Does your husband promise you that he will do anything to help heal your marriage from his abuse and betrayal? Then when you tell him what you need, he refsues to do it or simply ignores you? Kirsten, a courageous and delightfully witty member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community shares the three ways your husband is “meatloafing you”. Read the full transcript below and listen to the free BTR podcast for more.
What Is “Meatloafing”?
Betrayal and abuse victims may ask their partner to honor their boundaries, live up to requests, or honor ultimatums. When abusers do not follow through on their promise to do “anything” to help create safety, they are “meatloafing” the victim. The term was coined by Kirsten from the famous Meatloaf song, “I Would Do Anything For Love.”
“Oftentimes the offending partner will profess with all kinds of words all the things that they’re willing to do. ‘I feel so bad, I’ll do anything I can to fix this’; but when they are actually put to the test by a boundary or a task that has been set by the offended partner they refuse to engage, they refuse to follow through and so that just goes to show you that the old adage that you watch their feet and not their mouth is definitely true.Kirsten, member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community
Your Husband is Meatloafing You When He Refuses To Follow Through on Simple Tasks
Paying for something (Anne shares a story of an abuser refusing to pay for his daughter’s lost earing), cleaning up after himself, honoring sexual and physical boundaries, keeping confidences, showing up for appointments… the simple requests that many abusers refuse to do, claiming it’s on “principle” are signs of meatloafing.
When an abuser promises his partner or ex-partner that he will help her heal, he is offering to fulfill his duty to live amends. This means that reasonable requests should be honored.
When an abuser refuses to honor those reasonable requests, he is basically saying, “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that simple, easy, honorable thing you have asked me to do.”
Does Your Husband Call You “Controlling”? He Is Probably Meatloafing You
When women set boundaries they are not being codependent or controlling. They are looking for safety and they are looking for truth.Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
A clear sign that your abuser is meatloafing you is that he says or implies that you are controlling. Abusers and their enablers regularly label safety-seeking behaviors and boundary-setting as “controlling”. This comes out in statements like:
- “When you ask me to do things you remind me of my mom.”
- “I was going to do that but now that you’re asking me I just want the freedom to do it in my own time when I’m ready.”
- “Why do you always make the decisions for our family?”
- “Why are you asking me to do that when it’s something you know I don’t want to do?”
- “I’m not going to do that on a matter of principle.”
When Your Abuser Makes Grandiose Promises, He Is Meatloafing You
A man in true recovery shows his honesty, integrity, and commitment to change through serious lifestyle changes. He doesn’t make over-the-top promises only to break them days or weeks later.
Tragically, many victims find hope in their abuser’s big promises, hoping that they have at least made some progress by admitting that they need to change. However, this is simply another tool that abusers employ to keep victims stuck in the abuse cycle. When victims believe their abuser is going to change, they are much more likely to stay in harmful situations.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Helps Victims Identify “Meatloafing” & Other Abusive Tactics
“You need a community around you of women who understand what you’ve gone through. You don’t have to try and explain everything to them because they already know. You need people that you can laugh with.”Kirsten, a member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community
Women deserve a safe place to process trauma, ask questions, receive healthy feedback, and even laugh. Humor is an important tool in healing. Find all of this and more in the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group. With multiple live sessions a day, the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is here for you as you begin your healing journey.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
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We have a member of our community on today, but before we get to that let’s talk about the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group.
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Okay, now on to this week’s guest.
A Betrayal Trauma Community Member Joins Anne
Anne: I have Kirsten on the podcast today. I know her personally, and she’s amazing. She’s a member of our community. She is a divorced mom of 4 and she’s also an incredible artist and writer who likes to explore being a real human being. Breaking through destructive personal and generational patterns, and how handling hard times with humor can make life more palatable. We’re going to have her on again in the future with a few other women talking about doing some survivor standup. Not today, but on a different day. Kirsten strives to not take herself too seriously and to help balance out a very serious thing she’s been through in her life with humor and art and other modes of coping. Kirsten helps advocate for trauma-focused changes in the therapy industry.
We’re going to talk about a phrase that she invented, that she is now going to explain to you. I’m not going to let the cat out of the bag; I’m going to let her set up what this term is and then we’ll have a discussion about it. So, can you talk about the background of this term first of all?
When Victims Begin To Set Limits & Boundaries, Abusers May Start “Meatloafing”
Kirsten: So, a little bit about my personal back story. I had been about 17 years into my then marriage and we were about a year into an in-house separation and working on him trying to recovery from his sex addiction and me trying to recovery from 17 years of long-term premediated and fairly disturbing mind games and lies and betrayal. We were doing an in-house separation and he had said that he would do anything to fix the damage that had been happening in our marriage and I believed him; I wanted to believe him.
An Unwillingness To Live Up To Boundaries & Consequences is “Meatloafing”
One night he came down from his bedroom that he was staying in and asked me when I would drop my boundary of him not being able to initiate any physical touch in our marriage. I reminded him that he had not followed through with the task that he’d been given by his therapist and by our religious leader and that my personal therapist had suggested that I may even need some really specialized sex therapy to be able to heal. To get back to that point where I’d be comfortable with being physically intimate with him. He asked me how long it would take for me to do this healing and I said, “I don’t know; six months, a year. I don’t know.” He let me know that that was too long. That my boundary was impeding his recovery. So, that’s kind of when I knew that that marriage was over.
“He Couldn’t Give Me This One Thing After 17 Years of Betrayal”
I’m a pretty visual thinker. I’m an artist. I have a brain full of all kinds of ridiculous cultural references, and when he said that I could see in my head this video and song that came out in the early ’90s from this rocker Meatloaf. He did this ridiculous video called “I Will Do Anything for Love”, and I could hear his voice in my head saying “I could do anything for love, but I won’t do that” and I just started laughing and I walked out of the room. I’m sure that it appeared very rude to him, but the ridiculousness of it. You know, 17 years of really awful behavior and damage and he couldn’t give me this one thing that I was asking for him to do.
The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Helps Victims Identify Abusive Behaviors
I’m in the BTR community, and one day we had a member who was sharing an experience that she’d been through in which her partner was not going to do the thing that she had asked him to do to be able to receive healing in their marriage. That came back to my head and I said, “Oh, he’s Meatloafing you.” Of course, I often forget that I’m one of the older members of the community, and you probably have to be over maybe 35 to be able to get that reference right away. She said, “What are you talking about?” and I said, “Remember that song by Meatloaf ‘I’ll do anything for love, but I won’t do that’?”
Humor and Validation Help Victims of Betrayal & Abuse
That just started a whole entire thread of hilarity where we made up memes about Meatloaf and what he would and wouldn’t do, and it was fun, and we needed to laugh, quite frankly. Things can get quite heavy in the community at times, but it’s a really appropriate term to describe the way that sometimes when addicts try to “keep all the things”, and why wouldn’t they? They have a loving partner and a family taking care of all their stuff and then on the side, they also have their addiction and whatever life they have built around that, and they’ll say anything that they can to be able to try and protect that dual life and that addiction.
What Won’t Your Abusive Partner Do For Your Love?
So, you can’t really listen to the things they say. I mean, this Meatloaf song is like 8 minutes long; it’s ridiculous. He just goes on and on and on about all these things that he’ll do for her. He’ll go to hell and back, you know the video is just hilarious, and not to mention, by the way, he’s a monster in the video but then she gives him love and turns him into a man. That’s just a whole other –
Anne: Oh wow, the Beauty and the Beast scenario. Does it ever say what the thing he won’t do is?
Kirsten: Well, in actuality of course the song doesn’t really mean that because what he means is, he won’t cheat on her, he won’t forget her feelings. He’ll do all of these things and then she comes in on her verse and she says, “Are you going to cheat on me, are you going to hurt my feelings and break my heart?” and he’s like, “I won’t do that.” So, in actuality, the song is not really as bad as it sounds when we made a meme out of it. You know, we all have that line in our head from the song if we’re old enough.
Anne: Yeah,” I will do anything for love; but I won’t do that.”
Abusers Use The Meatloaf Technique To Financially Neglect & Abuse
A woman in our community got her young daughter’s ears pierced in January, and four months later or something she sent her daughter to her ex’s house, and they were these really expensive stud earrings, and he lost one of the earrings. He then wrote this email that was like a 5-paragraph manifesto about how they could improve communication and what could he do? He would do anything to help out. You know that kind of a thing. She wrote back and said, “Pay $20 for Sophie’s earring”. He wrote this big rant about how he never consented to her getting her ears pierced and there was no way that he was going to pay for the earring, but he never brought that up back in January when she got the ears pierced. So, he was like I will do anything, but there is no way I’ll pay $20 for a lost earring.
It’s funny the things that they won’t do.
Abusers Meatloaf When They Refuse To Do Things They Don’t Want to Do
Kirsten: Yeah, there is no rhyme or reason to it really.
Anne: No. Well, they won’t do what they don’t want to do is the thing.
Kirsten: Right. You know, when you’re speaking about serious breaches in trust and contract of a partnership, which most of our members are married and their partnership is a marriage. You know, the onus of healing the broken trust is on the person that broke the trust. So, as the offended partner begins their healing process and they start to gather their strength and their dignity back around them and they have a community that builds them up, they learn about boundaries and start to put those in place they’ll begin to set healing tasks and limits on the allowed behaviors for that offending partner, and this is not an attempt to control the partner. This is their attempt to try and stay in the relationship.
Setting “Healing Tasks”, Boundaries, and Limits Are Necessary For Victims to Heal
Anne: Or to establish safety in the relationship, right.
Kirsten: Exactly. I mean because they’ve now realized that all of these things have gone on and my first reaction when I found out the true depth of the betrayal that had happened in my marriage was to just leave. I was done right then, but my attempt to stay in the relationship and to be able to feel safe enough to wait and give him some time to heal and fix his problems was to have boundaries in place.
That’s the only way I could stay. I wasn’t trying to control him as a person, I just needed that, I needed that for myself. So, you know oftentimes the offending partner will profess with all kinds of words all the things that they’re willing to do. They feel so bad, I’ll do anything I can to fix this; but when they are actually put to the test by a boundary or a task that has been set by the offended partner they refuse to engage, they refuse to follow through and so that just goes to show you that the old adage that you watch their feet and not their mouth is definitely true with someone who is in their addict brain.
Abusers Justify, Rationalize, and Blame-Shift “Meatloafing”
Anne: Yeah, I like the, “Well, I would do it if you wouldn’t bother me about it.” You’ve heard that one before, right? Where they’re like, “I was about to do it but now that you’ve reminded me, I wouldn’t be doing it on my own, so just let me do it in my own time.”
Kirsten: “I don’t like it when you act like my mom; you’re taking my dignity away, let me do this in my own time.”
Anne: And their own time is never. They are only saying that to just avoid doing the thing.
Victims Use Boundaries & Requests To Create Safety For Themselves
Kirsten: Well, why should they get to do anything in their own time? They’re the ones that broke the contract. They’re the ones that broke the trust. They really should do anything; I mean within reason. Most of the women in our community are pretty healthy people, they’re not trying to use this as an opportunity to control their spouse or their partner.
Women Seeking Healing Are Also Seeking Safety & Truth
Anne: No. They are looking for safety and they are looking for truth. In your situation did you ever consider your situation to be abusive while you were kind of in this place of knowing about his compulsive sexual behavior but thinking maybe he could get into recovery when you were kind of thinking of him as an addict? Was there ever a time where you were like, “Wait a minute, I’ve been abused this whole time!”?
Kirsten: No. No, it never really crossed my mind. One of the things about my situation was that I was married before this marriage, very shortly for 18 months, and it was a very abusive and destructive marriage. So, to me, anything that wasn’t that was better, and any time I started to feel like something might be wrong or my body was like, “Um, I’m uncomfortable,” and if I would bring it up to my spouse he would say, “Yeah, something is wrong; you need to go to therapy because you’re broken from your first marriage”. So, I became the kind of person that would just completely take all of it in on herself. I was sure that everything that was wrong in our marriage was my fault.
When I heard some of the very specific things that he had done that were so twisted, my brain started to say, “Wait a minute…only crazy people do this.” Like abuse is crazy like you see in the Lifetime movies kind of people. It started to open my brain, but even then, it still took me a good year year-and-a-half to really accept the fact that I had actually been being severely abused for many years.
Anne: Why do you think it’s so easy, well not so easy but easier, for women to recognize abuse when they are in a relationship like your first where the abuse was really obvious compared to; how long was your second marriage?
Kirsten: By the time the divorce was through we’d been married for 20 years.
Abusers Meatloaf To Keep Victims in the Relationship (Without Doing The Work of Reparation)
Anne: Okay, so compared to the second marriage that was 20 years where the whole time you’re in this fog of abuse but you can’t see it and you’re trying to wrap your head around what’s going on; why do you think it’s so difficult for women to see this second type of abuse?
Kirsten: Well, I’ve never considered myself a person that could be abused. I’m not stupid, I’m not weak. I’m quite sassy and strong-willed, yet I never thought that anything like that could ever happen to me, and it was very subtle. Very very subtle and slow-building. Not only that, but I was raised in a family and in a religion where I was groomed, some people don’t like that term but it’s true, to turn over my knowledge and my will to the patriarch of the home, the husband, the leader of our church. That’s what a good woman does.
“Meatloafing” Increases The Fog Of Abuse
So, my natural ability to kind of say, “Hey this doesn’t feel right”, just over the years, really got squashed. So, I just didn’t know until like a therapist or a podcast or something would say, “Hey, this behavior is abusive” would I ever think oh you’re right and putting that label on it, which seems extreme to a lot of people and they really kick against it, was enough to clear my brain from the fog and start to look for more truth.
Anne: Yeah. You mentioned a lot of people kick against the term abuse, especially within the context of sex addiction. Why do you think so many people are unwilling to say if you’re in a relationship with an active sex addict or an active porn user you are in an abusive relationship? It is an abuse issue. Why do you think so many people don’t want to go there?
Meatloafing & Misogyny
Kirsten: Well, there is a lot of shame around anything that has to do with sex. People don’t like to talk about sex, they don’t want to be real about sex, and they certainly don’t want to talk about anything that has to do with abusive behaviors and sex. So, just the level of shame will make it so people don’t want to talk about it at all, let alone slap a label of abuse on it, and it’s crouched in all this culture; it’s a strong word but, misogyny that a woman should do what her spouse wants her to do. Her needs should be subservient to her spouse’s needs. Even things like a woman shouldn’t enjoy sex or she shouldn’t have to worry about feeling safe because it’s just a duty that needs to happen in a marriage.
Marital Rape Is Common & Can Be Difficult to Identify
So, with all of this cultural baggage and all these things from generations that we’re dragging with us as women; it’s just something that we wouldn’t even consider unless it’s a violent rape thing, you know. But in a marriage context, we’ve had women in the community that didn’t even realize until they heard somebody else talk about it that they had actually been raped in their own marriage. Oh, and I had that experience, and you just don’t understand what’s going on. You have no context, you don’t have the words for it, you don’t have the vocabulary for it. We have not been taught that. Until you get into the recovery scene or into a good Betrayal Trauma therapist who can teach you the verbiage that you need to be able to start clarifying the things in your head.
Anne: What helped you realize that you had been raped? I’m guessing multiple rapes.
Marital Rape Is Non-Consensual Sex
Kirsten: Well, yeah multiple times. I didn’t understand my body’s fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response. I didn’t understand the trauma response. So, I didn’t recognize that those times when I didn’t want to be there doing what he wanted and I would just leave my body so that I could make it through it, that that was something that would be considered rape and there was one specific situation that involved a big production that he had put together for an anniversary. Almost like a movie, a play that he wanted me to play-act with notes and letters and this big thing where I had to go here and do this and then here and do that and so on. I ended up in a hotel room and it was a horrendous experience for me, and somebody had mentioned, “Hey, this thing happened to me and I think I was raped by my husband” and I was like, “Wait, rape? That’s rape!?” and it just hit me. I was like, “That is what I was experiencing that night.” I left my body, so I didn’t have to be there and just let him do what he wanted to do, but I didn’t want to be there. I had not given consent for that experience, but I didn’t know how to say no. I didn’t know I could say no.
Abusers Don’t Think to Ask For Consent: They Feel Entitled To It
Anne: Yeah, and for someone who thinks they are entitled to sex from their wife because she is an object or she is subservient, then asking for consent is not even on the table either.
Kirsten: Right. If you’ve lived most of your marriage in a place of trauma where you didn’t even speak up and say, “Hey, I don’t like this” or “No, I’m not doing that.” You know in my case my then-spouse considered that I was into it. He never stopped to question that I might not be enjoying it, and he was so good at building up fantasies in his head that he wouldn’t probably have even seen or cared to see that I wasn’t really fully giving consent.
Anne: We have so much that we’ve learned through these experiences and hopefully sharing it can help other women use their voice.
Victims of Abuse & Betrayal Deserve Safe Spaces
Kirsten: Yes, because sometimes you need to learn that. You think that you know it, but you don’t, and then you learn that you need tools to help you be brave. You need a community around you of women who understand what you’ve gone through. You don’t have to try and explain everything to them because they already know. You need people that you can laugh with. You can’t just go over to your next-door neighbor and make a joke about marital rape. You can’t do that; it’s totally inappropriate, but sometimes we need to laugh. The absurdity of our situations will hit us and it’s all you can do. I mean if you can’t laugh, you’ll die. So, we have to laugh. You need to be able to have that picture of Meatloaf singing in your head while your spouse is trying to give you all the reasons why he can’t do this one thing that you’ve asked him to do to try and fix the damage that he’s done. To be able to help you get through that without going crazy. You need that. You need to have a place where you have permission to be able to do that.
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Anne: Well, Kirsten is awesome. We’re going to continue the conversation with her next week. We’ll talk about her art and how she’s used art to process her trauma.
If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. until next week, stay safe out there.
I have never heard this term before but looking at my broken marriage, all I have heard are broken promises… empty words…. and false intentions!!! It’s like he says things just to hear himself say them! I used to believe him now I just roll my eyes!
How is meatloafing different from gaslighting?
It’s pretty much the same thing – just a “funny” twist on it. If they tell you they’ll do anything to save the relationship, but they won’t actually do anything to save the relationship then they are meatloafing you – or in other words emotional abuse, or in other words gaslighting:). It’s all the same.
Thank you. This was do good and came at just the right time. I asked my SA husband of 36 years to do something after being told for the past 2 years ” I’ll do anything. He said “no I’ve done enough “
well, he sounds like my spouse in saying “I’ll do anything” means he has done nothing and never intends to.