Center For Peace: 3 Steps For Abusers To Change | BTR.ORG

Center For Peace: 3 Steps Emotional Abusers Must Take To Change

by | Abuse Literacy, Center For Peace

Center For Peace: Helping Emotional Abusers See The Truth

Betrayal Trauma Recovery advocates for the safety of women and children. By interviewing three abusive men who recognize their abuse and want to change, BTR hopes to offer insight and information that will help women get to safety, not try to rescue their abusers.

BTR supports Center For Peace as the only abuse cessation organization that addresses pornography use as abuse and takes emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial abuse seriously.

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, talks to James, a Center for Peace client, about how he learned about his own abusive behavior. Read the full transcript below and listen to the free BTR podcast for more.

Emotional Abusers Must Accept The Word “Abuse”

Emotionally abusive men do not like the word “abuse.” Generally, abusers will call their abusive behaviors “harm”, “damage”, or “pain”, but not “abuse”.

Abusers justify this by scaling the abuse:

  • I never hit her, so it’s not abuse.
  • I only hit her once, so it’s not abuse.
  • I only used porn, so it’s not abuse.

When an emotionally abusive man truly wants to change, one of the first necessary steps is for him to accept the word “abuse” and all that it entails.

When the word “abuse” was first brought to my attention I was completely offended. I was thrown back by the terminology when my wife first said, ‘You’re an abuser.’

James, Center For Peace client

“As I began to learn more, it finally clicked. I realized that I am an abuser. It is the truth and the truth will set us free.”

-James, Center for Peace client

Emotional Abusers Must Grasp The Damage They Have Caused

Why would I be so inclined to hurt my wife, somebody that I loved so much? She said, ‘That’s exactly what your wife is asking herself right now.’ I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ That was it. I knew, at that point, I could never in my life put my wife through that again. She deserves so much more.

James, Center For Peace client

When abusive men are rationalizing, justifying, minimizing, denying, and/or scaling their abusive behaviors, they are not truly changing.

How Do Abusers Avoid Facing The Impact Of Abuse?

Often, abusers use justifications to avoid grasping the reality of the damage they have caused by choosing to believe lies, like:

  • I abuse her because I grew up in an abusive home.
  • I abuse her because I’m addicted to porn.
  • I abuse her because I have a mental illness/disorder.
  • I abuse her because no one taught me any better.
  • I abuse her because I have a high sex-drive.

Or they blame the victim:

  • I wouldn’t abuse her if she wasn’t so demanding.
  • I wouldn’t use porn if she was more sexually available.
  • I wouldn’t yell if she listened better.
  • When she ___ I have to ___.

Abusers Must Abandon The Myth That Addiction Caused Abuse

When abuser blame a pornography or sex addiction for their abusive behaviors, they are unable to truly change. James had tried 12 step groups, spiritual groups, rehab, and other programs but it wasn’t until he faced the abuse through Center For Peace that he was able to truly begin changing.

Abusers Must Be Willing to Call Themselves Out

I think the area of growth that has happened for me is, one, being aware and conscious of the actions and, two, being able to call myself out on it and being able to participate in some type of amends toward my wife.

James, Center For Peace client

If abusive men rely on the victim to babysit them through their recovery, then change can’t be truly lasting. When abusers accept the responsibility they have to call themselves out on abusive thinking and behaviors, they can begin the real road to change.

“What good is it to be sober, sexually, and still be a jerk? Who cares if you’re sober, but you’re still gaslighting or manipulating your wife or yelling at her or being a horrible father or not picking up your share of the weight around the house? Great, a hand-clap of praise for you. You’re just like any normal healthy human being. Excellent. Now let’s talk about the problems, the impact on your spouse, that aren’t seen by the public.”

-James, Center for Peace client

BTR.ORG Supports Victims of Betrayal & Emotional Abuse

At BTR, we understand the devastation and agony of emotional abuse and betrayal.

Our BTR.ORG Group Sessions meet daily in multiple time zones to offer victims a safe place to process trauma, share their stories, ask questions, and make connections with other victims who understand. 

Full Transcript:

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

Join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is up and running.

We have groups that run every day. You can join in your closet. You can join in your car from your driveway. We are here for you, and we will stay here for you during this time. You can join as many times as you need to.

Center for Peace at is an abuser program, I call it an abuser cessation program, that uses the abuse model to address pornography use, lying, manipulation, gaslighting, and all of that kind of stuff. We have a client of Center for Peace on today’s podcast.

The Center for Peace is entirely online. If you’re interested in joining, contact Coach Joi.

Center For Peace Can Help Maintain Safety For The Betrayed Spouse

For Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, as I mentioned before which is our daily online group, is live and you can talk to real people and interact with women who really get it.

Now, we’ll go to our interview with James, who is a Center for Peace client.

Today, I’m honored to talk with one of the men in our Center for Peace program. We’re going to call him James, although that is not his real name, and I’m so grateful to have him here to share his insight from being in the program. Welcome, James.

James: I really appreciate the opportunity to hop on today.

Center For Peace Helps Men Recognize Abuse

Anne: Before we start, this is a little bit scary and a little bit interesting to talk with a man and say, “So how are your abusive behaviors going?”

James: Yes, it is pretty awkward.

Anne: Yeah. Before you entered the Center for Peace program, did you recognize the extent of your abusive behaviors? Or what did you think about this whole abuse idea?

James: Honestly, when it was first brought to my attention I was completely offended. If I can be honest with you, I was thrown back by the terminology when my wife first said, “You’re an abuser.”

It literally scared me. I never, in a million years, would have taken on such a title. I mean, historically and culturally, we know it to be around physical abuse. That’s the way some of the courts have viewed it and things of that nature.  

Men Must Recognize Their Abusiveness To Change

As I began to learn more and as more has been exposed to me not only through reading and listening to this amazing podcast but also through Center of Peace, it took a second, but it finally clicked. I realized that I am an abuser. That takes a lot of maturity and growth to be able to say, for me personally. I can’t speak for anyone else.

Coming from my background, which is a church background and growing up in a home of faith, and having the previous life of being a minister and the director of ministries for a very large church, I actually would scoff at the idea of such a term, but it is the truth and the truth will set us free, so that’s the way I had to view it.

Abuse Is Both Attitude and Behavior

Anne: Now, we know that abuse is a behavior, but it’s also kind of an attitude. An attitude of entitlement or an attitude of “I deserve more” or “I’m better,” those types of things. It’s both. In terms of behaviors, after being in the program, do you feel like your abusive behaviors have drastically reduced?

James: I do, and obviously that’s my opinion. I’d have to let my wife speak.

Anne: By the way, I’m going to tell our listeners that we are going to have James’ wife on so that she can tell us her opinion because her opinion is the one that counts, but we’d like to hear your perspective as well. Tell me about that, do you think that they’ve reduced?

Real Change Takes Time

James: I do think that they have reduced. I should put this in context. I think and understand that it takes probably a decade or more to truly stop the behavior and abusive tendencies and actions. I am no saint. I am not perfect. I very much so still make mistakes, but I think the area of growth that has happened for me is, one, being aware and conscious of the actions and, two, being able to call myself out on it and being able to participate in some type of amends toward my wife.

From there, understanding the tools that I’ve been taught to help reframe my thinking, my words, my actions, and really trying to step into her shoes and understand the impact that my words and decisions have on her. By being able to do that, I feel like I’m getting better. I’m not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m better and I think that leads me to be a healthier man and a healthier father.

Sexual Betrayal Is Abuse

Anne: Can you give us an example of something that you would not have called abuse before Center for Peace but now you’re like, “Oh, wow, this was abusive?” Maybe one of the behaviors that have been easiest to stop doing?

James: I would say one of the behaviors that have been easy for me to stop would be acting out, and I’ll put that into context. When I say “acting out,” for some, that could be masturbation, pornography, acting out with other people, and it’s easy to try and put it into context and say, “Oh well, at least I didn’t do that,” or “I’m not as bad as this person,” but all of it falls under the category of abuse, in my opinion. I think anything that impacts the emotional, physical, spiritual, or relational life of a spouse is abusive.

Abusers Must Take Full Accountability To Change

Ironically, it was a conversation in the first week of Center for Peace that we had when Coach Joi said something that was just so profound, and I think it changed my life. I don’t mean that facetiously, I literally mean it changed my life. I’ve done rehab, I’ve done 12-Step, spiritual groups, you name it.

I laugh, I’m an African American male, and I say that this middle-aged Caucasian lady in the middle of nowhere has literally transformed the man that I am. She said, “Take the scales of justice. On one side, I want you to think about the person you hate the most. Think about all the things they’ve said and done and thought about.” I said, “Okay, I’ve got that person in my head.”

She said, “On the other side, I want you to think about your wife. Think about all the things that you’ve done to her. Think about the words and the actions and the feelings, the behaviors, and the abuse.” She said, “Now which side is heavier?” I was like, “Wow, my wife’s side is heavier.”

Empathy Is Key To Changing Abusive Thinking

I was so perplexed. I was like, “Why? Why would anybody do that? Why would I be so inclined to hurt my wife, somebody that I loved so much?” She said, “That’s exactly what your wife is asking herself right now.” I said, “Oh, my God.”

That was it. I knew, at that point, I could never in my life—I’m sorry I’m a little emotional—I could never in my life put my wife through that again. She deserves so much more. As a man, as a father and as the priest of my household, how could I ever put my wife through what I have done? She is a beautiful soul and someone who has stuck by my side through hell.

It doesn’t mean that our marriage is going to last. I recognize that she could easily get to the end of this and say, “I don’t want to do this,” and I respect that. You know, I have to respect that because of the choices that I’ve made, but I will spend the rest of my life, somehow in some way amending the choices that I have made.

Center For Peace Wants Families To Succeed

I want her, if nothing else, when she goes on to glory to say that she is able to have peace in her heart. If I can do that, man that’s what this program did for me.

Anne: I would wish that for every family. The horror of this type of abusive behavior: pornography, acting out, gaslighting, manipulation, you know all of that, could come to this, hopefully, beautiful peace, salvation, repentance, change, health, whatever we want to call it, that we’re all working toward that.

You mention that you had been to several sex-addiction-type things before, like counseling and I don’t know what else, maybe you could list it all off, but why do you think Center for Peace was such a different approach to your abusive behaviors?

Abusers Must Face The Damage They Have Caused

James: I think that, although 12-Step programs are amazing and counselors are amazing, I don’t take anything away from them and, depending on your personality and proclivity, those work, but for someone who has engaged in those activities and abusive behavior, I think that you need deeper work. You need more of an intense, realistic approach to healing.

I think the 12-Step programs, now having gone through the Center for Peace for almost a year, are very narcissistic in nature. I just started thinking to myself, “That’s wrong. No, what about all the ways you’ve hurt someone?”

Center For Peace Helps Abusers Understand The Impact of Their Choices

That’s where it should start. What have I done to hurt other people? What damage have I done to other people and how has it impacted them emotionally or financially? Let that be the place that I start to walk out and accept my choices, to work out my amends, being able to work through and process, with others, what I’ve done against them.

I think the Center for Peace has just provided me with clarity, with a sincere understanding of my actions. Then, also, what good is it to be sober, sexually, and still be a jerk? Who cares if you’re sober but you’re still gaslighting or manipulating your wife or yelling at her or being a horrible father or not picking up your share of the weight around the house? Who cares?

Sexual Sobriety Does NOT Mean An Abuser’s Work Is Done

Great, a hand-clap of praise for you. You’re just like any normal healthy human being. Excellent. Now let’s talk about the problems, the impact on your spouse, that aren’t necessarily seen by the public.

It’s one thing to be a physical abuser and people can see the evidence of it. It’s another thing to be an emotional abuser because people can’t see that. I think that does so much more damage because it’s the internal torment. It can hurt a relationship or person, I want to say, much more than physical.

Emotional Abuse Is Difficult To Identify

Anne: Let’s talk about that for a minute. You are a very well-respected and admired person in your community. People don’t look at you and think wife-beater, right. Well, first of all, because you’re not a wife-beater, you’re not engaged in physical violence, but they don’t think that about you.

They think you’ve got a good job, you attend church, you’re an upstanding member of the community. From that image that people have of you, and then your wife’s sort of “disapproval of you,” because she’s being harmed, can you reconcile that juxtaposition in the way that your wife might look at you and how maybe, before Center for Peace, you might have seen that as “Well, she doesn’t appreciate me or she doesn’t respect me. All these other people respect me,” and how you view that now, that juxtaposition in your image or the way that people perceive you?

Victims Are Conditioned To Protect Abuser’s Reputation

James: Yeah, definitely. I would call it “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” That’s the way that I would define it. To the world, I was charismatic and funny, well-known, liked, and successful guy, “The Instagram Father,” as I would call him. My Instagram was just me and my kids and all of the great things. I’d buy all of these gifts and treats and cars and clothes, but when I got home, I was this monster.

My wife would just become so angry at the fact that, in many ways, I was two different people. She would often say, and still says at times, that it’s really my wife who has protected me from others seeing the truth in me. She’s almost holding back all of the words, actions, and feelings that others would really have if they knew the way I really have shown up in this world.

It’s almost as if she’s holding back the people, but through my behavior, I’m stabbing her in the chest, while she is holding back all of these people, with all these words and thoughts and actions. It has been one of the most challenging forms of incongruency that I have seen.

Center For Peace Helps Men Learn To Become Authentic

I told Coach Joi that I had this prayer, I had this revelation, that was shared with me, that has become my mantra for life. It is to become congruent. It is to show up in every room the same way every time. I don’t care who I’m with or what I’m doing, I’m going to show up that way and that juxtaposition, it has to be no longer.

There are times where I can see myself falling back into that old image and, not only because I’ve been empowered, but I think what’s even greater is my wife has been empowered with the language and can see it. She calls it. She’s like, “Nope, nope. You’re not doing that.”

I recently wanted to do something that was a part of my old life. Not anything negative, I wanted to go speak at an event. She said, “No, I can’t look up and see you speaking and think about what has happened and see that it’s a form of congruency in your life. It is not until this area of your life has been whole and healed before I think you can go forward in this area.”

Abusers Must Listen to & Trust Victims

I think some men would see that as controlling, I see that as grace. I see that as not enforcing any more spiritual damage or emotional and physical damage in my life through my actions.

That juxtaposition, it’s just crazy, and so many men in this world live by it. You name it. They thrive on almost the separation of persons. It’s time for men, I think, to become more congruent in life.

Anne: Yeah. You mentioned that the Center for Peace is a program that you’ve been in for almost a year, so it’s a year-long program. Do you think that that length of time is important? What do you think would have happened if it would have been shorter? Did you think that you had made more progress and then, over time, were like, “Oh, wait a minute, there are more layers to this than I realized?” Can you talk about just the factor of time playing a role?

The Process of Change Takes Time & Dedication

James: Sure. Practically, just the accountability factor is important. To be held accountable by not only Coach Joi but by the other members of the group is important. I think the length allows you to work through the multiple levels of your own trauma as well as the trauma you have inflicted on others.

For some men, it takes them four months just to even recognize themselves as abusers. Some men, it takes two weeks. But then, “Okay, now we’ve identified the issue, what are some of the ways in which we have behaved this way?” “Okay, great, now that we know that, how do we stop them? Okay, now that we know that let’s dig deeper. What are some of the emotional issues that you have not dealt with that have caused you to act in this way?”

Abuser Work Requires Professionals Who Understand Covert Abuse

It just keeps going deeper and deeper. You can’t solve that in 12 weeks at an outpatient facility or 90 days or 60 days in an inpatient facility or at some type of 12-week program. That is not going to be done effectively. Also, I think the facilitator plays a big role through that year-long process, because you need somebody that’s going to call you out.

Coach Joi has a way with words, I’ll say that, where she will call you out and say, “No, that’s abusive. Stop. No, that doesn’t work. You are being rude. Don’t do that. That’s not going to work.” She does it in such a stern but loving way.

I think, for many men, this is the first time that they’ve been told, “No, that’s not okay. That, what you just identified is not empathy. You’re not walking in peace.”

Center For Peace Helps Men Reframe Abusive Thinking & Change Behaviors

In 12-Step, I oftentimes would say, “It’s like I have meningitis and another person might have leukemia and I’m trying to tell them how to fix their problem and you’re trying to tell me how to fix my problem.” Really, we’re just walking around patting each other on the back saying, “Oh, we’ll be alright.”

No! Someone, who is a doctor, needs to come into the room and give us not only a remedy but a plan to live out so that we can be healthy again. I think that is the significance of the Center for Peace.

Anne: It’s interesting because Coach Joi does not diagnose things, but also, she’s just a coach. She just coaches on types of behaviors, but it’s also interesting to me that if you went into a therapist and they were going to “diagnose you” with something, there are no diagnoses in the DSM for abusive behavior.

To Change, Abusers Need Effective Coaching

You might end up with some diagnoses of some personality disorder or something, but there is no just—I’m just going to say this because I think it’s a little bit funny—no diagnoses for “you’re a jerk.” There’s no diagnosis like that, no.

I think the other interesting issue is that you’re saying, “This is the first time someone’s told me no.” I don’t think people understand the, I’m going to call it rampant misogyny, that says “there are all these excuses or reasons to discount your wife or to dismiss her or to not take her concerns seriously.” It happens in therapy offices, it happens in clergy offices, it happens all over.

Abuse is a Societal Issue

I think growing up in this society that we grew up in, it’s hard for women to identify the abuse because they sometimes think, “That’s just how men are” or “That’s how they act” or “I need to not speak up because, if I say this, he’ll get mad.” Women go through that type of internal dialogue with themselves all the time.

For a man exhibiting abusive behaviors, a lot of times, nobody ever calls them out on it. Nobody ever says, “No, that’s not okay. It’s not okay to dismiss your wife or to not take her concerns seriously or whatever.” People might say, “Yeah, well she is kind of intense,” and validate you when you go down that “throw my wife under the bus” kind of talk.

Join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group

After that rant I just went on, I’m actually going to pause the conversation here and continue it with James next week, so please stay tuned.

Remember that the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is available to you. Join today.

Please support the BTR podcast.

Until next week, stay safe out there.

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  1. Julie

    Is there someone who can help me? I need to explain where my marriage is at and where to go from here.

  2. David larsen

    Is the second half of James’ interview available? I can’t seem to find it. Thank you.

  3. Diane

    Do you have an abuse program for my husband? If so, how much does it cost?

    • Anne Blythe

      The only program we recommend is Center for Peace – it’s the only program that uses the abuse model to help men who want to stop their abusive behaviors, including infidelity and pornography use.


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