Betrayal
Trauma
Recovery

3 Ways Your Abuser is Grooming You (& How To Get To Safety)

by | Abuse Literacy

Learning the 3 ways your abuser is grooming you may be pivotal stepping stones in your journey to safety and healing.

Abusers groom their victims when they manipulate victims and others into thinking that they are making lasting changes in their abusive and unfaithful behaviors. Sandy joins Anne on the free BTR podcast to take a deep dive into her journey of identifying her abusive ex-husband’s grooming techniques, and ultimately finding safety and healing. Read the full transcript below and listen to the free BTR podcast for more.

Your Abuser is Grooming You If You Have to Remind or Convince Him Of His Abusive Behaviors

An abusive man who truly wants to change will not require you or anyone else to constantly remind him or convince him that behaviors are abusive.

Many victims get pulled into a soul-sucking cycle of consistently “teaching” their abuser that his behaviors are harmful. Victims in this cycle become emotionally exhausted, physically depleted, and sexually debased because men who require constant correction from their wives are not changing, they are just placating their victims.

Constantly Convincing Him Of The Abuse Doesn’t Work

“After a year of trying to convince him that he needs to work through these big issues, that he needed to essentially be able to protect me from himself… he never understood. I doubt he understands it now.”

Sandy, member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Community

As Sandy explained, even after a year of consistently trying to get him to see reality, her ex-husband wouldn’t, and still won’t, grasp the depth of the harm he caused. This truth can be painful to accept: you cannot convince your partner that what he is doing, and has done, has caused you immeasurable harm.

If you are in the cycle of calling your abuser out and having to convince him that you are indeed hurt by his horrific behaviors, you are probably being groomed.

Your Abuser is Grooming You When He Agrees With What You Say, But Doesn’t Change His Behavior

Often, abusive men will gaslight their victims by agreeing to what they say without actually changing anything. For example, a woman may say that she’s not okay with her partner using pornography. He may reply that he’s sorry, he knows it’s wrong, and he’s going to stop right away.

He is grooming her if he continues to use pornography because even if he had the intention to stop (abusers usually believe they have good intentions), he didn’t actually follow through with what he agreed to.

This can be a form of crazy-making. Many women report that they feel confused, afraid, and unheard when their partner repeatedly complies or agrees with what they say, then continues to abuse and betray them.

If Your Abuser Is Sexually Acting Out In Any Way, He Is Probably Grooming You

Sexually acting out to any degree is not a part of the recovery cycle: it is part of the abuse cycle.

When men promise to make changes but continue to act out, even if it’s less frequent or less intense than before, they are not changing. They are still betraying and abusing their partners.

Sexual Fidelity Doesn’t Come By Degrees: It’s A Choice To Act Out, Every Time

The harmful and false belief that sexual sobriety is a gradual process causes indescribable danger and pain to victims. Women are scripted by abusers, poorly-trained therapists, and even clergy, to believe statements like:

  • He’s doing so much better, he only acted out three times this week instead of every day.
  • At least it’s not like it was before – he’s only using porn now instead of going to massage parlor. He must be changing.
  • He’s just fantasizing now, all men do it. He’s made so much progress. Stop being so hard on him.
  • These habits are hard to break, give him some time and expect him to relapse now and then.

These statements are not only false, but they are extremely harmful to victims. They imply that women should gratefully put up with varying degrees of fidelity and respect from their partner. At BTR, we believe that every woman deserves respect, kindness, and safety. Men who sexually betray their wives but claim that they are changing are manipulating their partners: that is the very definition of grooming.

Doing The Bare Minimum: A Sign That He Is Grooming You

It is tragically common for abusive men to comply with their victims’ bottom lines by doing the bare minimum. For example, if a victim asks her partner to enroll in an abuse cessation program, he may agree and then only attend one or two sessions. If she asks him to give her sexual and emotional space, he may agree, then push boundaries by groping her or manipulating her into spending time with him.

When men do the bare minimum to stay in a marriage where they have been betraying and abusing their partner, it is a slap in the face and a sickening gesture of entitlement. It is also a clear indicator that they are not changing and they are not safe: they are grooming their victims.

BTR Empowers Victims of Betrayal & Abuse To Seek Safety

Sandy realized that her safety and health were important: she began to feel her own worth as a human being and courageously separated herself from the abuse. For Sandy and many other victims, this meant divorce.

At BTR, we encourage all women to practice self-care, become empowered about trauma and abuse, and most importantly, seek safety from the abuse.

How Can Your Find Safety When Your Husband is Grooming You?

Recognizing that you are being groomed is a powerful step toward safety. As you understand and accept that you are being groomed, you can make informed decisions about your safety and health.

Boundary-setting is the key to finding safety from abuse. Your boundaries are not requests or ultimatums, they are grounded beliefs in who you are and your worth, that help you determine what actions you must take to protect your precious self from abuse.

The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets daily in multiple time zones and offers victims the opportunity to process trauma and learn how to implement safety boundaries. Join today and begin your journey to healing.

Full Transcript:

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

I’m going to continue my conversation with Sandy today, so if you did not listen to last week’s episode please listen to that first and then join us here.

Before we get started if this podcast is helpful to you, will you please rate it on Apple Podcast or your other podcasting apps? Every single 5-star rating with a review helps isolated women find us. Here is a 5-star review we just received.

Rate the BTR Podcast And Help Victims

“This saved me. I cannot thank you enough. On a whim, I listened to the very first episode after reluctantly doing so because I thought the title didn’t fit my situation very well, but after listening to her first episode I was introduced to the author Lundy Bancroft and realized that most of the marital struggles we have been having for 13 years were because he has an abusive mindset. I told my husband this and of course, he disagreed but over some time he came around and realized he does have an abusive mindset and is completely changing himself for the better every day. All of this because I listened to your very first episode. Your episodes have been so helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us. It is changing my life for the better.”

Join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is going strong. When you join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group you get unlimited live sessions with multiple sessions a day in every single time zone. We hope to see you in a session soon.

Alright, we’re going to jump right in with the continuation of the conversation we had last week with Sandy, a member of our community.

Anne: Did any of the therapists that worked with you or him say that he’s an abuser? That you’re in an abusive relationship? Did anyone say that to you?

You Abuser May Be Grooming You If You Need Constant Reminders That it’s Abuse

Sandy: No, they didn’t. At one point I was reading a book that has to do with sex addiction and it was talking about abuse and I was like, I feel like he abused me. I’m pretty sure he has. It was sort of my investigation, although when my mom asked, “What was going on with you guys?”, I said, “Well, he’s been sexually abusing me.” I did use those words before, but it was almost like I had to keep convincing myself that this was abuse because he wasn’t hitting me or all the things that you normally see or hear about.

I remember looking up “is nonconsensual pornography abuse?”, “is rape abuse?”. I mean, yes of course these things are abuse. I shouldn’t have to be googling this.

Anne: You found that it was? Is that when you found BTR?

If Your Abuser is Grooming You, You Need Support

Sandy: I found BTR through a friend who was from a different support group.

Anne: When you got here to BTR were you like, “Oh, this makes sense”? Because a lot of people google that stuff and they won’t find anything, and then when they find us, they’re like, “Oh, finally somebody gets it”. Or did you find some other places that you felt like you were understood?

Sandy: I think when I was googling things, I was really just strictly looking for definitions. Like the definition of rape, the definition of nonconsensual pornography, voyeurism. These are crimes, these are things you go to jail for. It seems pretty obvious that that’s abuse, but for whatever reason, it gave me some sort of comfort to have the correct terms, correct definitions to put with all of this. To have the right labels.

Abusers Can Use Therapy To Groom Therapists & Victims

Anne: Yeah. He’s going to a therapist. You go to the therapist and you’re like, “Whoa, therapy is not going to work because he’s not really talking about anything”, and part of that is during this time nobody is saying to you that you’re in an abusive relationship, that this man is abusive. So, you’ve also got that going on where you are kind of recognizing the abuse, but nobody is saying directly you’re in an abusive relationship.

Sandy: Right, yeah. So, he moved out. He continued to see his therapist, I continued to see mine. It was interesting because he admitted to me at that point that his therapeutic goals were just to be a better husband. Whereas my therapeutic goal was to heal from trauma and even just looking at that we were not going down the same path.

Anne: His therapeutic goal was not to not be a rapist.

Sandy: Right.

Center For Peace Identifies Grooming Behaviors & Holds Abusers Accountable

Anne: His therapeutic goal wasn’t I want to stop raping my wife and I want to stop being abusive. That was not his therapeutic goal. By the way, that is why we recommend Center For Peace as the only place if your husband is going to go anywhere. At Center For Peace Coach Joi talks with the victim once a week to make sure the things that he is saying are true and to make sure she is getting the whole story. Because if they don’t tell the truth how would you know, and then you have to base your confrontation of the abuse based on what the victim says, not on what the perpetrator says because they never tell the truth.  

So, this is happening, and his goal is to be a better husband and you’re recognizing, “Wait a minute, there is some serious stuff wrong here.”

He May Be Grooming You If You Have To Convince Him It’s Abuse

Sandy: Right. I feel like even after he moved out I was always trying to sort of relay the seriousness of the situation, and he never quite got that and even when I pointed out that this is a sex addiction and you need to see somebody who specializes in that, he just said, “Well, there is nobody in our area. I’ll just get some books and I’ll read up on it.”

Anne: Did you ever confront him and say, “You’re abusive”, at that time?

If He’s Doing The “Bare Minimum” He’s Probably Grooming You

Sandy: I didn’t. Essentially after a year of trying to convince him that he needs to work through these big issues, that he needed to essentially be able to protect me from himself is what needed to happen, which he never understood. I don’t even know if he still understands that. That’s when I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” It just felt like every time I turned around, he was doing the bare minimum to stay in the relationship. He’s like, “Well, look, I’m in therapy, I’m doing good. How many other guys would go to therapy and this kind of thing?” I couldn’t do it anymore. It just felt like playing this game. I just was done. I can’t describe it any other way.

CSATs Focus on Sexual Compulsions, Center For Peace Focuses On Changing Abusive Thinking

Anne: That makes sense. When you decided you were done did you file? What happened at that point?

Sandy: It took me a while to file just because I think I wanted to make sure, for whatever reason. I could tell he was getting really desperate and he didn’t know what to do. He did find a CSAT at that point who wanted to talk to me, and of course, they’re very much like, “Well, we usually work together,” and I was like, “Well, my therapist says no.”

He’s Grooming You If He Still Acts Out Sexually (To Any Degree)

That’s one of the comments I should share. This is an example of how serious or not serious he took the CSAT even. So, I guess when they first enter, the CSAT tells them, “No sex and no masturbation for 90 days because you need to completely reset your system.” He comes to me and was like, “Can you believe I have to go three months without sex or masturbation? And it’s swimsuit season.” I was like, “Oh my gosh, no.”

Anne: But the other thing we need to talk about is that you went to a CSAT and the CSAT didn’t tell you, “This is an abuse situation.”

He Is Grooming You If He Refuses To Acknowledge the Abuse

Sandy: No. I mean, I never really saw the CSAT. I met with her once for like 10 minutes.

Anne: Well, but they’re not looking at this like this is an abuse situation. They’re looking at this like this is a sex addict, not that this is an abuser.

Sandy: Right, no they don’t. They don’t look at it as abuse.

Anne: Right, and so that is super dangerous for victims as well, because even if they’re going and they’re maybe making good progress, but if they’re not addressing the abusiveness then we’ve got a problem on our hands because what this really is, is emotional and psychological abuse and sexual abuse.

Trauma Mama, Husband Drama Helps Victims of Abuse & Betrayal

I’m going to take a break for just a second to talk about Trauma Mama, Husband Drama, which is my picture book for adults. This book is perfect to give to family, friends, clergy, whoever so that they can really understand what you’re going through. It helps reframe pornography addiction as an abuse issue. Please leave a review to help other women find it. So many women are searching for books on Amazon and it’s great when they find this one because then they also find the podcast and all the resources that we have available.

Okay, now back to our conversation.

So, he’s going to the CSAT.

Betrayal & Abuse Destroys Trust

Sandy: He seemed like he was committed to it, I guess that’s the best word, but I thought, “Well, if he wants to get healthy on his own that’s great, but I can’t stay in this relationship.” I just knew it. So, we decided to do mediation instead of hire lawyers for our divorce, which worked well. Thankfully he was cooperative about it all. I think that he was seeing the CSAT and doing the SAA recovery 12-step program for a while actually, and I thought, “That’s really good. I’m glad for him. I hope that he can figure this out.” At some point, I think I just realized that I just could never trust him again whether he was doing the recovery or not. I just wasn’t going to be able to do that. So, essentially, I just had to let him go because you can’t have an intimate partner relationship with somebody you can’t trust.

If He’s Grooming You, He’ll Groom Future Partners

So fast forward and I find out he has a girlfriend, and I’m like, “Of course he does, because I don’t think he’s in recovery anymore. He must have given up on it a while back.” Of course, we’re not married anymore so it’s none of my business at this point what he does except that we have three kids together and I want to make sure that they are safe and I don’t want them to be raised thinking that the way he treats women is okay. So, that’s my main concern at this point.

Grooming Is Not An In-Depth, Permanent Change

Anne: Well, I think it’s validating to see that their behaviors haven’t changed. That the fake recovery was perhaps just a grooming phase where they thought, “Oh, I can show that I’m a good person or I can ‘prove’ I’m a good person”, but it wasn’t an in-depth change because an in-depth change would be him saying, “I realize that I raped you, I recognized that I put up porn.” He would recognize the extent of the damage that he did, which he does not. So, your current boundaries are awesome, that you hold those boundaries.

So, now that you’re divorced and you’re recognizing that he’s still abusive and that he still exhibits abusive behaviors, how has your healing gone? What have you found that has been helpful for your ongoing healing?

Victims Can Process Trauma Through Art

Sandy: I have done a number of things, and one of them is creating sculptures that depict women either struggling or holding some emotion. Basically, what I ended up doing is because I’m a ceramic artist sculptor, I just ended up pouring my emotion into these clay women. It was almost like I couldn’t handle it myself and so I just decided to make it out of clay. So, these women are attached to vessels that I throw on the wheel and then they are engaging with them somehow, either climbing on them or pulling them together or looking inside them.

It was very freeing to be able to do that.

Anne: To process your trauma through art?

Sandy: Yeah.

Anne: Due to confidentiality reasons we’re not going to show you her art, but it is incredible.

Movement & Creativity Help Victims Process Trauma

What an amazing way to process. I gardened a lot. Some women exercise a lot. I mean there are so many different ways to process the trauma, and I would encourage listeners to comment below some of the different ways that you processed it. Like, maybe you started painting or remodeling your house or some different way, because talking about it is super helpful but it’s also good to start just moving it out through movement, art, or other ways. So, we’d love to hear how you’ve been processing the trauma down below in the comments section.

If you could go back and share anything with yourself before you got married, like any bits of wisdom that may have helped you in beginning this journey with an abusive man, what would you say to yourself?

When Abusers Agree To Change Without Lasting Behavioral Changes, They Are Grooming Victims

Sandy: I’d probably say, “Don’t be afraid to have a confrontation and hard discussion and if he is not willing to have those or be serious in conversation, then it’s time to see a therapist.” Now looking back, there were many times when I would go to him and I would think that he was hearing me or listening to me, and he was always like, “Okay, that’s fine, I’ll do better.” He so avoided confrontation. Basically, I want to say that if you are not actually having disagreements and I don’t want to say fights, but I mean essentially fights. If you are just sort of like coasting along in your marriage, it’s actually not good. That’s my opinion. If nobody sticks up for anything that they believe in on either end. That’s what I would say, and it doesn’t mean like a fight or disagreement, it doesn’t have to be anything abusive. It’s just that, it’s just a disagreement and everybody has them and it will show a lot of the health of the relationship if you can have those talks and discussions and disagreements without abuse. You know, in a respectful way.

He is Grooming You If He Agrees With You But His Behaviors Don’t Match Up

Anne: Yeah, I would agree. For those of us who got in a lot of fights, I would say disagreements make sense but not in the way that we were disagreeing because it was just abuse, and you’re talking about a man who you thought agreed with you but was really always just playacting you or grooming you. I am so sorry about your experience and so glad that you’re safer now. Do you limit contact a lot even though you share custody?

Sandy: Yes, I mean, really if it doesn’t have to do with the kids, I pretty much just don’t talk to him. There’s really just no reason to at this point.

Women Can Help Each Other By Sharing Their Stories

Anne: Well, thank you so much for being so brave and for sharing your story today. I think it’s so important to share these stories because so many women go through them. I’ve had quite a few women tell me that they’ve had their husbands take pictures of them without their consent and post it for porn. I wouldn’t say it’s the most common thing in the world, like a cold; well, maybe it is, I don’t know. But it’s also not rare and I think people would be surprised to know. I think porn users would be surprised to know that some of the porn that they are viewing is of a wife who has no idea.

Sandy: Yeah, it’s very possible.

Anne: And that reason alone is a reason to boycott porn.

Thank you so much for sharing today.

Sandy: Thank you.

Support the BTR Podcast

Anne: I would love to hear what you think about all of our podcast episodes, please leave your comment down below.

Similarly, if the website and all these free resources that we provide are helpful to you and it helped you come out of the chaos and the pain, I’m sure you want to help other women do that too. We really appreciate your support, and until next week, stay safe out there.     

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