Did Complementarian Ideas Contribute To Emotional Abuse?
Did Complementarian Ideas Contribute To Emotional Abuse? – J.R.’s Story

Can complementarian ideas conceal emotional abuse? Join Anne and J.R. as they discuss her journey of overcoming her husband's infidelity, emotional, and spiritual abuse.

In this episode of The BTR.ORG Podcast, host Anne Blythe speaks with J.R. about her struggles after discovering her husband’s infidelity and emotional abuse. They discuss problems that can occur in religious and legal frameworks, and the possible impact of complementarian ideas. The conversation underscores the resilience required to confront and navigate emotional and spiritual abuse.

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This episode is Part Three of Anne’s interview with J.R.

Part One: My Husband Says I’m the Problem. Is He Right?

Part Two: Should I Divorce My Husband for Emotional Abuse? Can I?

Part Three: How Complementarian Ideas May Contribute To Emotional Abuse (THIS EPISODE)

Does Complementarian Ideology Constitute Emotional Abuse?
Can Complementarian Ideology Perpetuate Emotional Abuse


Anne: I have JR back on today’s episode several months back. We had the beginning of her story, which we linked to on our website, btr.org. You can go there and it lists all of the episodes that she’s been in. 

We wanted to take a break to give her time to process what she had talked about all of the events leading up to her divorce, so if you have not listened to that yet, go there. Listen to that first. Her first episode is titled, My Husband Says I’m The Problem, and that aired on March 26th, 2024, so you can go back and look at that in Apple podcasts. Welcome back J.R.

J.R.: Thank you, Anne. I’m glad to be back.

Does Complementarianism Contribute To Emotional Abuse?

Gender Dynamics Complementarian Ideas Can Explore

Anne: Last time we were talking about how misogyny is systemic through church institutions, through society, also as it relates to complementarian ideas. I’ve talked with women all over the world from every religion, from no religion. Like atheist women or women who are agnostic and they have faced the same problems, but in different ways through the court system or through their workplace. 

Are you surprised at how systemic the misogyny is and how difficult it really is to get out of abuse?

J.R.: I feel like I’ve never been a super optimistic person. I’m probably more of a realist, I definitely had more hope in the justice system and in our institutions, especially in religious institutions, in just people in general. 

I have to say that I’ve become pretty jaded. I mean, at this point I’m healing. I’m growing. We work in process, so I am working through a lot of bitterness about the system and the church specifically. I didn’t grow up in what I would consider this complementarian male led sort of spiritual atmosphere, but in my formative young adult years. 

On meeting my husband, he taught a lot of these really toxic patriarchal teachings and then used them against me. I’ve seen it time and time again and it was very surprising to me.

Anne: For people who are unfamiliar with complementarian views or that paradigm of viewing gender roles, can you talk about that just briefly for people who are unfamiliar with that?

What A Victims Entire Story Can Tell Us About ALL The Challenges of Emotional Abuse

J.R.: What attracts people to complementarian ideas? If they have good intentions, is that it’s sort of this hierarchical structure that God put in place in the Bible, that it puts husbands as the heads of their wives. Then in a church structure, it would put men in positions of authority and it absolutely. 

In many areas, it completely disqualifies women for even holding a leadership or authority position in the church. I guess that was supposed to put it in a good light, but that didn’t really put it in a great light because it’s very hard.

Anne: I don’t know if there is any way to put it in a good light, but now I’m going to ask you the question that might put it in a good light. Which is when you were first introduced to it, what spoke to you about it? Is there anything about complementarian ideas that you thought, oh, this is intriguing, 

My guess is that you would not be drawn to complementarian ideas. Where you were then it makes sense that you were back then. What are the ideas are compelling about it?

J.R.: It’s interesting because I was not interested at all when it was first introduced to me. Actually, I listened to, well then I guess he was maybe my fiance at the time. I don’t even know if I was married to my ex, but he wanted me to listen to this sermon by a preacher that will go unnamed who has become the sore spot for me.

Complementarian Teachings Spill Over Into Custody Cases

Anne: Is this a famous preacher, someone you could find on the internet or is this a local preacher?

J.R.: He’s famous. Can I name drop him? Is that okay? Yeah. Okay, so it was John MacArthur who I didn’t,

Anne: I have no idea who that is.

J.R.: Oh, good. Bless you. I’m glad that you don’t because it’s terrible. My ex had me listen to the sermon, and I remember we were at his Bible college at the time.  We were sitting in an empty room on campus, and I watched this sermon. By the end of it, I was just bawling because I had never seen someone or heard someone be so cruel and ruthless and just not compassionate at all from the pulpit like that.

The way he talks about women and what our roles are and why we’re made the way we’re made. Basically laying complementarian ideas. At that point, I hadn’t even started my journey of starting to have children or motherhood or being a wife or anything. 

I didn’t have personal experience. I just sat there feeling if I was a woman who either just didn’t want to have children, maybe wanted to be married but wasn’t finding the right person. Or maybe was struggling with infertility, whatever it was, that hearing this, it would just feel like a slap in the face. That God designed you for these things and basically apart from these things, you don’t have worth.

Examining Why Complementarian Ideas Can Be Problematic 

I mean, at that point, looking back, I can see why I felt that way because it all within the context of marriage and motherhood. I’m a young single woman, the way he framed it, I’m not fulfilling the purpose of my life. In complementarian style teaching the only thing you are supposed to be is a mother and a wife. I remember crying, I remember resisting, but I really loved Jesus. 

My faith is very important to me, and between my ex and then the pastor early on in our marriage, I just felt like, I guess they’re using scripture. I guess that’s what it says, I guess that’s what it means. I guess I need to conform to complementarian ideas, and so I kind of did it reluctantly, to be honest.

Anne: It’s not like it spoke to you. You’re saying I resisted it, but I sort of was coerced. Would you say

J.R.: A hundred percent I would use that word, especially now that I’ve done a lot of my own growing and kind of reflecting. Yes, say coerce because I mean, there are instances, I’ve always loved music, musical theater and different things. I signed up to audition for the voice, so kind of silly. It was like this fun thing I was going to do with my mom. 

Right when I first got married and my husband and pastor at the time, I remember this conversation happened at our dinner table in our home. They told me and they used the scriptures against me.

Do Complementarian Ideas Enable Emotional Abuse?

Complementarian Ideas May Excuse When Male Leadership Hurts Women

I was being told that I was being selfish, I was using worldly wisdom instead of seeking godly wisdom because I would be in the secular world or I wouldn’t be like, well, you’re not singing worship, so why would you even do this? I was basically talked into and I would say guilted and shamed into not auditioning.

Anne: Coerced. Did your fiance have a job? I just want to bring up the misogyny here, right? Did the pastor say to him, you should not work at this job because it’s in the world?

J.R.: Oh, but that’s the thing. My fiance was the only other staff member on the staff at this church, and I remember my family was really upset.  It caused a really big argument and kind of a rift between me and my parents and my sister because they were like, what are you doing? This is your passion. This is what you want. 

Why are you not pursuing this? And I pretty much, I parroted all of the scripture back to them, and I got very protective personally. What I experienced in this complementarianism, this sort of bubble. It was like I needed to protect my marriage because I wasn’t my own autonomous person. Well, we were, but I had to defer to him.

Really there was no me. There was only him because if there’s one, and I don’t have a say, well, who’s the one? It’s him. 

What Men Mean When They Say “We’re One”

I repeated all this to them, and they expressed concern. However, I am newly married and felt the need to respect my husband, that’s the basis for complementarian ideas. I embraced everything they told me, believing it aligned with the Bible. That was enough for me to decide this is my path now.

Anne: Are you surprised and shocked to find out it was just psychological abuse, not God? Another argument suggests that God created you and gave you these amazing talents.

Don’t hide your candle under a bushel. I guess the scriptures only apply to men. They don’t apply to women got this candle and they’re telling you to hide it under a bushel.

J.R.: Right? Well, until it came to leading worship in the church, which they used me for and didn’t compensate, and it was very, yeah. Oh, yeah. So to answer your question, yes, at the time I never used the term abuse. Honestly, until I started listening to BTR. There was a lot of toxicity. There was a lot of stuff I did see in my marriage, but it took a long time for me to be able to use that word and to see it for what it’s,

Anne: I think so many women when they come out of that because they’re trying to be so righteous, they really genuinely love truth and they love God. They want to do the right thing so much that they’re willing to sacrifice themselves to the idea of complementarian theology.

Fighting For Custody During Divorce  

I’m like, wow, women are brave and strong and powerful, and they’re making these decisions because they’re such courageous, incredible people. There’s nothing about sacrificing everything about yourself that is weak, zero things, that is super, super strong. 

Realizing that I was unknowingly coerced into sacrificing it to wickedness is devastating and heartbreaking. I thought I was doing the right thing. It’s so hard to deal with all this gendered emotional and psychological abuse. I have been actively working to get Om’s Law passed in Utah because my friend Leah Moses’ son was murdered.

Some of you have seen me in the news doing that. If you go to our YouTube channel, you can go to Betrayal Trauma Recovery’s YouTube Channel, and then we have a playlist. It’s BTR in the News, and you can see all the new stuff involved in trying to pass that bill. I bring that up because even agnostic or atheist women or religious women who experience it in their faith and then also in the court system are shocked like, wait, wait, wait. 

I thought the justice system would help protect me from abuse. What is going on? Why is it getting worse? Let’s start talking about that divorce. In our last episode with you, you got to the point where you were ready to divorce and your sister was helping you. 

The Decision To Divorce

Let’s get to that point your sister tells you. If you haven’t listened to that and you want to hear the first part, go back. You decide, I’m going to file for divorce. Talk about what happens next, sort of what your mindset was at the time. This was how many years ago?

J.R.: It was the end of 2020 that we separated. We briefly tried to make it work, got back together again, at the end of 2020, but it was January of 2021. At this point, three years ago.

Anne: Those of us who have been, I’d say out of the fog for a long time, you view things differently over the years. Three years ago, where you are in your mind is going to be drastically different from where you are today as you talk about it. Can you kind of take us back in time to your mindset and how you thought about it back then when you decided to file?

J.R.: I decided to file because I had a pretty severe mental breakdown and was in the hospital because I was suicidal, and that linked with getting back together with him. When I came out of the hospital, I still wasn’t going to leave him, but his actions in that week following that incident just solidified for me that he would never change. 

Surprise & Struggle Over Custody Claims  

That it would never get better, that I couldn’t put myself back in that situation. Friends of ours, or they’re more friends of mine, I would say. We went to their house. I asked them if they would be present for me to tell him that I wanted the divorce, and I had written a letter and I read it to him. I know the friends who there found it so shocking that he lacked of any kind of feeling. 

They’re watching friends that they know really well and that they’ve watched in ministry, start a family, all these things, and they’re watching. As I’m telling him the heartbreaking story of why I need to divorce him, and he’s just emotionless, emotionless.

I had already seen a lawyer. I had already had a lawyer come up with an agreement that included it, said that I would be the primary custodian or the primary caregiver. That he would be partial, that he would’ve partial custody. 

Now I’m like, how did I miss that this is going to be an issue and he started fighting me on that. At this point in time, going back to 2021, I have three children. They are probably like three, two and less than a year old, and I have been a stay at home mom with them their whole lives. 

I remember a conversation with him where I was saying something about me being the primary caregiver, and he was like, well, I don’t see how you’re the primary caregiver. I was like, wait, I am literally with them more of the time. It’s not a question.

Navigating Custody & Complementarian Ideology  

Anne: Also, wait a minute, all this complementarian stuff,

Anne: You’re suddenly throwing it out the window when it doesn’t suit you, because didn’t you tell me the whole time I’m the primary caregiver. They’re not the most logical folks. These abusers, they use the arguments when it suits them, but then when it doesn’t, they just throw it out the window.

J.R.: They have to grasp at straws when they realize it’s all falling apart. I’ve just seen in co-parenting with this person that they’ll say the craziest things. They will contradict themselves all over the place. You think we’re talking about the justice system, you would think it would be so obvious to anyone with a brain. 

It just, for some reason, and this is why I, okay, sorry, I’m getting all over the place. I’m getting ahead of my thought.

Anne: You can go all over the place if you want to go ahead. I’ll just bookmark it for our audience and for you, we are at that. You’re surprised that he’s contesting that you’re the primary caregiver.

The Decision To Speak Out

J.R.: This is why I’m here. My current husband, he is with me right before getting on this call. I was just so nervous. My stomach was so sick, I was like, I don’t know. 

Why am I doing this? What am I doing? And he reminded me, he’s like me, you’re doing this because it’s important to you and the lies and the voices in your head that they don’t want you to be speaking out to be confident. 

To be helping other people, to be sharing your story. All that being said, you feel crazy. It’s that C word, that horrible C word. I felt it for so long. It’s what BTR helped me to realize that I wasn’t. You feel that way with the justice system or injustice system and the people who are supposed to help. They’re just, where are they? It’s infuriating.

Anne: You’re surprised, right? Because this goes against all of his complementarian values that you are the primary caregiver. Which he’s told you multiple times about your quote “role here on Earth.” Without that you’re nothing. Talk about that, how that went down in court. You said it didn’t go well. Did he end up fighting it successfully?

Custody Decisions That Lead To More Abuse

J.R.: At the time, I was not in a great place. I had just come out of the hospital. I was just trying to get on my feet again. Although I will say I got a job. I got my kids into a daycare, got health insurance for all of us, which he never had for us all within a week. 

I’m just so tired and I want it to be over. I fought back basically over the next month or two. I worked with my lawyer and my lawyer was working with his lawyer and him, and it was just back and forth, and he wasn’t going to concede to that. 

To me, being the primary caregiver or having primary custody, hindsight is 2020. I now know better. If I had known better, I would have taken him to court and easily won custody, but I am still trying to be reasonable. Well, that’s not fair, because I was reasonable. 

Anne: Let me put words in your mouth here, and if I’m wrong, you can correct me. You thought like, oh, since this makes sense, since any regular person I could do this with, this will probably work. Not realizing they are not normal. They’re an abuser.

Navigating Divorce & Custody Challenges

J.R.: Yes, exactly. I just thought, I don’t have the money to go to court, I don’t have the mental capacity right now to go to court. I just want to move forward. At the time, I would say to people, I would say, he’s a fine dad. 

He’s just a terrible partner, and now he’s really shows his true colors. Of course, I made him look good. I made him look like a good dad, so now we’re not together, and it’s very obvious that he’s not a good dad. Okay, we’ll do 50/50. I have regretted that every day since.

Anne: Are you still 50/50?

J.R.: Unfortunately, I did take him to court last year, and it was a brutal experience. The judge slut shamed me. My ex brought in a local politician who he somehow connected with, who for some reason sat and observed when they didn’t allow my husband to come in. 

He brought people in who had a bone to pick with me, who perjured themselves on the stand. I mean, it was a mess. It was such a mess. By the end, nothing changed. They just said, everything seems to be working just fine, so we’re not going to change anything. The Ongoing Struggles of Co-Parenting with A Man with No Integrity

Challenges In Co-Parenting & Custody Agreements

Anne: I brought him to court for this reason.

J.R. : Exactly, because

Anne: Everything was working fine. No,

J.R.: Yeah. I picked up all the pieces. My big thing was I love my kids. Of course I’m going to do everything for them. I’m never going to let a custody agreement or order stop me from making sure they have what they need for school or whatever. 

I’m using air quotes for 50/50 every time, I say that I’m doing 50% of the work, but I don’t have the rights to operate as though I have that custody. He would argue with me about medical things, he would argue about anything he could possibly argue about, and it was just things that I always took care of. 

He was always happy for me to take care of them. But now, if I made a decision and he just felt like it one day, he would just nitpick it and he would say, that’s not, I don’t agree. We’d go back and forth and it’s like I didn’t have the right legally to do certain things because we’re 50/50.

Surviving An Abuse & Fighting For Justice

Anne: I was in the same exact boat that you are in for eight years dealing with my abusive ex. He caused problems every single day, he cancelled medical appointments, he didn’t want the kids to take any extracurricular activities.

He would try to coerce them into not doing literally simple things like baseball or taking trombone lessons, piano lessons. I took my ex to court and did not get custody even though I had a current protective order and pictures of bruises.

I was so mad. I’m trying to work for victims everywhere. I have a master’s degree and you know, stuff like that. I think like, okay, I should be able to figure this out. I’m like, if I can’t figure this out, no one can Literally, nobody can. My ex is an attorney. He just walked in the guardian ad litem, they like we’re in the same attorney club.

Oh I get it . The thing was over. I was so mad like, what, I’m doing everything right. I have all the documentation, I have everything and I can’t be free from abuse. I’m being abused almost every day by his messages.

Deliverance Through Faith & Hard Work

I started really praying and fasting about it and just pondering and just praying for deliverance. I feel like I was led and guided, I know that if you’ve been spiritually abused, that is triggering. It’s hard talking about God because that’s how a lot of women got abused.

Telling that part of the story is important because I promised God, if you deliver me, I will shout it from the rooftops. This was not me. This was an absolute miracle. My sister who’s not religious, she was like, no, you did it.

You did it through your hard work. You had the ideas. And I’m like, no, no, no, these were from God and she’s kind of mad at me sometimes because she’s like, no, you’re a hard worker. You should tell people all of the hard things that you did.

Take that with a grain of salt whether you’re religious or not, that like that’s kind of what happened. So because I was able to deliver myself and my kids from abuse using strategy and not going to court, I was like, I’ve got to let other people know.

Transformational Strategies For Overcoming Abuse

For two years after that I tested it with local people in my area, tested the strategies, helped them with their messages. Did all The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Living Free Workshop strategies and helped them get delivered. I was like, is this just a fluke, right? Is this just me? Then I thought, I’m going to test this out

We tested it and miracle after miracle has occurred with these strategies and it makes me mad that a victim who hasn’t done anything wrong, she’s doing everything right. She’s reporting, she’s telling people what’s going on. They’re not listening.

I want to emphasize that like I was doing everything quote unquote “right.” You know, I’m a good communicator, I am a good mom, you know all that stuff. That’s not what’s going on here. This isn’t about how skilled you are at being a mom or a communicator.

This is about knowing what tactics they use and the traps that they use and how to avoid them through strategy. That’s what I teach in the Living Free Workshop. Then when you complete The Living Free Workshop, then you can take The Message Workshop and the Message workshop is tools to write strategic messages to these abusers to deliver ourselves.

Importance Of Taking The Living Free Workshop Before The Message Workshop

The reason why you have to take Living Free first before you can take The Message Workshop is because all of the strategies build on each other. We’ve seen awesome success and I’ve trained the coaches so they can help women do it if they’re still having a little bit of trouble applying it.

Taking The Living Free Workshop helps a ton. Because the thing that I realize and you might be realizing, well you know this is not about the kids. Yeah. They don’t care about the kids. They only care about control over the kids and also control over you.

If they didn’t have the kids to use to continue to harass you or bother you or continue to be able to sort of be entertained by the chaos that they cause in your life. They wouldn’t have anything because they’re not interested in parenting, but they are going to be interested.

Is he remarried in in finding someone else to exploit, right. Marrying someone else that they’re gonna exploit and they’re gonna exploit them for childcare to take care of their kids and stuff. Is he remarried yet?

J.R.: He dates a lot. He’s moved women in women and their children into his home with my kids without

Anne: Telling me. Wow. Wow. The super righteous guy.

J.R.: He let his true colors show.

Discussion On Misogyny & Judgment

Anne: He’s definitely an abuser and exploiter. Because he only uses them when it serves his purposes.

J.R.: Right. Yes. My story, like since leaving him has been pretty wild too. People have made a lot of judgments about me. I said about the judge, like slut shaming me on the stand. That’s because I got pregnant out of wedlock after leaving my ex.

Anne: Sorry, sorry. But your, your ex had sex out of wedlock just like you did.

J.R.: Right, exactly.

J.R.: There’s the misogyny at play. He can’t get pregnant. I actually wrote an open letter to the judge. I brought that point up that if our sexual activity were pertinent to the custody case for our children, then why didn’t we ask him about his sexual partners? But it wasn’t about our sexual partners, it was about the fact that I had a baby.

Which I also have taken very good care of and have proved to be a very good mother regardless of men who don’t want to take responsibility for their actions. I felt like I had to say that because of what you said about him, like being a religious guy and everything.

I know that people look at me and think, oh well is she who she always said she is? It’s like, well actually you know what? I don’t know. I’m discovering who I am because for 10 years he stamped it out of me.

Personal Growth & Overcoming Coercion

Anne: It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to to be like, wait a minute, this was coercion and I don’t want to do this. That’s not what they’re doing. They’re not like, Hmm, you know what, the more I think about it, the more this is really misogynistic so I’m gonna make sure that I’m a good partner.

That would be growing. Right? No, they’re not doing that. They’re just finding another way to abuse or another way to coerce or their current target abusing her in a way that works.

If their current target’s not religious, they’re not going to use spiritual coercion or complementarian ideas on their current target because that’s not going to work. They’re going to try something else. I’m sorry. That’s awful. We’re getting really personal.

J.R.: Oh to I, listen, I came on here.

Anne: I’m assuming you did not end up marrying the father of this child?

J.R.: No, I believe it’s important because I have overcome a lot of self-shaming and self-hatred due to experiences after that relationship. Now, I look back with compassion because I always wanted to love and be loved.

That did not happen in my marriage. I spent a long time begging for it.

How My Last Baby And Faith Led Me To Healing

Once I got out, I was very broken and engaged in pretty risky behavior, regardless of religious views. Things that just weren’t good for me. They weren’t healthy for me. My daughter, my last baby might have saved my life honestly. I was just going down a really bad road. Of course this was all, whenever I didn’t have my children, it was 50 50.

Trying to fix what was broken and obviously it wasn’t working. I wasn’t actually healing. I got pregnant and I thought it was gonna ruin my life, but it actually I think saved me. It stopped me from continuing down the path I was on.

The father wanted me to abort and I wouldn’t. He said that he didn’t want anything to do with it. I considered adoption. He said he didn’t want anything to do with that either. Then shortly after that I met my current husband who came into my life because I am a spiritual person. I had been praying for God to send me a Boaz.

If you know the story of Ruth, it’s basically in that story Boaz is what’s called the kinsman redeemer. You know, I was in this place, I’m like, I’m a strong independent woman.

Finding Healing & Faithfulness After Divorce

I don’t need a man. I prayed that God would send me someone to take up the responsibility and role my husband was supposed to fulfill. And they would fulfill what I felt like I was promised through making my vows.

Anne: Making your vows to your ex?

J.R.: Sorry, to my ex. Yeah. That one

Anne: Kind of like, I’ve been faithful to my vows now I need someone who will be faithful to the vows as well. Idea.

J.R.: You know, I’m not gonna like sugarcoat it looking back like I know everything out there and the advice I would give to women is just to wait, like give it time. I’m not advocating for like this because of my situation. Things did move pretty fast with my current husband because I was pregnant. It was kind of like, well are you in or are you out? If you stick around like I’m gonna have this baby.

I wasn’t really like messing around. We got married last year and he is a wonderful father to all four of my kids. God has done a lot of healing in me through being in a healthy relationship.

The Impact of Therapist Advice

Anne: Let’s talk about that for a minute because a lot of therapists, especially the pornography, addiction, recovery community, a lot of like pastoral counseling. I’m going to say almost all therapists would say something like, if you don’t work it out with this man that you are with the abuser, then you will marry another abuser.

Also all marriages are hard and all relationships are really difficult. There’s no reason to call it quits on this one because the next one that you get is just going to be this hard. Women are like, oh, okay. Then they try to make it work because they don’ think they can have a relationship that isn’t just a hard slog all the time.

I’ve talked to friends who remarried healthy men and I don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s so easy. Not that it’s easy because they have difficult things that occur, but the relationship itself is, is that how you feel? Can you talk about that for a minute?

J.R.: I think some of what you were saying with the way therapists view needing to work out kind of your stuff before getting in another relationship. That’s really linked to the whole codependent idea or co-addicted.

Overcoming The Challenges of Abuse and Self-Growth

Anne: Which by the way, listeners, you are not, you are just right victims of abuse. But someone might tell you that like, you chose him or what about you made it so that you would pick somebody like this or something like that.

J.R.: When you take that away from it, obviously listen, we all have work to do in ourselves. We’re a work in progress. We should always be growing. But you take that piece out of it that isn’t even true and it’s like, well why, why shouldn’t I be ready for a relationship?

I was ready 10 years ago when I met this abuser and I wanted a relationship. I wanted love and respect and a partnership. Now I have children and I’m doing everything I should have been doing with my partner. Like of course I am ready.

I’m, I’m ready. I do think it’s important to like educate yourself and like be aware of things that maybe you weren’t before and so you can avoid and you can recognize red flags and all of that. Like all of that is very important.

Right. I will say my current husband did have a porn addiction, which I didn’t know about when we got married. When I found that out, I, it was devastating. I thought, here we go again. I cannot believe that I’m doing this again.

Understanding The Difference Between Genuine Repentance and Continued Abuse

I’ve listened to you in the past and I really appreciate this. Where like you don’t really give your stamp of approval on like men who may seem to be doing the work, but like only time will tell sort of thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yes.

I’m a hundred percent there too. I’ll share what my experience has been so far. But this is not me saying like, well everything’s good now everything’s fixed.

I’ve been able to see now how an abusive, narcissistic, toxic person who does not want to change and who never actually deals with the addiction. How that he handles it versus how someone who is genuinely repentant, he understands it as abuse, as emotional abuse.

He can see that what he’s been doing to me is just through the gaslighting and the lying. It’s manipulating, it’s how all of that is psychological and emotional abuse and he’s getting help. He’s in recovery. He’s in really good recovery right now.

I try not to be in that sphere of talking about all the recovery stuff on his end, but obviously it infiltrates my life because of him personally. I probably will never use the word like recovered but always recovering.

The Impact Of Recovery & The Challenges Of Pornography

I do think he’s in really good recovery right now. I already thought we had a really great relationship. It was so much more loving and compassionate and it was so much more of a partnership than I ever had before. I didn’t even know it could get better, but it has gotten exponentially better now that he is sober and in recovery.

I’m in a good head space today, you know, so I can talk about it really in a clear way, but it’s hard. Like I’m not going to lie, it hurts to try again and then for that to happen again. It does give me hope that like, okay, it’s not that all men are like my ex.

Anne: Right?

J.R.: This man might have one piece of that puzzle, a similarity that is very painful for me. But that doesn’t mean he is that person for me.

Anne: The other issue is many people, men and women have used porn. If they’re lying, if they’re hiding it, if they’re using it, like if they don’t stop using it, anytime someone uses porn, even if it’s just once it’s an abuse episode, they’re abusing themselves.

They’re abusing the people around them trust, they’re abusing the person in the porn. They’re supplying demand for sex trafficking, right? So porn is, there’s nothing good about it and it is an abuse issue. There’s also a character issue at play.

The Impact Of Hidden Behaviors & Abuse

When people make decisions over and over, they’re, that’s what determines their character. I would not say never, ever date or never ever marry someone who has used porn. I would never say that. What I would say is it is abuse. It’s always gonna be abuse.

There’s no part of it that if someone is involved with it, where they’re going to be like not abusive when they’re using it. The hiding or manipulation. If you do not want abuse in your life, you do not want someone who has these characteristics lying, cheating, manipulating. That’s what we need to look out for.

The reason I don’t date is mostly because I have no desire to like nurse someone back to health.

J.R.: Yes, a hundred percent it is. It’s not easy and it’s not fun. We’ve had lots of conversations because I felt like he robbed me of the chance to make a different decision. If I knew this I wouldn’t have married him. Maybe eventually we would’ve been together, I don’t know. But I definitely wouldn’t have married him.

Anne: That in and of itself was abusive

J.R.: A hundred percent, yes.

Conversations On Deception & Emotional Abuse

Anne: You weren’t able to do this mutually because you did not have the right information. Men don’t recognize that that in and of itself is abuse is crazy to me. Like really you’re literally coercing and scamming someone into marrying you.

J.R.: He knew all about my history with it. We had so many conversations in the very, our very early days of dating of like I have texts that I’ve gone back to and like screenshotted of like me asking him once in a while just being like, Hey, is this an issue? Is this a current issue?

Please just tell me. I just need to know I, I just need the truth kind of thing. Over and over again lying and you know, I kind of feel, I kind of feel stupid but at the same time how was I supposed to know? Like I thought he was, I was telling me the truth.

It’s weird because in my first marriage it was so obvious to me that something was wrong. Something was off because he would never admit when I would confront him, I couldn’t explain what it was.

In this relationship really everything felt really good. I felt loved, I felt seen, I felt heard, I felt really good. I didn’t even question really that he was telling the truth. I’ll be honest, I don’t even know which one is harder because in a way my abusive ex with that experience I kind of saw it coming.

Navigating Trust

You know, when it all came out it was like, oh this actually helps me make sense of everything because I already felt like everything was off. Finding out the truth helped me make sense in my current marriage, my current relationship, it confused things more for me.

I was like wait a second, how did you find out? I’ve always had a pretty strong intuition. I feel like I started to really gain that back.

Even though I say like everything is really great between us because of everything that I know about pornography addiction. I unfortunately had to learn a lot about it and it became such a big part of my life.

If he told me it was a part of his past, I was like, okay, but you didn’t do anything different. How is it not still a problem? You’re wanting me to believe that this was an issue. Then tell me what changed. Tell me how it became a non-issue.

Like you don’t just stop. Unfortunately that didn’t come until into our marriage. We would have conversations and then and some of the things we’d be talking about our past. Getting to know each other and some of the things that he would say, it just wouldn’t make sense.

Confronting Addiction & Seeking Support

I remember that feeling , no, no, no, no I’m not crazy. If I feel like something feels off then it probably is. I pushed and pushed. Honestly it was a brutal three days. The first night we talked about it and I basically just told him I was pushing and pushing and I said, look like I’m not taking no for an answer anymore.

I know this is a problem now it’s just a matter of you telling me the whole truth and not withholding anymore. It wasn’t even because I did not find anything on a device. It was just really, it was understanding the addiction. If you were addicted to this as a child and you spent all this time in this addiction, you didn’t just stop. I know you didn’t just stop.

The first night we were talking about it, it was a partial disclosure. The next day I guess nothing like new came out. Then the day after that it was everything. Since then I got like some of my very close friends involved who have walked with me through everything actually they’re the friends who were there when I asked my ex for a divorce.

They’re very close with me and I’ve got them involved and it’s actually the husband of that relationship who is, he’s is close with my husband. Basically he’s doing the, I don’t know how you feel or if you promote the accountability software.

Accountability & Support In Marriage: A Personal Reflection

Anne: All. I don’t necessarily because of my abuse stance you can talk about it.

J.R.: He’s the accountability partner for my husband on the software that we have on his devices. Basically that was like, this man is not messing around. Like he will call me the second he sees something. It’s not gonna be like, oh it’s his buddy.

They’re just gonna have a little chat through text and I’m never actually gonna know. My husband knows that. He loves you more than me. He’s not looking out for me, he’s not protecting me like he’s protecting you. That’s what I was missing too through my first marriage.

I didn’t have anyone really looking out for me and like advocating for me. There were people who were more concerned about keeping a marriage together than actually protecting victims. I mean there’s a lot of things that are different this time around.

I mean he’s actually following through with the boundaries and the needs that I’ve laid out for what I need to feel safe in our relationship. He is a hundred percent like not only doing them but doing them joyfully. He didn’t want to loose his family.

The Struggles Of Vulnerability & Exploitation

Which is not even his blood family. Whereas with my ex when we separated he flew across the country without letting me know he just abandoned us. There’s a lot of big differences but I’m not gonna say it’s easy. To anybody who would be listening, if I could go back, I probably would’ve stayed single a little bit longer.

Anne: That’s the other part of your story that’s really tough. He really exploited you and the situation when you were really vulnerable. You were praying I’ve, I’ve said that prayer , right when my ex got arrested I’ve said the prayer of like, I can’t do this alone.

I need help. I need help now. No one came but I think God was listening to my prayer and I got help in different ways. I didn’t get help in the form of a partner. But had somebody shown up and been really nice and and exploited that situation. I think about where you were at that time.

This is not to scare you, but story sounds a lot actually. Like my story, my ex was, I thought well it was wonderful. I thought he was in recovery. We, we actually did pornography, addiction recovery. Like we were the poster children, we would speak and I thought he was doing great.

Recognizing Subtle Forms Of Abuse & The Importance Of Awareness

I felt so connected to him. It was hard but I thought it was good. I remember talking to a friend of mine and she said, is this abuse? And she was like, no, your husband’s amazing. I had an abusive husband, he wasn’t anything like this. I thought yeah that’s true. You know like he would absolutely have encouraged me to come and share today my story.

When I hear stories like this, it sounds just like I sounded when I didn’t know what was really happening. Which is why I wanna warn everyone because I’ve gone through the internet and like taken all of our interviews down where I sounded like you sound now that’s not to say that’s not your experience.

I do believe people can change, I really genuinely do. I was hoping that was happening for me. And in my case the pornography addiction world just enabled his abuse and actually made him worse because he got better at manipulative kindness.

He got better at using therapy speak and then also better at hiding the abuse that was like in plain sight. If you knew what you were looking for. These types of stories make me a little nervous but also hopeful. I really hope that it works out. The only red flag that I can hear in your voice, sorry you didn’t ask for it.

J.R.: No, go. Go for it. I’m here.

Facing Hard Truths

Anne: Is the, I wouldn’t, knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have married him. Part of me wonders in that scenario, like let’s say I did it again if I could pull it off. Because back then I was not capable of doing this. But to say something like, oh okay, no problem.

Now that I know what’s going on, let’s get divorced because I wouldn’t have married you otherwise. Let’s just get divorced and then let’s date and let’s see if we get married. Now that I know the truth, part of me just thinks like knowing that in my heart and in my head was such a hard thing to know. Had I known this I wouldn’t have married.

I asked him all about his pornography stuff before we got married and he lied to me. It’s a hard thing to live with, which I’m sure that’s what you’re experiencing now.

I want it to be genuinely healthy. I’m holding it with open hands, you know, right now it seems as though it’s, it’s good, you know. I’m but I’m definitely not going to ignore the red flags moving forward.

Anne: Right. Well also that you would not be in this relationship had you not been coerced.

Overcoming Challenges

J.R.: It’s a hard truth. Me feeling the heaviness of that on pretty much a day to day, even if it’s a great day, even if it’s wonderful.

Anne: Yeah, it’s hard. J.R. neither of us expected this interview to go here, right?

J.R.: Right.

We’re will get to the part where we hear the story about how she did end up divorcing and what happened through that divorce. Women are so afraid to sort of get to the edge and kind of look over it because they, they don’t know what’s there. For those of us who have done it we’re like, it’s okay. You know, it’s not a cliff, it’s just a slope and you’re will survive. Sharing your story of survival I think will help so many women. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts today.

J.R.: Yeah, thanks Anne.


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