When you know that something needs to change, it may be temping to confront your abusive partner.
Anne is back on the podcast with Claire – and together they’re discussing ways to seek safety when you hope that your husband is changing – without putting yourself in danger of being manipulated. Listen to the BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
When You Recognize Abuse – DON’T Tell Him He’s Abusive
It feels empowering and exhilarating to finally have words for what’s happening to you. Many victims feel that if they can confront the abuser and tell him that he’s being abusive – spelling out what he’s doing and how it’s affecting them – he’ll stop his behaviors and change.
However, confronting the abuser is dangerous to victims.
“Talking to them about [their abusiveness], it just gives them more to groom [you with].”
Anne Blythe, Founder of BTR.ORG
What Do Abusers Do When Confronted?
Abusers respond in predictable ways when confronted with their abusive behaviors. They will:
- Groom victims by apologizing, owning their behaviors, and pretending to change; AND/OR,
- Gaslight victims into believing that the incident wasn’t actually abuse; AND/OR,
- Become volatile and/or violent; AND/OR,
- Manipulate enablers (flying monkeys) to prey on the victim, gaslighting her and making her feel crazy.
Confronting abusers is never safe. So what should do when you realize that you’re being abused?
What Should I Do INSTEAD of Confronting The Abuser?
When you identify abuse, do not:
- Tell the abuser;
- Give him a list of “boundaries”;
- Ask the abuser for a polygraph; OR,
- Set “benchmarks” for the abuser’s behavior (they can only stay in the home if they start counseling, take a polygraph, confess to church authorities, etc.)
Instead, get yourself to a safe space, in safe proximity from the abuser. From that vantage point, you can determine whether or not you want to continue to engage with the abuser. You can determine which safety boundaries you will implement in order to protect yourself from abuse and control.
“Make your way to safety and then observe from a safe distance.”
Anne Blythe, Founder of BTR.ORG
BTR.ORG is Here For You
Remember that our Group Sessions are available to you. The BTR.ORG Strategy Workshop that Anne references in this podcast episode are an excellent resources for women navigating abuse. Enroll today.
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne.
Claire and I are on today’s episode continuing our conversation. This conversation gets a little intense at this point. Claire and I really jived and there’s a lot that I edited out that you do not hear and so you’re gonna hear me like with sort of certainty like this is what you should do and this is what is happening. There’s a lot in this episode that was edited out, so I just want you to kind of keep that in mind. No, also, I obviously don’t have all the answers. If you’ve listened to the podcast from the beginning, you know that I have evolved over time. My feeling now is really strong that getting to safety first and observing from a safe distance is the safest thing for women. Now, every situation is different and every woman is different and only you know what’s best for you. As you listen to this episode, know that my intensity is only due to my own personal experience with for years confronting and explaining to someone and having them do what I asked, but then it never actually getting me to safety.
So I’m coming at this conversation from a very personal place and I don’t know if I was triggered per se, as I’ve just really passionate about warning women not to give their abuser a checklist. I talk about the Strategy Workshop that we have. If you see that online, we really recommend this for everyone so they know a strategy in order to observe from a safe distance, it’ll help give you some safety so you can observe to find out what’s really going on. We’re just gonna jump right into this conversation. I think the reason why I am concerned about the confrontation is cause I did that for seven years with my ex and he always sounded like, oh, our relationship is amazing and this is the most important thing to me. I care about our family because I went through that and all of it was grooming. Now I’m at the point where I’m like, there’s never a reason to tell them the only thing to do is just to like make your way to safety and then observe from a safe distance –
Giving Him A Checklist Just Gives Him the Opportunity to Groom You
If they’re choosing to be a healthy person.
Yeah. Cause talking to them about it, like it just gives them more to groom me.
I’m not sure <laugh>, I believe you that that’s, I don’t know, isn’t there like a 2%? Yeah, I could be the 2%.
You totally could be <laugh>, but because I thought I was the 2%, I’m not saying you’re not, but because I thought I was, that’s why it always makes me super nervous to be like there’s no reason to talk to them about it.
Did your husband sound like that all the time? Because that is what my husband sounds like all the time.
From the minute I married him. I was confronting it head on. I I never went through the love, serve, forgive phase.
You Can’t Connect With an Abuser
Well, but I would call him out and I kept, but I think I was trying to connect like you did this and he would shut me down but then he would apologize later. But it would be this vague I love you and I’m sorry and not apologies specific to what he did. So Yeah. But I would call him out. I was calling him out. But I think it was an effort to get to like connect and it’s like you can’t connect with someone unless they are willing to be seen and they actually are willing to see you. That was missing over and over and over again trying to, like my therapist said, I’m trying to logic mind him and to cut it out.
<Laugh>. Exactly. Which is also kind of frankly what confronting is too. Yeah. It’s a, it’s another way of doing that. So just something to think about. Yeah, I don’t wanna be like, and then I gave her a lecture, <laugh> –
I’m fine with you lecturing me. I think it’s, it’s healthy and it is concerning, right? I am definitely being love bombed. I actually did start having some nightmares as I feel like more comfortable with him. Like I had <laugh>, I had dreams that he was watching me sleep and stuff like that. But I think, I think a lot of my insecurity is still around my inability to walk away. Like I’m still struggling with that. I haven’t done it a hundred percent and since he’s love bombing I haven’t gotten as many chances to. What do you think though? Because I feel like if he’s handling, if he’s being honest –
Well that’s the problem.
What Does Grooming Look Like?
I’m saying if it looks like he’s being honest over time, if he says he’s gonna do things and he does them. If he can handle criticism. He’s told me if I tell him office that he’ll go and sleep in the office when we’re back together. Like if I tell him to leave that he’ll leave.
He will not.
No. My gosh. Well then it would be done though at that point.
This would be a good way to know. Say, you know what, the more I think about it, the more I feel like you moving into your own apartment would help me know.
Will you move into your own apartment and see how mad he gets –
See how he handles it? Yeah.
Oh he would get super mad I’m guessing.
Well he did get upset cause he was hoping to reconcile like this month. I don’t know why he had a deadline in his mind and when I said our therapist said it would take several more months at least.
Oh it’s gonna take like a year. <Laugh> tell him, tell him it’s gonna take five years. Be like, it’s gonna take five years and then watch him see, see him freak out. That’s what I’m trying to say.
Even If He Apologizes, It’s STILL Abuse
I feel like if I can say you are gaslighting me and he walks away and he doesn’t pout about it and he comes back and says what he did right, then I’m not being abused anymore.
No, you’re still being abused because he gaslighted you in the first place.
And not if I walk away from it.
No, you are because he gaslit you. Okay. Listen to what you’re saying.
This is turning into a therapy session.
I know, sorry. But like okay, he comes in and he abuses me and if I can confront the abuse and tell him he’s abusive and he walks away and he can come back and say, “Yes, I was abusive,” then it’s okay. If you see this pattern over time, like he comes and abuses you, you point it out to him. This is why I’m saying not pointing it out to him. Like, I like that method because you just move away then the only way you talk to him is if he stops gaslighting you.
Gaslighting IS ABUSE
Yeah, that’s a valid point because –
Otherwise you’re actually still being abused.
Because I’m being love bombed and all that still.
Well, the gaslighting was abuse.
So what I’m saying is you’re still being abused.
Yeah. It was only once a month though.
You know, I actually said that to myself. I said I, I did a calendar and then I actually did a calculation. I was like okay one out of 30 – I remember doing this. I like pulled out my calculator and I was like one divided by 30, that means I’m, he’s only abusive 3% of the time.
<Laugh>. I didn’t know that’s what it looked like for you
If he’s on the spectrum of abuse.
She said he’s extremely abusive.
So if she’s saying he’s extremely abusive.
Yeah, she said he is not sad, he’s angry, he’s not lonely, he’s being controlling. I mean he is lonely but he’s being controlling.
What you’re describing to me is like you’re kind of saying I’m willing to be abused as long as I can tell him, hey you’re abusive and he’ll admit it.
Well as long as he’ll leave me alone actually.
Cycles of “Change Abuse”
So if he were actually non abusive, he would come to you. He wouldn’t gaslight you or anything. He would say, look, I know you’re needing your space right now because I’ve been abusive. Is now an okay time to talk to you or would you like your space? That is what you need to see to talk to him. <Laugh>, there’s literally no reason to keep telling him over and over the same thing. <Laugh>, you’re like basically you’re saying now he comes in, he abuses me, I say you’re abusing me. And he is like tells me Okay. And he’ll leave.
\No he’ll leave and then he leaves. And then come back and tell me later. We haven’t gone to that part actually. But I’m hoping that’s what we’re <laugh>. That’s what I’m hoping for.
<Laugh>. Wait, wait, wait. He hasn’t come back later?
No he has but it’s only been like the past week. But that’s when I called him out specifically.
So this is the problem because –
He’s not mature enough to do it on his own. Well of course he’s not because he didn’t do any of it until I said I was gonna kick him out.
Checking the Boxes = Grooming
He’s not doing it now either. You know why he is not doing it now? Because you’re giving him check boxes and he’s checking the boxes.
You mean he’s not coming to me and saying this is the type of person I wanna be.
Now you confronting him about it and telling him what you need. You’re giving him a piece of paper with check boxes on it. He’s really, really good at checking boxes. So that’s what he’s doing right now. He’s not even remotely caring about you? Not even a little bit.
You mean cause he cares about himself. He just wants to get back and that’s the whole reason.
Yeah. So basically he abuses you. You give him a checkbox, you say here’s a checkbox. He’s like, oh shoot, I gotta check that box.
And if I don’t, she’ll kick me out. So okay, I’m gonna check the box. It’s better to kick him out now and then say I would feel safer if you’re out of the house. I’m not sure if he’ll ever be safe for me or not. Good luck. And then just observe.
Because you’re, you keep handing him the checkbox.
Giving Him The Checklist Will PROLONG The Abuse
It’s definitely not emotional maturity or what like someone who’s mature would look like and also the checkbox is bad. Okay, here’s the real thing. You know how you were like the addiction recovery program prolonged my abuse.
Giving him check boxes will also prolong your own abuse.
Try Practicing Strategic Communication
Yeah. But what if he didn’t see what he was doing before and now he is in a class with someone that’s like pretty sassy – they’re giving him the job to like pay attention to when he’s being controlling and pay attention to when he’s being mean.
You’ve been married to him for 25 years, right? Yep. If I were myself knowing what I know in your situation. Okay. Now I would just do the strategic communication stuff in my house. So be like he’d come in and be like, hey, like how does he gaslight you when you’re reading? What does he say?
He just walks up and starts and talking to me.
I would just keep reading.
I see what you’re saying is though, if he was someone who actually cared about me, he would say, are you okay if I interrupt you?
He’s not gonna care.
Don’t Confront OR Comply
But I really do think I’m seeing a little bit of that of him actually. And, and I realize at this point I can’t tell if it’s sincere. What if it’s over a year time period that he’s –
And it might be –
Not that he’s not being invasive, right?
Like Right. But that’s, that’s what I’m saying. Instead of saying anything, I would just literally look at my book and be like, I’m reading and then just read. Yeah. And then be like, I don’t know if you notice but I’m reading and then just keep reading but not say you’re interrupting me, you’re controlling you. None of that being like, I don’t know if you notice but I’m reading and then about the sex stuff it would be like he, if he’s like, Hey I wanna move in, be like no, I don’t feel safe enough yet, but, but that’s it. Like no. Yeah, no thank you. That’s it.
You mean just observe how he chooses to mature on his own? Is that what you’re saying?
Yeah. And not necessarily confront him about his stuff but also don’t comply with it.
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Right. So you’re more saying be more observant and see what initiative he’s taking on his own.
Yes. And also don’t comply. So if he comes in and tries to talk to you instead of saying, “Hey, you’re now trying to coercively control me into talking to me and now you’re gaslighting me,” Right. Instead of saying that, be like, “I’m reading,” and just read.
How to Respond Strategically
Like if he’s like, when are we gonna get back together? Instead of being like, I don’t know, let’s have a conversation about it. Be like, oh maybe we can talk about it later.
Like you don’t care. Doesn’t matter. I’m busy doing this other thing.
So why would you do that?
Why Does Strategic Communication Work?
Because anything else is actually a relationship with the person where you’re like trying to have a relationship and if you are trying to have a relationship it gives them check boxes.
<Affirmative> and you cannot have a real actual relationship with an abuser. So you’re actually like still in this place where you’re thinking of him and seeing him as like a regular person who could like actually do that. It does not matter if they are abusive. It literally like does not matter what you say, what you do. They will, they are not going to change. Like they’re just not. And so if he has a goal in mind, he is going to check those boxes in order to groom you to get the goal.
Okay. And when he doesn’t get the goal or if he grooms you and then you don’t react the way that he the goal was intended. Yeah. So let’s say he’s like, if I’m really kind to her for a week, at the end of the week she’s gonna go on a date with me. Yeah. In his head. Yeah. Okay. In his head. And then he’s really kind to you all week and then he is like, hey I’d like to take you on a date. And you’re like, nah, I’d rather stay home and read. But thanks. That’s nice of you to ask then. Yeah. That’s when the anger comes out.
“If You Don’t Give Him Any Check Boxes, He Either Has a Choice to be a Healthy Human Being Or Just Be a Psycho”
And that’s when you know that he had a goal.
No. Yeah. I think that’s beautiful actually.
If you don’t give him any check boxes and he has no goal and he can’t figure out what to do, then he either has a choice to be a healthy human being or just be a psycho.
And if he turns into a psycho, that’s not great for you. But you’ll know, man I have to get out.
He’s not choosing to grow up.
Like therapy stuff and like giving him the check boxes and stuff. I am worried that it will only prolong your healing still.
Yeah. Well I think what you’re saying makes sense. It has to be coming from him. The therapist I’m working with are helping me not be compliant. So I think that part is really, really good.
The only problem is I was never compliant so I was always confrontational.
But I was always confrontational and compliant. I would say all the ways that he’s not okay. But I was still like taking care of everything, making sure, you know?
Right. Yeah, that’s true. And you know, that being said, I think I might have been that way too, where I was like always confronting him but then actually like I was having sex.
Still doing what he wanted and it didn’t matter cause he was still getting what he wanted in the end.
I started doing that where I was just like, Uhhuh. Yeah. Whatever. Or he’d be like, you know, la la la la la And I’d be like, what? I’m sorry I can’t hear you. I gotta go anyway. I got this thing but can we talk about it later or whatever. And he, that’s when he got arrested. He flipped out and got arrested. That’s what I’m saying.
Okay. That is so interesting because I, I did hear, I think I listened to you maybe your first podcast also, I thought that your husband was doing domestic abuse the whole time.
Only when I started doing the strategic stuff of not confronting him. Mm-Hmm Like I was like I’m not gonna confront him anymore.
You’re not giving him the script to groom you with here. If you do these things, I’ll let you back in maybe and these are the things that bother me because you know what that script, once he gets back in the house or if he’s still abusive will flip on you instantly because he’ll be like, she just gave me all of the things that really hurt her, now I’m gonna use ’em.
So if you hold your cards really close to your vest where you’re like, I’m not going to show him what bothers me, even though you’re hurt and you’re being abused, you don’t give him a checklist.
Control IS ABUSE – Even if They Claim They’re Not “Intending” To Hurt You
What about I don’t think he’s trying to hurt me. I think he’s trying to –
Control you. Which is confirmed
Control me. Yeah. He is trying to control me a hundred percent.
Which is hurt.
Yeah. So that part is hurt. But I just mean I don’t think he’s trying to do things to set out to cause harm. He’s setting out to do things to get what he wants.
Yeah, exactly. But the thing, the problem is that he doesn’t care about you and so he’s gonna hurt you in the process.
So far it has been, if I don’t comply then I will get hurt yet. But it’s been emotional hurt. What about this? Because the first month though we were like, I was like that. I didn’t think that it was gonna work out at all. I was completely disengaged. I would still give him a chance every once in a while to talk to me and he would start telling me how wonderful things are and I’d be like, okay, I’m done talking.
His grooming worked. Because you’re engaging now.
Yeah. Well he hasn’t gotten anything yet, but he hasn’t been kicked out.
<Laugh>. Yeah, that’s what I mean. He has not been kicked out. So my ex, at a certain point where he saw that, I was like really aloof, guess what he decided in his head? This was before he started assaulting me. But he decided we were just gonna be roommates so he was just gonna look at porn and not try anymore because then he was like, wait a minute, I can’t, I can’t get –
Can’t do this. Control her.
“You Don’t Deserve to be Abused”
Yeah, my biggest concern is you giving him a script to groom you or giving him a checklist. They’re so good at that. And if they have no checklist and there’s no timeline and there’s just like you being aloof, that’s not control for them at all. Yeah. That’s like what is happening? You don’t deserve to be abused.
Well, but I feel like I’m not gonna put up with it. Like even if it happens, I’m gonna walk away from it. So even if we, I feel like I’m not gonna have to put up with it anymore no matter what. Because even if we were together, I’m gonna be walking away from it and he’s gonna be leaving because I tell him to. And if he doesn’t do that then it would be over. So at least it would be this minimal type of stuff.
Yeah, I think it’s just like the, the boundary is the opposite of what it should be. It’s the difference between someone saying, okay, if you don’t get a polygraph, let’s see, I don’t necessarily recommend polygraphs, but a lot of women say this, if you don’t get a polygraph in six months, you’re going to need to move out. Okay. There’s the difference between that and saying you need to move out now so that I can be safe and I’m gonna observe from a distance to see if you can be honest with me. I’m just gonna observe. And they don’t even, that’s the, that’s all they do. Interesting. And they, and then they sit and watch to see if he’s like, you know what, I did this polygraph on my own or I’m becoming more honest and I watch what he does when they’re completely separated. Like actually separated. Mine went off the deep end. The second he was not in the house, he like no completely went off the deep end and I was afraid of that. Right. Because like there’s some way you can like give him the check boxes and I thought the same thing where I was like, he is never gonna get it. Like someone has to teach him how to do it cause he doesn’t know.
And now I’m like, he has had plenty of time now to learn. It is eight years later for me, he is the same exact person. Remarried. Like there was nothing that I could have said or done. He would’ve checked boxes all day long and I would’ve maybe prolonged my own healing accidentally.
Are You Staying “For The Kids”?
What do you think about like my bar is low right now, right? I’m totally gonna talk to my therapist about all the stuff that you’re saying and I’m gonna seriously think about it and I think you’re making really good points. But what if it’s just like my bar is so low because of the kids. If I can create an environment where my boundaries are so good and he’s walking away when I tell him to walk away, do you know what I’m saying? And he’s mostly, mostly not being a jerk. And occasionally he is abusive and then he leaves cause I tell him to leave and I walk away from it. Right. And if it’s so rare and he’s still super emotionally immature, right? He’s still not growing up but he’s not doing crappy things cause he can’t get away with it anymore. So he’s immature but he’s not doing crappy things. But home life is stable for my kids. Do you know what I’m saying? I think that’s why my bar is so low. Is that not rational <laugh>?
That’s kind of like saying I, I can be touched by flames and not get burned <laugh>.
That is a good point cause I am actually super concerned that the closer he gets I won’t be able to think clearly. Cause I do struggle to see, clearly.
You Can’t NOT Be Harmed By Abuse
We talk about this analogy in the Strategy Workshop – that’s like trying to say, I can be like in a flame and not get burned. It doesn’t matter what you think. You will get burned, abuse will hurt you. So you are going to get hurt if you are being harmed. If someone comes up and punches you in the face. You can’t just be like, I’m not gonna get hurt. Like that’ll put you out the whole day and you’ll have a bruise.
What if, because you don’t believe it because he, his whole deal was just you’re mean and I’m lonely and if I’m not buying that anymore, do you know what I’m saying? Like if I can speak clearly enough that it’s like, oh wow, you’re okay, I’m done talking to you, then it’s not gonna have the harm that it has caused.
Totally. Totally. So there, there could, in your case you might be like, this is the right thing for me. Right? That there, there’s totally that I do wanna challenge that fundamental thing that like, and I think this is the heart of it. All of the reasons why you don’t wanna actually get to safety, why you wanna get out of the fire are related to how am I gonna take care of my kids? How am I gonna pay the bill? You know, that kind of stuff. Right? So instead of even considering is he gonna get better or is he not gonna get better, any of that. Like perhaps, here’s another idea, again, just brainstorming here. You don’t have to listen to anything I say. You can think I’m crazy, I don’t care.
I’m totally listening to you and I, and I appreciate you challenging me.
Put it on the shelf for a little while and be like, you know what? I don’t even care. I am just gonna start praying for the waters to be parted. Because you know what, God is a billionaire. It’s weird.
Are You Staying Because You Don’t Have Resources to Leave?
He has all the money that you could ever want or need. He has all the resources you could ever want or need and they are available to you. Now I’m not saying you’re ever gonna be a billionaire, that’s not what I’m saying. But like, if you start praying and saying, Heavenly Father, I am in an unsafe situation and the only thing keeping me in this situation are resources. How can I get the resources that I need? What do you want me to do? Kind of like Nephi and the boat, right? He’s like, where are the tools so I can build the boat?
Yeah. You mean because if he needs it to happen, he can provide the resources.
Or if I want it to happen. I think I have lived my life like God, what’s the exact right thing to do? And I think God really wants us to exercise our agency.
You Won’t Know if He’s Safe Until You Let Go of the Relationship
Yeah. If you’re like, I’m sick of this abuse, he’d be like, yay, I’ve been waiting 25 years for you to say this. Right? Yeah.
Really do think though, if he chose to be mature, I would want to stay. But I, I agree with what you’re saying that it has to be his own volition and not, and that’s really interesting cause I think I have been, I’m babysitting him the way you were talking about like do this and then do this and then do this.
You’re never gonna know until you like set him free. And that’s super scary because pretty much they like take a deep, deep dive after that. Dive off the deep and you don’t want that to happen. So you’re not like, you’re like, I don’t wanna do it. Cause that’s what I did too. And that’s what happened. So the chances of that happening are like 98% right? And you could you be the 2%? Yes. We’re gonna take a break here. I know that conversation got really intense. Claire and I are gonna continue our conversation next week. So stay tuned. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week, stay safe out there.
What exactly is meant by getting to a safe distance? Lock yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes? Go for a short/long drive? Because how do you actually get to a safe distance of more than a few minutes to a few hours without causing a situation where the abuser is tipped off to the fact that there is something amiss & he ends up confronting you, asking why you are acting the way you are & thus making it difficult not to give in to engaging about how you are really feeling about him?
We recommend taking the BTR.ORG Strategy Workshop and Boundaries Workshop to learn how we create safety!
Anne, “ The only problem is I was never compliant so I was always confrontational.”
This is so me! I hoodwinked myself into believing that standing up for myself and confronting abusive behavior was “nipping it in the bud.” 21 years in, I discovered Lundy Bancroft and your site. Unfortunately, I gave my abusive husband Lundy Bancroft’s checklists (even though he advises against it!).
23 years in, Abusive husband was in the Men’s Abuse Group from The Men’s Resource Center, founded by Charlie Donaldson & Randy Flood, authors of Stop Hurting the Woman You Love: Breaking the Cycle of Abusive Behavior.
You’d think a group founded by “The Experts” in Men’s Abuse, would bring about noticeable changes, right?
Guess what happened? The abuse morphed into new abusive behaviors, such as name-calling and F*** You’s, which he never did before, ever!
It’s like he doubled down on his choice to be abusive. And of course, started calling me an abuser.
If I could do it over, I’d never have confronted him as an Abuser and I’d have quietly planned my exit.
Claire coming up with this plan to call him out and tell him to leave…been there, done that. Anything he agrees to while in a lucid, ‘rational’ state, will disappear the moment his Switch Flips. He may comply once or twice, but eventually he will get pissed about being told to leave, and it will be nasty.
Choosing to live with these conditions and “ways to deal with abuse”, while staying in his presence, keeps the nervous system at constant alert. Your entire life, mind, body, and soul day-by-day will be further damaged. Your nervous system cannot rest in cohabitation with your abuser. So, it’s now self-induced abuse, knowing the damage it causes me but choosing to stay. I can’t keep doing this to myself.
Today, I’m starting my prayers for the resources and income needed to build a safe, healthy, content life.
Claire, I hope you find your path to peace.
I learned even if he did obey my boundaries it was manipulating(gaslighting) me. Making me believe he cared he was changing. All done to keep me engaged so he could abuse further.
Me living in hopium from his trauma bonding kept me hoping in a lie his false naritive
I’m divorced 4 yrs. BRT has helped with clarity for myself and others I shared with.