In this episode of the Helping Couples Heal podcast, Duane and Marnie answer a listener’s question about what to expect further along the recovery road for a couple recovering from betrayal trauma. What does moving forward look like after early tasks such as disclosure have been achieved? What’s on the other side? Should there be more to compensate for years of acting out and integrity abuse? Marnie and Duane answer some of these questions and explore what life can look like beyond recovery when both partners are very much invested in healing the relationship


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[00:00:00] Helping Couples Heal Podcast: Welcome to the Helping Couples Heal podcast, a place for healing and hope for couples impacted by betrayal resulting from infidelity and or sex addiction. Your hosts are Marnie Breecker and Duane Osterlind licensed marriage and family therapists, certified sex addiction therapists, and founders of respective treatment centers in Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Diego, California.

[00:00:29] Helping Couples Heal Podcast: Marnie and Duane co-created Helping Couples Heal a comprehensive program for couples recovering from betrayal trauma, including an in person two day workshop, an online aftercare program, and this podcast series is the first component of the program. Thank you for listening, Marnie and Duane are committed to helping you recover from the devastating impact of betrayal trauma, and are honored to support you wherever you may be in your healing. If you’ve lost hope you’ve come to the right place.

[00:00:56] Helping Couples Heal Podcast: Now take a slow deep breath and let’s begin with the Helping Couples Heal podcast.

[00:01:03] Marnie Breecker: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the helping couples heal podcast. This is Marnie and Duane and today we’re actually going to answer a question that came in through the helping couples heal Facebook group. We often look through that group and we will see questions that members have for us.

[00:01:21] Marnie Breecker: And from time to time, we like to just take one of those questions and respond, especially when we think that it’s something that would be helpful for many other people to hear as well. I think this is a pretty common. Concerning question. So I’m just gonna go ahead and read it. Of course, I’m not going to use the person’s name.

[00:01:36] Marnie Breecker: Um, but this is, this is the question. My husband and I recently went through the full disclosure process, including the emotional restitution letter. We are both invested in healing, our marriage, all in all. I thought it was a positive healing experience. There were some difficult parts and a lot to process, but I’m glad we did it.

[00:01:53] Marnie Breecker: I have a question for Marnie and Duane and for those who are further down the healing road my husband and. I received my husband’s emotional restitution letter with joy and appreciation. It was clear. He’d put a lot of heart and head into it. I greatly appreciate the effort he’s putting in and he seems genuine.

[00:02:11] Marnie Breecker: I’m not ungrateful, but my thoughts now lean to what’s next. And is this enough? And is this all I should expect? The truth is the, what is now reflects what it should already have been. Part of me feels like there should be something more after 27 years of gas lighting and betrayal. Part of me feels like that’s great and I sincerely appreciate it, but how are you going to try to make up for what wasn’t and should have been, even though that’s not.

[00:02:40] Marnie Breecker: Is this just a growing edge for me? What should I expect?

[00:02:44] Duane Osterlind: I think that is such a great question and very common when couples are going through this process, because the beginning doing disclosure, doing this restitution is really the start of this process. And I know that. Maybe when I say that, that can feel so overwhelming, you mean this is just the start, but it really lays the foundation for the relationship to move forward. So there is more, and I think that’s exciting for the relationship that there is more because you want to build a relationship that is meaningful, that, feels good, that is rewarding, that is connecting, and now the foundation has been laid for that part of that work.

[00:03:27] Duane Osterlind: So yes, there is more, I guess, is the basic answer to this question.

[00:03:32] Marnie Breecker: But it also makes sense that people that when they’re in that. Stage, you know, can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, right? Because that early stage with all of that trauma, all of that pain, all of the treatment and the groups and the disclosure and the restitution letters and the impact letters and all of that is so all encompassing and all consuming.

[00:03:52] Marnie Breecker: And so it can be hard to imagine that there’s something on the other side of that. And so I think that the reason that we chose to read this particular question from this particular group member was because. We think that it’s important to hear from people who have witnessed this many, many times over the course of our careers, that it is very possible.

[00:04:13] Marnie Breecker: And that that’s the goal because you know that that expression or not, it’s something people say all the time it’ll be worth it, right. Or, oh, that was worth the weight. I think that this is a really good example of when we could use that. Right. It, it takes a lot of time, but the goal, we hope that all of you listening will get to a point where you’re on the other side and you can say something like, wow, that was torturous.

[00:04:37] Marnie Breecker: Right. But God, it was worth it because where we’re at now is better than I ever could have imagined we could.

[00:04:43] Duane Osterlind: Yes. And I think it’s important to also say that, you know, when you’re in all of that crisis, it’s, it is, as you said, hard to see beyond the crisis. One of the things I hear in this question too, is, and, you know, I don’t know this person personally, so I wanna make sure it’s understood.

[00:05:01] Duane Osterlind: I’m just guessing. And I I’m just kind of pulling on clinical experience. Is it also sounds that there still needs to be grieving done, but if you have this foundation done where you have the shared reality created by the disclosure, The understanding that your partner on some level gets the trauma that they’ve caused, right?

[00:05:26] Duane Osterlind: You can now in a way go into the grief together. And that’s part of this process and maybe that’s the next step is mourning the loss, right? In a way I think this person is seeing that connection that comes out of deep sharing. And it reminds them of what they lost and what they’re working to recreate in a strange way.

[00:05:50] Duane Osterlind: This hard work starts to create what they’re trying to make, which is connection, which is togetherness, a shared reality. I think one of the best things about relationships that we have is being able to be there with someone in our shared suffering or our shared hardship yeah. In life, because life is hard. Right. And to be able to do this together is what you’re ultimately looking for.

[00:06:19] Marnie Breecker: I absolutely agree. And I think going back to this person’s question, I think that she’s saying I really appreciate where he’s at. It feels, she said it feels genuine and all of that, but now, now what now we just, where do we go from here?

[00:06:32] Marnie Breecker: I’m just supposed to say, okay, thanks. And we just move on. Right? Where is there something more? And I do think. It is important for there to be something more, right. Like I, I do. I think that there’s something in there, um, and that is a living amends by the person. So yes, the emotional restitution, letter’s great.

[00:06:52] Marnie Breecker: And being empathic and being genuine and, and coming from a place of authenticity really important. But then. Actually spending each and every day, living in a way that’s congruent with their marital vows, living with in a way that’s congruent with them. Um, wanting to restore on a daily basis, trust and safety in the marriage, making the partner feel like the priority, making her feel loved and desired and cared for and protected.

[00:07:21] Marnie Breecker: Right? So moving away from all that deep work and time and early recovery, but not just then going. Everything’s normal. It’s like, there’s that, like you described it, there’s a grief and even an anger that can happen in that middle place. Like there’s the early trauma and then there’s the deep work that’s done.

[00:07:39] Marnie Breecker: And then there’s some safety, forgiveness, healing, all of that. But then what happens between that and sort of the next stage of life where you’re just. Together and, and living life. And hopefully the betrayal is, well, it’ll never be forgotten. It’s something that’s, you know, far away in, in one’s mind, most of the time, what happens in that place.

[00:08:00] Marnie Breecker: And I think it’s where the couple has to deal with the grief, like you said, and this Facebook member said it really well when she said, now what we have is what should have always. right. And how do I deal with the grief of that? So I don’t think that the answer to that is, well, you just deal with it and you, you just accept it and you move on.

[00:08:21] Marnie Breecker: I think that’s when Dr. Minwalla’s mountain work. I think we’ve talked about this before. I know a lot of our listeners are familiar with his work. That’s where that comes in. Right. Being able to trudge up that mountain and get to the top and be able to sit there with the partner you heard and look down at that burned out village and really acknowledge what it was like and what happened.

[00:08:45] Marnie Breecker: I think that’s important before you can climb down the mountain and get to the other side and move away from the burned out village. I think a lot of people don’t wanna do that. A lot of people are like, that’s the last place I wanna go is to the top of that mountain.

[00:08:55] Duane Osterlind: Right. And I would also say like, it is hard to not look at all of that damage, but if we don’t look at it and we keep trying to avert our gaze, it is always calling our attention.

[00:09:08] Duane Osterlind: It is once we look at it and process it and integrate it, that on this mountaintop, we get to look to the other horizon. But we do that together with our partner as a unit, as, as a couple. And you get to see the other stuff out there, that there are other things out there. There are other beautiful memories to create beautiful moments to create, but until both people have looked at that together as a couple. It’s really hard to, in a way kind of like, pretend it’s not there. It, it has to be grieved. It has to be processed together. And so then another part of this, what I think is what’s next is getting the skills to do that. So learning. New communication styles like Imago or non-violent communication so that you can start to communicate. These are skills you can do to help facilitate that grieving process together.

[00:10:10] Marnie Breecker: Yeah. And sometimes people get some of those skills earlier in their recovery. Right. And so what’s next will look different for different people, really, depending on where you’re at, when you get through that restitution process.

[00:10:21] Marnie Breecker: Right. And you’re, you’re standing there saying, okay, what’s next. Right. Well, what’s next is going to depend on what came before.

[00:10:27] Duane Osterlind: Right.

[00:10:28] Marnie Breecker: You know, I think if we were to ask Duane a lot of the couples that we’ve worked with in the past who have really gotten to the other side, What would you tell somebody who is asking this question, right?

[00:10:39] Marnie Breecker: Like about what’s next? What can they expect? And what comes up for me is I think that the majority of those clients would say life actually getting their life back, right? Like time, time, not being devoted to recovery. Right into recovery work and to talking all about betrayal and trauma, getting family back, getting a sense of normalcy, back, getting a sense of hope and joy back.

[00:11:06] Marnie Breecker: Those are the things that I think I would hear from the couples that I have seen put in an extraordinary amount of work to heal, and that have come out on the other side of that.

[00:11:16] Duane Osterlind: Yeah, I think that’s really well said because that is so much a part of it is just life. They get to live life on life’s terms without all of this betrayal, trauma and addiction swirling around.

[00:11:31] Duane Osterlind: The other thing, I also notice when couples get there is if they’ve done this work and they’ve done this mountain work together, the depth of their relationship is so much deeper.

[00:11:45] Marnie Breecker: I think what I hear you saying is that the relationship becomes more connected and intimate than it ever was before, even before the betray.

[00:11:53] Marnie Breecker: Right because they’re through the healing process and the recovery process, they’re learning about things and skills that they never learned about before the betrayal, right. They didn’t come into to therapy and get all those skills. And so they come out with these skills to be able to communicate in a more loving, assertive, healthy way.

[00:12:12] Marnie Breecker: Right. They’re able to be more vulnerable with each other. Um, and that vulnerability is what really creates intimacy.

[00:12:20] Duane Osterlind: Yeah. And then I would say even farther out what I see with couples. When I look at couples who are maybe five years out and they’ve really done a lot of work is that they actually begin to heal their own deeper wounds together, maybe from their own childhood.

[00:12:36] Duane Osterlind: And they do it mutually. They help each other heal on that deeper level. And so the betrayal trauma. Isn’t the center of the healing, it’s our own wounds. And that we’re both here in this together. That’s a long way off. And there has to be a lot of safety there and security there. And there has to be, like you said earlier, that living amends makes that possible.

[00:13:00] Duane Osterlind: And that does take time. I don’t want to give the impression that there’s some quick magic formula that you, you walk through. This is a process. It takes time. But it is so worth the investment because you get the relationship that you really always wanted.

[00:13:16] Duane Osterlind: Now that’s a good segue to address the people who are not going to end up getting what they always wanted.

[00:13:23] Marnie Breecker: Right? Yes. There are probably people. In fact, I would guess that there are many people who are listening to this who are feeling tremendous sadness. And despair and hopelessness, even because they are not experiencing a recovery and healing process with their partner that is reparative and is bringing them to that place that we’re talking about, where they’re going to feel like, wow, this was all worth it.

[00:13:48] Marnie Breecker: Right? Yeah. And that’s very heartbreaking.

[00:13:51] Duane Osterlind: Yes I think that has to be addressed and, and said out loud too, is that there are some relationships that can’t do this work for a multitude of reasons. And we have to acknowledge that too. But I think also if you’re trying to do this work and you’re seeing this and you’re seeing what healthiness is, it also gives you the answer for yourself of what you need to do to make your good for yourself.

[00:14:17] Marnie Breecker: Yeah, absolutely. That’s like taking personal agency right over one, one self personal responsibility. And then the other thing though, is if you are in this process and you are not seeing the things that we keep talking about in all of the podcast episodes and what we’re talking about today, if you’re not seeing the things happening that are moving you closer to that world, where you’re able to experience joy and connection in a, a, a sort of a newly, um, a newly created relationship and all of these things. Then I think that it’s important that you stop and look at where you’re at, and if you wanna invest further and to ask yourself, can I invest further when I am not seeing my partner doing any of the work or sustaining the work, right? Like, wow. I’ve seen my partner doing some work and, and having a couple of months, but then there’s this complacency and starts going back to the way it was before. There’s no consistency. I can’t feel safe on any kind of consistent level.

[00:15:17] Marnie Breecker: Then I really think that’s when you need to start to think about what your choices are and you can make that choice. Okay. Still gonna wanna push forward. I’m still going to wanna have hope that if I just stick with it for long enough, things are gonna change and you know what you guys, sometimes it does change.

[00:15:35] Marnie Breecker: And sometimes it doesn’t, this is such a personal journey and everyone’s story is different, and, relationships, you know, obviously take two people like there, it’s all about two people and you might have one person in a relationship who is more than willing and eager to do all of this hard work. And the other person just isn’t they might even say they are, and that’s the confusing part.

[00:15:59] Marnie Breecker: They might say, I’m willing to do whatever it takes. And then their actions don’t show that, right. Their actions are out of alignment with what they’re saying. And that can be so confusing, especially to a partner who wants to believe. Right to a partner who has been hurt and wants so desperately to believe that their partner is going to do whatever it takes to help them heal.

[00:16:21] Marnie Breecker: Right. And to prioritize them and make them feel loved again. And that is extremely painful when they don’t get that.

[00:16:30] Duane Osterlind: Yeah. And I would even say to the person who’s done the betrayal, if you want this to happen. And some of these things you’re supposed to do, you’re not doing, asking yourself, what’s blocking me.

[00:16:42] Duane Osterlind: You know, if you really want that deep relationship, this is the work I believe that has to be done. So asking yourself, what’s stopping me from doing this work. What, what am I afraid of? What fears do I have process with, uh, a coach or a therapist or a group to, to kind of understand your own blocks to doing this work?

[00:17:03] Duane Osterlind: And in a way, if you’re the betrayer going first in this process, mm-hmm right. If you’re being blocked, what, what is it? What, what stops me? What’s my fear and find your way around that as well. So you can, you can create the relationship that you want, cuz it, it will start with you.

[00:17:20] Marnie Breecker: And if you know, in your heart and in your core that you.

[00:17:24] Marnie Breecker: Aren’t going to do all of the work that, you know, you need to do to heal the relationship. And the reason I sort of laugh just now is not cuz it’s funny, but because there’s so many podcasts and books and lectures and workshops and groups and all of the stuff, there’s, there’s so much that, that talk about the same things.

[00:17:43] Marnie Breecker: You have to do all of these things to heal. So if you know what all that is and you just know you’re not going to do that work or that you can sustain it for a short period of time, but not in the long. be honest, be kind to your partner, tell your partner, right? Like she’s holding out hope or he, yeah, exactly.

[00:18:03] Marnie Breecker: Or he’s holding out hope and wants to believe. And when you’re, if you tell him or her that you are going to do what it takes and they’re believing you, you’re just, you’re hurting them even more. So if this is you, if you are listening to this and you. that you’re not willing or capable for whatever reason.

[00:18:24] Marnie Breecker: Tell your partner be honest. That’s that is integrity. Even if you choose not to stay in a relationship, right. It’s integrity, to be honest and, and open and real about it and not continue to keep your partner from again, cuz going back, if you know, you’re not gonna be able to stick around and do the hard work and help your partner heal but you’re not leaving and you’re not giving her that information. You’re then doing again, what you were doing in active addiction or an active betrayal you’re manipulating her reality or his reality. Right. Not letting him or her know the truth so that they can make informed decisions about what they wanna do.

[00:19:04] Marnie Breecker: Right. So whatever you want for your life, just do it with integrity and honesty.

[00:19:11] Duane Osterlind: Yeah. And, you know, with that said really to me at the end of the day, integrity is all that we really have anyway. So living in integrity is what creates a meaningful and good life.

[00:19:28] Marnie Breecker: Yeah. I’m with you a hundred percent. So we hope that we’ve done justice to this topic.

[00:19:35] Marnie Breecker: We hope we’ve addressed sort of all the different scenarios. And particularly for the person who asked the question, we hope that we’ve given you more of an idea of what that path could look like. Cuz it sounds to us that you are, um, really moving. Moving towards the other side of that mountain. And we really hope that you get there.

[00:19:56] Duane Osterlind: Absolutely. And one other thing I’d just like to add, you know, when we do these podcasts, we know that everybody’s situation is unique and it’s important that if you’re unsure about anything to go get professional, help and professional support and guidance on this podcast, we’re talking in big generalities, but we also understand that everybody’s situation is unique.

[00:20:19] Duane Osterlind: So look at this podcast as educational, but if you need more support, get professional guidance to help you.

[00:20:27] Marnie Breecker: Absolutely. Thanks everyone. As always for trusting us for listening. And we will see you on the next episode of helping couples heal.

[00:20:37] Duane Osterlind: Before we go, we have one favorite ask. If you guys are getting a lot out of the podcast, please think about sharing it with someone who could benefit or even writing a review on iTunes that really does help people find this information and there are a lot of people out there who are hurting and don’t know about us. So we’d really appreciate that.

[00:20:59] Marnie Breecker: Thank you. Take good care.

[00:21:01] Duane Osterlind: See you on the next episode. Goodbye.

[00:21:04] Helping Couples Heal Podcast: Thank you for listening to the helping couples heal podcast, where your healing is the number one priority. If you’d like additional resources about betrayal, trauma, or to learn more about the workshop.

[00:21:15] Helping Couples Heal Podcast: Please visit helping couples If you’re finding the podcast helpful, please support Marnie and Duane in continuing to reach others impacted by betrayal trauma. By leaving a review on iTunes and sharing this podcast with someone you care about. Once again, thank you for listening. We’re grateful for your trust and look forward to continuing to support you on your journey of healing.