Workbook Study: Facing Heartbreak
Are you struggling to wrap your mind around porn addiction and its related behaviors? Are you confused and overwhelmed by trauma you're suffering?
Hi Everyone! I’m Coach Rae, and I’m one of the APSATS Certified Coaches here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery. I’m also a Certified Professional Life Coach, Couples Relationship Coach, Divorce Recovery Coach and the Coaching Coordinator for our entire team of coaches here at BTR.org.
This week, I’m doing the podcast solo, in order to give Anne a little bit of extra downtime with her children. The tradeoff for ME is that I get a little bit of extra online time with all of you out there in BTR land!
This past week, I’ve received a number of emails from BTR listeners, asking me to share more details about one of my upcoming coaching groups: the one titled Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts. Like several of our BTR coaching groups, this is one of our signature Facebook-based workbook study groups—a four month journey with me through the process of healing from sexual betrayal trauma.
I’d like to accomplish three things:
1. If you think you might want to register this group, I hope to leave you with a really good idea about whether or not it's the best choice for you!
2. If joining a group isn’t on your agenda for this upcoming month, chances are pretty good you’ll still hear something that will inspire and enhance your own independent recovery work.
3. Finally, my goal is to leave you with a bit more hope and faith that healing from sexual betrayal trauma isn’t just a vague possibility—it’s actually a very real, very attainable probability.
Which raises a question I’d love to ask our BTR listeners: If you’ve followed us for awhile, have you experienced healing in your recovery from sexual betrayal trauma? What signs do you see in your internal life that indicate your healing is happening? Are there must-have tools you’ve learned to exercise within your relationships? Anniversaries you’ve survived? Milestones you have celebrated? If so, we’d love to hear about it! We invite you to share your comments anonymously below—and if this podcast HAS helped you, please consider rating it on iTunes, so that more women in trauma can find the support THEY need to survive and heal.
How To Heal From Betrayal Trauma Through A Support Group
So, let’s start with the coaching group entitled Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts. For those of you who are familiar with the name Dr. Patrick Carnes, Facing Heartbreak was coauthored by his daughter, Dr. Stefanie Carnes, along with two other veteran CSATs (or Certified Sex Addiction Therapists) Mari Lee and Anthony Rodriguez. Published by Gentle Path Press, this book has sometimes been called a companion volume to Partrick Carnes’ book Facing the Shadow, a similar workbook for porn and sex addicts.
One of the things I love so much about Facing Heartbreak is the comprehensive quality of the content itself. This book doesn’t swing in the dark, hit or miss, lucky to make contact with a few randomly common experiences. On the contrary! One of the best features about Facing Heartbreak is its strategic, sequential and specific lineup of recovery steps. When helping my clients decide which group or workbook might suit them best, I often tell them, “With Facing Heartbreak, you take one brave step onto a fast-moving freight train… then you hold on tightly, stopping at station after designated station, riding the rails of cross-country recovery.” Because, let's face it: for most of us women, recovery is stressful enough without needing to chart our own independent roadmap through the process!
There’s something truly special about a book that ONLY asks you to crack open the cover, then continue taking the next indicated steps, one after another—fully KNOWING that, along the way, you’ll visit all the important, crucial and time sensitive issues that comprise our communal experience of sexual betrayal trauma recovery.
Discovering Your Husband's Sex Addiction . . .
Speaking of trauma? That’s precisely where Facing Heartbreak begins, with Chapter One, "The Trauma of Discovery." Within these opening pages, you’ll find a number of key self-assessments, allowing you to identify and rate your own symptoms of emotional, physical and spiritual trauma. Immediately following that, Facing Heartbreak invites you to create your own Partner’s Shield of Safety, asking you to identify four quadrants of proverbial refuge for yourself along this journey, including S = support, A = affirmations, F = areas of focus, and E = sources of encouragement. Together, these four quadrants spell out the word "SAFE," and as your coach throughout this workbook, I’ll frequently remind you to USE your Shield of Safety when the process gets tough—which again, if your recovery’s anything like mine? You’ll have your fair share of days that aren’t easy.
Having customized your Shield of Safety, Facing Heartbreak digs deep into the good stuff, with Chapter Two, entitled "Manage The Crisis." And here we find one of the next things I love so much about Facing Heartbreak: this workbook has its priorities straight! In the interest of establishing safety and stability in facing the trauma induced by our loved one’s sexual betrayal, “managing the crisis” is all about BOUNDARIES—the limits we conclude are absolutely necessary to protect ourselves within our relationships: emotionally, physically, sexually and environmentally.
This chapter provides a straightforward process for each area of self-protective boundaries, including the challenge of defining consequences (or as I prefer to call them, “responsive actions”) in the event that these boundaries are violated by our intimate partners. In addition to managing our crisis through self-protective boundaries, this chapter also addresses the important topic of what, when and how much to tell others, regarding the sexual betrayal and our subsequent trauma. Readers are prompted to create a detailed communication plan, one that honors our need for safety and privacy, balancing that with concurrent needs for support and community.
As you might imagine, both these areas of crisis management lend themselves to particular challenges. So I’m gonna tell you something I’d tell you even if I WASN’T a betrayal trauma recovery coach: self-care boundaries—including boundaries that determine what, when and how much to tell others—is NOT an area most women successfully navigate all by themselves. I certainly couldn’t, back when I was new to this whole overwhelming experience!
Which makes Chapter Two a prime example of something you’ll get from me as your BTR coach through this workbook: I’ll provide as much back and forth Q+A as you NEED while drafting your own unique boundaries; you won’t need to face one single element of it without my training, experience and support to back you up.
Discovering The Behaviors Related To Sex Addiction & Pornography Addiction, Like Lying, Gaslighting, And Narcissistic Personality Issues
By this point in the book, we’re almost one full month into our 4-month Facing Heartbreak coaching group experience—and that’s when we approach Chapter Three: "How To Deal with the Emotional Aftershock." I’ll be honest: this chapter tends to get heavy. In this section, we come face-to-face with some of our most painful “aha" moments, and we highlight some of our most significant and retrospective hindsights, through exercises that help us to identify our guys' deceptions, manipulations, gaslighting and other forms of relational and psychological abuse.
Together, we document our discoveries, record a chronological timeline of memorable events, make an inventory of losses we’ve suffered as the result of sexual betrayal, and envision making peace with the pain of those specific losses.
We spend time learning to distinguish anger from other emotions, and we explore features of shame, denial, distraction and emotional numbness. Finally, we each write a personal letter expressing the weight of our unfiltered feelings toward porn and sex addiction—and trust me when I tell you that this letter is, without question, one of the most productive and empowering exercises many women in trauma have ever experienced.
As the coach for this group, I’ll have your back each step of the way; I’ll hold space FOR YOU as YOU hold space for your own "sometimes fierce, yet sometimes fragile” selves.
Healing From Betrayal Trauma Takes Support
Now at this point, I have a theory about something: Having made it through the intense “emotional aftershock” work of Chapter Three? I think the authors of Facing Heartbreak did us a favor and gave us a much needed break from staring down our own emotional overwhelm.
Because in Chapter Four, we shift gears a bit, turning our attention to the chapter entitled, "The Nature of Sex Addiction.” Up to this point, while we have—very appropriately, I might add—prioritized the ways our guys’ compulsive and problematic sexual behaviors have impacted US, we pivot here, for a few compassionate moments, to better understand how sex addiction impacts THEM.
This is our chance to explore several common preconceptions about sex addiction, including statements like, “It doesn’t exist,” and “If he cheated, he’s automatically a sex addict,” or “Every sex addict was molested as a child."
We share about the ways we may (or may not) recognize factors that contributed to our guys’ problematic sexual behavior, including issues like gender abuse, childhood trauma, sexual exposure or other kinds of unhealthy influences.
As we delve into these areas, as your coach, I’ll contribute my 16 years of awareness and experience of sexual betrayal—both in my own two marriages, and within the lives of the hundreds of women I’ve met and supported along this journey.
Better yet? Through my professional affiliation with APSATS (The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists) I’m extremely well networked, with some of the smartest, most savvy, most academically advanced experts on the topic of porn and sex addiction, within reach at the click of an email—meaning that, if you have nagging questions about these issues that you’ve never had a chance to ask? This is your time!
If together we encounter something outside my scope of awareness and training, I’ll reach out to my peeps and GET an answer for you. Sometimes… it really does help to know people who know people who literally “write the books” on subjects like this one
In Chapter Five, we come back to us, and this chapter is a favorite for many women, as we begin to explore the section entitled, "How to Communicate our Feelings”—in this case, within a relationship wounded by sexual betrayal. First, we identify some of the unspoken rules from childhood—and while those issues are NOT the cause of our betrayal trauma, understanding them goes a LONG way toward helping us communicate our pain within our wounded intimate relationships.
Equipped with newfound keys to initiate productive and empowered communication—even about our most dreaded “hot button topics”—we close Chapter 5 by writing an Emotional Impact Letter to the addict himself.
Much as we a letter to sex addiction in Chapter Three, this statement invites us to articulate the depth, severity and specificity of our betrayal trauma. Facing Heartbreak prompts us to describe the thoughts, feelings, pain and fear we’ve suffered since discovery, including the cumulative loss of our emotional, sexual, relational and spiritual safety.
In some cases, women do either read or deliver their Emotional Impact Letter to their sexually addicted loved ones. In other cases, women choose not to communicate the content of their letters—instead, they consider it an “inside only” job, choosing to retain the value, effort and personal affirmation they’ve poured into that letter for themselves, close and safe at heart.
And this is when I invite participants to pause to take a VERY deep breath… or two… or three. Because having written that emotional impact statement? Most of us feel like we’ve let some serious trauma weight roll off of our shoulders—which makes it an ideal time to stretch, to reach, to reorient and to breathe again, often for the first time in a very long time.
By this point in the book, we’ve only got one month left in our 4-month Facing Heartbreak coaching group, as we move into Chapter Six, the one entitled, "Make Empowered Choices" This chapter is one of my personal favorites, as it encourages us to take ownership of any issues or coping mechanisms that may actually be harming us more than they’re helping us.
Several tools and exercises invite us to deeper levels of self-awareness, and self-introspection—and it’s within this chapter we refresh our opening themes of self-care, self-focus and self-support. Encircled and empowered by one another, we even tiptoe—slowly—into the topic of forgiveness, in conjunction with ownership, restoration, growth and empathy.
Just FYI… at this point, you probably want to keep taking those deep cleansing breaths… because here we come to Chapter Seven, the one entitled "Reclaim Your Sexuality"—and the like other deeply challenging, intimidating and sensitive themes, Facing Heartbreak handles this one beautifully.
With yet another series of simple self-assessments, we women are invited to reflect upon our own awareness of sexual hurt, sexual health and sexual hope. This chapter prompts us to ask questions like, “If your body could speak to you, what would it say?” and “What parts of my own sexuality do I want to heal and explore in the future?”
Like other parts of this book, this topic isn’t easy or automatic for most of us. However, in the company by other women, asking the same difficult personal questions? We find it’s exponentially easier than it would be if we were having this conversation in isolation, all alone.
Releasing The Pain Of Betrayal Trauma
Which brings us to the Eighth and Final Chapter of Facing Heartbreak, the one entitled "Choosing Your Next Steps." As we cross this finish line, representing four whole months of deep inner work? This is where our communal efforts become undeniably and expressively obvious. Together, we plan a special, ceremonial, virtual “workbook burning party.” (Don’t worry, you can totally keep yours intact if you want to!)
But bottom line, we pause to stop the spirit of companionship and sisterhood that’s escorted us through this journey, and we communally vow to pay it forward—forward into the future of our own yet-unlived lives. We celebrate by leveraging the confidence we’ve developed from facing our heartbreak together, putting it to work on behalf of our own BRAVE and beautiful SELVES.
So there you have it ladies: my best attempt at a marathon sprint through the overarching themes of Facing Heartbreak. As I said at the beginning—I hope I’ve left you wanting more, pursuing more, and believing in more healing—because as we often say in recovery circles: It works if you work it, and you’re really really worth it.
On a quick logistical note, many of you have emailed me with questions about how our Facebook-based coaching groups operate. I’ll be up front about this: the downside of a Facebook-based group means we miss out on the real-time, on-screen group interaction of a traditional support group environment—so if virtual, face-to-face, eye-contact coaching is what you really need, you’ll find a better fit in one of our other groups, such as Sisters In Recovery, a topic based support group we’ll begin around the same time as this one.
That said, this Facebook-based group offers a few popular factors that just can’t be beat. The first one is convenience—you can engage the group from the comfort of… well, anywhere!
The second benefit is flexibility—you can engage the group whenever you have time and opportunity to do so: for example, in the middle of the night if you can’t sleep, or on your lunch-break, or while you’re nursing a baby! And the third benefit is affordability—this is the most cost-effective coaching support option we offer here at BTR—so if a really tight budget excludes you from other kinds of professional coaching support? This group might be an option that’s more within reach.
When all is said and done, joining myself and others through this Facing Heartbreak coaching group MAY — or may NOT — be what you need for your recovery in this specific moment. I’ll tell you what I tell ALL of the women I support in a professional coaching capacity: Even if you feel uncertain about your next steps (which is ridiculously normal, by the way!), I TRUST YOU COMPLETELY to discern which direction you need to go, at every single crucial, decision-making juncture.
Even at times when you feel deep levels of self-doubt, confusion, anxiety and overwhelm—you are still impressively capable of making clear, intentional and healthy choices on your own behalf.
If you feel that Facing Heartbreak is one of those choices, I invite you take that brave bold step onto our fast-moving freight train! Register here, and order Facing Heartbreak. Beyond that, you can email me with ANY questions you have. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And if for any reason this train doesn’t feel like the right one for you? I invite you to honor that decision as well.
The reality is, myself and Anne and the other amazing coaches I work with here at BTR? We’re not going away anytime soon—because sadly, it seems, neither are the sexual betrayals perpetrated upon us, by the broken men we know and love. So in the meantime, feel free to be yourself—whomever that is, and wherever you are—and rest assured that once this train departs the station? There will be another one, coming soon behind it.