When something just feels off –
When his story doesn’t quite add up –
When he gives you that strange, blank look before answering a simple question –
It’s hard to admit what may be on your mind: “I Think My Husband’s Lying To Me”.
Emily is on the BTR.ORG podcast sharing her own story of seeking safety after learning that her abuser was living a double life, rife with lies and manipulation. Tune in to the BTR.ORG podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
The Abuser Puts On A Facade
[The abuser] is super spiritual and we did all the religious things and I just thought that I had married a spiritual, religious, truthful person. I didn’t think that he was capable of the lies and betrayal that ensued.
Emily, member of the BTR.ORG Community
Many victims struggle to accept that the abuser is manipulating them because of the incredibly believable facade they put on. The abuser may wear a mask that makes him seem:
- Devoutly religious
- Like an honorable leader (many abusers hold public leadership roles)
- Incredibly smart (doctors, attorneys, professors, etc)
- Gentle (others may say things like, “He wouldn’t hurt a fly!”
- Altruistic and woke (some abusers may be very involved in human rights activism, civil rights, or other causes to seem like a good person)
- Grounded and at peace (they may wear this mask by getting involved in new-age practices like yoga, meditation, secular Buddhism, becoming a life coach, etc).
The Abuser Gaslights You To Avoid Getting Caught In His Lies
Our marriage was just falling apart. I could not explain why. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I thought it was me. He had told me throughout the our marriage that like I was too mean and he wasn’t attracted to me. So I, I thought, you know, it’s just me.
Emily, member of the BTR.ORG Community
Abusers will keep victims spiraling in every direction so that catching them in their lies is a nearly impossible feat.
They keep victims especially fixated on their own “flaws” so that victims feel that they’re not allowed or worthy to address the abuser’s dishonesty.
If Something Feels Off, Trust Yourself
Ultimately, you can’t outsmart an abuser – they’ll deny, gaslight, and project until they’re blue in the face.
Even if they do admit that they’re lying, they will never give you the closure and validation that you deserve.
Instead, trust yourself that something is off and instead of seeking definitive proof and a confession, seek safety.
Our BTR.ORG Group Sessions are a safe space for you to process your trauma and work toward safety. Attend a session today.
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. I have a member of our community on today’s episode. We’re gonna call her Emily and she’s gonna share her story. So welcome, Emily.
Thank you. It’s great to be here.
It’s kind of nerve-wracking sometimes to think about sharing with other people, so I’m really grateful that you were willing. Can you start at the beginning? Did you recognize your husband’s behaviors as abuse at the time when you began your relationship with him?
No, not at all. You were the first one that made me ever even consider it abusive. Just from listening to your podcasts, um, before that, that had never even crossed my mind.
Let’s start with that then. What, what types of behaviors were you experiencing that led you to want to seek some help?
Learning the Term “Gaslighting”
Well, he had an affair. So after that, it was actually about five years after the affair was discovered that things just weren’t really moving forward and I couldn’t really figure out why. And that is the first time where I’d even heard the term gaslighting. And that’s when I really started to search more for answers. And I realized the extent of what had happened and how I had been totally emotionally and psychologically and spiritually abused and just the extreme gaslighting that had gone on and was still going on.
Had that gaslighting and manipulation happened throughout your whole marriage? Once you knew what you were looking at and you looked back, did you recognize that it had been happening the whole time?
For sure. I discovered he had been looking at pornography just about a month after we’d been married, and I think that’s when I realized I didn’t marry who I thought I had, but I felt stuck cause actually the next day after I found out he had been looking at pornography, I found out I was pregnant. And that’s what I just thought, there’s nothing I can do. I’m stuck.
What type of a person did you think he was before you married him?
“I Thought I Had Married a Spiritual, Religious, Truthful Person”
Well, he’s super spiritual and we did all the religious things and I just thought that I had married a spiritual, religious, truthful person. I didn’t think that he was capable of the lies and betrayal that ensued.
So how long between you discovering porn a month after you’re married and when you discovered the affair? Was that I’m, I’m guessing that was like 10 years or something?
Yeah. Yeah. 10 years.
See, I’ve become a psychic! Been doing this for so long. So 10 years. And how did you discover the affair?
“I Thought It Was Me”
Our marriage was just falling apart. I could not explain why. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I thought it was me. He had told me throughout the our marriage that like I was too mean and he wasn’t attracted to me. Um, stuff like that. So I, I thought, you know, it’s just me. We ended up moving. I thought maybe it was our neighborhood and we moved across the state and after we moved nothing changed and it still just kept falling apart. And then I heard him one time on the phone and he was talking to someone and I just heard him saying things that just really sounded wrong. Like he was saying, you know, we just met the wrong way. We can’t continue our relationship. We just started off wrong. And I’m like, oh my gosh, he’s talking to a girl and he is having an affair because it had crossed my mind and I had brought it up to him before asking him if you had an affair.
I said, my brother and his friend actually said that it sounds like you’re having an affair. And he was just so defensive about it and was just like, I can’t believe your brother would ever accuse me of that. That’s so ridiculous. I can’t believe you’d ever think that. And to be now looking back, he was having an affair at that exact moment. But he was so good at just making me think I was crazy to even consider that. So anyway, I overheard him on the phone and I thought, oh my gosh, he really is having an affair. And he turned the corner and saw me listening to him and his face just said it all. It just absolutely said it all. But he talked his way out of it. I said, who are you talking to? And he just stared at me. And then finally like a half an hour later he finally answered and said it was a guy from work. I just feel really bad cause I was talking about me and you and how we started off wrong and how we were just friends and shouldn’t have gotten married. But so was my first clue. And then later on I found him texting her about a month later.
It took him a minute to figure out a story to tell you that he thought you would believe. Right? One that made him didn’t look bad, one that made you look bad.
The Look On The Abuser’s Face When He’s Thinking Up a Lie
Let’s talk about that stare for a minute. So he just kind of stares at you in space, right? For a little bit, kind of a lack of blinking, would you say? Sort of a flat affect on his face?
Had you seen that ever in your marriage before?
I guess from time to time. I, I can recognize it now for what it was to me, it’s so obvious now looking back on it. Like of course he’s trying to come up with a story. Why wouldn’t he just answer me if he didn’t have anything to hide? But I wanted his story to be true so I would accept it because it was so much easier to think, okay, he’s not having an affair. I, it’s okay, it’s just me. I’m the one that needs to change.
I saw this stare recently with a neighbor kid, which I thought was really interesting. So he had been singing a very off color song and my son picked up on it and he was singing it. I’m not sure he knew what he was saying, my son. So when this neighbor kid came over, I said, Hey, that song is not okay. Like you cannot sing it around my kids. You shouldn’t be singing it at all. This is a nine year old kid, okay? He stares at me with this blank stare for a minute, for a while, doesn’t say anything, doesn’t, you know nothing. And then after, I don’t know how long, he says, oh, oh that song, that song’s about social distancing. And I was like, no, that’s a lie. That’s not true. You just took a minute to come up with what you thought was a plausible story, but that’s not the truth. You need to go home. And I just sent him home cause I was like, I’m done. This is ridiculous. I think it’s interesting that an adult man, 40 years old, 50 years old is still doing that right?
When They’re Working Out How To Manipulate You
And thinking, okay, if I don’t make any moves, like no sudden movements for a second, right? I need to get my story straight. Like they’re not thinking about you in that moment. They’re not thinking about how they hurt you or anything about you. All they’re thinking is, hmm, what is she gonna believe? It takes some energy and I think that’s why they’re sort of frozen there for a second because there’s a lot happening inside their head and they’re trying to keep their face pretty still so they don’t give anything away while they’re working it out, while they’re working out how they’re gonna lie to you when they’re working out how to manipulate you.
Yeah. I’ve heard that called like a narcissistic stare before. I I don’t have a name for it. I should come up with something.
Yeah, yeah. Cause they’re, it’s a definite look.
Maybe in the process of this discussion we can invent a name that we think works. For now we could call it the manipulative stare or the, I’m coming up with my plausible lie to manipulate her stare, you know, I don’t know. But it’s something like that. And a lot of women have seen this over the years, but they don’t know what to make of it and they don’t know what they’re looking at when they see it. So five years go by after this affair and things are just not getting better and then you go looking for help. How did you find BTR?
How Did Emily Find BTR.ORG?
I believe it was just searching and I went to just Apple Podcasts and just searched for betrayal trauma. And that was the same time too. It took about five years to ever even hear the word betrayal trauma. And I had been to plenty of counselors and religious counselors, religious leaders, I’d been to groups that my church put on. I hadn’t heard of Betrayal Trauma before either.
I’m gonna take a break here for just a second to talk about my book. Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page which has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book Trauma Mama Husband Drama is a picture book for adults. So it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations as well as infographics at the back.
Now back to our interview. After that initial porn incident where you found out about it a month after you were married, did you see any other porn use or was it just like that was it and then he hid it really well after that?
No, he actually, what he would do is he would just let me in on enough of the truth that it would pass. So I always knew that he had a pornography problem or that he would view it, but he would say, I look at it once every three to six months and that’s all, and I don’t have a problem. Or every once in a while he’d go talk to our religious leader and he would tell me that. And so I thought, oh, okay. He’s honest with me. And I used to say, you know, if you look at it, tell me, or if you’re struggling, let’s talk about it and it would just be enough. But it was really interesting because in our relationship he just would never, well, very rarely initiate sex or he just wasn’t affectionate. And I’d always think like, what is wrong with me? Why doesn’t, you know, everyone else I hear about their husband can’t keep their hands off of them, what’s wrong with me? And it come to find out, he was looking at it more than he was saying, he was masturbating once a week, and I had never even, he had never brought that up. So he’s like taking care of his own self and not at all interested in a like emotional relationship with someone else.
The Truth About Being Married to a Porn User
I would say your experience is actually more common when it comes to a porn user. So a lot of women think like, oh, he just wants sex all the time because he is into porn. I would say it’s the, generally speaking, you get one or the other, right? Someone who wants to have sex like more than is healthy. Uh, and then the other situation where they just don’t seem interested, they don’t initiate, they’re not planning dates, they’re not interested in you as a person, you know, and like they don’t get you gifts for Christmas, you know, that kind of a thing. Whereas it’s just sort of like, who, who am I to you? You know? I remember asking my ex once, um, while we were married, how, how do you show me that you care? And he had that blank look on his face for a minute and then guess what? He said, I mow the lawn. I said, you have to mow the lawn anyway. You, you would mow it for yourself. So that’s not, no, that’s not a thing. So as you know, porn is an issue. Over the years did you go down the pornography addiction recovery route for a while?
Not at first. You know, just, I didn’t think it was a problem. I thought everyone looks at pornography and he just does it sometimes. And I actually, during that time, before I found out about the affair, after I found out about porn use, my sister-in-law left my brother over pornography and I actually got really mad at her and I talked to her and just said, this is so ridiculous that you’re leaving him over this. And I got really mad and we actually, it ruined our relationship. And now looking back, wow, I have a really different view now, but it was the pornography, we went to like addiction recovery after I found out about the affair.
Is this what the church, like a church program? Did you find that his behaviors got any better or that he used that to groom you?
Using the “Addiction Recovery” Route To Groom The Victim
Yeah, he did. He did go to Addiction Recovery group a little bit like throughout the course of our marriage, but he would just kind of go to a meeting here and there and then he would say he didn’t need it and it wasn’t helpful to him. But when we started going after the affair, it helped a little bit. It made a little bit of a difference. Not a lot.
Well, and I would say that was grooming. So where you think it helped a little bit would be that he was able to use the language that he learned there to groom you a little bit. He was able to weaponize those things in order to make you feel like he was getting better when he actually wasn’t.
We find that that grooming process of using therapy, using addiction recovery, using even clergy meetings or anything like that, if they genuinely want to hide their behaviors, they’re gonna use that to groom and they’re just gonna learn the language. Some guys are even using the language of like, mindfulness or yoga or, you know, I’m, I’m so emotionally healthy. Like I think a real red flag on any dating platform is if someone says they’re, they’re very interested in emotional health, it’s cause they’ve had a woman partner who is like, Hey, we need to be healthy. And they’ve been to the therapy and they’ve learned the language and they use it to weaponize. Because if you meet a man who’s like, oh, my previous spouse was emotionally unhealthy, she, she wasn’t caring, she wasn’t this, she wasn’t that, then that new partner is going to be like, well I’m caring, I’m understanding. And that is just grooming right out of the gate. They like weaponizing this therapy language, the recovery language, sort of like, I’m not the enemy. Porn is the enemy, right? Yeah. I’m not the enemy. Satan is the enemy, you know, that kind of a thing. And, and I agree, Satan is the enemy and porn is the enemy, but you are on that side. You’re, you’re behind enemy lines, you’re dangerous to me.
Abusers Weaponizing Therapy & Religious Terms
Yeah. And it’s what it, it’s interesting what you’d say about him using the, like the language, the therapy language because he would, he would use these terms and it would drive me crazy cause I’m like, you sound like this recorded just a record, like you just learned these terms and now you’re gonna come use ’em on me and try ’em. I just felt like, like not a human, like I’m no, I’m a human with emotion. She can’t just use these prerecorded terms with me.
So Emily and I come from the same faith tradition where we believe that before we came to earth, Satan tried to overthrow God in the preexistence. And I think one of the interesting things about this is that in our faith tradition, we believe that Satan really understands God’s plan. Like he understands the commandments, he understands all of it, he just doesn’t apply any of it. And I think that that’s what these guys are like. They understand the therapy language, they understand all the clergy stuff, they read the Bible, they know all the scriptures, but it doesn’t actually lead them to repentance. Similar to Satan. He knows all these things. He just doesn’t ever repent and never changes. And I think without the application, without actually like having a change of heart and really being actually converted, of course Satan’s gonna stay the same no matter what he knows. So the scary thing about porn addiction, recovery, the scary thing about therapy, the scary thing about reading your scriptures more or anything like that is if you’re not going to apply them, you just become more and more dangerous.
So when did you realize that common marriage advice, Christian marriage advice, like love, serve, forgive, um, be understanding, you know, stuff like that. When did you realize that that just was not working?
Couples Therapy Harms Victims of Abuse
Right after I found out about the affair, we started going to a counselor and that therapist was probably a good marriage counselor for someone like newlyweds or if you’re just kind of having general problems. He had no place being an infidelity kind of counselor. He actually said, okay, what happened is not good, but we’re gonna move forward now. And he said to me, Emily, you can never talk about the past. I don’t want you to bring it up when you do. You’re just damaging your future if you bring up the past to your husband. And so he actually told my husband if I wouldn’t stop talking about it, that he could just get up and leave and, and like leave me – this is a counselor.
He doesn’t know that stonewalling is apparently emotional and psychological abuse I guess.
This guy is horrible, horrible. And my husband of course, he, he loved this counselor. And so when I would talk about the past and he is like, no, you’re burning down the cornfield. This is what he said. he said, you have a cornfield and every time you talk about the past you burn it down and then you guys have to start over. So it was really on me and it wasn’t much on my husband at all. It was just kind of like, okay, you made a mistake, let’s move forward. You’re forgiven. And he was from the same faith background we were from and also our religious leader at church head referred this counselor. So my husband was very stuck on the religious aspect of this religious leader referred him. So he must be who we need to go to. And I kept saying like, this is not helpful, this is, uh, very damaging.
“Facing Spiritual Abuse on All Sides”
Let’s talk about the spiritual abuse. So here you are being abused by your husband psychologically and emotionally abused sexual coercion as well with your counselor who is a religious counselor with your bishop who is your religious leader. So you’re being abused by these men, right? Who are trying to tell you what your experience is and trying to coerce you into thinking that you’re not being abused. Did you get it from family as well? Like were you facing spiritual abuse on all sides?
Not necessarily from family, but I do have to say not one family member has ever told me that maybe I should leave my husband. Everyone has, everyone has brought into the situation forgive, what would Jesus do kind of thing. Friends of mine have maybe considered leaving him, but no family, no spiritual leader. It’s all repent, read your scriptures, pray, God will get you through this.
The what would Jesus do? I’m always thinking he says depart from the wicked is what he says. He says, separate yourselves from wickedness. So what would Jesus do? Uh, he would say, get the hints.
So I need to get myself hence from this. Um, interesting. So when you found BTR, is this like a revelation?
You’re Not Crazy and You’re Not Alone
I can’t even tell you. Just listening to your podcast and feeling like, first of all, I’m not crazy. Second of all, I’m not alone. There’s other people that have been through this cause it’s such a lonely place to be. There’s not very many people you can talk to. I feel like it’s so hard cause even though it’s not my, it is my story. It’s not only my story, so I can’t talk about it to everyone because then I tarnish my husband or make him look bad or the truth about him. So it’s, it’s such a lonely place and it’s like nobody really knows what’s going on cause you can’t talk about it. And then for me, all these therapists, I’m going to make me feel even worse. So just to be able to have someone to like, feel like I could connect with, just to listen to podcasts and feel like I’m not alone and wow, I’m really not crazy. That was so, so big.
I’m so happy that you found us. Yeah, me too. Um, we always want women to find us because when you’re in that fog of abuse and you’re being abused from all sides, it is so hard to figure out what’s going on. And even if you do wanna tell people, right, even if you, I, I’m not saying that you should, but let’s just say that you got it in your mind that you were gonna get up in your meeting church from the pulpit and say, everyone I’m being psychologically abused, they would not believe you as the other issue. So the the other thing is, is that you can start telling people, but then people just look at you like you’re crazy. So it’s so nice to be a part of a community where you’re immediately believed, right? And not just believed. You don’t even have to explain it.
Support the BTR.ORG Podcast
We just get it. It’s so freeing. And then I think the more we validate each other and empower each other, the stronger we get over time. And then it makes it so much easier over time to see it and help us make decisions about what to do to get to safety. Absolutely. We’re gonna pause the conversation here and I am going to continue talking with Emily next week. So stay tuned for next week’s episode. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week, stay safe out there.