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Is Marriage Meant To Be This Hard?

by | Abuse Literacy

Is Marriage Meant To Be This Hard?

Is crying yourself to sleep normal?

Is everyone else getting the cold shoulder unless they apologize for an argument they didn’t start?

Do other women have to submit sexually, no matter how much they don’t want to, to keep their husbands happy and faithful?

On the BTR.ORG podcast, Anne asks Elizabeth, who has been in an abusive marriage and is now in a healthy marriage, to answer the question many of us spend hours pondering and researching: is marriage meant to be this hard?

Tune in to the BTR.ORG podcast and read the full transcript below for more.

“Marriage Is Hard” Enables Abuse

The old “Marriage is hard” trope enables abusers. When clergy, family, therapists, and others tell women who are struggling to survive an abuse situation that all marriages are difficult, all men demand sex, and all women are enduring some level of misery, victims may feel that they aren’t justified to seek safety.

The truth? Healthy marriages are a safe space from the pain, fatigue, and trauma of life. Healthy marriages do not cause pain, fatigue, and trauma.

“When you said marriage doesn’t have to be hard work, you were speaking from experience, right? Because your current marriage doesn’t feel like hard work.”

Anne Blythe, Founder of BTR.ORG

So What’s “Normal”?

Many women in the BTR.ORG community fear that their experiences with abuse have altered their perception of “normal” and “healthy”, making it so that they won’t be able to recognize a healthy relationship and will be attracted to abuse.

None of this was your fault. We’re never so broken that we deserve to be abused.

Anne Blythe, Founder of BTR.ORG

This list may help you if you are having trouble identifying abusive behaviors in your relationships:

  • Gaslighting is abuse
  • Yelling is abuse
  • Punching walls, hitting objects, and slamming doors is abuse
  • Hurting or threatening pets is abuse
  • Coercing you into sex is abuse
  • Having sex with you when you’re sleeping, using painkillers, or feeling sick is abuse
  • Giving you an STD is abuse
  • Humiliating you is abuse
  • Having sex with you without your informed consent (including about his pornography use or other sexual behaviors) is abuse
  • Shaming you, using scriptures, Conference talks, or other religious materials is abuse
  • Lying to other people about you is abuse

This list is not exhaustive, but may help you to identify covert abuse in your relatinship.

Are You In An Abusive Marriage?

At BTR.ORG, we know the feeling of the floor falling under your feet when it slowly dawns on you that you are in an abusive marriage.

We know that the first instinct women usually experience is a desire to point it out to the abuser, and try to elicit him to change.

We also know that this doesn’t work and puts the victim in more danger – emotionally, sexually, and physically.

We are here for you. The BTR.ORG Group Sessions were specifically created for women who need a safe space to process trauma, ask questions, and find a community of women in situations similar to theirs. Join us today. You are not alone.

Find the BTR.ORG Playlist Here:

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Full Transcript

Anne (00:00):
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne.
Elizabeth and I are finishing our conversation, but I do have some announcements. I want to talk about the playlist that I created and how you can get ahold of it. I’m going to do that and just share some of my own feelings before we get to the end of Elizabeth’s interview. If you have not heard the beginning of Elizabeth’s interview, go back two weeks, start there and then join us here.


I created a playlist with the help of Virginia and some other people on the BTR team about healing with songs that have helped us heal. I’m kind of a little bit embarrassed, because I don’t know if all of you really like dance music. I tend to gravitate more toward like the sort of techno version of things and I like dancing and I like walking and I like moving. I really love exercise. So this might not speak to you, but it might. There’s a couple songs on here that I just think are amazing. One of them is by Taylor Swift called Mad Woman. I’m gonna share some of the lyrics. So before I go on to find this playlist, join our email list or our newsletter, you can go to our website, scroll to the bottom and put your email in there. You’ll be receiving a link to this playlist eventually.

The BTR.ORG Playlist


It’s not the first email that goes out, but just kind of keep an eye out for it. So I wanted to take you through why I chose some of these things and kind of the order of them. It starts off with us, maybe trying to be that person. We’re trying to be the person that he wants us to be. We’re trying to be that person that society wants us to be. And then it kind of moves into like, are we even loved? Does God love us? Then it moves into this realization that he is abusive and then the anger stage and then near the end of the playlist there are songs that are sort of accepting the situation. So that’s kind of the general feeling of the playlist. It is a long playlist. There are like 40 hours of music maybe. And so just take what you like and get rid of the rest.

Songs on the BTR.ORG Playlist


Only hold onto the songs that you enjoy. And please don’t be offended because I interpret some of these songs probably differently than you do. But I wanna talk about some of them, specifically at the very top of the playlist is a song called Mad Woman by Taylor swift. The chorus goes, “Every time you call me crazy, I get more crazy. What about that? And when you say I seem angry, I get more angry. There’s nothing like a mad woman. What a shame. She went mad, no one likes a mad woman. You made her like that. And you poke that bear till her claws come out and you’ll find something to wrap your noose around.” Basically he’s trying to make, make her seem crazy so that then people can say, yeah, there she is crazy. See that one’s really good. “Rescue” by Lauren Daigle is really good when you’re feeling super sad and you feel like you’re all alone.


And if you’re a person of faith that like, no one’s coming for you. If you’re not a person of faith, if you’re agnostic or something, I want you to imagine that the universe or karma or something is coming. Lauren Daigle’s song “Come Alive” is the same. Lady Gaga’s song is called “A Million Reasons.” And this one is fascinating because this one is like why we stayed so long. It’s like, I have a million reasons to leave or set boundaries, but then you give me one good reason. And in this case it’s grooming. So you can kind of see it both ways like, oh, there’s one good reason to stay. That one’s something to really think about. An awesome cover of “With or Without You”, which I think is how we all have felt at one point, right? You can’t live with them, but you also can’t live without them.

Music Can Help You Process Trauma


A song by Milck called “Quiet” really speaks to me where she’s just like, “I can’t stay quiet anymore.” And I’m not sure if you’ve seen the Netflix show Moxy, but if you have not go watch Moxy like right now on Netflix, it is excellent talking about misogyny. I included some of the Encanto songs – “Waiting on a Miracle” and “Surface Pressure”. “Waiting on a Miracle” specifically speaks to me because isn’t that what we’ve all been waiting for, right? We’re praying, we’re waiting. We’re hoping the lyrics at the end of that song could say, I’m ready. Come on. I’m ready. I’ve been patient and steadfast and steady. Bless me now, as you blessed us all those years ago, when you gave us a miracle, am I too late for a miracle? I included the song “Sister Suffragette” from Mary Poppins to a “Let It Go” remix.


So I listened to this song on repeat right after my ex was arrested and just trying to let it go. And it really helped me. It would be better if it was sang by a woman, obviously. And so think about that as you’re listening to this playlist; if it’s triggery for you to hear a man, sing it, then maybe skip it over. You don’t wanna get triggered, but it may be helpful. Skipping down to the song, “Say Something.” I put that Pentatonix version on here. It really speaks to me because after my ex’s arrest, I, I heard nothing. Like he didn’t try to get into the house. He didn’t try to resolve, you know, anything. He didn’t try to apologize. Thank goodness he did not groom because I would’ve fallen for it. For sure. I did not want to get divorced back then. So I felt like, say something, do something don’t you wan to save your family?

Using Music on Your Healing Journey


We have Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and Dido’s “See You When You’re 40” is really good as well. My favorite section is when she says, “So see you when you’re 40, lost and all alone, being comforted by strangers. You’ll never need to know, not sad because you lost me, but sad because you thought it was cool to be sad. You think misery will make you stand apart from the crowd. Well, if you had walked past me today, I wouldn’t have picked you out.


“Castles”, The Sam Feldt remix by Freya Ridings is just about how after a breakup, she is going to build castles out of the rubble of what happened – really good for motivating you. “Breadwinner” by Kacey Musgraves always helps me feel like I did the right thing in moving forward. “Actually Happy” by Blue Eyes. It’s a way to describe maybe how you’re feeling happy in a situation that maybe you shouldn’t be feeling happy. This is toward the end of the playlist, where the songs turn more to like creating the life that you want. There’s “Show Yourself” from Frozen. I put “Short Skirt, Long Jacket” in by Cake. I love this song. Number one. But I also just love how it’s describing her. He’s got a crush on her and she is just hardcore. She’s changing her name from Kitty to Karen. Like she wants to be a Karen.

Choose Music That Empowers You


She wants to be able to like, say, Hey, this is what’s going on. This is what needs to happen. She’s not misogynistic in trying to like, oh, you don’t want me to make plans and you don’t want me to be detail oriented. You know, like I am changing my name from Kitty to Karen. Trading in her sports car for a very practical car. I love the idea of how he really likes her. She is no nonsense. If you’re thinking, if I’m no nonsense, you know, no one will ever love me or appreciate me. Listen to that song. It’ll help you. “Me Too” is super fun by Megan Trainer. It says, “If I were, you I’d wanna be me too. I’d wanna be me too.” And I don’t think she’s saying if I were, you I’d wanna be Megan Trainer.


I think she’s saying if I were, you I’d wanna be myself. All of us should wanna be ourselves. I put some kind of old school stuff in there, like “Bad Reputation” and “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill, which is in the movie Moxy at the end. There’s a song from Encanto called “All of You”. There’s a section that always makes me wanna cry. I’m not sure if you’ve seen Encanto, but at the end, a bunch of people come to help them. So all the people are coming and they say, “Lay down your load, lay down your load. We are only down the road. We have no gifts, but we are many. And we’ll do anything for you.” That part of that song just always hits home. It still makes me cry and tear up because there are people out there who want to help you.

Movement Can Help You Process Trauma


You will be able to lay down your load. They are only down the road and they might not have much to give, but they are many. And they’ll do anything for you. I know you might not know who they are right now, but there are people who love you and care about you. “Better Boat” by Kenny Chesney. And “When I Get Where I’m Going” by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton. I have found music to be so, so, so healing. Moving has been really helpful to me, just listening to music and just moving my body, getting out, going for walks, trying to move that trauma out through different means than just speaking, but actually stretching and shaking. And there’s another song it’s also by Kesha. It’s called “Raising Hell” and it’s super good. It’s just about wanting to do the right thing, but maybe in a way that people don’t approve of.


And we know that setting boundaries and trying to get to safety is not something that a lot of people approve of as we’re making our way to safety. And another one that is called the “Best is Yet to Come” by Shepherd. I had a really cool moment with my son. I was playing a song and it’s had this misogynistic theme to it, but I was really liking it. And I said, “You gotta hear this song. It’s so good.” And he said, “Mom, this song is terrible. It is objectifying women. It is treating women like objects. Why are you listening to it?” And I said, “No, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about this other thing.” And he said, “Mom, it’s a metaphor. It’s a metaphor. It might be about that other thing. But the thing it’s trying to teach is misogyny. Mom, this is not okay.”

Choose Music That Makes You Feel Good


And it’s not acceptable. I’m so proud of my son. I’m proud of men who are recognizing this kind of thing. And I’m grateful that he is able to recognize it and call me out on it. There are so many songs like that that have objectified women throughout the ages. The only thing he is talking about is how beautiful she is, right? Or how in love he is, but not really about her traits. That’s another reason I added that short skirt, long jacket song by cake. I am 44 years old. I am not a teenager. So if you’re like, why is she in all these teeny bopper songs? I love pop music. Please forgive me if you think that that’s lame. If there is a song that has helped you, please comment below and let us know.


If a song does not help you, you could also comment there and say, “Hey, I’m glad Anne found this song helpful. However, I do not find it helpful because of this, this and this.” And maybe you can point out some things about it that aren’t great. Maybe people would like to hear some commentary. It would be fun to have some comments going back and forth. So again, if you’re interested in getting this playlist, join our email list below. If enough people click the link to our playlist and listen to it, they may make it public. Right now it’s not public. You have to get it with a link, but hopefully eventually it will be public. And if people search for the words “betrayal trauma” or “infidelity,” this list will come up.

Help Women Find BTR.ORG


They won’t only find the playlist, which was really helpful for me. And it could be helpful for other people or it could be triggery. So, you know, it could go either way, but, um, that they’ll not only find the playlist, but they’ll also find this podcast and find us. Thank you so much for all of your support through the years, I’ve recognized lately how happy I am and how different I feel than I have felt in the past. And I’m grateful to be in this space. I’m so grateful to be feeling like, wow, my life turned out amazing. And I’m so thankful for all that I went through. I’m grateful now for my job and my kids and all the things I get to do. I never would’ve had that opportunity had I not been married to an abuser, been through that experience, but also the experience of post separation or post divorce abuse in sharing children with that same abuser and that continuing and not being able to get away, I’m still in close proximity. And my viewpoint has changed. So many things have changed. There is light at the end of the tunnel with support and with continual steps forward with boundaries, you can get there.

And one day you might like, I did look out and be like, wow, color. The sky is blue and the trees are green. And I didn’t realize that I was living in this muted world before. If that’s triggering you, if you feel like I’m not there, I’m not there, and it’s never gonna be like that, one thing you might wanna consider doing is listening to this podcast from the beginning. Listening to it in chronological order will help you hear my change and my healing in real time, it’s been six or seven years for me. And that is a long time and you can actually hear it. And it might be helpful to you.

Continuing Elizabeth’s Story


I appreciate you being patient with that for women who are new or women who only listen to one episode, you’re amazing. I’m so, so honored to be able to, to spend this time with you, to continue to be able to interview you and listen to your stories and think back about when I felt that pain and also so grateful not to feel it anymore. It’s it’s a miracle and that miracle is waiting for you too. Speaking of being so grateful to be able to interview you, we are now going to continue with Elizabeth’s interview where she’s talking about having family members really not understand the situation that she’s in.

Elizabeth (18:16):
Unfortunately, his family was still very angry at me. I had deleted him off my Facebook or something like that, but I hadn’t been able to bring myself to get rid of all of his friends and family yet. And there was one post I made that said something, I can’t remember exactly, but they found it offensive and they called me out. His aunt said something about how I was driving around and my car, which had a purple heart license plate on it that he had made me put on. Because as I said earlier, that was very much his identity and that I was just trying to like get credit or something or look good because I hadn’t changed my license plate yet.

Anne (19:02):
That you wanted people to think that you were the purple heart? That’s hilarious. And probably also, sorry to put words in her mouth, that you were using him all along.

Elizabeth (19:15):
Or something like that.

Anne (19:17):
Yeah.

Elizabeth (19:20):
Yes. Yeah. Something like that,

Narcissistic Abuser’s Projection

Anne (19:22):
Which by the way is exactly what he was doing. So that was just projection. Yes. Whatever comes out of his mouth and he accuses you of doing is what he was actually doing.

Elizabeth (19:32):
Right. And I know for a fact that she did not come up with that on her own. No, she doesn’t even live in town. So she would’ve had no way of knowing what license plate I had on my car.

Anne (19:42):
That’s straight out of his mouth for sure.

Elizabeth (19:44):
Exactly. Yeah.

Anne (19:45):
Yeah. And other women get accused of being gold diggers or just wanting the image or, like, I’m an attorney. And so she just wanted to be married to an attorney.

Elizabeth (19:55):
Yes, exactly. I tried to move on. The divorce was finalized. I started with finding myself, picking up the pieces and just realizing how much my childhood had contributed to what had happened. And honestly it almost started to begin to feel inevitable. Here I was having grown up with such a traumatic experience and dysfunction never having dealt with it, you know, never going through that with counseling or having people say, it should have been like this. I was bound and destined to repeat that sort of situation.

Anne (20:30):
You’re thinking this to yourself.

Elizabeth (20:32):
Yeah.

Are Childhood Abuse Victims Destined To Marry Abusers?

Anne (20:33):
Okay. I don’t think this is true, by the way, people tell this to survivors all the time and it’s just luck of the draw, by the way, I think, sometimes who people marry.

Elizabeth (20:44):
I do think so. I do think so. I think in my case that I was attracted to that behavior because it was familiar to me.

Anne (20:53):
Familiar to you. Yes. The victim blaming part of that. Cause some women might be “attracted” to that behavior, but then their husband ends up being amazing, you know?

Elizabeth (21:01):
Absolutely.

Anne (21:02):
So I just wanna say to like, at least just for my own, maybe you don’t agree with me, but I’m like, none of this was your fault. We’re never so broken that we still deserve to be abused. But anyway, okay. So you’re here at this point in your life where you’re thinking this is an inevitable due to your injuries.

Elizabeth (21:20):
Yeah. And that’s still something that I’m working through. I think maybe part of that, that sort of thinking is maybe evidence that, you know, I still have a lot of healing work to do and then that’s definitely true, but it’s really hard to think about so many things being outside of your control.

Anne (21:36):
Yeah.

Stepping Into Post-Traumatic Growth

Elizabeth (21:37):
You know, you wanna think through your life, you’re making these conscious good decisions, you know, and they’re not because of patterns from your past. But I think in my case, I was very much going down this stream and not really being aware of my own agency, my own sense of self and my own ability to shape my own world. So I am definitely still healing. I’m trying to do better about owning my story. Thank you for giving me the chance to do that. There’s like I said, not very many people who know this about me and there’s a lot of themes that I’m trying to deal with around shame and rejection and abandonment that are really painful. And at the same time, and I think this is probably my personality, but I can see like the gifts that have been given to me because of my experiences and not to say that they were good, but they’ve shaped my understanding of other people really well and shaped my ability to deal with grief and to deal with hard situations and to sit with people and you know, in, in grief and hard situations and just be with them.

Do Healthy Marriages Feel Hard?


And I’m grateful for that. Now I’m remarried to a really wonderful person. He is very steady. He’s very respectful. He’s extremely smart. And he really loves me and he really values who I am. And that is something to get used to. I’ve had to get used to that because I, you know, I still have tendencies to want to earn his love. Those two things don’t work together, earning and love. They don’t work together. And I think that’s something I’m gonna be working through for the rest of my life. But you know, I’m definitely on that path.

Anne (23:24):
When you said marriage doesn’t have to be hard work, you were speaking from experience, right? Because your current marriage doesn’t feel like hard work.

Elizabeth (23:32):
No it doesn’t. And maybe that’s a testament to how hard I worked before. So this seems really, you know, easy in comparison. It is an honor to serve him because he is like, that’s just what I wanna do. And it’s easy for me to think about things from his perspective because I spent so much time trying to understand, you know, my former husband and his way of thinking. And I’m also really cautious about making accusations or, you know, I’m extremely self self-aware about how things are affecting me. And so I always think about things through that lens instead of just reacting, not to say that we don’t, you know, have scuffles and, and things that we work through. But comparatively it’s a breeze.

“If There Was Anything I Could Pour Into Our Listeners, It Would Be Hope”

Anne (24:18):
If there was anything I could just like pour into our listeners, it would be hope – hope that you can have a peaceful life, hope that you can heal and faith that any action that you take towards safety will fruit something. Cause I think so many victims think, well, I could try, but it wouldn’t do any good. And sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you try to have that conversation. And it doesn’t do any good. Another thing I I’ve been thinking about lately is there’s a scripture that says, “God does not give his children a rock when they ask for a fish.” He gives them a fish and I think abuse victims always think I’m just getting rocks. I’m praying and I’m getting rocks and God’s never gonna give me a fish. And I think the reason that happens is they don’t realize that there is an abuser in between them and God’s blessings,
who’s literally swatting the blessings away. The fish are coming our way, but he is there like, nope, nope, nope. You can’t get ’em. You can’t feel God’s love. You can’t feel people’s appreciation. You are gonna feel isolated and they’re swatting it away. And so God really does wanna give us the fish. We can’t get the fish cause we have an actual, like evil or wicked block in our life, keeping it away to have faith that every step you take towards safety will fruit something. Yes. God does wanna give you a fish. And I’m so thankful and grateful that you found a relationship where you feel loved and you’re starting to feel God’s blessings.

Elizabeth (25:51):
It’s amazing.

Abusers Block Victims From Feeling Peace

Anne (25:51):
Yeah. You’re starting to feel the fruits of your own righteousness, where even if you’re really submersed in church culture, even if you’re really submersed in scripture, even if you’re doing your best to be righteous, you cannot feel the fruits of your own righteousness when you’re married to a wicked man.

Elizabeth (26:10):
Yes. And coming to terms with the idea of that wickedness, that’s been so close to you all this time and affected you so deeply is really hard. And there’s a lot of grief there because you thought he was something and he is actually something else. And it’s like, you know, the ground is disappearing out from under your feet and you have to learn how to stand up again and realize that that’s okay, like that those experiences are what they are, but there’s also solid ground out there

Anne (26:37):
Processing our stories is, is part of that. As you’ve shared your story, the one thing I’m hearing is strength and an awesome sense of responsibility for yourself in your own life. That’s one thing that I just find awe inspiring about survivors is that even though we are victims of other people’s absolute atrocious behavior, we have still maintained this sense of responsibility for ourselves and our lives. And that is what helps us get to safety. And that is what will help us live a life of peace. And I think it’s remarkable that almost across the board, all victims maintain this sense of responsibility, even when acknowledging that they were a victim. And I think that’s really cool. And I hear that in your voice and I hear this strength and, and this humility that you acknowledge your injuries and are working to heal them from a place of humility. And that is just so inspiring as well. So thank you so much for sharing today.

If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week stay safe out there.

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6 Comments

  1. Aleah

    I think you’d like the song treat you better by Rufus du sol. Thanks for making that playlist and for all that you do

    Reply
  2. Heather

    The song “It’s Time To Go” by Taylor Swift really helped me. Thank you so much for making the playlist! And the episodes with Elizabeth are so affirming and represent my experience with incredible accuracy.

    Reply
  3. Felicia

    Hello BTR team,

    How can I get the songs playlist link please with an email? Thank you!

    Kind regards, Felicia

    Reply
    • Anne

      At the bottom of each page on btr.org there is a place to put in your email to join our community:). That’s where you enter your email and you’ll received an email with the playlist! It’s not the first email, so keep an eye out for it in a week or so:). Hugs!

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    How’s It Going To Be by Third Eye Blind has been helpful to me in the months leading up to a planned separation & divorce after 22 years. You know it’s one of those hurts so good kind of songs, because while it’s scary & hard, I am so ready to be free and have this trauma be my past rather than my life.

    Reply
  5. M.R.

    I literally had goosebumps as you mentioned songs that have been hitting home for me!

    Lady Gaga has been on repeat for me. A Million Reasons has been hitting home since it came out. He keeps giving me a reason to stay.
    A few other Gaga songs that touch me are FUN TONIGHT (ya I can see it in your face, you don’t think I pull my weight, maybe it’s time for us to say goodbye…I’m not having fun tonight), DIAMOND HEART (I might not be flawless but I know I have a diamond heart), Perfect Illusion (it wasn’t love, it was a perfect illusion mistaken for love, it was a perfect illusion. You were a perfect illusion)

    I’ve recently been sucked back in for the second time but he’s quickly showed he hasn’t changed. I’ve set boundaries this time. He agreed to therapy (yet a month later hasn’t set anything up) and I told him we will try therapy and if we still see it doesn’t work then we have the tools to coparent effectively.

    Reply

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