Many women experience a light bulb moment when they realize that what they’ve been experiencing all along is abuse – and feel that the immediate, appropriate course of action is to tell the abuser.
Leslie is back on the BTR podcast with Anne sharing your next steps as you work toward safety once you’ve determined that you’re experiencing abuse. Listen to the free BTR.ORG podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Here’s Why You DON’T Tell Your Husband He’s Abusive
While you may have the urge, or perhaps were counseled by clergy or a therapist to disclose to your husband that he is abusive – and provide resources that back you up – it’s simply not safe to do so.
Informing the abuser that it’s abuse sets you up to be manipulated and abused more covertly than before:
[When you confront them] all they hear is, I need to deceive better, I need to manipulate better, I need to groom better. And then it puts you in a position to be groomed more.Anne Blythe, Founder of BTR.ORG
It’s Not Your Job To Change The Abuser – It’s Your Job To Seek Safety
Usually we tell the abuser that it’s abuse in order to get them to stop the abusiveness – ultimately we want them to change the behavior so that we don’t have to end the marriage.
But a grown man doesn’t need to be taught that lying, manipulation, gaslighting, yelling at, intimidating, and sexually assaulting his own wife is wrong.
If you are explaining this over and over, or even once, to an adult man, please understand that he is manipulating you.
You cannot change this man – you can only get yourself to a safe proximity from him.
So What Do I DO When I Realize It’s Abuse?
Realizing and accepting that it’s abuse is a life-shattering moment of awakening for many women in the BTR.ORG community.
Rather than taking this new realization and supporting evidence (like articles, podcasts, books, etc) to the abuser, Anne advises:
Quietly observe and do not confront. Gather enough evidence for yourself to know that you can prepare all the paperwork. If divorce is where you’re going, prepare all the paperwork.Anne Blythe, Founder of BTR.ORG
Seek support from the BTR.ORG Group Sessions. We are here for you during this time – we understand the devastation of abuse – and the heartbreak and fear that comes when you realize that’s what it was all along. Don’t embark on the journey toward safety and healing alone.
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne.
I’m finishing the conversation with Leslie today. She was on the last two episodes, (What Do Abuse Victims Look Like? and The Truth About Reactive Abuse) so if you have not heard her story yet, go back two episodes. Listen there first and then join us here. We’re gonna get started talking about the postnup agreement that she had her ex sign when he went to rehab for sex addiction. So the postnup goes well, you win by default, which is awesome. He doesn’t get an attorney and that is amazing. That doesn’t always happen. Sometimes they use legal abuse and like drag somebody through legal things for years. So that was a miracle. Good. I’m so happy that happened for you and, but you have had to actually take him to court. Can you talk about why that happened?
He has neglected to take me off his house, so I’m still financially liable for the mortgage that is on his house. He is dragging that out. I have done everything in the postnuptial that I was supposed to do. Everything was taken out of his name that was supposed to be, I have sold the house that we had together, so his name’s off that I have my own new house. He owes me approximately 30 ish thousand dollars for things that he had still been taken out of my accounts. I had given him the opportunity, gave him the accounting, and he just kept dragging it out. He wouldn’t answer emails for weeks at a time. I didn’t wanna incur any more legal costs. I kept trying to think, okay, this is just gonna resolve, he’s gonna get his stuff together, da da da. Didn’t happen. About a month or so ago, I finally contacted my attorney back.
Leslie’s Ready To Hold the Abuser Accountable
I said, okay, he still doesn’t have my name off the house and he still owes me this money. What are we gonna do? And he’s like, okay, are you ready to play by my rules ? And I said, I said yes. And he goes, because if we play by my rules, he goes, he’s not gonna like it. And I go, I’m just done dealing with him. So we go back to court on June 6th, they are actually gonna hold him in contempt of court times two, one for nonpayment of what should have been paid, which he hasn’t paid for a year and a half. And the second is, is they’re gonna make him list his house for sale and he will only have 15 days to get it listed, which is like this house was always a bane of our existence because it was always his, he would never like sell it. So the fact that they’re gonna try to make him sell it is a little disconcerting on my part just because I know this is going to really put him over the edge. But you know when you don’t do what you’re supposed supposed to do in the beginning and you act like an idiot, then this was the consequences.
Going “No Contact” With The Abuser
Yeah, because you don’t share kids with him. Have you blocked him on your phone?
He’s blocked on my phone. He is blocked on social media. I’ve blocked all family. Any friends that were mutual friends that like really weren’t my friends prior to us getting together have all been taken off all my social media.
So you’re prepared. It’s gonna be all out war for him and he’s gonna wanna drag it out forever. And one of the things to think about is just tell your attorney, um, minimize legal costs as much as possible because he’s gonna wanna drag this out for years.
The nice thing is in the postnuptial agreement, it specifically states that if we have to go back to court for one of us not complying with the postnuptial, that person has to pay all legal costs for both parties.
Hmm. That is awesome. And they’ll have to take that out of the house he sells.
“The Courts Don’t Really Understand It”
Ah, that’s great. Well I hope it goes well cause sometime, not sometimes, all the time, most of the time these court things go really haywire. They do. Um, and so you think, oh, I’m all prepared and everything looks good and then it hits and it does not go the way you want. I’m hoping that that happens for you. It seems like you’re really well prepared. But um, just for our listeners out there, I just wanna like give everybody a nice, healthy, sad, horrific warning that no matter how well prepared you are, they are so skilled at manipulation and lying and, and they throw all kinds of crazy things your way and sometimes it just does not go well. And even when you think, okay, I know what the worst case scenario is and I’m okay with the worst case scenario, it’s, it can even be worse than that. They are so tricky in court and the courts don’t really understand it. So I really hope that things go well and it sounds like they will. But I just, for my, my listeners, I wanna do a little warning on that.
“You Are Not Going to Continue to Abuse and Take and Not Have Consequences”
I agree with that because I feel that it’s a toss up either way. The judge can go either way on it. You know, you think you’ve crossed all your T’s and dotted your I’s, but you know, when push comes to shove and he gives his sob story or whatever he decides to do, who knows what’s gonna happen And everybody said, “You should just write off that money just you’re never gonna see it. Just let it go. Move on.” And I’m like, No, he’s taken enough of my life from me. Like, why would I give him the satisfaction of giving him another $30,000? I don’t have to deal with it. My attorney’s dealing with it. It’s kind of more principle to me that, no, you are not going to continue to abuse and take and not have consequences,
Especially because you share that house. If it was just maybe the money by itself, that might be one thing, but getting your name off that house is super important. So I have a theory that successful women have a harder time getting out of abuse and it’s because people don’t perceive of them as a victim. And so it’s harder to get help. What do you think about that?
“[Abuse] Can Happen to Anyone”
I think it’s pretty true. I’ve become a lot more outspoken for survivors of abuse. I’ve joined a lot of organizations, especially with Covid cause I can’t do as much medical relief work around the world because of the Covid restriction. And it actually was my own medical doctor when I was sitting there sobbing to her telling my story to her, she was just so taken aback. She said, you could still do good work. I know you wanna do your medical relief work again. She goes, but you know, the biggest work that you could do is get your story out there. She said, because there are so many people who don’t have the resources that you had or don’t know where to turn or think just because they’re not successful, this is why it happened to them. No, it happens to anyone. Anyone. It can happen to anyone.
And it’s just so devastating to me when you are in the thick of it. It is so hard. And I say this all the time, stay your course, you will get there. It might not seem like it tomorrow. It might not seem like it. And I will tell you even probably six months ago, I probably was not the person that I am today and I would not have been as positive even six months ago as I am today. Just by staying my course and not deviating from my own personal growth and what I needed to do for me, I stopped focusing on us and the marriage and started focusing on me.
“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 also 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.
“The RIGHT Resources Matter”
Back to the interview. In some ways your resources worked against you because you were able to pay for couple therapy, you’re able to pay for CSAT, you’re able to go that direction and that didn’t necessarily get you out. When people say there’s lots of resources available, it’s really important for me to point out the right resources matter. You can waste so much money on pornography addiction recovery, you can waste so much time doing that. Getting the abuse resources is the most important thing and sticking with that course. The other thing I wanna say is part of the reason you’re doing so well right now, and I’m so happy for you, is that you do not share children with this man.
“We Are Forced to Interact Because We Share Kids”
So you’re able to get completely away. Right? Even if this court case doesn’t go great and, and you lose 30,000 dollars, that is a, that’s a bummer. But his name will get off the house. So many listeners here, myself included, are forced by the court system to continue to interact with our abuser who is also psychologically and emotionally abusing our children. And this is for years and years. That happened in the end of the Netflix show “Maid” as well. The end was like, oh, finally she could get out. And I think society wants us to think that, I think society is like, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will get out eventually. And the the harsh and awful terror of it is that the court system is actually not helpful. That we are still forced to interact because we share kids.
If “Maid” could have ended completely differently where he didn’t let her go. And I would say that’s the majority of what women are experiencing. So that had a happy ending, but that happy ending is very, very rare. So for those of you that you don’t share children, this could be your story. Right? And I want to like really provide hope for you that like you can move on. It is there, it is waiting for you and you can have a complete and total separation from those injuries. And then for those of you who share children and you’re facing that every day for me, even up until probably a year ago, stories like yours, I was happy for you, but so like triggered and mad for me. Nobody would protect me. And then in fact, the court system that’s supposed to protect victims was actually not the domestic violence shelter and everything.
“Take One Step at a Time, And You Will Make Your Way Towards Safety”
They’re like, get out, get out, get out. But you can’t get out. You’re stuck. And so I was just always like continually mad. I have now used a type of strategic communication to be in a better place that isn’t dependent on court. So I just wanna acknowledge all the different aspects of that. If you don’t share kids, Leslie’s story is your model. Make your way out. And if you do share kids, Leslie’s story is also your model. Start making your way out. It’s gonna have a little bit longer ending on that. And you might not ever be able to cut off contact completely, but you can get to safety. And so answer for everyone is just what Leslie said. Take one step at a time and you will make your way towards safety.
Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries
And and I do feel for the people who have children and I will say I am so grateful that I did not have children with him because just to think that I would have to deal with this for, you know, however many more years until you and, and, and honestly even once they hit 18, you’re still dealing with them. Cause you still have weddings, you still have, you know, life events that you still will have to deal with them. And I do really, honestly, I can so see where that is such a struggle. But I do believe that there are ways of communication and learning how to respect yourself enough to keep your own boundaries with them. And I think that was my biggest thing is I always lacked boundaries in a lot of areas, you know? And so just the biggest thing was teaching my own self boundaries, boundaries with my own kids, boundaries, with, you know, strangers with people. And I think just learning how to deal with that part is the biggest thing, the biggest takeaway, even if you do have kids, is learning how to deal with that part of it.
What Would Leslie Tell Her Younger Self?
It’s a skill we all need to learn. It’s, it’s, this is not a like high school class that they offer. So it’s, yeah, it’s really important. So we talked a little bit about targeting, about being used, about grooming the manufactured relational tether. You learned a lot through this about how you were never in a relationship but that you were targeted. If you could go back in time and talk to yourself before meeting him and teach you some of the things that you never wanted to learn, that you never knew you needed to know, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself to one, respect myself enough to listen to my inner self and my inner gut feelings. I think that is the biggest thing that they target is getting you to start doubting yourself. And I always prided myself on having a wonderful, amazing ability to have that inner gut feeling as many medical professionals do that, that’s how we guide our practice a lot of the time. But that was used against me because once he got into getting me shaken off of my ability to trust my own gut, that is where I feel he was able to worm himself in and keep me off balance. And I guess my biggest advice would be if I could say to myself is trust your gut actions, actions speak louder than words. And I remember saying that very early on in our relationship of actions, your actions are not matching your words. And if I had just kept true to myself in that statement of that his actions were showing me exactly who he was and not the words, I think that that would’ve been a totally different outcome.
Communication DOES NOT WORK With The Abuser
Mm-hmm. It’s interesting, we talked about this confronting him, right? And telling him how you feel. So when you recognized that his actions were not consistent with his words, the first thing you wanted to do, our gut reaction, cause we perceive of them as a partner, is to talk to them about our feelings, right? To talk to them about our observations. And unfortunately with abuse, when we do that, it just sets us up to be manipulated more. So as we say, Hey, I’ve noticed your actions don’t sync up with your words, then they are able to talk more and groom more. And being able to be like, okay, well she noticed that, so now I’m gonna try this other tactic, or now I’m going to lie better like a healthy person when they have a conversation like that would be like, oh, they feel bad about the the behavior and they want to change the behavior.
So you could have a healthy conversation in which things are able to be resolved with an abuser. All they hear is, I need to deceive better, I need to manipulate better, I need to groom better. And then it puts you in a position to be groomed more, but you can’t determine that unless you have those conversations. So it’s such a hard way to figure out if someone is abusive or not giving grace to all the victims out there who have tried to talk to their abuser only to be abused more. If you’re in that boat now and you’re listening to this and you know, there’s something, let’s pretend like on this podcast you have heard something and you’re like, this is how he is. Oh my word, like an aha light bulb has gone off in your head. I would really, really encourage you. Do not go to your abuser and tell him about it. Do not go to him and say, oh, you have to listen to this podcast. I’m gonna give you this podcast episode and you need to listen and you’ll see what’s going on. All right. Please do not do that. Yes, please have this information and start quietly making your way to safety.
Please Don’t Confront The Abuser
I I can’t tell you how many times throughout the years that I would confront him, like immediately on something and I, afterwards I would say to myself, why didn’t you just stay quiet? Why didn’t you just continue to gather your quote unquote evidence, you know, and continue to realize what was going on. But as soon as I would find something or something would happen, it would immediately come out of my mouth. And that it, I think is the biggest thing. What you just said is just don’t confront them like they’re using all of your words against you. And that is the hardest thing to do for that reason.
BTR Group Sessions are really useful because you need to be able to share that, right? It’s, it’s inside of you and it is going to come out. BTR group sessions are the perfect place, or, or individual sessions with our BTR coaches are the perfect place. You do need to process it, but it is not safe to process that with your abuser. Also, if you wanna gather all the evidence, that’s fine, but there is not going to be a point where you hand him a file folder full of evidence and you say, look, you’re abusive. These are all the ways and that in which he is not going to weaponize that. So if you got an either mental or actual folder full of stuff that is evidence for you, good job – that is for you alone and perhaps for your attorney, but it is not for him.
“Quietly Observe & Do Not Confront”
It doesn’t matter if it’s church, it doesn’t matter if it’s scriptures, it doesn’t matter if it’s therapeutic jargon. It doesn’t matter what it is. They’re gonna use everything and anything to weaponize it against you to further the confusion and the chaos. So if you’ve been listening to these episodes, and that’s the one thing you take away, at least from my point of view, Leslie had “trust your gut.” That was her takeaway. My takeaway is quietly observe and do not confront and gather enough evidence for yourself to know that you can prepare all the paperwork. If divorce is where you’re going, prepare all the paperwork. And then right before he’s served, let him know maybe or something, you know, some kind of quiet plan where everything is in motion, everything has been thought out because he’s gonna do everything he can to keep control. He’s gonna do everything he can to stop you from escaping. It’s the opposite of a partnership. And that is where they keep us trapped, is they would like us to think it’s a partnership. Because in a partnership that’s what you would do. You would try to resolve it, you would try to do that. So something to think about. And um, I can see it really clearly now, but when I was in it, it was just impossible. It was,
Determining Whether or Not Someone is Safe
It was so hard. It was so hard. And I empathize because I feel that everybody has their own journey and I feel that everybody has that strength and we just need to find the way to reach within ourselves to get that strength and hopefully move on to where we need to move on. And it’s all a different journey for everybody.
And I don’t think there’s any way of circumventing finding out, right? Because a new relationship where you don’t know what the person’s like, you’re going to confront them. I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s how to find out. So, you know, I have this other concern where women will just kind of shut themselves off in the world and not tell people what their, their feelings are and not tell people what they’re thinking and then they won’t be connected, right? So it’s this catch 22 where in order to determine if someone’s abusive, you have to give a little bit . And then also to determine if someone is safe, you have to do that. But it hopefully shouldn’t take too long in theory. But who knows how long it takes In reality, many of us have known someone for years and thought that they were safe only to realize that they had been using things against us that whole time. And so giving grace for people, for, for not, for not knowing what they didn’t know. And also when someone’s actively trying to manufacture a relational tether, discovering it is really, really hard. So our like, love and our hugs go out to you and know that we’ve been there and that we’re with you.
BTR.ORG Is Here For You
Yeah. Thank you. And I so appreciate everything that BTR does to try to help women in these situations because it does seem so hopeless. But I just really wanna encourage everyone that one day there is a light there is just keep on looking for it.
Thank you so much, Leslie. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week, stay safe out there.