If you’re like many victims of emotional and psychological abuse and sexual coercion, it may be hard to believe that good, healthy men are out there – but here’s a mind-blowing truth for you: good men really do exist.
Gretchen Baskerville, author of The Life-Saving Divorce is back on the podcast with Anne. Together, they’re giving us the inside scoop on, not only the fact that healthy men do indeed exist, but what characteristics they exhibit. Tune in to the free BTR.ORG podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Healthy, Good Men? Prove it. 😳
“People ask me, ‘In all of your work with abusers or getting to know thousands of victims who are women who have been abused by men, do you just hate men? Do you see abuse in all men?’ And, and you know, what’s interesting is the more I’ve learned about abuse and the more I’ve come to recognize healthy behaviors, I actually have more hope now than I ever had before.”
Anne Blythe, Founder of BTR.ORG
When you’re in the throes of an abusive relationship, it may be difficult to believe that good men actually do exist, especially if you’ve been further abused by male clergy, male therapists, and male relatives.
Abuse perpetuated by men against women is prolific and in this community, the trauma that women experience is often horrifying and long-lasting – however, it may be healing to know that there ARE men who do not abuse women.
How Can I Tell If He’s Healthy vs. Abusive?
Sometimes it’s difficult to know if a man is genuinely healthy, because abusive men are keenly manipulative and can imitate healthy behaviors. However, understanding that healthy men consistently live these key, healthy traits can help you identify healthy men. Healthy men:
- Honor and respect your boundaries without push-back or defensiveness
- Do what they say they’re going to do
- Are secure in their relationships and do not seek sexual contact outside of their marriages
- Don’t see non-sexual things and people through a sexual lens
- Sometimes have a difficult time understanding the motives and behaviors of abusive men
- Don’t set off your Sacred Internal Warning System
- Allow and encourage you to be yourself
- Do not require you to walk on eggshells
What Does a Relationship With a Healthy Man Look Like?
“I remarried at age 57, so I was single a long, long time. I was plump, I was opinionated, I was used to having authority over men because I was a top executive in a company and I had many men reporting directly to me. And I just came to the point in my life where I decided that I’m not gonna apologize for who I am. And lo and behold, a man came in my life who I had worked with about 10 years before, and we had really liked each other and he loved who I was. He loved having an outspoken, fast driving, wife and girlfriend. And we have had a lovely, lovely marriage for over five years now.”
In relationships, abusive men seek to erase the identity of the victim. They condition the victim to walk on eggshells and become less of who she was before.
Healthy men do the opposite – they love their partners for exactly who they are and encourage them to bask in their autonomy, becoming more and more of who they want to be.
Gretchen describes being plump, opinionated, and unapologetic – and deeply loved for those characteristics, and everything else that makes her who she is.
BTR.ORG Is Here For You
At BTR.ORG, we know the pain of betrayal trauma and emotional abuse – you deserve support. Attend a BTR.ORG Group Session today.
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. Gretchen Baskerville is back. On today’s episode, we were talking about the myths of being single. So if you didn’t hear last week’s episode, listen to that first and then join us here. We’re jumping in on the part of the conversation where Gretchen was talking about that she thought she would be married rather quickly, and a lot of women how they feel like if they get divorced, surely they’ll be remarried within a couple years rather than considering staying single for a period of time and/or indefinitely. So we’ll jump in right there.
The idea that all your problems are gonna disappear, you know, two to three years after your divorce, no, that’s just not gonna happen. What I tell people is you’ll go back to your normal level of happiness within two to three years. But I’m a person who was dragged into court for the next 10 years, and I can tell you I was on my knees in prayer. I was asking people to pray for me. I was frightened. I was having insomnia, all kinds of things, just begging the Lord, please affect the, the mind and the heart of the judge. You know, I need help here. I can’t, I can’t have shared custody with this man. So when I say that by year five, I was happy, uh, that doesn’t mean that my external circumstances had all resolved themselves and I was in just as much danger ex from external circumstances as I had been. But there’s something about watching, uh, the Lord rescue you day after day, week after week, month after month, that you start to realize, okay, he’s got my back. And that’s really important.
“Who Do I Want To Be? What Kind of Life Do I Want to Live?”
And then also as you build your support network of, of awesome female friends that they’ll have your back to, they’re a blessing and a gift from God, and you can recognize them as that. Really quick, you said something, you’ll get back to your normal level of happiness. I wanna kind of acknowledge that there are women in our community and listening to this podcast who perhaps married 18, right? Or 20. And so they didn’t really have an opportunity to even explore that level of happiness essentially before they married their abuser. And then for the next maybe 10, 15, 20, 30, who whoever knows long, they were being abused continually. And so they might think, what is my normal level of happiness? I don’t even know who I am. I don’t know what I’m doing. Wanna just acknowledge that It’s also an opportunity to not just go back to your quote unquote normal level of happiness, but also to create who you are, to decide for yourself who you want to be and the kind of life you wanna live, and start working toward that. And, and that’s really an exciting time as you start to like, make goals for yourself and see those goals come to pass. And, you know, start with maybe little ones or whatever you wanna do. It could be any goal that I wanna wake up at 6:00 AM every day or something that could just be simple things like that, that that can help you start to create the life that you want.
One of the little things that really, I don’t know, made me feel alive was learning how to fix basic things around the house by watching YouTube videos. Wow. I just kind of believed that fixing things was a man’s job, and that makes you kind of feel helpless, right? You know, the first time you watch a basic YouTube video on how to change the flapper on a toilet, you know, and you do it yourself and you go, wow. I mean, I’d have to watch these YouTube videos like five times. Okay, I’m, I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m gonna do it. But the sense of accomplishment you get of standing on your own two feet is just priceless.
One of your myths. Um, you said that they’re spiritually lacking or immature, and that’s why these women aren’t married. So can you talk about that myth?
Myth: Single/Divorced Women Are “Spiritually Lacking/Immature”
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s so many myths that we get in our religious communities, right? If you’re divorced and you haven’t remarried, you must be spiritually lacking. You must have some secret sin, or maybe you are not mature. Another big myth that I see all the time in churches is if you divorce, you’re gonna bring your problems into the next marriage, and it’s gonna fail too, which is an ugly, ugly thing to say. And it totally ignores the fact that you weren’t the cheater. You weren’t the abuser. You weren’t the addict, and you’re not bringing them into your next marriage. So I think there’s a lot of spiritual messages. Another one is that if you were just godly and if you prayed in some faith traditions, they believe in fasting, that you, if you kind of did a lot of self-examination and turned yourself inside out and tried to find that secret sin and uncovered it, that God would suddenly bring you the love of your life. Another one is that you’re being punished for something and, and that’s rarely spoken. That’s kind of just this under undercurrent that you’re being punished for some sin you committed. I’ve found women who maybe slept with their high school boyfriend one time, and then they ended up marrying an abuser and felt like, okay, this is God’s punishment. I deserve it, and I have to stay in this. And then I’ll never ever find anyone wonderful to marry.
Even that they slept with their abuser before they were married. And their punishment is then that they have to be married to them forever.
Yes, yes, yes. I hear that a lot too. I, I, I slept with him, so I had to marry him.
Yeah. I didn’t feel right about it, or it didn’t, it wasn’t going well. And then he’s been abusive ever since. I’ve been trying to work it out ever since. And they, it’s almost as they feel like they deserve that because they made a mistake. And the interesting thing about if you’re a Christian about Christ is that you can be redeemed, right? And he came to deliver you, right? He came to save you. So if you made that mistake of sleeping with your abuser, and so you feel like you have to stay married to him, that’s not what Christ would say. He would say, I came to redeem you and to save you and to deliver you.
Gretchen’s Favorite Divorce Story With Jesus
When we actually look at the life of Christ, it’s a whole different ballgame than some of these covert messages we’re getting from our spiritual communities. So for example, Luke 13, I call Luke 13 my favorite divorce story with Jesus, except for it doesn’t mention divorce anywhere. So Jesus is in the synagogue and he sees a woman who has been disabled by an evil spirit for, what is it, 18 years. And she’s hunched over and he calls out to her, it’s the Sabbath, and says, come and be healed. She takes the step. Now, she knows that the synagogue leaders are not gonna like this, but she is courageous and she takes the step toward Jesus and he heals her. Oh my goodness. The synagogue leaders go nuts. And they said, there are six days a week that you can, you know, heal people, but that’s work.
This is the Sabbath. You can’t work on the Sabbath. And it, and they tell the rest of the crowds of disabled people to go away. And Jesus is having nothing of this. This is Luke 13 again. And he says, you know, you guys even take on the Sabbath. You take your donkeys and your oxen and water them, okay? And you treat them well on the Sabbath. This woman is a daughter of Abraham, and you’re treating her worse than a donkey. And she is a precious daughter. Jesus isn’t having any of this, um, sanc harmoniousness. He came to release us from evil and deliver us from evil. And that’s, you know, the, the prayer many of us pray on a regular basis. And so, are we going to take that prayer seriously? Do we want the Lord to deliver us from evil? Yes. That’s what he came to do.
Trauma Mama Husband Drama
I’m gonna take a break here for just a second to talk about my book Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page which has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book, Trauma Mama Husband Drama, is a picture book for adults. So it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations, as well as infographics at the back.
“Maybe If You Made Them a Basket of Brownies…”
Back to our interview. So you were mentioning like trying to find your own secret sin, trying to make yourself perfect. Right? So for, for the maybe agnostic or secular women who are listening, thank you for listening as we share our own faith traditions and, and stories from our own faith. Thank you. But I do wanna talk about a few secular things that, that might play into this. Some of them might be like, you need to work out more, or if you were fun or if you were easier to talk to than maybe you’d be married. My dad, who I adore, but he was ridiculous when, you know, I was in my twenties and he would always say things like, well, maybe if you made them a basket of brownies.
And you wrote a nice note. Did you, did you say at the end of the date, I had a very good time. I really enjoyed your company. I would like to go out with you again. You know, and I’m like, Dad, I don’t think I have to say that. I mean, I could be like, yeah, I had a good time, but like, there’s not some formulaic thing that you do. And if you do these steps, then you will get married. Right? Or also, I’m not not married because I am not doing some certain thing. We’ve all met women who are socially awkward <laugh>. I might be one of them. Um, or they might not be quote unquote the most attractive or something like that, who have very loving husbands who have good relationships with non-abusive men. So you don’t have to like be perfect. And one of my favorite things to say when people say, well, you’ve gotta put your best foot forward…
Enjoying Life As a Single Woman
I always wanna say no, because I don’t want someone to fall in love with my foot. I want them to fall in love with me <laugh>. So I’m just gonna be myself. I love that. And I would tell this to my dad, who he would just shake his head and be like, oh, Anne is never gonna get married. She just doesn’t get it. And so that was also, I think for me, an extra hard thing that at 30 I get married and it feels like this miracle to people cuz they maybe thought I was never gonna get married. And then to get divorced after that and be single again is a little bit of a like, oh, so she really is meant to be single <laugh>. Yes. You’re distracted. You know? And you know what’s funny is I’m like, maybe I really was. I really enjoy being single. It’s awesome. Like maybe that is God’s will for me. I don’t know. Right. I really like it, so it’s okay with me if that’s, if that’s how I operate the most happily in the world as a single person, that’s fine.
Yep. Absolutely. Absolutely. Because I think singleness has tremendous advantages. You know, just the freedom to go and do whatever you wanna do whenever you wanna do it is really amazing. And the freedom to have friendships with such a wide variety of people. But I wanted to go back to what you said where we, we have to feel like we have to, to fulfill this womanly mold. You know, like your dad’s saying, you know, make the brownies, you know, you just have to kind of reject the myth that says all men want this. All men want you to be feminine, sweet and quiet and a good cook and all that. And I thought, I’m sorry, that’s just not me. I like, um, I come from a car family, an automobile family, and I’ve always loved cars. And I cried when my parents sold the first car I remember from childhood.
“There Are These Little Messages That You Can’t Be You“
And my father drove sports cars, uh, not super expensive ones, but more like the little pocket rockets. And I knew what people were thinking, you know, good Christian men see a middle-aged single woman, you know, driving her, her Corvette <laugh>, and they don’t find that attractive. They don’t like women who are confident drivers or they might say, you know, good Christian men don’t want women who attract attention to themselves. And so there’s these messages that you can’t be you. And I’m here to say that <laugh>, I, I remarried at age 57, so I was, I was single a long, long time. I was plump, I was opinionated, I was used to having authority over men because I was a, a top executive in a company and I had many men, uh, reporting directly to me. And I just came to the point in my life where I’m not gonna apologize for who I am. And lo and behold, a man came in my life who I had worked with about 10 years before, and we had really liked each other and he loved who I was. He loved having an outspoken, fast driving, uh, wife and girlfriend. And, um, we have had a lovely, lovely marriage for over five years now.
That is wonderful. Yeah. And I, right this very second, I don’t really wanna date and I don’t wanna get married, but then I’ll have moments where I kind of do. So it’s sort of back and forth sometimes, but I’m looking forward to someone finding me right. And being like, oh, wow, this is fun. I like this. One other thing I wanna bring up, and this goes back to spiritual communities, but another thing that I found is that people would frequently say, well, have you prayed about it as if you’ve never prayed about it? Ever? And then they tell you the story of the night that they prayed to find their righteous husband and the next day they met them at the dance or they ran into them at the library or whatever. And so because they had that experience, they assume that you have never prayed about it. That the reason you’re single is because you don’t talk to God apparently, or that you’re not in tune or something like that. I find that to be really funny because so many women that I’ve met have prayed to find a loving husband every day for years and years and years and years and years. And still that has not occurred.
Dealing With Insensitive Comments
Yeah. It’s really offensive, uh, that they would, they would assume that about us. You know, obviously you did something wrong. That’s the automatic knee jerk reaction.
You either did something wrong or you haven’t done the right thing.
Yes. Okay. Omission or commission. Exactly.
At any rate, you could have fixed this had you just done something, you know, different. And you know that life just isn’t that way. I mean, the rain falls on the just, and the unjust, some of the most evil people have had these charmed lives, you know, it just doesn’t work that way.
“I Have More Hope Now Than I Ever Had Before”
It’s interesting, Gretchen, because people ask me in all of your work with abusers or getting to know thousands of victims who are women who have been abused by men because we only deal with that here at BTR, do you just hate men? Do you see abuse in all men? And, and you know, what’s interesting is the more I’ve learned about abuse and the more I’ve come to recognize healthy behaviors, actually I have more hope now than I ever had before. I have healthy men in my life now that I really appreciate – one of them is my uncle who has helped me so much with so many things. I just talked with him yesterday and we have such a good, like, sweet relationship. And I appreciate my aunt who I don’t talk to her very often, right? Like I don’t call her.
But, um, we have a really good relationship and my relationship with my dad and my brothers, and even just my dentist or colleagues professionally or my best friends husbands who are supportive of me. And when I’m at their home having dinner, we get along really well and they ask me how I’m doing and I feel like I have a good relationship with them. So it’s been really interesting to see how many healthy men there are and how comfortable and peaceful I can feel and how supported I can feel. And it feels good to start there with friendships because then I kind of know more what I’m looking for when it comes to dating, when I choose to date. Can you talk about that? Like, as we separate ourselves from abuse, we’re also able to see the healthy behaviors in the men in our lives?
Do Good Men Exist?!
Yes. You mentioned the uncle or you know, a good friend’s husband, somebody very, very safe. I mean, I think we need to retrain our minds when we’ve been hurt to realize that real men, good men, safe men want mutual support, integrity, emotional honesty, closeness. They aren’t into seduction and manipulation and love bombing. And of course there are people we can’t trust. There are men we can’t trust. And frankly, let’s be honest, there are women we can’t trust. But in 20 years of having close friendships with safe men, I have been able to weed out the bad ones and I never had any trouble with the good ones. And it’s based on having good boundaries and, and watching them and learning from them. So a man with good boundaries is like this, A man who’s safe, a man who genuinely cares about my wellbeing, not just love bombing me is like this.
I worked in a male dominated industry, so I was surrounded by men all the time. And they proved to me year after year that there were a lot of good men out there. Now I will say that in 20 years I did have two step over the line and I immediately distanced myself from them. But I didn’t say, this is my fault for interacting with men and working with men and confiding in men. This is that person’s problem. It’s not my problem. And I just moved away from them, stepped back. If they ask why, I said, here’s why. Just as we wanna find good, healthy women, uh, especially single moms who are walking with integrity and courage and strength, uh, at the same time we know that they’re juggling fear and doubts and worries. The same thing goes for men. And, um, every good person we have in our life who is respectful and has good boundaries helps us develop res self-respect and good boundaries too.
Yeah. I’m thinking about sex addicts or abusers and how you could just be friendly, right? And say, hi, how are you doing? You know, just as a regular person. And they tend to think that women are flirting with them.
Tell-Tale Signs of Healthy Men
I’ve noticed that healthy men, you could be like, hi, how are you doing? And they’re like, I’m fine. How are you? You know, they don’t think you’re flirting with them. They think you’re just having a regular conversation. They don’t assume everything is sexual or everything is maybe some something or something’s gonna happen because they’re secure in their relationship that they have with their wife or their situation. And so they’re free to just see you as a person. And I, I wanna tell one story of my best friend’s husband. He’s amazing. And the other day I was talking and I said, yeah, the sex addiction industrial complex sometimes says things like, well, women, you have to be safe enough so that your husbands will tell you about their affair. Right? Or about their porn use, or something like that. And he just started laughing and he was like, what?
What, what are you talking about? Like, of course they’re gonna be angry. Does any man out there think like, oh, she’s gonna get angry, so I’m not gonna tell her like what his reaction was genuine. And just in the moment, like it just was so unfathomable to him that someone would think that, and that’s this type of stuff that we get all the time with abuse or with people trying to enable abuse or it’s like, well, this is the reason that he did it, rather than thinking like, there is no reason. It’s just ridiculous and it has nothing to do with you. The reason he didn’t tell you about his affair was because he was trying to protect himself and keep having the affair wasn’t because he was worried about hurting your feelings. So interacting with healthy men sort of helps you see like, oh, their reaction to this is different than the 10 men that my husband hung out with that were all sex addicts who were telling each other about how hard it was, you know, that their secretary was coming onto them when she wasn’t at all, when she was just sitting there doing her work.
Gretchen, please come on again to talk. And in the meantime, make sure you check out her website. Thank you so much for coming on today’s episode, Gretchen. It has been a real pleasure. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week, stay safe out there.