Rebuild Your Marriage Betrayal Trauma
Rebuild Your Marriage 3 minute read

Betrayal Trauma: The Side of Porn Use No One Talks About

Last Updated: February 6, 2023

My new client had just sat down when I asked how I could help. She told me, “I recently discovered my husband has been viewing pornography behind my back. I found out he has been doing this for most of our marriage.”

I gently asked, “How is that influencing you?”

She responded, “I can’t sleep, I can hardly eat, and I can’t think about anything else. I think I am going crazy.”

“What you are experiencing is normal. You aren’t going crazy,” I said. “What you are experiencing is trauma related to discovering your partner’s use of pornography.”

After conducting research for more than ten years and with more than 3,000 individuals, I can confidently say trauma is very common in women and men who discover their partner’s secret sexual behaviors.

In the early 2000’s, there was very little research on this topic. In fact, many therapists were using the codependency model to treat these individuals. However, that wasn’t matching up with what I was experiencing in my clinic. Many women were just discovering that their partner had been using pornography for years without their knowledge. They had felt something was wrong in their relationship, but didn’t know what.

In 2005, in an effort to understand the effects pornography has on relationships, I co-authored an assessment “Trauma Inventory for Partners of Sex Addicts” (TIPSA). The women and men who took this assessment began telling the real story. Many of these individuals are experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms. What does this mean exactly? The following symptoms are very common:

  • Indescribable fear
  • Reliving the experience (dreams, replaying the discovery over and over)
  • Avoidance (not being able to go out in public or be around things that remind you of what your spouse has done)
  • Negative self-cognition (I am not good enough or he/she wouldn’t do this. If I were prettier, taller, more attractive, lost weight, she/he wouldn’t do this.)
  • Increased emotional arousal (intense anger, yelling, sleep problems related to racing mind, anxiety, suicidal thoughts)

When I share this information with my clients and teach this in educational classes, inevitably women say, “Why isn’t this being talked about more? I really thought I was going crazy.” My response is that we are now just starting to see the powerful and long lasting effects of betrayal trauma. The symptoms are real and individuals suffering from this type of betrayal should be understood and treated using a trauma model.

If you are suffering from your spouse’s hidden use of pornography, there is help and support. You are not alone and you aren’t going crazy. What you are experiencing is betrayal trauma. I offer a free assessment you can take to help identify your symptoms.

Support Resources for Betrayal Trauma

If you are suffering from betrayal trauma, please reach out. In my research, I have discovered that most women wait for months or years to get help. They feel like others will judge them so they suffer in silence. You don’t have to deal with this alone.

Online Support

Bloom–the world’s largest online support for betrayal trauma. This online support for women offers a support forum where you can receive support from others who understand what you are going through, educational classes on betrayal trauma, question and answer sessions with professional therapists, yoga classes, and much more.

12-Step Groups

COSA–a recovery program for men and women whose lives have been affected by someone else’s compulsive sexual behavior.

Specialist in Your Area

SexHelp.com–If you want a therapist who understands sexual addiction, you will want to find a certified sexual addiction therapist (CSAT). All CSAT’s have more than 150 hours of training in treating sexual addiction and betrayal trauma.

APSATS–The Association for Partner’s of Sexual Addicts Trauma Specialists. This group certifies therapists who specialize in treating betrayal trauma.

In conclusion, if you are experiencing extreme pain from your partner’s hidden sexual behaviors, you are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of individuals suffering from untreated betrayal trauma. So please reach out for support. There is help available and people who understand what you are going through. Although you may feel like you are going crazy, what you are experiencing is real. It is called betrayal trauma.

  1. Jamie

    Typical sexist article which toes the politically correct narrative line. Doesn’t mention all the porno producing wives splashing out the only fans content or huge amount of men affected by women’s porn consumption. “Women are always the victim. We don’t care about men.”

  2. L. Anderson

    This piece gets my blood boiling. Full disclosure, I’m a man who watched porn throughout my marriage. I admit there was a problem in my marriage but, it wasn’t porn that was just a symptom nor was it a lack of interest in my wife. It was however a problem with communication, trust and acceptance at an intimate level. On the surface we were the average couple in a happy family. But, I never felt comfortable talking with her about my sexual needs. I tried many times to understand hers and she made no attempt at any time to express what she wanted or desired. Instead she chose to have two separate long-term affairs over our 23 year marriage which finally ended in divorce. After breaking up our family and destroying lives, she’s living with the second man she had an affair with who was also married. I hear they’re in counseling now. Hopefully it will help her communicate the second time around.

    Porn can be very destructive. I’m not advocating porn. I am however suggesting that it’s ridiculous to suggest that being married to someone who watches porn makes you some kind of victim for Christ sake. If you feel terrible about it, you should because there’s something wrong in your marriage and it’s probably an issue at an intimate level of communication and trust. Try opening up, being vulnerable, sharing your sexual needs and being open to your partners. Watching softcore porn together isn’t a novel idea. It’s much better than ignoring what you know is going on behind closed doors and running to a therapist and crying about how men victimize women by using porn. It’s BS and an excuse for not doing the hard work before it’s too late.

  3. CMan

    I find it so insulting that anyone would suggest someone gets PTSD from their husband watching porn. Are you guys nuts? As someone who actually has PTSD, this makes me angry. You guys don’t know what it’s like to deal with an illness like that, so please don’t make light of it like this. Just because your guy finds women attractive, which btw, is a VERY NORMAL thing, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. In my opinion there is a big difference between wanking off and having an actual affair.

    I understand it can be extremely upsetting, you have trust issues with your husband/boyfriend, etc. but to say it’s PTSD is extremely insulting.

    • HK

      PTSD is a set of symptoms. If they have the symptoms, then they have the disorder. You’re not a professional to diagnose or disprove a diagnosis.
      The trauma they’re talking about here is resulting from the betrayal of trust. You’re not the one who decides what counts and what doesn’t. The person who has had their trust broken does.
      Is porn as bad as an affair? That’s also up to each individual to decide. Some people don’t mind their spouse watching porn. That’s great! You know what’s the difference? Those couples talk about it beforehand. They discuss boundaries and actually respect them. They make promises and keep them.
      To me you just sound like someone who wants to whine about their pain while invalidating others’. I hope you invest more of your time healing from your PSTD instead of feeling insulted by other people’s personal stories.

  4. Mel

    So I’ve been going threw this with my partner for about ten years now catching him masturbating to Porn with me literally in the next room bathroom to be exact on a vacation, I had asked him to join me in the shower and stepped out of the shower catching him master bating to porn this is not the first time and it’s driving me crazy , he makes me feel empty inside at times so in raged I just don’t know what to do it consumes me all I think about is what he’s doing if he’s lieing to me I don’t know what to do anymore I have talked to him about how I feel about it and he says he will stop but I always catch him in the act

    • Kay Bruner

      Hey there.

      Sounds like it’s time to consider your boundaries. Here, here, and here are some articles that you may find helpful. You can’t change his behavior but you can decide what is okay and not okay for you.

      You’ll find great support for yourself at Bloom for Women as well. Fantastic online resources that will help you navigate through this.

      Peace to you,
      Kay

    • NaTasha

      That’s not for you to decide. Sounds like another attempt to shift the blame. How dare you discredit anyone’s feeling’s!! I’m sure what you experienced was horrific and for that I’m sorry, but you nor anyone else gets to decide what hurt’s and what doesn’t. Just because you have different experiences, doesn’t take away the pain. Your experience was painful and that is yours you on that but what somebody else’s experiencing as the most traumatic thing in their life just because it’s not as traumatic of what happened to you doesn’t mean it’s not the same for them.
      I’m sick and tired of men hurting women and getting a free pass. You’ll never know how broken I am, I have absolutely lost the will to go on. I’m begging God at this point to take my life, anything to stop the pain, embarrassment and shame. I really believed that I was his girl, I was seriously so stupid thinking I was more than enough for him.
      I’m frantically comparing myself to others. I can get plastic surgery, I can gain or lose weight, I can be more relaxed and fun but I can’t be a 19 year old or in my 20s. I’m very beautiful and look ten year’s younger than I am. But I think he loves the thought of a fresh one.
      After having his children and worshipping the ground he walks on I’m still not enough. He has destroyed me, I’ve allowed this to continue. He was sorry at first… All an act. But now he’s terrible and telling me he should care and feel bad but doesn’t.
      That I either get over it or leave, I’m not allowed to speak of it.
      He laughed in my face as he repeated ” What are you going to do about it… Huh!!?” and laughed
      And exactly… What am I going to do?? Nothing I’m trapped and without a car, phone or money. He’s probably aroused at that thought alone. He’s control’s my everything and has demoralized my life.
      I’m begging for the end.

  5. Kara

    I came across my husbands porn addiction or What started off as porn addiction, when I read his text message to a transvestite escort three days ago. And the text message was on Mother’s Day At 10 am around our family. To go meet up so my husband could give him anal. What the hell. He says he never has seen any escorts but it’s escalating to happen. He’s been messaging them for years in waves! One he gave out his drivers license, work business card (covered the home and work locations… moron) to be activated for this other escorts services. She was a almost 70 year old lady when I checked her page out. He talks like he knows the lingo but swears he hasn’t pulled the trigger. He will go as far as emailing/texting about their availability and then chickens out he says. At this point I’m assuming he’s paid for these services but I don’t have proof. He’s staying with his parents, he’s depressed, throwing up and not eating, not sleeping, can’t focus since I caught him. He’s said he’s wanted to stop and started praying about it the weeks prior to me finding out. But also after a week or so he gives in to his urges. Pays porn sites of girls on only fans. So is my husband a porn addict going towards sexy addict or are the terms the same? I need help I’m completely consumed 24/7 with this now. I feel that now his secret was found out, I cannot tell anyone (besides my family) what I’m going through. It’s as if he handed over his dirty life secret for me to ingest, lock down inside me. I’m hurting badly! I feel intense waves or rage. I can’t eat, can’t sleep, have emotional breakdowns 24/7, panic attack. Cannot parent at all. I have no motivation to even dress my toddler for the day. I hate him. I have no grace for him right now. We have a toddler and my HS son from another relationship. And I’m sitting here alone inside out “home” while he has our son for the weekend with his parents. I don’t Answer phone calls/text to friends bcs I cannot tell anyone. This is so depressing I hurt so bad inside I have no language to express the pain. He’s going to start a 12 step program, he set up an appointment with me to also attend with a sex counselor for addicts next week. I’m glad for him and it’s healthy but I also feel like this addiction is my addiction now. I too need help now.

    • Kay Bruner

      Hey Kara,

      I am so, so sorry for the pain you are going through. It sounds like your husband has a lot of sorting out to do, and I hope he will do it. It’s his job, let him do that work for himself.

      I am really glad to hear that you recognize your own need for help. The symptoms you describe are unfortunately so normal for betrayed spouses. You absolutely do need help and support for those. Your pain is real, your trauma is real, and there is real help for you. The best place I know for healing the trauma of betrayal is Bloom for Women, an online support system that is trauma-informed for spouses. For a small subscription fee, there are support forums, online classes, and all sorts of healing resources for you.

      You can also look into a personal therapist for yourself, someone who works from a trauma-informed perspective.

      I hope your husband does his work, but whatever he chooses, you can absolutely choose health and wholeness for yourself.

      Peace,
      Kay

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