couple reviewing computer devices

Digital Safety for Couples Recovering from Betrayal Trauma

I’m writing this because this is a topic that needs to be talked about more in the field of betrayal trauma due to sex and porn addiction. As part of their recovery, the betraying partner should always be trying to exhibit rigorous honesty with himself, with his partner, with his family, as well as with other people he comes into contact with. The reason behind this is that in the past he has proven himself to be a liar, not only lying to others, but also lying to himself. Lying allows the perpetrator to hide his harmful behaviors, misrepresent himself and, therefore, makes for an unsafe relationship. Lying, not even cheating itself, is the number one reason why women leave their unfaithful partner.


Some of the ways that he might have abused the privilege to use digital devices is because he used all manner of digital tools to view, stalk, and contact women outside your marriage without your consent, and then lied about it—to you and to himself. The lying to you came in the form of him outright saying “no, I didn’t do that” when he did indeed do that (whatever that acting out behavior might have been). He was also lying to you when he said, “you don’t know what you saw on my phone,” in an attempt to gaslight you when you in fact knew full well what you saw on his phone. AND, he was lying to you when you asked him why he was out so late and he said, “I had to go to the store and do some other stuff.” In other words, he was lying by omission in order to cover up the addiction related, “other stuff.” 


The lying to himself part comes in the form of him telling himself that he is just going to send a text to the massage therapist to make an appointment, when he knows full well (even if it’s deep inside his being) that contacting her is the first step to starting his cycle of addiction. Or, he tells himself that he needs to shop for a swimsuit for himself for an upcoming vacation, knowing deep down that once he gets on the clothing website he will be shown photos of women in bikinis and this will probably lead him into his cycle of addiction. Another way, which seems to me like it should go down in the books as the most convoluted excuse for acting out, is that he tells himself that he needs to “check his accountability software to make sure it’s working.” He doesn’t need to do that. If he’s worried about the effectiveness of new accountability software that he’s installed, he can ask you or someone else who is NOT A SEX ADDICT to test it. Also, if he’s not seeing content on his devices that might jeopardize his sobriety it is working. My husband says he knows at least three men in recovery that have lied to themselves that way and ended up relapsing because of it.

Sometimes these decisions are conscious, sometimes not, but once your cheating partner knows what his rituals were, he should make every effort to change his habits including ditching the devices as needed, and abstaining from certain digital danger zones. Ideally, the unsafe habits will be listed in his middle and inner circles (if he is in a step program) and included in a boundary document that you both have agreed to. This boundary work is for his safety, your safety, and the safety of the coupleship.


Outside the list of obvious places that your cheating partner should be avoiding like Pornhub, Onlyfans, etc., social media is one of the least safe uses of digital media for a recovering sex addict. Social media was designed to be addictive. The continuous scroll with titillating images has a direct effect on the dopamine receptors in people’s brains. It’s basically a drug like cocaine, alcohol, or sugar. “It’s as if they’re taking behavioral cocaine and just sprinkling it all over your interface and that’s the thing that keeps you like coming back and back and back”, said former Mozilla and Jawbone employee Aza Raskin. When you add sexually enticing and/or explicit imagery to the mix (of which Meta, X/Twitter, and Reddit are repeat offenders on NCOSE’s Dirty Dozen list) you’re looking at a time bomb. Additionally, social media is proven to cause anxiety, depression, and self esteem issues (due to constant comparison between the user and the people they are viewing). This is a big problem for addicts because most often the root of sexual addiction is childhood trauma which leads to the addict already struggling with issues of—I’m sure you can guess it—anxiety, depression, and self esteem issues.


There are a variety of other unsafe online places for sex addicts in recovery to be accessing. Thanks to NCOSE we have research into some of those places exposing what you might find there. Pornography, sex workers, and sexually explicit content can be found in some surprising places for the uninitiated. Some of the places include LinkedIn, Spotify, and apps connecting users to the gaming world—including online games that you can play on Netflix. Additionally, in a 2022 report 9 out of 10 original Netflix titles featured “graphic on screen sex scenes.” 


Even the most benign seeming digital tools can be triggering for betrayed partners when they find out that their betraying partner has used them to establish or continue a connection with women outside the relationship. Activities like making phone calls, texting, using email, searching on Craigslist or Ebay, and using other messaging apps (once again I have to bring up LinkedIn) can all be easily abused when betraying partners are acting out. Let’s not forget about Facebook Marketplace and Amazon. When searching for even innocuous seeming items, sex related items can pop up in results. My husband was once searching for a book about betrayal trauma on Amazon and the results that came back were a collection of male masturbators. 


Another thing that your partner probably has done is created several fake email accounts in order to create secret fake personal accounts on social media, porn sites, dating sites—wherever he wanted. These all need to be shut down. There should just be one email address and one phone number, and you should have access to both. That way if there’s any kind of “pretending he’s someone else” or solicitation going either way, you will know about it.

20 Strategies for Creating Safe Digital Usage for Unfaithful Partners

Here’s a list of digitally related strategies couples can incorporate into their healing process.

Note: This list isn’t intended as punishment. This is a list crafted with care and hope. It’s offered  in the spirit of helping heal the relational fracturing created by sex addiction through building back trust.

  1. Ditch the social media use
  2. Install Covenant Eyes or other accountability or blocking software on all of your devices and make sure to add all “risky” websites to the list of automatically blocked sites
  3. Use Wizmage Image Hider to blur browser images on your desktop computer. Unfortunately, for now, it only works in Chrome.
  4. Avoid using LinkedIn unless accompanied by your partner
  5. Drop it like it’s hot! Establish a rule where you drop your phone immediately at your partner’s request so she can see your activity.
  6. Avoid video games that allow sexual content (including games where you can manipulate and dress/undress female characters), contacting others, and objectification of women
  7. Tell your partner whenever you have stumbled across explicit content or been solicited by potential porn-related bots or people
  8. Do not have one-on-one contact online with women who are not in your agreed upon network of safety
  9. If phone-time in certain places (like the bathroom, for instance) was part of your acting out habit, leave the phone outside that space. This can be incredibly triggering for partners.
  10. Allow your partner to have the passwords to all of your devices
  11. Make certain “together times” (like dinner, breakfast, dates, etc.) are phone-free so that you can work on connecting authentically with your partner
  12. Develop other strategies for relaxation, connection, and entertainment that don’t involve using digital media
  13. Limit your screen time and make sure that you are using it intentionally, not just to “numb out”
  14. Consider setting the maturity level for streaming content at PG to limit sexually explicit content
  15. For devises (such as work computers, phones, etc.) that you’re not able to add accountability software to set aside a weekly time to allow your partner to review all of your activity
  16. Use parental settings to limit the ability to install apps
  17. Switch to a dumb phone
  18. Make sure others in the household have updated passwords on all of their devices that you don’t know
  19. Have an open and continued dialogue about the use of technology in your coupleship
  20. Have weekly check-ins to assess where you are in your recovery and share your feelings. Using FANOS is a great tool for that. Share a feeling, an appreciation related to life or your partner, and a need. Then share something you take ownership for doing or not doing, as well as something you’re struggling with. If you want to end on a high note, you can do what my husband and I started doing which is to add another S. The last S is for us to share success.

I hope this has helped bring this topic to light and clarify some of the concerns surrounding digital safety and betrayal trauma recovery. If you have any questions about this list or recommendations to add to it drop me a line: