PSAs and Retaliatory Violence

Last week we looked some of the ways the Partner of a Sex Addict (PSA) might get help if she is living with domestic violence. I also talked about some of the barriers to helpf for some women: such as fear of police involvement or of being pushed to leave the relationship.

There is another reason that women sometimes do not report the abuse: they themselves have been violent with their husbands.

You're not alone

In Beyond Betryal I wrote: “70% of the women who responded to the 2014/2015 Survey admitted doing something they regretted in response to discovering their husband's betrayal. The single most common regret was lashing out verbally. The second most common: lashing out physically.” I then went on to give some examples of the latter from the survey participants (and my own story) which included smashing things, throwing things, and sometimes hitting/slapping him."

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you'll know that most PSAs struggle with trauma, particularly in the early days after discovery/disclosure. Rage, and its frequent companion, violence, are common trauma reactions. Trauma by nature causes us to, when triggered, do things we would normally never do. As PSAs we are most likely to be triggered by our husband and then direct our rage and violence at him.

Fortunately few women end up injuring their husbands when their "switch flips" into rage. This is in part because most of us are smaller and less strong than our husbands, who are generally very capable of defending themselves physically. If our husband is repentent for the betrayals and not prone to violence himself, such incidents usually pass quickly: particularly if we seek support and help for managing our trauma triggers.

Escalating violence

Unfortunately, many SAs  shows patterns of abuse (as per my recent study) and/or victim thinking. If such is the case, our husband may actually take advantage of our lashing out in our trauma. Taking advantage of it could mean any of the following:

  • Retaliating with worse, possibly injurious, physical violence
  • Using verbal abuse to escalate/set off our rage so he can:
    • tell others how "out of control" we are (not bothering to share his own abusive behaviours/part in the incident).
    • call the police and report that we're abusing him
  • Use the episode to threaten and control us should we look at taking steps to protect ourselves from his betyals/abuse

It's possible I'm missing some. You can read more on this topic here.

In any case, even if we made the first move toward physical violence, our husband is absolutely not the victim if he's using the incident against us. If you are experiencing this form of abuse, please do seek support for yourself, and also consider putting some physical space between yourself and your husband for now. The last thing any PSA deserves, in addition to her very difficult trauma healing journey, is to end up before the courts or in hospital.

Misdirected anger

Sometimes our anger gets miscirected towards other people besides our SA spouse. This is most likely to be the case when we feel unsafe to direct any of our just anger toward our husband. While it's natural for our anger to seek an outlet, we are not going to be able to feel very good about ourselves if it's being directed at our children or other innocent and vulnerable people. Please note as well that some depression is actually anger we are directing inwardly at ourselves... and that's equally inappropriate and unhelpful.

Likewise, if our husband is not behaving abusively and our raging is frequent and violent, or is continuing long after the initial discovery of the betrayal, we can see this as a sign we need more support. Any betrayal trauma coach or therapist can help us with learning to manage "unmanagable" emotions. We may also want to consider a therapeutic separation, in order to decrease our triggers, while we work on learning trigger coping skills.

If, like many of the survey participants, we feel regret for anything we do while triggered, we can consider apologising. At the very least we'll probably want to apologise to God for (possibly) failing to be Christ-like. That said, I think it is possible to be "angry and not sin" (Eph. 4:26) and I do think some SA husbands have been helped by seeing their (normally peaceful) wife's rage in response to his behaviors. Christ-like sometimes include turning over tables.


This article was written by:
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Lisa Taylor

Lisa is a PSA trauma survivor, counselor and award-winning author living with her kids & recovering husband in New Zealand. She runs groups and sees international clients via Naked Truth Recovery.
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