***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 their 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.***
Abused and betrayed women often wonder if their husband can change. At Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we believe abusers CAN change.
Anne, Founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, talks to John, a sex addict and abuser working through recovery, and Jenn, his ex-wife. John and Jenn have been dating for a few months. Anne has known them for a while and grew up with John. Previously, Jenn shared her story of her marriage to and divorce from John.
The Abusive Behaviors Started Before I Met Her
John talks about his pornography use. Like most addicts, his use started as a teenager, before he met Jenn.
“It really became a problem when I was in high school, about 23 years ago. It got worse and worse over time. It got to the point where it was multiple times a week, at least.” -John
One of the tactics abusers use is to rationalize. They try to make the wrong thing they’re doing right.
John had to rationalize everything he did, including his porn use.
“I was able to rationalize even my porn use. There were so many levels of this abuse that was going on. Stuff that I chose to expose myself to, I could rationalize away and say, ‘This maybe isn’t even pornography.’” -John
Anne points out that even the lying about the porn use is purposeful for abusers, “You’re expecting a result from it. ‘I’m going to lie about my porn use because then my wife won’t be mad,’ or ‘I won’t look like the bad guy,’ not realizing that the lie, in and of itself, is abusive.”
John admits that there was a lot of abuse going on in his marriage to Jenn.
I Knew It Was Wrong But I Didn’t Want To Say I Abuse Her
Many abusers know that what they’re doing is wrong, but they don’t want to label it abuse. John says he was no different.
“I rationalized everything I was doing to her. I knew that what I was doing wasn’t right, but I would never allow myself to fully admit to what was actually happening.” – John
Though John didn’t want to call it abuse, everything he did had a purpose, “Everything I did was on purpose.” He said he would do things because he wanted something.
As an example, he shares an incident, which happened often, where they were at a family gathering or at someone else’s house. When it was just about time to go, he would make sure Jenn was in the middle of something and start gathering the kids (they have five).
He would get all the kids in the car then wait for Jenn. He would make it look like they were always waiting on her. He wanted people to believe that Jenn was always putting herself first and that he was always the one taking care of the kids.
John was the “good guy.”
Which made Jenn the “bad guy.”
He knew what he was doing, “That was not on accident, that was something that I knew what was going on, but it was easy to play it off as something that was not on purpose.”
I Had To Make Sure I Was The “Victim” So I Could Rationalize My Abuse
Having known John as a teenager, Anne asks him about his public image back then, “How did you justify your actions and behaviors that were secret?”
He couldn’t. John believes this is why he had to rationalize his porn use. He had a dark side that he had to hide, always thinking, “Oh, if only you knew.”
In his marriage, John had to make sure he was the “victim” to make it easier to rationalize his behaviors.
When Anne asks him if he knew he had the power to control, John admits that, “Yeah, I learned that I am very good at manipulating. I’m very good at arguing in a condescending manner.”
I Knew I Was Destroying Her But I Didn’t Care
John knew he had a way of arguing that could make the other person feel terrible about themselves, while boosting his own self-esteem.
John used it a lot on Jenn and he recognizes that he can’t describe how it made her feel. He can only try to guess because it’s what he was trying to do.
“It would hurt her and, looking back, that happened a lot, where I would make her feel like she—well, I guess she should speak to how it made her feel, but, in my view, it trapped her in this space where she didn’t know her worth because she listened to everything I was saying to her.” -John
The Pain I Saw When I Was Abusing Her Was Real
John didn’t like to think about the things he did. He used to be afraid of the conversations they might have about it.
Now, he knows he needs to sit and listen to her.
Now, he wants to know, as difficult as it is for him, what it really did to her.
The dread has turned into curiosity.
“I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that the pain I saw, when I was abusing Jenn, was real. That it feels hard and you can feel like a victim when she needs to talk about it, but you can know that you’re on the right path when you want her to talk about it and you want to be there for her.” -John
John always thought he was a good dad. He thought that was his “saving grace.”
Now, he recognizes how often he would use the kids to get something for himself. He uses going out to dinner as an example. He would say he wanted to take the kids out to dinner, but he really did it because he wanted to go to dinner or because he wanted to look good in front of others.
4 Things An Abuser Can Do To Help In Recovery
John says there are four things he’s had to do to get where he is today.
4 Things An Abuser Can Do To Help In Recovery
- Make Restitution
- Relationships Are A Privilege
- Listen To Her Heart
John feels that his change couldn’t come about until he hit his rock bottom.
“I just hit a point where I realized that I had lost everything, and this road that I was headed down and I thought looked better, was not better.” -John
Surrender Is The Tool That Gets Me Through
John says that, for a while, he was angry with the church. He blamed the church for a lot of the problems he’d brought on himself.
Now, he has learned to surrender. It’s the tool that helps him when he’s triggered.
Surrender has helped him gain a greater appreciation of Christ and His Atonement.
He used to believe the Atonement meant he could repent, and it “magically” takes care of the problem. Now he thinks about the Atonement differently.
“I now view Him as someone who can be there when no one else can be there because no one else can fix the problems that I have made for myself. Only He can, and only through Him am I to the point where I’m at, where I feel like I’m actually changing as a person.” -John
I’ll Spend My Lifetime Trying To Make Restitution
John says that Jenn has probably made restitution easier for him, just because of who she is, “She’s just fantastic.”
He’s been reading He did Deliver Me from Bondage by Colleen C. Harrison. The author talks about being healed from the inside out versus the outside in.
John feels like that is what’s happening with him and making restitution is part of that.
“The only way that I have found to really feel like I’m changing from the inside-out is to really stand up for what I’ve done and accept that this is the reality and do something about it. I can’t fix it. I can’t undo it.” -John
He believes that restitution never ends. It’s something he’s going to be doing for the rest of his life.
“I literally destroyed the last 14-15 years of her life and how do you make that up? You don’t. I can be here and try to be the person that she deserved from the beginning.” -John
John has found that his recovery isn’t going to happen if he isn’t willing to truly accept what happened in the past. He knows that he needs to stay with Jenn as she goes through the emotions of everything he’s done.
Because John attends a 12-step group, Anne warns John that abusive men and addicts will believe they’ve tried to make restitution when they haven’t made much of an effort at all.
Anne asks abusers and addicts to be honest about the steps they’ve taken to make restitution.
“I want to ask you what did you do to make restitution? Did you say, ‘Even though I don’t want to I’m going to pay more than it requires for child support’? What actions did you take? Restitution isn’t just saying you’re sorry. It’s active actions to repair the damage that you’ve done.” -Anne
I’m Not Entitled To A Relationship, They Are A Privilege
One of the most difficult things for John to give up has been his entitled thinking. It runs through his personality, “I would feel entitled to anything someone could feel entitled for and I think I still run into that.”
Learning to recognize the warning signs has been part of his progress.
“There are signs that we see now, where I’m starting to kind of head down the wrong path and we can cut it off a lot earlier than before.” -John
He gives an example of when he and Jenn went to see a Disney movie. The movie was triggering for him. He knew it and Jenn knew it. John just stayed without a word because he couldn’t bring himself to accept that he couldn’t sit through a Disney movie.
“I think that’s been one of the hardest things. Just to accept that I’m going to be different than what ‘everyone else’ can get away with because it leads me down paths that I can’t go down.” -John
As an addict, John realizes that he’s not going to be the same as “everyone else” anymore.
Being with Jenn and their kids is a privilege that John lost because he was unsafe. Now, he knows he needs to be different if he wants to stay in their lives.
“I spend as much time as possible with Jenn and the kids. This is where I want to be. I still have my apartment, but I found that it feels a lot lonelier now than it did before we started dating again and I just don’t really like being away from her or the kids.” -John
I Had To Listen To Her Heart If I Wanted To Know What Really Happened
John knew that if he wanted to be with Jenn, he needed to make major changes. He now recognizes that he caused her a lot of pain.
If John wanted to understand what he had done, he had to start listening to Jenn.
“I felt like it was time for me to truly listen. To really listen, not just sit there and let her talk but to stop worrying about what’s happening inside of me when she’s talking. Just watch her face and listen to what’s coming out of her heart. Not necessarily what’s coming out of her mouth, but what she’s trying to tell me.” -John
He knew that he had these memories of how he thought things were, but he had to realize that they were distorted.
That’s why he listens, so he can find out what really happened. That’s what he wants other abusers to know.
“Just know that the memories of the situations—you have different perspectives, but hers is going to be correct every single time.” -John
Once he started listening, John realized things hadn’t been the way he thought they were, “Oh my goodness, this is way worse than I thought it was.” He’s still trying to grasp the reality of how bad it was for Jenn but realizes it may take a long time, maybe forever.
I’m Trying To Be The Man She’s Always Deserved
Jenn knows that she’s taking a risk by dating John, but she’s watching him.
“I know how fragile it can be. How quickly it can turn, and that mind-shift can change, and it can go back to the selfish and go back to right where it was. My biggest struggle has been just learning to take it one day at a time.” -Jenn, Shero
John knows that a lot of what he did doesn’t make sense. He knows that he caused a lot of pain for Jenn and he can never make it up to her, but he’s going to do his best.
“I feel very remorseful about it and I’m just trying to do everything I can to undo—as much as it’s possible—to undo abuse. I know that that’s not really a road that has an ending, but that’s what I’m here for. Just trying to do what I can to show her how special she really is and how to undo that.” -John
He knows that recovery isn’t easy, and it will take a long time.
“It’s a process and I’m trying my best but there are definitely stumbles and it’s certainly not the end of the road for sure.” -John
Anne is hopeful that things will work out between her two friends. She’s grateful to be able to witness the change that can happen when an abuser is truly willing.
She asks that you say a little prayer for John and Jenn and their five children. She prays that these changes become permanent and John can be reunited with his family completely.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery advocates for safety and for families that are happy and healthy.
To expand the fight for families, Betrayal Trauma Recovery has partnered with a new organization called Center for Peace.
Center for Peace is not an addiction recovery program, but an abuse cessation program. Center for Peace helps men who are exhibiting abusive behaviors such as lying, manipulating, porn use, infidelity, soliciting prostitutes, and other abusive behaviors that are often seen at BTR.
Coach Joi, Betrayal Trauma Recovery Coaching Coordinator, runs the program at Center for Peace. BTR works together with Center for Peace as support for the wives of men who are working the program. For more information on Center for Peace, please click here.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
I have already started crying before we even started today’s episode because I have Jenn and John with me today. If you have not heard the first part of Jenn’s story, please go back and listen to last week where she talks about the abuse that she endured during her marriage, the divorce, and, also, the fact that she’s now dating her ex-husband who is on the podcast with us today.
John: Hello, thanks for having me.
Anne: Like I said last week, I know John and I know his family. I’ve known him longer than I’ve known Jenn, so this is really emotional for me to see what looks like could be a hopeful story. John, so you know, I told everyone that I do not want to set you up on this pedestal that you’re the model recovering addict.
I don’t want people to listen to this podcast in that way. I would like them to listen to someone who is working through recovery, hoping to reunite his family, but there are things you don’t know, that you don’t know yet. Things that we all don’t know at this point.
John: Absolutely, it’s a process and I’m trying my best but there are definitely stumbles and it’s certainly not the end of the road for sure.
Abusers Don’t Want To Admit They’re Abusive
Anne: Right. Let’s talk about when you were married. Did you realize that your behaviors were abusive to Jenn?
John: I had a hard time while we were married putting the term abuse on it. I rationalized everything I was doing to her. I knew that what I was doing wasn’t right, but I would never allow myself to admit fully what was actually happening. Everything I did was on purpose, but I kept downplaying it to myself and it allowed me to continue doing what I was doing.
Anne: When you say everything you did was on purpose, do you mean that it was a calculated action?
John: Yeah. Well, I don’t know about calculated, but it wasn’t like I was inadvertently doing things. I wanted to get something and so I would do these things. For instance, one of the things I used to do was—we have five kids together—we’d be at family gatherings or we’d be at people’s houses and when it was getting close to time to go I would make sure that she was busy doing something else and I would get all the kids and we’d all go get in the car and then wait for her.
I used that to make it look like we were always waiting on Jenn. That she was putting herself before us and I had to do everything with our children. That was not on accident, that was something that I knew what was going on, but it was really easy to play it off as something that was not on purpose.
Anne: That you were helping out?
John: Absolutely. I looked like the good guy.
Anne: We have an infographic coming out very soon about what abuse is, and one of the things that it says is that the behaviors are purposeful. When I say calculated I don’t necessarily mean that you sit around scheming like Mr. Burns, but I mean that you’re expecting a result from it. I’m going to lie about my porn use, for example, because the result is then she won’t be mad, or I won’t look like the bad guy, or whatever it is. not realizing that that lie, in and of itself, is abusive.
Pornography Use Was The Beginning Of The Abuse
Let’s talk about the porn use. When did you begin viewing porn? I’m guessing it was before you met Jenn.
John: It was. It was as a teenager. I had memories of doing it and it really became a problem when I was in high school. That was probably 22 or 23 years ago, and it got worse and worse over time. It got to the point where it was multiple times a week at least, oftentimes multiple times per day. I was able to rationalize even my porn use.
There were so many levels of this abuse that was going on. Stuff that I chose to expose myself to I could rationalize away and say, “This maybe isn’t even pornography.” I was deep in it and it has held me trapped ever since I was a teenager.
Anne: I knew you back then. Thinking about that, how did you justify to yourself your actions and behaviors that were secret, that nobody knew about, with your public church image?
John: I don’t know that I could completely. I knew that there was this dark side and I would always think to myself, “Oh, if only you knew.” I think that was why I was rationalizing it as maybe not even being porn.
There were a few times that I Googled “Is this actually pornography?” and “What is the definition of pornography?” I found somewhere I could rationalize what I was doing. I’d be like, “Okay, this isn’t that bad, and the masturbation is something that every guy does.” I really just downplayed what I was actually doing.
Then I would abuse Jenn and I would tear her down and get her into this corner and then turn it back onto myself where I could play the victim for what was happening in our marriage and that I had an excuse. I was going to this porn that I could then rationalize as not even being porn.
It was this big ole world that I just built up in my head and it really kept me trapped for a really, really long time.
Abusers Usually Know That They Can Manipulate
Anne: So, you know me, we’re not best friends or anything, but we grew up in proximity to each other. I don’t want to say anything more than that as to give your identity away or my identity away. Saying that, I think that you can imagine how I would be a very bad victim. How my ex would try to do those things, like turn it back on me, and I would just end up fighting him all the time.
With Jenn, she ended up being a very good victim. She learned that if you yelled and screamed at her that she would be like, “Oh, okay. I’m going to stop.” Were you actually conscience of that? I’m very curious. Were you actually conscious of how to wield anger as a tool of power and control?
John: Yeah, I learned that I am very good at manipulating. I’m very good at arguing in a very condescending manner. I feel like I’m a smart guy and I can argue in a way that can make the other person feel terrible about themselves and make myself feel really good. I used that a lot on her.
It would hurt her and looking back that happened a lot where I would make her feel like she—well, I guess she should speak to how it made her feel, but, in my view, it trapped her in this space where she didn’t know her worth because she listened to everything I was saying to her.
Anne: How do you feel about that now?
John: It’s not fun to think about. I think I’m at a point right now where I used to be afraid of the conversations we would have. When she would want to talk, I would get very very anxious because I was waiting for what holes she was going to poke in everything that I’d told her and everything that had happened.
It’s still hard to have the conversations, but it’s turned from dreading them to being a little curious and wanting to know what it really did to her, and it’s hard. I feel very remorseful about it and I’m just trying to do everything I can to undo—as much as it’s possible—to undo abuse.
I know that that’s not really a road that has an ending, but that’s what I’m here for. Just trying to do what I can to show her how special she really is and how to undo that.
Learning To Surrender Can Help With Recovery
Anne: Yeah. What role has your relationship with God played in this process?
John: Well, He’s only played a role in the last little while. I went through a phase where I stopped going to church. I became very angry with Priesthood authority and blamed the church for a lot of my problems that I had brought into my own life.
I have learned recently that surrender is a very real thing and it is the tool that gets me through times where I feel like I want to get sucked back into pornography. I feel like I have gained a different appreciation for what Christ can really be there for.
I used to have a view of the Atonement as you go and repent and it just kind of magically takes care of it. I now view Him as someone who can be there when no one else can be there because no one else can fix the problems that I have made for myself. Only He can, and only through Him am I to the point where I’m at, where I feel like I’m actually changing as a person.
Anne: So, your behaviors now to make restitution, can you now see that as an active act toward recovery, but not post-recovery? Do you know what I’m saying? From my viewpoint, I see a lot of abusive men or addicts who don’t ever utilize restitution as a means or a tool for recovery, and they don’t realize that without it they can’t recover.
They might say, “Yes, I did that in the past,” but they haven’t made any type of restitution for it, they haven’t told the truth about it, they haven’t faced it head-on, they haven’t actually made restitution, and they think that they can recover without it. Can you talk about that for a little bit?
John: My situation might be different from others where, I feel like, because of the person Jenn is, she’s kind of made the restitution easier on me. She’s just fantastic. I’ve been reading the book He Did Deliver Me from Bondage (by Colleen C. Harrison), and she talks about being healed from the inside out versus from the outside in, and I feel like that’s part of it.
You can stop looking at pornography, you can white-knuckle it, or whatever people like to call it, but the only way that I have found to really feel like I’m changing from the inside-out is to really stand up for what I’ve done and accept that this is the reality and do something about it. I can’t fix it. I can’t undo it.
We’d all like to use the word undo because everyone hopes that there are no consequences for their actions, but for me I found that my recovery has gone hand-in-hand with being willing to truly accept what happened in the past and stand there with Jenn as she was trying to go through the emotions of everything that I had done.
Recovery Is An Inside-Out Change
Anne: How has your view of your children changed from when you were acting out and being abusive to now, where you’re actively working on recovery?
John: I don’t know that I have a good answer for that one. Jenn, you can correct me if you feel like my view is wrong here. I rely on her a lot for memories and things, because my view of the past is so distorted.
We’ve had a number of conversations where I’ve told her how I remembered it and then she’s like well, here’s kind of what really happened. Then we let it sit and kind of go over it again because I was so deep in this stuff that I just have these memories baked up in my head.
I always was a good dad. I thought I thought that was my saving grace. I would spend time with them. I always had a short temper while I was looking at the pornography and that’s still something I struggle with, even as I’m working on recovery.
Hopefully, as I’m further along the path it gets better. It is a little better than it was. I guess one thing that is different is I genuinely want to put them before me at times. I genuinely want to put Jenn before me at times.
Before, I would do it because I would get something out of it. Either “Oh, I’m going to take the kids to dinner” when I really wanted to go to dinner, or that sort of thing to make me look good in front of everyone else. That, maybe, is a little bit different than before, but it’s not as drastic as the relationship with Jenn.
Anne: So, maybe internally it looks a bit different for you but externally it looks kind of similar is what you’re saying?
Anne: What do you think Jenn?
Jenn: I think that that’s a pretty good analysis. I feel like, before, the kids were used a little bit in order to manipulate me, but he was always a fairly good dad. He may have been a little more absent at times, like not as attentive. I will say though, now as he works on this and stuff, he is an excellent dad. He’s very attentive and he is very considerate of the kids.
Anne: Is his temper reducing?
Jenn: Yes. Definitely.
Anne: I don’t want to throw your dad under the bus here John, but I do know that he had quite a temper as well, so that’s also familial. You’re also just learning new ways of interacting, right?
John: Right. Growing up in my household he was a member of bishoprics, and that sort of thing. I always felt like my family growing up, it was the outside-in type of mentality. Where we all sat in the row at church and we all were nice and quiet. We always got comments on “all those kids you have, they’re so quiet and so well-behaved.”
Inside of the house, a lot of us lived in fear. I remember growing up and the garage door would open at 5:30 and my stomach would go in knots because I didn’t know what was going to happen next.
Anne: This is just a totally random story that I want to tell just because I feel like telling it. All of your family is very small. They’re all very small in stature, they’re small and they’re short. My family is bigger.
I remember going to your house for dinner one night. I thought the portion that your mom had put on the table for all of us was for me. “Thank you,” and I said it and I was just about to start eating out of the bowl, it was macaroni and tomato sauce, and they were like, “Well, will you pass it?” I thought the whole entire bowl was for me. Is that crazy?!
John: That is hilarious.
Making Restitution Is An Important Part Of Recovery
Anne: Well, I am really interested in how this plays out, and know that restitution is part of the recovery process. You cannot recover without it. Your restitution, frankly, will be the rest of your life. You will be making restitution for the harm that you’ve caused for the rest of your life.
There will come a point where, I believe, from my perspective, the Atonement will be able to make up for that. There will be a time where your kids will be healed, where Jenn will be healed, and you will be healed, if you continue on this path. That healing will not have occurred through your actions but through Christ, but without our actions, they couldn’t.
John: Yeah, I don’t go to the women’s groups and hear that side of it. I know from the men’s side I see how other men have tried to make restitution. I guess I don’t have a good response for it.
I do agree that restitution is a lifetime. I literally destroyed the last 14-15 years of her life and how do you make that up? You don’t. I can be here and try to be the person that she deserved from the beginning.
Anne: You know, from our perspective—like, for example, with my ex—many addicts or many abusive men, they say they attempted to do restitution, but they actually didn’t at all. My ex is dating someone new and I actually spoke with her (she’s super-nice, I really like her) and she told me that he tried and tried and tried and did everything he could to save the marriage after he was arrested. When I know that he did zero.
From the men’s groups, John as you go, it is helpful to know that a lot of the stuff that you’re hearing may or may not be true. So, if they say I tried and tried and tried and she wouldn’t talk to me or she wouldn’t do this or she wouldn’t do that, he might not even be telling the truth. I just want to throw that out there so if you’re an addict and you’re listening and you’re thinking, “Well, I tried to make restitution.”
I want to ask you what did you do to make restitution? Did you say, “Even though I don’t want to I’m going to pay more than it requires for child support”? What actions did you take? Restitution isn’t just saying you’re sorry. It’s active actions to repair the damage that you’ve done.
Entitled Thinking Leads To Abuse
What would you say has been the hardest thing to give up? Have there been any specific thought process or sort of entitled thinking has been particularly difficult to give up?
John: Well, my entitled thinking expands through my whole personality. I would feel entitled to anything someone could feel entitled for and I think I still run into that. I think that’s still a struggle with Jenn, where I do become selfish and when I’m not doing the things that I’m supposed to be doing daily.
There are signs that we see now, where I’m starting to kind of head down the wrong path and we can cut it off a lot earlier than before. Back to your question, I guess I just felt entitled to do what normal people can do and accept that I’m an addict and there’s just going to be things that I can’t do.
For instance, we went to see Wreck-It Ralph 2. It was a triggering movie and I tried to ignore it. I was sitting by Jenn in the theater, our kids weren’t there, it was just us. She knew that what we were watching was triggering, but I sat there and didn’t say anything because I couldn’t bring myself to accept that I can’t sit in a Disney movie.
I think that’s been one of the hardest things. Just to accept that I’m going to be different than what “everyone else” can get away with because it leads me down paths that I can’t go down. So, I think that’s something I still really kind of struggle with here and there.
Anne: Jenn, what has been your biggest fear in dating John again?
Jenn: I know how fragile it can be. How quickly it can turn, and that mind-shift can change, and it can go back to the selfish and go back to right where it was. My biggest struggle has been just learning to take it one day at a time. To just wait and see and just let things play out. That’s been my biggest struggle.
Anne: Yeah, because you guys are dating again. How long have you been dating now?
Jenn: Probably like a year?
John: Yeah, it depends on how you define dating, I guess.
Anne: Well, your together like boyfriend and girlfriend?
John: Yeah, it’s probably been the last 6-8 months.
Anne: Do you refer to each other as your boyfriend and girlfriend? I didn’t think about this. How do you refer to each other? Or your Ex-wife?
Jenn: No, I just say John. The people at my work just laugh about it because they don’t know how to describe it either. A lot of times, they’ll just say “Jenn’s husband.” They’ll just use the term “husband” because it’s just easier and you don’t want to explain it. Another one that we use is the “kids’ dad.”
Anne: How often are you at the house now John? What does the schedule look like?
John: I’m here daily. I spend as much time as possible with Jenn and the kids. This is where I want to be. I still have my apartment, but I found that it feels a lot lonelier now than it did before we started dating again and I just don’t really like being away from her or the kids.
Anne: Well, I pray that you will continue down this path and that you guys can be a full-fledged family again someday, whenever that feels right or whenever that happens or if it happens at all. You know John, even though I’ve known you longer, I’m firmly on team Jenn, right?
John: I have no doubts.
Anne: For our audience, there was this time where John called me, and he was worried about Jenn. I said: “I will figure this out for myself and for Jenn, but not for you.” Do you remember that conversation?
John: I do, very well.
Anne: What did you think of that conversation back then?
John: I wasn’t offended by what you said. I guess I kind of expected that, rightfully so, you wouldn’t have much trust in what I was calling you about. I hadn’t not only earned your trust, but I had also given you plenty of reasons to not trust that my intentions were totally pure, and I didn’t have something else going up my sleeve. Yeah, I guess I don’t have any strong feelings one way or another.
Anne: Yeah, I was surprised that I was so blunt, “I don’t trust you. What you’re saying about Jenn is concerning me, but I will check on her separately and I’m not going to report back to you.”
That is my hope for all women here. That, together, women can stop abuse through holding boundaries and that men can realize how they have been abusive and make restitution and stop their abusive behaviors.
Recovery Tips From An Abuser
In conclusion, John is there anything that you’d like to share if there are any men who are listening who are struggling with abusive behaviors or with making restitution? What have you learned that you’d like to share with them?
John: I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that the pain that I saw when I was abusing Jenn was real. That it feels hard and you can feel like a victim when she needs to talk about it, but you can know that you’re on the right path when you want her to talk about it and you want to be there for her. Just know that the memories of the situations, you have different perspectives, but hers is going to be correct every single time.
Anne: Is that one of the entitlements, John, that was hard to give up or how did you get to the point where you were willing to say, “I’m going to trust and go with her reality rather than mine?”
John: You know, they say that you kind of have to hit rock bottom before you turn and that’s what happened. I just hit a point where I realized that I had lost everything, and this road that I was headed down and I thought looked better, was not better.
It was way, way, way worse than I ever imagined. I wanted off that path, so I was willing to do anything to get off that path and the path I wanted was to be with Jenn and to have my family again.
I said prayers and I felt like it was time for me to truly listen. To really listen, not to just sit there and let her talk but to stop worrying about what’s happening inside of me when she’s talking and just watch her face and listen to what’s coming out of her heart. Not even necessarily what’s coming out of her mouth, but what she’s trying to tell me.
That’s really when it started to change and it only took a couple of those conversations where it was kind of like being hit by the bus of, “Oh, my goodness, this is way worse than I thought it was.” Then it turned into almost a curiosity of “how bad was it?” I think that’s an ongoing conversation forever to really grasp how bad it had really gotten.
Anne: Hopefully, things will continue to go well and 20 years out instead of ‘yo mamma jokes you’ll be telling how bad was it jokes. It was so bad that…
John: Well, I think there is some of those how bad was it that we kind of laugh about now a little bit because it’s just so crazy. It doesn’t make any sense. Back then it did, I thought it did.
Jenn: It didn’t.
Anne: Well, I am so glad to know you both. I’m really grateful that I saw you at UCAP. I’m really grateful that I know you personally, John, and perhaps we can check back with you in a year and see how things are going again. If they’re going terrible maybe we can just have Jenn on, but if it’s still going well then we can have you both on.
If our listeners are the praying type, I just want to ask all of our listeners to just say a little prayer for John and Jenn and their five children. That these changes can lead to permanent behavior changes and that you can be reunited with your family again sometime, whenever that is.
I know that’s what you both want and that’s what all of us want. I’m really grateful to know you and thank you so much for coming on today’s episode.
John: Thank you. This was wonderful.
Anne: Like I talked about last week, we have partnered with an organization called Center for Peace, that takes the Betrayal Trauma Recovery approach to help men stop their abusive behaviors.
Even though it is a hard road, at Center for Peace, the top priority is the victim’s safety. It’s not protecting him from his shame or delving into the reasons why he does things. It doesn’t matter why you do this. This abuse has to stop.
Coach Joi, from Betrayal Trauma Recovery, also runs the Center for Peace Program. If you are looking for a place that really takes the BTR approach for an abusive man, then check out Center for Peace. The website is cenfp.org.
For those of you who donate to make this podcast possible, thank you. Every single recurring donation helps me continue to do this and bring this message of hope and safety to women all over the world. Go to our website BTR.org, scroll down to the bottom, click on make-a-donation, and set your recurring donation today.
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