Podcast: Play in new window | Download | Embed
Subscribe: Google Podcasts | Email | | More
How does a person heal after experiencing narcissistic abuse? At what point do you realize that enough is enough? What can you do to help yourself heal for the better after a painful relationship?
In the fourth podcast episode of the How I Got Through It series, Joe Sanok speaks about overcoming infidelity and an abusive spouse with Dr. Ashley Funk.
In this Podcast:
- The turning point
- Uncovering truth
- Healing in the next phase
- Getting into a new relationship
- Ashley’s advice to her past self
The turning point
A lot of the time I was going to class, going to practicum, working on my dissertation … [I experienced] this overwhelming feeling of “[there’s] no escape”. I would be stressed out at graduate school … and I would go home and be stressed out too because I would be experiencing [what I know now to be] psychological abuse. (Dr. Ashley Funk)
Ashley felt trapped in feelings of overwhelm and helplessness.
It was not until she discovered her ex-partner’s second affair that she made the move to end their relationship, and experienced physical violence from him in her attempt to leave.
The more that Ashley learned about the situation that she was in after she left, the more she felt able to put it behind her and move on.
I got all the books I could get my hands on [about] the subject. I found a therapist who specialized in narcissistic abuse recovery and started going to therapy every week … and reading all the books on that subject matter was probably the best thing I could have done for myself. (Dr. Ashley Funk)
Educating yourself about what you have been through can support your healing process because it allows you to put labels on things that you previously didn’t understand, and shows you that other people have overcome similar challenges.
There’s something amazing about reading things and being like, “Oh my gosh, there are other people that have been through this”, and it makes you feel that you are not the “crazy one” [because] … this is something that other people in the world have experienced. (Joe Sanok)
Healing in the next phase
Ashley took steps to find new people in her area and made a group of wonderful friends for support and connection.
Unknowingly, it is in this group of friends that Ashley met her fiancé.
These people were just wonderful and I finally started to feel like myself again. (Dr. Ashley Funk)
For her healing journey, Ashley joined group therapy on the recommendation of her therapist with other women who had experienced similar things with their current or former spouses.
That [recommendation] was also very good because I could see these different stages of healing … [I could see that] this person’s ahead of me and that’s what I have to look forward to, and that was very helpful. (Dr. Ashley Funk)
She also took creative approaches to cope and heal from her experiences by turning them into artistic expressions by completing a photographic series with a close friend.
Getting into a new relationship
In her current relationship, Ashley and her fiancé value and practice deep and open discussions.
They work hard on their communication to make it accountable, kind, and consistent to serve both their needs and desires.
Ashley’s advice to her past self
Trust your instincts and your gut, and do not dismiss them. If you see the consistent red flags, if you feel the doubts, don’t rationalize them or ignore them. Trust yourself.
Books mentioned in this episode:
Useful Links mentioned in this episode:
Check out these additional resources:
Meet Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.
Thanks For Listening!
Feel free to leave a comment below or share this podcast on social media by clicking on one of the social media links below! Alternatively, leave a review on iTunes and subscribe!
Before we start this episode just a trigger warning. Some of this content may not be appropriate for all listeners. We will be talking about infidelity, abuse, physical, financial and dishonesty from a former spouse. So just wanted to let you know that before we dive into today’s episode.
This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 739.
I’m Joe Sanok, your host, and welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. We are doing a series called how I got through it, and we’re talking about all sorts of different things that people have gone through and how they got through it. Like I said, on other episodes, the goal is not to tie this up into a tidy bow and say, and then everything works out fine. A lot of times the things we go through live with us or peak their ugly heads out once in a while. Just learning from other people how they got through it, the tools and the stories and the healing and the ongoing pain is really the point of this series, to just allow these stories to emerge and to have conversations with people that want to share what has happened in their lives, but then also how they’re getting through it have gotten through it, all those sorts of things.
Today we have Dr. Ashley Funk. Ashley, welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. I’m so glad that you’re here today.
[DR. ASHLEY FUNK]
Joe, thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here as well and share my story. I hope it helps everybody that’s listening.
Well, let’s start with who’s Ashley. Tell us about who, what do you do for work and a little bit about yourself?
I am a licensed psychologist. I have a private practice in Fort Worth, Texas called Paradise Psychology. I treat anxiety disorders and I help caregivers manage unwanted behaviors displayed by their children. I work with people to improve their relationships with open communication, boundary setting, that’s my niche. That’s what I do for a living. I live with my fiancé. We’re getting married next year on Friday the 13th.
Yes, he’s a huge horror movie fan. So that was a must. We live with our two cats and we’re actually training one of them to go on walks.
That’s awesome. Wow, wow. That’s really awesome. Well, you said in the application that you’ve been through some stuff with your former spouse. Take us back to wherever you feel like it makes the most sense to start your story.
Yes. Well, I was going to graduate school, which I started in 2009. I met my ex-husband and we dated all throughout, I think the second year of graduate school through my graduation. We got married right before I went to internship so we had moved across the country right after we got married. About three years after our marriage, we divorced. So during our relationship, I guess I was not aware of it, it was just the norm to me but I had suffered a lot of psychological abuse. There was a lot of name-calling, gas-lighting, even financial abuse. I was the breadwinner in the relationship and I paid everything and I was lied to about what was in his account. So it was, “I don’t have the money to pay for these things.”
So every financial burden was on me even though I was a student for most of our relationship and an intern postdoc, we don’t earn a lot of money doing that. There was infidelity that came out and that was the trigger to our divorce was the second affair. There was an amping up, there’s a lot of intimidation and threats and movements towards physical abuse but right before our divorce, it finally got physical and that was the stunning factor to me where I was like, wow, I can’t believe I’m living this right now.
Well, when you were in the midst of it how did you get through, I mean, being in the thick of all that, because that’s just a lot to be dealing with somebody??
I honestly, I don’t know. I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure I, a lot of the time was going to class, going to practicum, working in my dissertation, working on all these things. It was this overwhelming feeling of no escape. I would be stressed out in graduate school because it is a very stressful thing and then all of a sudden, I would go home and be stressed out too because I’d be experiencing a lot of psychological abuse. I had support initially when I first entered the relationship, but eventually all of that support was lost as my ex-husband isolated me from all of my friends. I would get guilted and things like that.
When did you know it was time to leave?
I was, actually his first mistress, I guess I’ll say called me at my workplace and wanted to talk to me. That was how I found out about the first affair. I had told him, I promise you, if you ever cheat on me again, I’m going to leave you. I remember catching him in the second affair and I was like, I’m making good on my promise and that was, I’m leaving. Like I’m done, I’m leaving. I can’t do this anymore. This realization that every argument we had, the first thought that popped in my head was why do we keep doing this, this isn’t working. Why don’t we just leave? Why don’t we just divorce? Why are we continuing to do this?
Yes, so as you’re getting divorced, separated, I know that oftentimes that can be messier for some people, cleaner for others. Were there things that emerged during that time that for you, like what happened during that time?
After I separated, since I didn’t really have any support locally, all my family loved out state the only number I knew to call is I had a colleague that I had their personal phone number and I just remember driving aimlessly because I left the house because I knew if I stayed, things were not going to go well. Called her, she let me crash at her house and I remember calling my parents just saying, you need to come here. Like you need to come. This is what happened. My mother actually stayed with me for about three or four months after to make sure, because the house was in my name so removing him from the home and packing up his belongings and making sure he did not come back.
During that time, it was a very heavy education period where I came through a lot of realizations of what exactly had been happening to me the last seven years and it was very enlightening. So I had got all the books, I could get my hands-on on the subject. I found a therapist who specialized in narcissistic abuse recovery and started going to therapy every week. That was probably like that. Reading all the books on that subject matter was probably the best thing I could have done for myself.
What were some of those books that were really helpful during that phase?
The first one I read was actually Psychopath Free by Jackson McKenzie and that book really gave me the labels I needed so that I could look back and say, oh, I remember this exact thing happened to me and it’s called gas lighting. Or like I remember that this happened to me and it’s called moving the goal post. So I was able to label all these experiences that I’d had, which was fantastic. Then I read Shannon Thomas’s Healing from Hidden Abuse, which is what helped me progress through those stages of healing. That in conjunction with working with my therapist is what got me to a point where I felt like I could finally like breath and move forward.
I mean, I love that you talk about reeducation or just like allowing yourself to understand terms and to normalize that you’re not the only person that’s been through this. There’s something amazing about reading things and being like, oh my gosh, there’s other people out there that have been through this, that then it makes you feel like you’re not just the crazy one that has experienced these things or that somehow, it’s only your own perspective, but this is actually something that other people in the world have experienced. Once you had some of that initial language I imagine it, maybe it took time, maybe it didn’t take time, but like what did the next bit of time look like in regards to your healing, your growth? How did you focus on that next phase as you moved out of that relationship?
The next thing I did is I joined this app called Meet Up, which was just to find friends because I had realized I was so socially isolated. I didn’t have any support and I needed to get out there and find support. I found this amazing group of friends through a 20s and 30s group and it’s actually how I met my fiancé. We would hang out at least once a week and these people were just wonderful. I finally started to feel like myself again, I used to be so social and a fun person and I started to finally feel like that. A lot of what I did, too, is I also not just did individual therapy, but I was invited by my therapist to join a group therapy with women who were experiencing similar things with their spouses or former spouses or former partners.
That was also very good because I could see these different stages of healing that I was like, oh I’ve been there or, oh I’m with this person or, oh this person’s ahead of me. That’s what I have to look forward to. That was very helpful. Another thing that I did, which I absolutely is like probably one of the, my most favorite memories I’ve ever had, which is a funny thing to say is I have a photographer friend. This is when I lived in Florida and I contacted him and said, “Hey man, I want to do a photo shoot on the stages of grief from a toxic relationship and I want to act this out.” So he and I got together and actually photographed all the stages of grief and put this compilation together and it was like the most amazing experience, but it was also very like cathartic and healing for me.
Wow. So you really took what you were going through and turned it into something artistic?
Yes. Yep, it was fantastic.
Wow. So when you were post-divorce, how did you think about relationships or dating or to make sure that you weren’t bringing baggage into future relationships or triggers or things like that? What was helpful maybe where’d you drop the ball and screw up or any things that happened during that phase?
Oh yes, that was some trial and error. I had actually met my former spouse through online dating and I learned a lot from that. When I started trying to date again, I was not aware of all of the things that happened. Like I didn’t know what ghosting meant. I didn’t know what bread crumbing meant. I didn’t know what love bombing was.
I don’t know what ghosting is, but I feel like I need a tutorial now
So yes, so bread crumbing is like somebody is really nice and talks to you and then they ease up and go MIA and then they come back in the picture and hook you in and then they go MIA and it’s just a back and forth. So you feel like there’s hope and then there’s no hope and then there’s hope and there’s no hope. That’s called bread crumbing.
I mean, that happened. I was just like, what is with this person? I tried Fumble and I tried OkCupid and things like that. I had people like, oh, get on Elite Singles. I got to the point where I was talking to people and I was like, I feel like this is just awful. Like I just wasn’t, I felt like I was like throwing spaghetti at a wall, hoping it was going to stick and it just wasn’t happening. I remember talking to my therapist about it and she’s just like, maybe you just shouldn’t and you’re not ready or you need to get off of there and look at things a different way. The funny thing was, is when I finally realized, yes, like I’m not in a place that I have any business dating anybody because I’m not ready. I’m not healed enough. I need to focus on myself. I just got to that point where I stopped looking and I finally became okay being alone and being happy, being alone. That’s actually, when I met my fiancé, so yes, it is just like sometimes when you stop looking is when good things come,
[PILLARS OF PRACTICE]
We brought together all of our checklist’s videos and other free things in one spot so you don’t have to opt in all over the place just to get another checklist. We’ve put it all together over at pillarsofpractice.com. Whether you’re just getting started or have an established group therapy practice, we have a free e-course for you. As well we have eight-minute experts, which are short eight-minute videos around specific topics completely free. So if you want to take your practice to the next level, head on over to pillarsofpractice.com to get access to our free e-courses. Again, that’s pillarsofpractice.com to get all of those free e-courses.
So how do you, now, as you’re entering into a new relationship, not entering in, I mean you are in it, what sort of things have you done to work on yourself to own who you are to make sure your own past comes, I mean, obviously it’s your past, it’s going to be a part of who you are. But also, I think we all, especially people that are therapists that think about how we enter into the world, we also don’t want maybe the negative things that we bring and can have responsibility over. We don’t want to bring those things into future relationships or at least maybe mitigate them. How do you think through that in regards to your own development in regards to relationships moving forward?
There have been a lot of very open, deep discussions with my fiancé. I would say our communication is phenomenal and it’s had to be for that reason. Early on in our relationship there were a few things he would do every once in a while, and thankfully he is a very kind, warm-hearted individual and he’s very in tune with my non-verbals and my emotions. So when he would notice a shift, he would just be like, okay, I’m checking in. What’s going on. What’s happening? Because he would sometimes do something that would be very triggering to me. I initially wasn’t always very open and eventually I learned I have to be. So I would just tell him you did X and that’s very triggering to me for this reason. We would have a discussion about that and he would stop doing it and it wouldn’t be an issue anymore.
Or I would just say, “Hey, I’m really, really anxious about this or I have this fear and I know it’s not rational, you’re not my ex-husband, but I’m just letting this is happening right now. This isn’t about you.” And that’s, one of the differentiations I really had to make was, is what’s going on in my head right now about my fiancé or is it about my past? I’m just projecting it onto him. That is a good clarification I’ve been learning to make is okay, this is my stuff, not his stuff. I’ll still verbalize it and cheer it because he can sense the mood shift and the shift in the atmosphere, but prefacing it with this isn’t about you. It’s about me in my past. I’m working through it. Those conversations have been really helpful.
I can imagine there might be a tendency to compare current relationships in comparison to that toxic marriage. But it’s like, I would guess you’d want it to be its own entity where it’s not always in reaction to what happened, but that seems like that would be a struggle and a hard thing to figure out how to make, to just like help get through that to not always be like, oh, in the past, this is what would happen. So I’m glad you’re not doing that to have that comparison of that person all the time.
That I would say is a struggle probably in the beginning of our relationship as our relationship progressed, it’s happened less and less and less. I would say very, very rarely happens now. Yes, I mean it is because a lot of times you’re just always wondering like when’s the other shoe going to drop and when is he going to turn out to be like him but over time and over experience, you realize he’s not, my partner is not like my ex at all.
Now one question that I had asked in the previous interview that I think was helpful, if you could go back and pick yourself at any age and give some advice or wisdom based on what you’ve lived so far, what would you go back and tell younger Ashley?
That’s hard because I go back and forth with that because I like where I’m at right now and I don’t think I’d be where I am without everything I’ve lived through and experienced, no matter how bad it was. That being said even at any age, the one thing I wish I would have done was trust my instincts and trust my gut and not dismiss it. I think that was the biggest issue, was I saw the red flags, I had the doubts, I had the nasty feeling in my gut and I just rationalized it away and ignored it. I think too many of us do that because we want to trust the person we love or care about. I think that we need to also trust ourselves.
That’s so true. What ongoing tools or habits do you have as part of either every day, every week, every month, things that, for you, help you stay grounded, focused, growing? What are some of the habits that you have that help you continue on the path that you want?
I try to be really appreciative and that’s something I am still working on where I try to notice the little things that my partner does. It’s not always about big gestures of love or appreciation. Sometimes it’s just little things and recognizing that those little things are big. So if he unloads the dishwasher or cleans the cat splitter boxes, trying to acknowledge that, because sometimes we take those things for granted. I try to be very grateful and let him know those things. Anytime I have the urge to say, I love you. We just say it. Doesn’t matter if we say 80 to a hundred times a day. We’re going to say it. We also try to find things to do together and try to have that give and take and realize that it’s not always 50/50 and that sometimes it’s okay if it’s 30/70 or 60/40, that that just happens in relationships.
I also keep in check, my mind and where it is and like I said before, if something pops up and I feel myself getting reactive emotionally trying to ask myself, where is that coming from? Is that coming from a time in the past or is that coming from something that’s really going on in this moment? Is it my stuff or is it present? And making sure that I don’t project past insecurities into our current relationship because that’s not helpful and that’s not going to be productive.
Yes. Well, any final thoughts or advice for people that might be in the midst of this type of relationship or recovering from this type of relationship?
If you’re in the midst of this type of relationship, I think it’s really important to know that you’re not alone and to trust your gut. If you feel like something is off or something is wrong, know that those feelings are valid and they’re there for a reason. That is your mind and body’s way of trying to you and guide you in the right direction. For people who are healing, educate, educate, educate. The more knowledge you have, the more power because if you’re able to identify and label and be aware of those behaviors when they happen, it helps you to not fall into the same pattern and do it all over again.
Such great advice. Ashley, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast.
Thank you so much for having me.
If people want to connect with you, if they want to check out your website, where can they check that out?
I actually have some professional pages for my business on Instagram and Facebook and they’re both at Paradise Psychology PLLC. You can also Google my business at Paradise Psychology PLLC and that’ll take you to my website and it’ll also have my email and my phone number listed.
Awesome. Well thank you so much for being on the show.
Wow. This series is just to join people in the tough stuff of being human to hear how people are so resilient and people like Ashley who went through this, but then didn’t let it just change her in the sense of keep her down. But she went and she learned and she read and she entered into new friendships and just to see that conundrum oftentimes of wow, I became the person I am today because of this grief, because of these things that have happened. That seems to be something that is just very affirming for me personally because I’m starting to see more of that in my own unfolding of life that I have an appreciation that I don’t think I would’ve had. Like I feel like I was scratched up a bunch and now I’m recovering and that I get to be the person I am today because of some really tough things. So that’s something I just keep hearing over and over and that’s my takeaway. Not saying that has to be your takeaway.
Our sponsors, we have a bunch of sponsors that help sponsor the show. Today we’re actually, we are the sponsor. So we have the Pillars of Practice e-course. It’s a free e-course that’s aimed at two different types of people. There’s two different courses that you can get access to totally for free. One of the pillars of practice is for people that are starting a practice, they have solo practice. We have checklists, we have infographics, we have a bunch of videos, some eight-minute experts on a variety of different things like website design, marketing, money to just in eight minutes, tell you everything that you need to know about that topic.
Or if you’re growing a practice, so maybe you have a thriving solo practice. Maybe you’re moving into a group practice or already have a group practice and you’re established. We have a whole nother e-course that’s totally free for you. These are robust, e-courses. This isn’t just some little checklist that you get for free. It’s a full e-course that helps you really get a number of things that are going to help you in starting a practice or growing a practice totally free over at pillarsofpractice.com. Again, that’s pillarsofpractice.com.
Thank you so much for letting me into ears and into your brain. Have an amazing day. We’ll talk to you soon.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music.
This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the producers, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.