Abusive, unfaithful men condition victims to believe that objectification is synonymous with love.
When women are objectified, dehumanized, and abused they experience numerous symptoms on the trauma spectrum. It’s essential for trauma victims to understand that they deserve love – selfless, respectful, healthy love.
Hillevi, a valued member of the BTR community, rejoins Anne on the free BTR podcast to share her perspective on real love – the kind of love that victims deserve. Listen to the free BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Trauma Victims Deserve Selfless Love In Intimate Relationships
When victims are repeatedly devalued and discarded by abusive men, they may begin to wonder what kind of love they deserve – or what kind of love is available to them – outside of the abusive relationship.
Victims can set a standard, or boundary, in their lives that they only accept intimate partners who offer selfless, kind, and healthy love. Boundaries may include internalized beliefs like this:
- I only choose partners who honor my boundaries and requests
- I only choose partners who respectfully listen to my safety needs and respond with loving acceptance
- I only choose partners who contribute to the safety and peace of my life
“Philia”: Trauma Victims Deserve The Love Of Safe Friendships
Tragically, many betrayal and abuse victims feel isolated after experiencing signifiant betrayals in friendship and family relationships.
Too many victims have tried to share their stories, only to be dismissed, minimized, disbelieved, or ignored by those that they considered friends.
Victims deserve the love of safe friendships – they deserve the validation and compassion of a supportive community that understands and values them.
It can feel daunting to victims to seek out safe friendships – especially in the aftermath of betrayal. The Betrayal Trauma Recovery community is a safe place for victims to make connections and begin to find strength after isolation. Join the BTR support group today and find the community you need.
Trauma Victims Deserve The Safety To Love Themselves Deeply
The dynamics of an abusive relationship make it nearly impossible for a victim to find the safety to develop a loving relationship with herself. Abusers condition victims to put the abuser at the center of their lives – distracting victims from self-care, support, and living an empowered life.
Victims deserve the safety to love themselves deeply; they can begin this process by:
- Setting boundaries that clear out individuals and situations that distract them from being able to focus on themselves and their children.
- Prioritizing nutrition, hydration, and sleep.
- Seeking out safe support.
- Choosing to spend time on activities that they enjoy.
BTR is Here For You
At BTR we know how confusing it can be to begin to accept that you deserve healthy love – especially after enduring betrayal and abuse.
You can begin this journey today. We believe in you.
Join the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group and start healing today.
Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
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Hillevi on the BTR Podcast
I have Hillevi back on today’s episode, I met with her last week so if you didn’t hear the beginning of her story, listen to last week’s episode first and then meet us here. We’re just going to jump right into our conversation.
Anne: I’m so happy to talk about C.S. Lewis. My son just read all The Chronicles of Narnia. All seven books, and then we watched the movies, and he was not happy with the movie. He was like, “Mom, I don’t think C.S. Lewis would be happy with these things; they are too violent and they’re missing all these things.”
So, we love C.S. Lewis at our house. The Screwtape Letters and all the amazing things that he has written. Why C.S. Lewis for you? What drew you to his writings?
How C.S. Lewis Helped Hillevi
Hillevi: I’ve loved C.S. Lewis since I was a little girl, and read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I remember my pastor, I grew up, Anglican, I stepped away for many years, and then I came back to the Anglican Church which also happens to be what C.S. Lewis’ faith is. I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and it was given to me because my mother had just died of leukemia, and I was nine years old. I spent a lot of that first year after her death inside my closet, just hoping that I could get out into Narnia. C.S. Lewis’s work became so important to me. His words, courage dear heart, that he says to Lucy, boy that has been something that’s just walked with me through my life.
When I was in high school, I started reading The Screwtape Letters, which for those of you who aren’t familiar with The Screwtape Letters, it’s a satirical series of letters from a senior demon named Screwtape and he writes them to his nephew Wormwood, who he’s training to be a junior tempter. And Uncle Screwtape here is trying to get his nephew to lead the patient that they speak of into temptation. So, it’s a series of letters that really list very thoroughly, all the methods of temptation that the devil tries to lead us into and different techniques to rag our souls, our spirits away from the one true God.
Understanding The Different Types of Love
That book did a huge change in my life, but later on in my life after betrayal, I reread it in a whole different light, and my husband and I have gone through it and we’ve studied it together, and just looking at the different points in both of our lives where we have, you know, walked away from the truth. Into the book even talks about the media’s effect. Remember, he’s written this book in like 1942, right. So, he talks about the way media has drugged men into looking at the ideal woman and he goes through the different time periods of how she dresses, how she looks, how she carries herself, but perceive the woman always as an object, and it was so eye-opening to me.
I really, really encouraged people to read C.S. Lewis’s Four Loves. When he talks about love, in the book he talks about storge, which is the affection, the appreciation of a person. It’s kind of the love from parent to child, it’s a humble love. It involves affection, that’s the storge love. You have to have storge love because it’s kind of a foundation where you build your relationships, and then philia love, where we get the City Philadelphia, it’s the brotherly love, it is the friendship love. And Lewis often talks about in referring to his wife that philia love was the strength that brought him into that marriage. It was that friendship that binds you with an individual.
“So Many Of Them Are Incapable Of Affection”
Anne: Before you move on, it strikes me that with sex addicts are incapable of even just the affection part, that basic type of love that you talked about. Like, step one, that so many of them are just even incapable of affection.
Hillevi: You’re right. You notice his first quote that I gave talks about you can selfishly wrap yourself up, and not even feel, but you’ll never experience love. And sex addicts don’t experience love. What they think they’re experiencing is eros, which we all know we all hear the words eros, oh yeah, that’s sexual love, that sexual desire, but it isn’t. It’s an intimacy, a romantic love. A sexual desire without eros wants it, it wants just sex, right, the act of sex. Sex as the verb, but what eros really is, is eros, desires one being, the beloved. It desires to be treasured, it desires to treasure the individual, the person that they love. That’s what eros is.
What Is “Agape”?
It’s so misinterpreted. It isn’t just hey, I’ve got a great feeling, you know, scratch my itch and move on. That’s what we say today, that’s what we’re told love is, and it isn’t. It winds itself around with, I’m going to drive you crazy here with this, but you’ve heard the word of agape, right? Agape love, God’s love, right. About two years ago I was at a C.S. Lewis conference, and somebody had said something about agape love, and they were corrected. It is not pronounced agape, it’s pronounced aga-pe. I know right. That’s the Greek word, but that is the final of the four loves.
That is the divine selfless love, the giving love, and we think of that as Christ and his giving himself for us. That’s what we look at, but it is also the love that is described in Ephesians 5. When a husband must love his wife, that agape, and lay his life down for her, that’s what true love is. And it’s not something that comes naturally. It is something that is learned because you begin with storge, I mean to the affection, the philia, the friendship, and the agape is something we hope happens throughout life, that we lay down our lives for one another. That’s why when we see love on television or in a movie or read in a book, and the emphasis seems to be just on the sexual relationship, it is the most misguided use of the word love.
Using Art to Process Trauma
Anne: I love talking with women who have been in trauma who have used art and literature, and you know theater in your case, in my case I garden a lo, or different modes of processing to help us move through the trauma, but it also helps give us these epiphanies or these new things to learn and gives us a way to have that post-traumatic growth. To grow through the experience. We can come out the other side better people and more knowledgeable and have more depth to us as a result of the trauma.
Hillevi: The arts reveal ourselves. I mean, there are people who I think are misguided that say, “Well, we should show everything as an art, the good, the bad, the very bad, the obscene. That’s all part of art. It isn’t. Art should reflect the things that are beautiful, that are kind, and that’s not to say that good art, be it visual art or theater or music, shouldn’t have conflict. It should, but you need resolution, and it seems in a lot of the art we see today, in all mediums, we’re not having a resolution that says, you know, truth. We used to tell stories that had morals to them, and that was what we used to tell these stories. Every one of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, they have a story behind them, and there’s something we even as adults learn from those stories. Good literature, children’s literature, C.S. Lewis, is not good literature if an adult can’t read it and enjoy it. I remember doing Oliver once, and I sat down with my students and we talked about the character Nancy and Oliver, and how she was a very sad and abused character, Bill Psyches beats her.
Anne: Isn’t she the one that sings As Long as He Needs Me? Everyone should listen to that and realize we’ve all been Nancy.
“It’s Really Important That Every Woman Can Tell Her Story”
Hillevi: Yeah. I played Nancy, yes, with a drummer, that first drummer I talked about. Yeah, he was in the pit orchestra, and I was playing Nancy. I talked with the kids about the abuse because we were going to have to act it out. We’re working with high school kids or middle school kids, and they have to act out this abuse that happens to her. I always like to have a percentage of our profits of our shows go to some cause, some organization, and my kids 100% on their own said we want our profits to go to a battered women’s shelter, and my heart just sang because they understood. They understood that this was not right. The actress that played Nancy in my school production was phenomenal. She has gone on to fight civil rights causes now. I absolutely am so proud of her for that. You know, we use art to teach. I mean what we do right here in our conversation, is the art of conversation, and it’s the art of storytelling. And it’s really important that every woman can tell her story.
Anne: And that’s what this podcast is for. That any woman with a story of abuse, of betrayal, who wants to come and share is welcome here. And that is what makes this podcast so amazing, I think, is that the stories are all very different. The details are different, but the patterns are the same and so as we hear story after story after story, we can start seeing these very clear patterns of abuse and what it looks like and that helps us make better decisions in our own lives.
Hillevi: The women whose husbands are not going to be open and vulnerable and generous, generous with everything. If he wants to hold back money from you and not take care of you, that love that we just spoke about, that giving love, that’s not there.
Trauma Mama Husband Drama
Anne: I’m 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. When you go to our books page and click on any of those books, it just takes you directly to Amazon and you can throw those books in your cart. After you have purchased the book, please remember to circle back around to Amazon and write a verified purchase review, along with a five-star rating. That helps isolated women find us, it bumps Trauma Mama Husband Drama up in the Amazon algorithm, and even if women don’t purchase the book, it helps them find this podcast, which is free to everyone.
BTR Helps Women Find Community
And now, back to our conversation.
So, you go through these years of abuse, these years of psychological fog we’ll call it, and then you go through years of bad therapy, and then you have a good therapist, which is awesome, and then you find BTR. Can you talk about how you found BTR?
Hillevi: Oh yes, sister. We were still in our yucky stage at that time, and I was looking for anyone who truly understood what the abuse was, the pain I was feeling. Your tears transcended into my heart because I cried with you while I was driving. I was identifying with you. To find you though, I was looking up every single podcast I could find that had to do with marriage, betrayal, and there were a lot of them and there were a lot of bad podcasts. I had a 45-minute drive through the mountains and the beautiful Rocky Mountain forests to work, to teach, and 45 minutes coming home. And so, I would download my podcasts every single day and I went through so many really bad teachings.
Philia Love Means Understanding & Compassion
Anne: From other podcasts?
Hillevi: Yes, one guy that kept telling women how important it was that their body was, you know, their body was the temple of the Holy Spirit and needed to be glorified by their husband. Oh well, you know, all the bad things that are out there, but there was nobody being vulnerable, and you were vulnerable. I came upon you, and I remember just hearing you cry and crying along with you, and the vulnerability of the walks that you had. The one in particular that tore my heart out, was your trip to Disneyland.
Anne: Was it Legoland?
Hillevi: Maybe it was Legoland, but you’d had a big fight in the car outside.
Anne: Yeah. So, it was Legoland. This was after the fact. He wrote this letter telling me he was so sorry about the day he was irritable at Legoland, on July 3, 2015. Like this specific day, right, and that was all he was saying sorry for and sent me $300. Is that the one?
Trauma Victims Deserve “Philia” Love
Hillevi: Yeah, yeah. That’s the one. Oh, I just wish I could have called you. Here’s another $300. What an absolute jerk. I’m sorry, you know I hate to keep jumping back to C.S. Lewis, but that philia love. What, you too? I thought I was the only one, right. I felt a friendship right there. You were being vulnerable and allowing yourself to share things that were happening in your life, and trying to find some sort of peace, trying to figure out where your life was going. I was in that same space. Where am I going, what am I doing, how am I going to make it through tomorrow when I’ve got to go home tonight? I think the key was hearing the words, betrayal trauma, and then the word recovery because that’s what I was seeking. Betrayal trauma recovery. It became listening to you over and over every day.
Anne: Well, I’m so honored and so grateful that of all the things you tried to listen to that I was the one that stuck with you because I felt like I’m just podcasting into the abyss. I didn’t know if anyone was listening, or if I even made sense, and you know, even now. I have this sense that I have interviewed so many people and read so many books and, you know if I could get a Ph.D. in abuse, which I can but I don’t want to because that would take forever. Essentially, you know, I have all this education now that I didn’t have before through this podcast. It has given me the motivation and the means to do that and interview all these incredible people, but like, I still don’t know what I don’t know. You know, I’m still on this journey. That for me is still a vulnerable place to be. I’m still podcasting, in real-time. I’m still saying, “Help me.”
Trauma Recovery Is A Process
Recently, some things have come to my attention that were huge that I didn’t know before about legal things and custody things, and there’s so much to process and to understand and to visualize and to, you know, put into infographics that we post on all the social media and stuff like that. And you can only really understand it when you’re living with it every day. It’s not the kind of thing that you can just go to a couple of classes and then say, oh, I know all about this trauma thing; I know everything that a victim will probably experience. Because it takes years to gather up all this information and all the experience and face all the problems and having to problem solve this. Again, that’s why I’m so grateful that it’s a community because I hear what’s going on, and then I’m like, oh, you know, women are having trouble about boundaries, how can we teach this in a way that helps make sense of it. So, we created a guide to boundaries which is on our YouTube channel. I just don’t think that you can anticipate all of the problems a victim is going to face unless you’re actually a victim, actually going through it.
Hillevi: Absolutely, and each day is another step. If you listen to your beginning podcast where you started out and listen to where you are now, there are all sorts of steps we go through. The thing that disappoints me the most, not about your podcast, is that it seems like so few men really get it.
“Your Own Husband Who Has Turned Into Someone Who is Harming You Frequently”
Anne: I want to say here that for every man who does not understand this, for every man who chooses to defend himself rather than repent, rather than change his behavior, you have a woman and children who are being abused. This isn’t just a scenario where, oh, it’s too bad for him because he doesn’t get it. This is a scenario where women, even if they’re divorced, are continually exposed to someone who is emotionally and psychologically dangerous for them, who harms them. It’s way more serious than just, oh, he doesn’t get it, or she wants me to change and I’m not changing, because the results are suffering. Serious suffering throughout the world, at the hands of someone who should be really genuinely caring and protecting you. Your own husband who has turned into someone who is harming you frequently.
We’re going to break here again and I’m going to finish my conversation with Hillevi next week, so stay tuned. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. Until next week, stay safe out there.
I am lost. My husband had several affairs, and based on his behavior I shut down in all aspects of my life with him. I just ran on a treadmill trying to keep him happy, but I was never successful.
I lost my voice, and experienced ongoing anxiety and distress. I tried to find a Counsellor to help me to no avail! Now my husband has passed, very suddenly, and I am left with so many questions. Why did I shut down, not ask questions and why not expect more for myself?
Janice, our coaches has been through this very thing. She is available for individual sessions. Have you considered scheduling an individual session with our coaches?
Visit https://www.btr.org/individual/ to schedule an individual session with our coaches.