I Am Broken and That Makes Me Beautiful

Have you ever heard of the Japanese art of Kintsugi? Artists will take a broken piece of pottery and repair it with a special lacquer that is dusted with silver, gold, or platinum. The broken piece becomes even more beautiful as the precious metals gleam through the seams which were once broken. Kintsugi is a celebration of seeing beauty in the flawed, expressing regret when things are wasted, and the acceptance of change. As I spent more and more time in the world of addiction, betrayal trauma, and abuse I began to feel like on big broken mess. There were little pieces of who I was scattered across the floor of my life, and I couldn’t see myself or my beauty anymore. As I have worked on healing the past few years I have allowed God to Kintsugi me back together.

I am Broken and That Makes Me Beautiful | muchnessmama.com | Japanese art of Kintsugi | repairing pottery with gold | betrayal trauma healing | addiction recovery

God Uses Broken Things

Not only does God find glory in repairing broken things he actually requires that we be broken before he can use us. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17) God can not use us until our hearts are humble enough to accept his will and instruction. None of us escape trials in this life. We all face things that can leave us feeling cracked and broken. If we allow God into our hearts he will put us back together stronger and more beautiful than we could ever be on our own. As he works in us we can begin to see the beauty in our flaws, refuse to waste our precious time and lives, and accept the changes that are an inevitable part of this mortal experience.

Seeing Beauty in the Flawed

When I was in my twenties I listened to the same radio station every morning on the way to work. They would often have a fun little trivia question with a prize for whoever called in and got it right. One day they asked what is the #1 thing people criticize about themselves that the opposite sex actually finds attractive. All sorts of answers were given. It was fascinating to hear men and women both talk about the little things they loved in their spouse or significant other that they wished that person loved in themselves as well. Answers ranged from a little bit of extra weight to freckles. The correct answer according to some survey somewhere was a gap in the two front teeth. I wonder how many people have spent money on braces trying to remove that gap that others may find incredibly attractive. How many things about myself have I seen as flawed or broken when they were the exact things about me that God could use to bless others? I can’t reach out to someone in my own perfection and be received. It is through our imperfections, our weaknesses, our struggles and our trials that we are able to connect with others. It is our willingness to let others see those cracks that allows us to truly serve them.

Regret in the Wasted

How much time have I wasted over the years trying to put forth a perfect image? How many relationships have fallen by the wayside because neither of us was willing to be vulnerable and form a real intimate connection?  How much money have I wasted on trying to look perfect, have the perfect accessories, or say the perfect thing? How many opportunities to truly serve others have been wasted because of my inability to see the beauty in my brokenness and the value in what I had to give? I don’t want to just float through life unconnected and unfulfilled because I allowed my brokenness to become trash instead of beauty. I want to connect. I want to be used. I want to let the light of Christ shine through me. I can’t do that in broken pieces on the floor. I can only do that through the beautiful glints of gold Christ repairs me with.

Acceptance of Change

Change is inevitable. We all know that, and yet we all fight it. Even when the life we are currently living is broken and ugly we resist change because we fear “what if it gets even worse?!” Well what if it gets better!? I have spent so much time in my marriage walking on eggshells trying to avoid rocking the boat. The biggest change that I have embraced through working my recovery is the need for boundaries. Not only can I embrace change, but I can create it. I can say no more. I can decide what I will and won’t live with. I can open myself up to the threat of more pain because I know that I am strong enough to handle it. I know that I have an amazing support network of women surrounding me and a God standing under me to lift me up. I can embrace the changes in life with not only trust and humility, but with excitement at what the future may hold. Sure I may trip and fall. Sometimes I may even tumble end over end back down that hill. As long as I keep getting back up, patching up each new crack with a little more gold lacquer, I know I’m not only going to survive, but I will thrive!

I Am Broken and That Makes Me Beautiful

I am Broken and That Makes Me Beautiful | muchnessmama.com | Japanese art of Kintsugi | repairing pottery with gold | betrayal trauma healing | addiction recovery

Yep I crack under the pressure. We all do. There was only one perfect man to ever walk this earth, and even Jesus needed alone time to rest and recuperate. So how do we embrace our own broken beauty? For me it starts with owning my story. Being vulnerable and sharing my heart makes me stronger. As I share my broken parts with others they have so graciously shared theirs with me. I see the beauty and strength in these women. I see their courage and their hearts. I listen to their laughs and see their tears. Every one of them is radiant and beautiful. As I see and embrace the beauty in them it becomes so much easier for me to acknowledge it in myself. It is only in the dark of night that we can see the stars. So it is with us. It is only in the cracks and broken pieces that we can truly see our beauty.

How do you find the beauty in your broken pieces? What has helped you to stop wasting life and embrace change with optimism? Who has inspired you through their broken beauty? Do you have a story of brokenness that you’d like to share as a guest blogger? Come join us in the Muchness Mama’s group on Facebook and let’s chat about it!

The Ultimate Betrayal Trauma Resource Guide

When you are married to an addict and/or abuser a lot of the typical marriage advice just doesn’t apply, in fact it can be downright dangerous. Tips on how to love your husband more and serve him more can just feed the abuse. For example following the  telling you to never go to bed on angry feelings just might be forcing you into a difficult conversation with an addict who is in a bad frame of mind which can then escalate to full-blown abuse. Remember you are not a codependent; you are a spouse in betrayal trauma. You and your spouse each need to heal yourselves before you can heal the marriage.

Most marriage and relationship advice is based on the assumption that there are two willing partners both ready to give their all to the relationship. When dealing with addiction and abuse this is frequently not true as the addict/abuser has no interest in changing their ways to make the relationship more healthy. Their goal is to change their spouse to fit their expectations and fantasies. Even when your dealing with an addict in active recovery there are a lot of unhealthy thought patterns that are ingrained into the way they handle relationships. Healthy boundaries are still essential and will be different from the ones a couple in a healthy relationship maintains.

The Ultimate Betrayal Trauma Resource Guide for Women Who are Dealing With Addiction and Abuse in Their Partner | muchnessmama.com |

The following is a list of resources that myself and others I trust recommend for those dealing with an addict and/or abuser.

Healing From Betrayal Trauma

Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Heal

Intimate Deception

Helping Her Heal (directed towards the sex addict, but very good info for wives and extremely validating)

Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts

Shattered Vows: Hope and Healing for Women Who Have Been Sexually Betrayed

The Body Keeps the Score Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Feelings Buried Alive Never Die

Transcending Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder: The Six Stages of Healing

Before the Dust Settles (Advice from a Sex Addict’s Wife): 8 Mistakes to Avoid Immediately After Discovering Your Partner’s Sex Addiction

Mending A Shattered Heart

Living with a Sex Addict: The Basics from Crisis to Recovery

Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts

What Can I Do About Me?

Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries in Marriage  (be cautious, this is NOT a good book for the addict/abuser NOT in recovery to read. They can use some of the principles to abuse you)

Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships

Treating Trauma from Sexual Betrayal: The Essential Tools for Healing

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

The Gifts of Imperfection

Make My Burden Light Blog

Boundaries Blog

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Blog, Podcast, and Coaches

Healing From and Dealing With Abuse

Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?: Encouragement for Women Involved with Angry and Controlling Men

Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse

30 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics: How Manipulators Take Control In Personal Relationships

In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People

How To Kill A Narcissist: Debunking The Myth Of Narcissism And Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse

Becoming the Narcissists Nightmare

How To Kill A Narcissist: Debunking The Myth Of Narcissism And Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse

Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries in Marriage  (be cautious, this is NOT a good book for the addict/abuser NOT in recovery to read. They can use some of the principles to abuse you)

Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships

Boundaries Blog

Rebuilding a Marriage

**These resources are for when you are dealing with an addict/abuser who is in active recovery. Please study and apply these principles with caution and only after reading the book Boundaries and having a solid grasp on their effective use**

An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples: The Two of Us

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

Created for Connection: The “Hold Me Tight” Guide for Christian Couples

Seven Desires: Looking Past What Separates Us to Learn What Connects Us

International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy

What are your favorite resources for understanding and healing from betrayal trauma and abuse? Is there a resource on this list that is new to you? What are you reading now/next? What has been the most useful thing that you have learned in your study? Is there anything you would add to this list? Come on over to the Muchness Mamas Facebook group and let’s chat about it!

5 Things Sex Addicts Say When They are in Denial

Almost two months ago I first wrote out our story of sex addiction and betrayal trauma. I shared it in a few Facebook groups and got some amazing support and love. Not one single person judged us or was unkind, well at least if they did they kept it to themselves. For some odd reason one of the religious groups I shared with didn’t approve the post until today. Honestly I’d kind of forgotten I’d even submitted it there! I think God may have had a hand in it, however, because we got a few comments that two months ago would have sent me into deep trauma. Thankfully today I was able to see that they were clearly coming from someone who would rather deny their addiction and blame-shift everything onto their spouse than accept responsibility for their own choices. In fact at one point I actually laughed at the absurdity because, rather than accept the truths my husband was presenting to him he accused me of writing my husband’s responses! Aint nobody got time for that!

You don’t have to live with an addict in denial. Here are five of the most common excuses they use to avoid taking accountability for their choices refuted by my recovering sex addict husband.

5 things sex addicts say when they are in denial | muchnessmama.com | bullshit excuses for addiction | be 100% accountable | sex addiction recovery

Ladies and gentlemen I have to say that the way my husband rose to this occasion literally had me in tears. The validation that he gave to my trauma as well as that of other women was beautiful. It’s not like he said anything new, but the way he said everything all at once without a single smidge of justification, blame-shifting, gaslighting, or minimizing was exactly what my heart needed to hear today. I wanted ot share his words with you because I feel they are incredibly powerful and need to be heard by both the addicts and the betrayed.

I don’t feel it would be right to copy directly the comment he was responding to, so I will just give you a brief synopsis of each point that he responded to as he gets to them.

But did You Have Enough Sex?

The first comment accused me of not giving my husband enough sex. If I was using sex to manipulate him as most women do (his view not mine!) then it’s no wonder that my husband had to “step out”.

Was she sexually active with me? Yes. Not one or more times per week, but three times per week and often even more frequently. For 11 years. Not just for the newlywed/honeymoon phase. She did everything I asked. She took pictures. She tried every position I wanted. She dressed up the way I wanted. She broke down certain techniques and tried to do them just the way I wanted as though she were a student taking a typing class and I was the teacher. She almost never got to tell me no. Many nights, she would be physically or emotionally unprepared to have sex with me, but I always pressured her, and I always got my way. I wouldn’t call it rape, but I certainly abused her sexually, and often. During the periods in which I acted out in adultery, we were having sex with the same frequency we always had. She and I had sex within one or two days of me being with other women.

After just this one paragraph, you should be able to see clearly that she experienced deep betrayal and legitimate emotional trauma. But let’s continue.

You Can’t Get PTSD From Betrayal Trauma

Next this man took offense to me describing my betrayal trauma as PTSD and said that I couldn’t claim that unless I was officially diagnosed.

PTSD must be diagnosed by a professional. PTSD can’t have occurred unless your physical life was threatened. Think about relationships you have been in where you felt someone else had power over you that you couldn’t break. That person made decisions that were harmful to your welfare, and you felt powerless to defend yourself, change the way you were being treated, or ask for help from someone else. This happens at many levels: in superior/subordinate relationships at work, peer situations at work and school, sibling relationships at home, and many other situations. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the classic human condition in which one person consistently dominates relations with another person over a long period of time, and for whatever reason, the person on the short end of the stick stays in the relationship. I have experienced this in work situations myself. I had a boss who lied to me, cheated me out of money, asked me to do unsafe/illegal things, etc. I stood up to him and to his boss with as much vigor, logic, commonsense, and appeal to emotion as I could, but in the end, they would find anyway they possibly could to get their way. I couldn’t leave the situation because no other companies would hire me with the experience I had. The situation was drastically affecting my welfare. I was operating unsafely. Time was going by and I wasn’t making the money I should’ve been making, and my bills were not stopping. My bosses were making money off my efforts and looking for every opportunity to screw me out of what they should have been paying me. I was getting taken advantage of and I wasn’t getting compensated for it. I had nothing to show for the sacrifice I was making for this company, which included weeks upon weeks of travel time away from home. I felt like a rat in a cage. I felt like a slave. I was powerless to get what I needed. I was alone. Every time the phone rang, every time a message came through my communication system, my stomach knotted up. To this day, I still have a wave of negative energy flash through my body, stomach knots, and feelings of rage when I think about that situation and those people.

That, my friend is trauma. I was in a situation where I should have been safe, but I found myself alone, fighting a losing battle for my own welfare. It doesn’t matter whether it’s physical safety or spiritual or emotional safety. That is the situation I put my wife in. She knew she was being abused. The way I treated her felt unfair, one sided. But because she didn’t feel empowered to leave or to set boundaries, she couldn’t change the situation. She lived like this for over a decade.

Thankfully, we don’t need a doctors opinion to understand the truth. Her experience being married to me has colored her world in such a way that she now has a hard time trusting others. She is getting much better, but the way I treated her led her to believe she was fundamentally not good enough or didn’t really have anything to offer people in relationships. Little arguments still set her off so easily because she still believes I am going to drive a freight train through her life and take everything I can from her while leaving her in shambles. I have trained her to live in fear of never being seen, validated, having her needs met, or having her emotions mean something to her husband. The person who is supposed to make her feel like the most important person in the world, like she is special, valuable, needed, powerful, and beautiful, treated her like a sexual and emotional ATM, and she NEVER (yes, I will say never), ever got her needs met. She was starving emotionally and spiritually.

Hopefully you are beginning to see the kind of trauma she truly experienced and how it doesn’t just go away without a lot of love, support, therapy, and time.

Porn Isn’t That Big of a Deal; Stop Shaming Men Who Look

Yep, a supposedly good Christian man really tried to say that women make way too big a deal of this. If we would just stop shaming them then they wouldn’t have to look because they would feel better about themselves. Basically it’s all our fault they look because we get hurt when they do, and it’s really not that big of a deal anyway. I really didn’t follow the logic on this one, but ok.

Too many women treat porn like an unforgivable sin. First off, what is pornography? Do you realize that there is no such thing as a porn star? They are all in slavery in someway. Even the ones who got into it voluntarily find themselves pressured to do things they don’t want to do (pornharms.com). It’s a lifestyle they wish they could get themselves out of, but there is an abuse cycle that keeps them in it for much longer than they wanted. That’s the ones that were approached in a bar by some studio owner and went along willingly. The ones who got drugged and kidnapped and are now making videos in some warehouse in Sri Lanka are straight up sex slaves. I remember watching some movies thinking, “Wow, she doesn’t look like she’s having a very good time here.” Even when I sought out pornography for my own pleasure at the height of my addiction, it still bothered me deeply to watch these women going through this abuse. And at the time, I didn’t understand it. I really didn’t know that that’s what happened to a lot of the women that end up in those videos. But it is. Every time you watch pornography, you are creating a demand for some woman like your wife or your daughter to be kidnapped and raped in front of a camera every day of her life until she is no longer useful to her captors, at which point she will be murdered. So, since you to contradicted yourself and said women regularly use porn, I will say NOT ENOUGH women treat pornography like an unforgivable sin.

But that’s not really the point you were making, is it? You were trying to say that porn isn’t that big a deal for the user, without any regard to how it affects the people who create it. But let’s just assume for a few moments that, just like the fantasy world most people want to live in, the women in pornographic material are doing it willingly and are fairly compensated. That’s the best case scenario. It STILL violates the law of chastity. It’s still violates the social expectation of marital fidelity, whether you made a covenant in the temple with your eternal companion or married in a civil ceremony. It still hurts the women we claim to love. That is elemental and will never change. If I punch you in the face, you’re gonna be pretty pissed about it, right? Well the same goes for watching pornography. It hurts our wives’ feelings. Period. It hurts them just as much as if we went out and screwed some woman. We are telling them they are not good enough, not beautiful enough. The women in the pictures will continue to be young, fit, exotic, or somehow fitting a fantasy. The older our wives get, the more they realize they can’t live up to that expectation. We are telling them that when we have sex with them, we don’t do it because we love them and want to give ourselves to them and receive them in the most intimate, vulnerable, complete way possible, but rather because we have a bestial urge that they just happen to have the proper equipment to help us satisfy. That doesn’t sound like true love. That doesn’t sound like a celestial marriage. That sounds like abuse. So no, I don’t think enough women treat pornography like an unforgivable sin. Maybe if they did, the divorce rate in the church wouldn’t be so high.

Don’t forget how vehemently President Hinckley denounced unchastity in ALL its forms. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Pres Hinckley, pp 217-219. Go read his comments there, then ask yourself if you aren’t guilty of that type of abuse? Claiming that women have too big of a problem with men who view pornography and that their hurt feelings over OUR egregious sin make the problem worse? God have mercy on whatever man spews that vile drivel in public like you just did.

But Women Have Porn Too!

He then said that women have their own porn, mostly in the form of romance novels and movies, but they just aren’t willing to admit that is what it is. If they indulge then why can’t I?

Women ignore their own versions of porn. Yes, they do. Women of the world who have not made covenants with the Lord. But how can you compare those women to the women in the church who by and large do not indulge in that stuff? I know there are women who don’t wear their garments on cruises with their husband while they’re wearing immodest dresses. They went to see Fifty Shades of Grey. They lost weight and posted immodest pictures of their new bodies on Facebook. But I also don’t see those women in the church anymore. The women in the church don’t do that stuff. But the men do. So you can’t justify pornography usage based on the fact that “everybody’s doing it, even the women who claim it’s such a big problem for them.“ Besides, even if that were a correct premise, try saying that to the Savior when you meet him and see how far past the gate that gets you.

Men are Visual, Women are Emotional

Men are more driven by their eyes and women by their emotions. It’s just sooooo hard for men not to look and they aren’t capable of the emotional connection that women want.

This comment highlights the type of emotional retardation for which men are infamous inside and outside the church in this day and age…Probably since the beginning of the world. I declare that men and women are created exactly equally both in terms of sexual drive and desire for emotional connection. See, once you start figuring this stuff out, you realize that what you were looking for all along in all the ways you acted out was an emotional connection that made you feel loved, important, and secure. Sexual relations are the pinnacle of such a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. But Satan knew what kind of havoc he could wreak if he were able to confuse us into believing that sex was the beginning point in seeking out emotional satisfaction. And he is winning that battle quite handily at the moment. Satan wants us to believe that men are built for watching football and drinking beer and fixing stuff and slapping each other on the back and hurling jestful insults at each other while women were built to connect and talk about their emotions. But that is false. Men were created to talk about their emotions and connect with other men and with women just like women were built. So long as Satan has us believing that we are fundamentally incompatible, he will continue to tear apart our families. But if you can accept that you will feel happy and free when you really get in touch with your emotions and feel a connection to yourself, God, and others all at the same time, it becomes so easy and so clear to see that we are all the same. Male and female, we are all worried that we aren’t enough, that nobody will love us, that we are really a fraud. Relationships with others in which we reveal ourselves and lovingly accept what others reveal to us gives us the true freedom and security from all of that negative self talk Satan wants us to buy and sell every time we have a lustful thoughts or commit an unchaste act.

Be 100% Accountable

Here’s the thing ladies and gents; an addict is ALWAYS 100% responsible for his/her actions. It doesn’t matter if you came from an abusive home, were assaulted, bullied, shamed, didn’t get enough sex, oh I could go on and on. You are always capable of making a better choice. Always! The only thing an excuse can do is keep you stuck in a pit. IF you want to get out you have to be willing to do the hard work to change. Sure God throws a ladder down there in the form of 12 step groups, books, therapists, community, and more, but it’s up to you to grab hold and climb out one rung at a time. We all have trials. We all have bad things happen that hurt us. It is always our choice to grab life by the reigns and move forward with grace and dignity or wallow in the mud feeling sorry for ourselves. This speech by Lynn G. Robbins is an excellent read on the subject of taking responsibility for your life regardless of the circumstances.

Now please don’t think this means you have to stuff down any negative emotion and pretend life is a bed of roses. Nope. You cry. You rage. You process. Then you move on. Healing and growth are lifelong processes. They never stop, so we shouldn’t stop either. You got this. You just have to be willing to do it.

What other excuses have you used or heard to avoid working recovery? What fears hold you back from your own healing/recovery? What are you going to do today to take more responsibility for your life? Come on over to my group Muchness Mamas on Facebook and let’s talk about it!

Creating and Enforcing Healthy Boundaries in Relationships

To say being married to an addict is difficult would be the understatement of the year. Let’s face it, even without addiction relationships are hard work. Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is crucial to finding health and happiness both for the addict and their betrayed spouse. When I first heard the word boundaries I was both empowered and confused. What exactly are boundaries? Are boundaries Christlike? How do I go about setting a boundary? How do I know if my boundaries are healthy?

Creating and Enforcing Healthy Boundaries in Relationships | muchnessmama.com| addiction recovery | betrayal trauma recovery

What are Boundaries

Boundaries allow us to take responsibility for ourselves while not shouldering responsibility for the actions of others. Boundaries are invisible lines that say what we will and won’t tolerate. Boundaries are like the fence that defines our property line. There is a gate and we can let people in when we choose and boot them out if they are disrespecting our wishes. I love what Dr. Cloud, author of Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life, had to say in a recent blog post about boundaries.

Personal boundaries allow you to have ownership over your own thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions, while freeing you from being responsible for anyone else’s. Virtually everyone sets some form of boundaries without thinking about it, but when we consciously define our boundaries, we gain a huge degree of control over our happiness, comfort and the quality of our relationships.

A boundary is a simple statement saying what you will or won’t tolerate and what you will do if that boundary is violated. Remember, a boundary without a consequence is simply a threat. Boundaries are not about controlling the actions of others. Boundaries are about controlling yourself and defining how you will respond to keep yourself safe in unhealthy situations.

Are Boundaries Christlike

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for me when I first learned about boundaries was the feeling that I wasn’t showing Christlike love when I was enforcing them. President Russel M. Nelson said “Real love for the sinner may compel courageous confrontation—not acquiescence! Real love does not support self-destructing behavior.” God himself has given us the perfect example of healthy boundaries, we call them commandments. He does not force any of us to obey, but he does withdraw his spiritual guidance, peace,  and certain blessings when we choose not to follow the requirements he has laid out for us. There are also many examples of healthy boundaries from Jesus Christ’s life here on Earth. Remember the rich young man? Christ told him to sell all that he had and follow him. Christ did not encroach upon the man’s agency, he simply said if you do these things then you will be welcome in my presence and in heaven. Let’s look at the story of the young woman caught in adultery. Christ didn’t tell her accusers that they couldn’t enact justice. He simply reminded them of their own imperfections then allowed them the opportunity to make the right choice. Jesus also took time to care for himself. He had boundaries that said “I need time to commune with my Father” and there are a few different accounts of him going alone into the mountains or wilderness, once for 40 days! If you want to read more about Christ setting boundaries this post from Soul Shepherding is wonderful.

How Do I Set Boundaries

As stated above a boundary without a consequence is simply a threat. Threats are useless. Remember boundaries aren’t about controlling others, they are about controlling yourself. We all set boundaries naturally every day through our choices. We choose not to spend time with someone who is unkind. We choose to rest and engage in self-care rather than accomplishing yet one more to do task on our list. We choose to disengage from emotionally abusive conversations. We choose to speak up when we something unfair happening. When dealing with an addict I’ve found that my boundaries around his addiction need to be very clearly stated. This is the pattern I use for most of my boundaries:

  1. State the action that you can’t tolerate
  2. State how that action makes you feel
  3. State the consequence/boundary you will enact to create safety for yourself

Three Steps for Creating Healthy Boundaries | muchnessmama.com | addiction recovery| betrayal trauma recovery

Here are some examples of some actual boundaries written out by some of my fellow WOPA (wives of porn addict) friends.

  • When you choose to watch pornography I feel betrayed, hurt, and angry. I need to detach from our relationship and sleep separately from you.
  • When you are not actively engaging in recovery work on a daily basis I do not feel safe in our relationship. When I feel unsafe I will need to detach from you emotionally.
  • I can not remain in a marriage with infidelity. If you choose to act out with another woman then I will file for divorce.
  • I can not accept any form of pornography in my home. I will be placing filters/blocks on all electronic devices that are brought into this home. If you do not want filters on your device then it will have to remain outside fo the home. If you can not agree to this then I will enact a physical separation.

Also check out this post from my friend Kate about boundaries. She has a ton of great advice about the nuts and bolts of setting boundaries along with some other great examples.

How do I Know if My Boundaries are Healthy

A healthy boundary is one that keeps you inside your fence and keeps things that will hurt you out. A healthy boundary is about controlling yourself, not others (though it is ok to hope that our boundaries will motivate them to a healthy change). At the Determined to Rise retreat this past September Dr. Sharon Rinearson of Core Relationship Recovery described boundaries as a hedge of thorns. Because fo the thorns people who want to hurt us can’t get in, we will protect ourselves from them. At the same time the thorns keep us inside our safe zone. Sometimes boundaries hurt. Healthy boundaries are hard. When you have been a doormat in your relationship setting healthy boundaries will most often result in resentment, anger, and a lot of push-back from your spouse. Sometimes the addict will even try to set counter boundaries that are meant to control you and your boundaries. Good, this means you’re doing it right! The hardest part of a healthy boundary is continuing to enforce your boundary even when it hurts you. Separation from your spouse isn’t easy, but it is necessary if they are abusing you. A healthy boundary is paradoxically also flexible. If you are setting healthy boundaries then you are able to recognize when they are not working or no longer necessary.

Setting Boundaries Requires Support

Healing from addiction can’t be done in isolation and neither can healing from betrayal trauma. If you had a physical injury you would visit a doctor, go to rehab with a physical therapist, and find others to help and support you through your healing. Emotional injury isn’t any different. You need help and support. A good therapist who is trained in betrayal trauma can be an amazing help in setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. You can find therapists who have been certified in betrayal trauma on the APSATS website. Support groups are another great source of strength. When I initiated a separation from my husband earlier this year I never could have followed through on healthy boundaries without the support of the amazing ladies in my support groups. In person, online, and phone support groups can be found via ARP support, S-Anon, and Betrayal Trauma Recovery. There are also several Facebook groups available for support. For safety and privacy these groups are secret, so you will have to find a person who you know struggles with these issues as well and ask them to have you added. It can also be helpful to reach out to a few people you trust that can support you, even if they haven’t endured this specific trial. I have two amazing friends who have been there to help and support me whenever I need it. I have also had some amazing bishops (religious leader) who have given me strength to create and maintain healthy boundaries. I have also had friends and religious leaders say less than helpful, and sometimes even traumatizing things to me when they hear my story. Prayerfully consider who you will seek support from and it’s ok to set a healthy boundary around who you talk to and what you share with them.

Have you struggled with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries? Where have you found help and support? What are your biggest struggles with boundary setting? What advice would you give to someone who is just learning to set boundaries in an unhealthy relationship? Come join me in the Muchness Mamas Facebook group and let’s talk about it!

What is Betrayal Trauma?

In my previous post I told you that I have betrayal trauma induced post traumatic stress (PTSD), adrenal fatigue, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Some of you may have read that and said “huh? What in the world is betrayal trauma!?” I know that’s what I thought the first time I heard the term. Understanding is the first step to healing, so this post is all about understanding betrayal trauma and it’s affects on the individual and the relationship.

What is Betrayal Trauma? | muchnessmama.com | When you are betrayad by a spouse or caregiver it can leave deep wounds. Did you know that the symptoms of betrayal trauma are the same as the symptoms of PTSD?

Betrayal Trauma Definition

The term betrayal trauma was first introduced by Jennifer Freyd in 1991 at a presentation at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. According to Freyd “Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person’ s trust or well-being: Childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated by a caregiver are examples of betrayal trauma.” (link) So as a wife of a sex addict I experienced trauma when I discovered the ways in which my husband was acting out. When this trauma hit it was a HUGE betrayal because it felt like there was more harm that could come from confronting and standing up to it than there was in putting my head down, walking on eggshells, and trying to maintain the peace. For me personally betrayal trauma has also been sustained by my husband’s anger management problems in our early years as well. Double whammy!

The Affects of Betrayal Trauma

Freyd further tells us that when trauma involves a betrayal we are less likely to be aware of what is occurring or recall the details. Why? Because when we confront the perpetrator it threatens an attachment that we feel is necessary to our survival. Those awesome survival instincts can kick in and literally erase our memory or change it to make the betrayal seem like less of a threat.  I felt like I was all these monkeys combined into one! I refused to hear or see the abuse in my marriage and definitely terrified to say anything about the things I did notice.

What is Betrayal Trauma? | muchnessmama.com | wife of a sex addict | spouse of an addict | PTSD Joao Tzanno

When our conscious mind is protecting us, and our subconscious mind is screaming that everything is not ok it can lead to some pretty severe problems. In a recent study it was shown that ~70% of wives of sex addicts could be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yep, the same thing that military folk come home with is what traumatized wives deal with. Lucky me, I got both! I will say, however, that my trauma from deployment was VERY minimal to the extent that I didn’t even really realize that it existed for a long time. My betrayal trauma due to addiction has been much more in my face and in control of my life. PTSD comes with a lot of really fun symptoms including:

  • Spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events
  • Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events
  • Flashbacks or other dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic events are recurring
  • Intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
  • Physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic events
  • Persistent avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic events or of external reminders
  • Inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events (not due to head injury, alcohol, or drugs)
  • Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” “The world is completely dangerous”).
  • Persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events
  • Persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
  • Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Persistent inability to experience positive emotions
  • Irritable or aggressive behavior
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Problems with concentration
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep

Yeah, that’s a lot. All of these symptoms can also take their toll physically. Adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, joint and/or muscle pain, headaches, weight gain, and even more often manifest themselves when a person is suffering from trauma. “The Body Keeps The Score” is a great book to read if you are more interested in this topic. It’s WAY too much to cover here.

How To Heal From Betrayal Trauma

Quite frequently all these symptoms are lumped into one happy little diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression. Here pop a pill and be on your merry way! While I’m all for medication if and when you need it really healing trauma requires far more than that.

4 Steps for Betrayal Trauma Recovery | muchnessmama.com | you can heal from betrayal trauma, but it requires a lot fo work. Here are 4 important steps to get you started.

First and formost you need to get out of your isolation! That is why I have ripped the curtain off my life and decided to start sharing here, thankfully with my husband’s full support and even cheerleading. You need to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! As I said in my previous post 64% of Christina men admit to at least monthly viewing of pornography. I dont’ think there is a single woman in this world who has not been affected by sex addiction in some way. Whether it’s harassment from schoolmates or coworkers or a deep betrayal of a spouse we’ve all been touched. It is not your fault. You don’t deserve it. You are worthy of love and respect. There are a few different groups out there that you can meet with in person. S-Anon is the partner program to Sexaholics Anonymous. They provide pretty good support, but they follow a codependency model which I believe is very unhealthy, so I would not personally recommend them. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints offers a Spouse and Family Support Group. These meetings are based on some beautiful principles. The leaders, however, are missionaries called by the church. They may or may not have any actual education or experience with trauma. Some meetings can be further re-traumatizing. If your local meeting is not a supportive safe place for you there are many phone meetings to choose from as well. Lifestar and Healing Through Christ are two other groups I am aware of. They both lean towards codependency though, so once again not my highest recommendations. I am also a member of a few different groups on Facebook. Due to the sensitive nature of the topics discussed these groups are secret. If you are interested in learning more about these groups please feel free to contact me. Determined to Rise is also a great resource for connection. I am REALLY looking forward to attending the retreat that they are hosting next month in Utah.

Second, and equally important, is counseling with a qualified therapist. Finding the right therapist can be very difficult. While there are all sorts of certifications you can look for ultimately it all comes down to do they know and understand betrayal trauma. It is also really helpful if they are trained in EMDR and/or neural feedback therapy (more on those in a future post). Both of these help to integrate the mind/body connection and speed up the healing process.  Betrayal Trauma Recovery is an excellent resource for finding a good counselor. They are coaches rather than certified therapists, but they have focused their training on betrayal trauma and most are victims as well. One last note on therapy. NEVER EVER EVER do couples therapy with a man who is still in active addiction. It usually does far more harm than good as it provides a platform for the addict to further abuse you through manipulating and gaslighting both you and the therapist. I would recommend that an addict is working a solid recovery program and attending weekly counseling sessions on their own for at least 3-6 months before you even consider couples therapy. When you do start couples therapy look for a therapist who uses Emotionally Focused Therapy techniques. Addiction is at the root a disease of connection. Learning to reconnect to your own emotions and your spouses in healthy ways is far more important than directly working on any specific marriage issues, especially in the early stages of healing a relationship.

Third, become  a learn it all. No one is ever going to care as much about your healing as you do. Knowledge is power and you need all the power you can get to escape the pit that you find yourself in while dealing with these issues. The first book I would start with is “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse“. If you are dealing with verbal abuse or out of control anger as I was then I would also highly recommend “Why Does He Do That“. For dealing with your own insecurities adn regaining your individuality and muchness anything by Brene Brown is pure gold. I’m currently working through “The Gifts of Imperfection” book via the art journaling class.

Fourth is some solid self-care and self-love work. Self-Care is NOT selfish! You matter. You are important. You can not give to others what you don’t have for yourself. Your capacity to love others, including and even especially your own family, is limited by your ability to love yourself. If you struggle with this I would encourage you to find ten minutes every day where you can just do something you love. Take a walk, do some art, sing in the shower, just do whatever makes you happy. Then look in the mirror and say to yourself “I am a beloved child of God with infinite potential. I am worthy of love. I love you Emily!” Please put your own name in there though. While I do enjoy adoring fans this is about you.

What is Betrayal Trauma | muchnessmama.com | Positive Affirmations | you are beloved | Child of God

Are you or a loved one suffering from Betrayal trauma? What more do you wish you knew about it? I’d love to see you over in my Muchness Mamas group on Facebook where you can discuss this and other topics in a group of supportive and understanding women.