Husband Material

Healing Your Marriage After Gay Porn (with Tamara Lichfield)

August 28, 2023 Drew Boa
Husband Material
Healing Your Marriage After Gay Porn (with Tamara Lichfield)
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This episode answers unique questions for married men who have sexually acted out with gay porn or other men. You'll learn what partners go through upon discovery of gay porn, why transparency matters, and how we can pursue connection with other men while continuing to rebuild trust with our wives.

Tamara Lichfield provides support for women who have experienced betrayal trauma at Becoming Shatterproof LLC.  Tamara has been trained by APSATS (Association of Partners Of Sex Addiction Treatment Specialists). She is a Certified Trauma-Informed Coach, a Certified Trauma Support Specialist, and a Certified Resilience Professional. 

You can reach Tamara  at becomingshatterproof@gmail.com

On Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/becomingshatterproof

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Husband Material podcast, where we help Christian men outgrow porn. Why? So you can change your brain, heal your heart and save your relationship. My name is Drew Boa and I'm here to show you how let's go. Hey, thanks for listening to my interview with Tamara Litchfield. This episode is great for men and women anybody who is in a marriage that has been affected by gay pornography or by a man sexually acting out with other men. You are going to get some amazing insights. Specifically, you're going to hear more about what wives go through upon discovery why safety and stabilization is so important, why men need connection with other men and how that can unwittingly actually damage the relationship when there is not enough transparency. So we're going to talk a lot about transparency in this episode and keeping communication open between husband and wife, and what it really takes for the marriage to heal and get stronger in the end. I'm so excited to be able to share this episode and yet I realize it's probably going to bring up some painful realities that might even be triggering for you. So please be kind to yourself and give yourself what you need to be able to engage with this content or step away if you need to Enjoy the episode. Today I am hanging out with Tamara Litchfield, a certified partner coach candidate with APSATS, the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists. In other words, she is a support specialist in helping women become shadowproof, and so her business is called Becoming Shatterproof. Tamara, welcome to Husband Material.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for having me, Drew. I'm honored.

Speaker 1:

Guys, if you're not watching the video right now and you're just listening to the podcast, you might not realize that Tamara has this really cool background right now of a tiger with a waterfall. Can you say more about that?

Speaker 2:

I chose this backdrop because I thought it represented my business well, my business being Becoming, shatterproof, and I have this tiger that could attack at any moment, right, but I also have a waterfall and it's serene and peaceful, and so to me, it represents that, even when there are dangers or trauma triggers, or even when our amygdala is firing and saying unsafe, unsafe, unsafe If we have learned safe emotional tools, if we've learned to be emotionally resilient, we can still be among the tigers but also have boundaries and keep ourselves safe, and that's what that represents.

Speaker 1:

That's so awesome. Let's talk about healing marriages after gay porn. What a topic.

Speaker 2:

It's not a light topic and I recognize that it's heavy and can be very sensitive, so I want to just put that out there.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, transparency is incredibly important for anyone in recovery, but maybe especially for men who have introduced gay porn into their marriage. When that happens, what do wives go through?

Speaker 2:

This is huge. Honestly, this is a huge piece because the wives are often experiencing complex trauma Not always, but a lot because they've just been shattered by multiple figurative projectiles that are hitting them the trauma of discovering sexual infidelity and then and the discovery of sexual orientation betrayal. Some wives go into the marriage and they know about the SSA. Many the more of my clients have did not know about it than did, and so unraveling all that that takes time and patience from both partners in that marriage. So if you just take the sexual orientation betrayal into account, this is what could be happening. I say could because everybody experiences things differently, but this is what I've seen in my clients and not every client experiences every one of these things. It's, you know, healing is individual, recovery is individual. So a faith crisis. Sometimes they, when this happens, they say why would God let me marry someone who's attracted to men? I felt so strongly about this this is the you know, the client speaking. I felt so strongly about this marriage, why would he let this happen? And then they go into what does this mean about me, what does this mean about my connection to God and what's wrong with me? Those are a common, common questions that not only do they come up, but they never stop coming for a very long time. And this is because of something I've learned from Dr Jake Porter the hippocampus is trying to order events in our mind and then, when, when this is shattered, they're not. They're trying to find safety in our mind In the past, to find safety for the future. And so that hippocampal, forced hippocampal review just continues to go on and on Some of my clients as long as two years, mostly, you know, closer to a year, and the most intense is probably the first three months.

Speaker 1:

I also remember you mentioned questions about him too.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yes. And then the questions about him are like is this marriage a sham? Is he going to leave me? Then? Do I really want to stay with him? And the? And then another one. This is a big one. Will cultural biases sway him? And then the other question is what are his real convictions? Because my clients think that they've known their husbands for all this time and then they found, find out these secrets and they don't feel like they don't even know their husband anymore. So then, when you add the trauma of sexual betrayal on top of all of this, then that need for complete transparency becomes essential. What is transparency? So I had an idea in my head. I know what it is, but I thought dictionarycom is awesome. So I looked it up and dictionarycom urged to cover up any behavior that may or may not be seen as a breach. Essentially, if you are transparent, you are a vessel of truth and trustworthiness, and transparency is also a good indicator if you are in true recovery, and that's why I'm so passionate about this topic.

Speaker 1:

Obviously, healing a marriage after porn is incredibly challenging already. What's some of the uniqueness of healing after gay porn?

Speaker 2:

Well, there's the sexual orientation betrayal that they explain. The sexual orientation betrayal is a very complex experience and it is unique because many of the women they think that they married someone that's attracted to them and the men sometimes they they're not always forthright about the fact that they're not attracted to them. It's a second trauma and it becomes complex trauma that it just adds to it. Another thing is trying to, in your mind, think of your husband as someone who experiences SSA, when all, when, all along my clients have thought of their husbands as being heterosexual and just to conceptualize that piece takes a long time to unravel. And then you're going back and you're thinking of all the times when things seem maybe a little bit off and then you're realizing that the pieces are put together and my clients say that that is a long process, a long process to put all those pieces together and then to trust your intuition again, which is common with my clients that don't have husbands that experience SSA is to trust your intuition again.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and there is a range of exclusive SSA or maybe not as exclusive, and there are even some guys who are actually attracted to women, but in porn it's men.

Speaker 2:

There's the difference of the sexual templates, I know, and so some men are 100% attracted to women, some men are 100% attracted to men, and then there's that. Then there's also that middle ground, and so it's hard sometimes for the wives to understand where their husbands fall and then to figure out where they fall with their husbands on that same scale, and that takes so long to unravel for them. We go through this step by step and they're unraveling what is reality. It's the rebuilding of that assumption of reality that is complicated but necessary, right, full transparency about everything, even more things than I would have thought to share. Right Be transparent on things that don't even involve recovery. That's so important, because one thing that we know about people that are recovering from sexual compulsive behaviors they sometimes will lie for things they don't even have to, and it's just because it's had become a pattern in their lives, and so not only are they learning to outgrow porn, they're also learning to tell the truth all the time. So good, and one of the things we need to learn to tell the truth about is the friendships that we're building with other men, right?

Speaker 1:

Yes, I think it's important for the men if they've introduced, say they've introduced their work to the women.

Speaker 2:

If they've introduced, say they've introduced their wife to one of their friends, and then they start to feel that that friendship is becoming unsafe for one reason or another. For transparency purposes it's important that they actually tell their wives this friendship has become unsafe and because of that I have boundaries. Now the wife's not managing the recovery, she is supporting the recovery and with that open communication it helps her feel safe and then she can continue on her healing journey in that safety.

Speaker 1:

She needs to know so she can manage her recovery.

Speaker 2:

Yes, she manages her recovery on her own and she can heal on her own.

Speaker 1:

But it'd be much easier when her husband is doing his recovery and is transparent, and this is so important especially for guys with same-sex attraction, ssa, who are healing from gay porn, because, as they're connecting with other men, there's a possibility that sexual feelings and inappropriate behavior could happen. Yes, and I do know that in some instances.

Speaker 2:

There are certain places that have like a three deep rule, meaning there needs to be three people in the room. They'll feel like no closed doors. They'll have different boundaries or rule set up to try and prevent things and that are inappropriate to occur. That actually helps the women feel safer too. Yeah, At the husband material community.

Speaker 1:

We call those groups of three or more triads where guys can have a peer-led small group. That enhances safety a little bit and maybe with certain people when there's more trust built there can be more one-on-one interactions. But we really encourage all of our members to let us know as the leadership team when anything feels off or icky or even potentially inappropriate so that we can keep everyone safe and that helps that my clients feel safe.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and we take care of our clients and we take those rules very seriously. And that is highly respected by my clients.

Speaker 1:

It's this balance of wanting to have curiosity and compassion and realizing there's this need for connection and also a need for protection too.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that healthy balance is. It's tricky to navigate, and so I think that compassion is important for both partners in the marriage so that they can understand that they're all trying they're going to accidentally trigger each other. I've never known a couple that's healing from this that haven't inadvertently triggered each other. So there's got to be some self-compassion, some compassion for your partner. I can't emphasize that enough. What I've been told is like this situation can be like walking in a minefield without the map to where the mines are, and they blow up where you'll never know what they ever would be or would you expect to be, because sometimes, especially with the men that are recovering, they are bringing new feelings up and healing those. It brings that mind to the surface and the tripwire is the thinnest it can be and the wife accidentally steps on it not even knowing that it's there, and so it's just. It's like. That's why we try and work together and be both of them, be transparent.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'm hearing a few different guys say that in their marriage they feel voiceless or they feel like they're unable to share their real feelings because they don't want to step on a mind.

Speaker 2:

I hear that from my clients too. So what I always tell my clients is this is to schedule a time with their partner, their husband, and to say I have some things on my mind. I'd like to know when time is best for you that we can discuss these. Or there's other options, Like if you're in the middle of a conversation and it's feeling safe, you can ask how are you feeling right now? Is this a good time to bring up some vulnerable topics? That may be hard to hear? And then the tricky part for the wife can be respecting the boundary. If they say no, they say not now, but it is healthy then for the wife to ask OK, I can respect that, when is a good time that we can talk? And then they'll be avoiding that big no-no of stonewalling. Yeah, If they can schedule a time and say we'll come back to it at this time, that acknowledged and validates both people in the relationship.

Speaker 1:

I like that Seems like that would allow both people to be regulated and actually connect.

Speaker 2:

Yes, because when we're dysregulated, we know this, our pre-federal cortex is offline and so it can take some personal grounding or sometimes it requires some co-regulation, and sometimes with a support person. And to contact a support person I always recommend Five Deep. You heard the Five Deep, where you have at least five people that you could turn to if you get dysregulated. So I suggest it can be a recovery friend you can find. Maybe if you have a safe family member. There can be a member of a clergy, someone from church, if they're safe I emphasize, not everybody is safe. Another can be a coach or a therapist. Those are some options for finding ways to be regulated. If you have one recovery friend, that person's not available 24-7. So I recommend that to my clients all the time.

Speaker 1:

Awesome. If you go in the husband material community, you've got 3,000 deep. That's awesome, yeah, and you can see who's online, who's available to chat, although, again, it's important to be cautious, especially with somebody you've never met before, and to go slowly into vulnerability and into supporting each other. Let's talk about that because it seems like sometimes men who are outgrowing gay porn specifically can unwittingly do a lot of damage while connecting with other men and trying to heal.

Speaker 2:

Yes, a lot of times after D-Day the men begin to find places to heal. So they'll go to a 12-step meeting. They'll find healing weekends there's a lot of different ones that are available. They'll make friends for the first time sometimes in their lives, where they're actually able to be vulnerable, emotionally, connect, begin this healing process and then, after the weekend, they come home back to their wives and they don't want to lose that connection, which is understandable. They need that connection in order to heal, because SSA often involves feelings of inadequacy with masculinity so I know you've had podcasts on this before and also the inability to fit in with this world of men and to heal. Men experiencing SSA need healthy and salient men who are secure in their own masculinity to mentor them, accept them and nurture them.

Speaker 1:

That is so good. Okay, I just know that guys are listening to this saying, yes, you understand me.

Speaker 2:

I get it Okay. So as a coach, I not only have studied betrayal and trauma, but I also have read all of Patrick Karn's books and also Jay Stringer's book about unwanted, and so I not only understand trauma, but I also understand addiction as well sexual addiction as well as some of the SSA pieces there. So when my clients come to me, I have a background to understand both so I can help guide them through their trauma.

Speaker 1:

Awesome. So the guys are beginning to feel adequate, known, connected, befriended, included for the first time. And what happens next?

Speaker 2:

Well, sometimes this causes a bit of. I think it's a protective behavior. The men, they want to continue those friendships. Also, they can sometimes lose track of what transparency means with their wives and most of the time it's not because they want to hide from their wives, it's because they don't want to lose this connection that they have for the first time in their lives where they're feeling known and seen. And that's healing, because part of healing is that ability to co-regulate with someone, to emotionally connect that actually kills trauma in the brain. Just that one element alone is essential to healing and recovery for them, and a lot of these principles that are important for the men are also important for women to heal from trauma. We travel different healing and recovery paths, but a lot of it runs parallel and I think that is an important piece for people to understand. They could run parallel and also together at times so that we can both empathize, so that when the people are in that situation they can empathize with each other, knowing that she has felt trauma. Another thing about trauma is that trauma is not the event, but trauma is how your body responds to that experience, and so many people that are involved with consuming porn have been traumatized at some point in their life, and so I know that they are also healing from trauma and childhood wounds.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so this healing that comes through connection with other men who have used gay porn in the past can sometimes actually lack transparency or safety for their partners.

Speaker 2:

What happens is they will not tell their partners about their new friends' names. It's natural in a relationship to say, hey, I'm going to lunch with my friend Kirsten. But what happens sometimes is they want to protect these new friendships and so they don't even tell their wives about their names. Or in a lot of times it's met people from across the country, or just simple information about where they live or something like that to help build that safety. Just knowing that helps to build safety.

Speaker 1:

Why is it important for men to say this is my new friend, his name, a little bit about him and maybe his own sexual attractions. Why does that matter so much?

Speaker 2:

It matters because it helps to build that transparency and build safety and stabilization and that's the first step for healing.

Speaker 1:

Tamro. Why is safety and stabilization so important for wives?

Speaker 2:

Well, it's so important because it's the first step for healing. She needs to feel safe that her husband is demonstrating that open, honest transparency. If the wife does not find that safety and stabilization, she may not get past that, even that first step for healing, and she can create her own safety. But that requires a rupture of the relationship of some kind, whether it is detachment, separation or even divorce. So safety I can't emphasize that enough. Safety and stabilization are important and a way to get there is full transparency. This is what one client had said that when the husbands go to these healing weekends it feels like they are putting a male let's pretend they are heterosexual, heterosexual male with another group of sex addicts that are heterosexual women and putting them all in the same group. And so you think you have two sex addicts together that are not. It doesn't feel safe. It feels like it's a huge temptation, especially if you put it into context of they've just found out about the discovery, they're still in that first stage of healing, so they're trying to build safety and then all of a sudden they go to this weekend, they have these friends and their husband begins to isolate and that wife's not asking for much, she's not asking for their sexual history, that's not their. You know that's not the what's important, but what is important just is to have a general familiarity. Even you know some things. I might suggest is to, if they're from across the country, have your wife meet them on a Zoom call and say this is my new friend, jim from Texas, or you know, or for whatever, and then it just helps them know and then get to, they get to know each other and they can develop a sense of safety. And also, you know, women, we have our intuition and so that helps us with when we're can feel safe and when we're not going to feel safe. Wow, I'll tell you that with my clients, their intuition is pretty good about what's safe and what's not, if they're grounded and not in trauma.

Speaker 1:

It seems so simple to invite and include your spouse on that Zoom call, and yet I've never heard anyone say that before. It's like we just didn't think of it.

Speaker 2:

You know what? She doesn't need to be on every Zoom call with your friend. Just that initial meeting makes a huge difference. Another thing I will say about that is that my clients sometimes they say that their husband doesn't want to or yeah, the husband doesn't want to introduce them to their friends, or that the other friend doesn't want to meet their wife, and in my opinion that's a bit of a red flag because that's not going to feel safe to that wife, and so some of the clients will put up boundaries around that, and those boundaries can be as much as detachment, separation, even as far as divorce in extreme circumstances, when it's a boundary that's constantly been pushed. I don't like it when that happens. Usually the husband can understand that it's a definite safety concern for their wife and they want to heal the relationship.

Speaker 1:

We have an issue come up sometimes where men will become so attached to our community or to their new friends that it actually replaces some of the healthy connection they should be having in the marriage.

Speaker 2:

I have seen that happen too, and I can explain a little bit about this from. What I understand is that we had mentioned earlier a lot of the men that have experienced SSA. They never really made friends. A lot of people when they first are introduced to porn is when they're younger, much younger, and the research is showing that sometimes they get stuck in a developmental stage, and that's usually in high school ish, and then that's called, that's the egocentric stage in high school. So suddenly they become friends and they are acting like teenagers and whether you know, teenagers that are on their phones or texting and can completely become oblivious to the outside world, including their family, including their spouse, and so that's just something to be aware of. I also have heard of clients say that their husbands, they can be in the middle of a family activity, a text or a phone call comes in and their husband is on the phone, gone behind a door, and they don't know when he's coming back. So it's the disappearing dad phenomenon and it's confusing to the children, as well as their spouse, as well as their wife.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and to think that this conversation may be happening with someone the wife doesn't know would make it especially concerning too.

Speaker 2:

And that's why the transparency piece comes in. He can, he could pause and he could say I need to take this call with my friend, so and so right now I don't know how long it will take, so go ahead without me, or it's going to be about whatever amount of time, and then I'll be back at this time. So so boundaries are different between a spouse and then different between minor children, so we want to keep. We want to keep it an equal partnership, you know, and stay in my relationship. I don't want my husband asking me permission and I don't want to ask my husband permission. I want to talk with him about it, I want to have an open communication, but I don't want to have to ask permission to be me.

Speaker 1:

That's a great point. Sometimes I've heard people say there needs to be inequality for a while.

Speaker 2:

I have a doctor, dick Porter, say that actually. And there is, there's that balance, and then, once they get on the healing path, then then the equal partnership comes back. That's how I see it. At first, after D day, especially right after D day, there's that power differential. But that power differential needs to eventually move back to the equal partnership, because otherwise it's doesn't work.

Speaker 1:

It needs to become equal for the marriage to thrive long term.

Speaker 2:

Yes, absolutely. What we want is we want to be able to be valid, to validate each other in a marriage right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

And if there's a power differential, then it creates a parent child relationship which doesn't feel safe sometimes.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think I can be guilty of that. I have a tendency to treat my wife as if she's my mother, and that's something I need to continue to heal and something I need to continue to grow out of, because she doesn't want to be my mom and I don't want her to be my mom. That's. That's not sexy at all. That's not. That's not marriage.

Speaker 2:

Sometimes it's not uncommon in the SSA community that there have been some mother wounds and so it's not uncommon for that scenario to play out or for the at some point in the healing that the wife can be resented because there's, because there's been projection On to the wife that can come up during the healing process. And it's difficult to navigate that for my clients when that, when that comes up and usually that that as if as their husbands continue to heal, then they recognize that dynamic and they can fix that.

Speaker 1:

For men who are continuing to struggle with unwanted sexual behavior, including gay porn, and the marriage is fragile. What would you recommend?

Speaker 2:

to those that are struggling with their temptations, my biggest plea would be to seek the help that's going to land you more firmly in recovery, whether that be a deeper connection to your higher power or to God, whether that be seeing a therapist or coach that's going to be able to resonate with you and help, guide you and help you overcome those unhealthy coping mechanisms, even though it might seem pendantic or boring or just a hassle, to continue to do those activities that keep you on the healing recovery path, whether it's exercising, whether it's connecting with friends and you might not want to, but to try and force yourself out of that isolation whether it is playing a musical instrument I say musical instrument because I'm a musician Playing my flute helps me ground myself and it helps me get in a mind frame. I think that music is a language of its own. As I'm learning those notes, my relationship grows and it's transcendent. I know that might sound like the weirdest thing on the planet, but it's healing. Music is something that can help with recovery. Sometimes it does require going to seek mental health help from a therapist. Even medication for a time or extended time can help regulate those brain chemicals, if that is what the roadblock. Another thing is realizing that there could be co-coined diagnosis. When that can get sorted out then sometimes recovery can get more momentum, because when those are treated it makes it easier to stay on that path.

Speaker 1:

So true, I hear you saying we really need to prioritize our own individual healing, whatever it takes.

Speaker 2:

Yes, try and see emotionally connected with your spouse as you're doing that. Involve your spouse in what's going on with you. That can help create the cement to endure. I guarantee you your wife wants to be your support, not a hurdle. She doesn't want to be a hurdle for you and your recovery, Because if you've been in recovery for a while and she's still there, I guarantee you she wants to be there and she wants nothing more than to see you healthy, strong, vibrant and amazing. That's so beautiful. Thank you, I mean all of this. I mean all of this Healthy behaviors.

Speaker 1:

And it's not easy, it's not quick, there's no perfect formula, but it is possible for a marriage to heal and even get stronger in the end. How can that be?

Speaker 2:

It's possible because of the strength we get from overcoming hurdles together. It's possible because we can be partners. We're not each other's enemies. That's one of the biggest things I find with my clients is that sometimes they think that their husband's the enemy. Sometimes they think that their husband thinks they're the enemy and instead of turning towards each other it's a Gottman term they'll turn away. But if you turn towards each other, then it's beautiful and you become stronger than before your discovery day.

Speaker 1:

Tamara, what would you like to say to the women who are listening?

Speaker 2:

I want to say that it can appear insurmountable at the beginning, but I want to tell you that, no matter what your husband chooses, you can still heal, you can still make healthy choices, you can still be resilient when connected with God, he will strengthen you through His grace and with God, anything is possible.

Speaker 1:

Amen, Tamara. What's your favorite thing about healing a marriage after gay porn?

Speaker 2:

I think my favorite thing is seeing the post-traumatic growth in both spouses, when I see them become more than what they were before and endeavor to do things that they could never thought possible in their lives, trying new things, new adventures. They become more than they ever were and that's beautiful and it gives others hope and it becomes more meaningful. It's a beautiful thing.

Speaker 1:

It really is. Thank you so much for being with us.

Speaker 2:

You're welcome. Thanks for inviting me.

Speaker 1:

Awesome Guys. If you want to connect with Tamara, you can find all of her information and links in the show notes. This topic is huge and I hope we continue talking about it in our community. And, gentlemen, always remember you are God's beloved Son. In you, he is well pleased.

What does a partner go through when she discovers that her husband has been using gay porn?
Why do we need to be totally transparent?
How we connect with other men while continuing to build trust with our wives?
What if a married man is actively struggling with gay porn?

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