If you feel responsible for fixing your abusive husband after learning about his pornography use and abuse, then you are NOT alone. Many women feel like it’s their responsibility to keep the marriage together after it’s been broken by their husband’s choice to betray and abuse.
Dr. Natalie Jones is back on the BTR.ORG podcast talking about narcissistic abuse and what women can do to seek safety. Tune in to the free BTR.ORG podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
The “Fix My Abusive Husband” Mindset is Caused By Abuse
Dr. Natalie Jones says that victims are conditioned into living in survival mode and are oppressed by the abuser into believing that its their job to fix the abuser and the marriage:
“Someone who is abused is always told that it’s their fault and that they need to fix something. And that is the mindset of when someone’s abused- that you need to fix someone else. Or if you have some answers, you can fix this person or this person can get some help.”
Dr. Natalie Jones
In short, victims feel the need to fix the abuser and save the marriage because they are conditioned to feel like it’s both their fault and their responsibility (even though it’s not).
Your Husband Can Seek Help For Himself
It’s important to accept that abusers are perfectly capable of seeking help for themselves; if they haven’t, it’s because they don’t want to:
“There’s no reason that cognitively they can’t go get their own help, right? If they want to, they will. So if they wanna figure out what’s going on with themselves, if they wanna figure out, you know, hey, I might need some help and do, and I wanna do some work, they need to be responsible for that.”
Dr. Natalie Jones
What Can Victims Do Instead of Seeking Help for The Abuser?
Understanding that it’s conditioning that causes women to feel the need to “fix” the abuser and the marriage – and that the abuser can seek help for himself, women can courageously choose to take stock of their own safety needs:
“Having your own autonomy is you figuring out what’s going on with you and what do you need in this very moment.”
Dr. Natalie Jones
BTR.ORG is here for you as you begin your journey to healing – attend a Group Session today.
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. I have Dr. Jones back on today’s episode. If you did not listen to last week, start there. Listen to that first, and then join us here at BTR. We do not diagnose anyone. BTR was created specifically for women victims of emotional and psychological abuse and sexual coercion: sexual coercion, usually in the form of someone using pornography and not informing their wife about it; and then she’s not able to give consent.
We Don’t Diagnose or Seek Diagnoses for Abusers
As women victims come to us for help and they use our services, we don’t diagnose their abusers because a lot of the victims come in and they’ve read something on the internet and they’re like, oh, he’s a narcissist. And sure, he’s definitely acting like a narcissist or he’s got a sex addiction, and yes, he’s meeting the criteria for that. In terms of what really matters to victims is, “Are you safe?” So instead of focusing on what’s causing these types of abusive behaviors, we focus on victim safety. Are you emotionally safe? Are you psychologically safe? Are you sexually safe? Dr. Jones and I were talking about that and we’re just gonna pick up the conversation where we left off.
Can you talk about narcissistic behaviors in general? Maybe what narcissism is, how it affects victims and why narcissistic abuse happens?
“NPD and ‘Narcissist’ Are Very Different”
Dr. Natalie Jones (04:25):
Yeah, so I think I should preface that by saying narcissistic or narcissist is a word that is over-utilized in today’s society. So a lot of people use it to reference their partner being a jerk or not respecting their needs, or their partner may be cheating or something like that. And so that’s not exactly what narcissism is. And I think it’s also important to note that I’m glad that you said that you don’t diagnose because diagnosing someone with NPD is very, very serious. I’ve worked with and diagnosed many people within NPD. When you take a look at Narcissistic Personality Disorder versus what people are referring to out in culture these days (just using the word narcissist), NPD and narcissist are very different. What most people are talking about is a person that possesses narcissistic traits.
They’re talking about someone who is extremely manipulative. They’re talking about someone who does not have empathy. They’re talking about a person that feels entitled or doesn’t consider another person’s needs in the relationship. That’s traditionally what we’re talking about. So we’re talking about behaviors like gaslighting; coercive control, which may consist of physical, sexual, emotional, verbal and psychological or digital abuse, right? So we’re talking about those types of abuse just to keep it on a more simplistic level. And so those are typically what we mean when we say a person is a narcissist, right? They are abusing me in some way. They are tearing me down, they’re making me feel less than myself. They are oppressing me in some way and they’re using me for their own financial gain and security. They don’t care about my needs. And once they’re done using me, they’ve moved on to someone else or they have another person waiting in the wings.
What Are The Characteristics of Someone With NPD?
So they’re basically talking about some traits of the personality disorder. On some occasions you may be dealing with someone who has the full-blown personality disorder, or you may be talking about someone who’s very egotistical and entitled. That’s usually what most people are talking about, and both of them are very serious. One thing to note is a person with a true personality disorder versus what people refer to as a narcissist.
Usually when someone refers to another person as being narcissistic, to them, traditionally speaking, that may be they are referring to the way that person has treated them and maybe a select few other people that they may be abusing or manipulating. A lot of times what you’ll hear them say is, oh, that person is a narcissist to me, but out into the world they present like a totally different person.
Someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is gonna be that way a hundred percent of the time. They’re gonna have the same effect on everyone in the room, versus a person that’s narcissistic may hide parts of themselves. Not to say a psychopath or a sociopath can’t do that also, but again, I’m just speaking in general terms because every case is different.
If The Abusive Husband Had a Mental Diagnosis, Would The Victim Be Better Off?
What would you say to a victim of abuse? I like the word “victim” around here because my listeners generally speaking have not survived anything yet. Like if you say the Titanic, right? It sunk and then you survived the Titanic. In the case of listeners to my podcast, most women are still experiencing this abuse in one form or another. Now they are trying to make their way to safety, right? They’re trying to set boundaries, they’re trying to get some distance, they’re trying to figure it out. That feels better to me as a current still-victim of abuse. My ex still manipulates and lies and does all the things. Thankfully, I feel very safe now, but I’m still technically actually being abused. I understand people like “survivor” better depending on how they use it, but that being said, like a lot of women in this situation, they think if they had a diagnosis, it would make things better.
Maybe because then they could figure out what to do, right? They could take some steps or they could get their husband into the right type of therapy or something like that. Can you explain why that is very dangerous for victims to think that a diagnosis might make the situation better, or if they had an official Narcissistic Personality Disorder diagnosis, that would give them grounds for divorce? But without it, maybe it’s not serious enough, and “Maybe I don’t need to separate,” “Maybe I don’t need to be too concerned about this type of abuse.” Can you explain why that’s dangerous for victims?
“That Is Someone Who Is Operating In Survival Mode”
Dr. Natalie Jones (09:56):
Yeah. I mean, what do you need a diagnosis for; figure it out for what? Think about that question, “What do I need a diagnosis for; logically and rationally, what is that going to get me?”. Usually when I encounter someone with that question or that train of thought, that is still someone who is operating in survival mode. This is another reason why I refer to it as surviving because every day that you’re being abused or you’re being brutalized or you’re with someone who’s taking advantage of you, you are surviving. Although you may not feel like it, you still are surviving, right?
Yeah, I like that. Yeah.
“That’s Also the Mentality of Someone Who’s Being Oppressed”
Dr. Natalie Jones (10:38):
That’s also a mentality of someone who’s being oppressed. It’s like, what can I do to fix this situation? Because someone who is abused is always told that it’s their fault and that they need to fix something, right? That is the mindset of when someone’s abused: you need to fix someone else. Or if you have some answers, you can fix this person or this person can get some help. You don’t need to do that. If you’re moving on or you’re getting out of that relationship, or even if you’re in a relationship with that person, you still need to have your own autonomy. Having your own autonomy is you figuring out what’s going on with you and what do you need in this very moment.
Your Abusive Husband Can Find Help For Himself – Let Him!
That person has nothing wrong with them cognitively, so there’s no reason that cognitively they can’t go get their own help. If they want to, they will. If they wanna figure out what’s going on with themselves, if they wanna figure out, “Hey, I might need some help, and I wanna do some work”, they need to be responsible for that. Even as a professional or someone that diagnoses people, I cannot force people to come to treatment. I cannot force people to follow treatment. That person has to be motivated and want to do that and find the answers for themselves. I think that’s the thing: people need to have their own autonomy, and this is the one place that I would encourage you to think about, “What do I need?” “What is happening to me?”
It’s More Empowering to “Realize What’s Going On & Take Care of Yourself”
If you really pay attention to yourselves, you can say, “This person isn’t treating me very well.” “This person is putting me down and other people may be helping this person abuse me or put me down or silence me, and that’s the information that I need.” That is saying that I don’t feel good about what’s happening here. “They are hurting me and I don’t like that”, and I think that is a much more empowering way to look at the situation. Realize what’s going on and take care of yourselves. But when you ask questions like, “Is my partner a narcissist or is narcissism a mental illness?” or “What can I do to help them?”, you are typically looking at ways to help that person and not help yourself. You’re looking at ways to fix the situation so that you could stay in it.
Trauma Mama Husband Drama
I’m gonna 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 also 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.
Have You Gone Through the “Trial & Error Period of Trying to Fix Your Abusive Husband”?
Now back to our interview. So knowing that, there’s no way that we as a victim can fix the situation because we have nothing to do with it, right? I like how you described “Survival.” Actually, no one has described it like that to me before, that you’re just surviving every day and you can’t do anything but survive or make your way to safety. Those are your only two options because you doing anything to improve his treatment of you is not a possibility. It’s just not an option. But I do feel like most women, me included, go through that trial and error period of trying to fix it.
Dr. Natalie Jones (15:02):
Why do you think most women go through that? I will even dare I will have the audacity to say all women, although that’s probably not true. Why do you think all women try to improve things? They’re like, “Oh. Well if I did this, maybe it would improve things.” Why do you think they do that first before realizing, “Wait a minute, this isn’t working.”?
Dr. Natalie Jones (15:26):
Because that’s a whole premise of abuse. Abusers are always implying, “I’m not the problem; you’re the problem, and therefore you need to fix it.” When you’re in an abusive relationship, an abusive person is constantly projecting the blame onto you in telling you that you need to do X, Y, and Z in order to be good enough, or to be worthy enough for them to even consider loving you. Then they always change the goalposts. And so again, that rote, systematic thinking is survivalistic thinking. That’s what you’ve been conditioned, hardwired to do and to think about because that’s all sort of hammered into you. “You need to fix it” or “You need to do X, Y, and Z.”, whether it’s academics (your grades need to be good enough) or how you look (you need to look pretty enough). Maybe you need to cook everything, clean everything, just bend over backwards every day to do all these things and it’s still not good enough. That’s why I always encourage people, just stop that type of thinking. Look at the factual information and write it down on paper. What are the facts?
Base Your Decisions on FACTS – Not the Potential of Your Abusive Husband
Or even what is he saying, right? Because he’s gonna be saying stuff. Don’t even write that down. Don’t include his words as facts.
Dr. Natalie Jones (17:09):
Right. That’s what I’m saying. If he’s saying something but doing something totally different, that is a fact. If he said, “I’m gonna be at your house at Tuesday at nine o’clock”, and he never showed up, he never showed up. That is a fact. He lied and said he was gonna do something else. That is a fact. So you’re writing down the facts; not hoping for potential, not trying to change, not trying to mold a person into who you think they can be.
Tips for Women of Color Who Are in an Emotionally/Psychologically Abusive Marriages
I’m really happy that you said it’s a result of the abuse. Why does every woman try that? It’s because of the abuse. Because they’re told that. And unless they know that going into it, then they’re gonna start with that. That’s really interesting. So we started talking specifically about women of color and then we veered towards general narcissistic stuff. I could talk to you forever, by the way. Thank you so much for coming on. But of course, do you have any tips for women of color who are in an emotionally or psychologically abusive marriage and they’re trying to navigate it? Do you have anything specific for them?
Dr. Natalie Jones (18:23):
Pay attention to how you feel. A lot of times when people reach out to counseling or something like that, they’re focused on anxiety. “My partner’s not communicating with me.” So it’s gonna be important for you to pay attention to how you’re feeling. You need someone who is very objective, who listens, and who is in the trenches with you because there are some therapists that aren’t as good or as qualified to suss out abuse. If we’re in sort of our rote thinking, we’re not thinking realistically, right? We’re not thinking realistically about how dangerous a person is. We’re just thinking that we wanna fix it, and sometimes it could be a life or death situation that you don’t need to fix. You just need to get out or otherwise the outcome isn’t going to be very good for you.
Victims of Narcissistic Abuse Can Seek Safe Support
And that’s specifically why I say you need someone who’s very realistic, very objective, who can tell you, “Hey, listen, this person is significantly disturbed and I really need for you to pay attention to what’s going on here.” Because when you’re in it, you’re not necessarily based in reality, you’re thinking in survival mode, so you need someone who is objective and reality-focused. Get some support if you can. A lot of narcissistic abuse focuses on isolating you, but if you can, get some form of support, even if it’s online. Reading is something that’s also helpful. There are lots of blogs, books, and things like that that where you could read about Narcissistic abuse. Podcasts: focus on those who really have a handle on it. Not everyone out there understands the true concepts of it. Check out your local or national domestic violence center, including legal services and things like that. So those are tools that are available at your fingertips.
Well, thank you so much Dr. Jones, for spending this time with us.
Dr. Natalie Jones (20:36):
I appreciate it talking to you, and it’s good to catch up.
If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week, stay safe out there.