Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery. Today Coach Laura is here with her client, Claire. We’re going to talk about some of the challenges and struggles that wives of pornography addicts or sexual addicts go through, why they seek out a coach, and some of the things they have accomplished by working with our betrayal trauma recovery coaches. Welcome, Coach Laura and Claire!

The Biggest Challenges Of Being Married To A Sex Addict

Claire: The biggest challenge was just the feeling of betrayal and not knowing when I’m living in truth and reality vs. living in a lie. My experience was over a course of seven years of discovering addiction–probably three years in was when I realized it was an addiction–and then coping with how to handle the pain. I didn’t know if I was living in a reality where my husband was lying to me about doing it again or going to group; or if he was late to work was he really late from work; trying to work on the marriage I felt stuck and really needed someone to talk to. My husband was in recovery for probably two-three years ago and I didn’t have any help until about a year ago when I began seeing Coach Laura.

Coach Laura: This is such a common sentiment. Many of the women have been struggling alone, some for decades. I think it is for a couple of reasons. Some women believe that as long as their partner or husband is working on recovery and in a good recovery, their issues will disappear. We know this is not true since this is a form of trauma. It can have some lingering affects.

The other reason I think this happens is there really isn’t enough qualified help out there. I hear a lot of people saying they have talked to a counselor but they just didn’t get it. This is why I am really grateful for my APSATS training. It provides a specific framework to address the trauma these partners go through. To have someone who has walked that journey themselves, who is sensitive to what is really going on with them, and who has the skills and tools that they need to cope with this is really valuable.

BTR: This is why it is so important to me to provide qualified coaching – so it’s a wonderful experience from the beginning with someone who understands them and who has the APSATS framework to help instead of stumbling through trauma and sometimes suffering with treatment-induced trauma if the therapist doesn’t know what they are doing.

Claire: I felt like there wasn’t anyone who understood so I had church counselors, a few good friends, but I did not have another woman who had been through what I had been through who I could talk to to help validate some of my feelings. I felt really confused about what I was going through and what I was feeling, some of my fears. So it was really helpful to me for Coach Laura to still be married. She was the first person I talked to who had actually gone through this and was still married and in a good recovery. It gave me a lot of hope.

BTR: For our listeners, what has your experience been? Please comment below. You can comment anonymously. We would love to hear what your experience has been with therapists or church leaders or friends. Have they understood, have they been able to walk with you? Have they been able to hold your pain?

What Did You Accomplish As A Result Of Working With An APSATS Coach?

Claire: probably the most valuable thing I’ve been able to do was to set some really practical yet powerful boundaries. She helped me realize that I have a right to feel safe and to communicate when I need to feel safe in my home. Boundaries were a huge thing for me.

Coach Laura: Yes, this is so crucial to our healing. There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding around boundaries. I think a lot of wives have a difficult time naming their boundaries and enforcing them because:

1. We weren’t raised to know that we would have to deal with this particular issue. We never really had any preparation for it. We didn’t know ahead of time; we didn’t grow up thinking we would face this type of thing and how would we deal with it if we did.

2. The other thing about boundaries is that if you don’t have appropriate consequences or effective consequences, they are useless. We are prone to think of consequences as punishment. It’s also difficult to think how to consequence my husband who is an adult; you don’t punish an adult (some may try but it doesn’t work!) Also, they don’t always play along. We have to have consequences to our boundaries that we can enforce whether they are agreeable or not. It’s about protecting us.

I spend a lot of time trying to help my clients understand that boundaries are for their protection and to help them come up with things they can do in various situations that doesn’t rely on their husbands agreeing with them or playing along, especially in the beginning we want to establish boundaries for physical and emotional safety.

As a coach, this is my number one initial priority with my clients–to make sure they have established safety in their home, both physically and emotionally, and it is done through the setting and enforcement of those healthy boundaries.

BTR: Absolutely. Sometimes it takes time and so having a coach be there for you as this process evolves and develops is really important because it’s not just one session and suddenly we can say, “I’ve got boundaries! I understand this. I’m done.” It doesn’t work this way. Hahahaha.

Coach Laura: Right. Knowing what we are prepared to actually follow through with is important. I remember early on setting some boundaries and thinking I had consequences but when it came time to enforce them, I really wasn’t prepared for that consequence myself. So it takes some time to get it right. There is some trial and error. But this is the wonderful thing. Other people want to give us second chances. We can give ourselves a second chance and say, “Ok. I messed it up this time but there is always next time and here is what I am going to do next time.”

How To Achieve Emotional Safety

Claire: The coaching process for me involved meeting with Laura one-on-one for a couple of months, prior to joining the support group which was another help and add on to the individual one-on-one sessions. She gave me several resources and helped me realize the importance of my own recovery. I would read and work in the workbook she suggested and I began to discover how this experience of my husband’s addiction brought trauma.

I really realized how much work I needed to do to heal from the trauma. We worked on defining my values and making value-based decisions. She helped me learn to trust my own intuition again, which was huge, in both the one-on-one coaching and in the support group we talked about finding triggers and how to deal with them through grounding techniques and self-care.

Everything from value and boundaries work to coping mechanisms–I had the tools to use to really cope. I remember once when I was leaving out of town and I was able to have a one-on-one with Coach Laura because I was going to a friend’s wedding. It was her second marriage; her first marriage fell apart due to sexual addiction. I knew this would be very hard for me. She helped me come up with a list of what those triggers were and some grounding techniques I could do during that time which really helped me to heal and move forward in a healthier way.

Coach Laura: Claire did a really good job of talking about a lot of the different things I work with my clients in my coaching, both in the group and in one-on-one settings. All of them are really of equal importance. If I could I would like to expand on the idea of the values. The work we do in values is really important in the carrying out our day-to-day lives and living the life we want to live and knowing at the end of the day that we have made the right decisions for ourselves.

I think this addiction, more than anything else, destroys our values. If you think about if from a wife’s perspective – the things we say we value. We value honesty and here we’ve been lied to. We value monogamy and we’ve been cheated on. We value safety and all semblance of that is gone. One of my biggest values is my family and here I’m faced with the possibility of divorce and single parenting…and all of this is on the line.

The biggest thing I think is having confidence with ourselves, having peace with ourselves, and intuition that Claire talked about. Now we are in a position where we have been made to feel–if not flat out told–that we aren’t pretty enough, not good enough. I know, and hopefully those listening to this know–that those things are not true but they are feelings we deal wth. I really try to encourage my clients to explore their values, to put time into thinking through this.

If we know what our values are and practice making decisions based on them, then it’s much easier–although this is difficult no matter what. But if we know what is important to us, at the end of the day we can say we addressed the right things. I think it helps us prioritize and helps us make decisions. These are the kind of things we set boundaries around too. These are my values and I want to protect them. I wanted to pull this out of what Claire said because it is a huge part of the work that I do with my clients.

BTR: I think that so many times wives of sexual addicts are thinking about values in a different way. They’re thinking, “I want a peaceful home. I want a peaceful marriage.” And the way to do this is to talk to their spouse. It isn’t usually boundary-based. It’s more “How can I work harder to make this happen?”

Claire: One of the things I was thinking about when we were talking about that is that one of my boundaries was that I was no longer going to coerce my husband to do recovery or be honest. It was a huge part of my recovery to remove that part of what I was doing–that coercing him, trying to convince him that what he was doing was destroying the family…I know he wants to change…why can’t he change. This kind of convincing was not healthy for me because it was anxiety-building, it caused lot of issues for me so I knew I had to remove this.

The Most Important Benefit You’ll Receive From Working With An APSATS Coach

Claire: Really just finding hope and healing through her story and the stories of the other ladies in the support group. It is really as simple as knowing I am not alone in my struggle. This has made the biggest difference.

Coach Laura: I really appreciate you saying that. It means a lot because honestly, this is why I decided to become a coach. I remember early on meeting with my church’s pastor who was also a friend. I remember sitting with him, crying–I was lost and totally overwhelmed because this addiction brings so many layers of hurt and betrayal. It felt to me like a formidable task. It was something I could not imagine getting beyond.

I remember him asking me, very gently, “What is it specifically that you want from me?” I said, “Hope.” I wasn’t expecting cures…I didn’t know what to expect at this point but I just wanted hope.

We know this is not by any means an easy process. There is very little joy in it, at least in the beginning. I feel very lucky that my story ended well. My husband is in a healthy recovery but I so remember the period of feeling lost. It lasted a long time.

This has been my main passion–to be able to sit with my clients in their pain and to provide them with some hope if nothing else. I can’t make their husbands get into a healthy recovery any more than they can. To be able to say to them that I understand, I’ve been there, you’re going to be okay–it doesn’t feel like it now–but no matter what he does, we can put things into place to let you be okay. This is my goal. I just want to give people hope because without this first step, the rest seems impossible.

BTR: It is. I think with coaching and with help, regardless of what your spouse chooses, you can have a happy ending. In both of your cases, your husbands chose a healthy recovery and are now emotionally safe to be around. This is a happy ending! In my case, my husband decided not to work recovery and not to try to become safe to return to his family. Now I am on my way to a healthy life and happiness with my children – also a happy ending!

Just being on the path to recovery and knowing that our lives can be healthy and happy and productive in spite of the pain we go through to get to that point – there were many times when I thought my life was over and that I couldn’t handle this. I am really grateful to work with the amazing betrayal trauma recovery coaches who walk women through this process every day from darkness and sorrow and hopelessness at times to hope that can then evolve into peace and safety.

Coach Laura: I’m glad you pointed out joy and peace again because I tend to tell people that they are going to be ok no matter what . . . but who wants to just be ok? I feel like our lives can be really rich and fulfilling regardless of the stuff around us. It can be challenging, obviously, but it’s important to know that with just the right tools and practice, we can live the life we value.

BTR: thank you so much Claire and Coach Laura for being with us today. If you are wondering if coaching would be right for you, schedule an appointment with Coach Laura or click here to see the coaching schedule.

Again, we appreciate your comments and suggestions. Please comment or email directly at anne@btr.org or to Coach Laura at laura@btr.org.

Until next week, be safe out there!

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