For seven years, I didn’t know I was a victim of repeated, malicious emotional abuse and physical intimidation.
If I had to put a label on my ex-husband’s behavior, I’d say it was and is the behavior of a malignant narcissist.
The first year and a half of our marriage, I tried to get to the bottom of why he was so angry all the time. But trying to solve the problem only got me in deeper. He had all the right answers: his abusive childhood, his stressful job as an attorney, he felt trapped. So many reasons.
When I found out about his sex addiction, I put my efforts into recovery. We went to the best therapists, the best workshops, the best everything. Everything helped him put on a more believable mask.
Of course, he didn’t change. Instead, after multiple opportunities to apply the healthy emotional skills we learned, he used it to craft the perfect mask to hide his true nature.
And of course, the anger and infidelity never stopped.
Sometimes I feel like I did everything wrong. But let me tell you what I did right.
I didn’t stop talking to friends and family, and I told them the truth about what was happening. We didn’t have a name for it other than “anger” and “pornography addiction”, and none of us understood this type of emotional abuse, physical intimidation, and infidelity. Speaking about my experience in the best way I could, considering my lack of understanding, was better than silence.
Even though I didn’t know what it was or how to effectively deal with it, I faced it head on.
In 2015, his sex addiction and anger escalated. One evening, during a verbal exchange, he silently and purposefully grabbed my hand, pushed my fingers all the way back, and pushed me against the kitchen cabinets. My parents watched my kids as I sought medical care. When I arrived at the doctor, the receptionist asked me, “Why are you here?” I held up my swollen hand and said, “Domestic violence.” The doctor called the police and my husband was removed from our home.
After his arrest, my trauma symptoms became almost unbearable. Because I had little understanding of my situation, I was suddenly faced with the shocking reality that I had been living with an extremely dangerous man. I began podcasting about my experience anonymously in real time on my podcast Betrayal Trauma Recovery.
Being able to share my real time experience with the trauma, and the ups and downs of the aftermath of leaving an abusive relationship was so healing. I was also able to share in real time about his continued abuse even though we were separated and I was holding a no contact boundary. Because he couldn’t abuse me directly, he abused me by withholding money, blaming me, lying to protect his reputation, abusing me through our church leader, etc.
As I put my story into the universe in real time, I received many emails from women all of the world. They cried with me. They told me I wasn’t alone. They were going through the exact same thing at the exact same time.
I eventually started a nonprofit, online coaching practice so that other women in similar situations and relationships with pornography / sex addicts could get immediate, online, confidential, professional help to navigate their chaotic and confusing situation. Learning about how to heal from trauma from coaches trained by The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS) was paradigm shifting! I didn’t know such a training or organization even existed!
I’m grateful to God who literally removed my abuser from my home. I never could have seen my way out of the situation alone. And now, I’m so grateful to share the process of how to establish emotional safety with other women.
My trauma symptoms still crop up. During this healing time, I’m grateful for the peace and comfort I receive knowing that I’m not alone. I can’t fast forward five years later yet, but I’m looking forward writing that phrase!
One thing’s for sure: I survived!
And I’m surviving!
So from now until the fast forward time, I can live in that abundant feeling, enjoying the healing process in my safe home with my three beautiful children.