Spiritual Crisis In The Face Of Betrayal
Spiritual Fracture Caused by Betrayal
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne. I have some very exciting news. So many of you are in dire financial situations because of your husband’s addiction, or his actions, or him abandoning you, or your ex-husband’s decisions. We have created some amazing PDFs that you can print out and take to local businesses, or your church leaders, or people that you know, to ask for donations to be donated to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, which is a non-profit so their donations are tax deductible, on your behalf, so that they can pay for your services.
Click here to access those PDF’s – they’re at the bottom of the page. We have several different downloads that explain our services, what their donation goes to, so please check that out so that you can get the help that you need.
Secondly, we’re running our groups a little differently than we have before. The groups are listed in order of like right when you first suspect you’re being abused, or right when you first suspect that your husband might be viewing porn or lying to you. There is So My Husband Has Issues – Now What? That group is to help you understand what it takes to establish safety and heal from betrayal trauma. We have groups that are for women who—they’ve realized, “Man, I think I’m being lied to. I need a therapeutic disclosure and a therapeutic polygraph.” Coach Sarah does that group.
Why Reaching Out For Support In A Spiritual Crisis Is So Important
Whatever stage you’re in, go ahead and register for that group. Once you’re registered, please share that link in your secret Facebook groups, or send it to your friends, and say, “Hey, I registered for this group. Join me if this is the stage you’re in.” Once that group fills, we will run it. This way, we can meet your needs right when you have them. You don’t have to wait until August for a divorce group, or until September for a separation group, if you’re thinking about separation right now.
Whatever stage you’re in, we can help you where you’re at. Right now, women have registered for “So My Husband Has Issues – Now What?”, “How Do I Heal and Protect my Children”, “Detecting and Confronting Gaslighting”, and “Setting and Holding Boundaries.”
If you’re interested in any of those topics, we have women already registered for those, and they’re going to run as soon as they fill, which will be really soon. You register for those by going to the Services page, then click on the group, or groups you’re interested in, it will take you to the page that has the word Register. Click on that, follow the instructions, and that’s how you join the group.
How Does A Spiritual Crisis Impact Families?
Today, I have the co-authors of the book, “Love and Betrayal: Stories of Hope to Help you Heal from your Husband’s Pornography Addiction.” Carmel Parker White grew up in a ranching community in western Montana, and she’s lived many places throughout the United States. She has a doctorate in Life Span Human Development, and she has taught at universities in Alabama, Kansas, North Carolina, and Utah.
Her educational experiences have cultivated a lifelong interest in the factors that influence the trajectories of people’s lives. Carmel is familiar with the impact of pornography in a marriage, as well as the spiritual and emotional issues that women face when married to a pornography addict. She has two grown daughters and one granddaughter, and she currently lives in Sandy, Utah.
Her co-author, Natalie Black Milne, was born and raised in a small southern Utah community. She’s recently taken on the challenge of integrating her background in communication studies with graduate work in Family and Child Studies at the University of New Mexico. She is familiar with the devastating impact addictions have on the family and is also passionate about becoming a voice, promoting the sanctity of the family. She, along with her husband and three sons, live in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
Why Do Many Women Experience A Faith Crisis with Betrayal Trauma?
Anne: Welcome, Natalie and Carmel.
Natalie: Thank you.
Carmel: Thank you.
Anne: As we’re talking today about betrayal trauma, and how it impacts women and how it impacts families, we also know—and we’ve had several guests on the podcast talk about the impact to a woman’s spirituality, and the spiritual crisis that women go through, when faced with this trial. Natalie, let’s have you go first. What is your feeling about how betrayal trauma impacts spirituality?
Natalie: That is one of the trickiest aspects of how a husband’s pornography addiction affects the woman, because there are so many different layers and levels to it. Just in a brief explanation, it’s something as simple as it causes them to question everything, to question their beliefs, to question their relationship with God, to question if they are even able to receive communication with God.
How Normal Emotions After Betrayal Can Lead To Spiritual Crisis
Then, it causes them to also question, and even wonder, if they’re ecclesiastical leaders are even giving them sound advice. A lot of that is based on the trust that they’ve lost, namely, in men and in God himself. It just becomes a really hard thing for women to navigate, because it shakes that very foundation, that spiritual foundation and their connection with God.
Carmel: Anne, when we interviewed the women, I just wanted to mention that, for them, it was oftentimes their intense emotional reactions. Their anger, or their pain, that would get this started. The betrayal would occur and then all of those intense emotions could also be projected onto their spiritual experiences and their feelings about God.
Anne: That’s interesting. Also, the fact that the intense emotion is—I assume—this is what happened with me. It was more than just the betrayal of my husband, but it was also, like Natalie just mentioned, the bad advice I received from my church leaders, or the harmful advice, that harmed me even more. Right, so I’m questioning that, and then I’m having really intense emotions, which, frankly, is normal, right? Men might think, “Why is she acting like this?” But, for us, if we acted any differently, that would be weird.
Is A Spiritual Crisis Common After Experiencing Betrayal?
Natalie: Yes, right. I agree with that. What was interesting, though, is for a lot of women, that level of intensity was the first time they had really experienced that, and some of them even wondered if that was okay, or if, say for instance, God would be looking down upon them for that. It caused them to question that. We had to assure them, just as their therapist did, that that’s a very normal response, and you should be responding that way.
Anne: I write in a gratitude journal every day, and one of the things I wrote for a few days is I kept saying, “I’m so grateful for my anger.” I was like, “Yeah, I am grateful for my anger, because how else would I feel? This is the only sane reaction to this insane situation.”
Carmel: Yes, exactly. It’s often our emotions that warn us that we feel something deeply, and that we need to deal with it. In this case, the intense emotions that come from the betrayal cause us to reexamine everything, because of those emotions.
What Is A Spiritual Fracture?
Anne: In your book, you talk about a spiritual fracture. Can you tell me more about that?
Carmel: Yes, that’s a term that actually came from Dr. Kevin Skinner. From his perspective, women were trusting their husbands that they would be reliable, and they wouldn’t let down their commitments, and they wouldn’t let them down. When that commitment, or trust has been broken, women begin to see people and relationships that they thought were safe as not safe anymore.
They start to ask themselves about all relationships, “Is this a good relationship? Can I have my needs met?” Then this just, over time, becomes a spiritual problem, because they start to wonder if God will do the same for them. They wonder why God didn’t warn them, and they wonder why God didn’t prevent this kind of pain.
How Spousal Betrayal Often Leads To Spiritual Trauma
Anne: We’ve been told in church, if you do this and you do this and you do this, you will have a happy and peaceful life. Your marriage will be beautiful, and you’ll have this wonderful family. Then we’re like, “I did all of those things, and I am not getting the things you promised me.”
Carmel: It’s as if the contract women—women start to feel like, “This contract has been changed. I did all what I thought I was supposed to do, and now I don’t have the outcome. How does this work?”
Natalie: Exactly. When they join into that union as husband and wife, most people who are married do that also in a contract with God. When that most personal and spiritual and special relationship has been so badly damaged, and for a lot of women just out of the blue, you can see the fracturing that would take place across the board. “If I can’t trust my husband, then who can I trust? Can I trust my best friend? Can I trust my sister? Can I trust God himself?” It’s just because that relationship is the most intimate relationship they have, next to God himself.
How To Trust God Again After A Faith Crisis
Anne: Can a person who has experienced betrayal trauma trust in God again? My own personal feeling is that I am still working on this. I’m not sure if I trust. I want to trust God again. I’m working through that. In some ways I absolutely trust him. In other ways, I’m kind of like, “Eh, I don’t know.” Tell me about what you found.
Carmel: Over a period of usually years, they did begin to trust God. They did begin to realize he’s the only one they can count on, that they can’t count on anyone else but God. God will be there. It took, for many women, years to get to that point where they felt like they could trust God again.
Natalie: Right, and something that I noticed, not just with these women, but with my own life and life in general, I think a lot of that trusting comes down to women can logically think God is all loving, all powerful, and he is my father. I can trust him. But they don’t trust him in their heart, and I think a lot of it is because they don’t trust themselves in trusting him.
How To Build Faith After A Spiritual Fracture
They want to trust him, but they think, “Well, I’ve trusted before and look what happened,” or, “Maybe I don’t trust how I receive communication from him. I’m not confident in my communication and those feelings with him.” To me, I see that it’s that dance between trusting him, but then also trusting myself that I can trust him, or that I know or I have the proper skills to be able to.
Carmel: I might add one more thing on top of that. It’s that women, when they are going through this, they question themselves just as much as they question their husbands and other people. They lose confidence in their ability to make judgements or to make a good plan, or a good direction for them to go. They’re questioning everything, including themselves.
Anne: For me, it’s, “I did those things. Will I receive the blessings that you promised me?” I have not yet, I guess, experienced that, in some ways. Part of me, now, is like, “Well, I will trust when I see it.” I’m trying now to be like, “Okay, I can trust before I see it,” but after what I’ve been through, it’s very difficult to wrap my head around that.
Why A Spiritual Fracture is Comprehensive
Natalie: That’s where I think that term spiritual fracturing is so comprehensive, and a lot of it is based on that very thing. You don’t just question your husband, your relationship with God, you question yourself. There’s just a spiritual fracturing on so many levels.
Anne: I want to clarify that the women themselves aren’t making these spiritual fractures. These spiritual fractures are happening to them, as a result of someone else’s choices.
Anne: One of the ways that their spirituality is fractured is by going to a clergy member, or a church leader and asking for advice, or asking for help and not receiving the correct advice, or not receiving help. For me, that’s the most common reason why women don’t trust, or have a difficult time trusting clergy after betrayal trauma. Is that your experience from the women that you interviewed.
How Does Addict Accountability Help In A Spiritual Crisis?
Carmel: I want to say, first of all, that most clergy don’t have extensive exposure to addiction and addictive behavior. They don’t realize what they need to do to help either the husband or the wife. For the wife, they need to communicate that, “I care about you. God cares about you. We need to heal this. You’re as important as your spouse.” But then the clergy also needs to understand that, sometimes, the spouse will lie to them. Sometimes the spouse will minimize what’s going on. Sometimes mercy looks an awful lot like enabling behavior.
Anne: I did a survey. The women that I surveyed said the way they would feel most supported by their clergy was if their clergy held their spouse accountable in some way.
Anne: Rather than just saying, “Oh, don’t look at pornography again, and you, wife, you need to communicate better.”
How Untrained Clergy Leads Women Into Spiritual Fracture After Betrayal
Anne: Right? There was none of that, that he would hold him accountable for his abuse and pornography use and lying, and then support her. Because, in that dynamic, oftentimes, she ends up being abused by the spouse and sometimes then clergy saying, “Well, you need to change something about you, in order for this to stop.”
Carmel: I was just going to say women get that exact response from clergy that, “Well, it’s really not that bad. It’s not like he’s addicted.” The clergy needs to understand how women view it, in addition to, you probably shouldn’t be making the call if he’s addicted or not. Usually, clergy don’t have that kind of mental health training. They can get more information to say, “I really don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m going to get some more information.”
Anne: My church leader said to me, “Well, what difference does it make to you, if he’s looking at pornography?”
Carmel: Oh, wow.
How Unclear Messaging From Untrained Clergy Can Lead To A Faith Crisis
Anne: Yeah, he said that, and I was like, “It’s adultery.” He was like, “Well, it does not say that in the church handbook.” I was like, “I don’t really care what the church handbook says, Jesus said it in the Bible.” Getting in a fight with my church leader was not fun. It was totally miserable. Then there’s always this discussion—not always, but frequently a discussion about forgiveness, and that is when wives, we say, “Wait a minute. Forgiveness is one thing, but trust is another thing.” What are some mistaken assumptions about forgiveness that you discovered when writing your book?
Natalie: We, specifically, centered on three or four different ones, and I’ll just tell you those right now. A lot of women believed that, “I can’t enter in the process of forgiving until I feel perfectly safe, comfortable and ready.” If you choose that route to forgive, you will probably never find yourself forgiving, because you’re never again going to feel perfectly safe, or perfectly comfortable or ready to forgive. That becomes a personal journey of trying to figure out in your mind exactly what forgiveness is and what it looks like.
How The Forgiveness Paradigm Impacts A Spiritual Crisis
That’s something else that leads right into a mistaken assumption is that forgiveness happens immediately. Absolutely not, forgiveness is something that is personal, and individualized, and it’s going to take time. To just say, “Oh, I forgive you,” some women automatically said that as soon as their husband confessed, but then realized over time that, “Wait a minute, I don’t really forgive him. I said that because I thought that that’s what I was supposed to say.” But to realize that true forgiveness takes time, and it’s actually a miracle that happens within the heart.
Another mistaken assumption would be that forgiving my husband would be the same as admitting that my anger toward him was exaggerated or unjustified. Some women believe that, “Oh, if I forgive him, then that means that my anger wasn’t real, or that it was, like I said, over-exaggerated.” That anger is real, and because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that that anger isn’t going to resurface. Anger and forgiveness are two separate things.
The last one that we talk about is, “When I forgive my husband, I in turn make myself weak and vulnerable. I’m better off denying my pain in order to make peace.” That is absolutely untrue, and the exact opposite is true in that it takes a lot of strength and a lot of resolve to be able to forgive in the proper way. Women, over time, start to learn that forgiveness is for their own peace and their own progress and that forgiveness and trust are two completely different things.
How Peace Can Be Felt In A Faith Crisis
Trust is definitely on the man. If that trust is going to be rebuilt, he has to prove that he’s trustworthy. Forgiveness is between a woman and God, between those two that miracle of forgiveness can take place in it’s own time and in it’s own way. Trust, the husband definitely has to be the one to restore that.
Anne: Forgiveness is a gift that we give ourselves that brings us peace—
Anne: —and that brings us perspective, whereas trust is a gift we give others when they have shown that they are trustworthy. For me, for example, I really feel like I have forgiven my ex. I feel like he did the best he could with the resources that he has, and it’s really bad.
Anne: The best he could is terrible, but I feel like it is the best he could do, under the circumstances. With the addiction that he has, with the upbringing that he had, whatever, right.
Why It’s Important To Preserve Sense Of Self During A Faith Crisis
Anne: I feel very at peace with that, but I do not trust him. Every time I have even attempted to engage with him, I am attacked, or blamed for the situation, so I hold a no-contact boundary because of the trust issue.
Carmel: Sometimes you may forgive them for one part of hurt that they caused in your life, but, later, something else comes up that you think, “Well, I thought I’d forgiven him for everything.” You may have to forgive them for how he’s hurt you and then how he’s hurt the kids. Sometimes you have to go through those different processes.
Anne: Financially, for example.
How Healing Can Happen After Betrayal And Spiritual Fracture
Carmel: It does just take time.
Anne: Yes. I think time has to be a factor, I agree. I was going to say, with some of the addicts I’ve seen, time only makes it worse because they’re not improving at all.
Anne: It’s not a pretty picture. Thank you, Carmel and Natalie, for being here today. Thank you for your work. I think it’s so important that all of us are considering these issues. If you want to learn more about their work, their website is loveandbetrayal.net. You can find their book on our Books page at btr.org/books. We’d love to hear your comments about this episode and spiritual situations that you have found yourself in. Please comment on our site.
Our Betrayal Trauma Recovery club is going strong. We have Betrayal Trauma Recovery club sessions every single weekday, and two on Tuesday. If you’re looking for a very inexpensive way to get a lot of support, that is a really good option for you. We really appreciate your ratings on any of the podcasting services that you use. Every rating that you give us, or every comment that you put on the site, helps increase our visibility on search engines, and helps women who are searching and isolated, find us and get the right information to know they’re not crazy, and to know they’re not alone. Until next week, stay safe out there.