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My Emotionally Abusive Husband Is Divorcing Me
Should I Divorce My Husband for Emotional Abuse? Can I?

A victims shares how she grappled with religious traditions, logistics, to determine if she wanted to divorce her abusive husband, and if so how?

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My Emotionally Abusive Husband Is Divorcing Me

J.R. is back on The BTR.ORG Podcast sharing her story. She struggled to know if she should divorce her emotionally abusive husband. Then she struggled to know if her her religious beliefs allowed her to divorce him for emotional abuse. She also struggled with whether or not she wanted to divorce him. If you relate to this, hopefully this information and her story will help you.

This episode is Part Two of Anne’s interview with J.R.
Part One: My Husband Says I’m the Problem. Is He Right?
Part Two: Divorcing Your Emotionally Abusive Husband: What You Can Expect
(this episode)

Should I Divorce My Emotionally Abusive Husband?

Here at BTR, your emotional safety is our number one priority. If you’re wondering if you should divorce your emotionally abusive husband, that’s a question only you can answer, but here are some things to consider:

  • Should any woman be married to a man who emotionally abuses her?
  • Should any woman be married to a man who genuinely doesn’t care about her well being?
  • Should any woman be sacrifice her emotional and psychological safety for other perceived values (ie money, child-care, religion, etc)
Divorcing an Emotionally Abusive Husband

Can I Divorce My Emotionally Abusive Husband?

Some women wonder if they can get divorced if it’s “just” emotional abuse. Unfortunately, some inaccurate religious scripting or societal scripting has given women the impression that they’re not able to divorce an emotionally abusive husband just “emotional abuse”. Here are some questions to consider.

  • Does God love you? Would He want you to be abused in anyway: emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, financially, sexually?
  • Can you go to college or get a job? (Psst: The answer is YES!!)
  • Is it good for your children to witness a woman think that God doesn’t love her or that she’s incapable of taking care of herself or her children?

Do I Want to Divorce My Emotionally Abusive Husband?

So many women in this situation have a hard time deciding what they want to do because they share children, they remember the good times, they think about the so-called good qualities about their husband (often not realizing it’s just part of his manipulation). Here are some questions to consider when women are wondering if the want to divorce their husband due to his emotional abuse.

  • If you knew exactly what he was like when you met him, would you marry him now?
  • Do you want to be married to someone who you would not want to marry?
  • Do you want your children emulating his behaviors or character?

Anne breaks down why victims feel crazy during this stage of the process. If you want to talk to one of our coaches today about your situation, attend a BTR.ORG Group Session today.

Anne (00:01): We talked about the beginning of J.R.’s story in last week’s episode. J.R. why do you think it takes victims so long to understand that they’re being abused? All of these years that you went to therapy and you went to help with clergy and they further abused you. Why do you think it takes so long?

J.R. (02:02): That’s a great question.

Anne (02:04): I want to say it’s not the victim’s fault, that’s for sure.

Why is it So Hard to Identify the Emotional Abuse?

J.R. (02:06): Yeah, it’s obviously, it’s not the victim’s fault. I think maybe for some people they might say nobody even tried to tell me or warn me, but I will say I did have family and friends who were concerned about my relationship, but I saw them.

I had such a high view of the marriage relationship because of the spiritual upbringing and because of sort of the twist that my ex put on it through the theological training in school that I just saw all these people as their opposition to my marriage.

It’s a spiritual attack on my relationship. But I will say that my relationship with the church and religion has become very complicated because I do attribute a lot of the way of thinking that kept me for so long in that relationship to spiritual or religious teachings that I think personally I believe are not biblical and don’t actually align with what I believe Jesus teaches.

But when you’re told that from so many sources that you are supposed to be able to trust and people who are supposed to be leading and being guided by the Holy Spirit, it’s really hard to undo some of that indoctrination.

Realizing Your Husband is Emotionally Abusive

Anne (04:05): Yeah, I agree. And also you care. It’s really sad how perpetrators know how to take the things that women really, really care about and weaponize it against them. It’s benefiting the abuser and it’s not benefiting her at all.

And to realize that God loves us, he genuinely thinks we’re delightful and funny and fun and awesome, and he created our talents, and some of us might not have cooking talents, and that’s okay because we have other talents, and when we were created for the good of humanity, including ourselves, we’re part of that.

And so it’s so sad to me when these have all just been subjected to what would benefit him to our expense. It’s so hard to see that. So you find BTR and you realize, whoa, he’s abusing me. You’re listening to the podcast. Can you talk about what steps you start to take at this point?

Attending Couple Therapy With An Emotional Abuser

J.R. (05:20): I think at this point we had already been seeing a therapist together, which I do not recommend. I mean, obviously I didn’t know that I was in an abusive marriage, an abusive relationship, but now hindsight never go to couples therapy with an abusive person.

But we were seeing a couples therapist who actually, I will say even before I found BTR, she feels like this guardian angel sent from heaven because

I think that God moved me all the way across the country to meet this therapist because she started seeing us and when we started talking to her, the pornography thing came up, but it wasn’t the crux of why we were there. But she immediately started talking about betrayal trauma and had him write a therapeutic disclosure.

A Therapist Who Identified the Emotional Abuse

Anne (06:34): Was she a pornography addiction recovery specialist?

J.R. (06:38): I don’t think she was certified, but she herself had walked through this type of betrayal,

Anne (06:50): So she knew kind of enough to do a disclosure, which we don’t recommend here. But not enough to be like, whoa, whoa, whoa, we got to stop the couple therapy.

I Became Aware it was Emotional Abuse

J.R. (07:01): And I would say with the disclosure, I don’t think any of this was a great way to go about this. The route that my story went was incredibly painful and I think unnecessarily so because when she had him do the disclosure, I just knew in my heart that he wasn’t going to be honest and told her as much in one of our meetings.

I said, I don’t even want to hear this because I know that it’s going to be a bunch of lies. I think it started to wear him down. It started to poke holes in his facade.

It started to get me thinking, and I think that’s probably how I did find your podcast. I started to become aware of this concept of betrayal trauma. And so searching for resources found BTR, and then I got partial disclosure after partial disclosure. It was very painful.

It was all right around the time that my third child was born, and about a month after my third child was born, things were pretty rocky between us, me and my ex. And one night it just came out of him like a flood. He told me his version of this is the whole truth.

Partial Truths, Trickle Disclosures – Key Tactics of An Emotionally Abusive Husband

(09:59): I like how you said his version, this is a common pattern that they’ll say, this is the whole truth, and they’ll tell a really kind of horrific thing that they’ve done. Sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh.

J.R. (10:11): It’s horrible.

Anne (10:12): And then you think, wow, that has to be everything, because he’s like, I’m getting it all out on the table, and then you find out later it was not because there’s something else he doesn’t want to say. So he tells you his version of this is the whole story?

“That’s the device I use to look at porn.”

J.R. (10:26): Yes, and actually we’re sitting in our living room. He points across the living room at a computer that was actually used for ministry related purposes and specifically with kids’ ministry. So it wasn’t even his own personal computer, but he points at this computer, this laptop, and says, that’s the device that I use to look at porn. So it was never on my radar. No one was monitoring it.

It was never something that I ever would’ve even thought that he was using for lots of reasons. I mean, it didn’t belong to him. And not only did it not belong to him, it belonged to a church and it was being used for kids’ ministry. So it’s a great place to go looking up porn. I think I got up and I think by the next day I had purchased tickets for me and my kids to fly back home to Pennsylvania.

Separating from an Emotionally Abusive Husband

(11:33): And at the time, we were just going to separate. At this point, once again, divorce, it’s not even an option. It’s not on my radar, but I knew I needed space from him. I needed to get away from him. I needed lots of distance for me and my children.

So we actually bought tickets for him, a ticket for him as well. Mine was just a one way because I didn’t know when I would return to Washington. His was both ways so that he could help me get there with the kids. I would’ve been flying with three kids, three and under. So he flew with me and then was going to get right back on the plane and go back to Washington and we were going to separate.

Navigating an Emotionally Abusive Husband Being Manipulative During Separation

(12:23): And long story short, it didn’t take too long into our separation for me to realize that I was never going to go back to Washington. If he wanted our marriage to work and if our marriage was going to work, he would have to come back to Pennsylvania where my support system was so that we could potentially salvage our marriage.

So I told him that and he spent a considerable amount of time negotiating, didn’t want to lose his job at the church out there, didn’t want to lose his position of power and authority, didn’t want people to know the truth, spread some lies about what was really going on between us, made it seem like I was going through postpartum depression, and that’s why I was away.

People from the church were texting me and telling me to use this essential oil and to eat this kind of food and oh, the baby blues are so hard, aren’t they?

“I wasn’t going to be heard unless I had men vouching for me.”

(13:38): And it was a very difficult time. And throughout it all, it was becoming more and more clear to me how bad the situation was, and I was becoming a lot more realistic about the fact that it was not going to change. So we were supposed to be separated for six months and that didn’t happen. I was living with my parents temporarily with my three young kids in a very small house. We went through this whole thing with the church out there that he was working with.

Of course, I had to have men in church leadership speak on my behalf and stand up for me in any way to even be heard. That whole thing was very complicated as well. I feel very grateful for those men and I love them. I feel like they are like brothers to me, but it was very eye-opening to see that I wasn’t going to be heard unless I had men vouching for me.

So when he realized that the church out there actually gave me his stipend and released him from his position, he realized that he had nothing else out there.

Anne (15:12): Good for them. That does not happen very often. So that’s great news.

When It’s All Just Manipulation

J.R. (15:17): Yes. I think once we got over the hump, once they actually heard me and listened to what was going on, I do think they handled it very well. So he came back to Pennsylvania, got a bunch of praise and glory for coming back to his family to make things right, and he was the big hero for coming back. And I was like, you just came back because you didn’t have anything else out there.

You tried so hard to salvage a life that you knew your wife and children were never going to be a part of. And then when that didn’t work, you came back. But he made some steps that I guess kind of looked like progress to me when he moved back here. In hindsight, it was all just manipulation just to get what he wanted, which was for us to be living together again.

“I Moved Back in With My Abusive Husband”

(16:18): So we moved into an apartment together again to try to salvage the marriage. It was way too soon. I had to set boundaries. I had set the things that I needed to see during our separation for me to be able to move towards reconciliation with him. And he didn’t meet any of those. I mean, he bucked against everything, but I so desperately wanted it to work that I still moved back in with him.

We were only living together for about two months, probably a little less. And the thing that finally made me leave him for good unfortunately, was being hospitalized just to clear the air, wasn’t physical abuse from him, but it was a mental breakdown and I was suicidal and committed myself to the ER.

What Happens When An Emotionally Abusive Husband Doesn’t Go Away After Separation?

Anne (17:22): I’m so sorry to hear that. I did want to say that so many women, when they do let him back in the house, things get way worse. Maybe he’ll promise that things will get better and maybe not necessarily physically. He didn’t put you in the hospital by punching you in the face, but mentally you were in such bad shape after six, seven weeks of being with him in your home, in your vicinity, that that’s where you were at. I mean, that’s how bad things got.

I always want to warn women it’s going to get worse. Lundy Bancroft talks about if that happens, then they think they have to assert even more control or they’re going to lose control of you again. So once they get you in their vicinity again, then at the very least the emotional and psychological abuse is going to ramp up.

“Why am I going crazy?”

(18:16): But it might not seem like that to you because it might seem very nice. They might seem kind, and that’s when you really think you’re going crazy because you’re like, he’s not yelling at me, he’s not angry. Why am I going crazy? I’m not sure what his behaviors were, but some women experienced it like that because he’s being great. He’s doing the dishes and he is doing the stuff.

And in my ex’s situation, he was reading scriptures every night and initiating family prayer and that kind of thing. And I thought, I’m genuinely going crazy. What is happening? I always felt like my sanity was hanging by a thread, and I was like, is that thread still there? So as you’re hospitalized, is that your indication to you about how bad it is?

Processing the Self-Blame Helped J.R. Leave Her Emotionally Abusive Husband

J.R. (19:00): Yeah, once again, grew up in a very religious home. So most of the time felt like, oh, well, I just need to pray more, or I just need to read my Bible more.

And that just wasn’t doing it, obviously, because my mental health matters and I needed more than that, but I wanted so badly to make it work, not so much because I loved him, but because we had children, and obviously this wasn’t the case, but I felt like if I left him that I caused our children to be in this quote broken home, which I hate that term, but that’s what it is, what people would see it as.

So I think being hospitalized, having that breakdown, realizing that I didn’t want to live it, took that for me to say, well, if I’m not around for my kids, that’s not what’s best for them either.

Anne: I wrote The BTR.ORG Meditation Workshop for women who are going through this type of absolute mental trauma – because there’s a point where you’ve done as much as you can. You just can’t do anymore. The Meditations help women heal without any effort. Women don’t have to do more, they can just relax and listen and it will heal them.

“If you stay with him, you’re never going to get better.”

J.R. (20:12): Yeah, I started to think if staying in this maddening relationship is abusive, relationship is what’s best for my children, they might not have a mom by the end of it. I remember being at my sister’s house after being hospitalized. My sister was really amazing.

She took a week off of work just to be there for me and my children, whatever I needed. And I remember being at her house. She cared for all the kids, hers and mine. They were just going in and out of the bath. There was eight of them, so just one after the other. And I just remember her saying, J.R., if you stay with him, you’re never going to get better.

She was talking about my mental health and my depression and how I felt, and it seems like such a simple statement, but I needed to hear it in that moment. And it was like, yeah, if I want to get better for, and at the time, it wasn’t even for my own sake, it was for my children’s sake. So if I want to get better for the sake of my children, I cannot be with this man. That’s the bottom line. That’s when I filed for divorce and felt really confident about that decision.

What Would J.R. Say to Her Younger Self?

Anne (21:42): So JR and I are actually going to talk more about the divorce part and then what happened after and what she’s been dealing with since at a later time. But to conclude now, J.R., if you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you tell her?

J.R. (22:03): I would tell myself that you are so smart. You are so worthy, you deserve better. And I would tell her, trust your instincts. Just trust yourself. That’s the biggest piece I’m still fighting with. Honestly. Just trust yourself.

Re-Establishing Trust With Self After Leaving Your Emotionally Abusive Husband

Anne (22:28): It’s hard to reestablish that after I would say his and society sometimes, or a misogynistic church. They’re systematic, intentional dismantling of that, trying to dismantle it for you so that you wouldn’t trust yourself. Being up against that is really hard.

And that’s why I have people like you J.R., on the podcast to talk about it because it is, I think, so much more systematic than people realize. There’s so many places that try and talk us out of it, and if you follow it, they call you crazy or she’s too much or she’s not enough, or all the things that really, they want to trap us.

And so being able to see that for what it is is so difficult. So thank you so much for sharing your story so far. I can’t wait to hear the rest of it. Listeners, stay tuned because it won’t actually be for a couple of months. Sometimes we do it like the next episode, but in this case, we’re going to wait a couple months and then revisit. So thank you so much for sharing this part of your story, and I cannot wait to hear the rest later. Thank you.

J.R. (23:41): Thanks, Anne.

recovering from betrayal trauma
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