How Betrayal Trauma Therapy Can Help Wives of Porn Addicts

by | Aug 23, 2019 | Pornography, Sex, Uncategorized | 60 comments

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A woman’s husband had a secret porn addiction, so she gets rid of his smartphone to help him in his sobriety.

Another woman checks her husband’s email after she found out he cheated on her.

A third woman changes the bank account password because her husband was sneaking around with prostitutes again.

These situations share some things in common. They all involve husbands violating the marriage covenant. They all involve some form of lying. And they all can be healed.

But from what I’ve seen, the usual approach to healing isn’t always that effective.

Before we start
If you’ve been betrayed, I first want to say I really wish that hadn’t happened to you. It can be completely devastating, and my heart goes out to you as I write this.

Betrayal can cause understandable triggers, so if at any time you feel judged by this article, please read the ***Disclaimer*** at the bottom.

For now just know I write from the standpoint where the man has betrayed the woman because that’s what happened to the ladies I help…

and because it’s what happened in my own marriage.

Personally
My husband, Jay, told me he was fighting his porn addiction and his desire for other women… then he lied to me every night for four years. He was so good at lying, I started congratulating him on his sobriety.

After he confessed, my days became a blur of confusion, anger, and gut-wrenching pain. My marriage was a smoldering heap of ruins—smoking ashes where I thought it once stood.

If he’d told me he wanted to continue pursuing porn and other women, I’d have had to make a decision. But he never said that.

And while he seemed sincere about wanting to repair the damage, he’d also blame-shift and explode, so knowing what to do was unclear.

One thing is clear: I used one approach for fifteen years, but what healed me was another.

Two Approaches
I know of two frameworks to help women after betrayal: the Codependent approach and the Betrayal Trauma approach.

Benefits
The Codependent approach is used in 12-Step groups and many counseling offices, and in certain contexts it works. It can help relationships with co-workers, parents, in-laws, siblings, and friends by:

– allowing us to set boundaries and adopt new roles in relationships.
– showing us we can do something about painful situations.

But if it’s misapplied it can keep betrayed women spinning their wheels… sometimes for decades.

The Basics of the Codependency Model

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary says codependency is “a dependence on the needs of another or control by another.”

Twelve-Step groups initially defined it this way: “If you need the addict to stay addicted so you feel you’re doing something important, it means you’re codependent.”

In 1992, researcher Beth La Poire said it’s nurturing the addict after he’s exhibited hurtful behavior… that the addict’s behavior is ultimately pleasant to the codependent, often because it gives the codependent an identity, either or being needed or of being a martyr.

Where the Codependency Model Can Do more Harm than Good

The codependency framework taught us an important lesson: you cannot control the behavior of another person. You can only control yourself.
But some people have taken this lesson too far, and misapplied it, misinterpreting
a betrayed woman’s actions, taking natural reactions and calling them wrong.

The codependency lens can all too easily label any attempt to change the offender’s actions as signifying that you are emotionally needy and emotionally enmeshed with the offender.

This can look like, “You’re trying to fix him! You’re trying to control him! You’re too enmeshed!” Or even, “you need to let go and let God!” We saw a bit of this debate in Sheila’s articles about who is to blame when a spouse has an affair. Some were saying that to insist that a spouse repent first before working on the relationship was trying to control him, or, in essence, being codependent. I believe that’s an all-too-common misapplication of the term.

Melody Beattie explains in her latest book, The New Codependency, that when the phrase was first used it was a relief. It helped spouses of addicts know they weren’t going crazy; they were just codependent.

But over time the term became stigmatized… and today it often carries more shame than the spouse’s addiction.

It’s one thing for a woman to enable an addict to feel a sense of purpose. But wanting to control the amount of pain that comes into her life—especially when she hopes to keep the relationship—is something else entirely. That sort of thing always seemed normal to me, not “sick.” It’s more akin to setting healthy boundaries.

Turns out the experts agree.

In The New Codependency, Beattie gives an example of a young man who lived with his mom and had a tendency to drive drunk. His mom asked him to stop, but he continued. She asked for the keys. He refused. So she sent his license plates to a friend.

Some might call that codependent behavior, because she’s trying to control him. The author didn’t. I don’t either. I see it as a mother who wants to do what she can to keep her son alive—a woman who wants to live without regrets.

It’s the same thing with a woman who wants to keep her relationship alive after betrayal. Her actions might seem codependent, since they’re trying to change behavior. But what if setting boundaries is actually the right thing to do? And what if telling her she’s wrong to want to do so can actually exacerbate the trauma she’s feeling?

How Bad Therapy Can Actually Exacerbate Trauma

We have three responses built into our nervous systems that are designed to trigger automatically when threatened: communication, fight and flight.

But according to trauma researchers, hindering those responses is what can turn a threatening situation into a traumatic one.

If a woman is heard, if she can fight or flee the situation, then she becomes stronger. And if her efforts are supported by others, her sense of community strengthens as well.

But shutting those responses down can increase her panic, simply because she no longer has a say in what’s happening to her.

A Better Approach: Acknowledging the Trauma of Betrayal

The Trauma approach for betrayal is a newer method used by some therapists, coaches and mentors. I adhere to it because it’s clear, concise and effective, and tends to allow faster and deeper healing, even after betrayal. It’s worked wonders in the couples we work with, so let’s start with the fundamentals.

Betrayal Trauma Approach: The Basics

When people feel unsafe, whether emotionally or physically, for a long-enough period of time, they can become traumatized.

Can betrayal feel that unsafe? Yes. Therapists in my training reported that 70-98% of their betrayed patients have clinical signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from the betrayal.

Can a man’s porn use do this? Yes. A number of therapists said their clients whose husbands are porn addicts are just as devastated as the women whose husbands have had affairs.

How does this betrayal approach work? First it addresses the betrayal, helping her stabilize, mourn, and set boundaries. Only then does it works on the relationship.

Does it work? Yes. The quick turn around happens because it focuses on the issues at hand:

• Her pain is real,
• she may have been traumatized,
• any trauma has to be addressed if she is going to heal,
• and until it’s addressed the relationship will have difficulty healing deeply.

Sick or Healthy?

According to many doctors and researchers, instead of being “sick,” a betrayed wife’s reactions to her husband’s betrayal by setting boundaries can show she previously formed a healthy bond with her spouse. She’s trying to limit the trauma so she can get back to that. She’s not trying to control him.

Daniel Siegel, a doctor who’s spent years researching how we attach to one another, mentioned this in a training:

Expecting loyalty—and expecting to be heard after injury—indicates a secure, healthy attachment.

Because our attachments are directly affected by betrayal, some things that seem codependent just aren’t; they’re healthy expectations.

The betrayal trauma lens sees attempts to limit on offender’s behavior or respond to an offender’s behaviour as natural attempts to overcome the traumatic incident and return to a secure, healthy attachment.

Does Focusing on Trauma Make Everyone Feel Like a “Victim”?

While that is a possibility, what I’ve seen is this: When women realize something serious is happening to them, they become much more motivated to make real and lasting change.

The Different Messages
When the Codependent message is applied in a judgmental way (as indicated by C below), its messages can differ wildly from the Trauma approach (T):

-The woman who sends her husband’s phone to a friend might be called controlling (C),
or
her actions can be called understandable (T).

-The woman who checked the emails of her adulterous husband may be told to figure out what she did to cause the affair (C),
or
she can be told, “When you’re with someone who has a history of lying to you, checking behavior is normal for a time.” (T).

-The woman who changed the bank passwords because her husband visited prostitutes again might be told, “You’re trying to fix him–all you can do is move on!” (C),
or
she can be treated gently until she is ready to move on (T).

How to Support Someone Dealing with Betrayal

What I’ve seen is this: Helping her understand the impact the betrayal had on her, being careful with her healing, and letting her have a say in her situation supports her well. And it can help her create the relationship she wants with the man… even if she doesn’t want to stay.

If you were trying to stop the pain of betrayal, and someone gave you unsolicited advice by calling you codependent, wouldn’t their trying to ‘fix’ you mean they were being codependent… by their very own definition of the term?

If this is the case, nothing says you have to listen to them.

If someone in the helping community told you something similar, it’s still okay to realize your actions are probably normal.

If you’re not sure about your actions, here are some guidelines:

-If you’re doing things just to be controlling, that may be codependent behavior.
-If you’re doing things to help him stay addicted, that may be codependent behavior.

But…

-If you’re doing things to help him reach his goals, that’s normal.
-If you’re doing things to keep him from hurting himself—or you—that’s normal.

And…

-If you’re tired of how certain behaviors have dominated your life, it’s time to seek help.

If you want to continue your own healing journey, download the free guide 7 Tools Women Rarely Find or contact me. (If your husband needs help with sobriety or rebuilding trust, let me know.)

If you just want to know more about this issue, check out our YouTube Channel “The Couple Cure” (Season 2 is dedicated to the issue of betrayal recovery.)

And overall please remember this:

As long your actions don’t turn into long-term obsessions, they might just be proof of health.

Bio:

Lori Pyatt has been married for 24 years to her husband Jay. She’s a Certified Mentor for partners and couples, and Founder of PornPainHealed.com.

-She and her husband write and create podcasts & videos to help people recover after betrayal.

-Lori’s specialty is helping wives get further faster in their healing and calling husbands higher without shutting them down.

-Jay (PornIsKillingMe.com) has been 80% successful in helping his mentoring clients find sobriety.

-Together they’ve been able to save 90% of the relationships in their 2-to-2 Mentoring Program for couples.

***Disclaimer***

I am all about validating betrayed women’s pain, so if you had to leave the relationship, please know I don’t judge you. That’s between you and God.

 

I also believe that those in the helping community do the best they can with what they have at the time. So I don’t judge them either.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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60 Comments

  1. Dave

    My ex-wife’s (B) women’s pastor (Mrs W) apologized to her 3 days ago. There are other issues, but one is how she failed to help her with with the trauma of my betrayal through porn, to use Lori’s words. I’m sure Mrs W is still clueless, and am thinking of recommending Jay and Lori if it wouldn’t do more harm than good. She didn’t use the term codependent, but she did suggest B pray more/better, and did call her an enabler several times. This was untrue and added to the trauma.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, isn’t that so difficult? I’m glad that she apologized.

      Reply
    • Lori Pyatt

      Dave,

      Tears welled up in my eyes when I read what the pastor’s wife told B (“You’re an enabler… Pray better.”)

      That’s like saying, because Jesus mourns this issue and ‘makes intercession for us,’ that He is off-base … because the porn issue remains.

      Feel free to have B reach out to us, but ultimately follow your gut instincts on whoever you recommend to your wife. Yet please DO make sure they are trauma TRAINED, versus just trauma informed, or the new people may say similar things to your wife as Mrs. W’s words.

      I’m praying for your wife now.

      Reply
      • Maria

        This explanation is so helpful. This should help friends, family, pastors and counselors catch up with the truth and help people , which is what most people are trying to do even if they were misinformed. We need to pray for wisdom so we can apply our knowledge appropriately. Thanks for this post!

        Reply
        • Lori Pyatt

          Maria,

          No problem… and You’re Welcome : ) Sheila deserves a big Thank You as well. It was her idea for me to write about this.

          And I agree with you… pastors, while well-meaning, do need to be educated on this.

          Reply
      • Dave

        Thank you! Portraying Jesus as off-base— that brings many things to mind. Following my gut instincts as well. Anything or anyone I recommend to her can very well be manipulative, or at least seem to be so, since she knows I want to win her back. I might put that ahead of her healing.

        Reply
        • Lori Pyatt

          Dave,

          If you recommend me to her, you’ll soon find out you can’t manipulate her through me. Simply because I will follow her lead. If she doesn’t feel it is safe to go back, I will NOT lean in that direction.

          She will actually gain more of an ability to not be manipulated by people anymore.

          And whether you recommend me or not, that should be the aim of whomever you lead her to.

          Hope that helps.

          Reply
          • Dave

            It does!

  2. Nathan

    Very sad that the pastor called her an enabler. Good thing that she apologized.

    I doubt that anybody enables another’s use of porn.

    Reply
    • Linda

      Thanks Jay, I read your “Embrace Your Dark Side” and as much as I hate reading your line, “I enjoyed looking at porn”, it helps me to be understanding of my husband when he tells me that he misses the excitement of porn. He likens it to smoking, which he quit many years ago, but did enjoy. Recently, in the mall, we walked by a young woman whose breasts were prominently displayed. I saw that his first emotion before he looked away, wasn’t sexual interest, it was more like disgust. He told me later that he felt upset that he couldn’t even enjoy a day out with his family without feeling bombarded. So, I guess there’s a difference between liking something and wanting it, and that even though the temptations that he faces daily are attractive, they’re also unwanted.

      Reply
  3. Linda

    I’m glad I didn’t know three years ago how long my husband’s porn betrayal would affect me for. I believe he’s been clean for two years. Yet something as simple as a woman showing a lot of cleavage on tv, or being at a beach with bikinis feels like a punch to my gut. I can feel my heart racing and I want to run away. I don’t want to be superficial and give so much importance to something as insignificant as physical attractiveness and sexual allure. I know that my husband is very attracted to me and super in love with me, yet it still feels like a sexy girl can steal something from me. I’ve read that trauma is healed by facing your fears so that you can overcome them, like if you’re scared of crowded places, you’d stop avoiding them, and purposely push yourself to seek them out. But how can you face porn?

    Reply
    • Jay Pyatt

      Linda, your question is challenging because in some form or another porn is everywhere. I spoke with a guy struggling with weed and said asked how easy would his recovery be if he got a lung full of smoke during commercials or in the check-out line? He said “impossible”.

      I refer to this part of my life as a cockroach, I have to be very careful about it getting fed in anyway or it will keep thriving. So, there are some activities I don’t take part in: smart phones, beaches, unrestricted TV and internet access.

      Honestly, my life is fine without these things, although I had some initial resistance to the changes.

      Reply
      • Susanna

        Jay, we talk to the boys in our family about lust being like a beast living in the basement. If you feed it, it will grow. If you keep feeding it, it will outgrow the basement and overpower you and take over your life.

        Reply
        • Lori Pyatt

          Sue,

          Exactly! My husband uses a similar analogy, only he uses “roaches” to your “beasts”.

          I am glad you’re able to talk to your boys about it.

          Reply
    • Lori Pyatt

      Linda,

      I can relate. I remember walking through the mall–without my husband–and getting hit in the gut with, “If my husband were here, I bet he’d find the woman in that advertisement attractive.”)

      I haven’t heard of the “face your fears to heal trauma” technique.

      In fact, the opposite might be true. Brain researcher Carol Leaf says that when we do something as simple as saying opposite of what we truly believe (say, with the name it/claim it gospel), it can cause brain damage…

      so I assume when it comes to trauma when our brains belie we are unsafe, forcing them to do the opposite may just create more trauma.

      The trauma model first seeks to stabilize the woman. But it does so by tackling the issue from many angles. Not forcing her to feel more unsafe.

      And I noticed you wrote something (“I don’t want to be superficial and give so much importance to something as insignificant as physical attractiveness and sexual allure.”)

      What popped in my head when I read that was, “It might be helpful for her to know SHE didn’t bring that superficiality into the relationship. He did.”

      I don’t say that to throw your husband under the bus. I say it to free YOU up a little more.

      Reply
      • A regular reader

        Lori, where I went with my husband’s lust problems was to either try to compete or to feel I was unsexy if I couldn’t compete. I studied sexy women to find out how to be more interesting to my husband. It didn’t do much if any good; he confessed later that for many years, he had to fantasize about other women in order to be turned on enough to have sex with me. But even though we are now in a good place, I can still feel that inner pressure to look and act a certain way, knowing what he finds most sexy. After a history like ours, it can be difficult to separate what is superficial from what is legitimate in being sexy for one’s husband. I do question sometimes whether I am enabling him on some level when I see what turns him on.

        Reply
        • Sarah o

          I am so sorry. What you are describing is seriously painful. It takes a really long long time + consistent demonstration of changed behavior. I don’t think there is any technique or way of thinking that will substitute for that, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of needing it. I am so sorry.

          Reply
        • Lori Pyatt

          Dear “A Regular Reader”

          You raise a valid point about enabling your husband to stay stuck. I don’t know if this is what is happening in your marriage, but sometimes women tell me it seems they’ve become a porn-substitue for their husband.

          The problem with sex addicts is, giving them more sex may not be the best thing.

          But if things are working for you, then all I can hope for is for you to go at your pace and stop when you feel his needs are crossing a line for you.

          I do have to say my heart broke when I read your words, “he confessed later that for many years, he had to fantasize about other women in order to be turned on enough to have sex with me.”

          Something to keep in mind is this: Even college aged girls are being called ‘bad porn’ by their male peers.

          Porn sets up an unattainable standard… that even the porn stars can’t sustain. Even the porn stars aren’t good enough for some guys.

          If they were, then those guys would be into ONE porn star, and no more.

          It proves the fact that porn can never satisfy. Here’s a video I did on the subject a while back:

          https://pornpainhealed.com/why-its-impossible-for-porn-to-satisfy-a-guy/

          I hope that helps.

          Reply
        • Lori

          Dear “A Regular Reader” Part 2:

          (I hit enter before I was ready… oops)

          Overall, though, I don’t want to miss how frustrating, confusing and heart-breaking that can be for you. I know you’re feeling somewhat confident in yourself, so please keep that part up.

          But I also imagine his past actions could have left you gutted…

          And for that I feel sad for you and angry at your situation.

          Reply
      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        I do want to add, though, that cognitive-behavioural techniques can be incredibly helpful in fear/anxiety-inducing situations. Obviously I would recommend talking to a licensed therapist or psychologist about this, but when your brain is believing something that is unsafe because it is untrue it can actually be incredibly helpful to remind yourself of truth instead.

        I think that if you’re just denying reality by the “name it and claim it” mentality then yeah, that could be damaging. But if you’re thinking something like, “I have to look exactly like that woman for my husband to find me attractive,” you can stop your brain from going there and instead tell yourself, “I am attractive in my own right and my husband loves and cherishes me the way I am.”

        I just think it’s important to remind ourselves that our thoughts are not always helpful and can actually be quite self-defeating if we continue to tell ourselves lies without combating them. If you know that your husband loves you and finds you attractive and you know that your insecurities are because of his porn addiction and not his actual regard for you, then I think those are thoughts that need to be challenged because freedom is found in truth. It’s not about saying the feelings of betrayal/insecurity are wrong, it’s about re-training your brain to recognize what comes from a place of harm and what thoughts come from places of truth. Then choosing to reframe bad thoughts in a truthful, helpful light that still isn’t running away or denying the situation.

        Reply
        • Lori Pyatt

          Rebecca L,

          I completely agree… as long as it’s the full truth that he loves her and is attracted to only her.

          And if they’re separated–or if she’s living separated from him within the home to keep safe–I am all for her learning the truth in her own right.

          It’s just in the middle of a broken marriage that it can be like the “name it/claim it” mentality and can do damage… especially if he is telling her one thing and the truth is another, as is so common in the women I’ve spoken with.

          Reply
        • R

          Rebecca’s, grains of truth there for sure but it’s clear you’ve no personal experience here. No woman whose husband is porn addicted can convince herself she’s “perfect the way she is” etc. because being set up against every naked woman on the internet crushes you.

          Reply
      • Gillian

        When my ex husband’s thirteen years of lying and making me feel crazy that I wouldn’t believe him that his apparent ‘one time silly little thing’ I found on the computer emerged as a full blown addiction, our church at the time recommended a highly sought after counsellor who was apparently very experienced. This guy would’ve been in his 60s.

        He told me that most women are upset by their husband’s porn use, but was very puzzled as to why I was actually traumatised. He kept saying “I don’t see women traumatised like you. This seems to ha e really affected you”. He said as long as my husband wasn’t looking at porn, it was quite normal for men to be checking out women in public and looking at their body parts etc. This guy was apparently a Christian. People at our church were all telling me The same. I got made to feel guilty and unreasonable and they kept telling that “all guys lust and if they say they don’t they’re lying”.

        I get so upset with people recommending professional counseling. It was this that finished us off. I saw a female counsellor on my own and she was telling me the same.

        I know people could say just to keep on searching for another counsellor but I honestly believe they’re pretty much all the same.

        I also had my husband accuse me of being controlling when I would put up a boundary. I would be frantically saying I was trying to protect myself but he’d just say I was controlling.

        We live under the same roof for the sake of our children and financial reasons but we are no more than flat mates…. if that much of the time. I just want him out of my life but can’t achieve that.

        Reply
        • Recovering from betrayal

          Gillian- I’m so sorry. Those people and counselors were wrong. Sex addiction is real and the trauma for the spouse is real. There are good counselors out there but there are also a lot of completely misinformed ones.

          Boundaries are not controlling because true boundaries are on us. I set a boundary of what I won’t be around. You can’t be controlling when it is on yourself.

          I hope you can find healing for yourself regardless of what happens with your former spouse. There are some great resources out there for helping betrayed spouses from the trauma model.

          Reply
        • Lori Pyatt

          Gillian,

          My heart feels for you. I hate that you had so many people telling you the same thing, basically that you were off-base somehow.

          You wrote: “I know people could say just to keep on searching for another counsellor but I honestly believe they’re pretty much all the same.” If I had seen that many misunderstandings in my search for help, I’d probably be saying the same thing.

          Despite the fact that you had no support, you did what you needed in order to feel safe. You also found a way to make it work, despite the fact that you had to stay under the same room.

          To me, that shows a LOT of strength and resourcefulness.

          Reply
  4. Momof3

    I also struggle with this also, Linda! My husband has come completely clean…feels terrible about what he’s done to me and our marriage and is trying to do his part to rebuild, but I’m struggling horribly with moving on! Just when I’m feeling a little better, we’ll be out in town together and some beautiful girl that is half dressed will send me into outer space! Then the next few days are horrible for us because of my attitude. I feel like I’m in the spot where I want this but don’t want it at the same time…I’ve loved him since I was 14 and can’t imagine life without him and his friendship, but the other part of me wants nothing to do with a man that has sought out this trash behind my back for 6 years, no matter how good he is from here on out! And I thought this would be getting better for me since he’s been clear of it for over a year now! Some days the only thing that holds me here is knowing what a separation would do to our 3 children’s lives…5, 2, and a baby!

    Reply
    • Recovering from betrayal

      Give yourself enough time to heal well. It’s trauma and a huge loss.

      Grieving this kind of loss takes time. I’ve found that working through a book or journaling program can work. Books like “Your addicted spouse” by means, “Intimate deception” by Keffer, and “aftermath of betrayal” by mays have been helpful to me in this recovery journey.

      Reply
      • Kel

        Thanks for the book recommendations. I only have one of these so far but it was useful. I think the Mays one will also be helpful to me.

        Reply
    • Anonymous

      I am so sorry Momof3. I understand. I hated the feeling that this ugliness had been dragged into my life and I had no choice. I felt like the only way to get rid of porn and what it was doing to our family was to get rid of my husband.

      It is really really hard. But it is wonderful that your husband is repentant and seeking your heart. I don’t know if you are coming from a Christian perspective, but I try to remember that Christ has stuck it out for me with all my imperfections and bad choices, and try not to set higher standards than He does.

      My mom wisely told me once “Something WILL come along to test your marriage.” In our case it was porn addiction, but others face health issues, financial distress, fertility challenges, workaholism, etc. I choose to believe my marriage will actually be improved by standing and overcoming, rather than irrevocably damaged by these challenges (kinsukorei style)

      Reply
    • Lori Pyatt

      Momof3,

      I can relate! That used to happen to me as well.

      Unfortunately it took a lot of work on my husband’s part to make me KNOW I was the only woman for him… it’s when he did those things that i DID realize it was true for him now–that he saw me as the best choice and every other temptation as poison.

      So please know it does take time for women to heal from this when they leave the relationship… but when you are trying to make the relationship or heal the relationship, it can take even longer.

      Not that it can’t happen, but it does take time to heal the relational trauma… not just the betrayal trauma that happened to you.

      The point I am trying to make is this: you can heal yourself, absolutely(!) but healing the wound in the relationship takes effort on his part too, which is why my husband does what he does for guys.

      Reply
      • Momof3

        Any suggestions on specific actions the husband can take to help out? He has done everything perfectly right so far (getting the internet removed from his phone, confessing to our pastor, accepting all the blame and apologizing to me, etc.) but I’m still struggling with even wanting to make it work! He is the kindest and most helpful man in the world, but I’m just sickened by everything so horribly that I don’t think I can be with a man that did that behind my back, no matter how changed he is now! And he rightly says he doesn’t know what else he can do to help me in this rut!

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          Momof3, I am not a professional of any kind, but I am a wife going through the same situation, just four years in.

          My thoughts are first to take some time to grieve. Six years is a long time and a lot of time lost. It also hurts something fierce to find out you can be duped – I felt so stupid and had trouble trusting myself, which made it hard to trust him or anyone else. Before you jump into healing – grieve the wound!

          Secondly, I would recommend finding a counselor who is familiar with the betrayal trauma model, or if counseling is financially out of reach (I get it with all the little ones!) then see if you can find some support resources online or some books (Your Sexually Addicted Spouse is a good one).

          As kind as your husband is and as much as he may be willing to sympathize, it will likely take a lot of time before he can really empathize. Having fellowship and validation from other wives who really understood my feelings was key to actually processing those feelings. All your husband can do is pursue and maintain his sobriety and give you the time you need. It took him six years to make this mess – you are under no obligation to be “over it” in one, especially when you’re juggling little ones, pregnancy and postpartum at the same time.

          Reply
        • Jay Pyatt

          Momof3, Lori and I put together a series called The Basics of Rebuilding Trust for just this reason. When the guys quit, there is a lot of focus on just the porn aspect and not how to fix the relationship.

          The series is our thoughts on what needs to be done (and avoided) to heal the betrayed partner.

          Reply
  5. Brokenhearted

    Leadership at my former church wanted me to have boundaries so much that they decided they would demand that I set specific boundaries and told me to stop listening to God on my own, that I must obey them, since they were church leadership. I knew what they were demanding was not what God was telling me and I followed Him. So they told me I had disobeyed and was going against church discipline. Talk about treatment induced trauma on top of betrayal trauma.

    Reply
    • Lori Pyatt

      Oh, Brokenhearted,

      I am so sorry you endured both traumas. You remind me of a woman I met with for a while: Hit with both barrels… BUT still strong enough to follow where God was leading.

      You have my admiration, as I don’t know if I would have been able to do the same.

      Reply
  6. Nathan

    Brokenhearted, I’m so sorry that you experienced that. The attitude of “We’re the church leadership. God talks to us, and we’ll talk to you”, has been around a long long time, but is NOT biblical. God is big enough to have a personal relationship with each of us, and as we are ALL his beloved children, there’s no need for an official go between.

    You can have pastors, and mentors, etc. but you’re correct to know that what God is telling you and what the church leaders are telling you aren’t always the same.

    Pray, listen to God in your heart, and follow that.

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Lori and Jay. It is incredibly helpful to have testimony from Christian couples who have navigated this mess. We know there are thousands, but there is such shame and stigma (probably thanks in small part to the codependency model) that few are willing to share it as an open part of their testimony.

    The betrayal trauma model is so much more accurate and helpful to BOTH parties. I was very fortunate that our pastor was a licensed therapist trained in the betrayal model and I was quickly able to find resources from that model. I know even 10 years earlier that may not have been the case. Without support, I don’t know whether we would have made it.

    I think what people on the outside struggle to grasp is how searing the pain is with initial discovery. They get hung up on their own opinions about monogamy and porn, when at least half the problem is simply the secrecy and lying. It reorders and rewrites history in a foundational relationship, ultimately changing your reality in an instant.

    The codependency model demands that the betrayal victim heal perfectly, without ever reacting to the pain, and is especially unforgiving if the victim has a bad reaction. It heaps shame upon wounded people.

    I am very thankful for my husband’s commitment to recovery and all the steps he has taken over the past four years. I know God has used this situation for our good in many ways. I still have triggers. I still pray about it. I am still healing.

    Prayers for both the addicts and the spouses.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Question for Lori and Jay – how did you reach a stage where Jay was able to listen to and acknowledge Lori’s pain? Does he ever ask questions about Lori’s experience?

      I think one of the hard things is that the spouse needs to heal independently of their husbands addiction, but we also desperately want validation and restitution because maybe if he really “gets it” he won’t be able to hurt us like that again.

      I feel like my feelings or triggers are taboo to discuss with my husband if they aren’t a direct result of his behavior, like it will discourage him if I still struggle even if he’s doing well. But as a result when I am triggered I have to completely close him out and just tell him I’m feeling really tired for a few days. I’d like to reach a place of transparency and real one-ness, but I feel like there are some rooms in my heart he just doesn’t want to be in.

      Would love your insight.

      Reply
      • Jay Pyatt

        Wow, what a great question.

        I will be honest, it took some time for me to hear Lori’s pain without going to shame and thinking she wanted me to feel bad about me.

        I tell the guys I work with that when she her pain it may feel like an accusation, I then tell them they need to see the invitation in the “accusation”. Shame can twist the words we hear and the pain of the spouse can create a lot of energy in their words, so it is on the guy to do the work of hearing your pain. He won’t be able to heal the relationship or rebuild trust if he can sit with you in the pain he caused.

        For example, if he was driving and you were the passenger and you were injured in an accident he caused. It would be clear that he should take care of you in the healing process and listen to how his actions caused you harm. What is troubling for the betrayed spouse is the husband typically tries to shut her down in the case of porn/affair conversations instead of listening.

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          Thanks very much for your response Jay. Sounds like maybe more time is needed. I’m glad to hear that it’s possible.

          Reply
      • Lori Pyatt

        Anonymous, in response to your questions:

        1) how did you reach a stage where Jay was able to listen to and acknowledge Lori’s pain?

        I wish I had time to list all the things we did, but for now, just know it took us several years for him to come to that place of humility. It took a lot of trying different things and having them fail only to find what worked for him… and unfortunately it’s individual for every man what actually opens them up to this.

        I wish I had a better answer for you, but I can tell you that Jay’s work with men makes the time less painful for the women… and the men, now that I think about it.

        2) Does he ever ask questions about Lori’s experience?

        Now that you mention it, no. He has never out of the blue asked, “What did this do to you?” or anything similar.

        And I admit, part of me was a little l miffed when I realized this was the case, ha ha.

        BUT my reality is that I wear my heart on my sleeve. If something is wrong, I have difficulty hiding it.

        I usually tried bringing it up with him.

        Doesn’t mean that Jay was open to hearing it, but if he shut me down by an explosion, I’d become even more upset.

        Then he’d eventually ask me what was wrong, and we’d try again.

        For You
        If I were in your shoes, I’d ask him about the feeling you wrote (” I feel like there are some rooms in my heart he just doesn’t want to be in.”)

        What I’ve found is that with good-hearted men, they’re usually more open to hearing from us than we think.

        I could be wrong, but it might be helpful to check that theory with him.

        If he says you are correct, then you’ll be one step closer to your goal, because then you can explore his ‘why’ behind not wanting to be in those rooms in your heart.

        Reply
    • Lori Pyatt

      Anonymous,

      You wrote: “They get hung up on their own opinions about monogamy and porn, when at least half the problem is simply the secrecy and lying. It reorders and rewrites history in a foundational relationship, ultimately changing your reality in an instant.”

      I completely agree!

      In fact, when it comes to the damage all this does, what I’ve seen is:

      The porn issue is only about 15%of it…

      The lying is about 30% and

      The rest is the stuff people say to us instead of hearing us.

      I am glad, however, that you’re able to say your husband is showing real repentance.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Thank you very much for your detailed response Lori. I’m glad you and Jay have reached a point where it can be an open topic, even if you generally have to initiate.

        I’ll ponder your advice and see what I can come up with. He still deals with a lot of shame and I’m trying my best to be gracious and understanding. It can just be frustrating because it feels like there’s so many ways I can be counter-productive to recovery. It’s like hey, this dude just stabbed me, but if I scream or cry out or confront him or tell anyone or bleed too much it will only increase the chance that he will stab me again. So a lot of this is trying to sit still while on fire. Oh and life still needs to get done and get done cheerfully.

        Anyway I’m whining, it’s been a tough week on this front after a period of quiet on the wavefront and it digs up old crap.

        I really appreciate your response and will think of how/when I can approach him.

        Blessings on you and Jay and your ministry.

        Reply
        • Lori Pyatt

          Anonymous,

          You wrote, “He still deals with a lot of shame…” I tend to dig deep into that with our clients and what I’ve seen is this: Shame can be a handy excuse.

          Don’t get me wrong, some men are broken, but those that are broken are usually okay with hearing from the wife about the damage it’s done.

          So feel free to keep in touch with me about the shame issue.

          It’s one I am particularly passionate about… especially in not allowing it to stall progress… yours or the relationship’s.

          Take care,
          Lori

          Reply
    • Samantha

      Lori, what about when a husband as said things such as “I have slipped up and looked at other women….. because some women are just REALLY beautiful!!!”

      Reply
      • Lori Pyatt

        Samantha,

        If my husband said that, I would ask him what goes through his mind when he sees a woman that beautiful. (Hopefully the man asked this would be honest.)

        With men in general, I can understand men appreciating beauty just like they’d appreciate a beautiful sunset… BUT when a man is addicted to porn, it’s possible it’s striking that same cord in him: the need to be visually entertained.

        So I would also chase down if he is just appreciating beauty OR if he is taking a ‘visual sip.’

        Hope that helps.

        Reply
  8. canttakeitanymore

    I wish I could help my wife in some way to deal with the trauma after my confession that I still struggle with porn. She needs to get healed but I dont know how to help her. I am aware that this is all my fault. I am the one that has destroyed her with my sinful ways. I confessed because I want to get out and I am trying. I have told her to speak to someone but she doesnt want to. I think she just wants to get over it but I dont think she just can. She hasnt talked anything about setting boundaries or anything like that. I want to put the boundaries but I know she gets irritated when we have to block things. I need it because sadly having access to the internet without restrictions becomes too much of a temptation right now.

    BUt I dont know what to do. I dont know what to tell her so that she would seek help. She doesnt like counseling. This isnt the first time I have confessed. This has been a struggle even before we got married and she knew it. I have talked about divorce before with her because of this but the last time she got angry and told me to never speak about it again. There are times where I just want to bring it up again and go through with it. She doesnt deserve this. She is an amazing woman. You have talked a lot about their being men who dont fight with lust. She would be able to find a man like that. If it wasnt for our kids I think I would have already done it. I dont really care what happens with me. There are days where I just want to die so all these temptations and desires will die. Her leaving me would maybe be the push I need to jump from my balcony as I almost did after failing yet again.

    I dont know how to help my wife heal. I can only pray and hope she will open up to someone. Even if it means that she realize that divorce is the right way. If that will help her heal totally then that is for the best. Seeing her happy with someone else would kill me but also give me peace. She doesnt deserve this.

    Reply
    • Jay Pyatt

      Ok, I have been to this place before of feeling like my best option is to leave the situation to “stop the pain”. However, this is like fixing a broken heart by amputating a leg.

      I do work with guys whose wives are not interested in the state of their recovery. So, you will have to get creative. I just did a video on technology and addiction which might be helpful (check our youtube link in the article).

      I also see guys get the marriage back on track without the wife having to go through counselling, but it is up to you to carry the load. You will have to get a wide network of support and get accountability (with consequences) through this group.

      Please contact me and I can get you in a healthy group of guys to help you.

      Reply
    • Lori Pyatt

      Hey canttakeitanymore,

      The words you write tell me you’re really struggling–REALLY struggling. And for that I want to say, I wish you weren’t there, brother!

      Here’s what comes to mind:

      -Your story shows me the enemy’s is using his divide-and-conquer tactic. Porn is a solo-sport. When the wife finds out, she distances herself. Then the guy is really on his own… and that’s where the enemy strikes, trying to get men to jump off ledges. (But please don’t. No matter what you’ve done, porn doesn’t deserve one more life.)

      -How possible is it that you get rid of devices that cause the temptation. (Better for a man to lose his smart phone than to lose his whole life.) OR even if you can’t get rid of it, can you set internal restrictions to where you only use it when you’re around others.

      -Please also know you can put blocking software on your devices and get accountability partners that aren’t your wife… I would just make sure they’re men you look up to that will hold your feet to the fire.

      -With her, you could ask her if she feels unsafe in the relationship. If she says yes, you can let her know it could be a sign of trauma. If she takes it seriously, have her reach out to me. If I can’t help her, I have some places she can go for help.

      -Other than that, dive into your recovery. Contact my husband, Jay. Then check all the things that might be causing problems: biochemical issues, dietary issues, childhood issues, spiritual issues. If any thing is coming to mind that you DON’T want to do… start there.

      And please know I am praying for you.

      Reply
      • Cantttakeitanymore

        Thanks for your prayers, both of you. I have a lot of things blocked. I have one more device that needs to get blocked. I know she will get irritated when I tell her. I am closing to one month without watching porn without filter on it but it is really starting to get difficult. Last night I could barely sleep because of all temptation. I was waking up with these desires. Picked up the phone, battles the desires, closed it and went to bed. Tried to sleep but an hour later I was waking up again.
        I will ask her that question. I really want her to get help.
        I don’t live in the US and don’t have any men around me that can help me. I wish I did

        Reply
        • Lori Pyatt

          Canttakeitanymore

          So glad you’re still battling it. One thing you can add is this: after the temptation dies down, remind yourself something like, “I didn’t really need it. It’s a poison to me. I’m better off without it.” This can start rewring the brain and help the temptation die away more quickly.

          As far as not being around enough guys… with so many online groups of men supporting each other, you’re never more than a click away from ‘being near men.’ So the enemy can win that particular battle anymore.

          Reply
  9. Phil

    I always knew codependent as enabling the addict not controlling which is a huge difference. I liked the article but disagreed with the story that was used as an example of codependent by sending the license plates to a friends. That to me is healthy behavior not codependent. Maybe I just need schooling on what a codependent is because as an addict I am not codependent and thankfully neither is my wife. Would love to know more on that….

    Reply
    • Lori Pyatt

      Phil,

      Oops… you’re showing me my writing wasn’t super clear in that section.

      What I was trying to say was the mother who sent the license plate off would be termed co-dependent by some… but the book where that example was taken from did not think it was codependent… and neither did I.

      I thought her sending it off was a healthy thing to do as well, in a “not on my watch!” kind of way.

      Thanks for the chance to clarify : )

      Reply
      • Phil

        Gotcha thanks!

        Reply
  10. Anonymous

    I don’t know if our situation was typical or not, but my husband also struggled with this addiction.

    One difference in my experience was that I was pretty clear that I didn’t cause it, and he was clear that it had nothing to do with me. In his particular case, he seemed to be developing a sort of split personality. He was and is a wonderful guy, but others thought so highly of him and he had such high expectations of himself that he felt that he was falling short. The more people praised him, the more he felt he would be rejected if they knew what he was really like. So, a vicious cycle developed where he would do so to cope with stress, but what he was doing would make him feel worse and have more stress. Eventually, a crisis at work caused him an insane about of stress and made him feel terrible, and the behavior spun out to the point that he was taking crazy risks, like he wanted to get caught.

    He always felt awful when he confessed and swore it wouldn’t happen again.

    To get better, he needed to take ownership of his other personality. He needed to fully admit what was driving him to do this, so that he could address his pressures in a more positive way. It also meant not blaming others – I get a bit concerned about comments here about women in skimpy clothes, because part of knowing he was better is that he acknowledged it was on HIM, not any outside temptation.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I think that’s vital to recovery. Totally agree!

      Reply
  11. FLJesuslover

    In order to fully grasp this, people need to understand that this is an all out war against men coming from the Devil himself. This stuff comes at us from all sides. It comes through e-mail, it pops up on YT videos now, its on all sorts of social media platform disguised. Never in the history of civilization has there been such a concerted, data mined effort to throw an addictive substance at people (some suspecting – some unsuspecting). God created men with an outsized sexual libido for a great purpose, to enjoy in marriage and to multiply. Satan is using it against men through any number of “free” porn sites and pushing it out like a free package of heroine that arrives every hour in an anonymous package to men. We can try it in the privacy of wherever we are, no harm right? When things are bad on the homefront, we want sexual pleasure, so its a 15 second “free look” away, right?

    Truth is it is very devastating to our marriages and our families and Satan knows that and is using all he can against us. He also uses the stigma against us because we cannot and will not talk openly abut sex and temptation in our Christ-based settings out of fear of offending or making people uncomfortable.

    Sex is addictive to a great number of men. Stats vary. Just like some can handle a few drinks here and there, some men can handle a little sex here and there. But to others, sexual imagery sets off a massive dopamine high that can only be repeated by going to the website (or smartphone app) once again. Try it once, and you are done – just like with OXY or heroine.

    They are also targeting young boys as young as 10. Just last week a famous gamer streamer “Ninja” (ask your 13 y/o son) had 600,000 kids watching his stream on Twitch – and a porn site ran for hours as a banner ad totally unbeknownst to him. This is horrible stuff, and it is everywhere. THIS IS A WAR.

    I offer you this, as someone who has fallen but who is now victorious. Get in front of the issue now – today. Pray about it. Make your husband pray about it – and pray for others. Confront your husbands and sons in tough love. But know you are in a war for their sexual desires against Satan. Treat this as an addiction like you would if your husband were prescribed OXY after a surgery and fell to that addiction and stop setting aside this addiction as worse than other sins. I know it is more hurtful. Its way more personal and intimate. It is a horrible attack on your marriage and your self esteem. I know women want to smack and castrate their husbands when they find out. Resist the temptation to let this destroy your marriage. Get into counseling ASAP, fight in the war to protect your marriage, pray for your husbands and young men and treat this as you would an addiction to any other substance.

    Shiela has some great resources here and so do other Christ-based counselors. Start reading up now and force your husbands to address it with you and the kids. Guard your kids eyes like you said you would when you birthed them. Dont let Satan’s “free looks” destroy your kids or your marriages. And pray everyday for purity, love, grace and for healthy sexual intimacy between you and your spouses. Aim to fulfill each other (intimately and sexually – knowing the difference), so, as Paul says, temptation has less of a chance of winning.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      You say you know it is more hurtful, more intimate and a terrible attack on our self esteem etc etc. You try to acknowledge that but then swiftly move on to saying we should all see it as an addiction just like any other. YOU HAVE NO IDEA!!!! You have not walked in a wife’s shoes dealing with this. It is not as simple as you are making it by any means at all!!!!

      Do NOT insult traumatised women. This post is meant to be all about acknowledging the trauma…. NOT downplaying it once again by misinformed self centred jerks like you.

      Reply
      • FLJesuslover

        My post in no way diminished the level of trauma that women face when they discover their husband is fulfilling a sexual addiction with porn. I acknowledge that and understand it the best I can. Its devastating to a marriage.

        I am not making it simple – I know it is very difficult to deal with. We have walked it. Men are tempted by porn more than women for reasons of creation and wiring. And this world we live in has legitemized porn and continues to try to detach the stigma it once had. That is not the work of our creator. Its the work of darkness.

        My point above still stands and I dont back away from a single word I posted. We have to fight against the temptation and not be naive. Its on 12 year old boys’ phones (and in some cases girls) these days because it sneaks in with surgical precision. We parents, husbands and wives must be vigilant. And it is absolutely an addition.

        Reply
  12. Ashley

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m on the other side of a lot of the trauma. I think. I hope. I’ve had a ton of healing, anyway. Less than 2 years ago I was in an unbelievable amount of pain emotionally. It does get better with a lot of prayer and support from the right people. Keep writing stuff like this. Who knows how many people you will help!

    Reply

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