like God? I mean, to make it so you didn’t have to do it.

How Trauma Can Become A Part Of Our Strengths

Anne: No. Because I was committed to my marriage vows and my marriage covenants. I knew I couldn’t break them, and I had no desire to do that. I just was waiting on God to let me know what sort of man is he? Not God, what sort of man is my husband? Is he really a godly man, who can make the changes and repent, or is he not? I found out that he wasn’t. I was heartbroken about it, of course.

Esther: Isn’t it so like us to limit ourselves to A and B. I did that so much too. We’re going through and we say, “Okay, I can do this, or I can do this.” I’ve seen this all over the place as I speak with other women, too. “Well, it’s this or this.” “Well, it’s this or this.” I’m always saying, “Or it’s C. There’s a C. There’s a C, D, and E, actually.” I feel like that’s a huge part of betrayal trauma, is that we get stuck in A and B. “These are my two choices.” There’s almost always more choices.

Anne: Yeah. I think God was just waiting for me to be at the right place where he could show that other choice. Now it’s opened up this amazing world for me. You’ve experienced this same thing where there are so many women out there who are going through this. Had we not been able to tell the truth, had we not told the truth, we would never have found each other. There’s so much power in truth.

Esther: Absolutely.

Healing From Trauma Requires Hope

Anne: After all the opposition that we’ve had in recording this podcast, I’m feeling right now that that’s what God wants for this particular podcast, is to encourage women to open their scriptures.

Esther: The beat of my heart is to see women turn to God through His word.

Anne: We’re having a board meeting tomorrow to vote on the mission and the vision of BTR, to build a worldwide army of women, empowered to create, set and hold boundaries, to stop the pornography epidemic. I see that army as an army of righteous women, an army of women confident because they read their scriptures, and because they have the spirit of God in their lives.

I think we can do it. I really do. I think that, if we each open our scriptures every day, we can stop this pornography epidemic. I don’t know how. I don’t know when. It seems like a crazy goal. I have to believe that it’s possible, right?

Esther: Absolutely, and with the God that we serve, shouldn’t we be setting crazy goals? I mean, he is the creator of heaven and earth. He holds everything together with His power. Why would we limit him to something that wasn’t crazy?

Anne: That’s a good point. It is pretty crazy, the things He’s done, when you think about him.

How Betrayal Trauma Influences Our Faith

Esther: Absolutely.

Anne: Then I think about the parting of the Red Sea, right. It gets a little intense.

Esther: This is small compared to that.

Anne: It seems bigger to me. For some reason, stopping pornography seems harder than parting the Red Sea.

Esther: Also, don’t you think we know that God—He created the world, so, therefore, he’s in control of nature, right?

Anne: Right.

Esther: So parting the Red Sea, we’re comfortable with that falling within His realm of influence, or whatever. But this, this is people. This is the hearts of people. Our God is able. He’s sovereign. He’s in control of everything. While he does allow sin, he is able to conquer this.

Anne: Because so many women are praying and praying and praying and praying and praying for their husband’s hearts to change, and it’s not happening.

Setting Boundaries Is Important After Betrayal 

Esther: For a lot of them, yes. We don’t know the end yet. Earlier I said that we had this idyllic marriage. Which was true, but I also did know about the pornography. I didn’t know about the infidelity, but I knew about the pornography long before all of this D-day, and all of that. I knew there was a struggle there.

I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed and, even though I would’ve said our marriage was idyllic, there were signs that I’d ignored. I spent many, many, many years crying out to God for my husband, that he would turn from that. For a long, long, long, long time it seemed like that prayer wasn’t being answered. It had to get really bad before it finally did change.

It had to get to the point where he was repeatedly unfaithful in really, really, really horrible ways, but he did, eventually, change. If someone would’ve told me 10 years ago, I would’ve said what you said, “My husband hasn’t changed.”

Anne: You just think like, “How bad would it have to get?” Like for my ex, it’s really bad, and he hasn’t changed yet. That is my hope for those of us whose husbands are not showing any signs of change. Then those boundaries are our only option. In my case, I really would love for him to change.

Emotional Abuse Causes A Traumatic Response

Actually, I would be open to him coming back and having our family be whole again, if he were capable of doing that, but I lost hope in him, while I have also increased my faith and hope in God. Which has been an interesting journey. Letting go of that idol of the marriage, or letting go of that idol of my husband, and putting it in God. God put me on this path.

I want to talk for just a second about the emotional abuse that pornography users frequently exhibit. Before you found out about your husband’s addiction, you perceived it as the ideal marriage with a few red flags that you discounted. Now, living with your husband in recovery, when you look back on his behaviors, do they look different now? Do they seem a lot worse than they did at the time?

Esther: Oh, my goodness, yes. Actually, I have a whole post on this. It’s called, “How to Know if Recovery is Real.” For all those years, he would tell me, “I did struggle with pornography, but I’ve quit.” Every time that he got caught, it was, “Okay, this is it. This is it. This is it.” I remember thinking, “How will I ever know if it really is real, because it’s just a matter of time before I find it again?”

Trauma From Infidelity Can Be Healed But It Takes Work

Now, now I know how I’ll know if it’s real, because everything changes. Everything changes. He is a totally different person. Yes, now I look back and see, like you said, abuse. It was an abusive relationship before. Even though I didn’t feel like it was, now, in hindsight, I can see that the manipulative ways that they communicate, and the lies, and then all the—I don’t know what the right word is, but the tactics, maybe, to deflect from those lies and to keep us where they want us.

It was downright abusive, but now I see the fruits of the Spirit. He’s loving. His love, it doesn’t just flow to me, it flows to everyone. He has started seeing people in a way he never did before. Just this past weekend, we had people over from his work for dinner, because he felt this call from God to have these people over for dinner.

So he did, and we sat there all evening talking with this couple. He wasn’t just looking for an opportunity to tell his next great story. He was listening to them. He was interested in them. It was love. Love flowed out of him. He’s at peace. That’s huge. Before, everything was so not peaceful.

Anne: Right, chaos.

What Does Recovery Look Like After Betrayal Trauma?

Esther: Now there’s peace. Yeah, chaos, exactly, chaotic. He, I think, looked for conspiracies everywhere. Always felt like everyone was out to get him. There was this—yeah, kind of craziness about him sometimes, where now there’s peace. He’s trusting God. When things happen at work that feel like, “Oh, do these people not like me? Are they out to get me?” he’s like, “You know what, God’s in control, so whatever happens, it’s going to be okay.”

He’s not obsessing about it, he’s just leaving it in God’s hands. That’s peace, and it wasn’t there before. Patient, kind, good—that’s a big one—faithful—don’t get me started on that one. Faithful is obviously a big one, but, yeah, he’s faithful in ways he never was before. Not just sexually faithful, but faithful in all ways. He’s gentle with me in ways he never was before.

He’s interested in what I’m doing. I’m not here just to serve him. He rushed home from work today to set all this up, so that I could sound professional on this podcast with all the right equipment and everything. He’s interested in me, he’s taking care of me, instead of me just being here to take care of him.

Betrayal Abuse Is A Form Of Relational Control

Anne: We’re looking for four things: accountability, honesty, humility, and a willingness to surrender to God’s will. Without those things, they cannot recover, or they are not in recovery without those things. Us too, recovering from betrayal trauma, even though its not our fault, we didn’t cause anything, is like recovering from a terrible accident. The way out is the same thing, honesty, and a willingness to surrender to God’s will.

God’s will is awesome. He wants us to be safe. He wants us to be loved. He wants us to have a wonderful, loving relationship. That is the purpose of marriage. It is not to be abused. I’m so interested in bringing this to light, of so many people who think their marriages are ideal, and then, later, when they look back, when they’re in recovery, realize, “Wow, no. It was an abusive situation.”

I was the same way. I was being abused for seven years. My husband was arrested for domestic violence. At the time he was arrested, it took me a few weeks to realize, “Wait a minute, he really is abusive.” For about three weeks after, I thought, “No, this is my wonderful, loving husband.” It’s so hard to wrap your head around abuse.

How Healing From Trauma Begins With Hope

That’s one of the things that I’m really trying to help people understand are the correlations between pornography use and abuse, because the world just thinks, “Wow, pornography. It doesn’t hurt anyone or anything.” If women know when someone’s using pornography, there’s always going to be some element of abuse. It might not seem extreme. It might be very subtle, but there’s always some element of abuse happening. I think it helps us have the confidence to set those boundaries that we need to set to be safe.

Esther: Right, definitely.

Anne: Esther, thank you so much for coming on today. Again, for those of you interested in hearing more about her story, or the “Ah-ha” moments that Esther has as she studies the scriptures, her blog is You can find links to it from our site

Esther: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you having me. Anne, it was awesome. Thank you, also, for what you do.

Why Does Trauma Feel So Isolating?

Anne: Please visit to learn more about what you need. The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club and support calls, and also what you need to know, the classes that we have available. Coming up soon will be Coach Sarah’s class, called Healing Your Self-worth. Coach Rae, has changed her name to Coach Gaelen, and so Coach Gaelen will be doing How do I Protect and Heal my Children, with Dr. Jill Manning on April 14th. We have spots left there.

We have some women registered for the Separation and Reconciliation: How do I Reconcile, if I want to? All the different classes are available from our Services page. Just go to Services and scroll down, and click on Classes, and you can see all of the options. I’m so grateful for all your donations that have made the website possible.

We’ve had lots of hacking problems and just tons of problems that we did not anticipate, so, if you are able to donate, we would really appreciate your donations right now, to make sure that this website is secure, and its robust for all of the things that we need to make Betrayal Trauma Recovery a worldwide organization that helps women establish safety in their lives. If this podcast is helpful to you, please rate it on iTunes. Also, it would help us if you came to our website and commented on our articles. All the interaction that you do, either by way of rating something, or commenting, increases our search engine rankings and helps women find us. Also, when you register for a course, if you feel comfortable, post it in a secret Facebook group. It doesn’t have to be a BTR Facebook group, it could be any secret Facebook group that you’re a part of. Say, “Hey, I’ve signed up for Understanding and Managing Triggers at BTR. Join me, I’m excited about this course.” That way, women can find out about the classes that we have and get to safety. Until next week, stay safe out there.



3 Reasons Finding Out What Happened Never Helps You

Anne:     Ashley, I’m going to let you introduce the topic for today and talk about what you did, and how it affected you.

Ashley:  I discovered my husband’s addiction shortly after we were married, and I was, obviously, devastated and completely traumatized. He had withheld things from me and lied to me. That created a distrust in our relationship and caused me to question everything that he had ever told me, that I had ever experienced with him. I just, from the beginning, could not stop looking through his computer and through his phone and, really, any device, anything that I could verify or find information on, I would search into the late hours of the night and into the morning. That was just a response to my trauma and I’ve learned since then that it’s not useful. It has not helped me and it really only harmed me and caused me further pain.

Anne:     I want to contrast your story with the story of many women that I’ve spoken with, who have said, “I had this impression that I needed to check his phone, and I checked it and I realized he was having an affair,” or, “I had this impression that I needed to look at his computer and I looked at the computer and I saw this.”

What Are Safety-Seeking Behaviors?

Ashley:  Yeah.

Anne:     In some cases, women really benefit from a safety-seeking behavior, and in some cases it starts driving them crazy and really keeps them in the abuse cycle. Today, we’re going to focus on when it is unhealthy.

Ashley:  Right, right.

Anne:     I also want to cover why we call these safety-seeking behaviors as opposed to co-dependent behaviors. At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we use the trauma model, meaning, once you’ve experienced trauma, you are trying to create safety in your life again. We do not believe in the co-dependent model. Some people are co-dependent, and they’ve been co-dependent for a long time. They were co-dependent with their friends in junior high. They’re co-dependent with their family members. If you’re not co-dependent with anyone else, and you’ve never acted co-dependent before, and then you found out about your husband’s addiction and suddenly someone’s telling you you’re co-dependent. No, you are doing safety-seeking behaviors, trying to establish safety in your life again. The purpose of BTR is to actually help women establish safety. A lot of the time, when women are obsessively checking their husband’s computers or phones, that’s not helping them actually establish safety, even though that’s their goal. Would you say that that’s what you were looking for at the time?

Why Its Important To Feel Safe

Ashley:  Yes, for me, it was the only tool I had at the time. I didn’t have any recovery resources, and I was just trying my hardest to, like you were saying, establish safety with the little amount of knowledge that I had, and that was the only thing I knew how to do.

Anne:     Yet, those behaviors didn’t get you safety.

Ashley: No. That’s correct, they did not provide me with the safety that I was desperately seeking.

Anne:     In your case, Ashley, you’re telling me it drove you crazy. What were the three reasons why this was an unhealthy thing for you to do?

Ashley:  For me, the three reasons that searching my husband’s computer was not helpful, number one, it doesn’t solve the problem. Number two, it made me feel absolutely crazy, and I lost trust in my own intuition and my own self. Number three, it kept the focus on him and prevented me from creating and establishing safety for myself.

Why Safety-Seeking Doesn’t Help In Recovery

Anne:     Let’s talk about that first reason for you. Why did it not solve the problem?

Ashley:  It did not solve the problem because, even if I found evidence of something and then confronted him about it, he would deny it and gaslight me. That was not motivation for him to change. It would just be me showing him these things, or I couldn’t find anything. Because I wasn’t listening to my own intuition, I was looking for the cold hard evidence and trying to convince him and trying to explain to him and trying to show him the reasons why he needs to get help and to change, instead of looking to myself and saying, “What do I need to feel safe?”

Anne:     I can see why this wouldn’t solve the problem. Because it’s kind of like talking to a two-year-old. “Okay, please don’t throw the food on the floor.” They do not say to you, “Oh, you are right, I was showing the food on the floor. That is inappropriate, I am so sorry. I will never do that again.”

Ask Yourself “What Do I Need To Feel Safe?”

Ashley:  Right, exactly.

Anne:     Two-year-olds don’t say that. The way that they react is not any reasonable mature fashion. Even when you presented him with evidence, it’s not like he said, “Oh, yeah, here’s the evidence. Facts are facts, and now I will stop lying.”

Ashley:  Right, it’s not logical. You can’t reason with addict-mode.

Anne:     Because of that, that probably is exactly why you have the second reason, which is you started to feel crazy.

Ashley:  Yes. For a year and a half, I searched my husband’s phone and computer, and I tracked him on his devices, trying to find something because my gut kept telling me, “Something is off.” I just continually had this feeling of, “Something is not right. He’s not telling me the full truth about something.” I could not shake this feeling. I would confront him and say, “Hey, I have this feeling that something is off, and you’re withholding information from me.” He would say, “No, everything’s fine.” I would just think, “Okay, but why am I having this feeling.” Instead of trusting myself and making boundaries for safety, I would search everything. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I found nothing. That just made me feel crazy, because I had this conflicting feeling with the evidence that I was—or lack of evidence, I should say, that I was not finding on the computer, or on whatever device. It was a very confusing and crazy feeling to look for something that you feel like should be there, and it’s not.

How Trusting Yourself Increases Safety

Anne:     At the time, I assume that his behaviors were emotionally unsafe.

Ashley:  Correct, they were.

Anne:     Were you thinking, “Okay, there’s got to be a reason for why his behaviors are emotionally unsafe”? Did you even have words for that at the time? Looking back now, hindsight is always 20/20, can you see they were unhealthy?

Ashley:  Those were little flags that were popping up in my mind saying like, “Okay, someone who’s working recovery actively, I don’t feel like they should be doing this, or saying this, or acting this way, or treating me this way.” I would have these flags come up. That’s when I would confront him. The evidence that I was ignoring, at the time, was the emotional abuse and the irresponsible behaviors

Emotional Abuse Indicates Unsafe Behaviors

Anne:     Did you know you were being emotionally abused at the time?

Ashley:  I don’t think I would have, at the time, labeled it as emotional abuse, because I was so early in my recovery and in my healing process that I was just barely learning about boundaries. I knew it was not right, but I just made excuses and I bargained and tried to rationalize it, and make sense of it, but, yes, it was emotional abuse that I’m not sure I was completely aware of at the time.

Anne:     A lot of people don’t understand that when you’re being emotionally abused, you don’t know it.

Ashley:  Right.

Establishing Safe Boundaries Is Essential In Healing

Anne:     So many people say, “Why doesn’t she get out,” or whatever. You’re like, “Because I didn’t know.” Which takes us to your reason three that searching his computer and searching his phone kept you focused on him and didn’t allow you to establish emotional safety in your life.

Ashley:  When I was obsessed with looking through his history in his computer and trying to find evidence, I spent so much emotional energy on that, that I was neglecting myself and not doing self-care and not creating boundaries, and doing the things that would provide real, lasting safety for myself. As I started to learn about boundaries and what that really meant, and what a healthy boundary was, I just played around with it a little bit. I was still learning. I didn’t know how to implement a healthy boundary completely, so I would try. I had this little glimpse of feeling safe-like and empowered. I felt like, “Oh, maybe this is what safety is, and maybe I don’t need these behaviors. I don’t need to search these things, I can just create boundaries.” I would start to make some boundaries, and I would break my own boundaries. I didn’t know how to make a healthy boundary, so I’d make a controlling statement. Over time, as I began to create healthy boundaries consistently, I began to experience real safety. I could feel the difference. When I look back, I don’t know how I made it through that time of chaos and dysfunction. The moment when I created firm, healthy boundaries, and I felt that peace and that assurance and that safety, it was just a turning-point for me and for my recovery.

How Safety-Seeking Behaviors Can Be Self-Sabotaging

Anne:     For example, me, I told mine that if he looked at porn, I would divorce him, before I got married. I set a boundary before I even knew he was a porn addict. Then, when I found out that he looked at porn, it was like, “Wait a minute, I don’t want to just immediately file for divorce. Whoa, wait, how do I do this?” I was so confused. Many women say, “One of my boundaries is that I have to have access to his computer.” Then they say that’s one of their boundaries, “And that I get to check his cookies, and that I get to check his phone. That’s my boundary.” Can you share with me the boundary that you set where you actually started to feel safe? Because we know that that “boundary” of “I have to be able to check his phone” is not really what we’re talking about here.

Ashley:  Right, that will not provide safety. The first boundary I remember setting and holding, that provided safety for me, was actually not sleeping in the bed with him, because I did not feel safe. Not because he was looking at porn, I could prove it, but just because he was not emotionally safe for me, and that was enough for me to say, “I’m not going to sleep in the bed with you.” Eventually, that led to me creating a boundary that in my home I needed to feel safe. Part of that, for me, was having a husband who would be completely honest with me and would be actively working recovery. When I made that boundary, I was ready to hold it. I had said that many times. Then, just two weeks after, I did find out that he had lied to me about something, I knew at that moment that I needed to, and I wanted to hold the boundary. I did, and I asked him to move out. That created the most safety that I had felt during our marriage, was asking him to move out, and having my home be a safe haven for me. At the time, I can say with confidence that I was not doing it in order to manipulate him into doing certain things. I could feel the difference between the control—

Anne:     And the safety.

Ashley:  Yes, yeah.

Safety Starts With Setting Boundaries

Anne:     When I started doing that, I could feel it too. For me, I never set a boundary before the judge set the boundary for me, and the police.

Ashley:  Right.

Anne:     It was a God-given boundary of no-contact when he was arrested, and the judge said, “You have a no-contact boundary.” I could’ve broken it, but I was like, “Whoa, this is what I need to do.” I felt safe for the first time. It was amazing, just that peace that came that I could go home and [inhales] I could breathe, having that safe space. The key to setting boundaries is safety. How can I feel safe? You don’t always have to tell the person what that is, and you don’t always have to decide what it is beforehand, because you cannot decide a boundary for every single thing that happens. You might not know that he’s going to throw a shoe at you, for example. You couldn’t, beforehand, say, “Okay, if anyone throws shoes at me, this will be my boundary.”

Ashley:  Right.

Anne:     It would be, at the time, thinking, “I feel very unsafe. This is what I will do in order to feel safe again. I’m going to call the police,” or whatever it is that you decide. Having a community around you to help set these boundaries is super important, because without having a sponsor or a support person—now, I know Ashley really well, so I know that she works SALifeline 12-step for betrayal trauma and her qualified professional was really helping her decide which boundaries were safe for her. Do you think you could’ve set boundaries as well as you did without your sponsor and your qualified professional?

Feeling Safe Begins With Healthy Boundaries

Ashley:  No, definitely not. Absolutely not, no. I’ve gone 20-something years without any boundaries in my life or learning how to set boundaries or what a boundary is. I didn’t even understand that concept of boundaries for so long that I needed someone to guide me and to show me what a healthy boundary looked like, because there’s no way I would’ve learned to do that on my own. I was lost, completely, in the beginning. I needed to see examples of boundaries. I needed to see examples of women making and holding boundaries. I needed someone to listen to me talk through boundaries and allow me to contemplate on whether or not they were healthy boundaries that provided safety, or if they were manipulative statements to control.

Anne:     In this case, the control was all motivated by a desire for safety.

Ashley:  Absolutely, yes.

Anne:     Not just because you’re just a controlling person, right?

How Feeling Secure And Safe Helps With Recovery

Ashley:  Oh, no, no. I was trying to control my environment so that I could feel safe and secure.

Anne:     Exactly, exactly, which trauma survivors do. That is okay, and it’s totally natural. I don’t ever want any of our listeners to feel guilty about these things, but just how can we move toward actual safety, rather than spinning our wheels trying to get safety, but not getting anywhere, right.

Ashley:  Right.

Anne:     Ashley, for our listeners who are right now obsessively checking their husband’s phones and computers, what advice would you have for them?

Ashley:  In my experience, those behaviors of searching through my husband’s devices and tracking where he is, and constantly being on alert never brought me real safety and stabilization in my life. The only thing that created stability for me was making and holding healthy boundaries and learning about boundaries from the beginning. Educating myself about what boundaries are and what they look like, and what they don’t look like, and then interacting with other women who are in similar situations, but maybe are a few steps ahead of me. That really helped me to, again, creating safety for myself, instead of seeking it out by controlling my environment or by searching continually through my husband’s computer. If you have not yet met with one of the BTR APSATs coaches, I highly encourage you to do so. They will be able to help you create these boundaries that will provide safety for you in your relationship and in your life.

Being Safe With Healthy Boundaries Leads To Stability

Anne:     Well, Ashley, thank you so much for coming on to talk about that rough spot in your life, where you obsessively checked your husband’s phone and computer. Thank you, Ashley, for coming on. Ashley’s in our community a lot sharing her experience, strength and hope. I am so grateful to know her.

Ashley:  Thanks, Anne.

Anne:     Our new website is launched, and it is still under construction. I want to thank those of you who have donated to make that possible. If you go to the Services page now, you can see that we have three major offerings. We have the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club, which is client-led sessions every weekday. There’s no topic assigned, there’s a check-in process. You can look at the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club session format to see how the sessions are run. After the check-in, women can talk about whatever is happening to them right then, and what topic they need to talk about. It’s client-led. Then we have support calls, and then we have classes. A specific topic, that women need extra support on, like our Setting and Holding Healthy Boundaries class, or Detecting and Confronting Gaslighting. If you’re a member of Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club, you get discounts on support call packages. What we recommend for every single woman is to join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club, purchase a 12-support call package, and then, I think every woman needs to take How to Heal: The Stages of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, Emotional Abuse: Is It Really Happening to Me, Detecting and Confronting Gaslighting, and Setting and Holding Healthy Boundaries. Those four classes are the essential fundamental things that every single woman needs. After that, there’s different types of classes like Therapeutic Disclosures and Polygraphs, Separation and Reconciliation, Relapse Preparedness, a divorce class. All of those are listed on our Services page. We’ve set up the new website to try and help women understand the different services we have, and how they build on each other, and how they work together to provide you with a very well-rounded recovery experience that can support you while you’re getting all the education, the validation, and the tools that you need to recover. Until next week, stay safe out there.

How To Rebuild Confidence In Your Marketable Skills

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

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

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

How Joining The Workforce Can Help Self-Confidence

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

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

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

How To Handle Negative Emotions About Self-Esteem

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

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

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

How Your Passion Can Build Your Confidence

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

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

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

Increase Self-Esteem Through Skill Development

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

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

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

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

Being Marketable Is A Self-Esteem Builder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Self-Confidence Is Contagious

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

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

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

Volunteer Work Can Build Self-Confidence

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

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

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

How Your Skills Can Help Others With Self-Esteem

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

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

Being Flexible and Resourceful Is Essential To Self-Sufficency

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

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

How Life Experience Can Increase Self-Confidence

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

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

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

Working Can Help With Healing And Self-Worth

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

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

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

The Workforce Can Be Empowering For Self-Esteem

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

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

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

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

Skill Building Is An Essential Part Of Self-Confidence

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

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

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

Forming Healthy Connections At Work Can Help Self-Esteem

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

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

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

Learning Marketable Skills Can Increase Self-Worth 

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

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

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

Thriving In The Workplace Starts With A Healthy Self-Outlook

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

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

Gain Confidence Through Developing Skills In The Workforce

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

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

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

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

Working Can Be Empowering For Self-Healing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Trauma Effects Functioning

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

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

Anne: You were about 30 at the time?

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

Anne: Were you married before this?

Florence: I was.

Anne: You had children?

Florence: I was, I had two—

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

Betrayal Is A Form Of Abuse

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

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

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

What Is The Abusive Cycle?

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

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

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

How Does Abuse Stay Hidden?

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

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

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

What Is Betrayal Trauma?

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

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

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

How To Deal With Trauma And Abuse

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

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

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

Trauma Is Not Easy To Live With

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

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

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

How Connection Can Help With Trauma

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

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

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

Why Abuse Is So Misunderstood

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

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

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

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

What To Do For Betrayal Trauma

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

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

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

Determined To Rise Above The Lies, Infidelity & Abuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider Making A Donation

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

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

We Recommend Covenant Eyes Accountability and Internet Filtering on Each Device

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Crisis In The Face Of Betrayal

Spiritual Fracture Caused by Betrayal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Does A Spiritual Crisis Impact Families?

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

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

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

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

Anne: Welcome, Natalie and Carmel.

Natalie: Thank you.

Carmel: Thank you.

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

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

How Normal Emotions After Betrayal Can Lead To Spiritual Crisis

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

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

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

Is A Spiritual Crisis Common After Experiencing Betrayal?

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

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

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

What Is A Spiritual Fracture?

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

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

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

How Spousal Betrayal Often Leads To Spiritual Trauma

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

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

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

How To Trust God Again After A Faith Crisis

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

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

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

Covenant Eyes

How To Build Faith After A Spiritual Fracture

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

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

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

Why A Spiritual Fracture is Comprehensive

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

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

Carmel: Right.

Natalie: Correct.

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

How Does Addict Accountability Help In A Spiritual Crisis?

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

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

Natalie: Yeah.

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

Natalie: Right.

How Untrained Clergy Leads Women Into Spiritual Fracture After Betrayal

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

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

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

Carmel: Oh, wow.

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

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

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

How The Forgiveness Paradigm Impacts A Spiritual Crisis

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

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

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

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How Peace Can Be Felt In A Faith Crisis

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

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

Carmel: Yes.

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

Natalie: Right.

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

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

Natalie: Absolutely.

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

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

Anne: Financially, for example.

How Healing Can Happen After Betrayal And Spiritual Fracture

Carmel: It does just take time.

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

Natalie: No.

Carmel: No.

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

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

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.

Knowing What To Do And Why



Most women think, “What do I do?” when they discover porn on their husband’s phone or their husband rages at them. This checklist is a proven path to an emotionally safe relationship. My goal is that every woman has access to this check list when they:

  • discover porn on their husband’s phone.
  • experience a strange conversation with their husband where things just don’t make sense.
  • have a feeling in their gut that something isn’t right.

For those of us who wasted years stuck in the cycles of our husband’s abuse / addiction, this checklist would have given us back years of our lives. It’s the only way to a peaceful and safe home.

My hope is that every woman will have access to this checklist and learn about the concepts taught here.

The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Checklist

 Because lies, manipulation, gaslighting, emotional abuse, and narcissistic traits are common for users of pornography, begin to think about what it means to be emotionally safe. Get educated by listening to the Betrayal Trauma Recovery (BTR) Podcast. Consider sharing your situation with safe people. Someone who tells you outright or implies that there is something (anything) you can do to change your husband or “help” him is not safe. “What did you do to set him off?” is a typical statement from an unsafe person.

⃞ Make a daily self-care plan. Start small! Step outside and take a breath of fresh air. Get the nutrition and sleep you need. Focus on meeting your own emotional, physical, mental and spiritual needs — and allow yourself to receive love, validation, and answers from safe and supportive people.

⃞ Schedule an appointment with your gynecologist, OB or midwife to be tested for all STD’s, even if your husband tells you he’s only used pornography. Request a full-panel STD workup every year with your annual physical. We understand that this step can be emotionally overwhelming or horrifying. However, it will provide you with objective, direct, and potentially life-saving information.

⃞ Read / listen to the following books & podcasts:

 Determine your level of emotional safety. Establish a support network by identifying the safe people upon whom you can rely. Schedule a support call with an APSATS-trained Betrayal Trauma Recovery Coach who can help you to determine your next steps, based on your individual situation. If possible, join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club and/or a BTR Support Group for consistent support.

 Avoid attempting to identify the cause of your husband’s problematic behaviors. As you lean into your recovery from betrayal trauma, you’ll likely find that understanding the source of his behaviors (shame, trauma, personality disorders, addiction, etc) don’t make a significant difference in how those behaviors affect you — nor will it empower you to change, undo or minimize its traumatic impact. For too many women, seeking to “help” your husband figure out the source of his behaviors while those behaviors are still present only keeps you in harm’s way.

⃞ Move toward establishing an “emotionally safe home zone” as soon as possible. Unlike seeking to understand the source of your husband’s behaviors, this priority goal actually WILL make a big difference! In most cases, this means needing your husband to become 100% honest with you and everyone else within his community of support. He needs to be accountable, stop his problematic behaviors completely, and make restitution to those he has harmed — beginning with you and your children. If/when your husband can make and maintain those changes without resentment toward you, that’s a sign that he is capable of sharing your “emotionally safe home zone.”

 Recognize that couples therapy is rarely the right place to start. Here at BTR, we recognize that, in cases involving porn use and abuse, there are NOT “two sides of the story” — there is only truth. We know that pornography use is NOT a “couples issue”. Emotional abuse is NOT a “communication breakdown”. Too many professionals prematurely attempt to provide couple therapy without first holding your husband accountable for his porn use and abuse, thereby minimizing the seriousness of his behavior. In the interim, consider communicating with your husband’s therapist or coach only to report specific violations of problematic behaviors and recovery commitments. 

⃞ Begin to think about boundaries that support your need for emotionally safe space, even temporarily. Though your situation is unique to you, many betrayal trauma survivors need boundaries such as:
Abstain from sex
Detach from abusive and manipulative conversations
Sleep / live in separate parts of the house
Explore a temporary or indefinite separation
• Choose to limit or eliminate all contact for a period of time
• Allocate time, energy and money toward your own healing, not just toward his recovery
Request a therapeutic polygraph, ideally in conjunction with a complete therapeutic disclosure
*BTR does not advocate for divorce. BTR’s aim is to help clients establish emotional safety for yourselves and your children, in whatever form that takes.

 Set appropriate boundaries while waiting for your husband to show these signs of recovery:

  • Honesty and humility
  • A willingness to meet your needs without anger, resentment, or retaliation
  • Accountability for his secret infidelity (lies, porn use, and masturbation) and emotional abuse (deception, manipulation, gaslighting)
  • Clear restitution for his lies, infidelity, and abuse

  Be gentle with yourself. As a betrayal trauma survivor, recognize that even your “baby steps” count! When the pain is intense and survival feels overwhelming, remember that an entire army of other women have survived this experience—and YOU WILL TOO. We know, because we’ve been there, and we believe in you!

For support implementing this checklist, join a support group or schedule a support call today.


Here are downloadable PDF’s for you to print. Because many women experiencing betrayal trauma struggle with finances, we have found these PDF’s help when approaching church leaders or businesses to ask for donations to BTR on your behalf, so you can receive these proven services. BTR is a nonprofit 510(c)(3) and donations are tax deductible.

How To Heal – Stages Of Betrayal Trauma Healing

2.5 Hour Class
Led By Coach Cat
Saturday 1PM Eastern (USA)
Limited to 12 participants (minimum 6)

Discovering and recovering from the reality that your husband or partner is a secret porn or sex addict opens up a whole range of unwanted and disturbing emotions many of which seem overwhelming and confusing. In the midst of these emotions we often wonder “what the heck is WRONG with me?”, even when we’ve been healing for a while!

We can feel seriously crazy and may even be told that we are! In fact, what we’re experiencing is, most often, entirely NORMAL.

Viktor Frankl, who survived the Nazi concentration camps was quoted as saying that “an abnormal response to an abnormal situation is normal behaviour”.

For many women, understanding their responses as trauma and becoming educated on the topic, is the first and most important step they take on their healing journey.

This group will:

  • Give you an important sense of validation and understanding, whatever your stage of healing.
  • Explain the basics and beyond of betrayal trauma.
  • Help you begin to develop language for the experience you are having.
  • explain what you can expect in each of the different stages of healing.
  • Provide a framework of healing that creates some safety through structure.

Questions? Email Coach Cat at

So many women, they find out about their husband’s porn addiction, or they suspect they’re being abused, and they start to wonder how to heal, what do I do, where do I go from here.

Coach Cat is going to cover what betrayal trauma is, what the symptoms are, the complications and factors that affect the severity of your betrayal trauma, you know, looking at the PTSD and CPSD aspects of it, and a deeper look at the healing stages, and what you might need in each of those stages, also the help that’s available. It’s a really good one-session group that will help you to know where to go from here.

The value is that it’s all in one place, and it will offer you an opportunity to make the concepts of betrayal trauma real for you, rather than just being these ideas. It’s very interactive, so you’ll be able to ask your questions. To find out the details about the support group, “So I have Betrayal Trauma, What Now?” go to, click on the Services page. That will take you to the details of this group, or you can click on Schedule and Join to just go ahead and join.

Anne: Now, we welcome Coach Cat.

Coach Cat: Happy New Year, everybody.

Anne: Coach Cat and I have been talking about my recovery process, and how there were so many times along the journey, and still now, since I’m still in recovery, I’m still finding out things, and you’re hearing about my recovery in real-time, that I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

What Does It Mean To “Be In Recovery”?

There was a long period of time where I thought I was in recovery, and I actually wasn’t. I didn’t’ know what boundaries were. I didn’t know the healing stages. There are so many things that I didn’t understand. Coach Cat, why is it important for women to know where they are in the healing process?

Coach Cat: It’s really important that women have a sense of where they are on this journey. I think, a lot of women really recognize they’re recovering from betrayal trauma is not an event, it’s not something that just happens on one day, or in one week. Actually, to have a sense of whereabouts on that journey they are, can really help them to understand what still needs to be done, what stuff they can relax and feel confident about.

Women find it really empowering, once they understand what is still to come, to then decide how they want to approach that ongoing, and continuing healing. Understanding your stage of the journey, what’s still to come, and what’s gone—although, it’s not quite as linear as that might sound, is really empowering for women to take those next steps.

Anne: The really important thing is to know what the stages are, and how you fit into those stages. Like you said, it’s not linear. In order to have a very effective recovery, I think it’s important to have a structure, which is what APSATS provides us with. Can you talk about the Multi-Dimensional Trauma Model that APSATS developed?

Giving Your Recovery Structure

Coach Cat: You’ve hit on, really, the keyword to summarize what it is that the Trauma Model, according to APSATS, offers. It’s a structured approach to healing. We know that, when we’re in a state of trauma, actually, anything that provides a bit of structure, and safety, starts to put us on that road to healing straight away.

The three-stage approach to healing, which I’ll unpack in detail in the group, is actually a really helpful way for women to feel like they can identify the steps that they need to take, and to feel like they have some safety within that structure. It’s a really important approach, inasmuch as it’s a well-worn, well-trodden, well-practiced path to healing.

You’re not trying to walk through an uncharted territory for the first time, by yourself. There are some really well-defined steps, and processes to follow, that have been proven to be successful. That’s why I love the APSATS model, because there’s nothing hit-or-miss about it, nothing’s left to chance.

In fact, they were developed and adapted from the original trauma healing model of Judith Herman, which was used in a much more broad way, to address all sorts of other traumas too. This isn’t just proven to work with betrayal trauma, but actually, a similar approach is taken with other trauma survivors as well. That’s what I love about the APSATS Multi-Dimensional Partner Trauma Model.

Recovering From An Abusive Relationship Isn’t Linear – But There Is A Proven Structure

Anne: Yeah, and that’s really important. It not being linear, you could be in Stage 1 for a while, then move to Stage 2, then feel like you’re in Stage 3, and then be like, “Wait a minute, I’m not at Stage 3. I thought I was, but, really, I need to go back to Stage 1. I need to establish safety, for example.” That’s what we’re talking about, when we say it’s not linear. You can move back and forth between those stages.

Coach Cat: Right. I tend to think about it, you know, like when you see a watercolor painting, and, sometimes, the edges are blurred. They’re not like a straight edge, or a very well-defined edge. I like to think about the kind of edges between each stage as being a bit like that of a watercolor painting, because there are bits in Stage 1 that cross over into Stage 2.

You might spend a little bit of time on that threshold, where you still have some Stage 1 stuff to work on, but you’re moving into Stage 2. Likewise, between Stages 2 and 3, there’ll be this blurred edge, whereby you’ll be doing a little bit of each thing. Actually, you can be on the precipice of Stage 3 and still have some safety and stabilization stuff to do from the first stage, because things happen that are outside of our control, and triggers will occur.

Gaining Momentum In Recovery

There’s definitely blurred edges between the stages. There’s, also, the sense of building momentum as you go through. You will definitely do, for example, something like trigger management, and understanding difficult emotions in Stage 1 that will be a really important foundational piece to your recovery, and to your healing. That doesn’t mean that, when you get to Stage 2, you don’t have to do that anymore. It just means that you build on top of that, right.

You’ll still do the same stuff in Stage 2 that you did in Stage 1, and you’ll only be able to do the Stage 2 stuff because you did that stuff in Stage 1. That’s the beauty of it, really, is that it’s not about trying to get to the endgame. We recognize that, for many of us, this is actually about integrating this experience, and building that into who we are, and who we want to be for the rest of our life.

Anne: I don’t want that to scare women, because I remember when I started recovery, I thought, “Okay, when I’m done.” I was driving to a support group, and I thought, “Well, once my crisis is over, I’ll stop,” but, hey, I’m two and a half years out. I still love my support group. Now, I plan on going the rest of my life.

I think, at the beginning of recovery, the idea that this is going to be a lifelong process is really scary. What would you say to women who are at that beginning stage where they think, “Wait a minute, I didn’t sign up for this. I don’t want to find out where I am in my healing process, because I don’t want a healing process in the first place. I don’t want a healing journey, I want to be healed.” What would you say to them?

Recovery Is An Exciting Journey Of Growth

Coach Cat: I would say that I totally get it. That’s the first thing that I would say. I would say that I’ve been there, and I know what that feels like, and, “Why do I have to go on a lifelong journey, because he did what he did?” I totally get that. Actually, Anne, one of the things that has always stayed with me, from my own recovery—so, for those of you who don’t know, I have my own recovery from substance addiction, and I’ve been sober for ten years.

I can always remember saying to somebody that I started out running away from a life I didn’t want. I started out running away from the place that I had come from, whatever I needed to do to not go back there, was my motivation. Then, at some point, during the first couple of years of my own recovery journey, I realized that I’d stopped running away. I wasn’t running away from that place I didn’t want to be anymore. I started running to something better.

I’d achieved, somehow, a shift in my perspective that had me no longer running from what was painful, but actually running towards what I could see was better, running towards growth, running towards healing, running towards this better life that I was starting to build for myself. When I think about recovery from anything, whether it’s from trauma, whether it’s from addiction, whether it’s from grief, I tend to think about it in those terms.

Whilst it may seem unfair that we’re on this lifelong journey, that isn’t a lifelong journey of just avoiding pain. At some point, we will make a shift, and realize that, actually, we’re no longer running away from where we came from, but we’re running to this better life that we are now starting to build for ourselves.

The clients that I’ve worked with, who have progressed through that healing journey, will testify to that, and they will say that they now know things about themselves that they didn’t know before. They are now better parents than they were before. They’re better able to have conversations with their children about emotional stability, and expression, and things that they weren’t able to do before, because they didn’t know what they didn’t know, which is what you said earlier on.

I get that it’s not fair that I have to go on a lifelong journey. I know that feeling of, “Why do I have to do that?” Yet, I would say to not think about it in terms of, “I have to go on a journey just to not hurt.” Actually, there is a whole world of discovery for women who are healing from betrayal trauma. At some point, it stops being a chore, and starts becoming more about a way of life, and moving towards something better.

Shifting From Running From Pain To Growing Toward The Life We Want

Anne: I felt that shift with my recovery. I felt a shift from trying to manage the sadness, and manage the grief, and manage the triggers, to now, where I’m working with a coach to build the life I want, right. For me, it took about two years slogging through the grief and the pain. Now I feel like I’m on the other side of that, but I still have so much work to do. I can see my goals, and I am now, excitedly, working toward them. That’s why we wanted to do this group at the beginning of the year.

Coach Cat: This group will offer, at the start of the year, as both—it offers an opportunity to assess where you’re at, and that’s great for everybody. Wherever you are, however long you’ve been doing this recovery thing, getting a benchmark as to where you might be in that process, can be a really helpful thing, to help you to think about, as we’ve already said, what might need to come next.

This is also a really great opportunity for women who are new on this journey, and who are in that stage where they just feel like everything is crazy, they don’t understand why they’re feeling the way that they’re feeling. This can really help them to get that sense of empowerment, and of validation that only comes from being around people who get what you’re going through.

Support Groups For Women Recovering From Trauma & Abuse

This group is great for everybody. This will help women to really capitalize on the progress they’ve already made, and to bolster where they’re at, or to use this as a bit of a launchpad to work out what is the next step that they need to take. The other thing that is really important to me about women understanding what betrayal trauma looks like for them, is that it gives them the opportunity to learn how to advocate for themselves.

One of the most upsetting things, that I hear over and over again, is the women who’ve been damaged and hurt when they’ve reached out for help. I really feel like it’s important that women understand exactly what it is that they’re healing from, so that, when they go to seek help with that healing from a professional, from a therapist, from a church or religious leader, from whoever it is that they go and seek that support from, they can go in form.

When somebody gives them that rubbish piece of advice, when somebody tells them to do that thing that they think is going to help, that really isn’t, they’re going in with enough education to be able advocate for themselves, and to really understand what it is that they need to support their own healing.

Anne: Cat, thanks for being here today. For all of you who want to register for Cat’s group, go to, click on Schedule and Join, and you’ll be able to see the exact details of that group. Thanks so much for being here, Cat.

Coach Cat: Thanks for having me, Anne, it’s always great to talk to you. I’ll look forward to seeing all of you listeners in the group.

Anne: I have amazing news. On December 31st, we had 19,000 RSS subscribers, and that’s because of you. Our community is amazing, and so many women are finding us, and listening to this podcast, and getting the help they need. We so appreciate you helping get the word out by commenting on our website, giving ratings on iTunes, any way that you can help us get the word out about BTR is so helpful.

We have so many women who say, “Wow, if I would’ve found this ten years ago, I would be in so much better shape.” We want every woman who needs to find it now to be able to find it. If you go to our website, and go to the Services page, you’ll see the new lineup of support groups. We have 17 different amazing groups from gaslighting to therapeutic separation, to a divorce group. Whatever group you need at this stage, that you’re in now, you can go ahead and register for it. When it fills, that group will start.

Register, then tell your friends, post it in the BTR secret Facebook group, or any other secret Facebook group you’re a part of, “Hey, I just registered for Understanding Triggers,” or, “I just registered for Sara’s Boundaries group.” Post the link in there, so other women can find it.

Whatever you feel like you need right now, you can post it inside of the Facebook groups that you’re in, and see if other women want to join. That way, you can get the support that you need, based on the specific group that you need, when you need it, and when other women need it too. Because, chances are, if you really need a support group right now about boundaries, than other women do too.

Because we cap our groups at six, and then we cap our one-session groups, and our workbook study groups at 12, it won’t take that many women to start your group. Check that out, find the group you need, register, tell your friends, post about it in your groups, and we’ll get it started right away. Also, the first participants who register for the group, get to choose the day and time that it runs. That’s another advantage of registering, and then letting your friends know.

I am so grateful to be on this recovery journey with you. I’m honored. The women that I meet every day amaze me. I met an amazing woman last night, who told me her story, and didn’t recognize that she had been abused for 12 years, and also did not recognize that the behaviors that she was seeing were consistent with pornography use.

Seeing her face, when she realized, “Wait a minute, whoa. You mean I’m not crazy? You mean I’m not a terrible person,” because the porn user/abuser, that’s what he told her for 12 years. I want you to know that you are amazing, that you can have a peaceful and calm life. It takes a while, I’m still trying to establish mine, but we can do it together. Until next week, stay safe out there.

Self Care Challenge: My Bra Fitting With Courtney

*Click here for more information about how to donate your bra to I Support The Girls.

We’re still working on our $5,000.00 goal for the end of the year. If you have donated, thank you so much. For those listeners who have not donated yet, please go to Consider making a monthly donation to support this podcast and all we do here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we really appreciate your financial support.

I had the most amazing experience last week. I went to a bra fitting with Courtney, and she changed my life. I’ve actually been excited to wear a bra, which I haven’t felt in years!

Facing Self Care When It Can Be Triggery

We’re going to talk about self-care today.

Before we talk about it, I want to acknowledge that, during my trauma years, wearing a bra was very difficult for a lot of reasons. Because I was so overwhelmed with everything, for some reason, it expressed itself like I didn’t want to wear a bra, I refused to wear a bra. It stressed me out going shopping for bras.

I am now at the stage where I am working on self-care. I know that some of you are not at that stage yet, and I have been at that—I don’t know what stage to call it, where you’re in your sweat pants, watching Netflix, eating popcorn.

If you’re in that stage, stay there for as long as you need to, and don’t feel guilty about this episode, because I have been there myself. Since I am in this new stage of self-care, and moving forward, I wanted to connect with Courtney, and get a bra-fitting, and really start progressing my healing, and starting to take care of myself.

Anne: Welcome, Courtney.

Courtney: Thanks. Thank you for having me on.

Anne: Courtney runs Bra Fittings by Court, an amazing service that she does to help women who are stressed out, or need help with choosing bras. Courtney, tell me how you discovered that you have such an amazing talent for fitting women.

Courtney: When I was in college, I got a job at Nordstrom in the lingerie department. Little did I know that that job would, literally, change my life. I quickly found that fitting bras is more than selling bras, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Self Care Can Be Very Emotional

There’s a lot of emotion involved in it. It’s an intimate process, you’re seeing women in their most vulnerable state, with their shirt off. I found that I was really good at helping women feel comfortable.

I found that most women were never taught how bras should fit, and that 99% of women are wearing the wrong size bra. I found that I was educating these women on how to dress their bodies, and how to take care of their bosoms. I felt like I was giving back to the world. I felt like I was making a small difference in the world by helping women feel more confident, and beautiful. This is my way to make a small difference in the world.

Anne: I think you’re making a large difference. Like, for me, it made a huge difference. I had such a good time.

Courtney: We did have a good time.

Anne: Getting undressed in front of you, and having you put a bra on me was so healing in so many ways. You know have a bra shop in your home called Bosom Friends.

Courtney: Yes.

Making Sure You Have The Necessities – Like A Bra – Is Self Care

Anne: It’s a beautiful shop, just being in there made me happy. The colors! There’s this big sign on the wall that says, “You’re like, really pretty.” I thought, “Thank you, I really love this.” How does helping women with their bra problems relate to self-care?

Courtney: Most women are busy, they don’t have a lot of time, and so a lot of women hate going bra shopping. Which I completely understand because a lot of places, places like Walmart, Target, Kohls, those places don’t have a large range of sizes. That’s why it’s harder for women.

It’s really stressful, and if you’re already burdened emotionally, going through trauma, that’s the last thing you want to work out is having to do research, because you’re not guaranteed to get somebody to help you that knows what they’re doing.

I’ve recommended some other places to go get fitted, and they went, and they were like, “That was an awful experience.” The reason why is because I feel like a lot of these places, those high turnover, there’s just not the experience that you’d need in a fitter, that can really help people and understand how the different styles of bras are going to fit different women. Bra shopping is overwhelming because there’s so many different components to it.

Anne: I felt like I was being pampered by you.

Courtney: Well, thank you.

Anne: I’ve never felt like that when I went bra shopping. The size that you fitted me in is completely different than any other size I’ve ever thought about. I never would’ve imagined that was my size.

Courtney: Can we talk about your size?

Anne: There’s no way—

Courtney: Do you want to tell them what size you were in, and then what size you are now?

Anne: Yeah. I don’t know what size I was in. What size was I in?

Courtney: You were wearing a 36C.

Anne: Okay, let’s just talk about my bra issues my whole life. I’ve always considered myself very small-chested, which I liked. I’ve never felt like I wanted to be any bigger, or anything, but I don’t fill the cup right, and my straps always fall of, and just the thought of a bra stressed me out.

I have cursed the man who invented corsets way back in the day like, “Why? Why have you done this to us?” Anyway, the bra that Courtney fitted me with—and I don’t even want to say it, because I don’t want to make anyone feel bad, but I feel like it’s the perfect size.

Like if you asked, “What is the most beautiful, perfect size?” You would be this. That’s the one I’m wearing. It was a 32DD. That is amazing. Who has that perfect size? Now I’m like, “Aah!” I wrote in my gratitude journal today, “I am grateful that I have the perfect boobs.”

Courtney: You do. I was telling Anne that, “I wish I was your size, like the perfect size really,” but that’s just me.

Don’t Worry, You Don’t Need The Perfect Bra Size To Deserve To Be Treated Well

Anne: I’m here to tell you that here’s a woman who was abused, and whose husband refused to tell her that she was beautiful, literally. I was like, “I want you to tell me I’m beautiful,” and he said, “No.”

Just awful things that were done to me, and I have the perfect boobs. Don’t think that if you had the perfect size whatever, or if you looked a certain way, that the abuse would stop, or that your husband would stop looking at porn. That is not true.

Courtney: It’s true.

Anne: Everyone should love where they’re at.

Courtney: Of course.

Anne: Also, to accept ourselves where we are, and to know that we’re enough. Having this experience, and going from being emotionally abused, and having trauma for seven years, to the point where I wasn’t wearing bras, where I wasn’t putting makeup on hardly ever, where I just slumped around with my shoulders really slumped forward, because I wasn’t wearing a bra.

Even when I went to the store, or even when I went out of the house, so I didn’t really want to be indecent, so I slumped forward, so I wasn’t scaring everyone with my braless boobs, to being like, “Oh, my word, I am wearing a bra and it is this perfect size for me,” and I am feeling so—I don’t know, empowered almost.

It’s so different for me after seven years—well, almost nine years. I don’t know, I always say my years wrong, depending on when I was in the relationship, and then after the relationship, slumping around feeling like I wanted to take up less space.

“You’re Too Much” Or “You’re Not Enough” Are Common Messages From Abusers

A lot of women, who are abused, they get messages like, “You’re not enough.” The messages I always got were, “You’re too much.” I always just wanted to try and make myself smaller, like I didn’t want to have as many—

Courtney: Or hide yourself. I feel like that’s why you were slumping over, to hide what you—to be invisible. You didn’t want to cause attention, or anything.

Anne: Yeah, totally. This place where I can hold my shoulders back, and hold my head up high, and know that I’m not indecent, because I actually have a bra on, so I’m not scaring anybody. It fit, was just so cool. I’m really excited to be at this point in my healing process.

Now, for our listeners, wherever you are in your healing process, please don’t let this podcast turn you off to the podcast, because I, myself, was in this place of, “I don’t really want to talk about the way I look. I don’t want to talk about the way I eat. I don’t want to talk about exercise. I don’t want to talk about anything right now. The only thing I can do right now is survive,” and so many women are in that stage.

We recommend Covenant Eyes Internet Filtering & Accountability On Every Device

When you want to, and when you feel like coming out of that—and it may take years, it took me years—then a bra-fitting might be a really cool celebration activity for you to throw off the old, and bring in the new. Courtney, why is the bra the most important thing women wear?

Courtney: It does a really hard job. It holds up your bosoms all day long. That’s why they’re so important, because you’re more put-together, your clothes will look better, you can feel more confident, and comfortable doing the things you want to do.

I have a lot of women, who come into my shop, that want to be active. They want to exercise, they want to work on their fitness and their health, but they don’t feel comfortable doing so, because their breast size makes it so that they feel really uncomfortable exercising. They feel like their boobs are flapping in the air, or they’re in the way.

Getting a sports bra that fits them, that can make it so that they can feel comfortable exercising, is life-changing. It really can change women’s lives. That’s why my slogan, on my website, is “I am changing lives on bra-fitting at a time,” because it gives you both the courage, the freedom, and the confidence to do what they want to do in their life.

If You Try To Compete With Porn, You’ll Always Lose

Anne: I think our audience probably has, depending on the woman, depending on the situation, has a lot of issues with bras too, because their husbands are sex addicts, and pornography users, right. When you compare yourself to porn, you’re always going to lose. There’s no way to win.

Porn is women who are staged, who are likely on drugs, who are being exploited. Having these parts of our body be something that our husband wants to use is such a difficult thing. This bra-fitting for me was a way to take my body back, to give it back to myself, and to take care of myself, rather than this is part of my body that is for someone else, or for some other use.

I feel like this is part of me, and I can integrate it back into myself, and use it as part of my healing, rather than disown it, almost, as a thing that’s for someone else’s use. Which, I think it feels like a lot of times when you’re married to someone who’s an addict, who’s not in recovery, who’s using you as a drug, rather than seeing you as a person to be cherished and loved and cared for.

Donate Your Used Bras To Help Others

Another awesome thing that Courtney does is she’s the Northern Director of I Support the Girls, which is a non-profit, where she coordinates a statewide bra and feminine hygiene drive throughout the state of Utah, so all the donations are donated to local women’s shelters to help homeless women, and refugee women, and victims of domestic violence.

When I went to a domestic violence shelter, to get my victim advocate, I, thank goodness, didn’t need to stay at the domestic violence shelter, but, if I had, and if I had had to go there suddenly, without any clothes, then I would, perhaps, be a recipient of one of these donated bras. In 2016, her drive collected over 1,300 bras and 30,000 hygiene products. Those are things like sanitary napkins, tampons. The only requirement, Courtney, is?

Courtney: The only requirement is that they have to be individually sealed. Then, you can drop these off, and then at the end of this month, of December, all those items will be collected, and then we’ll donate them to nine different women’s shelters throughout the state of Utah.

If you don’t live in Utah, and you want to participate, there’s really good news. Because there’s over 50 chapters throughout the world, the majority of them are in the United States, if you don’t see a location by you, they’re looking for women who want to help volunteer, and start up a chapter.

It’s really easy, all you have to do is just contact your local women’s shelter, and start collecting bras and donate them, and you can start a chapter in your area. It’s really awesome. It’s blessed my life to be able to help these women, and help facilitate this. I feel really lucky to be a part of it.

Women Supporting Other Women On Their Journey To Healing

Anne: I’m really grateful that women are working together to improve women’s health, and women’s wellbeing across the world. Again, if you are not in Utah, and you want to donate, click here.

Courtney: One of the reasons I got into I Support the Girls non-profit is because, obviously, I love bras. I love helping women feel more confident and beautiful. The sad thing is that, being a part of this organization, I learned—and working with the different women’s shelters in Utah, is that bras and hygiene products are one of the least donated items when it comes to women’s shelters.

People need food, and they need blankets, and everything, but a lot of bras and hygiene products are not donated. The problem with these things, for normal women, they’re necessities, everybody needs hygiene products, and everybody needs bras.

A lot of these homeless women, or refugees, or victims of domestic violence, if they don’t have these items then their chances of recovery—it sounds crazy, but their chances for recovery and making a better life for themselves is harder, because they can’t hold down jobs, they don’t feel like they have their dignity. These items takes a huge weight off these women’s shoulders.

I just can’t imagine what it would be like to have to make a decision of whether I should spend my money feeding my family, or buying a hygiene product. By providing these items to women, it’s going to help them make their life better. If they can help make their life better than that can help their children, that can help generations to come get out of the depths of poverty or break the cycle of violence.

I strongly believe that no matter what a woman’s circumstance is, you know, if she’s homeless, a refugee, she’s fleeing abusive relationship, I feel like every single woman in this world has the right to have these items.

Anne: Totally agreed. I think another reason why bra shopping is so triggering for women, in at least my audience here listening, is the advertising, or seeing other women in their bras, or whatever. It’s been interesting to go to your Instagram, and see women in their bras.

Owning Your Self Care Can Be Scary – But It Can Also Be Empowering

That is part of what is super-triggery for many women in this situation. I just want to, first of all do a trigger warning with, also, a notice that I think the more healed we get, the more we can realize that this is for me, rather than worry about what our husband’s thinking, or doing, or how it’s affecting someone else.

Courtney: On my website, the message that I try to convey for my business, and on my Instagram (@brafittingsbycourt) is that our society thinks of bras as sexual. On my Instagram, I really try to show that they’re not just sexual. I really try to embrace that bras are more of a necessity, and that they’re not just, primarily, for other people’s gratification. I really try to convey that, showing how bras can really help us to feel more confident.

Anne: That’s what I really appreciated. Rather than having it be for someone else’s gratification.

Courtney: Thank you.

Self Care Is For YOU

Anne: If anyone is doing it right, Courtney is. I immediately came home and told my mom, “You have got to go do this.” Cool thing about it is knowing that I am enough, and that whatever size I am is enough, and that I don’t have to be anything else to be lovable, to be cherished, and that I can find a bra that fits me where I’m at.

I don’t have to be different in order to fit in the perfect bra, rather than the other way around. Like going bra shopping, and thinking, “Ugh, because I am damaged, and I am not perfect, I’m never going to be able to find the bra that fits, because bras only fit perfect women.”

Courtney: Many of my clients live outside of Utah, so if you need help, or if you want my help, I offer online bra consultations. You can do it from the comfort of your home, especially if you’re going through a traumatic experiences in your life, and you’re like, “I don’t have the time and energy to go and drive, and go somewhere.” This is a good way to get help.

I also have a bra-fitting guide. I’ve printed these beautiful pdf sheets that walk you through the steps on how to find your size, how to identify your breast shape, the bras I recommend for each breast shape, and then I have a trouble-shooting guide.

Then I actually have visuals of how bras should and shouldn’t fit. If you need help, and you want to do a more DIY approach, I would do the bra-fitting guide. There are some other options if you want help, but don’t live in Utah.

Anne: We’re taking our bodies back, women. As I progress my recovery, I’m just excited. I’m excited that I can do these things that are fun, and not be so triggered by them, where I was before. If you are still in that triggered stage, we love you, and just don’t do this right now.

Courtney: Yep, and I’ll be there.

When Your Trauma Gets In The Way Of Self Care

Anne: I’m no longer going to let my stance against pornography get in the way of my own self-care.

Courtney: I feel like a lot of women just get to the point and they’re like, “Enough. I’ve had enough of wearing bras that don’t fit. I’ve had enough of feeling this way. I want a change.” That’s when you know you’re ready, is when you’ve had enough.

Anne: Yeah, it is. Courtney, you’re awesome. Again, you can find information about where to donate your used bras, whether you live in Utah, or elsewhere, on Find this post, and you’ll find all of the links that you need.

Courtney: I’m also on Facebook too. I have a private Facebook page that’s just for women, so if you feel safer joining me there, my Facebook group is Bosom Friends by Bra Fittings by Court. You can go there, and you can post questions about bras, and, like I said, it’s a safe environment where all women can come together, and share their love for bras, or hate of bras that don’t fit.

Anne: I love that. A Merry Christmas Season to all of you. Thanks, Court, for being on the podcast today. If you want to join our support groups, please go to Right now, Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club has six sessions per week, one every weekday with two on Tuesdays. It’s the best support for these crazy holiday times where you don’t know when an abuse episode’s going to happen, or you don’t know when, maybe another disclosure will happen.

The holidays are very difficult for a lot of women in trauma. Make sure that you have the support that you need during this holiday season by going to, and click on Schedule and Join to join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club. As always, if this podcast is helpful to you, please comment below. Each of your comments helps women who are isolated find us, and helps women understand that they’re not alone.

Until next week, stay safe out there.

How To Know The Truth – An Interview With Laurie Hall

Laurie Hall is the author of An Affair of the Mind , which was the first book on sex addiction written from a partner’s perspective. It broke ground in a world that saw the partner as a codependent, just as sick in her own way as the addict, which we know is not true. Laurie knew at the time, it wasn’t true and she refused to accept that view.  She advocated strongly for partners, saying that they had been betrayed and traumatized and that they were victims, which, of course, we know that we are.

Laurie has used her book and experience to become a voice for partners. She’s been a guest on over 200 radio and television shows, including Focus on the Family, Moody, and The 700 Club. She’s also done television and radio, including being interviewed by Laura Ingraham, Extra, Leeza Gibbons, Diane Rehm, and many others.

In addition, she’s spoken to many colleagues and a wide variety of churches across the country and Canada. She was the first woman to speak at a Promise Keepers event, because porn was the number one reason that men went forward for prayer at Promise Keepers events.

Laurie is APSATS trained, a member of the International Coaches Federation, and a licensed spiritual coach. She facilitates partner groups and does individual coaching as well. She’s currently revising and updating An Affair of the Mind for re-release early next year.

Discovering a Husband’s Addiction Through Spiritual Crisis

Anne: I am honored to have you on the show today. Welcome, Laurie.

Laurie: Oh, I’m honored to be with you. This is a really exciting thing that you’re doing here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery. It’s awesome!

Anne: We met in person a few weeks ago, and that was an honor. We’ve been having this discussion around a crisis of faith that many partners experience, when they find out about their husband’s sexual addiction, and the abusive behaviors surrounding that. We are going to explore this further. Laurie, in your book, you write about how prayer helped you discover your husband’s addiction. Can you tell us about that?

Laurie: Yes. This is a great place to start the discussion of how this whole issue can lead to a spiritual crisis because I knew there were problems in my marriage but I didn’t know what it was that I was dealing with. My ex-husband grew up on the mission field. He had a White House security clearance when I met him. Everyone who knew him said, “Oh, he’s a super nice, squeaky clean guy.”

Something Wasn’t Right In My Marriage

I really thought that I was marrying a Boy Scout, but there was just this sense that something wasn’t right. I kept trying to figure out what it was. I went to my church for help, because, as a young Christian woman, I wanted to know how to do marriage God’s way. I was told that I just needed to submit more, that I needed to support him more, that I needed to pray for him more.

Every remedy that they gave me put me further, and further under. At one point, I thought, “Well, they said you’re too strong. If you were not as strong, he would be stronger.” I just kept thinking, “Well, wait a minute, I’ve read all the books. I’ve become a fascinating woman. I’ve become a total woman. I’ve become the ‘He’s from Home Depot, she’s from Walmart’ woman.”

Nothing was working. It was still just the sense that something was wrong. I decided that I was going to put all the outside advice outside, and spend time back in scripture, which I already was a student of the Bible, but I was reading the Bible based on what other people told me it meant.

I began to really go into the Word. I really started to pray, “You know, Lord, if in anything I’m otherwise minded in Christ Jesus, show me what it is, and show me what’s going on in my marriage, because I know there’s something, and I don’t know what it is. I know you know what it is, because you are the God of all truth, so show me what the truth is.”

God Can Lead You To The Truth

I prayed this for years, actually, and part of what had to happen for me was I had to come to a different understanding of who God is, before I could even grasp the truth of what was going on in my relationship. I began to see God in a bigger, more empowering, more loving way as I studied the Word. Then I decided I would start fasting.

The first time I fasted, I got this impression in my head that was almost like a voice saying to me, “There’s three problems in your marriage. The first one is your husband’s taken $350.00 that doesn’t belong to him. The second one is he’s committing adultery, and the third is he has a lot of pride.” At that point, I was like, “Okay, this is what comes of trying to fast and pray. You’ve now gone completely nuts because you’re hearing a voice.”

I was like, “Why did you do this to yourself, because, obviously, none of that can be true. I married a Boy Scout.” Sure enough, shortly after that, I found out about the $350.00, he confessed that he had a lot of pride, and that left this little nasty thing in the middle, which was the adultery.

I said, “I think you’re committing adultery.” He said, “Oh no, I would never do that. You’re a horrible person for believing that. Why would you even accuse me of that? You’re probably the one doing it.” I continued to pray, and seek the Lord.

Dreams Can Inform And Warn You Of Infidelity

Eventually, I started having dreams. I started having dreams where I would see exactly what was going on. Then, I decided that what I was going to do was accept that this was the truth, whether I had any evidence of it, or not, because my husband hid everything. Even his best friend, who worked with him, didn’t know what he was doing.

I began to journal, using the 12 steps. I said, “I admit that my life is out of control, because my husband is cheating on me, and I don’t know what to do about it, but I’m turning it all over to God.” One day as I was praying and just sobbing, the phone rang. It was a woman I barely knew. She said, “God has heard your prayers, and seen your tears, and he’s going to heal you.”

Within an hour, there was a phone call from a credit card company that I did not know my husband had a credit card with, and there was a past due payment. That’s how the truth came out.

Anne: Wow! I am so impressed, because I was having dreams, nightmares, and I just thought I was crazy, and I had this super intense sense of dread that I told my husband about. I was like, “I have the worst sense of dread. I really think something bad is going to happen.”

Then, in the same breath, without listening to him, or without waiting for his response, I said, “Ugh, I just must be crazy, right.” I just dismissed it, so I am so impressed that you were able to accept your dreams and feelings as the truth. That is gutsy!

Trust Your Intuition Before You Trust That You’re Crazy

Laurie: Well, let me back up, and tell you how not gutsy I was, and what actually forced me to that position. Because, just like you, I thought I was going nuts. One day, I actually climbed into bed, put the covers over my head, and started running my finger up and down my mouth like, “Bluh-bluh-bluh.”

I said, “I am going crazy, because part of me is saying there’s something wrong and this is what it is. The other part of me doesn’t know how that could possibly be true. Therefore, I’m choosing to ignore what I’ve asked God to show me. I’m going to have to take a giant leap of faith, and say, ‘This is the truth.  And if I’m wrong, hey, I’ll own it, but from here on out, I’m not second-guessing myself anymore.’” I get it, girlfriend. I was there. It was that fear that I was going to go crazy that made me say, “Yes, I’m accepting the truth.”

Anne: That is amazing. If every woman did that, this world would be so different. Not that we can blame ourselves, because obviously, we’re doing the best we can in the situation. I just think, if every woman would say, “You know what, I’m going to trust myself, and I’m going to trust God,” that would be a huge breakthrough for humanity. If every woman listening can be like, “You know what, I’m going to be willing to learn what the truth is from God, straight from God, and then trust it,” holy cow. That’s big.

Accepting Your Worst Nightmare As Truth

Laurie: Anne, I completely agree with you on that. Part of the reason why women have a difficult time accepting truth—aside from the fact that, can we say it? How awful is it that your worst nightmare is actually true? Okay, this is not the thing that you can wake up to, and accept. It’s an awful, awful thing. The ground drops underneath your feet. On the one hand, you’re really happy to know you weren’t nuts. On the other hand, you’re like, “I really wish I would’ve been nuts, because this new reality is something I don’t want to deal with.”

We are not trained how to live in the Spirit. This was a really big Ah-ha for me, because, when I came to realize I have a body that has senses in it. It has the sense of touch, sight, taste, hearing, smell. Through those senses, I experience the physical world. I have a soul, which allows me to know my internal world. Those senses are my mind, my will, and my emotions.

I also have a spirit. It is through my spirit that I know God, and that I experience others in a transcendent way, where deep connects to deep. This has nothing to do with what I can see with my eyes. It is an inner-knowing that we have, and our spirit’s senses are conscience, intuition, and communion. We’re designed to operate from the spirit into the soul, and out into the body. When we intuit something, it is really God speaking to us, the absolute truth.

The idea, if we’re operating in a healthy way, is then we take that information into our mind and provide instructions for our mind based on what our conscience tells us; this is a good situation or this is not a good situation. Then, the will tells the body what to do in response, and as the body follows these instructions, our emotions are at peace because we’re in integrity.

Integrity Is Key To Discovering The Truth And Finding Peace Amidst The Storm

We can know that we’re not in integrity, and I don’t mean this in the sense of we’re intentionally doing something we know is wrong, but where we are second-guessing our spirit.  Because when our mind doesn’t have the facts, we argue, the spirit and the mind argue with each other. You know what I mean? It’s like, “No, that can’t be true, I have no evidence.”

Yes, it is true, because God sees it as it really is, but our mind doesn’t see it. I only saw porn in our home one time, and we were married for 33 years. It was one time. I had no physical evidence. As you know, with this particular addiction, there’s no needle marks, there’s no tell-tale breath. It’s very easy to hide.

What I tell women is, when your emotions are a mess, it is a sign that you’re spirit is arguing with your soul because your soul doesn’t have any facts to back up what your spirit is sensing, so you’re second-guessing yourself. If you will say, “I’m going to accept what I’m sensing as true until proven otherwise,” and then start lining your actions up with that, you will find peace amidst the storm.

Anne: Wow. This is cool. I love you. I’m so glad you’re here!

Laurie: I love you. It only took me 20 years to figure that out.

Anne: When did you write your book? What year was it?

Laurie: It came out in 1996.

Anne: 1996, man, and how old are you?

Laurie: 66. I’m not a teenager anymore, girlfriend.

You’re My Shero!

Anne: I know so many women who are your age, or older, who went through this. They, of no fault of their own, didn’t know what was going on, didn’t understand it, were abused for years. I am just in awe that you’re part of this generation of women who were caught in all the cultural issues, all of the misogynistic-type things that, at the time were very common, that you couldn’t even see, and you have this head on your shoulders to see this thing straight.

You’re like a hero. You’re my shero, good job. Way to go! I think a lot of other women saw it, but they didn’t write a book. A lot of women figured out what was going on, but then it was super scary to speak out about it back then. It still is now. Sometimes even now, people think I’m crazy. Once you knew about your husband’s addiction, did you go to your church for help? If you did, what happened?

Coping With Pornography Addiction As A Woman Of Faith

Laurie: Yes, I did. I was a woman of faith. I wanted to handle this God’s way. I can remember saying, “What are the rules? What are the rules? What are the rules?” I went to my church, I entered a buzz saw when I did that. I was told things like, I needed to pray for him.

I was the more spiritually mature, and therefore it was my responsibility to pray for my husband, and that if I would just pray for him and trust God, that he would become a man who would stand at the gates. They quoted Proverbs for me, that it was my job to create that in him.

I was told that I needed to be more sexually available. I was told that I had to be more submissive, that no matter what he said or did, I needed to trust God in the middle of all of that. I can remember sitting there in my church leader’s office, and I just wanted him to say, “Adultery is wrong.”

Addicts Often Get Away With Lies, Theft, and Damaging Family Relationships

That’s all I wanted him to say. He didn’t have to give any magic solutions. I just wanted him to say to me, “What has happened to you is wrong.” Instead, he was telling me that it was obvious why my husband was doing this, because I was such a strong woman, and was totally lined up with my husband.

I can remember going to a Christian counselor, and my husband had taken some money from one of our children. As part of his making amends, he was supposed to apologize and return the money. Just before we went to see the therapist the next time, this child came to me and said, “You know, Dad still hasn’t dealt with this issue.”

This child was sobbing. It’s breaking my mother’s heart to see my child suffer like that. We went to see the therapist and my ex-husband went in first. When I got in, the therapist was thrilled because my husband had cooked up this story about how he had gone to the child and apologized, given the money back, and everything was great. I sat there with my mouth open, and I said, “Um, no, that’s not what happened.” He’s like, “What?” I said, “No, none of that happened.” This is where the church is so naïve, and, believe me, I’m not trying to slam Christianity—and this therapist said, “Well, he wouldn’t lie to me.”

Pornography Users Spin The Truth To Avoid Being Accountable – In The Process You Get Blamed

What he was really saying is, “The reason why he lies to you is because you’re too hard on him, you’re not on his team, and if you would just be on his team, he wouldn’t need to lie to you. I’m on his team, and he knows I’m on his team, so he wouldn’t lie to me.”

Anne: Right, like you’re the problem, you caused his lying, right?

Laurie: Exactly, that’s it. I have worked with hundreds of women, and I’ve received so many letters, and so many of them tell similar stories. I’ve had women who were suicidal, because their church disciplined them, because they dared to go and try to get help.

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I’ve heard from women who were excommunicated and shamed. They’re made to be accountable to another woman in the church for whether they’re properly submitting, praying for their husband, and giving their husband sex. Because of course, that’s the woman’s responsibility; don’t withhold yourself.

I want to believe these people are well-intentioned, although, at some point, I began to doubt, especially when I saw the size of the problem in the leadership at the church, because many, many, many church leaders have this issue. They’re so naïve about how real life operates that they have this fantasy that if we just do A, B, and C, then everything is going to be okay, and that marriage is all about roles, instead of relationships. They teach marriage as roles, and therefore the husband is the head of the home, the wife is to submit to him, the children are to obey the parents. What it does is it creates dysfunction, because you don’t learn how to be in a real relationship.

Healthy Marriages Use Healthy Emotional Skills – Not Just A List Of Roles About What Men & Women Are “Supposed” To Do

When marriage is all about power and who has the most power, there’s no training in communication skills, listening skills, negotiation skills, conflict resolution skills, how to be truly intimate with each other, how to really recognize and celebrate each other’s strengths, and how to support each other in weakness. Because if somebody’s weak, especially if they’re at the top, everybody’s going to be scared, because they’re going to be vulnerable, instead of, “This is a team effort…let’s pool our resources here.”

Anne: I always felt like I was on the same team with my husband, my ex now, but that he was always in competition with me. I couldn’t understand that. I thought, “Well, we’re on the same team. I’m trying to solve a problem, let’s solve it together.” He didn’t like the resolution of the problem, if it wasn’t his idea, or he didn’t do it, or if he didn’t get credit for it.

Laurie: Yeah.

Sex Addicts Can Exhibit Narcissistic Traits

Anne: Then, I found him taking credit for the things I had done, instead of saying, “Oh, my wife did this. She’s amazing.” He took credit for it himself. I started to be really bothered, “We’re not on a team. He sees me as some kind of minion,” like to set him up higher and higher, or the better I look the better he looks, not the better we look. Does that make sense?

Laurie: It totally does. You can see how that worldview feeds into the narcissism of the addict. His whole goal is to be admired, right?

Anne: Right, and the more you love them, and forgive them, and submit, and serve, and all of those things, the more their abusive behaviors are getting them what they want. Lundy Bancroft talks over and over again about how the reason why men use these abusive behaviors, manipulation, lying, etcetera, is because they get stuff out of it. If they didn’t get anything out of it, then they wouldn’t do it, number one. Number two, unless they stop getting something out of it, they’re not going to stop.

Laurie: That’s right.

Anne: Yeah, it’s working for them. The whole love, forgiveness, service-type stuff—which are all wonderful values, but when misused as a way to get someone to love you, or to stop abuse, or to stop adultery, it does not work. The abuser just continues to get all of the things that they want and need, and they have none of the accountability. In fact, the women are held accountable, like what you said.

Laurie: Yes, and that’s the sad thing. These women are going into a church with all male leadership. This is really hard to talk about, Anne, because my relationship with God is very important to me, and I don’t want to needlessly put the church in a bad light. I’m just saying, talking to hundreds of women—and there are some church leaders who do a fabulous job, fabulous job of supporting wives, but there are some institutional things that happen in the church that make it harder for the wife to get the support she needs and for the addict to get the help he deserves, and the freedom.

Lying, Porn Use, Infidelity And Manipulation Are Forms Of Abuse

Then, you couple that with the fact that a recent Barna Group survey showed that 57% of church leaders, and 64% of youth church leaders struggle with porn, or have struggled with porn, she could actually be talking to somebody who has the very same problem her husband has, and not know it. It becomes like clubbing baby seals. These women are so vulnerable. It just breaks my heart, what happens to them.

Anne: They get further abused by their church leadership. Yeah, it is painful, and it’s wrong.

Laurie: Yes.

Anne: It is wrong. I am so excited about the time we’re in right now, though, with the rash of sexual harassment allegations and men being held accountable for their actions.

Women Are Starting To Be Believed – You Can Believe Yourself

Laurie: Oh, yeah, Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey.

Anne: All these women who are all of a sudden feeling like, “I can speak up,” and women who are being taken seriously and women who, before, people maybe said they were crazy, now it’s coming out. No, all the things this “crazy woman” said were true. It’s an exciting time!

Laurie: That’s right.

Anne: It’s really exciting because women are becoming more, and more healthy, and that will enable and help the men to become more healthy too. Because I envision a time where men are accountable for their behaviors, where they are responsible and fantastic husbands and fathers. That is what everyone wants, right? It’s not like we want the demise of the male sex, we just want them to step up to the plate, and become men.

Laurie: And we want to be women. I love the idea of being loved. I love the idea of being in a close relationship with a strong man. That just makes me feel all kinds of feminine. When I’m with a man who has really good character, who knows how to treat me, who I can sense is genuine. Now genuine, not perfect, because if he’s trying to look like he’s perfect there’s probably a problem.

Anne: I know. It’s like, “Oh, scary, scary.”

Laurie: Yeah, so this is how we grow together. This is the beauty that God wants for us. You’re right, we are living in a very exciting time, because the cover is being pulled off of this stuff. More and more’s going to come out. I really believe that. This is the time where God is going to pull the cover back, and give us opportunities to become who He truly created us to be, which is loving beings.

That is what the whole purpose of being here is, it’s about loving one another. Those who love are living in God. That’s one of the teachings of scripture. If we’re not really loving each other, we’re really not even experiencing God in any real way.

Anne: If we don’t have integrity, we’re not experiencing God in any real way either, the true living our truth, living in the truth, right?

Integrity Means That We Live A Life Consistent With Our Values

Laurie: Absolutely. You bring up such a fabulous point, because, recently, I’ve been going to a lot of church conferences, and I’m listening to church leaders say that the way we deal with this issue is we just draw closer to Jesus. We substitute the pleasure of porn for the pleasure of being with Jesus.

I want to say, “Okay. Hello, hello, we’re talking about the way. We’re talking about the truth. We’re talking about the light.” First of all, drawing closer to the Lord is about actually living in truth, as you just so brilliantly said, Anne. It’s about living in what is true. It’s about as we know, and rely on the love God has for us, and know that we live in love, then we’re made complete, so that we can love others.

Being Close To God Means That We Know How To Have Healthy Relationships With Other People

That it’s really about the “one another”, about being close to others. That’s how we truly express our spirituality. Jesus even said that. He said, when you feed the hungry, or the thirsty, or clothe the naked, or visit someone in prison, you’re doing that as if you were doing it to me.

This thing about a relationship with God that is some kind of—I want to have this come out right—and I’m just starting to see this in a bigger way. It’s almost like they’re teaching to replace the fantasy of porn with the fantasy of an imaginary relationship that happens in your mind.

Instead of how we treat each other, how we see God all around us, right here, right now, and rejoice in that, and love one another, and respect one another, instead of this checking out, where I’m having a magical relationship in my head with someone, as a substitute for actually having a real relationship with a real human being. I hope that doesn’t come across as being heretical, but I really think it’s part of the key girlfriend, because we’re still teaching men to dissociate.

Anne: Yeah.

Learning How To Be In Real Intimate Relationships I Learning To Be Whole

Laurie: To dissociate, because it all happens in their mind. Instead of this place of vulnerability, where we’re naked before each other, and loving each other, and feeling what it is to be truly loved.

Anne: That’s awesome, you’re very emphatic.

Laurie: I am. I feel it so strongly, because—I’m sitting here pounding.

Anne: I love it.

Laurie: Because, you know, here’s why, because I see the hunger and the thirst in these men, to want to be whole. They want to be whole. They’re looking for a way to make it happen. It’s really about learning how to be in real intimate relationships, that’s where the wholeness is.

Anne: Well, if you just respected him more, and if you just loved him more, and if you just did more laundry, right?

Laurie: If I had more sex, don’t forget that part.

Anne: Yeah. Oh, the sex. There’s a leader in our church that said—I’m going to mess this up, but he said, “True religion, undefiled before God, is helping the poor and the widows and the orphans.”

Porn Use Causes Men To Emotionally Abandon Their Families – Which Leaves Grieving Widows & Orphans

Anne: These men, through their actions, which are un-Godlike, are creating widows and orphans. They are leaving their wives, or their wives have to say, “You can’t be around us anymore,” because they’re so unhealthy. The opposite of that would be really taking care of a woman so she does not become a porn widow, making sure that you are a good husband and father so that you do not leave your children fatherless.

It’s based on action, not your ideal version of what you are like, based on all the scriptures you can quote, or all the prayers that you can say in church to make you look beautiful. It’s actually what your real relationship is like with your wife, and with your children. Women, who are truly loved and cherished, love and cherish their husbands.

Laurie: Yes, they do.

Anne: They love and cherish their husbands, even when they’re being abused by their husbands.

Laurie: Yes, they do.

Anne: They just want their family to work.

Laurie: In fairness, I’ve met some women who are real horror shows. It’s really about this whole thing of, faith without works is dead. We can talk a good talk, but how do we walk the walk. The church needs a theology of trauma that understands that the pursuit of justice is a godly pursuit, and one that allows us to reestablish trust where it’s been broken.

Because a theology of trauma understands that there’s a difference between forgiveness and restoration and between grace and calling a thing a thing, so that grace can much more abound. No, it says in Isaiah 1:17, to learn to do right, to seek justice, to defend the oppressed, to take up the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow.

Abuser Accountability Is The Key To A Widow’s Healing

Anne, you’re so right, we are porn widows, and the church is called to be salt and light in matters of justice. If the church would just do this, if they would just stand for living in truth, and support what is true, then I really, truly believe that we would be able to restore families because there would be a path forward.

Anne: Yeah, there is no path forward without accountability.

Laurie: No.

Anne: None. Well, I so appreciate you coming on today. Thank you so much for being here, Laurie.

Laurie: Oh, thank you, Anne, it’s been a real pleasure to talk with you.

Anne: You can find Laurie at . We’ll announce when her new book comes out. Like I said before, Laurie is APSATS-trained, and we appreciate that perspective that only APSATS coaches, and therapists can bring. Currently, the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club is running through the holidays.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club gives you access to six APSATS-facilitated group sessions per week, one every weekday, and two on Tuesdays, one Tuesday during the day, and one Tuesday evening. By all means, you don’t need to go to every single session.  It’s available when you need it. Many times, you’re one of a few women that are in that session.

We’ve had a few sessions where only one woman went, and she got personal attention for an hour. It makes it so that you can get in any time that you’re in trauma. That gives you up to 30 APSATS-facilitated group sessions per month, which means that you get an APSATS-facilitated session for less than $3.00 an hour, which we do because we love you, we care, and we’ve been there, and we understand what you’re going through. Register for Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club today.

If you are interested in scheduling a one-on-one support call with  an APSATS Coach, click here.

I’d like to thank all of you who helped get us closer to our $5,000.00 Giving Tuesday goal for the year, to cover our expenses. If you have not donated yet, please do! Consider making a monthly, recurring donation to BTR.

$5.00 or $10.00 a month will help us to reach more women, to make sure that all our technology is up-to-date, to make sure that we continue to bring these amazing podcasts to you, that help bring you peace, not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year.

Until next time, stay safe out there.

He Says He’s In Recovery, But Is It True?

Forest Benedict is a husband and father living in Fresno, California. He is also the first man I have had on the podcast! He is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a certified sexual treatment provider. Forest is the clinical director of an outpatient sexual treatment program in Central Valley California. He is also the program manager of the Sexual Treatment Provider Program at MidAmerican Nazarene University. He is the author of the highly-acclaimed book: Life After Lust, Stories and Strategies for Sex and Pornography Addiction Recovery. His book is based on his personal recovery journey experience and research. Welcome, Forest!

Forest: Thank you, Anne. I’m really grateful to be here.

Anne: Tell us about your personal recovery experience and the work you do now with sex addicts and their partners.

One Man’s Double Life With Pornography Leading To Full Accountability

Forest: What really brought me to do this work, like many people who get into this field, was that I was raised in a pretty difficult upbringing with an alcoholic father and had some difficult traumas. Even though I was raised to be religious, I found pornography at a young age and became addicted. I led a double life throughout my teen years. It wasn’t until I was about 24 years old that I decided I really needed to take my recovery seriously. Thankfully it was before I was married. I got into treatment. I took full responsibility for my recovery and felt led to do this work. So I got my Master’s degree and got to start working in a program that treated sex addicts and helped others on this path that I feel is a result of the recovery I have done.

Look For Visible Changes Of Real Recovery From Lust

Anne: Forest, in your experience, why is it essential for partners to look for visible changes in their addict husband’s life instead of trusting the verbal promises of changes that addicts often profess? My ex would often say things like, “I have a plan…” but I never saw a plan.

Forest: I think it’s essential because so many partners in this situation have been lied to for so many years. There has been so much secrecy that once the addiction is discovered, the addict usually really believes they are going to change and they want to change; but I will tell people, even in intake, that words mean nothing at this point. This has already been proven based on the past. An unhealthy and unsafe situation has been created because of words and so ACTION IS EVERYTHING–action that is not a performance, along with an attitude change. 

Signs Of A Porn Addict in Recovery

The biggest attitude change is humility…willingness to humble themselves and submit to the process, and willing to acknowledge the trauma they have caused and get out of the victim mentality where they act like they can’t do anything. There are different attitude changes such as learning to be patient with their partner. I talk about how the addict gets this burden off themselves and they feel this huge relief but then the partner carries it from then on. So they need to be patient with this process. This is another attitude change that a partner could see happening. Unless there are visible signs, there is no foundation to know that a change is happening.

Anne: Yes. If you say, “You need an attitude change…” and they say it has changed and question why we think it hasn’t…that’s a red flag.

Forest: Exactly. The defensiveness and pride, the need to be right and not willing to listen are not good.

Anne: In my ex’s case, he ended up writing my therapist. She wouldn’t share it with me because she said it was so abusive. She said the gist is that he admitted to being abusive BUT… and then proceeded to list the things I did. My therapist said that she would not read it to me because it was so abusive. This clearly showed that he was not taking responsibility. If you start with, “I’m really sorry I have been abusive BUT…” then clearly you are not in the humble, willing to submit place.

Forest: Yes. My wife tells me that if I apologize and put the word “but” after, it nullifies the apology.

Anne: What are some signs of an addict that may not be in recovery?

Signs Of NOT Being In Recovery From Porn Addiction

Forest: The prideful attitude, the defensiveness. Also, a lot of addicts initially think that if they are sober they are recovering. A lot of addicts need to learn how to take care of themselves and manage stress, manage their emotions.  If they are going to therapy and actually learning and practicing tools, I believe addicts need structure. Everyone I work with is assigned things they need to do on a daily basis to connect with themselves, their higher power, and their partner. Recovery is actually learning to care for themselves in a healthy way. I think a partner would notice if they began to do this…at least trying to do that and trying to move forward. If they can see that the addict in their life is trying to change the way they relate to themselves and to others, this humble attitude makes a difference.

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They won’t be perfect at it, but it is definitely not an excuse to relapse or to go back into passivity that led most of them into the situation to begin with. It’s hard work; especially when an addict comes from emotionally neglectful or abusive situations themselves. A lot of this is difficult work for them. I’ve always said that this is the hardest thing they’ll ever do. If they are willing to do it and keep at it and get an accountability partner and go to groups and do what they need to do, then it’s obvious they are investing in a lifestyle change and making themselves safer to be with.

BTR Aims To Help Women Establish Safety In The Wake Of Betrayal

Anne: At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, our number one goal is to help women establish safety from the addiction and related behaviors of lying, infidelity, porn use, gaslighting, emotional abuse, and some of the narcissistic behaviors that tend to come out in an active addict or someone who is “white knuckling” but may not be in recovery. Some of the signs I saw in my own situation were related to setting a “no contact” boundary after my husband’s arrest for domestic violence.  I was waiting for him to show some signs of recovery, and instead saw things like him shutting down my bank account, him berating me about the clothes he wanted me to pack for the kids when he would have them, or diapers…I wondered at his “inability” to go to the store to get diapers!

There were so many things he could have taken responsibility for to show that he was stepping up to the plate. Those ACTIONS are the things that are important. Part of what was so difficult during that time was that I was hearing from others that he was saying he wanted his marriage to work but that he couldn’t do anything because I wouldn’t talk to him.  He would play the victim and it was so frustrating.  I sometimes thought that someone needed to tell him what to do because he couldn’t figure it out. His solution was to file for divorce.

Know The Signs Of Emotional Abuse

But I think that knowing what the signs of emotional abuse are–this is why we have a book section on our website and I highly recommend that women read all of the books so they can have an understanding, even if they don’t suspect that porn is happening anymore or that infidelity is continuing–that they know what to look for to be aware of the emotionally abusive behaviors. 

From the wife’s perspective and from Betrayal Trauma Recovery’s perspective, we do not believe that the reasons matter…it could be a personality disorder…it could be an addiction…it could be trauma…it could be a myriad of different reasons why the behaviors persist, but to the wife it doesn’t matter. The more she tries to focus on the behaviors, the more she is sucked into the vortex of abuse rather than taking a step out and recognizing that he is the one responsible for figuring himself out. In the meantime, I need to stand at a safe distance and set boundaries so I’m not continually abused through this process.

Forest: Yes. I definitely agree with this. Anytime I mention that the addicts have a difficult challenge ahead of them because of their upbringing or background, it’s never to make an excuse for them or to say it’s ok. I agree that this is a healthy way to look at it because the partner can’t recover for him and there is no help in trying to figure out why. Partners ask why all the time and there is never a satisfying answer to that.

Anne: You’ve led a partner group for years now. How did this work inspire the piece in your article called, What My Wife Is Worth?

Women Often Struggle With Boundaries Because Of A Lack Of Self-Worth

Forest: I found that when we start to work on boundaries with partners in my group, they had a really hard time creating boundaries and enforcing them. As I helped them work through what was stopping them from doing this, I felt like a lot of them had difficulty seeing their own worth…getting to the point of seeing that they deserve to be treated well and to be in a relationship with someone who is healthy. I really felt it was related to this–self-esteem or their own worth. Jennifer Lamprey did an event for women called The Quickening and she asked me to write a piece from a male perspective. She thought it would be powerful to have a man speak to women.

It was interesting to sit down and write this piece in an hour. It was inspired. It came to me. Much of what I write takes hours and hours as I work to make it perfect. This came to me and I feel like it was one of the most validating pieces I have ever written, from my perspective as an addict in recovery. I wrote about what my wife is worth, that she is worth my best recovery efforts. I went into detail about what that looks like, that it’s not about how much sex I get or what mood she is in, that I need to be working hard at my own growth and healing. I feel like it really communicated well to the partners that they deserve to be in this type of relationship so they can set boundaries that do protect that worth and do communicate to the addict that they do deserve to be treated with respect and to be cherished. This is how this came about.

Anne: If you have comments about this episode, please scroll down and comment! We love it when you interact with us!

Forest, how does the article, What My Wife Is Worth and the partner version which is written from the wife’s perspective called, What I Am Worth help wives understand the addict behaviors that make up good recovery?

You Deserve Your Husband’s Best Efforts And So Much More

Forest: It says: My wife is a woman of infinite worth. Because of this, she deserves my best efforts. She deserves a husband who only has eyes for her. She deserves a husband in active recovery, not passively going with the flow. She deserves a husband who reminds her that she is not to blame for his past or present choices. She deserves a husband who actively opposes visual and mental lust in all forms, viewing it as the enemy of true intimacy.

It goes on like this…about being trustworthy, about not blaming her…It sets up this ideal but I don’t think it’s too unrealistic. It’s about recognizing that I do want to be treated that way, I do deserve to be the only woman. For the addicts, my intention is to call them up to a higher level of intentionality and commitment with their recovery. I find that often when this is read, it triggers shame but I hope this will be turned into the healthy guilt that leads to a realization that the addict can live up to this and that they do not want to continue living the opposite.

I love writing to inspire people. I feel like setting the standard and saying, “Let’s strive for this” is very helpful. I don’t want to sit in this mediocre place because it doesn’t help anyone achieve recovery.

Watch For Actions to Show True Recovery From Porn Addiction, Not Words

Anne: One of the things that happened to me because of my ex’s extreme case is that he went to therapy for years, I made him read things like this, I took him to conferences, etc…, and he really learned how to talk the language of recovery without actually doing the recovery work. I think the purpose of this episode of watching for those actions is critical…how is he actually treating you? Does he listen? Is he patient? If you ask a question, does he answer it without getting defensive? Is he willing to listen to your opinion? Is he willing to be, in John Gottmans’ words, influenced? Is he willing to be influenced by his wife or is he wondering why she is “bothering” him? When will the behaviors speak for themselves, is one thing wives always need to be looking for.

Forest: I totally agree with that. I love the idea of the wife catching him doing the right thing. It’s not like he is doing the right thing in front of her intentionally to perform or pretend but that she would be surprised when she walks out and he’s working on his recovery materials or when he says he can’t do something tonight because he’s really tired and might be triggered tomorrow by not getting enough sleep…catching glimpses of how he is changing his view. I know this is so difficult because of the lack of safety in the past when it’s all been a performance and when it looked like all the right actions. I am always emphasizing that addicts need to be seeing people who specialize in this and have certification because they may be putting on a performance for the therapist and the therapist needs to know if this is happening.

Anne: I want to talk about your book, Life After Lust. Why do you think it’s important for wives to read and not just addicts.

Life After Lust Helps The Addicts & The Spouses

Forest: Actually, I didn’t really think about the possibility that partners would read the book. I did write it for the addicts but one of the people who endorsed the book does partner work and she ended up doing a blog post later about how this book is fitting for lots of different audiences, including partners and she is a partner herself. It’s what I said about what my wife is worth–it gives partners hope that a recovery journey is possible. I think there is so much uncertainty in the beginning when everything comes to light and maybe they seek additional help or maybe they haven’t sought help yet and it can feel hopeless. 

Also, I put a lot of my own story into this book. It’s not like saying, “Hey, people can recover.” I’m sharing some of my own journey and what some of that can look like. I don’t present it like I’m perfect and everyone should follow me…I also talk about some vulnerable times in my recovery and how I responded to those. Some of that could make a partner nervous that I was struggling with lust and then got back on track. I’ve also been freed from acting out with pornography for over 13 years and so I feel like it is really possible. Just showing people it’s possible is hopeful. The other thing about it is that I am sensitive and aware of the partner’s experience.

I know when this lady read my book from a partner’s experience herself, she was worried that she would be triggered. She found herself really relieved and encouraged. I wrote the book in a way that honors partners. I’ve recommended books to partners in group settings that were so triggering…maybe the book went into tons of detail about acting out experiences and it triggered their trauma. In this sense, this book is safe for a partner to read and can also be very hopeful.

People Can Absolutely Change

Anne: It’s very interesting from my perspective because I speak with women all over the world about their experiences with their addict spouse. I absolutely know that people can change. If they make the decision to change and they work at it, they involve God in the process, and they are genuinely humble, accountable, honest and willing to submit to God’s will, anything can happen. Even right now, I, myself am in the process of changing and asking God to help me with certain character defects I have and things I am dealing with in my everyday life that I really want to improve. I’m not completely healed or changed yet but I have faith that as I continue to do these things, I can change. I believe this about everyone.

That being said, just because people can change does not mean they will. Sitting back and observing if they really are genuine and what they are doing to show that is what betrayal trauma recovery is all about. How do we establish safe boundaries while we observe from a distance to see if the change is real, deep and lasting…and is it sincere rather than just another way to keep me in the abuse cycle?

Forest: I think this is a really good way to look at this. I use a lot of language about partners keeping themselves safe and is the addict acting in such a way that makes it safe for them. I definitely wouldn’t recommend even trusting–I know partners often never fully trust even if the addict is doing great recovery–it’s unsafe to trust unless there is real evidence of change.

Our Focus As Wives, Come What May, Is To Stay Safe

Anne: I really appreciate your work for us and your writing is incredible. It’s all over the internet! You are doing great work to educate others about what it takes to recover. This is not our focus at betrayal trauma recovery–how the addict is going to recover or what he is going to do specifically–our focus is “come what may…whatever he decides to do, we will stay safe until we see these particular characteristics that we need to have a healthily relationship.

I appreciate those working with addicts who have the expertise who can help them because, as a wife who has been injured by that, we are not able to do it.

Forest: Yes, this can definitely get unhealthy when you feel like you are responsible for making sure they are doing all the right things or making sure you need to catch them if they do the wrong things. It’s so important for the addict to have their own accountability and therapist–whatever they need. Your organization is doing a great work in helping partners to work on their own healing and maintain a safe distance. It’s great to see.

Anne: You can find links to Forest’s website and his work via our site,

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