Is it possible to heal from betrayal trauma and emotional abuse?


Join Cat, an APSATS certified trauma specialist and Jen, a member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community, as they discuss ways that victims can find empowerment and healing. Listen to the free BTR podcast or read the full transcript below.

Feeling “Stuck”? Use These Three Tips To Start Healing Today

Many victims of betrayal trauma and emotional abuse describe “feeling stuck” as they try to process trauma.

Abuse, by its very nature, is meant to make women feel powerless, small, and “stuck”.

Using these three tips, women can move forward with life: safe, strong, and empowered. 

1. Start Giving Responsibility Back To Your Abuser (And Stop Taking the Blame)

Many women suffering from the effects of betrayal trauma and emotional abuse are conditioned by their abusers to believe that the abuse is their fault, rather than the fault of the abuser. This is called “victim-blaming” and it’s all too common in today’s society.

Where they’ve been told this lie for such a long time, that this on them that somehow this is their fault, that if they did this or if they did that… It is inevitable that they start to believe that stuff. So whilst not everybody is vehement in saying this is my problem, we definitely see a huge amount of confusion in terms of which are my bits and which are his bits.

The truth is most of it is his bits and the bits that are yours were in response to the bits that were his. That’s why it’s so important for women to have a safe place to talk it through with other women.

Cat, APSATS certified trauma specialist

Victims Cannot Cause, Cure, or Control Emotional Abuse and Betrayal

You can start healing today by handing the responsibility to your abuser: he betrayed you, he has committed relational abuse. You are not to blame. There is nothing you could have done to control, cure, or cause the abuse and betrayal. Give him the responsibility back and shed the blame that you’ve been carrying.

2. Start a Self-Care Routine That Includes Positive Self-Talk

Most, if not all women in betrayal trauma, have also suffered from extensive verbal and emotional abuse.

Their sense of self-worth as well as their awareness of their own needs have eroded over time because abusive men feel entitled to be the “center of the universe” and in doing so, condition women to ignore their own needs and their own powerful selves.

I would  definitely go back and tell myself I am more than worth it! That I will get through this, that this is his stuff and not mine, and that I don’t need to know all the answers right now.

My needs are important. My feelings are valid. I would definitely talk positively to myself as opposed to beating myself up and talking negatively. 

Jen, member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community

Victims of Emotional Abuse Are “More Than Worth It”

Start a self-care routine today, and begin by simply saying,

“I am more than worth it.”

Other self-care essentials include:

  • Setting and maintaining boundaries that separate you from abusive behaviors
  • Joining a support group
  • One-on-one trauma coaching
  • Working toward healthy sleep and nutrition
  • Sharing your story with a safe person or through writing
  • Meditation, yoga, walking, or breathing exercises

3. Start Sharing Your Story With Other Victims of Emotional Abuse

I first made the decision, I want to heal. I deserve to heal. I’m going to do this no matter how scary it is with everything I have.

Jen, member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community

As victims of emotional abuse share their experiences with other women who can relate to what they have gone through, they find healing and validation, empowerment and strength.

Many women have tried to share their experiences with clergy, therapists, family, and friends who have ultimately responded in unhealthy ways that have enabled the abuser and shamed or blamed the victim. This is tragically common and extremely difficult for women to process.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Victims of Betrayal and Emotional Abuse

As victims of emotional abuse seek safe places to share their stories and courageously speak the truth, their journey to healing begins. Often, it is with other women who have endured the same abuse that women find solidarity and healing.

When I first was introduced to BTRG (Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group), my world had turned upside down and I was lost in overpowering emotions. The coach me through the emotions and guided me to discover what brings me peace and to advocate for myself. I have found deep friendships and support that I would never have found otherwise. I have found a place of healing and strength. BTRG is amazing!

Anonymous member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community

The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets daily in every time zone. Women all over the world meet to process their pain, share their triumphs over trauma, and ask questions that facilitate discussions and empowerment over trauma, abuse, and addiction-related issues. Join today and begin your journey to healing.

Full Transcript:

Women In Abusive Relationships Can Find Online Support

The consequences of your partner’s sexual addiction may cause you to experience fear, anxiety, insomnia, depression, despair, hopelessness, or other mental distress, financial difficulties, and abandonment. You are likely suffering from betrayal trauma and need help.

We have Jen from Utah with us today to talk about her journey to heal from betrayal trauma. She worked with Coach Cat in one of our workbook study groups, so Coach Cat is joining our podcast today as well.

Welcome Jen and Cat!

Before we start today I just want to mention that women in all 50 states and over 20 different countries have scheduled support calls and joined our BTR Support groups! So wherever you live, our live online services are here for you! I think that it’s really exciting that Jen got to work with Cat even though Cat lives in the UK and Jen lives in Utah! We’re happy to have you both on the call today!

Jen’s Experience With Betrayal Trauma

So Jen, let’s start with how you discovered your husband’s addiction. Can you tell us your story?

Jen: Looking back, I went through ten years of consistent disclosures of physical affairs. With each disclosure, he would give me there was a lot of like gaslighting and emotional abuse. It was my fault, I was to blame, not good enough physically, emotionally or sexually.

He would eventually come out and tell the full truth, swearing he would never do it again, that this was the last time.  I didn’t know at the time that this could be an addiction. I truly thought he’s just a jerk. I’m not good enough. He’s just looking for something better because I don’t amount to what what he’s looking for. I went through about ten years of that.

Hitting Rock Bottom Led to the Recovery From Betrayal Trauma

My latest big disclosure which was the big tipping point and led us to find recovery was two years ago. A religious leader pointed us to a counselor who ended up being specialized in this specific addiction. When she said the words like, ‘ You have an addiction. You need to go to group.’, It was still hard for me to grasp because I had told myself the story for ten years that it’s me, I’m the problem. I would never tell anybody,  not even therapists that we would go to.

I was so ashamed and mortified and was sure that the therapist would say ‘Yea, you’re not doing this and you’re not that’, and give me a list of all the reasons why this is happening to me. So he had disclosed about a physical affair with a women at work. He continued therapy and I continued therapy. He went back and forth from, ‘Yes I want recovery, this is an addiction’ to ‘This is not an addiction and I don’t want this’.

He hit his rock bottom and made a decision, and his choice fortunately for us was that he truly did want recovery. We were able to start our recovery journey. That is what has led me to where I am today.

Support Groups Help Recovery From The Trauma Of Abusive Relationships

Anne: So you mentioned that there were the related behaviors of emotional abuse and gaslighting and lying. Have you found that as part of your recovery that you’ve also needed support and help to recovery from the experience from that abuse?

Jen: Oh, 100%. It took me about four months of going to groups before I actually could admit I belonged there. I would sit there and think, ‘This is not where I belong! Do you guys not see me? I’m the problem, not him!’

Then we had an amazing counselor who worked with him and us to do a full disclosure.  When he read me his full disclosure it felt like a thousand pounds lifted off my shoulders and I realized that he is an addict, 100%. I had never heard everything laid out in a time line before, and it started making sense.

In one of my groups, one of my friends had mentioned BTR. I started listening and it became my routine. I would turn on a podcast and I would exercise and it was like extra therapy when I wasn’t in counseling that helped me to learn the things I needed to learn.

My friend then said, ‘Hey, they’re going to start an workbook group.’  I told her that I felt like I need that! That was the first time I was able to talk about my pain because I had buried it and truly convinced myself that I was the problem.

There was no way I was going to be publicly humiliated. I had made up the story and everyone would agree with me, ‘You’re right you really are the problem and these are all the things you need to change.’  It was too humiliating to even think about writing it out, let alone sharing it out loud.

Women Often Take The Blame For The Abuse They Experience

Anne: Cat, Do you find that that’s common when women join support groups with BTR, that a lot of the time the women take responsibility for their spouses lying and abuse?

Cat: That can definitely be the case. Whilst we don’t always see that extreme personalization of it with all the women I work with, I just kind of see this confusion.

Where they’ve been told this lie for such a long time, that this on them that somehow this is their fault, that if they did this or if they did that… It is inevitable that they start to believe that stuff. So whilst not everybody is vehement in saying this is my problem, we definitely see a huge amount of confusion in terms of which are my bits and which are his bits.

The truth is most of it is his bits and the bits that are yours were in response to the bits that were his- so yea it is sadly very common. That’s why it’s so important for women to have a safe place to talk it through with other women.

The other thing that’s really important about a group that helps is people who have been through that process already. People who can just see straight through the middle of that and say, ‘no, that is not what’s happening here and here’s what I’ve learned about that.’

They can save us a lot of time in going through that agonizing process of trying to work out who’s to blame by just cutting straight through and saying, ‘It’s not you, it’s him. This is how I can help you to see that.’

Wives In Abusive Relationships Find Strength and Healing In Support Groups

Anne: I think one reason women hold onto that so much is because they have some control then. If it has something to do with me, then I can change and then I can change the situation. But when we realize that there is nothing we can do and that it has nothing to do with us, it is terrifying because there is literally nothing we can do to fix it.

Jen: Oh I completely agree. I didn’t even realize I was such a control freak until I took this workbook group. I didn’t realize I was trying so badly to control.

Anne: I don’t mean to call you out on this podcast right here in front of 8,000 women. But I’m not sure if it’s control so much as it is our desire for safety. We are desperate for safety. At Betrayal Trauma Recovery we call this ‘safety seeking and truth seeking behaviors’ which we’re entitled to and we deserve. It’s just that sometimes the way we go about trying to seek safety or trying to seek the truth sometimes backfires in our face. It sometimes doesn’t really help us become safer.

Women Recovering From The Lies & Emotional Abuse Related To Porn Addiction Often Feel Overwhelmed

Cat: When you think about it, it’s like drowning. We’re drowning in this sea of confusion and emotional turmoil. And we will reach out and grab hold of whatever life line is in front of us. We don’t stop and say oh, is that the best course of action? We just want to get out of the water because it’s scary in there, right?  So it’s just kind of grabbing up and taking hold of whatever you can get your hands on to try and stay afloat.

Jen: I definitely have used that analogy before. I’ve said I really feel like I’m out in the ocean, treading water and I can’t reach the bottom. Anytime I feel I’m safe to get a gasp of air, a huge wave hits me. I feel like that’s really what I lived like for ten years.

Anne: Yes there’s so much pain. I used that example in the analogy of the drowning swimmer on the podcast. Where I thought that God was throwing me a life preserver, one of those round ones. Then the minute I reached out to grab it He would pull it away. And He just kept pulling it away. I felt like that too.

Related: Covenant Eyes filtering software protects my family.

For our readers, scroll down and comment below How did you feel? Did you feel like it was your fault? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

So Jen, how did being part of the BTR group help you work through the workbook.

Jen: I first made the decision, I want to heal. I deserve to heal. I’m going to do this no matter how scary it is with everything I have.

So I made that choice before I even started doing the exercises. What we do is answer the questions, take pictures of our writing and post them to the group. Putting myself out there like that and being completely vulnerable was so scary.

Then, little by little we have like a comment from somebody in the group or Cat that would be so kind and gentle in pushing us to go further to dig deeper and be able to realize, wow it isn’t my fault. Or I do have worth and I am allowed to say no. And it just helped me to connect the dots.

The Power Of Vulnerability, With Brene Brown

Anne: So do you feel like the workbook really helped you process what had happened to you and what was currently happening to you?

Jen: Oh yes. It helped me to understand addiction, what was actually going on. It helped me to be able to grieve. We truly went through a grieving process of what I had lost and what I had gained.

I was definitely able to get outside of myself. I feel like true growth really comes when you’re able to be vulnerable in healing. It was enabling us to be vulnerable and also to live in the present moment. What is real? What’s happening right now?

Growth In Betrayal Trauma Support Groups

Anne: Cat, from your perspective, can you see growth in these women through that period of time?

Cat: It’s a 12-week workbook and there are six chapters. We spend two weeks in each chapter and you can absolutely see the growth. Certainly for the women who really dig in, who really commit themselves to the exercises.

I have to say that when I looked back what really stood out to me about Jen as a particular client is that she really committed herself to just getting into the exercises and getting the most out of the brief experience that she could.

One of the things that I love to do with a  Facebook Group particularly is have the ladies post their goals because there’s less of the live interaction. What are they hoping to achieve by being in this group?

Looking Back, Women Can See Their Growth Past Betrayal Trauma

And then right at the end of the group I’ll check back in with that and say, ‘Hey this is what you wanted to achieve, how did we do with that?’ Sometimes you don’t see in the moment the movement that you’re making so it’s a great way to look back and say, ‘Actually yea, I’ve made some really good movement on that goal and I feel closer to achieving it!’, ‘I’ve achieved it all together!’, or ‘Hey I’ve got a little more work to do.’

I always like to say that a Facebook Workbook Group doesn’t provide the full solution but it definitely gives you a really solid foundation. It can be a really helpful thing to help you think what else you might need to do after the workbook group is finished, where your strengths are and see what you’ve done really well.

As Jen has said, one of the key parts of this book that really hit me when I worked through it and what women seem to take from this particular workbook is the grief section. It’s got a great section that allows you to really work through some of that, letting go of what you thought you had and processing the loss. You can actually be seeing movement of those women in that 12 weeks.

Progress And Recovery From Betrayal Trauma Is Empowering

Anne: How would you see yourself now, Jen?

Jen: Oh this is hard for me because I feel like I am able to stand on my own. I’m able to notice myself, ‘oh I’m slipping back into those old behavior patterns’ and apply the things that I’ve learned.

I feel like it gave me the confidence that I actually had within to be able to seek for more help or be willing to share and empathize with others. I actually have shared this book with a few people that have asked me after I had done the group who asked, “What are you doing?” I just said that I just got done with this amazing workbook!

They would just kind of look at me funny. I would just say, ‘Anybody who has been betrayed by a spouse who is unfaithful should give this workbook a chance.’

My friend said, ‘ I got the workbook and started it. It is brutal but amazing! That is really perfect for this workbook. It was so brutal! I felt naked and raw. I hadn’t been seen for so many years. I now feel like I’m ready to show up in the arena unarmed because I now have a foundation of understanding.

The opposite of ignorance is knowledge and I feel like I was able to become knowledgeable about addiction, about betrayal. Even about how I grew up. It doesn’t just hit only spouses. It goes all the way to how you were raised. Where these are coming from and own what is mine.

I just feel empowered. I just feel ready.

YOU Are Of Great Worth, You WILL Get Through This!

Anne: That’s awesome! Jen, if you could go back and give yourself advice, I don’t know if there’s like one day that sticks out to you where there was a disclosure about one of your husband’s physical affairs or a particular moment where you were emotionally abused or where he was gaslighting you-  if you could go  back and give yourself advice because many of our listeners are in that situation right now, what would you tell yourself?

Jen: You know, I have thought about this and I would  definitely go back and tell myself I am more than worth it! That I will get through this, that this is his stuff and not mine, and that I don’t need to know all the answers right now.

My needs are important. My feelings are valid. I would definitely talk positively to myself as opposed to beating myself up and talking negatively.

Cat: I just want to say that it makes me burst with pride and emotion when I hear women talk about their journey through this thing that we call betrayal trauma. For me the greatest joy of the work that I do with women,  to see them talk positively to themselves, to see them show up for themselves.

You CAN Be Your Own Hero

We talk about sheroes here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery and Jen you’re a shero. I love this idea that in the midst of all of the pain and the betrayal we can be our own heroes. We don’t need him to come in on a horse and pick us up and ride off into the sunset. We get to do that for ourselves.

When we talk about the third stage of  trauma recovery we start to talk about post traumatic growth. We take this thing that was so disruptive and turn it into something that fits into the bigger picture of our life,  hopefully into something that will be an asset for us moving forward.

When I’m listening to Jen talking I’m getting a real sense of that. We wouldn’t choose to walk this path but actually that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something useful along the way that can stand us in good stead moving forward.

Some women never learn how to do that. Even when they don’t get betrayed, some women grow up feeling like things are their fault when they’re not. They grow up believing lies about themselves.

If we can take anything out of this experience that’s positive, it’s that we don’t have to do that anymore. We get to learn how to love ourselves, how to offensively show up in our lives. That is just such a beautiful gift.

When Women Recover From Betrayal Trauma, Miracles Happen

Anne: That is my goal for all the women in the world. I think if all the women in the world were in recovery they could stand up and say, ’Nope, this is what’s appropriate and this is what’s not appropriate, and set very strong boundaries.

This betrayal stuff would either stop or, what would happen? I don’t know, all the men just go live with themselves on an island or I don’t know! They would either stop doing it or they would have to go somewhere else! Women are so powerful! You guys are amazing!

Jen: If you would  have asked me that question before this group, I would have said, ‘run- get out of their as quick as you can.’ But after the group and being in recovery I wouldn’t trade it because it has made me who I am and it’s led me to this journey of being able to love myself despite the pain that I’ve gone through.

It’s given me a gift like Cat said and an opportunity to be able to connect and be able to empathize with other women that have felt similar pain. I wouldn’t have been given that opportunity had I not gone through that pain.

I wouldn’t want to change the relationships I have been able to build and I wouldn’t even want to change the relationship with my spouse now. I never even knew marriage could be like this. It doesn’t seem fair that it took such painful painful things to get here but it definitely feels like a gift.

Post Traumatic Growth Helps Women Feel Grateful For Their Experiences

I have so much gratitude for it. Definitely we have bad days and good days but it’s a journey and one day at a time, that’s why I’m even able to talk to myself positively like that and if I did go back I would definitely try and not internalize. I would tell myself how beautiful and strong I am.

Anne: You are. You are beautiful and you are strong. And just like Cat I’m really, really proud of you and all of the women who take steps to pick themselves up and move forward with their own recovery regardless of what their spouse chooses.

Jen: Exactly. Because we don’t have a choice you know. I could wake up tomorrow and my spouse could choose addiction. But I have proper boundaries in place and I won’t not show up for myself again. I have committed to myself that I will show up. I’m the only one that can consistently show up for me.

Anne: Yea. Well thank you so much Jen for sharing your story today and thank you Cat for being here as well.

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