Betrayal Trauma Recovery Glossary - Your Input Appreciated

Betrayal Trauma


Recognizing and accepting full responsibility for thoughts, feelings, perceptions, choices, etc. and the outcomes of those actions and choices.


When someone takes responsibility for their actions by acknowledging what happened and working hard to change their behavior.

Acting Out

In sex addiction, acting out refers to the addict turning to his or her chosen method of dopamine release-including, but not limited to - lying, anger, abuse, porn, masturbation, infidelity, etc.(rather than turning to support to help overcome the addiction).


An individual who suffers from addiction. See Addiction below.

Addict Brain or Addict Fog

Refers to when the addict seems emotionally withdrawn, preoccupied, detached from reality in regard to any or all of the following: relationships, finances, work, household duties, the here and now situation, etc.


The dependence on engaging in pornography, acting out (sex with self or others) in order to get a “fix” (dopamine release to the brain). It’s a reliance on lying, emotional abuse to avoid accountability for his or her actions. Sex addiction has many causes. We are not at fault for the addiction, nor can we control or fix it. If the addiction goes without professional help/intervention, it often escalates over time.

Addiction Cycle

Phases that an individual goes through in addiction including: preoccupation, ritualization, acting out, and shame and despair. These phases include forms of emotional withdrawal and emotional abuse.

Addictive Behaviors

Unhealthy ways to cope, usually masking underlying issues. Addictive behaviors include but are not limited to: lies, manipulation, gaslighting, emotional and/or physical abuse, erratic, withdrawn, etc. The sex addict uses these behaviors to protect his or her addiction.

Addictive Thinking

The inability to reason with oneself. Makes an addict unable to make wise, constructive choices.


The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists. APSATS coaches have specific training in providing support to partners, families, addicts and communities regarding the impact of sexual addiction and betrayal trauma. An APSATS coach may or may not also be a therapist, depending on training and certification.

Attachment Therapy

Even though pornography / sex addiction is an attachment disorder, attachment therapy WILL NOT solve the problem. An addict must be in long term recovery - at least two years of no slips, relapses or ANY abuse episodes before even considering attachment therapy or couples therapy. A wife seeing her husband's therapist to let the therapist know the problem behaviors is not the same thing as couples therapy, where both parties are given responsibility to resolve the issues in the marriage. If there is any abuse, gaslighting or manipulation, it will exacerbate the abuse.

Betrayal Trauma

Occurs when someone we are significantly attached to violates our trust in a critical way. An example may when a sex addict in our lives uses gaslighting, lies, manipulation, etc. to protect his addiction.


Transferring fault to another person in order to avoid accountability. Blaming us for his  addiction.


Essential to trauma recovery, boundaries help us know what we should do in an unsafe situation. They bring clarity and help us know our reality. Boundaries can be carefully predetermined, or they can come up naturally as a predictable consequence - for example, a woman being yelled at by her husband will likely, naturally not want to have sex with her husband. Boundaries are not things to be said to your husband. They are actions that we take to keep ourselves safe. You do not need to state your boundaries to take action.

A good way to think about boundaries is to complete these sentences: 

  • I do not feel safe when ____________. 
  • In order to feel safe, I will ____________.

Boundaries are not ways to attempt to control the addict, rather boundaries help us find safety. For example, a boundary could be: “If my husband chooses not to attend therapy, I feel unsafe. Because I feel unsafe, I will not sleep in the same bed with him until he chooses to get help for his issues.” Also, there are non-negotiable boundaries. An example of a non-negotiable boundary might be that you notify the police if you find out that your husband has been abusing children. Read or listen to our podcast, “Boundaries for Beginners: Boundaries When Faced with Betrayal and Narcissism.”


A Certified Sex Addiction Therapist.


A way to provide transparency and emotional connection when both partners are seeking recovery. It’s an organized, scheduled conversation that follows a pattern where spouses share emotions, sobriety, and behaviors for that day. It sometimes helps to set up some understandings like no interrupting, show respect, etc.


In the context of BTR, our coaches are trained with APSATS, which is a rigorous certification process that takes up to two years of supervision after the initial training. BTR APSATS coaches provide professional support and offer insight, validation and direction for wives of porn users and sex addicts. All BTR coaches are also all trained by an ICF accredited organization.


A label sometimes put on victims of lies, infidelity, and abuse to encourage us to take some level of responsibility for the situation.

Connection / Intimacy

A feeling of physical and/or emotional closeness, togetherness, understanding and trust between two individuals. 


See Gaslighting.


See D-Day or Discovery.


Discovery day. Also known as DD. See Discovery for details.


When we detach with love, we allow the sex addict to be fully responsible for his behavior. We no longer try to rescue, fix, or control him. This can be extremely difficult, as we also must suffer the consequences of his actions. Having boundaries can help us to detach with love, knowing that his addiction is something we did not cause and cannot fix. Detaching allows us to heal from the betrayal trauma.


When a sex addict discloses the truth of his addiction to us. This is traumatic to us, but also necessary. Sometimes disclosure is initiated by the addict, but it most often occurs when we have discovered his compulsive sexual behaviors and we confront him. Because of shame (and/or wanting to “protect” us from the truth), a sex addict will likely not share the extent of his behavior during informal disclosure. Often the sex addict will say what a relief it is to finally have shared the truth - not aware that this truth is now our nightmare/reality - while simultaneously lying, minimizing, and gaslighting during the process. See Therapeutic Disclosure and Therapeutic Polygraph.


When we discovered our partner or spouse’s sex addiction. This is most often a traumatic, shocking, and/or sometimes dangerous event for us. It can be something we discovered without any warning, or it was suspected and d-day (discovery day) confirmed it. D-day is traumatic, in the sense that our sense of reality is shattered and we find ourselves experiencing distorted feelings of guilt or blame, confusion, intense fear, nightmares, despair, insomnia and so on. 
See Trauma for more details.

Drama Triangle

A model representing a troubled relationship. Designed by psychologist Stephen Karpman MD, there are three roles: victim, rescuer, and persecutor. Understanding this model helps us recognize when we are caught in the drama triangle with others and work out strategies to get out of this triangle. Finding ways to get out of this triangle can lead to healthier relationships and inner peace.

Emotional Abuse

Behavior from the sex addict toward us and others, including but not limited to: lying, blame-shifting, manipulation, gaslighting, name calling, avoiding, stonewalling, etc.

Emotional Safety

A state in which we can be open and vulnerable with another person. Several factors play into feeling emotionally safe. If I feel loveable and adequate about myself, and I feel that my spouse/partner is in recovery because I can clearly see healthy behaviors. I can share my thoughts or feelings. He will not be angry, throw a fit, judge, criticize, mock or ridicule me.

Emotional Affair

When our spouse or partner spends his or her emotional energy, time and attention on someone other than us, gaslighting us to protect his compulsive sexual addiction.


A powerful tool to connect with others, respecting an individual’s situation and sitting with them in their pain, rather than trying to fix or lecture. When we feel empathy for another, we acknowledge and/or validate their pain as we put ourselves in their situation. Coach Cat defines empathy as the ability to recognize and respond to another’s pain, taking responsibility for your part in causing that pain (if appropriate).


Another label sometimes put on us to attempt to get us to take some responsibility for the actions of our spouses. Another interpretation is not setting boundaries and accidentally allowing yourself to be abused over and over.


An imagined space where a sex addict can escape to avoid reality. It can take the form of using sexual images - remembers or imagined to create ‘porn” in their mind.
Addicts can be so caught up in fantasy that they become unable to distinguish reality from fantasy in their everyday activities. 

Faulty Core Beliefs

Deeply held beliefs that are not true. For example, we may have come to believe early in our life that we need to earn love, or that we are unloveable. Or that we somehow caused this trauma and pain to ourselves. Alternatively, a sex addict may believe that they are worthless and beyond the capacity to change.

Fight , Flight or Freeze

An acute stress response that happens when our physical, mental, or emotional safety is threatened - or as Coach Cat likes to say, “When we perceive that our safety is threatened, even if it’s not actually.” We may experience this upon discovery and afterwards. Physically, we might experience rapid heart beating, rapid breathing, trembling, becoming paralyzed with fear, etc. Our body is literally reacting to a threat and goes into a type of survival mode. Triggers often activate this response. An addict may experience fight, flight, or freeze during a normal conversation when they perceive they are somehow threatened (but aren’t really). 


Essential for our trauma healing, but not to be confused with trust. Forgiveness comes with healing, and is not necessary to think about while seeking safety and stabilization. Forgiveness is a gift to ourselves - where trust is a gift to someone else. 


A tool used by sex addicts to protect their addiction. They manipulate us psychologically to distort reality, making us feel crazy. Also referred to as crazy-making. For more information, read or listen to our podcast, "How to Discover Your Husband’s Gaslighting and What to Do."


A feeling of profound sadness and loss. After discovery, we experience stages of grief. Grief over the fact that the reality we thought we had was false. Our lives have been shattered to the core. To heal, we must fully allow ourselves to grieve - there’s no timeline and sometimes grief will revisit us when we least expect it.


When discovery happens, it’s hard to trust or believe anything. Even our faith can be challenged during this period. Most of us instinctively know when something is wrong, and many of us go through a period of pushing our intuition aside. Part of recovery is learning to trust ourselves again. At the same time, because we may have engaged in unhealthy behaviors as a result of being lied to and abused, it’s best to consult with a coach to know if what we feel we should do is the best course of action. For example, many women do not feel comfortable about setting boundaries, it feels wrong at first. But then, as we learn to set boundaries, we see how beneficial they can be. 

Honoring Emotions

Recognizing what we feel in the moment and learning from the emotion, rather than pushing it down to avoid the pain. We can honor other’s emotions by respecting the fact that at the end of the day, it’s our responsibility to own our emotions and how we choose to handle them. If the sex addict blames us for their anger, we can honor his emotions by saying I understand that you’re angry and I hope you find the support you need to work through it. It is not our responsibility to make the sex addict feel better.


Behavior or circumstance where the addict is unfaithful to us - includes porn use.


How we feel when someone is gaslighting us. Crazy. Often used in 12 Steps as a way to gauge sobriety. See Gaslighting.


A deeply felt emotion connecting us with another person. A personal, warm attachment with someone such as a parent, child or friend. With a spouse or partner, love also includes deep trust and physical intimacy. We feel a deep enough love that we are willing to be vulnerable, at its most personal, physical level. The sex addict, when not in recovery, is incapable of expressing love for another person.


An intense desire to satisfy physical appetite. A form of infidelity if directed toward a person outside of an exclusive relationship such as marriage, but also in a marriage, the sex addict can treat us like an object to satisfy their addiction.


Sex addicts minimize their addiction behaviors. 

  • They justify their porn use because “guys do this all the time” or “it was just porn, not an actual affair.” 
  • They rationalize: “It just popped up on my screen.” 
  • They blame-shift, saying they “turned to porn/affair because we won’t have sex with them.” 

Multi-Dimensional Partner Trauma Model

The framework used by APSATS therapists and coaches to help them through the betrayal trauma healing process. This model has three distinct stages, that are not necessarily linear: 1) Safety & Stabilization, 2) Grieving & Processing, 3) Reconnecting.

Narcissistic Behaviors

Includes extreme self-centeredness, need for attention, lack of empathy, and grandiose ideas/self-perception. Read our article, “What to Do When Your Husband Exhibits Behaviors Consistent with Narcissism."

No Contact

A boundary. It means that you will not have any contact with someone. Can include blocking their phone number, blocking their emails, and only allowing communication through a third party. A good boundary to consider when there is repeated and consistent emotional abuse.


Any activity that degrades women to the status of an object including pornography, strip clubs, prostitution, sex with self, affairs, etc. Also identifying people by body parts and appearance, rather than personality traits and strengths.

Primary Attachment

A parent, caregiver or spouse. Such a close connection to another person constitutes a primary attachment.


Any material used for sexual gratification. Tool used to degrade humans into sexual objects.


Attempting to justify or explain a behavior to make it appear logical. For example, “I didn’t do anything wrong, this porn just popped up on my screen.”  When the truth is, the addict clicked on an image he suspected would bring up porn, and viewed it for longer than a second, and masturbated to it.


For spouses experiencing betrayal trauma, recovery means regaining our identity, purpose, self-worth. It is the journey of healing we courageously take to become whole again after betrayal.

For sex addicts, recovery means turning away from compulsive, secretive sexual behaviors, living in reality, and taking full responsibility for the damage he has caused. He seeks to live an honest life and make amends. Full recovery for a sex addict is not likely without professional support from a therapist (especially helpful if it is a CSAT) and participation in support groups (ie, 12 step groups specifically for sex addiction). A spouse in recovery will not lie, gaslight, blame-shift, or pressure us to do things. A spouse in recovery respects our choices and our needs, and our journey (even if they fully don’t understand it). The process is long - at least 3-5 years for the initial phase.


An addict stepping away from recovery and healing, returning to secretive addictive behaviors. Emotionally abusive behaviors return as well as sexually acting out.
For more information, read or listen to our podcast, “Relapse Preparedness: How to Prepare for Infidelity & Emotional Abuse While Also Hoping It Never Happens Again.”

Rock Bottom

A term referred to when the addict has hit a devastating low, realizing that his addiction is beyond his control and has caused tremendous damage, to the point that he reaches out for help. 

It also refers to when a woman cannot handle the behaviors of her husband anymore, and finally steps away and seeks help for herself rather than her husband or marriage.


Tools we find that help us heal. In betrayal trauma, self-care refers to more than just getting a pedicure and crying on the shoulder of a trusted friend. Self-care is a choice we make to learn to love ourselves. We accept that no one can take better care of us than ourselves. It is one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves. Examples include giving ourselves permission to sleep when we are tired, use paper plates, find an Betrayal Trauma Recovery APSATS coach to guide us through the healing, journal, join a support group, physically take care of ourselves, do things to remind us we are beautiful (get a haircut, get a massage, etc.), go out in nature, practice living in the moment, expressing gratitude, and on and on.


Refers to the disease of being addicted to sex-related behaviors.

Sexual Addiction

Indicators of sexual addiction include, repeated unsuccessful efforts to stop, escalates over time, spends increasing amounts of time engaged in sexual behaviors and thinking about them and the next opportunity, reduction in time spent engaged in hobbies, household chores, family time, etc. 
For more information, read or listen to our podcast, “Why Do Sex Addicts Do What They Do?”


Feeling of not belonging, unworthiness. Intensely painful emotion that causes us to want to withdraw from contact with others. Coach Cat reminds us that there is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt = we did something bad. Shame = we ARE bad. Contrary to popular belief, shame does not cause addiction or abuse. All people feel shame, but not everyone chooses to be unfaithful or to abuse someone as a result.


The preferred term at Betrayal Trauma Recovery for a woman who has suffered due to her husband’s sexual addiction, pornography addiction, lies, emotional abuse, etc.


“When addiction specialists use the term “slip,” they’re often describing a one-time or short-term lapse back toward compulsive sexual behavior—a lapse that ends with some kind of swift and serious self-intervention. When an addict “slips,” he generally gets his butt “back on the wagon” relatively quickly, and while that slip is considered a setback, it doesn’t necessarily undo all of the positive recovery work that he’s been doing to that point. While a slip may be considered “no big deal” or a “learning opportunity” for the addict, it can still be deeply traumatic for their wife.
For sex addicts, for example, a slip might involve clicking on an inappropriate website, viewing something sexually explicit, then stopping himself before allowing that behavior to draw him back into the vortex of chronic and compulsive sexual acting out.” --excerpt from our podcast, “Relapse Preparedness: How to Prepare for Infidelity & Emotional Abuse While Also Hoping It Never Happens Again.”


When a sex addict chooses to stop looking at porn, engaging in sex with self or others, going to strip clubs, communicating with affair partners, etc. Often, he will share a number of days he has been sober. 


Reference to someone in a 12 step program who acts as a mentor to another person who is newer to the program. While sponsors often have valuable experience and insight that can provide tremendous support, sponsors are not qualified therapists and do not have the expertise to take the place of a therapist. Sex addicts in recovery have a sponsor and a qualified therapist.


Soon-to-be ex-husband.

Therapeutic Disclosure

“While painful either way, a therapeutic disclosure can be the difference between a savage tear and a surgical cut. Both hurt, but one is easier to heal and leaves less of a scar,” says Coach Cat. Therapeutic disclosures help us understand the reality of the situation. Little bits of information of betrayal here and there can take us back to ground zero, and we relive the trauma. We need the truth and we need transparency so we understand the facts and make choices about whether or not we want to stay and work on the marriage. In a therapeutic disclosure, the couple meets with a therapist in a safe environment, guided through the disclosure process. A therapeutic polygraph is also recommended to help make sure all the information is out. For more information, read or listen to our podcast, "Establishing Sexual Safety in the Wake of Betrayal."

Therapeutic Polygraph

A therapeutic polygraph is recommended to help make sure all the information is out. Results largely depend on the experience and training of the examiner conducting the test, so it is important to find someone who is highly trained and qualified. When done well, this can provide a helpful foundation on which to build trust.


When we discover our partner has a sex addiction we are deeply wounded. Trauma is the resulting emotional state created by the wound. Betrayal trauma has a multidimensional impact affecting us emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially etc etc 

When we discover the reality of our situation-that our partner/spouse is a sex addict - our reality is shattered. We can also realize we have been lied to and manipulated by a person who went to great extent to protect his compulsive sexual behavior. When we are in trauma, we may experience a wide range of thoughts and emotions. It is crucial to find help and support as soon as possible. APSATS coaches here at BTR are professionally trained individuals who have been through the trauma themselves and are here to help us navigate this new reality we face.


Coach Cat says, “An experience (real or perceived) which causes a person to recall a traumatic memory. It will throw the person experiencing it back into the emotions of the traumatic event itself.”

When we feel betrayal symptoms-confusion, sadness, grief, anger, despair, resentment, etc. in relation to the sex addict. Sometimes we can identify what triggered us (noticing the sex addict sleeping late), sometimes it sneaks up and sabotages us (walking down an aisle at the grocery store). Triggers can send us down a dark path of loneliness and misery, but there are ways to combat them. To find out more, read or listen to our podcast, "An Exercise to Quiet Your Self Defeating Self Talk."


Not to be confused with forgiveness. Learning about trust and whether someone is trustworthy is a process. It takes experience. Someone is trustworthy if they are confrontable, accountable, honest, humble, and compassionate. “Trust is the ability to reliably predict the behavior of another based on experience,” says Coach Cat.


Being willing to take risks even when things feel uncertain and we are willing to share our emotions. The more vulnerable we are willing to be, the more courage we will have to act in our healing/recovery. It is not wise to be vulnerable with unsafe people who will likely use the information to abuse us.

White Knuckling

A sex addict who is sober but not in recovery. He isn’t watching porn or having an affair, but he is battling the urge to relapse and it can consume all his energy to not act out.


Wife of a pornography addict. Betrayal Trauma Recovery prefers not to use this term to describe women who have suffered from their husband’s lies and abuse.

Working the Steps

Reference to practicing the principles found in 12-step recovery programs. See 12 Steps.

12 Steps

Programs centered on 12 Steps of recovery that help an addict or spouse or family member of an addict to heal. While there are 12 Step programs specifically for drug and alcohol addiction, a spouse or loved one of a pornography/sex addict will find more effective healing through finding a group specifically for spouses and family members. Similarly, a pornography/sex addict will find more effective healing through a specific 12 Step program focused on pornography and sex addiction. We recommend SALifeline 12 Step Betrayal Trauma Groups for Betrayal Trauma.