How Wives Can Create An Emotionally Safe Marriage
If you’ve spent years stuck in cycles of your husband’s abuse/addiction, this checklist will literally 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, “What did you do to set him off?” or “You need to be supportive of his recovery” or “Don’t be angry or he won’t feel comfortable enough to tell the truth.” Someone who tells you outright or implies that you have any control in the situtation or any responsibility for his lies, abuse & infidelity isn’t safe. Move onto someone who is.
“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 Gynecologist, OB 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 the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club, schedule a support call with an APSATS-trained Betrayal Trauma Recovery Coach to determine your next steps. Take classes to 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 will not empower you to stop 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 perpectrator 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.
Step 7: Learn About Boundaries
Though every situation is unique, many betrayal trauma survivors need boundaries such as:
- Allocate time, energy and money toward your own healing, not just toward his recovery
- Abstain from sex
- Request a therapeutic disclosure, ideally in conjunction with a complete therapeutic polygraph
- 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: Set 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.
If/when your husband can make and maintain those changes without resentment toward you, it’s a sign he is capable of sharing your emotionally safe home.
An emotionally safe person is . . .
- Honest and humble
- Willingness to meet your needs without anger, resentment, or retaliation
- Accountable for his secret infidelity: lies, porn use, and masturbation
- 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 betrayal trauma survivor, 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!
Get Support Implementing This Checklist Today
- 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?