He Says He’s In Recovery, But Is It True?

He Says He’s In Recovery, But Is It True?

What Does Recovery Mode Mean?

Forest Benedict is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a certified sexual treatment provider. As the clinical director of an outpatient sexual treatment program in Central Valley California and the program manager of the Sexual Treatment Provider Program at MidAmerican Nazarene University.

If Your Husband Tells You He’s “In Recovery” What Does That Mean?

Forest: What really brought me to do this work, like many people who get into this field, was that I was raised in a pretty difficult upbringing with an alcoholic father and had some difficult traumas. Even though I was raised to be religious, I found pornography at a young age and became addicted. I led a double life throughout my teen years. It wasn’t until I was about 24 years old that I decided I really needed to take my recovery seriously.

Thankfully it was before I was married. I got into treatment. I took full responsibility for my recovery and felt led to do this work.

What Is Recovery?

Anne: Forest, in your experience, why is it essential for partners to look for visible changes in their addict husband’s life instead of trusting the verbal promises of changes that addicts often profess? My ex would often say things like, “I have a plan…” but I never saw a plan.

Forest: I think it’s essential because so many wives of addicts have been lied to for so many years. There has been so much secrecy that once the addiction is discovered, the addict usually really believes they are going to change and they want to change. But I tell people, even in intake, that words mean nothing at this point. This has already been proven based on the past. An unhealthy and unsafe situation has been created because of words and so ACTION IS EVERYTHING–action that is not a performance, along with an attitude change.

What Does Recovery Mean?

The biggest attitude change is humility. They exhibit a willingness to humble themselves and submit to the process, and acknowledge the trauma they have caused. They get out of the victim mentality where they act like they can’t do anything. There are different attitude changes such as learning to be patient with their wife. I talk about how the addict gets this burden off themselves and they feel this huge relief but then the wife carries it from then on. So they need to be patient with their wife as she adjusts to the truth that she has been a victim of lies and abuse for years. This is another attitude change that a partner could see happening. Unless there are visible signs, there is no foundation to know that a change is happening. Words don’t make a foundation. Only actions create a foundation for real recovery.

Anne: Yes. If you say, “You need an attitude change…” and they say, “My attitude is changed!!” …that’s a red flag. Because you would feel it if he’d changed and you wouldn’t think he needed one.

Forest: Exactly. The defensiveness and pride, the need to be right and not willing to listen are signs he’s not in recovery.

Anne: In my ex’s case, I asked him to send me a list of some of the things he thought were my character defects when I was working on Step 4. But I asked him to write my therapist to ensure my safety.

When my therapist received it, she wouldn’t give it to me or let me read it because she said it was too abusive, and she didn’t want to enable him harming me even more. I asked her to give me an overview. She said he made a few disingenuous statements about his abuse that did not amount to true remorse or accountability, and then spent 5 pages listing perceived faults in me. This clearly showed that he was not taking responsibility, and that his perception of me wasn’t based in reality.

Signs He’s NOT In Recovery From Porn Addiction

Forest: The prideful attitude, the defensiveness. A lot of addicts initially think that if they are sober they are recovering. But they’re not putting any effort into learning how to take care of themselves and manage stress or manage their emotions. Addicts need to actually learn, apply, and practice tools. They need structure. Everyone I work with is assigned things they need to do on a daily basis to connect with themselves, their higher power, and their wife.

Recovery is actually learning to care for themselves in a healthy way. Wives will notice if/when they began to do this. If they can see that the addict in their life is trying to change the way they relate to themselves and to others, this humble attitude makes a difference.

Husbands won’t be perfect at it, but it is definitely not an excuse to relapse or to go back into passivity that led most of them into the situation to begin with. It’s hard work, especially when an addict comes from emotionally neglectful or abusive family of origin. If they are willing to work hard and persist despite set backs, become totally honest, accountable, and humble, then it’s obvious they are investing in a lifestyle change and making themselves safer to be with.

Helping Women Know If They’re Husband Is In Recovery Is Our Goal

Anne: At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, our number one goal is to help women establish safety from lying, infidelity, porn use, gaslighting, emotional abuse, and some of the narcissistic behaviors that tend to come out in an active addict or someone who is “white knuckling” but may not be in recovery. Some of the signs I saw in my own situation were related to setting a “no contact” boundary after my husband’s arrest for domestic violence. I waited for him to show some signs of recovery, and instead saw things like him shutting down my bank account, him berating me about the clothes or diapers he wanted me to pack for the kids when he would have them. His obvious refusal to take full accountability for the children while he his care was just one sign he wasn’t in recovery.

There were so many things he could have taken responsibility for to show that he was applying the principles of recovery. Those ACTIONS are the things that are important. Part of what was so difficult during that time was that I was hearing from others that he was saying he wanted his marriage to work, but that he couldn’t do anything because I wouldn’t talk to him. He told everyone about his miraculous recovery that was non-existent in terms of real recovery behaviors. He would play the victim. It was frustrating and traumatizing to hear the statements he would say to third parties. My gut reaction was that I needed to write him letters or that someone needed to tell him what to do because he obviously wasn’t getting it. His solution was to file for divorce.

Know The Signs Of Addict Brain – When They’re Not In Recovery

Knowing what the signs of emotional abuse is key. We have a book section on our website and I highly recommend that women read all of the books so they can have an understanding of what emotional abuse can look like. Even if they don’t suspect that porn is happening anymore or that infidelity is continuing, emotionally abusive behaviors are a red flag that something is wrong.

From the wife’s perspective and from Betrayal Trauma Recovery’s perspective, the reasons for the abusive behavior don’t matter. Wives find themselves wondering if his abusive behaviors are caused by a personality disorder or the addiction or is he just selfish? Is it because he had a brain injury, is it his shame, is it his abusive upbringing?

WHY is is emotionally abusive doesn’t matter, and spending any time trying to figure out the root cause is a waste of time. Plus, you get abused in the process. The more she tries to focus on the behaviors, the more she is sucked into the vortex of abuse rather than taking a step out and recognizing that he is the one responsible for figuring himself out. In the meantime while he’s learning how to relate to her in a healthy way, she needs to stand at a safe distance and set boundaries until he is a safe person to connect with.

Women Often Struggle With Boundaries When He’s Not In Recovery

Forest: I found that when we start to work on boundaries with wives, they have a really hard time creating boundaries and enforcing them. As I help them work through what was stopping them from doing this, I felt like a lot of them had difficulty seeing their own worth, getting to the point of seeing that they deserve to be treated well and to be in a relationship with someone who is healthy. I really felt it was related to this, self-esteem or their own worth. Jennifer Lamprey did an event for women called The Quickening and she asked me to write a piece from a male perspective. She thought it would be powerful to have a man speak to women.

It was interesting to sit down and write this piece in an hour. This came to me and I feel like it was one of the most validating pieces I have ever written, from my perspective as an addict in recovery. I wrote about what my wife is worth, that she is worth my best recovery efforts. I went into detail about what that looks like, that it’s not about how much sex I get or what mood she is in, that I need to be working hard at my own growth and healing. I feel like it really communicated well to the partners that they deserve to be in this type of relationship so they can set boundaries that do protect that worth and do communicate to the addict that they do deserve to be treated with respect and to be cherished. This is how this came about.

Anne: As you read this next part, I want you to think about how you feel about it, and please scroll down and comment! We love it when you interact with us!

You Deserve Your Husband’s Real Recovery Efforts And So Much More

Forest: It says: My wife is a woman of infinite worth. Because of this, she deserves my best efforts. She deserves a husband who only has eyes for her. She deserves a husband in active recovery, not passively going with the flow. She deserves a husband who reminds her that she is not to blame for his past or present choices. She deserves a husband who actively opposes visual and mental lust in all forms, viewing it as the enemy of true intimacy.

It goes on like this…about being trustworthy, about not blaming her…It sets up this ideal but I don’t think it’s too unrealistic. It’s about recognizing that I do want to be treated that way, I do deserve to be the only woman. For the addicts, my intention is to call them up to a higher level of intentionality and commitment with their recovery. I find that often when this is read, it triggers shame but I hope this will be turned into the healthy guilt that leads to a realization that the addict can live up to this and that they do not want to continue living the opposite.

I love writing to inspire people. I feel like setting the standard and saying, “Let’s strive for this” is very helpful. I don’t want to sit in this mediocre place because it doesn’t help anyone achieve recovery.

Watch For Actions to Show True Recovery From Porn Addiction, Not Words

Anne: One of the things that happened to me because of my ex’s extreme case is that he went to therapy for years, I made him read things like this, I took him to conferences, etc…, and he really learned how to talk the language of recovery without actually doing the recovery work. I think the purpose of this episode of watching for those actions is critical…how is he actually treating you? Does he listen? Is he patient? If you ask a question, does he answer it without getting defensive? Is he willing to listen to your opinion? Is he willing to be, in John Gottmans’ words, influenced? Is he willing to be influenced by his wife or is he wondering why she is “bothering” him? When will the behaviors speak for themselves, is one thing wives always need to be looking for.

Forest: I totally agree with that. I love the idea of the wife catching him doing the right thing. It’s not like he is doing the right thing in front of her intentionally to perform or pretend but that she would be surprised when she walks out and he’s working on his recovery materials or when he says he can’t do something tonight because he’s really tired and might be triggered tomorrow by not getting enough sleep…catching glimpses of how he is changing his view. I know this is so difficult because of the lack of safety in the past when it’s all been a performance and when it looked like all the right actions. I am always emphasizing that addicts need to be seeing people who specialize in this and have certification because they may be putting on a performance for the therapist and the therapist needs to know if this is happening.

People Can Absolutely Change – Recovery Can Be Real

Anne: I connect with women all over the world about their experiences with their addict husband. I absolutely know that people can change. If they make the decision to change, they involve God in the process, and they are genuinely humble, accountable, honest and willing to submit to God’s will, anything can happen. Even right now, I, myself am in the process of changing and asking God to help me with certain character defects I have and things I am dealing with in my everyday life that I really want to improve. I’m not completely healed or changed yet but I have faith that as I continue to do these things, I can change. I believe this about everyone.

That being said, just because people can change does not mean they will. Sitting back and observing if they really are genuine and what they are doing to show that is what betrayal trauma recovery is all about. How do we establish safe boundaries while we observe from a distance to see if the change is real, deep and lasting…and is it sincere rather than just another way to keep me in the abuse cycle?

Forest: I think this is a really good way to look at this. I use a lot of language about wives keeping themselves safe and is the addict acting in such a way that makes it safe for them. I definitely wouldn’t recommend even trusting. It’s unsafe to trust unless there is real evidence of change.

Come What May, Wives Need To Stand At A Safe Distance Until Recovery Is Real

Anne: Our focus at betrayal trauma recovery is to know how to be safe. Whatever he decides to do, we will stay safe until we see these particular characteristics that we need to be safe.

I appreciate those working with addicts who have the expertise who can help them because, as a wife who has been injured by that, we are not able to do it.

Forest: Yes, this can definitely get unhealthy when you feel like you are responsible for making sure they are doing all the right things or making sure you need to catch them if they do the wrong things. It’s so important for the addict to have their own accountability and therapist–whatever they need. Your organization is doing a great work in helping wives to work on their own healing and maintain a safe distance when they’re not safe. It’s great to see.

A New Trigger, A Surprise and Success

A New Trigger, A Surprise and Success

My Current Struggle With Triggers And Anger

I want to do an update on how my own personal recovery is going.

I mentioned on a previous podcast that I am in my angry stage. For a long time I was just super sad, and now I am very angry. It’s mostly being triggered by my children, which I feel terrible about. They are immature because they are 8, 5, and 3 years old; they are children! For example, I’ll say to my son, “You need to do this.” He’ll ignore me and walk around so I’ll tell him again and he’ll continue to ignore me. Then I’ll say again that he really needs to do it and he’ll argue that I didn’t tell him to do it before. I know he is lying and that he heard me. This really triggers me as it’s the same types of things that happened with my ex. This feeling that I’m saying something but it isn’t registering, he isn’t hearing me, he isn’t taking me seriously…it’s very similar to what happened with my ex.

Addict Behavior Is Immature

Last night I was talking to a friend and she said, “You know, this is very common with all children. He’s not acting like an addict.” I told her that wasn’t actually true because addicts act like five year olds! They are immature. So basically I am face-to-face with the same types of behavior of my addict spouse…except that for 3, 5, and 8-year old children, this is appropriate behavior. They are learning how to tell the truth. They are learning how to listen and interact with people. This is appropriate for an 8-year-old but NOT for a 40-year-old man! Not at all!

So I’m seeing that these immature, age appropriate behaviors from my very young children are triggering the trauma of the same exact behaviors from my immature addict lying ex-husband who is almost 40 years old. This continues to come up for me. Previously in my parenting, I have been relatively patient and kind and understanding, so this is an entirely new place for me. I am working weekly with a coach right now, taking a 6-week break while I do so, and then I will check in with my therapist. I’m working the 12 steps to really focus in on these behaviors and help me with them.

12 Step And Betrayal Trauma Recovery

I want to do an update about the 12 Step Program and how we view it at Betrayal Trauma Recovery. When I first began podcasting, I was attending (and continue to attend) a 12 Step Betrayal Trauma meeting with SA Lifeline, which I love. I now attend monthly. For 18 months or so I, attended weekly. We do not talk a lot about 12 Step on Betrayal Trauma Recovery because the 12 steps don’t fit in with the trauma model. This does not mean they aren’t both very beneficial, nor does it mean I would discourage someone from attending a meeting. It has helped me immensely to draw closer to God and improve my life and to change. I’m so grateful for this.

Telling You To Work On Your Contribution To The Problem, While Still Being Abused, Is Counterproductive And Unethical

When a woman first discovers she has been lied to, that she is being abused, manipulated, and so forth, we at Betrayal Trauma Recovery don’t feel like it’s the exact right time to say things we often hear at a 12 Step meeting such as, “You need to clean up your side of the street, ” or “You need to learn to accept the things you cannot change.” I say this because when taken out of context or when these values or principles are applied incorrectly, they lead women to become stuck in the abuse cycle.

Boundaries And Safety First

Once they know how to set boundaries, once they realize they are victims, and once they realize these things are happening, the woman may recognize there are things she has to work on that has nothing to do with her spouse (either current or ex). She may find that in relation to the unhealthy abuse she has been experiencing, she herself has chosen unhealthy behaviors, and this may also be something she wants to look at. At BTR our first goal is safety. Boundaries are the only way to create that safety. So we aren’t going to tell a woman at this point to take a deep breath and “accept the things she cannot change” because we do not think that women should be okay with abuse while they “clean up their side of the street.”

In defense of 12 Step, I think they believe this as well. When a person is new to recovery and 12 Step, it can be common to believe that if they focus on themselves they can make things better….when in reality they are still being abused. This is one point I wanted to discuss today…why we don’t completely promote 12 Step. It’s not because I don’t personally work the steps, because I do. We believe that it is unethical for professionals to tell a woman to work on herself in the face of abuse.

Choosing The Right Professional For Your Healing

When looking for a professional, if they suggest there is anything that you can do to stop the abuse besides boundaries–such as being kinder or communicating better or explaining your feelings–we would not recommend that type of therapist. This will just keep a woman in the abuse cycle over and over again. We believe this is unethical; it’s why APSATS was started–so that the professional teaches there is nothing the woman did to cause it, there is nothing she can do to change it, and she needs to establish safety for herself. This is the first line of defense when going to a coach who is APSATS certified. This is our philosophy at Betrayal Trauma Recovery. All of our coaches have this philosophy.

You Are Amazing And Deserve To Be Treated With Respect

In Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That, he asks: “How can I support a woman who has been abused?” The author’s advice is what we use and recommend everyone use. That is to tell the woman she is amazing, she is strong, she has not done anything wrong or anything to deserve it, and she deserves to be treated with respect. We truly believe this about you.

At BTR we believe there is nothing pathologically wrong with you. You are a healthy person who is sometimes reacting in unhealthy ways to abuse, which is completely normal! All of us go through a phase of this–a phase of denial, of not understanding what is happening, of anger, of sadness, of depression…these are the normal, healthy reactions to abuse. It’s all part of the phases of healing.


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From my personal experience, if you are wondering if you should get a betrayal trauma recovery coach, or join a support group with an APSATS coach, or if you should join a SA Lifeline group or a S-Anon meeting, you will find your way. Personally for me, my healing includes both – a SA Lifeline betrayal trauma meeting and working with a coach and therapist who understand betrayal trauma and abandonment grief. They understand abuse recovery. With my therapist and with my coach there has never been a time when they have suggested that improved communication skills or more love or forgiveness could have stopped the abuse from occurring. This has been so validating.

My Goal Is To Heal But I’m A Work In Progress

My goal in working with my coach and therapist and by continuing to work the 12 Steps is that eventually God will heal me and I will be better. In the meantime, I have to learn new tools so that when I am triggered I can keep my children emotionally safe so they know they are loved and cared for. I really appreciate your support. My betrayal trauma recovery journey is still in process. There are days that are really hard. The other night I ate potato chips for dinner…I couldn’t bring myself to do anything else. It’s not easy and I’ve been doing this for two years now.

I still feel in progress. I definitely feel more happy and peaceful than when I started. I definitely feel safer. My safety level has gone from 0 to 10. I feel supported and loved. The things I struggle with now are financial issues, parenting issues…things that will be difficult for a really long time. There is no quick fix with betrayal trauma. I think this is part of where the anger comes from. I feel like I’m left dealing with the consequences of my ex-husband’s terrible choices–not just for the night he sprained my fingers and was arrested–but from before we were married and he lied, from when he chose to watch porn and continued to decide to lie to me and abuse me and to manipulate rather than live in the truth.

Sudden And Unexpected Contact In My No-Contact Ordered Life

There is something interesting that happened this week that shows how much I have changed in the past two years. My ex showed up for our kids’ parent teacher conference. It was my appointment that I scheduled. (He looked on line at their account and found out when it was.) When I took my 8-year-old into his classroom for the meeting with his teacher, my ex was sitting right there! I did not want to sit in a meeting with him unless the first thing out of his mouth would have been, “I have made 9 years of terrible mistakes, one right after another, and I now understand how my actions have harmed you, and this is what I am going to do to make restitution, and this is how I am going to continue to make living amends to you until you feel safe.” Unless this was the first thing out of his mouth, I could not bear to be in his presence. I could not abide any small talk.

So I told my son that I wasn’t expecting his dad to be there but he should go ahead and talk to his teacher with his dad.

I would take his 5-year-old brother to another meeting and then we would switch. So I took my 5-year-old to his kindergarten meeting and as I was walking out, my ex came in. I walked straight up to him and said, “You need to make your own appointments.” He looked at my face and, either he isn’t very smart or he was lying, he said, “Oh, I thought the school sent this for me and I didn’t realize it was your appointment.”

Staying On My Side Of The Street

My gut told me this wasn’t true so I told him this was my appointment and he needed to make his own from now on. I left and we switched kids. He brought our son back to the other room and as we were leaving, I didn’t acknowledge him but told my sons they could get their books from the book fair and then we would head home…I was just going to leave. My ex said, “Wait, wait. You’ve been coming to my appointments.” I told him this wasn’t true. He then brought up an appointment from last year with our son’s preschool…which was false…I did not show up for my ex’s appointment. I told him that if he wanted to argue about it, he could email my dad who we have third party contact through so that I can be safe…and I walked off.

My ex then put his hand on my shoulder and said something like he hopes that someday we can get along. I told him something like, “You have hurt me so much. You filed for divorce. You abandoned your family. Unless you admit your abuse and admit the things you have done and clean up your mess, we will never get along. You need to leave.”

Change Can Happen And I’m Proof

It was amazing because I said my peace. I asked him to leave and he left, which was a miracle. I didn’t want a fight in front of the kids. This is what I need in order to get along with him. Anything less than this I will not tolerate, because I do not “get along” with psychopaths or “get along” with people who lie continually to my face or to other people about what I have done. I don’t “get along” with people like that and I’m never going to. I don’t choose friends like that; I avoid them at all cost which is what I am doing with him. That I was able to speak and not break down, and not start screaming and yelling, and really going into it, and really giving him the “what for,” the fact that I could say a short statement and ask him to leave, is a sign to me that my recovery is working.

God’s Will, Gratitude, And Hope

Now what I need to work on is the ruminating that happened over and over again afterwards! I wondered about using different words, etc, but really what I did was perfect for the time and in line with God’s will, even though I am second-guessing myself. I still have work to do but I love that I saw progress.

I’m so grateful for the changes that have taken place in my life and for the friends and family and professionals in my life that have facilitated my growth. I’m also grateful for you for being here with me through my recovery journey. I hope we have many years of beautiful recovery together and that as all of us women across the world become more and more healthy, we can be a great change for good in the world.  I hope that all of us together can find peace and friendship and safety.

#GivingTuesday At Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Giving Tuesday is coming up–the Tuesday after Black Friday. It was designed for people who have really gone to town on shopping and capitalism so that they turn their hearts to non-profits and donate. As you know, Betrayal Trauma Recovery is a non-profit and we operate on your donations. We would really appreciate a donation from you! There is an option on our site to be a recurring donor. If you have the ability to set and forget a donation, even just $1/month, we would really appreciate it! It enables us to educate more and more women. Just a $10 donation helps us reach 100 more women. We are so glad you found us here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery! As you know, trying to navigate this topic on your own without the education and understanding is extremely difficult. We’ve been there. Please donate! Consider setting a recurring donation that can help us all year long.

If this article is helpful to you, please comment here. Every comment increases our ranking on search engines and helps women in isolation find us. Your comments help women to know that others are experiencing similar situations.

Until next week, stay safe out there!

50 Things You Need To Know About Betrayal Trauma

50 Things You Need To Know About Betrayal Trauma

Accountable

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

Accountability

Taking responsibility for actions by acknowledging what happened, working diligently to change behavior, and making restitution for past 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.

 

Not Sure How to Get Started?

This video gives you the basics we recommend to get started with your Betrayal Trauma Recovery.

Addict

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.

Addiction

The dependence on engaging in abuse, pornography and acting out (sex with self or others) in order to get a “fix” (dopamine release to the brain). It’s a reliance on lying and emotional abuse to avoid accountability for his actions. Sex addiction has many causes. The woman is not at fault for the addiction, nor can she 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 during 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.

APSATS

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 with 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 marital issues. If there is any abuse, gaslighting or manipulation, it will exacerbate the abuse.

Betrayal Trauma

Occurs when someone a person is significantly attached to violates trust in a critical way. An example is when a sex addict uses gaslighting, lies, manipulation, etc., to protect the addiction.

Blame-shifting

Transferring fault to another person in order to avoid accountability. Blaming another person for the abuse or compulsive sexual behaviors.

Boundaries

Essential to trauma recovery, boundaries help women to know what to do in an unsafe situation. They bring clarity. 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 not want to have sex with him. Boundaries are not things to be said. They are actions to keep the woman safe. They do not need to be stated in order to take action. Coach Sarah is an expert on Setting & Holding Healthy Boundaries.

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 the woman to 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.”

There are also non-negotiable boundaries. An example of a non-negotiable boundary might be that you notify the police if you find the addict has been abusing children.

CSAT

A Certified Sex Addiction Therapist.

Check-in

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. Setting up “ground rules” such as no interrupting, showing respect, etc., can be helpful.

Coach

In the context of BTR, our coaches are trained with APSATS, 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 trained by an ICF-accredited organization.

Codependency

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

Connection / Intimacy

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

Crazy-Making

See Gaslighting.

DD

See D-Day or Discovery.

D-Day

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

Detachment

When the woman detaches with love, she allows the sex addict to be fully responsible for their behavior. They no longer try to rescue, fix, or control the addict. This can be extremely difficult as the consequences of an addicts’ actions are very real. Having boundaries can help the woman to detach with love, knowing that the addiction is something they did not cause and cannot fix. Detaching allows healing from the betrayal trauma.

Disclosure

Occurs when a sex addict discloses the truth of an addiction. While traumatic, it is necessary. Sometimes disclosure is initiated by the addict but it most often occurs when compulsive sexual behaviors have been discovered and the addict is confronted. Because of shame (and/or wanting to “protect” the woman 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 have finally shared the truth — not aware that this truth is now a nightmare/reality to the woman — all the while simultaneously lying, minimizing, and gaslighting during the process. Coach Cat’s is an expert on Therapeutic Disclosures & Therapeutic Polygraphs.

Discovery

When a partner or spouse’s sex addiction is discovered. This is most often a traumatic, shocking, and/or sometimes dangerous event for the woman. It can be discovered without any warning, or it may be suspected and d-day (discovery day) confirmed it. D-day is traumatic. The woman’s sense of reality is shattered and she often finds herself 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. Finding ways out of this triangle can lead to healthier relationships and inner peace.

Emotional Abuse

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

Emotional Safety

A state in which a person can be open and vulnerable with another person. Several factors play into feeling emotionally safe. An example is: 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 with him. 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 the compulsive sexual addiction.

Empathy

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 place 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).

Enable

Giving the addict “permission” to continue by not setting boundaries or holding the addict accountable. This label is sometimes used to get the woman to take some responsibility for the actions of the addict.

Fantasy

An imagined space where a sex addict can escape to avoid reality. It can take the form of using sexual images – remembered 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 ourselves. Coach Sarah is an expert on helping women rebuild their self-worth. 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).

Forgiveness

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.

Gaslighting

A tool used by sex addicts to protect their addiction. They psychologically manipulate in order to distort reality, causing a feeling of craziness, also referred to as crazy-making. Coach Sarah is an expert at helping women detect & confront gaslighting.

Grief

A feeling of profound sadness and loss. After discovery, the woman experiences stages of grief such as grief over the fact that the reality she thought she had is false, and that her life has been shattered to the core. To heal, the woman must fully allow herself to grieve. There is no timeline and sometimes grief revisits when least expected. Coach Gaelyn is an expert at helping women process and grow from grief.

Gut/Intuition

When discovery happens, it can be hard to trust or believe anything. Even the woman’s faith can be challenged during this period. Many people instinctively know when something is wrong, and many go through a period of pushing intuition aside. Part of recovery is learning to trust this intuition again. At the same time, because the woman 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 she feels she should do is the best course of action. For example, many women do not feel comfortable setting boundaries; it feels wrong at first. Over time as boundaries are set, the benefits are realized.

Honoring Emotions

Occurs by recognizing that what we feel in the moment is real and to be willing to learn 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 the woman’s responsibility to make the sex addict feel better.

Infidelity

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

Insanity

The emotion that describes when someone is gaslighting us–crazy! Often used in 12 Steps as a way to gauge sobriety. See Gaslighting.

Love

A deeply felt emotion connecting two people. 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. Love is often felt when we can be vulnerable in personal and physical ways. When not in recovery, the sex addict is incapable of expressing love for another person.

Lust

An intense desire to satisfy physical appetite. A form of infidelity if directed towards a person outside of an exclusive relationship such as marriage; it can also happen in a marriage when the sex addict treats the woman like an object to satisfy his addiction.

Minimizing

Sex addicts minimize their addiction behaviors by:

  • Justifying their porn use because “guys do this all the time” or “it was just porn, not an actual affair.”
  • Rationalizing: “It just popped up on my screen.”
  • Blame-shifting, saying they “turned to porn/affair because [wife/partner] 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. 

No Contact

A boundary wherein there is no contact. It can include blocking phone numbers, blocking emails, and only allowing communication through a third party. This is a good boundary to consider when there is repeated and consistent emotional abuse.

Objectify

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.

Pornography

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

Rationalizing

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 then masturbated to it.

Recovery

For spouses experiencing betrayal trauma, recovery means regaining identity, purpose, and self-worth. It is the journey of courageously healing, undertaken 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 caused. The addict 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 (i.e, 12 Step groups specifically for sex addiction). A spouse in recovery will not lie, gaslight, blame-shift, or pressure the woman to do things. A spouse in recovery respects the woman’s choices, needs, and journey (even if they fully don’t understand it). The process is long–at least 3-5 years for the initial phase.

Relapse

Occurs when an addict stepping away from recovery and healing returns to secretive addictive behaviors. Emotionally abusive behaviors return as well as sexually acting out. Coach Gaelyn specializes in helping women create relapse preparedness plans.

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. She steps away and seeks help for herself rather than for her husband or marriage.

Self-care

Tools to help in the healing process. 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 a woman makes to learn to love themselves.  A woman using self-care understands that no one can take better care of herself than she can. It is one of the most loving things she can do for herself. Examples include giving herself permission to sleep when tired, using paper plates, finding a Betrayal Trauma Recovery APSATS coach to guide through the healing, journaling, joining a support group, physically taking care of herself, doing something to remind herself that she is beautiful (getting a haircut, a massage, etc.), spending time in nature, practicing living in the moment, expressing gratitude, and on and on.

Sexaholism/sexaholic

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

Sexual Addiction

Indicators of sexual addiction include repeated unsuccessful efforts to stop, escalation over time, spending increasing amounts of time engaged in sexual behaviors and thinking about them and the next opportunity, reducing 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?

Shame

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.

Shero

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. A woman who becomes her own hero by setting boundaries and creating a safe home.

Slip

“When addiction specialists use the term “slip,” they are often describing a one-time or short-term lapse back toward compulsive sexual behavior; this type of lapse ends with some kind of swift and serious self-intervention. When an addict ‘slips,’ he generally gets himself ‘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 has 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 to the 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.” Coach Gaelyn helps women be prepared for relapses.

Sober/Sobriety

Occurs 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 the number of days he has been sober.

Sponsor

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.

STBX

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 women understand the reality of the situation. Little bits of information of betrayal here and there can take a woman back to ground zero, reliving the trauma. Women need the truth and transparency in order to understand the facts and make choices about whether or not to stay and work on the marriage. In a therapeutic disclosure, the couple meets with a therapist in a safe environment while being guided through the disclosure process. A therapeutic polygraph is also recommended to help make sure all the information is disclosed. Coach Cat answers women’s questions about theraputic disclosures and polygraphs. 

Therapeutic Polygraph

A therapeutic polygraph is recommended to help make sure all the information is disclosed. 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.

Trauma

The discovery of a partners’ sex addiction creates deep wounds in the wife/partner. Trauma is the resulting emotional state created by the wound. Betrayal trauma has a multidimensional impact with emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial effects.

When a woman discovers the reality of her situation, that her husband is abusive, her reality is shattered. She often realizes she has been lied to and manipulated by a person who went to great length to protect his compulsive sexual behavior. When a woman is in trauma, she often experiences 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 able to help navigate the new reality.

Trigger

Coach Cat says, “[A trigger is ] 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 a woman feels betrayal, symptoms such as confusion, sadness, grief, anger, despair, resentment manifest in relation to the sex addict. Sometimes the trigger can be noticed (noticing the sex addict sleeping late), and sometimes it sneaks up and sabotages (walking down an aisle at the grocery store). Triggers can send a person down a dark path of loneliness and misery, but there are ways to combat them. Coach Cat is a specialist helping women learn how to understand and manage triggers.

Trust

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 able to be confronted, accountable, honest, humble, and compassionate. “Trust is the ability to reliably predict the behavior of another based on experience,” says Coach Cat.

Vulnerable

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

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.

WoPA

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.

How To Rebuild Our Intuition After Infidelity & Abuse

How To Rebuild Our Intuition After Infidelity & Abuse

Today I have Dr. Piper Grant. She’s a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Sex Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist. She’s also the founder of Numi Psychology. She specializes in working with individuals and couples on issues related to sex, intimacy, and trauma.

As a CSAT and Sex Therapist, Dr. Grant has extensive experience working with individuals throughout their healing process from sexual betrayal. Although based in Los Angeles, California, Dr. Grant seeks to reach individuals and couples internationally in recovery from sex addiction and healing from sexual betrayal by hosting retreats in Bali for women who have experienced sexual betrayal trauma and couples in recovery from sex addiction. These are the only retreats hosted in Bali that are tailored to help couples and partners on issues related to sexual betrayal and facilitated by a Psychologist and CSAT.

Welcome Piper! We are so happy to have you!

Piper: Thank you! I’m so excited to be here today!

Intuition and Gut Instinct Are Warning Signs, Both Negative And Positive

Anne: We are going to talk today about women’s intuition, getting in touch with ourselves and reconnecting to ourselves after betrayal or even in the midst of it in order to figure out what we need to do. I’m not going to call you Dr. Grant today, I’m going  to call you Piper because I love the name Piper. What is gut instinct and why is it so important for women?

Piper: It’s such a gift as women that we have this gut instinct and innate ability to have these signals throughout our life. It is the first warning signals about something, both negative and positive. I say both negative and positive because you can have somebody say something along the lines of, ‘I just knew that’s what I needed to do!’ Especially when we’re talking about partner recovery. We often will say something along the lines of, ‘I just felt like something was off.’, or that something was wrong or not right. So it helps us judge. It’s a warning signal.

Intuition Is Felt in Body and Mind

The thing that is interesting about our gut instinct and the way it works is that it works as an unconscious process. It’s something that we aren’t even always aware is going on. What happens is our conscious brain is looking at things and we’re making sense of them but our unconscious brain is working almost like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s putting pieces together. When pieces don’t fit together it’s like, ‘Something is wrong.  Something is different here.’  It sends a warning signal.

Studies have shown that when this happens and something doesn’t fit, there’s actually a surge of dopamine in the brain. You know when we say, ‘In my body it just didn’t feel right?’ That’s actually true. There’s not only a psychological process happening but there’s actually a physiological process as well.  Your brain and your body are saying, ‘Something is different here’.  Let’s be aware of this. Whether it’s good or bad, let’s be aware of this. A few years back in my work I would be like, ‘There’s this unique gift that women have.’ and then I would kind of say, ‘Well men have it too.’  But women have it so much stronger.

Intuition Is A Gift In Betrayal Trauma

I intrinsically feel that women have this gift given to us.  I started looking into it because I thought, ‘Is it true or do I just feel that women have it stronger than men do?’

There’s this belief that through evolution women actually have a stronger ability to make intuitive decisions or have intuitive guides within them. What is believed is that over time our female ancestors had to quickly evaluate a situation because they had to protect themselves and their children. They had to tune into their environment, make sense of their environment, see if things were off or on. Therefore, our brains as women evolved to have a larger ability to organize chunks of information much quicker. Giving us this edge of ability to read people and situations, quickly making decisions if something is good or bad for us.

Anne: That ‘quickly make decisions’ part is where I got tripped up in my betrayal trauma journey. I remember the sense of intense dread, like someone’s going to die. Something really, really bad is going to happen. I just thought, ‘I must be crazy!” I even remember telling my husband at the time, and he didn’t say anything but if I could go back in time and read his mind he might be like, ‘just lay very still and she won’t know what I’m doing right now’, right?

Betrayal Trauma Can Hinder Your Intuition

Piper: I think that is how betrayal trauma can rob us women of our gut instinct. Not rob us but negatively impact and sometimes hinder it for a while. I have partners I work with that are like, ‘I had no idea. There was nothing that was off to me’. I just want to put that out there because I want all women to know that it’s not to say there’s always a red flag.

Yes, in our work together when we start going back and unpacking things they might say, ‘Ohhh  that was a red flag and I chose to ignore it.’ Or, ‘There was that time that my body was like umm something is off and I chose to ignore it.’

So betrayal trauma can really impact our relationship with our gut instinct. It breaks our relationship with the gut instinct.

When I am looking at betrayal trauma and the impact of sex addiction, there’s not only a betrayal of trust by the addict but actually a betrayal of trust with self. This is where it can become really complex  sometimes for partner recovery.

The betrayal of trust with self is betrayal  with their gut instincts. If we ignore it, ignore it and ignore it,  we’re betraying trust with ourself! We’re saying this isn’t true, this isn’t happening.

That’s the impact of gas-lighting. When we’re a victim of gaslighting that’s what happens.

Anne: Right. Had he told me the truth in that moment. If I had I said, ‘something really bad is going to happen’, and he said, ‘yea because I’m having an affair’. Or whatever it was. I still don’t know to this day what it was about but had he told me the truth in that moment I would have thought, “oh, I’m not crazy!”

Piper:  So you and your body are kind of in war, you and your gut instinct. That’s the crazy thing. Because there is this betrayal of self or gut instinct then there’s a distrust in your reality.

Sit Back And Watch, Wait For The Red Flags To Fly

This can be difficult in partner recovery,  trying to re-establish your relationship with gut instinct and experiencing a trigger, and your gut instinct is sending off these red flares that something is going on, the question then is, ‘Is there ongoing trauma that you’re having this gut instinct reaction to, or is it a trigger from the past?’

That’s where it can be hard sometimes in recovery and re-establishing your relationship with gut instinct.

Anne: Absolutely! Especially when you’ve been lied to, right? A million times!

So now the red flags are going off and your husband is saying again, ‘Oh everything is fine!’ and you’re thinking, ‘Well, do I believe him now or not?’ Like, ‘Where am I in this process?’ Here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery we try to help women understand the related behaviors so that you can watch what he’s doing and not necessarily have to trust his words.

Piper: You guys do practice what you preach. Just from listening to your podcasts, as well as from knowing from clients who have worked with you. It’s not just about the words. It’s the actions as well.

An Addict’s Actions Speak Much Louder Than His Words

Also, just how does it feel in your body as a partner as well. Does it feel right or wrong? I give this example sometimes. I live in L.A. We have bad traffic So the spouse can come home and he’s 5-10 minutes late and the partner can be like, ‘okay, he’s late, it feels off.’ The schedule is off pattern and it can be hard. Am I being triggered by something that is happening in this present moment or is this a reminder of something that has happened in the past?  And it’s really difficult.

Anne: Yes, it is very complex. This recovery thing is no fun. And then it’s also fun. There’s these two parts of it. It’s hard!

Piper: And it’s on going and it’s one of these things that I think changes with the environment and people around you. Forever modifying and changing.

Anne: In thinking about my recovery and talking with a colleague yesterday I said, ‘I haven’t been angry at all! Just so sad.’ I’m finally becoming angry and it’s weird! Because it’s way late. This anger has been welling up inside of me and I’m not really a yeller. Well lately I have been a yeller but it’s not something that’s natural to me.

Finally I thought, ‘okay, wow like this has got to be the trauma coming out.’ So I told my kids, There’s this thing inside of me and I’m trying to work through it and I’m really sorry.’ I said, ‘When I’m feeling it I think I’m going to raise my hands high above my head and I’m going to clinch my fists and I’m going to say, ‘Agnes, Amos, Jehoshaphat!’ They were like, ‘okay, that’s funny!’.


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And so I’ve been doing that when I feel it well up they just look at me and then they start laughing! I think wow, here’s a new phase for me! I don’t really know where I am and how to explore it. I think it’s the same with our gut instinct. It’s like, here I am I’m working through it and I don’t really know how to do this! I hope I can learn! Making an effort to explore it I think is the key.

Piper: Yes, I love what you say! They’re owning it and just being in the moment and not necessarily understanding what’s going on or what it is. You’re just like, ‘I’m going to feel it and embrace it in a safe and effective way.’ That’s what this is about, like you said. Just working through it and just being with it moment to moment. And maybe not always making sense of it.

Anne: Yea, because I think about the women who feel in their gut that everything is fine, for example. By the way, I don’t want this podcast to freak everybody out. This has happened where women have said to me after I give a speech and they say, ‘That was so impactful and I’m so grateful that I don’t deal with this issue! I just trust my husband and I just love my family!’, or whatever they say.

And then I get a letter like 6 months later saying, ‘I didn’t know!’ And their gut was telling them at the time that things were good! That’s what makes us go crazy. At least with me. I thought well, ‘I can’t trust my gut because I thought things were fine and then they weren’t.’

So how can a partner re-establish trust within herself?

Gaslighting Makes It Difficult To See The Red Flags

Piper: What you’re saying is actually a really classic thing. That’s why I was saying in the beginning that some women will say, ‘I had no idea! I didn’t have those red flags and flares go off!’

So after there’s discovery it really starts with love and kindness with self. Because I do think about this break down with gut instinct as a betrayal. Or as a breakdown with trust itself. It just starts first with loving kindness towards self. Sometimes as women we want to be hard on ourselves. We are like, ‘Why didn’t I see that? ” Or, ‘Why didn’t I know?”‘, Or ‘ Why did I ignore that red flag?” Or whatever the list is that can be read to ourselves.

When you think about actually being in a relationship with somebody else, if there’s been a break in trust, you have to rebuild that trust. There’s a process of rebuilding that trust. I think about that same thing in a relationship with ourself . We need to rebuild that relationship of trust with ourself. Especially if a women is one that says, ‘I had no idea! I didn’t have any red flags and this just came completely out of left field!’

There’s probably been some gaslighting going on. And especially then you’re just like, ‘Woah where is my radar? What just happened?’

So starting with love and kindness towards self and rebuilding a relationship with the voice within you. I start with little exercises.

While your showering, bathing or standing in the grocery line for instance, just integrate it into your schedule. Just check in with yourself.

Check in with the voice of your body. So what is your heart saying to you in that moment? What is your body saying to you in that moment? What is your mind saying?

What’s your experience of where you are in your environment? While you’re bathing are you noticing the soap on your body?

Hello Anxiety, I See You!

Or while you’re standing in line do you notice yourself wanting to get out and get on with your errands? Or are you dreading something that’s coming up at the end of the day? So what ever it is, start in conversation with your body.

Why I say conversation is because specifically I’m looking at bringing that voice of your gut instinct of what your body is telling you and bringing that to the surface.

There’s a woman, Anne Cornell, who teaches in her practice with mindfulness to welcome the feeling, whatever it is. Like, saying hello to that feeling. So if you’re feeling anxious you say ‘oh, I’m feeling anxious!’ and I say hello to that.

Anne: Hello anxiety!

Piper: Yea! Hello anxiety! I think this is so important because, especially when we’re talking about gaslighting or breakdown in gut instinct.

What’s happened is that your reality has been denied. So if you’re feeling anxious and you’re like, ‘I’m not anxious, I’m not anxious!’ Or ‘Nope, get past that!

I was thinking, ‘Piper, you’re not anxious! Get over it!’ I’m actually denying that I’m feeling anxiety at that time.

So instead if I’m like, ‘Okay I’m feeling anxious. Hello anxiety!’  Even if you don’t know the feeling, ‘I’m feeling some feelings. Hello feelings!’

Accepting Our Own Reality Provides Validation For Ourselves

I’m actually validating my body and my mind, spirit, whole being and what you’re experiencing in that  moment. And that actually is little moments of re-establishing trust with your mind and your body and gut instinct.

Then start to test yourself with just little things like taking a walk to the right rather than going left today. And if you walk right instead of left, notice. Does it work out okay for you? Does everything work out fine?

And if it does say, ‘Okay I’m listening to my inner voice and guide.’ And those are little things.

Then when we get to the big things where you’re like, ‘Nope, something is off here’ you’re able to to say okay, ‘I’ve already established trust with my inner voice and I know that my inner voice has guided me with little things. I can trust it now. I can follow it.

It’s starting with loving kindness towards self, rebuilding a relationship with that voice, welcoming what ever feelings that you’re having so You’re not denying your own reality within yourself. And then moving forward with little tests of that gut instinct.

Rebuild Confidence By Trusting YOU Again

Anne: I like that. Why is it so important to acknowledge this and work towards it? Why do women need to re-establish trust with themselves rather than just, ‘okay, now I’m going to just pick the most logical thing or I’m just going to ask my best friend!’ Or I’ve got to make a therapy appointment every ten minutes!

Piper: Sometimes doesn’t that seem easier though?

Anne: To just say, ‘Someone else tell me, what’s the right thing to do?”, right?

Piper: The truth is that it’s a guide! It’s this innate gift that we have. If we’re talking about whole recovery, that is a piece of us.

As a partner, whether or not you are staying in a relationship with the addict, you’re going to have other intimate relationships in your life. That should be part of recovery. I mean intimate in that it doesn’t  have to be sexual. I’m talking about friends, family, whatever that might be.

In order to trust in others we need to have a trust in ourself. That we’re actually choosing good relationships for ourself and making good decisions. So that’s what this gut instinct is about.

It’s re-establishing trust with self so that we know that we’re moving forward with decisions that are in alignment with ourself. So even if things go awry again we can say, ‘But you know what, I know that I made the best decision for myself in that moment.’

It also helps with rebuilding feelings of self worth. So often after discovery what we can see is that feeling of the ramifications of gaslighting.

With a victim of gaslighting there can be low feelings of self worth, confidence or trust of self. And what it does is rebuild feelings of self worth and confidence in self. This allows you to be free maybe of needing to call your therapist every ten minutes or always relying on your friend!

I Thought He Was Great And That We Would Be Happy…

Anne: So true. Thinking of the question, ‘Is it really possible to trust yourself again after sexual betrayal and trauma?”

For me, personally the jury is still out on this one. I’m still working through this. It’s almost like I have to see if the things that I choose end up being good for me and that takes time.

My life before when I met my husband I thought he was amazing and fantastic. I told everyone how great he was and how happy I was. And then we got married and things weren’t like that.

Now I think if I met someone I would be like, ‘I’m getting married. I’m not sure how it’s going to go.’ I think I would like hedge all my bets! I think I’d be like, ‘He seems really great and all of these things seem to be working but I don’t know if I can trust myself.’

The jury is still out on me. I don’t know how I would know, ‘Okay I really can trust myself again!’ Literally until maybe I got married and like sixty years later! I’d be like, ‘Yes, that was the right thing to do.’  It feels like I can only trust myself in hindsight now instead of trusting myself in the future.

Piper:  I love what you’re saying! I’m literally jumping out of my chair because this is what always makes it difficult!

Recognize The Little Things, The Good Decisions You Make Every Day

And I say look at the small decisions every single day! You’re probably making decisions whether it be with your children, with yourself,  your work or whatever. It starts with the little things. Because then as you said, what is the limit? If you were to get remarried, is it after ten years that you say, ‘It’s okay! Thirty years! That was a good decision!’

You could hit thirty years and be like, ‘Umm nope still, I don’t know!’ I think this is where it becomes so complex! What is the end goal? I always say let’s come down and look at the present. That’s why I mentioned the example of walking. I know it sounds so little but it starts with those little things.

Just every single day you make a decision, give yourself a pat on the back and be like, ‘You know what? That was a good decision! I followed myself on that decision. I should have gotten those Oreos for myself.’ That’s a funny example!

Anne: Yes, you should have! I agree!

Maybe You Made The Right Decision But It Was Hijacked By Another’s Choices

Piper: I hear what you’re saying and that’s the difficult thing. How do I define when I have re-established trust with myself? I think we need to be kinder to ourselves and look at the little successes. And know that yea, we’re not ever going to know the future but we also need to give ourself the little successes.

Anne: I think there’s one other issue. It could be that you are making the right decision. You are doing the right thing for you and maybe something else happened. Someone else makes a different choice. Someone else does something here or there and then it doesn’t go the way that you wanted or the way that you planned.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that you didn’t do the right thing for you just because someone else chose something else. Those things are part of why I think I struggle a little bit. Because I thought this was supposed to turn out well for me and it didn’t. But the reason why it didn’t turn out well wasn’t necessarily because of my decision. It was maybe because of someone else’s choice.

Give The Gift Of Trusting Yourself And Reconnect With Your Intuition

Piper: Right! And so you made the best decision for yourself. And that is a gift you can give to yourself and help remind yourself of. That is where it starts! Trusting and knowing that you made the best decision. Not just you, but any of us that we made the best decision for ourself in that moment with what we had.

Anne: Piper, you are delightful! Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today!

Piper: Thank you! It was a pleasure! I’m so happy to!

Anne: We’ll have to have you on again talking about some other fun topic, like masturbation or something!

Piper: Or you can visit me in Bali and we can do a podcast in Bali!

Anne: Oh, that would be awesome! Piper’s site is www.NumiPsychology.com

As always if this podcast was helpful to you please rate it on iTunes. Each rating improves our visibility on search engines and helps women who are isolated find us. As always, we love to hear from you, so please comment below about how you feel about intuition.

Also if you’re interested in scheduling a support call or joining one of our support groups go to BTR.org. You can look at our services page which has all of our different support groups and services. Or to schedule a support call or join a support group go to schedule and join. And until next week, stay safe out there!

Finding Hope & Freedom After Betrayal

Finding Hope & Freedom After Betrayal

Am I In Denial About My Husband’s Pornography Addiction?

Today I have Lynn Marie Cherry who is an engaging speaker and the author of Keep Walking: 40 Days To Hope And Freedom After Betrayal. It’s a daily devotional book that helps women find a way through the pain and trauma of betrayal. She is dedicated to inspiring hope and shining light on the path to freedom.

In whatever shoes you prefer–rubber, rain boots, tennis shoes, or sassy heals, she’ll show you how to take a step forward today. Lynn and her husband David have been married 26 years and they have two boys. You can find more information about her and her book at lynnmariecherry.com.

Lynn: Thank you so much for having me.

Anne: So Lynn, you decided to share your betrayal story by writing a book. Why did you decide to write about your story?

Lynn: It’s the book you don’t dream of writing when you’re a little girl in sixth grade, thinking you’d like to write someday! The book was birthed out of my journey and the pain that I experienced. It was so difficult and so altering but at the same time I felt like I found a way through.

I knew it was something I had to share. I knew early on in the journey that I would share my story, that my husband and I would both talk about it. This is how the book came to be. Going back to our story, it’s the most drawn out discovery story you have ever heard.

I Knew Something Wasn’t Quite Right—Even On Our Honeymoon

We were married in 1991 and even on our honeymoon I had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. But at the same time, I was thinking it wasn’t a big deal. I really didn’t know what husbands were like. This was my first experience…and I did the best I could to dismiss those feelings.

In 1997 I was pregnant with our first son and it happened to be the same year our home was wired for the brand new amazing thing called the internet and the world-wide web. This was a set up. I was big and tired and commuting two hours and struggling with my body image and then my husband was in the office at home and I remember thinking that something was not right…what was happening in there…and then at the same time I was thinking that I didn’t care.

I was building a human, I was tired, I was working, I was commuting…whatever he wanted to do in the office, I didn’t care. I told myself this for another three years. It’s kind of embarrassing to recount the slow discovery.

Anne: Don’t feel bad. Everyone goes through this denial and pushing away of doubts. It’s totally normal! Welcome to the club!

Denial—My Coping Mechanism

Lynn: This was certainly my MO–denial! It was my coping mechanism of choice for so long. So then in 2000 our second son was born and I remember being awake in the night to feed him and I noticed the light was on in the home office and I thought, “Oh wow. My husband’s awake too.” I walked over and opened the door and instantly felt this horrible flood of emotions–shame and lost, and it felt so tangible. I saw pornography on the computer screen. So now this thing that I think isn’t quite right is right in front of my eyes but I shut the door and walked away and continued pretending and coping for another four years.

Anne: You didn’t say anything about it?

Lynn: We did not talk about it. I think there was an awareness on his part that I had seen what was happening but my mom was in town due to our new baby’s birth; she was sleeping on the sofa bed in the living room and she was with us for another week. I couldn’t go there. And then,  really, I didn’t go there for another four years. I was going through the emotions, and coping, and existing, and a busy life with two little boys…it dragged on.

Anne: Did you have a religious or ethical background that you felt pornography was wrong in and of itself or was it just from the feeling you got from observing him watch pornography that made you feel horrible?

Lynn: Definitely the ethical spiritual upbringing was the first thing that made me feel uncomfortable about pornography. That feeling was a confirmation of what I believed. I didn’t think pornography was okay. I remember the first time I saw it in the sixth-grade reading corner when someone flashed a magazine inside my book I was reading–I knew it wasn’t right. I knew it was degrading to women and that it wasn’t at all the way women should be perceived.

Coming Out Of Denial Of My Husband’s Pornography Addiction, With The Gift Of Anger

Anne: So what brought you out of this denial after four years of not talking about it?

Lynn: I like to say I got a gift. It wasn’t in a pretty package with a matching bow. It was a gift to me. It was the gift of anger. I ended up being a very angry woman. I lived with this constant low level irritation and blow up over little stupid things, really on the fringe with my boys, thinking I didn’t like who I was becoming.

This anger was scaring me. I was okay being sad and I was okay being lonely and depressed but the anger terrified me. It really was the catalyst that forced my hand and made me realize I needed help, that something had to change inside of me, that I couldn’t live like this.

Anne: For our listeners, I want to know what brought you out of denial. At what point did you realize you needed help? Please comment below, we want to hear your story and your experiences just like we are listening to Lynn today.

Recognizing The Trauma

So when did you realize that what you were experiencing was trauma?

Lynn: We would never use the words “pornography addiction” until we started therapy. I never used the word “trauma” until therapy, either. It really was the working through owning the reality of my life through counseling where, suddenly coming out of denial, I began to feel the effects of the trauma. I had chest pain, insomnia, anxiety–especially at night where I would lay there and feel like my heart was going to fly out of my chest. I was feeling so anxious about the reality of my life that I had denied and stuffed and coped with for so many years. It was traumatic to pull my “ostrich head” out of the sand and it was a shock to my system.

I remember learning about pretend normal in therapy and thinking I like pretend normal. Could we go back and live there because dealing with what was actually happening in my life felt worse than pretending. It really did for a while.

Anne: Yes, I felt the same way. My most traumatic experience was after my husband’s arrest. I lived with him being abusive for seven years, not feeling that much trauma because I was in denial or I was not understanding what I was living, living the “pretend normal;” after his arrest it really hit me. That’s when waves of it came and it was very intense for a long time.

Tools To Help Deal With The Trauma Of Betrayal From A Spouse’s Pornography Addiction

What tools helped you deal with the trauma of betrayal?

Lynn: I did 24 weeks with a betrayed spouses group. This was a lifeline for me because there were some women in the group who had not been in denial for 8 years so they were much more familiar with what they were going through. I remember listening to them and thinking that this is how I felt.

Being able to share the journey with other women was so helpful to me and really helped me deal with it. I discovered breathing; you don’t think about breathing but when you do think about it, it’s amazing the calming effect it can have on your body. The other thing that helped me deal with the trauma was my faith. To be honest, I was a little bit offended with God that this was my story–I didn’t deserve it, I never asked for this to be in my story but here I was and how was this ok with him?

So God and I were on the outs for a little while–I was on the outs with Him. The bottom line for me was that I didn’t know where else to go. When I began to seek God for comfort and help, He was faithful to bring it. And so my faith really helped me to deal with the trauma as well.

Right And Wrong Reasons For Staying In A Marriage

Anne: So knowing women are married to active pornography users also experience the related behaviors like lying, gas lighting, emotional abuse, and sometimes narcissistic traits…what made you decide to stay in your marriage?

Lynn: I think there are a few different reasons. Some are good and some are bad. An example of a bad reason was my thinking that if I stay, then at least I can keep an eye on my husband and I can be there to protect my boys. This became, “If I stay, I can make sure he’s moving forward and my kids don’t end up growing up with a pornography addict for a father”…because whether our marriage made it or not, this was a big question.

Neither one of us knew the answer to that. Where there was an addict and a trauma victim trying to live together in the same house and both were walking their own recovery journeys…and then somehow considering the fact that there is recovery for the relationship…things were iffy for a long time. I was staying to keep an eye on him–not the best reason of course to stay in a marriage.

Ultimately a better reason was that I began to see the fruit of change in his life. I watched him do the work of recovery. When I made that first call for us to go to therapy, he was not happy about going but 3-4 weeks in, something shifted and I think he finally found hope and that there was a life for him without this thing that he had kept hidden.

A Recovering Addict Is Kind, Gentle, And Empathetic

He was seven when he first encountered pornography–second grade. So he began to do the work and I saw the fruit. His behavior began to change and this is what ultimately weighed in on the decision to stay. Once he discovered the tools to break this pattern of behavior and he picked them up and used them, he realized there was hope and that he could live a life without this dependence.

Anne: In my experience as I have witnessed men in recovery who really are in recovery and their behavior proves it–they are kind, gentle, empathetic, understanding–a man really, truly in recovery is awesome! There is such a difference between a porn user who is not in recovery and one who is. It’s night and day.

Lynn: I can see that. I think about the porn my husband grew up with was mainly magazines and then VHS. I look at what men and women are having to deal with now with it in the pocket–live streaming, interactive video–and I think it is a completely different based thing and harder to recover from what is happening in the brain with this kind of pornography.

Anne: Yes, with really easy access and the types of pornography that they are viewing..the content itself.

Moving Forward When Your Spouse Is A Porn Addict

So knowing all of the women who are married to porn addicts and struggling with all of the related behaviors, how can women find help in your book?

Lynn: One of the things I love is that it is a small bite-sized serving of home. It’s a one-to-two page daily reading with one thought to carry you, and a couple of things to take action on or to reflect on. I love that it’s manageable for women in trauma. I remember getting some books to figure out what going on in my life, wondering how I was supposed to read them while dealing with the mess in my life.

My book is not about my marriage. It’s really about moving forward. There is a way for every woman to move forward. It’s not about whether or not your relationship is restored but knowing that there is restoration for your soul. There is peace available and regardless of what ends up happening in your marriage, there is a way for you to move forward…there is a life for you beyond the pain and trauma being experienced right now.

Anne: Absolutely. And I love that you said it’s in bite-sized pieces. I have the hardest time processing written information. Many of the women who come to BTR have this same problem too which is why I decided to do this podcast because a woman can listen to something while they are folding laundry or doing the dishes or while they are waiting for a son at soccer practice. Same thing for your book: you are making hope accessible for women who have a hard time processing lots of information.

However Your Story Ends, There Is Hope For You

Lynn: Exactly. In the middle of the trauma of owning the reality of my life, I couldn’t even read two pages. I wanted to be able to give women something they could chew and swallow that could carry them through maybe one day and maybe help them to take one step; something to hold on to for one day.

Anne: We are going to be having a giveaway for Lynn’s book Keep Walking: 40 Days To Hope And Freedom After Betrayal. We have three copies she has donated to Betrayal Trauma Recovery. Go to our Instagram account @betrayaltraumarecovery and enter the giveaway today!

Lynn, we are very grateful you have donated these books. Do you have any other thoughts before we conclude today?

Lynn: Sure. I just read an article this morning on Facebook by Gary Thomas that was so good. He just wrote a book entitled Cherished. I love what he said, “If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.” I think this is such a relief for a woman walking through this and not knowing the end of her story. However your story ends, there is hope for you.

Anne: Thank you so much for being here today, Lynn, and thank you for sharing your experience, strength, and hope through writing this book. It’s very meaningful to a lot of women.

To schedule a support call or join one of our betrayal trauma recovery support groups, click on schedule and join. You can find a list of all our services on our services page. You can also find a link to Lynn’s book on our book page at btr.org/books.

If this podcast is helpful to you, will you rate it on iTunes? Each rating improves our search engine rankings and helps women who are isolated and need help to find us. Until next week, stay safe out there.

How To Protect Young Children From The Damage Of Pornography Exposure

How To Protect Young Children From The Damage Of Pornography Exposure

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery. I’m Anne. Kristen Jensen is here today – one of my friends from the anti-pornography movement. She’s amazing. I’ve known her for a long time. She is the author of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read aloud books, including the best-selling Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn Proofing Today’s Young Kids. We use this in our home; it’s one of my favorite books for kids.

I’ve known her for a long time. She is the author of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read aloud books, including the best-selling Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn Proofing Today’s Young Kids. We use this in our home; it’s one of my favorite books for kids.

She is the founder of protectyoungminds.org, a website dedicated to helping parents empower their kids to reject pornography. Recently she was invited to testify before the Washington State Senate Law and Justice Committee on the public health crisis of pornography. Kristen is a frequent guest and speaker on podcasts, radio broadcasts, and is a leader in the Prevention Task Force of the National Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation.

Personally, she is a mother of two daughters and a son who is waiting for her in heaven. She lives with her husband in the beautiful state of Washington. She earned her BA in English Literature and her MA in Organizational Communication. Welcome, Kristen!

Many Parents Ask, “How Do I Check Cookies?” But, That’s Not Enough Anymore

Kristen: Hi Anne! Thanks for having me!

Anne: I LOVE Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr! Kristen gave me a copy and I’ve been using it with my 5-year-old and my 2-year-old. It is so helpful. I am so excited to announce that Kristen has donated three copies of Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr to our listeners. So if you have a child ages 3-6, you need this book! Please go to our Instagram profile @betrayaltraumarecovery. Follow us on Instagram; tag three of your friends who also have children ages 3-6 so they can be made aware of this really important resource for kids. The giveaway will end Wednesday at 6 pm. You will be notified via private message on Instagram.

Tell me, Kristen, why did you write a book about pornography for young kids?

Kristen: I saw that there was a problem. It took three years and then as I was speaking, I had parents of younger children–because our original book is for ages 7-11, even though therapists have used it for adults; the principles and concepts are for any age–ask if I could write a book for younger children. It took my breath away the first time I was asked that! Younger children are on the internet so we need to safe guard them and train them how to respond to bad pictures–to recognize what they are and have a plan of what to do when they see them.

Anne: I have your Can Do Plan taped to my 8 and 5-year-olds wall.

Kristen: Awesome! This is from the original book. It is great! The first three steps from the Can Do plan is to help children know exactly how to respond when they see it: close your eyes, tell a trusted adult, and name it when you see it. All these things help the thinking brain reject pornography. The last two, the D and O, are distract yourself and always keep the thinking brain the boss; I explain more about it in the book; these things help children deal with the shocking memories that pornography creates. These memories come back to haunt them and sometimes lure them back into curiously going and looking for pornography. It’s important to deal with the initial exposure and then the memories that this exposure creates.

Will Talking About Pornography With Children Make Them More Curious?

Anne: I talk with parents all the time. One of their concerns is that their kids are too young and that they shouldn’t talk about pornography with their kids because they are worried about curiosity and such. My response usually is that there is a generation of people who did not talk about sexual addiction, who did not talk about pornography, who did not openly speak about masturbation in their homes, and they are now a generation of porn addicts that my listeners are married to. We know that the “not talking about it” doesn’t work. I’m not sure what the consequences of talking about pornography with my children will be; I don’t know what they will be 30 or 40 years out, but I do know that the other way does not work.

So I am willing to say that this open dialog and layered communication about mental health, about sexual health is so important for our kids and this is a very appropriate way to begin the conversation and talk about it. I’m pretty comfortable talking about it because this is what I do for my job. I’m a professional in the industry. But for people who don’t say the word “masturbation” six times a day like I do, they may wonder how they do this. Your books are perfect for this. What do you recommend is the right age to begin talking about pornography?

How Do We Protect Our Children From Pornography?

Kristen: I always have been taught to not answer the question I am now going to answer! The question is, “How old are your children when they get access to the internet?” If they are 3 years old when they get access to the internet, then 3 is the time to start talking.

Anne: And the answer is not, “Then I will never give them access to the internet!” Access is going to happen whether we like it or not.

Kristen: That ship has sailed; that horse is out of the barn! However you want to say it, it’s gone. It’s all around. Everyone has a portal to porn in their pocket. This is a story that was told by a sex addiction therapist who did everything she could to protect her young son. She sent him to a private Christian school, hoping it would be safer than a public school. A classmate of his looked at his cell phone–at age 6!–and showed him pornography on it. We are living in a crazy world that allows access to this kind of material to children. T

he only way we can deal with it besides doing what we can with filters and having the family come together to work together to protect ourselves from pornography, the only other way I can think is to inoculate. We cannot control exposure. That is why inoculation started with small pox. A few could get rid of smallpox, to eradicate it from the earth because we went around and inoculated everyone. As soon as you start living in the real world, getting out of the bubble, we are going to have to face this head on…and help to make children safer as a result.

Women Who Are Married To Porn Users Want To Protect Their Kids From Exposure To Pornography

Anne: Our listeners live in the real world because they are dealing with their husband’s sex addiction. They are very aware of the pain and the chaos that this creates. They are trying their best to protect their children.

Kristen: I was just at the solar eclipse. During conversations, people ask what I do. When I tell them, you can tell they are clueless. They do not have a clue how pervasive this problem is. I tell them stats on marriage, divorce, kids being involved…it made me realize once again that so many people don’t even have an awareness of the problem.

Anne: It’s not on their radar or they think it’s just out there and their kids are great kids and would never do that.

It’s Normal For Kids To Be Curious About Pornography, But It’s Not Healthy For Them To View It

Kristen: That’s a real mistake because kids responding to pornography is the most natural thing in the world. It’s normal. We are all biologically excited by naked pictures. We are wired to biologically respond. We are basically trying to teach a child to do something that their brain is very curious about. This is why we say this in my book–how it can feel like the pull of a giant magnet. We own that, we admit it. This is where there is so much safety. We don’t shame the child. We teach the child the truth that this can make them really curious. And that it can also be like rat poison. It tastes really good to the rats but once they start eating it, it begins to destroy them.

Anne: My son is eight now and I have been talking to him about pornography since he was 3. Now he will say things like, “Mom, why would people look at pornography if it’s so bad?” I say, “Because it makes people feel really good.” It’s the same thing with heroine. People do drugs because it feels really good! When they’re doing heroine or looking at porn they’re not feeling the consequences of their actions. They aren’t understanding it’s affecting them and everyone else; it just feels really good.

Kristen: This is exactly what we say in the book. It’s one of the questions that comes up: Why would people look at this? It’s because in the short term it’s exciting.

Anne: Right. So in your new book Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr includes 5 saftey rules to help children stay safe from sexting and sextortion. Can you talk to us about these 5 safety rules?

Kristen: We have realized that since the publication of our first book, one of the things that has become a big problem is sexting; but not only sexting but sextortion–where children, teens, and even adults are groomed online–where they get in a situation where they think they are in a friendship or a romantic relationship and they give pictures of themselves that are compromising at the very least. When pornographers (my word) get these pictures, they call it sextortion, meaning they are threatened if they do not produce more graphic photos. They are threatened with telling parents or putting it on the internet; they are told to give money…the FBI says it is the leading growing problem among kids right now. This is why we included these safety rules.

  1. If someone tries to show you bad pictures or videos, look away. Remember to turn, run, and tell.
  2. If you ever see a bad picture or video, never show it to another child. There is research that shows that this is exactly what kids do. They show it to another child. This is rampant. When I first saw a pornographic magazine, who did I show? My little sister! So this is the most common thing for little kids to do. They need to be taught, outright, and specifically, never to show a bad picture to another child.
  3. They should never let someone take a picture of them without their clothes on. If someone ever tries that, they should tell their mom or dad or a trusted adult.
  4. Never take pictures or videos of yourself without clothes on. Kids these days are unfortunately producing pornography. They are producing child pornography.
  5. If you see a bad picture or video and it keeps popping up in your mind, go and tell mom or dad or a trusted adult; say, “I need your help to make the bad picture go away.” We have specific instructions in the back of the book on how to help children minimize those shocking memories of exposure to pornography.

Last fall I was invited to testify at a Washington State Senate Law and Justice Committee about the public health threat of pornography. With me was Mike Edwards who is the specialist on internet crimes against children for Washington state. He gave a lot of grim statistics. Then he told a story about a video they have of an 8-year-old boy who made this video of himself having sex with a 4-year-old. He put this video on the internet. Kids are doing this and it’s in greater and greater numbers. If we don’t want our kids to fall victim, we need to teach them.

Anne: Like I said before, I use this in my home and it is so helpful. For my listeners, Christmas is coming up and I want to tell you a funny story. The Porn Kills Love t-shirt from Fight the New Drug came out awhile ago. I bought one for my then husband who was “in recovery” and he wore it on Christmas. His family told him I had ruined Christmas!

I would like all of you to go to our books page and purchase the books right now. Begin talking about it with your kids. If you’d like to ruin Christmas, give it to someone for Christmas!!

Kristen: The first year we sold Good Pictures Bad Pictures I thought there would be no sales during Christmas. The absolute opposite happened. Our sales went way up! And then I started hearing how people were buying them as gifts! What better gift than to provide the gift of protection from something so destructive. I think it makes perfect sense.

Anne: So this is my goal: everyone get the books and a Porn Kills Love tshirt and wear it on Christmas! Let’s start a revolution! We’re going to take back Christmas!

So Kristen, besides your books, what other resources have you created to help parents?

How To Help Protect Children In Your Community From Pornography

Kristen: we have lots on our website protectyoungminds.org. We have three free guides. One is a quick start guide to begin giving people an overall foundation of information. We then have the smart parents’ guide which is for those whose children have already seen pornography or for proactive parents who want to prepare for the eventuality; it helps parents face this without shame and freaking out; it helps them to know what questions to ask their child. It is very helpful in this regard.

Then we have a kit for people who want to take this to their community. We have an outline of a presentation to do your own presentation in your community or school or church. We are trying to help everyone in every situation, all parents who want to help their children. Whenever we do a blog, we usually have some kind of free download, whether it’s a series of questions or conversation starters, questions to ask a school administrator or a principle about how safe the school is; what have they done to protect kids from porn exposure; have they trained kids about what to do if they see pornography on the school computer or school grounds?

Anne: So for our listeners who are interested in getting more assistance, Coach Rae runs a group called How Do I Protect & Heal My Children?

Coach Rae and Lori Rubinstein, a child advocacy expert, will be speaking. Please register! Also, Coach Sarah is very good about coaching women about how to talk to their children about their dad’s pornography addiction and some of the things that happen around that….such as if police have been involved, criminal action, etc….Coach Sara is really good about helping you navigate helping your children in these situations.

I am so grateful you are here today and that you wrote these books, Kristen. Again, if you are interested in purchasing these books you can buy them on Amazon. They are Good Pictures Bad Pictures and Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. or you can go directly to Protectyoungminds.org to get more infomration. Remember we have this giveaway on Instagram. Go to @betrayalrecovery and tag your friends who have children and we will announce the winners through a private message!

Thanks for being here today, Kristen.

Schedule a support call with one of our trained APSAT coaches, trained by the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists; they also understand emotional abuse and can help you navigate your husband’s emotional abuse…or the abuse from your ex-husband. Many women are still being abused by their ex.

If this podcast is helpful to you, please rate it on iTunes. Each rating increases our visibility on search engines and helps women who are isolated and who need help to find us. Until next week, stay safe out there!

How Do We Trust God, When Everything We Believed Was Fake?

How Do We Trust God, When Everything We Believed Was Fake?

Lisa Taylor is here with us today. Lisa is a pastoral sexual addiction specialist and a post-grad counseling student living in New Zealand. She has spent the last several years counseling and supporting women whose lives, like our own, have been impacted by husbands with sex addiction, sex offending, or sexual integrity issues. Her books on this topic include Beyond Betrayal, Beyond Betrayal Couple’s Guide and There’s What On My Phone? – a fictional story for youth who struggle.

She also runs an online community blog for partners at beyondbetrayal.community. Welcome, Lisa.

Lisa: Thank you, Anne.

Women Who Are Betrayed Have Every Right To Question God

Anne: Lisa, you did a survey a couple of years ago on the topic of spiritual crisis in the lives of partners of sex addicts. Can you tell us about that?

Lisa: A couple of years ago when I was still working on Beyond Betrayal, it struck me that this was an important topic to get some information about to include in the book and at the same time Marsha Means who runs The Circle of Joy was interested in starting groups for people who are struggling with this aspect of the journey. We got together and asked what we all wanted to know and put together some questions, then we sent it out to Marsha’s mailing list and we had over 100 women get back to us and share their stories with us.

Anne: I bet you had a lot of pain that came back to you.

Lisa: Absolutely, a lot of incredible stories.

Anne: What was your particular interest in the topic?

Lisa: I guess the reason why I really felt like I wanted to include something about this in the book was because I had experienced this; I had a background since I was a little kid. Those who know me a little bit more know I am in my second marriage right now to a man who is recovering from his porn addiction.

My first marriage didn’t make it. And particularly as that first marriage was falling apart, I was very active in my local church. I hid a lot of abuse and went through a deep spiritual crisis that would last for years. I really questioned if God could still love me because I was being rejected by the church for making a stand and walking away from this poisonous relationship with a man who was not willing to get help for his sex addiction. He wasn’t even willing to stop lying. I really felt this was some of the lowest points in my life. I think having my faith pulled out from underneath me was part of why this was such a low, low time for me. I really felt that had there been support, had there been people talking about this, perhaps I wouldn’t have hit such a low point, perhaps it would have been an easier journey.

Anne: When you say you hid abuse, do you mean that you were abused by the church?

Lisa: Yes, unfortunately. Mine is one of many, many stories; they are all slightly different but a similar thread runs through all of them: somehow, it’s not the man’s fault, it’s the woman’s. If she decides to set a strong boundary that she is leaving if he does not get help….I got threatening letters form a pastor throughout the 4-5 years I was single, living as a solo mom in a different city with a full-time job. Eventually this resulted in a death threat. It was interesting because my mother, who also had to leave my father due to his infidelity, went through almost exactly the same thing. She got threatening phone calls and ultimately a death threat as well. I was really blessed that I had learned from her how to stand up to some spiritual abuse. She ended up bringing in the authorities over that. I basically had to stand up to this particular pastor who had been sending me these emails and said the same thing. I told him that if I continued to hear from him, I would bring in the authorities and share his letters with them because what he was doing was actually criminal.

Anne: My experience with my particular church leader was that he was in so far over his head he did not understand what was going on. Instead of referring out to adult protective services, he took it upon himself to play the “he said, she said…how do I decide who’s telling the truth?” When that happens, because sex addiction and lying are not a communication issue–they are an addiction issue, an abuse issue–it sets the woman up for more abuse by her church or church leaders.

In your survey, what did it reveal about spiritual crisis in partners of sex addicts?

Lisa: What is revealed was that over the 100 women who answered, more than 63% felt they had gone through a significant spiritual crisis as part of their journey–usually pretty close around their time of discovery. The only thing surprising about this to those of us behind the survey was that the number was this low. It was interesting to watch the women answering the questions. Some of them started out saying they didn’t go through spiritual crisis but as they continued to answer the questions, by the end where there was an open comment field, they wrote that they had not thought they had gone through a spiritual crisis but that they could then see that perhaps they actually did. This makes me realize that sometimes the types of trauma a woman is facing–including numbness–can be so overwhelming that they may not even realize they are having a crisis of faith, that their larger spiritual framework has become shaky in this. That was quite interesting just on its own.

What we were also hearing was that for some women, the spiritual crisis centered around their broader belief in God, a Higher Power, but for a lot it was around the church and others who share their faith. For some women, it was both. When we looked at the women who were really feeling distrustful of God or their Higher Power, they felt they were “being duped” by Him. They talked of feelings of injustice–they had been solid, faithful women in their faith community and why would something like this happen to them? They had been solid and faithful in their marriage, why would something like this happen to them; it wasn’t fair. There were also women who talked about feelings of rejection from God or judgment. Some talked about feeling abandoned by God. A lot of them were experiencing similar things in the church–rejection at church and in their faith community, abandonment, and sometimes outright persecution…similar to my story and that of many women.

Anne: It is so sad, especially because the women are in so much pain and they want to go to their faith to feel comforted and understood. They have been rejected by their spouse and then they feel like they are rejected by God or their faith community so it feels so alone and so isolated and “who will help me?” It feels terrible.

Did you notice if there was any particular type of partner?

Lisa: Yes. What came up in our results was that the more deeply a woman was involved in her faith community, particularly if she was like the spouse of the head of the community or was involved in some kind of ministering within the community, the more she felt it, particularly those wives of leadership; they really had their world rocked. We can only guess as to why this is. I have talked to a number of them about this and in examining their results to us, I would say that so much more of their world leans heavily on the acceptance of their faith community and a certain type of image. They had so much more to lose I guess from their husband’s story coming out. Most of them that I have dealt with over the years have to keep a high level of anonymity because of the fear of loss of their world if the issue should be discovered.

Another type of wife or partner who was likely to be hugely impacted were wives who had had a difficult past and had come to faith as adults. Often for these people their understanding of the world was that they had suffered a lot in their relationships in the past because they didn’t have faith and the faith community. They often think “Now I have this relationship and I’ve met a man who has this relationship so now we are going to have the ideal marriage.” When they find out that their ideal Christian husband or husband of their faith is actually struggling just as much as any guy they have dated previously or were married to, it really causes a crisis because they had a false understanding about what it would be like with someone who had faith. This is not to imply that they were naive or anything like that because churches teach that these kinds of problems don’t happen–it’s not implicitly stated but it is implied. So it’s really not a wonder how people that belong to a faith community don’t understand that this actually isn’t the case.

Another type of wife or partner who struggled a lot were those who had been spiritually abused or persecuted by the church–which we kind of already talked about–but the other was wives whose husbands had been very spiritually abusive to them over the course of the marriage. This is sadly all too common with sex addicts.

Anne: I had this sense that if I obeyed the commandments, if I was doing the best I could, if I was repenting and forgiving, if I was loving…then I would be blessed. Then I realized that all of my forgiving and loving and serving was actually enabling my husband’s abuse and that I was never taught to set boundaries and that basically my religion had let me down; I had said over and over that we don’t accept abuse and a person shouldn’t stand for it, but at the same time in the actual everyday practical living, it wasn’t brought up. I wasn’t taught how to set boundaries. I felt like God let me down, my community let me down because they didn’t prepare me for this situation. Then when I did bring it up and say this was the situation, they didn’t believe me and brought out love, forgiveness, and service instead of boundaries. It felt like they were all on the wrong side–that they were standing up and enabling an abuser.

Lisa: This is an oversimplification that we often see in churches where we want to apply a formula to a problem instead of actually looking at the specific ins and outs of this problem. Sometimes I summarize what you are talking about as “grace to him and nuts to you…we’ll apply the grace formula; you just need to forgive more and it will all be solved.” This is not true. We were talking earlier about your pastor being way in over his head. For those who like the “formula-like approach,” they are in over their heads very quickly. They do not understand that along with addiction comes a lot of lying, a lot of minimalized, rationalized, justified blame–it’s called addictive thinking; a lot of them aren’t aware of this. So they are going with a basic formula. A lot of the basic formula for faith communities is that we stand up for men and blame woman. Most of them would never think of it in this type of terms, but if you watch the pattern and the history of it and you have to side with one or the other, you side with the man. There may be others who disagree with me and I’m sure there are churches that this is the exception; I’ve seen some of the churches who are the exception to this and I’m thankful for them. But sadly a lot of them have a blame-women mentality. This is what I saw in my circumstances too. The boys all got together and wanted to believe what my first husband said. There were few people who asked me what my side of the story was. He was a pathological liar.

Anne: And even if they did ask you what your side of the story is, they tend to look at it as, “His side and her side and the truth is somewhere in between” rather than seeing it as the riddle of the knights and the knaves where the knights always tell the truth and the knaves always lie. So how can you determine who is a knight and who is a knave? This is the riddle of an addict and his wife. They are seeing it as the truth is somewhere in the middle when really there is someone telling the truth and there is a pathological liar. You need to believe the woman in this situation. She is telling you the truth and he is trying to manipulate and manage his image.

I tell people this and they tell me it’s too simple. Actually, it can be this simple, depending on the situation.

Lisa: It can. Sometimes it’s not but the reality is it can be really difficult for a woman to talk about these things. We are often not exaggerating. We are often holding some of our evidence back. Some of the stuff that is going on in our bedrooms and what we are seeing we’re not really keen to go talk to our pastor about it. I have this from other women too. Sometimes the evidence we are gathering is abuse in the bedroom or it’s neglect in the bedroom at a high order…funky stuff we have difficulty explaining which is clueing us into the fact that this guy is not who he says he is…there is something wrong. I’m sure there is someone who may be putting out there a perception that’s being jaded by anger, especially after she has had a gospel of abuse though. There is a lot more truth in what she is saying. She doesn’t have the impetus to lie and hide that he does.

Anne: I agree with you that if anything, she is holding it back. The interesting thing is that we constantly get accused of exaggerating…then we try to prove we aren’t and we look more and more crazy…it’s a downward spiral.

Lisa: It’s part of the factor that’s making this so difficult for women in a faith community situation. Her trauma symptoms are making her look really crazy whereas the husband has worked really, really hard to maintain a smooth image. We should be saying, “Wow, the level of emotion she is exhibiting proves the veracity of her statements. We should actually give credence to what she is saying…and his ‘too smooth’ should be getting picked up on people’s radar as ‘hang on, this alone should be a que that he is not being genuine or authentic with us.'” But people don’t catch this…they see it as opposite.

Anne: Rather than seeing it as genuine distress they see it as “she’s just crazy.”

Lisa: I think where sex addiction has gone to in even the last decade–where pornography has gone in the last decade–is so horrific that if people have not sat and considered the ways people can go off the rails sexually, it can really seem like, “Surely it’s not that bad. Surely he’s really not doing that. Surely it’s not as awful as you’re saying.” But it is. There are researchers and experts who will tell you it is that bad. It’s horrific.

Anne: Yes. Just as a podcaster I know because I hear these stories every day from women all over the world, as I’m sure you do too.

Lisa: In terms of talking about woman being spiritually abused or persecuted by their church, and I’m sure between the two of us we could list dozens of stories, even just this morning I received an email form a woman thanking me for talking about the spiritual abuse issue on my website; she told me a little about her story which included when her husband’s infidelity was found out by the church, they began policing her sex life, telling her she needed to make herself more available and started actually asking questions on a regular basis about her availability. She said she began having sex with her husband because of pressure from the church. She began to hate sex. The good thing in their story was that both she and her husband began to see this as completely poisonous and that it was bringing up other problems in their marriage; they left the fake unity. The sad reality is that sometimes there is no answer to leaving the abuse outside of leaving a particular faith community. Some people leave all faith communities for a time due to this. I think this is understandable and I never criticize people of doing what they think they need to do to protect themselves.

Anne: You mentioned the survey also looked at spiritual growth. What did it show about this?

Lisa: The happy side of the story is that so many of these women–79%–said that through this journey of discovering their husband’s sex addiction or porn addiction, walking through the crisis, that they came to a stronger place in their faith as part of their journey. For a small percentage, this was instant. They “flopped” into God’s arms for comfort. One woman said this had always been her safe place and so she went there immediately. But for more women, it was part of coming through the spiritual crisis that led them to a strengthened faith. Others talked about having a qualitatively better relationship with God–they had always had some sort of relationship and now it was much stronger (I would say this was my experience as well, particularly in my second marriage; I had always had a relationship but now I feel like I get him in a deeper level, a much more “life giving” relationship, having gone through seven years of walking through this.)

Anne: I would be interested to know how women are reconnecting with God.

Lisa: For me it was my prayer time, my mediation time. I have heard from other women that it has been joining a support group and seeing other women’s faith and how it has strengthened them; and really loving them in a non-pressuring way, bringing them back to maybe a faith they had in childhood and they begin to reconnect with their faith and with God. Discipline as well–doing the 12 Steps; this can be an awesome way to learn to think again and re-engage your Higher Power, reconnect with God. There are different ways this happens, but the results are often the same where they are more at peace and feel stronger and feel more loved and supported.

Anne: Any thoughts on how or why women come to a place of spiritual growth as a result of betrayal?

Lisa: My faith is a Christian faith. The Bible talks about this idea that trials in general are going to grow us, to mature us. I think there is a little bit that abuse in the church causes us to rethink our faith. One of the survey respondents said they began to question everything they thought they had known about God. I think we really do. We start to look at it and wonder what in their beliefs is really core and important and feels fundamentally true; what is just baggage? For example, “We don’t have boundaries.” Or fundamental things about the nature of God and we begin to think more carefully about.

The nature of God itself is an enormous issue and people don’t often realize they are carrying contradictory pictures of God around with them; he is complex and mysterious. I don’t think we have to wheedle him down to something that fits in our pocket and say, “This is my pocket God.” But at the same time, He wants to show us his goodness to women at the time of their suffering. He talks about this in the Bible. His thoughts and His heart are so towards the suffering, the marginalized, the widows and the orphans–he wants justice for the widows and the orphans. I think we have a generation of porn widows and sex addiction orphans out there that God is so for and He wants to see them treated well; he wants justice for them; he wants to see them lifted up. I would like to see the church understand God’s heart in this and sometimes they are not.

The third other thing I see in this survey as a result is woman like myself who idolize marriage. This is something I probably learned in childhood. This fell by the wayside as part of this journey. Sadly, it took me two times before I was able to get this one to fall by the wayside. But in my second marriage to a porn addict I realize that marriage was never going to fulfill all of my great longings for love and relationship. This is something I could only find in God. For me, this was a big part of my spiritual growth. I’ve heard this from a number of other women as well.

Anne: Speaking of justice for the widows. I did a podcast episode about Luke 18 and the parable of the unjust judge and how the widow is asking him to avenge her and he says to go away…and in the end he realizes he knows a way to have her go away—“I’ll put it back on God” and tells her that God will avenge her in His right time. Then the judge doesn’t actually do anything. This parable explains perfectly that what the porn widows want is justice. They want their husbands to be held accountable by God and by the church for the abuse and infidelity.

I did my own informal survey and found that when this happens, the wife feels more supported. If there is accountability and the church holds the husband accountable for the abuse and infidelity, the wife feels supported and that yes, her faith does put their money where their mouth is; they preach these things and then take action to make sure that people are protected. So in stories where the church leader hears about the abuse and calls the authorities, the women feel better than when the church leader hears about the abuse and does not call the authorities, for example.

Lisa: The church could be helping with this spiritual crisis. They could be helping catapult women into the spiritual growth and circumvent the whole spiritual crisis situation if they were willing to get God’s heart faster and to do these things. I’m so glad you did that survey and are talking about this. I was thinking about writing this up myself because I see it as a theme among women; again and again I hear women feeling guilty for wanting justice…like they are doing wrong. I tell them this is coming from a healthy place in them. This is coming from God’s heart because he wants justice for you too.

Anne: In my faith tradition, one of our early leaders who is in a really bad spot asks, “God, where are you?” Many people who read about this think, “He was so patient. He was waiting for God”…and then there is a verse where he actually asks for justice from God. He asks God to avenge his adversaries. It’s interesting that this part is glossed over a lot. Here is someone who is an amazing leader in our church, whom everyone adores and reveres as a strong spiritual person ,and there he is asking for justice. What’s wrong with us asking for justice?

Lisa: A very similar story we often quote, I think it’s Isaiah 63, is where the Messiah is there is bind up the broken heart and release the captive. We all stop there and forget that Christ is going to declare the day of vengeance on our enemies. We forget that part of healing is actually for there to be some justice against those who have wronged the broken-hearted, the prisoner; God hasn’t forgotten that. He puts it right in there but we gloss over it because it can be uncomfortable.

Anne: It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I know some women who have seen that sort of justice take place in their husband or ex-husband. I have not personally observed this. Maybe someday; maybe in the next life.

As you’ve written your amazing book Beyond Betrayal and you’ve talked with women all over the world, what would you say to a woman who says she is in a spiritual crisis on account of her husband’s sex addiction?

Lisa: I would say it is so normal. Often she will feel like she is the only person who is shaking my fist at God. Not a chance. This is so normal. The majority of women are going to go through some sort of crisis like this. Please do not be ashamed of it. If you feel like you need to go outside and shake your fist at God and throw something at the sky and scream at him, do it! Do not be concerned about committing some sort of unforgivable sin or heresy because God is big enough. I think if a woman is keeping the lines of communication going, this is amazing. Keep it going even if it feels like there is nothing to say to God or no nice way to say it. Do it anyway because he is a good Father and a good parent can take this stuff. He knows how you are feeling. He loves you and He wants you to just pour out the poison to him. This is what you would be doing.

Anne: This reminds me of the 7th step which is prayer: I’m ready God for you to have all of me, the good and the bad. I’m willing now to let you see me in this vulnerable state rather than the “what I want or what my dreams or my hopes are;” I’m willing for you to see me as a broken person in despair.

Lisa: Maybe this is another part of the spiritual growth “is that we hit new levels of vulnerability with God and we find that we are still accepted, still loved….” I really did sense God’s love for me in the midst of my angriest days and the days I was shunned.

Anne: I went through about a 9-12 month drought where I could not feel God at all. It was frustrating because I was praying and reading my scriptures and I just felt trauma and sadness and horror; it felt like the jaws of hell were gaping after me. I spent a lot of time at church crying in the bathroom stall. I continued to pray and I continued to study my scriptures and eventually the fog lifted and now I feel his love every day. I worry because I know how awful it feels to be in that place where you pray and you can’t feel anything. So many women have told me this where they have said they have tried the prayers and scriptures and they don’t get answers so they give up. This makes sense to me. If I were that person I would probably give up to. And then I realize that I was that person for 9 months. I think I had so many spiritual experiences from before that time to draw upon during the drought that I just knew it would eventually work, even though I couldn’t feel it then.

Lisa: Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a place of comfort.

Anne: So I had my group and very good friends and family. I had support and I was able to express how I was feeling and they were amazing. Instead of saying that I should forgive and I would feel better, they said what I was feeling made sense. When a person gets the platitudes of “forgive and you’ll feel better” the trauma is so intense that forgiveness isn’t even on the table at that point.

Lisa: Absolutely not. Surviving is on the table. And God gives that. In my personal interactions with God I felt no pressure to forgive; I just felt to survive it with him. In time forgiveness came up as something that made sense and I was ready for it. It was months down the road.

Anne: Actually, I did feel God. I just didn’t feel comforted. I felt Him and he gave me an answer consistently for 9 months–wait. I didn’t like that answer and I felt uncomfortable about it so I was mad and not comforted. I think this is a better way to describe it. So I was communicating with God and He was communicating with me and He was telling me to wait, be still. But I thought that wasn’t a solution! I think this is why I didn’t feel comforted. This was in between when my husband was arrested and he moved out of our home and he did nothing to get back into the home and 9 months later when he filed for divorce. During those 9 months of literally waiting, holding a no-contact boundary, waiting for him to do something to indicate that he was in recovery or maybe he understood what was happening, God said, “Wait.” It was the most uncomfortable, difficult, long, harrowing, awful 9 months where I could not feel comforted even though I would try and try. My sponsor finally said that what I really needed was a soft blanket and pillow and to climb into my closet and cry and see if that would help me to feel comfort. We got to the point where we were wondering if a teddy bear would help me! Now I’m feeling fantastic and I am so grateful to God for giving me the answer to wait and for helping me to know what no contact meant. He is the one that set the no contact boundary; the night my husband got arrested I had no idea this was going to happen…so I can see God’s hand in my life but only in hindsight. I couldn’t see it when I was in it during the moment.

Lisa: And in the moment what we sometimes need is a community that lifts us up; a community who says they will weep when someone is weeping. I’m not going to preach to you like Job’s friends. I’m going to sit here quietly with you and share your pain. This is one of my main messages to the church these days. You don’t understand if you’ve not been there. And that’s ok as long as you’re willing to keep your advice to yourself for now and sit and share the pain and pray for her and hold her up and ask how you can help. This is going to help them get out of their spiritual crisis. It’s one of the best things you can do. It’s such a hard journey.

Anne: Lisa, thank you so much for being here today. It is such an honor. I have had so many women say that Beyond Betrayal was the book that really helped them.

Lisa: Thank you. It is an honor to be invited to speak with you and to get to know you better. I’m so excited about what BTR is doing. I’m talking about it to everyone. You and your team, keep up the awesome work!

Anne: Thank you. This podcast is brought to you by your donations. Betrayal Trauma Recovery is a non-profit. Please donate today. Until next time, stay safe out there!

Understanding The Behaviors Of Pornography Users

Understanding The Behaviors Of Pornography Users

I have Amy Kate back with us this week. Amy Kate is an advocate for partners of sexual addicts. She is a survivor two marriages that ended as a result of sexual addiction. She has six amazing children. She is trained by the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS). She is also trained by the American Association of Sex Therapy. She is also a customer service representative at Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is an accountability and filtering software that is one of many tools that we need to use in our own recovery, both for the safety of ourselves and families.

Amy: Hi. I’m glad to be back.

Anne: We are going to talk about demystifying the behavior of sex addicts today. Being a recovering drug addict I’m sure has its advantages when you are talking about your ex-husband’s sexual addiction and how that worked and how devastating it was. Can you talk about the definition of insanity and where you were in that process of serving your husband’s behaviors and being in the chaos and not able to figure out exactly what was happening?

When we are in a relationship with an active pornography addict or an active sex addict, why is there some much chaos? Why is it so difficult to get to the bottom of what is really going on?

Amy: To a non-addict person, when you see these behaviors that are insane–this is kind of what they look like–and they make absolutely no sense; you are unable to wrap your head around why they do the things they do. I tend to think this all comes from cognitive dissonance.

The brain wants homeostasis. It wants everything to be calm and centered and make sense and not be chaotic. Cognitive dissonance is the theory that when you have a certain set of beliefs and moral standards and your actions don’t match that, it creates its own chaos and a super uncomfortable feeling inside of you.

So we have someone who knows that porn is some version of cheating, they know they aren’t supposed to, they know they are hurting their wife, they know that having that affair is going to devastate their wife, but they are still doing it. In order to have those two things balanced within the brain, something has to change.

They have three choices:

  1. They can change their beliefs so they can decide that cheating is somehow ok. They can decide that porn is ok. This doesn’t usually happen though because usually our beliefs are our beliefs.
  2. They can change the action: they could stop doing the behavior but that is not as easy as it sounds.
  3. Or they can change their perception. When they change their perception, this is where you tend to see all the other crazy-making behaviors that drive us insane.

Anne: talk about that. Do you mean their perception of their wife?

Amy: Their perception of everything starts to change. Essentially, when they are changing their perception, they are changing their reality to make their behaviors fit what they believe. We’ll use lying which is probably one of the most rage-igniting things when it comes to partners. The lying drives us insane.

But the addict will change the way he views things like the female he is talking to all of the time and ends up having an emotional affair with, “she is just a friend; I don’t even think she is pretty! I have no idea how that porn site is in the history. Maybe it’s a virus…” He is creating this reality that is not even real. The ironic part is he starts to believe it. T

he brain has to come back to that homeostasis where things have to make sense or it’s a horribly uncomfortable feeling. So they start to believe their own lies which is insanity! This is what it feels like to me as a recovering addict. When I am in this place, it feels like insanity.

Anne: Especially because then you have two totally compartmentalized lives going on. The one life where you are this good person where you don’t engage in these behaviors and your explanations make sense; and then your other life where all of these things are actually really happening. You really are engaging in these behaviors. You really are lying so it is almost like you’ve got Jekyll and Hyde going on in the same body.

An Emotionally Abusive Husband Is Like Jekyll & Hyde

Amy: Jekyll and Hyde was originally an analogy for an alcoholic. The boxes and compartmentalizing is a huge part of addiction. When the addict is actively engaged with his family, his addiction doesn’t exist; he closes that box and it doesn’t exist. And then when he is acting out in his addiction, his family does not exist.

They are two completely separate worlds so when they collide, like the wife finds something in the history on the computer, he has to figure out a way to make the two make sense. Lying is usually a really good way to do it. Justification is another way they can alter their reality and perception of what is going on, to make things balance out.

For example, they will say things like, “It’s just porn. It’s not a real person so it’s not that bad. It’s not cheating. I’m a man; I can’t help it. I have a high sex drive and besides, all men look at porn. It’s a guy thing. It’s what they do. I only do it a few times a month. It’s not a problem.”

Women In Pornography Are Exploited & Abused

Anne: Yes, these justifications are very interesting I think, especially when they say, “The woman in pornography want to be exploited and abused.” When you look at it from the porn industry point of view, we know the women who are in the porn industry are not treated well. Many of them are on drugs. Many have been exploited. they are miserable doing their job. The time they spend in the pornography industry is very, very short. Many don’t spend a lot of time because it’s so difficult for them. 

I’ve talked to someone on the other end, who produced porn for a while and then stopped producing it, and he said, “I always knew I was ruining the lives of the women I filmed but I just never thought about the people who were watching it and how their lives were also being ruined.”

So I think it is very difficult for them to realize they are hurting their wives, themselves, and also the woman who is being exploited, the women in the pornography. And so it is very important to teach people that pornography creates a demand for sexual exploitation and that demand must stop…that as long as people are viewing pornography there will also be exploitation and sex slavery.

All of these justifications surrounding this make it very difficult for men to see the truth that they are using and exploiting other people and harming themselves and other family members. So instead of accepting this, they end up blame shifting and lying and all the things you are talking about.

Amy: My analogy that I have for my own addiction is like I have this little person in my head–I say it’s a little demon–it has one goal in life: to get me to use my drug, whatever my drug of choice is, be it porn or like mine was drugs. It will do the craziest things and twist words to convince me that these lies make sense–like I deserve to take this pill because I have had a really bad day…or I really deserve to watch that porn because my wife won’t have sex with me. and the addict literally believes it even though a sober brain knows that it doesn’t make any sense. So it’s all balancing back to the cognitive dissonance where it needs to balance itself out.

Anne: Let’s talk about blame shifting. This is another way addicts balance themselves out.

Blame-shifting Is A Form Of Manipulation & Emotional Abuse

Amy: That’s a super fun one – I’m being sarcastic of course! It is so damaging to women because one of the big ones is the addict will blame the way the wife looks or the weight she has gained or the activities that she is willing to do . . .” if she did such and such sex act I wouldn’t have to watch porn . . . or if she took care of herself and lost some weight, I wouldn’t have to look at porn . . .or if she wasn’t such a mean, demanding person, I wouldn’t need all of this stress relief . . . or I’ve had a really bad day at work and all my customers are awful and I’ve been treated like crap by my boss and I deserve this treat.”

When You’re Husband Tells You, “You Ask Too Many Questions.”

Anne: In my case, I was “too much.” I asked too many questions, I was too consistent, I was too demanding and controlling because I am a woman of my word and I have integrity. I was trying to figure out what was going on, and I was not going to stop until I had the answers. In my marriage, I was “too much” although in the end he told me that I was not attractive and he began to go down that route. It was very hurtful to me. These comments ring in my ears still…the blame types of things. You can’t get better if you refuse to take responsibility for your actions.

Amy: Right. My ex was very good at projecting. He started isolating himself from the family. We would have things we were going to do, like carve pumpkins. I would invite him to come and he would say he was working in his office and he wasn’t. Or I’d say, “Let’s go to the park”–anything I tried to get him to engage in with the family he continued to refuse.

When Discovery Day came out, he said he cheated because I did not want him involved in his life. He literally would flip everything around. Then he would say things like, “I didn’t want sex enough.” The reality was that I was sex-starved and turned down all the time.

Anne: Mine stopped initiating. Mine didn’t initiate to begin with, I did, and then I stopped and I’m sure he tells people that I would never have sex with him. He only initiated twice during the six months when I didn’t initiate. Both of those times were immediately after I had been severely emotionally abused. I wasn’t safe and then he didn’t ever try when I did feel safe. But he doesn’t tell people that because he didn’t initiate safe sex for six months…that gas lighting is pretty intense and traumatizing–part of the emotional abuse.

Amy: Yes. And the gas lighting for me made me feel crazy because I didn’t know my reality. This is a hard thing to describe, to not know my reality, but when everything is twisted and all I had was him and me in the beginning–I didn’t have anyone to tell me this wasn’t making sense or it wasn’t right–I didn’t know what was up or down due to the gas lighting. He would say something and then 5 minutes later I would repeat it back and he would say that he never said it. By the end of the conversation I was questioning what was really said. I really didn’t know.

Anne: Or they say, “I know I said that but it’s not what I meant. I meant this other thing…” And the woman remarks that it is in fact what he said and meant…

Educating Women About What To Expect When They’re Married To A Porn User

Part of the reason we bring this up is not to rehash our own trauma; it’s to educate women about the behaviors they can expect so they know they are not crazy, so they can observe their husband’s behavior to know if he is emotionally safe. My number one goal with Betrayal Trauma Recovery is to teach women what safe behaviors look like so they can begin to establish safety for themselves because you cannot heal from trauma if trauma continues to happen. 

I want to review these things quickly. We have lying, justifying, blame shifting, and gas lighting. We’ve talked about gas lighting before. We have several podcasts at btr.org. We also really recommend the book, “Why Does He Do That?” It can be found at btr.org/resources. There are many books we recommend to become more educated about these things. The one we recommend most is the “Why Does He Do That?” by Lindy Bancroft. This book will teach you the safe behaviors you are looking for in terms of emotional safety.

I’m so grateful you were here today, Amy Kate, and for all that you have been through and the fact that you are using this now to educate women, especially in your job as a customer service rep for Covenant Eyes.

Amy: Another awesome book that is one of my favorites is, Worthy Of Her Trust. It gives a very clear picture of what true repentance in recovery really looks like. I know for me, I went through a lot of “Am I expecting too much; do I have this crazy vision of what recovery looks like?” When I read that book it helped me to realize that yes, what I was imagining should be happening was actually supposed to be happening. For me this helped to undo the gas lighting that was happening to me.

What A Man Can Do When His Wife Won’t Talk To Him

Anne: That’s really great to help women understand what they are looking for. My ex tells people, “What could I do? She wouldn’t talk to me.” I think that he doesn’t understand that I could very clearly see through his behaviors exactly what was happening.

Someone who really loves his wife and wants to be back with his family doesn’t shut down their bank account. He doesn’t stop giving them money. He doesn’t go to a singles congregation. He doesn’t threaten her and say, “I’m giving you a three-week deadline. If I don’t get back in the house in three weeks then I’m going to do get my own apartment.” These are not the types of things that people in recovery do. So I could clearly see even though I was not talking to him during his behaviors. I love that there is a book that helps with this. Thank you for recommending that.

Amy: The APSATS difference is literally night and day compared to any option out there when it comes to the healing. The coaches that are at BTR are great. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting two in person and the others I have talked to multiple times online and they are amazing women with hearts of gold; they are so, so passionate about helping other women change their lives. If I could offer any parting words it would be to get yourself in your own recovery, no matter what is going on with him, there is hope for you. Your life can change. It can get better. You don’t have to stay stuck right where you are. It will get better.

Anne: You are worth it! This is what I want to say to these women. YOU ARE WORTH IT! God loves you and He wants you to be safe. There is a little bit of cognitive dissonance with us because we think that God wants me to submit to my husband or he wants me to be a loving, kind, service-oriented wife…so there is the cognitive dissonance with the wives of sex addicts who are wanting a whole, peaceful, loving family. God is telling us, “Please, I love you. You are worth it. Establish safety for yourself.” Starting with an APSATS coach is an excellent way to do that because from the get go, they can help you establish safety in your life.

Amy Kate, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate you being with us.

If this podcast was helpful to you, please rate it on iTunes. We are also on SoundCloud. Every rating helps women who are isolated and need our help to be able to find us. Your donations are what makes this podcast possible, so please donate today!

Until next week, stay safe!
 

Coping With Your Husband’s Porn Addiction, Infidelity & Abuse

Coping With Your Husband’s Porn Addiction, Infidelity & Abuse

Today we have Amy Kate, an advocate for partners of those with sexual addictions and a survivor of two marriages that ended as a result of sexual addiction. She has six awesome kids and is trained through The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS), as well as the American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy (AASAT). She is a fierce warrior determined to point women to freedom and healing found at the feet of Jesus. She is also a customer service representative for Covenant Eyes and can be found at psalm40warrior.com. Welcome Amy Kate!

Amy: Thanks for having me.

Discovery Day: The Day Everything In Your Life Falls Apart When You Find Out About Your Husband’s Affair

Anne: We are going to talk to you about your personal story. We know that you went through two marriages due to sex addiction. Let’s focus on the second marriage and what happened there. Can you tell us what your life was like before D-day in your second marriage?

Amy: I was divorced from my first husband who was a porn addict and I met this guy who was everything I never imagined existed. He was soft, sweet, feminine but not in a weird way; he was just a super, awesome guy. I was actually not a Christian at the time; neither was he. We dated for a couple of years and then we bought a house together and we went to church where we both were saved. When we got saved we got convinced for living together so we got married.

I already had six children from my first marriage and he was a very good step dad. My children were rather young. It was a pretty normal like. I had the kind of relationship that my friends were jealous of because my husband was always home, he would do chores, he didn’t leave his underwear on the floor!, he looked like a model man. Life was good. I had all kinds of health problems but despite this, he was just good.

In 2010, after a couple of major surgeries and a foreclosure on my house, we moved and everything began to change in the relationship. He was very different and I couldn’t figure out why. Of course I thought it was me or my kids; it couldn’t possibly have been him. I started to create my own world outside of him. I had been a stay-at-home mom, which I loved, but I opened up a photography studio. We were a pretty normal couple.

Should You Believe Your Husband When He Says He Doesn’t View Porn?

We didn’t go to church which is unfortunate; I kept trying to get him to try new churches but he was resistant. As time progressed, he got more and more distant; I began to see more anger and our sex life pretty much disappeared. One day, September 20, 2012, I was on his computer (we had each other’s passwords)–we didn’t have anything to hide, right? I looked at his history even though I’m not sure why–he swore he never watched porn – and I believed him.

I saw a bunch of meet-up groups in his history and all of the profiles he looked at were female. I thought this was really weird but I brushed it off thinking he was looking for a tech meet-up group because he is a tech guy. As I kept looking and seeing the female profiles, it was literally like a lightbulb went off and out loud, to myself, said, “My husband’s having an affair.”

But I couldn’t see anything so I ended up combing through his computer to find something and I couldn’t find anything. So then I went upstairs and got his phone and I began to look through it; I didn’t find anything until I found the Google voice app. At this point I took the phone downstairs and I promptly read two years worth of texts from his affair partner. This was my first D-day. As I am telling this, I can still feel the emotion I felt when reading the texts from her. At first I thought it was just virtual but it wasn’t. By the end of the texting I realized that they had actually met in person.

What Happened The Day You Found Out About Your Husband’s Affair?

Anne: For our listeners, maybe some of you are not familiar with the term “D-day” which I have used a lot on the podcast. It means “discovery day.” The day the addiction was discovered, the day you discovered your husband was lying to you, that he had a secret life; in my case, my worst D-day was when my husband was arrested for domestic violence and I realized the behaviors I had been experiencing for the last seven years were emotional abuse and physical intimidation.

That day, when everything came to a halt. This is what we refer to as D-day. We would love to hear about your D-day and experience. If you go to btr.org you can find this podcast and comment anonymously about what happened to you. We also have a secret FB group if you would like to join our community. You can join for free and share your stories there as well.

Amy: If I can actually piggy-back on your story, I think this is one of the most healing things a spouse can do–to tell her story. The more you tell your story, the more healing that happens. This is what I have experienced as well as the women I have worked with. Telling your story is super hard but there is so much healing in sharing. Please tell your stories. 

I confronted my husband and he tried minimizing and lying. Then I decided to relapse myself. I am a recovering drug addict and in my cabinet in my kitchen was some tequila.(one of my clients had flown me down to Florida to shoot their wedding and they had party favors of tequila that had their names on it). This day I grabbed it and my own relapse began and did not end for quite awhile. I wanted to kick him out but I was too busy yelling at him so I didn’t kick him out.

Then I tried to get to the whys and of course, it was all me–everything that I was doing wrong. I went into the “I have to be a perfect wife” because I drove my husband to an affair. It lasted a little while–longer than it should have and then the relapse got worse for me and he was still doing things that I didn’t know he was doing yet; Ied the “recovery” by handing him books and finding him therapists and trying to teach him how to help me. The entire time everything was getting worse for us.

When Pornography Addiction “Recovery” Is A Way For Your Husband To Abuse You

There were more fights. He was getting borderline violent; he didn’t actually hit me but he would trap me in rooms when I wanted to leave a discussion or he would try to force his way into rooms if I didn’t want to have a discussion then and there. The behaviors really escalated. About 15 months of this chaos and unfortunately I did my own sexual acting out; I thought it was revenge and that it would make me feel better. All it did was make me feel worse. T

o this day, it still breaks my heart that I did that. So 15 months later, nothing was better; everything was worse. I clearly had PTSD at this point. The symptoms were there. I was a twitching mess. So I kicked him out. Two days later, the floodgates opened and I found out about all of the porn and the men and the prostitutes and everything else that went along with the sex addictions. For 15 months I thought it was just an affair. And then everything else came out. When he did all of the admitting, he was really broken.

You could see he was legitimately broken. Because I have so much history about recovering from addiction, I know that change is possible. I let him come home because now I had an answer. This is why we haven’t been able to heal–because of addiction; and now we could fix the addiction. I tried to control his recovery because he still wasn’t doing it.

Can I Sleep Around Because My Husband Did (Should I)? Will I Feel Better If I Act Out Too?

Anne: Were you still active in your addiction at this time?

Amy: Yes. I wasn’t fully committed. I would have bouts of sobriety and then I would relapse again. I was still active. Apparently this is my response to a D-day–it was my response; I don’t do this anymore.

Anne: You’re having ups and downs with your own recovery during this time and then you get the bombshell of finding out that he has been looking at porn, that he has been with other men, he’s been visiting prostitutes…where were you then?

Amy: I was a weird mix of terrified and shocked yet hopeful. Again, I believe in the power of recovery. I know that an addict can change. I know it because I changed and I know a ton of addicts that have changed. Actually, some of the addicts I know who have changed are some of the most authentic people you will meet. So I know that change is possible. But I was terrified.

Anne: I feel the same way. Even with what I have been through, my ex-husband is not in recovery…but I have been praying every day that Christ will revive him–literally bring him back from the dead. I watch him and I want so badly for our family to be together even though he is my ex-husband now and even though I hold a no contact boundary because of his lack of emotional health, I still want our family to be together.

I am with you there! I absolutely believe that addicts can change. This is really what breaks your heart. And also what gives you hope! As you are hoping for him to change, what were you doing?

When Gaslighting Leads You To Feel Crazy

Amy: I did my research but it was the wrong research. I ended up in the female co-sex addict codependent books and didn’t find the right path to healing for a long time. I was slowly starting to recover me because I had lost me at this point. I was unrecognizable. Within a couple months of him moving back home after the second large disclosure, that is when the PTSD got insanely bad. Nothing changed when he came home.

All of the behaviors that come along with addiction were there–he was still lying to me, he was angry, he was blaming me for stuff, we were having circular conversations that were making me feel insane. I did not know my reality. Is what he just said true? Am I going crazy?

I really wrestled with this one for a long time. And then I got some form of agoraphobia. I was so triggered whenever I left my bedroom that I basically lived in my room for a year. I remember there was a period for a couple of weeks where just going to the bathroom was traumatic, which sounds traumatic but it really was…I would put my hoodie on and put my hood over my head; for some reason this made me feel safer. I would then literally run to the bathroom like there was this monster in the house going to get me and then run back. My bedroom was like my cocoon. It was the only place I felt safe.

C-PTSD Symptoms Found In Wives Of Sex Addicts Due To Their Related Behaviors Of Abuse & Manipulation

I missed a lot of my life for almost a year in this place. During this, my husband was acting out and claiming his sobriety from the rooftops and that “she’s just crazy.” Actually, later I found out, just after the divorce so not long ago, that his therapist had suggested to him multiple times that I needed mental help because he was afraid for my own safety. My ex-husband chose not to address it with me. He didn’t even acknowledge it despite a trained therapist saying, “Your wife needs help.”

Anne: Was he sleeping in the bedroom with you at the time?

Amy: After he moved home, he was in the bedroom for a very short time and then he was on the couch.

Anne: Ok. So he was not in the bedroom with you and so thus you felt like you had a little bit of a safe place.

Amy: yes. It was my cocoon. We were in a chaotic cycle where the behaviors progressed and he pushed me; once he grabbed my arm because he was arguing and I said we needed to stop the conversation, and he tried to force me to talk to him; he did it so hard that my arms bruised. I didn’t realize this was physical abuse. This thought never crossed my mind. One time he pushed me into my car. He began to get mean with the kids. Everything was escalating and my children were really suffering because mom’s locked in her bedroom and Dad’s gone crazy. It was a really, really rough time period.

Many Women Hit Rock Bottom Before Seeking Help For Betrayal Trauma

Then the depression really kicked in. I stopped eating. I literally did not care about anything. I have a brain condition that gives me migraines. I was on meds for it and I did a bunch of research on how many I would need to take to commit suicide. I counted them out and went out to my car to take them all. This part is a little hard because I have kids I love and I was so depressed that they didn’t even matter. As a mom, this is really, really hard to admit but this is how low things got. I should explain that I have no family and my ex had isolated me from my church and from my friends and so I was literally alone.

Betrayal Trauma Can Lead To Thoughts Of Suicide

So I was sitting in my car with this bottle and I hadn’t been to church in a couple of years and all of the sudden I kept hearing, “Call Robin.” She is a woman from my old church. Robin and I were never close. I knew her and I liked her but it’s not like we were good friends. But I kept feeling this, “Call Robin. Call Robin. Call Robin.” I was like, “I don’t want to call Robin. I’m done with life. I can’t do this anymore.” Somehow I summoned up the nerve to call Robin and I went over to her house and I vomited my entire story onto her. This is the first time I had ever told my entire story. She had no advice. She just listened.

By the end of it, I got angry. All of the sudden I asked her for a sharpie. She was looking at me like I had three heads but she got the sharpie and on my wrists I wrote, “Live free.” That day, I decided I was done and that I was not going to end my life because he couldn’t fix his. This is really when recovery started for me.

Anne: Wow. You have a really powerful story and I really appreciate your candor in sharing this with us today. I am really sorry for all of your pain. I can hear it in your voice. So many of our listeners have felt similar feelings to what you felt. When you decided to recover yourself, what were your first steps?

Amy: The first thing I did was go back to church. I knew that I was so far in a pit that I could not get out of it by myself. I began to read my Bible all of the time and I stopped to listening to secular music and surrounded myself with the word of God. I actually sought out people for the first time and told them my story. I needed help. I was desperate that I didn’t care if you were a rock. If you could help me, I was going to tell you my story because during all of this, I found out that one of my six children was struggling with pornography. It was really bad.

Many Women Loose Faith In God After Experiencing The Lies, Gaslighting, Narcissistic Behaviors Of Pornography Addicts

I began going back to church. I found a couple of different websites that had me doing exercises on visualizing what I wanted my life to be, what my values are; I learned the word “boundary.” I had never heard it. I started reading books and piece by piece, I started getting better. Then I found a FB support group and this is where things began to take off because people understood and I wasn’t crazy; I needed people to tell me I wasn’t crazy because I wasn’t sure. Now I call them my tribe. It’s what it felt like–a tribe, people who had my back.

Anne: Like I said earlier, you can join our secret FB group by going to btr.org, scroll down, and select to join our community. Add your email and we will send you an email with the instructions about how to join this group. It’s so fantastic that you were able to find a support group through FB. Now that you had this support, what happened next?

Amy: I figured out what boundaries where and I made them. He faked it for a little while; he was good at faking. Things were not changing and I kicked him out and I filed for divorce. It wasn’t what I wanted but I was literally dieing and so I felt like I had no other options. Somewhere in there I got the job at Covenant Eyes which also significantly helped my healing. We were a month away from divorce when I heard about a program called Teen Challenge, designed for drug addicts. It’s a year-long, live in program.

I felt led to tell my husband at the time that I would stop the divorce and see who he was if he would commit to go to Teen Challenge. At first, when I felt like this is what I was supposed to do, I told God no. We argued about this a lot because I was done and did not want to do this anymore. But I listened and resentfully submitted.

Anne: I totally get it! I have had so many moments like this where I did the surrender process but I did not want to.

Amy: It was like, “I know you want me to do this. I don’t want do this but I will obey anyway because I trust you. So I offered it to him, mostly because I didn’t think he would say yes, but he did. He went away for a year. He quit his job. He lived in the program for a year. He got better for a couple of months and then relapsed in Teen Challenge–or so he told me.

Now he says he didn’t relapse. He has changed the story so many times I do not know the truth, but either way, we was not getting better. He graduated Teen Challenge and seemed better but not good. I was still very afraid of a relapse. There were a lot of red flags to me. He moved in with our pastor for awhile so I could see how he could handle life on the outside. My landlord in the house we lived in gave us 30-days notice because he was selling the house. So I had to find a new rental that would accept my brood of children and animals, while I’m working full-time and still dealing with trauma, so I actually let him move home to help me.

We got the new house and it spiraled very, very quickly over the summer. He went from a fairly soft, sweet guy back to the old bad behaviors of physically threatening me, the anger, the lying…and then I caught him with porn and I kicked him out.

Anne: I can’t imagine what you are feeling–actually I sort of can…so you send him away for a year; you’re doing what God asked you to do; you have faith in God. He has been through the program and he moves back home and it all falls apart again. Right? I’m imagining you were completely devastated at this point?

Amy: I began to go back into PTSD land, where I lived with all of the PTSD symptoms. What made me make the decision to kick him out was the agoraphobia came back again. At this point, I had regained my life. I was an active mom. I was who I was–fun, light, doing things outside in the world, I could handle football games with my son, I was me again–and then this relapse during the summer began and I said, “no. I’m not going there again.”

I gave him a two-week warning and literally, nothing happened. He made no steps towards fixing his relapse. I gave him two-weeks notice and kicked him out.

Anne: How are you feeling about God at this point?

Amy: I’m angry. 

Where Is God When We Are Experiencing The Pain Of Infidelity, Abuse & Abandonment?

Anne: I would be too! I’m thinking God’s told you to send him to this year thing, you’ve been doing life alone, he comes back and he basically hasn’t changed at all. So it’s like, “God, why? Why didn’t you have me end this a year ago?” we’ve all been through this thought process before.

Amy: I just went through a year of basically hell while he was in rehab and he isn’t out even two months and relapses…what am I missing here? Something isn’t adding up. Yes, I was angry. I felt betrayed by God

Anne: I can imagine. What did you do to repair your relationship with God?

Amy: I had to tackle a couple of big triggers: music. I love worship music but all of my worship music reminded me of my husband so I stopped listening to this. One song talks about taking back what the enemy has stolen. For the longest time this song resonated with me and my husband; we were going to take back our marriage. I decided to flip this song around. It wasn’t about my marriage anymore. It was about what the enemy stole from me. One of those things was my faith in God. He didn’t get to have that. He got my marriage but he doesn’t get to have my faith. He doesn’t get to take the pieces of me that I like.

Recovering Your Faith In God After Betrayal

Basically, I declared war on Satan so I tackled every trigger I had around it. Honestly, I yelled at God a lot. I yelled at him some more and more. Every time I did it I felt like he was saying he understood but he had it. I kicked out my husband and he moved 900 miles away. In this process I met Coach Rae. Between Coach Rae and learning what I learned at APSATS, it was like everything flipped and made sense and just in that short period of time, I have done more healing than I did in the two years before that.

Anne: Coach Rae is amazing!

Amy: She is. We got divorced and it was final and I offered reconciliation. If it required repentance and recovery, this has not happened. He has abandoned the kids and has no contact with them at all. Right now this is the hardest part watching my teenage girls going through this abandonment.

Anne: Yes. My ex moved from a city he was living in temporarily back to the city where we lived. He told his friends that he was so excited to move back so he could spend more time with his kids and then from the day he moved back, he did not see the kids for 4 weeks…I know this is not completely abandoning them but it is so interesting that these men do not realize the impact their decisions are having on other people.

I’m so sorry for your children. It stinks but it is so good to know that so many other women understand and are walking this path with us and that we do have support from them. We have amazing professionals like APSATS coaches who help walk us through. We do have God. We are not alone in this journey even when we feel like we are.

Amy Kate will be with us again next week, talking about demystifying the behaviors of sex addicts, a theme she has learned being trained by APSATS and also in her training with the American Association of Sex Addiction Therapy (AASAT). I look forward to talking about his aspect of how to understand these behaviors if they do not make any sense.

If this podcast was helpful, please rate it on iTunes. We are also on SoundCloud. Every rating increases our visibility with women who are isolated and need our help. Betrayal Trauma Recovery is a 501(c)(3) and your donations make this podcast possible. Please click here to donate and keep this information coming. Women need it badly!

Thank you, Amy Kate. I will see you next week. 

If you need support, consider joining Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club.

Stay safe out there!

How To Enjoy Healthy Sex After Betrayal, Lies & Abuse

How To Enjoy Healthy Sex After Betrayal, Lies & Abuse

Is Sex Possible After My Husband Cheated On Me?

If you’re wondering who I am and why I do this, I am a woman who has experienced betrayal. My ex-husband is a sex addict and he exhibited lying, gaslighting, and emotional abuse when he lived in the home.  He is still exhibiting these behaviors; he is still a sex addict who exhibits lying, gaslighting, emotional abuse, and narcissistic traits. I am here podcasting through my own recovery process. We have MJ Denis here with us again this  week. She is a licensed counselor, a licensed marriage and family therapist associate, a certified sex therapist, and she is a certified APSATS coach as a clinical partner trauma specialist. She works in Austin, texas, in private practice at Crossroads Counseling Associates where she counsels individuals and couples who have experienced or been affected by sex addiction. Welcome back MJ.

MJ: Hi, thank you for having me. It’s good to be back.

Anne: Today we are going to talk about healthy sexuality after sexual betrayal. Last week we talked about that a person has the right to say no, that they can say no, that saying no may be in a person’s best interest by helping to establish safety. Today we are going to talk about the other side of this. How do couples get from D-Day to healthy sexuality with someone who has betrayed them, especially if the betrayal involved chronic compulsive behaviors.

MJ: The first step is to create safety and stability. In order to get from discovery to healthy sexuality a couple must have safety and stability in their relationship. Sometimes we start by making sure the betrayed spouse has food, clothing, and shelter; that her basic safety needs are met. The next step is to make sure there is no more cheating, no more betrayal, no more active acting out. Also in creating this safety and stability, I believe a disclosure is necessary so the betrayed spouse knows what has happened and can make some decisions to stay safe and whether or not she wants to continue with the repair process.

Safety Must Come First When It Comes To Healthy Sex

It’s very important in this first stage of moving moving from D-Day to healthy sexuality, that a safety plan is in place where boundaries are discussed to keep both parties safe so the couple knows about communication, about visitation, about topics they can talk about so everyone is on the same page.

Anne: As we talked about last week, part of the establishing safety process is making sure the emotional abuse has ended as well, although this is a long process. I think the D-Day to the healthy sexuality is like, “Fasten your seat belts! This is going to be a process and going to take awhile. It is not going to happen in three weeks.” Someone in my group recently stated that they have made a goal to be emotionally healthy by October.

I laughed because I thought how we are all working towards emotional health. I think addicts must look at it this way: I’m going to go into this recovery process and I am going to check off the 12 steps, be sober for 6 weeks, and then we can have sex again…However, the process is not linear nor is it something to check off a list. Learning to determine our safety is part of the process.

At the beginning, at least with me, I didn’t really know what this meant. So part of my process was to determine how I felt being honest with myself and then to figure out what I really needed to do to feel safe. MJ, what gets in the way of healthy sexuality after betrayal in terms of the betrayed spouse?

What Gets In The Way Of Healthy Sexuality

MJ: there is a list of things that get in the way of healthy sexuality. One thing that comes to mind are triggers. After betrayal, so many ladies become triggered or overwhelmed or are reminded of their spouse’s betrayal. When they get hit with these reminders and they experience fear that more betrayal will happen, it can take them back down to their knees and cause them to experience “ground zero”. This certainly can get in the way of healthy sexuality. Ruminating thoughts will impact healthy sexuality. In the aftermath of betrayal, triggers and ruminating thoughts are expected. This is a normal response to betrayal so I don’t want to pathologize or judge someone for having triggers or ruminating thoughts. That makes sense. This is expected. I just want to be clear that ???? healthy sexuality in that place (around 5:38)

Something else that gets in the way of healthy sexuality is shame and insecurities from the betrayal. Every woman that I have counseled who has experienced betrayal has woundedness around her self esteem, her self concept, her looks, her character, who she is as a sexual being…The betrayal really causes her to wonder if she is less than, not good enough, broken…this certainly will get in the way of showing up in healthy sexuality. Another thing that gets in the way is really not knowing how to create physical intimacy with a partner who has an intimacy disorder.

Anne: That’s a big one! Especially since it takes two to tango! Even you saying this puts some of the responsibility of his disorder onto her, which is unfortunate.

Wives Of Porn Addicts Usually Do Everything They Can To Heal Their Marriage – But They Can’t Heal What They Didn’t Break

MJ: Well, so many times partners will do everything in their power to try to have a healthy relationship. She will do as many actions or behaviors to try to have a healthy relationship. She will read books, listen to podcast, try to learn how to have healthy communication….she’ll do many things to try to have a happy, healthy relationship, sexual and non sexual and she is only going to be able to get so far because someone with an intimacy disorder is in this relationship, and they have to learn how to be intimate.

Anne: And there is nothing she can do about that. I’m just thinking about the question I asked, what gets in the way of healthy sexuality after betrayal and the answer is, “Someone who is emotionally and sexually unhealthy.” One of the major things here is the health of your partner! There is nothing that a woman can do about this. I think so many times a woman gets shamed around this by thinking things like, “Your D-Day was three years ago; what is the problem now?” Well, it’s because he is still exhibiting these behaviors.

I had Barb Stephens on the podcast a few weeks ago. She talked about how she gave a speech regarding when spouses and partners are not getting better and the reason usually is they are still involved in gaslighting and emotional abuse. The addicted spouse is still not fully in recovery and not exhibiting healthy behaviors. In this way, it is almost like the trauma is a gift to us. Sometimes we blame our trauma and think we are being crazy.

But in some ways I think it is a gift that helps us know if we are safe or not. Sometimes the trauma is there for a reason. Sometimes the triggers are triggers because we are actually not safe or sometimes the shame or insecurities are happening because gaslighting is still happening. What gets in the way of healthy sexuality after betrayal?  Many things: abuse, sexual addiction… We know what gets in the way. What does healthy sexuality look like for partners after they have had sexual betrayal?

MJ: There are four components of healthy sexuality while in relationship with someone with a sex addiction. I would like to name them and then go back and talk a little bit about each one.

The four components of healthy sexuality while in relationship with someone with a sex addiction are: safety, communication, respect, playfulness and joy.

In thinking about safety, for women who have experienced chronic betrayal, healthy is often synonymous with “safe.” 

For the whole interview, please listen to the audio up top.

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Establishing Sexual Safety In The Wake Of Betrayal | Betrayal Trauma

Establishing Sexual Safety In The Wake Of Betrayal | Betrayal Trauma

I am so honored and excited to have MJ Denis with us today. She is a licensed professional counselor, a licensed marriage therapist associate, a certified sex therapist, and she is APSATS certified as a clinical partner trauma specialist in Austin, Texas.

She works in private practice at Crossroads Counseling Associates where she counsels individuals and couples who have experienced or been affected by sex addiction. Today we are going to talk about safe sex after sexual betrayal. When we say “safe sex,” we mean emotional, physical, and sexual safety. 

Anne: MJ, in thinking about this topic, where do we even start?

Sexual Safety After You’ve Found Out About Your Husband’s Lies, Affair, Cheating, Porn Use, & Abuse

MJ: We are very much in the “buddy system” when we choose our spouse. It’s really a matter of, “Hey, I’ll get your back; you get mine. I’ll keep you safe and you keep me safe and we’ll look out for each other.”

When we are in relationship with someone and our person has secretive behaviors, whether with another person or with pornography, this betrayal registers as a safety risk. Our amygdala–the part of our brain that helps us detect danger and threat–registers betrayal as danger. Our brain actually registers betrayal as a matter of life and death.

Anne: It sure feels like that.

MJ: Yes. In working with partners I often hear stories about how they discovered their partner’s sex addiction or their betrayal behaviors. Ladies will tell me when they found out about the betrayal, it took them to their knees. Some women throw up. Some can’t breathe.

Some can’t get off the floor because their person is their person for safety and when they are betrayed and their brain says, “I’m not safe; I’m not okay in the world,” ladies really loose their ability to function at times. Many partners report to me that they get sick, they lose weight, they can’t go to work. This discovery registers as a crisis, as a danger, as a matter of life and death.

Anne: I felt that, right after my husband’s arrest, when I realized things were as bad as they were because before I did not understand my true situation with his addiction and then related behaviors. I lost 15 pounds in 3 weeks. I couldn’t eat or sleep; it was really bad, especially realizing that my person who I was relying on was never safe; I just didn’t know it until that moment.

A Spouses Betrayal Registers As An Extreme Safety Risk

If our spouse betrays us and it registers as a safety risk, how can wives of addicts ever feel safe with an unfaithful spouse again?

MJ: People really experience dissonance when their spouse betrays them. Going back to us being in a relationship that registers to us as “safety; I’m your person; I’ve got your back; I’ve with you; You’re with me…” we turn to our spouse as a source of safety. When there is betrayal, the person who was supposed to be safe is the source of pain.

So many times in the aftermath of betrayal, ladies will tell me they will experience a “come here, go away syndrome.” “Come here, my husband, come here for safety…but wait, you’ve betrayed me and lied to me; you’ve cheated. Go away for safety….wait, where are you going…come back for safety.”

This can happen emotionally–wanting to go to our husband for safety so he can understand us and hold us emotionally; we can also go towards our husband for sexual safety, for physical safety. We are so vulnerable when we are going to be sexual with someone.

When we take off our clothes and naked with someone, that leaves us tremendously vulnerable. For women especially, the sexual act is one of our most vulnerable times ever. We are allowing someone to be close to us; it doesn’t get more vulnerable than that. So women must feel safe with their sexual partner in order to be sexual.

After the ravages of betrayal trauma, and from being in a relationship with a sex addict, someone with chronic betrayal behaviors, partners often need to feel safe in order to show up sexually. For partners who choose to stay with their sexually addicted spouse, this means they are choosing to stay with the source of pain and the source of their safety risk.

These ladies then try to navigate to function daily with someone they don’t trust, but they also do this tough job of trying to figure out how to maneuver physical and sexual intimacy.

Anne: It’s interesting that you talk about when they stay with the spouse. On the other hand, when a person has been betrayed similarly to my experience, once I realized my husband was not safe, I set a no-contact boundary with him until I could see he was safe enough to be able to communicate with.

All I then observed was him taking money away, not seeing the kids, accusing me of things…he would tell people he couldn’t do anything because I wouldn’t talk to him, I wouldn’t have sex with him . . . and he would say that because I wouldn’t interact with him, he could not do anything. He was not trying to establish safety.

The trauma comes in both cases – when a person decides to stay and when a person decides to impose intense boundaries which often leads to the other person attacking. In both of these cases, determining safety is the first step.

This is why I love APSATS. The first phase is safety and stabilization to make sure the level of safety is apparent before moving forward, even in just having a conversation with them, let alone having sex down the road. Am I making sense?

Emotional Safety Is Necessary For Healthy Sex

MJ: Yes, I agree with you. Establishing safety and stabilization has to be the first step. We cannot allow ourselves to be that vulnerable with someone unless we know we are safe with them. It makes sense to me that you needed to establish a no-contact rule so that you could re-establish safety.

Anne: Many women may be thinking about sex when perhaps they should take a step back and determine if they are emotionally safe to have a conversation.

MJ: In my experience in working with partners who initially have learned their spouse is cheating on them, betrayed spouses will frequently become really fearful that more betrayal will happen again. Sometimes partners will choose to be sexual with someone with a sex addiction to try to keep him from cheating again.

Women will often compare themselves to their husband’s affair partner, be it a pornographic image or a prostitute. Betrayed spouses will compare themselves to that affair partner and wonder what is wrong with them and why they don’t measure up to the affair partner.

Sometimes partners will choose to be sexual in ways they wouldn’t otherwise to try to measure up to what they imagine that affair partner was like, or to measure up to the person in the pornography.

To Have Healthy Sex, Your Partner Cannot Use Porn

Anne: Which is so sad because we cannot compete with pornography. If a person tries to compete with it, they will always, always lose.

MJ: Always. Comparison is dangerous for us, no matter what, because we are at risk either way. If we compare ourselves and we are better than, we risk arrogance. If we compare ourselves and we are less than, we risk shame and self condemnation.

Either way we go with comparison we really come out on the loosing end. Sometimes partners who make the decision to be sexual with their spouse who has betrayed them are really at risk of compromising their own values.

When women become scared and become sexual after betrayal, maybe feeling like they need to do this so he won’t cheat on me again or he won’t leave me…sometimes they can compromise their own values and find themselves doing something they don’t even want to do, that they might never have done but are now doing out of fear and desperation.

I think this is really heart breaking. I know it happens and sometimes women really experience distress from this.

Anne: It’s sad too because the only thing they are trying to do is establish safety for themselves. This attempt at safety will not get them what they want.

MJ: Yes, thank you for bringing it back to why would we have sex with someone who has betrayed us? It goes back to safety. If this is my person and go back to them for safety, I might be sexual with them in the aftermath of betrayal because they are the person I go to for safety and I’m trying to maintain it.

When I am working with partners, they often ask me, with despair, why they want to stay with him after he has hurt them so much…in this place it is important to realize she isn’t staying because there is something wrong with her or she is broken. She is staying because this is her person and she is attached to him.

Often I hear ladies saying it’s their fault that they have been betrayed; it must be–If I had been thinner, sexier . . . If I had been more or less – asked less questions, not shared my opinion as much, not stuck up for myself as much, etc.

Anne: In my world it was “if I had been smaller…”

Healthy Sex Requires Emotional Intimacy

MJ: Really, there is nothing you are another betrayed partner could have been or done or acted like to keep the betrayal from happening.

Someone with a sex addiction who is in their active addiction and not in active recovery will make choices to betray and that is their choice; it’s not because you are the betrayed spouse did or said something wrong or weren’t enough or were too much. It’s because that person chose to betray. That’s on him.

Anne: In this case, the only thing we can do is get support and reach out.

MJ: Absolutely. I’m a big proponent of a care team. I believe that recovering from the impact of sex addiction really takes a team. We need a safe support system–a therapist, a coach, a support group–each can be instrumental in helping partners to heal after they have been impacted by their partner’s sex addiction.

Anne: When I get into a group where I hear women speaking about similar behaviors in their spouses and then I look at how each woman is so different. For me, it was that I asked too many questions, shared my opinion too much, and “too controlling.”

For others, it is that they didn’t say enough. Then I realize that it doesn’t matter what we are like, the behavior of sexual addicts are very similar and they use the same tactics regardless of what their spouse is doing.

MJ: Yes. I recently had a client who joined a support group and she said there were women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicity, ages, educational and socioeconomic backgrounds; it didn’t matter the differences. What she recognized is that they were all betrayed by someone who had a sex addiction.

It proved to her that it didn’t matter how she showed up in the world. She was in a relationship with someone with a sex addiction who was active in his addiction. She was going to experience betrayal and that was not her fault.

Healthy Sex Is Emotionally Safe

Anne: What typically keeps partners from saying no to their sexually addicted spouse when he is not in recovery?

MJ: Partners get really scared here and often wonder if it is ok to say no. I think what gets in the way of saying no is a list of fears. Sometimes women have a fear of further betrayal and it keeps them from saying no or causes them to hesitate saying no to being sexual.

Ladies fear being criticized for saying no or being condemned by their spouse. Ladies have a fear of being a bad wife or a fear of being alone. There is a huge list of fears that get in the way.

Anne: One of those fears could be that her partner would say she isn’t giving him sex….in society this isn’t acceptable. Society says a sexless marriage means it’s the woman’s fault…they don’t understand all of the reasons why I might be saying no. Just the fact that a partner can use the weapon of, “She refuses to have sex with me” is terrifying to women.

MJ: Yes. And addicts tend to use this as justification for their betrayal. It isn’t fair or accurate. He will choose to betray not because she is or is not sexual with him.

Anne: Yes. It doesn’t matter. Let’s talk about values conflict in this situation.

MJ: In thinking about why partners feel scared to say no, sometimes they experience values conflicts. Some examples: on one hand, she might value being a good and loving wife and she might tell herself that being this kind of wife means she is sexual or she shows up sexually.

A conflicting value that might happen at the same time is that she values safety and wanting to pull away from him in order to be safe. On one hand she values that she thinks she should show up sexually and in the same moment she values that she thinks she should not show up sexually. Do I go toward him or do I pull away from him?

Another example: Ladies often tell me they value keeping an intact family unit. They have a high value on a cohesive family. They might also value separating so the kids are not exposed to sex addiction, or abuse or gaslighting or other safety issues in the home.

She might feel like she has to have sex to maintain an intact family. At the same time she values safety and feels like pulling back from being sexual with him.

Another value in this discussion is described when women talk about honoring God. For some women, they think that honoring God is submitting sexually to their husband. A conflicting value that often happens simultaneously is they may feel they are honoring God by being authentic and protecting this body God gave me, by protecting my heart that God gave me….so now what do I do?

Am I honoring God by being sexual when I don’t want to? Am I honoring God by not being sexual and protecting myself.

Anne: I think it comes down to being honest; honoring God by being honest with myself about how I really feel.

Setting Boundaries Helps Establish Sexual Safety

MJ: this is gets really confusing.

Anne: It does, especially when so many are distanced from their emotions because they have been so concerned about our addict husband–how does he feel, what can I do to help him, what can I do to help our family stay intact?

Sometimes we are distant from feeling unsafe. So many women have told me they didn’t even recognize that they felt unsafe; and that they don’t even know what that means. I don’t even know if I’ve felt emotionally safe.

With all of this being said, why do you think it’s ok for betrayed spouses to say no to sex after betrayal–or even before? If they feel unsafe, do you think it’s okay to say no?

MJ: I do think it is okay to say no. I would like to talk about saying no after discovering sex addiction is impacting the relationship. Let’s start there.

We can view sex addiction as an intimacy disorder. In -to- me-C disorder means not working. People who experience an intimacy disorder tend to not know how to be close and connected well, authentically. There is real value in taking sex off the table during sex addiction recovery, for a purposeful period of abstinence. The purpose of this period of abstinence is so the couple can work on establishing emotional intimacy.

As safety is building, the couple can begin to take steps to reestablish safe, non-sexual touch, then establishing safe sexual touch. I think there is an order to sex addiction recovery for the addict. The order involves creating emotional intimacy, being close and connected emotionally, then learning how to have non-sexual safe intimacy; then learning how to have sexual intimacy.

Setting Boundaries Around Sex Is A Relationship Barometer

Anne: This is very interesting to me because about six months before my husband’s arrest, I decided I needed emotional intimacy and that I was going to stop initiation sex; I told him that I didn’t feel emotionally safe and that I was not going to initiate sex.

I told him that he was welcome to initiate if he wanted to but that I would not be initiating. I told him I needed to see more from him in terms of being emotionally connected. Nothing happened.

He didn’t attempt in any way to reestablish emotional intimacy. In fact, I had purchased a workbook and we started it one night. He said he was so excited. I told him that he would need to be the one to pull it out and get us to work on it; I needed this to feel emotionally safe. He never pulled out the notebook; not once.

I think this type of boundary is also helpful in seeing where they really are…I am establishing abstinence to determine if they are really going to work towards emotional intimacy…or are they going to say, “Oh well. She won’t have sex with me so what can I do?” 

MJ: I’m glad you’re bringing up this kind of dynamic. There is something called excess vs deprivation. Let’s apply this dynamic of excess vs deprivation to sex addiction. Imagine in a relationship the husband has the sex addiction and within his marriage, deprivation is happening.

Let’s imagine he is not reaching for his wife; she is not having emotional or physical intimacy–not to the degree she would hope for. Instead, he is acting out sexually, having excess sexual experiences outside of the relationship.

A Sexless Marriage Is A Result Of Pornography Use

During attempts to change this, maybe before recognizing the sex addiction, he might make attempts to not be sexual outside the relationship–“I’ll do a workbook; I’m going to try to not have excess outside of the marriage”–and very often what happens is he might shut that down but it doesn’t teeter totter and make the intimacy within the marriage get better.

I see with couple I work with when they are in the first stage of creating safety and stability and making sure that sexual betrayal is not happening outside of the marriage, the hope for the marriage is if excess is shut down, will the marriage teeter totter and will there be intimacy inside the marriage? This isn’t typically what happens.

Usually there is now deprivation across the board and sexual behavior is not happening inside or outside of the marriage–because he still has an intimacy disorder; he still does not know how to be intimate. The couple has to go through the process I will describe later on of moving through emotional intimacy with non-sexual touch and then on to physical intimacy. Sometimes sex addicts are learning this for the first time.

Anne: That being said, MJ, I imagine some couples worry about when they will start having sex again. What is the process for this?

MJ: One of the common beliefs of someone with a sex addiction is that sex is their most important need. There has to be a retraining of the brain to help someone with a sex addiction wrestle with this, to help them learn that sex is not their most important need. Quite frankly, we could live without sex; someone who is not sexual is not going to die or spontaneously combust!

While we want couples to be both friends and lovers, we want to help the couple to initially create safety in their relationship–this is the part where we stop the acting out behaviors and betrayals…

Anne: and stopping gaslighting and related behaviors…

MJ: Absolutely. I see that sometimes this is harder to change for some addicts who can stop the betrayal behaviors and sexual acting out but changing their emotionally abusive behaviors such as how they show up in conflict and how they use humor–this takes more time.

It’s a relearning of how to communicate and how to respond to their person. This actually takes a lot of work. This is part of the recovery after sex addiction.

First we achieve safety and stability. Next is disclosure and transparency which I think is so important because disclosures that are done a little at a time takes a spouse back to ground zero, takes her to her knees.

There can be real trauma in getting little bits of information of betrayal at a time. Ladies need to know what they are dealing with so they can make choices about whether or not they want to stay and work on the marriage.

A therapeutic disclosure where the couple is being kept safe and being walked through about how to disclose all of the information is very necessary. There must be transparency before communication can be worked on.

Anne: We recommend that women in conjunction with a theraputic disclosure consider a theraputic polygraph as well.

MJ: Yes. This can help to make sure all information is out. It can help partners really feel another degree of safety with the person who has betrayed them.

Anne: So when we get to the communication phase, one of the things I have been learning about abuse is that it is really a perception issue. The reason why it happens is because the abuser perceives his victim in a certain way which continually causes the emotional abuse. Changing these mental processes is going to take a really long time.

If these abusive behaviors are happening, couples therapy is contraindicated until two years after the last abuse episode. From a sex therapist point of view, can you talk about this? What is the process of someone deciding they are not going to be emotionally abusive anymore, in the context of sex addiction?

MJ: When it comes to sex addiction, I find that many addicts exhibit profound gaslighting behaviors because they are trying not to get caught, they are trying to get their spouse to back up and not find out about their secret; they will be manipulative, bullying, mean, and say critical and contemptuous things to get the wife to back up.

In recovery from sex addiction, there is this period of teaching them how to recognize how they respond to being questioned, to having conflict…they have to learn how their brain wants them to gaslight and they have to challenge this and learn how to respond differently.

This really is a process and validates again why, in some ways, they might have more immediate success in stopping the betrayal behaviors, the sexual acting out, and then it could take a long time to learn how to respond kindly, not defensively, being able to accept influence.

This goes a long way to helping the couple start moving toward reestablishing a sexual relationship. the safety has to come first.

Feeling Isolated When Your Sex Life Is Unhealthy

Anne: If you feel isolated, confused, or trying to cope on your own and things are not working, your therapist doesn’t understand, you’re not making progress, please join a BTR group.

Our groups are specifically for you with trained APSATS coaches. We know there are individual differences and that each situation is unique but we have all had similar challenges. Everyone at BTR is going through what you are going through and we understand.

Join a support group today – Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club is a very inexpensive way to have up to three support groups a week that you can drop in and out of. 

If you are interested in immediate assistance through a peer-to-peer FB group by joining our community below. The BTR Secret Facebook group is peer-to-peer, and not APSATS led, but a good place to start. 

We are a 501(c)(3) and your donation help keep this podcast up and running. Please donate today.

MJ, thank you so much for your thoughtful responses. I appreciate the time you have taken to talk with us today. We are going to have MJ on next week to discuss healthy sexuality after betrayal!

Anne’s Journey To Trust Herself & Heal From Betrayal Trauma

Anne’s Journey To Trust Herself & Heal From Betrayal Trauma

Grateful For My Betrayal Trauma Journey

On this 4th of July, I want to give my thanks for all of you, for being on this recovery journey with me. I feel more free, more happy even though my problems are the same. I still have serious financial problems. My ex is still abusive, so I have to maintain the no contact boundary with him.
 
I’m grateful for myself that I’ve been continuing my own work to recovery from the narcissistic abuse that I suffered as a result of my husband’s pornography addiction. I continued to do the right things, even when it was hard, and even when I didn’t feel like it. And now the peace and hope I feel is breathtaking. Doing this one step at a time, things get better.

APSATS Coaches Help Women Heal From The Pain Of Infidelity & Abuse

I’m also grateful for the APSATS coaches that work for Betrayal Trauma Recovery. I interact with them everyday, and because of them and God, I’m feeling healed. I need to take a moment to celebrate that.

Rebuilding Trust In Yourself

Coach Sarah is known in the APSATS community as an expert in boundaries. She’s starting a Betrayal & Boundaries group, specifically about how to set and hold healthy boundaries when you’re involved with a man who is a sex addict / pornography addict, and exhibits narcissistic traits like gaslighting and lying.
 
These spots go fast, so if you’re interested join right away.
 
Next week Coach Sarah, Coach Rae, and Coach Kim will be on the podcast to talk about Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club.

Why APSATS Coaching Is Your Best Option For Dealing With Your Husband’s Pornography Addiction, Gaslighting, & Abuse

I was recently APSATS trained, and I came away realizing that therapy is for pathological issues. Coaching is for women who don’t have anything wrong with them, like you. You are in a situation that is very difficult, with a man who has serious pathological issues, but you are reacting in normal ways to betrayal and abuse. But there is nothing wrong with you. You are just fine the way you are.
 
Your problems are situational, and our APSATS coaches can help you establish emotional, physical, and sexual safety in your life.
 
That’s why we use coaches – to help you deal with the situation that you’re in. Schedule a support call today or join a group and start to feel the support and peace you deserve.
 
 

Join The Boundaries Support Group

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