One of the most difficult decisions you may face is deciding when and how to safely leave your abuser.
At BTR, we affirm every woman’s right to emotional, sexual, and physical safety. For many victims, this means separation or divorce.
Lee, a member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community, joins Anne Blythe on the free BTR podcast to break down her own powerful journey of identifying abuse and finding the courage and strength to leave her abuser. Lee, like many women, had already left her abuser seven times before ending the relationship for good. For more, tune in to the BTR podcast and read the full transcript below.
Identify The Abuse: A Foundational Step To Safely Leave Your Abuser
There are many reasons that victims have trouble identifying the abuse in their relationships.
At times you’re thinking, well, he doesn’t scream at our kids so he must be a good guy. Or, the other night he was with us and he was great, so I’m lucky. A lot of women are in abusive relationships and they don’t realize it because they think, I’m so lucky, he’s such a great guy. It’s really, really common.Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
- Family, friends, and clergy minimize the abuse
- Abusers and victims may “scale” the abuse (at least it’s not ____)
- Victims may compare their abusive partner to more obviously abusive men and feel indebted to their abuser
- Abusers use gaslighting, blame-shifting, and other forms of manipulative abuse to keep victims confused and unable to pinpoint the abuse
- Abusers condition victims to exaggerate the abuser’s good qualities and ignore red flags and blatantly abusive behaviors
- Victims may feel afraid to identify the abuse because of the ramifications
When victims courageously identify abuse, they are setting the foundation for a future of safety and healing.
How Can Victims Identify Abuse?
A victim’s Understanding and accepting the word “abuse” may come gradually or in one intense moment.
To identify abuse, many women need:
- Education about abuse and trauma (books, the BTR podcast, and BTR articles can help)
- A network of trauma and abuse-informed supporters
- Connection with other victims who listen, validate, and offer help
While victims may not immediately identify all of the ways that their abuser is harming them, it’s important to take action by setting boundaries based on what they have identified. Women can continue setting and maintaining boundaries as the depth of the abuse becomes clearer.
Safely Leave Your Abuser: Determine Your Safety Needs
Even after women have accepted the truth about the abuse in their relationship, it can be difficult to set firm boundaries and even more difficult to leave the relationship.
Many women face roadblocks when facing the decision to leave, including:
- A feeling of failure that the marriage is ending
- Fear of their partner’s retaliatory abuse
- Concern about finances, property, and pets
- Worries about the children
- Fear about legal proceedings, including the divorce and custody arrangements
- Fear of being shamed, blamed, and ridiculed by the abuser and his enablers
- Fear of breaking the norms of her faith-community’s culture
A powerful way to overcome these roadblocks is listing out safety needs.
What Are Safety Needs?
When women can determine what they need for emotional, sexual, financial, and physical safety, they can often see their situation more clearly. Understanding the danger that they and their children are in when their safety needs are ignored and safety boundaries are crossed by their partner can be a catalyst in making the decision to leave.
Some examples of safety needs a victim might list include:
- “I need to be able to say no to sex and be respected by my partner.”
- “I need to live in a porn-free home.”
- “I need to be spoken to in a non-abusive way: no yelling, screaming, swearing, or lying.”
- “I need to know that my body is safe from physical harm.”
- “I need to know my partner’s sexual history and behaviors before having sexual contact with him.”
Create A Safety Plan To Safely Leave Your Abuser
Many women choose to make the courageous decision to separate themselves from abuse when they understand their safety needs and the reality that their safety is in grave jeopardy by staying with their abuser,
Because abusers escalate when victims begin to prioritize their own safety, it is important for women to create a safety plan.
What Is A Safety Plan?
A safety plan is a simple document that the victim shares with her support network. By outlining her plan to leave, she is able to avoid high-intensity scenarios when emotions may be running high. A safety plan helps a woman make decision in advance so that no matter how much trauma she is feeling, she has a clearly enumerated list of actions she is going to take as she leaves.
A safety plan can include:
- Where she is going to go after leaving
- What time of day she is going to leave
- How she is going to keep her children safe as she leaves
- How she is going to safely handle any joint pets
- What she is going to pack
- How she will respond in the event of an abusive scenario
Abuse can severely escalate when women tell their abuser that they are leaving. So it is advisable for women to leave when their partner is not home, and to make contact only after they are in a safe place with a safe network of supporters to protect them.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Prioritizes Women’s Safety
BTR doesn’t push an agenda of staying married to an abuser or getting a divorce: BTR advocates for women’s safety. For some women, this may mean staying in the relationship but safely watching from a distance to see if their abuser decides to change.
The decision to stay or go is personal and complicated; victims deserve a safe space to openly discuss their situation, process their trauma, express their fears, and ask important questions.
That is why the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets every day in multiple time zones: to give victims the support they need as they make these gut-wrenching decisions.
At BTR, we believe that every victim is courageous, important, and worthy of love and respect. Join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group today and receive the validation and support that you need as you begin your journey to healing.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery.
We have a woman from our community, we’re going to call her Lee, on today’s episode. She’s going to be sharing her story. The first part will be her story and the second part will be after she and I actually talked privately quite a bit about her setting a no-contact boundary. So, when you’re done with this episode make sure you stay tuned for next week. These podcasts are several months apart where we did these interviews, so it wasn’t the same day when she talks about what happened since today’s interview and how she set no-contact, and how that’s gone. So, stay tuned.
Leave A Review For The BTR Podcast
Here’s a BTR podcast review we received on Saturday. “This podcast was the first podcast I found on my search for an understanding of my situation. I am in such a better place because of the knowledge that this podcast gave me. It launched my real recovery from my husband’s abuse. It took me a while to label my spouse’s behavior as abuse, but I eventually learned what abuse was and I learned what safety looks and feels like. This podcast was the catalyst for my safety and recovery journey. Thank you, Anne, for your devotion to this podcast and for your devotion to helping other women. My marriage was not restored as I had hoped but I have so much more confidence, peace, and sanity. My life is far from perfect and I still have work to do, but I am in such a better place now because of the education you have provided. The knowledge you gifted me has helped to lead me out of the wilderness. Thank you, Anne, for caring about us. Fight on Anne.”
The BTR Community Can Rely On Each Other For Strength
I appreciate this in return. Your reviews and your comments on the podcast and your well-wishes really sustain me because it’s really hard for me too. Single mom and homeschooling. It’s hard for all of us, so the good news is we are all in this together, we’re all in the trenches together. The bad news is we’re all in a trench, but hopefully, we’ll make our way through life to safety and peace. The other cool thing is we all support each other, we all raise each other up, and we create an army of healthy women to help other women get to safety, and that’s the thing that is really important.
Speaking of an army of women who help, when women join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, they have access to multiple live sessions a day where they can actually talk to coaches and other women who are going through this.
Now we’re going to just jump right into Lee’s story.
Anne: Welcome Lee.
Lee: Hi, thanks for having me.
Abuse Is Difficult For Victims To Identify
Anne: Many women in this situation go through years and years of emotional abuse and psychological abuse and they don’t even realize it. So, let’s talk about your experience.
You got married really young. In the beginning, did you realize it was abuse?
Lee: No, I did not know I was in an abusive relationship until pretty much my mid 30’s. I got married at 19 and we were really young and so I just thought it was a maturity thing and that eventually we would get past that. There was also addiction within our relationship, and again, I just thought that was just a thing that we would be able to get over at some point once we, you know, grew up.
Abusers Choose To Betray & Abuse
Anne: And what types of things did he “struggle with”? In the addict world, they’re always like, “He’s struggling with this or that.” I’m like, well, he’s choosing. There are some choices he’s making. What were some of the things that he was choosing?
Lee: Definitely alcohol. He really struggled throughout our entire marriage with alcohol, and unfortunately, I didn’t address it soon enough, and it just became a bigger and bigger problem.
Anne: What about pornography?
Abusive Men Often Use Pornography
Lee: Absolutely, there was always pornography in our home. I think I just became immune to that part of it though. I felt like if I could get him to stop drinking everything else would fall into place. So, I thought. oh, as soon as we grow up, he’ll stop drinking and the pornography will go away.
Anne: Yeah. A lot of victims have that feeling just about the porn without the drinking. Like, okay, once he can get this pornography thing under control then he’s not going to act like this anymore. So that’s hard. It’s hard to kind of recognize that these behaviors, all of these behaviors, are abusive and unless they address the abuse, they are going to escalate. They’re not going to get better.
“Scaling” Abuse Is Harmful To Women
So, what do you think was the biggest contributing factor to you not recognizing it was abuse throughout those years?
Lee: Comparison, and I feel like so many women do this and this is something that I am so glad we get to talk about today because I’ve been thinking a lot about it as I hear different stories from friends and family members. Just the idea that someone else’s situation is worse than yours or your life isn’t that bad because you have a nicer home, or my life isn’t that bad because he doesn’t say this to me, or he comes home at a decent hour. It was just that comparison of hearing other people’s stories and just finding one thing that might have been better in my life than someone else’s made me assume that it was still okay to stay in that relationship.
Anne: So, talk about that. I think a lot of women do this. That makes sense to me, but I haven’t actually ever thought about it before. Well, mine does the dishes every night so I’m lucky because I have that, or mine has a really good job or something like that. What were the things that you thought were really the things that were better or the things you were proud of?
Abusers Condition Victims To Exaggerate Their Good Qualities
Lee: You know, this is hard for me to answer because I don’t feel like now, maybe further down my road I might be able to find things that maybe I was proud of, but right now I’m only a year out. It still feels so dark to me, so I don’t have a lot of those moments, but he never cussed me out or called me a name. He has always been pretty good with our children. He never was a yeller even though he was really unsupportive; he was also always very generous with his time, but also, it’s just so crazy because you don’t see the things that really are in your relationship at that time.
He might have done the dishes one night and I took that one night and pulled it along for everything else. Does that make sense?
A Harmful Phrase: “At Least He Doesn’t…”
Anne: Yeah, so at times you’re thinking, well, he doesn’t scream at our kids so he must be a good guy. At least not all the time or he didn’t scream that one time or whatever. Or the other night he was with us and he was great, so I’m lucky. A lot of women are in abusive relationships and they don’t realize it because they think, I’m so lucky, he’s such a great guy. It’s really really common.
Abuse Conditions Victims To Give Abusers All The Credit
Lee: I also don’t think women realize how much effort and work they put in to make their spouse a good guy, and what I mean by that is a lot of the things I was proud of were actually things that I was doing, not what he was doing. I would make sure we were at family gatherings. I made sure our kids looked good. I made sure we were going to church on time. You know all of those things that were important to me and that I felt were essential to building a good family I did, and instead of looking at how much work I was putting in, I was thinking, what does he really give to me or provide for me in this situation. I included him in that. I made it like it was his accomplishments and I think that’s where my mind got a little bit skewed.
Like, we had a good family, and I looked at it like that, but I didn’t realize that so much of it was my own work and wasn’t really his work.
Comparing Abuse Keeps Victims Stuck
Anne: Yeah, a lot of women do that. They attribute characteristics to him that actually, she has, which I think is really interesting. Yeah, that comparison is interesting because there is always going to be someone who seems like they have it worse and so you think, well, all marriages must have problems, but the problems we have seem “manageable” or something like that.
So, here you are thinking these are just maturity things or that you’re so lucky in some ways. Where there any other factors that kept you from seeing the abuse?
Victims Who Leave Abusive Relationships Are Not Failures
Lee: Shame. I was married really young and a lot of people questioned that, and I had family and friends both tell me I was too young and I felt the pressure there to stay and keep it together and not fail at this. Yeah, I think that’s why I kept it together and stayed a lot longer. I didn’t want to admit to anybody that I’d failed, and I think I realized years ago that this way failing but I didn’t want to admit it to myself because I wanted to continue. I didn’t want to fail at this. I didn’t want to fail in my marriage.
Anne: It’s so interesting because you weren’t failing. You had a spouse that was failing, but you weren’t, but it feels like that when you’re being emotionally abused because you think everything is your fault or that you’re responsible for everything or whatever. That’s common as well.
Let’s talk about what it took for you to leave.
When Family & Friends Call Out Abuse, They Are Saving Victims
Lee: Oh man, so I think of every little pinpoint like on a map, that so many people were involved in this, and it started years ago from just a few friends that I would communicate with about my relationship. The problem with those friends, even though they were a good outlet for a release, was that they didn’t really understand my situation because they didn’t have a spouse like that. I mean, they knew it was bad and they felt sorry for me. I could feel that they understood it, they gave me the space to be able to talk to them, which I appreciated, but they just weren’t in the same situation. A lot of times the friends that I did communicate with had pretty decent marriages and it made me feel again like I needed to be more like them, and I needed to maybe not complain as much.
Anne: Did any of them say, “You are in an abusive relationship, he’s abusing you?”
Lee: I don’t think those words were ever used, no.
Identifying & Calling Out Abuse Helps Victims Find Safety
Anne: So, they also just didn’t understand abuse, period. I mean, they’re not going through it, but sometimes even if people are going through it you can get empathy and it makes sense to them, but they still don’t even use those words because they don’t know to describe it as abuse either. They might just give you empathy or validation but because abuse is so misunderstood it’s hard for people to actually say those words because those words carry a lot of weight.
Lee: I think maybe they didn’t know if they could say those words to me, or that it would hurt me in some way.
Anne: Okay, so how do you recognize that it is abuse?
When Victims Share Their Stories, They Are Helping Other Victims
Lee: So, I ended up joining the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community and one of the women was very open about it, which I’m so grateful for and I’m so grateful for women who are open about it. She was open and shared a lot of her personal life, and I’m so grateful for that. So, I joined the BTR community, and that kind of opened up a whole new world for me where I saw so many different relationships and I started to understand that everybody’s looks different. But even still, then at the very beginning, I don’t think I was ready to let go of the idea of keeping my marriage together. Then it started to get really bad and I reached out because my husband had sent me some really abusive videos. Videos of him talking to me in a very violent and perverse way.
Anne: So, he had recorded these, and then he sent them to you?
The BTR Community Helps Victims Find Safety During a Crisis
Lee: Yes, and I didn’t know what to do and I finally sent them to someone in the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group and they told me, “This is not okay, you need help, you need to get out,” and within I think 10 minutes I had a whole group of women together supporting me and helping me through this.
Check Out Trauma Mama, Husband Drama
We’re going to take a short break here to talk about Trauma Mama, Husband Drama. So many women who go through this, their friends, family members, clergy, people that are around really don’t understand, and they say things that are hurtful when they are genuinely trying to help. Trauma Mama, Husband Drama was designed to be able to give friends and family to help them understand what you’re going through. To help them understand the trauma that you’ve experienced.
Victims Are Empowered When They Recognize Abuse
So, is that the moment you recognized, I’m in an abusive relationship?
Lee: I really believe that was the moment I really realized, and it became very clear to me. Honestly, when someone said and witnessed it. I think the problem for me is I always felt like maybe I was being dramatic and so when someone actually got to witness it and they said to me, no, this is not okay, and then they said, this is abusive. That’s when I realized that it was time probably to make a big change.
I decide to start opening up and start talking a little bit more and sharing more of my experiences so these people could really understand what I was going through and what it would really take for me to get out of this because it seemed so big at the time and so scary because of every little thing. I was worried about his reaction to my finances, about my kids, about this home that we had just rented together. What would we do? We had just gotten a new dog, and there were so many things that I was worried about that it just felt so big. I wanted them to understand really the magnitude of what they’re asking me to do, and each and every step of the way they told me it was okay, and it hurt but I was so glad that they really pushed me and kept telling me over and over, no, this is not okay. Even when I wanted it to be okay so I could just almost stop the pain.
Family & Friends Can Support Victims In Finding Safety
Anne: When you say they pushed you, you mean you would say, but I can’t because we’ve just got this dog and I can’t because of this, or I can’t because of that. So, you’re sort of making excuses for yourself because you’re scared. Am I hearing you right?
Lee: Yeah. I wouldn’t even say it was about the dog. It was more that they were trying to tell me the next step and it was almost like I was scared. Each step I was scared to take. Telling him this was over. Telling him he couldn’t come back to my home and enforcing that was a step that I didn’t think I was capable of doing and they told me I could, and so I kept taking that step.
Abusers Will Escalate When Victims Begin Setting Boundaries
Anne: So, you’re getting permission to do this. Did you get a lot of flak? Like, whoa, you’ve joined a bunch of crazy women and they’re telling you to do these crazy things. Did you get any flak like that?
Lee: From him I did.
Anne: Yeah, but what about your real-life friends and family, what did they think?
Lee: No, not a single person gave me any flak.
Anne: So, the people in your real life, they were supporting you as well?
Victims Can Find Strength From Support of Family & Friends
Lee: Yeah. You know, I should go back a little bit because I had left him 7 different times before this time. I think family and the friends that I had opened up to were hesitant to believe it this time too, but they were excited and I think all of them were going to continue to support me no matter how many times it took for me to leave.
Anne: So, let’s talk about the first few months after you left. That’s a hard time for victims. It feels like you’re ripping your own heart out or cutting your own arm off. Talk about that. How did you get through that time?
How Do Victims Feel After Leaving An Abuser?
Lee: That was a really hard time for me. I would make fun of the situation by saying I lived in a house of depression. I would come home from work and lay on the couch. I watched the same movies over and over and over again every night. Lord of the Rings and Forest Gump. I don’t know why, don’t ask, but I would watch them over and over again. I was just really sad and fearful, and I didn’t know if I could really do it financially and continue on. It didn’t feel real to me because I had tried so many times. It just felt like it was going to be never-ending.
Anne: Yeah. A lot of women turn to movies. I watched all 7 seasons of The Good Wife. It’s a great one for that stage. That stage, I call it “critical systems only” – where you’re also figuring out who is safe and who isn’t safe, who do I want to let in my space. It’s a definite important phase.
Trauma Is Soothed When Victims Simplify & Find Support
Lee: So, while I said I was living in that house of depression, there did come a moment where; I don’t know if you follow the account called Humans of New York. It just talks about different people’s lives in New York City, and a woman was talking about her mother who was really ill and had a lot of depression issues, and her mom would say she didn’t think she really had a lot to live for, but then she would say, “I bit into a delicious peach”. That story changed my life almost because I started looking for tender mercies, and I believed that is what held me up along with the women from the Betrayal Trauma Recovery. Just constantly looking for those tender mercies and finding those simple things.
Victims Can Find Small Moments of Joy While In Trauma
I think a lot of times it feels so dark and we feel like we need something of a greater magnitude to take us out of that darkness instead of looking for those little things, that little speck of light almost. I do want to share one significant tender mercy, and it’s a night I came home, and I was exhausted and just wanted a bowl of cereal and a clean spoon. As I said before, I hadn’t really been keeping up with my housework so there was a lot of dishes and I just wanted there to be that one clean spoon and when I opened up the drawer there was one last clean spoon, and I just remember thinking, thank you, thank you because that’s all I needed was a bowl of cereal and a clean spoon. I feel like it’s so important for women to hang on to those little moments. Every single day to try and find something in their life that is small but so significant into caring on and into their recovery.
Anne: Yeah, that’s cool. Appreciate the bite of the peach and the one clean spoon and maybe that you don’t have sand in your bed. Little things, the little things.
So, it’s been a year since that fateful day when you decided, I am going to leave for good this time. What victories have you celebrated during this first year?
Celebrating Post-Abuse Victories Can Soothe Trauma
Lee: My biggest victory is, and I’ve had so many, but the one biggest one; this is crazy. I painted my piano pink, and this seems so weird for everybody, but in my relationship, I was always told that I couldn’t do anything. I would always want to do these projects, and he was a carpenter, and he would always tell me that they were too hard. If I would explain to him what I was going to do he would tell me it wouldn’t turn out right or it would look like garbage. He was always saying it would look like garbage, so I was so scared to do anything and when I started painting this piano, I thought it was going to look like garbage because that’s what I had been told. That anything I did was going to look like it, but it is so beautiful. I love that piano and it turned out so good.
Anne: Is it hot pink is it light pink?
When Women Set Safety Boundaries, They Can Find Joy Again
Lee: So, what I was going for is a dusk pink. I love the Arizona sunset, and so it’s this very pastel light pink.
Anne: Cool. I love that phase, I call it “experimentation“, where you feel like, you know what I’m going to try this because I want to do it and it’s okay if I mess up. There probably was a part of you that thought this might turn out not great but I’m going to do it anyway, right? The bravery that that takes is actually a lot, especially after you’ve been in an abusive situation where everything seems like it’s just going to fail. So, that’s awesome. For our listeners when you try something like that and it does fail, take heart, it’s okay, you tried it. That is so awesome that yours turned out so well.
So, what are your goals for the next year? What are you looking forward to?
Taking Small Steps Toward Healing & Growth
Lee: One thing I accomplished is that I moved into an apartment at home this year too. So, I want to start kind of remodeling and really doing a little bit of interior decorating that I’ve never gotten to do either. I want to really learn how to play that piano that I just finished painting, and then setting better boundaries for myself. I’m trying to work on that because I still have bad boundaries, and then just strengthening my faith in my home and in myself. Continuing on with that.
Anne: When you talk about boundaries, what things are you kind of struggling with right now?
Lee: Getting sucked into the constant gaslighting. I still participate in it and I get upset and I beat myself up over it and I go back to thinking it’s my fault or I shouldn’t have engaged. I really want to cut communication and try to go no contact. I think gray rock.
Abusers Often Escalate Post-Divorce
Anne: Do the gray rock stuff. Let’s talk about that for a minute. So many people think that a divorce is the end of the abuse but they don’t realize that it’s not. It continues afterward, especially if you share children. You have several children and so you’re forced to interact with their father who is continuing to abuse you. So, learning boundaries for the long haul is really important because this will continue to happen forever. You can figure out how to navigate that.
Have you found that being away from him has enabled you to grow stronger so that now you’re able to even consider boundaries that you hadn’t been able to consider before?
Boundaries Help Victims Heal From Trauma
Lee: Yeah, absolutely. Getting out of it has made me recognize it more too. I actually have been doing a lot with anger lately as well. I think there are those 5 or 7 grief cycles and I am in the cycle of anger and so I get really upset and really angry and that is another reason why I want to cut communication because I think that that is really hard to kind of go through that when you’re still grieving all the time because you’re still sitting in that abuse.
Anne: It’s like, I’ve come so far, I’ve tried my hardest to get away from him, I’ve tried my hardest to build a new life for myself, and yet I’m still forced to endure this abuse on some level. That anger is valid, and many women are using valid and righteous anger to propel themselves even more forward and to continue to protect themselves and get to safety. The anger, I think, in the stages, is a really good thing to kind of lean into for a little while because it can really help you make positive changes and help you learn how to set boundaries that you need to set.
Anger Can Aid Victims In Boundary-Setting
So, the anger is better than feeling sorry for them because feeling sorry for them or getting hooked into that pity is how they manipulate us.
Lee: The anger for me is a protection too. It’s like a shield, but the problem with anger and showing that anger to an abuser, that’s the same as love. It’s giving them the same amount of attention that they are seeking. That’s the lifeline that I want to cut off and something that I continually want to work on.
Abusers Feed Off Of Victims’ Extreme Emotions
Anne: Let’s talk about that for a second for our listeners who have not heard of this concept. So, for a narcissist or men of this type, they can’t really tell the difference between love or hate. All they can tell is the intensity of the emotion and that’s what they crave. So, it’s either a lot of praise or what feels like a sort of intimacy to them. Like, you love them, you appreciate them, or some big fight. But either one is what they want. They want those extreme emotions, and they can’t really tell the difference between the two because you wonder, like, why does he keep doing this and causing this chaos and pain? They just want to feel. They don’t care what it is. They are not looking for peace.
When you start stepping into I would like peace and safety, that is where, generally speaking, if they don’t want peace and safety, you’re going to part ways there because they’re always going to want the chaos and the pain because they feed off of those extreme emotions. Do you have any advice for women who might have the same fears that you did?
Support Is Essential For Victims of Betrayal & Abuse
Lee: Yeah, you need to find support. Betrayal Trauma Recovery is a great group for that, and I know I’m on this podcast, but I want everyone to know I’m not pitching this because I’m on here. It changed my life. Being a part of that group. I do not think I would have been able to get out of my situation without their support, and that support has not ended. That support continues on and it just keeps growing. I have not ended those relationships. I’ve only grown and extended those relationships and as my situation changes, I just meet new people and new women and find resources in just those new friendships that I’ve created in that group.
Scaling Abuse By Comparing Relationships Harms Women
The other thing is just what we talked about in the beginning, and that’s don’t compare your situation to someone else’s. That is so important and something that I wish all women would stop doing. I know there is that poster “comparison is a thief of joy” but I don’t think women recognize when it really truly is doing them so much harm. So, I just would encourage all women to not look at someone else and say their situation is worse and mine isn’t. I would encourage women to look more at, is the behavior acceptable, are they happy, is what their husband doing in line with their beliefs and standards? If they’re not, that’s a problem. It doesn’t need to be someone else’s standards or beliefs. It’s what they’re comfortable with, and I wish a lot more women would look at that.
Anne: Meaning, I’m not okay with porn in my home or I’m not okay with yelling or I’m not okay with whatever the behavior is. This is not acceptable for me in my home and I don’t feel safe. Rather than thinking, well, these other people think he’s an okay guy, which happens. It sounds like the people around you were like, hello, but in so many of the situations, people are like, he’s such a good guy. Why are you freaking out or overreacting?
Victims Can Hold Boundaries Congruent With Their Values
Lee: You also would find someone that says that pornography is okay. I had a lot of friends tell me that. Like, why was I upset? Or I had people tell me it’s okay that he was drinking because we’re having a good time and those kinds of things. Again, that put a lot of shame and guilt on me because I thought I was taking the fun out of our lives or I thought there was something wrong with me because I thought that pornography was wrong, and maybe it was okay and it was beneficial to our relationship.
Anne: Right. Having the confidence to know that other people might feel differently, but this is my home and this is my life and I deserve to feel safe and I want to be able to live a life that is consistent with my own values.
Lee: Yes, absolutely.
Anne: If you could go back in time and talk to yourself even when you were dating what would you say?
Victims Can Identify Red Flags & Protect Themselves
Lee: There were red flags and I really wish that I would have looked at those and tell myself that I wasn’t willing to accept that or put up with it. Now I’m going to be 35 in August, and I know that there are so many things that I’m just not willing to put up with. Even though someone might tell me that they’re not significant enough or they’re not really a problem, I will go by my own standards, and I think that that is something I have learned and would like to tell my younger self. Like, hey, don’t go by the world’s standards, I guess. That popular saying. Don’t go by the world’s standards. I would go by my standards.
Anne: And even some women shouldn’t go by maybe their church’s standards, and what I mean by that is not the standards of obedience to commandments or other things, but people who might say, well, you just need to love and serve and then everything will be okay and don’t judge.Those types of things that an external church or a therapist or somebody might put on you to be like, no, tolerate this for some reason or be patient with it for some reason. I think that’s another way that we can say no. No, no, no. I deserve to feel safe in my own home.
Victims Shouldn’t Be Shamed For Seeking Safety
Lee: One analogy that I’m going to use here is what you’re comfortable with. It’s what you’re comfortable with, and would you be comfortable with a rock in your shoe and would you continue to walk with a rock in your shoe? Or would you remove that shoe and take out that rock? Even if someone said you could walk a little bit longer, it’s okay. No, you’re uncomfortable with that rock in that shoe. You would take the time, sit down, and take off that shoe, and take out that rock.
Anne: Someone might say, “But how is that rock going to get around without you? What’s the rock going to do if you take it out of your shoe? Don’t you feel bad for the rock?” You can be like, “The rock can do whatever it wants. It’s not going to be in my shoe. It can do its own thing. It’s an adult rock, it can handle it. Me taking it out has nothing to do with the rock.” Whatever helps women to be like, I can do this, is what works, and it’s different for everyone.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Supports You In Safely Leaving Your Abuser
Lee: I just want to say, because I know that they’re going to listen to this, to all my Betrayal Trauma Recovery women that helped me through this and the ones that I’m going to meet in the future, I am so grateful for each and every single one of you. I really don’t think I could be where I am, and I don’t think I could keep going where I’m going without their continued support. So, I’m so grateful.
Anne: And we are grateful for you. It is women like you, survivors like you, that make Betrayal Trauma Recovery possible.
So, thank you so much Lee for coming on today’s episode.
Lee: Thank you so much, Anne.
No-Contact & Safely Leaving Your Abuser
Anne: As I said, next week I’ll be talking to Lee about her setting this no-contact boundary and what she went through. A lot of you are really interested in no-contact. You might have children with your ex, which is Lee’s situation, so she was just like, how do I set no contact? So in between today’s and next week’s session was actually a span of months where I talked to Lee several times personally to kind of set up how to do that. She ended up implementing no-contact. We’re going to talk about how she did that and then the result of that and how she’s feeling now. So, stay tuned for next week.
If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. Again, thank you for all of your well-wishes. I’ve been really down lately, and it’s really made a difference and I really appreciate your support. Until next week, stay safe out there.