How can victims of betrayal and emotional abuse find peace, empowerment, and safety during the divorce process?
Coach Debra, Certified Divorce Coach and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, joins Anne Blythe on the free BTR podcast. Together, they guide women to four steps women can take to survive (and thrive) divorcing an emotional abuser. Listen to the free BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Self-Care Helps Victims Survive Divorcing An Emotional Abuser
Abusers condition victims to ignore their own needs, leading many victims to have to re-learn how to practice self-care.
Unfortunately, divorce often adds stress to victims which makes self-care seem even more unattainable.
When we’re going through a stressful time, one of our very first tendencies are to cut back on self-care. We’ve added to our daily stress, so we tend to cut back on self-care. What you really need to do is double your self-care.Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
How Can I Practice Self-Care While Divorcing My Emotional Abuser?
In theory, most women understand self-care concepts. But when it comes to actually practicing self-care, victims of abuse and betrayal may feel confused or overwhelmed. Here are some simple self-care practices that victims can begin today:
- Nourishment: make sure you’re eating at least one healthy, filling meal per day
- Hydration: try to carry a water bottle with you and take sips throughout the day so that you’re properly hydrated
- Rest: most trauma victims suffer from sleep disturbances, especially during stressful times. Victims can work around this by resting during the day when they’re tired.
- Peace: when victims take moments each day to deliberately breathe, relax their shoulders and pelvic floor muscles, they are practicing important self-care in remembering how to feel peace.
Safe People And A Support Team Can Help You Survive Divorcing An Emotional Abuser
You can’t do divorce alone. It’s too hard. You’re too traumatized, so get the right people around you. Work on regulating your emotions so that you can make strategic decisions. Get the right help to process them. Vent to safe people because you want to make decisions you feel good about.Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
As Coach Debra explains, victims simply can’t go through a divorce without support. Finding safe support people is key.
What Is a “Safe” Support Person?
Too many victims are subjected to damaging counsel from friends, family, therapists, and clergy who are trying to be helpful. Often, phrases and sentiments expressed are victim-blaming, minimize the abuse, and enable the abuser to keep abusing.
When women deliberately choose “safe” support, they are better able to cope with and work through the trauma of both the marriage and the divorce.
- Are trauma and abused-informed
- Accurately place blame on the abuser for abusing, not the victim for being abused
- Do not have any contact with the abuser and his enablers
- Support the victim and her decisions without causing her to question herself
Shutting Down Your Social Media Accounts: An Effective Tool In Helping You Survive Divorcing An Emotional Abuser
Social media is a toxic tool in the hands of an abuser, and he will absolutely continue and even escalate his abuse through social media during a divorce.
Many women experience bullying, stalking, threats, spiritual abuse, and more from not only the abuser, but his enablers via social media.
Another sickening tool of abusers and enablers is to screen-shot victims’ posts, twist them out of context, and then use them in custody battles to lie about the victim.
Coach Debra’s advice? Shut it all down or go silent.
Block everyone he’s friends with. If his family is supporting him, block them and unfriend them. Don’t post anything, live like a nun, especially if you’re going to be in a custody battle.Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Be Careful Of Those “Neutral” Friends That Won’t Help You Survive Divorcing An Emotional Abuser
What is a “neutral” friend? Coach Debra explains:
Neutral friends are people that love both of you. No, absolutely not. You don’t have to be cold or cruel about it but take a step back. If you run in the same circles and you’re around them, just be very cautious about what you say. Don’t discuss your divorce. Don’t discuss your partner.Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
It’s disturbing, but abusers will use any and all possible connections to the victim to disrupt her life, learn what she’s saying in confidence, and ultimately harm her in the divorce proceedings.
Best to rely on your support people rather than “neutral friends” who are, in the end, enabling the abuse. No one can stay “neutral” in an abusive situation – it’s either supporting the victim or enabling the abuser.
Being Mindful Can Help You Survive Divorcing An Emotional Abuser
Victims of betrayal and abuse are already under tremendous strain and pressure, but it’s important that even with all the trauma, women strive to be mindful of their behavior.
Other people can get hurt when you’re not managing your emotions, specifically, your children. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do to model healthy behavior to your children while you’re under this stress. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life, yet, it is the most important thing.Coach Debra, Betrayal Trauma Recovery
How Can I Model Healthy Behavior For My Children When I’m In Trauma?
As Coach Debra says, modeling healthy behavior for children when your life is falling apart is one of the hardest things you will ever do, but you can do it. Feeling and expressing your emotions as they come is pivotal. Here are some healthy ways that you can express the difficult emotions that will come through this process:
- Throw raw eggs against a tree (animals like it and kids do too)
- Create artwork that represents how you feel
- Vent, cry, and rage to safe support people at appropriate times and places (you may have to schedule “vent” times when you are not with your children)
- Exercise (running, jumping, and kick-boxing are powerful ways to process and express emotions)
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Supports Victims of Betrayal & Abuse
At BTR, we know how devastating and terrifying it is to divorce your abuser. No woman should have to go through this alone.
That is why the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets daily in multiple time zones: so that all victims have a safe place to process trauma, express difficult emotions, ask questions, and create connections with other victims who get it.
Join today and find the validation, support, and compassion that you deserve.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery.
Coach Debra Can Help You Prepare For Divorcing Your Emotional Abuser
Last week, I introduced a new BTR coach to you. Her name is Coach Debra. Many of you have scheduled appointments with her to kind of assess your situation and consider whether or not divorce may or may not be right for you.
Like I said at the end of last week’s episode, I believe in families and my heart hurts that my situation ended in divorce. I genuinely don’t want that for anyone. That being said, safety and peace are my top priorities, that’s what families are for. I talked about that last week, and if you haven’t heard last week’s episode please do that first before you listen here.
Join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group
Coach Debra coaches one of our Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group sessions.
Our betrayal trauma recovery group is the only service of its kind. It gives you unlimited live support by professionals for only $125 a month. You get over 90 group sessions and women are always there ready to support and love you.
What Do You Need in Preparation For Divorcing Your Emotional Abuser?
Coach Debra and I ended on some tips she was giving on what you’re going to need if you’re going through a divorce. She ended by talking about two things that you’re going to need. You’re going to need a taskmaster and you’re going to need a BFF. Again, if you haven’t heard last week please listen to that first and then come back.
The conversation picks back up with me talking about the things I needed while I was going through the traumatic experience, and then Coach Debra and I will continue the conversation.
Emotional Abuse Makes Data-Processing Difficult For Victims
Anne: Here are two concrete examples. I wasn’t able to read written instructions very well and we would get these emails or texts about what was happening or what needed to happen, so I asked a friend, whose daughter was in my son’s preschool at the time, to help me out. I couldn’t process them. I would try. I’d look at them and couldn’t figure it out.
I told her, “I can’t process written information in the form of these emails and texts. If something is really important, will you please call me and say he needs a hat today or send a text and say send him in a hat or whatever it is.” Just very simple and this one thing so I didn’t have to read the explanation or whatever, and she was happy to do that for me. She would call or just send me a very simple text.
While Preparing To Divorce Your Emotional Abuser, Ask For Help
Similarly, my amazing mother did all of the legal documents. I couldn’t process or read the divorce decree. I was so upset. I was so absolutely devastated. I couldn’t even read it. I just said, “Mom, does this look good? You’ve got to figure it out.”
She did all the research and did everything. I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, but I just ended up signing it because I couldn’t process anything at that time. I could not agree with you more about having someone who could do that.
Victims of Emotional Abuse Can Allow Others to Help Them
Now, a lot of people don’t have a friend like that, but I think they can develop a friend like that. I think that you would be surprised. There might be someone that goes to church with you, someone in your neighborhood, or another woman who has been through it who could help you out. It’s kind of scary to ask but I have found that once you ask, a lot of people say yes. I think the scariest part is actually asking.
Divorcing Your Emotional Abuser May Feel Overwhelming At Times
If you have a leaking faucet, someone wants to fix that for you. Someone wants to help you go over your documents. Someone wants to help you do those things. They don’t say that out of routine or ritual. They really want to help but they don’t know what you need.
Anne: I think another traumatic situation here is the person who used to fix your faucet and the person who used to help you with legal documents was your husband. There is this other element of, “I need help and the person who was helping me isn’t here and what do I do? I’m alone,” rather than realizing there are other people. That other element of, “He used to fix the faucet!” that is also really traumatic through this time, I think.
You Need A Strong Support System to Divorce Your Emotional Abuser
Debra: It is, because having your support system, in addition, you need to have a coach or a therapist, you need to have an attorney, and you need a financial person. You really need to be thinking ahead so that you can keep yourself more centered and more stable and not get that amygdala, your lizard brain of that fight-flight-or-freeze thing, fired up all the time. Because when it’s in charge, it’s making emotional decisions and that thinking part of your brain can’t work. It gets shoved to the back seat.
Anne: And for good reason.
Anne: This is why you need all these people in your corner, because you’re rightfully, and normally, reacting to a really hard situation.
Victims of Emotional Abuse Can Practice Self-Compassion
Debra: Exactly. It’s normal, of course, you are, let’s get you set up for success.
Anne: Yeah, because if you say, “You should be able to handle this. Why can’t you read? Why can’t you, blah, blah, blah?” you’re just going to get more and more depressed and overwhelmed.
Debra: Right. Just to know that it’s normal that, of course, there are things that you’re going to have trouble with, so how can we put measures in place to fill those gaps until you’re ready? It might be a month and it might be six months, but let’s think through who can help you.
Practice Delegating Tasks As You Prepare To Divorce Your Emotional Abuser
That’s one of the things your taskmaster can do. Your taskmaster can go find other people who can fix your faucet or who can cut your grass. Your taskmaster friend can go do that.
Anne: From your experience, what do you believe are the most important things for listeners who might be facing a high conflict divorce to know ahead of time?
Self-Care: A Necessity When Divorcing an Emotional Abuser
Debra: First of all, self-care. When we’re going through a stressful time, one of our very first tendencies is to cut back on self-care. Because we have our normal life plus, now, we have to fit in attorney appointments, financial appointments, and we’ve added to our daily stress, so we tend to cut back on self-care.
What you really need to do is double it. Especially if you were in an abusive marriage, you developed coping mechanisms to get through the day with that partner. Well, those aren’t going to work anymore during divorce, so you’ve really got to make sure your tank is full. Increasing self-care is really important.
“You Cannot Do Divorce Alone”
We talked about safe people and a support team. You can’t do this alone. You cannot do divorce alone. It’s too hard. You’re too traumatized, so get the right people around you. Work on regulating your emotions so that you can make strategic decisions. Get the right help to process them. Vent to safe people because you want to make decisions you feel good about. Again, you may not get everything you want but you at least want to feel like you were empowered and informed.
Shutdown your social media. Block everyone he’s friends with. If his family is supporting him, block them and unfriend them. Don’t post anything, live like a nun, especially if you’re going to be in a custody battle.
Emotional Abusers Are Domestic Abusers
Anne: I could not agree more. I deleted all my social media accounts and I would highly recommend that for people.
Debra: Don’t be out at a concert with a cocktail in your hand. Just don’t do it. Even though it’s fun and you want to show your friends that you went to the Jimmy Buffet concert, don’t do it.
Then, be careful of Switzerland friends. Those are people that love both of you. “He’s a great guy and we just want to be friends with both of you.” No, absolutely not.
Be Careful Who You Share Information With When Divorcing Your Emotional Abuser
You don’t have to be cold or cruel about it but take a step back. If you run in the same circles and you’re around them just be very cautious about what you say. Don’t discuss your divorce. Don’t discuss your partner.
Anne: Those are excellent points. Thank you.
I want to dig a little bit more into the emotional regulation. Will you highlight why that is so important when it comes to divorce?
Prepare To Divorce Your Emotional Abuser By Guarding Your Communication
Debra: We talked about Switzerland friends, shutting down your social media and those kinds of things. First of all, if you don’t keep control of yourself and what you say and what you do, it could be used against you. It could hurt your case. If you act out or you send that email or you send that text, those things could be used against you, so it’s not in your best interest.
Other people can get hurt when you’re not managing your emotions, specifically, your children. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do to model healthy behavior to your children while you’re under this stress. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life, yet, it is the most important thing.
Focus on Clarity & Calm While Preparing to Divorce Your Emotional Abuser
Then finally, and you talked about this, we can’t make good decisions when our lizard brain is in charge and we’re crying, and we can’t think about it and our brain isn’t working right. Being able to maintain that sense of calm and clarity and focus on our purpose, focus on the end game, instead of living in the moment, is critical to making good decisions in divorce.
Anne: Did you watch Marriage Story?
The Legal System Can Harm Victims of Emotional Abuse
Debra: I did. I just watched it over the holiday, and I actually posted about it on social media this morning because I said the emotion of it didn’t surprise me because I deal with that every day. The hurt, the pain, the anger. What surprised me about it was how realistic their portrayal was of how our legal system creates litigious situations when they don’t have to be.
Anne: I don’t watch rated R movies. I only watch them on a service called VidAngel, so I want to make that very clear. I don’t watch any MA shows or “Mature Audience” things. I always have them edited with VidAngel, so before we have this discussion about Marriage Story, I want to put that out there because I don’t want to recommend something and then have someone, if they’re really sensitive to the F-word, for example, think, “Oh, Anne recommended this movie,” when the version that I saw did not include any of that.
Betrayal Is Abuse
I just want to put that out there so that people are aware that I saw the edited version. I highly recommend VidAngel service.
I thought it was really interesting that he had had an affair, so there is some betrayal there. There may have been some pornography. I listened to Pop Culture Happy Hour, which is a podcast, and they reviewed it. They were like, this is a nice guy. This is the situation where you’ve got a nice man and a nice woman and this is how divorce goes, and I thought, this is not a nice guy. I mean he seems nice, but this is your typical person who might use deceit.
I thought it was interesting that they didn’t really weigh the betrayal at all. It carried no weight in terms of fault. The purpose of the movie was trying to just show that this was maybe a couple that had grown apart or they weren’t really compatible in the first place, and I thought, “This is why so many women are feeling so betrayed, in general, is because society, in general, doesn’t understand this issue.”
Society Blames Victims For Broken Families
You think about, if they had grown apart so they stopped having sex then, for some reason, “Well, then it’s okay for me to sleep with someone else.” We don’t know why they were growing apart. Was it because of porn? These issues are really interesting to me and I think this movie, although it showed the legal system well and other things, I don’t really think it got to the heart of the cause.
Debra: I agree. They glossed right over the betrayal, and I think that’s just so indicative of our culture. Culture says, “Eh, no big deal,” or culture says, “Well, she wasn’t sleeping with him so what’s a guy supposed to do?” That patriarchal attitude is still so prevalent in our society that nobody blinked at that.
Anne: I know, even for this “woke” movie.
Prepare to Divorce Your Emotional Abuser With a BTR Coach
Anne: I thought the part where Laura Dern, her attorney Nora, was saying, “You have to be perfect and he doesn’t haven’t to be perfect,” was so spot on. That’s exactly what happens.
Debra: Spot on. I write about that in the book too. How to dress, how to speak, how to behave, and I don’t care if you like it or not. The judges need to hear what the judges want to hear and see. The judges and magistrates are looking for something from you, and you better present it.
Anne: Yeah. Well, we would love to hear your thoughts about a divorce that you’ve maybe already been through or one that you’re going through or that you’re considering. If you have any thoughts, please comment below.
You can find her book High Conflict Divorce for Women here.
Join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group For Divorce Support
As I mentioned at the beginning of this podcast, Debra is our newest coach at BTR. She is incredible. She’s already helping women. Women are already scheduling appointments with her. If you’re considering divorce or worried that it might be in your future or if you’re wondering if it’s a good idea, Debra is a great person to talk to, so please schedule an appointment with her or join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group to meet her and our other coaches.
In Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, you’ll be able to feel the strengths and the validation of each coach. Each of our coaches brings a different energy to your situation. They can give you different insights. It’s wonderful to have different perspectives from all of these amazing, safe coaches, but they also all use the same structure. We would love to see you in a session this week.
Until next week, stay safe out there.