The Abusive Scripts That Harm Us

What unconscious beliefs and scripts have been harming victims for centuries? Dr. Omar Minwalla takes a deep dive with Anne.

“Why aren’t you married yet?”

“You’re too pretty to be single.”

“Boys will be boys.”

Dr. Omar Minwalla joins Anne on the BTR podcast to take a deep dive into how victims develop complex trauma as a result of the misogynistic scripts that are fed to men, women, and children.

These scripts encourage men to abuse women, women to stay in abusive relationships, and children to both abuse and tolerate abuse.

Listen to the free BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.

“Why Aren’t You Married Yet?”

The pressure on men and women to enter into long-term committed relationships, especially men and women in faith communities, can lead to disastrous consequences.

Women may feel that their worth as human beings depend on their marital status, while men may emerge into adulthood feeling entitled to a wife.

The freedom of choice is taken out of the equation when we are scripted to believe that we have no choice but to marry once we enter into adulthood.

“That’s a form of forcing a human being into something that’s so life-altering against their true will, by grooming them and pressuring them [to get married]. That’s a form of complex trauma and it’s extremely damaging. To pressure them from day one, that if you don’t, something’s wrong with you, and you’re not whole is such a crippling, abusive, toxic psychology to impart on a child.”

Dr. Omar Minwalla

“You’re Too Pretty To Be Single”

When women are told that they are too pretty, cute, smart, sexy – too anything – to be or stay single – this message is one of objectification.

The scripting of women as not owning themselves is age-old and is so deeply engrained in society that most of us are not even aware of it.

Telling a woman that she’s too “cute” or “pretty” to stay single implies that her “cuteness” is not hers – or is not valid – unless it is owned by a man.

“My finger goes to the word owned, and cuteness is only legitimate if a man owns it.”

Dr. Omar Minwalla

“Abuse is Only Abuse If It Includes Physical Violence”

The dangerous scripting that emotional, psychological, financial, and spiritual abuse are somehow less harmful than physical abuse is deeply harmful to victims, family, and society as a whole.

When faith communities, families, and individuals accept the scripting that physical abuse is the only real abuse, they are more likely to enable and condone abuse – or even abuse others themselves.

Victims of abuse may become confused about their own situation and minimize what is happening to them.

In my religion’s handbooks, it says we do not tolerate any abuse. I just don’t think people understand what abuse is. They don’t apply it to this context. They don’t understand what emotional abuse is. They don’t understand what psychological abuse is. They don’t understand sexual coercion.

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

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At BTR, we understand how difficult it is to face the reality of these deeply engrained scripts – and to work toward truth and safety.

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Full Transcript:

Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

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Thank you so much for your review and thank you to all of you for your supportive words on apple podcasts. They support me when I’m feeling low and every one of your reviews and comments and shares help isolated women find us.

Dr. Omar Minwalla on the BTR Podcast

I’m just finishing up the conversation with Dr. Omar Minwalla today and at the end of our interview we just kind of started chatting about stuff. I started talking about how I really don’t want to get married again. My ex was arrested in 2015, the divorce was final in 2017, and I’ve only been on maybe three or four dates in that whole time, and I’m not really interested in it. I mean, I guess if someone maybe set me up, I might be.Sometimes I am and sometimes I’m not. Right this very second, I’m not, and I’m also not very interested in sex right now. It’s just not very interesting to me. So, Omar and I just kind of chatted a bunch, and we’ll just jump right into where I’m talking about how I don’t really care if I never have sex again.

Anne: If I never have sex, that’s fine. I’m okay with that because of the values I’m choosing.

Understanding How Complex Trauma Shapes Our Ideas About Sex

Dr. Minwalla: I think your awareness is healthy too, which is that there is a big, large dominant part of you and overall umbrella, that’s fine and adjusted and happy, but you’re also acknowledging just a part of you. Right, the sexual part, and that that is meaningful to you too. And that’s the part that I think is making you feel whole, and that seems healthy. It’s just an acknowledgment of those wants and desires and whatever that is and that that’s acknowledged. And so, there’s a real choice and navigation that ultimately is extremely fulfilling for you, and sex doesn’t have to be part of that. And that’s some of the scripting we have to get out of, all these mandates and supposed to’s around sex. We talk about gender pathology, there’s an equal part of my model, there’s a whole sexual layer there that we never talked about, but there’s a lot of sexual pathologies in the model. You could put that religious scripting, shaping someone’s ideas of sex, as a form of complex trauma.

Letting Go Of Religious Scripting

Anne: Now, that’s interesting because from my faith tradition, like we actually believe in a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother, and together they are God. Most people don’t know that Mormons believe that. So, we’re Christian, but we also believe in a Heavenly Mother and a Heavenly Father. So, it’s easy for me in my faith to be like oh, yeah, God is male and female. So,because of that on Earth, you’re supposed to find that eternal companion, and you’re supposed to marry them, and you marry them in the temple, and that that is like the ideal situation. And so, if you’re missing your eternal companion here on earth, then you know, super sad for you. And so that’s why a lot of Mormons have big families and very family-oriented because this eternal companion thing matters a lot. And so, for me, this has been so liberating to be like, I actually do want that. Like I want an “eternal companion.” That sounds super cool, but I don’t care if I have that person in this life. This life is super short, and we’re all just going to die. So, who the heck cares?

“Because I Don’t Want To Be”

So, in my faith, I’m like the weird single lady who doesn’t want to get married, and in my faith that’s weird. Like everyone should want to get married because that’s the thing to do, right? But I think that’s similar with all faiths. Now, I wear it as a badge of honor and I’m so excited to tell people I’m divorced. I love telling people I’m single and that I don’t want to get married. It’s something now that I just feel so confident and liberated about, and those types of faith scripting are just so interesting that like, you’re not a whole person if you’re not married, and so that’s also what keeps so many victims from getting divorced. In all faiths, it’s because they feel like, shoot, if I have to get divorced, then who am I? What am I? You know, because like you’re a broken person if you’re divorced, or something’s wrong with you, or you know, something like that. And I’m like no, you’re fine, you’re great. You don’t need to do that. So lately when any well-meaning nice Mormon person in Utah, where I live says, oh, you’re so cute, why aren’t you married? I literally almost yell at them, but in a nice way, and say, “Because I don’t want to be.” I don’t know if that’s a trauma response or if I’m just enjoying shocking people. Anyway, that’s where I’m at.

Understanding How Pressure To Get Married Impacts Complex Trauma

Dr. Minwalla: Well, in that sexuality layer in the model, one form of complex trauma to our sexuality is this extreme pressure and coercion and social mandate to be married or else. And that’s a form of forcing a human being into something that’s so life-altering against their true will, by grooming them and pressuring them. That’s a form of complex trauma and it’s extremely damaging. To pressure them from day one, that if you don’t, something’s wrong with you, and you’re not whole is such a crippling, abusive, toxic psychology to impart on a child.

Anne: That’s so interesting. So, this thing happened to me, and I’ve been trying to define it and maybe you can help. Maybe not. So, two men in one day said, you’re so cute. Why are you single? It bugged me, and I just was like annoyed by it, but then the more I thought about it the more I thought that was a microaggression, but I can’t figure out why. Because to me, it felt like my cuteness didn’t count for itself. It had to like belong to someone else or something. I don’t know even know how to define it, but it’s been like rattling around in my head. Like, I didn’t realize this was a microaggression, but I think that it is. I owe my cuteness to someone; cuteness must be owned by a man or something. Do you have any insight into that? Because I’ve been thinking about that and trying to formulate what it meant or why it would be a microaggression, and I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it.

Complex Trauma & Feeling “Owned” By Your Partner

Dr. Minwalla: My finger goes to the word owned, and cuteness is only legitimate if a man owns it. And let’s go to the truth and the reality about marriage and how it actually developed in the human race, which is your wife is property. You own another human for sex, in a large part. That is sexual entitlement. It’s part of the institution of marriage. Actually, the definition of marriage is the entitlement to own another human being. So now you fast forward and now you have guys making these comments unconsciously with the same assumption, which goes all the way back to that and that’s why it would be triggering anda microaggression because you’re really not anyone until you’re owned by a man and now, you’re legitimate. And any attractiveness or being cute is for that purpose. It’s really awful and toxic and disgusting, the implication. I’m really for people making conscious healthy choices and being informed, and if you are informed and everything’s laid out and you choose something, I’m all for you. However, I’m against socializing and forcing people into the idea that they should be married or else.

Trauma Mama Husband Drama

Anne: I am going to take a break here for just a second to talk about my book, Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page, which has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book, Trauma Mama Husband Drama, is a picture book for adults. So, it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it, it’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations, as well as infographics at the back. When you go to our books page and click on any of those books, it just takes you directly to Amazon and you can throw those books in your cart. After you have purchased the book, please remember to circle back around to Amazon and write a verified purchase review, along with a five-star rating. That helps isolated women find us, it bumps Trauma Mama Husband Drama up in the Amazon algorithm, and even if women don’t purchase the book, it helps them find this podcast, which is free to everyone. Here’s a five-star review we received on Amazon: Amazingly accurate and helpful. This book is phenomenal and highlights the pain and anguish from the abusive behaviors of lying, gaslighting, blaming, and the abuse cycle. Please read.

Okay, now back to my conversation with Dr. Minwalla.

“I’m Looking For A Partnership… But I am Not Looking For An Abusive Situation”

Anne: For me, if I chose to ever get married again, because I don’t really want to, it would only be because I’m like, oh, here’s a healthy man who I’m attracted to, who I can build a life with, we have similar values, you know, whatever, and this would feel like a partnership to me because I’m looking for a partnership. That is what marriage means to me, but I am not looking for an abusive situation. And so, that’s why I don’t want to get married. So, it’s kind of like saying both things at the same time.

It can really protect women in a lot of cases. Like when I was getting divorced, I was so grateful that I had been married because had I not been married, I wouldn’t have been able to get maybe some kind of child support or maybe some kind of spousal support. Also, like let’s say his name was on the house, but mine wasn’t, you know, because I hadn’t been married more than seven years. So, for me, marriage really kept me safe, which I don’t think a lot of people talk about. A lot of people talk about the bad things about it but like in a lot of ways a victim, because she’s married, she’s able to protect herself in divorce a lot more than if she wasn’t.

When Dr. Omar Minwalla Asks Clients Why They Got Married

Dr. Minwalla: Yeah, because you’re married, so you get that privilege. I have done a study in my practice, a word-of-mouthstudy, just always asking guys for years, right, two questions. Why did you get married? Why did you have kids? Guess what the answers are? First of all, the answers are usually always the same. It’s like not a wide range of answers. It’s almost like 95% of the answers are the same answer.

Anne: Is it because I was supposed to?

Dr. Minwalla: Nope. Either I don’t know or silence or shoulder shrug.

Anne: Wow.

Dr. Minwalla: There’s no thought, reason, or voice attached to having kids or getting married. That’s how deep and unconscious just following the script is. That’s how forced boys are into doing those two things.

Anne: That is scary. That is super scary. It reminds me of my across-the-street neighbor, who wanted to serve a mission for our church and her boyfriend at the time was like well, I’m going to get married in the next couple of months, so if you go on a mission, I’ll just have to marry someone else. And so, she married him, she stayed home. She wanted to serve a mission; and I thought basically he is saying, I don’t care about you at all. All I care about is getting married for whatever reason and it doesn’t really matter who to. That story was so crazy alarming to me.

Understanding The Marriage Script

Dr. Minwalla: You’re an interchangeable object, just like what a wife traditionally is, a piece of property. So, I’ll just buy a new one.

Anne: Yeah. Yeah. It was so alarming to me because I think I asked her how they got engaged. I was like oh, how did you guys get engaged? And that is the story she told, but she wasn’t super ashamed of it or anything. She was just like oh, yeah, it just went down like that, and so then we got married and now they have six kids.

Dr. Minwalla: Yeah, because she’s following the script unconsciously, and they’re romanticizing it when it’s really a symptom of abuse.

Anne: Yeah, it was an alarming story. She really scares me because I’m 100% sure she’s an abuse victim, but of the secret sexual basement thing. Her husband’s not hitting her or anything, but I’m like, holy cow, she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know that she is just an abuse victim. And I see it everywhere now and it really freaks me out. It takes a lot for me to not just walk up and shake people and be like, do you know you’re being abused? But then I’m the really crazy lady at church.

“It Wasn’t A Choice”

Dr. Minwalla: Put it in your work, hone it in where you can channel it, where it’s the most productive.

Anne: Yes. Yes, because I don’t want to offend my neighbors. Also, that’s none of my business. If she wants to be in an abusive relationship that she doesn’t know she’s in, I mean, it’s not her fault, but like then that’s none of my business.

Dr. Minwalla: I agree. I say go for quality in how you choose your fights.

Anne: Yeah. I can just show up for her too, as a friend and just like be empathetic and be here for her. If anything ever goes down, like I’m here, but otherwise I’m not out to ruin people’s lives. Even though they think that I am.

Dr. Minwalla: But this is so relevant because being forced to get married, being forced to have children is going to cause huge amounts of rage. And where’s that rage going to go? It’s going to partly go into the basement, and then we ask ourselves why so mad? Well, wouldn’t you be mad if you were forced into marriage and forced into having kids, and you didn’t even think about it? It wasn’t a choice.

Breaking The Generational Cycle Of “Following The Script”

Anne: Yeah. So, my daughter is six, and every time I’m like, well, when you have a kid; and guess what she always says to me? She’s like, “Mom, I’m not getting married, I’m not having kids.” And I’m always like, oh? It’s funny that even thinking the way I do I even accidentally say that to her. The fact that she was like, no, no, no, mom. I’m like yep, you don’t have to. But then we went to Disney World with my best friend and her husband who’s awesome, I don’t think he’s an abuser, and their kids. She said to me, “Oh, Mom, I’ve changed my mind.” And I was like, oh, you have? And she’s like, “Yes, I’m going to marry Boone.” Because they like held hands the whole time. I mean, they’re so cute together. And she was like, “It would be very inappropriate to marry right now because we’re too young. So, we’re just going to be friends until we’re around probably 26, and then we’ll get married and have kids.” I was like, okay, whatever you want to do, and she was like, good.

And then the next day she came home and she’s like or I might marry David. So, once she opened the door to maybe marrying Boone, then she was like, oh, but there’s this other guy. So, she hasn’t quite gone back to I never want to get married, but I thought that was a cute way of her describing it’s way inappropriate to even think about that now, so we’re just going to be friends. Just the socialization of even little kids, because we didn’t say anything, they were like holding hands and stuff. We didn’t even say oh, you guys are boyfriend and girlfriend. None of us said anything, and it’s so interesting that even just with parents who don’t even say anything about it, that’s what she came up with after that trip.

“Abuse Should Be Against Any Religion”

Dr. Minwalla: Yeah, it all gets absorbed. And you know, still to this day, right, if you’re not married, what’s wrong with you? That’s so insulting.

Anne: The one guy that I bit his head off, I was like because I don’t want to be okay. He was not expecting that to come out with me. Do you think that my cuteness is invalid because I’m not owned by someone? Maybe that’s what I should say. He would not understand what in the world I was saying. You don’t have to give up your faith, but then we leave the abuse behind?Can we leave the misogyny behind? Can we leave all of this other stuff behind that is actually inhibiting your relationship with God? Like it’s actually getting in the way.

Dr. Minwalla: And actually, against our religion, right. Abuse should be against any religion. Violence should be against any religion, and health should be supported by any religion. If it’s a true, like legitimate, beneficial system of thought.

Being Told To “Love, Serve, Forgive” Compounds Complex Trauma

Anne: Yeah. Like our religion, in the handbook, it says we do not tolerate any abuse. I just don’t think people understand what abuse is. They don’t apply it to this context. They don’t understand what emotional abuse is. They don’t understand what psychological abuse is. They don’t understand sexual coercion.

Dr. Minwalla: And then they’ll take that verse and ignore it, and instead highlight other verses that perpetuate domination, control, and power.

Anne: Love, serve and forgive. Yep

Dr. Minwalla: Right, so it’s a very important area that you’re in,and there are so many women in religion fighting exactly your battle, and your work is extremely important and very much needed. And I’m such a big supporter of what you’re doing.

Anne: Thank you, because I’m like, man, if we really do believe in God, our job in these last days is to separate out the wheat and the tares and how do we do that as religious, righteous, faithful women? We kick these guys out of our houses. That’s how we do it. We don’t have to love, serve, and forgive. We boot them out. Like we can do this ladies! Pull your pants on and let’s do this. Let’s bring peace to the world.

“Emancipating Yourself From harm & Abuse Is Always A Healthy Trajectory”

Dr. Minwalla: Emancipation from abuse is a real tenant of my model and my work. It always comes down to that statement I always say to partners, emancipation from abuse is healthy, is psychological health, it’s the definition of psychological health. So, when you get confused in all of the trauma and you don’t know which way to go, just move towards truth and reality,those are your best friends. Emancipating yourself from harm and abuse is always a healthy trajectory.

Anne: So, there’s this lady named Valerie Hudson, and she’s a feminist author but she’s also a woman of faith, but she’s worked on like, political science. Her work is about how we’re never going to have world peace unless we have peace between the sexes at home. Basically, unless men stop abusing their wives. It’s super interesting how she takes that, like if that would stop then we would have world peace in general because men would be healthy. I just like the idea of world peace, but women, healthy people, in order to have world peace, we have to start with peace in our own homes.

Dr. Minwalla: And those homes have to be created by choice and consciousness, not unconscious scripts that end up being traumatic.

Support the BTR Podcast

Anne: Dr. Minwalla and I after this point just kind of kept talking and it was such a wonderful conversation. I’m so grateful for his insights.

You know, when people come on the podcast, we all have different opinions and different ways of approaching things, and I just appreciate how everyone comes to it from their own experience. And I always appreciate Dr. Minwalla, he is such a wonderful advocate. And even though we both see the world inmaybe some different ways, I really appreciate him and everything he has to offer. So, I’m so glad that he was able to join me.

If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. Until next week, stay safe out there.


  1. Martha Zeballos

    This episode felt like sitting sitting in on your personal therapy session with Dr. Minwalla, which was fun.

    As an evangelical, I often find myself defending singleness and fighting against assumption marriage is somehow necessary or better, when the Bible clearly teaches it was not, and I can easily argue using 1 Cor 7 or the examples of Jesus and Paul.

    I happened to go down the rabbit hole recently of researching LDS beliefs on marriage and singleness, and came away struck with how incredibly difficult it must be for singles, especially women, because LDS teaches you can’t even achieve the highest status in eternity if you’re unmarried. I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to defend the decision to be single within LDS circles, much less defend divorce when it means liberation from abuse. I’m glad you’re a voice of truth to women who may have been told they have to tolerate abuse to experience eternal bliss.

    • Anne Blythe

      Thanks, Martha! Your support means a lot:). Hugs:).

  2. D'Anna Goulden

    I read Dr. Minwalla’s paper back in Jan\Feb. 2021. It was a eye opening, sky punching, YES moment for me. I would like to say that these blogs and casts have been informative and sanity saving. Thank you from the bottom of my badly neglected heart.

  3. Anonymous

    It is so difficult for women who are not in marriage. When an emotionally abusive relationship ends, often abruptly they have very little protection in law.

    As you say, if the property is in the mans name, the woman can end up being evicted after an abusive relationship. In a healthy relationship a couple can work through things at the end of a relationship, not so in an emotionally abusive controlling situation.

  4. Chloe Baier

    This podcast episode reminds me of this excerpt, in chapter 2 of “Becoming the One” by Sheleana Aiyana.

    “While their history isn’t well known to many of us, spinsters are cultural icons. The term originates as early as the 1300s, referring to unmarried women who spun wool and earned their own living. By the 1800s, being a spinster was a secret source of pride: it was a privilege for a woman to remain unmarried in a time when the majority of women were economically bound to men. Overtime, in true patriarchal fashion, the word became distorted and spinster carried a negative connotation. But in fact, these women who lived the lives of autonomy and independence were powerful. It was the spinsters who, by fate or fortune, carved their own destiny and made the decision to remain single rather than marry out of necessity, and if they did decide to wed, they would settle for nothing less than true fulfilling partnership.”

    Anne I think you’re on the right track! Just a couple of powerful women choosing not to get married, living in Utah 🙂


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