Episode 102: Creating Trust After Betrayal Trauma with Geoff Steurer

Uncategorized Dec 26, 2022

When one person in a relationship has been viewing pornography, their partner can see this as a betrayal. In these situations, it’s common for there to be some hiding or lying on one side and potentially some betrayal trauma once the porn use has been disclosed. So, how can you create trust when these difficult relationship dynamics come up? Well, my guest this week is here to answer that exact question.

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has been helping couples and individuals repair and improve their most important relationships for over 20 years now. He focuses on helping couples recover from dealbreakers like infidelity, pornography use, and sexual addiction.

Tune in this week to discover how to start creating trust after betrayal trauma. Geoff Steurer is addressing the pain that occurs on both sides of the situation, what the porn viewer can do to heal themselves as they heal their relationship, and the power of coregulation as you move through betrayal trauma, navigate shame and begin to rebuild trust and intimacy.

At this time of year, it’s so easy to get in your head about everything you didn’t accomplish in the previous 12 months and what the next year might look like. Well, as an end-of-year gift to all of you, I have a new free class coming up! It’s called Five Easy and Proven Methods to Guarantee That You Quit Porn in 2023. So, if you don’t want porn to be a part of your life in 2023, all you have to do is click here to sign up and get access.

If you’re ready to do this work and start practicing unconditional commitment toward quitting your porn habit, sign up to work with me! Now is the time to sign up and lock in at the current price because we will be increasing the price of lifetime access on January 1st. But if you do sign up now, you’ll get access to all the additional marriage support calls, group calls, and specialized workshops we’re adding in 2023 at no additional cost!

 

What You'll Learn from this Episode:

  • What betrayal trauma is and how it impacts a relationship.
  • Why betrayal trauma often comes up as a result of unwanted pornography use in a relationship.
  • How feelings of betrayal come more from the dishonesty or manipulation rather than the porn use itself.
  • What coregulation is and how it changes throughout life.
  • Geoff’s tips for regulating your nervous system as you stop viewing pornography.
  • The power of involving another person to support you in the recovery process.
  • Geoff’s thoughts about healthy shame and how it can guide you toward connection and reparation.

 


Featured on the Show:

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast episode 102, Creating Trust After Betrayal Trauma with Geoff Steurer.

Welcome to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast, the show that will teach you how to stop viewing pornography and never go back to it. If you want to learn how to train your brain out of a pornography habit, completely shame-free, then this is the show for you. I’m your host Sara Brewer, a certified life and faith-based coach.

Hey everyone, happy holidays. I hope you're having a great holiday weekend. It looks like this episode is going to be released the last day of 2022. I have a great interview that I get to share with you with Geoff Steurer.

He is a marriage and family therapist, has been for 25 years, has written a number of books, has a lot of really awesome resources available. And we're going to be talking about relationships, and especially those difficult relationship dynamics that come up after porn disclosure when there's been some maybe lying and hiding and potentially some betrayal trauma with this porn disclosure.

So I really hope you enjoy this interview. It's going to be really valuable. Geoff is a great resource to listen to as you're trying to rebuild components of your relationship.

Now, before we hop into the interview, because it is the last recording of 2022, I want to make sure that you know that the price for Overcome Pornography For Good will be increasing January 1st. I'm so excited about what we're going to be offering and adding to the program in 2023, more marriage and relationship support, more support group support. I just have so many ideas and so many plans in place.

So if you join at this current price, at the 2022 rates, you get lifetime access which means you will get access to any of the updates in the future, any of the updates next year, and there will be a lot of good ones. Any updates in the following years, you get lifetime access to all of that.

So for those of you who have been thinking about joining, have been wanting to join, I want to let you know before the price increases, it might be a great time for you to hop in and start the program. Plus, is there a better time to start a new goal than the beginning of the year? There's so much energy and there's a lot of motivation. So if you're feeling called to join you can go to sarabrewer.com/workwithme.

If you sign up for the monthly payments, right, remember, it's not a membership and so you pay all six payments and then you have lifetime access forever. But if you do sign up for the payment plan, your payment plan will not increase with the new year, so it'll be locked in at that plan. You'll make your six payments and then you'll continue to have lifetime access to it forever. Okay, enjoy this interview with Geoff.

Sara: Hey everyone, welcome to the podcast this week. I'm so excited to have Geoff Steurer here on the podcast. I'm going to let you introduce yourself and tell us what you do if that's okay.

Geoff: Oh yeah, totally fine. Thanks for having me, Sara. Yeah, I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. I’ve been doing this for almost 25 years. And my area of focus is really on couples recovery, is helping couples heal from the impact of betrayal, betrayal trauma, and really helping the couple learn how to heal together.

And so I work a lot with infidelity, pornography use, other kinds of things like that to help couples recover from all those things that are just, for a lot of couples, can be deal breakers. And so it's an area that I love working with, I love seeing couples move through the stages of recovery and heal together.

I have my own podcast as well and do it with my wife, it's called From Crisis to Connection. And we've got four kids, ages 23 to 13, and so we're almost empty nesters. And anyway, so yeah, I love working with these issues. I love helping couples.

Oh and I also wrote a book with Mark Chamberlain called Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity. And that came out about 10 years ago, but that's kind of the framework that I work in, which is helping couples learn how to use attachment to find their way back to each other after betrayal.

Sara: Yeah, very cool. I didn't know that. I didn't know about that book, but I want to go look that out. And remind me, are you releasing or releasing parts of a book? Were you just involved in writing a book with a number of other, I think I saw maybe Jennifer Finlayson-Fife and you.

Geoff: Yeah, so Jennifer and Julie Hanks and Ty Mansfield. Yeah, we all wrote three chapters of a 12 chapter book on partnership marriage using the LDS framework of divine partnership, heavenly parents. And so that book is an eBook and it's released now, you can purchase it. But yeah, my wife and I wrote three of those 12 chapters along with those other therapists.

Sara: Yeah, very cool. I really admire all of you, so I'm going to have to download that one and read that one. That's awesome.

Geoff: Yeah.

Sara: Doing such good work, really appreciate having you here on the podcast. Something you know we focus a lot on, the mindfulness techniques, the skills to learn to quit porn, all of the mindset stuff, and I usually bring on guests to talk about the relationship components and aspects. And then in the program I do have, like I don't know if you know who Lindsay Poelman is, but she and her husband are really awesome.

Geoff: Yeah, they've been on my podcast.

Sara: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I love them.

Geoff: Yeah, yeah.

Sara: So she's awesome, really great with the betrayal trauma. And so she comes and works every month with the relationship stuff. It's something we're trying to integrate a little bit more.

Geoff: Good.

Sara: And that I do get a lot of requests from. So let's kind of dive into today's topic, which I don't know what I'm going to call it specifically yet, but you know, betrayal trauma with pornography. And speaking specifically, we're going to spend most of the time speaking to the men, and it's not always men, right? It can be women too. But mostly the men or the, I don't know, the “betrayer.” And then the last part maybe we’ll say a few things towards the spouse.

So tell us a little bit about betrayal, trauma, and porn use. Like what is that? When does it happen? Is it common?

Geoff: Yeah, so betrayal trauma is the dynamic, the experience that happens for the partner who generally is experiencing the shock and all the things that go along with learning about behaviors, you know, unwanted pornography use, behaviors that both of them agreed wouldn't be a part of their relationship.

So I mean you do see some couples where he's open about it before they get married, and they're dating, and they're talking about it and there's a struggle. Those women generally don't experience any betrayal trauma because there wasn't any sort of a surprise with it. They had the option to not marry them and so they come into the relationship, and they come in working closer together. And so you see that dynamic change a lot when there's been full transparency on the outset.

Betrayal trauma is generally when, it happens when there's some sort of a disclosure or a broken promise. But most of the trauma, believe it or not, is actually less around the pornography use, as hard as that is, and that certainly has consequences. It's usually around the secrecy and the hiding and all of those behaviors that really manipulate the reality of the betrayed partner.

And that's a hard thing to say. Nobody wants to see themselves as a manipulator or controlling somebody else's reality. But we have to speak plainly about it, and that's really what's happening. The good news is that when you acknowledge that that's what you've done, it's very validating for the betrayed partner because that's their experience.

It's like if my husband's keeping something from me, then I'm responding to him based on not having that information. I'm responding to him as someone who shares my same exact values, that we're doing the same things, or that we're both living the exact same life, the exact same reality. But if I knew this information, it would change the way I interact with him. I might not, you know, open up about certain things, or I might change the way I am around sexual things are.

And so that is a way of controlling someone's reality. And that's where it feels like a deep betrayal of, like it feels almost cruel. Like how could you steal my own reality from me? And that's a hard thing to overcome. That's really painful.

Sara: Yeah. Yeah, it is. It is. We can't downplay that for the spouse who's experiencing that at all.

Geoff: No.

Sara: We do a lot of harm when we do that. I appreciate that you say, you know, it's not necessarily about the pornography doesn't create the betrayal trauma. It's the lies, or the secrecy, or trying to manipulate how someone sees you by not telling them things.

Geoff: Yeah, it's interesting because, I mean, the pornography definitely, for the majority of couples I've worked with the pornography is certainly a problem. And it's something that they don't want in the relationship. It hurts them, it brings up comparisons, it's frightening. They don't like a lot of the, certainly the darker aspects of it, it's linked to sex trafficking in many cases. And some of these other things that for a lot of women it just feels just deeply troubling and problematic.

But even with all of that, even with all of the challenges that come with a life of having looked at pornography and what that whole industry represents et cetera, I hear this over and over again in my office, which is I understand wanting to do something that you're not supposed to do. I understand the draw to struggle with something that isn't good for you.

Like they can almost start to connect to a degree to the human element of that, of recognizing that we're all flawed humans, we all struggle, we all have weakness. And that's a little bit easier for them to wrap their head around. The part they can't wrap their head around is, if you really cared about me, why would you keep me in the dark? Weren't we supposed to be partners? Weren’t we supposed to be in this together? How come you shielded your struggle from me?

And it's almost on two levels of like I feel so deceived and betrayed because we share a life together and you kept it from me. But also, surprisingly, for a lot of guys, they hear their wives eventually say you also prevented me from being able to be there for you and support you. There can be so many layers to this betrayal, which is a real breach in the interpersonal bridge. It just really, that's the part that hurts the most.

Sara: Yeah, because I think a lot of people might think that if I just quit porn, everything will be fixed. If I just quit the porn, then the betrayal will go away, I might not have to talk about it more, I don't need to address it. I don't need to talk to my wife about it if I can just quit porn.

Geoff: Right.

Sara: What would you say to that?

Geoff: I think it's a common thing to believe. And I think it's just another form of control that shows up, which is I don't have to involve another person in this. It's just more isolation. It's like if I just stop this quietly, secretly, and never have to bother anybody, it's just another way of mismanaging pain.

It's another way of saying this is going to be super messy if I involve somebody else in this process, so I'm just going to take care of it myself. Which is part of the exact same problem that's created and or maintained it for years.

Sara: Yes.

Geoff: Which is the isolation, the self-sufficiency, the control, the fear, the avoidance, all those things that really drive this addiction. And so stopping, it is certainly the goal, and that needs to happen, it's problematic on so many levels. But involving another person in the recovery process is, you know, is definitely going to be the way to make sure that you, in other words, like stay stopped, right?

It's like, having support, having connection, decreasing the shame, being seen by another person, that introduces a whole nother level of co-regulation that doesn't exist when you're by yourself trying to do this alone and just trying to stop it. But it's scary to co-regulate. It's scary to allow other people in there, whether it's in a group setting, or your spouse, or a church leader, or somebody who can help you start to regulate your nervous system.

Trying to self-regulate, it can be done, and we need to know how to be able to do it. But as far as like a single strategy, it really does have its limits and will wear out our willpower pretty fast.

Sara: Yeah. Okay, so tell us a little bit more about this co-regulation, self-regulation, learning how to calm down your nervous system by yourself. What is co-regulation? How would you describe that?

Geoff: Yeah, that's great. I sometimes throw that word out and I don't want to confuse people. So I'll just give you the quick version of it, which is when we're born as humans, from birth we're totally defenseless. We need another person to take care of us, we're 100% dependent. And part of that dependency, of course, is food and shelter and clothing, et cetera. But another one is the idea of regulating our nervous system.

You can feed a baby through an IV, you can put clothes on him, and you can give them all the life sustaining stuff and never talk to them, and touch them, or look at them, or hold them, or see them, or do anything, and the baby will die without that.

So that ability to regulate your nervous system through touch and being seen and noticed and talking and, you know, call and response, reciprocity back and forth. Which we take for granted, we just do it so naturally as humans because it's how we're wired. But that is a co-regulatory thing, it regulates nervous systems, and we are hardwired to be co-regulated from birth. And we actually never outgrow it.

As we get older we can start to self-regulate. You know, we expect our little kids to, as they're getting older we expect them to be able to wait their turn. Or they go to school for a half a day and then a whole day and they're able to self-regulate in those environments a little bit better and start to develop the capacity to self-soothe a little bit and remember that mom or dad are coming back.

And as they get older and then get into adolescence, adulthood, we expect people to know how to self-regulate, that's part of civilization, being an adult. But there's always that part that we just need and crave, which is co-regulation, which is we still, even teenagers, you know, I've got a daughter who's 13 and she's super independent. But every basketball game she's looking to make sure we saw that shot she made. She's looking and turning around because there's a co-regulatory thing of, “Oh, you see me, I matter to you.” It's calming to her nervous system.

Does it mean that she's weak and pathetic and dependent? No, it means that she's harnessing that balance of independence and dependence. And when those work really well in synchrony together, we thrive as humans. And then as we get older and we leave mom and dad, our first primary attachment system that helped us survive and got us to this place, we transfer it to a romantic partner. And that becomes our new co-regulation system.

And we still co-regulate with other humans, you know, we'll have friends and coworkers and family members and so on. But our primary co-regulatory system is going to be a romantic partner. And that person will help calm our nervous system or fire it up in ways that other people can't do. So they regulate each other's bodies and emotions.

Sara: Okay, so what about people where they would say their relationship isn't that way right now. Maybe there was a porn disclosure, and it was recent and there's some betrayal trauma happening. They're here, this is the scenario that I see, right?

They're trying to quit, they're working through all this stuff, they're getting better, they're making progress. But their spouse doesn't think that it's quick enough. Or they're still really struggling with it and they're not sure if they should disclose every time they slip up to their spouse or not because it's not really helping regulate, it tends to bring up a lot of stuff.

Geoff: Yeah.

Sara: What are your thoughts about that? And then what is the role of the person who's trying to quit here?

Geoff: Yeah, it's a messy entanglement as you're describing here. And so because of the co-regulation you are a source of comfort to your partner, so I'm speaking to guys that struggle with pornography. You are a comfort to them, but as soon as they learn about your secret life, or that you've manipulated them, or that you've got this struggle that's really offensive to them and hurtful, now you're a source of pain.

So now you're two things to them. And this is where the crazy making is, is that they instinctively, when they're in pain, want to reach back to you because you're their source of comfort. So it puts them in this impossible bind, which early on is really messy and challenging, which is I want to come to you, so my foot is on the gas, like I'm moving towards you because I'm hurting so bad. But my foot is also on the brake because you just are threatening and I don't know whether I can trust you.

And so a lot of guys because, you know, you and I and everybody else, we all have the same needs in terms of needing co-regulation as well. Guys that have been looking at pornography, they've been, this might get a little too deep here, but they've been co-regulating with pornography in a way, right? They've been turning to that as a way to manage their nervous system.

Sara: Sure.

Geoff: And so now their wife is dysregulated, and she's upset. So she's creating a lot of pain because they're afraid or they're anxious and they're lonely. And so there's just a lot of regulation stuff going on everywhere that's just messy.

So what can a guy do? Well, the first thing is that he's got to get his emotional balance. And so for him to obviously develop his skills at self-regulation, which I know you teach, which is huge. Mindfulness, slowing down, breathing, acceptance, thinking clearly, just there's a lot of self-regulation that is critical to do. But also getting some co-regulation, it's probably not going to come from your wife right off the gate. So just be aware of that.

That's going to be hard for her to be that source of comfort for you. So having other people that are good listeners, that are supportive. If you're in a group setting, if you have a trusted confidant, someone who can look at you and say, “You know what? Yeah, you've done some things that were hurtful, but you're still a great person and I care about you and you're important to me.”

That's a critical thing. You need to hear that. It doesn't matter what mistakes you've made, you need to know that as a human being you still have worth and value. And that you still, it's just that your partner is not going to be able to supply that right away.

Now, are there some partners that can do that? Sure, there are some partners who can see through all of it and still, you know, affirm your worth and value. Usually the trauma that they're experiencing makes it harder for them to see that they're more self-preserving at that point.

Sara: We need to be careful not to expect them to be there too.

Geoff: No, and that can create a lot more pain where you're saying like, how come you're not there for me, or how come you're not being nice to me or I'm a good guy, look at all the good things I do. It's important for a guy that's disclosed, or been caught, or they're dealing with this early crisis stuff, for him to have enough of his own emotional balance to be able to care about and be a source of comfort for her pain.

She's going to be leaning on you for that. And the way that's going to look is it's going to look in the form of you being accountable, being honest, you being compassionate, and being very patient and not blaming or demanding really anything at this point. It's just critical to recognize your ability to be stable, and accountable, and kind and compassionate early on, is going to make a huge difference in her ability to heal and eventually open up to trusting again.

Sara: Yeah, so for my listeners, as you know, we talk about being able to hold space for your own emotions, feel your own emotions without just reacting to them. Because we do that for ourselves, then we can start to do it for other people, especially our spouse who is going through these deep, hard, heavy emotions. We can learn to start to hold space for them is what I'm hearing you say.

Geoff: Yeah, absolutely. It is a prerequisite, you have to be able to do that. And if you can't do it for yourself, if you're so dysregulated, then that's where that co-regulation, having somebody else help you do that, getting support, having someone listen.

Because if you can't do that, you're going to have a hard time offering any sort of stable sort of co-regulation with your partner. If anything, you're going to co-regulate the opposite direction, more toward chaos and drama, than co-regulating. Because you're going to co-regulate something with them, no matter what.

You're going to co-regulate stability or co-regulate chaos. Because we do regulate the emotions in our bodies when you're in that close relationship. I mean, even like a raised eyebrow can start to make your heart you know, beat a little faster like, what does that mean? I mean, we're so tied into each other, that the more stable you can be, the more you can offer peace and stability, even when your partner is feeling pretty overwhelmed. You can be a real center of peace for them.

Sara: Okay. Yeah, and then while you're doing that, finding other people to co-regulate with while you're holding space for this person, a group, maybe a church leader.

Geoff: God.

Sara: A therapist, God, yeah, any of these things. Okay, beautiful. And what are your thoughts about, you say being accountable to your spouse, what do you mean by that? Some people will wonder, well, should I tell them every single time that I slip up? Should I let them decide if they want me to tell them or not? What's my role here when this dynamic is happening in this like betrayal?

Geoff: Yeah, I mean, I do a lot of work around full therapeutic disclosures. So I think that initially when there's been a discovery or there's been a disclosure of some kind, I do think it's important to work toward having a full disclosure of everything and being able to give that transparency. That's a real big event, it's a big step in couples healing.

And so I do think that the goal should be to work up toward that. That may take several weeks or a month or two to really be able to prepare that and share it in a way where you're not in your shame, where you're not dysregulated, where you're not overwhelmed, and you've been able to make contact with and confront your own story and share that with your partner in honesty and truth.

That event gets both people on the same page with the same information. And then from that point, the couple can then work together to decide what you were just saying, how much do you want to know? How often should I disclose?

So some couples I work with, they'll work out some sort of a daily or a weekly check-in process. Or they'll have a rule that just says, you know what? If you're struggling or tempted or crossing whatever lines they decide together just to create closeness, they use it as a way to not only create visibility and transparency and safety in terms of we both know the same information, right, so that there's not this going back into the darkness kind of thing. But it also allows a chance to talk about other stuff that's not about porn.

Because the truth is, is a betrayed wife eventually can start to really relate on the level of all the emotional and physical and other undercurrents that trigger pornography. Like that's their world too. And so you have more in common, it's just that you've tried to deal with it in a way that oftentimes a wife isn't going to understand. She's like, well, I'm not I'm not turning to this to medicate with that or to deal with it. So these check-ins are talking about this stuff.

Sara: Yeah, view naked bodies, what? That's not exciting to me.

Geoff: Yeah, exactly. But eventually these conversations of talking about your struggle and talking about the truth and opening up really does open up conversations about just struggling with weakness and emotions and life. And it really can create a real seedbed for intimacy if the couple can stay with it.

Sara: Yeah, really beautiful. Okay, tell me a little bit about shame here because I can imagine listeners hearing this and then the feeling, like dropping into my body. Like, “Oh, like what have I done? What have I done? How have I hurt, like how could I have done this to my person?”

Geoff: Yeah. Yeah, I think it's important to have some healthy shame around this. I think shame exists on a continuum, I think that too much shame is problematic. I think it paralyzes us and keeps us isolated and it's harmful. And I think no shame is problematic too. I think we should feel a certain level of healthy shame, which is also synonymous with guilt.

Sara: Is it Brené Brown, she says only sociopaths don't feel shame.

Geoff: Yeah. Yeah, we want to feel some shame. I mean shame is what keeps us civilized as a society. We want to feel accountable to each other and so I should feel bad if I hit somebody's car. I should feel bad if I embarrass myself in public or ruin somebody's event.

You know there should be some healthy shame there because it'll draw me toward connecting and correcting the things that are out of line. And so I don't agree with the idea that we should just eliminate all shame. I think that's problematic.

Sara: I think what you said there too, I love, is really key. Like if it's guiding us towards connection and reparation, that's a really beautiful healthy shame.

Geoff: Yeah.

Sara: If it's guiding us towards more hiding and avoiding, it's not going to do anything for us.

Geoff: Exactly. Exactly. And if you've got a childhood or a background or experiences where you're much more shame prone and you automatically go into kind of that self-rupture where you're just feeling like a horrible person and you can't even get to any sort of moving towards somebody to connect or correct something, then that's your work. That's your shame work.

Because in shame, all roads lead back to the self, right? It's just in unhealthy levels of shame everything becomes about how you're a terrible person. And you can't really build intimacy, you can't even heal because you've just got to be constantly trying to numb that or escape from it. And that's just a really punishing way to live.

And so the problem, Sara, I mean, we're talking about shame, right? It's like we feel the ashamed talking about shame. It's such an interesting emotion because it really does hit home for so many of us, like we have a natural aversion to talking about it because we all know how painful it is.

Sara: Yeah. Yeah, we have a hard time talking about it and we don't want anyone else to feel it and we don't want ourselves to feel it.

Geoff: Right. Right. Yeah, and so there are healthy ways to feel it, there's healthy ways to manage it and deal with it and keep it at levels that can actually promote healing instead of it just overwhelming us.

Sara: Yeah, I love this concept of listening to the shame, what is it telling you? And just learning from it. And we can feel that and also recognize that we aren't just worthless people. We don't have to hear any of those lies when it comes up.

We're not a worthless husband, we're not a worthless spouse, things aren't ruined forever. There's some reparation and some stuff we can do, but we can learn to hold that space for ourselves as we do that, including recognizing that guess what, we're humans and we did something bad. We did something bad and that's okay in a way, do you know what I mean? What I'm trying to say here?

Geoff: Yeah. And I would add there that even if your partner needs to leave the relationship for whatever reason, and every case is so different, right? Even if they need to leave, it still doesn't mean that you are a worthless, damaged, horrible human being.

Sara: Yeah.

Geoff: It just means that they, for whatever reason, they made a choice to not continue to work with you. And so shame work is very much an inside job, it's an individual thing. And we can certainly surround ourselves with people who can be affirming and help us see our worth and value, and that's important.

And we can also pair that with some deep accountability and compassion for the impact we've had on others and on our own lives. And that's part of what keeps the world going round. We really need that balance and not just live in affirmations all the time, we have to also live in accountability. And they both need to be paired together.

Sara: Yeah, I love that you say that. That's such an honorable place to be too. Such an honorable place to be.

Geoff: I love that, yeah.

Sara: Yeah. Okay, tell us a little bit about from the spouses point of view, what does the spouse who's experienced this betrayal need to know? How can they begin to start to find healing around this? That's like a whole huge conversation, right? But what do you think?

Geoff: Yeah, but there's some starting places. And I would say that one of the first things a spouse can do is, you know, they have a lot of shame right out the gate. They believe immediately that there's something wrong with them or that they're broken or that they're less than.

And especially in the case of pornography, there's an instant comparison that comes up naturally, which is, oh, you're looking at naked women, you're looking at other people having sex, you're looking at these other things and so that must mean... And they draw a straight line to their own body insecurities, or their own struggles, or their own just humaneness.

And what I would say is that if you learn about this or understand that your partner struggles with this, and I could say this a million times but it's critical to repeat, which is that them looking at pornography actually is not because of something you're not doing or not because you're enough. It has nothing to do with that, you've got to keep that separate.

And that's a very challenging thing to actually embrace and do. But we have to be clear about that. Because if you start to believe that it is about you and you start to believe that somehow you're defective, that will just create all kinds of other painful reactions that will really just consume a lot of your time and energy that you really just don't, you need for other things.

So, because it's a trauma, because you're dealing with the person that you were supposed to be able to count on and now they're both this source of pain and a source of comfort, it's going to be important for you to also get your emotional balance.

Just like I was talking about earlier in the form of having other people in your life that can help you keep that keep yourself level, which is loving support, people that are, I always use the phrase from Shirley Glass, friends of the marriage. People that aren't going to just dog pile your husband, or influence you or pressure you to make decisions about your life.

Just people that can hold space and help you get your nervous system calmed down and feel like you can think clearly again. And then from there, start to assess what you need to do, if anything. Education is huge.

Sara: Someone who’s not just going to say, “Hey, kick him out, like what the heck?” Let me hold some space while you decide what to do and where to go next.

Geoff: Yeah, no one has the right to say that. No one has the right to tell you that you should be done. It's so much more complicated than that, especially when you have children or all kinds of things that just tie your lives together.

And this person that's hurt you, you know, you care deeply about them. You're hurt because they're your partner, they're your person. And so the pain is coming from a place of deep longing, of wanting to be close to them, but feeling like you've just been so deeply disrespected that you don't even know how they feel about you or what's real. You're just trying to sort all that out.

And so having people that can just hold space and allow the relationship to not do anything dramatic, it's really critical because there's a part of you that wants to run for the hills and there's a part of you that wants to run into their arms for comfort. And that's why we titled the book Love You, Hate the Porn. I mean, it's that dialectical, it's that tension of I love you, but I hate this so bad.

And so calming your nervous system down as a betrayed partner is priority number one. You're going to do your best thinking when your body and brain and your physical system is just feeling more comforted. And then we move into education and having healthy boundaries around what you can or can't do.

There's just lots of work early on to keep things regulated in a way where you can think clearly and make choices about next steps, because you're doing a lot of observing as a betrayed partner. You're watching to see, because it is his responsibility to get this problem out of his life in a way that works for the relationship.

So, I've never, honestly I can't think of almost any case, very few cases if any in 20 whatever, five years of doing this where a wife wasn't willing to stay with and work with a guy who was genuinely taking care of this and taking responsibility for it.

It's the ones where he puts it on her or he's trying to ignore it completely and not do anything about it. That's where these relationships fall apart. But when he's taking responsibility, opening up, being accountable, working through it, doing his own mindset work and his own shame work, and really digging into this work, a lot of women then they feel like, okay, I can observe, I can relate, I can connect. I can just sort of be here and do my own work and we can kind of figure this out.

And all of that becomes almost relational. When he's doing that and she's doing her work, they start to weave their lives a little bit back together.

Sara: Yeah. What I'm hearing too is it sounds like there's just a lot of hope, you know? There's a lot of hope for people in these situations. There's a lot of hope for trust to be rebuilt.

Geoff: I’m so glad you picked up on that, Sarah, because that's exactly what I want people to hear.

Sara: Yeah.

Geoff: You know, there's so many knee jerk responses like, “Oh, leave him” or like, “This is like once a cheater, always a cheater. You can’t ever trust anybody once you've been lied to.” And it's not to downplay the impact and the seriousness of it, because it's all very serious and painful and takes a while to rebuild. But people need to know it's possible and it totally is.

Sara: Yeah, and you can really, really take care of yourself while you're working towards that. I think that's another message that women need to hear too.

Geoff: Yeah.

Sara: You don't just have to put all the effort and the resources into fixing your husband or your spouse, take some time to take care of you too. You deserve that and you're the one who's going through this betrayal response which is serious and difficult and deserves support.

Geoff: Yeah, I often use the analogy of being a passenger in a car. You know, you're going along and there's an accident and the person driving the car certainly needs help to learn how to drive better. You know, they've made a mistake, they need to take a look at that and work through their process of being a safe person.

But you’ve still been in an accident. You've still been put through something that you didn't choose. And there is a lot of rehabilitation and work around thinking and feeling and trusting and even physically learning how to like move in ways that protect yourself. Like there's just a lot of individual work there.

So just to kind of sit by passively and hoping that him just doing something will fix it all is not going to serve you or both of you if you want to keep the relationship.

Sara: Yeah, that's a great analogy. I love it. Thank you.

Geoff: Yeah.

Sara: Okay. Anything else that you think would be helpful for my listeners to know?

Geoff: Oh man. Sara, I’ve got all kinds of stuff, but let's think here.

Sara: I know we could go for a long time.

Geoff: Yeah, I’m happy to come back if you have more topics you want me to cover on this. But the one thing I guess I would say is as you're trying to, I mean, I did a whole series with Kevin Skinner years ago on how to strengthen your recovery by strengthening your marriage. And what I want people to know is that a lot of the times there's this emphasis on you do you, and you do you, and you're both going to be working separate sides of the street and just kind of focus on yourselves individually.

And I think that's really nice on paper. I think that's really nice if you lived in separate countries. I mean, but people live in the same house, they share children, they share finances, they share space, they share their lives. And what I want people to understand is that like all the little movements that you do, in your own recovery have a relationship impact on the couple.

And so for a guy that's working his own process, yes, you have to take charge of it individually. But you opening up and being honest about something, you sharing a struggle, you attending a meeting, you setting your own appointment, you seeking out help, you reading a book, all those things signal over to your partner that's something they don't have to do now. And you're now showing them that you're that much healthier, you're that much more accountable, you're that much more compassionate.

Those little threads start to weave over and grab on to their story and you start to do that back and forth. And the work that's done early on, especially in the early days and weeks of trying to heal from a betrayal like this, it will feel very lopsided. And it needs to be on the part of the person who broke the trust, they have a responsibility to restore a baseline of safety and predictability and continuity, where they're just, you know, they're going to show up and the other person knows that they can be counted on.

But then after some time you'll start to see that because we're relational and we want to work together, we're just hardwired this way, you'll start to see your partner make little efforts and you guys will start to create this new little dance together of them maybe wanting to go on a walk and talking and you can respond to that. Or them asking how your recovery is doing and you can respond to that.

These are all little ways of threading together two lives that potentially could have just been blown separately.

So I just want you to look for all the little relational threads in there because those things are easy to miss. You may think you're just doing your work over there, but recognize there's little threads crossing all the time in this process.

Sara: Yeah, I love that. Thank you for sharing. That's good. Okay, tell us how we can learn more from you. Tell us more about your trust, Building Trust Boot Camp, I think a lot of people will be really interested in that.

Geoff: Yeah. So I've got an online course, it's 12 weeks long, and it's videos and you can just start at any time. It's got worksheets and videos, it's called the Trust Building Boot Camp and it's just designed to help the person who's broken the trust learn how to create safe conditions and how to create an environment and responses that will promote trust. And it's pretty thorough, it's helped a lot of people.

And if you want to get a little taste of what that's like, I do have a free one hour version of it, a summary of it that I recorded that has a lot of really helpful stuff in it. And I can send you a link to that, Sara, you can put it in the show notes.

Sara: Yeah, send me a link to that, I'll put it in the notes. And where would we find it? Just on your website? Do you have a website that they can look at?

Geoff: Yeah, it's just I actually don't have it listed on my website, but I'll just send you the link to it. And it's just called The First Steps To Rebuilding Trust. And it's just six, I think it's six videos of me just outlining the basic steps for rebuilding trust.

Sara: Very cool.

Geoff: And yeah, and you can just start there. And if you want to go further and really dig in deep into this process, then the boot camp is a great resource for that.

Sara: Will you give me a link for the boot camp as well, so they can have like the short one, the one hour one, but if people are ready to like dive in and do it, they can go and sign up for that too.

Geoff: Yeah, and I'll also include a discount code that I'll have you put in there that people could, your followers or your students can use to get a discount on the course.

Sara: Awesome.

Geoff: I want to make it accessible to people. It's just a great resource especially where, you know, while you're kind of trying to figure out what can I do, my partner is not responding to me. What am I supposed to do? Just stopping, is that not going to be enough? This is going beyond stopping, this is assuming that you're working on stopping but this is all the other stuff you can be doing.

Sara: Yeah. Awesome, thank you, that’s super generous. I'm excited to share that with my listeners.

Geoff: Yeah, you bet.

Sara: Thank you so much for coming. I really, really, really appreciate you, Geoff.

Geoff: Thanks for having me, Sara.

I want to invite you to come and listen to my free class, How To Overcome Pornography For Good Without Using Willpower. We talk about how to stop giving into urges without pure willpower or relying on phone filters so that you can actually stop wanting pornography.

We talk about how to stop giving up after a few weeks or months. And spoiler alert, the answer isn't have more willpower. And then lastly, we talk about how to make a life without porn easily sustainable and permanent.

If you're trying to quit porn, this class is a game changer. So you can go and sign up at Sarabrewer.com/masterclass and it is totally free.


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