Grooming Is A Universal Tool of Abusers
The word “grooming” carries the stigma of child molesters and sex-trafficking rings; it can be difficult for women to assign such an unsavory word to their partner’s behaviors.
While it is absolutely important to understanding grooming in the context of child abuse and the sex-slave trade in order to protect women and children, it is equally important to understand grooming in the context of relational and emotional abuse.
What Is Grooming?
No matter what kind of abuse, or who the abuser is, grooming occurs when an abuser creates a false sense of safety for his victim.
“Anything that someone does to make it look like he’s a knight in shining armor.”
This is easy to see in the case of a child molester: he may buy candy for a child to gain his or her trust.
In the context of relational and emotional abuse, an abuser who uses pornography may act kindly and generously toward his partner, with the intent of using pornography without disclosing his use to her (which would harm his partner and family). A caveat here is that he may not plan to use pornography (many abusers swear to themselves they “will never do it again”) but it is still grooming if he does not take immediate and definitive action to get appropriate professional help within an abuse cessation program to create safety for his family without delay.
Often, an abuser will groom a woman at the beginning of a relationship to lure her into believing that he is the ultimate safe partner: he may present himself as a monogamous, honest, and emotionally healthy person. When he begins engaging in extra-marital affairs, lying, and gaslighting, he reveals that the show he put on during the courtship was a well-constructed rouse.
Are you being groomed? Join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group to find support.
Women Are Not At Fault For Being Groomed
Many women take on heaps of self-loathing and feel immense self-betrayal for allowing themselves to be groomed. Sometimes they will make promises to themselves to never let it happen again, only to be even more deeply groomed by their abuser, and then betrayed again when he abuses again.
Women are not to blame for being duped: it is a reflection of the moral fibre of the abuser and not of the strength or self-respect of the victim. Women who fall again and again for a partner’s grooming tacts may begin to question their own sanity and worth, wondering if they are “desperate” or “asking for it.
“You see it in also child sex abuse cases or child abuse cases. Anyone can be a victim. You can’t be so smart that you can’t be victimized. So many women feel ashamed or they feel embarrassed because it happened to them and they thought they knew about abuse. You’re a smart woman. You thought you knew what abuse was, but you didn’t understand that you were actually being abused. That’s the situation that we’re all in.
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
It is important to note that compassion, tenderness, love, and fidelity and worthy traits and goals and that women who seek for these things in partnerships are not weak or stupid, but courageous. However, understand that being abused over and over again through grooming tactics is corrosive to the human spirit: women must find safety as soon as possible to protect themselves from further abuse.
The “Dark Side of Compliance”
Rebecca, a Shero, has described grooming as “The Dark Side of Compliance”. This is also known as “Checking Boxes”. When abusers become adept at observing the requests made by their partners without lasting change, this is grooming.
When abusers routinely “check boxes” (daily check-ins, going to group meetings, calling sponsors) but continuously “relapse” into pornography use or other sexual acting-out behaviors and other, devastatingly painful emotionally abusive behaviors, this is grooming.
What Is Real Recovery?
Discerning the difference between grooming and true recovery is difficult for victims of betrayal trauma.
Abusers are, unfortunately, master manipulators and can make even their shortest bursts of “good behavior” look like real recovery.
As Coach Joi says, real recovery looks like, “Boundaried, believable behavior over time.” If your partner has ceased in all abusive behaviors for at least two years, and is living the 13 signs of change, he may be in real recovery. If you find that you are still in a cycle where there are periods of time where he “feels” very safe, but then he goes back into his abusiveness, you are being groomed.
No Matter What He Chooses, You Deserve Support
Spotting grooming is notoriously difficult without support: the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Support Group is ready to give you love, acceptance, and validation as you begin your journey.
Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
Today, a member of our community is coming on the podcast to talk about the topic of grooming. Her name is Rachel.
So, we’re just going to get right into this. Welcome, Rachel.
Rachel: Thanks for having me.
Anne: When I sent out a request to have a member of our community come on the podcast and talk about grooming you responded. So, let’s start with that.
Grooming Is A Process Of Emotional Abuse
Rachel: When I first saw the post I actually kind of didn’t know what it was, so I looked it up and I was like: “Oh, I understand what that is now” and I think maybe some other women maybe haven’t heard that term yet. We kind of hear the terms like gaslighting before this so I think maybe it’s a newish topic to talk about and something I’d like to explore more.
Anne: So, we’re not talking about brushing your teeth and combing your hair. We’re not talking about that kind of grooming. We’re talking about the kind of grooming that takes place within an abusive relationship. A process that the abusive person uses at the beginning of the relationship to prep the relationship. To make sure that the victim feels safe. To make sure that she’s willing to trust him. That’s the process we’re talking about today.
As you were researching grooming a bit in preparation for this podcast, talk about some of the things that you learned.
Rachel: Basically, it said that it’s anything that someone does to seem like they’re the knight in shining armor. So, I’m kind of confused on the difference between gaslighting and grooming because they both kind of make you seem like the crazy person or the bad person, but it’s the intentionality of them doing good things to seem good and hide the bad.
Anne: Yeah, at this point they’re trying to set a baseline reality and the baseline reality is that this is a really genuinely good person. They are honest, they are kind. They are everything that you’re looking for in someone and they’re trying to set that baseline understanding so that when something bad happens it’s outside the norm. That’s not who this person is, rather than the true baseline which would be this person is dishonest or this person is abusive, or they deal with things in unhealthy or abusive ways.
How Do We Recognize Grooming?
So, I think that that is the intention of grooming. It’s to set a baseline reality that’s not actual reality. It’s a form of manipulation, and if someone is doing that from the very beginning from the moment you meet them, they’re purposefully trying to control how you view them rather then just trying to get to know you. Rather than just being in a relationship and being real. They’re being very intentional about how the relationship is progressing and where it’s going.
Do you feel like you’ve experienced that?
Rachel: Yeah, so we met at a single.conference and things went pretty fast. The night he asked me to be his girlfriend, I told him my life story. I was like: “Hey, here’s who I am. Here’s some mistakes I’ve made. I don’t want to do that anymore and take me or leave me kind of thing. He did say: “I don’t know if I could ever love you” and being the emotional 19-year-old that I was I threw my phone off a 4-story apartment, but he did say: “Sorry for saying that, that’s in the past, I can love you.”
We hadn’t even really talked to each other parents because it was still really new. So, he had a job at the training center for missionaries of my church, which you have to hold certain standards to keep. He presented himself as he never misses a Sunday of church even if he has like a 103 fever. He just seemed like this perfect person and he was doing me a favor by loving me, and it was very apparent after we got married, more so because his parents would be like: “Oh, all the girls were all over him and you were really lucky.” It worked really well in his favor and he felt like he was doing so good.
Grooming Sets A Baseline That Is False
When I found out about all this a year into our marriage I told him I wanted a divorce and he called his parents crying and saying he didn’t know why I was acting crazy and irrationally over something so little. Then they said maybe it’s because I was in a bad place spiritually and he was like: “Oh, yeah and my stake president said this” so he brings in the church aspect of making him seem like that I’m the one acting crazy and irrationally because he would never do something like that because everyone has always seen as good spiritually.
Anne: Yeah, so he’d set the stage for this. He’s convinced everyone around him that this is the type of person that he is and that way anything outside of that baseline reality of this is a good person, he’s someone who obeys the commandments, he’s someone who loves God, right. Then there is this thing he does that seems outside of that box so there must be a good reason for it or maybe he’s really not doing that or maybe she’s exaggerating. Then he can continue the abuse or escalate the abuse without being held accountable, which is part of the grooming process.
Rachel: Well, so he overcompensates a lot. You know, I’d always feel like: “Well, he’s a great father and he’s a great husband beside this” because he would take the kids and he does the cooking and he does the cleaning. When I was really angry and yelling he would just be calm and like: “I understand.” Everyone just saw that side of him that he had it all put together. He was the one holding this marriage together because I’m falling apart, and I didn’t have anything to back it up because he was doing all those things, and no one ever saw the bad things.
Grooming Perpetuates Emotional Abuse
I had a sister who her husband was very extroverted in those things and she got all the sympathy because they saw it but that’s what grooming is. It’s even more harmful because they can just really carefully do it without anyone noticing.
Anne: Uh huh, and intentionally making sure that their reputation is good so that they can get away with it. Did you know that you were in an abusive situation or did you just kind of have a sense that something was wrong? Where were you mentally at the time?
Rachel: No, so I heard the term abuse probably in November and I was laughing. I was like: “My husband’s not an abuser” and then once I started reading the book Why Does He Do That, I was like: “Oh, my goodness he really is” and so I had no idea at that time.
Anne: I find that so interesting. So many people ask: “Why don’t women leave abusive relationships?” People ask that all the time and I would say the number 1 reason is that they don’t know they’re in one and then secondly divorce or leaving is not going to solve his abuse problem. The only thing that will solve his abuse problem is him stopping the abuse because divorce doesn’t solve the abuse problem. They keep abusing you after you’re divorced with lies or whatever.
Also, divorce is not the best-case scenario. Having a healthy happy family and being able to be together is the best-case scenario.
Grooming Is Part Of The Abusive Cycle
Rachel: When he started working more on the 12-Steps and he was making amends to people, he would again, just say all the right things without being really honest and kind of manipulating them to make him seem better then he was at that point. Then when I wasn’t good people would be like: “Oh, but I thought you were better because he reached out to me and he said he was sorry and made these amends and said he’s going to get better.”
So, grooming others to believe that he’s better or believe that we’re better and kind of not seeing why I was still in a place where I’m at.
Anne: Are you thinking he’s in recovery?
Rachel: So, the last relapse he had told me about was in October, and then we found more support groups and learned more about what it was about and so he was doing more stuff. I told him: “I see you’re doing more but I still feel like something is off.” I just wanted to believe he was different. I’m like: “Well, people keep saying this, but your actions aren’t measuring up. I don’t know what to believe” and then yesterday actually he came to me and told me that the last 5 months he’s been lying straight to my face and he’s been acting out the last 5 months actually a lot, probably more than ever.
I kicked him out of the house this morning.
Grooming Is A Process That Involves Gaslighting
Anne: Oh, and here we are on the podcast. Are you okay? No, the answer is no!
Rachel: I’m actually better than ever. I feel so free. In the very beginning I would check his phone or whatever and I started doing that just a little while back because something was off, but he shared this. I actually feel really empowered right now and a little overwhelmed. I’m sure it will kick in but right now I feel good. I felt really addicted to the fake love he showed me, and I just feel okay right now.
Anne: When it hits we’re here for you because that’s intense.
So, I talked to a woman last night who is dating someone that I know very well, and I know that he is lying to her and she is still in that process where she’s not quite sure if it’s just this is Anne’s perception and then his perception is a little bit different. She’s never heard of BTR. I met her outside of BTR. A mutual friend was like: “You need to talk to Anne,” right, so I show up at her door. She is definitely being groomed and I can see that because the way that he has set up the foundational baseline reality for who he is, is exactly what she is looking for.
You see it in also child sex abuse cases or child abuse cases. Anyone can be a victim. You can’t be so smart that you can’t be victimized. So many women feel ashamed or they feel embarrassed because it happened to them and they thought they knew about abuse. You’re a smart woman. You thought you knew what abuse was, but you didn’t understand that you were actually being abused. That’s the situation that we’re all in.
Anyone Can Be Susceptible To Grooming
So, anyone can be a victim. It starts with friendship. It starts with good intentions and then perpetrators use favors and promises to build trust. They might help you move, or they seem super helpful. The goal is to gain your trust. Lying is a very common characteristic of grooming. They’re telling you things: “Only you understand me,” that type of thing that really is just based on lies.
For those of you who are interested in learning more, there’s not a ton (of information) out there, I mean I’ve done some research on it but for porn use specifically or this specific situation one common thing I hear from so many women is their husband will say: “Yes, I used to use porn but I don’t anymore” and then it gives this fake vulnerability like: “Oh man, he’s willing to tell the truth. He’s willing to tell me about his problems” but actually, it is a bold face lie.
He’s currently using porn and he’s not telling her that. The lying straight to people’s face is a manipulation tactic but it’s also a trust-building tactic. They don’t want to tell you the truth because they want to build your trust. They don’t want the consequences, they’re not willing to surrender to the truth and that in and of itself is an abusive relationship.
What Does Grooming Mean In A Relationship?
Rachel: So, the other night we had a talk with his parents, we are living with them right now, and they’re very toxic. He was defending me by saying “Yeah, I’ve been abusive.” He groomed so well that he’ll admit it and say all the right things. Like, “Yeah, I’ve been abusive, and I’ve done this” while all along he’s still acting out. He’s still abusing me so here he is being vulnerable and admitting he’s being abusive.
Anne: And people are thinking: “Oh, he’s admitting to what he did, so he must have changed. Why won’t she forgive him?” and that kind of thing. That’s super scary. You’ve got a psychopath on your hands. Oh, it’s bad, right. People around you right now aren’t recognizing how dangerous your situation is.
Rachel: Yes. So, he’s doing more work and yet the other night he woke up and told me that he groped me in my sleep. I had reached out to some friends and they’re like: “That’s not normal” and so I told him that. He kind of acknowledged it so I told his parents and they said: “Oh honey, that’s normal; that’s a part of the marriage contract.”
Anne: What?! His parents? Sexual assault is part of the marriage contract?
Why Does Emotional Abuse Thrive When Grooming Happens?
Rachel: I was like: “No, this is my body and I still have a right to say when he can touch me and when he cannot touch me.” and they said: “Oh, that’s probably why he has a porn problem then.”
Rachel: So, I’ve stopped talking to them for now.
Anne: Yeah, that’s a good idea. How many kids do you have?
Rachel: I have 3. They’re 5, 4, and almost 3, all boys.
Anne: Wow. Oh, my word. Okay, yeah, you’re in for the long haul here. sis. What you’ve realized now, clearly, is that you were groomed for an abusive relationship and now you’re in the middle of it and there is clearly no easy way to solve it. If you choose divorce, then that’s going to be a really difficult road. If you choose to stay together, that’s going to be a very difficult road and either way you’re going to have to put boundaries in place for your safety. It’s like a life long trial. It doesn’t get easier. It’s just a long hard slog. Well, it does get easier.
Rachel: I feel like it’s especially hard for us because usually, the boundaries are still hard for us or even harder. Like, I have a chronic illness and yet I’m not letting my husband come help me take care of the kids. So, now I’m putting more work on myself when it’s still hard. Yeah, it seems not fair because for your healing it has to be even harder.
Grooming Is A Form Of Gaslighting
Anne: Well, and the reason it feels like it’s not fair is because it’s not. You’re suffering the consequences of someone else abusing you and that feels terrible, which is why it’s so hard to admit the abuse is going on in the first place for most of us because the consequences are very dire. It’s like facing the thing you don’t want to ever face. It’s tough. I’m really, really sorry this is happening to you. You are very brave, and you are strong.
Rachel: Thanks, I’ve come a long way.
Anne: You’ll come out of it. I am now feeling really, I don’t know I’ve had kind of a breakthrough lately, I’m feeling super peaceful and happy almost all the, but I remember when it felt hopeless and just, either way, felt so impossible, but I do know that as you take one step at a time it will get better eventually. When people would say that to me I was like: “No, this is so bad. It can’t get better.” So, I understand the pain right now. I’m so sorry.
Rachel: Yeah, I think the hardest part is I know I probably can make this decision in the future if it comes or whatever, but I feel like I could never divorce him because I’m too scared of what he would do. I just worry like: “Who would he be with and why couldn’t I be like her?” but right now I don’t want him either. So, I’m in this tricky spot where it’s like I’m willing to stay in it and have way distance and emotional detachment and let him figure stuff out but how do you know when it’s time or will I have the strength to do what I need?
Grooming Sets An Unrealistic Reality
Anne: One thing to keep in mind for right now is that even if you remain married, you still don’t have a say over who he’s seeing. A marriage doesn’t solve that problem. It’s not like if you don’t file for divorce he’s not going to ever look at porn again and porn is the other women. It doesn’t have anything to do with you. Comparing yourself to porn, all of us know this, is a losing battle.
If the person is not healthy, if they’re not willing to be honest, if they’re not willing to be faithful to their wife then marriage isn’t going to stop them. So, if that’s one of your worries just let me help you release that and release yourself from those types of beliefs that hold women back. Getting to the bottom of what is that central belief that might be holding me back from setting the boundaries that you need to set to keep yourself safe, whatever that is, discovering that and then attacking that head-on with help and logic will be good. Man, you are so brave.
So, it’s interesting when you look up signs of grooming online you get stuff like: they are superficial and manipulative, but how do you know at the beginning of the relationship that they are manipulative because it just seems legit. So, that’s part of the grooming. They are untruthful is one of the signs, but how do you know they are untruthful in the beginning? So, for listeners out there, I encourage you to start thinking about the beginning of the relationship and how they set it up to gain your trust and how they set up people around them to look a certain way and be a certain way in order to be able to operate free and clear without people second-guessing them.
Rachel, you’ve described to our listeners how you were groomed and then when you started noticing the abusive behaviors and then the consequences of that. I’d just like to know how you’re feeling now?
Grooming Is The Beginning Of Abuse
Rachel: I feel conflicted between almost ecstatic, like: “I knew I was right because something was telling me”, but also kind of like: “Well, why didn’t I listen to myself sooner?” Feeling like I let myself down, but it is what it is, and I can accept that I was doing the best that I could. I did what I thought was best by being open to him and letting him in my life and that’s all I could ask of myself is to be the best I can be.
Anne: Which you were. My Aunt has a saying: “No good deed goes unpunished” and when it comes to being a victim of abuse that is the case. Trusting, loving, and really caring about someone and then the abuse starts happening, and it’s happened from the very beginning because the lying and the manipulation is part of the abuse. It’s not like he was not abusive and then he became abusive. He was abusive from the very beginning and that’s what is so devastating about it.
So, for you and your children, I genuinely hope that he chooses to make his way towards safety and we will be here for you through that process. Rachel’s currently doing individual sessions with one of our coaches and for those of you who feel like: “Is this happening to me? Were these behaviors that he did? Was this a grooming thing or is this just who he is? Help me understand this or was this gaslighting?” If you’re confused and you don’t know where to turn, BTR is a safe place to help you process that, unlike Rachel’s in-laws or other people who’ve also been groomed by her abusive spouse.
Grooming Is Not Part Of Healthy Relationships
Thank you so much for being so brave and strong and coming on today to share your story.
Rachel: Thanks for having me.
Anne: If you are the praying type, pray for Rachel. I recorded that podcast a while ago and things have gotten really difficult for her and she’s setting good boundaries. She is safer now then she has been. She spent some time at the domestic violence shelter. Just a call for prayers for her and for all of us as I pray for myself and for all of you all the time and for BTR to be able to reach every woman in the world who needs to hear this message.
Grooming Can Be Recognized As An Abusive Tool
Don’t wait to get help. One way you can start getting help is by joining the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group. Our sessions can take place on your phone anywhere. They can take place at your family reunion, in your car, anywhere that you get wireless reception and you can get the internet on your phone, you can get help. So, keep that in mind this summer.
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Thank you for the pod cast today on grooming. I was married for 12 years and my husband groomed me from the beginning with so many gifts, cards, flowers and romantic gestures that when the affairs and sexual acting our began I was completely confused and couldn’t begin to accept my reality. I would tell myself, he is such a wonderful husband accept for the cheating. His words and actions made me feel like we had the marriage I had always dreamed of. We got every kind of counseling and support for sex addiction, set boundaries and even separated 3 times. After seven years of God repeatedly exposing infidelity, I finally got the courage to enforce my boundaries and file for divorce. I have chosen no contact because I don’t trust myself not to allow the manipulation to impact me. I have forgiven but chose to protect myself and allow god to rescue me from a life of chaos, betrayal and emotions all abuse. Thank you for your podcast and emails. They have been a lifeline.” During one of the most difficult seasons of life.
Blessings to BTR ❤️
I’m so glad you found it helpful! I choose no contact as well, since as of yet there is no sign of honesty, humility, accountability, or willingness to submit to the consequences of his actions. Bless you too! We’re all in this together!
Thanks, I’m still struggling to grasp the truth and know what my steps need to be. I have decided one thing, even if we never had sex again, I am committed to growth and staying married. He tells me he doesn’t want to divorce either and is committed to growth. As long as I can grow strong, I will never give him the satisfaction of grooming, abusing and wounding another precious woman again.
Although I don’t recommend your course of action (I want you to be safe:). I can certainly understand your feelings! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for this podcast. I have heard of love bombing ! But not grooming. Grooming fits my story so much better and it has been a light bulb moment for me.
Wow. This could be my story: the grooming; the confusion and self-doubt when the baseline is deviated from; the self-hatred when I realised my kids and I will forever be affected by my choice to marry him (divorce or no divorce); the ongoing struggle as he grooms a new circle of people who don’t know what he has done/does, but believe he should be taken back as he has ‘tried so hard’ and is ‘such a nice, helpful guy’. I was feeling so alone and anxious today, but this has helped to bring peace and clarity. Thank you.
I’m so glad you found this post on grooming helpful! It’s amazing how covert abuse is!
As a guy who does care about doing right, being honest and faithful, I got somewhat alarmed reading through this, since many of the good things this guy did to hide his true character are the sort of things I love to do, but for the sake of doing them, not for the sake of hiding or grooming. The bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, so I know I can’t exactly trust myself. So how does a guy recognise whether he is genuine or not, and what steps do you say he should take to prevent himself from becoming an abuser?
That’s a great question! I think that if lying, porn use, infidelity are happening, then you can know that your “good” behavior is simply a facade to cover your sins. However, if you have no secrets, nothing to hide, you’re honest in all your dealings, then you can know that your good behavior isn’t to maintain your reputation or power or control. Truth is always the way out, and truth is always the way forward.
Thank you for this question and reply. I was also wondering what is the difference between grooming and a healthy way of showing love? It seems like the man can’t do anything right if even when he’s trying to show affection and caring it is labeled as grooming. How would a woman ever know these thoughtful and kind gestures are in fact grooming? It sounds like you’re saying she would never know until he does something really wrong that goes against this perfect character he created, but at this point I’m sure she’s committed to the relationship since she previously had no indication that anything was wrong and thought that he was Mr Right…
That’s so true. It’s really hard to know and most of the time you wouldn’t know until something bad happens. Being victimized in that way is devastating, but there’s also nothing you can do to avoid it short of knowing what red flags to look for and being educated about emotional and psychological abuse. Thanks for sharing!
If I may, the difference between grooming and genuine expressions of affection is simply the motivation. Are those gestures intended to lift the spirits of the recipient, and nothing else? And I mean NOTHING else. Unconditional. Not even a glimmer of “oh she’ll really love me now…”. Only thoughts of how pleasing the gesture will be for the recipient. Do you want to open a door for your gal because it makes you look good, or simply ~ by that I mean only ~ because that is honoring to her? It is an issue of genuineness.
I am 21 years in a marriage that never should have happened. Two adult children, one with special needs, and a husband that is a full-blown addict. The only clue to that is the physical status of our home, the challenged work history (where he has always been the victim), and his emotional distance. I know all too well how to recognize insincerity and the consequences for not.
Wow, right now I am going through this. I have stayed in an abusive marriage consisting of both infidelity and porn . Have went through years of marriage counseling on and off. Right now I felt I was being groomed with how my husband is treating me. He seems to be over compensating me in affection after a blow out concerning porno use. I feel it is more of guilt cover up for some more of his dark secrets and to try to manipulate me to have sex with him. I sat a boundary that I do not think he believes so I think he is acting this way to try to get his way. The timing for this pod cast was perfect. I wonder what he Wil do when it does not work for him this time. I am on to his tricks now. Hmmm
I’m so glad you found it helpful! The abuse cycle is so difficult to see, but once you know what you’re looking for, it’s a bit easier:). Hugs!
I’m newer to this whole topic of betrayal trauma but I related 100% to this conversation. I stayed so long in my 3rd marriage because it was my first Christian marriage and I kept hearing how covenant was more important yet I believe it was also because I did not know how to describe the behaviours when our marriage ended I literally had to say to my counsel “I need to know if I’m thinking Right about this”. So many times I doubted that I knew well enough how to think or live. Rachel that is such a deep part of the set up. Our own confidence & innate God given gut is taken from us. I allowed this for years — not recognizing it for what it was – wholly confused. I was in despair for years. Had a counseller and a divorce coach and a telephone support group and attended al-anon and attended a retreat for spiritual abuse and I still didn’t believe I was abused. Im in my 60’s and I just don’t want women to experience this I’m so proud of your vulnerability to share with us. I am praying for everyone on here because we all need miracles and healing. Bless you all
Oh man, listening to this podcast and knowing I was groomed all those years ago (30) and throughout my marriage is difficult. We finalized our divorce this past December 2019 after 2 years. I’m still suffering from trauma, and ptsd from this type of intimate deception and discarding. He’s groomed Everyone and is lying that I’m the reason he filed for divorce. He panicked when I confronted him on the porn and manipulation of our kids, and took two of our three teens and abandoned the third (after he refused to “join” them). He manipulated my eldest son (who couldn’t look me in the eyes) to tell me “Dad’s leaving you and I’m going with him.” My daughter lied that she was moving in with a co-worker (really with my spouse.) I haven’t heard from my two children living with him for the two years now. He’s grooming them, buying new cars, luxury goods for my daughter,etc. He treats her like his new girlfriend! All while holding back support for me and his youngest teen. It’s ugly! My kids don’t know the truth about what was and is really going on. He’s actually doing to them, especially my daughter what he did abusively to me when we were dating!!! I’m so disgusted, Anne. And I constantly worry about them. My eldest son with him was truant all last year because of a terrible gaming addiction and is repeating the 11th grade. I Never thought I’d be where I am today or that my husband had such bad character issues!! I’m glad I found you and your website. I’m having to start my life over from scratch at 55 years old and am having difficulty coping. It’s overwhelming what’s happened. I definitely need help sorting this out. Thanks for being out there.
I’m so sorry. What a nightmare. We’re with you, sister! Hold on!
Thanks Anne. What can I say or do for my two children, 18 & 20, with him? They’re helping my ex (flying monkeys) to spread those lies to all. They don’t know what I do (or all the professionals involved including his attorney). “A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes.” What do I do? Zero attempt for our family getting along for future life events. It’s parental alienation and totally abusive. Keep sending cards and texts? I think he may be keeping those from them. I sent a birthday check that never was cashed, so I sent a text with pictures of the card/check two months later and asked if he received it…and his Christmas card too. No support since and I’ve been blocked. Some past texts have been uncharacteristic of my son btw, like not in his voice. Yeah. What can I say or do??
It’s so hard. I’m so sorry about your situation. Have you considered getting help from one of our coaches? You can schedule an appointment by clicking here.
I want to respond to Claudia that you might find helpful in addition to this is Dr Craig Children and Parental alienation. You may have already found that resource but I have found how and why this is happening. I am praying for you and your family during this difficult time. I have experienced the parent alienation to the point of child -parent estrangement for three years.
I am 61 years old and my husband of 2 1/2 years died of a heart attack three weeks ago. I believed his love was real even though we struggled through many difficulties. It was two days after he died and I got into his phone to look up an address of a friend, that I discovered that he was seeing his old girlfriend while pretending to want to work things out with me. While he was fourteen years alcohol sober, he had a terrible porn /sex addiction with virtual reality, teen porn, internet sites, strip clubs and escort services. His death and then the betrayal was a double whammy for me. I trusted him on the porn thing and he hid it so well that I never thought to check.
Betrayal taints every memory with doubt and suspicion. I have been trying to parse out what was true from false and reading this article today gave me great clarity– it was all grooming from the very beginning. He had a weird habit of asking my permission, in the most gallant way, if he could touch me, cuddle me- overly respectful–grooming to protect himself against accusations of sexual abuse. He was big into getting my trust, asking constantly for reassurance, but not doing anything to earn it. He just wanted everything on his word and the false persona he projected. He faked every little thing! He knew what he was supposed to groom for! OMG! I am relieved to finally have this question answered- once and for all- NOTHING was true or real.
I will shed a few less tears going forward. Thank you for sharing your story. My heart genuinely goes out to you.
Listening to this pod cast really opens my eyes and to understand what has happened to me for a very long time. I too felt that I could not leave my husband of 25 years. I worried he would kill himself because he had threatened that many times in the years. I didn’t feel safe at home. I needed my children to come and visit to “protect” me. I had been with him since I was 15. At 50 I finally finalized our divorce. Feeling safe at home and not worrying about the choices he makes. I was so scared to be on my own. However, I see my friends coming back and doing more things. I am also making friends. That first step was the hardest but I am so glad I was brave enough to take that step.
My husband quit smoking cigarettes, and Marijuana and Saud he wouldn’t drink again because I said I’d never date anyone who was an addict.
He started smoking again in less than a month and I caught him and he said it was a slip up and wouldn’t happen again.
Then about a year later we started hanging out with his friends and he’d tell them how he didn’t do anything anymore but then after going over there for a few months asked if he could drink over there and I said yes because I didn’t want to be the prude.
We got married around this time, we got eloped so I didn’t have a real wedding.
Then we went to see his father for his birthday and his dad wanted to go to the bar and since it was my first time meeting him we should do what he wants.
Then on new years he said he was drinking with them regardless because he was doing so good and wanted to have fun and went to the liquor store. Once I caved in he said how this was the last time he’d drink for the year. I refused to drink or talk to him that night and his friend kept saying he wanted to get him super f*cked up and that he wouldn’t smoke anything with him because he didn’t want to make me more upset.
He seemed to be doing good until he was sent to school that year and he was drinking every night and lying to me about how he wasn’t.
During this time was my birthday and our anniversary which he had a chance to be sent home for the weekend for and he chose not to.
We went to Disney land in December and he once again walked all the way to the liquor store to get stuff because we never have fun and this should be a ‘special’ time when we can and he’s been doing so good.
He was sent back to school after Christmas where he continued to drink every night and sometimes wouldn’t call me.
One night he slipped up and called me completely hammered and complained about how I didn’t have a job and how stressed I made him. (Turns out he wasn’t as drunk as he played it up and just wanted me to feel sorry for him)
During this whole time I thought I wasn’t doing enough for him physically and started dieting and working out and trying to be the perfect partner to him. I got a job to help.
Then covid hit and I got pregnant.
He started to be distant with me not ever really wanting to talk or do anything. He seemed more like a room mate.
So I thought hmm he must be getting his jollys somewhere sense he won’t touch me and is always playing on his phone or computer.
So I looked.
And there was so much porn games and videos all over just his computer.
It turned out he had spent hundreds of dollars on porn while complaining to me about how I didn’t have a job and wasn’t helping.
I was about 6 months pregnant and I was super upset not with him because I thought I was fat and ugly and was like oh ok well I can see why he’d want to look at these other women.
I found this right before we were heading to meet his parents for vacation and he talked to me for 3 hours in the car telling me how he’d never do it again.
I told him I didn’t care.
He did it again that night because I didn’t think it was a big deal. I didn’t find that out for about a month though when I decided to look at his computer again to see if he was keeping his promise because he was still distant. He had never planned to stop, there were so many different games on there and hundreds of hours on them.
Every bit of free time he had was spent on them, he’d play them while his boys were in the room watching TV.
He’d yell at the kids and get mad when theyd ask him things because he didn’t want to stop playing them.
He’d pretend to play other games until I’d leave, I checked the times on the games.
I blamed myself again I wasn’t doing enough, I was too big because of being pregnant and all the work I’d put in to lose weight was all undone.
He apologized again and said it wouldn’t happen again because I made it a big deal now and that’s all that needed to be said.
There were several times since then that seem suspicious though like how he’d be on his secret folder, looking at lingerie that is basically just a strap with everything showing, following provocative pages on Facebook that show nude women, and so on.
He says none of those trigger him and he’s over it but I can’t seem to trust him anymore.
I see him look at other women when we are out and he says things like ‘oh I was just looking that way’ or ‘She just caught my eye but you are so much better’
I dont know what to do.
I dont know if this is normal male behavior or if it isn’t and he can change.
Am I too controlling?
Another thing is he found his old tablet one day and said he broke it because he didn’t want to be tempted to look anything up on it. Yet he had taken a charger into the bathroom with him to charge it.
When I called him on it he started crying saying how he was scared I’d judge him for wanting to charge it but how he broke it once he went to turn it on. But when he went to grab it out of the trash I heard a crack in the garage before he brought it to me. He claims he pushed the trash down and that was the sound I heard.
The reason he can’t look anything up on his phone is because I have a child lock on it to prevent secret mode on it so he can’t hide anything on it. But his tablet didn’t have that and I had hid it because I couldn’t bring myself to destroy his property.
I feel like I’m going insane.
Wanting a healthy peaceful home where you are emotionally safe from deception, manipulation, and emotional and psychological abuse is not controlling. Have you considered joining our daily online support group for victims of emotional abuse?
I was fortunate in two emotionally abusive marriages (and, of course, not forgetting that this is also Domestic Violence – whether there is physical violence or not) that I didn’t fall pregnant to either of these abusive men. This enabled me to completely cut off any contact with them after I became determined to leave them.
I did get stalked in one way or another afterwards for some time, and leaving them also came with some other consequences – both men where part of the religious organisation that I associated with – therefore both times most of the congregation believed my husbands to be the innocent party as they had both built a squeaky clean reputation with the congregation.
I was expelled from the organisation for some time due to one of these husbands, losing family and friends. I also lost my Driver Licence for 6 months when this same husband threw himself on the bonnet of my car when I was trying to escape from him – as he told the police a different story. This is also the same reason I was expelled from the religious organisation. I was also fortunate that I picked up things about them very quickly after I married each of them – with one of them 8 months before I left for good, and with the other one for less than 3 months (I did start seeing this 2nd one again 9 months later, but leaving the relationship again after another 3 months).
I mention the consequences of leaving each of these unhealthy relationships, as realistically, I believe that most times there are going to be consequences – these sort of men do not take being left easily. I feel that women need to know this in advance, but to also know the consequences of staying with these emotionally unhealthy and sometimes dangerous men. All women can do is get a support system, do lots of personal development to build themselves up and to continue to work at not falling for the grooming again.
When I look back there were at least a couple of tell-tale signs with each of these men before I married them, and directly afterwards. Both times due to how I felt about myself I lacked a voice to speak up – I was more concerned with their feelings and welfare than I was my own – not wanting to make them feel bad. Also having the belief, when I noticed before marry the 2nd abusive husband that he was somewhat emotionally unhealthy, that even emotionally unhealthy people need to be loved and that I should love them and patiently help them to be more emotionally healthy – crazy thinking!
The responsibility to ‘fix’ someone does not belong to us! – particularly before we marry them. The responsibility is on themselves! Both of these husbands put pressure on me to marry them within 6 months of the courtship. (I allowed myself to be pressured due to thinking more about their feelings than my own, and lacking a voice). More awareness for me came after I married each of them and moved in with them – their behaviour changed straight away – changing their expectations and actions compared to prior to marrying them, and expecting me to work in with them. The tell-tale signs I had seen before marrying them, escalated after marrying them.
I dislike the term that is often used – ‘survivors’ of Domestic Violence. I just feel that a lot of people who use that term do not fully understand what Domestic Violence is – the grooming and the gaslighting, the mind games. Physical abuse is easier to identify – not always for some of the people who are physically abused, but it is to outsiders. Fortunately for me I could identify being pushed or pulled by one of these husbands as physical abuse, and also having my property damaged as abuse. I could clearly see that no one had a right to physically abuse me, and that I would not stay in a physically abusive relationship.
However initially it was not so clear to me when someone was emotionally abusing me – it can be so much harder to identify – to see it for what it is. Someone who leaves a physically abusive or an emotionally abusive relationship/marriage is initially only a ‘short term survivor’. They are very likely to get involved in other abusive relationships. There were 8 years between these 2 marriages, and yet I still got caught in the trap that the 2nd abusive husband set for me. I still could not see the signs – and the signs were there, but this time they were somewhat different. Therefore just giving oneself ‘time to heal’ is not a prerequisite to not falling into the hands of an abuser again. It is only when we make a conscious effort to receive more awareness of what is going on in our interactions with others that we give ourselves a much better chance of being a ‘survivor’, and also importantly – that we ‘thrive’. Be conscious of your intuition, be conscious of how an action or a word makes you feel, be conscious of the energy of an interaction – and then question how you are feeling, question the interaction – i.e ‘what’s going on here that I am not aware of?’ ‘what aren’t I getting here?’
KEEP asking questions – and when some awareness comes up, question it some more. Work hard on this. Do everything you can to become more aware and to protect yourself from becoming more involved with potential abusers.
I am grateful for people like Anne Blythe who are genuinely interested in helping others, and who offer loving support.
I am SO grateful I got to listen to this.
I am going thru this RIGHT NOW!! And I’m so conflicted, because he’s making amends with everyone, he’s “cut” the porn to like almost nothing, he’s acting amazing towards me and the kids – I mean, I think he even has his therapist fooled!!!
He’s admitted to ALL of his wrong doing, saying that he is 1000% remorseful. I’m about to move out in almost 2 months, and he tells me that he’s fine that we need to be separated so I can heal, but that he won’t wait on me forever because “he has a lot of love to give and doesn’t want to be alone forever”.
Even the legal separation process he’s being overly amicable. But now I know that it’s best for him to do that for image. He knows that everyone knows me as a super “chill and easy going person” and wouldn’t see this coming out of me. I’m going to listen to this over and over and over until it finally clicks that this is all fake! He even told me, “This is not a facade. I’m going to therapy to fix myself and to become a better person for myself and my kids.”
We have 2 kids. And I hear ya Rachel! I’m worried about the “other girl”, all the luxuries that he has/will attain and I’m going to be missing out on it. I have to prepare myself for him showering the kids with all the luxuries I won’t be able to give them. Damn this was powerful!
I met my current husband when I was 16 and he was 45. He was the owner/instructor at a martial arts school. I came in as a student. My parents signed me up for the free first month, but couldn’t afford to continue. Because I was such a good student, and was a good influence on all the other kids, he offed me a deal where I could clean, and in exchange take classes for free.
I thought we were just good friends at first, but he’s since told me that he spent many a time staring at my butt. Because it was a martial arts school, he would help me learn wrestling moves on the ground, and although there was never any actual sexual contact/abuse, I definitely got comfortable with rolling around on the floor with him.
For the next couple years, our relationship grew closer and closer. I was a very independent young lady, and people thought I was very mature for my age. My parents had no clue how I had become good friends with the instructor and was spending time alone with him, and I never told them, because, I don’t know why, now. He never actually did anything inappropriate until I was almost 18. Maybe. It’s hard to recall the details. And I never said stop or no. I remember telling myself that I thought he was like the dad I always wanted. My dad was always kind of distant.
Suddenly one day after turning 18, he declared his love for me and me him. And I think I remember him saying he was going to kiss me. And I’m pretty sure I said, “nah”. But he insisted. And it was definitely not a good kiss. But somehow weeks later, it gave me butterflies and I wanted more. From there, things got more and more physical. We didn’t officially start dating though, until I was 20. (In his mind, he didn’t want to date a 18/19 year old). That was when I finally told my parents and family. And they definitely didn’t ask enough questions.
We officially dated for maybe 4-5 months before he proposed. I accepted and maybe 6 months later we were married. We’ve been married 6 years now, and have a 19 month old daughter. This has really ben bugging me since she was born, because I don’t want her to be in my situation at a teenager. I was given way too much freedom and “maturity”. My parents never checked in on me. I know there is some things that definitely shouldn’t have happened to me as a teenager. But I’m confused because, if my husband did groom me as a teenager and before we were married, then what kind of bad things should be surfacing now after being married 6 years.
I’ve checked his devices many times, and I’ve never caught him using porn. He doesn’t physically abuse me. He’s definitely not the man I should have married though. He hardly helps with our daughter. (But he also is 50 something and has a bad back.) He doesn’t seem to care to have conversation with me about raising her. Doesn’t care what things I’m interested in. I feel like I’m living with a roommate lately. I’m confused whether my feelings are merely because we’re drifting apart or if there’s something more sinister going on. You may also want to know, I am a Christian, and my husband claims to be one as well (although his relationship with Jesus seems very surface level). I’m torn between believing that I made a commitment to him for the rest of his/my life and believing that I was groomed, and I should get out for the sake of my daughter.
If you’re thinking this, it’s likely that you were groomed as a teenager and he’s currently psychologically abusive. The most important thing to ask yourself is: do I want to be married to this man? If the answer is no, that’s your answer:). Hugs!
Reading this has me terrified. My boyfriend of two years was SO pushy in the beginning, wanting to touch me at very inappropriate times (while I was driving, with the kids around, around my family, etc). It made me uncomfortable, but I allowed it because he made me believe that it was all out of love. He had a huge history for being a player, never having a relationship longer than a few months and cheating on everyone he had been with.
I called him out on that early on, and his response was the typical “that was the old me, you’re different” and I bought it. He said he loved me a WEEK into our relationship which made me extremely uneasy, but was once again covered with “that must mean he’s serious…” Now I am 2 years in, feeling so drained and unappreciated because it is all about him. What he wants, what he needs, that’s all that matters. He will never admit any of that, and the many times I have asked for help with the house and kids have all turned into an argument from him, always saying “You know that I do MORE than my fair share.” He does the dishes and he helps get the kids ready for school (only if I have laid out outfits – he will not dress them independently). But he gets upset if I ask him to take the kids around the corner to school… I am so confused as to how I didn’t see all of this for what it was sooner.