***Disclaimer from Anne: I am not putting my stamp of “Yes, he’s the model recovering addict.” My hope is that we can learn from his story.
If there are any addicts listening, this can give them hope that, if they choose to, they can stop being abusive, they can stop cheating on their wives and participating in any form of infidelity.
BTR advocates for the safety of women and their families. Our hope is for families to be together and live happy healthy lives in peaceful homes.***
Many women who have been verbally, emotionally, and psychologically abused wonder if their husband is capable of change.
At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we’ve always believed that anyone is capable of change.
That’s why we’ve partnered with Center for Peace, an abuse cessation program, to give abusers a chance to change their behaviors, change their lives, and bring peace into their home.
Center for Peace helps abusers see the truth of their behavior.
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, talks to James, a Center for Peace client, about how he learned about his own abusive behavior.
Center For Peace: Helping Emotional Abusers Understand Their Behaviors Are Abusive
The first time James, a Center for Peace client, heard his wife call his behavior abusive, he was stunned.
“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.”-James, Center for Peace client
James had made the same assumption that many in today’s society make.
It’s not abuse unless there are visible signs.
In other words, the only type of abuse that exists is physical abuse.
As victims of the other types of abuse know, this isn’t the case.
There ARE other types of abuse.
Verbal, emotional and psychological abuse aren’t the types of abuse that are usually seen in media.
Unfortunately, these types of abuse also never leave visible clues.
James, like many other non-physical abusers, didn’t want to believe that HE was an abuser.
Until he was educated.
The truth did set him free and James was able to get the help he needed to start changing.
James found Center for Peace.
Center for Peace is not an addiction recovery program, but an abuse cessation program.
James was one of those men, so he enrolled in the program.
Center For Peace: Helping Emotional Abusers See The Damage They’ve Done
James had been through several other programs for sex addiction, but none of them were quite like this one.
James admits that the acting out behaviors were the easiest of his abusive behaviors to stop.
“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.”-James, Center for Peace client
He also admits that he had a difficult time seeing how much his choices and behaviors had hurt his wife.
A conversation with Coach Joi, the director of Center for Peace, in the first week of the program changed all that for James.
This conversation with Coach Joi changed, he says, changed his 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, and I say that this middle-aged lady, in the middle of nowhere has literally transformed the man that I am.”-James, Center for Peace client
Coach Joi had him think about the person he hated the most and all the things they’ve said and done and thought about.
Then she had James compare that to the words, actions, feelings, behaviors, abuse, all the things he’d done to her.
When he considered which one was heavier, he was perplexed.
“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
Once he recognized what he’d done to his wife, he wanted to change.
He wanted to become better.
That was his turning point.
James knew that’s where he needed to start, with the damage he’d done.
“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.”-James, Center for Peace client
Reflecting back on his behaviors and how his community saw him, he knew he had that good-guy façade.
“To the world, I was a 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, but when I got home, I was this monster.”-James, Center for Peace client
He now realizes that his wife had been acting as a shield between him and the community.
Once James could see what he’d done, he was ready to start learning how to make the changes.
Center For Peace: Helping Emotional Abusers Change
The goal at Center for Peace is for all abusive behaviors to stop.
James admits that he’s not perfect and still makes mistakes, but he’s had some areas where he’s made significant changes.
“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
While he believes he’s made these changes, James readily refers Anne back to his wife.
He knows that his wife would know better than him if he’s changed.
As James has seen growth in his self-awareness and accountability, he’s also been working on his empathy.
“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 that leads me to be a healthier man and father.”-James, Center for Peace client
While James has made many changes, he realizes that his wife has been through a lot with him.
“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. 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 making amends for the choices that I have made.”-James, Center for Peace client
James now believes that the abuse he put his wife through is much worse than physical abuse.
“It’s one thing to be a physical abuser where 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 abuse.”-James, Center for Peace client
He’s also learned that there’s so much more to recovery than getting sober from an addiction.
James knows that Coach Joi and Center for Peace has changed his life.
“I told Coach Joi that I had this prayer 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.”-James, Center for Peace client
He also knows that Center for Peace would be beneficial to any abuser wanting to become safe for their family.
Center For Peace: Helping Emotional Abusers Become Safe For Their Family
James is grateful for Coach Joi and Center for Peace.
His life will never be the same again.
“The Center for Peace has just provided me with clarity, with a sincere understanding of my actions.”-James, Center for Peace client
One of the great benefits James received from the program was the group meetings and accountability.
“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. The facilitator plays a big role because you need somebody that’s going to call you out. 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.’”-James, Center for Peace client
The greatest impact Center for Peace has made on James is given him hope.
Hope that he can provide his wife with a safe, peaceful home.
James, like many abusers, has chosen to make the changes he needed to make to be safe for his wife.
At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we believe all people can change, even addicts and abusers. Until they do, we make safety for women and children our number one priority.
When you join BTR Group, you have access to every session available. With over 15 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, this is Anne.
Things have gotten really intense. I’m recording this on March 19. California just did a statewide lockdown. In Utah, where I live, on Wednesday we had a 5.7 earthquake. It felt like a tornado at my house and was really intense. Our pet’s heads are falling off, we are at that point where things just seem like the apocalypse.
The abusive behaviors that you may be experiencing when you’re in close proximity with an abusive man, especially with a psychologically abusive man, may escalate during this time. Know that I am praying for you and thinking about you and extremely concerned.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is up and running. In response to the current crisis, fewer women are signing up for our services, so we’ve had to reduce our payroll expenses, so if you are in the position where you can donate to keep this podcast live, please do. We could really use the support right now.
Also, if you are in a situation where you need support, which I’m guessing so many of you are, join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group. 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.
All of our coaches are committed to being here for you, and I’m committed to staying on the air. I just hope that financially, emotionally, and physically that we can make it through this, just like all of you do. We’re all in the same boat.
Center for Peace at cenfp.org 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, we have another year-long program starting I think in June, but you’ll need to check the website which is cenfp.org.
If you are interested there are only eleven (11) spots available for the entire year-long program, and they go quickly. You have to get your money in and have a polygraph before it starts. The process takes a while to actually onboard into the program so, if you’re interested, get with Coach Joi ASAP to get your spot. Check the website or email Coach Joi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, you can find our daily support schedule at btr.org.
Now, we’ll go to our interview with James, who is a Center for Peace client. We recorded this a couple of weeks ago, when the world had not fallen apart, so you won’t hear us mention that.
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.
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.
Center For Peace Can Help Abusive Men Recognize Abuse
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.”
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
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?
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?”
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.”
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?
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the meantime, as you are hunkered down and some of you have been asked to shelter-in-place or some of you may have been infected with the coronavirus, I’m praying for you. I’m praying for all of us. We can get through this together.
Again, we are live online, and we would love to see you in a session today. Go to btr.org to learn more about Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, which is our live daily online group. We’d love to see you and relate with you and just be together there in a live safe space.
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Until next week, stay safe out there.