Creating safety nets
When describing her goals for completing the first ADOH training in 2016, Cindy* shared her experience in a partner group.
“The depth of my husband’s acting out was horrific. Even though I had very close Christian friends and was seeing a therapist I needed more if I was to have any chance of surviving the severe trauma of his betrayal.
My group became my safety net, the place I brought all my confusion, pain, fears, and shame. I needed other women to come alongside me and say 1) ‘I understand’ the brutality of sexual betrayal 2) You will get through this and this is how 3) God is still God, He is good, and He understands your pain.
I had been flatlined by my husband’s betrayal and my group gave me CPR. By God’s divine grace, I am beginning to breathe again. I use the CPR analogy specifically. I am an RN, CPR certified every year. I know how doing CPR correctly can save a life, and how doing it wrong can be worthless in saving a life. Because the women in my group were all dealing with their husband’s betrayal they knew how to come alongside and give ‘CPR’ correctly.
In that construct of security, my healing could begin.”
Ah, yes, Cindy's healing began because combined with the work she was doing with her therapist, and empathetic friends, her group provided the safety net when she needed CPR .
But, notice the caveat she mentioned?
Doing CPR correctly can save a life; and doing it incorrectly can be worthless.
And I’d add, harmful.
Evidence of the benefits, value, and importance of peer support within the mental health, medical and addiction recovery communities continues growing internationally. As the communities continue growing, so does the importance of developing peer facilitator training that meets established facilitator standards and the needs of specific groups. Well-trained and supported facilitators know how to guide the group. Creating and guiding groups that ensure safety for those experiencing sexual betrayal’s traumatic impact requires training specific to the group’s purpose, participants’ needs, and hoped for outcomes.
Licensed marriage therapist and certified clinical partner specialist, MJ Denis, described her support for the ADOH’s training – and the value and importance of peer facilitators. (Two recent interviews with MJ are included at the end of the post.)
“According to the American Association for Marriage and Family therapy, nearly 12 million people suffer from sex addiction in the United States. Therefore, we can estimate the number of partners of these addicts is in the millions as well.
Healing from trauma involves being able to make sense of the tragedy. Hearing from someone who has not only survived betrayal trauma but who has thrived as she came through it offers hope and encouragement. Support groups provide the venue for despairing partners to hear facilitators say, ‘While I don’t wish this type of horrible betrayal on anyone, I’m glad I have gone through what I have because it has made me the woman I am today.’ This is often simultaneously astounding to partners who are in the thick of the betrayal fog, but also necessary to let them know they will get through this and they will one day have a success story themselves. Partners need to know it will get better. They need to know others have experienced the depths of darkness as well.
Partners who seek counseling are often wary. They tend to not trust others. After all, the man who chose to be their mate, the safest person on the planet, who agreed to provide a safe and consistent landing place from the troubles of the world has instead been the source of pain, hurt, neglect, abandonment, or betrayal. Partners not only lose their ability to trust others, but they lose their ability to trust themselves. They may have sensed betrayal was happening, but then were deceived anyway by the Unfaithful Spouse. They may not have suspected betrayal, leading them to doubt their ability to keep themselves safe. They may have confided in friends, family, clergy, and therapists or coaches who minimized, dismissed or even blamed them for the infidelity.
Building safe and healthy connections with others thus become an integral part of healing. Partners must learn to trust themselves and others again. Support groups for partners allow them to successfully complete this healing task."
Following her ADOH training, Cindy became certified as a life coach, completed APSATS training and is now creating safety nets for other partners while facilitating a group in her community.
In these interviews with Samuel, from Infidelity Recovery, MJ Denis describes the impact of infidelity in the betrayed, providing insight about the betrayed's experience.