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Should I Separate From My Husband?

by | Abuse Literacy

Should I Separate From My Husband?

Emotional abuse, affairs, gaslighting, violence, secret porn use, financial abuse and controlling behaviors… even with clear indicators that the husband is unhealthy and abusive, victims still struggle with making the decision to separate from their abusers. Especially when children are involved.

Lorelai joins Anne on the BTR podcast to share her own story and help answer the question so many victims are asking: should I separate from my abusive husband?

Listen to the free BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.

Separate Yourself From Abuse… But What IS Abuse?

“Here’s abuse in a nutshell: that they don’t feel like they have any power in their own life unless they have power over you. Whereas a healthy relationship is between two people who find power from honesty, equality, and the power is personal power that you have when you’re honest and you are kind, and you have integrity. That is a power in and of itself that I don’t think these abusive men really understand.”

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Many women struggle with the decision to separate because they don’t know that their partner is abusing them.

Society has narrowly defined abuse as physical battering, but abuse includes:

  • Emotional
  • Psychological
  • Sexual
  • Religious
  • Spiritual, and
  • Financial

mistreatment, control, manipulation, and ultimately power-over.

Separation Doesn’t Have To Mean Divorce (Yet)

Sometimes, victims are afraid to take steps toward separation because it feels too drastic or sudden. They may worry that they don’t have all their ducks in a row yet.

Many victims choose to separate by living in separate homes before pursuing divorce.

In Lorelai’s circumstance, she and her husband live in separate states:

“I don’t know when exactly we’re going to call it officially separated. He hasn’t stayed at the house since January.”

Lorelai, member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community

Making decision, especially big decisions like divorce, can feel paralyzing to victims whose abusers have conditioned them to feel unintelligent and powerless Taking steps toward divorce, like separation, can make it easier for victims to create safety and trust their decision-making without overwhelming themselves.

Choosing Separation When The Future Feels Uncertain

For victims who have spent a significant period of time away from the workforce or feel that they don’t have the skills to support themselves, the idea separation can feel terrifying.

Abusers condition victims to believe that their security is dependent on the abuser. Victims may feel that without the abuser, they cannot survive.

However, with support, self-care and education about abuse, victims can begin the process of moving toward setting safety boundaries, like separation:

“Having no education and no financial prospects really was really scary, but at the point where I was at it was scarier to stay in the relationship and that’s what it came down to.”

Lorelai, member of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery community

BTR Is Here For You

We know that the decision to separate is one of the most daunting decisions women in our community face.

We are here for you.

Join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group today for the support you deserve.

Full Transcript:

Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

Our Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, called BTRG for short, is a daily online support group. We have over 21 sessions per week for you to choose from. You don’t have to wait for an appointment, you don’t have to leave your home, you can join from your closet or your parked car in your garage. We are here for you.

Lorelei is back on this week’s podcast. If you didn’t listen to the beginning of her story, listen to that first. Just a reminder from last week that we are using aliases like we always do. I just don’t always say it, but on this one, I wanted to make sure that you knew that because she says her husband’s name several times. And again, it’s an alias that we’re using. 

Lorelai On The BTR Podcast

We’re just going to hop right into it. So, order of operations: you find BTR, you read Why Does He So That? by Lundy Bancroft. I just want to pause here because so many women when we suggest Lundy Bancroft’s book, they don’t want to read it because they don’t want to find out that their husband is abusive. I had the same experience. When I read it, I was like check, check, check, check. I was like whoa, this has been abuse the whole time! You know, it was just like, absolutely mind-blowing to me. I want to let women know that if your husband is not abusive, he’s not going to check those lists. Why Does He Do That? and BTR do not create abuse out of thin air. The abuse exists and we help women recognize it. It’s not those women who come to us are in healthy relationships and then think that their husband is abusive. Does that make sense? 

Lorelei: Oh, absolutely.

Anne: Can you talk about maybe your fear at first, maybe your worry of like looking into things that maybe you would find out? Did you ever have that? Maybe you didn’t, I don’t know.

“The Water Torturer”

Lorelie: I didn’t really have that. I read all the relationship books. My husband was sneaky. If you’ve read Lundy Bancroft’s book, he’s the water torturer. It was just little things. Nobody noticed them. I didn’t even notice them. You just blinked and then I would blow up and I would be the crazy one. I’m the redhead. I’m the one who’s losing it all the time over dumb stuff. I’m the one who’s stressed out and overwhelmed from taking care of the baby. Never mind the fact that he never bothered to help take care of the baby. It was always me. 

He made it really clear from the beginning that he was putting up with me, and I believed him. That’s my issue. I don’t know why I believed him for 17 years. That’s something I’m working through now. In helping me, and honestly, it’s helping my girls because guess what, I have two girls who are 21 and 23 respectively, who are struggling with relationships, and these guys who just are not up to par and they don’t know why this stuff is happening. So, my girls and I are sort of doing the work together. We are separated. It took a little bit to separate. He did not want to separate.

“He Doesn’t Get To Control Me If I Move On”

It’s funny because the whole time he’s telling me that maybe he needs to find somebody else because I’m so worthless. But then at the same time when I say great, let’s move on. He’s like no, no, I don’t want to move on. Because he doesn’t get to control me if I move on. So, it took a little bit of doing to get him out. Obviously, I have a handicapped child. I can’t just pick up my handicapped kid out of his special school and just relocate anywhere and so I had to convince my husband who was pretty much living in another state anyway except for one or two days a week to just stay and to let his child be here and to let’s separate amicably. So, it took a little bit of doing to get that done. I don’t know when exactly we’re going to call it officially separated. He hasn’t stayed at the house since January. He pretty much cut off support the minute that he realized it was over.

Anne: That’s very, very typical of an abuser because they don’t really care about your welfare or the kid’s welfare because no one who actually really genuinely cared about you would feel okay to be like okay, I don’t know how she’s going to pay groceries. I don’t even think they think like how is she going to pay for groceries? Like how are my kids going to eat? But it’s also a control tactic to say, oh, I’m going to cut off the finances because if they cut off the finances, they think you’re going to come crawling back. After all, you’re desperate for groceries. Right? So, it’s both, I don’t care about you, and a control tactic at the same time.

When Abusers Switch Tactics

Lorelie: Yeah, and you know what’s funny, like thinking back my husband has used every abuse tactic in the book, but he didn’t use them at the same time. Because as I said, I fought it and I adapted. So, when one of his tactics stopped working, he switched to a different one. And his last abuse tactic was financial abuse. So, for the last three or four years, I haven’t had any credit cards of my own. He’s in charge of the money and I just thought he was finally being responsible. I thought he was finally taking an interest in the budget, but he was systematically cutting me off from everything. Last November, like in the middle of us separating he refinanced the house and took my name off the mortgage, which I guess he was thinking was going to hurt me but actually it’s going to hurt him because I’m still on the deed. That’s where it was going. He would adapt. Every time I established a boundary, he would pick something else to abuse and it just wasn’t going to end. It was not going to end.

Understanding The “Power Over” Dynamic of Abuse

Anne: It’s interesting to me that instead of recognizing that you’re equal and that you’re on the same team, abusive men feel like they don’t have any power. They don’t have any personal power unless they have power over someone. And so that’s why it always shifts because if you become equal by either finding out something that you didn’t know before. So, one of the ways they keep an imbalance of power is by withholding information so that they know more than you do. So, if you find out what they know, then suddenly you’re equal. So, then they’re like oh, shoot, I’ve got to try to find some other way to maintain this power imbalance. Because that is what abuse is in a nutshell. It’s that they don’t feel like they have any power in their own life unless they have power over you. Whereas a healthy relationship is between two people who find power from honesty, equality, and the power is personal power that you have when you’re honest and you are kind, and you have integrity. That is a power in and of itself that I don’t think these abusive men really understand.

“He Wasn’t Happy That My Kids And I Are Close”

Lorelie: Yeah. Yeah, and I know that I’ve devoted my whole life to my kids. I have five kids, and we’re all really close. Looking back, I’m seeing kind of where he wasn’t happy about that. He wasn’t happy that my kids and I are close. He wasn’t happy that he would end up on the outside, just because he never bothered to spend time with anybody or get to know anybody or be involved in anybody’s lives. He hated that. And so, looking back, I realized that a lot of the problems that I had with my kids, a lot of just normal parenting stuff, you know, fights and who’s in charge of this and what’s in charge of that, he started a lot of those because he didn’t want us to have a good relationship. Me and my children. And I have only seen our relationship gets stronger as he has vacated the relationship. As I’ve moved on, my kids and I are closer than ever. I was just thinking about this this morning. It kind of made me cry a little bit. I have five children and three are from a different dad, but my kids don’t talk about being half-siblings. It’s just brothers and sisters. They’re all super close, and they’re all super caring and loving towards each other, and there’s no distinction for us. He didn’t understand that and he’s missing out, honestly.

Anne: Yeah. So, he cut you off financially. Did you have to file stuff in court in order to help your finances?

Support Is Pivotal For Victims of Abuse

Lorelie: Yes, so that’s pretty much the first thing. I had gotten a lawyer, but they had to sort of expedite things when he cut everybody off. Luckily my family is super supportive, and my dad kind of moved in with me. We ended up here in this state because my mom died kind of unexpectedly from cancer. We moved here to sort of help my dad put the pieces back together, and then we ended up staying because the schools here were fantastic and my little guy really needed a good school. We decided it was in his best interest and my husband had no problem with living halfsies. You know, one in each state because it was for the greater good of our youngest child. So, my dad has been really supportive. As soon as my mom died, he basically was like, can I just live with you? He travels a lot, so he doesn’t live with us full time, but he has a room at my house, and he has moved in full time. Since Jason and I separated my dad has been really great about making sure that, you know, everything’s covered for me. It’s hard for him to see what’s going on.

Anne: Has he been surprised at how abusive Jason is?

Lorelie: Yes. Yes, he really has. I don’t know that he would have believed it if he didn’t see it with his own eyes. I’m the oldest of five. One of my brothers has died, but I still have other siblings and I’m pretty close with everybody. I think that everybody was surprised. You never know what goes on in people’s lives. It’s so important not to make judgment calls or anything based on what you can see on the outside. But yeah, so my dad has just been really, really, really great. He’s helped me to start a business. I’m doing a notary business now and I work another job. I can work from home. All gifts from God because it’s hard to get out with my little guy. But yeah, so we’re going through the process. We were supposed to go to court in May, but we got bumped, so we go to court again in about three weeks, and we’re just still struggling through the system.

Trauma Mama Husband Drama

Anne: I am going to 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.

And now back to the conversation.

Anne: So, you said you’re feeling good and one of the things I noticed once I held the no contact order and just stopped managing his life was when I was out, is that number one he didn’t do anything. Nothing. He did try and get back into my home, but also, I noticed how peaceful I felt. And I noticed just how much better my life was going. So even though I was in limbo in terms of like how anything was going to go, I was feeling a lot better. Tell me about where you are in that process and how you’re feeling right now?

Using Our Family Wizard to Enforce A Communication Boundary

Lorelie: I’m feeling really good. The beginning of the year was hard right after it happened. It was a little bit bleak in the winter, but that’s when I crunched hard on my business because I needed something to keep me going. I did a lot of coaching with BTR during that time as well, which was very, very helpful. I’ve been healing, my health has improved, I don’t have night terrors anymore, I’m not as afraid all the time. Now, my husband still is pushing for his rights to the house. We have a no-contact boundary unless it has to do with the children, so we have the Our Family Wizard app. 

Anne: I’m using that now too.

Lorelie: Yeah, so we’re using the Our Family Wizard app to kind of facilitate things, but he can still email me; and while I felt safer at home, checking my email is always traumatic. I still get a pain in my chest when I check my email and I see an email from him because I know it’s not going to be anything good.

Anne: Have you considered blocking him on your email and just going through Our Family Wizard? That’s what I do. I’m not saying you should do that. I just wondered if you’ve considered that.

“Whatever He Has To Say Does Not Reflect On Me: It Only Reflects On Him”

Lorelie: I have considered that. My lawyer advised me not to do that. He wanted to make sure that we were getting accurate documentation of all of the abuse. And obviously, because we still own this house together and my oldest son is also autistic, so he was the main guy on my son’s SSI account. So, there were things we needed to discuss from time to time. Obviously, it wasn’t super amicable because my husband is my husband. But you know, there had to be a way to communicate things. So, a lot of this year has been sort of learning how to not jump every time I get a message from him. A lot of it has been learning how to remind myself that he can’t hurt me and he’s wrong, and whatever he has to say does not reflect on me; it only reflects on him. So, there’s been a lot of growth this year. 

My friends and my family have all commented that you know, I seem so much happier and I’m doing so much better, and I’m sure that I will only continue to get better from here. It was scary because I only have a little bit of college and every time I tried to work a job or go back to school all of a sudden he didn’t like that and he would create problems, or he would disappear and just dump everything off on me and the kids. And my poor kids, it would be a choice between taking care of my kids and going to school. You know when my 14-year-old is handling everything because my husband doesn’t come home for a month. He would punish me when I tried to go to school or go to work. So having no education and no financial prospects really was really scary, but at the point where I was at it was scarier to stay in the relationship and that’s what it came down to.

“Feelings Really Are Your Biggest Indicator of Emotional Safety”

Anne: So, if you could go back in time and talk to your younger self or yourself at the beginning of this relationship. What would you tell yourself?

Lorelie: Honestly, what I would be telling myself would be not the things you might expect. I would be telling myself that I was worthy of love, and that love does not look like any kind of feeling that doesn’t feel good. I have learned that your feelings really are your biggest indicator of emotional safety. And what I would be telling my younger self is not to ignore those feelings because they are crucial. When you get a funny feeling about somebody that is legitimate, that is your cue. The feelings have been given to you by God to tell you about things that you can’t know. Like there are so many things that you don’t know about people and there’s no way to know sometimes, and feelings are how you know. 

So real love is a feeling that you can identify, fear is a feeling you can identify, and uneasiness is a feeling that you can identify. And if you can trust those feelings, to know what’s safe, and what’s love, and where your value is. I would go back and talk about how feelings are important and how we are all valuable and lovable and just to really sort of work on self-esteem. I really believe that for me personally, I wouldn’t have been so willing to swallow his nonsense about how it was me if I had known how important it was to trust my own feelings. I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t know that I could trust myself. I didn’t know a lot of things I guess, but I would focus on my own self-worth.

BTR Is Here For You

Anne: Yeah, and we’ve all been there. We’ve all been there where the things we’ve learned now have really opened our eyes. 

Well, I’m so grateful that you found BTR and found a place where you could feel validated and get the words for what was happening to you.

Lorelie: Yes, it was definitely the right moment. It was definitely put in my path at the appropriate time. Exactly when I was ready.

Anne: I sometimes worry that women find BTR and they’re not quite ready to go there and they think no, my husband is not abusive. This is just a porn issue, or this is just infidelity, you know, something. That those BTR people, they’re a little too intense or that’s not my situation. What would you say to them?

“We Are Human Beings. We Should Be Treated Like Human Beings And Not Objects.”

Lorelie: I would say that that’s exactly where I started. I found it. It was very much about pornography, and as I said, I have no guarantees about whether my husband was doing it or not, but it didn’t really feel like my problem exactly. Until I realized that they all felt the same way that I did, and maybe the problem was bigger than I thought. And that BTR covers more than just the pornography and the cheating issue. I mean, that’s a really big indicator, it’s a very common indicator, but it is not the only indicator. The reality is the underlying cause is the lack of respect, the lack of interest in another person. You know, you’re the person you’re supposed to care the most about, your wife, and that’s really what BTR addresses. It’s all of us feeling like we’re not getting the respect that we deserve or the love that we need. We are human beings; we should be treated like human beings and not objects. That’s really what it comes down to.

Support the BTR Podcast

Anne: Lorelie, thank you so much for coming on today’s episode.

Lorelie: No problem. I appreciate you taking the opportunity to talk with me, and I just really hope that anybody who needs to hear this can hear it and start working to get safe.

Anne: Thank you. 

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

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