Abuse and pornography use are not marriage issues. They aren’t communication issues. They are abuse issues. Two people cannot resolve abuse. It has to be 100% the abuser taking accountability and making amends for his actions as well as seeking a change of heart. There just isn’t any other way around it.Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Hidden abuse: by its very nature it can be nearly impossible to identify.
Many victims spend months, years, or even decades not knowing that they are being abused.
On the free BTR podcast, Elsie, a member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community shares her tragic and powerful story of discovering that she was married to an abusive man. Finding the Betrayal Trauma Recovery group was what she needed to not only survive, but thrive after betrayal and abuse.
Victims of Betrayal and Emotional Abuse Need Support (Especially During “Discovery”)
When women discover pornography use, infidelity, and other sexual acting-out behaviors that their partners have been keeping hidden, this is referred to as “discovery“.
The trauma that women experience during this time is exquisite and tragically, many women go through it alone.
I made my first discovery in September. This was my first step forward in me becoming the enemy.
I was the one that had cracked the shell of secrecy.Elsie, member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community
Abusive Men May Become More Abusive When Their Secrets Are “Out”
As in Elsie’s case, oftentimes abusive men will become more angry, defensive, and abusive when during and after discover. By making their partner the “enemy” rather than accepting responsibility for their abusive choices and taking accountability, they are able to avoid making restitution and can continue acting out without consequences.
This can be a dangerous time for women if their partner is prone to violence – even if the violence is directed at objects or animals. Emotional and psychological abuse are always precursors for physical violence. Women’s safety is the number one priority of BTR: if your partner has become explosive in the aftermath of discovery, seek help immediately.
Victims of Emotional Abuse and Betrayal Often Experience “Secondary” or “Institutional” Abuse
I immediately sought out counseling, but I was never allowed to express anger. That would have been inappropriate. No one had any real answer at this point.Elsie, member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community
Secondary abuse, or Institutional abuse occurs when a victim seeks help from therapists, counselors, clergy, and others, and is further traumatized. Here are some of the ways that professionals can cause trauma to victims, though this list in not exhaustive:
- When the abuse is minimized
- When the abuse is justified
- When the victim is told to trust and/or forgive the perpetrator
- When the victim is told to be more sexually available to the perpetrator
- When the victim is blamed for the abuser’s choices
- When the professional sides with the abuser
- When the victim is told that she is “just as sick” as the abuser, and needs to “work on her side of the relationship”
- When the perpetrator is “diagnosed” with some form of trauma, mental illness, or disorder, without also being called-out as abusive
- When the victim is counseled to stay in an unsafe relationship or situation
- When the victim is told to be more supportive of her abuser
Secondary abuse is difficult to overcome but women can ultimately find healing as they separate themselves from abusive behavior and find appropriate, empathetic support. Join the BTR support group today and receive the validation and support you deserve.
Victims of Emotional Abuse Need Validation and Real Empathy
Until I found BTR, no one out there validated my experiences in any of this. Any time we sought help elsewhere, all help focused on him.Elsie, member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community
At BTR, we understand that women need each other to process the trauma of emotional abuse and betrayal, and to work through their own journeys to healing. The validation, support, and love that women can give each other when they understand how painful hidden abuse is, is incredible.
When victims try to process their pain alone, they may feel stuck, isolated, and question the validity of their experiences. Having a validating and empathetic core of safe people who are available to offer support is both necessary and beautiful for women in trauma.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Victims of Emotional Abuse and Betrayal
I had never done any kind of group prior to beginning a BTR group. The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group sessions were amazing. They give support, feedback, and are run by APSATS trained coaches, who immediately get it. If you want to listen, you can; there is no pressure. The ladies, as well as the coach who has had her own experience, understood my plight. They understood the exact predicament that I was in. They offered tremendous support.
It helps to know you are not alone and that there are other people out there who have sorted through it, others who are sorting through it and sharing ideas. If you throw something out there, someone will give you a little feedback on it and maybe expound on it a little further. This is excellent for those of us who need connection with others, who need validation…BTR offers this.Elsie, member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community
Remember, you are not alone.
Marriage Before Discovering My Husband’s Pornography Use – And The Online Support Group That Saved Me
Anne: What was your marriage like before you found out about your husband’s lying, emotional abuse, and compulsive sexual behaviors?
Elsie: We got along well. He was egotistical but he was fun-loving and generally polite. He did have some anger issues–at least that’s what I thought it was. If I was to describe my marriage from the beginning in one word, it would be sexless. Because we were older, I think sex was not as much a priority for me as it may have been for someone younger but I did miss it. He didn’t seem to, however.
After a certain period of “starvation,” I would mention it to him, he would defend himself, offer reasons for why it didn’t happen, and then make a half-hearted advance which usually left me feeling a little like a beggar. There was no initiation towards me. There was usually compliance if I said something about it, but there was no initiation towards me. After a while, it hurt a lot. I gained a lot of weight and became depressed. I didn’t know what was going on. I had no idea.
Anne: How old are you?
Anne: When did you get married?
Elsie: 8 years ago but we were together for 10. I was around 45 when I met him and we married about 2 1/2 years later.
Anne: Was this your first marriage?
Elsie: No. We were not believers in God at the time. There was a conversion experience that came as this all happened. He suggested to me that we start going to church when I began to discover things. I went down this path and it was the best path I could have taken to help me deal with everything coming my way.
I Thought His Porn Use Was Casual, Occasional And No Big Deal
Anne: How did you find out about what was going on?
Elsie: The first time I discovered something was quite by chance. I was moved to pick up his IPod and look at it–which I never did. I had total trust in him. But something moved me to look at his IPod and I discovered he was looking on Craigslist at the personals. I questioned him about it and he said it was free pornography. I remember telling him that this was close to home because it was a city about 30 minutes away. I asked him why he didn’t look in Ontario, Canada.
Anne: So at the time, did you not think pornography was a bad thing?
Elsie: I looked at it as a casual-use and occasional thing for him and that it was no big deal. It made me uneasy; remember I was living in a virtually sexless marriage and he’s looking at this…but I had no knowledge of anything that I know now. I wrote it off and eventually I was moved again. He had gone to take a shower and something moved me to pick up his phone. I went to the all-male section on his phone and found his ad–the ad he had placed.
This was the start of the ball rolling. I discovered he had actually linked up with someone. This was the first real element of infidelity that I found. It was the first of a lot. I was very disturbed by it. Something prompted me to go to Craigslist and plug in the email address and see if I could access the account he had. I did and discovered he had been on it for 14 months. He was off shore–home a month and gone on the rig for a month–and he had posted 148 postings in all the various cities he had been in. It was shocking to say the least. I contacted him about it and he was immediately defensive but the defenses began to build from the time I made my first discovery in September. This was my first step forward in me becoming the enemy.
Anne: I love that–there is no way you could get around his perception that you were the enemy. That’s really good.
My Husband Viewed Me As The Enemy
Elsie: There’s no question about it. I was. I was the one that had cracked the shell of secrecy. When I found his posting, I became a pretty determined bulldog in what I sunk my teeth into! I wasn’t going to let go until I got some answers! I had been advised by Christian people to let it go, to forgive him…and like I have said to you, I believe a lot of this was God-led, for my safety and probably for the sole purpose of just disclosing it and getting it in the open…bringing to light what was happening.
Anne:…because God loves you, right?
Elsie: Yes, ma’am, he does and he showed that through this traumatic experience, over and over again.
I Sought Out The Wrong Counselors, Untrained To Help With His Lying
Anne: You mentioned a few things that were not super helpful like Christian people who mentioned forgiveness or sweeping it under the rug. Can you talk more about the things you tried or where you turned for help?
Elsie: I immediately sought out counseling. A counselor looked at me and said that what I was seeing was the tip of the ice berg. That resonated with me. He went on to some brash and harsh language and I immediately knew he was the wrong guy. So I sought out another counselor and found one. She basically took a bad situation and made it worse. she diagnosed him with PTSD, offered no counseling for me, on any level; every focus was towards him. I was not treating him properly, I needed to understand that he wasn’t well because he had PTSD. I was abandoned by the counselor.
Over the course of time, in 2014, I sought out a local church, contacted the pastor, met with him and explained my circumstances, and he vowed to do all he could. Of course, that didn’t help. I found that even he began to be bitter towards me because I was obviously “not forgiving” enough. This is a lot of what was called for–to be forgiving. I was never allowed to express anger. That would have been inappropriate. No one had any real answer at this point. I did eventually find a Christian counselor. We both went in individually and then together and it was some form of marriage counseling. She was ill-equipped, albeit a very good counselor, and she referred him over to someone else but the behaviors didn’t stop and one relapse led to the termination of his job and we couldn’t afford the counselors anymore.
Without A Support Group, It’s Hard To Understand What Is Happening
So it stopped and not long after that, I left for 3 months and I got a call from him one day saying he really wanted help. We got back together and met with a minister who began giving us spiritual counseling. I saw some change in my spouse. He seemed to be reaching towards God and it was the only change I saw. It lasted about 6 weeks. He saw a medical doctor who sought to help him with medication. This destroyed the peace that he had found–even though it was brief peace. The doctor treated him for low testosterone using a synthetic steroid or hormone. This was injectable toxicity when it comes to a sex addict!
Anne: So the doctor begins to inject him with testosterone and things get worse.
Elsie: He gave it to him to go home and do it himself.
Anne: If I had to guess, and I’m not a therapist, this is a two-fold issue here: a doctor is telling him that this isn’t a mental problem to work on and that all he needs to do is use a testosterone injection and it will solve his problem. So there is this mental shift and then there is the actual testosterone in his body. I’ve found that anything anyone suggests–no matter how small–to give them an excuse for their abusive behaviors removes the pressure from them to change and keeps them in the abuse cycle and the mental state of narcissism–or whatever the sexual mess of chaos they have going on in their brain. Any suggestion of it being something else if they are not in recovery can get them off track because they think they don’t have to be accountable for their behaviors.
Being Blamed For His Sex Addiction
Elsie: And he was not. In my opinion, any PTSD he was suffering from stemmed directly from my reaction to the discoveries! He was traumatized at being “outed” because he didn’t show any other signs of trauma; although serious childhood trauma that began years and years earlier, at a time in his life when it was well out of his control, play in. However, the general attitude was not one of recovery. It was “you’re the problem. Stop badgering me. Just be happy where you are.” And of course the constant promises that he wasn’t doing it anymore of course were not true. Until I found BTR, no one out there validated my experiences in any of this. Any time we sought help elsewhere, all help focused on him. Any focus on me said, “You’re making it worse.” I felt blamed in some ways. I was already being blamed by him.
Anne: Right. And then the help you sought out was also traumatizing. So how did you find BTR?
How I Found Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Elsie: This is very interesting. Let me preface it by saying that over the summer I took a course in Biblical human sexuality. During that time, I realized how very much I missed intimacy…gentle touch, kissing, flirtation, romance, and sex. And the class I followed this up with was a class on shepherding women in pain. Then I really began to recognize the abuse–this was just pure abuse.
So, I’ve had these classes back to back, hours and hours of crying, still no one to validate anything, and I cried out, “God, where are you in all this pain.” Tears were rolling down my face, snot bubbles, the whole shebang! I went into my room and got on my knees and begged God to bring me some relief. I know He was with me that night even though I didn’t feel it at the time. I was too emotionally distraught. Eventually I fell asleep. I woke up the next morning feeling remarkably refreshed, went to my computer, then went to Covenant Eyes.
I clicked on it and the rest is history! BTR was a God-send to me. This is to me, in my opinion, God’s answer to “Where are you in all this pain?” He brought me to BTR which has really helped a lot in making sense of what I have been dealing with.
There Is Validation In Betrayal Trauma Recovery Online Support Groups For Women
Anne: This is why I started BTR–to make sense of what I was dealing with! I prayed and prayed to know what to do…should I let my husband back into the house, start talking to him, or do I file for divorce…I didn’t know. God’s answer to me was, “Start a podcast.” I was incredulous!
Elsie: And I am so glad! I’m glad God did that. If he had not, he would not have prompted me to come to you. It is a God-send. BTR gives women an opportunity to be validated. If I was to summarize it all in one word, there is validation for us through BTR.
Anne: I think it’s what God wants and needs us to hear: that we are not the problem and that he loves us and that all the blame and gas lighting and everything we have experienced made us question our worth; I think God wants us to know we are enough and He loves us.
How Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Meets My Needs
So, Elsie, you joined Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group. How did it meet your needs more than any of the options you had tried before?
Elsie: I had never done any kind of group prior to beginning a BTR group. The Recovery Group sessions were amazing. They give support, feedback, and are run by APSATS trained coaches, who immediately get it. If you want to listen, you can; there is no pressure. The ladies, as well as the coach who has had her own experience, understood my plight. They understood the exact predicament that I was in. They offered tremendous support.
It helps to know you are not alone and that there are other people out there who have sorted through it, others who are sorting through it and sharing ideas. If you throw something out there, someone will give you a little feedback on it and maybe expound on it a little further. This is excellent for those of us who need connection with others, who need validation…BTR offers this.
Anne: Women are trying to figure it out. They are working hard. They read books, are learning, and seeking out therapy. Unless someone who has been through it before and really understands it can help give them the words to say, it’s hard to describe exactly what is happening. It’s so liberating to hear someone else say the thing you were trying to figure out…and then you realize that is what you have been trying to say; you just didn’t have the words to say before now.
Online Support Groups Help You Figure Out What You Need
Elsie: I was often accused by my spouse of being very damaging to him and lashing out after the constant onslaught of anger towards me or if I tried to communicate with him I was belittled or shut down; he would just get up and disengage or yell at me or break things…a wide variety of totally negative behaviors. Then in time I would lash back and all the fingers would be pointing at me because now I had bruised the narcissist and was now the “bad guy.”
I didn’t know that it was reactive abuse until one of the BTR coaches defined it for me. She connected me with literature that defined it very clearly. I realized that it was wrong–that I needed to stop being reactive and be more proactive in my healing.
Trying To Make Him Love Me Wouldn’t Ever Result In Feeling Loved
Anne: I think I did the same thing. All the ways that I really nit-picked him about cutting the tomatoes or his bonsai tree, or whatever it was…I think about those times and I would say to him then, “I just don’t feel loved right now.” He told me flat out: “I don’t love you. I love the kids more than you.” Or, “I can’t love you because you’re terrible.” I just didn’t feel secure enough. I think I was getting to this point where I was so irritable about little things.
I’ve learned now that trying to make him love me wasn’t ever going to result in me feeling loved. I needed to set boundaries around that. This is how I could feel secure. At the time, that was all I knew how to do. I can see now how unhealthy it was but back then. I felt like I was grasping for reassurance and security in the strangest ways. It’s kind of embarrassing to think back on it!
Elsie: Do not be embarrassed! We grasp for any number of things to try to make sense of what we are experiencing. I lost 80 pounds and underwent plastic surgery. So, talk about drastic! I was 232 pounds at 5’11”. I went down to 153 pounds–my high school weight. My children were worried about me! I elected to have facial plastic surgery so I would look better.
I worried about my aging…it was crazy…all the while believing that God wanted to heal our marriage. I still believe God wants to heal marriages but when it comes down to it, God heals the individuals as they draw more towards Him, and subsequently find the marriage healing. God does not place the institution of marriage above humans, in my opinion.
Individual Healing Before Marriage Healing In Sex Addiction
Anne: And there’s no way the marriage can heal without the individual being healed because abuse and pornography use are not marriage issues. They aren’t communication issues. They are abuse issues. Two people cannot resolve abuse. It has to be 100% the abuser taking accountability and making amends for his actions as well as seeking a change of heart. There just isn’t any other way around it.
There isn’t any way to love and forgive and serve an abuser out of abusing you. It doesn’t work this way, unfortunately. I think we would like it to be this way because then we would have a little more control. I think all of us have tried the route of loving, serving, etc…, more.
Finding Help To Make Sense Of The Betrayal
Returning back to your experience with BTR, before we close today, is there anything you would like to share with our listeners about your experience with Betrayal Trauma Recovery?
Elsie: Yes. I would like to say that this is not something that a woman can do alone. You have to have a community of women who understand what you are going through, what your experiences are, who, through your experiences and training can validate you and help you to make sense of this. My Christian counselor had encouraged me to get into a community–which I could not find, by the way. There were none in my local community. There wasn’t anything around me.
In the Betrayal Trauma Recovery group, I discovered numerous women who were having the same experience I was having…some having separated and moved on, some fully healed, some in the process of healing, some just starting out…But collectively there is a unified understanding that fit. It fit my circumstances. It gave me a place to go where I knew whatever I would say concerning these circumstances would be well received and understood because the women in the group were experiencing the same things.
I was amazed at how similar our stories were even though the specifics were different; the underlying abuse and gas lighting were very similar. I found a sisterhood in the women in BTR. I bring my head into the conversation but the coaches give me 4 other heads to help sound off ideas. 5 heads are better than one!
Daily, Online Support Group
Anne: I’m so glad to hear that. When I began BTR, I wanted to provide women with all the things we haven’t had. I wanted to make it available all on-line so that women anywhere could find it. There are some women who are lucky enough to find an amazing therapist or some type of support group in their area. But there are more of us who have tried and tried and tried and been unable to find that community that we need. To see the daily, online support group schedule, click here.
Elsie: I agree. I encourage any woman out there who has the financial means to do so to contribute, to donate to BTR. This organization is truly a help and God-blessed.