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Domestic and Spiritual Abuse #560

Join us at the Sexy Marriage Radio Getaway in Indianapolis, June 23-25, 2022 –

Today, everyone gets the full show …

Today we dive into a topic that is sadly far too reaching in our world –  domestic and spiritual abuse. Colleen Ramser joins me in our discussion about how these types of traumas impact both men and women.

We also get into how each of us who have been impacted by this type of trauma can heal going forward.

Learn more about Colleen here –

And check out her course here –

Enjoy the show! 9g29qpwv

Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps!  If your review is chosen and read on the podcast (anonymously, of course!), you’ll win a very special prize!

Got a question?

Call/Text us at  214-702-9565

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Speaker 1: You are listening to the regular version of Sexy Marriage Radio, You've turned on Sexy Marriage Radio, where the best sex happens in the marriage bed. Here's your host, Dr. Corey Allan.

Corey Allan: Well we just wrapped up a coaching call that we do every month with the academy members.

Pam Allan: Hang out after, that's so much fun.

Corey Allan: It absolutely is because what we have is a group of invested people in the Sexy Marriage Radio Academy that are truly looking to improve themselves, improve their marriage and help other people along the way and that's what's going on in the Sexy Marriage Radio Academy. And so this is just a quick plug to say, come join us because your voice is wanted and needed and helpful, can be helpful. Because maybe you come on board and you take a season of this is what I'm just getting from it. I'm gleaning stuff from it and then I can give back later or maybe you can come in then it's both at the same time.

Pam Allan: Maybe so.

Corey Allan: Because you just want to go to, is how you can join. That's also how you join the extended content too because you get the extra parts of the show that we do each and every week. But to everybody else too, we're so grateful that everybody shows up and joins in, calls us at (214) 702-9565 with what's going on in their mind or their heart or their marriage or their family. Because man, it's so interwoven.

Pam Allan: Brings the emails, asks the questions, is this normal? Is it not?

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Pam Allan: Subscribe for a friend, to grab their phone and put it on there.

Corey Allan: Not opposed to that at all because what better way than to have a conversation when you show up at work the next day. Care to explain why this show's now showing up in my podcast app? I'd like to know more, please.

Pam Allan: Just thought you'd enjoy it.

Corey Allan: Yeah, trust me. It'll be good for you. Before we get to the show, we need to give a quick reminder to everybody that if you want to come to the getaway and get a scholarship for your registration, Pam and I are throwing in, we're going to a scholarship a couple that wants to come join us June 23rd to the 25th in Indianapolis for this year's getaway. You need to send us an email, and put in the subject lines, SMR getaway we want in, somewhere in the body of it and we'll put you in the random drawing.

Pam Allan: Yeah. Do it before March 2nd. That is Texas Independence Day.

Corey Allan: Yeehaw.

Pam Allan: That's the deadline for us doing the drawing. Make sure you get in before then and we want to see you there.

Corey Allan: Come see us in Indy. And if you don't want to enter the drawing or you don't win, come join us anyway. The deadline for the early bird registration ends April 15th but register at and we hope to see you there.

Corey Allan: Well coming up on today's show, actually we do this a couple different times so we're giving the full show today to everybody.

Pam Allan: Nice. Okay.

Corey Allan: Because I'm joined by a fellow LPC, Colleen Ramser and she works, she's a trauma therapist and she works in the world of spiritual abuse and domestic abuse. And they're not always reportable offenses but they do actually impact people. It's not like there's flat on verbal, physical altercations that are happening but there are aspects that are abusive and they are impactful and they're painful and they're harmful. And we've kind of had a thread through some of our shows lately on the idea of big T, little T trauma, how do we deal with it? And so I came across her a couple months back listening to another show that she was on and I'm like, I got to get her on. And so we finally got a chance to record and we just, we kind of walk through the system and the individual and the dynamic. And then more importantly, what do you do about it? How do you heal? What are the steps we need to take?

Pam Allan: There you go. Some solutions, that's what we want to hear.

Corey Allan: And so that's why we're giving the full show because I didn't feel right saying, "Well, if you want to learn how to heal, join the Academy and you'll get all that info." This is something I think everybody needs to be exposed to. Because we all face turmoil and things that impact us in various ways that we need to deal with better and so she joins me today and we dive deep into that.

Pam Allan: That's great. I'm looking forward to it.

Corey Allan: It's always a pleasure to be joined on the show from a fellow therapist. And so Colleen, we got our work cut out for us because sometimes when I have a therapist join me, we got to realize we're not doing therapy for the whole world right here in this conversation but we are talking about some very important concepts. Colleen Ramser is joining me. You're an licensed professional counselor and then a certified EMDR trauma specialist, right?

Colleen Ramser: Yes.

Corey Allan: That's some training I don't have so this will be fun to kind of see how some things can overlap. But Colleen, welcome to the show.

Colleen Ramser: Yeah. Thanks for having me. It's a privilege to come on.

Corey Allan: And I'm going to just give everybody a heads up on how I found you just because I think this is pertinent information. I had a colleague friend of mine earlier in 2020 mentioned the podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. And so that's the story of Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill Church up in Seattle and how it just boomed and grew giant and then it all collapsed within a short timeframe, relatively speaking. And as I'm listening to the podcast, which was really well done, you could find it in almost any podcast app that you use, you were on.

Corey Allan: And so as I'm listening to some of the dialogue of the whole concept of spiritual abuse and just some of the different traumas that come from a religious and spiritual context, it immediately made me think, okay, that's something we got to talk about because you know that's playing out, not just in the world that as a whole for churches but in the world as a whole for marriages. And so that's where I want to go is just, what do you see in the world of marriage and relationships when it comes to some of these different traumas that we experience? And let's just kind of go broad brush and then we'll drill down into deeper nuances.

Colleen Ramser: Sure. I figured you're going to be opening the flood gates with this episode. Get ready. Because I think that it happens more often than we think and there's a lot of people who are very desperate for some hope and for some healing. I think Mike did a great job with the Mars Hill podcast and being able to shed some light on it, open some doors with it, create the conversation for sure. But it is something that I see often because I specialize with domestic abuse and spiritual abuse. On the spiritual abuse and a lot of it looks like just simply having a power differential and even at the simplest form, a pastor doesn't understand that his words bring a whole lot of weight.

Corey Allan: Absolutely.

Colleen Ramser: Just simply speaking. But then on the other end, there's a lot of forcefulness that can take place with this where there's whole systems and institutions that kind of have this way about them that if you don't hop on the train, you're going to get kicked off or you're going to be run over. And so there's this concept of agency within the church that I see in choice. And that being taken away, not only with spiritual abuse but also with domestic abuse and marriages, where often I'll see the woman as a victim and she feels she can't express some of these things that are happening in the home. It's just submit more, do more, pray more. It's the same with the spiritual abuse. They overlap quite a bit in that way.

Colleen Ramser: But the spiritual abuse component often we'll see staff members or people within the church who are pretty closely tied to the leadership, whatever position they had but they're being used, they're kind of being told that they have to do certain things that they don't agree with. And it's kind of a lot of times there's a lot of crazy making within that as well. They have a gut feeling something's not right.

Corey Allan: Oh, totally. Totally.

Colleen Ramser: But each time they bring it to the table, there's a lot of gaslighting. There's a lot of, you don't know what you're talking about. We know what we're talking about and a lot of times they don't realize it until it's quite a bit later that this has been happening.

Corey Allan: Okay. Let's go systemic first. Because the two things that jump about to me as you're setting the stage up, Colleen, is this idea of there's a system in place and that helps cultivate what could in some instances, unintended consequences, in some instances absolutely intended consequences and there's fine lines probably between that.

Colleen Ramser: Absolutely.

Corey Allan: And I don't want to go too far down that rabbit hole that gets into a world of cruelty and dark side and Machiavellianism and all that kind of stuff.

Colleen Ramser: It's fun.

Corey Allan: Yeah. It is but not for a show like Sexy Marriage Radio necessarily because that's a whole different beast.

Colleen Ramser: It is.

Corey Allan: To start to unpack. But then the other thing, the other term that you mentioned is this whole idea of agents.

Colleen Ramser: Absolutely.

Corey Allan: And this is one of those things that is so misunderstood, maybe is a way to think of it, misused in a lot of ways too because it doesn't necessarily fit with the Christian ethos.

Colleen Ramser: Just more self sacrifice.

Corey Allan: Exactly. Because that's that whole concept of, well, you just obviously aren't submitting enough. You just obviously aren't fill in the blank as if you don't exist as a human being and you are your own entity. How do we make sense of that to help empower people from this kind of a conversation? Because obviously therapy is one route. It's definitely beneficial in helping somebody find a safe place to discover that in themselves because ultimately that's my goal with every client is, how are you practicing better agency? I don't frame it that way but that's exactly. I don't say it that way but that's exactly the way it's framed. How do we make sense of that when it doesn't necessarily fit in the system.

Colleen Ramser: Oh 100%. I absolutely, I'm on board with self sacrifice. And I have to kind of help people understand that I'm not against that whatsoever when I talk about agency but there's a difference between that and losing yourself in someone and even using self sacrifice as a means for agency. And what I mean by that is I see a woman who is self sacrificing, quote, for her husband but she's losing her whole personhood. She's losing that image bearing that unique way that she's been created. It's chipping away each time she's enabling this abusive spouse and that's a whole other can of worms. What is an abusive spouse? But that to me is not sacrifice but it's enabling and it's not doing it out of love. It's doing it out of anxious need to have identity.

Colleen Ramser: And so there's a difference between that and choosing to actually self sacrifice out of the foundation of Christ. And agency, when we don't utilize our agency, I know you and I can nerd out about the nervous system and all kinds of different things but really we're not coming from our foundation then. We're moving in these spaces that's just creating more chaos within our whole system and who we are. And so I do believe God has created us in such a way to follow what our body is saying, to pay attention to those things, which I know A lot of people get really uncomfortable on Christian circles when we talk about the body but we can't separate that from our soul and our bodies tell us things. They say, "Don't move forward in this. Don't say yes to that."

Corey Allan: Something's off or underhanded.

Colleen Ramser: Something's not right.

Corey Allan: Right. Doesn't line up actually with better counsel or better thought.

Colleen Ramser: Absolutely. Absolutely. And so I encourage a lot of people to go with that gut feeling, to pay attention to that. And sometimes that can get a little off when you've gone through trauma but that's essentially the beginning stages of agency is paying attention to your own embodiment to then make decisions and move forward because somewhere along the way someone was using your body to make their decisions to fulfill their desires and their needs and wants.

Corey Allan: Right. Okay. I'm going to make this kind of practical just for the audience sake because this is one of those things that I hear a lot and I've even had some fascinating conversations recently with a couple that wasn't on a therapeutic standpoint, it was just a, hey, are we okay kind of a situation. And it was my wife and I and it was a pornography addiction in him that had been longterm but unknown to her. But yet as we're talking more, she's like, "Yeah, anytime the subject came up in church or I heard it, there was a pinging," is the way she described it of, "I wonder." That's what we're talking about. It's this whole.

Colleen Ramser: This is happening.

Corey Allan: Okay. I wonder if he's really got this. He said he hasn't but there's something deeper kind of saying. And I think what we do as humans and it's not just women because I think men absolutely do this too, is I don't trust my gut and I don't follow it through because one, I'm scared to get the real answer so it's easier just to live in the anxiety I know than the anxiety that could be.

Colleen Ramser: Absolutely.

Corey Allan: Which that's a good difference.

Colleen Ramser: Sometimes we live our lives that way.

Corey Allan: Well true. And that's why you're describing this idea of agency, of I give up myself because I'm sacrificing self, well sacrificing is even the wrong word. I'm not even seeking what could be because I'm just trying to relieve the moment. I just don't want the feelings I've got in the moment. And so I'm kicking it down the road to something that's going to be even worse rather than realizing.

Colleen Ramser: And it builds.

Corey Allan: Absolutely. Because I think a truism is, and I'm assuming I can speak for you here, but a truism is life does not give me the opportunity of this anxiety or no anxiety. It gives me the opportunity of this anxiety or that anxiety, which one do I want to choose.

Colleen Ramser: Yes, absolutely. And if we want to live in our truest self, in the most whole self that we can here on earth, I really do believe we have to begin with that reality. Where are we? Talking about Genesis, where are we? Where are you? And we have to kind of gather these spaces within our body and understanding where we are and what we actually want or don't want and go into boundaries, what is a push on me? And what's not? I think within spiritual abuse and domestic abuse within trauma in general, that gets so diluted. It gets really difficult to hear that and to sense that. And so there becomes sort of this process of choice and agency and noticing within your body to kind of move out of that free space or even that fight space within trauma.

Corey Allan: Right. And this is where, because I think just so I'm clarify that we're on the same page. There's a lot of the different things that we can have that happen in our life that are traumatic but they're not reportable offenses. But they are things that are definitely impacting us still. And they do alter the relationship dynamic, myself in light and the view of that relationship and myself and my view of myself even of, am I a good enough Christian? Am I a good enough spouse? Am I a good enough person? All of the different things that we can have that we put out these as these standards that I'm not all of a sudden now, wait, I'm not living according to that but I haven't really asked the question of what's that standard actually? Is it even valid?

Colleen Ramser: Yeah, who am I? And how do I want to live? Yeah, absolutely. absolutely.

Corey Allan: Okay. And so when you were talking about this idea of trusting my gut, of seeking an ability to follow that more because I think that's then where we need to slow it down for people to realize it's not I have to follow it all the way through. I just need to take the next step. Isn't that kind of what you would describe?

Colleen Ramser: Yeah. I would say it's a sense. That space is a sensing space and learning how to listen to it even within churches and when this takes place, it's unfortunate because I think what happens is there's sort of parentified thing that's happening. And so we may feel that something's off but we don't feel like we have many options or choices to get out of it. And so with that, you're sensing and trying to gather some data about what is actually happening. But I think sometimes it's helpful to have that outside resource, whether it's a therapist or somebody that's just helping you see some things that you can't see that is impacting your soul, it's impacting your personhood, your whole body.

Corey Allan: Yeah. And that's what's so weird too, is a lot of times that person may not be my spouse. Because isn't there an element of this happens on a systemic level and then on a marital level. Because as I'm hearing you talk through this of how often has the whole message of obligation sex, the whole message of submission, the whole message of headship, the whole message.

Colleen Ramser: Oh, definitely.

Corey Allan: Of respect and however, and all of those vary depending on how we define the term, but that plays out particularly for wives in some ways.

Colleen Ramser: Absolutely.

Corey Allan: Because of what people have been raised to think should be or what have been taught to think should be. And that's a whole nother issue still.

Colleen Ramser: Yeah. And they find themselves part of the system, part of the culture of it and this is the way we're supposed to do marriage. This is the way we're supposed to do life and it's kind of the whole Kool-Aid thing. You don't realize you're drinking the Kool-Aid until you're practically dead. And I hate to sound morbid of it in that way but it can feel like that, that you're so entrenched within this way of doing life and the things that are spoken from the pulpit and the way that you're encouraged within your marriage and different things that you just don't know anything different, that there's any other option or choice to be different until you see different. We don't know what we don't know until we know.

Corey Allan: Right. And so then how do you help people start to see different? What's some of the best things we could do that kind of point them in that direction?

Colleen Ramser: Yeah. I think initially there has to be a little bit of an awakening. And it, like I said, it's hard but it's more often true that people will start to see it when they've already been through a lot of damage or they've already been kind of beaten down several different ways. And it's the one person who starts to question, this is not right. And then another person says, "Yeah, I feel that same way." Within that system and questions the system or questions the marriage or they come across some sort of content, podcast or book or some sort of webinar and they start thinking, what they're describing right there sounds a little bit like what I'm going through. I wonder.

Colleen Ramser: And so they follow that thread. I think there's a little bit of that awakening that sometimes you don't know you're in it until you have something that is awakening you to it, that causes you to then question and then from there on, I will often see people then become educated on it. They understand more of what they're going through. There's words for it. Because when you go through something that's traumatic, especially like this, there's just not a lot of words to articulate what's happening inside of you and what's happening around you. When they've been educated, they have some sort of footing, maybe they've found themselves in therapy, they found a supportive community. They can begin to heal and have a little bit more clarity about what their next steps are. And of course, I can't speak for everyone on each individual step. I think the nature of trauma is attunement, being able to kind of move to the next thing that feels right versus step one, step two, step three.

Corey Allan: Oh, absolutely.

Colleen Ramser: And so I think for everyone it looks a little bit different. Sometimes it's leaving that church. Sometimes it is divorce. And I get a lot of people who say, "Are you for divorce, Colleen?" And I'm like, "No, I'm for really healthy relationships and for people to not be traumatized in these systems or marriage." And I just as much want, I will often see the woman who's a victim. I just as much want the husbands to do their work, to figure out what is it that has been a part of their foundation that is not creating these fruits of the spirit, that they're not relating in these ways that are Christlike. I want it for both. I want it for everyone,

Corey Allan: I agree because that's the idea of, I want, I use the phrase of, I want two healthy people. And the relationship, I don't get a vote, it's up to them on what you do or don't do. And so it then becomes how do we start to recognize? Because again, I think you're kind of pointing out some things that if we can be objective and look at it, it's a little we get some more clarity, which is okay my emotions serve a purpose. And if nothing else, they could be triggers to help me question things better because they're not a 100% true all the time but also not a 100% wrong all the time.

Colleen Ramser: Exactly. Yes. It's data.

Corey Allan: But maybe I could get good information from it to ask better questions to go, okay, wait, I'm starting to see a theme here of this circumstance happened and this and I kind of had the same feeling. There's got to be more to it then so how do I have the courage to ask the better questions? And then the other, and I love this, that you kind of subtly mentioned this list. I just want to point it out and put a pin in it more of, I seek out things that I know are outside of my circle, if you will, outside of my dynamic that I will go listen to things or learn some things or read something that I know I may not agree with or doesn't even apply to me necessarily. Or it's more of a story that seems sensationalized. Because what came to my mind as I was listening to you talk about this. I don't know if you've read the book, but it was, I cannot remember the author's name, it was a woman from North Korea, In Order to Live.

Colleen Ramser: Oh I don't think I've heard of it.

Corey Allan: And it was her story of escaping North Korea into the slave trade in China, into the sex slave trade and now she's in America after what she had to do to survive and just listening to because she's actually the one that read it. And so it's just like, okay, that is so profound on her plight but it also is so human. It was a lot more extreme but some of the main things are exactly what the human experience is on what we do. And what it did for me is help kind of okay, wait, I see some of that. Okay. Because that's something's so out of my normal that, okay. And then you add to it and imagine that, a therapist talking about out of my normal because you know what we hear most day in and day out is like, whoa, that's stuff I got to really deal with on my own level of walking alongside somebody who that is their experience. But it's just, I love acknowledging that fact of okay, seek out something that will stretch you a little bit.

Colleen Ramser: Yeah. Yeah. Well and I think because there's so much confusion within that piece of spiritual abuse, domestic abuse, these systems, there's just so much confusion that sometimes you just really got to get out of it in some capacity and be okay with the fact that you may be cut out because you begin to question that that's part of it. That things will get worse because you're questioning or you are saying, "I don't know if I really agree with being called a name all the time. I don't really agree with being forced to do things within the church. That I don't agree with and my gut saying no." But I think when we look at Christ and how the fruits of the spirit are when we are relating out of that, then there is self control. There is patience, there's gentleness. And if you're not seeing that, then there's a problem. Not that we're perfect. Not by any means.

Corey Allan: But it does go back to what you were describing earlier when you're talking about this aspect of agency and my own growth and getting to where it's self sacrifice, that presupposes that there is a self to then sacrifice.

Colleen Ramser: Yes, exactly.

Corey Allan: And that's a huge component of this conversation.

Colleen Ramser: It really is.

Corey Allan: Because otherwise it's a doormat and what are you actually giving? Nothing because you don't really have anything you are giving.

Colleen Ramser: Exactly. Exactly. A lot of times I'll say you're being made in the image of a system or your spouse and that is not sacrificing. I think you hit it right on the nail that you got to have a self to be able to move into these things and to give in ways that are loving. Anything beyond that or different than that is just an empty person that's trying to please someone else or please a system.

Corey Allan: Right. Which then is let's go for a minute on the idea of the domestic side of this too. Because the other side of this equation matters that when I hear couples, where if the husband is the one that's taken the headship role and he's taken the you should submit and this is more about me and whether it's an overt or it's a covert because sometimes I think it's an upbringing. It's what I believe too and I didn't even take the moment to question what that is but there's something deeper down. Because the way I see this play out in sex is I want a wife to participate willingly and want to do that for herself too. But if she's just self sacrificing, quote unquote, and not actually giving up herself, it's not in line with what I say I want but I accept it. That's part of the problem for the husband then. It's that's the way I frame it for them of okay, what you say you want, you're not doing.

Colleen Ramser: Yeah. Yeah. A plus B equals C.

Corey Allan: What's that about?

Colleen Ramser: Well, and I think too, one thing I've said before and I think trying to remember another author who says this, so I don't want to sound like I'm taking, but there's something that I've heard someone say about how sex isn't sex. We kind of have cheapened it in a lot of ways that if we are fully giving of ourselves in this moment presently, then that's a lot more genuine intimacy than completely sacrificing ourself for our spouse. And given, I think there's an element of sure do sometimes people just have sex and they have sex and there's no bells and whistles. I can understand that.

Colleen Ramser: But I think within these cases of domestic abuse, sex kind of becomes sort of this requirement versus a genuine pursuit for intimacy. And so within that, it kind of distorts the whole relationship all in itself and the agency and the ability to choose this intimacy. And I said, A plus B will C really good relating and good virtues and fruits of the spirit that I'm doing within this relationship imperfectly of course, and with weaknesses. But if my posture's within that and another person's posture is within that then sex is going to be much more fuller.

Corey Allan: Right. And because that's where you're describing that the discrepancy we can have between a higher desire, lower desire sometimes somebody's, it is more I'm doing this more for you than I am for myself but I'm still a full, willing participant.

Colleen Ramser: Yes. I'm still here.

Corey Allan: In that equation, that's a sacrifice that benefits the whole. Versus I think sometimes we get caught in these scenarios where I claim I'm sacrificing but I'm really it's to the lowest common denominator then and it's not for the benefit of the whole, it's for just alleviating the anxiety in the moment or the tension in the moment or the identity structure in the moment of but I'm a bad spouse if I. No, you're not. If you're not truly wanting to be involved in this.

Colleen Ramser: Then don't.

Corey Allan: Don't. Exactly.

Colleen Ramser: But within the domestic abuse, that becomes very complicated within that because if the woman doesn't, things could get worse. She's dealing with several other complexities for multiple days within that. And so there's this tension and helping women to see that you can say no and that God can really use that no for this spouse who's demanding and requiring and has this expectation that I should have it whenever I want it.

Corey Allan: Right. And so let's let's pivot then. And I just want to keep going. We're just going to blow right through. This will just be the full show. Everybody gets the full show today. Congratulations to everybody. This is too good. This is too good.

Colleen Ramser: Oh no. This is getting scary up in here.

Corey Allan: No, no, no, because we need to pivot to like you just teed up of, so you recognize someone's listening to this. Because I can guarantee there'll be people that are like, okay, wait, this is now a circumstance that I've been having these themes to now it's being confirmed.

Colleen Ramser: Here's the education coming. The awakening.

Corey Allan: Right here. Now, I'm sensing, that's describing me. That's something that's been my experience. That's exactly what I'm living. The next steps to start healing. Obviously therapy is one that's a definite plus.

Colleen Ramser: Absolutely hands down.

Corey Allan: But what are some of the other steps? Because you alluded to this idea of most of why we don't speak up is because I'm afraid of what's coming when I do. Because I've had moments, tell me if I'm wrong on this, but every person has had moments where they did speak up and it went badly that's why they don't anymore. And so it's recognizing, okay, but when I do find my agency, even if it's ever so slightly improved and growing, I'm going to have some major discomfort and major turmoil possibly for the short term but how do we help people understand the resolve of that? And then also what's likely can come from that.

Colleen Ramser: I think so the turmoil that comes, if you could think of it like a self that's starting to form, I know this sounds so theologically out the window but from a trauma perspective, it makes sense to talk this way. But when she's feeling and like I said, I typically see the woman who's a victim so I speak in that way but there's absolutely men out there who are in these situations. But when they begin to feel that, they're beginning their sense of self. I don't like what's going on. I don't like having to submit in these ways that I don't feel like God is requiring of me. I don't like being kicked. I don't like being emotionally abused or verbally abused, fill in the blank.

Colleen Ramser: And so the way out of that is one, to continue to educate yourself because the more you have some clarity about it mentally, it's going to help with that decision making of what is my next step? But I also want to acknowledge for a lot of my clients who go through this, there's a ton of ambivalence. This is probably the biggest and the longest parts of this process is the ambivalence because there's good times and there's bad times. And there's this kind of trauma bonding that happens where when there's inter there's this positive moment with your spouse and then there's this really bad moment and it's awful. This is different than your regular ups and downs within a marriage, the severity, the intensity, the pattern.

Corey Allan: This is actually because I've been reading on this just recently, just refreshing because of some of the client load I've got right now, that this is actually what Schnarch referred to this as is this is disgust trauma bonding. Because it's your disgust reaction in your brain, which is actually a automatic response that's in the brain, it's neurological. And it can bond us. It's super glue to somebody and it's hard to break.

Colleen Ramser: It is so hard to break. There's a lot of education. There's a lot of how do you get yourself emotionally safe? Sometimes a woman can't be physically safe just yet because there's a whole lot of stuff to do to prepare for that. A lot of times that does look like sometimes even going to therapy without a spouse knowing. I think it's important to pick someone who knows domestic abuse and I mostly work with Christian domestic abuse so definitely someone who has that combo who can nuance some of that's going to be really important. But one thing that I've seen is when a woman is able to work through some of the trauma, whether it's through EMDR or somatic experiencing or internal family system, some of these modes of treatment that are really great for trauma. When she's worked through some of that, it's almost like it clears out the debris enough, you got the education piece and then she can see so much more clearly what's in front of her. The self begins to form that it's a little bit more solid.

Colleen Ramser: And so those things that are happening within the home get a little bit, even more irritating. No, I see myself made in the image of God and I am worth and I do have dignity and worth. And so that's when I see a little bit of that ambivalence begin to kind of wax and wane and they're either telling their spouse, "Hey, you need to get some help or I'm leaving." They may even I call it therapeutically separate, which I know the church is scared to death of but the way I kind of see it is if he can do his work and she's doing her work and they're healing and within the trauma world, this whole integration is taking place. They're forming a better sense of who they are in Christ. Then you can begin to integrate as a couple way down the line. Definitely not in the beginning stages. I do not recommend doing marriage counseling in these cases in the beginning because the woman's just going to be kind of indirectly abused in the session.

Colleen Ramser: And so that's kind of how I see it kind of happen. But then there are some women who, for many, many various different reasons they don't leave. And I think as a therapist, it requires a lot of patience and understanding. They have their reasonings why they're not leaving and what does it look like to live within this marriage and still be the healthiest person you possibly can?

Corey Allan: Well, I think that's where you start to describe that's a more subtle path and goal of agency while still staying.

Colleen Ramser: Exactly.

Corey Allan: That it is an element of, because that's what I kind of have a similar journey in the sense of my goal becomes how do I help people? Because most of them will come in and maybe it's not to the severity that you describe and what you work with but predominantly but there's this goal of I'm stuck. And it's tilted sadly, severely not in my favor because the big ones I hear is, financially. There's no way I could leave.

Colleen Ramser: 100%.

Corey Allan: Even though the behaviors I'm tolerating are intolerable in some ways because they're affairs or it's verbal or it's emotional or some different things that can be abusive. But even if you could start to empower them to take a stance within that dynamic better, it can shift the dynamic some. Doesn't necessarily solve it but I earn my self respect by doing that and I can still then choose to, you know what? For the betterment of I can and that at least gives me clarity in the short term and sometimes that's enough of a disruption in the system to alter it to a much better stage.

Colleen Ramser: Yeah. And I've seen where, gosh, these are some of the strongest women I've ever seen. Because you really, it's one thing to go and leave. Like I said, I'm not at all saying not to leave or to leave or to stay. For everyone it is absolutely a very personal decision. But when I see women stay, there's so much energy that takes place to stay with that self and who they are and who God's created them to be. They have to do it daily, sometimes hourly. When they are being questioned or their boundaries are being crossed or they're sensing that manipulation or crazy making or gaslighting, all of these things, they have to keep finding their footing over and over and over again within the Lord because they're so easily pushed all over throughout their day.

Corey Allan: And I think it has to be stated just, and the interest of this needs to be noted, this is not just a female against male.

Colleen Ramser: Oh 100%. Yes. Yes.

Corey Allan: Because there's an element of husbands and husbanding that have the same scenario of, I feel like I'm the crazy one. I feel like I have no stance. I feel like I'm the one that's being abused here. It's typically not the physical in the sense that because you got the strength differences and the presence differences in a lot of ways but not always.

Colleen Ramser: Definitely the men can be the ones who are being abused. I tend to come out in this way because I mostly see women.

Corey Allan: No. And that's the more predominant setup because of the way society has been, for sure the way culture and churches have been. Because you started off the show with this whole idea that it's really all surrounding the aspects of power. Because whoever has claimed the power either culturally, silently.

Colleen Ramser: Or even perceived.

Corey Allan: Systemically even, absolutely, even if it's just perceived. You got to be careful how you wield that power.

Colleen Ramser: 100%.

Corey Allan: And sometimes people know exactly what they're doing in the wielding of their power.

Colleen Ramser: They do.

Corey Allan: And sometimes they don't. And so I think even those two things have. Let's go there for a second. Because what do you do with the difference between the people that know what they're, you're in a system where they've known how they're doing this versus it's kind of the unintended consequence of it but it still doesn't mean it doesn't matter and it's not important and impactful.

Colleen Ramser: Well, I think I'd bring it back to the basics. Because I will often hear, well, I just didn't know or I'm trying the best I can or fill in the blank. But again, I know I've said this a few different times but if we come back to just the basics of relating.

Corey Allan: Okay, perfect.

Colleen Ramser: If I am mean to you in any capacity, then you're not going to want to be around me. And so I think there's this sort of simple element of if I act entitled and if I take advantage of you and I take what I want, no matter what, it's not this whole did I know or not know, I think there's this sort of moral code within us that we're being selfish. We are taking what's not ours and we're doing it at someone else's expense. And so whether it's known or not, I think deep down, there's an element of, I probably shouldn't do that.

Corey Allan: Does this help? Because this is what came to my mind. Because it's something I use with some clients occasionally. I need to do it more because I think this is really powerful of imagine, replay a scene in your life. I'm not saying this to you, I'm saying it to everyone listening to the show. Well even if you want to join in, let's play, Colleen.

Colleen Ramser: An exercise.

Corey Allan: Lets do an exercise. Replay a scene and a dynamic as if you were watching a movie with the sound off between you and your spouse on how that moment went unfolded. And you're in the audience just watching. What do you glean from how that unfolded? Because that's where morality becomes a lot more clean on okay, wait. That stance, that reaction that, yeah okay. There's something. It helps us come. That's the clarity you're describing. I can see something outside of the norm that I have lived in, which can give me pause to ask a better question, courage to make a better move or do something different or remove myself. Then all of a sudden we open up scenarios because I would imagine you have a lot of times where people would say, "But I don't know what to do." And then when I can slow myself down, you actually realize I got a lot of options of what I can do.

Colleen Ramser: Yeah. Yeah. And that's the essence of healing too, is choice. Having options, knowing what your options are but even going back to the whole relating piece, sometimes I'll get, well, it's just her trauma. It's her trauma that's kicking in there. But I still go back to the basics. Well, if you had a vulnerable person in front of you, would you still take advantage of them and just say, "Well, they're just vulnerable." If she's got these things that make her more vulnerable to certain things within the marriage, whether it's sexually or even emotionally, I think the heart of Christ is to actually be sensitive to that. Not just plow forward and to really exercise that attunement or that kind of watching and learning. What is my spouse doing right now? How do I need to adjust in healthy ways? Not necessarily in walking on eggshell kind of ways, but more in this capacity of gentleness and kindness that I'm coming alongside of you versus forcing you forward into these things or making and demanding you to do these things.

Corey Allan: Right. I'm being an ally in this with you and I'm truly the help meet.

Colleen Ramser: Yeah, mutual submission.

Corey Allan: Right. And that's the biblical side of it too, of I'm not meant to complete you but I'm also not here to dominate you. We are partners in this. And so how do I view these things as moments to go, that's when it does become self sacrificing on the other side of the equation. I sacrifice what my normal was or what I thought and I get into that, wait, this is actually for the betterment of the whole.

Colleen Ramser: And that is Christ sacrifice. It's power under versus power over.

Corey Allan: That's perfect.

Colleen Ramser: It's how can I serve you in these ways? And that's from a really strong sense of who you are. Typically the other way is, woo that self has got some stuff going on.

Corey Allan: Well, and it's worth noting because back in the archives of SMR is Gary Thomas was on, for those in the Nation that are new. Then there's a book on when to walk away that he wrote and it's actually following Christ's example of how he avoided toxic situations and toxic people by walking away and removing himself or being clear about, that's not why I'm here. And because I'd always loved the thought process of the scriptures where it describes the crowds mobbing him and they need things from him and he slips away and it's like, wow, selfish of Jesus. But we don't put the had equation on him because he is like, no, I'm about something bigger. I'm going to solve a bigger issue, if you have a biblical worldview. But it's also recognizing I don't have to meet everybody's needs according to what they want. I can also meet it according to what I want because I have a role in this too.

Colleen Ramser: Absolutely. And the capacity for it. Sometimes we need that time away. We need that solitude. I know I do, to build up the capacity to be able to move, to be able to do all these things. And so to be constantly just giving and doing is not healthy.

Corey Allan: That's great. Well, Colleen, this has been fun.

Colleen Ramser: Yeah. I've enjoyed it.

Corey Allan: I thank you so much. Tell members of the Nation how they can find more of you and I'll put all this also in the show notes too.

Colleen Ramser: Yeah. Yeah. I have a private practice and of course, if you're not in the state of Kentucky, you can't see me but I do have a group practice. It's I'm assuming you'll put that in there, the spelling and different things. I do do you speaking, trainings and other podcasts, so I love to do that. I've got some clinicians who see a lot of domestic abuse and spiritual abuse, so you can go there for that. But then I also have a course that I've developed and it's a different website, it's I currently have a wait list but this next upcoming one that I'm going to launch, I think I'm going to include some bonus episodes on spiritual abuse. But this course is just literally the basics, the foundation of everything I teach that's trauma informed, being in his image, being a Christ follower. That's holistic. It's very foundational and you can find that there and register for it. But that's two of the best ways to keep up with me.

Corey Allan: Perfect. Well Colleen, all the best and blessings on your work.

Colleen Ramser: Yeah, you too.

Corey Allan: And thank you so much for what you do and for the time today, all right?

Colleen Ramser: Yeah, absolutely.

Corey Allan: Well, I'm fascinated by the different people we get to be exposed to because of the show. From the stuff that helps set up this kind of content that we get from listeners' emails, calls, all that all the way through but then other professionals that are in the trenches that do really good work and Colleen and I, it was funny because she wanted to connect beforehand. This is a little behind the scenes stuff just to kind of get an idea of the show and we talked for an hour and at one point we were like, we should probably be recording this shouldn't we? I'm like, yeah, this is really good stuff we're already talking through.

Pam Allan: Okay. I'm just saying every time you meet with someone, you need to record it because.

Corey Allan: Good point.

Pam Allan: I don't know how many times I've heard you say we should have been recording that.

Corey Allan: Good point. Good point. Well, I will learn from that and take noted.

Pam Allan: Thank you.

Corey Allan: All right. Well this has been Sexy Marriage Radio. We're so grateful that you took some time out of your day to spend it with us. And if we left something undone, let us know (214) 702-9565 or We'll see you next time.