There’s that word again.
Who really wants to go through a divorce?
Especially when there are children involved?
When a woman gets married, it’s the last thing on her mind.
When she finds out she’s been betrayed and abused, its still not her first thought.
Yet, it keeps coming up.
Whether it’s a thought that comes to her mind or spoken out loud by a friend, family member, or well-meaning acquaintance, it doesn’t lead to pleasant feelings.
Sometimes though, that’s what it comes to.
But how will she survive divorcing an emotional abuser?
Who will she turn to?
Who can she trust?
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, continues her conversation with Debra, the newest Betrayal Trauma Recovery Coach and author of High-Conflict Divorce for Women: Your Guide to Coping Skills and Legal Strategies for All Stages of Divorce, about preparing for divorce.
Previously, Coach Debra shared with Anne how a woman can hope for the best while preparing for divorce. This time, she shares 4 things a woman needs to know to survive divorcing an emotional abuser.
Coach Debra is a Certified Divorce Coach (CDC) and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, who loves helping women find the confidence to become independent and advocate for themselves in their relationship and at the negotiating table.
When Divorce Becomes The Best Option
Betrayal Trauma Recovery advocates for safe healthy families.
We believe the best-case scenario is that a family remain intact.
However, that isn’t always the safest option and safety is our top priority.
Most women, never take divorce lightly.
It’s not something that is their optimal solution.
In fact, most women believe divorce to be the worst-case scenario and never even consider it.
Divorce is also something that should not be assumed when a woman has been betrayed or abused.
There are often other factors that come into play when considering divorce.
Finances. How will she be supported? Will she re-enter, or enter, the workforce? Will she try to survive on alimony and child support? Will he even pay alimony and child support?
Living situation. Where will she live? Where will he live? Where will the children live? Will they sell the house or keep it?
Medical situations. Some families have children with chronic illnesses or diseases that require constant or frequent care. How will this affect the decision? How will the decision to divorce affect this child’s care?
This is but a small sample of factors that a woman considers before making the decision to divorce or not.
Sometimes, even with all the unknowns, divorce may be the best option to keep the woman and her children safe.
Once the decision is made, it may feel like all heck has broken loose and she may wonder how she’ll ever survive it.
The 4 Things You Need To Survive Divorcing An Emotional Abuser
Coach Debra has helped hundreds of women through preparing for divorce, divorce and the aftermath.
All of these women have experienced the myriad of feelings that occur when making a life-changing decision like divorce.
Preparing for the process itself will help a woman survive it, especially when she finds herself unable to think clearly or strategically.
“Thinking ahead can help keep you more centered and stable, so you don’t get that amygdala, or lizard brain of fight-flight-or-freeze, fired up all the time. Because when it’s in charge, it’s making emotional decisions and the thinking part of your brain can’t work. It gets shoved to the back seat.”-Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
To make things a little easier, Coach Debra provides the four things that have helped women survive divorce, especially from an emotional abuser.
4 Things You Need To Survive Divorcing An Emotional Abuser
- Safe People and a Support Team
- Shut Down Social Media Accounts
- Be Careful of “Neutral” Friends
Even something as simple as self-care may affect her survival.
Coach Debra believes that each one of these elements are going to support surviving, because she’s seen them in action.
Self-care Can Help You Survive Divorcing An Emotional Abuser
Self-care seems simple enough, until a crisis occurs.
Then, it’s tossed aside.
Coach Debra says the exact opposite should happen, especially through the divorce process.
“When we’re going through a stressful time, one of our very first tendencies are to cut back on self-care. We’ve added to our daily stress, so we tend to cut back on self-care. What you really need to do is double it. Especially if you were in an abusive marriage, you developed coping mechanisms to get through the day with that partner, those aren’t going to work anymore during divorce.”-Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
It’s going to be important for a woman going through divorce to find time to really, truly take care of herself.
And that doesn’t just mean eating a piece of chocolate or a big bowl of ice cream to drown her feelings.
Self-care is a lot more than that.
It’s being aware of what she really needs to feel like herself.
Whether it’s taking time to do a craft, get a pedicure, or go for a run, anything that brings her joy is a good form of self-care.
Some women take time to meditate or do yoga.
Some women just stand outside in the grass bare-footed.
Whatever it is that reminds her that she’s where she is and that she’s important is good self-care.
She should not neglect herself!
Safe People And A Support Team Can Help You Survive Divorcing An Emotional Abuser
As mentioned in the previous podcast, Hoping For The Best While Preparing For Divorce, Coach Debra talks about three people that will be vital to surviving even the preparation for making the decision.
These same three people are going to help her through the divorce process, along with a reputable divorce attorney.
The BFF Backup and the Taskmaster are going to be most important in her everyday life.
As Coach Debra points out, just the stress of thinking about the divorce and everything that goes with it will make her feel a little bit crazy.
“It’s normal that there are things that you’re going to have trouble with, so how can we put measures in place to fill those gaps until you’re ready? Who can help you?”-Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Anne recalls how she struggled with some simple things while she was going through her own divorce.
She relied on a friend to help her with one of those so her kids wouldn’t feel the affects of it.
“A lot of people don’t have a friend like that, but I think they can develop a friend like that. There might be someone at church, in your neighborhood, or another woman who has been through it, who could help you out. It’s scary to ask but I’ve found that once you ask, a lot of people say yes. The scariest part is actually asking.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Coach Debra agrees that it’s difficult to ask, but most people really mean it when they offer to help.
“People will tell you, ‘If you need anything, let me know,’ but they don’t know what you need. They really do want to help.”-Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Coach Debra says the people around you are going to make a difference through this process, so make sure they’re solid.
“You can’t do divorce alone. It’s too hard. You’re too traumatized, so get the right people around you. Work on regulating your emotions so that you can make strategic decisions. Get the right help to process them. Vent to safe people because you want to make decisions you feel good about.”-Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
A woman should also continue seeing her counselor, therapist, or coach as she goes through this process. Being able to manage her emotions is going to save her some heartache.
No one wants to do divorce alone.
Shutting Down Your Social Media Accounts Can Help You Survive Divorcing An Emotional Abuser
Already feeling alone makes this a hard step to take, but it may turn out to be the best thing a woman can do when she’s going through a divorce.
Shutting down a social media account seems like an extreme measure, but when considered, it’s more of a safety procedure than anything else.
Coach Debra says that if you aren’t going to completely shut them down, go silent.
“Block everyone he’s friends with. If his family is supporting him, block them and unfriend them. Don’t post anything, live like a nun, especially if you’re going to be in a custody battle.”-Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Anything that a woman “says” or “does” on social media can be used against her.
It can be taken out of context, screenshotted, edited, or twisted completely to mean something it doesn’t.
It’s not unusual for someone to post something on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and, suddenly, it’s turned into a weapon to be used against them.
If she isn’t going to completely shut down, a woman can check and re-check her privacy settings.
Make sure nothing can be shared outside her circle of friends, or shared at all.
If her children have social media accounts, it also wouldn’t hurt to have a discussion with them about what is and isn’t appropriate to share, and monitor their accounts and friends lists.
Remember that once something is online, it can’t be taken back. Someone can easily take a screenshot and send it to the soon-to-be-ex.
Be Careful Of Those “Neutral” Friends That Won’t Help You Survive Divorcing An Emotional Abuser
Coach Debra calls them “Switzerland Friends” because they’re neutral. They don’t want to “take sides.”
“Those are people that love both of you. No, absolutely not. You don’t have to be cold or cruel about it but take a step back. If you run in the same circles and you’re around them, just be very cautious about what you say. Don’t discuss your divorce. Don’t discuss your partner.”-Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
If these people are important to her, a woman should be extremely careful in trusting them.
As trustworthy as they may seem, if they run in the same circles as her soon-to-be-ex, chances are they may slip and say something that was said in confidence.
Coach Debra says that as cautious as she is on social media, a woman should be more cautious around these friends.
“If you don’t keep control of yourself and what you say and what you do, it could be used against you. It could hurt your case. If you act out or you send that email or you send that text, those things could be used against you, so it’s not in your best interest.”-Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
As much as these people are friends, a woman should keep the conversation to safe topics and far away from anything relating to her emotional state, the divorce, or her soon-to-be-ex.
If anything gets back to the soon-to-be-ex it could hurt her chances for a good outcome in the divorce or custody proceedings.
Being Mindful Can Help You Survive Divorcing An Emotional Abuser
The most important thing to remember when considering these tips for survival is that, without them, someone could get hurt.
If there are children involved, it’s not just the husband and wife who could get hurt in this process.
Increasing self-care and relying on safe support people can help for managing emotions.
Coach Debra says that even though she’s most likely falling apart inside, it’s important for a woman to show her children how to handle stress in a healthy way.
“Other people can get hurt when you’re not managing your emotions, specifically, your children. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do to model healthy behavior to your children while you’re under this stress. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life, yet, it is the most important thing.”-Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
It’s also important for a woman to continue relying on her support team when she has big decisions to make.
Coach Debra reminds us that it’s difficult to make solid decisions when emotions do the thinking.
“We can’t make good decisions when our lizard brain is in charge and we’re crying, and we can’t think about it and our brain isn’t working right. Being able to maintain that sense of calm and clarity and focus on our purpose, focus on the end game, instead of living in the moment, is critical to making good decisions in divorce.”-Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
A woman’s support team can help her work through the emotion until she’s able to decide with the logical, strategizing part of her brain.
One final reminder from Coach Debra is that, as misogynistic, as it sounds, the man doesn’t have to be perfect, but the woman does, in the eyes of the law.
“I write about that in the book too. How to dress, how to speak, how to behave, and I don’t care if you like it or not. The judges need to hear what the judges want to hear and see. The judges and magistrates are looking for something from you, and you better present it.”-Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Coach Debra believes that these four things can help any woman survive divorcing an emotional abuser.
Along with Anne and the rest of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, Coach Debra also wants all betrayed and abused women to find safety and healing.
Whether you’re considering divorce, going through a divorce, or it hasn’t even crossed your mind, Betrayal Trauma Recovery is here to help.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group provides a safe place to share with other women facing similar circumstances. With UNLIMITED access to more than 15 live sessions a week, it’s easier than ever to find a BTR Group session that fits your schedule without having to leave your home. Each session is led by a Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery.
Last week, I introduced a new BTR coach to you. Her name is Coach Debra. Many of you have scheduled appointments with her to kind of assess your situation and consider whether or not divorce may or may not be right for you.
Like I said at the end of last week’s episode, I believe in families and my heart hurts that my situation ended in divorce. I genuinely don’t want that for anyone. That being said, safety and peace are my top priorities, that’s what families are for. I talked about that last week, and if you haven’t heard last week’s episode please do that first before you listen here.
Coach Debra coaches one of our Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group sessions. You can check out the schedule at btr.org. She also does individual sessions.
Our betrayal trauma recovery group is the only service of its kind. It gives you unlimited live support by professionals for only $125 a month. You get over 90 group sessions and women are always there ready to support and love you.
For some women the group setting is a little triggering, which makes sense because you’re hearing stories of other victims, so you can always give it a try, cancel at any time, and switch to individual sessions with the coach you like.
A lot of women join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group and go to every single session to get to know the coaches, then they start doing individual sessions with the coach that they relate to the most. Any way you want to do it, it works for us. We are here for you. We have built this just for you. We have been through it.
I started this organization specifically for women like us because I couldn’t find the help that was really meant for me. That met my schedule, where I didn’t have to drive, where people actually understood, where I didn’t have to set an appointment. For all of those reasons, Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group was created by victims for victims to help make your home and the world a safer and more peaceful place.
Coach Debra and I ended on some tips she was giving on what you’re going to need if you’re going through a divorce. She ended by talking about two things that you’re going to need. You’re going to need a taskmaster and you’re going to need a BFF. Again, if you haven’t heard last week please listen to that first and then come back.
The conversation picks back up with me talking about the things I needed while I was going through the traumatic experience, and then Coach Debra and I will continue the conversation.
Anne: Here are two concrete examples. I wasn’t able to read written instructions very well and we would get these emails or texts about what was happening or what needed to happen, so I asked a friend, whose daughter was in my son’s preschool at the time, to help me out. I couldn’t process them. I would try. I’d look at them and couldn’t figure it out.
I told her, “I can’t process written information in the form of these emails and texts. If something is really important, will you please call me and say he needs a hat today or send a text and say send him in a hat or whatever it is.” Just very simple and this one thing so I didn’t have to read the explanation or whatever, and she was happy to do that for me. She would call or just send me a very simple text.
Similarly, my amazing mother did all of the legal documents. I couldn’t process or read the divorce decree. I was so upset. I was so absolutely devastated. I couldn’t even read it. I just said, “Mom, does this look good? You’ve got to figure it out.”
She did all the research and did everything. I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, but I just ended up signing it because I couldn’t process anything at that time. I could not agree with you more about having someone who could do that.
Now, a lot of people don’t have a friend like that, but I think they can develop a friend like that. I think that you would be surprised. There might be someone that goes to church with you, someone in your neighborhood, or another woman who has been through it who could help you out. It’s kind of scary to ask but I have found that once you ask, a lot of people say yes. I think the scariest part is actually asking.
Emotional Abuse Is Devastating
If you have a leaking faucet, someone wants to fix that for you. Someone wants to help you go over your documents. Someone wants to help you do those things. They don’t say that out of routine or ritual. They really want to help but they don’t know what you need.
Anne: I think another traumatic situation here is the person who used to fix your faucet and the person who used to help you with legal documents was your husband. There is this other element of, “I need help and the person who was helping me isn’t here and what do I do? I’m alone,” rather than realizing there are other people. That other element of, “He used to fix the faucet!” that is also really traumatic through this time, I think.
Debra: It is, because having your support system, in addition, you need to have a coach or a therapist, you need to have an attorney, and you need a financial person. You really need to be thinking ahead so that you can keep yourself more centered and more stable and not get that amygdala, your lizard brain of that fight-flight-or-freeze thing, fired up all the time. Because when it’s in charge, it’s making emotional decisions and that thinking part of your brain can’t work. It gets shoved to the back seat.
Anne: And for good reason.
Anne: This is why you need all these people in your corner, because you’re rightfully, and normally, reacting to a really hard situation.
Debra: Exactly. It’s normal, of course, you are, let’s get you set up for success.
Anne: Yeah, because if you say, “You should be able to handle this. Why can’t you read? Why can’t you, blah, blah, blah?” you’re just going to get more and more depressed and overwhelmed.
Debra: Right. Just to know that it’s normal that, of course, there are things that you’re going to have trouble with, so how can we put measures in place to fill those gaps until you’re ready? It might be a month and it might be six months, but let’s think through who can help you.
That’s one of the things your taskmaster can do. Your taskmaster can go find other people who can fix your faucet or who can cut your grass. Your taskmaster friend can go do that.
Anne: From your experience, what do you believe are the most important things for listeners who might be facing a high conflict divorce to know ahead of time?
Debra: First of all, self-care. When we’re going through a stressful time, one of our very first tendencies is to cut back on self-care. Because we have our normal life plus, now, we have to fit in attorney appointments, financial appointments, and we’ve added to our daily stress, so we tend to cut back on self-care.
What you really need to do is double it. Especially if you were in an abusive marriage, you developed coping mechanisms to get through the day with that partner. Well, those aren’t going to work anymore during divorce, so you’ve really got to make sure your tank is full. Increasing self-care is really important.
We talked about safe people and a support team. You can’t do this alone. You cannot do divorce alone. It’s too hard. You’re too traumatized, so get the right people around you. Work on regulating your emotions so that you can make strategic decisions. Get the right help to process them. Vent to safe people because you want to make decisions you feel good about. Again, you may not get everything you want but you at least want to feel like you were empowered and informed.
Shutdown your social media. Block everyone he’s friends with. If his family is supporting him, block them and unfriend them. Don’t post anything, live like a nun, especially if you’re going to be in a custody battle.
Emotional Abusers Are Domestic Abusers
Anne: I could not agree more. I deleted all my social media accounts and I would highly recommend that for people.
Debra: Don’t be out at a concert with a cocktail in your hand. Just don’t do it. Even though it’s fun and you want to show your friends that you went to the Jimmy Buffet concert, don’t do it.
Then, be careful of Switzerland friends. Those are people that love both of you. “He’s a great guy and we just want to be friends with both of you.” No, absolutely not.
You don’t have to be cold or cruel about it but take a step back. If you run in the same circles and you’re around them just be very cautious about what you say. Don’t discuss your divorce. Don’t discuss your partner.
Anne: Those are excellent points. Thank you.
I want to dig a little bit more into the emotional regulation. Will you highlight why that is so important when it comes to divorce?
Debra: We talked about Switzerland friends, shutting down your social media and those kinds of things. First of all, if you don’t keep control of yourself and what you say and what you do, it could be used against you. It could hurt your case. If you act out or you send that email or you send that text, those things could be used against you, so it’s not in your best interest.
Other people can get hurt when you’re not managing your emotions, specifically, your children. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do to model healthy behavior to your children while you’re under this stress. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life, yet, it is the most important thing.
Then finally, and you talked about this, we can’t make good decisions when our lizard brain is in charge and we’re crying, and we can’t think about it and our brain isn’t working right. Being able to maintain that sense of calm and clarity and focus on our purpose, focus on the end game, instead of living in the moment, is critical to making good decisions in divorce.
Anne: Did you watch Marriage Story?
Debra: I did. I just watched it over the holiday, and I actually posted about it on social media this morning because I said the emotion of it didn’t surprise me because I deal with that every day. The hurt, the pain, the anger. What surprised me about it was how realistic their portrayal was of how our legal system creates litigious situations when they don’t have to be.
Anne: I don’t watch rated R movies. I only watch them on a service called VidAngel, so I want to make that very clear. I don’t watch any MA shows or “Mature Audience” things. I always have them edited with VidAngel, so before we have this discussion about Marriage Story, I want to put that out there because I don’t want to recommend something and then have someone, if they’re really sensitive to the F-word, for example, think, “Oh, Anne recommended this movie,” when the version that I saw did not include any of that.
I just want to put that out there so that people are aware that I saw the edited version. I highly recommend VidAngel service.
I thought it was really interesting that he had had an affair, so there is some betrayal there. There may have been some pornography. I listened to Pop Culture Happy Hour, which is a podcast, and they reviewed it. They were like this is a nice guy. This is the situation where you’ve got a nice man and a nice woman and this is how divorce goes, and I thought this is not a nice guy. I mean he seems nice, but this is your typical person who might use deceit.
I thought it was interesting that they didn’t really weigh the betrayal at all. It carried no weight in terms of fault. The purpose of the movie was trying to just show that this was maybe a couple that had grown apart or they weren’t really compatible in the first place, and I thought, “This is why so many women are feeling so betrayed, in general, is because society, in general, doesn’t understand this issue.”
You think about, if they had grown apart so they stopped having sex then, for some reason, “Well, then it’s okay for me to sleep with someone else.” We don’t know why they were growing apart. Was it because of porn? These issues are really interesting to me and I think this movie, although it showed the legal system well and other things, I don’t really think it got to the heart of the cause.
Debra: I agree. They glossed right over the betrayal, and I think that’s just so indicative of our culture. Culture says, “Eh, no big deal,” or culture says, “Well, she wasn’t sleeping with him so what’s a guy supposed to do?” That patriarchal attitude is still so prevalent in our society that nobody blinked at that.
Anne: I know, even for this “woke” movie.
Emotional Abuse Can Impact Entire Families
Anne: I thought the part where Laura Dern, her attorney Nora, was saying, “You have to be perfect and he doesn’t haven’t to be perfect,” was so spot on. That’s exactly what happens.
Debra: Spot on. I write about that in the book too. How to dress, how to speak, how to behave, and I don’t care if you like it or not. The judges need to hear what the judges want to hear and see. The judges and magistrates are looking for something from you, and you better present it.
Anne: Yeah. Well, we would love to hear your thoughts about a divorce that you’ve maybe already been through or one that you’re going through or that you’re considering. If you have any thoughts or comments please go to our website btr.org, find this podcast episode under Education and then Podcast. You can comment there. We’d love to hear your comments.
You can find her book High Conflict Divorce for Women on BTR’s website btr.org/books. Our website has a curated section of books. If you click on it, it will just send you right to Amazon, so don’t worry you’re not going anywhere. It makes it really easy to find everything in one place. Her book, High Conflict Divorce for Women, will be under the Divorce Support section at the bottom of our Books page. Again, that is btr.org/books
As I mentioned at the beginning of this podcast, Debra is our newest coach at BTR. She is incredible. She’s already helping women. Women are already scheduling appointments with her. If you’re considering divorce or worried that it might be in your future or if you’re wondering if it’s a good idea, Debra is a great person to talk to, so please schedule an appointment with her at btr.org or join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group and meet her and all of our other coaches.
In Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, you’ll be able to feel the strengths and the validation of each coach. Each of our coaches brings a different energy to your situation. They can give you different insights. It’s wonderful to have different perspectives from all of these amazing, safe coaches, but they also all use the same structure.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group has a format to it and if you want to see that you can go to our website. Go to the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group page and scroll down and it will show the session format. Look at that format if you’re considering joining, so that you know the flow and understand how it works. We would love to see you in a session today, so go to btr.org to learn more.
Until next week, stay safe out there.