***Disclaimer from Anne: I am not putting my stamp of “Yes, he’s the model recovering addict.” My hope is that we can learn from their story.
If there are any addicts listening, this can give them hope that, if they choose to, they can stop being abusive, they can stop cheating on their wives and participating in any form of infidelity.
BTR advocates for the safety of women and their families. Our hope is for families to be together and live happy healthy lives in peaceful homes.***
Many women in Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group wonder how they can tell their husband is in recovery and if he can ever make up for the harm he’s caused.
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, continues her conversation with Gus and Adam. Previously, they talked about how they learned to recognize their abusive behaviors and how it has helped them in recovery. This time, they continue their discussion on recognizing abusive behaviors and how they’re trying to repair the damage they’ve caused.
How Can An Abuser Make Amends For His Abuse?
The first step an abuser must take in making amends for his abusive behavior is to admit that he is abusive.
This tends to be the most difficult part of making amends for any addict or abuser, admitting that they are abusive.
As Anne points out, however, it has to happen for change to happen.
“You can’t take that step if you don’t know what the truth is yourself.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Once an abuser admits he is abusive, he can take the next steps to change and try to repair the damage that he’s caused.
The next step an abuser has to face is to identify his abusive behaviors, such as lying, manipulating, and gaslighting.
Gus and Adam talk about the subtle ways they used gaslighting.
Gus says that he would always try to make his wife doubt herself or redirect the conversation in an effort to lead her away from her feeling that something is wrong. He would do this by asking, seemingly innocent, questions, like, “What do you mean by this?”
“Making someone doubt themselves and to question their belief in God, it’s probably the worst thing you could ever do, all those subtle things. Some of the questions can be good, but it’s how we use them.”-Gus
Adam admits that lying is one that he still struggles with. He had never realized how much he lied.
“For me, just trying to control the outcome, the consequences, my environment, that is still one that I would say I struggle with the most.”-Adam
Once they’ve learned to identify these behaviors, they try to make amends.
But even they admit that it’s impossible to actually repair the damage they’ve done, so they commit to making a living amends.
What Is A Living Amends?
A living amends is, basically, committing to change their life and to become the man their wife deserved to have all along.
“I have to put forth my life to try and fix something that I really can’t fix.”-Gus
Anne says living amends also consists of surrendering and putting their wives’ needs first.
“A lot of men will be like, ‘Well, what about my needs? I have all of these needs.’ Really good therapists will say, ‘You need to put your needs on the backburner for a long time. Your concerns, right now, should only be for your victim and how you can help her and make her life better, for a really long time.’”-Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Adam agrees and adds that he had to realize that when he chose to abuse his wife, he gave up his right to putting himself first.
“I gave up my right to say, ‘Well, that’s just unfair,’ or, ‘Do you realize how this hurts me?’ I can’t do that anymore. If I want to make amends for the crap that I put my wife through, I have to be willing to drudge through the trenches.”-Adam
Making a living amends hasn’t been easy for either of these men, but they keep trying.
What Helps An Abuser Make Living Amends?
One thing these men both agree have made it a little easier for them to make a living amends is their wives.
Simply put, their wives have educated themselves on what abuse is and what it looks like.
“Part of what helps me work towards this road to recovery is the fact that my wife has educated herself and she’s not going to put up with it. If I don’t recognize it myself, she does.”-Adam
Their wives have set and held boundaries, strong ones. Their wives haven’t told them what to do, they’ve just held their boundaries.
Adam says his wife setting boundaries for her safety was probably the best thing for him, even though it wasn’t pleasant for him.
“Firm boundaries, sticking to firm boundaries, not just firm, but hard, real safety-building boundaries, is an act of mercy towards me—towards an addict. It was something my wife did for me, and it hurt. It was uncomfortable. I was upset. I pouted. I threw temper tantrums. But it wasn’t punishment. Truly, it was consequences on my part, for not having boundaries, then expecting help. Now, I learn what they are and live amends.”-Adam
Gus says it wasn’t until his wife started setting boundaries that he even wanted to start changing.
“For me, my wife tried being nice. It didn’t help. She tried being angrier and that didn’t help. It was the moment when she came to a decision that, ‘I’m going to move on with my life and you can either change or you can go away,’ and she kicked me out. The pain of recognizing that, ‘I’m alone, and I will always end up alone and in despair. I don’t want to live this way anymore.’ It was that pain that opened up a way to ‘I want to do something different.’”-Gus
Other things an addict can do to help himself with his living amends is to work his recovery.
“I go to therapy, I try and get as much information as I can about how to do things better, like reading books on parenting, on addiction, on abuse. Ultimately, I try and listen to what she has to say and accept it, and not try and reject it.”-Gus
All these things can help an abuser live his amends, but what does it look like?
What Does A Living Amends From An Abuser Look Like?
A living amends is going to look different for everyone because each woman and her trauma is different, but they will all have similar elements.
The most important of these, which is consistent in every situation, is that the abusive behaviors will stop and the woman will be treated with the love and respect she has always deserved.
Adam and Gus admit that they still struggle with some abusive behaviors, though not nearly as much as they used to.
“By now, I’ve learned to never say, ‘I’m never going to do that again,’ because that’s the number one indicator that I will do it again.”-Gus
Gus still struggles with his abusive behaviors toward his four children. He says he has to always remind himself that those behaviors are abusive.
For Gus, being vigilant and being honest when he makes a mistake is key to living his amends.
Adam still struggles with accountability.
“Just acknowledging what it is that I need to work on, and not trying to place blame on my wife, on ‘I was abused as a child’ or anything else, I had to own my own actions.”-Adam
Adam says that taking accountability for his own actions has shown his wife that he’s willing and capable of change.
He says he’s had to be willing to do the small things and the big things. He’s even taken multiple polygraphs, which aren’t cheap.
“It’s big things and it’s little things, and it’s just everyday things. It’s my job to make amends. It’s not, ‘I’m going to take 10 steps and you have to take one,’ it’s, ‘You know, I’m going to take 10 steps and I’m just ecstatic to see that you haven’t taken 10 steps back.’”-Adam
Anne mentions that everyone is working on things and talks about putting abusive behaviors into perspective. Many parents yell at their children, even Anne, but there’s a difference between unhealthy and abusive.
“Is it abuse or not? Is yelling at my kid to brush their teeth abuse? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s say it’s not, but is it healthy? No, so how can we move toward healthier behaviors because none of us want to go to jail for one mistake that we make, like yelling at my kid to brush their teeth or whatever.”-Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Basically, a living amends is trying to replace abusive or unhealthy behaviors with healthier unabusive ones.
Because each abuser and victim are different, a living amends isn’t necessarily going to look one certain way. Anne says the important thing is for victims to feel safe and their abuser can’t define that for them.
“What victims of abuse need to recognize is, ‘I am worth being treated well and I am going to set boundaries around this abuse.’ Your safety is your top priority, but only you can help you. Only you can decide what is safe for you or not. We get to define that for ourselves and that’s how we make our way to safety.”-Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Safety, his wife’s physical, emotional, mental, and psychological safety should always be the top priority for an abuser and a living amends should represent that.
Is It Possible For Abusers To Make Amends?
Yes, abusers can change and they can make amends.
Gus says that he couldn’t make the changes alone. Even though he had lied to himself about what he believed about God, he realized he needed Him to be able to “fight the addiction” and change.
“I’m a firm believer that I totally lost that fight, that’s why I’m an addict. I failed. I’m the guy that’s bleeding and dying on the ground, and I have to have God. I have no ability to fight it.”-Gus
Unfortunately, not all abusers want to change and Adam points out that it’s important to recognize when that is the case.
“The addict isn’t going to change unless he wants to. I really think it’s important to realize when the addict really isn’t going to change, because I’ve just seen a lot of pain and a lot of hurt because their wives keep holding out, ‘Well, maybe this time/this therapist/this different situation.’”-Adam
If this is the case, Adam says a woman should make sure she has a strong support system who can help her.
“It is important to have a foundation of people that love and support you and who can help you, who are also good at setting firm boundaries because not every addict is going to want to change. That’s just the hard truth. I would just caution victims that the best therapists and therapy and resources in the world aren’t going to save everybody.”-Adam
Anne reminds women that setting boundaries and observing behavior will tell them whether their husband is willing to change or not.
“Most of the women that listen to this podcast have some serious things going on or they’re trying to learn how to set boundaries. We don’t know what’s in store for them. What we do know is that they need to set those boundaries and wait and observe from a safe distance, to see what that man is going to choose. You’ll be able to see what their behaviors are but, if you don’t set the boundaries, then you’re not going to know exactly where they’re at.”-Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Betrayal Trauma Recovery wants all women to be able to recognize abuse and whether their husbands are willing to change or not.
One way we can help is by providing a safe place to share. Many women who attend Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group share their experiences to find out if their husband’s behavior is abusive or not. Having other women to share with and learn from, along with a trained coach, can provide safety and hope where there wasn’t any before.
With more than 15 sessions a week, it’s easier than ever to find a Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group session that fits your schedule without having to leave your home. Each session is led by a Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
We have the continuation of our conversation with some of the husbands of the women in our Betrayal Trauma Recovery community. We’re discussing their epiphanies about abuse and how they’ve been trying to change their lives.
We had an unfortunate event when we recorded. David’s mic ended up going out so, although he participated in this second section of the interview, we don’t have the audio. We’ll have to have him come on again another time.
Before we continue with that interview, so many women are wondering, “What types of abusive behaviors am I dealing with?” and, “What kind of boundaries do I need to set?” For all of you women out there, read Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft and The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans. Those are the two books that you need to read.
Getting into Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is also essential so that you can jump onto a live face-to-face session online with one of our coaches at any time. We have multiple sessions a day in multiple time zones. You can describe what abusive behaviors you are seeing or just describe the behaviors and see if they’re abusive or not. Our coaches can help you know what boundaries to set and help you get to emotional safety, psychological safety, and sexual safety.
This type of sexual coercion and emotional and psychological abuse is really hard to see, especially when you’re in it. You don’t start seeing it for what it is until you’ve set appropriate boundaries. To check out our Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group session schedule go to btr.org, click on Services and Online Support Group. There, you can see our daily schedule and sign up.
It is the least expensive professional help out there. It’s only $125 a month with over 80 sessions available each month. It’s extremely inexpensive and it’s also the best help you can get. Many therapists, clergy, other people, don’t understand this type of sexual coercion and this type of emotional and psychological abuse. Check out the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group schedule, also known as our Online Daily Support Group, which you can find on our website.
Okay, back to our conversation, and this will just be with Gus and Adam because, unfortunately, David’s mic didn’t work. If we get that audio back, maybe we’ll do another episode with just his responses and, if not, we’ll have him back on and interview him again.
Anne: As you have taken your sins, so to speak, “to the altar”—you’ve been honest, done the work, exercised faith through action, that sort of thing—was that a part of your recovery process where you thought, “Okay, I’m going to do everything possible. I’m going to do living amends and then, with hope and prayer, pray that through Christ and His grace and His mercy could make things right.” Was that a part of your progress?
Is Making Amends Part Of Recovery?
Not to say that people have to be Christian to overcome abusive behaviors or to change. They don’t, but many of our listeners are and so I wanted to kind of add that in for our Christian listeners, and for our non-Christian listeners it’s still possible to stop abusive behaviors.
Gus: I grew up with a really strong belief in God. I read my scriptures all the time. By all intents and purposes, I was a great spiritual kid. When I was trying to get sober, I began to recognize that my relationship with God was, partly, a huge lie.
Not that God was a lie, but that I was lying to myself about the things that I had been taught and the things that I learned, to the point that who I was believing in wasn’t really very capable of helping me at all. I would be the first to say, “Oh, no, I believe in Christ,” but, when it got down to it, I really didn’t believe those things. I always believed, “Well, I got to do my part first and my part was never good enough for Him to do his part.” It’s not very God-like if He can’t save me from myself.
I had to go through a reformation process. I think a lot of addicts, especially religious ones, they keep maintaining this false belief in something and they don’t look at the deep beliefs that they have in it and how they react to those beliefs, so it doesn’t quite weave together.
You hear a lot of people talk about “fighting your addiction” and “If I just do these certain things, I’ll beat this, or I’ll get over this or we’ll fight through this.” I’m a firm believer that I totally lost that fight, that’s why I’m an addict. I failed. I’m the guy that’s bleeding and dying on the ground, and I have to have God. I have no ability to fight it.
Anne: Thank you for sharing that. I believe that Christ cannot help us if we are unwilling to obey the commandments. I mean He can always help us, but we need to obey the commandments, period. Honesty and truthfulness, and things like that, and starting to take a step towards obedience is what will help Christ actually activate His grace in our lives.
For people who are unable to tell the truth in the moment, praying to be able to tell the truth, or praying for an opportunity to tell the truth, or just starting to try to make progress toward that, I think, is at least a first step. You can’t take that step if you don’t know what the truth is yourself.
It’s so complex for addicts, I think, because, in the beginning or when you’re active in your addiction, reality and your perceptions of reality are so skewed that it’s difficult to even know where to start. I appreciate what you had said.
Recognizing Subtle Forms Of Abuse Is Part Of Making Amends
Many women in our community are being gaslit, currently, their husbands are gaslighting them. We had a recovering addict on a while ago, who gave some examples that were really subtle ways that he gaslit his wife. We had tons of women write back and say, “We want more examples of that.”
If you guys are willing, can you tell us some subtle ways that you lied or tried to make your wife feel like she was crazy, back in the day when you were using abusive behaviors? Can you tell us some examples that you would use, to help women recognize this type of gaslighting?
Gus: I can write books on this. I was thinking of this earlier, when you were talking about abuse because it is abuse. Making someone doubt themselves, that’s probably the most abusive thing that you can do. Getting someone to question themselves and getting someone to question their belief in God, it’s probably the worst thing you could ever do, all those subtle things. Some of them, the questions, in and of themselves, can be good but it’s how we use them.
For instance, wanting your wife’s definition of something. I can ask her, “What do you mean by this?” and I could really be wanting to know. Then, there are other times where, if I’m gaslighting, I would ask, “What do you mean when you talk about this, what do you mean? When you say “a slip,” how do you perceive that slip to be?”
Kind of just asking as if I’m this curious person that’s really wanting to know, but I’m really leading her away from her true feelings of “something is wrong.” Like, “What do you mean by that? Oh, that’s weird. That’s interesting. I don’t know why you’d feel that way.”
Anne: Yeah, it’s also a subtle form of control, a little bit, letting her think that it’s all her.
Gus: Then there are the definitions, “Well, you said have I looked up anything. I didn’t purposefully go searching for anything online. I came across something on accident,” but since she didn’t ask me if I saw anything, she just asked if I looked up something.
That’s completely different, so I don’t have to talk about anything I might have accidentally found. The misleading, asking questions that don’t really pertain to anything that’s she’s asking me. Instilling any kind of confusion that I can because I’m terrified, like, “Oh no, she’s found out.”
Anne: Again, in that moment, it’s abuse. You’re not thinking, “I’m hurting her.” The only person that you’re thinking of, in those instances, is yourself and “how do I avoid getting caught?” and not recognizing it.
Okay, Adam, what about you? Can you give us maybe one specific example of gaslighting that you used?
Adam: Lying, for sure. That’s the big one. I think, that would be a struggle. I wouldn’t say that anything in addiction you can just stop. Anyone can just stop. I think there are people that can just stop certain things, but I think, for me, just trying to control the outcome, the consequences, my environment, that is still one that I would say I struggle with the most.
Part of what helps me work towards this road to recovery is the fact that my wife has educated herself and she’s not going to put up with it. If I don’t recognize it myself, she does. I feel like I’ve gotten myself to a place where, if I don’t recognize it and she points it out to me, I feel like I’m pretty good at putting the brakes on and saying, “You’re right, I see it now.” That’s been super helpful.
Anne: When you guys read The Verbally Abusive Relationship, there’s this element of “I feel good when I have power over” rather than this mutual, “We’re on the same plane” kind of thing. I really appreciate you sharing that.
Continuous Change Is Making Amends
As all of you are working toward living a healthier life and improving your relationship with your wife, you’re all currently married and living in the same homes, so you’re not separated. For all intents and purposes, things are going well for all of you at this point, right. In what ways do you continue to struggle with abusive tendencies and how are you working continually to change?
Let’s talk about that for a bit. Have you made a decision like, “I’m never going to do this thing again,” or whatever, and then you find it cropping up quite a bit or issues like that where you thought were a lot easier and they are seeming to be harder than you imagined? Let’s start with Gus.
Gus: I’ve learned, by now, to never say “I’m never going to do that again” because that’s the number one indicator that I will do it again. This issue comes up the most with how I am with my children. “Just no, I’m supposed to be the father figure. You’re supposed to listen to me, even when I really haven’t done anything to deserve you listening to me.”
This is probably one of the bigger issues for me, in my life. It keeps cropping back. This is heading towards disaster, take some steps back and try and move forward. It could be anything as simple as, “Hey, stop shouting.” Not being nice about it and just be like, “No, you’re supposed to do what I say. I don’t have to tell you why, just stop.”
That is probably the number one thing that I can’t forget about. I can’t let it go, I have to remind myself, not just on a daily basis, but hour by hour, that it’s controlling, it’s abusive. Especially with my wife, there were so many times where I would be mean to the kids and I didn’t want my wife to know and I’d try and cover it up. There’s always that fear of, “Oh no, I messed up again. What’s going to happen? Don’t say anything.”
Anne: How many kids do you have Gus?
Gus: We have four.
Anne: Adam, what about you?
Adam: The first thing that came to my mind was owning my own stuff. That has been such a big part in our relationship and my recovery. My recovery journey is just acknowledging what it is that I need to work on, and not trying to place blame on my wife, on “I was abused as a child” or anything else. I had to own my own actions.
When my wife was able to see that and trust that that’s something that I am capable of and willing to do, that bridged one of many gaps that I’d created, I feel like. Just being able to give up a lot of the power that I’d assumed in this relationship and in my addiction through abuse, gaslighting, manipulating, being able to give that back to my wife and say, “I will do whatever you ask me to do.”
My wife’s pretty empowered, and she’s done a lot of that on her own, knowing that I will also give her that peace of mind that—for instance, early on in this journey towards recovery, we went and bought a pop-up trailer, specifically so I could move out of the house. It was a backup plan. If I was not working my recovery or acted out or lied or whatever, she’d kick me out into the pop-up trailer in the middle of the winter. I went. I didn’t fight. She knows that if she asks me to leave, she knows that, if she asks me to do something, then I will do it.
That’s part of me owning the fact that I gave up my right to say, “Well, that’s just unfair,” or, “Do you realize how this hurts me?” I can’t do that anymore. If I want to make amends for the crap that I put my wife through, I have to be willing to drudge through the trenches.
Even though it’s been years, as far as masturbation, and it’s been years since extramarital affairs, I still know that, if she asks me to do something, I will do it. She knows that if she asks me to do something, I’ll do it. She’s asked me to do multiple polygraphs and I do it. They’re not cheap.
To me, it’s big things and it’s little things, and it’s just everyday things. It’s my job to make amends. It’s not, “I’m going to take 10 steps and you have to take one,” it’s, “You know, I’m going to take 10 steps and I’m just ecstatic to see that you haven’t taken 10 steps back.” That’s how I see it, and that’s the role that amends has taken in my life and in my recovery.
Anne: Before we go to David, I want to put this in perspective. All of us are working on things, whether we’re an addict or not. If I’m an addict of anything it is television. I love watching TV and movies, but I also have these struggles with my children.
When we’re talking abusive behaviors, have I yelled at my children before? Yes. Was it abusive? Did I call them names? No. Did I hit them? No. Did I do this or that? No, but is there a healthier way to deal with it?
That might be where we all need to go: Is it abuse or not? Is yelling at my kid to brush their teeth abuse? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s say it’s not, but is it healthy? No, so how can we move toward healthier behaviors because none of us want to go to jail for one mistake that we make, like yelling at my kid to brush their teeth or whatever.
That’s another reason I think that people are so worried about using the word “abuse” because it carries such heavy consequences. Gus has so honestly talked about his kids and the abuse situation there. If we called DCFS or Child Protective Services and they came over and Gus might say, “Well, I yelled at them and I grabbed their arm and I spanked them or something,” I’m not trying to discount or minimize any abuse that happened with Gus and his children.
At the same time, let’s say it’s nothing that DCSF or Child Protective Services would take into account, and they’re like, “Okay, well that’s not actionable.” Does that mean that it’s healthy? No, so we’re all working toward being more healthy people.
What victims of abuse need to recognize is, “I am worth being treated well and I am going to set boundaries around this abuse.” Children are unable to do that, we’re trying to teach them how to do that, but as this podcast is female women, adult victims of abuse what I want to say to you, my listeners, is it’s up to you to decide what you want to set boundaries around.
Your safety is your top priority, but only you can help you. Only you can decide what is safe for you or not. We’re not going to let either Child Protective Services or Adult Protective Services or our husbands define that for us. We get to define that for ourselves and that’s how we make our way to safety.
I just wanted to point that out, and also to point out that, with me, there are things that I’m trying to improve in my life too, just like you guys. In some ways, we’re all very similar. If I do something with a friend and she’s like, “Wow, Anne was just a huge jerk to me. I want to set a boundary with Anne.” That is her right to do and we all have that obligation to set boundaries when we feel unsafe.
An Abuser Makes A “Living Amends” Because He Can’t Actually “Fix” The Damage
That being said, are there some abusive tendencies or thought patterns or things with you that have been surprising to you, things that you thought would, maybe, be easy to stop and they’ve been more difficult than you thought?
Gus: That’s kind of hard. To me, when I think of making amends and stuff, I think of, “Basically, I have to put forth my life to try and fix something that I really can’t fix.” I’m not saying that’s bad. I think that’s what should be done. I am unable to understand it, unless I am going through the process of healing myself. I have to go to therapy and stuff to start understanding, “Oh, okay, this is how things should be. This is the process that we go through. I can’t love someone else more than I love myself.”
I’m not talking about selfishness. I’m talking about genuine love and acceptance because I won’t be able to understand it. A lot of the things I do: I go to therapy, I try and get as much information as I can about how to do things better, like reading books on parenting, on addiction, on abuse. Ultimately, I try and listen to what she has to say and accept it, and not try and reject it and be like, “No, you’re not putting that in the right way or anything like that.”
I think that’s been the biggest help, for my wife, is me finding help for myself and being able to put that into practice because, for the most part—I don’t know about all addicts, but for the majority of addicts that I’ve met, they come from a place where they really want good things. They really want to be that great, amazing husband. They want to be that great, amazing father. They want love and connection.
I’m not saying this to be like, “Oh, we should take it easy on addicts,” because I don’t think we should or anything like that. I’m just saying deep inside they are wanting to do these things. They’re wanting love and attention. It’s been so twisted throughout childhood and life that they’re addicts now. When we work on ourselves, we open up the way to give out and receive all those things that we’ve always wanted and just didn’t know how.
Anne: Speaking of that “living amends” idea, like, “If she accuses me of something that I have done in the past a lot, I could perhaps let that go in this moment.” Surrender, basically, is what you’re talking about, “I’m going to surrender to this moment.” That is part of the living amends.
A lot of men will be like, “Well, what about my needs? I have all of these needs.” Really good therapists will say, “You need to put your needs on the backburner for a long time. Your concerns, right now, should only be for your victim and how you can help her and make her life better, for a really long time.” That’s also called “living amends.”
How Can An Abuser Make Amends With His Wife?
Let’s talk about that for a little bit. What are some ways that you have made amends or continue to make amends with your wife?
Gus: I would say this, from one of the manuals I’ve read, it’s probably one of the truest things I believe in. “The addict will not change until the pain of the problem becomes worse than the pain of the solution.” I can’t say this for all addicts or anything but, for me, my wife tried being nice.
She tried being like, “Oh, maybe he just needs to feel more loved, or maybe he needs more sex or maybe this or maybe this will help him.” It didn’t help. She tried being angrier and that didn’t help. It was the moment when she came to a decision that, “I’m going to move on with my life and you can either change or you can go away,” and she kicked me out.
The pain of recognizing that, “I’m alone, and I will always end up alone and in despair. I don’t want to live this way anymore.” It was that pain that opened up a way to “I want to do something different. At least just try something different because where I’m at right now, I don’t want to feel this way,” where we are so afraid of that pain, but that’s the only thing that will bring us back.
Adam: A lot of the addicts will say, “You know, I’m being punished. This is punishment.” I’ve been part of groups where there are men and women involved, there are husbands and wives involved. I’ve seen that, where the addict is saying, I’m just being punished. People are just telling my wife to punish me by doing this and this.” But firm boundaries, sticking to firm boundaries, not just firm, but hard real safety-building boundaries is an act of mercy towards me—towards an addict.
It was something my wife did for me, and it hurt. It was uncomfortable. I was upset. I pouted. I threw temper tantrums. But it wasn’t punishment. Truly, it was consequences on my part, but it was also me not really having boundaries, and then expecting help. Now, I learn what they are and live amends.
Find Safety If An Abuser Doesn’t Make Amends, Because He Isn’t Changing
In regard to these questions you’ve been asking, one of the things that have just been on my mind the most is that the addict isn’t going to change unless he wants to. I know it might be hard for some people to think, “Well, if he reads this book, or if he does this or goes to this therapy then it’s going to work.”
I’ve seen many men read Why Does He Do That? and he turns those stories and those definitions and says, “You do the same thing, you’re abusive.” I’ve seen many men read the book Why Does He Do That? and the definitions that are in there on the different types of abuse and they turn that around, they turn it against their wives and say, “See, you’ve done this,” or, “You do this, so you’re abusive.” Of course, that’s a way for them to gaslight, to get them out of a little bit of heat and, maybe, turn the tables a little bit.
I really think it’s important to realize when the addict really isn’t going to change, because I’ve just seen a lot of pain and a lot of hurt because their wives keep holding out, “Well, maybe this time/maybe this therapist/maybe this different situation.”
It is important to have a foundation of people that love and support you and who can help you, who are also good at setting firm boundaries because not every addict is going to want to change. That’s just the hard truth. Gus and David, they both wanted to change and that’s why they’ve made the progress that they’ve made. I wanted to change, and I’ve made progress.
I would just caution the victims that the best therapists and therapy and resources in the world aren’t going to save everybody. But, also, most of us do want to get better, most of us do want to change and will do what it takes. That’s really something that’s been weighing on my mind when you asked these questions.
Anne: I could not agree with you more. My ex is still so abusive. Still lies, manipulates, gaslights, blames me, the whole deal. He’s the type that would read Why Does He Do That? and decide that I was the abuser.
He’s actually becoming a therapist, to the extent of my knowledge because I hold a no-contact boundary. I know that he is going to school for something about relationships and that particular school does have an MFT program, so in my little tiny sleuthing that I did, which I don’t do much because I have no contact with him, I think he’s becoming a therapist.
I don’t know if I would even say most do. I don’t know, we haven’t interviewed many. I would say most of the women that listen to this podcast have some serious things going on or they are trying to learn how to set boundaries. We don’t know yet what is in store for them. What we do know is that they need to set those boundaries and wait from a safe distance, to observe from a safe distance, to see what that man is going to choose.
That safe distance may require a no-contact boundary. It may require separation. I don’t know what it’s going to require, but you will be able to see what their behaviors are, as you set those boundaries. If you don’t set the boundaries you’re not going to know exactly where they’re at. Those boundaries, like Gus and Adam have already said, are essential for you to know “How safe am I?”
It’s also essential for him to realize, “Okay, this is what’s acceptable and this isn’t acceptable.” If you don’t set boundaries, they’re just going to keep doing what they’ve been doing before. Those boundaries are really, really key and the most compassionate thing that you can do.
I really appreciate you coming on today to talk. I know their wives, but I don’t know them personally. I just want to put a disclaimer out there that they may or may not be the model of recovery. I’m so grateful that you came on to share and thank you for spending some time with us.
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Until next week, stay safe out there.