The Struggles of Men Facing Betrayal Trauma
Two of the most frequently asked questions I get from other professionals about my work with betrayed male partners are what the differences are and what we can do to help more men get help. This article gives a little insight about the differences, but also provides something we can all easily do that could make a huge difference. My hope is that this article does not come across as critical, but rather shows why we as professionals need to make a change. This is a complex issue, and there is much more that needs to be done, but I believe this could be a great first step! If you agree feel free to share and give feedback about more that we can do!
I’d like you to step into a man’s feet for a moment. More specifically, a man who has been chronically betrayed by a female partner who has a sex, love, and/or pornography addiction. This man is now suffering from intense infidelity induced trauma, usually called betrayal trauma. Not to mention that this man, like many in our culture, has likely already been traumatized from emotional abandonment and neglect, and has been conditioned not to show his emotions, but rather to “man up” and “get over things.” He’s in crisis mode, he needs help, but he doesn’t have any idea what to do next. He likely doesn’t even know that he is facing trauma or that his partner has an addiction.
Now, let’s say that he does start searching for help. Hopefully, he is able to find a good therapist or coach who is knowledgeable and trained in betrayal trauma and sexual addiction, but unfortunately a lot of people are not able to find one. The search for help will likely be his first obstacle, and one where most betrayed men probably give up, because when he starts looking, the majority of what he finds is solely portraying women as the betrayed partner and men as the sexually addicted partner. Hopefully, he decides to reach out to someone anyways, but likely he won’t.
In this case we’ll say that he does end up getting help from a therapist or coach. Yet now comes another difficult and painful problem. He is referred to some resources like podcasts and books, but 99% of them use “she” for the betrayed partner and “he” for the addicted partner. One person even told him, “I’m sorry, you’ll have to change he to she while you’re reading.” He knows they’re trying to be helpful, but instead it widens the huge wound that he already has, and further intensifies his shame. On top of this, there are no male or co-ed support groups in his area, so he feels even more alone. He’s also invited to a conference where he will learn more about what him and his partner are up against, and hopefully find more ways to heal. Yet instead, it is the same case there. The presentations aren’t gender neutral, and he feels that he must be the only one facing this problem.
This is what our male clients are up against. I often get asked by professionals what we can do to help more betrayed men, and I believe changing our language is the first step. We can’t expect men to feel comfortable coming to get help if we talk like they don’t exist. I believe that the movement towards gender neutrality in our field is just as important now as the movement away from the codependency model and towards the trauma model years ago. Especially for men. It won’t solve everything, and because of the stigmas that men face they will still likely have trouble coming forward for help (I will be writing a blog on the topic of men seeking help, and I spoke about it on the APSTAS podcast, you can listen by following this link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/betrayalrecoveryradio/2019/04/04/there-is-help-for-male-partners-with-carol-the-coach). Even though changing our language won’t fix all the problems men are facing, it will at least get the conversation started and the stigmas will lessen. But it will take our entire community becoming intentional about this change. Even if it only helps a small percentage of men at first, I believe it is worth it and will lead to many more men getting help in the future!