Being married to a narcissist can be traumatizing.
The abuse a woman may suffer can be devastating.
The wife of a narcissist may experience emotional, psychological, spiritual, sexual or even physical abuse.
Many people believe the abuse will end with divorce, but it doesn’t.
Divorce is only the beginning of a different type of abuse, especially when children are involved.
Narcissists may go to great lengths to drag her through months or years of custody and support battles, costing her a lot of legal fees.
How can she survive this type of financial abuse at the hands of a narcissist?
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, is back with June, a Shero and mother of four, to talk about June’s experience with her narcissistic ex-husband and how she’s managing to survive his financial abuse.
Previously, June shared her experience with raising special needs kids while trying to work through her own trauma. She also shared her experience with her clergy not protecting her and people blaming her for the abuse.
Surviving Court Battles
How far will a narcissist go to abuse his victim?
June found out when she appeared in the circuit court after her husband appealed the family court’s decision, taking it to the higher court.
Up to this point, June’s (now) ex had been very clever at finding ways to exploit the gray areas of the custody and support order, but the revelation at these particular court proceedings left June feeling very disturbed.
June is happy with the outcome of the new custody order, even though it doesn’t come with boundaries.
“I’m still the primary parent. I have the kids 75% of the time, which is great. Having a safe, stable home environment for them and a connected parenting relationship with them is super important when they’re going through this. Their dad does get a certain amount of days each month. It’s when HE wants to see them that he can get that certain amount of days. That creates a bit of a problem.”-June, Shero
She’d been hearing reports, from others, of changes in his public behavior. She’d also heard that he’d lost his job and he’d assaulted a former coworker. There were also complaints from clients.
“I’ve had several people in the community tell me that they’ve seen problematic behavior from him. He has since lost his job because he missed several days of work, missed shifts, didn’t show up on time. I’ve had two people tell me that they heard he assaulted a female at his previous workplace and there were other people who complained of his [medical] treatment of patients.”-June, Shero
This apparent change concerned June because, as Anne points out, abusive men tend to put on a “good-guy” face out in public.
“With a lot of abusive men, they pick and choose. They’re very together at their job, and at church they look really good, but at home, is when they ‘lose their temper.’ They don’t ‘lose it’ anywhere else because it’s a display of control at home.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
June’s ex was beginning to ‘lose it’ in public too, which has her worried about her kids’ safety when they’re with their dad.
“As a mother, who is very well aware of the effects of trauma and abuse and narcissism, and how those things go together and create the perfect disastrous storm, I worry. I worry about my kids during those times. I worry that he’s snapped. I worry that they are not okay and that they’re not safe.”-June, Shero
Unfortunately, June’s ex has continued to spiral. For June, the hardest part is how much it affects the kids.
“His chaos and disorganization are really, really to his detriment. Obviously, to the detriment to the kids. It affects them. It’s chaotic. He can’t show up for appointments on time. He can’t get the kids to where they need to be on time. We can’t get important things that they need returned.”-June, Shero
With his public image deteriorating, the revelation in court was a huge indicator that June’s ex isn’t healthy at all.
When it was time to discuss financial support, June was in for a shock.
June’s ex had taken his abuse too far. He’d crossed a line and taken things too far.
“He testified that the Church—our church—has been paying his mortgage and car payment, almost $2000 a month! He’s a doctor and makes well over $300,000 a year. He said the Church was paying for his expenses because he’s so broke that he can’t even pay for these things.”-June, Shero
Why was this doctor receiving financial assistance from the Church to pay the mortgage and car payment?
June couldn’t believe it!
There was more.
This man was earning about $24,000 A MONTH!
WHERE WAS THE MONEY GOING?!?
June soon found out.
“My lawyer, being prepared, had subpoenaed all of his bank records, pay stubs, and everything like that, all the financials. Her intern went through it and categorized things by item. It turned out that he had spent thousands of dollars on liquor and pornography. He had contributed tens of thousands of dollars into his own retirement during this time that the church was paying for his expenses.”-June, Shero
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, June was very familiar with the purpose of fast offering funds, donated by members of the Church.
She didn’t understand why her ex had been receiving financial assistance, so she set out to find the answers.
Financial Abuse Or Spiritual Abuse? At The Hands Of A Narcissist
On a previous podcast, June shared her experience with her clergy.
She thought the extent of the abuse from this clergy was just refusing to provide her with support.
She’d been wrong.
Her clergy had not only spiritually abused her, but he’d also helped her ex financially abuse her.
“This bishop had very clearly taken a side, even financially, in this divorce, where he chose to support my husband and not me. Really, in him paying these expenses, thousands of dollars a month for these things, he has really enabled [my soon-to-be-ex] to continue the legal abuse and continue to pay for really unhealthy behaviors.”-June, Shero
Since that time, the clergy had changed, and there was a new leader over the congregation.
June had thought she and her kids were no longer part of that congregation, but she took a risk and reached out to this new clergy, along with the leader above him, and the one above him.
She just wanted answers, to know how this had been allowed to happen.
Teaching Clergy About Financial And Emotional Abuse
June discovered that she and her kids were again part of the congregation, so she made an appointment.
June was very upfront with this clergy.
She told the whole story: the betrayals, the abuse, the assault, her arrest, the false charges… everything.
“The arrest has now been expunged so legally I do not have to say that I’ve been arrested anymore, but usually, to build my credibility, I am very upfront with that, and that I kidnapped the kids.”-June, Shero
She also told him about her trauma from everything and how the order of protection was going to be handled, now that she and the kids were back in the same congregation.
“He was very gracious to listen, and we had a very good discussion. I felt very hopeful after meeting with him. We had talked about how to deal with some of these behaviors of my husband and whether this bishop had any interest in doing that, because it was never dealt with.”-June, Shero
She told him about her experiences with previous clergy and how traumatizing that had been.
Another concern she had was that she hadn’t been consulted regarding the bills, even though her name is on both the car and the house.
“I brought up the misuse and the misappropriation of fast offerings, it’s like a collection plate in another church or religion. I told him I have documentation of the discretionary spending that I don’t feel the Church would approve of and wondered why a man that makes $300,000 a year is receiving assistance, when I know we have people living in dire poverty in this congregation.”-June, Shero
June made sure to arrive at the meeting armed with the Church’s abuse policy.
“The Church came out with an updated policy regarding abuse, I think it was March of 2018, and it’s very, very clear. There is a very clear directive that abuse is not to be tolerated and that people who come reporting abuse, in any form, they should be believed and that false accusations are just not the norm.”-June, Shero
When she asked her how he was going to handle her report, he said he’d bring her ex in because “there are two sides to every story.”
June, of course, disapproved and proceeded to tell the bishop exactly what would happen when he brought in her ex.
She told him how her ex would play the victim and break down in tears.
“I told the bishop that I was very concerned because, not only does he come in here and act like this, but he’s also looking like it. He looks disheveled. I think he’s using his own unhealthiness to be able to prove his story that he’s so despondent and ‘just in despair’ at what has happened, when that is not the truth.”-June, Shero
Even though it looks a little different now, June made sure to let him know the abuse was still happening.
“Post-divorce abuse is a lot harder to identify. It can just look like someone being a jerk to the other parent, but I did describe situations of my husband swearing at me at drop-off and exchange [of the kids], him purposely keeping the kids from talking to me, and other situations, that I would say, if they were isolated incidences, don’t really do anything, but I’ve been living this for over two years. I can tell you it’s just repeated abuse, just in a different form.”– June, Shero
June feels the meeting with her clergy went well, much better than with the previous one.
“I took the time to educate him about betrayal trauma, on how women feel in this situation, and how devastating it is, and how expendable I felt. That, when the betrayals reached a point where my boundary was divorce and separation, not to mention I was unsafe because I was assaulted, that was just a boundary for me. I had to do what I did.”-June, Shero
June says he seemed to be considering everything she was teaching him, but only time will tell as to whether it was received or not.
“It was a lot of planting seeds and just sharing my truth with him, and sharing some of the knowledge that I have with him.”-June, Shero
June has come a long way since last year and since her first experience with clergy, years before.
Healing From Emotional And Financial Abuse
When June and her husband had first gone to clergy about her husband’s infidelity, he’d been given a disciplinary council.
June had been asked by her clergy not to attend because she was “too angry” and the room needs to be “filled with love.”
On the surface, June seemed to accept that but inside she was hurting.
“The anger that I’d been labeled with, and that being harmful, was really nothing compared to the harm that I had suffered in my marital vows being betrayed and in putting my unborn child at risk. In all the lies, deceptions, and betrayals, of course, I would be angry. Of course, I would be so upset, distraught, and everything else.”-June, Shero
Since then, she’s learned that emotions are an important part of her life, even anger.
“The more I’ve progressed in my own healing, the more I have recognized that anger is such a healthy thing. It’s completely normal. It even kept me safe. It kept me safe from being with this person intimately, emotionally, physically, spiritually. It kept me safe at that time, and that was the only thing that kept me safe.”-June, Shero
Now, she knows that anger was telling her something, and so was the pain she felt when her clergy told her she was “too angry.”
“No emotion is bad. They just have different purposes and different meanings.”-June, Shero
Back then, and still today, June believed her husband could change, that he could no longer be abusive.
She believed he could repent and make amends, but she hasn’t seen it yet, as she told her clergy in their meeting.
“I will be the first person to know of true repentance by my husband. I will be the first person to see it. I will be able to see and clearly be able to identify changed behavior.”-June, Shero
“If you want to know if someone is repentant, ask the victim.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Whether your husband has chosen recovery or continues his abusive behaviors, Betrayal Trauma Recovery wants to help you find safety.
One way we can help is by providing a safe place to share your experiences. With more than 15 sessions a week, it’s easier than ever to find a BTR Group session that fits your schedule without having to leave your home. Each session is led by a Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist.
Next week, June continues sharing an update of her story.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
About a year ago, we had three episodes in which we spoke with June about her situation. A lot of you wrote in or commented on those episodes and said, “We want to know more, let us know how June is doing.” If you haven’t heard those first three episodes, please go to our website btr.org.
Find today’s episode, and the links will be at the very top of this episode’s article so that you can go to those first and listen there to hear her full story and get caught up, because I don’t want you to have to listen to the story halfway through. Those of you who have not heard those first three, stop now, go to our website btr.org, find this article, and listen to those first three that aired last year.
One more thing before we talk to June. If you’re not already a member of Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, please go to our website btr.org, click on Services, and look at all the information about our online support group. We have multiple sessions per day in multiple time zones.
It is the least expensive, most accessible because you can do it from your phone or on your computer from anywhere. You don’t have to get child-care and you don’t have to drive, and our coaches are the best, it’s like a win-win-win. Please go to our website and check out that session schedule.
June has been in some of those sessions, and Betrayal Trauma Recovery has helped her out a lot, and it can help you.
Without further ado, June, welcome back.
Financial Abuse And Court Battles With A Narcissist
June: Thank you. Thank you for having me again.
Anne: When we first opened up this episode, she said, “Oh, have I got a story for you.” I don’t know what it is yet, so all of us are going to listen together.
June: Where we left off last time was, I think, we were still going through the court process of the custody issues and the divorce proceedings. We have since concluded at least the custody, for now, because my husband appealed the custody from the family court and he appealed it to the circuit court, which in my state is the next higher court. It took us about six to nine months to get into the circuit court to have the case heard.
I can tell you it was an eye-opening experience for me. I feel like we have had all of these issues, all of this bad behavior, all of this conflict between us, and it really hasn’t been between us. It’s been him finding the gray areas in the order and exploiting those in ways that might be small and minor but, when you add them all up, it takes its toll.
I was just thinking, “Okay, we’re just going to go tell our story. There shouldn’t be any changes, at least not any big changes, and get this part over with and we can move on.” Well, in the circuit court it was just a different experience.
The judge had a lot less patience, I feel, for listening to the conflict. I feel some of the conflicts were labeled as “marital fighting” and just conflict between my husband and me, rather than abuse, so that was very problematic. The judge really didn’t want to listen, I brought two witnesses and he really didn’t want to hear from them, so he didn’t hear from them at all, which was a problem.
Although, I can say that I’m happy with the outcome, for the most part, the custody didn’t change too much, but a lot more freedoms and discretion and leeway are given in this order. In the BTR community, that translates to there is a lack of boundaries in our new order, and I know that is going to be a problem. It already has been a problem.
That’s what I’m dealing with currently. Just an order for custody that I’m still the primary parent. I have the kids 75% of the time, which is great. I feel my influence on the kids and having a safe and stable home environment for them and a connected parenting relationship with them is super important when they’re going through this.
Emotional Abuse From A Narcissist Doesn’t End With Divorce
Anne: Now, we’re personal friends so we talk about this a lot, and one of the things that surprises me, and I’d like to know how you feel about it, is that so many of the things that your soon-to-be-ex does are just not smart. He doesn’t seem smart at all.
He just seems narcissistic and clueless and way more confident in his own abilities than he actually has. At the same time, he’s able to exploit all these little areas of the law and he actually is really smart, at the same time. He is a doctor so he’s not a dummy.
How do you reconcile this crazy nonsensical irrational behavior and all of the bad choices that he makes with this ability to exploit the law in a way that works for him? He’s kind of this evil genius, how do you feel about that?
June: Yeah, that is such an accurate representation of reality for what is going on. There are times that I feel that his chaos and disorganization are really, really to his detriment. Obviously, to the detriment to the kids.
It affects them. It’s chaotic. He can’t show up for appointments on time. He can’t get the kids to where they need to be on time. We can’t get important things that they need returned.
Anne: Before you go on, isn’t that kind of an element of his narcissism, that he doesn’t care about other people’s time? He cares about his own time, so if he’s busy, like if he’s gaming and he’s not quite done with that level, then he’s going to be late because he’s not aware of other people.
It makes him seem like he’s disorganized but do you think that’s what it is at the core, or he’s just not aware of other people and respectful of other people’s time?
June: I think it’s a little bit of both. I definitely think there is an element of self-centeredness in the disorganization, but I also think he is spiraling at the same time. I think it’s also an indication that he is not well. He is just not a healthy person right now. I think that it’s a little bit of both. For him to exploit these little grey areas in the order that he knows he can exploit.
For instance, when he takes the kids on vacation, he gets a week of vacation, it is court-ordered in our old order that I would get a phone call with the kids on the middle day, at a certain time. To this date, I have never gotten that phone call on the middle day at a certain time. He completely just does not let me talk to them.
Honestly, as a mother, as a person, who was assaulted by this person, and that is very well aware of the effects of trauma and abuse and narcissism, and how those things go together and create the perfect storm that can be disastrous, I worry. I worry about my kids during those times. I worry that he’s snapped.
I worry that they are not okay and that they’re not safe. I almost feel like it’s happened so much at this point that I almost feel like it’s purposeful on his part. Of course, it’s purposeful, but I almost feel that he must know that I worry and that’s why he does it: to control.
It’s also that he knows that I will worry about the kids, so by him not letting me have access to them on a phone call, there’s a little bit of both things going on. He’s definitely spiraling. I’ve had several people in the community come and tell me that they have seen problematic behavior from him.
I’ve had people tell me that they have heard things that have happened at his previous workplace. I’ve had two people tell me that they’ve heard that he assaulted a female at his previous workplace.
He has since lost his job because he missed several days of work, missed shifts, didn’t show up on time. There were several other people who complained of his treatment of patients, how he was medically treating them. I feel like some of that is also really an indication of his unhealthiness.
Anne: Yeah. With a lot of abusive men, they pick and choose. They’re very together at their job, and at church they look really good, but at home, it’s when they “lose their temper” but they don’t lose it anywhere else because it’s a display of control at home. But you’re saying that his dysfunction is starting to leak out into his public persona.
June: Yes, the dysfunction definitely is. Now, that is something different than the anger and abuse. I even feel like he sometimes uses the dysfunction as a ploy to get people to feel sorry for him, like he’s this broken-down dad, that just wants his kids so much and he’s just floundering without them.
Anne: And he’s a single dad and it’s so hard for him because he’s a victim, right?
June: Yes, and I feel that is very much what is going on. Now, on dating sites, for example—he’s on all the dating sites—he clearly says, “I’m a single dad, here’s a bunch of pictures of my kids, and, by the way, I have my kids 50/50.” Like somehow that’s supposed to mean that he’s a better dad or people can trust him more.
Anne: But that’s a lie, he doesn’t have them 50/50.
June: That is a lie. He does not have them 50/50.
Anne: Mine says the same thing. He’s got these pictures of him as a dad and he’s got this “Christian for life” and “I love Jesus” stuff on his dating profiles, and I’m like, “Okay, but you don’t obey the commandments, so whatever.”
I think that’s really interesting, because, if he did start dating someone, they would very soon see that he doesn’t have them 50/50. He’s really not setting himself up for a good relationship.
June: Exactly, right. I think that, also, a lot of these guys see mechanisms that can give them instant trust. Being a Christian is one thing that can give them instant trust. Being a single dad is one thing that can give them instant trust with whoever their next person will be, to be their supply.
Financial Abuse, Narcissist Style
Another thing that I found very interesting, when we went to court this past time, is we were going over the support, of course, because that’s all wrapped up in custody, and he testified that the Church—our church—has been paying for his mortgage and car payment, and that is almost $2000 a month.
This person is a doctor, he makes $24,000 a month, he makes well over $300,000 a year. He sat there and said the church was paying for his expenses because he is so broke that he cannot even pay for these things.
Well, my lawyer, being prepared, had subpoenaed all of his bank records, pay stubs, and everything like that, all of the financials. The intern went through it and categorized things by item. It turned out that he had spent thousands of dollars on liquor and pornography.
Anne: When we say “liquor,” I just want our audience to know that June and her soon-to-be-ex are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Alcohol is something they do not do. Here is his clergy who is paying his house payment when this man is going out and buying alcohol, which is really a big deal.
Anne: And acting like, “Oh, I’m going through so much, help me.”
June: Right, and “My ex-wife took all of my money.” Really, anyone that has gone through the courts would know it’s a straight calculation. After this, I was very, very disturbed. I was alarmed.
I know a little bit about the process of receiving Church welfare. My dad was a bishop and he helped people meet their urgent and emergency needs, on occasion. I began to really think I needed to know the story of this. I needed to know how far this went.
Mind you, this bishop was the same bishop that was spiritually abusive to me. This bishop had very clearly taken a side, even financially, in this divorce, where he chose to support my husband and not me. Really, in him paying these expenses, thousands of dollars a month for these things, he enabled him to continue legal abuse and also continue really unhealthy behaviors and to pay for them.
Anne: Yeah, because if he’d been paying you the $2000 a month so you could buy groceries—it’s crazy. For our listeners, steam and fume and fire are coming out of my ears right now.
June: Yes, really, if he had just been paying his own mortgage and his own car payment, then maybe he would not have as much money to pay his lawyer and we could move on and get everything wrapped up and not be in a constant legal battle.
Anne: Right, and not have to go to the next higher court, and all that business.
June: Exactly. I became very alarmed, as I said, and as soon as court was over, I began my research. In my research, I reached out to the congregation that he currently attends. The leader of it, which is a bishop—by this point, the previous bishop had been released from that position and a new bishop was put in.
Anne: For our listeners, who are not familiar, all of the clergy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is volunteer, so someone is asked or “called” to be the leader of the congregation for a period of usually around three to five years, depending on the situation and then a new volunteer is called, and it just rotates around.
Teaching Clergy About Abuse, Trauma And Narcissistic Behaviors
You’re saying that the old bishop was released, and a new volunteer bishop was called?
June: Exactly. I felt safe reaching out to this new bishop because he was not the same one, that I spoke about on the earlier podcasts, who was very spiritually abusive. I reached out to this new bishop. I also reached out to the leader above him, which is the Stake President, and I also reached out to the Area Authority, so the person above him, just to get some answers. I had emailed a couple of times with no response and explained the situation in emails and I just wasn’t getting any response.
I just kept on adding more people to these emails trying to get some answers on how long this had been going on? The thing that really concerned me is that nothing had been verified with me. Because we were still married, I am still a property owner of these things that the Church was paying on. I’m still on the loan for the house. I’m still on the loan for the car. That is still, legally, my property and nothing was verified with me.
In that process, I learned that mine and my children’s records had been transferred back to that congregation.
Anne: When June says “records,” and I’m so sorry for people who are like, “We don’t want to know the ins and outs of your Church,” but the ins and outs do help understand the context of why this is such a big deal. That’s why we’re explaining it. The congregations are setup in geographical areas, you do not choose which congregation you go to.
Basically, you’re assigned based on our geographical area and each congregation, called a ward, has a boundary to it. You can have your records transferred in or out, depending on your situation, so what she’s saying is that she’d had her records transferred out with the impending divorce and that the records were back with that congregation, where her soon-to-be-ex is going. Where your records are is where you attend church.
You find out that your records are in his congregation, then what happens?
June: Upon finding that out, I just set up a meeting with the bishop because I figure—
Anne: “Oh, he’s my bishop. This is my congregation,” right?
June: He’s my bishop now, so, yes, I set up a meeting and went and talked to him. I brought up the misuse and the misappropriation of fast offerings, which are like tithes, in a way. It’s like a collection plate in another church or religion. I brought this up to the bishop.
I told him I have documentation of the discretionary spending that I don’t feel like the Church would approve of, and I was under the impression that these things are heavily monitored so why on earth is a man that is making $300,000 a year receiving this assistance, when I know for a fact we have people living in dire poverty in this congregation.
We met for about an hour. The bishop listened to me. He stated that he doesn’t know when this started but that he did make a couple of payments for my husband and did not verify any of this because he felt like there was a need and he just took him at face value.
I also talked to him about the history and the abuse, the betrayal, the trauma, the assault, all of those things. He was very gracious to listen, and we had a very good discussion. I felt very hopeful after meeting with him. We had talked about how to deal with some of these behaviors of my husband and if this bishop had any interest in doing that because it was never dealt with.
Anne: You mean like Church Court or holding boundaries or some things like that?
June: Yes, but now that I’m in the ward and my children’s records are in the ward, how to navigate that situation.
Anne: Especially, if you have a protective order. You don’t have one now, but if you did or did get one.
June: I did, yes. He said he really didn’t know anything about the situation or anything like that. He said that he was more interested in current things that were happening, current abuse, so I described some situations and post-separation abuse.
Post-divorce abuse is a lot harder to identify. It can just look like someone being a jerk to the other parent, but I did describe situations of my husband swearing at me at drop-off and exchange. Purposely, keeping the kids from talking to me. Situations, that I would say, are very much in this grey area that one or two things, by themselves, don’t really do anything, but as I said, I’ve been living this over two years and I can tell you it’s just repeated abuse. It’s just in a different form.
So, it was very interesting to hear his take on that. I was able to ask him what kind of training he had for dealing with abuse and trauma. He had said he has the Spirit and that’s the training.
Anne: He said that, “I have the Spirit and that’s the training”?
June: Yeah, that’s all the training that he needed.
Anne: Yeah, oh, my gosh. Narcissists seem like they’re telling the truth so it “feels right.”
June: Yes. I tried to gently push back on that a little. I said, “Okay, but you realize that when you gave him this money you would have had that same discernment, the Spirit, and it didn’t work. Do you understand that?” I could see the wheels were turning, and I could see that he was thinking about that. I also took him the policy on abuse.
The Church came out with an updated policy, I think it was in March of 2018, and it’s very, very clear. There is a very clear directive that abuse is not to be tolerated and that people who come reporting abuse, in any form, they should be believed and that false accusations are just not the norm. In fact, they are very, very rare. I really came with that policy in hand.
Anne: Before you go on, the false accusations are usually from the abuser, right. The abuser is usually saying, “I was abused.”
June: Yeah, so I referred to it at different points in our conversation and I said, “Okay, so now that I’m reporting this, is it your intention to look into this and handle it in a way that is conducive to the Church’s own policy?” Again, I felt like he probably had good intentions, but he said “Yes, I’ll bring him in here and talk to him, because every story has two sides.”
Anne: No, it doesn’t. The abuser is never going to be like, “Oh, yeah, I was the abuser.” Then he’d be like, “Okay, then let’s go forward with the policy.” But if the abuser goes in and says, “No, that’s not what happened. She’s the abuser.” Then they’re just left confused and like, “Well, I don’t know what to do and I don’t know what this policy means now.”
June: Yeah, and this is where I feel like the behaviors of my husband and the acting really come into play.
Anne: You mean his hypocritical/I’m the victim/I’m a good guy stuff?
June: Yes. I described this, actually, for the bishop. I said, “I was married to this person for over a decade, I know how this goes.” I said, “He will come in here and he will say, ‘I’m so sorry. I just feel so horrible, and I’m just so broken and damaged.’”
I said, “Then he will start crying and my husband is a very big guy, so to see this grown man cry is shocking, and because it is so shocking, we think, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is so shocking. He must be in complete and utter turmoil.’ Then, because we’re distracted in our thinking and not centering on the subject matter of what we wanted to talk to him about, it gets swept under the rug and that’s that.”
I said, “I have seen him do this so many times.”
Anne: Doesn’t he also start blaming you and telling him how abusive you were and all the bad things that you did, and that you were put in jail? For those of you, who haven’t listened, she ended up with a night in jail, so if you haven’t listened, you’ll want to listen to that. I’m sure then he pulls that out of the hat, right? Well, she went to jail or whatever.
June: Yes, and that I kidnapped the kids. Remember, when he had the restraining order. To build my own credibility I am very upfront with those things. The arrest has now been expunged so, legally, I do not have to say that I’ve been arrested anymore, but usually to build my credibility I am very upfront with that.
There’s not a lot of shame there for me at all anymore. I really did tell the bishop that I was very concerned because, not only does he come in here and act like this, but he’s also looking like it. He looks disheveled, and, remember, people are telling me that he doesn’t look so good.
I said, “Everything that you’re seeing and hearing will be telling you that ‘Oh, yeah, maybe he does have a plausible story or maybe this is the truth.’” That is what I think is so harmful about this situation in particular, is that he’s using his own unhealthiness as a means to be able to prove his story that he is so despondent and just in despair at what has happened, when that is not the truth.
The Abuse Victim Will Know If The Abuser Has Changed
I was very clear, also, I told the bishop, I will be the first person to know of true repentance by my husband. I will be the first person to see it. I will be able to see and clearly be able to identify changed behavior.
June: Yes. I got into a really important discussion with him about that, and I am so glad that I did because I asked him how do you asses for repentance? How do you asses for changed behavior? Do you ask the victim? Do you ask the person that it was directed to? He said, “Well, yeah, of course, we would.”
Anne: But you’re like, “But they never have.” They never have with me.
Anne: From all the women in our community, we’ve got over 40,000 women, not all of them are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but for the ones that I talk to, I can’t remember one of them being asked—well, maybe when they’re still married and they’re both in the same ward—but if they’re in a separate ward, they don’t call the victim.
June: Exactly. I had a really important discussion with him about that. I also said that at one point in the marriage, with the previous bishop—this was a completely different bishop—that my husband had admitted to infidelity and we had gone to the bishop, we were trying to work through it. This was at the codependent phase of my process.
Anne: When you were doing the codependent stuff?
June: Yeah, I was doing the codependent thing with my husband and really trying to connect and the more that we could connect the less that he would have these behaviors.
Anne: Yeah, the more you attach to your abuser, the less he would abuse you, during that stage.
June: Well, that’s called “trauma bonding,” actually. We did go to the bishop several years ago, and this bishop actually did call him to a Church disciplinary council. It was very small, and it was just talking to a few of the leaders about the nature of the harm that was done. At the time, this bishop said, “I would invite you to come but I just feel that you are just too upset and too angry, and there is no place for that there at this practice.”
Anne: What? There’s no place for the victim to tell her experience.
June: Yes, “There’s no place for your anger within the council, because it’s a council of love and we want to be able to feel the Spirit.”
Anne: Oh, “You don’t have any right to be angry and your anger is unjustified,” basically? This is so crazy.
June: Right, so I didn’t end up going at all, like I said, this was several years ago. I relied on my husband to tell me what the outcome of that particular event was, and he said that the brethren had prayed about it and everyone had this spiritual experience that he was changed and that there was true repentance. Still, I kind of wonder what actually happened.
Anne: Yeah, because you don’t know what went down.
June. I don’t know. I told my current bishop that I felt like that was harmful. The more that I’ve proceeded and progressed in my own healing, the more that I have recognized that anger is such a healthy thing, anger, being upset, frustrated and worried.
Anne: It’s totally normal. How else would you be?
June: Exactly. It’s completely normal, and I said, “It even kept me safe. It kept me safe from being with this person intimately, emotionally, physically, spiritually. It kept me safe at that time, and that was the only thing that kept me safe.”
Anne: Yeah, cause you sure weren’t doing it.
June: Exactly. As I said, I didn’t realize it at the time because I was in this codependent model of therapy.
Anne: We’ve all been there, so don’t feel bad.
June: I told this current bishop that I just feel like the anger that I was labeled with and that being harmful was really nothing compared to the harm that I had suffered in my marital vows being betrayed and in putting my unborn child at risk. I was 37 weeks pregnant at the time that my husband was intimate with another person. In all of these lies, deceptions, and betrayals that, of course, I would be angry. Of course, I would be so upset, distraught, and everything else.
We had another discussion about legitimate anger, and I said, “I don’t see anger as a bad emotion. No emotion is bad, they just have different purposes and different meanings.”
Anne: Well, and it also depends on what caused it. If your abusive perceptions of “the woman should make the meal” is causing your anger, and then she doesn’t make the meal and that’s why you’re getting mad. Then the abusive perceptions are what’s causing the anger, rather than healthy perceptions. Does that make sense? I think it also depends on if your perceptions are coming from a healthy place or if your perceptions are coming from an entitled, objectification, sort of power/control/manipulation place too.
June: If they come from that place, that means that is abuse. I would say, the abuser who is angry because he’s “entitled” to a hot meal and the wife didn’t get it together that day and he flies off the handle, that’s abuse. That is past the point of anger, it’s abuse.
Anne: Right, but for people who don’t know that abuse, they’re just like, “Well, they’re both angry.” They don’t recognize the difference between the two.
June: Exactly. We had another really important discussion of that mechanism of abuse and violence and betrayal trauma. I took the time to educate him a little bit about betrayal trauma, on how women feel in this situation, and how devastating it is, and how expendable I felt.
That, when the betrayals reached a point that my boundary was divorce and separation and not to mention I was unsafe because I was assaulted, that was just a boundary for me, and I had to do what I did. I tried to explain that to him and I felt like it was eye-opening. I felt like it was a good conversation.
Anne: It was eye-opening for you or for him?
June: For him. I felt like it was eye-opening for him.
Anne: I bet he’ll ponder the stuff you said. I mean I don’t know, but my guess is that after your conversation, and maybe you know. When did you have this conversation?
June: I had this conversation about a week ago.
Anne: Okay, so it’s only been a week. My guess is that, over time, he’ll ponder it and he’ll either move closer to the truth and get softer toward you and more protective of you and set more boundaries around him or he’ll get farther away from the truth and start treating you worse and start treating the abuser better.
It’s going to go one way or the other, the more he ponders it. He’s either going to start making excuses for the falsities and dig himself deeper that way or he’s going to get better. Does that make sense? Only time will tell.
June: Exactly. I felt like it was a lot of planting seeds and just sharing my truth with him, sharing some of the knowledge that I have with him that he does not have about these things. Just kind of seeing where the chips lie.
Anne: We’re going to pause here and continue the interview with June next week.
I want to make it very clear that this is not just a problem in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with this particular bishop. We talk to women from every faith paradigm and every religion; Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, we could go on and on and they’ve all had experiences like this with the clergy.
I’m not trying to make this about one particular religion. This is a societal issue, and as more people understand abuse then more people can stop it. Similarly, it’s also an issue that women run into over and over again with therapists. They’re trying to get help, the therapist doesn’t understand abuse, and they just run into this sort of codependent mode over and over again.
At BTR, that is why we use the abuse model, and that’s why we use the trauma model. Our Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is the best group out there for this. It runs multiple times a day in multiple time zones, so please go to btr.org and click on Services to learn more.
Stay tuned for the continuation of June’s interview next week.
Until next week, stay safe out there.