How To Get The Best Support Through The Holidays
Before we begin the podcast today, it is Giving Tuesday. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. We do have a goal of raising $5000 by the end of today. Please go to btr.org to help us reach this goal. Please mark your donation as recurring to support this podcast.
Another exciting piece of news is that beginning December 1, our Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club is going to provide 6 sessions for women--one every weekday during various times and then on Tuesdays there will be an AM and PM session. We did a survey with current members of this club and this is what they asked for. We have women interested in joining in Australia and the UK so we need to provide different times. Go to our site btr.org to check on the new times and register right away by clicking on the schedule and join button.
Elsie: Thank you for having me.
Marriage Before Discovering My Husband’s Pornography Use
Anne: What was your marriage like before you found out about your husband's lying and 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 Sex Addiction
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...essentially counseling wise, I was abandoned. I continued and 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. 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, went to Covenant Eyes for some reason, and someone posting on a forum on there commented about BTR for women.
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 For Us At BTR
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 Club Meets My Needs
So, Elsie, you joined Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club. 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. I don't have anything else to compare it to but I think the BTR groups stand quite well on their own merits. They give support, feedback, and are run by APSATS trained coaches. Coach Rae is excellent. 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--like the coach--and 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.
Reactive Abuse During Betrayal Trauma
Elsie: Yes! You are right. Remember that at this point I had been studying for several years now and nowhere that I had studied was this ever really expounded upon. I had never heard the term "reactive abuse" until Coach Rae brought it to me. 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, Coach Rae, 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. When I found BTR and went to the Facebook page first, 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 really like Coach Rae. She is the one I speak to. I bring my head into the conversation but she gives me another head to help sound off ideas. Two heads are better than one! I really, really like her. The Facebook group is there all the time--24/7. You can express your thoughts and opinions in a post--even if it's 3 am and no one responds back right then. When you wake up in the morning, someone has stepped forward to say they are praying for you or they understand your pain or are validating it with a similar experience. It's made a difference to me.
Free Betrayal Trauma Recovery Facebook 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.
Elsie just talked about our free Facebook group. It is not moderated by our couches but it is moderated by women who are in recovery. They help to moderate the group to make sure it's safe. If you want to join this free group, go to btr.org and scroll down and enter your email. You will get a return email with instructions about how to join the free Facebook group. If you want to join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club, go to btr.org/schedule and join. Our Club gives you access to 6 APSATS-led group sessions per week. That's one every weekday at different times with two on Tuesdays. Keep an eye out for this schedule as it will be posted very soon at btr.org. The more women who join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club, the more sessions we will add. Elsie also talked about individual support calls with our coaches. Coach Rae is who Elsie sees; Coach Sarah, for example, is really good with helping women who are trying to help their children understand what is going on. Coach Lara is in a healthy and loving relationship with a recovered addict, as well as Coach Cat. Coach Rae is an expert at divorce. If you want to learn more, email Coach Rae at rae @btr.org. She is happy to answer questions about which coach may be best for you or we recommend scheduling with Coach Lara if you don't know where to start; she can give you a lot of different options which provides understanding about which coach or group to join.
Elsie, thank you so much for talking today about your experience. We appreciate you as a client and are so grateful you found us. We are also grateful to God for bringing all of us together. My hope is that through His grace and through His mercy as we become healthier, and that we can become a force for good in the world--which is what I believe He wants from us. I think this is why He is gathering us all together.
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.
Anne: Thank you so much for that. I would love to provide our services for free. During this horrific time for women, they are having serious financial problems. We understand that. The training our coaches receive and the things we do at BTR cost money to provide this for women. If we could, we would provide free service! We are in similar situations to our listeners. I am a single mom now and this is how I make my living, as well as our coaches. Please know our hearts are with you. We have been in these very difficult situations. Even a $2 donation really helps us.
Again, our goal for this Giving Tuesday is to raise $5000 that will help cover the costs of the website, podcast, the technical costs, and every service we provide at BTR. Go to BTR.org. Please make a generous contribution today and then a monthly donation to keep this podcast going and this information coming to you. If this podcast is helpful to you, please rate it on Itunes or whatever other podcasting service you use. Every single rating increases our ranking on search engines and helps women who are isolated to find us.
I want to do one more shout out to our new schedule for the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club starting December 1. It is only $100/month which is about the same or less than one therapy session! It allows you to have access to 6 APSATS-led group sessions per week.
Have a great holiday season. Until next week, stay safe out there!