10 Initial Steps toward Betrayal Trauma Recovery

As anyone who has either listened to episode 4, season 1 of my podcast, I AM My Passion Project or read my article, “My Betrayal Story”, knows, I am a betrayal trauma survivor. On May 7, 2022, I discovered that my husband of twenty-one years had been cheating on me in a variety of ways throughout the duration of our marriage, and even during our courtship. On that day, he confessed to me that he was a sex and porn addict. When he told me this, like many other women in my position, I was totally blindsided and devastated. The whole life we had built together felt like a complete sham. It seemed that while I spent our married years cooking meals for our family, giving him emotional support, taking care of our son, and trusting him on solo trips, he was busy taking part in his “secret sexual basement” (a term coined by Dr. Omar Minwalla). 

Fully wrapping my head around the implications of his addiction and the complexity of his infidelity has been one of the most painful challenges of my life. And even after seventeen months, it’s still a process of discovery, education, and experiencing a roller coaster of feelings associated with being betrayed. Some of these feelings include mourning the loss of what I thought I had, being angry and resentful at him for all of his indiscretions, feeling distrustful of him AND other men, and the pain of inadequacy—of not being enough.

If you’ve been betrayed I want you to know that it’s not your fault. This is a choice that your partner, who is a grown-up, made. And, if they struggle with sex and porn addiction, this is something that was probably going on with them long before they even got together with you. I also want you to know that there’s no shame in either staying with or leaving your partner. And, if you are having “all of the feelings,” I want to validate that it’s okay to feel any way you need to.

Here are 10 main steps that I took that can help you heal from betrayal trauma:

  1. Getting to or creating a safe place
  2. Educating yourself about sex and porn addiction, the effects of betrayal trauma on betrayed partners, men who have narcissistic and abusive tendencies, and the harms of objectification and the sex and porn industry on all parts of our society
  3. Establishing enforceable boundaries
  4. Connecting with friends that are empathetic and can hold your pain
  5. Working with an APSATS (Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists) trained therapist
  6. Joining a recovery group for betrayed partners and/or going on a trauma retreat
  7. Making self-care a priority
  8. Giving yourself the emotional and physical space to work on healing
  9. Addressing parts of your life where you might be feeling powerless or less-than
  10. Journaling

Now, Noah is in healthy recovery and hasn’t had any infidelity relapses since his original confession. This is partially due to the insights of Heidi Kinsella, the President and Clinical Director at Fourth Dimension Counseling who said, “relapsing is a choice.” We are still married and building our new life together, but I’ve had to do a TON of work to get here. I had to delve into my own comprehensive program for betrayal trauma (including a combination of therapy sessions, education, and trauma intensives). 

Through my healing process I realized that writing was one of the most essential tools for me to process my thoughts and emotions. I was journaling regularly, but it soon became clear that the manic word dump that I spewed on the pages at all times of the day and night was never easy to follow if I tried to look back at my writing and make sense of anything. I needed a better way to organize my thoughts and track my recovery progress.

If you want to access more tools for your healing and start a structured journal that allows you to track your healing progress and to figure out whether to leave or stay with your partner you can check out the structured journal I created, I AM: Reclaiming Me: A Betrayed Partner’s Daily Practice Journal for Women.

If during your recovery you find yourself in a stable and safe position where both you and your partner are dedicated to recovery—a place where you want to try to salvage your relationship— there are communities and coaches available specifically for couples. A helpful podcast and healing community to check out is Helping Couples Heal. But, the key is that you and your partner both have to be 100% dedicated to being in healthy recovery. A coupleship is only as strong as the weakest link.

Wherever you are in your process, my heart goes out to you and I wish you the best of luck.

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