RESOURCES PERSPECTIVES: Dealing with betrayal bonds

Editor’s note: Resource Perspectives features articles written by members of Lovefraud’s Professional Resources Guide.

Rebecca Potter works as a licensed mental health counselor in West Palm Beach, Florida. She can be reached at: [email protected]

Surviving betrayal and trauma

By Rebecca Potter

Rebecca Potter profile in the Lovefraud Professional Resources Guide

I recently attended a workshop by Dr. Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., author of The Betrayal Bond. I was shocked by the denial of the psychological community regarding the trauma experienced by survivors of emotional and sexual trauma. I took my worn and used copy of The Betrayal Bond to Dr. Carnes for his signature. He signed my copy and asked, “Why used?”

Dr. Carnes’ work has helped me surface from the web of pain and confusion developed while trying to safely escape an emotionally, verbally, financially abusive husband. When I left, I was further damaged by my exposure to the legal system and Family Court. There was no place that I could go to receive treatment, attorneys took advantage of me, insurance companies lied and hid fraud that they had committed with my former mate. Need Dr. Carnes ask why my copy was used and battered, somewhat like me?

Just get over it and move on

This was the attitude I faced when I tried to find professional legal help. The pain in my body was so real, yet invisible to anyone else. I couldn’t explain the terror that I felt when I had to sit in the same room with my former husband: The intense emotion I felt when he told the courtroom lies and the court believed those lies without evidence. The permission that the Court gave to him, which allowed him to further abuse me and how I was ignored and told, “Just get over it and move on.”

The impact of sexual addiction induced trauma

The field of treatment and intervention for disorders related to compulsive sexual behavior and sexual addiction is a new emerging field. Research has focused on the sexual addict, creating models for diagnosis and treatment, while the partners of sex addicts have been neglected and ignored.

Current clinical treatment models prefer to address the partner of a sex addict as a codependent or co-addict, which basically implies that the partner has their own disease termed: co-addiction or codependency. Codependency is in a category of a process addiction—an addiction to certain mood-altering behaviors, such as a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively care-taking ways that negatively impact one’s relationships and quality of life. Other process addictions include: gambling, food, shopping, spending and hoarding.

The clinical needs of partners of sexual addicts continue to be ignored, minimized, obscured and gravely misunderstood. Partners actually often experience clinically significant sex addiction induced trauma. These traumatic symptoms are a result from the direct impact of sex addiction:

  • chronic patterns of sexual acting out
  • relational perpetration
  • emotional abuse
  • deception
  • betrayal
  • psychological manipulation

Traditional therapists continue to ignore the symptoms of trauma. These partners often present with symptoms that match rape trauma syndrome and post traumatic stress disorder. Sex addiction-induced trauma is a highly specific type of trauma that involves symptoms of fear and panic of potential disease and contamination, fear of child safety and potential of child molestation, social isolation, embarrassment, shame, guilt and intense relational rupture and attachment injuries.

Neglecting the treatment of trauma and focusing instead on co-addiction and codependency are inadequate and clinically contra-indicated, wrought with moral and ethical challenges. Partners and spouses of sex addicts are a profoundly and clinically traumatized population requiring informed care and ethical treatment.


I know, because I experienced similar trauma. Recovery has been a long road. I still experience flashbacks and have adrenal fatigue when my symptoms are triggered. I have started women’s and men’s relationship recovery groups. We meet each week to support each other with the withdrawal of leaving a chaotic relationship and help each other process the deep brain injuries from the exploitation and trauma.

I also suggest that survivors participate in online support groups if they are not able to find a trauma therapist in their area. One online group : www.adultchildrenofalcholics.org. There are phone meetings daily. The websites will list the phone meetings. The pain that you are experiencing is real and must be processed with those who understand trauma.

I look at my marriage as an educational process that I needed to experience to assist others in healing. Yes, my ex will marry others and commit the same abuse. There will be many women and children harmed by his manipulation.

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154 Comments on "RESOURCES PERSPECTIVES: Dealing with betrayal bonds"

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Life is good Matt…you still have your partner?


Going on 2 1/2 years. Can’t call him “New Guy” any longer, huh? I got lucky when I met him.

He’s in the middle of interviewing in my neck of the woods. So, hopefully we can stop our commuting up and down the Eastern seaboard every weekend.

That’s good news Matt…


I agree with you about the two books mentioned above (IF you had controlling parents” and “Betrayal Bond”) both are excellent! They, together, make sense out of the chaos.

Giving up trying to please and appease the un-please-able (to coin a word) was difficult for me, and even now I sometimes fall into the knee-jerk response of trying to appease people who are demanding and ego-centric…never, of course, successfully. What I am learning and RE-learning though is that once I SEE, and ACKNOWLEDGE what is going on to myself, NO CONTACT, NOOOOOOO CONTACT is the order of the day. Unfortunately, many times they will RAMP UP their attempts to GET ATTENTION of some sort, even our acknowledgment that they have hurt us. (Which for them is a “win.”)

It is interesting that even NEGATIVE ATTENTION (like telling them “stop texting me, fark off!”) is better than NO ATTENTION where they are concerned. If they can they will continue to seek ATTENTION by repeated calls, texts, etc. and spreading lies to others, hoping that the lies get back to you in the form of gossip or the smear campaign. As angry as we might get about that kind of behavior and as much as we might wish to strike back, to give them some “negative” attention, the most punishing thing we can do is to NOT RESPOND TO THEM. After all, they are like the little girl or boy throwing rocks at the kid in the third grade that they want to be noticed by….or as Skylar says, they are totally immature.

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