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4 Ways Your Husband is Emotionally Abusive

Learn what emotional abuse looks like and how to find safety.

This episode is Part Two of Anne’s interview with Amy Kate.
Part One: My Porn-Addicted Husband Won’t Stop Lying To Me
Part Two: 4 Ways Your Husband is Emotionally Abusive

Emotional abuse is notoriously difficult to spot and unpack. Women need support and empowerment to find healing. Learn the four ways your husband is emotionally abusive and begin healing today.

Amy Kate and Anne discuss the abusive tactics of unfaithful men. Listen to The BTR.ORG Podcast and read the transcript below.

Lying: An Abusive Tool of Emotionally Abusive Men

Emotional abuse victims state that the chronic lying was one of the most painful aspects of the relationship.

Lies shatter trust.

We’ll use lying which is probably one of the most rage-igniting things when it comes to partners. The lying drives us insane.

The abuser will change the way he views things, like the female he is talking to all of the time and whom he ends up having an emotional affair with, “She is just a friend; I don’t even think she is pretty!” Or when she discovers pornography on his computer, “I have no idea how that porn site is in the history. Maybe it’s a virus…” He is creating this reality that is not even real.

Anne Blythe, founder of BTR.ORG

Are There Different Kinds of Lies?

Lying is not just stating the opposite of something you know to be true. There are many different kinds of lies that abusive men tell.

  • Lies of commission: this is a lie that is blatant. “I didn’t use pornography yesterday” (when he did use pornography yesterday)
  • Lies of omission: he used pornography yesterday, you didn’t ask or discover anything to ask about, but he didn’t disclose it to you. This is a form of lying just as serious as a lie of commission. It is also sexual coercion.
  • Fine-Grain lies: he knows what you are asking, but because of the phrase it, he intentionally withholds the truth: “I didn’t use pornography yesterday.” (when he did use it the day before yesterday)
  • Exaggeration: yes, exaggeration in the hands of an abuser is absolutely a form of lying. It is a way to dumb down the abusive behavior and withhold important truth from the partner. “I only used pornography for ten minutes yesterday.” (when he used it for over an hour)

He’s Emotionally Abusing You When He Uses These Tactics

  • Detraction: this is a powerful and manipulative form of lying. This involves telling some of the truth while also inserting some kind of emotion that detracts from what he has just admitted to. “I only used pornography for an hour yesterday. Aren’t you proud of me? I was so excited to tell you because that’s the shortest amount of time I’ve ever used it and it’s just really awesome that I’m making progress. I’m going to call my sponsor, I know he’ll be so happy for me, just like you are!”
  • Any other form of manipulation or withholding of truth. When your partner says or does anything to deceive you from knowing or fully understanding the entire truth, he is lying to you. Any time that he destroys or hides evidence that would help you to discern the truth, he is lying to you. Lying, in and of itself, is abuse. 

Blaming: This is What Your Husband Uses to Emotionally Abuse You

After discovering betrayal, women will often look at themselves to determine what they did to cause the betrayal.

Tragically, this response is compounded in a destructively abusive way when abusive men use blame-shifting as a tool to:

  • Escape accountability
  • Play “victim” to pornography and their other abusive behaviors
  • Create a reality where their wife/partner is the abusive one (which gives them more privileges)
  • Continue their abusive behaviors without repercussions, reprisals, or questions, because the attention and blame is pinned on the partner (for their abusive choices)

Justification: This is How the Emotional Abuse Makes Sense to Him

Abusive men know, deep down, that their behavior is wrong. They have to find a way to “balance out” that cognitive dissonance.

For example, everyone knows that it is wrong to yell at another person unless you are truly protecting them from danger. An emotionally abusive man will raise his voice at his wife because his power, entitlement, or other abusive privileges are threatened. He will justify it in his mind by saying something like, “it was for her own good”, or “that’s not the kind of person I usually am… everyone makes mistakes.”

He’s Emotionally Abusing You When He Justifies The Abuse

Justification is another way they can alter their reality and perception of what is going on, to make things balance out.

For example, they will say things like, “It’s just porn. It’s not a real person so it’s not that bad. It’s not cheating. I’m a man; so I can’t help it. I have a high sex drive and besides, all men look at porn. It’s a guy thing. It’s what they do. I only do it a few times a month. It’s not a problem.”

Anne Blythe, founder of BTR.ORG

Gaslighting: Distorting Your Perception of Reality is Psychological Abuse

Gaslighting victims may require an extensive period of time to heal. It’s that destructive.

The gaslighting for me made me feel crazy because I didn’t know my reality. This is a hard thing to describe, to not know my reality, but when everything is twisted and all I had was him and me in the beginning–I didn’t have anyone to tell me this wasn’t making sense or it wasn’t right–I didn’t know what was up or down due to the gas lighting. He would say something and then 5 minutes later I would repeat it back and he would say that he never said it. By the end of the conversation I was questioning what was really said. I really didn’t know.

Amy Kate

BTR.ORG Helps Emotional Abuse Victims Find Safety

At BTR, we believe that every woman deserves safety in every aspect of her life. Safety, peace, and healing are attainable. But you need support. You don’t have to do this alone.

Attend a BTR.ORG Group Session today.

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:00):
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. I have Amy Kate back with us this week. Welcome back, Amy Kate.

Amy Kate (03:20):
Hi. Glad to be back.

“Why is there so much chaos?”

Anne (03:22):
So we’re going to talk about demystifying the behaviors of sex addicts today. Being a recovering drug addict, I’m sure has its advantages when you’re talking about your ex-husband’s sexual addiction and how that worked and how devastating it was. Can you talk about the definition of insanity and where you were in that process of observing your husband’s behaviors and being in that chaos and not being able to figure out exactly what was happening when we’re in a relationship with an active pornography addict or an active sex addict, why is there so much chaos? Why is it so difficult to get to the bottom of what is really going on to a non-addicted person?

Understanding Cognitive Dissonance

Amy Kate (04:07):
When you see these behaviors that are insane, that’s kind of what they look like, and they make absolutely no sense, you can’t wrap your head around why they do the things they do. I tend to think that this all comes from cognitive dissonance. Your brain wants homeostasis. It wants everything to be calm and centered and make sense and not actually be chaotic. Cognitive dissonance is the theory that when you have a certain set of beliefs and morals and standards and your actions don’t match that, it creates its own chaos and super uncomfortable feeling inside of you.

So you’ve got somebody that knows that porn is some version of cheating. They know they’re not supposed to, they know they’re hurting their wife. They know that having that affair is going to devastate their wife, but they’re still doing it. In order to have those two things balanced within the brain, something has to change. They have three choices essentially. They can change their beliefs so they can somehow decide that cheating is okay. And they can decide that porn is okay.

That doesn’t usually happen though because usually our beliefs are our beliefs. They can change the action. They can stop doing those behaviors, but that’s not as easy as it sounds. Or they can change their perception. When they change their perception. That’s where you tend to see all the other crazy making behaviors that drive us absolutely insane.

“They’re changing their reality to make their behaviors fit what they believe”

Anne (05:47):
Talk about that a little bit. You mean their perception of their wife?

Amy Kate (05:52):
Their perception of everything starts to change. Essentially, when they’re changing their perception, they’re changing their reality to make their behaviors fit what they believe. We’ll use lying. That’s probably one of the most rage igniting things when it comes to us partners, is the lying. The lying drives us absolutely insane, but the addict will change the way he views things like the female that he’s talking to all the time and ends up having an emotional affair with that. She’s just a friend. I don’t even think she’s pretty. I have no idea how that porn site is in the history. Maybe it’s a virus. So he’s creating this reality that’s not even real. The really ironic part is he starts to believe it. The brain has to come back to that homeostasis where things just make sense or it’s a horribly uncomfortable feeling. They start to believe their own lies, which is it’s insanity. That’s what it feels like for me as a recovering addict. When I’m in that place, it feels like insanity,

“They have two totally compartmentalized lives going on”

Anne (07:01):
Especially because then you have two totally compartmentalized lives going on. The one life where you’re this good person and you don’t engage in these behaviors and your explanations make sense, and then the other life where all of these things are actually really happening. You really are engaging in these behaviors. You really are lying, and so it’s almost like you’ve got Jekyll and Hyde going on in the same body.

Amy Kate (07:25):
Well, Jekyll and Hyde was actually an analogy for an alcoholic originally. The whole boxes and compartmentalizing, that’s a huge part of addiction. When the addict is actively engaged with his family, his addiction doesn’t exist. He closes that box and it doesn’t exist, and then when he is acting out in his addiction, his family doesn’t exist, and they’re two completely separate worlds. So when they collide, like the wife finds something on the history of the computer, he has to figure out a way to make the two make sense. Lying is usually a really good way to do it. Justifications is another way that they can alter their reality and their perception of what’s going on to make things balance out. For example, they’ll say things like, well, it’s just porn. It’s not a real person, so it’s not that bad. It’s not even cheating. I’m a man. I can’t help it. I have a high sex drive, and besides all men look at porn, right? It’s a guy thing. It’s just what they do. I only do it a few times a month. It’s really not a problem.

Justification & Blameshifting

Anne (08:32):
Yeah, these justifications are very interesting. I think especially when they say the woman wants to be doing this. When you look at it from the porn industry point of view, we know that the women who are in the porn industry are not treated well. Many of them are on drugs. Many of them have been exploited. They are miserable doing their job at the time that they spend in the pornography is very, very short. Most of them don’t spend a lot of time doing it because it’s so difficult for them. I’ve talked with someone who was on the other end. He produced porn for a while, and then he stopped producing it, and he said, I always knew I was ruining the lives of the women that I filmed, but I just never thought about the people who are watching it and how their lives were also being ruined.

(09:18):
And so I think that it’s very difficult for them to realize that they’re hurting their wife, they’re hurting themselves, and they’re also hurting the woman that is being exploited. They’re also hurting the people that are in the pornography, and so it’s very important to teach people that pornography creates a demand for sexual exploitation, and that demand must stop that as long as people are viewing pornography, there will also be sexual exploitation and sex slavery. All of these justifications surrounding this make it very difficult for men to see the truth that they are using and exploiting other people and that they’re harming themselves and their own family members. So instead of accepting that, they end up blame shifting and lying and all the things that you’re talking about, right?

Rationalization & Justification

Amy Kate (10:05):
Yeah. My analogy that I have for my own addiction, it’s like I have this little person in my head. I actually say it’s a little demon. It has one goal in life, and that’s to get me to use my drug, whatever my drug of choice is. These people would be porn. Mine was drugs. It will do the craziest things. It’ll twist words to convince me that these lies make sense. It really makes sense. I really deserve to take this pill because I’ve had a really bad day, or I really deserve to watch that porn because my wife won’t have sex with me. And you literally believe it, even though a sober brain knows that it doesn’t make any sense. And so it’s all balancing back to that cognitive dissonance. It’s got to balance itself out.

Anne (10:54):
Talk about blame shifting. That’s another way that addicts balance themselves out.

How does blameshifting affect victims?

Amy Kate (11:00):
That’s a super fun one – that was sarcastic. Obviously. One is so damaging to women because one of the big ones is they will blame the way the wife looks, or they will blame the weight the wife has gained or the activities that the wife is willing to do. If she did such and such sex act, I wouldn’t have to watch porn. Or if she took care of herself and lost some weight, I wouldn’t have to watch porn. Or if she wasn’t such a mean demanding person, then I wouldn’t need all this stress relief or I’ve had a really bad day at work. All my customers are jerks, and I’ve been treated like crap by my boss, and I deserve this treat.

Anne (11:47):
In my case, I was too much. I asked too many questions. And I was too consistent. I was too demanding and controlling because I was a woman of my word and I had integrity, and I was trying to figure out what was going on, and I was not going to stop until I had the answers in my marriage. I was too much. Although at the end, he told me that I was not attractive and started going down that route. But before that, it was that I was too much, and then it became that I wasn’t enough, and it was very hurtful to me. Those comments, they ring in my ears still the blame types of things. You can’t get better if you refuse to take responsibility for your actions.

How does Projection work?

Amy Kate (12:35):
Mine was very good at projecting. He started isolating himself from the family. We would have things that we were going to do, like carve pumpkins, for example, and I’d say, come on, let’s go carve pumpkins. And he would say he was working in his office and he wasn’t. Or, Hey, let’s go to the park. Let’s go do this. Pretty much anything. I was trying to get him to engage in the family. He kept refusing. Well, when discovery came out, he said that he cheated because I didn’t want him involved in my life. He literally would flip everything around, and then he would say things like, I didn’t want sex enough, and the reality was that I was sex starved and turned down all the time.

Anne (13:22):
Mine didn’t ever initiate in the first place, and then I stopped initiating, and he didn’t ever do it, and I’m sure he tells people she wouldn’t have sex with me, and I’m like, well, you only initiated twice during that six months where I didn’t initiate. And both of those times were immediately after I had been severely emotionally abused. I wasn’t safe, and then you didn’t ever try when I did feel safe. So yeah, that makes sense. But he doesn’t tell people, because I didn’t initiate safe sex for six months.

Understanding Gaslighting

Gaslighting is pretty intense and can be very traumatizing. That gaslighting is part of the emotional abuse.

Amy Kate (14:05):
For me, it made me feel crazy because I didn’t know my reality, and that’s such a hard thing to describe, not knowing my reality, but when everything is twisted and all I had was him and I in the beginning, I didn’t have anybody to tell me, okay, no, that’s not right, or That’s not making sense. I don’t know what’s up or down, and it’s all because of the gaslighting. He would say something and then five minutes later, I would repeat it back to him and he would say, I never said that, and I’m like, yes, you did, but by the end of the conversation I’m going, well, did I really didn’t know.

Anne (14:46):
Yeah. Or they say, I know I said that, but that’s not what I meant. I meant this other thing. And you’re like, no, this is what you meant. This is exactly what you said, but now you’re denying it. It’s very strange. Yeah. Part of the reason we bring this up, it’s not just to rehash our own trauma, it’s to educate women about the behaviors that they can expect so that they know they’re not crazy, so that they can start to observe their husband’s behavior to see if their husband is emotionally safe. My number one goal with betrayal trauma recovery is to teach women what these safe behaviors look like so that they can start to establish safety for themselves because you cannot heal from the trauma if trauma is continually happening to you. So really quickly, I just want to go over these things one more time. We’ve got lying, justifying, blame, shifting, and gaslighting.

“You don’t have to stay stuck right where you’re at”

Amy Kate (15:36):
No matter what’s going on with him whatsoever, there is hope for you. Your life can change. Your life can get better. You don’t have to stay stuck right where you’re at. It will get better.

Anne (15:48):
You are worth it. That’s what I want to say to these women. You are worth it. God loves you and he wants you to be safe. There is a little bit of cognitive dissonance with us because we think, well, God also wants me to submit to my husband, or he also wants me to be a loving, kind, forgiving, service-oriented wife, right? So there’s a little bit of cognitive dissidence in there with the wives of sex addicts who are wanting a whole peaceful, loving family, but God is telling us, please, I love you. You are worth it. Established safety for yourself. Amy. Kate, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate the time you’ve taken to talk with us.

Amy Kate (16:28):
Thank you for having me.

5 Comments

  1. Fiona

    Thank you so much for this. I resonate with so much of what you said. I feel heard and not crazy! For me I’m moving on as his actions don’t match his words. He’s deluded.

    Reply
    • Anne Blythe

      I’m so glad you found us! We’re hear for you:).

      Reply
  2. Julie

    Excellent! Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Rachel Riveros

    How much is btr coach please?

    Reply

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