Tony interviews Ashlee Boyson. Ashlee is an author, trauma survivor, and victim advocate. In 2011 Ashlee’s life changed forever when her husband’s murder revealed his secret life.
Ashlee’s book “ The Moments We Stand: Silence Breaks: Book 1” is available at
https://amzn.to/3CMwO8Y You can find out more about Ashlee on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/themomentswestand/ or her website http://themomentswestand.com Ashlee has 4 courses available; use coupon code: virtualcouch to receive a 40% discount. Ashlee’s courses include: “Surviving Infidelity,” “The Light Within: a guided course for widows,” and the Pre-Launch of “Trauma Mama - Parenting the Hurting Child” and “Breaking the Chains of Eating Disorders.” https://www.themomentswestand.com/store
Go to http://tonyoverbay.com/workshop to sign up for Tony's "Magnetize Your Marriage" virtual workshop. The cost is only $19, and you'll learn the top 3 things you can do NOW to create a Magnetic Marriage.
You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.
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Tony: Ashlee, how are you?
Ashlee: Hello, I'm so good. How are you?
Tony: Oh, I think I'm supposed to be all mindful and zen, but I think what was, 13 minutes after the hour of trying to find out the technical difficulties. And it turns out I was, I mean, this is probably a good segue. I was technologically gaslighting you wasn't I? It was my problem the whole time.
Ashlee: Seriously, I was starting to be triggered a lot.
Tony: I know. And I feel so bad because I was, I was like hitting the “Ashley point at your ears” and that sort of thing. Thank you for your patience. I know. And, and I'm grateful that you're here and, I know I'm jumping right in with humor and from looking at your account and listening to the things that you say, I think you're a fan of humor as well.
Ashlee: I'm a fan of humor, man.
Tony: Right. But you've, and, meanwhile, when my audience hears what you've been through, that is a real gift to be able to turn to humor. And I feel like just saying, man, I just want you to talk. And then, the me wanting validation also wants to tell the story of how we met, which is really emotionally insecure of me, but I'm really excited to talk to you, but yet then I know we're gonna talk about difficult things.
Ashlee: I'm excited too. It's gonna be awesome. Yeah, and we met because one of my good friends from high school who happens to live not far from me now, we had both been through similar things and she was like, let's meet up for lunch. And we were talking about a couple of things I said, she's like, oh my gosh, you have to meet this guy I know. And I was like, yeah, yeah. Everybody is always sending me stuff, but she sends me your podcast. And I'm sitting there listening to it and I was like, oh my gosh. I do have to meet this guy that you know, and I text her I'm like, this is amazing. This podcast about narcissism, like years ago when I was going through stuff with, I didn't even know what that word was. So to have this at people's fingertips is unreal and it's gonna help so many people go, wait a second, this sounds so familiar. Yeah. Oh my gosh. And I wish I would've had that a long time ago.
Tony: Well, I appreciate that but I can't imagine what you have been through now and looking over your story. And I will be honest, the first time I've met with somebody that their credits include forensic investigation or Dateline, NBC, or, I mean, your story is, it is that big and crazy. And so then that's I think why I go to the part where I feel like I'm really honored that I can provide something that will resonate with you. And so maybe we just dive in and where do we start with your story?
Ashlee: Oh man. Where do you want to start?
Tony: Your website is so good where it just jumps in, and basically the part where your husband was missing and you had just had your fifth child, I think, and then this just picturesque life and he was an attorney and you had the five kids and just everything just was amazing. I mean, is that kind of the case?
Ashlee: Yeah, that's where we were. That was 2011, and I literally was living my dream life. I just had my fifth baby, my son had a brother. Like everything was aligning. The market was low. We were just outta law school, bought our dream house. So it was kind of one of those, you know those times where you're like, I did it. I followed the list. And I checked the boxes. And when I was younger I learned that I would be blessed if I checked these boxes and here I am. I'm blessed. So it's kinda one of those times where I was almost patting myself on the back, look how much I've done. Here we are, we've made it. And yeah, there was just a few months that it started to feel like things were just like falling through the cracks.
Tony: What did that look like? What was that? What were the things?
Ashlee: It was a lot of moments that I felt like I was crazy. Like things wouldn't add up or things just fell off. Or I'd ask questions to my husband and it just, something didn't sit right and the, it was like the more I dug though, the more I asked questions, the crazier I felt. Because he always had a good excuse and there was always a reason why I just needed to be patient and he'd be back at spending time with the family once he got this or this or this, you know? So it was kinda just crazy making all the time. And I got to the point, like I always say, any normal crazy person going through the garbage, like is there any evidence here because I'm losing it. Everyone around me thinks we're the perfect family. I thought we were too, but something feels off. So I spent a lot of time doing normal, crazy person stuff. When you start to feel crazy, I was like trying to hack into his phone when he was in the shower. Never got in that I was trying to, like, I'd go through his car when he is in the shower, just like am I so insecure? And I started digging into my past like, okay, my parents got divorce. Maybe I'm broken. Maybe I just don't trust people. And I went to a marriage counselor saying that, by myself, I went to a marriage counselor by myself. We're gonna get that out there. Okay. And I begged him to just fix me because I think I have trust issues or something. Because all of a sudden I feel like I'm crazy and I feel like something's not right. But he says everything's fine. He comes home most nights, and even when he doesn't, there's an amazing reason why he has to be at the jail with a client or something. So I'm crazy and I need you to fix me. That's kind of what it looked like for me.
Tony: How did he handle that?
Ashlee: He was always like, oh my gosh, can you not handle just being a mom? Like this is your one job is to take care of the kids and I have to go to the jail. It's not like I can just say, sorry, I have a family. So it was always just kind of like making me feel guilty, like asking for his time was something that I should just buck up and be doing it all myself, which I pretty much was. But I was such that person who, you know, I've always been, I just love big. And I loved being a mom and every single detail of being a mom, I didn't wanna miss it anyway, like I wanted to be there. But then having this longing for a partner to do it with me, got bigger and bigger through law school I just did it because he was in law school and then through this, I just did it because he was always busy with clients, but, I just got that feeling like he has to be part of this. They're growing and I'm doing it by myself. And the more I beg him, the more it's like he's frustrated with me. Like I'm asking for something more than just even five minutes a day instead of watching my son watch the neighbor play baseball with his dad outside, I want you to be here playing baseball with him. Not just promising him that you're gonna sponsor his baseball team. Actually be the dad with him.
Tony: And did you feel like you had to buffer for the kids as well?
Ashlee: Oh all the time. I thought even his, his own family, like there was a Christmas where we were planning on going and like the day before this was I think it was the Christmas before he died, maybe two Christmases. The day we were supposed to leave it was like, oh let's tell them the kids are sick. And so I'm like, I'm not gonna tell him that, you can tell them that, nobody's sick. We're ready, we're packed, we're ready to go. But it was always like I was trying to cover for him. Even though, even though I tried to genuinely believe him, there was always that pit in my stomach like this, something's just not right.
Tony: Yeah. Ashley, I'm curious too, when you went to therapy, what did the therapist do or how did he try to work with you?
Ashlee: Um, that day he listened to me rant about all these things that fell off and then begged him to fix my issues and yeah, heal my past. And he stopped me right at the end. We were almost outta time and he is like, you know, I just feel like I need to say this. Sometimes those feelings deep down that something's not right, what if something really isn't right? And you almost panic when you've spent so much time covering and loving with all your heart, you almost panic because you don't wanna go there because that's really scary. It's a lot easier to live in your fantasy world, you know? So I said, well, no, no, no. It has to be me. Like he reassures me every day and he just tells me I need to get better at communicating and just tells me I need to get better at like, healing from my, my mom and dad's stuff. And so he literally said, bring him in next week and you guys can sit here together and we can work on this. I think you and him together will be the best way to figure out what's really going on so you can both be there for each other. And then next week, I guess we'll tell you what happened next week.
Tony: Yeah. And I appreciate the way you handled that, because I do feel like when that person is in my office, you, in that role that it is the, tell me what I need to do different, but so often it's the, hey, it sounds like you're trying to do everything is maybe the problem. And it sounds like that was what you were doing. I mean, just trying to figure I can figure this out. I can fix this.
Ashlee: Absolutely. Yeah, you fix me and I’ll fix this.
Tony: And we'll be good. Yeah. Yeah. So then did you ask your husband to come in?
Ashlee: So I did. He at that time had gone on a trip with his stepbrother and came home and things were like way worse, like they'd been off, but he got home and something had like snapped. He was not even trying to be kind, like he was yelling a lot. He was more aggressive. He was frustrated with the kids and he wasn't home most of that week and I remember it was a Friday morning and I woke up and I got on my knees. I am a praying woman, I thought, you know, with God, I can figure out what's going on and we're gonna fix it. Because that's what us women do anyway. You know, you've worked with enough women, you know we, we know we can fix it if we just have the tools and the answers. So that's what I prayed for. Just give me one answer. And once I have that answer, I promise you I will do whatever it takes. I will lose weight. I just had a baby. If that's what it is, I will change who I am. I will change my character if I have to. Because I want this and I love him and I love this family. And so it was kind of that kind of a day Where I, I could feel it was almost like I could feel this moment had to happen where we saw each other and we worked on whatever it was , and honestly, a few times it crossed my mind, maybe he's having an affair and he's gonna tell me. But, it would always be in weird, bizarre moments, like when I was in his office and his paralegal would give me a weird vibe. But then I'm like, no, she's 40 years old. I'm 28 years old. I just had his fifth kid. There is no way. And then I feel more crazy. So every time I had that thought, it was like I shamed myself for even thinking, like there's no way you're not enough for him. Like he would never pick this lady. And my thoughts would just kind of go in a circle. So anyway, that morning it was kind of finally, it felt like it was coming to a head. And I know so many people in this situation have felt that like, I have to find out now, it's here. I can feel it, so I got up and just did crazy people's stuff. Like I went to Target and spent a bunch of money on random things, like $200 in laundry baskets and things that we do to cope, you know? You've worked with these, I know you've worked with these. We have our coping mechanisms.
Tony: To be fair, I've never had the buying all the laundry baskets.
Ashlee: I was redoing the laundry room. That's the, that was the goal to keep me, to keep me, you know, focused that day. I went to the grocery store and bought all of his favorite food and we're not just talking like his favorite meal, like I went nuts. I bought everything. There was a whole array of food. By the time he was supposed to be home, the kids were decked out in their clothes. I'd sent him pictures of the kids. I wanted him to see what he had even though I wasn't changing much, like I just, I wanted the best version of us when he walked through the door that day. And he walked in a couple hours late. The food was cold. The babies were so tired, but I was like, no, we're gonna do this. He's gonna come in, he's gonna see your cute faces, and he's gonna remember why he wants to be here because it really doesn't feel like he wants to be here. And we sat down and ate. He didn't touch the food. It was kind of one of those, when he walked in the door, I tried to kiss him and he kind of brushed me away and I just sun deeper and deeper into this insignificant person who just felt so small. And pretty soon I could hear his phone ringing and he went in the back room which happened to be where the baby monitor was, and I'm like, maybe this, I'm gonna get my one answer. And I had asked this person who was a therapist to reach out to him, and it was one of those things that I'm like, maybe if he can tell me what's going on, I can fix it. But I listened over the monitor and everything he was saying wasn't even true. He was saying stuff about me like I had done, I was out sleeping around and I wasn't taking care of the kids. Like all the things that I knew weren't the answer I was looking for. But at the same time, played onto the crazy. And so by the time he got off, I went in the back room and called the same person, like will you help me out? And he validated that fear of being crazy? He's like, are you crazy? What are you doing? You're not taking care of your kids. You're not taking care of. So he went through, I mean, he was lawyered, my husband was a lawyer. He was lawyered. He believed everything he heard. And in the middle of our conversation, Emmett came in and said, hey, I'm gonna go run to Walgreens. I'll be right back. And it had been a few weeks of, I'm gonna go run here, and he'd be gone till 12 o'clock at night.
So I kind of panicked and held the phone away and, I need you to stay. Just stay here. Let's talk about everything. All the things that the kids are going through at school, like weird stuff is happening. And I just, I feel like I need you to be here with me tonight. And he literally looked into my eyes, and he said, don't tell me what to do. I'm gonna go, walked out the door, slammed the door. The babies were waking up. Just the baby, the young, almost seven week old baby. And I picked him up, got off the phone. And for seriously hours, I just sat there and rocked this baby trying to piece together what does this look like if I reach out to people? I've already reached out and said, pray for us, and people are like, well, what do you need me to pray for? And I felt more crazy because I'm like, I don't know, something's wrong. I know something's wrong. So I held this baby and just promised him for hours that everything is gonna be okay. And I read my self-help book that my marriage counselor had given me to read and I got on my knees and said many prayers, just, I need an answer tonight. I don't know what to do. And the baby finally fell asleep about right after I panicked. The baby fell asleep about 10 o'clock. He panicked and I panicked and I just felt it. And I called Emmett like four times in a row and texted him, are you okay? Please come home. And nothing, heard nothing. The baby finally fell asleep. And, I kind of felt more alone. I'm like, I kind of wish the baby was awake because I'm just sitting here. So I ended up laying down and falling asleep at about one o'clock in the morning. I heard just this pounding on my front door and I almost got excited. I'm gonna be honest. When you feel crazy and you're like, maybe this is hope, there's an answer. I was like, okay, you just bought a new truck. This is, this is what it's gonna look like. He got in a wreck and there's a policeman coming to say, hey, your husband's hurt, broke his leg, got in a wreck. His car's totaled, but he needs you.
Tony: Now I know what to do with that. Right.
Ashlee: I know how to, that's what I've been craving for so long. I need him to need me. So as I walked into the door, I'm like, okay, he needs me. I'm gonna, they're gonna take me to him. He's gonna see us, and he is gonna be in a spot where he needs us to take care of him. And I thought this gift was gonna be handed to me and I didn't even care if he wrecked his brand new truck. Like I just wanted him to see us. And I opened the door and it was just three people wearing random street clothes holding up a badge and saying, we need to come in. And I was just so overwhelmed. And by the time we sat on my couch, I didn't think, like, I, I never imagined the scenario that we were, we were gonna sit around and talk about. And they just said, hey, do you know this woman? And it was the paralegal that worked for us. And I was like yeah, I know, I know her, she works at our office. She literally just sent me a present home the other day for the new baby. And they just kept talking. I don't, I honestly still don't know exactly everything that they said. The weight on my chest as they were explaining this whole situation still is, even if I talk about it, it's just, it's still there.
And I know I've worked, I've done so much work to try to work through, but at that moment, that moment where you, first of all for me, they said your husband was there with her. They were having an affair. Her husband came and, they literally just spilled it all, he came with a gun. And your husband was shot once in the forehead and once in the heart and he died literally in her arms. And I, when I go back to that moment, it's not just about that, that pain of, hey, you really weren't enough, sis, let's talk about it. It was like, you know that dude in your head that plays him is like, hey, you little loser. See? See, you are so dumb. Look at you. You didn't even, you couldn't even figure this out. It took him dying in another woman's arms fighting for her because you're not enough. And that was kind of the core belief that just in that moment just grew and built and took over my every breath. He was gone. But not only was he gone, let me tell you what, he was gone because you weren't enough. That's what I believed in that moment.
Tony: Oh, Ashlee. And that default programming that we go to, I mean, that is just, it's unavoidable. And I'm so sorry you even had to deal with that. But I hear that, I mean, I've never heard a version like this, but to show that it can go there, even in that depth of, of that moment, just shows how deeply at our core we have that internal battle of I'm not enough. I mean, I almost feel like that's our default setting, and then we're trying to just beg someone to tell us that we're not. So I can't imagine that, Ashlee. And do you feel like, and this might be a silly question, but when you just said yeah, they just dumped all that on you, you know, at one time, I mean, do you feel like that was something that had to happen that way? Do you feel like it could have been broached in a different way? What are your thoughts?
Ashlee: Oh, you know, it was kind of like I wanted to make up a different scenario for my kids the next morning when they came running down the stairs. But it was one of those things that they, I needed the full truth because that crazy part of me that if he was there and he told me all of that, would've had the option to do crazy things and kick him in the face and be mad and decide for myself what my future looks like. It was kind of ripped from me because of this. It wasn't just a murder. It was almost like, hey, here's a reason why you felt crazy. And honestly, the first emotion that I felt when those detectives left my house, they spent a long time at my house and I remember calling people and telling people, I'm like, they were right there. But mainly I remember they shut the door and this wave of relief came over me. Not, not the relief that hey, your husband and the father of your children is dead. That, absolutely not. That was the guy that I was ready to give my entire life to it, and I gave my entire heart to. But the relief that so many women talk about when they find out finally, like their husband finally admits that he was having an affair. That relief is so powerful because you do start to feel crazy. You feel just trapped inside this twilight zone all the time. So that lasted about three seconds. But I just remember slapping, I remember slapping my couch, like I wasn't crazy. I wasn't crazy, just screaming, excited that I wasn't crazy. And then the guilt of having relief set in, because now this, I mean the life that you had. Like, you're literally gonna have to tell five kids that their dad was murdered. They don't even know how to spell the word murder or know what that means. And you're gonna have to figure out a way to tell them in about three hours. The relief didn't last long.
Tony: Well and one of the messages that you sent, and I appreciate you saying that. You said to remind you about that relief, and then you said that followed by shame because he was gone and so was my chance of saving him and that's the part where I feel like, man, I can't imagine how hard that is of feeling like, I mean, I wonder if the brain even goes in double time of saying, but I could've. I mean, now I'll never know, but I could've. Was that what that was like?
Ashlee: Absolutely. I walk into my closet literally begging. I'm like, I have seen it on the movies. I have to have a do over, rewind. I wanna see the alternative ending where I get to choose and guess what? I could have saved him. And I truly believed that to my core until I was given a second marriage with a similar scenario. Because I never did heal any of it inside me. Right? And I was given that second chance in a totally different way, but that's another story. But having that belief that I could have saved him and I was robbed. Literally the guy that shot him was named Rob. I was robbed of being able to save my marriage, save my husband, help him through whatever, pornography, whatever he was going through, which he was. I would've been able to save him and I truly believed that to my core.
Tony: What has that been like, I mean, this is where I feel like the, I don’t know if it's the confabulation that our brain does or to make sense of things. Or if that's just catastrophizing and we're gonna pile on when we're beating ourselves up, what has that been like to, or what has it taken to overcome that? I mean, do you still find yourself at times thinking, the more I learned, the more I know I could have? Or is it, the more I learned, the more I know I couldn't have?
Ashlee: It's more like, the more I learned, the more I know I was worth so much more. So it started out for years, even into my second marriage, like I said, I was insignificant in my own mind, right? Just like a narcissist is insignificant in their own mind, and they don't want anybody to know, so they make it all about them. I was so insignificant in my own mind, whether it was from my parents' divorce or whatever, that I really didn't have a healthy view of myself, similar to a narcissist, but the ones that attract narcissists, we go to the, we'll make it all about them. Because they like it about them and I want to give that to them. And that's the way I'm gonna love. But you don't know in the moment that it's really just you being insecure and them being insecure and both have a different reaction. So that's where I've come 180. And in my second marriage, when I, one one of the answers to my prayer I see now, it wasn't like I need to heal from my parents' divorce and I needed to fix that. It was like, it's from my last marriage that I need to heal. And so it was like I was constantly trying to heal that and I was going to counseling and trying to heal that so this marriage could be different. Even though I was at the same spot and I attracted the same type of person, right?
So, it began to be more like, I felt like God gave me these gifts. I one day, no joke, I literally heard a voice say, I need you to start a blog, which, I don't even, I don't even do this kinda stuff, and I need you to write this story. And I was like, all right. My mom and my sisters could read a blog, but I fought it all weekend and by the end of the weekend, I just kept getting it. And I got a blessing from my church. I got a blessing that said the exact same words. I need you to start writing for some of my children who aren't listening. And I'm like, write what? I can write a story. I can be pissed off and I can just, and I started writing this story and I, I, that's when my blog started. But, I thought I was gonna get this gift of get it all out right? Be pissed off. You were stuck, you're a victim, you're hurt. And I started writing and at one time, my computer just totally shut down. At that time, I was just writing straight to the blog, so it would just like auto save and not one word saved. It was a blank screen again, and I had spent hours just talking about hate and talking about how people are awful and all the things that I wanted to say, and I got this feeling like, I need you to start again, and this time I want you to remember how strong you were. I want you to write this story with grace in it. Same story. I wrote the same story, but I got this chance to figure out who I was, not who someone could tell me I was or being in a relationship could give me. And while in a really hard relationship that ended in divorce, years later, I got this new view of me. So anyways, I think that’s how we get out of, we can't change another person. I couldn't have saved Emmett. In my next marriage, I didn't save him. But we have to get strong enough so we can hear the inspiration that's coming. Because sometimes when we're stuck as that insignificant person who's making it all about the narcissist, right? In our relationship, we start going, well, what do you think I should do? Because they give us the validation when they want to. And if not, they take it away and then we feel small again. But getting that validation from your higher power, getting that validation from your inner self, the strength that you have, is the time where you're gonna be able to make decisions.
Whether you stay and put up with whatever is gonna happen, or you watch them find their healing and, and I don't know about you, Tony, maybe that is possible. But a lot of people that are in my spot eventually either end a divorce or they go crazy, which I've done both, but maybe you are told to stay, maybe as you pray and fight, you're just told to stay, but you have to strengthen yourself. And that's what I wish I would've known back then. Not I could go back and save them. I wish I would've known my worth. I wish I would've not, not gotten married to validate myself or to, or been a great mom for him. I wish I would've just done it for me.
Tony: I love that you used the word grace earlier. And I don’t know if you've heard me talk about this on the podcast, but I feel like we have to start from that we absolutely don't know what we don't know. And so everybody goes in and the assumption is that we'll all work out and we'll live happily ever after. And then I feel like that concept of, you know, then we hit life and things happen and now we both start to express how we feel about these situations. And that's really where you start to learn. Is it okay for me to have my own opinion, or does my opinion cause this other person to feel less than or feel attacked? And then are they gonna put me down? Are they gonna take that one up position? Are they gonna go victim mentality? And I think it does start that crazy making where now all of a sudden you're back in that I gotta figure out how to manage this person and I love what you said earlier, and you say it on your website too, of that loving big, because I feel like that's one of those concepts that can sound negative. But then, I know this can seem so cliche, but when you're loving yourself big, now you're putting out just vibes that can change the world. And I get that from you now and everything that I watch you do on social media, which is pretty amazing. So what does that shift, how does that feel internally? I mean, do you feel confident now? What's that self-love feel like for you?
Ashlee: Oh, I guess it's been more for me, just knowing that until I actually do love myself, not just the cocky, kind of like, oh yeah, I got this because that's what the narcissist does. They go to cocky, they're not confident. Because as soon as you shatter something or you say it the wrong way or you even if you did it yesterday and it worked and you had a good day, you could do it the exact same way and it doesn't work because they're just so unstable. So just knowing inside, I have to love myself before I'm gonna attract someone who's gonna love me. I have to love myself before I can actually fully give that heart. Because if I'm just making it all about somebody else, even if I'm okay with it, eventually, I'm gonna just be giving and giving and giving. And there's gonna be a moment, even if you don't ever think it, there's, there needs to be a moment where you do think, I, I need something back from this relationship. Not just when it's convenient for you or you wanna buy a new car, or you wanna control a situation. I actually need you to care. And when I'm on my low days, it's not an excuse to lash out at you, which I'm never gonna do, but I want you to come to me and I want you to be there for me too. Because I've been doing that over and over and over and over. So just, yeah. Even with my kids, I've realized the more I love myself, the more I have the capacity to love them and the more I see them love themselves. Because really we think I, I've heard so many wives, and I'm sure there's husbands in this situation that go, you know, I stayed for the kids. And I'm like, yes, but guess what? You just showed the kids how to be abused. Because even if it's not physical or sexual abuse, emotional, financial, all those kind of abuse, they're watching to see what their life should look like. And they're gonna try to emulate that. So don't, my advice is, don't ever stay for the kids, they will watch your strength. If it's time for you to go and that's your answer, they'll watch you leave with grace, and if it's time to stay and you fight, but you fight for you first. You fight to find yourself and you find your worth and you find your significance, regardless if anybody else is giving it to you, that's when your kids are gonna grow stronger.
Tony: So actually that, and I'm so grateful you're saying that cause I feel like that's the stuff where I can say it from a clinician's point of view, but then having not gone through that, I feel like people can easily just say, well, you don't understand. And that's where I appreciate, you're in it and you're going through that, and I've been saying a lot lately, I feel like, okay, so we get our sense of self from external validation and it's gonna start from our parents. And so then if we're able to be there and form that secure bond and attachment with them and hear all their hopes and dreams. I mean, that's amazing. But if we're continually trying to figure out how to manage their emotions from the narcissist and the relationship, and they're not seeing my best version of myself, I, I feel like it makes sense that then that's what their sense of self is gonna be. That they're also now gonna go be the person that's gonna try to, you know, the people pleaser or the person that's gonna try to keep the peace. And, and I had a situation a little while ago too actually, that there was kind of mind blowing where somebody was expressing to me that they were in the dating world. It was an amazing 20 something and a guy was starting to really just be a little bit more inappropriate. And then she said, you know, I thought that he was starting to get to that point, but I really didn't want to make him uncomfortable or feel bad. And I feel like that's part of maybe what, you know, this person will see in their childhood is watching, maybe their parent try to keep that peace and not want somebody to feel bad because if the person feels bad, then they're gonna be angry and then the whole house is gonna have to pay. Is that part of what you were doing with the kids?
Ashlee: Oh, absolutely. I was always trying to buffer and, oh no, everything's great. We're, we're doing great. And I, I do see people, and I see the world in a positive way because that's kind of just part of me. But that becomes I feel like it's almost used as your weakness and you become a liar. You start to lie for people. And you start to cover up what's truth, because truth is gonna hurt. I feel like either way, your kids, when they're watching you be that insignificant person that's allowing narcissist things around and they're watching their father being this person who feels insignificant, who's created this monster and made the world about him. Either way, they're gonna fail at life. And I watched my kids go through a lot of that stuff. And it wasn't until we stepped away from all of those patterns that my kids started actually even grieving their father. And actually, actually grieving their childhood and they started having things like eating disorders come up, but it was because they were finally in a safe place that those emotions could come out. So before it came out really sideways and then it came out really sideways for a while, and now we're like on the other side where there's peace and calm, and it's amazing to think that I thought I would have to stay with that for them to succeed. Because they absolutely, they're succeeding beyond my wildest dreams. And there were times where I was like, you know what? They all grew up and be strippers or what, no judgment. But if, if they all grow up and they're just on drugs, whatever happens in their life, it's because this happened to them. And then there was a point where I had the shift that I'm like, oh, heck no. They're gonna grow up and be the best version of themselves because I'm not gonna stop fighting to figure out how to become the best version of myself and give them all the tools and send them out in the world looking for the red flags, but not in a fearful way. And I have the knowledge, I have the worth, and I'm gonna be treated this way because I'm worth it. And that's the strength that I'm gonna give to my kids, and that's gonna be my goal for the rest of my life.
Tony: So Ashlee, I talk often about this concept of healthy ego versus the pathological defensive narcissism. And I feel like you're inspiring me in the sense that you knew you were a good mom, you knew you could love big. I mean, did you feel confident about your momming skills? Okay. So, when I talk about this healthy ego and this is from an author named Eleanor Greenberg who writes about narcissism, but, “Realistic sense of positive self regard based on the person's actual accomplishments and relatively stable, because you've assimilated into your self-image the success that came as a result of actual hard work to overcome real life obstacles,” So a mother of five and somebody who loves big, I can imagine that we could say that's real life obstacles. And then I love that she says, “because it's based on real achievement, it's relatively impervious to the slight and setbacks we experience as we go through life, it causes us to care about ourselves, do things in our self-interest and associated with genuine self-respect, something inside of us.” And now contrast that with pathological defensive narcissism defense against feelings of inferiority, like you said earlier. “And this person dawns a mask of arrogant superiority to convince the world he or she is special. But inside the person is so insecure about their self-worth and that facade is so thin that one pin prick will deflate it.” So that person is, they’re hypersensitive to minor slights that somebody that has a healthy ego wouldn't notice. And so instead, somebody with that type of defensive narcissism is wounded, takes disagreement as criticism, and then at that point they have to then put that person, you know, in their place. And so there's that part of me that feels like, man, your story is so good. And that I wonder if women here in this now and they know, no, I am a good mom, that that is one of those things where they can start to get a little bit of self-confidence in. And unfortunately, and I think maybe I talk about this on the podcast, but when you start to stand up for yourself, if you were doing it right with the narcissist, they are going to push more buttons and try to put you down. And I think that's one of those difficult parts. So would you have moments where you started to have your voice, and then what would happen?
Ashlee: Absolutely. The moments when I started to find my voice and actually find my worth, which I honestly did not have, I found my worth as a mother, but as an individual, I had not, I had not seen glimpses of that, I think, most of my life, to be honest. I noticed that as soon as I started to find my voice and I started to find a purpose beyond just being there for every whim, you know? It got louder, it got bigger, there were more swear words. There were more locked doors. Like everything got bigger because I think narcissists like us broken. They like us small. And when you start to find an option beyond that, they are scared. They're scared they're gonna be seen. For me it was definitely a battle of finding my worth despite it getting louder and bigger. It was almost like it fueled me to go, I'm on the right path. Sometimes when we start praying for something, you know, we get more opportunities to do it. It was kind of one of those like, I'm going in the right direction. The more I got put down, sometimes it would break me, to be honest, because that was the cycle. As soon as I start to get a little confidence, you just kind of get shoved back down. But when I started getting my feet under me a little more, I would break me less and less. And then it would just start to just empower me.
Tony: That, whatever you did there, if you can bottle that up. And then I went in on like a supplement deal maybe. Because I feel like that's that part where somebody does start to, to feel better. And we talked earlier I think people will say, man, if I would've known this stuff earlier and I was doing that, we don't know what we don't know, but I've got these five things I talk about. You know, you're gonna raise your baseline that's self-care and then get yourself in a better position. But meanwhile, if you're starting to do things that are self-care-like, then that is gonna be attacked by the narcissist, and then people are almost having to hide their self care and then get that PhD in gaslighting and get out of unhealthy conversations and set boundaries. But I feel like, tell me if this was difficult for you, but the last thing that I talk about in that, ways to interact with the narcissist, is recognizing there's nothing you will say or do that will cause them to have the aha moment or the epiphany. And sometimes I feel like that is the thing where the hardworking, good person is gonna, no, I can, I can find this aha moment or epiphany. Did you chase that?
Ashlee: I chased it like it was the only dream I ever had. It was like, okay we got it. We just had the best conversation. He said, next time, you just have to communicate better and then I'm gonna do this better and it's gonna be different. And then the next day it wasn't different or way worse, and then we'd go to a therapist or we go and it, it's just like you're constantly chasing this dream that you are gonna save somebody. I think some of the red flags that I wished I would've known, if you are in a relationship where you literally feel crazy more than you don't like that's a red flag. If you are constantly going, well, I can't talk to him about that today because today's not gonna be a good day. That's a red flag. Or you're like, oh, well he shouldn't know about this thing that I'm doing or buying or, you know. Communication like you've talked about. Communication is what relationships are built on. And if you can't say, “hey, I'm having a hard time with this”, and your partner can't hear that without taking it personal and making it about them, that’s a red flag.
Tony: It is. And, man, Ashley, I haven't busted this one out yet. So, Waking Up to Narcissism and Virtual Couch exclusive with you, which I appreciate as I've been thinking, I had somebody. Somebody brought up in my office a couple of weeks ago, the idea of turning red flags yellow. And they realized how many times they were doing that. And it was, especially when there was tension in the relationship. And then all of a sudden they would then okay, well I, I'll back down because I don't want that red flag to seem so dramatic, so I'm gonna turn that red flag yellow. And then once they did that, then they felt like, okay, now it's on me. I can work with a yellow flag. But then the red flag, I guess, is where I'm gonna have to do something. I don't know. Any thoughts on that?
Ashlee: Yeah, I just was picturing different times where I had a couple of times where some big companies asked me to come and do like seminars and stuff, and I told them no because I was afraid to be too big. Like when a narcissist wants to feel successful, you have to stay under their level of success, right? Because that's when you get the worst jobs. That's when you get put down the most. That's when you feel that weight of all of their problems become yours, and you're like, okay, I'll carry these for you. I got this, and I'll just stay down here, down at the bottom and I'll carry them. So you do, you just, you'll create different scenarios than one that would actually bring your success or bring you to light, or even make you feel like you're living in the light. You just kind of live in the dark halfway.
Tony: I’m kind of being maybe too humorous for this, but I've had people talk about situations where they've tried to do that, which I love the way you put that, where I'm gonna prop my partner up and then gonna say, see, look at how well you did. And then that person not only says, yeah, I did, you know, and, no thanks to you. You know, and this is the person that, that literally propped that person up. Did you ever have that experience?
Ashlee: Oh yeah. I even heard a few times just like, well, you're such an amazing mom, but you're just such a bad wife. Everything you do. And I'm like, I give the same love. Like that's just who I am. I had a stepdaughter and I still love her. I still connect with her. Like I just love people. And so to have a relationship where you feel like, first of all, you always feel like you're crazy, but second of all, you're just constantly being told that you're something that you're not. You really, do start to question like, oh did I do something bad? Maybe I shouldn't, he said he doesn't like tacos, dang it. Why did I make tacos? And you just start second guessing every little detail of your life.
Tony: Yeah, you said something that was so good there where, or it breaks my heart as well, but being told what you like or what you think or how you feel, and I feel like that's another one of those just ginormous red flags, that it's nails on a chalkboard for me. And I know it's not just as a therapist, but as a human, where somebody's saying, well, you don't even realize what you're doing and you're doing this and you don't even know this. And so if anybody is, if they're in a relationship where their spouse is continually letting them know what they think or feel, then that's a red flag.
Ashlee: Yeah, if someone said to me like, hey, what do you guys wanna do on our double date? And I'm like, I don't know what I wanna do. I'm gonna have to ask him, you know, like you can have an opinion, even if you have a spouse who's really, really smart and really, really good at a lot of things and really successful, you can be too. And that's the part that I really got to the point where I didn't even believe, like I have to be small. I have to be broken to be loved by this person. So it's either him or it, I mean it's, if I'm gonna build me, I'm not gonna have him. And that's a scary thing because you're so connected to that cycle and to that person.
Tony: And I feel like that's the part where people don't know what it looks like to be too interdependent, autonomous, differentiated people with two different life experiences and how amazing that can be. Because they go into that marriage feeling like, no, we're enmeshed and we're the good kind of co-dependent. And if we were two individuals, then why would we need each other? And no, it's like, that's when it's exciting to be together. And I feel like I was gonna say, man, don't make me bust out our deepest fear by Maryanne Williamson. But when you kept saying small, Ashlee, my favorite part of this poem is she says, “Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.” And I've never looked at that from the narcissist’s lens. So that's exactly what people do. Play small so that that person that's insecure won't feel worse. Or the hope is that well, they'll feel better, they'll get it, and then they'll understand, have the aha moment, and then we'll be happy forever.
Ashlee: And then I can start being me and letting my light shine. Once they figure out their stuff, I gotta say small until they do.
Tony: And in reality, you gotta start letting that light shine. And then if they don't, then they can go pound sand. I was gonna say swear words, but I don't have to click the explicit.
Ashlee: One thing I was thinking, yeah. So a goal that I always had was like, I've gotta help him find his worth. I gotta help him build. But that's not your job. If you're in a relationship. And a lot of people that are in these relationships don't even realize they are because it's so hard to see it when you're in it. Because it's just the cycle that you're used to. You're used to having really big days and really bad days and really ups and downs. But the only thing that you have power of is finding your significance. Finding your connection to your higher power. Finding your relationships that enrich your life and connecting to those even if you feel like you're not allowed to. So that would be my main advice. Figure out how to be significant. Because you are. Because we were created to have this mission and a purpose on earth. And our mission and purpose is not to just lift up other people. It's also to let our light shine and to become the best version of ourselves, and all the good things that life has to offer.
Tony: I love it. And I almost feel like if we were gonna do a cheesy role play, Ashlee, then if I were saying to you, hey, if you came in and said you're, you found some new hobby, you like, I mean, I feel like yeah. The correct answers for me to say, oh man, tell me more. What's that like? How long have you felt this way? And I feel like the narcissist version would be, well, why do you wanna do that? I don't remember you saying anything about this. And do you know what that would feel like for me? Or what am I gonna find time to do the things I like? And then all of a sudden now it's like, oh, now you know what I, yeah. I probably don't wanna do that. And I wonder how many people have that experience versus the, oh my gosh, tell me more, that sounds exciting. Which if that doesn't happen in your relationship, then, then that's a red flag. Right. Ashlee, where can people find you? I wish we had another hour and maybe you can come back on again. Would that be okay?
Ashlee: I would love that. Absolutely. I'm on Facebook and Instagram. “The moments we stand”. And then my website is themomentswestand.com. And right now I'm doing a lot online, I used to do a lot of public speaking, and I do it a few times a year, but I have little babies right now and seniors in high school that I really can't miss life right now. So I do a lot of online stuff. I have some courses available on my website. I do some podcasts, like different podcasts with people. I've done a lot of interviews and anyways, so that's mainly where you can find me. I think I got everything.
Tony: And I appreciate it so much and I hope that we can maybe do something again soon or do something together because I really love your energy and I have to tell you there's one, I don't know if it was on a story or it was a post or something and you were literally just kind of dancing and having fun with your kids. And if you go through my TikTok, it's almost all just people dancing and I have zero rhythm. And there was a part of me that thought, okay, look at Ashlee looks just normal. And just like in the moment and it just made it look fun. So I appreciate how much you kind of look like you're just being in that moment as a parent. That looks like a good time. Alright, Ashley, then I will put all the links everywhere that I can and then next time we talk, I won't technologically gaslight you and we'll have the whole hour. How does that sound?
Ashlee: Deal. Thank you so much and thank you for all that you do. I love, I love what you're doing.
Tony: No, that makes me, I appreciate it. I really do.
Geoff Steurer, LMFT talks with Tony about how to rebuild trust in a relationship even after situations that couples believed they would a) never stand for in their marriage and b) believe healing was even possible, like infidelity and betrayal. Geoff is the host of the podcast "From Crisis to Connection" and co-author of the book, "Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity."
You can find Geoff at https://www.geoffsteurer.com or on Instagram: @geoffsteurer or Facebook: @geoffsteurerMFT
Sign up for Geoff's Trust Building Bootcamp by following this link https://www.geoffsteurer.com/a/18461/ZB9Pb8qW and enter VIRTUALCOUCH15 for 15% off the course.
Tony appeared on two episodes of Geoff's podcast "Protecting your marriage in a faith crisis (part 1) - Tony Overbay - Episode 93" https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/from-crisis-to-connection-with-geoff-steurer/id1290359940?i=1000522608518 and "Protecting your marriage in a faith crisis (part 2) - Tony Overbay - Episode 94" https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/from-crisis-to-connection-with-geoff-steurer/id1290359940?i=1000523235363
Sign up today to be the first to know when the next round of The Magnetic Marriage Course will launch http://tonyoverbay.com/magnetic
-------------------------- TRANSCRIPT ------------------------
[00:00:00] I have so many things I want to say, two stories to tell about about my guests today. People would ask me if I knew Jeff. I just feel like there was a nice instant connection. I was on just podcasts for not one, but two episodes because we were just vibing so well. So, Gestur, welcome to the virtual couch.
[00:00:18] Tony, my brother from another mother man just now.
[00:00:21] Right. I love this. I couldn't wait to do the joke, I think, on your podcast where I was saying when I was looking over your website, we are the same other than you are far more handsome, have a lot more hair. And then you've both written books about pornography, addiction and recovery. And we've got podcast, I guess. Oh, that's so crazy.
[00:00:39] Same thing. When I first started, it said people like, hey, Tony, I said, looking at your stuff. And I'm like, wait a second, we almost do the exact same thing. This is so dang cool. But some people might feel threatened by that.
[00:00:50] But that's what I was going to say. Fantast. Yeah, because I really think there's a cool thing there with the concept of scarcity mindset versus that growth or, you know, growth mindset, because we're both just we're both just trying to change the world.
[00:01:03] Right, Jeff? Absolutely. Absolutely. People are hurting, man.
[00:01:06] I was going to mention something that then someday this will seem dated. When I was waiting for us to begin. I was looking at my phone to see what the air quality is, to see if we're going to watch high school football tonight, because there are so many fires in the area that I met. And and I feel like anywhere I talk to someone, there's some sort of a natural disaster. How are things in Southern?
[00:01:24] Yeah, air quality stinks, as definitely have some. Yeah, we've got fires in California that are the smoke is wafting over here and yeah, it's tough. Yes, we have beautiful, clear blue skies here, but it's just hazy. So so we don't usually get that kind of weather over here except the fire season.
[00:01:38] But yeah. And it's it's unfortunate there's a fire season. Hey, help my listeners know a little bit more about you. Give me your background. Tell me tell me about you, Jeff.
[00:01:47] Totally. I bet I actually have celebrating 25 years of marriage on Monday. Oh, congratulations. My wife, Jody, thank you. Yeah. And so, yeah, we've got four kids, ages 22 to 12. And yeah, I went to BYU, studied to be a journalist, and then I ended up at Auburn University doing marriage and family therapy. And I've been in marriage.
[00:02:08] Ok, I got to stop you right there. Little did I know what I'm saying. We have all these things. So that was my initial major in college as well as journalism. So that is why did why did you change your major or why did you stop?
[00:02:19] I didn't change it. I, I graduated with a communications degree and the same same.
[00:02:24] I did not know this about you. Mine's mass communications.
[00:02:27] Yeah. Mass communications, communications studies from BYU. And and then my senior year, I my wife and I had been married just a few weeks. I just met Wally Goddard, maybe, who, you know, and he lived next door to them. And we ended up living with them for two years in their basement. And it was from that experience that I decided I wanted to be a marriage family therapist. We just talked about marriages and families and all kinds of parenting, about these fictitious kids we didn't have yet. Yeah, I figured I would start talking about parenting stuff. And it was just so dynamic and interesting. And I just thought I got to do this for a living. And this is nuts. People talk about this for a living. And so I ended up this was my senior year, so I ended up changing a few classes around and got what I needed. And I ended up getting accepted into Auburn and did my my master's degree in MFT over there, moved to Alabama. Oh, wow. So, yeah, so I've worked now as an empty since I've been doing therapy with people for twenty three, twenty two years.
[00:03:24] Wow. Ok, I have so many questions about that, but I do not know about either. First of all, I think I missed the opportunity for a joke of were you an amazing parent, the fictitious kids, much better than with the best.
[00:03:34] Oh, dang. My wife and I would have actual real arguments about fake children that didn't exist. Right. I think we would we would all of a sudden just start discovering kind of all the different things that we had opinions about that you don't know you have opinions about. Yeah. And it was just really funny, because some points we would stop each other and go like we don't even have children. Why are we even talking about this? Yeah, but it was the collision of our ideas, our values, our backgrounds. But yeah. So interesting those conversations.
[00:04:02] No, I love that, because it's funny. We have kids that are for kids, as well as 22 or 23 to 17 somewhere around there. I know I'm in the ballpark and things do get a lot different. And we were just commenting a few days ago about, boy, when we were young, we really did feel like this isn't so bad. We've got this whole parenting thing figured out. And I've had a couple of people in my office lately that have said, boy, I wish I could go back there and because it seems so much easier. And so, yeah,
[00:04:29] I have all the answers. Be so confident. I know.
[00:04:31] Yeah. And so go ahead. Oh, no, go ahead. No, I'm so sorry, Jeff. I've got ridiculous follow up questions. Another one that I have is I didn't realize you've been doing actively doing therapy for so long. And I'm always fascinated by people that come out and they are working as therapists in their early 20s without kids, without they're just now married. And what was that experience like for you? Did people respect you? Did they did they want somebody that had already been through the been through the ringer, so to.
[00:05:00] Well, I think the people that were brave enough to say something would say things to me like I'm old enough to be your mother or stuff like that, but I think overall, like I had really good training from Auburn, great supervisors, great professors. And then my first job out of grad school was at a rural mental health clinic in Arizona. And I worked there. I worked there for six years. And so that gave me you would just call like street smarts. Like I joke with so many different kinds of cases, cradle to grave, every issue under the sun, serious illness, marriages, parenting and child therapy, everything. And so my my skill set just it really accelerated during that time. It was I just I felt like at the time that everybody needs to come work in a place like this because it was good, exposed me to so many things. And it was there that I learned what I really wanted to do. But yeah, no, it was tough. Like I was trying to do therapy with teenagers, but I had a one year old or I was trying to work with these marriages that have been married 30 years and I've been married five years. And so, yes, now that I've been married 25 years, I'm forty seven years old. I've got all these over two decades of experience under my belt. My obviously, my confidence is a lot higher now in terms of my ability to not only my training and experience, but also just lived experience. I just am not rattled by as much. Yeah, I think a way to put a confidence that things are going to work out or there's there's figure ways to figure it out. We can get there from here. Right. Like there's just things we can do.
[00:06:28] I love that that confidence that things will work out. I love that, because that's going to play a lot into what we're talking about today with trust and boundaries. And let me stay on that being, too. How did you you talk about you started to find the population you wanted to work with. What was that experience like and how did you find the population?
[00:06:45] Yeah, so I was working. I was doing so much child therapy. I had to play therapy room, the puppets, the whole works. Wow. And I loved it. But then I noticed that I would go home and not want to play with my own kids because I was so played out, OK. And I thought, OK, this isn't good. My kids will eventually grow up. But I love this. Is it really my thing? And what I found myself doing was I was always wanting to meet with the parents. I wanted to get my hands on the marriage. I was like, let's go up to the headwaters man. Like these kids obviously may have their own issues and temperaments and challenges, but I knew that there was something systemically going on upstream that I wanted to get my hands on. And so I ended up doing a lot of marriage therapy and billing it under the child's name. Ok.
[00:07:30] Yeah. Yeah.
[00:07:31] Right. So it and so for that, just because I wanted those parents to get a better environment for themselves and their kids, and that's where I was like, OK, I need to do I need to work with marriages that I registered my business, moved to Utah and started my marriage therapy practice.
[00:07:47] If anybody was this is the first time they're they're hearing me the comment. I'm sure the quote would be, if they're following you over here to this podcast, they're going to say, all right, Tony, back off talking about yourself here. But I can't I had no idea about this part of your career. I started with kid therapy as well. Of course
[00:08:02] You did, Tony, because we have the same
[00:08:04] Is the same. And the whole reason I didn't I went away from it was surprisingly because I wanted to deal with the parents because I felt like I was just giving the kid coping skills.
[00:08:13] Exactly right.
[00:08:14] Oh, that's crazy, Jeff. That is. All right. So then you go to Utah and now you're doing more couples
[00:08:19] At that point. So when I moved to Utah in 2006, I was starting to I was starting to do some work in my agency in Arizona. I was starting to run into online pornography issues, sexuality issues. And this was in 2006. So the Internet had been high speed, Internet was in homes. Now, at this point in the early 2000s. And you were starting now to see like the tsunami of online sexual betrayals starting to come into our offices, at least in my office. And this was in a rural community where there's no dirty magazine stores or strip clubs or nothing. This was like rural conservative community. But people were just blown apart their marriages with all this stuff. And I was like, oh, wow, this is definitely a problem. And I need I don't know what to do. I had training in marriage therapy and some other stuff, but I just I didn't have I wasn't equipped. So I reached out and got some training from the LIFESTAR network, from Damrey Toddles and those guys. Yeah. And they ended up saying, hey, we'll give you the rights, if you will, or the territory for southern Utah. And I moved out there, moved out to St. George and opened up a sexual addiction treatment program that I ran for 15 years.
[00:09:25] Wow. And I recently sold it. And but I'm that I really cut my teeth working with this population here in St. George. And Mark Chamberlain brought me on as a coauthor for his book a few years later. Kevin Skinner, I just started really connecting with a lot of these great therapists and mentors here in Utah, these guys that were doing some really great cutting edge work at the time and are still still doing great work. And it just was I just fell into this community of professionals and friends that were working with these issues and helping a lot of couples. And they have just. Come in over the years, and we've just been able to help so many people with pornography issues, sexual betrayal and fidelity, and then really learned how to put these marriages back together. Especially as I worked and did my training and emotionally focused couples therapy back in 2009 with Sue Johnson and her team. And so I just I just have had the opportunity and have been so fortunate to get great training, great mentors, great thought leaders. And we've just been able to do a lot of good things with these couples that are just looking for help, you know?
[00:10:29] Yeah. And again, and I think I don't think I even stress this enough at the beginning of this show. I loved being on your podcast so much. And we talked about some people that are navigating a faith journey. And we and then we ended up landing a little bit around the F.T. principles or about my battler's of a conversation. But so I feel like that is so important to have that framework. But what I feel like I, I would love to hear your thoughts on, and I think you've got such good ideas here on. So, you know, let's say we've got this framework to communicate, but how do we how do we start rebuilding trust? And I feel like that is the biggest thing that you see, especially when those couples come in and they just feel like they are in such crisis. And I don't know. What's that like for you? Where do you go first? What do you do?
[00:11:14] Yeah, that's the biggest reason why I built my trust building course and spent so much of my I wanted to really focus in on this because so many couples would come in and they would have a church leader or a loved one or themselves. Just think we just need to work on our marriage. We need to go on more dates and they're bleeding out. There's been a major betrayal, there's been a discovery, there's been some major infidelity or something. And the couple just is trying to now put back the marriage. But it's like putting back together something that it's like the pieces don't even fit. It's so shattered. And so it's like you just the things don't line up. And the couples is in trauma, one or both of them. And it's just very overwhelming. So you can't just start by pushing the marriage in front and trying to work on the marriage. It's another sort of way I've talked about this, is that when there's been a secret or a discovery of a secret. It's there's a big crater blowing in the ground. And so the one betrayed partner drops to a different level than the person who's had the information, had the had the upper hand in a way.
[00:12:16] And it's really critical for marriage therapy to work for marriage enrichment and these things we like to talk about with strengthening marriages. There's an assumption that the couple is on level ground to one degree or another. Ok. And so there has to be you have to backfill that crater and you have to do things to get that love that that relationship, get that person down in the hole, back up to level ground, because there's been such a huge violation. There's been such a power imbalance, a huge shift in the dynamic, in the relationship. So that starts with telling the truth, knowing exactly what's going on, safety, making sure there's healthy boundaries, making sure that that there's deep accountability from the person who broke the trust that they're they're actively serving in a role of trying to help the relationship, help the wounded partner. It's trauma. This is not just, hey, I have a bunch of needs. You have needs. Let's work on our needs together. It's not like that early on when there's a very Fermat trail like this. So that's where I start caino.
[00:13:18] I love it. And I would love to we could break down each one of those. And I'd love to get your thoughts. The part about telling the truth and maybe I'd love to get your thoughts, too, on the whole concept of I always say No. One, when they're going to confess or right after they got caught, let's say either of those situations, they don't say, all right, let's just take a time out before we say anything, you know, dumb. And a lot of times, that's where and right now I'll just say, let's say that's the guy that is the betrayer. Just the we we both work with men or women that have done that. But then they just at times, yeah, they're going to just unload and then. And tell me if you also see at first where people come into your office and the guy has he really has wanted to now say, OK, here's what's happened. But he's still working from this place. And this is where my first pillar of assuming good intentions of that, I still don't want to devastate my wife. So I'm going to tell her some things. But I really would just assume conscious or subconscious, tell her just enough so that she will understand. But then I don't want to tell her more. You know what I mean by that?
[00:14:20] Oh, absolutely. And a lot in this case, a lot of guys will will believe that they're doing this for their wife. But the truth, I believe, is that they're doing it to manage their own shame, their own. Yeah. They're so overwhelmed because they can't handle the reality of their own story. And so basically, they're oftentimes going to give her the light version. They're going to spotlight just generally the behaviors that are either already been discovered or the ones that they think she can handle. Exactly. Yeah. But where that needs to go is that he needs to have some time with his own story first, because he's been lying to himself about it. And before he can ever really do a full inventory disclosure, whatever you want to call it, I call it a form of disclosure before he can do that. He's got to have some practice telling his story to a therapist, to if he's in a group, just 12 step group or church leader, he's got to have practice reducing his own shame and internal reactivity around that story before he can pass it over in full truth and humility to his wife.
[00:15:22] That's I love the way you put that. I mean, because. Yeah, that's a that's so good, because then when he's trying to share some things, there is that shame. And I feel like oftentimes then he will then he will pull back, which I feel like it causes the wife to just want to know more or and I'm sure you see this often, too. But OK, now wife is now been hit with this this trauma, this devastation, and now goes back and starts asking more questions. And so if he only gave a little bit of the information to begin with. Ok, now. Sure. All right. He'll tell a little bit more thinking, OK, she needs to know a little bit more. But now what? Are we training her brain? Is that OK? He obviously didn't tell me the truth. And the more I dig now, I'll get the truth. And then we're starting to create this unhealthy dynamic.
[00:16:06] Yeah. Oh, yeah. The flow of the information is going the wrong direction. It's coming it's being pulled out of him versus flowing out of him. And she needs to know that he'll bring her the truth. And so a lot of these guys, again, they're caught up in their own shame. And so that can come that can come out in different ways. They can withhold and say less information, which is what we're talking about. Right. They can even like fire hoser with all their shame and guilt and tell her way more stuff than she needs to know. There can be he he can sometimes collapse into a heap of shame and feel like such a victim and like an awful person in some ways, expect her to take care of him.
[00:16:47] Exactly. Yeah, a little bit of victim mode and want her to rest
[00:16:51] And be all kinds of different ways. This will show up. And so telling your story, you would think it would be just straightforward. Just tell the truth, man. It's not that simple because you're dealing with a lot of that reactivity and shame inside of them that they have to manage in a. Healthy way, otherwise, they're going to overwhelm their partner and it's going to delay the trust building.
[00:17:12] So, Jeff, it's funny. I always say that what I literally just said to you, that no one is going to say, let me hit pause, let me go meet with somebody before I even express or we try to do this. But people listen to my podcast. That may be on the verge of saying, all right, I need to deal with this. I do need to confess something to my spouse. So what do you say? Do you say go see the therapist first? You do give a do you go and confess and then say, but before we go any further, we really need to do this the right way? I don't know. I've never asked this question. You're an expert. I mean, what are your thoughts?
[00:17:45] Yeah. Yeah, that is so tricky because you know, what you're asking them to do essentially is schedule a trauma. Right? You're basically. I know.
[00:17:53] Ok, yeah.
[00:17:55] You're like, OK. So I guess a couple of scenarios. One scenarios where somebody comes into my office and by themself and they've never told their partner, they pulled me aside and say, hey, I'm basically sitting on this huge secret. I've never told my partner, will you work with us as a couple or what do I do that I can count on one hand the amount of times that has happened in my career? It's super rare. And it happened recently, happened probably a year ago. And I had a client come in and she had never told her husband anything about any of this. And so I, I did not I worked with her for about four or five weeks, and we worked on her story. I helped her prepare disclosure. And then I actually had her go do it with him out in the desert, like they took a drive. I had to do it out there because I sense that he would be safe the way she described. She felt comfortable doing it. And it went really well. He actually it worked out fine because I didn't want to double team with her and have him feel double team that these two people were going to basically just dump this reality on him. And I didn't have be with him at all. I didn't know him at all. Wow.
[00:19:00] Oh, that's a really unique, rare way to. Yeah. So if you're listening to this and you're sitting on a bunch of secrets and you've never told your partner, it's important to go meet with a therapist and figure out what your options are, because dumping it on your partner can can cause a ton of unintended trauma. Yeah, this guy there, healing has accelerated because she came in and when she disclosed to him, she was very prepared. I had her totally ready to talk about it from a place of humility. She had all the things worked out, which she'd written it all down. It was organized. There was no drama. It was just like heartfelt and humble. And it went better than it could have gone if she had just blown it up. Wow. So that's one example. But the most common one is where somebody comes into my office and there's already been I would say this is ninety nine percent of the time. Yeah. And I just made that number up. But that's basically what I see as the pattern is the couple comes in and there's already been some kind of a discovery. Either he's confessed or she's confessed something, or there's been a discovery, totally unintended. And what we're doing now is I'm having to make a case with them and say, look. Do you believe that this is everything again? Most of the time it's no, I don't trust them.
[00:20:15] I discovered this much. They've only told me this much. So what I'll do next is basically say then we're going to structure form disclosure. You just disappear the truth completely one time versus dragging this out. And you need to have practice city with your story and really learning how to get deep into your heart. I'll do this over the course of a couple of meetings, but the vision of it is basically, OK, we're going to have a redo on this and we're going to do it correctly. It's going to like that. You came in with your came in with your like your duct tape and baling wire version of trying to fix this thing up. We're going to take all that apart and we're going to put in some anchors and some bolts and we're going to really lock this thing down so that you don't ever have to go through this process again, because otherwise it just becomes like a limp in the marriage for the rest of their life. Do I really know everything? Were they fully honest? How do I know we want to get rid of that? And have there be a rock solid assurance that, OK, I know everything. Now we're working on current stuff, not past.
[00:21:15] That's brilliant. That is. So then if I go back to that concept of being truthful, of telling the truth. How scared do you see people of that? Or again, I feel like sometimes when people get this thing off their chest, they want to just go back to now. Can we just go back to the way we were?
[00:21:31] Yeah, it's awful. Yeah. Telling telling the truth is so scary, especially when you're up against. Losing that secure bond with the other person, right, innately we just are so we're just constantly on guard against losing that, and we just were defenseless. And so we'll do almost anything, including manipulate somebody with lies. Yeah, that's how strong our commitment to security is. A lot of people think, well, they're doing this because they they don't respect me or care about me or they hate me. And it's no it's because I don't want to lose you. But it's a terrible it's a terrible outcome. It's not OK. So, yeah, telling the truth is terrifying. But again, part of what good recovery looks like for a couple is learning how to tell the truth first about the big behaviors. And they get practice through that disclosure process, but then they learn how to tell the truth just about, let's say, how they're feeling or what they want. Absolutely. Or what they need. And those can feel like secrets. I don't dare tell them that I'm lonely. I don't dare tell them I want that I want to have more sexual intimacy. I don't dare tell them that that hurts my feelings. And so they start to learn and practice telling the truth so that if they can tell the truth about that stuff down the road, it's less likely they're going to end up having other secrets that are much more consequential.
[00:22:50] Absolutely. And I feel like and I say this so often, but I want this I want to hear more from you today. But we're so afraid of contention that we avoid tension altogether, but that tensions where the growth can happen and that and. But where are you now that we're so afraid of any tension? Because what if what if they leave? What if what if this is too much? And and I feel like all they're closer than they think to where that that really can be an amazing growth opportunity. We're different. We're different people. We are. And I feel like this is where we get this chance to now have a relationship where there's legitimate curiosity because we can be different instead of that fear of like, I don't know if I'm too different, you know, they might leave.
[00:23:27] Absolutely. Yeah. And I think it takes a while to get there. I know even just my own twenty five year marriage, like the kinds of questions I'm able to ask now and the kinds of security we have, I wouldn't have had that the first 5 or 10 years. There's no way. And so with couples that are coming out of a betrayal or coming, you know, trying to rebuild safety first, they have to they have to know that it's not going to keep happening and they have to know that their partner is in deep accountability and remorse. They've heard everything. And then and then that that intimacy, that curiosity that you're talking about, being able to tolerate differences and ask for what you need and really kind of embrace a lot of disowned feelings and wants and needs and desires all that. And that's just good material to work. It is the rest of your marriage. That's to me, that's the gold and that. Yeah. And the couples that that avoid that stuff or shove it down, ignore it or shame it or criticize it like that. Just to me, they're missing out on what marriage was designed for, because my individual growth as a man has skyrocketed because of feedback from my own wife about. Absolutely. That if it weren't working for her and I have to look at myself and what I'm bringing in, man, it's just like dynamic and rich.
[00:24:38] Yeah, OK. I want to get to some trust things. I want to throw a theory out as I'm saying this, I might end up have to edit it out because it might go against the very marriage course. I'm trying to pitch. But I've noticed that, you know, in my mind, it's the people that have had the most success in in even my marriage course are those that have they've been through some things. And I have this vision where I would love to teach every young couple to. We don't. How about we get to the point where we don't have to go through so much and we learn how to communicate and be vulnerable and deal with tension and we can be different and that sort of thing. But as I almost want to say is I beta tested some of these principles on on newlyweds. And you kind of oh, you know, you need to express this or the assumption of good intentions or or don't tell them they're wrong or or questions or comments. They're like not it's really not a big deal. And that's where I want to say, OK, but but it's things are eventually going to become a big deal. How about we go out and start talking about him now? And I'm finding that it's the old people don't know what they don't know. Right. Yeah. Yeah, I don't know. We had to solve that one. We had to figure out.
[00:25:43] Yeah, I think I think I think it's experiential. And I and I think that we have to. I don't know. I just think that. The longer I live, the longer I do this with clients of my own marriage, stuff like that, I just don't want people to be afraid of embracing as much as I don't want people to, like, be betrayed sexually or some of them. Sure. We're talking about something's going to go wrong, right. Somebody is going to there's something's going to go sideways. There's going to be some hurt somewhere. And I just want people to know what to do with that when it shows up, whatever that is. And because it's experiential, like like the gut level, like nervous system instinct, response. I have the love, the connection I have with my wife that's been forged out of a lot of trial, a lot of heartache, disappointments, misunderstandings, even some betrayals that have been really damaging around in our own relationship, things that we had to work through early on that that were just so hard. And I would never be able to probably get that gut level instinct in those those kind of that rock solid commitment and some of these things that I feel today without that and I don't know that we need to like engineer those conditions for it. They're just you put two people together. Stuffs going to happen, man.
[00:26:59] It is. It is. And if they've got the framework and they they they're going to get the. So can you talk to me? And again, full authenticity and as you say, full disclosure. That's in my head. I kept I kept saying when we were trade messages about today, I like Jeff. You're the I want to know I want to hear you talk boundaries. But then as I would go deep, dove more into the material that you provide. You have this trust boot camp, this trust workshop. So and then when we jumped on before we hit record, I was saying, do we talk about trust? We talk about boundaries. And what are your thoughts on differences, similarities? Where do we go from here?
[00:27:31] Oh, man. Boundaries are are a lot of people think of boundaries. Just as for the person that has been betrayed, like, oh, I need boundaries to protect myself from from being lied to or being taken advantage over being abused or whatever. And absolutely like that's that to me is sort of like the obvious boundary stuff. But if you think about people that break trust, they have serious problems with boundaries. They they they are a lot of times they're self neglecting. They're not they're not even paying attention to their own needs and desires and stuff. And so there's there's they're crossing lines there. That could be like not getting enough sleep or not eating correctly. Just physical maintenance stuff. Yeah. Or it could even be flirting or other boundaries around other people or poor digital habits or the list of boundaries can go on. That could be like not saying no to stuff or taking on too much or having terrible work habits or people pleasing. So so boundaries to me are just the framework of how to live a really emotionally and physically and emotionally and spiritually healthy, balanced life. I don't I don't think you can separate out boundaries from almost any discussion, because that's what keeps us upright. That's what keeps us healthy and functioning. And that's how I believe boundaries are. What bring us joy.
[00:28:42] Yeah. No, I love that. I really do. I talk with the Preston Pug Maya, who helped me create this course. And we talk about the concept of presence and radiance and the flowing river and the riverbank or the the artwork and the picture frame or and so in that concept of a boundary, that we do need something to kind of keep things what's the right way to put it. So I don't know. So something can be more igby more structure to it. I don't know. So it doesn't just go everywhere. Right. I might add that I was get.
[00:29:15] Yeah, I'm not I'm not sure exactly like in terms of are you asking like I
[00:29:19] Like the idea of personal boundaries, because I feel like when I am just kind of all over the place and at times where I've said, oh, well, that's just my 8D, as I just did right there, or this is just the way I vibe. But when there's more of that structure in terms of personal boundaries, with regard, like you say, at a time of self care, saying no to things, basically all the last four or five things you just listed that then I do feel a lot more productive. I feel more connected. And so I really like that idea of starting with the personal boundaries. I really like that.
[00:29:51] Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I just know that a lot of a lot of the heartache and pain when I've put it on other people, like, well, that person's not give me what I need or this whatever. I have to look very clearly and see, like, have I even asked for it? Have I ever have I even set any clear expectations? Am I managing even my schedule or my time or my business? Am I am I am I showing up in a boundary, healthy, clear way? And when I do, I find that most people adapt and adjust and things go pretty dang well. But but when I'm not boundary, when I'm just chaotic and all over the place, then and I just invite so much trouble into my life.
[00:30:30] Hey, can I ask a specific question and tell me your thoughts on this? I appreciate when you were saying a lot of times we think about the betrayed is the one that then needs to set the boundaries, which I totally agree. Yeah, but I have had those times, or even when you put the betrayal trauma structure in place where the person who who the betrayer will kind of be there for the I'm going to be present. I'm going to be here for you and I'm going to left language, maybe the attachment injury, apologies, and I'm going to show you that I'm not going to go anywhere. But then when it continues to go at times and I've been trying to work with people to set that boundary to say, man, I, I, I'm here, but I feel like we're starting to get into some really unhealthy territory or unproductive conversations. And I don't know. Do you have any thoughts on that, what that boundary looks like for the betrayer without it feeling like they're just running away from a conversation?
[00:31:24] Oh, yeah. Yeah, that's a really sensitive one. I do talk about this and of course, I get into it specifically around even like what if the betrayed starts becoming abusive? Yeah. Yeah. What if what if they strike me verbally abusive or physically abusive in some cases, which I've had people get their nose broken or I've had or people just really get aggressive because they're so hurt. So does does the betrayer have any right to say, hey, that doesn't work for me? Or is that just part of them taking it because. Right, because they broke trust. So they should just take whatever is given to them. I think that obviously an extreme examples are Padilla's legal things, like physical violence or stuff like that. Of course, they need to be able to set boundaries and protect themselves. But when it comes to that, that line of do I have any rights to express my needs? The thing is, is that I believe everybody everybody's feelings are valid. Everybody's needs are totally legitimate. It's a triage thing. It's basically being able to say, if you're deep in your accountability, if you're deep in your your honesty around the impact you've had and you're listening to your partner talk about how hurtful that may feel, like you're being abused. But the truth is, they may just be sharing a lot of like, truthful, hurtful things about the impact you've had on them. And and for you to bail out of that and say like, well, I'm not going to hear that.
[00:32:41] I'm not going to be talked to that way, that would damage more trust. That's a problem. Yeah. And on the other hand, if the betrayed partner is saying things like UAF and this and that, and I hate your guts and I don't want to be like if there might be again, it's like climate versus weather, like if there's an occasional lightning bolt of that, you probably ought to just take it and have some compassion. But if it's the climate, if it's like it's like you've now moved into this, like really tumultuous, verbally attacking kind of aggressive climate that's just like that every single day in and out, every conversation that it's important to to basically describe this. Ok, this is a pattern. This is this is actually destructive for the betrayed to be there, obviously, in so much distress. I can't let this continue anymore. And I'm not going to do it from a place of self-protection as much as I'm doing it from place of I'm protecting the relationship I'm protecting. I like it or him. I protect like this is just unhealthy. So I think if it's coming from a place of self-preservation, in my experience, that's generally coming from avoidance. But if it's coming from a place of this is toxic, this is really damaging, we're not getting anywhere that's that's going to land a little differently. So that makes
[00:33:55] Soga. Oh, yeah, it makes so much sense. And so so that's you say that's Covered in your in your in your workshop and your course. Yeah, I love it. I know. I'm grateful. I'm grateful that that that is there, because I think that will give and I like it. But when I was even reading about your course, I think sometimes people just want to know that there is hope or there is a plan. Oftentimes, I feel like that's enough. To keep somebody engaged in the process, and so I liked it, if anybody is hearing this and they are the betrayer that just to know that, OK, yeah, it's normal for them to feel at times this is too much. And I and I love the climate versus weather. I really do. That's so good. So how do people start, in your opinion? Again, I want people to take your course because I want them because it's now sound like I'm doing the sales pitch for you. But it goes into so much detail. And I want people to be able that this is such a big topic that I think it needs more than 15, 20 minute discussion on a podcast. But in that vein of giving people hope, what do you what do you tell people as far as how to start rebuilding trust?
[00:34:53] Well, the the first place so are we talking to the person who broke the trust where they can start or the.
[00:35:00] I think the couple I would love to know, because I think. Well, I don't know. You tell me, where do you go with that?
[00:35:06] Well, there's there's kind of two we talk about. There's three that there's that there's two individual recoveries. Yeah. And then there's this couple recovery. Yeah. The couple recovery clearly depends on it depends on how well those individual recoveries are going. So if you have one person who is working really hard, so a lot of times you'll have the betrayed who's super motivated because they're hurting so badly. So they're they're motivated and they're they're coming. They're working and working. And then the person who's been unfaithful or betrayed, the relationship is being dragged in like that. Dynamics in terms of where to start. It's going to be hard to do any marriage stuff there, so we're we're going to start is we're probably I'm probably going to start working on help if both people are coming in. I'm probably going to split them a little bit and work a lot with just creating some safety and some containment with the betrayed so that they can just get their emotional bearings and get some safety and get some clarity about what's happened to them, what they need. A lot of the times they're in trauma, they're dealing with physical stuff.
[00:36:06] Sometimes if there's sexual betrayal, we have to make sure that they're safe, even go get an STD test. You think it can get really hard to try and help people feel safe and with the person who broke the trust. Early on, I'm just in a lot of ways, it's sort of like it's kind of like the old 12 step thing. It's like even just helping them wake up to the fact that they even have a problem. Yeah. And that's that a lot of the times they may come in just wanting to get this over with. And so what I'm wanting to do is help them settle in to the journey, help them settle into the benefits of rebuilding this thing from the ground up. And that's going to come from honesty, transparency, accountability, caring about and really recognizing that they are a source of comfort to their partner if they'll do this work. They're so in touch to the fact that they're a source of pain, but they don't realize that they're actually a huge source of comfort if they'll if they'll do the work.
[00:37:03] No, I love it. I do. And I feel like that helps people understand it again. There is a plan or there can be this structures, which means there is hope. So I almost like they're realizing the more I'm asking these questions, that they are a bit ambiguous. I feel like I'm almost asking what The Huffington Post seven things to rebuild trust and you'll never believe. Number four for kind of a thing. But I don't know if you have that kind of advice that you even give people or if if they're in this kind of a situation, it's so much more than just that. Really?
[00:37:29] Yeah. Yeah. I do have an acronym that I use in the course quite a bit, which is ACT, which is stands for accountability, compassion and time. And and those those principles for the person who broke the trust are critical that that it all comes back down to if they want to be a safe person, if they want to be a trustworthy person, they have to learn to live in accountability, not be afraid of that. Ok, and that's and that's that's going to show up in lots of forms. And I tell people all the time, look, there's no expiration date on your accountability. It's not like you can be accountable for the first six months. And then after that, you can't say to your partner, hey, you can't bring this up anymore because of that. Right? It's now you're accountable. If I betrayed my what I remembered, I first was married to my wife, like we were married like two weeks. And I totally hurt her feelings. It involved like my ex girlfriend. I ran into her on campus, didn't introduce my wife. My wife was sitting right there feeling stupid. It just the whole thing was such a mess. And I was so immature. And to this day, sometimes it will come up as even as a joke and laugh about it with other people or tell stories.
[00:38:31] And I'll seriously get back in the car and say to my wife, like, I know we're joking about that, but like, seriously, I'm just so sorry that that happened. That's just like, no, no brand new wife should have to, like, feel so stupid and humiliated. I'm so sorry. I still feel really badly about that. And that accountability. Twenty five years later is so important. And then and then the compassion, of course, is just caring deeply about the impact you've had in your partner, and that that compassion shows up everywhere. It's like I care about your pain and I will make sure that I am the kind of person that will sooth that, tend to it. That's proximity, closeness, softness, kindness. Like I'm just going to be a source of comfort for you. And then the time thing is it's not only it's going to take a long time, but it's just multiple times that there's going to be repeated over and over and over again. It's it's going to be like, yes, we've had this conversation before and we'll we'll have it again. And this might feel like a broken record, but the repetition is going to help you start to experience me as a consistent, safe person.
[00:39:37] So that is so good. Yeah. No, I mean, it came up at that part I love because I feel like and I'm sure you hear this often, too, where or how many times are we gonna have to go through this? And it's as many as you need to. And I love what you said so that I can show them that that I can be there for them. I can be consistent. And I love when you see in the scenario, let's say it's the guy again where they look at it like, oh, no, I know what to do with this. I'm grateful that she's expressing this trigger or this hurt, because I know what to do with this and knowing that the wrong thing is the look, we've already talked about it. When are you getting it over? It's absolutely the wrong thing. And I think there is that fear of, well, what if this goes on forever? And that's where I want to say, OK, what if but if we're doing the work each time, then we're not going to we're maybe not going to need to worry about that. Right. Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I love it. So the the acronym is wonderful. So that helps a lot, too. So any other thoughts there? I feel like I feel like I had an aha moment about five minutes ago where it really isn't just these cliches. It's it's being willing to get in there and do the work and admit the things that you don't know, because no one's been through this process until they've been through the process. And so going in there with humility and not going in there with trying to tell their their spouse how they're supposed to experience this trauma, pain.
[00:40:55] Yeah, and I, I tend to not be very good at like acronyms and breaking things down into steps in general, it's just not one of my strengths. So I don't I don't I don't think like that, but. I also don't I also think that this trust building process doesn't play well to that, like you were saying, I think that what I want them to do is to tune in and settle in, to settle into a journey of of being curious and understanding the way that they've impacted their partner. Because if you start get into steps of like, well, do you do this and this and this and that happens, it almost it almost kind of creates this environment where the person who like you're almost kind of creating like a finish line. And I want to say like this is not the goal, isn't to like get through it. The goal is to integrate this into your story and have this become something that draws you both closer together so that you feel like you've overcome something together. Yeah. And instead of just like we got past that, never talk about it again, I think you're missing a huge opportunity for deep intimacy. Long term, it takes years, though, for people to really get there. And I want them to settle in for the long journey.
[00:42:02] And I love the concept of settling in. I love that where when people say, well, OK, but if we're still doing this in a year and I often want to just stop them and say we're that's the wrong that's the entire wrong parallel work from. Right. It's like I hope that they still feel like they can come to me and bring something up in a year, because I want them to know that we can have these conversations, because that's going to mean we can have all kinds of conversations. And I feel like that's that part where people don't even understand what that relationship can look like because they didn't see it modeled maybe growing up. And they certainly haven't had to be this honest and accountable until this happen, which is going back to what I think you and I were talking about. I want to create something that is going to make this happen. But, boy, when we when we got this opportunity, it's kind of let's do this. I wanted to throw I want to random train of thought, but I do a lot of my podcast talking about marriage.
[00:42:52] And I've been talking so much lately about interdependent versus codependent then. And so we're interdependent. And we're and then when you're differentiated, where one person ends, the other begins. And and when we're breaking free from this enmeshment or this codependence, and as we become differentiated, it will come with some invalidation. And I think that's where that uncomfortable place is. And that's where I feel like and here's where I'm going with this, is I feel like what we're talking about is I will have people sometimes say, oh, wait a minute, if I might. If we're interdependent and we're differentiated, then that sure doesn't sound like a marriage. And that's what I'm saying. We don't even know what that looks like is that is safety and that's curiosity. And now we're going through the life one through our life, being able to say, hey, what do you think about that? And we're processing emotion as as a couple. And and that is just something that is beautiful. But people don't know what that even looks like until they're there. Do you know anything about that?
[00:43:43] Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It reminds me that quote and I'll paraphrase it from Anthony DeMello, who basically said something like, We don't really love people. We love the idea of people. Right. We love the idea of what we think they should be. And that's that's that lack of differentiation. That's yeah. Basically, in my own marriage, like I like I can honestly say I did not love my wife. In a mature love when I first married her at age 22. Yeah. I love the idea of her. I love the idea of a wife and who I thought she was. But as I've gotten to know her, I've had to confront a lot of things that are very different than how I do things. And and and that challenge, if she were just to kind of like mold into the version of what I thought she should be, I'd be a very unhappy person. And I think she would, too. And so, yeah, the richness is in. To me, it's like endless curiosity, if you ever wonder, like a lot of couples, like we have nothing to talk about them all. Oh, but if you're both like really healthy individuals and you have things going on and opinions and thoughts and things that you're interested in exploring and preferences. Oh, that's given me all the material I need to talk about with my wife.
[00:44:52] More getta so good. And I feel like I love what you're saying because I feel like I thought we will hit thirty one years of marriage here in just a month or so. Awesome. And I and I but it's the last even few that the more of that there is that differentiation. My wife wife's dress a little bit more stylish. You might wear a little more jewelry or things that I know that in a less mature version of that I talk to guys all the time are like, well, geez, well, why are you wearing that? Versus, Oh, man, I love this. Tell me more like tell me, tell me. That's right. Oh, and and it breaks my heart to think if there was a part of her that felt like she can't be herself because of the fear of well, I don't know if Tony's going to like it or not. And that's that part where I feel like people don't even know what that looks like to say, oh, this is different, but tell me more or not. Well, this is different. What what's this all about? And it's a whole different energy
[00:45:38] Partner as an individual that exists. And I think we get married. I know I did. A lot of couples get married because of how that person makes you feel. Yeah, we we talk about it like oh, they're amazing because they make they make me feel so loved or me, me, me, me, me egocentric. But yeah, I think I think mature love is really about it's like we do with our kids. Like we don't want them to just be like carbon copies of us. We want to really get to know them and figure out what their journey is. And I just feel honored that my wife wants to take her journey with me.
[00:46:09] Oh, that's so good. That's so good.
[00:46:11] Yeah, chose me to have it with.
[00:46:13] No, thank you for the laugh. Now, like I know what our next topic will be. I'd love to go deep into the differences in marriage or differentiation next time with spouses or mature relationships. I could talk to you about that all day, too. I love that. I really do. I do. Ok, this is better than I even imagined. Jeff, so thank you so much. And then so awesome. It is. I want people to go take your course. So tell them where to go. That always sounds funny to me. Tell where to go, Jeff. Tell them tell me where to get your course. And then that you've been very kind to give them my my people, my people a code. So, yeah. Where do they go?
[00:46:45] Yeah, I might. I definitely want your your listeners to to access the course. And there's a 15 percent off coupon. Virtualcouch15. Thank you, Virtual Couch. Just put that in at check in and save you 15 percent on the course. But yeah, it's it's it's a it's a 12 week course. One lesson or one module per week. And there's like four or five, three or four lessons inside each module with videos and worksheets. And and then as part of the course, I offer a one year question answer live monthly webinar with me where you can get on it. That's good. And connect with me and and get additional support, because I know it takes longer than 12 weeks. I just do the lessons over 12 weeks. And then you can have a year to kind of work things out and get get support. But yeah, you can just go on my website, just your dot com if you don't know how to spell my name, which is really hard to spell. You can just go to from crisis to connection. That's another website and you'll see it on there under courses.
[00:47:38] What I'll have I'll have links to everything, too. And I really do mean it. The the I don't I don't know if you've gotten a lot of feedback, but I now point people who are struggling with faith. I mean, even talk about that. But that's what I loved talking with you about, that. We we covered stages of faith. We covered faith journeys. We covered as I've been pointing people that are coming to me for that to your podcast, because I just I appreciated your you've been answering all the questions. Amazing here. But you're you're an amazing interviewer as well. And you've been getting a lot of pretty darn amazing guests on your podcast as well. So I highly recommend that, too.
[00:48:10] Yeah. No, it's it's fun. I love podcasting.
[00:48:13] Yeah. So we will do it again soon.
[00:48:16] I look forward to it, man.
[00:48:17] And I cannot believe you did. Therapy. Communication brings the whole thing. Just I don't know what we'll find out next, but I can't wait. So. All right, Jeff, thank you so much for coming on.
[00:48:26] Hey, thanks, Tony.
Tony talks about processing betrayal trauma with Brannon Patrick. Brannon Patrick is an expert in the field of Betrayal Trauma, and he plays the role of "the Expert" in the popular podcast "The Betrayed, The Addict and The Expert." His podcast follows the recovery journey of Ashlynn and Coby, a couple who have been able to move forward as a result of the pain of betrayal and addiction. Brannon has developed several group systems and programs for addiction recovery. He has specialized training as a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) which has helped him learn how to treat sexual addiction and betrayal trauma. Brannon is also trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Brannon is the co-clinical director and owner of TherapyUTAH and he has developed several programs to help individuals, and couples, heal from betrayal, as well as addiction.
Tony's FREE parenting course, “Tips For Parenting Positively Even In the Not So Positive Times” is available NOW. Just go to https://www.tonyoverbay.com/courses-2/ and sign up today. This course will help you understand why it can be so difficult to communicate with and understand your children. You’ll learn how to keep your buttons hidden, how to genuinely give praise that will truly build inner wealth in your child, teen, or even in your adult children, and you’ll learn how to move from being “the punisher” to being someone your children will want to go to when they need help.
Tony's new best-selling book "He's a Porn Addict...Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions" is now available on Kindle. https://amzn.to/38mauBo
Tony Overbay, is the co-author of "He's a Porn Addict...Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions" now available on Amazon https://amzn.to/33fk0U4. The book debuted in the number 1 spot in the Sexual Health Recovery category and remains there as the time of this record. The book has received numerous positive reviews from professionals in the mental health and recovery fields.
You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program The Path Back by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs, and podcasts.
Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript click here https://descript.com?lmref=v95myQ
---------- TRANSCRIPT ----------
[00:00:00] Hey, everybody, welcome to a very special bonus episode of The Virtual Couch. I'm your host, Tony Overbay, licensed marriage and family therapist. And the very quick reason why you're seeing this bonus episode is it really did kind of come out of nowhere. And it's because I'm a couples therapist, a marriage therapist, and at any given time, I'm working with several couples or individuals who are working through betrayal or the concepts of betrayal, trauma or a recently discovered addiction or infidelity, you know, acting out sexually outside of a marriage. But often when I get this new couple or a new person and they come into my office and they open up about what they're going through, they they often feel so alone. You know, they feel broken. They feel ashamed. They feel embarrassed. If it's the spouse, the the betrayed, they can feel so angry and blindsided and like their entire world has been just ripped out in underneath their legs, then they are trying to make sense of things. Sometimes they go back and look through their entire marriage and they wonder if if anything has been true. You know, they feel these intense feelings of shame or feeling like they are less than or and all of these are such normal feelings and addictions that people are going through. And on this side, excuse me, of the person that is, is the world safer, the betrayer, they're they're really excuse me. There is a deep need to try and control the situation. I mean, psychologically speaking, that is something that we we do a little bit as humans as we want to maintain control.
[00:01:26] We're so afraid that if we don't have control that that, again, our entire world is going to fall apart. And and on that note, I mean, how does it feel when you're under somebody else's control and it doesn't feel good? And this is the thing I talk about often, the concept of reactance where, you know, it's really the desire to do the opposite of something that's been prescribed to us by others or something that we're told that we're supposed to do or should do. Yeah, nobody likes to be shown on. For example, if you attempt to control your spouse's diet, you might be met with a, you know, increase the consumption of unhealthy food just to spite you. And and I was reading and putting some pieces together for a future podcast about control. But really coming up on this concept, this is why in adult relationships, you can either have control over others or you can you can have love, but not both. And in love. It is such a fundamental need, this desire to connect, this desire to love. It's such a fundamental need to us that. So then being overly controlling isn't isn't good. I mean, there's there's not really anything that we can pull from that that is going to be healthier, productive, yet we continue to do it so often. So anyway, back to this bonus episode. So I just I often refer to this episode and it's now been a couple of years since I did this episode with and Patrick on the trail trauma. And and I thought it just needed a little bit of a refresh and needed to get it back up into the list of the podcast so that I can refer to it a little easier.
[00:02:49] But the podcast, BRANOM Patrick is a pretty amazing therapist. He's a good friend. He's the host of the podcast The Betrayed, the Addicted and the Expert, which has done so much good for so many people. If you happen to be a listener of that podcast, you'll know that they've they've been through some pretty big things recently. The couple, Ashley and Kobe. And I'm mentioning this because you'll hear of the podcast and those names mentioned, I think, in the beginning when Brandon and I are are given out his background. But they they've gone through a lot similar fact that went to their show notes. And here's here's what they had shared in a recent episode. They said that when we started this journey, we had no idea where it would lead. And although we've never taken a stand as to what should happen with a relationship after infidelity, they were striving to keep theirs together. And they've done years of this podcast. And they said today's announcement was incredibly difficult, highly concerning for you, our audience. And we feel it was time to open up with a most intimate challenge that they've reached a place to share. Finally, they say that they still believe in the principles they've taught in the podcast. But on this recent episode they had led Kobie had led by saying that he has decided to, quote, uncouple from Ashlynn.
[00:03:55] So I just want to put that out there because I will mention the podcast with Brandyn. And it is about betrayal, trauma. And it just shows you that that, you know, relationships can go in a lot of different directions. But the the concepts, the principles that Brandon and I talk about in this episode of how to work through or handle betrayal, trauma and how to truly try to use all of these things to be for your good to be able to say, OK, that's almost like some acceptance of here's what we're here's where we're at. Here's what we're dealing with. And it doesn't work to tell somebody to not worry about it or just get over it or, you know, the person who often is the one that discloses or who opens up. They may feel a sense of relief of being able to get that off their chest. But you've got an entirely you've got a different person. You've got another person that is part of this equation. And they're the ones that are now dealing with some of these intense feelings, these feelings of betrayal. And you'll hear and hear we talk about how betrayal, trauma really does have a lot of similarities of PTSD. You know, this complex post-traumatic stress disorder, there's triggers. There's. They are staying very much in their midbrain and their amygdala and reacting to the fight or flight response, so we're going to cover all of that today. And I feel like that's the main reason I wanted to do this bonus episode. And so just kind of get right to it.
[00:05:27] His name is Brandon Patrick. He is the host of the very popular podcast that betrayed the addicted and the expert, and he does play the role of the expert on the podcast, along with Ashlynn and Coby. And I have been I've had many, many clients. That is no exaggeration. Ask me if I was familiar with their podcast and I go into a little bit of this with Brandon, but I first did the thing where I was a little bit jealous. I was like, hey, I've got a podcast to you know, we sit right in front of me and realize that it's not all about me. And their podcast is incredible because it is on the subject of betrayal, trauma. And speaking of these, Instagram Q&A is one of those that I get often is can you please do an episode on betrayal trauma? I have done some certification, some training in the world of betrayal, trauma, but it's not something that I am doing well, I really am doing every day. But but it's not something that I'm doing eight clients a day. And so they do enjoy working with betrayal, trauma. I feel like a pretty knowledgeable in the world of betrayal, trauma, but I really wanted to bring someone that is an expert in betrayal, trauma on to talk about this. And that expert is Brandon Patrick. So he is a dynamic leader in the betrayal, trauma, addiction recovery community. And he has some online programs. And he's also the co clinical director and owner of Therapy Utah. And in his bio, he talks about this and he says that he's treated almost every kind of addiction in every setting. And he started by working on an inpatient psychiatric unit, spent years gaining experience in an intensive outpatient setting. And so he's received a lot of specialized training in addiction, recovery and betrayal, trauma, recovery.
[00:06:54] And so I really do feel like you are going to enjoy this interview. It's dealing with a heavy subject material, the concept of betrayal, trauma. But but Brandon is just a is a really easy to talk to person. That's why I said I got a new best friend. Now, he and I turned the mix on a little early this morning. We recorded it pretty early and it was twenty minutes later. We were still talking. And I realized, man, I got to start recording because I had a client coming up a little bit later. So I feel like we we could have talked for days and I can't wait to have him on again. But he's also developed a lot of groups and programs for addiction recovery. He does have specialized training as a certified sexual addiction therapist assistant. And and he also is trained in MDR, which is eye movement desensitization, desensitize, easy for you to say, desensitization and reprocessing, and as well as dialectical behavioral therapy, DBT and cognitive behavioral therapy. And those are significant. I would love to get him on and talk about MDR, DBT. Those are both very important therapeutic modalities for different things that come up in therapy. But today we are going to talk about betrayal, trauma and and we talk about this at the end. But if we didn't answer your questions or if you have questions from the podcast, please send them to Contact@tonyoverbay.com. And I would love to use those to have a chance to get them back on the podcast, and I highly recommend visiting it. Go listen to their podcast. He is the expert on the betrayed, the addicted and the expert. All right.
[00:08:15] Without any further ado, let's get to my interview with Brendan Patrick.
[00:08:25] So, yeah, I will
[00:08:26] Just send incredibly nice things about you, by the way. So I would love to give a little bit. First of all, you're in Utah, correct?
[00:08:32] Yeah, yeah. I'm in Highland
[00:08:35] Highland, so I grew up there. Did you did you go up there? High school?
[00:08:38] I grew up in Sugarhouse.
[00:08:41] So a high school. Do you go to
[00:08:42] High school,
[00:08:43] Highland? All right. I was an alcoholic.
[00:08:45] Oh, really nice. Yeah.
[00:08:47] But I think I'm probably old enough to be your dad, so I don't know if that's.
[00:08:49] I doubt it.
[00:08:52] So I would love to get in. First of all, I'm a big fan of your podcasts and and I feel like it's one of those things where I kept having people ask me if I had heard about your podcast to the point of where at first I was little bit annoyed. I was saying I would be like, hey, I got a podcast too. And I'm like, OK, fine, I'll listen to the Brands podcast then. It's OK. I'm hooked now. So podcast is a betrayed the expert. How long have you done the podcast and how did you what led to that.
[00:09:16] We've done that for two and a half years. It was really interesting how it started. I met Ashley and Coby. They were just starting off in their recovery journey. They had done a video that went viral about their story. They're just really open. And I had been treating betrayal, trauma for a while, maybe eight years. By then. I had worked under people. I had worked so many different places. I knew what worked and what didn't work. I could see it working with Ashton and Kobe. And I just thought, man, we need to come together and I can bring my expertize and talk about recovery and what really works for healing for a couple through them, they can share their story. So people will connect to that, really relate to it. And we we didn't know what we were doing. We had a little snowball mike on an island. We started that way. And really we didn't need fancy technology and stuff. The story held its own. And yeah, we just we hear things like, you know, your podcast has been one of the most instrumental things for our recovery.
[00:10:17] And I like what you say, too, when you're talking about you saw their video and you did you recognize things that they weren't doing that would really help in their recovery?
[00:10:25] Yeah. So it's interesting when I talk to ASIMCO because I'm not their therapist, OK, which I think is a good thing. I'm actually really good friends with their therapist. But as we talked, I could tell early on they were learning stuff from what I was saying as well. OK, it just goes to show recoveries. It's not a thing where you arrive one day. They were further along than a lot of couples. They were out of the crisis mode. They were moving forward in terms of connection and intimacy. Yeah, they still have some work to go and yeah, they'll always have work to go. And yeah, they were learning a lot from me and we can recapture that on the podcast. You guys talk
[00:11:05] About you talk about difficult subjects too. And I'm really curious. I want to get to the betrayal trauma part. But is that hard or do you guys have planning meetings of OK, do we want to touch this one or is anything off limits or are you excited about the difficult topics
[00:11:17] The week we want, the difficult topics we gravitate toward, that we really try hard not to plan too much. And the reason is because because we're all about authenticity and vulnerability and so we don't have it scripted out. It really is a conversation. We throw a topic out there and we just break it down. And yeah, there's some interesting topics that we hit and we've gotten some backlash. What? Yeah, let's talk about there's a I think there's a battle within the battle when it comes to betrayal. Trauma. If I can give you just a little history, please do. That'll be great. So there is so when I first started treating this years ago, it was this codependency model, the Coatex, the. And it really felt blamey toward the spouse. Bahbah Steffen's came out with her book, You're Sexually Addicted Spouse, which was really important. And then just a way it started happening of we're not going to call it codependency. That's not what it is. It is betrayal, trauma. And I really appreciated that because it took the blame away from the spouse. But there's another side to it and it's gone to this place. But there's betrayal, trauma, and then there's this abusive, horrible monster addict. And know, Tony, I've been called a man hater and I've been called somebody who doesn't sympathize with the betrayed. And I'm neither I think we can have compassion for both sides. And so when Ashton and Kobe talk action, Kobe and I talk about things like we did an episode about what do you attract to your life, like the law of attraction.
[00:12:55] Yeah. And we got a lot of backlash about that one because they're like and we were talking about the betrayal and we're saying we want you to self reflect, to really look at how is how have you attracted certain things into your life. And we're not blaming, but what we do want is to empower them to really move forward with the power that they have and not just stay stuck in a victim place of I've been hurt. I've been betrayed. That that. Pain is real, that the hurt is real, the betrayal is real, but and this is it's like I was running a group and this woman I'd worked with for a long time and I had a lot of rapport with her. And then she said, well, am I just supposed to forgive my husband? I said, you could. And I realized forgiveness isn't something I throw out there, like, so quickly. Yeah, I said you could. That's up to you. And she said, oh, he did all these things to me. And I'm just expected to forgive him. And I said, look, I'm not telling you what you should or shouldn't do, but if you want more peace and happiness and you want to move forward, then that's up to you and that's your responsibility to figure out how to forgive him. And there are some. There are some therapists, there's some platforms out there that really drive home, stay the victim if you're betrayed and consider him a monster as the addict and doesn't help a couple move forward through.
[00:14:28] I did. I don't go on often. I did the things I did his Instagram post on positive regard toward your spouse. And I was just I was quoting Brene Brown and saying, look, the life you blessed the most when you have positive regard toward other people is your own. And I got all of these. It was interesting because on my Instagram, I have a lot of people who follow me because of betrayal, trauma. And I have a lot of people who follow me just because they like the relationship stuff that I do, the the people who don't have the betrayal, trauma, they thought, that's awesome. Yeah, I appreciate that positive regard to the people who have been indoctrinated. And I'm not saying everybody with betrayal, trauma indoctrinated with he's just a monster. I hated that post and they said that's really dangerous for you to to say to have positive regard toward my spouse. And my response to that was I'm not going to back down. Positive regard toward your spouse is a good thing. It doesn't mean that you don't have boundaries with him. It doesn't mean that you're at risk of getting hurt more. So, yes, you can approach your recovery and recovery with your relationship from a place of compassion for yourself. First and foremost, have your own boundaries and then for your partner. And that's what actually works for healing for a couple.
[00:15:49] So because you don't like when people the betrayed and that example, you feel like the fear is that if I then give him positive regard or I say, OK, I forgive you, what I hear often is then the betrayed feels like, OK, so now he's off the hook and he will go back to doing whatever he was doing. And all of this was for nothing. And it doesn't matter anymore. Do you hear
[00:16:09] That it comes down to the the fundamentals of real recovery, which it because. Absolutely, Tony, what you just said is the fear. If I if I don't control this through my anger and I fear here, then I'm worried that I'm going to get hurt again. Yeah. And the thing is, I get this question like, how do I know what when he's in recovery? And I just say, you know it, if you let him off the hook, he still needs to man up and work his own recovery. He still needs to create that trust with you and your anger and your fear in no way is driving that recovery. Let me drive. That recovery is his internal motivation for change. And that's what will get him into solid recovery. And when you know that that's there, then you can really back off of that that anger and that fear, that anger, that fear. It's interesting, Tony, because I don't want to say you shouldn't have it, because I what I do want to say from anyone who's been betrayed is having is totally normal and valid and and anybody would have those feelings. But what I hope is that whoever is listening can understand is having it is something you need to process and work through and learn from and solidify your own self so that you can become stronger. It's not something that that works to to turn into force for his recovery. Yeah.
[00:17:43] Oh, it's so good. And I do feel like I don't want to I want to hear your I wanna hear you more. I don't want to. I feel like I want to echo but I feel like I often say that. And I'm a big fan of acceptance and commitment therapy. And that acceptance part is the all of the situations in your life that brought you to that moment, caused you to feel the way you feel. And if you didn't feel that way, then there would be something off. And so perfectly OK to feel that way.
[00:18:04] Absolutely. I always say don't shoot on your feelings. Every emotion is valid. Every single emotion that any person has ever had in this universe is valid because it's real to them. And so absolutely, if and the first stages of recovery for somebody who's been betrayed, if they've been isolated and alone and those feelings are really important that somebody says we get it and it's OK that you feel that way.
[00:18:33] Where do you I like where you're going with the kind of talk more about what do you do when you go fundamentals of betrayal, trauma, or when you have somebody that comes in for the first time, or are there some things that somebody is going to be listening right now? They've heard the term. They aren't doing anything about it. What do you say?
[00:18:47] Yeah, so first thing is what I just said is to let them know that what they're feeling is OK, validated and validation comes through empathy from the therapist part. It also comes through education when you educate them and they're like, oh my gosh, that's us. That's me. That's yes, yeah. Education, empathy also validation comes from. Support from other people, so things like group. I'm a huge believer in group, especially for the betrayed and the addicted, but both that's the first thing. So through that education, then we start to really outline what real recovery is. And what's interesting, Tony, is most people come in and they think he's acting out pornography and masturbation or he's had an affair or whatever it is, and that behavior needs to stop. So we need to stop that behavior and we dig in and there's symptoms like acting out everywhere, but there's roots to that. There's real problems there. And the women who decide to work their own recovery, they go through a process of self discovery and change and healing unlike any other. And what they realize is that his addiction really has propelled them. And it's a huge blessing in their life. They learn how to. Rework their relationship with God. They learn how to really know who they are, have healthy boundaries, learn how to be authentic, learn how to deal with conflict, they learn how to be empowered in doing what they want to do with their life and be more honest. And why do they learn all this? Because he had an addiction, because the best way that they can protect themselves is by being as healthy as they possibly can be. And so, Cindy, I'm sorry, that was my daughter.
[00:20:48] So when I feel like that's that part where and I've said this in the with couples therapy as well a lot, where you can't wait almost to get to that point where no one ever wants something like betrayal, trauma to be in their marriage. But then at the end, it is almost hard to say, man, are you in a better spot now?
[00:21:06] Yeah. And you know what? It doesn't require both people working recovery for that to happen. Some of my divorced women say that very thing. It led them to their work, led them to their divorce, but their divorce was a result of them getting healthy. And it's awesome when both people work their recovery and they're both equally committed to their own individual recovery. And then the relationship just thrives. The intimacy becomes so much more than it ever was because they're both so getting so healthy.
[00:21:39] Before we get too far off of the support, too, can I just ask you your theory? Are your opinion on. Because I love when people they find a group and they get their individual help. But I do refer to I call the peanut gallery. I mean, do you find that a lot of they go to a friend and then the friends are giving this? Here's what you need to do kind of advice. What do you see that and what do you do with that?
[00:21:58] Yeah, so there's a difference between good support and bad support. And one of the main differences is this is bad support will feed and fuel a victim mentality and and they'll fuel they'll encourage you to stay stuck and but still supportive because it feels so validating and you get me and he sucks and these horrible and I'm just stuck and this is awful and good support will totally empathize. Hear you out and reflect back your emotions, explore them with you, allow you to feel what you're feeling. But good support will also be honest with you and push you and hold you accountable and care about you moving forward. And so some groups you go to can be really detrimental if they feel that victim mentality. Some groups can be really awesome if they if they are honest with you and will push you to move forward. So, yeah, that definitely exists. The peanut gallery thing. Absolutely.
[00:22:59] So do you find that most of the people that you work with are people where the the addict is willing to be a part of the treatment? Or do you find that you're seeing a lot of people where the addict is a you can go get help? But I told you I'm not going to do it anymore.
[00:23:14] I'd say just off the top of my head. I'd say about 70 percent, the addict is willing to engage in treatment as well. Now, there's a difference between I guess let's talk about willingness. Sometimes that's compliance and that's really destructive to the relationship. OK, what that is, is I'll go because you want me to go. I'm only here for you. My heart's not in this. I'm just trying to avoid you leaving me. So I'll go as compared to I'm going because I like I'm into this, I'm healing. This is I'm proactive in my own recovery and I'd say maybe 50 percent. But it goes both ways. I have some couples I work with where he's totally engaged and she's resistant and she doesn't want to move forward, which sounds crazy, but it's just such hard work and there's a lot to face. And and so she's caught up in fear and blame and she doesn't want to work moving forward. So I see both sides of it.
[00:24:14] Yeah. You feel like in those scenarios, that one you just described, when she feel when there comes the disclosure, the day, the moment where she finds out there's such that shock that it's that, look, this isn't my problem. This is your problem. Why would I need to do anything about it? You run into that.
[00:24:29] Oh, absolutely. And there's there's some truth to that. But it's one of those things. If somebody took a sledgehammer to my leg like they did, that they need to fix that. But now I'm now I'm stuck with a shattered leg. And so I'm going to need to do some rehab on that leg. But, yes, I hear I hear that all the time. I also when I run but trail trauma groups for the first time, sometimes women will come in really eager and ready to go, like, yes, I'm ready for this. A lot of times I'll come in and before I even say a word, they'll start crying or be really emotional. And it's like, oh, my gosh, I can't believe that I'm here. I can't believe this is what our marriage has come to. And so it's that they want to stay in hiding because it's a hard thing to face and tell them whether they're like it. Good for you. It took so much courage for you to come today, and then I make it safe for them there. But absolutely, it's hard. It's hard for them to engage sometimes.
[00:25:30] Do you think that some of the fears are around? They don't want to hear that their spouse try to blame them, maybe the addict or they don't want to hear that they were I don't know, whatever is going to come out. I am saying you are missing signals or I felt you were withdrawn or that you feel like that could be a problem.
[00:25:46] Well, sometimes, Tony, the truth is a lot of the women have been to therapists or church leaders or really do push back the blame onto them. Yeah, they don't want to hear that anymore. They're told that they haven't had sex enough or they've been there like that. That's the last thing I need from a professional or somebody who I don't trust help. And so why would I go get help?
[00:26:08] I'm going to isolate, isolate that audio clip. That one has got to be played over and over because I feel like nothing is more detrimental than having someone come into my office. And you do sense that hesitation and you find out that they have sat with a bishop or someone that said, well,
[00:26:21] Well, what what was your
[00:26:22] Role and or how long? How many how often were you having sex? Or and it just as a part where I want to pause the session, go
[00:26:30] That or story. It was like two weeks after D-Day. This bishop was talking to this couple and he turns to her and he says, hey, have you forgiven him? Two weeks, two weeks. There's no. And he says, well, then I'm going to need your temple recommend for her. For her, that's an extreme right. But stuff like that. Come on. And yeah, they're a little reticent to come in and have somebody tell them what is and tell them it's.
[00:26:59] I feel like that's that speaks to and I love that people are going to hear this and that they're going to resonate. They're going to say, OK, I don't know. He told me he's not going to do it anymore. I'm probably OK. I'm listening to a couple of podcasts and I'm good. But what do you say to them? And I totally want to meet the client where they're at. Don't get me wrong. Absolutely. But what do you say to the people listening right now? They kind of feel like, OK, good advice. Noted, but but I think I'm OK.
[00:27:20] Right? Well, and again, if that's where you're at, that's where you're at. And at least you're listening to this and. Yes, but such a crucial part of recovery is connection, OK? And it's just so powerful when when you can connect with other people who are in your similar situation. And I think the reason why it's so powerful is because it takes so much resiliency and vulnerability to go out and do that. You get a benefit from it. And so connection and education are really important. And so you can get your education behind the curtain, so to speak. Yeah, connection. You got to put yourself out there a little bit. And so I would highly encourage that. Yes, you do. You do go to a group, you meet with a therapist, you find a mentor or a sponsor, somebody that that you can talk openly with about where you're at.
[00:28:11] So, again, somebody that knows what betterhelp.com is not somebody that says, no, I'm sure I can figure it out or I'll Google it or.
[00:28:17] Absolutely. Somebody who really understands the trail from
[00:28:20] Yeah, and now I feel bad cause I feel like we're about to jump now. I have a I don't know, I have a zillion questions. So are you OK if we call this the all over the map section?
[00:28:28] Ok, good.
[00:28:29] So a couple of things. You said it and I don't even I was going to frame this with here's a hard question, but it's random, so I don't even have to. These are lay offs for you, I'm sure. But do you have advice for for D-Day, for disclosure and where and I'll frame it very quickly with I will have people that will they get caught or they finally decide, OK, I'm going to tell my spouse that I'm addicted or I've had an affair. And they may be Googling and it just says, hey, tell them everything. And so then then they go in and. Right. I'm going to be open about everything. And then it just causes this concept of staggered disclosure. The guy feels so relieved that he confessed or give advice. What do you say about that disclosure?
[00:29:06] A couple of things. So there's a difference between day and and like a formal disclosure. Yes.
[00:29:13] Ok, what about that?
[00:29:14] So day is when it just busts open, she finds something. It's like I was meeting with recently. I met with somebody and they found condoms in the backseat of his truck. And it just led to this conversation, to that boom. All of a sudden her whole world was different. Right. That's a formal disclosure is when you sit down and you lay things on the table and it's a chance to just flush it all out. And so if I were in the position of having a big thing to tell my spouse and knowing that it needs to be disclosed, this might sound a little weird, but I would go to a therapist first. I get some guidance, talk through some things. The way you disclose is really important and you can do so much damage to the foundation and the trust in your marriage, not because of the act. Now, the act itself did damage. Yes, yes. But the way that you come out with it and this is staggered disclosure, this trickle out effect, justifying it, rationalizing it, minimizing it in any way, it creates this thing where she feels like, well, thanks for telling me, but now I just don't know what I don't know.
[00:30:22] Absolutely. So I'm going to ask a lot of questions and I'm going to think about it. I'm going ask more questions. And and then if you weren't consistent with your story, then you must be lying. And now how do I trust you on anything?
[00:30:31] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, exactly. And the thing is, is the natural thinking, I think, for most people is this I'm going to tell her enough. So she thinks I'm being honest, but not too much because it's too uncomfortable. Yeah. And this is really tricky. And this is why working with the therapist is important, because the other side of it is telling her every last detail is also not good. And so. Well, are you telling me there's a difference between telling her what is what happened, what you can say? Yeah, I've looked at pornography five days a week for the last two years. That's one thing going and saying. I've looked at pornography with this type of woman and this size in this hair color and now you're just planting so many triggers in her head. I've had an affair is different. Then I met with this woman at this restaurant and we ate this meal. And now you're just planting triggers in her head. So don't avoid scary hard things, but also don't overdo it and plant a bunch of triggers in her head. Is that that makes sense?
[00:31:44] Yeah, it does. And I love it. And it's funny that you say so that I want to and I would love to spend some time on triggers and the whole kind of PTSD symptoms. And that's why. But I met with somebody recently who it was a guy who was struggling with marriage and thinking of divorce and that sort of thing. And then that one, of course, I say go meet with the divorce attorney and get all of your data and have questions and get everything together before you present. This is I want the divorce or so what you're saying. We need to get that in our field of going meet with a therapist and have a list of questions and have your game plan. And it's not for me because I want to manipulate her or I want but it's I care about her and I want to do this. Right.
[00:32:25] Absolutely. I love that. The thing is, it's not to manipulate her. It's for you to to gather information because you care about her.
[00:32:34] Yeah, because I like what you're saying. It can come from a great place when a guy finally said, OK, fine, I'll tell her everything. But and this is what I love about your podcast, because you guys talk about this stuff real. And I do find at times that I'm kind of still on the you know, well, I want to have people come to these conclusions and things on their own. And I don't want them to feel like I'm shooting on them or. But what I love what you're talking about is I'll go. The one I hear often is objectification, for example. So if a guy is just dumping everything I like where you're saying there's these specific triggers and that he's planted it, then I'll hear a woman say, wait, have you ever looked at my friend and thought about her? And then he's like, OK, I just Googled. I got to be super honest. Yes, I have, you know. What have you ever looked at this girl and this one? And then it's like now she is living in a. World of triggers, and he felt like he was doing the right thing, right? Don't you ever get those?
[00:33:23] Well, Tony, here's the thing that I this is a hard topic. Yes. When I when I meet with the couple, there's a couple. She would flip through Facebook and pull up pictures of their friends and say she's attractive. Right. You see attractive. Right. And so you came in to me and said, be honest with her. And so she goes in. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so she goes out in their small town and sees all these women. And and so then he's like, well, that didn't work. And so she does it again and he's. No, no. And so she comes in, it's like he's lying to me. And I said to him, let's be honest with her. And he looked at me like, what are you talking about? Be honest with her. And he's like, well, I have I tell her if they're attractive and what he's not honest with her because the reality is when she's triggered like that. Yes. His honest truth is, honey, I'm not comfortable with this right now. This doesn't work for me. I'm happy to be honest with you. But if you could go talk to Branon or if if we could work through this before we go down the list of attractive women on Facebook. Right. That's that's what I want to do. So it's a boundary for him. And now it might look to her like, no, you're just avoiding this. Then you're just and in a way it's true. But if he can own it and step into it and say, look, I care about us, I care about our safety, this isn't something that's healthy for us right now instead of being way too compliant. Yes. Way to avoidant and lying about it. He's not going to create safety that way.
[00:34:55] I love that because now I throw my couples hat on and we're really trying to that's one of those where I say, OK, we got to trust the process a little bit. We got to secure the connection, the old cliche. We got to work on the roots and then the leaves maybe aren't going to feel as triggering or as heavy. But right now, if we're just picking out those, it's going to be yeah, it's not going to be pretty. So you're up that connection and then it's kind of I then maybe. Yeah, she's cute. And then the wife told me not. I thought you you're nuts. But we're not having that conversation at the beginning.
[00:35:21] Absolutely. Yes. It's the example I always give is my wife made this dish and it was like she spent all day making it was like she puts it in front of me and I eat it. And she's like, how is it? What am I supposed to do, Tony?
[00:35:37] It was a great misbranded, whatever it was, even if it was tuna fish casserole. Oh, man, that was good.
[00:35:42] Yeah, right. And the truth is. So I tell her something like this. Like, hon, like I so appreciate your hard work. I love you. Thank you. It's not my favorite. I wouldn't I probably wouldn't put it on the menu. And she's a little disappointed. But for me to maintain trust in my relationship with her, I need to be able to tolerate her disappointment and have the strength enough. To be honest with her, I can still be kind and loving. And so then when she makes dinner the next day, it's and it's good and I'm like, heck, yeah, this is amazing. She knows. I mean it. Yes, it's the same, it's the same thing between a couple. Right. For him to be able to be authentic and honest about who he is and know who he is. That's what we'll build trust in the relationship brand.
[00:36:28] I'm very open about my ad on my podcast. What was that? What was that dish? I'm dyin
[00:36:33] Here. It was chickpea curry.
[00:36:35] Oh, I do like a good curry.
[00:36:36] Yeah, but it was vegetarian. Just I don't know like coconut in it and.
[00:36:43] Ok, all right. Well I love that though because even and again, back to couples mode. I'm a huge emotionally focused therapy and EMT fan and we do want to be able to share our truths. And I one of those underlying principles is it's OK to have a differing opinion. And our goal is not to destroy the other person's reality.
[00:37:00] It's one of the old like when I was trained, I was trained a lot under some people where I learned a lot of what not to do. One of the things that I learned was at the beginning of recovery, the addict doesn't have a leg to stand on. He needs to shut up and he needs to comply and he needs to not have boundaries. There couldn't be anything further from the truth. Does the addict need boundaries? Absolutely not just for him and his recovery and understanding who he is, but also to rebuild the trust in the relationship. Not being boundary for him is not being honest. And the last thing she needs is for him not to be honest. And so it's not just hunkering down and just like trying to do everything you possibly can to make her happy. The thing that's going to make her happy is when she feels integrity there from you and strength there. Right.
[00:37:54] And I feel like that's where the individual work becomes so important. I always when I'm working with men, for example, I do that right. I hear you and I want to hear your truths. But where does that come from? And is it being worked through a manipulation filter if a guy is being really, really honest? I love that. I love to tell the story of how a long day and driving home and feeling down and realizing halfway home that, OK, what's my goal here with this feeling down? And it's wow, I want to come. And everybody go, oh, man, dad, you work so hard, and I was like, I don't want that. I want to bust the door, open everybody dad's home and I'm pumped. Am I being manipulative, lovingly manipulative, unaware, manipulative.
[00:38:29] Right. Well, and that's what's so tricky with addiction is denial, drama, manipulation. It's so automatic and run so deep that a lot of times if you've been if you've been stuck in your addiction for so long, you don't really know your truth. Exactly. Those through this denial thing. And and it's hard to trust it. And that's where a good support system can really help, is to bounce things off of of a buddy in recovery or a good therapist who can be like really feels manipulative. Yeah, right. Who are you really what really is your value, your truth here with this thing.
[00:39:07] Ok, can you do you mind talking triggers and talk about how you feel. What is a trigger. Do you do you encourage this one. We'll say the woman is the better way to express triggers. What is the addict is supposed to do with triggers? This is the part I feel that can get tricky and I know what I feel is the right thing. But you are the expert literally. It says it on your podcast. So this I'm excited about this.
[00:39:28] Right. So triggers are just anything that triggers your midbrain, your survival response, your SO triggers that emotion, triggers a behavior to react. So it can be a smell. It can be you see something, an event, something happens and you go into your emotional mind, you're ready to to do something, fight flight or freeze. And so with betrayal, trauma, it's trauma. They have trauma triggers and things that aren't really based in reality can end up triggering them like crazy. It's like my buddy in Hawaii blasting off a bunch of fireworks and he went in and just stuck his head under a pillow and was shaking. And the he's a combat veteran who was on the front lines. And so it makes total sense. But if you look at it, it doesn't make much sense. We're just firing off some fireworks. He has that trauma response because of his life experiences. So he's going into a survival mode with betrayal, trauma. Trauma is real. So if you get home five minutes late from work and she's freaking out, it makes total sense that she is OK. I love her. And her triggers are one of the best opportunities for the addict. But if he can see it, is that. Yes, because usually he'll take it personally or he'll be really uncomfortable with it when when she's triggered. If you can hold space for her, if you can be an asset for her to process through those emotions, if she wants you to, when you become somebody who connects to her in her scariest moments, not somebody who adds on to her scariest moments, it's an opportunity. I mean,
[00:41:10] It is a opportunity to connect. And that's I love what you're saying that I want God. I can't imagine how hard that would be for a guy. But to. Right. I want the woman to say, all right, I drove by the store or I saw this girl or I smelled the smell and I was triggered. I because I want the guy to turn to and say thank you.
[00:41:25] Yeah. Tell me about it. I want to I want to know how you feel and who you are. And there's little tricks and techniques. You probably won't get into those today, but things that he can do to help her process that trigger. But first and foremost, he takes his own shame, resiliency that triggers usually probably about him, like, why are you a cheater? Why did you do this to me? Why? I was wondering if you're going to hurt me again, are you? And for him to say, no, I'm not. No, not. Or for him not to say when are you going to get over this, but for him to just be like, oh, my gosh, you're freaked out right now and I want to hear your pain. I had a good buddy of mine, actually, an old client, good buddy of mine. His wife woke up three in the morning and he was on his phone at the end of the bed. And she's triggered I mean, duh, I think that and his history is acting out on his phone with pornography. And so she's telling him like, hey, like, what are you doing? And she freaks out. And the old him would have been like, oh my gosh, I've been sober for two years. What's wrong with you? Can't you believe? And he just stopped and thought, oh my gosh, I can't imagine with what you've been through waking up in the middle of the night and seeing on the phone like this. Yeah. She's like, I bet you're freaked out right now. And that's you're not in your head, Tony. That's and that's what you're looking for, is to get them to nod their head. Oh, yeah. You get me. Yeah. You understand me. And I'm OK to to feel this trigger. And that's what will kill the trigger. Absolutely. If in that moment he says you're crazy or just get over it or that's not what I was doing, it'll amp that trigger up. Right.
[00:43:08] Go to the more. And I always feel like that. The left, Sujan says is attachment injury apology. You've really those right. And it's that man I'm sorry I put you. A spot where you feel that way when you see me at the end of the bed and I'm sorry for the times that I'm not even aware of, that you probably go to that place and wonder and sit with that, which I know can be so uncomfortable.
[00:43:28] Yes, absolutely. So the relationship has a lot of opportunity to heal because of the pain and because of the wounds. And it's a silver lining, I think, that God gave to help repair things. When what I'm saying is when there's a lot of pain, there's a lot of fear, there's a lot of emotion, which means there's a lot of opportunity for connection like that. Yeah. And if the addict can see it that way and and learn how to step into that with her, then they'll start to strengthen their bond. And it's a beautiful thing.
[00:44:00] But I had I had a client share a quote with me and I'm drawing a blank right. The second on the author. But the end of the quote says, Jumping through the abyss and finding out on the other end there's a featherbed. And I feel like.
[00:44:11] That's right. That is the concept. Yes. Yeah. But Tony takes the opposite of what an addict has done his entire life, which OK, which is avoid vulnerability. Right. Is to learn how to isolate and disconnect and go into denial. And so it takes learning how to do the opposite of that. That will really help her, will help the relationship and help him strengthen his own recovery.
[00:44:35] Brad, do you recommend that women in this scenario express triggers as often as they can, or do you feel like hang on to those or.
[00:44:44] Yeah, I, I do think expressing triggers is a good thing. I would encourage a support system for her. So I might call a sponsor a group member and just say, hey, I got to surrender something over. And that sponsor might say, yeah, you're really standing in it. The facts are just this. Let's just stick with the facts. Let's surrender it over to me and you're good. And as long as she's good, great. But every last little trigger I I've worked with a couple where they go out in public and they can even go out in public because it's trigger, trigger, trigger, trigger, trigger. Right now I'm not saying she shouldn't have those triggers, but she needs to have some tools and work through those triggers outside of him sometimes because she's always turning to him to say, you're good, you're safe, you're OK. Then her safety completely depends on him, which is nice.
[00:45:35] Yeah. And I like where you go back with that, where the importance of the individual work as well as I do feel like if individual work's being done and the point of the triggers is to this opportunity for connection. And then I feel like when she gets to the point where she knows if I bring a trigger to him, I know now he is going to be there for me. He's going to own this. So maybe now it's time for me to do a little mindfulness or work through this.
[00:45:57] Exactly. Exactly. It's interesting because sometimes the men that I work with or the the addicts that I work with, they're like, when when is she going to do her own work? And and what's interesting is when they've done their own work and they focus on them and they learn how to empathize, the light reflects back on her where she's oh my gosh, he's there for me. He's honest with me. He's empathetic. This is my stuff. Now, I got to figure this out, right? Yeah. Yeah, OK, we
[00:46:23] Can talk all day and I feel so bad, I feel bad that I have this this so this time for sure. But I think in the perfect world though, it's perfect to say, man, if there are questions that we didn't answer today, first, I would love to send them my way and I would love to see if we could do another episode at some point in the near future. I'd love to, but even more so. Go to your podcast, because I almost guarantee that if you go to your podcast, you guys are probably covered because I would love to talk about things like intimacy and talking about sex and all of those kind of things. And I know you have episodes on there about.
[00:46:51] Yeah, yeah. Like like you said, we don't avoid the hard topics, which is we just we just finished sex. Temba So we talk about sex all during sex. Temba OK, and yeah. Check us out the betrayed, the addicted and the expert. Yeah.
[00:47:07] Or I say my new my new best friend brand is the expert. You play the role, the expert, which is an absolute pleasure to talk with you. I love that we talk about authenticity and stuff. The reason I don't have as much time as I had wanted to is because when we got on when we started talking to each other before the recording, I know it was it's nice to talk to you and I feel like we could have talked for days. Well, I get that same sense on your podcast, and I think it's very relatable. It's conversational. And so my jealousy has now been replaced with admiration. And so, I mean, I highly recommend that people go check that out. And I would love to have you again on in the not too distant future.
[00:47:37] Awesome. Thanks, Tony, and
[00:47:39] Thank you so much. I'm going to stop here, but I.