3 Tactics Emotional Abusers Use

When victims can identify abuse, they can make informed decisions about their safety and health. Learn 3 tactics abusers use, and why they are so powerful.

“It changes your perspective to realize that the baseline isn’t a good guy that loses it, but the baseline is an abuser who can put on this act, then that mask falls off. I think being able to differentiate between those two things is really helpful for victims.”

Anne Blythe, Founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Victims of emotional abuse may spend years or even decades trapped in a vortex of confusion, trying to understand the abuse that is happening to them.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Affirms “Safety First”

As soon as victims suspect abuse, they must immediately seek total safety from abusive treatment. This means that they take courageous actions and set boundaries to protect themselves from all abusive behaviors of others. Uncover the three disturbing tactics that your emotionally abusive partner is using to keep you stuck, and begin your journey to healing today.

#1: Emotional Abusers “Love Bomb” Victims To Keep Them Stuck

Love Bombing is a distinct phase in the cycle of narcissistic abuse, and is present in every abusive relationship. It is also known as the “honeymoon phase”.

Love bombing occurs when an abuser creates an illusion of obsessive love for the victim. The sense of belonging, being desired, and being genuinely treasured is deeply moving and powerful for human beings. Abusers use this to their advantage when they love bomb victims.

What Does Love Bombing Look Like?

How Love-Bombing Typically Presents

  • Putting the victim on a pedestal
  • Constant communication (texting, phone calls, letters, dates, over-nights, trips together)
  • Early, strong commitment (getting engaged, entering into a relationship, getting married, sleeping together soon after meeting or having reunited)
  • Putting down previous partners (“my other girlfriends were never as beautiful as you,” “my ex-wife was psycho,” etc)
  • Buying expensive gifts
  • Entrusting victim with intimate knowledge and secrets
  • Entrusting victim with personal belongings (car, apartment, credit card, etc)
  • Constant, “ultimate” praise (“hottest in the world,” “perfect,” “best,” etc)
  • Intense, passionate, and frequent sexual encounters

#2: The Manufactured Emotional Tether Is Real, And Dangerous

When emotional abusers discard victims (whether through abandonment, overt and/or covert abuse, sexual coercion, and/or betrayal) but return to the victim as repentant and begin the process of love-bombing, a chemical reaction takes place in their victim’s brain.

This is a Manufactured Emotional Tether. It is an attempt, by the abuser, to forge an attachment between the victim and himself.

However, intimacy and closeness are impossible when abuse is present, to any degree, in a relationship. 

The Emotional Abuser Uses the Victim’s Trauma to Keep Her “Chained” to Him

When women understand that the “closeness” they feel to their abuser after a particularly abusive episode is not intimacy, but a chemical reaction based upon their abuser’s tactics to keep her figuratively chained to him, they are better able to make informed decisions about their safety and health.

#3: Emotional Abusers Seek Power in “Playing the Victim”

“Saying, ‘I’m broken. I need help to change. I’m working through these issues that I’ve had,’ not as a broken person, but as a manipulation tactic, is him playing the victim.”

Anne Blythe, Founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

When an emotionally abusive man successfully paints himself to be the victim, he is able to:

  • Recruit a network of enablers
  • Make his partner, the real victim, look like the perpetrator
  • Confuse his partner (if she doesn’t have support and safety)

How Do Abusive Men “Play Victim”?

In a myriad of ways, abusive men can place themselves in the victim role.

  • Minimize his abusive behavior, then blame it on the victim
  • Admit to the abuse with a martyr-like affect, completely knowing that those listening will think “what a great guy, he’s admitting to this. His wife must be a real beast for not loving him through his ‘challenges.'”
  • Deny the abuse completely and claim that the victim is lying (thus making him the victim of her lies)
  • Claim family of origin/abuse as a child, stress, mental health issues, etc. as the reasons for his abusive behaviors
  • Blame his wife and/or children for his abusiveness (this is usually done with a pouty affect); also called “Don’t Blame Me For Being a Man”
  • Admit to and own the abuse, then sulk about the consequence

Victims of Emotional Abuse Can Escape The Cycle

By becoming aware of the tactics that abusers use, victims can identify abuse. As women become aware of the abuse, they must act quickly to bring themselves and their children to safety.

Effective Boundaries Protect Women and Children From Abuse

Boundaries are not statements, requests, or ultimatums. They are courageous actions that women take to separate themselves from abuse. As women get to safety (at BTR this means becoming someone who is no longer abused by others), they are able to make informed decisions about their relationships.

Full Transcript:

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

We have a member of our community on today, sharing her story. I’m so grateful for those of you who come and share your story.

If you’re interested in sharing, please contact my assistant, Kari, at and let her know a synopsis of your situation and that you want to come on the podcast. We’ll use a pseudonym for you so that it’s safe. We really appreciate those of you who have the courage to share.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Is Here For You

Many of you are members of Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, which is a daily online support group that has multiple sessions a day in your time zone. If you have been listening to this for a while and you haven’t talked with a professional coach or a group or you’ve maybe been to a codependent based group, where there is some victim-blaming happening and it’s not taken from a trauma perspective, try it out.

Emotional Abuse Is Hard to Spot Sometimes

Now, for today’s interview.

Anne: Marni Bown is joining us today. She is a public speaker sharing what she has learned through her own personal journey of surviving betrayal trauma, addiction, divorce, the negative effects and consequences of pornography, and navigating a new life as a single mother.

She is an advocate for helping others find resources, including therapy, as they move forward with hope and faith in their healing. You can find her on Instagram @Marnibown.

Marni Bown, Advocate For Emotional Abuse Victims

Welcome, Marni.

Marni: Thanks for having me.

Anne: Let’s start with your story. Since all the women who listen to Betrayal Trauma Recovery have been through this, everyone is interested in your story, so tell us your story.

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

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Can Help You Identify Emotional Abuse

Marni: I did not. I actually did not recognize or was even made aware until after I was in therapy that was specific to betrayal trauma. Before that, I just thought our marriage was normal, happy, healthy, that he really was such a great guy and one of the most selfless people I had ever met. That was pretty difficult when I started to understand the truth of what my marriage really was.

Anne: Your therapist helped you discover that you were a victim of abuse?

Marni: Yes. We had discussed some situations, even while I was still married. He had texted that he wanted a divorce and, as a result of that, I got my own therapist, not knowing the magnitude of his betrayal and all those choices that he was making, just the stonewalling, the communication dysfunction. She pointed out the possibility of emotional abuse.

Emotional Abuse May Be Withdrawing Rather Than Yelling

In my mind, that was not even possible and because of the type of abuse, it was the withdraw, not communicate, and controlling that way, versus the yelling or controlling physical or demeaning. It was never like that, so it was really hard to see, until I actually had the truth of the whole story to see, “Oh, now I can tell where the manipulation and the blame-shifting and all of that was taking place.”

Anne: Are you familiar with the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship, by Patricia Evans?

Marni: No, I have not read that book.

Anne: Okay. I would highly recommend it. My guess is that, when you read it, you’ll be like, “Whoa!” with all the examples that hit the nail on the head. This type of abuse that’s not overt, that’s not screaming and yelling in your face is so insidious and people really don’t have the education to see it and many therapists don’t. I’m really happy that you had a good therapist that helped you through this. 

Emotional Abuse Is Devastating

You’re in this relationship and you don’t really know what’s going on, but you know something’s wrong. During that time, what types of things did you do to try to establish safety and peace in your home, before you found out about the porn use and the infidelity?

Marni: Again, we had, what I thought was a healthy happy marriage. I feel like it was a lot of communication with the children. We both were on the same page about talking to them about pornography. We agreed we wanted to talk with them about it, just like we did drugs or alcohol or anything else.

Emotional Abusers Often Seem “Perfect”

We both come from families where we’re predisposed for addiction and so we would explain to them that it didn’t matter what, it could be anything. We don’t know what it is, so we need to abstain from a lot of things because of that, including pornography. Even as recent as with Collin Kartchner and his talks about dopamine and the effects of pornography and video games.

I felt like we would check in, as a family, a lot. We had a really open communication about sex, about social media. We had our kids sign contracts, phones were away, at certain ages social media was put on, say, even my cell phone.

Emotionally Abusive Men Use Pornography

I feel like there was a lot of communication within the home, specifically surrounding pornography, which I feel is ironic, especially now knowing the truth of what he was involved in. I do feel like that even on the spiritual level we prayed as a family, went to church, and were implementing that aspect of “having the spirit with you” and evening out, to keep those things out so that we can feel the spirit.

Those were some of the things that I feel like we were doing, and I believed was also going on, which is hard now to understand that that was even going on with him, my ex, in the home. Knowing that pornography was being viewed in my home, by him, is violating in a really weird way.

Anne: You’re setting these boundaries, you’re talking about porn, you’re discussing healthy sexuality, thinking that he is on the same page with you, when really it was all just a façade.

Emotional Abusers Lie And Justify Their Lies

Did you have any sense then, at all, deep down that something was wrong or did everything seem fine to you?

Marni: No, a year into our marriage—granted we got married in the 90s’ when the internet was really early—I found pornography. At that point, I did feel super hurt, like he was betraying and cheating on me, but I feel like I never then saw or was aware of any pornography use from him until the actual discovery of his work phone.

I had this underlying insecurity because there was a lot of lying going on. I never could really pinpoint the purpose. That was where I learned part of the abuse was that I would be blamed for him lying to me because my reaction would be so much that I would maybe get “too angry” so he was justified in lying to me. It just really didn’t make sense, some of the things he would lie to me about.

Emotional Abuse Can Be Damaging To The Soul

I do feel like there was a lot of lack of empathy and emotional disconnect, especially in our communication. I now see that in our relationship there was a lot of withdrawing in communication.

I took the withdraw, the withdraw, and then I would finally corner him to communicate, even if it was just my feelings of overwhelm or stress or that I needed extra help and it ended up in an explosion. That’s where it really led, towards the end, to the stonewalling. That’s where my therapist said, “This is not healthy.” I had to literally text him in the home to say, “Hey, can you meet with me so that we can talk?” I didn’t want to overwhelm him with a conversation that was too long. All of those things were going off that are extremely unhealthy.

If Things Aren’t Adding Up, It’s Probably Emotional Abuse

There were also situations with money that didn’t really make sense, but he was in charge of the finances. When I would try to get involved, he didn’t really want me to but then it was a problem that I wasn’t involved. Again, I see that control that he had over that money. He was able to do a lot of things he did because I was not aware. Yet, I was blamed for not knowing what was going on.

There were several gaps in time. He traveled a lot and there were a lot of missed flights or he would get bumped. Again, it was him saying, “Hey, I’m getting bumped, so we can have a flight that we can use later for us.” Really, he was using it for other purposes in his disregard for me.

“He Wasn’t Mean And Angry With Me”

I did not feel like a priority. I had an experience with an injury, and I think that was the first time I realized how un-empathetic he was to me. He just looked at me like, “I’m leaving town.” I had a broken ankle and he was like, “I’m out of here for the week and good luck.” I just cried thinking, “How can this be possible? I have these busy children and what is going on?”

I felt like he had changed, but I could never pinpoint it. I felt like if I tried to ask questions it was always, “I’m this simple person, it’s you.” I just knew I had to work hard on me all the time, because everything was falling apart because of me.

He was simple and didn’t require a lot. He wasn’t mean and angry at me. He just laid low and kept the peace to the point he wanted me to just tell him what to do because then he couldn’t mess up and I wouldn’t get upset. I did not like that dynamic in our marriage either. I felt like this dominant person. I want to be a team though I want to work together.

Emotional Abusers Deflect And Blame

Again with the withdrawal in communication, when I would try to muster up the courage to talk to him, it would end with me feeling like I “don’t value” him and how hard he works and all the things that he does around the house and I just need to be content with how things are.

I now see how sad that I really was not even allowed, or felt like I could, cry to him in our relationship. It was that emotionally disconnected. Really, for him, he was coping with his stress, depression, and anxiety in unhealthy ways, so that he could present himself to me, what he believed, a healthier way to not burden me with his problems.

Yet, for me, I was giving him all I was, my good, my bad, my stress, my anxiety, wanting to work with him together, as a union. Then to see not only that, but he was using my strength against me to be able to do what he wanted to do. Those were really hard to see, when I really understood the truth of the emotional abuse and seeing that was what he was doing.

Psychological Abuse Is Harmful To One’s Spirit

Anne: A lot of people don’t understand that stonewalling and not talking about things are forms of controlling the conversation. People will think, “Well, he just can’t talk about his emotions,” or, “He doesn’t want to talk about this or now is not the right time,” or something like that. They don’t recognize that those types of abusive behaviors are controlling.

They’re controlling the conversation, they’re controlling the way that you’re able to communicate, and that makes it very difficult. You cannot be on the same team when one person’s goal is to shut things down and make sure she doesn’t find out about things.

Emotional Abusers Gaslight Victims

As you are working on yourself, he’s gaslighting you, so you’re thinking, “Well, the problem is me, so I need to love and serve and forgive more.” When did you realize that this wasn’t working? Did you ever get a sense, before he filed for divorce or before he told you that you were getting divorced, that, “Man, I am loving, I am serving, I am forgiving, and things just aren’t getting that much better?” Was there ever a point where that happened?

Marni: I don’t think I really saw that until I actually discovered his work phone and saw the truth for what it was because, in my mind, you don’t give up. You fight in a marriage, we’re imperfect people, we accept each other for our differences, we work hard. I was just trying to do that.

Emotional Abusers Blame-Shift

I would go to him with a pad of paper and have him give me a list of things that I would need to work on. I was trying to love him more and just value him more at work and never ask questions when he traveled. I do feel like he used those things, where I’m going through therapy and working on me, instead it helped him be able to just do what he wanted to do. He was living two lives. It made it easier for him to be like, “Well, okay. I’m a good husband and a great dad. She’s happy, which means she isn’t going to question any of this other behavior.”

It wasn’t until the actual discovery that I saw that and realized that his layer of lies was actually to be able to get what he wanted instead. That was really disturbing for me, especially when you look at 21 years.

Anne: So, you’ve got this marriage where somethings not quite right, you’re working harder, you’re trying. Tell me about how you found the work phone. Talk about that day, talk about what led up to that.

Marni: Yeah. I had always trusted him. I think that was one of the things you talk about. Kind of my own little red flags, things going off. I did feel like he was being unfaithful. I did feel like pornography was involved, but at the same time, I trusted him. He was a spiritual person.

Betrayal Is Emotional Abuse

To me, whenever I had those feelings, I thought, “I must be the worst person for even assuming or thinking any of these thoughts.” As I was working, I believed he also was working on our marriage together because he didn’t want to go to couple’s therapy. We were both individually working on ourselves and one of the things was to make a date night together or spend more time together. There were still some inconsistencies there and I felt like I was definitely pulling more of the weight.

I, unfortunately, on Christmas morning at two o’clock, in the morning, I happened to just roll over and his phone was there. I was able to see the truth of a conversation that he was having with a girl that he had been on the phone with through the night.

Again, the betrayal of understanding the truth of I thought Christmas Eve was dedicated to the family and us. The truth is, he was communicating with this person. He had been with her the week previous. He was planning to be with her after but then even, in addition, it wasn’t just her.

How To Identify Psychological Abuse

When I went out of that conversation just to see the magnitude of all that was on his phone was almost unbelievable and overwhelming. I could not even believe that he was capable or that this really was the same person.

Anne: You say “unfortunately,” because it was Christmas, but maybe fortunately, because you finally got to know the truth?

Marni: Yeah, I think it was unfortunate because it was Christmas morning. I mean, that’s a day you celebrate every year and you have so many memories attached to it and I had to keep it together.

I chose to not say anything. I wanted my children to experience Christmas morning as the best it could be. I was super emotional, which, as I talked about, in our relationship and in our marriage, we had to be okay, we weren’t able to, so my kids really didn’t see me cry. Ever.

When Mom’s emotional and crying they’re like, “What is going on?” but Christmas morning happened. We spent time with family, and it wasn’t until later that I actually confronted him, and everything kind of exploded from there.

Choose Freedom From Emotional Abuse For Yourself & Your Children

My goal was to wait until the next day, but that just didn’t really happen. It is unfortunate for my children that I feel like a day that we celebrate and you have memories about, that will never go away. It’s like, “How was your Christmas?” because that was the question following the discovery that I would get asked by every person. It’s like, “Do you want to know the truth about how my Christmas was? How was your Christmas?” It was just that constant trigger.

Anne: How long ago was that?

Marni: That was just this last Christmas.

Anne: Oh, just recently. Okay.

It’s very traumatic to have them happen on holidays or special days because then, after that, it’s like, “Ugh.” You’re remembering it. It’s terrible. Well, hopefully, this Christmas will be better, and it will be the anniversary of your freedom.

Emotional Abuse Harms Children

Marni: Yes. I’ve talked with the kids. How do we embrace? I do feel like the kids’ triggers are different than mine just because their life circumstance and memories are different and also what they know. I do feel like we’ve talked openly about what we can do. Really, I am happy for them that Christmas Eve and Christmas morning were great. I think, for them, the difference changed in Christmas break, and that will be interesting to see how to deal with that.

I think because that’s where, again, we saw that mom and dad never fought and now dad’s arguing. He’s this new person, that we’ve never seen before, with this anger that came behind fear of the discovery for him and his truth being told.

It was just kind of a confusing time for them, and then he moved out. Again, they were confused because mom and dad don’t fight and now dad’s moving out. It was just kind of hard for them to process what was going on.

Anne: And shocking, probably.

Emotional Abuse Can Be Difficult To Overcome

Marni: Shocking, absolutely shocking.

Anne: Why do you think it took so long after your divorce and after all you went through with the help of a therapist to understand that you were being abused? I want to bring this up because you’re not stupid.

You are an amazing, smart, capable woman who can plan and make things happen, and who graduated from college. You are no dummy, and same thing with me and the same thing with all the women who listen to Betrayal Trauma Recovery. We are capable, amazing, brave, strong women.

That being said, I don’t want to be like, “What’s wrong with you? Why did it take so long?” Let’s just talk about it, in general, perhaps. Why do you think it takes all of us so long to understand the abuse? Or maybe someone telling us about it or getting educated about it? Can you tell me your thoughts on that now that you know what you’ve been through?

“I Did Not Allow Myself To Trust In Myself”

Marni: Yeah, I think that’s a really great point, and I feel like I actually get asked that a lot. Did you really not ever know? Like you had no idea? I’m almost embarrassed to say I really didn’t. I do believe a lot of that was I trusted so much in him that I did not allow myself to trust in myself.

When I had my own doubts, I discounted it so easily because of my trust in him. I also think, because of the type of abuse, he’s not this loud, yelling person. I feel like it’s hard to wrap your mind around the idea of abuse being the ability to not communicate, like you were saying. His control was lack of communicating information to me.

I didn’t ever really know what exactly was going on. Sometimes even for work, I didn’t know exactly what he was doing. I feel like those were his lay-low, just kind of keep the peace, keep her happy enough that made it really hard for me to say, “No, I was not in an abusive situation.” He never came at me. He was supportive of me and he would even encourage me to do things. He never said a mean thing to me ever. Yet, how am I in an abusive situation?

Lies Make It Difficult To See Emotional Abuse

I think that’s when it goes back to the lies. I just see that there were so many lies over time and, even when he would lie to me and I would forgive him, then it would happen again. I felt like it was this compound of lies that I was just trying to process, like, “Why are you lying to me about this? If you’re lying to me about this what else is there?” But there was never anything there.

Anne: I think it’s super interesting that you’re saying he never said a mean thing to me because he did. He told you it was your fault. He told you that something was wrong with you. That, in essence, is cruel. But it doesn’t feel mean because you think it’s your fault. A lot of women say that. Oh, he was really nice and yada, yada, yada, and I’m thinking that is like the meanest thing you could do to someone. To tell them that they’ve got a problem when it’s your problem.

Psychological Abuse Is Soul-Destroying

Marni: I have told him that in all that he did financially, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and all the betrayal choices that he made that put our family in harm, that the one that is the most hurtful are the times that he saw me depressed, he saw me feel inadequate, he saw me crying and I had come to him asking what it is, what’s wrong, and what’s going on. He knew what he was doing but allowed me to believe that it was me. That is so hurtful.

I think that’s when my therapist had pointed that out. It was just like a dagger to the heart, and then to take my strengths of I’m a hard worker, I want to do hard things and fix things, and I would help try to problem-solve with him. He was so tired, so I’d be like, “What’s going on?”

Emotional Abusers Make You Think You’re The Problem

Well, now I know it was because he was out all night long. He would travel. He was never sleeping, but I am thinking about what’s going on and how can we problem-solve, and he would just allow me to come in and help fix things. I was just running on this treadmill that was just spinning so fast.

I even think, you went to that question about the love and all that stuff, I see where, had we gone to a couple’s therapy I would have sat there and been like, “You’re right, I’m doing all these things wrong and I need to work harder,” it would not have been healthy to be in that situation. I don’t know if you’re familiar with DARVO.

Emotional Abusers Use “DARVO”

Anne: Really quick, with DARVO, we have a really great infographic that circulates on our social media on Facebook and Instagram. If you’re not following us there, I encourage all of our listeners to do that, because those infographics are really good. Okay, yes. Keep going.

Marni: I feel like that is for me. When I look at the abuse cycle and understanding that, I don’t feel like I fall into that. I do, but it’s different where I feel like the DARVO makes more sense to me, because I would approach him with something that didn’t make sense. Then he would attack me, almost as if he couldn’t believe that I would believe that or he would defend himself with, “No, no, no.”

Then I would start to feel guilty that I was accusing him or curious or insecure about something. Then, it would turn around to where he became the victim and, suddenly, I was the bad person because I had come to him to communicate.

Emotional Abusers Turn Tables

I feel like that was kind of our cycle. It was the communication that started with me then ended with me being the bad person. I’d walk away being like, “How is it that I just went to him to see how I need help and that I’m struggling. Yet, I come away feeling like I’m an ungrateful wife. I don’t value him and recognize all the things that he’s doing.”

It would just come back to me and then I’d say, “Okay, what can I do to make it so that he knows that I value and respect all of these things,” yet I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t trust him. I didn’t feel like I was a priority, and all of these other things were not validated. Instead, it was put as, “Well, that’s your fault. That’s your fault that you feel that way.” Literally, he would say to me so often, “I’m a simple person and I do not require a lot, where you….”

Anne: You’re like, “No, you actually require like seven women and to be texting all of this stuff all the time, so no. You are very, very complex.”

Narcissists Use Emotional Abuse To Control

Marni: Yes, I do not know how he was able to organize all that, honestly.

Anne: Yeah. For you, now knowing and processing this because this has actually been really recent for you. We are recording this before Christmas, so at the time that we’re having this conversation you haven’t quite had a year go by.

Emotional Abuse Can Make Victims Feel Worthless

What is one of the most difficult aspects of, now looking back on your marriage, now that you know the truth about the abuse?

Marni: I think for me, again, it’s just knowing that he knew the truth of what he was doing and allowed me to believe it was me. I got to a point where I was so down and depressed and I actually had to go into surgery and, in my mind, I had made a deal with God that I just needed to be taken and my life to be done.

That, to me, was the easiest way to remove myself from a hard situation that my kids are having to deal with divorce, and that I was this problem. But, if I could just remove myself, everybody would be so much better off. I left letters for my kids to read. In my mind, I was totally content with being done. When I came out of surgery and I knew that I was going to fight. I was going to fight for my family. I knew I had a great family and I was going to do everything that I could.

Lying Is Emotional Abuse

When I found out the truth that really, while I was in surgery, he had taken money from our retirement and was putting it in a bank account for a woman he was financially supporting, that just blew my mind. That I was ready to be done with my life and just the disconnect. That I was crying on my way up.

He knew I was hurting and that I felt so bad about myself, yet he continued that behavior. That was my really low, low point in recognizing, “Wow.” You put those two pieces together and you see there was a major disconnect.

It’s hard because I know that there were so many lies that happened in our marriage that it’s hard for me to believe that anything was ever true. I know my truth and I believed it was good and there were some good times, but I now know that with those good times also came a potential consequence that I didn’t know about.

Abuse Can Be Emotional And Psychological

The buttering up, so that he could keep me happy enough. Planning a girl’s trip for me and, “Oh, what a great husband,” and, “That’s so nice,” but really the truth of it was that he felt guilty that he was spending money and that he wanted to appear that he was this awesome amazing husband.

Anne: It was grooming. That’s what it was. He was grooming you on purpose to throw you off his scent.

Marni: Yes, that is so hurtful to be like I got so duped into believing this person loved me when I don’t believe there was really love in this marriage. How did that happen and how did I not know?

Like you said, it’s really recent so I do feel that betrayal of that shattered mirror, just trying to make sense of how, as a smart, capable, independent person that thought I had a healthy marriage, how did I miss so much, to not know that it wasn’t real love that was happening in my marriage? I felt like I was loving, and I was giving but was not reciprocated, and that is really hard to understand.

Emotional Abusers See Themselves As The Victim

Anne: Yeah, it is. Just for him like a cover. For you, you were his façade.

Marni: It blows my mind that he’s still the victim. This is still hard for him, and that blame still, even when explaining our situation to other people, is that this is 100% my fault, that “Marni did this, and this, and this.”

Anne: Porn, in and of itself, is abusive, right. But then he had all of these other abusive behaviors that were going along with it, the control of the conversation. You’ve got sexual coercion going on because he’s not telling you that he’s having sex with other people and then having sex with you. There’s so much going on there that is seriously sexually abusive, which is physical abuse, so technically you were physically abused. Emotionally abused, sexually abused, psychologically abused. It’s so deep and people just can’t comprehend that level of abuse.

Emotional Abuse Means Power Over, Not Power With

Marni: Right, it’s mind-blowing to believe, like you said, the person that I know that I am, that I was living that, believing it was healthy. I think a part of that is our attachment. I looked at my parents and their relationship and that’s what I was trying to mimic. In my mind, I was aiming to try and do that, even though, in my communication to him, I didn’t feel like we were a team. I felt like I was kind of more the dominant, trying to get him to help or communicate with me. I felt like I was constantly chasing him to try to get him to communicate with me.

Anne: Which was also, he wanted you to do that. He liked that because you were taking responsibility for the entire relationship, in that case.

Marni: I was already doing everything, so it didn’t change for the kids.

Anne: You, during this time, are considering yourself a spiritual person, right. You’re having prayers with your husband, you’re attending church, you’re reading the scriptures, and then you find out that God has not expressly told you in so many words you’re in an abusive relationship or that you realize that, for 21 years, you were not privy to the truth.

Emotional Abuse Can Affect Your Relationship With God

How did that affect your relationship with God?

Marni: That’s a really great question. I feel like, for me, there were a lot of moments along the way, as I tried to reflect on the truth, where I can see God’s hand in not being able to prevent his choices but still being able to protect me and even prepare me in certain ways. Like I had an injury that happened.

At the time, I was devastated, because my husband traveled all the time, my children were extremely busy, and I felt kind of helpless and felt like, “Why did this happen? This is so frustrating for me. Could I have not had some inspiration to not go?” I was injured playing softball, and I slid into third and broke my ankle. Could I have not had something to not do that? But I now see, looking back, that was, in a lot of ways, God’s way of making me stop in my tracks.

There were times I had what you would call red flags or inclinations, but I really never followed through with it. I just discounted it but it was then that I stopped and actually looked at my life and started to see the truth of what it really was and the major emotional disconnect. That was just the first part of everything going.

Abuse Can Take On Many Forms

I just feel like even the process of finding a therapist was such a huge blessing, not just for me but for my kids. There were so many things and so much support from others around that I can’t deny that I didn’t feel God so present in my life. Again, not being able to prevent this from happening or saying, “Hey, you’re in this abusive relationship.”

I lost my mom, she died of cancer when I was a teenager, and I feel like even that experience prepared me to have some different strength and perspective that I even taught my kids that helped prepare for this heartache and understanding. I can see where, even throughout the divorce, there were several things that came my way, even just communication and resources with people and to be able to come across betrayal trauma, specifically.

I feel like that’s one of the things I try to help people with because, as you know, when you’re in it, sometimes with a normal therapist you’re just not getting the right information and you’re trying to work and communicate and that’s not really what the problem is especially when there’s addiction involved.

Pornography Use Is Emotional Abuse

It’s getting the right resources, and I feel like all of those things were just huge blessings of my prayers trying to understand and God blessing me and blessing my children, and giving me strength, as a mom, when I should have had zero, to be able to function.

Anne: Yeah, I find that most commonly they know about the porn use and so they approach it from an addiction perspective, without realizing it’s an abuse situation. That’s the most common thing. If they go in and say, “Well, things aren’t going well because of his addiction,” they usually focus on the porn, rather than realizing this is an abusive relationship.

Either that or they don’t know anything is going on. They go in and say, “Something is not good,” and the abuse is never identified.

In closing, is there anything you would tell yourself if you were listening to yourself?

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Can Help You See Emotional Abuse

Marni: Yeah, I believe that just giving myself a little leeway and understanding that this is hard, but we can do hard things. I’ve had to lean on other people and that’s been a hard thing, but I’ve been so appreciative of that. I’m also so thankful for your resources through BTR. I just think it’s amazing what is available to us and I just cannot get enough information that I’m trying to constantly bring not only to myself, but then share because I feel like that even betrayal can be in so many different ways.

I feel like I have connected with people who have been sexually abused or have been with alcoholics or any different types of addiction. There is a betrayal that is in there. I just think, for some reason, we don’t really talk about it and even the whole society and how they view pornography. I feel like, when I’m talking to youth and young adults about pornography, it’s helping them because society’s view of it is so different than the truth of what it actually alters in our brain and emotionally.

Trust In Yourself

I think, ultimately, that we can trust in ourselves and I do believe that God knows me and knows me better than myself and, even though this idea of what I’m going through seems unfair, I look around me and see so many people going through unfair situations. I am thankful for believing in something that’s bigger than myself that helps give me strength.

I also feel like that just trusting in myself, as I move forward in dating and my life, because I’ve been betrayed to where I don’t trust myself and I’m working through that. That’s why I’m thankful for all of these different resources to help validate what I’m feeling and to build me and help me move forward as a broken, strong, warrior.

Anne:  Healing. A healing strong warrior, and you will. Thank you so much for sharing your story today, Marni.

Marni: No problem. Thanks for having me.

Support the BTR Podcast

Anne: Thank you to those of you who support the Betrayal Trauma Recovery podcast on a monthly basis. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it.

I also appreciate the reviews that you have given on iTunes or other podcasting apps and the comments that you make on our website, on the articles, and social media, when we post. Many of you share these episodes in article form from our website and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

We really appreciate it when you like or share our content and when you make comments. It helps other women who are isolated find us. Thank you for supporting our mission.

 Until next week, stay safe out there.


  1. Sarah

    I can identify with so much in this podcast, especially the love bombing and then the withdrawal. It left me feeling so confused, unloved, hurt, and like a throw away. I can also identify intensely with the people who always find a reason to blame the victim: “She’s too much, she’s crazy, she’s numb, she’s not forgiving, she, she, she”. It’s a lose, lose situation and yet, these betrayals were some of the most painful for me because I thought these people who love God would stand up for injustice, the widow, the forgotten. Often, the victim is blamed and I think it’s because the witnesses can’t imagine someone could be so evil, malicious, cold-blooded, so they shift the blame to the victim to try to rationalize the abuser’s behaviors. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Elli

      Thank you so much for your recovery program! I just listened to Marni’s story and really felt her heart as she spoke. I, too am trying to understand the abusive marriage that I have been in. Until I found your website, I felt so confused and beat down . . . now, everything is starting to make sense. I lived with such horrible cruelty and betrayal for so long. I am now free and trying to find healing and happiness again. Thank you.

  2. DN

    My ex love bombed in making an effort to connect, acknowledge me after the silent treatment. He knew i liked sex so it was a win win for both of us ( not really), , makeup sex which i thought was normal. If i declined, he would abuse and more rejecting and blaming. If I had sex and then tried to bring up recent incident he would say”we made love now you want to hash that out more!”
    He never did anything lavishingly. We couldn’t afford it.
    I knew my choices were to accept the nice guy or confront the wrong behavior and send him back to abuse and silent treatment with blaming me for not forgiving. (without apology).
    My only way out was separation and eventual divorce.

  3. Shanelle

    I appreciate this because this is what I am dealing with and have been dealing with for four years. I am hurting inside and I have gotten away from him but he has emotionally, spiritually, physically abused me so much that it is hard to require my brain to healthier thoughts. I don’t know if I am healing because I am in so much pain. I do t know but I will keep listening and put the work in. Shame is something I feel.

  4. Anonymous

    Recently trying to leave a marriage where I experienced emotional abuse for 14 years. I have 2 kids. God has made it possible.

    • Abby Normal

      This is a really great podcast, and then I heard her describe all the ways her boyfriend/husband would “accidentally” hurt her. Now before I go on my soapbox, I do understand giving someone the benefit of doubt once, maybe twice, but what he was doing was on purpose. In the beginning it was to test her reaction and see where her boundaries were. He was conditioning her to lies and manipulation. Of course he was abusing her physically. It’s like covert physical abuse where he has plausible deniability of the abuse.

  5. Kristie

    Recently trying to detach from a 14 year betrayal abuse marriage and two kids. It couldn’t have come except for God’s intervention. Thank you for all you do.

  6. Anonymous

    T H A N K Y O U ! ! !


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