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We Aren’t Sick – We Don’t Need Healing

Maybe this is just my obdurate nature, but the idea that I’m unwell because of my husband’s sexual deviancy seriously bugs me.

As an etymologist who believes words matter, I’ve spent years studying words to determine accurate descriptors of the behaviors of men who abuse sexually, emotionally, psychologically, etc. With the same tenacity, I want to articulate exact and correct terms for the victim’s experience.

Of all the terms I have the  most difficulty with is this idea that victims of abuse need to heal. It is as though we are unwell because of how much trauma we experience. Abusers often say that everything will be OK once we “heal” or “get past the trauma.”  It’s like we need to get over the flu, or other malady.

Making Meaning of Your Experience

The conundrum we face when trying to get to an accurate expression of experience, is that words often mean different things to different people. Some women may resonate with the idea of her husband helping her heal. Certainly, none of us will heal if we are made to keep our pain silent. 

When we speak – out loud – the words of pain and trauma we are processing in a healthy manner. We hear the words our mind rehearses, we move the thoughts through the neural pathways which helps with the strong emotions and the ordering of events to eventually have the thoughts moved into the long-term memory storage. 

Talking does the following:

  • Self-witnessing of the experience through the audible expression of the experience
  • Makes it real and valid to the areas of thought where we are shocked by or in denial of what happened
  • Talking about the experience helps thoughts become more organized so that you can determine actual events, or clear up confusion on previous experiences that did not align well with your gut knowing
  • Talking, especially with a safe friend or counselor, brings in a second witness – someone who does not minimize, discount or dismiss you and your experience

To make meaning of what we experience is known as “sense making.” This psychological process is especially important when dealing with repeating traumatic events like targeted partner abuse©. 

This is why accurate words matter!

Help/ing Us Heal

Books, podcasts, blogs and DVDs have been produced ad nauseam by the voices in the so-called addiction community. This proliferates the idea that victims of abuse need to heal and by doing so, we’ll be well enough to walk back into a marriage with full trust and forgiveness of the very egregious behaviors husbands have executed and kept secret – often from before the marriage vows were stated.

Using the Terms Established by the Addiction Recovery Community

It isn’t uncommon for industries to have a language or terminology that is industry specific. This is especially true in the so-called addiction recovery community. Terminology like, “acting out,” “addict brain,” and even “sex addict,” have been promoted and widely accepted as accurate referencing for the issues or conditions within this population. 

I would posit that we need to look at some of the terms we’ve come to accept as more beneficial for the perpetrators and abusers than for the victim. For me, this is no more true than in the ideology that victims need to heal. 

It is true that we sustain great injury – soul deep pain – when we discover the secret sexual deviancy of our husbands, as well as the emotional, psychological and verbal abuse that often accompanies sexual treason. It is also true that due to the repeated behaviors, that pain can be reactivated by memory, thoughts, or even visuals or locations. It may make sense that these outcomes require a type of healing.

Defining “Heal” to Align With a Victim’s Experience

A common definition of “heal” means to “make free from injury or disease.” This particular definition is problematic for me in that my husband’s treason does not create a disease in me. More importantly, I am not going to be made free of it either. I am going to find a way to achieve a place of acceptance, but it will forever mark my life due to the depth and degree of destruction of his behaviors .

Maybe it’s the idea that my husband, who was the one who caused such destruction  in my world, somehow becomes the magic healer who puts the proverbial Humpty-dumpty back together again. If this is true, I have to accept the terms of repair that he brings to the table. If you have experienced anything like what I have – my husband more often than not thinks he’s innocent and that I am harshly accusative of the mole-hill I keep making into mountains.

Renovate, Restore, or Rectify

There are some words that fit a bit better for me than “heal,” but none of them really land in the way that would help me feel like it is commensurate with and to the depth and degree of harm intentionally inflicted. 

  • Rectify, speaks to removing the errors, deviations and deficiencies. Great word, but that seems to be something the abuser should be doing himself as part of his work. 
  • Restore, speaks to bringing back to a former condition – something I am not at all looking to achieve as part of working out what happened due to my husband’s treason.
  • Renovate, is about putting into good shape, or working order. Great – sounds good, except that again – I’m not sure I want my husband touching the working order of me, my mind, heart, or even my life until I am convinced he can articulate in full truth what he did to me. 

Where does this leave us?  

For me, I’m not looking for, nor do I want in any way for my husband to “fix” things for me. I want him to correct his behavior and provide redress and reparation for what I sustained as the one truly innocent party.

Assuage, Ameliorate and Reinforce

I tell the men in the year-long abuse correction program at Center for Peace that there is no “Magic Eraser” or whiteout that can fully remove the sting of their actions in their wife’s lives or even in their own. However, there are very definite actions they should take to amend, ameliorate and assuage the decades-long injury that caused being married to him to be a deeply unbearable and intolerable condition. 

Why these words?

  • Assuage, because I need the severity to stop, and for him to live in a way that is bearable for me
  • Ameliorate, because I want him to credit me with my dignity, my right to tell my story and for him to accept this as a true description of the outcome of his behavior – regardless of his narrative or rationale
  • Reinforce, meaning to confirm and provide appropriate evidence that his behavior has ceased and that he will for the rest of his life amend what is deficient in his character that led to the lies, secrecy and that his atrocious sexual treason ceases – permanently!

Center for Peace Literary Guide

It is not the place of any counselor or coach to tell clients what language to use to make sense of their individual experience. This is an affront to human dignity. Likewise, it is wrong for the addiction recovery community or any so-called sex addict to prescribe in any way, the experiences of the women who marry men who commit intimate treason and treat women in abusive ways.

Center for Peace would like to extend an invitation to share your terms and definitions to help create a Center for Peace Literary Guide. If you would like to participate – please email us at the email us. with #CFP Literary Guide in the subject line

You are welcome to share anonymously or with your first name any terms you like to use. Please include your definition, reasoning for why you prefer that term and the applications where this term fits for you.

Honoring the Dignity of All Victims

At Center for Peace® our mission is two-fold; to help men correct abusive thinking that leads to abusive behavior. And, but most importantly, to help men restore the dignity taken from their wife by the sexual treason, secrets, lies and all abusive actions committed against her. 

If you have been abusive – to any degree  – to the woman you once told you loved above all others, and you want more than anything to offer her the choice of consenting again to a marriage with you that is based in love, honesty and fidelity, the year-long program is the only way to that outcome.

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