9 Steps To Heal From Betrayal Trauma
If you’ve spent years stuck in cycles of your husband’s abuse & addiction, this checklist will save you from years more. At BTR, abuse means lies, porn use, infidelity, manipulation, gaslighting, emotional abuse, and narcissistic behaviors. This list will help you create an emotionally safe home.
Step 1: Open Up To A Safe Person
Examples of unsafe statements include:
- Don’t be angry or he won’t feel comfortable enough to tell the truth.
- It’s just porn. Why are you so upset?
- Don’t do anything to shame him. Shame will make him act out.
- It’s not right to shun someone. Don’t push him away.
- The real / only problem is that you won’t forgive and trust your husband.
- Don’t tell anyone about your husband’s porn use or abuse. It would ruin his reputation, job, or church standing.
- What did you do?
- Are you meeting his sexual needs?
- You need to tolerate his abusive behaviors while he recovers.
Someone who tells you outright or implies that you have any responsibility for his lies, abuse & infidelity isn’t safe. Someone who tells you outright or implies that you need to endure abuse to protect & enable the abuser is not safe.
In order to create safety, we recommend taking another woman with you who understands the abusive nature of porn if / when you talk to clergy or a therapist about your husband’s abuse & infidelity. If they don’t believe you or prove themselves unsafe in any way, seek help elsewhere.
“I was a mess, trying to make sense of what happened, and I just couldn’t. I sought help from every possible source. I saw a few different therapists . . . I ended up re-traumatized more than once because of some of the things I was told by other professionals. But, Coach Sarah got it. She gave me the best help of all.”
L, Texas, USA
Step 2: 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. Allow yourself to receive love, validation, and answers from safe and supportive people.
Step 3: Schedule An Appointment With Your OB-GYN Or Midwife
Get 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. This step can feel unnecessary or dramatic. However, it’s a necessary step because sometimes pornography use is just the tip of the iceberg. It will give you objective information you need to make decisions.
Step 4: Establish A Safe Network
Build a support network of safe family, friends, and professionals. Join our daily, online group sessions in multiple time zones. Learn the principles and tools you need to make progress toward a truly peaceful life.
Step 5: Don't Try To Identify The Cause Of His Abusive Behaviors
Understanding the source of his porn use or anger (shame, trauma, personality disorders, addiction, etc.) doesn’t make a significant difference in how those behaviors affect you. Seeking the source won’t empower you to stop it or heal from the trauma – it only keeps you in harm’s way.
Step 6: Couple's Therapy Isn't The Right Place To Start
In cases involving abuse & porn use, there are NOT two sides of the story. There is only truth. Pornography use is NOT a couples issue – it’s an abuse issue. Emotional abuse is NOT a communication issue. Improving your communication will not stop it.
Too many professionals & clergy provide counsel without holding the perpetrator accountable for his abuse & infidelity, minimizing the seriousness of his behavior. In the interim, consider communicating with your husband’s therapist or clergy only to report specific abusive behaviors, including: lying, porn use, and verbal abuse, taking a safe woman with you to reduce the likelihood of the appointment causing further trauma.
Step 7: Learn About Boundaries
Though every situation is unique, victims need boundaries. Consider the following boundaries:
- Allocate time, energy and money toward your own healing, not just toward his recovery
- 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
*BTR does not advocate for divorce. BTR’s aim is to help you establish emotional safety for yourselves and your children, in whatever form that takes.
Step 8: Hold Appropriate Boundaries & Establish An Emotionally Safe Home
This goal is a game changer. In most cases, this means needing your husband to become 100% honest with you and everyone else. He needs to be accountable, stop his problematic behaviors completely, and make restitution to those he has harmed — beginning with you and your children.
We recommend a therapeutic disclosure, confirmed by a therapeutic polygraph as a boundary benchmark.
Until your husband can make and maintain non-abusive thought processes without resentment toward you, hold boundaries to keep yourself safe. If he exhibits the following behaviors, it’s a sign he is capable of sharing your emotionally safe home . . .
- Honest and humble
- Willingness to meet your needs without anger, resentment, or retaliation
- Accountable for his lies, porn use, masturbation, and infidelity
- Accountable for his emotional abuse, deception, manipulation, and gaslighting
- Continually making restitution for his lies, infidelity, and abuse
Step 9: Be Kind To Yourself
As a victim of abuse and infidelity, 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!
Learn How To Establish Peace
- Have you discovered porn or texts on your husband’s phone?
- Have you had conversations with your husband that don’t make sense?
- Do you have a feeling that something isn’t right in your marriage?