A Sneak Peek at My New Book
As a special thank you to all of you for following along and supporting my journey through the Authentic Hope Blog, I wanted to share an excerpt of the first chapter of my new book with you. I hope it leaves you wanting more!
Discovering a partner’s sexual betrayal spins your world out of control.
In a split second, your sense of safety is shattered, your trust is gone and everything you thought you could count on is in question.
Betrayed partners, whether dealing with an isolated infidelity or sexual addiction, need the answer to this pivotal question: what happens when your partner, your lover, your primary person cheats on you and, in an instant, becomes a source of danger, pain, and threat?
Betrayed partners need immediate support to navigate the new terrain of their relationship. They need a clear articulation of betrayal trauma, a thorough education about their normal attachment-based reactions, and a proven path to healing.
By focusing on how a partner’s attachment system functions in the wake of sexual betrayal, The Betrayal Bind offers a new, game-changing exploration into an age-old problem and connects the dots from research to the lived experience of betrayed partners.
And So It Begins
The life you are negotiating to save after all is your own.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
Nothing can prepare you for the moment you discover that the person closest to you, the person you count on the most, has betrayed you. As that realization slams home, heat and adrenaline rush in. Your hands shake, your knees buckle, your heart races; your mind skips like a damaged record, jumping from one bad moment to another. The thoughts come too fast to even think, flying by in a kaleidoscope of remembered conversations and events, color, and sound, all mixed together in a shower of lies. Your body turns cold; your heart slows; a deep, brick-like dread fills your stomach and chest. The tears come. More tears than you had any idea you could cry.
At least that was what it was like for me.
The discovery of my spouse’s extracurricular sexual activities spun me into sheer terror.
The pain of the betrayal knocked me to the floor, and I did not get back up for a long time. Like many people, I got married believing I had found the partner who would make me safe, content, and happy.
I entered marriage naïve about life, marriage, sex, relationships, and myself: a twenty-three-year-old baby playing at being an adult and thinking I was grown up. And for a while, all went well. Marriage was fun, life was good, we were young and in love and having a good time. I relaxed into the relationship, let my guard down, trusted that I was finally “home,” and was vulnerable and open with my spouse.
When I discovered that all was not as I thought and that my husband was struggling sexually and behaving in ways that shocked me, the pain was unbearable. It ripped through me, and, in a flash, everything changed. The part of me that had let my guard down, trusted, and opened up . . . that part of me curled into a teeny ball in the corner of my heart and whispered, “You foolish, foolish, girl. Now protect yourself.” Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, my world shifted, and suddenly all that I thought was true and could count on was gone.
If you have experienced sexual betrayal, you probably recognize the type of pain I am describing. There really are no words, are there? It hurts to your core. Along with the pain is an incredible amount of fear, panic, anxiety, and anger. Sexual betrayal, whether it springs from sexual addiction or typical cheating and infidelity, puts your entire relationship on the line. All that felt certain and sure is suddenly unclear and unpredictable. This is the experience of partner betrayal trauma.
I remember the moment when I finally recognized that my spouse’s behavior—the lies and secrets—added up to sexual addiction. I was standing at my kitchen window watching dust particles float in the early morning light when suddenly two and two collided and for the first time equaled four. I realized that if what I was putting together was true, it meant something compulsive was going on for my husband with sex. When I understood that there was something driven and obsessive about his behavior, it broke through my confusion and connected the dots for me. I wandered aimlessly from the kitchen through the apartment, turned very far inside of myself. I ended up standing in the middle of my bedroom where, for the first time, I uttered the words sexual addiction to myself and believed them.
It was not the first time I had heard the term. Others had used that language to describe my spouse. Each time I heard the words spoken, it was like water that washed over me and evaporated into thin air, gone before it had any chance to sink in. I was not ready for all that those words implied.
Up to this point in my marriage, I had been careening between blindness to the problem versus high-energy alarm and preoccupation. I would spend months pretending all was well, minimizing and rationalizing away all indications of troubling behavior. My husband is not doing anything. He says he is not doing anything, and I believe him. Things are fine. Then, a random clue or new betrayal would surface and yank me into reality. Reality was so awful, so scary and painful that then I would flip into a raging, controlling, confronting zealot determined to somehow make this problem and my pain go away. I call this painful loop “circling the drain”— a common place where partners can get stuck after discovering betrayal.
During this time, I did not understand addiction, let alone sexual addiction. I did not know how to handle my pain and fear. I did not know that it was possible to be okay even amid all that was happening. I thought the only way to survive emotionally was to eliminate the problem.
As a result, I was not open to hearing about recovery. I did not want to hear about a PROCESS, or a JOURNEY, thank you very much. I didn’t have time to walk a PATH or to GROW or MATURE or DEVELOP. I needed it to GO AWAY. So I spent years cycling through my personal trauma loop, wearing myself out as I swung wildly from blindness to hypervigilant control and back again. It wasn’t until I had thoroughly exhausted myself and repeatedly proved that my efforts were not changing anything that I was ready to accept that I needed a new path out.
THE VERY BOTTOM
Very soon after recognizing and accepting the presence of sexual addiction in my relationship, I was given a mysterious and wonderful gift: I hit bottom. In recovery lingo, the bottom is when the pain of how you are living overwhelms your fear of change and you become willing to step into the unknown. The reality that something is terribly wrong breaks through, and you finally recognize that what you are doing is not working, not going to work, never will work, and you must find another way. Another brand new, never-tried-before way.
Often, that new way feels scarier than staying stuck. This is why it can take some time to hit bottom. The devil we know is at least the devil we know. Making a bid for change by seeking out the unfamiliar, untried, and untraveled is risky and scary.
I found my bottom without a lot of fanfare. One morning I was lying in bed after recently moving to Seattle to enter graduate school for my master’s in counseling. I still didn’t know my way around. School had not yet started, and I was as miserable as I have ever been. That morning, as I lay in bed listlessly looking out the window, watching it drizzle, this thought entered my mind: Something is wrong with me.
Until then, I had been very sure there was something wrong with my husband. I was equally sure there were a million things wrong with me. Deep in my heart, I believed I must be doing something to cause my husband’s sexual behavior; I thought that if I could just fix myself, I could fix him, too. I had been working like a hamster trapped on a wheel of self-improvement, trying to figure out how my own actions were causing our marriage to be such a disaster. The idea that there was something wrong with me was not new. That belief had been living in me for most of my life.
But this thought that crept in was different. This time, I realized that something was wrong in a different way. This new idea did not have to do with a search for more proof of dysfunction; instead, it focused on what was good in me—my dignity and worth as a child of God. This thought was about the daring notion that perhaps what was wrong was that it felt normal to live in so much pain. That perhaps I was created to live differently. Perhaps I was worthy of a different type of life and relationship. Perhaps I shouldn’t be living with and enduring and putting up with all that I had been living with and enduring and putting up with.
This was a very different way of thinking, and it created a crack in my defenses—a way for the light to begin to stream in, illuminate the darkness, and transform my situation. This new thought made me curious. It was a tantalizing taste that left me longing for more. What if it were true? What if a steady diet of love, kindness, care, and attention was available to me? What if I were worthy of that? Could it be possible?