Interview Transcript Available Below
Jill Manning is a PhD level marriage and family councilor and has been practicing for 17 years. She is on two national boards, Enough is Enough and App Status. She lives in Colorado.
Anne Blythe spent seven years trying to save her marriage as her husband battled a pornography addiction. She currently coaches women online who are going through a similar situation. She has a website and hosts a podcast, Betrayal Trauma Recovery. Her website and podcast are dedicated to helping support women through this trauma.
- 2:26 Betrayal trauma is when someone who loves you violates your trust in a critical way. This betrayal can happen to these victims multiple times.
- 9:36 Anne struggled to put the pieces together in the midst of her trauma and recognize this was in an abusive relationship.
- 11:13 Sometimes Bishops can have a hard time helping couples through these pornography addictions as two different perspectives are shared, ”he said, she said”
- 12:11 For Anne going to church during this time was extremely difficult. She kept going because she knew it was right.
- 13:51 As a Mormon culture we are a trusting people. That can make it hard dealing with addicts who are not always honest due to shame and minimizing the situation. They can also gas light the situation and manipulate reality.
- 14:36 When helping in the “he said, she said” situations step back and evaluate who is motivated by what.
- 15:41 It can take women some time to realize they are in an abusive relationship
- 18:50 It can take months or years to get the full story from the addict. Help teach them that it is ok and normal to spotlight the situation.
- 21:52 The addict is not mentally capable of divulging everything at once.
- 22:13 The spouse can be the barometer for what is really happening.
- 24:21 Secondary Trauma is trauma that comes from asking for help and feeling dismissed.
- 26:19 For the victims it can help to see action being taken and the addict held accountable.
- 30:44 Consuming pornography is unrighteous dominion.
- 31:29 Emotional, spiritual, and financial, abuse is real and often linked to pornography addiction.
- 34:11 Studies have shown that 2/3 of people struggling with pornography addiction have been found to have a mood disorder. Those studies also show that 44 percent have a personality disorder and narcissistic traits.
- 34:14 Three studies have shown that 71 percent of women meet the criteria for PTSD as victims of their spouses pornography addiction.
- 35:29 Zoom into helping the victims with safety first. That includes being physically and spiritual safe.
- 37:35 Lean on Heavenly Father to help you through this and always establish emotional safety.
Resources and Links:
- Enough is Enough
- Betrayal Trauma Recovery
- Steve and Kayla’s Story of Sexual Addiction and Recovery
- Jill Manning’s Website
Kurt Francom: Today we are welcoming into the podcast Jill Manning and Anne Blythe.
Dr Jill Manning: Doing well.
Anne Blythe: Great.
Kurt Francom: Jill, maybe let’s start with you. Tell us about your background. What does the Leading Saints world need to know [00:05:00] about you and what you offer to this discussion?
Dr Jill Manning: Sure. I’m a PhD level marriage and family therapist. I’ve been practicing for approximately 17 years now. I’m from Canada originally, but based in Colorado. I sit on two national boards, Enough is Enough, which focuses on internet safety, and also APSATS, which focuses on certifying and training those that are specializing in partners of sex addiction work, and I’m a clinician in private practice.
Kurt Francom: Awesome. I love to have a good, solid [00:05:30] expert to throw questions at, for sure. Anne, what about you? Tell us about your background, and also your podcast that you produce.
Anne Blythe: Yes. After seven years of attempting to save my family and help my husband with his pornography addiction, his behaviors escalated out of control and he was actually arrested for domestic violence. I started podcasting real time about my experience, and then I started a non-profit. We offer online coaching for wives of pornography [00:06:00] users.
Kurt Francom: Nice. What’s the name of your resource?
Anne Blythe: It’s called Betrayal Trauma Recovery. If you look it up on iTunes, look it up with Betrayal Trauma Recovery, and then online we are btr.org.
Kurt Francom: Nice. Who’s the target audience of that podcast?
Anne Blythe: Our target audience for the podcast, and for our website, is any woman who has experienced the lies, manipulation, emotional abuse, infidelity of a spouse.
Kurt Francom: Betrayal trauma is a concept … I think it’s … [00:06:30] I don’t know, is that a clinical term, Jill?
Dr Jill Manning: It is. It is, and it’s gained in popularity in the last few years, but it’s not a new term. We’ve been researching and discussing betrayal trauma for probably two decades now, but I think there’s more understanding of how betrayal trauma certainly applies, and really is at the heart of these types of issues. Sexual addiction, pornography addiction, and more traditional forms of infidelity as well. Let me define [00:07:00] betrayal trauma.
Kurt Francom: Yeah, do that.
Dr Jill Manning: Betrayal trauma is when someone that we are close to, or even dependent upon for our survival, for example a child to a parent, violates our trust in a critical way. There’s two key things that make it different from common fear based traumas such as a car accident or combat, military combat. The first one is that we’re in close relationship with the perpetrator of that betrayal. Secondly, because we share a life with that person, the perpetrator [00:07:30] of the betrayal, the likelihood of that reoccurring is higher than in other types of traumas. So for example, if I was … if someone came up and assaulted me, downtown Denver, let’s say, the chances of me being in that exact same situation again and being assaulted by the same person twice would be extremely unlikely. I would have a different plan. I probably would avoid that part of town. There would be police reports, possibly arrest and jail time [00:08:00] for the perpetrator.
The point being is betrayal trauma is so insidious because it happens, very often, time and time again, and often without the victim of that even knowing it. Then when that comes to light, and she understands … I’ll speak in a gender segregated way, just for the ease of our conversation here. When she realizes that she has been betrayed, oftentimes for years, it’s extremely traumatic. It really undercuts the very relational foundation [00:08:30] of her world, and the people that she would traditionally or commonly turn to for support have now become the very people that have betrayed her. So it’s very disorienting and harmful to our whole system, our nervous system, spiritual being, and psychologically as well.
Kurt Francom: Yeah, and I think the fact that that term has the word trauma in it is very important to recognize, because there is trauma happening. It’s not just a cute way to say a term. I mean, there is some actual mental [00:09:00] trauma happening, just as if there was violation on a much deeper … As you mentioned, people in the military experiencing trauma, and those things. I mean, it can be something that needs to be addressed through counseling, a lot of the time.
Dr Jill Manning: Often it does. If it’s not resolved, we can see both short and long term consequences. I come from a military family. I grew up with a father in the military who has done several posts overseas, and I was born overseas on a military base. So this is near and dear to my heart. I just want to make a distinction [00:09:30] between those two, because very often people will minimize betrayal trauma, saying, “Oh, come on, how can this be worse or equal to what someone deals with on the battlefield?” Well, when a soldier’s preparing for war, and they’re in a battle situation, they are not in any way, shape, or form psychologically expecting the enemy to be protective of them. They’re expecting to go into an enemy battle zone.
When someone marries the love of their life, they [00:10:00] have, with healthy, fair expectation, the notion that this person will be a protector, a defender, someone that has their back, and even a friend. So when we find out that that person has betrayed us, and caused such chaos and devastation in our life, it is a different type of trauma, psychologically. The soldier can be flown back home and have the love and support of family. I want to be crystal clear that in no way am I minimizing the trauma related to combat. What I’m saying [00:10:30] is we should not minimize betrayal trauma, because it is different and it is very serious. We know from research that betrayal trauma actually has oftentimes, not always, more physical symptoms than fear based traumas that are low on betrayal.
Kurt Francom: Yeah, I love … I appreciate that emphasis on really understanding what’s going on, and I just want to make a quick caveat here to leaders listening. I just want to recognize that we … [00:11:00] As lay leaders in the church, you’re in a very difficult position, and you realize that, right? Of course we recognize the keys and authority that many leaders hold, the inspiration they receive. But just like I say a lot of time on Leading Saints, our hope here is providing resources. We want to take your ability to the level of your authority, and just because you have authority doesn’t mean your ability to handle these difficult situations always going to match that. So as we go through this, again, very sensitive topic, we’re going to … I’m going to have [00:11:30] Anne tell her story about her experience, and there’s some difficult situations with lay leaders that are talked about.
Our hope, our intent, isn’t to say, “Well, you leaders just don’t know what you’re talking about.” We want to recognize you’re in a very difficult situation, and our intent here is to maybe provide some thoughts, some new perspective, on situations you may be dealing with. This podcast, this episode, isn’t going to train you or give you that ability or training that you need to effectively handle this. So, [00:12:00] of course, we encourage you to reach out to your stake president, your area authorities, and request this. Reach out to LDS family services and talk with counselors there to really understand the betrayal trauma that you may be faced with, or you may be helping with, as you meet with different individuals.
So just know that this is very sensitive, and we’re going to jump into this in hope that we can create some more clarity, a new perspective, and help you be a better leader, and help these spouses that are experiencing betrayal trauma. Because I know in my experience, [00:12:30] a lot of time you sort of just pray for the spouse. I think for this conversation we’ll assume that the spouse is female. I’m sure betrayal trauma happens on both the sides of a relationship, but we’re going to recognize that we’re talking about a spouse and that this is something that needs to be recognized. Hopefully we can help, or point them in the right direction to help them unwind this. Anything else that you would add to that, Anne or Jill, as far as understanding what we’re trying to do?
Dr Jill Manning: Well, I certainly echo the idea [00:13:00] that … I too believe and have experienced LDS leaders doing the best they know how with the information and limited training that they have on these types of issues, and have nothing but respect for leaders that are doing the best and are in the trenches of very difficult situations. So I want to link arms and join with them in that, because even as a clinician who is trained in this, these are very complex, difficult situations that are very sensitive. Sometimes there’s legal ramifications. There’s a lot [00:13:30] in this, so I just want to echo my support in what you just shared, Kurt.
Kurt Francom: Perfect. Awesome. Well, Anne, let’s … If you wouldn’t mind, I would love to just understand … You’ve told me your story, off air, but maybe just lay out your past situation and the betrayal trauma you experienced, and how sometimes it was difficult to find that support that you were looking for. Maybe bishops can get a better perspective on maybe what others face in their ward.
Anne Blythe: I think there’s a common misconception [00:14:00] about women in this situation, that they fully understand what’s happening. For me, I didn’t understand what was happening in my life. I was trying to get help. I knew something wasn’t quite right, I knew about my husband’s porn use, but I couldn’t really put the pieces together. So I don’t blame bishops either, because I have been in that situation, where I’m trying to figure out, are these behaviors abusive? Is my husband so … Are [00:14:30] his behaviors so far on the spectrum that I need to set some pretty serious boundaries? I’m trying to sort this out myself.
I think the biggest trauma for me was after my husband’s arrest. Because prior to this he had been to multiple therapists, he had been working on his addiction, he presented as this person in recovery. After his arrest, he claimed that [00:15:00] I had caused the problems, and started calling me abusive, and started saying things about me, some of which were true, some of which were true and taken way out of context, and some were just completely lies. So I was painted … The situation was painted like, okay, there’s her story and there’s his story, and we can’t figure out what’s going on. So my dear bishop, who really, genuinely wanted to help us, was so wrapped up in [00:15:30] the chaos that he couldn’t figure it out either. Because of that, I did not get the support that I needed in a very, very difficult time.
That was extremely traumatizing for me, because I would go to church and people just couldn’t understand. Because my husband was this attorney who has this really great, I will say mask, of looking very righteous. So they just were like, “I mean, he can’t be as abusive as she’s saying. [00:16:00] It couldn’t have happened the way that she’s saying, because he’s saying it happened this totally different way, right?” So I would spend a lot of the time, Sunday school and Relief Society, in the bathroom stall, just bawling my eyes out. But I kept going, even though it was … Sorry, just the emotions are coming back.
Kurt Francom: It’s all right.
Anne Blythe: I kept attending church because I knew it was the right thing, even though church itself during that time was extremely traumatic for me.
Kurt Francom: Yeah. You mentioned this he [00:16:30] said/she said battle, that a lot of leaders sort of get trapped in, right? Jill, maybe you can speak to this, as a counselor, because I’m sure you experience this he said/she said that … I think a bishop … he’s considering all angles at least the best he can, and he sees this husband that, “Man, yeah, he’s made some mistakes, and he’s working on it. But man, she seems overreactive, and what’s happening here? Maybe she’s just not being forgiving.” We’re trying to bring logic to this situation. But Jill, how [00:17:00] do leaders handle this he said/she said so that they can actually help them move forward?
Dr Jill Manning: Oh boy, there’s so much to that question and answer, but let me … If I can just invite us to step way back for a moment, and consider some cultural dynamics.
Kurt Francom: Perfect, yeah.
Dr Jill Manning: I’ve spoken with … I mean, having done this work, and being LDS myself for many years, I think it’s important to put on the table a cultural dynamic that’s just really at the core of this. That is that we tend to be a very trusting people. [00:17:30] We tend to have a lot based on testimony. If someone says something’s true, we don’t often question that. That’s really a bedrock of our culture and belief system, and so I think going into situations where … We do tend, generally speaking, to be naïve. When someone tells us something, we take that as truth. I think it’s important to just be aware that when someone, especially someone who is addicted [00:18:00] and is very shamed about those behaviors … feeling shameful, I should say … There’s minimizing, there’s downplaying, there’s gaslighting. For people who aren’t familiar with the term gaslighting, it’s a psychological term that speaks to the twisting and distortion of reality, the manipulating of reality to protect oneself. In this case, often it’s to hide behaviors that they are fearful will really cause great consequences if they speak out and become honest about.
[00:18:30] So I think with this he said/she said, we need to really look very carefully at the bigger picture of who is motivated for what, here. Often, in my experience clinically, anyone who … It doesn’t even have to be an addict. Someone that is hiding a behavior, such as pornography use, that in their core they know is wrong, is incongruent with their belief system or personal values … There is a strong human pull [00:19:00] to downplay that, to lie about it, to cover it up, to not fully acknowledge it. When we speak of spouses, though, when we really look at what is their motivation, what would be the motivation to lie or twist that? It’s hard for me to come up with any legitimate reason why. In my 17 years of work, I have yet to encounter a spouse who has outright lied about a husband’s behavior.
I have encountered many women who [00:19:30] have been in denial themselves, who it takes some time for them to fully admit the gravity of the situation. I think, Anne, you’ve spoken very articulately about that in different forms, of how it took you a while to really call abuse, abuse. Because, especially when it’s our spouse and the father of our children, we want to see a different picture. We don’t want to really accept that my husband’s abusive, because then what will that [00:20:00] mean? That can lead to some really scary decisions such as divorce, or like you said, calling 911 and having police involved, and all the chaos that that can create. So we do, in our culture, have a tendency to protect our own, to try to deal with things in house, and to believe people, both sides, when they come forward with a story. I think it’s really …
If I were to give a piece of advice that has helped me personally when I’m working with a lot of chaos, [00:20:30] it’s to slow down. It’s always okay to slow down, unless there’s an immediate life or death situation. To just really take time to carefully peel through those layers and to really ask ourselves who is motivated by what. What does each of these people gain, possibly, through the story they’re sharing? Very often my experience has been … I know there will be someone listening who has an exception. There’s going to be exceptions to almost everything [00:21:00] we speak of here today.
But generally speaking, I would encourage people to believe a spouse when she’s coming forward saying, “This is what I found. This is what I’ve learned. This is what my husband is doing,” and to really lean into that, to ask good questions. “Tell me more. Tell me even more about that. Help me understand what you are seeing, experiencing, feeling. Tell me what your gut tells you.” Because when a woman has lived with someone that’s been gaslighting or minimizing behavior for years, [00:21:30] it is incredibly disorienting and distorting. So just really lean into her story. Ask for more information. Include her in meetings with the husband even. Ask for that immediate feedback on, “Does this ring true for you? Does this resonate? What he’s telling me, does this sit well with you or not?”
With the husbands … Again, I’m well aware there are female addicts and females that … a growing number, sadly, that are involved in these behaviors as well. But I think if we were to tilt [00:22:00] the pendulum one way or the other, it would be toward assuming that when someone who’s struggling with sexual issues is coming forward with their story, the chances of that being the tip of the iceberg are very high, and to lean into that as well. “Tell me more. What types of pornography are you struggling with? How long have these behaviors gone on? Tell me the thing that may be hardest for you to admit.” I think it’s important to give the man an out, meaning … What I mean by that [00:22:30] is to train our leaders to assume we’re not going to get the full story up front, at first. Sometimes it can take weeks or months for that story to come forward, even years. If someone’s not sober, chances are that their brain is not eve physiologically capable of pulling that story together, because they’ve been compartmentalizing it for years, and working really hard to forget.
Kurt Francom: Yeah.
Dr Jill Manning: So what I mean by giving them an out is to teach a member, you know, it’s very common for these [00:23:00] stories not to be … for us not to be able to put them all together right away. “Take your time. Let’s meet again, and perhaps even many times, to let this story out. I will be here to listen and support you, and it’s okay if you come back with more information about this.” Does that make sense? We need to give people, and teach them, that in these situations it’s almost expected and a given, it’s going to be a layered story. We’re not going to get the truth up front. So going [00:23:30] back to the purpose of our podcast today, I think it’s important to lean into both stories and to believe especially a wife that’s impacted by these behaviors, and perhaps did not even know they were occurring.
Kurt Francom: Yeah.
Anne Blythe: I think another thing to think about is that she’s going through this process as well. For me, I went from thinking, “Okay, these problematic behaviors are popping up. He’s screaming and yelling at me,” or whatever the behaviors were. “Is [00:24:00] this abuse? Is it not abuse? I’m going through this, so I …” Now I can look back and say I was in an abusive relationship for seven years, until my husband’s arrest. But at the time I didn’t know that, and so if a bishop looks at that and thinks, “Well, like a year ago she didn’t say that he was abusive. She said he was trying really hard,” or “This is what she thought.” She’s going through this process too. So trying to hold a space to know that as she finds out new things, and as she discovers things, [00:24:30] and as maybe she comes out of denial, that her story might change. But it’s not because it’s untrue, it’s because she’s in a process of learning the truth. She’s seeking safety, she’s seeking for the truth, and it’s a process to find those things.
Kurt Francom: Yeah, I love that. Like Jill said, just being proactive of slowing the process down, right? Because sometimes we just sort of want to … Everybody’s sort of awkward with, “Okay, you’re in the bishop’s office, let’s get through this. Okay, what’d you do? Okay, well, let’s [00:25:00] take six weeks and meet again, and maybe we can get past this, right?” But just slowing it down and being a little more sensitive to what’s happening. Jill, I love this point of, and it’s been mentioned before on the podcast, of not expecting an addict or an individual to just divulge every last detail in the first interaction with a bishop. I encourage people to check out the webinar, which is in the core leader library, we did with Steve Shields, who’s a recovering addict. He talks about this process of … The addict is almost … they’re not physically [00:25:30] capable or mentally capable … actually have that experience of just divulging everything, and so they spotlight and they do these different things to draw attention away from the general story. So I can’t emphasize that enough.
Another thing, and I think what we’re getting at, is Steve Shields mentions the point that the spouse is the barometer of what’s happening. I think that’s a great thing to keep in mind, that yeah, if the addict or the individual thinks, “Man …” To the bishop it’s looking like, “Yeah, that person’s recovering. Wow, they’re making progress. Boy, the wife though. What on [00:26:00] Earth is happening? She just doesn’t seem to be able to get past this and get through it.” That’s a red flag, because the spouse can be a great barometer of what’s really happening. Even like you said, Anne, that you kind of tricked yourself at times, thinking, “I don’t think I’m in an abusive situation,” but now you look back in hindsight and think, “Wow, there was a lot more there than I realized.”
I think what we’re really talking about and addressing is that, Anne, you were in a position where you just … you were experiencing this trauma, but [00:26:30] you were also … It was becoming more difficult to handle that trauma and get past that trauma, because you weren’t being believed, right?
Anne Blythe: Right, well, and because it was still occurring. So it wasn’t like I had a trauma and then it stopped, and nobody believed me. It was that I was continually having trauma, and it was continuing to happen, and people were confused about it, and I was confused about it. Then after his arrest, [00:27:00] he still painted himself as this person of great righteousness or whatever. Yeah, he was shutting down my bank account, he was doing all of the … His actions were all like, “Throw my wife and kids under the bus and save myself. Make sure that my image looks good, that I can go to the mid-singles ward and look like I’m the victim.” While the wife and kids are really, really hurting. I was painted as the bad [00:27:30] guy, and so that was just so difficult to have even my own bishop, who’s supposed to be supporting me through this horrific event, believe him, right?
Kurt Francom: Yeah.
Dr Jill Manning: Oh and Anne, if I can jump in, because I think-
Kurt Francom: Please.
Dr Jill Manning: What I hear you saying, Anne, but you’re not using the words, is secondary trauma. There is trauma that comes from the initial discovery or the event that’s causing harm. But we, humans can experience secondary trauma when we reach out for help [00:28:00] and then get blown off, or dismissed, or not believed, or have a less than nurturing experience. Secondary trauma is a real thing. I have to say, in my years of working with wives, I have just met too many who have experienced secondary trauma from reaching out to clergy, who are doing the best they know how, but experience the very things Anne is telling us about. So I think … How do we avoid that? Well I think, again, it’s slowing down, really [00:28:30] hearing both parties, using the wife as the barometer of what’s going on, and that it’s okay not to have all the answers. That we lean into that and really make sure that we are helping both parties get the support they need.
Gone are the days … There were never good days for just having the addict have support. That just was never a good model, ever, but just to really … Again, it’s not enough to just say these people are betrayed and experiencing trauma. What do we do with that? [00:29:00] Well, we need to make sure they have the support that they need to have their story really come out fully, and to be able to give it language, and to understand what action steps they can take. So I just want to highlight the reality of secondary trauma.
Anne Blythe: I think one of the things for wives, for my Betrayal Trauma Recovery community online … One of the things I see as being the most helpful for wives, in terms of feeling supported from their leaders, is their husband being held accountable for [00:29:30] his behaviors and for his actions. What I mean is, there is some type of action taken to increase her safety. So if he needs to be out of the home, for example, because there are … It could be because she feels so unsafe and she just needs a little separation for a time, to kind of take a breather, see what’s going to happen, and he won’t leave? Maybe support from the bishop. I’m not saying in all cases, I’m just saying the action needed [00:30:00] is how they feel supported. Just talking to her usually is not … I mean, that’s helpful, but what wives are looking for is action.
Kurt Francom: Yeah. I think it’s important to mention that you’re not just talking about when physical abuse is manifested.
Anne Blythe: No.
Kurt Francom: This is even before, then-
Anne Blythe: Right.
Kurt Francom: When the addiction comes out, after several years, and that spouse is dealing with that trauma, the leader giving them permission to be proactive. “Hey, you need to take six weeks out of the home?” or whatever. [00:30:30] Again, not that he would suggest these things or bring them up. But if that wife feels like that’s the course of action, just having that support and saying, “You know what, you do what you need to do and we’ll be here. If you need to talk, I’m here. Let me know how it’s going. I’ll touch base with your spouse and make sure that he has support there.”
Anne Blythe: Right, and some accountability on his end. For example, my spouse was arrested and given a 14 month no contact order from the judge, including probation for 14 [00:31:00] months, and I’m not sure that any church action was taken at all, right? I ended up holding him accountable, and the law and the police held him accountable. I still hold him accountable, in that I do not communicate with him, because he’s still abusive, and so I go through a third party. But the church, as far as I know … But I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but I’m not sure if they ever ended up holding him accountable. So women find themselves having to either go to the police or use their own boundaries [00:31:30] to hold someone accountable, when they can’t get support from their leaders.
Kurt Francom: Again, we’re not trying to throw a bishop under the bus. We realize these are difficult situations.
Anne Blythe: Right.
Kurt Francom: I missed a lot of things as bishop, too. So in that situation, was … The bishop just saw it like, “Oh, there was just a big misunderstanding, and the police got called, and let’s just … no harm, no foul, let’s just move on,” type thing. Was that the approach that the leaders took?
Anne Blythe: No, actually he was … [00:32:00] It was almost like he thought that I was manipulating the police to get what I wanted, and so he said things like, “Well, you know if you testify it will ruin your family.” He said things like, “If you continue to act like this, you will end up divorced.” Sort of like it was my problem that all these things were happening. Rather than saying, “Okay, these things are happening because of your husband’s behaviors. I am so sorry. You are in a very [00:32:30] difficult position. What could I do to support you through this process?” It was almost like I was at fault for going to the …
What happened … I didn’t call the police. I went to the InstaCare, and the doctor asked me what happened. I told the truth. The doctor called the police, and the police came and arrested him. But it was almost like I had made up the whole thing, or contrived it, in order to get what I wanted, and what I wanted was my husband out of the house. Which was true, but the reason I wanted him out of the house was because I [00:33:00] was terrified and I needed some safety, right?
Kurt Francom: Yeah.
Anne Blythe: I did not want to get divorced, but I did need safety.
Kurt Francom: On paper, most leaders will say, “Of course I would not second-guess somebody who’s been physically assaulted. Of course [inaudible 00:33:13].” But again, that bishop is caught in the emotion, and he’s trying to assess everything, and he kind of thinks like, “Man, we’re going to lose a marriage here if we don’t say some difficult things.” I think that’s what pushed him towards saying some of those shameful things. Again, it’s very difficult, bless his heart for giving his best.
Anne Blythe: Yeah, and things that were frankly [00:33:30] untrue. I mean, the only thing that could save my marriage and bring health to it was me setting a very strong boundary, like, “You need to be out of the house unless you can exhibit healthy behaviors.”
Kurt Francom: Yeah.
Dr Jill Manning: Well, and can I introduce another term-
Kurt Francom: Yes.
Dr Jill Manning: … that I think is not spoken of enough, relative to this whole issue, and that is of unrighteous dominion. It is my professional and personal belief that pornography itself, consuming pornography, is an insidious form of unrighteous dominion. [00:34:00] Using another person, having dominion over another person, for selfish gain. I just don’t hear us talking about unrighteous dominion enough, and it spills over into their behavior and attitudes in their relationships. Abuse is real, and when someone comes in with a black eye we can see it easily. In our culture, in North America, we tend to rally behind physical abuse more readily, and we should. But my invitation is for people to really [00:34:30] be aware that emotional, spiritual, sexual, financial abuse are real, and are often linked with this issue.
If someone has lived with a personality for a long time, that has been engaging in these types of behaviors, chances are it will be hard for her to name that clearly right away. So again, slowing it down, really leaning into it, asking lots of questions, [00:35:00] and not feeling like … I think, in fact, it’s dangerous to deal with these situations in a vacuum. I, myself, as a clinician, I lean on supervisors, referrals, psychiatrists. There’s always a team. With every single one of these situations, it needs a team, and the team can absolutely include Heavenly Father. It needs to. But there is resources, and a growing number of them, too. When we’re stuck, when we’re unsure, “Hey, I don’t know what’s real and true in this whole scene.” That’s a good signal to reach out for help [00:35:30] and have others weigh in and assist.
Kurt Francom: Yeah, great point. I love that. As a team, not … Obviously Heavenly Father, involving a stake president, but also having a professional counselor in the ring with everybody that just … In this scenario, Jill, having you on this podcast and being able to sort of toss the ball to you and say, “Okay, really help us understand this,” has been really helpful for me. A bishop or a priesthoodleader could experience that same dynamic by involving professional counselors in the day-to-day what’s happening, what am I missing, [00:36:00] type of scenario, right?
Dr Jill Manning: Well, and something else that I find people experience, is interesting, but I hope it’s also helpful information. There was research several years ago that showed that two-thirds of people struggling with pornography addiction have a mental illness of some sort, often it’s a mood disorder, and 44% have personality disorder traits, often narcissism.
Kurt Francom: Wow.
Dr Jill Manning: Those are really staggering numbers.
Kurt Francom: Yeah.
Dr Jill Manning: Two-thirds and 44% with personality [00:36:30] disorder traits? Those things are not going to go away magically. Those things need treatment and proper assessment. They just are not going to go away. So we’ve got that, that needs to be addressed. So when someone comes into our office … A bishop, let’s say, someone comes into a bishop’s office … It is pretty fair to assume that the person you’re meeting with is dealing with a mental health issue, in addition to the pornography use. Same with the wives, [00:37:00] with the women. We know from at least three studies that I’m aware of, one that has just come out in the last few months, that between 69 and 71% of women meet the criteria for PTSD because of the betrayal trauma. That’s a staggering amount. So when someone comes into my office, as a clinician, I am making an assumption and then ruling out through testing and good clinical interviewing. I’m assuming that we’ve got mental illness and trauma [00:37:30] in the mix. So I just think that, I’m hoping, could be helpful information for leaders to be aware of.
Kurt Francom: It’s a great place … As the individual comes in, that’s a good place to start. Let’s just make that assumption that that’s present. We could find out later that it’s not, and that’s great, that’s fine. But I think it’s helpful to make that assumption so that you can be very proactive with the resources you put in front of them.
Anne Blythe: I think another assumption that’s good to make is that this woman is likely a victim of emotional abuse.
Kurt Francom: Yeah, that’s helpful. Jill, [00:38:00] I know you’re short on time. What final encouragement would you have for leaders, or thoughts, anything we’ve missed that hasn’t been covered in this discussion? I know this could probably be a five hour discussion, but anything else that need to be highlighted.
Dr Jill Manning: Right. Well, the final point that I’d lead off on is that we … We’ve mentioned this word, but if I were to choose one thing that I think is most helpful for leaders, it’s to zoom in on safety. These situations are incredibly unsafe for a number of reasons, including spiritually unsafe. [00:38:30] I have yet to meet a leader that doesn’t do well handling this when safety is their main first go to. When a leader has safety on the mind and in the heart as they’re approaching these very complicated, tough situations, those are not the leaders that are asking women to be more sexual with their husbands. Half of my clients have STDs as a result of supposedly pornography use only. When they have safety on the mind, those are not the leaders that are [00:39:00] waiting a long time to call in resources. Safety is … It’s an unsafe situation.
Even if someone is not acting out with other people, sexually, pornography use in and of itself is a safety risk. What type of pornography use? How long has it gone on? We know the research says pornography use, in and of itself, leads to changes in beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. Some of that behavior is increased aggressiveness and abusive tendencies. [00:39:30] So that would be my final point, is to … I’d want to thank leaders out there that are doing the best they know how with these situations, and to encourage them to be aware of the reality of trauma and secondary trauma, and to focus on safety first and foremost when these situations come forward.
Kurt Francom: What about you? I can’t imagine the experience you’ve been through, Anne. As a former bishop I’ve had similar individuals in front of me, looking at me as their priesthoodleader, [00:40:00] and inside I’m just thinking I don’t exactly know what to do. I feel the promptings, I feel the encouragement from the other side of the veil, but … man, I want to help, but this is hard. What final encouragement or thoughts do you have for leaders, or more of your story that would help us understand maybe some situations happening in our own wards?
Anne Blythe: Yeah. You know, right now, just in this moment, talking to you, the thing I am thinking the most is how grateful I am for [00:40:30] Heavenly Father, because it felt like the jaws of hell were gaping after me. I was trying everything I could to save my family and to help my husband, because I love him and I wanted our family to be together. Because his behaviors were not evident to other people or even myself, the only thing I could do was just pull back and establish emotional safety for myself, with the help of [00:41:00] the therapist that I had, and the sponsor that I had, and the coach that I had. Just start with, “Okay, I am only going to surround myself with people who understand the situation for right now, and then later when I’m feeling safe and more stable, then I can work out from there.”
I’m just so grateful for Heavenly Father for providing my friends, and family, and supportive people that were around me. Because the traumatic events that happened, they didn’t happen with everyone, [00:41:30] right? It was some of my church leaders, my now ex-husband, his family, etc. So now when I look back on it, I think, “Wow, those traumatic events happened, but God did provide a way for me to escape.” I read the scriptures every day. I attended the temple every week during that time. Even though I could not feel peace, because it was so traumatic and things were so awful, [00:42:00] I continued to obey the commandments, I continued to attend the temple, I continued to go to church. I just held on for dear life, hoping that some time in the future I would be able to feel the fruits of my own righteousness. Because women in this situation, if they are righteous, they cannot feel the fruits of their righteousness, because Satan is in their home, but not because of anything they’ve done. The power of Satan’s in [00:42:30] their home because of the pornography and the lies and the manipulation that are surrounding them.
I’m so grateful now that it’s been two years since his arrest, and I feel mostly happy now, mostly peaceful, and I know that the church is true. I know that this is very complex and very difficult, but I know that if we continue to do the right thing, be honest, do the things we need to do, that God will [00:43:00] help us. Even if it seems like it’s the most impossible mountain to climb, and that really we’re just hanging on by a thread and if we let go then we’ll be swallowed alive, that there is hope on the other side of that. If we can just hold on long enough, Heavenly Father will provide a way for us.