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What Is Betrayal Trauma and How Can You Get Help

By June 7, 2023July 3rd, 2024No Comments

Episode 94

What Is Betrayal Trauma and How Can You Get Help

When Dr. Jill Manning began her career as a therapist, she quickly realized how many people of all ages struggled with issues surrounding the use of pornography, including addiction and betrayal trauma. This led her to obtain a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy, specializing in betrayal trauma. Dr. Jill Manning explains how betrayal trauma victims are affected by their partner’s porn use and offers advice to listeners who are experiencing betrayal trauma.


Introduction (00:04):
Dr. Jill Manning began her career as a therapist, but once she quickly realized how many people of all ages struggled with issues surrounding the use of pornography, including addiction and betrayal trauma, she obtained her Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy with a focus on betrayal trauma. In this episode, Dr. Jill Manning explains how betrayal trauma victims are affected by their partner’s porn use, how sexual compulsivity often starts with trauma itself, and offers advice to listeners who are experiencing betrayal trauma. With that, let’s jump into the conversation. We hope you enjoy this episode of Consider Before Consuming.

Fight The New Drug (00:45):
Jill, thank you for being here with us. Can you tell our audience a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Jill Manning (00:51):
Sure. Well, first, thank you for having me. This is a real treat, and it’s good to see you again. I am a marriage and family therapist, and I’ve been involved in therapeutic work for 24 years now. I specialize in working with betrayal trauma, so those that are impacted by typically sexual betrayal, in a primary relationship, whether that’s a fiance, girlfriend, boyfriend, or most commonly a marriage partner.

Fight The New Drug (01:17):
And how did you get started in this work?

Jill Manning (01:19):
So, I finished graduate school with my master’s degree in Canada and was not specialized in this whatsoever. And what I noticed was within three months of starting work as a brand new rookie therapist, I could not avoid the, how often I was being confronted with the topic of pornography, especially. But just betrayal generally too. And so that really piqued my interest because this is of interest to me. At the time, there was not a word mentioned about compulsive pornography use, sex addiction, porn addiction, sexual betrayal, betrayal, trauma, none of that was mentioned. And so it really got me curious, what’s going on? Why is this coming up so commonly? So I was coming out of graduate school in 2000. Okay. And it, it’s just odd to me that nothing was mentioned about these topics. So for the next three years, I was in private practice and I also worked in a, I need school. And I was seeing this issue come up with children as young as five and elderly people in their eighties. And so that’s what really motivated me to, then pursue further graduate studies, do my PhD in marriage and family therapy with a specialization in, in this whole subject.

Fight The New Drug (02:45):
And we’re so grateful for the work that you do, especially with that focus on betrayal trauma. It’s so important and so helpful to have someone who has that clinical experience that you have to be able to help us all, you know, navigate these issues. Can you talk a little bit about pornography’s impacts on relationships?

Jill Manning (03:04):
Oh, let me back up before I answer that. Sure, of course. Because I think there’s important context because, you know, some listening may think, oh, Jill’s completely biased, and just sees it only in one way. And the truth is, is in my twenties when I was doing my undergraduate work, I, I, I’m embarrassed to say this, but this is the truth. And others out there may be able to relate, is my hope. I was actually indifferent to this whole topic. I will readily acknowledge my ignorance to the topic of pornography and the impact of pornography. I really, in my 20 year old, in my twenties, thought, you know, pornography was for people that were lonely. people that could not get girlfriends or boyfriends, through other means, or had, you know, just thought it was for perverts or I, I had a lot of the common judgments and misconceptions that still stick around today in many ways.

Sure. And so I come from, I come to this whole topic having originated at a place of indifference and a lot of misconceptions. And it was really through clinical work and being exposed to the research, which I’m so grateful. Fight The New Drug is, is just so focused and, and founded in that it, it was through that process and, and encountering hundreds of people, young and old, male and female, heterosexual and homosexual, married and unmarried, the whole gamut, you know, rich and poor, highly religious and non-religious, that I learned this is doing something to our human fabric. This is affecting relationships in a fundamental way. And so I got curious and I, I realized that it was an intellectual cop out for me to just say, oh, live and let live. Everyone’s just free to do whatever they like it, it was an intellectual cop out because as a brand new marriage and family therapist, I was being confronted with the reality that was very different.

And there was one case in particular, Natale, in which I was working in this high needs school, and I was asked to assess three siblings. The oldest was 12, one was in kindergarten. The other I think was third grade. It was one boy and two sisters. so a brother and two sisters. And long story short, as it turned out, these three children had been used in the production of child pornography by their biological father, who we were in Canada at the time. And he had since taken off to the United States. And at that moment I realized I cannot stay indifferent to this. I need to figure out and get off my live and let live high horse and figure out what’s going on. How is this impacting lives? And I realize that child pornography, child sex abuse images, that’s a, that is a unique category of this whole topic.

And it’s also interrelated. And so I, I want people to know the, the context with which I was coming to this issue. Right? And I had my own journey of getting into the research and realizing the harms myself. I wasn’t always of that position and stance. So it evolved for me. The more I encountered real people that were impacted, and the more I exposed myself and Del and did the intellectual work of getting into the research and later did research myself. So back to your question, what is the impact? How does this impact relationships? It has a negative impact on relationships. It, it interferes with healthy bonding and attachment. When you look at the research of what goes into healthy, stable, long-lasting relationships, and then you line that up with the effects research known effects of pornography, they’re the antithesis of one another. They don’t go together. And so I think when people are trying to make them go together, it, it, it’s going to really come up short and it’s gonna do a lot of harm in the process. So I see them as an antithesis of one another. long lasting, satisfying relationships do not align with the effects we see pornography have.

Fight The New Drug (07:19):
Thank you for sharing that context, because I think it’s so important for people, anyone especially who’s new to learning this information, to understand that, like, that’s kind of a journey that I think most people involved with this work have. Right. You don’t know what you don’t know. And then once you learn about it, once you see the research, once you hear these stories, you can’t unlearn it. And once it’s kind of right there in front of you of how, how much this is impacting individuals’, relationships and society more broadly, it becomes really difficult to do anything but advocate for spreading this awareness so that people can have healthy relationships and, and be healthy individuals, and that we can communicate or contribute to a healthy society. So, I think that’s really important to share that perspective. And I mean, so devastating to hear this story about these children, and also to know that that’s not uncommon. You know, we’ve interviewed several experts who have had similar stories or, engaged in work where children had been e exposed in. When it’s children, it’s kind of an eyeopener. It’s easier for us to say, wow, this is really a problem.

Jill Manning (08:30):
Well, it, well, and on that point, you know, the person that abused these children by recording pornographic scenes and videos of them, it didn’t start that way. Right. This person didn’t wake up one day as a father and say, oh, I, I think I think I’ll do this. No, this, this was an escalation of many, many years. I found out through my assessment and then law enforcement being involved, this was the escalation of many, many years of pornography use. And so I think that’s important too, that we sometimes hear these, peak experiences that show the escalation, and we forget that it started in a more ordinary, vanilla way. Right. Right. It’s an escalation.

Fight The New Drug (09:18):
That’s an important kind of piece to point out when talking about betrayal trauma as well. Because often when pornography is a factor in a relationship, the individual consuming pornography, it likely started as something when they were a kid or something that happened well before this relationship started. Right. So often the actual habit itself, maybe, you know, isn’t directly reflective of the relationship, but it does have a negative impact in the relationship. And can you talk a little bit more about, for anyone who doesn’t know what betrayal trauma is and how, you know, what that really looks like and someone who’s experiencing that?

Jill Manning (09:54):
So, betrayal trauma, well, let, let’s back up and just talk trauma generally. Okay. Trauma in a general sense is any experience that overwhelms are internal resources to cope with it. It’s n which is different than stress, right? If I’m just stressed, I may have a lot coming at me, but I still have the internal resources and coping skills to be able to navigate that. Right. And over time, if that stress is sustained, it’ll probably break down in some way. But trauma is different in that it, it overwhelms our internal resources and coping skills. Right. And it usually involves a lot of fear. And a, a common element of trauma is experiencing a lack of support that we need to stay steady and feel like the world’s not crashing in around us. Right. Betrayal trauma has all the elements of trauma, but what makes it different and distinct is that it is a trauma that occurs. It’s perpetrated by someone that we are in close proximity and close relationship with. Right. It’s typically a primary attachment, a spouse, a parent, a grandparent, someone that we are bonded to. For it to be a betrayal, we have to have trusted that person,

Fight The New Drug (11:16):

Jill Manning (11:17):
For that to occur. So when, when be betrayal, trauma involves having our trust violated in a key critical way by someone that we are either dependent upon, like a child to a parent, or someone that we are significantly attached and bonded to, like a, a spouse, for instance. And so, in, in that context, that’s what makes this very different from the trauma of a car accident that can truly be random, and just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, when it’s someone that you’re in relationship with, it’s far more personal because it, it undercuts the very fabric of what that relationship is based on, which is, for most of us, trust, respect, cherishing one another, and really believing that this person has our back. Well, when the person that you believe has your back is the very person that perpetrates a betrayal, it cuts very deeply.

And, and some may say, well, why, you know, I, I hear a lot of dismissive comments about betrayal. Oh, you know, that, that’s sad that her feelings are hurt. And they’ll, they’ll dismiss it. And they’ll say things like, yeah, but that’s not like combat trauma that doesn’t compare to, you know, someone cheated on her. But that doesn’t compare to our, our veterans and what they go through. Well, let me say the following delicately and sensitively, I grew up in a military family. I know what it’s like to live with people who have PTSD and I, I, I know as a child growing up in an environment, the rigors of that, and I’ve met more people than I can count that have trauma in that context. Okay. But they’re trained for that. They have uniforms and equipment, they have planes that airlift them home.

They have parades and yellow ribbons greeting them often. it’s a very different type of trauma. And I do not say that with one whiff of dismissing or minimizing those kinds of traumas. They’re serious, and, and there’s help and, and intervention that’s needed for those. But when a betrayal is perpetrated by the person that you live with, share life with a mortgage, with children, with, sexual relations with, and it’s, you’re not trained. Right. There’s no equipment and armor that we suit up in to protect ourselves from that. It, it’s a very vulnerable type of a blow to our system. And also, Natale, when you look at humans, generally, humans operate on the buddy system. Right. We are not in, we’re not isolated being, we’re social beings. Right. We depend on relationship to navigate life and to stay safe. So when one of our primary attachments, our person, our buddy for life, violates that trust, it, it, it goes so deep. And, and what happens is it’s not just stressful or hurtful or painful. It, it evokes what we call in in psychology, primal panic and distress. It, it goes to a whole other level because it, it shakes up in torpedoes our whole schema with which we understand our social worlds.

Fight The New Drug (14:27):
And shame plays a role in this too, right? For typically for the individual who’s experiencing that betrayal trauma. You know, we hear a lot from people that they then will isolate. They feel like it’s their fault. So the rest of your support system, in addition to that partner, you’ve then cut yourself off from as well, often by internalizing this. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Jill Manning (14:49):
Sure. My own research with betrayed showed that 68% will experience isolation and pretty severe isolation. Even the social butterflies that are very well connected and extroverts that, you know, are the life of the party, typically even they will experience significant isolation. And the re there’s a few reasons why. One of them is, I think, just the shell shock of what’s happening. People are stunned, they’re shocked. They don’t know which end’s up, they don’t know who to turn to. And when your key person violates your trust, you start questioning all relationships. Who can I trust now? So in a moment of deep vulnerability, you’re in crisis. Your most trusted person, his torpedoed trust, it, it throws into question everybody and everything, including, can I trust myself? Am I reading this situation correctly? So there’s lack of self-trust that’s common. Lack of trust of others questioning. Even if you do feel, oh, I could tell this person anything.

Let’s say it’s a, a trusted sister or a friend or neighbor. then y you may be able to share your story, but then there’s a whole other layer of what kind of condemnation judgment am I gonna receive? Or maybe no judgment, maybe I’ll be pressured to leave the relationship or pressured to stay in the relationship. So we call it shielding. When people are betrayed, they will shield themselves and also shield often their partner that’s betrayed them, they may, 60% of people that are betrayed will at least attempt reconciliation. So there’s this period of limbo where we’re wondering, will he or she get better? And if they do get better, I don’t want blacklisted forevermore in my family or in our, in our social circle. So that isolation, that pulling back that shielding is an extremely common phenomenon. And it’s in that place that they’re really vulnerable. And so that’s where professional supports can play a role. things like 12 step, where it’s a, you know, confidential setting to tell your story, connection is a really key aspect of healing.

Fight The New Drug (17:04):
You know, if someone is maybe experiencing betrayal trauma, but maybe hasn’t identified it as such, what does it look like for someone to be experiencing that? What are some of the kind of symptoms in addition to this isolation we talked about that someone might experience who’s experiencing betrayal trauma?

Jill Manning (17:22):
Sure. Great question. Well, there’s immediate symptoms, and there can be delayed symptoms. And we see this with trauma generally, right? So in the, let’s talk immediate symptoms first, there’s usually heightened anxiety. those stress and shock responses, hypervigilance, you know, feeling shaky, dirty eyes. just wondering, when’s the next shoe gonna drop? when’s what’s happening? A lot of confusion, difficulty sleeping. There’s a lot of disruption to appetite, that can involve eating more or eating less, disruptions in libido. I’ve seen people respond in that shock to becoming hypersexual in a kind of a desire to compete or, and connect or totally shutting down sexually, which makes a lot of sense when you’ve been hurt through sexual betrayal, wanting nothing to do with it. Right? so th those are some of the immediate things that I see. The more delayed symptoms, which can set in sometimes weeks, even months later, depression, hopelessness, despair, that deep sense of what’s the point?

I have seen suicidality in a minority, but still, that’s an important topic to mention. For anyone that may be listening, please get help right away. And I’ve also seen a trend in problem drinking, especially with women. And I, and I do want to say, even though you may hear me speak in a gender segregated way, because most of my clients that I see are female and more females are betrayed than, sexually betrayed than men. But that doesn’t mean men don’t experience this. And I hope we can give some attention to that today. So even if you hear me speak in that way, I, I’m well aware and my heart goes out to any human that’s dealing with this. but one thing I have seen that I’m watching for more carefully in screening for is problem drinking. I’ll see over a period of months where the trauma and the weight of that, the pain of that isn’t resolving, or the betrayal continues. And I’m, we have a big issue right now with women turning to alcohol, even women that may not have been drinkers before. So that’s something that I see as well.

Fight The New Drug (19:46):
And if someone is experiencing this, or if someone isn’t, but this can sound really hopeless, right? To think about being in this situation. Can you help provide some hope for healing and recovery for someone who might be experiencing this and, and share what that looks like a little bit?

Jill Manning (20:02):
Well, one of the most hopeful things that I’d want people to know is never before have there ever been so many resources and research about betrayal trauma. 25, 30 years ago, there was next to nothing. When I started down my career path, Natale, we were borrowing a lot from the chemical dependency world. Right. You know, which had some overlap, but there’s significant differences too. And so people really were not being served well. you know, even clinicians that had a desire to serve and show up and support individuals like this, we were somewhat flying blind. There was not enough data yet. So now there are 12 Step groups specific for betrayal. There are dozens and dozens of excellent books. There’s absences. The Association for Partners of Sex addicts and Trauma Professionals that trains Betrayal Trauma Specialists internationally and their directory will help people find a specialist in their local area. Or we now have a growing number of betrayal trauma coaches that are not limited across state lines. So I’d want people first to know there’s more help available than ever before. We know more about this than ever before. And I think that’s real reason to have hope. absolutely.

But there, there is reason to hope. I mean, we all have a nervous system, and our nervous system can heal when we go through traumatic events. What we can’t do though, is stay isolated. We need to be in connection. And the first, there’s three key phases to working through betrayal trauma. The first is safety and stabilization. That’s the very first thing that we have to do. We have to get safe. The bleeding has to stop. we have to address any symptoms like anxiety, depression, suicidality, eating disorders, problem drinking, whatever may be going on. We have to, we have to have the room stop spinning first. Right. Okay. Once the person’s stabilized, then we can move into, you know, what is the truth? What’s going on here? And that’s where clinically we would do typically a disclosure intervention. That’s, a process that involves really getting all the truth on the table.

No more secrets. Right. And then the second phase is processing grief, deeper trauma work, figuring out, how did I get here? What, what was it in my life path that set the stage for me being vulnerable to this, or maybe missing signs of this. That doesn’t always occur, but sometimes it does. And then the third phase is really moving forward. Once I’m clear of what the truth is, things are safe. I know how to build boundaries to keep my safety in place. which direction do I want to go? Am I interested in reconciliation or do I need to carve out a different path? So those are the three phases, safety and stabilization processing and moving forward.

Fight The New Drug (22:52):
And that’s such helpful advice, and I think helpful for people listening who might be experiencing this, to know that there is kind of a tangible set of steps and a path forward. And there are so many clinicians out there and so many resources who can help with this. If someone is wanting to find one, what is kind of the best thing for them to look for to find that support?

Jill Manning (23:12):
Great question. Well, they, I’d want them to look for a licensed mental health provider who has specialized training in betrayal trauma. Yes. People can say may, maybe they’ve gone through a betrayal themselves, and they are a licensed provider. They may say, oh, yes, I work with betrayal. But you’re wanting to look for someone that has credentials that’s actually done rigorous training on this topic. They’ve been exposed to the research and the, the evidence-based interventions for this. So someone may say, well, how do I find that you know. Because sadly, with a, as is the case with a lot of specialties, they’re, depending on the state, there can be a lack of regulation as to the rules around who can say they’re specialized in something versus not. So there’s two professional bodies that I direct people to. The first, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, is APSATS.

A-P-S-A-T-S, has a directory called, well, on their website is a tab, find a specialist. You put in your zip code and you can find a betrayal trauma specialist in your area. Secondly is IITAP, IITAP is the certifying, body that trains certified sex addiction therapists. And there is a growing number of certified sex addiction therapists that have done extra training and betrayal. So they’ll work with both the person sexually acting out and the person betrayed. And so those are, I, I’d have people look for that and, and someone that they feel safe with talking to, you know, as we do with any good care. You want someone that you can also afford. There’s the, the finances and the, the real life practicalities of this. And what I recommend is to find someone whose care you can afford for at least a year. I find the majority of my clients I work with between 18 months to three years since tends to be a typical zone that’s not required. But there’s a lot to unpack with these issues. So I find typically that’s, I, I’d want people to know, you know, connect with someone where you can sustain that work. sometimes that’s weekly at the beginning. The majority of the people I work with were every other week. And then spacing that out further and further as life gets more solid.

Fight The New Drug (25:34):
And I think that’s so helpful for so many people. You know, we get asked frequently for resources, and I think so many people just don’t know. It’s so intimidating to try to find someone. You know, we already talked about that likelihood of isolation. So then to talk to a stranger can be so intimidating, but it can also be so helpful for, for people to be able to heal and, and know that there is hope and there is a path forward. So thank you for those tangible, steps.

Jill Manning (26:02):
Well, and can I give another tip on that?

Fight The New Drug (26:04):
Of course, please.

Jill Manning (26:06):
Because you mentioned shame earlier, and there can be a lot of shame that comes up in embarrassment and just the stress of it. Right? And so, at our most vulnerable spot, we’re needing to reach out and then do all this homework and track this down. Right? And here, here’s something that I’d want people to keep in mind. Let’s say you’ve recently found out you’ve been sexually betrayed. You don’t know where to start. Maybe you look up these two directories that Jill’s just given in this podcast, and you may think, oh, I just can’t, I can’t talk to this person. What I’d want people to know, and this applies to mental health providers as well as physicians, because someone may need to be tested for STDs or STIs, and you may think, oh, no, I can’t. What will they think of me? Sadly, in our culture right now, sexual betrayal is so pervasive and common.

I want people to know, really, when you reach out to a clinician or a physician for help, very rarely do I hear stories where that was met with shock and awe. Like, oh my goodness, I’ve, I’ve never heard of this before. No, clinicians and physicians are regularly encountering this. And I don’t say that to normalize that in a depressing way, but for anyone out there feeling shame about reaching out, please reach out. And if you encounter a physician or clinician that is just not getting it, there will be someone who will, because there’s a growing number who are trained and specialized in this. So please, I know it, I, I don’t mean this to sound cliche, but don’t lose hope. Keep looking, keep searching those excellent help available. And, it’s out there. So yeah, people deserve help. They deserve support. This is, this is not an illness.

I wanna be clear, because a lot of people will feel pathologized like, oh, he or she has done this, and now I’m the one that needs help. You know? And they’ll say, no, I’m not the one that’s messed up. They’ve created this mess. They need to get the help. And what I say to that is, it’s an injury. It’s an injury to our nervous system, right? And like any energy injury, we each deserve the best care possible. You know, several years ago, I was in a 13 car pile up, a terrible, terrible car accident. I was in the passenger seat, and even the driver was not at fault. It really, it was a black eye situation. And even though no one was clearly at fault, I certainly wasn’t at fault. I wasn’t driving. I still deserved help and needed help getting out of the vehicle.

I was injured, thankfully, not seriously. But I, I use that metaphor for people that have been sexually betrayed. Even if it’s not your your fault, it’s not your fault. You still deserve care for that injury. Right. And when it’s not given the care it needs, it can really lead to long-term challenges and difficulties trusting ever again, and difficulties in future relationships. So please get help if this is occurring for someone listening and know that there’s a growing network of people that hear this and are trained to respond to this more than ever before. And this is an injury and not an illness.

Fight The New Drug (29:21):
That’s, I think, really helpful advice. Thank you so much. One of the things we hear a lot, questions we get asked a lot are when people kind of find out immediately something has, has happened or been happening, they’re really kind of in that onset phase where they’re, you know, getting information or starting to process this. We get asked so often, should I stay or should I go? And, you know, we always recommend reaching out to a licensed clinical professional and, and, and working through this with someone and saying, you know, there’s no right answer. Different things work for different people. But can you talk a little bit about what you’ve seen, and it kind of helped provide some context for what that spectrum can look like of possibilities as an outcome from this?

Jill Manning (30:13):
Sure. Boy, that it is a wide spectrright? It is a wide spectrum for sure, because it depends on the nature of the relationship. And we know from research that those who are married to the person that sexually betrays them will feel that betrayal more deeply. It’ll be more destabilizing. And I think that’s a trickier path to walk through when you have more life invested with someone. Right? Right. And I see that too, even with married individuals, those that have been married two years versus four decades. So I want to acknowledge there’s, there’s not one right answer, and there’s gonna be a lot of factors that come into the mix to consider, to decide what the right decision and healthy decision is for you. Some typical things that I encourage people to look at and think about is, has the betrayal stopped? Or is this ongoing?

First priority is safety, and if someone is not safe and someone may think safety, what is she talking safety? What does that mean? Like, he’s not beating me up, or she’s not beating me up. emotional safety is significant. Can I trust that someone’s shooting straight with me and telling me the truth? Otherwise, those reality distortions over time, they are a safety issue. More than half of my clients have contracted at least one or more STDs from someone that they thought was a monogamous faithful partner, or that they thought was only looking at pornography. Right. So there are, there are, maybe we talk about safety another time, but there are, it’s, it’s risky living with someone who has a compulsive behavior of any kind. And I think sexual compulsivity especially introduces a level of risk to our body, to our home, to our children, and to our relationship that’s unique.

So I encourage people to really carefully give stock, are you safe? Has this stopped? If it hasn’t stopped, why hasn’t it stopped? And I encourage people to take that into consideration. Is this someone that is able to get into recovery and willing to get into recovery? And if they’re not, that’s a different conversation than someone in a relationship with someone who’s really jumping in with both and working as hard as they can on recovery. And even then, someone still has the right to self determine Natale Absolutely. The path for them. It is never my job as a clinician to say whether someone should stay or go. Ethically, it is within my bounds as a clinician to say, look, this situation doesn’t sound safe. I am recommending that you get some space to determine what’s right for you. But generally speaking, it is unethical for any provider or clergy to tell someone they need to stay or, or leave.

So it’s, I see my job really helping create safe space for people to sift through the various factors that are at play in their situation. And to determine now if someone for many years is just not holding the line and staying true, it’s gut wrenching and painful. But I do see more and more people making the decision to leave a relationship because, you know, I’ve, and I’ve talked to many addicts in recovery, people are either gonna choose to get into recovery or they’re not, and not everybody’s capable or, or desires to get into recovery. And so that puts partners in a really, interesting bind.

Fight The New Drug (34:00):
And I think it, it’s helpful. I think, again, to just reiterate, there is no one right way for someone to navigate. there’s no one right outcome. And things can look different for different individuals. So again, such a, a good reminder, I guess, to work with any of these resources available to you with a licensed professional who can provide that safe space and help someone kind of figure out what the next step is that’s right for them. Sometimes, we hear that people experiencing betrayal trauma are called, you know, they’re just being too sensitive or they’re just being insecure. Can you speak a little bit to that?

Jill Manning (34:42):
Well, I, I think for those that think that someone who’s been betrayed by repeated and secretive sexual activity behind their back is just being too sensitive or just, you know, needs to chill out or get with the program or stop being so prudish, whatever, whatever the messaging may be, that message in and of itself shows a lack of empathy, right? So I think we need to start there, you know, like what does it say about the messenger that’s saying you’re just too sensitive, right? and we know that roughly 40% of those that have compulsive pornography use will have some narcissistic traits in the mix. That’s significant. People may not like hearing that, but that, that really bears out in what I see. And it’s painful. It’s, it’s painful for people to believe that reality is one way and then to discover that it’s not right. So I think that’s suggesting this is, oh, someone’s just too sensitive. Either is not in touch with moments in their life when they’ve been betrayed. Or is lacking empathy and just ignorant too, of the experience of being betrayed by someone that you trust or you’re attached to. it’s big. It’s deep.

Fight The New Drug (36:03):
And I think, I mean, just to reinforce that, you know, we talked earlier about this list of physical symptoms that can come with experiencing this trauma and the amount of time that healing can take, and having to build up those, you know, healthy coping mechanisms to be able to navigate it. Like this is not just, you know, a small, a small thing that someone who’s insecure or sensitive is experiencing. It’s a very real trauma as we’ve discussed so

Jill Manning (36:31):
Well, and usually people that are suggesting, oh, she’s just too sensitive, are not in a place where they’re ready to give the behavior up. And so they’re looking for scapegoats, they’re looking to blame shift. It’s convenient to try to make someone else someone’s response, the problem. Right? Right. Rather than looking at and being self-reflective of like, how, how have I created this situation? Right. so there’s typically a lot of immaturity, emotional immaturity in the mix with this, right? And it, it is an Imma it’s an immature statement to say, oh, the problem here is that he or she’s just too sensitive, that that’s not an adult empathetic, evolved response.

Fight The New Drug (37:15):
And, you know, for someone listening maybe who’s not in a relationship, we often hear from people who’ve struggled with pornography that they thought, oh, well, I’ll just stop when I’m in a relationship. And we’ve talked a little bit about the harms of porn on a relationship, but could you maybe speak to the harms of porn on an individual or someone who’s in that state thinking, well just stop when I’m in our relationship. And maybe what you’ve kind of seen with regard to that.

Jill Manning (37:37):
Several years ago, I had the experience of being in a large, speaking situation, and we asked by a show of hands how many people, are married. And we also asked, okay, stay, keep your hands up if this, pornography use this problem started when you were a kid and almost all the hands stayed up. Wow. And what we discussed as a group was, if marriage was going to solve this problem, why are so many married people not just persisting in this, but it’s escalating? Why is that? Well, the answer is that marriage doesn’t solve this problem. Right? So there’s a long list of effects on the individual. This is something that’s been studied for decades. And some of them, just to name a few, we do see people develop a very mechanical view of sexuality. Mechanical meaning it’s just a transaction, it’s just a physical act. It’s not connected to relationship and bonding. Right. there’s more aggressiveness, there’s more misogynistic attitudes. And that includes for women who consume pornography, women who consume pornography will also be more misogynistic toward other females and more objectifying. And so it relationship does not solve this, I think relationship complicates this problem and can exacerbate it because the very ingredients that we need for healthy relationship are the very things that get undercut and distorted through pornography use. Right. It does, it does not engender healthy bonding.

Fight The New Drug (39:21):
And we talked about that there’s kind of hope for healing for someone who’s experiencing the betrayal, but can you talk about the hope for healing for someone who’s experiencing a struggle with pornography?

Jill Manning (39:33):
I would love to because I, I feel passionate that healing is possible across the board. I couldn’t do what I do and get up in the morning if I didn’t believe that change was possible, that people could overcome this. And, and even that, I I, to that point, I meet people every week who are successfully overcoming this, who are healing relationship, who are overcoming the trauma and the compulsivity of this. Now here’s a whole other angle that I want to connect with, with this topic. And ones we’ve talked about a few minutes ago. The majority of people that I meet who are struggling with compulsive sexual behavior have also dealt with trauma. The compulsive sexual behavior is often a symptom of unresolved trauma. Right. So this really is a topic that’s applies to, to everyone in this conversation. But trial trauma is not just an adulthood betrayal. Trauma can be sexual abuse toward a child that’s betrayal trauma. That the person that was supposed to protect and keep us safe, betrayed that trust and used us, took advantage of us, betrayed our physical boundary in that cruel, cruel way. So betrayal trauma is not something that I only see within the context of those that are betrayed in adulthood, but it’s the compulsive sexual behavior often has its roots in that as well.

Fight The New Drug (40:59):
Right. I think that’s a really important connection to make. Jill, this has been so helpful and I think so many people are gonna benefit from hearing what you have to say on these topics. Is there anything else we haven’t talked about yet that you want to share?

Jill Manning (41:13):
Well, I, I, I would want to close with, with sharing a recent example, an experience that I had. I, I wrote a newspaper article recently with a colleague who had ties to fight the new drug many years ago. And, it was so interesting reading some of the comments and reactions to that piece. And one of the most common that I think came through in neon lights in the comment section, there were, there were a few hundred comments, was that more sex is the answer.

Fight The New Drug (41:44):

Jill Manning (41:46):
And there was this blaming of the partner in this story that was shared in the newspaper article that, well, if she, and we could also say he, if he was, if she was more sexually available, if she had been more interested in the sexual relationship, then this wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t be turning to pornography. And I just really wanna push back on that hard. Because in the vast majority of cases, the pornography use comes into the relationship without her knowledge. Right. It started long before she was even in the mix. And m I’d say really the vast majority of my clients, most of whom are female and most of whom are married, miss the intimate relationship with their partner.

Fight The New Drug (42:34):

Jill Manning (42:35):
Long to be sexual with their partner, but refuse to do that when it’s not safe to do so.

Fight The New Drug (42:42):
Right. It’s very vulnerable. Right?

Jill Manning (42:45):
It is. And you know, pornography consumption is not sexy. And what do I mean by that? It doesn’t engender the very traits that people feel drawn toward.

Fight The New Drug (42:59):

Jill Manning (43:00):
You know, I think people need to be very careful in in the blame that’s cast on partners that have been betrayed.

I, see so much sadness and longing and missing of, of real true intimacy. And many of my clients used pornography themselves at some point in their relationship thinking that this would be a benefit to the relationship.

Fight The New Drug (43:27):

Jill Manning (43:28):
Only to find out, no detour, that’s not what happens. . This goes off and veers off in directions they did not expect. And so even in relationships where pornography use is for a time mutual, I want to issue a warning for that because it darts out and skids out from underneath people in unexpected ways. And that’s one of my pushbacks on research that shows quote unquote benefits of pornography use. Most of that data is collected in a self-reported way, does not ask for the opinion of the partner and is not longitudinal. Meaning it may appear to show benefits in the short term, but if you extend that 10, 20 years and you include the relationship in that data. I see as a clinician, a very different story. And I, I have many of my clients right now that I’m currently working with who’ve done a 180 where they said, Jill, I thought this would help our relationship.

I bought into that notion we were doing this together. Even then I later found out he was using this secretly, this was escalating behind our back. This is not what we agreed to. And so I, I wanna, I wanna close with a message of warning for those that think this is a benefit, even if they’re using that and have a willing partner that from everything I’ve seen over 24 years, I do not see that holding it. It’s a comp. These are complex issues. I don’t wanna oversimplify any of it. This is a diverse group of people that are betrayed and most of the people struggling with pornography use compulsively have also had betrayal in their history. So I have a lot of compassion for both sides of this. I really do. And there’s healing available and there’s hope available. There’s more and more available to help and people do overcome this.

Fight The New Drug (45:23):
Well, thank you so much, Jill. This was such an important conversation. I’m so grateful we were able to have it with you. So thank you for making some time for us today.

Jill Manning (45:31):
Thank you.

Closing (45:37):
Thanks for joining us on this episode of Consider Before Consuming. Consider Before Consuming is brought to you by Fight the New Drug. Fight The New Drug is a non-religious and a non legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects, using only science, facts and personal accounts. Check out the episode notes for resources mentioned in this episode. If you find this podcast helpful, consider subscribing and leaving a review. Consider Before Consuming is made possible by listeners like you. If you’d like to support Consider Before Consuming, you can make a one-time or recurring donation of any amount at That’s F-T-N-D.O.R.G/support. Thanks again for listening. We invite you to increase your self-awareness, look both ways, check your blind spots, and consider before consuming.

Fight the New Drug collaborates with a variety of qualified organizations and individuals with varying personal beliefs, affiliations, and political persuasions. As FTND is a non-religious and non-legislative organization, the personal beliefs, affiliations, and persuasions of any of our team members or of those we collaborate with do not reflect or impact the mission of Fight the New Drug.


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