You Can Trust What Your Body Is Telling You
After so many D-Days, she started to recognize the signs of infidelity that her body gives me. She felt anxious, tight. Even though she didn't have facts, her body told her when something isn't right. She has learned to trust these feelings.
Healing from both of her husband's infidelity is the point of her recovery. She could forgive infidelity, but she's learning to know what to do to stay safe. It's a process. That's why she's now in recovery.What Causes Betrayal Trauma?
We experience betrayal trauma when our husband betrays us. The cause of betrayal can be lying, masturbation / pornography, other compulsive sexual behaviors including affairs, prostitution and other crimes. It also happens when our husband abuses us emotionally or physically.
The trauma is felt in two ways.
First, the emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse that pornography / sex addicts generally exhibit is traumatizing in and of itself. For example, consider these common ways an addicts thinks and might say to us:
- “I don’t think I love you.”
- “I don’t think you’re beautiful.”
- “Well, if you didn’t ask questions, I wouldn’t get angry.”
While those words would be traumatizing in and of themselves, there is another level of trauma when our husband says them.
Second, when our husband lies, abuses and uses pornography it damages our trust, safety and security.Why Is It So Difficult?
No one knows how it works - the chemistry of the brains and bodies as we become one with our husband. For us, the point of marriage is to develop a strong bond of safety and security, where we actually start to physically operate as one biological organism.
As we intertwine our lives, have children together and create memories, the point is to become more and more interdependent with one another. This is not codependency. This is healthy, normal, mutual dependency. It is what makes relationships beautiful.
So the when a marriage has a strong sense of “I can depend on you” the relationship provides us with a secure base from which we operate.
In an abusive relationship, traumatic events cause traumatic memories, and when these events and experiences are not repaired, the relationship is a constant source of trauma. Masturbation and pornography use cause our husbands to pull away emotionally and refuse to depend on us for comfort – while at the same time, when we senses that distance and attempt to receive comfort - in various ways, some healthy and some not-so healthy, our husband may blame us (i.e. I work so hard for this family. You don’t respect me. Stop judging me. You don’t listen to me).How Does Betrayal Trauma Feel?
When this turning of the tables happens, emotional intimacy is impossible. It is extremely painful and shocking to ask for comfort and be accused of doing something wrong. Imagine a crying baby crawling over and pulling at their father’s leg. The father looks down, distantly, and says, "Well, if you’d just stop crying and needing my attention, maybe I’d pay attention to you.” Then without any sense of compassion turns away to look at his phone.
That is how we wives of pornography / sex addicts feel. We want and need emotional and physical intimacy and are being blamed for the distance our husbands cause through their attitudes and behavior. It is beyond painful.
It affects our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health in distressing ways. Instead of security, we experience fear. Because our husband has caused such intense distress - while at the same time accusing us for being the cause - we feel anxiety, confused, sadness, depression, and other overwhelming negative symptoms.
The trauma can cause us to fear talking to our parents or in-laws, lash out when people suggest that we "use the atonement to forgive and stop ruining our family," and withdraw. For example, one of us was triggered when her husband posted online about how well his addiction recovery was going – when she has seen absolutely no recovery behaviors. That trigger caused her to cry uncontrollably for hours. Such is betrayal trauma – triggers like an immodest woman, seeing the woman our husband slept with, hearing a relative talk about how we ruined the marriage because we were unwilling to forgive – these events can cause us to experience symptoms similar to and as serious as severe PTSD.How Do Women React To Betrayal Trauma?
We have much in common with the friends and relatives of other addicted people. Many of us grew up in families with secrets, and we were not taught to think about our own needs and take positive action to meet them. We chose friends and partners who could not or would not love and support us in a healthy way. We lived life from the standpoint of victims.
For most of us, anger, fear, and depression were nearly constant. We acquired some unhealthy beliefs about ourselves very early in our lives - that we were not worthwhile and lovable, that we were able to control other people's behavior, and that sex was the most important sign of love.
We have also felt the same of thinking we were responsible for the sex addict behavior of our husband or father. Our self-esteem dropped to low levels, and we doubted our attractiveness, our emotions, our sanity, and our human worth. We have felt betrayed by those we loved the most. Many of us were abused emotionally and physically, exposed to diseases, and placed in emotional and physical danger. We were often too ashamed to ask for help.
Some of us minimized the importance of the sex addict's behavior or denied it until we felt emotionally numb. Others focused on the sex addict and the sexual behavior to the point of obsession and tried every known method to control it. Some of us participated in sexual behavior that made us feel ashamed of ourselves or used sex to manipulate the sex addict. Some of us misused drugs, alcohol, or food, and others kept so busy that we didn't have time to feel our emotions.
We often neglected our health, our jobs, and our children. No matter how we tried to struggle against it, deny it, or minimize its affects , the failure of our efforts to cope with sexual addiction addiction brought us to the point of despair. How Do I Get Help?
Recovering from betrayal trauma is not easy. We must be willing to do the work. It is not easy to be saddled with the negative consequences of someone else's behavior and to have to heal from something we did not want or choose. There is hope. This podcast it to help those who suffer from betrayal trauma break free from the perceptions and behaviors that have kept us stuck.