Guidance for the Betrayed Spouse

by the wife of Thomas 2.0

Healing from the trauma of betrayal is possible. Your shattered heart can repair. You can become refined and strengthened. In time, you can experience “beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3).

  • Find your own recovery. It's not just your husband who needs recovery—you need it as well. Your heart needs to heal and repair. Focus on what you need, and do what it takes to work your recovery!

  • Rely on God and Christ for the foundation of your recovery. You will need a variety of tools and resources to find recovery. But your foundation for healing should be Heavenly Father, the Savior, and His Atonement. They are the perfect Sources that will best rescue and repair you.

  • Hold yourself as sacred. Respect yourself. You are of infinite worth, and you matter. When you hold yourself as sacred, you will create safety for yourself. You will learn to remove yourself from conversations and situations that involve abuse, manipulation, betrayal, and lying.  

  • You are not trapped—you have options and choices. You often feel trapped and stuck—this is a valid feeling. But in reality, you are not trapped! You have the ability to make choices and take action. Instead of asking yourself “What is my husband going to do?” the better question is “What am I going to do to free myself from unsafety?” Choose to create boundaries and to remove yourself from destructive behaviors. You do not need to “put up with it” as if there are no other options. You have the ability to act, instead of being acted upon.     

  • Find safety, regardless of what your spouse chooses. The ideal is for both husband and wife to find individual recovery, thus making it much easier to find marriage recovery. But many of us do not experience the ideal. Some spouses do not choose to find and stay in real recovery. You must accept that you cannot control your spouse’s decisions. But you can control your decisions. You can find safety and healing on your own, even if your marriage relationship is deteriorating.

  • Trust yourself. Listen to yourself. Respect what your body and brain are telling you. They will often tell you truth, even when the truth is scary and difficult to accept. Trust your intuition and your spiritual impressions. You are not crazy! Even those “yucky” feelings can serve you by giving you warnings that things are not right or safe.

  • Create boundaries and consequences with the right motivation. Setting boundaries—and keeping them—is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself and for your family members. The right motivations for creating boundaries and consequences are safety, prevention, protection, and peace – for yourself, your relationship, and your family members. Your motivation should not be to punish your spouse or to get revenge. 

  • Speak your truth. Burying your pain and trauma does not heal you. It is important to speak your truth to supportive relatives, friends, therapists, church leaders, etc. But most importantly, speak your truth to your spouse! Give full truth to your husband, just as you expect full truth from him. You expect him to not lie and hide his truth. You, as well, should not hide your truth. Your spouse needs to understand your reality and pain, no matter how hard it is for him to hear it. Do not allow your fear of his reactions to keep you from speaking your truth.  

  • Do not allow yourself to be used. You are not an object. Be intimate only when you feel safe and sincerely loved. Do not give physical intimacy in order to “save” your husband from relapsing. He (and you) might think it will solve his problem. But in reality, it is like him using you as a band-aid in an attempt to cover the real problem. This band-aid will not cure the infection that is deep inside. It temporarily hides the true problem instead of confronting and removing the roots of the disease.

  • Do not rescue your spouse. Allow him to face the consequences of his actions, including spiritual consequences. Do not rescue him from experiencing the effects his actions have on himself and on his loved ones. This is what he must learn. Even when some consequences negatively affect you, hold firm and don’t give in to saving him.

  • Confront the pain. Only through facing and processing your reality can you move forward and heal. You cannot repair when you pretend things are OK by sweeping the issues under the rug over and over again. Don’t numb yourself in order to not feel pain. Let yourself feel and process the pain. It will hurt, really hurt. But it will teach you what is needed for safety, and it will spur you to needed action. 

  • Commit to protect yourself and your family members. This requires ongoing, open conversations. It requires a willingness to be very careful with all types of media. It demands awareness and “getting real” instead of denial and naivety. It necessitates prevention tools. Commit to protect all family members by implementing boundaries to keep your home and hearts safe and clean. Your children need your loving protection.

  • Understand the difference between trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift we give, regardless if our spouse “deserves” it. God will gift our hearts with forgiveness in the right timing, as we are willing to receive it. But trust is different. Our spouse must earn our trust, based not only on his words but on his actions over time. If he chooses to change and live in real recovery,  he must work to fill up your trust bucket, one pebble at a time. If he consistently participates in damaging behaviors that keep emptying your trust bucket (like relapsing, emotional abuse, or lying), then it will be very difficult to attempt to trust him. It takes time to feel trust, even when your spouse is in the process of changing for the better.

  • Find a therapist and/or a life coach. If possible, choose one that specializes in betrayal trauma. Recommendations: addorecovery.com, therapyutah.org, utahvalleycounseling.com, ldshopeandrecovery.com, drjillmanning.com, geoffsteurer.com, lifestarsaltlake.com, emilychristensencoaching.com

  • Join spouse support meetings and group therapy. Recommendations: bloomforwomen.com, LDS Spouse & Family Support Meetings found at addictionrecovery.churchofjesuschrist.org, WORTH groups at lifechangingservices.org, salifeline.org, btr.org

  • Recommended books:  The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown / Support Guide: Help for Spouses and Family of Those in Recovery by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints / Beyond Breath by Sariah Bastian / What Can I Do About Me? by Rhyll Croshaw / Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Heal by Barbara Steffens / The Peacegiver: How Christ Offers to Heal Our Hearts and Homes by James Ferrell

  • Learn breathing and grounding techniques. This helps you process triggers and trauma, and allows you to listen to your body. Yoga therapy (specifically for betrayal trauma) is very effective for healing, grounding, and finding your breath. Mindfulness meditation apps are also very helpful. Recommendations: beyondbreathonline.com, backpocketyogastudios.com, Headspace app

  • “Own your story and love yourself through the process” (Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection). Practice self-compassion and self-love. Your burdens are heavy, and even though you are strong enough to carry them, you will have very difficult days. There is no need to feel guilty that you are fragile and in trauma and pain. There is no need to feel shame about your story. It is your unique journey that will provide you with growth, wisdom, and courage.

  • “She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful” (Terri St. Cloud, quoted in The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown). Instead of feeling shame about your past and trying to forget about it, accept it for what it is. Learn from it. Let it teach you what your needs are for the present and future.  Keep pressing forward to create new joy and beauty despite the ashes of your past.