Guidance for the Betrayed Spouse

by the wife of Thomas 2.0

Healing from the trauma of betrayal is possible. You can rise up like a phoenix out of its own ashes and undergo renewal and restoration. 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. You need recovery just as much as your husband does. Your heart needs healing as much as his heart does. Focus on what you need, not only on what he needs. No matter the status of your marriage, 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, repair, and refine you.

  • Hold yourself as sacred. Respect yourself. You are of infinite worth. 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 very real 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 these damaging patterns?” 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 are your own person with the ability to act, instead of being acted upon.     

  • Find safety, regardless of what your spouse chooses. Of course the ideal is for both you and your husband to find individual recovery, thus making it 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 and respect what your body and brain are telling you. They will tell you truth, even when the truth is scary and difficult to accept. Trust your intuition. Trust your gut. Don’t discount your spiritual impressions. You are not crazy! All those “yucky” feelings are real and they 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 loved ones. The right motivations for creating boundaries and consequences are safety, prevention, protection and peace – for yourself, your relationship, your home, and your family members. Your motivation should not be to punish your spouse or to get revenge. Consequences are necessary when boundaries are broken, but not for the sake of punishing. Consequences help teach you and your family members what you will not allow in your home or in your presence.

  • Do not enable your spouse. When we are fully aware that wrongdoings are happening in our homes and relationships, and we allow them to keep happening without implementing boundaries and consequences, we end up enabling our spouse. Your inaction sends a message to him interpreted as “it must not really matter”, “she must be OK with it”, and “it isn’t hurting anyone”.  Choose to take action so you don’t enable him to keep repeating the destructive behaviors that lead to your unsafety. You setting boundaries and enforcing consequences for the sake of safety is not controlling your spouse. He still has his choice to abide by boundaries or not.

  • Speak your truth. You will feel like an erupting volcano for a while. Let yourself erupt and allow the poison to exit. Burying your pain and trauma does not heal you. You cannot fully repair unless you let it ALL out, which will take some time. 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 disclosure to your husband about all the damage that his behaviors have caused, just as you expect full disclosure from him. You expect him to not lie and hide his truth. You, as well, should not lie and hide your truth. Your spouse needs to understand your 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.  

  • You are not a failure. You are not the reason for your spouse’s poor choices and behaviors. It is not your fault. Do not take responsibility for your husband’s actions by blaming yourself. And do not accept it if he blames you for his wrongdoings. Take the needed steps to repair your self-worth. Find your value based on being a child of God with infinite worth, instead of finding your value based on your husband’s actions.

  • Do not regulate your spouse’s emotions. Do not live your daily life trying to make your husband “happy”, “satisfied”, “not mad”, “calm”, etc. You are not responsible for his feelings. He must regulate his own emotions in healthy ways. When he depends on you to “make” him feel a certain way, it deters him from taking accountability and responsibility. It also creates an unhealthy dependence on you, instead of depending on God as he should.

  • Do not allow yourself to be used. You are not an object. Your purpose is not to satisfy your husband, as if it is your duty. That lie perpetuates him to feel entitled to use your body whenever he wants for self-gratification. That is not true unity or love—it is lust. Be physically intimate only when you feel safe and loved, not when you feel it is forced or expected. Be aware of your spouse using manipulation or “victim mode” trying to get you to be his rescuer. 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 deeper problem. This band-aid will never cure the infection and poison that is still inside. It temporarily hides the true problem instead of confronting and removing the deep 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 learning from and experiencing the effects his actions have on himself and on his loved ones. Even when the consequences negatively affect you, hold firm and don’t give in to saving him.

  • Confront the pain and get out of denial. Only through facing and processing your reality can you move forward and heal. You cannot repair when you pretend things are OK by sweeping these issues under the rug hoping life will get better . . . eventually . . . someday . . . Don’t numb yourself by staying in denial in order to not feel pain. Let yourself feel and process the pain. It will hurt, really hurt. But it will teach you. It helps you realize what is needed for safety.

  • Work on relationship recovery together with your spouse. Don’t fall for the belief of “this is his problem, so I’ll let him deal with it and I’ll stay out of it”. It is true that his addictive behaviors are not caused by you nor by your marriage. But they do affect you and your marriage—in a major way—even if the effects are hidden or not addressed for many years. They negatively affect connection, trust, real love, intimacy, and spiritual unity, to name a few. Do not believe the lie that you can ignore it and let him figure it all out on his own. But also don’t believe the opposite side of the lie: “I am responsible for fixing him”. Your spouse, with God and Christ’s help, must be the one to fix himself. But you can do your part in helping to repair your relationship. You will find several of your own unhealthy patterns you will need to work on and change. Relationship recovery requires both of you to put forth effort, unity, and effective communication.

  • 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, such as device protection. Commit to protect all family members by implementing boundaries to keep your home and hearts safe and clean. This is not an issue that you can compromise on or give up on. Your family NEEDS your loving protection.

  • Remove yourself from emotional abuse. This includes lying, gaslighting, blaming, controlling, and manipulating. If your spouse attempts these behaviors, you CAN create boundaries and consequences and you CAN remove yourself from the abusive conversations and situations. (If your spouse doesn’t allow you to physically remove yourself, then recognize this as a serious case that alerts you to the possible need to remove yourself from the relationship.) Hold up a mirror to your husband when he engages in emotional abuse—confront it with him and communicate your boundaries regarding it.

  • 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 even attempt to trust him. Your inability to trust him is not your fault, nor is it caused by the fact that you have betrayal trauma. It is a result of his harmful, untrustworthy behaviors that have occurred for years. It takes time to feel trust, even when your spouse is in the process of changing for the better.

  • Find a therapist. If possible, choose one that specializes in betrayal trauma. Work on individual therapy for a good while before attempting couples therapy. Suggestions: addorecovery.com, therapyutah.org, ldshopeandrecovery.com, lifestarstgeorge.com, lifestarsaltlake.com  

  • Join spouse support meetings and group therapy, either in-person or online. Suggestions: bloomforwomen.com, LDS Spouse & Family Support Meetings found at addictionrecovery.churchofjesuschrist.org, WORTH groups at lifechangingservices.online, salifeline.org, btr.org

  • Receive support from others. Whether they are relatives, friends, church leaders, or women you meet through recovery groups, find those whom you can trust and reach out to for support and guidance.

  • 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. Suggestions: beyondbreathonline.com, backpocketyogastudios.com, or yoga therapy through addorecovery.com (in-person or online). Mindfulness meditation apps are also very helpful. Bike riding and taking walks are other methods to calm your breathing and brain.

  • “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.

© 2020 by Destroy the Plague