Most women who have been emotionally and psychologically abused have a difficult time recognizing the abuse.
Their husband never hit them.
He’s never raised a hand or fist at them, so how can they be in an abusive relationship?
Many of these women are finally able to recognize the abuse once they know the truth about their husband’s behaviors.
Why is this type of abuse so difficult to spot?
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, and Marni Bown, Shero and public speaker, talk about why so many women have difficulty recognizing the emotional and psychological abuse in their own relationships.
Marni enjoys sharing what she has learned on her own personal journey of surviving betrayal trauma, abuse, divorce, the negative effects and consequences of pornography, and navigating being a newly single mother. She is an advocate for others, providing resources as they move forward with hope and faith in their healing. Marni can be found on Instagram at @Marnibown.
Emotional And Psychological Abusers Aren’t Always Loud
Most people associate abuse with yelling, screaming, and violence.
That’s what Marni Bown didn’t realize until it was pointed out to her, after she discovered the truth.
The type of abuse that Marni experienced is the type that so many women, who are married abusive men who use pornography and engage in other sexually perverse behaviors, experience.
Marni’s husband never yelled at her.
He never hit her.
But, still, something felt wrong.
“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.”-Marni Bown, Shero
In fact, Marni felt they communicated well in their family.
It wasn’t until later, that she realized they communicated with their children well, not with each other.
“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.”-Marni Bown, Shero
It never dawned on her that her husband doing the exact opposite of yelling was abuse.
“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.” -Marni Bown, Shero-Marni Bown, Shero
Marni’s husband would withdraw from difficult or uncomfortable conversations.
He would avoid talking about things she wanted or needed to talk about.
Marni was lucky, as Anne points out, she happened to find a therapist that was able to recognize the abuse and call it that.
“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.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
For 21 years, Marni was being abused and she had no idea.
Emotional And Psychological Abuse Includes Lying, Manipulating, And Gaslighting
Marni and her husband got married in the 90’s.
At that time, the internet was brand new, it wasn’t available in every home and it was dial-up.
Marni discovered his pornography use early in their marriage but thought that was the end of it.
“A year into our marriage, I found pornography. At that point, I did feel super hurt and betrayed and cheated on, but then I never saw or was aware of any pornography use from him, until the actual discovery of his work phone.”-Marni Bown, Shero
After 21 years of marriage, Marni discovered the truth about her husband.
It was Christmas morning. Early, about 2:00am.
“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. The betrayal of understanding the truth that I thought Christmas Eve was dedicated to the family and us. The truth is, he was communicating with this person.”-Marni Bown, Shero
As she went through his phone, she realized there was more.
“It wasn’t just her. 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.”-Marni Bown, Shero
Marni was shocked.
The betrayal cut deep; it was Christmas, after all.
She tried to hold it together for her kids, because even a hint of sadness and her kids would know something was wrong.
“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. I chose to not say anything. I was super emotional. It wasn’t until later that I actually confronted him, and everything kind of exploded from there.”-Marni Bown, Shero
Marni felt betrayed on so many levels.
“Knowing that pornography was being viewed in my home, by him, is violating in a really weird way.”-Marni Bown, Shero
For 21 years, Marni had worked so hard at improving herself because she was always “the problem” in the marriage.
The reality was, he wanted her to believe it was her so she wouldn’t find out the truth.
“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.”-Marni Bown, Shero
Any time Marni had tried to find out what was really going on, he would twist things around on her.
“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.”-Marni Bown, Shero
“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.”-Marni Bown, Shero
Marni’s husband would go from not communicating to blaming her.
Most people don’t realize that not communicating can be a form of abuse, as Anne states.
“A lot of people don’t understand that stonewalling and not talking about things are forms of controlling the conversation. 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.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Marni did her best to please her husband and be the best she could be, but it was never enough.
“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.”-Marni Bown, Shero
All he ever did was take.
“I was giving him all I was, my good, my bad, my stress, my anxiety, wanting to work with him together, as a union.”-Marni Bown, Shero
Marni is a smart, well-educated woman, so why didn’t she see that she was being abused?
Emotional And Psychological Abusers Gain Their Victim’s Trust
Marni is a college graduate.
She’s smart, but even she didn’t see that she was being abused.
“I 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. His control was lack of communicating information to me.”-Marni Bown, Shero
Part of the emotional and psychological abuse is making the victim doubt herself and what she believes to be true.
Marni trusted her husband.
He created so much doubt in her about her own worth and her own abilities that she began to trust him more than she trusted herself.
She wasn’t “good enough” to change his plans for, or so he would have her believe.
“I didn’t 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.’”-Marni Bown, Shero
Marni realized, later, that this was part of the abuse.
“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.”-Marni Bown, Shero
Marni’s husband had created such a thick façade that she had a difficult time believing that he was abusive, at first.
“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. How am I in an abusive situation? I think that’s when it goes back to the lies.”-Marni Bown, Shero
Anne points out that blaming or letting Marni take the blame for the problems in their marriage was abusive.
“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 abusive because you think it’s your fault. A lot of women say that. I’m thinking, that is the cruelest lie you could say to someone, to tell them that they’ve got a problem when it’s your problem.”-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Marni now understands that all of his behavior, the blaming, the lying, the manipulating, the stonewalling, those were all abusive.
But sometimes she still wonders how she didn’t catch it.
“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.”-Marni Bown, Shero
Even though Marni has been through so much, she really does enjoy helping other women navigate through the harsh reality of betrayal trauma and abuse.
She wants women to know two important things she’s learned.
“This is hard, but we can do hard things. We can trust in ourselves.”-Marni Bown, Shero
While Marni is still new to being a single mother, she has faith and knows that God is watching over her.
“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.”-Marni Bown, Shero
She is grateful for resources, like Betrayal Trauma Recovery, that want women to be safe.
Anne and Marni want all women to live safe, peaceful lives.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery helps through Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group. BTR Group provides a safe place to share with other women facing similar circumstances. With UNLIMITED access to more than 15 live 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.
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 email@example.com 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.
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.
You get over 90 sessions a month for the same price as one therapy session. It is inexpensive. We did it like that on purpose. We also did it online on purpose, so that you don’t have to find childcare, you don’t have to get transportation. You can even do it from your closet or car as long as you have the internet.
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: 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 and betrayed and cheated on, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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