Everybody Breathe

I need to stop and take a breath.

The focus I have put on whole family care in the last five blogs has been tough. It hit home to so many women. It meant many of us looked back at those years of discovery/recovery/non-recovery and could see that our children—no matter what their age—were not factored in for attention, gentle inquiry and careful listening.

My sons were young adults. After their father decided to do a “data dump” of his secret/notsosecret activity details with no warning in front of all of us, I followed my gut and told him to stop, got my sons out of there, and followed up with each one the next day, face-to-face, and suggesting I find them someone to talk to (on my nickel) but with complete privacy and no reporting to me or their father. They declined. I wasn’t surprised but I also am now aware that just as there was nothing there to support me, my sons’ needs were even farther out in the galaxy line-up for attention.

So, it’s hard to look back and see the total mash-up of incompetence, neglect, and therapeutic trauma. It’s even harder to look where you are right now and try to set up a recovery opportunity for him that doesn’t negatively impact children’s lives in significant ways. It’s hard to look into the future and start thinking about how the impact of this experience will reveal itself in our children’s lives. Everything’s hard.

We all need to breathe, not just me.

Does the treatment industry seem as far behind to you as it does to me? The work we are doing here grappling with real questions, real issues, and real needs seems light years more that the industry’s latest new invented word served up for us to use to label ourselves. (Look over here at this bright shiny albeit patronizing thing you get to be now and stop talking about your trauma symptoms because they are really trauma-like symptoms so get off it already.) The best we may see is a co-opting of the language “whole family care” accompanied by an unapologetic avoidance of using clinical traumatologists to do that. But they should be brought in to assess, diagnose and treat any family members of the compulsive-abusive sexual relational disordered man.

It’s trauma no matter what you call it. And we know how to treat trauma. It’s a basic tri-phasic model introduced in 1992 by Dr. Judith Herman that is now the foundational piece of trauma care. Others have followed with tools and practices that can also support women and children who are recovering from trauma. The reason I created a risk assessment resource was precisely because the industry wasn’t teaching this basic tool to wives and partners.

Everybody breathe. Inhale through your nose to the count of five. Exhale through your mouth through the count of 7. Do that five times. This is your basic building block for managing your trauma symptoms. Learn it so it becomes your reflex. Don’t think. Breathe. Your breathing is the shortest path to your central nervous system. Intentional or mindful breathing is the quickest way you tell your limbic alarm systems that they can dial down.

And if you haven’t heard that yet, please ask why you haven’t. This is the most fundamental piece to cope with your alarms and resume control. Every field and clinical traumatologist knows that. Learning you can manage your systems bit by bit and diminish or eliminate the effects altogether means you are less able to be manipulated, more able to think clearly, and are empowered to stand up for yourself and your children. And that’s what you need to start doing. Stop pandering to his attitudes of sad-sack victim or arrogant bastard. Breathe. Stop doing what you’re told by condescending and insulting therapists who don’t even try to hide their misogyny. Breathe. Stop participating in a model that makes your children invisible and cares nothing for the impact of his secret life on their innocent lives. Breathe.

Everybody breathe.

with you,


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Diane Strickland