From Breaking Points to New Beginnings | Betrayal Trauma
D-Day refers to Discovery Day - the day you found out that your husband was lying to you. It can also refer to the day when the life you thought you had exploded into chaos.
How Did You Feel Before You Found Out That Your Husband Was A Sex Addict?
Anne: Karen, tell me about the circumstances surrounding your marriage and surrounding your husband's sexual addiction that were going on before you realized he is a sex addict.
Coach Karen: We had been married 25 years and had six kids. For the most part, we had a really great marriage. My husband's heart began hardening and I did not understand what was happening. I would try to talk to him and he would push me away. Things just got worse. I tried to do everything. I tried to be a better wife. I tried to understand him, to respect him; I tried to respect the sinner but not the sin and he would get really angry. He began to get verbally abusive and emotionally abusive and very neglectful. When I tried to bring up my hurt, he pushed me away further and get more angry. In all this mess I lost my voice. I had so much fear.
I had fear I was going to lose our marriage but at that point, I didn't even have a marriage. I was just trying to do the Christian, Godly-wife thing and kept praying for him but I was walking on egg shells. He began to leave for weeks at a time and he left his phone off. It got really ugly and I had no clarity. I was lost in the mess with the fear and the abuse and taking care of our six kids; I allowed our kids to be exposed to way too much.
After all of this and all the trying I did--"if I just looked like this,,," or "If I just did this..."--he ended up walking out on me on Mother's Day weekend, May 2010. I knew right away because my son told me he had gone surfing in Mexico that Friday; my heart sunk because I knew right then he was gone and he wasn't coming home.
I wanted to curl up and die. I got through the Mother's Day weekend. My kids were amazing. That Monday morning I'll never forget. I sat, looking at our dream home; I thought we had a great life. I was in shock. There I was, all my dreams shattered, left alone, unwanted, rejected, abandoned, no good bye...I couldn't believe it. I had been with him since I was 15 years old.
That was my rock bottom. I sat there and I thought, "Ok, God, I guess I'm done trying. I handed him over to God and said, 'What do you want in my heart?'" That was the beginning of God taking me on a journey with Him. He wanted to heal my heart and he wanted me to get well. I found an amazing counselor who happened to also be APSATS trained, who had also been through betrayal in her own marriage.
What Did Rock Bottom Look Like For You?
Anne: Why do you think it took him leaving for you to hit rock bottom? Why do you think you couldn't have realized, "Wait a minute. I need to go about this differently sooner than that?"
Coach Karen: Because it wasn't about me. In the situation in my marriage, I was trying to own my part, I was that quiet wife. Then I became the wife who screamed and yelled and freaked out. I had tried everything. I should have surrendered him. I got caught up in the mess of it, in the craziness, and lost all of my clarity. I got so lost in the pain and in the mess and the surviving and the trying.
I realized there was nothing I could have done. This was his deal and I didn't know exactly what was going on with him and his sexual sin at the time. I would try--get up in the middle of the night and look for his phone--things like that. It was so ugly...taking care of six kids...I should have had boundaries but I was so caught up in the whole thing, in the pain and having no where to go in the pain, having no support; I didn't have anyone walking through it with me; I was trying to do it alone with God but I was so lost in what I could do to fix him and rescue him and help but his heart wasn't there. He didn't want help.
He didn't care. All of my efforts didn't do anything because I couldn't have done anything; I didn't realize this until later.
Anne: the reason I bring this up is not to dwell on what we should have done but just for the listeners right now who may be in this stage, who haven't quite let go, who haven't realized that maybe there really isn't anything they can do. I think this is what "rock bottom" means...it's the point where we realize, "I can't do this." For me, and maybe for you, we have moments of that..."I can't do this"...and then we go to sleep and wake up and somehow do it again...and it repeats.
Using The Scriptures To Heal From Betrayal Trauma
Coach Karen: Yep! I was getting in God's way. I was trying to talk to my husband but he was gone. Recognizing that I was powerless over him. He was at a ranch in Texas; we were living in California. I needed to talk to him about something important regarding the kids. He finally answered and we took care of business really quick and then all he said was, "Karen, I've got to go. My legs are tired and our horse that was skinny, he's strong again. Just want you to know that. I've got to go. Bye."
That was it. It was a weird conversation. He didn't even ask how I was or how the kids were. I was so hurt. I began to cry, curled up in a ball on my bed after that phone call. I rolled over to the Bible and randomly opened up to Psalms and read, "Jesus heals the broken hearted." I began to read it aloud, crying my eyes out. At first none of the verses were pertaining to me or my situation and then I get to verse 10-11 and it says, "It's not in the legs of a man nor the strength of a horse but those whose hope is steadfast in the Lord."
I was blown away. What are the chances...those two random topics that my husband has never talked about in his life, that I open the Bible randomly to a random page, to a random verse, plus how the verse was so encouraging to me. Right then and there I knew that God knew everything. He was with me and it wasn't about what my husband was doing or saying or whatever, it was about those whose hope is steadfast in Him. It was so powerful to me in my journey.
Anne: that is an awesome story. I have personally had so many of these things happen to me as I have studied the Bible, almost every day...I realize, "God is speaking to me!" I am so grateful.
Coach Karen: I can only be responsible for me--how I acted, what my responses were, how I behaved--so someone who is in this today, I would say, find help and support.
Anne: I think we all have those regrets. It's part of the healing...to recognize that we didn't know what we were doing and we were doing the best we could under the circumstances. When I first started Betrayal Trauma Recovery, my hope was to circumvent the rock bottom process for women: "Let me warn you! I spent 7 years doing this. It doesn't work." It was like this. And then I realized, "Wait a minute. I have people like this in my life: Rhyll Croshaw, several people who I knew personally who were telling me that maybe I should work on myself because you can't control what is going on with your husband."
I thought, "No, I can do it." It took my husband getting arrested for me to recognize, "Whoa, there really is nothing I can do!" Unfortunately for me, it took something huge--the arrest--and for you, too, it took something huge--for your husband to just leave without saying goodbye...for us to finally realize what was happening. I think as women of God, there is an even heavier part because we think we are going to pray and do everything we can do and we work, work, work...and we get in God's way.
Dealing With Narcissistic Traits When Others Don't Understand
Coach Karen: and even being a woman of faith, there are struggles in the church too. I tried to reach out to the church and there was a struggle there. They didn't know what to do with me and that was interesting and another topic for another day. I got told to win him over with my Godly demeanor. I didn't have anyone speaking to me, telling me about the boundaries and that his behavior was not okay; on the outside, no one really knew what was happening for awhile until it got extreme.
Anne: where did you begin your own healing? What it with your admission that you were done?
Coach Karen: Yes, that was the beginning and I started praying to God about what He wanted in my heart. What I thought He had wanted all those previous years before my husband left, I realized He was calling me out of my comfort zone; He wanted me to not be okay with verbal and emotional abuse.
I had never looked at it like this before. To say "no" to my husband? God wanted me to know my worth and my value. I had lost all of that along the way. It went from crying every night the first week we was gone...calling him and crying, "Don't you miss us?" and getting no response from him. I would wait for him to text me. Finally after a couple of weeks of that, I realized, "Nope. This is making me crazier."
I stopped all of this with him. I stopped texting him, calling him. He left all six of our kids too; there was no more relationship with them, which was very difficult. I was left to pick up all those pieces as well. But I stopped the communication and this is where I began to feel freedom for the first time in years. I used to get knots in my stomach from the panic of the trigger from him with whatever he would say, not say, how he would or would not act, if he showed up, if he didn't show up.
Finally I started to realize that I did not have to allow him to affect me. I'm going to surrender him and I'm going to keep my emails very short and brief, respectful, but I stopped with all the emotional stuff and let him go. He didn't want to be there and be married and I couldn't stop him so I decided to give him to God.
God just kept telling me to wait on Him and to get well. This is what I was focusing on. So regardless of what my husband was doing, or what was going to happen in our marriage, I had to keep telling myself that I did not need to rush into filing for divorce. Everyone kept asking me what was I going to do...and God just kept telling me, "You know what? You don't have to do anything yet." My husband was still paying for our mortgage and bills, barely, but he was. I had a little income on the side. I took it slow and really focused on my journey with God.
Anne: so you did have an APSATS trained therapist, walking you through this process. Do you think that was a big factor in your recovery?
Coach Karen: absolutely! It was in the Fall. I'll never forget it. My kids were back in school. My therapist was amazing because she was a Christian counselor and there were times we prayed and looked at scripture too. She validated me. She supported me. She understood. She had empathy. It was huge. I felt so safe with her. She had walked through it herself. Even though her marriage didn't survive, she survived. She became a therapist because of her story. It was such a good experience for me to be with her and to be safe.
Anne: I think our stories are kind of similar in some ways in that we were trying, trying, trying, going to God, thinking that we were giving it to Him but we really weren't...and then your husband left and mine got arrested. Suddenly there was no contact. For you, you tried to contact him and he wouldn't respond. In my case, I wouldn't try to contact him and he did nothing to try to get back into the house. It was shocking.
Our stories have a different ending but I think it's interesting that God gave us the same answer: wait, wait, be very still. I decided to begin my healing, to focus on my healing while I waited to see what would happen with him. My husband ended up filing for divorce. Tell me what happened with your husband.
Coach Karen: It was bizarre. He was just gone. We were fairly well-known in the community. He went A Wall. He had built a homeless shelter that he was president of. He was involved in ministry...and then he was gone. He was gone for a year and it was crazy because then we got some text...I had gotten to the place, actually, where I was doing so well emotionally with healing that I actually began to feel sorry for the guy. I started to see better, to see clearly, and I began to realize that he must have some deep issues to walk away from his wife and his 6 kids, just like that, as if we were never important.
I began to see him from a different lens and I started to understand and have compassion for him. Randomly one night I came out of church and I texted him and said, "I prayed for your heart tonight" and I did not want or expect a reply. I just wanted him to know because I really did feel bad for the guy. I could tell he was hiding and running; he didn't look very good; it was so sad. He responded, "Wow, I feel them and I'm miserable." That was the beginning of an entirely new journey but this showed me that I was doing well and that while I had not been safe with him in the home but that with God I was going to be okay.
I was going to be okay no matter if he came back or not. With counseling I did a lot of work and this light bulb went on about insignificance that even went into my childhood and things...and I began to realize when talking with him that I am significant and worthy of love and that I am a valued daughter of God.
I have come so far and doing so well and he mentioned that he missed me and he knew that if he was coming back, he wasn't going to move right back in. He knew that we would be going to counseling and taking it slow. We went really slow and I'm really glad we did because for a year, when we'd meet at counseling he'd show up, sometimes not show up, still didn't see the kids...it was a mess.
During that year, he was still lying. I was thankful that I had loving boundaries. I needed to see action and change. If we were going to make it, it would be by God's doing and it would be hearts changing. I knew God was changing my heart but I didn't see as much in his. We finally got to that place where he was ready and willing to surrender and stop running a year later. That's when the next D Day came.
That's when he came over to my house and told me he had a full blown pornography addiction, which he had denied in the past even though I would catch him here and there, and that he had been unfaithful for a few years. Right then and there my heart broke all over again and I was in such shock and trauma and I fell to the ground; my body went limp and fell down. This was a very hard moment because I had come so far.
The next few months were ugly. My counselor was amazing with us and with my husband. This is when my husband broke and he was humble and repentant and he wept and I then went into grief again because of all the betrayal and lies that he had been telling me. I had to backtrack memories and triggers and found a support group that was amazing. I found women who were going through exactly what I was going through. I realized I wasn't alone.
My husband got into his recovery and found a band of brothers and he had a counselor himself and so that is when the real healing began for both of us. For my journey, it was about me having the support and having others and knowing I wasn't alone in this. I had learned my value and how to use my voice. I learned how to express what I needed. Had I not gotten to that place, I don't think I could have handled what was coming because I had already been so broken. It was a long journey. So to have this happen at that point would have been even more difficult.
Anne: Coach Karen, you are going to start a faith-based support group on Betrayal Trauma Recovery soon. Can you tell us a little bit about your group?
Coach Karen: We are going to be going through the book Rescued by Shelly Martinkas. She is from Newlife with Steve. Her husband does Every Man's Battle workshops that we have been involved with through Newlife.
Faith Based APSATS Facilitated Support Groups For Betrayal Trauma
Anne: what types of topics do you cover in this faith-based group?
Coach Karen: We go through triggers and identifying them; learning what happens when we have a trigger and what to do with it. We talk about the grieving process, anger, sadness, numbness, that it's ok to be angry, it's ok to not be okay, processing outloud, knowing you are not alone, understanding boundaries, self care, accepting that life isn't going to look the same and the grief that comes with that, finding a new normal.
Everyone's healing process might look different. Some might go faster than others and it's okay. There is no judgment on that. Everyone's story may sound similar and yet everyone's journey is unique. One of my favorite parts is empowering women, giving them tools, helping them know their worth, giving resources, understanding their spouse's sex addiction more, finding joy and purpose in our pain...look at us! Every coach at BTR - we've been there, we get it sisters!
This has become our passion. This is the joy of my life to encourage women on their path to healing. It doesn't waste our pain. There is purpose in it. I'm so grateful for that and to be here to encourage other women. God allowed me to experience this so I can relate and empathize with those who have felt so alone. Just this morning in my group, some people don't tell anyone else their story; they have a safe place in group to come.
I so believe in the support groups. Individual coaching is wonderful and necessary too. The groups are really special because it's amazing how we connect. Everyone is being real. Everyone is being authentic and vulnerable.
It really is a big part of the healing journey. In the group, prayer is welcome, looking at scripture, and these women and their precious, hurting hearts, pointing them to God for their comfort. In God's word there is so much wisdom. He created marriage, He talks about sexual integrity and God's love is unfailing and God is faithful even when our husband's aren't. He meets us exactly where we are. It is a really special component of the support groups I lead. I find it to be powerful, no matter the outcome of the marriage. It's us and God has good plans for us, no matter what happens in our marriages.
Anne: We know we have all different kinds of listeners. Some of our listeners are Christian, some are religious, some are not. Some are girlfriends or wives of sex addicts. We know we have a vast population that listens.
I just want to share my faith that God loves all of you no matter what your own leanings are and that I truly believe that He has directed me to start this because He does not want you to hurt any more. He loves you and He cares about you. This is why we have set Betrayal Trauma Recovery up the way we have. Wherever you are and whatever you believe, you can find healing here. You are welcome here. It is safe. You will find women who understand what you are going through and understand your hurt.
Karen, thank you so much for being here today. If you are interested in joining Karen's support group, it's call Rescued, on our support group page. If you go to the top left hand corner of btr.org and click on menu, you'll see Support Groups where you can register for Karen's group.
Coach Karen: All of us coaches at BTR have been there. We get it. That's why we care and why we do what we do!
Anne: Coach Karen, you're awesome! If this podcast is helpful to you, will you please rate it on Itunes. We are also on SoundCloud. Each rating helps other women who are isolated to find us. We are a non-profit so we appreciate your donations as well. Follow us on FB, Instagram, Twitter...we love interacting with people.
Until next week, stay safe out there!
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