Many women who find out they’ve been betrayed, realize that they’ve been lied to by their husband about many things.

Often, they feel hopeless and alone.

Sometimes, they even feel shame.

Then they find others who’ve experienced betrayal, but they still may wonder if things can ever get better, if they’ll ever heal.

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, visits with Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul, about Julianne’s personal journey to healing. Julianne is a betrayal trauma specialist and works with women one-on-one and in support groups.

A Marriage Built On Trust, Shattered By Lies

Julianne trusted him.

Michael had told her of his struggle with pornography and compulsive sexual behaviors as a teen, before they were even engaged.

Julianne, naively, thought those behaviors were in the past and made it known to him that they would not be welcome in their marriage.

For the first three years of their marriage, Julianne felt something was missing, that something was “off.”

By their third anniversary, she’d put her finger on what was missing but she had no idea that it was merely a drop in the bucket of what was really going on in her marriage.

By all appearances, Michael was a great guy.

“What I did pick up on was a real emotional disconnect in our marriage. He was saying all the right things, but I didn’t feel it in my gut.”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

Shortly after that third anniversary, she caught him in a lie.

Then, D-day…

“[D-day] can be anything that’s significant to the individual.” -Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

For some women, it’s the day they stumble upon a text to or from “the other woman.”

For others, it’s the day they realize they’ve been living in an abusive relationship.

For Julianne, it was Michael’s disclosure of his secret life, his secret behaviors.

“It was the D-day of ‘this is the destruction of the marriage that I thought I had and the man that I thought I knew.’”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

Julianne had been completely blindsided. She’d had no idea all this was happening.

Julianne knows she was lucky because, from that moment on, her husband was honest.

He disclosed things he’d done before he’d met her and things he’d done in their marriage. He told her everything.

“It was brutal. It was devastating, but he was committed to bringing everything into the light. Because of that, I was able to begin to slowly trust him over the course of probably that year.”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

Like many other women, Julianne felt as though her life had been shattered.

Her reality was no longer reality and she realized she’d been living a lie.

It Isn’t A Crime To Trust

Right before D-day, Julianne had been planning to start a master’s program. She’d been dreaming of this for five years but she didn’t feel good about doing it just yet.

“There was just no way I would have been able to go through this—I call it my master’s degree in trauma from God. I couldn’t have done that and actually been in school in a master’s program. I would have ended up withdrawing anyway.”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

She says if she’d ended up withdrawing, people would’ve known and she was afraid of what they might think or say about her husband or about her.

“Even though we, as women, haven’t done anything shameful, so many of us, I find, feel ashamed of what our husbands have done and we somehow feel like we’re shamed. Our only crime is that we trusted.”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

TRUST.

It’s the biggest thing that’s broken when D-day happens.

Anne points out that most marriages should be built on trust or they probably won’t work out.

“In order to be in a relationship and be happy and move forward there has to be some element of trust, so it was like a calculated choice that we made. Why would you get married with this skeptical heart? That’s not going to work.”

-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

One of the best things that happened for their relationship, says Julianne, is that they were able to get some great counsel right away.

“Our mentor said, ‘Julianne, this is not about you at all. This is everything to do with Michael, and if you guys are going to have a marriage, Julianne, you are 0% responsible at this point and Michael is 100% responsible. Michael, if she’s ever going to trust you again you have to be completely, 100% honest with her.’”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

As Michael started disclosing everything, Julianne was able to begin trusting.

But it wasn’t just the disclosures that helped her be able to start trusting again, it was also his response to her pain.

“That trust really takes a long time to be rebuilt and restored. It has a lot to do with how the man responds. Is he angry? Is he defensive? Is he blaming? Is he evasive? Does he continue to not hold the truth? Does he continue to lie and gaslight? Or is he forthcoming and repentant and broken and shattered by the impact of what he’s done on his wife’s heart? Is he pursuing truth and transformation?”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

Anne adds that along with this response, his behavior going forward will also help rebuild trust.

“Also, I would say, willing to make life-long amends. Living amends of this, continually. I’m not saying forever and ever and ever, but I am saying recognizing the damage that he’s done and needing to make things better for his wife who he’s hurt so badly.”

-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

It’s been 25 years since Julianne’s D-day.

Now she’s committed to guiding other women along the healing path, but her experience helps her there, as well.

Recognizing The Lies As Abuse

As Julianne helps other women, she reflects back on her own experience.

As her husband worked his recovery, he began providing support to other men working to overcome their addiction. Often, their wives requested to talk to Julianne.

As she listened to some of the things their husbands had told them, Julianne was able to identify the lies and “crazy-making” behaviors.

“I think what was crazy-making, for me, was, on one hand, here was this respectable, responsible man that I admired, respected, and trusted, and, on the other hand, here was this double life. This life that I didn’t know about, that was secret and hidden. That just existing was crazy-making, or gaslighting.”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

Julianne recognizes that she only went through a few years of this “crazy-making” or gaslighting, but many of the women she works with have gone through 5, 10, or even 20 years of it.

That many years of gaslighting makes the healing journey a bit longer.

“At that point, the gaslighting and psychological trauma or the psychological abuse and the betrayal trauma just increase exponentially the longer women are subjected to that man living a lie.”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

Identifying gaslighting can be tricky because it can be subtle.

“I think that’s the thing about abuse that’s so tricky, is that everybody thinks they really understand it.”

-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Julianne and Anne recommend three things that can help with this.

3 Things To Help Identify Subtle Abuse

  • A support system of other victims
  • A trauma-informed therapist or abuse specialist
  • Getting educated about all types of abuse

Anne recognizes that it’s often difficult to see the abuse when a victim is living in it.

“Even if you tell someone what gaslighting is and they’re like, ‘Yeah, got it.’ But when you’re living in it, actually seeing it is so difficult, unless you’ve got a multitude of concrete examples and you’re also tuned in to a network of other victims, who share their stories and you can start recognizing it for what it is, which is why we run our Daily Support Group.”

-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Julianne says that finding a good therapist with the right training and experience, can also help a victim identify abuse.

“Another good help or support for recognizing that is a trauma-informed therapist. Somebody who is not trained in sex addiction recovery, but who has a trauma background and is trauma-informed because they’re more apt to discern that psychological, verbal, and emotional abuse pattern and bring that into the light and into the counseling.”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

Anne adds that someone who specializes in abuse can also help.

“Find an abuse specialist. Find someone who’s trained in abuse, knows abuse, or is trauma-informed because, otherwise, they’re going to miss it.”

-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

There are many ways to get educated. BTR has many articles on identifying abuse, especially gaslighting.

Anne also highly recommends reading Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft and The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans.

If a woman still finds herself unsure if she’s in an abusive relationship, she should reach out to someone safe. BTR Group is also a good place to start.

Trusting Isn’t Your First Priority, Safety Is

From her own experience and working with other women, Julianne knows that betrayal trauma makes an impact on a woman. It wreaks havoc on her body and her mind.

“It’s so emotionally and psychologically damaging that the person that you’ve trusted and is supposed to have your back is actually the one that’s turned against you in such a vicious way.”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

Julianne shares three things a woman should do when D-day happens.

3 Things To Do After D-day

  1. Get to Safety
  2. Set Boundaries
  3. Put off life-altering decisions for six months to a year

Julianne says safety should be the number one priority. Not just physical and sexual safety, but also emotional and psychological safety.

This is also where boundaries come in. Sometimes a woman needs to set some hard boundaries so she can be safe.

Sometimes women have a difficult time setting boundaries because they feel it is “too harsh.” Julianne says it’s actually one of the best things she could do for her husband.

“Many times, those boundaries are exactly what the man needs for him to be able to deal with his own stuff, where he can’t continually dump it on her.”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

Putting off life-altering decisions refers to things like divorce, especially when children are involved. Julianne says that waiting to make those big decisions helps to keep some stability in a woman’s life.

“When I say ‘wait a year,’ it’s for those life-altering decisions, like for divorce, especially when children are involved, to try and have as much stability as possible when the woman is already dealing with a crisis situation.”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

In-home or out-of-home separation is sometimes a necessary boundary and is meant to be a temporary situation.

Julianne leaves betrayed and abused women a final reminder that trusting isn’t a crime and the betrayal isn’t their fault.

“It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault that I trusted. It’s not our fault that our husbands struggle with any kind of sexual compulsivity, whether it’s porn use or other acting out. It’s not our fault if they’re compulsive liars and deceive us and gaslight us.”

-Julianne Cusick, Shero and co-founder of Restoring the Soul

Many women join Betrayal Trauma Recovery because they’re looking for a safe place to share their experience with betrayal and abuse.

BTR Group provides that safe place. BTR offers more than 15 BTR Group sessions a week in multiple time zones, making it easier than ever to find a BTR Group that fits your schedule without having to leave your home. Each session is led by a Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist.

Full Transcript:

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

I have Julianne Cusick on today’s episode. She has experienced first-hand the devastation of sexual betrayal and the isolation, fear, and shame that can accompany it.

But before we get to our guest, our Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group was made specifically for you. We have multiple sessions a day, in multiple times zones. Our coaches are the best at helping women identify emotionally and psychologically abusive behaviors, helping them understand the sexual coercion involved with pornography use, and helping them set boundaries as soon as possible to get to safety quickly.

We are like an ambulance for women who are being abused. It does take time to establish that safety, but we can help you immediately. You don’t have to try to explain to the therapist what’s happening for session after session after session. Please check out Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group.

If you go to btr.org, click on Services, choose Daily Support Group, and you’ll be able to see our session schedule. You can hop on one of our sessions from your phone, computer or tablet within a matter of hours because we have them running all the time. Go check it out. We hope to see you in a session today.

Julianne is the co-founder of Restoring the Soul, where her primary focus is working with women suffering from betrayal trauma as a result of their partner’s sexual compulsiveness, pornography use, and infidelity.

She speaks to the hearts of women from her own story of healing and redemption and has a passion for healing the hearts of hurting women. For the past 15 years, she has met with women one-on-one and led Soul Care Support Groups for wives overcoming intimate partner betrayal.

Welcome, Julianne.

Julianne: Anne, thank you. It’s so great to be here with you today.

Anne: Let’s start with your personal story, which was your baptism by fire into this new world of emotional and psychological abuse that isn’t widely recognized.

He Was Honest, So I Trusted Him

Did you recognize your husband’s abusive behaviors at first?

Julianne: No, Anne, I didn’t. Part of that was because they were hidden and secret from me, but prior to our engagement and subsequent marriage, Michael disclosed to me that in his teens and twenties he had struggled with pornography and compulsive sexual behaviors.

I was young and naive, Anne, and so I said, “Well, that’s fine, it’s in the past, but it’s not okay once we get married.” For the first year, he was “sober,” if you will, but then it was during our second year of marriage that he started to act out, unbeknownst to me.

It was shortly after our third wedding anniversary, when I caught him in a lie, that things started to unravel and he said the dreaded words that any woman would hate to hear, which is, “There’s something I need to tell you.” At that point, he started to disclose his struggles, his secrecy, and his behaviors over the last year that I had no idea was going on.

Anne: Yeah, the dreaded D-day that everyone talks about. They talk about their life before D-day and their life after D-day. It doesn’t always have to be a disclosure of porn use. It can be the day that you recognized, “Whoa, what he’s been doing to me has been emotionally abusive,” or something like that. It doesn’t always have to be a disclosure on their end. D-day can be just the day you realized that your life was different than you expected.

Julianne: It can be anything that’s significant to the individual. For me, my D-day was the disclosure day. I did not discover Michael’s behavior, he disclosed to me, and that’s really significant. I’ve worked with women both ways and I think more women kind of stumble upon it and discover it.

When I caught Michael in the lie, he didn’t continue to lie to me, which was a real gift. He started to disclose everything. I didn’t go through that denial period with him gaslighting for months or years. It was the D-day of this is the destruction of the marriage that I thought I had and the man that I thought I knew.

Anne: Now, you’re still married to Michael and you guys are public about your story. Before he disclosed to you, did you have something in your gut, or did you suspect something was wrong or was this completely out of the blue for you?

Julianne: The behavior really was completely out of the blue because I had so much respect for him. I just didn’t put the two together. Relationally, I felt a disconnection. I didn’t feel emotionally connected to him.

We had recently celebrated our third anniversary right before this D-day and he’s professing his love to me and has this gift. I remember thinking, “This is a bunch of bull. I don’t believe what you’re saying. You’re saying one thing but I’m feeling something different.” I think what I did pick up on was there was a real emotional disconnect in our marriage. He was saying all the right things, but I didn’t feel it in my gut.

Anne: When you were having that feeling of “You know what, something’s not quite right,” again, you were disconnected from the fact that it was porn use or infidelity or whatever was going on, but when you had that gut feeling that something wasn’t right, did you try any of the common marriage advice like “love, serve, forgive,” or anything like that? Did that work or did it not work?

Julianne: Well, thankfully, I wasn’t exposed to any of those things, and three weeks later, when I did find out the truth, I was devastated. I was angry, and I’m very grateful that we got some good counsel right away.

Our mentor said, “Julianne, this is not about you at all. This is everything to do with Michael, and if you guys are going to have a marriage, Julianne, you are 0% responsible at this point and Michael is 100% responsible. Michael, if she’s ever going to trust you again you have to be completely, 100% honest with her.”

We embarked on a journey of disclosure and he continued to tell me things from his past whether it was before we’d even met, five, ten years prior, or within our marriage. It was brutal. It was devastating, but he was committed to bringing everything into the light, and because of that I was able to begin to slowly trust him over the course of probably that year.

Anne: Let’s talk about the psychological abuse. Like the lying and the gaslighting that was happening before the disclosure, but you didn’t know about it. You’ve got sexual coercion going on, where you have a sexual boundary of no porn use that he is not disclosing to you and other types of behaviors.

Gaslighting And Lying Are Abusive

A lot of people don’t like BTR because they think we’re too extreme because we call those types of behaviors abusive. What are your feelings about that?

Julianne: I think gaslighting is absolutely abusive. Before we had the term clinically, when I started working with women and sharing my story and I would hear the outright lies that women were being told and they were saying this doesn’t make sense to me. For lack of a better term, we just called it “crazy-making.”

I think what was crazy-making, for me, was, on one hand, here was this respectable, responsible man that I admired, respected, and trusted, and, on the other hand, here was this double life. This secret life that I didn’t know about, that his friends didn’t know about, that was secret and hidden. That just existing was crazy-making, was gaslighting.

Anne: Well, it’s also flat out lying to you.

Julianne: And some of it was direct, as in, “Well, I’m working,” when he really wasn’t working. Thankfully, it was a short period, it was only a year. He was caught before his behaviors got worse. For me, thankfully, before it was 5 years or 10 years or 20 years.

Many of the women I work with, that’s what they’re dealing with. At that point, the gaslighting and psychological trauma or the psychological abuse and the betrayal trauma just increase exponentially the longer that women are subject to that man living a lie.

Anne: Now, you’re a psychotherapist, were you a psychotherapist before this happened to you?

Julianne: No, actually my husband was a trained therapist at the time. He had worked in clinical mental health and then got his master’s degree the first year we were married. Then, the third year of our marriage, right before all of this came out, I was supposed to start my master’s degree.

I had audited his program and sat in on all of the classes, but it was my turn to go through for credit to actually earn my degree. Really, by the grace of God, Anne, I just didn’t have a peace about doing the degree that summer, and it had been a goal for almost five years. I withdrew from the program.

Almost to the day that the program would have started is when I caught Michael in a lie, and he disclosed everything. There was just no way I would have been able to go through this—I call it my master’s degree in trauma from God.

I couldn’t have done that and actually been in school in a master’s program. I would have ended up withdrawing anyway, and everyone would have known, and the shame—because even though we, as women, haven’t done anything shameful, so many of us, I find, feel ashamed of what our husbands have done and we somehow feel like we’re shamed.

Anne: We feel stupid, too. Like, “Why didn’t I see this or why didn’t I know?” There’s a shame that comes along with that too, I think.

Julianne: Yeah, it can. I encourage women not to add that level of shame onto themselves, but many women do feel like, “How come I didn’t know? What’s wrong with me that I didn’t see this?” Our only crime is that we trusted.

Anne: Yeah, and in order to be in a relationship and be happy and move forward there has to be some element of trust, so it was like a calculated choice that we made. Why would you get married with this skeptical heart? That’s not going to work.

Julianne: Absolutely. Nobody ever marries somebody they don’t trust, at least I hope they don’t. But then we find out, “Oh, my gosh, our trust has been broken, now what?” That trust really takes a long time to be rebuilt and restored. It has a lot to do with how the man responds.

Is he angry? Is he defensive? Is he blaming? Is he evasive? Does he continue to not hold the truth? Does he continue to lie and gaslight? Or is he forthcoming and repentant and broken and shattered by the impact of what he’s done on his wife’s heart? Is he pursuing truth and transformation?

Anne: Yeah, and also, I would say, willing to make life-long amends. Living amends of this, continually. I’m not saying forever and ever and ever, but I am saying recognizing the damage that he’s done and needing to make things better for his wife who he’s hurt so badly.

Julianne: That was another gift that Michael gave me. He really pursued me, relentlessly, and I was not nice to be around. I was like, “Look, I don’t like you, I don’t love you, I don’t know if I ever will love you, but I’m staying.” I didn’t feel like I really felt released to divorce.

In retrospect, I now talk with women and say, “Wait at least six months to a year before you make a life-altering decision because you’re in a state of trauma.” Looking back, it was probably that trauma state that I was in. “I can’t make a decision right now, so I’m going to kind of watch and wait and see what happens.”

Anne: Yeah, I was in that boat too. I do encourage women to set boundaries immediately, whatever those are. With me, the gaslighting and the emotional abuse was so extreme, and the denial and the blaming and blame-shifting and all of that, that I had to set a no-contact boundary. There was literally not one interaction that I could have, where I wasn’t somehow blamed or gaslit, and so I set a no-contact boundary, but I didn’t want to get divorced.

I waited and then he didn’t do anything. He didn’t pursue me in any way or try to make amends. Nothing. Then he filed for divorce. I was like, “Okay. “Clearly, he’s not doing anything and, if he files that’s where his heart is.”

I felt a lot of peace knowing that I had set my boundary and I was safe at that point, although not financially safe. Then it also felt very emotionally disturbing to watch what he was doing from a safe distance. I mean it was heart-wrenching because he did everything that I didn’t want him to do.

He first shut down the bank account and then files for divorce and then lies to everybody about what happened. Every single thing that is a nightmare, happened. It’s actually still happening. In fact, I recently found out that he is becoming a therapist. Since I have no contact with him, I’m not 100% sure, but I think that’s what is happening, so I will correct the record if that’s not the case. I think he’s doing that to prove to everyone that he’s the one that’s healthy.

Even though he’s doing that, I’m like, “He is full-blown gone. There is no part of him that recognizes the truth, I guess.” I’m having a lot more compassion for that lately as I heal more. When people say “wait a year to make a decision about things,” that is not the same as wait a year to set a boundary.

We do not want women to be psychologically or emotionally abused for a year, while they’re thinking about what to do. You can set a boundary immediately and then make those life-altering decisions later or, in my case, he made his way out of my life.

It’s Easier To Know If You Can Trust With Boundaries In Place

Julianne: Yes, I agree. Thanks for the clarification there. I agree with boundaries, and I set immediate boundaries with Michael. We had separate bedrooms, he slept on the floor in the living room and I had the bedroom in the apartment to myself. It was that way for months. There were definitely lots of boundaries in place.

When I say “wait a year,” it’s for those life-altering decisions, like for divorce, especially when children are involved, to try and have as much stability as possible when the woman is already dealing with a crisis situation.

Let me say to you, Anne, I’m so sorry. I’ve heard your podcast before, but to hear your story today, my heart just breaks for the gaslighting and the blaming. It’s so emotionally and psychologically damaging that the person that you’ve trusted and is supposed to have your back is actually the one that’s turned against you in such a vicious way. I’m so sorry.

Anne: With my no-contact boundary it’s been easier and easier and easier. It gets easier every year. I become stronger and more healed, and able to look at him more with compassion and sort of sorrow rather than absolute terror.

In the beginning, I thought of him as this zombie monster, who was trying to destroy me and there was nothing I could do to rationally talk with him or have a rational conversation or actually talk with him and get anything that made sense coming back. It’s scary.

So many of the women that listen to this podcast, are living in that place of just absolute terror and fear and the nightmare. It’s hard. I think the other part of my story that’s really difficult for women to hear and it’s difficult for me to talk about because I don’t want to stress anyone out or freak anyone out, but he was like your husband for the first seven years.

He was very repentant. I was really proud of him. We spoke publicly, and that’s one reason why I use a pseudonym now. He was on a really big radio program talking about his recovery. He was the model husband to everyone.

Now that I’m out of it, I can see that he was gaslighting me that whole entire time. I don’t get triggered anymore so much, when I hear women who talk about their amazing husband in recovery or whatever, but because I lived that and then I lived the nightmare of realizing the years of improvements and goodness was not, it’s really, really hard.

I think it’s hard for women to hear too. I think it’s much easier to hear the story of “Oh, they were doing really well and then they got even better.” There are stories like that, and I hope that your story is like that.

How long has it been since your discovery?

Julianne: It’s been 25 years now.

Anne: Oh, well, 25 years is a good run.

Julianne: Yeah, it is. It’s a really good run, but not everyone has that. What you had is that initial trauma of knowing about it and then that seven years is almost worse than what happened the first time.

Anne: Yeah, it was actually five, because two years in I found out about his porn use the first time, so it was five years of his “fake recovery.” We spoke publicly about it. We were the face of recovery and everything. I remember speaking in front of 1600 people with my abuser, who was abusing me at the time, and also abusing everybody in the audience because he was lying to me and everybody else, and gaslighting everybody. I think back on that, and I get physically ill, like I want to throw up.

Now, when women tell me, “Oh, he’s doing so well in his recovery,” there is this part of me that’s like, “Do you really know what abusive behaviors look like?” Because if I knew what I know now back then, I would have recognized it. I hadn’t read Why Does He Do That? I hadn’t read The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans.

Every single person listening to this podcast has to read those two books. They are like the bibles of abuse, and I will be coming out with a book soon about that so that people can recognize it. Had I known I think I would have been able to recognize at the time because I always knew something wasn’t quite right.

I just thought, “Well, he’s not far enough into recovery yet. He’s working on this, he’s getting better.” I thought of this upward graph of dips that go up and down and up and down, but overall the graph is going up, rather than a cycle, which is what I see now.

With you, if you could go back and talk to your younger self, what would you tell her?

Julianne: Well, I would tell her it’s not her fault. I think I would reiterate that to my younger self and to any woman listening, and to you. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault that I trusted. It’s not our fault that our husbands struggle with any kind of sexual compulsivity, whether it’s porn use or other acting out. It’s not our fault if they’re compulsive liars and deceive us and gaslight us.

Anne: Yeah, it’s not, and to that point that I made of, if I knew what I know now back then, I may have been able to recognize it. It still doesn’t make it my fault.

Julianne: No. You have that added trauma. You have a secondary injury that’s worse than the first, and then you have that five years of trusting and then that gut feeling of, “Well, I just thought it was this and it turned out it was something else.”

I’m curious, what are some of the signs that you saw that now, in retrospect, do you recognize as some of those emotionally abusive behaviors?

Anne: I hesitate, because so many people ask me that question, and it takes a long time to be able to see them. We can say gaslighting, but really truly understanding what that means and what it looks like takes a lot of examples and talking to other women.

If any women are listening and you haven’t read The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, read that book and then you’ll be able to really recognize it. She gives a lot of really clear examples of what that looks like, but it’s not just a 10-minute, “Okay, here’s the list of things I can tell you.” When my book comes out, it will have a lot of those specific examples that women can look for.  

I think that’s the thing about abuse that’s so tricky, is that everybody thinks they really understand it. Even if you tell someone what gaslighting is and they’re like, “Yeah, got it.” But when you are living in it, actually seeing it is so difficult, unless you’ve got a multitude of concrete examples and you’re also tuned in to a network of other victims, who share their stories and you can start recognizing it for what it is, which is why we run our Daily Support Group.

Julianne: Yes, another good help or support for recognizing that is a trauma-informed therapist. Somebody who is not trained in sex addiction recovery, but who has a trauma background and is trauma-informed because they’re more apt to discern that psychological, verbal, and emotional abuse pattern and bring that into the light and into the counseling.

Anne: Absolutely. Find an abuse specialist. Find someone who’s trained in abuse, knows abuse, or is trauma-informed because, otherwise, they’re going to miss it. Also, the “let’s have compassion and not shame him” and those kinds of ways that they’re coddling the abuser. Like, “Let’s not make any decisions to separate until a year,” for example.

Well, then you might be asking an abused woman to stay with her abuser for a year. It depends on the situation, but if she’s being constantly gaslit, lied to, and manipulated, she needs to set some pretty intense boundaries right away.

Julianne: Yes, and really those boundaries are kind of like on a spectrum just like gaslighting is on a spectrum. Boundaries can be everything from no sexual contact to separate bedrooms to an in-house separation, an out-of-house separation. There are a lot of steps women can take to protect themselves while they heal and also to empower themselves.

Many times, those boundaries are exactly what the man needs for him to be able to deal with his own stuff. Where he can’t continually dump it on her.

Anne: Yeah, and I always tell women, “If you really do love this person, if you really want to be compassionate, setting a boundary that they cannot do this to you anymore is the most compassionate thing that you can do.”

Julianne: Absolutely.

Anne: Thank you so much, Julianne, for coming on today’s episode. We really appreciate your insights.

I feel bad that I talked so much. I think I got a little bit triggered today and I apologize for those of you who’ve heard my story. Sometimes, I still just feel like I need to explain myself. It’s really interesting. Other times, I’m fine. Today was just one of those days. I appreciate all of you for continuing to listen.

I also want to talk about how the more I heal, the fewer triggers I have. I see that as a sign that I am healing. I realize that, for some of you, if you’re new to this, some of the things I say might be a little triggering. If you’re new and you’re also really fresh in your trauma, I recommend starting back at the beginning of this podcast and listening to it from the beginning.

You’ll hear the progression of my trauma throughout these four years, it might be helpful to you. I am just maybe a step ahead of some of you, or maybe just in the same place as some of you may be four years out as well. We are all going through this together.

If this podcast is helpful to you, please rate it on iTunes or your other podcasting apps. Every single one of your ratings helps isolated women find us.

If Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group doesn’t work for you because the sessions aren’t when you can go or for some reason you don’t really like a group setting, try Individual Sessions. You can set an appointment with any one of our amazing coaches at a time that works for you. Know that we have options. You can talk to a professional who really understands this type of abuse really quickly and get the help that you need. Go to btr.org to learn more. Until next week, stay safe out there.

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