Do you suspect you have a narcissistic husband who makes you feel crazy? It’s easy to lose touch with reality when you don’t have a firm handle on who you are and what you truly feel and where you end and he begins. I’m excited to welcome my guest, therapist and author Shannon Petrovich LCSW, LISAC, BCD, for this episode. She’s an expert in truly toxic or abusive relationships.
In episode 29 of The Authentic Wife Show, you’ll learn how to handle the tantrum or emotional guilt and manipulation from your husband after you hold a boundary, when you should walk away from physical abuse, how a wife’s anxiety can contribute to an unhealthy relationship, if a toxic relationship is co-created, what to do with a husband who won’t talk to you, and how to handle suicide threats.
You can also watch this episode on my YouTube Channel:
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This is the largely unedited auto-transcription of the show:
Beth Rowles: [00:00:00] Shannon, thank you for being here today. I’m really looking forward to picking your brain, , getting all of your expertise on this. So you have a very interesting set of credentials and a big background in social work and stuff. How did you become an expert in healing from toxic
Shannon Petrovich: relationships? Thanks Beth.
Thanks for having me on. It, it’s been an interesting journey. I think that I originally wanted to be a doctor of my whole childhood, but became interested in really more how relationships and people work and went into grad school and social work instead. So it was in, in those early days, actually, I even before grad school, part of what drove me to grad school was working in the domestic violence field and working in a domestic violence shelter, working with the kids and the women and was really intrigued, but felt like we weren’t helping enough.
And so I really wanted to understand better what was [00:01:00] going on and in learning about that. That drove me to grad school. So in grad school I learned about all the different aspects of, of people and relationships. And then I have been in the field for about 35 years. In that time I’ve worked with individuals and couples and families and, and and then about four or five years ago, I developed a YouTube channel because I felt like I had a lot of information to share and sharing it one person one hour at a time seemed kind of minimal and I wanted to just, there were just seemed like millions of people in the world that didn’t have any access to mental health therapy or help.
a lot of the strategies and insights that I’ve gathered. And in sharing on YouTube, what I found was that people were most intrigued by, and most curious and bothered by their relationships, and mostly about narcissistic and other toxic and [00:02:00] abusive relationships. So that became my focus. And over the past year, I realized, Just 10 minutes of a video or even an hour live stream every other week, which I do wasn’t enough to help people really deal with and heal from these kinds of relationships.
So I wrote a book and I completed that and, and published it in May. Wow. And it’s called out of the fog into the clear journaling to help you heal from toxic relationships. And it’s all about really understanding what happened, what’s going on understanding what’s toxic and what’s not, and also how to set boundaries.
How to un, how to be fully present in a relationship to see if it can get better, and to see if you can have boundaries within the relationship. And then, if not, then understanding how to be good to yourself and take care of yourself and, and get free from. Well, that’s wonderful.
Beth Rowles: [00:03:00] Congratulations on the book.
I love that you made it like a journal to really help people do the work on their own. That’s, that’s wonderful. Speaking of boundaries, I think that one of the biggest problems we have in our world today is such a lack of boundaries, not only for the people who are violating other people’s boundaries, but especially for women who don’t even.
You know that they are separate from the other person and knowing what they’re responsible for and what they’re not responsible for. One of the things that my clients one of the first challenges is when they’re holding boundaries and their husband, who’s, I don’t have anybody who’s being physically abused.
I should probably make that clear. Their husband is, you know, pout. Blaming them, walking away, threatening to leave, doing all this like, I call it kind of tantruming. What do you recommend to your patients who are struggling with that after holding the boundary and dealing with his sort of tantrum? . [00:04:00]
Shannon Petrovich: That’s a great question, Beth.
I think that one of the things that we have to recognize as women, that oftentimes we are really trained from the get-go, to be placating, peacekeeping and people pleasing a lot. Mm-hmm. . And that is not authentic. , and I love your, the title of your show. That’s why I wanted to be a part of it. Thank you.
And it, it really is not authentic. We’re, we’re called on to tell the truth in love. And I think when we do set boundaries, we also have to recognize that I’m not responsible for another PE person’s emotions. So when a boundary is how I protect myself or take care of myself within a relationship. So it can be as simple as, you know, when you.
Talking to me that way, I’m gonna walk away or hang up the phone or leave the house or what have you. And so it’s kind of like a grownup timeout. So you’re talking about a tantrum, and it’s kind of like a grownup timeout to separate yourself emotionally and even [00:05:00] physically from a person who’s having a tantrum at whatever age.
And that’s a beautiful thing because you are, you’re not getting into a, a battle with them. You’re just disconnecting and you’re just Letting them know that there is a boundary. So when that, it either works because that person gets tired of having timeouts, and they stop the behavior, right? Or it works because it lets you know what’s really going on in the relationship and sometimes it does escalate a person and then you really have to separate emotionally and maybe physic.
and let them know I’m not responsible for your emotional outbursts. I’m responsible for myself and my own boundaries. It’s challenging, but I think it, I’ve noticed that oftentimes couples want the same things and they want, they, they’re just not communicating that very well. And so when one person gets clean and clear in their boundaries and [00:06:00] in their authenticity, then the other person has a chance to grow and become more clean and clear in their boundaries and the authenticity.
So it can be really a growth thing. And I think we as women, often feel guilty for setting boundaries. And if we can get past that guilt and just realize that this. This is God’s way. He wants us to tell the truth in love. He doesn’t ask us to be placate and peacekeepers, and people pleasers ask us to be our whole selves the way he created us to be.
Beth Rowles: I love that. I love it. And so what I hear really is like the, the boundary, the initial boundary might be, you know, this doesn’t work for me, or walking away or something, but it sounds like the boundary doesn’t end. There, even though they begin to throw the tantrum, we continue to hold that boundary and not let that impact us or take that on or placate or please them.
Yeah, it’s, but it’s, it is getting over that guilt and that conditioning we have [00:07:00] that says, no, go fix him. Go make him feel better. And this must reflect on you. I think the fear of them, even when things are bad, I’ve noticed that I’ll have clients who go into so much fear of, oh, but then he’s gonna leave.
Now I need to go repair because he’s threatening to leave. And I have to say, well, you know, that’s, that’s his choice. , he decides to leave. But what I, what I have experienced and what I’ve seen is that mostly those are just empty threats. Like you said, they usually want the same thing and they try to use that fear.
To manipulate and get different, get different action. What about physical abuse? I don’t take clients who are being physically abused, but in your opinion, what is the best boundary for physical abuse? Is that you leave the first time or and give ’em no more chances. How does that lay out? ,
Shannon Petrovich: I think you absolutely have to leave physically.
And typically what, what I’ve seen over the years [00:08:00] is that that tendency to manipulate and control and to be all about themselves is a. Kind of ingrained and that what you have to look at, and I would really suggest and recommend people look at this early in a relationship, is that person respecting, honoring, cherishing, all of you, your thoughts, feelings, wants, needs.
Dreams, aspirations, or are they all about themselves? If they’re all about themselves and you are only cherished, when you are placating people, pleasing and peacekeeping, then that’s not a whole relationship. They’re not actually loving you. They are loving themselves and feeding their own little ego with.
So you have to be conscious of that in the beginning of a relationship and, and steer clear of that person. But given, if you are in a relationship with a person like [00:09:00] that and when you stop placating, they explode and become violent, then you recog have to recognize that that person has been all about themselves.
They’re not gonna let you fully exist in the relat. and you have to save yourself and get out. Mm-hmm. . Now when you get out physically, you’ve probably left your heart behind. So here’s the hard part is that your heart might be, your emotions might be trauma bonded to that person, and that comes from that cycling of love bombing and devaluing.
And that cycle is what kind of hooks you in. So if that person has been all about themselves and then they become aggressive, but then they’re remorseful you, you can get. Clear of that and then hold good boundaries and see through their actions if they are sincere. But you should be in a safe place watching that from a distance
Yeah. [00:10:00] Because that is, Likely going to be a continuing issue for them, and it is very hard for someone to change those core things if it was an explosion, kind of a one-off, and they’re generally caring and have been honoring and respectful of you, again, you have to get clear of that, but then you might be able to restore more quickly, more.
You may be able to restore that relationship. Mm-hmm. .
Beth Rowles: Yeah. I love evaluating. What has been the history? Have they always been all about themselves? And I know for me, I had to, I had such a outward lens that I used to notice all of his flaws and when it seemed like he was about himself and I really wasn’t paying attention to when I was making it all about me.
and I was so unhappy that like how dare he’d be in a bad mood or how dare he be depressed or be having a hard time because he needs to be like this uplifting, happy guy for me all the [00:11:00] time and this doesn’t work for me. And I really had to come into acceptance of all of who I was to even accept all of who he was.
And. Know that humans have bad days, , we had to support each other through that. Right. Hmm. How do you think that anxiety, because I definitely held a pattern of anxiety. I was always anxious. We had like valid reasons to be anxious. My husband’s father ended up. Being schizophrenic and attacked him at, oh gosh, work one day.
Gosh. And so we, like, I was on edge from that, but then I carried that into, especially being a new parent and everything, I just was worried all the time. How does that contribute to an unhealthy relationship
Shannon Petrovich: pattern? , there can be a lot of underlying reasons for un unhealthy relationships, and I think we all have our stuff going into a marriage and, and I think what’s most important is that we recognize our own stuff as much as possible.
Get help for it if we need [00:12:00] to spend time talking to each other and sharing and, and deeply listening. Mm-hmm. I think. In our culture today, we tend to be very distracted. We’re all over the place. We’re on lots of technology. We don’t spend quality time together. Getting to know each other on a deeper level.
So oftentimes those first years of marriage can get really off kilter, and especially if you’re parenting, it gets really, really challenging. Mm-hmm. But I think deeply listening, praying together, spending time together understanding each other on deeper levels is really helpful. And if you have anxiety identifying what are the triggers.
and what kinds of things you can do to self calm and what you might need from your husband. And whether that’s I need space mm-hmm. , or I need help, the, you know, either one is valid and letting yourself ask for that. Because I think as women too, we don’t ask for our needs to be met. We expect people [00:13:00] to read our minds.
We expect people to show up without even asking them or letting them know we’re having a hard.
Beth Rowles: Yes, . Yeah. Yeah. I know that I carried everything and did it all because I wanted it to be done like perfectly. Mm-hmm. , and I wouldn’t let him help at all. And then I’d be mad at him that he never helped you.
I’m so exhausted. . But you still can’t load the dishwasher correctly, so I’ll keep doing it all myself. You know, . Oh, I love that point about coming into present though, cuz that really was the, the cure for my anxiety was living in the now and being in my body and being focused on the present moment. Do you think that a couple co-create a toxic relationship?
Like is it a dynamic that. , you know, like you said, they bring their own stuff and that’s what creates the toxicity, or is it always one person, you just need to replace that one [00:14:00] person. ,
Shannon Petrovich: it really can be both. No, typically it, it is one person who is all about themselves. And then a connecting up with a person who’s all about other people.
Mm-hmm. . So empathic, compassionate, caring people tend to be drawn in by a person who’s all about themselves, cuz that’s what they want and need, they. Somebody who will be all about them. And so that is usually the part of the other person that they start right off the bat in a placating peacekeeping mode.
And when that is the initial setup, the more narcissistic person just eats that up . And so over time, they, the more empathic person is depleted and more depleted and more depleted. Now they could become passive aggressive. They could become so frustrated and angry that they’re also acting out in ways that are not healthy.
And [00:15:00] so when I work with people, I start with, let’s. work on your own self care and self understanding and recognizing how you are probably beating yourself up inside your own head. You know, perfectionism is all based on speeding ourselves up internally for being human. And and so looking at the way you talk to yourself inside your own head and then starting to take ownership of your thoughts and feelings and saying the truth and.
and setting good boundaries. And then like I said before, seeing if that person can grow. Because sometimes people do wanna grow and sometimes if you got married early, you know, people were pretty immature at that point. And there is space to grow. . And if the person does decide that they want that growth, great.
You can learn to set boundaries. You can walk away when they’re having their emotions and let them learn to handle their [00:16:00] emotions. And and you can move forward as a couple. And I’ve seen lots of couples who have. very toxic patterns and, and they grow past them. And they survive. And others where one person is just not a, not a person that you can really be in relationship with because they’re just completely about themselves.
Beth Rowles: Hmm. I, I love, I love everything that you’re sharing. You’ve got so much knowledge in this and background. I wonder, one thing that’s coming to mind is somebody I know who. A a partner who’s not actively like violating their boundaries, but instead they withdraw and they’re quiet and they just don’t respond to what they’re saying.
Is that a form of narcissism or is that just like their personality is to
Shannon Petrovich: just be quiet? . You know, it’s interesting because there are so many ways of being dysfunctional in our world, , right? So, [00:17:00] so it could be that that person is just very anxious and very self condemning. But it also could be another strategy of a narcissist.
And so when, when you have somebody that’s all about themselves and very narcissistic, very controlling, very manipulative, . It’s almost like they have a huge smorgasboard in front of them of strategies to use, and they’ll use whatever works. And if that button works, they keep pushing that button until it stops working.
So if you step back emotionally and watch, you’ll see, oh wow, now they’re pouting. And oh, they now, the ping’s not working. So they’re moving to rage, and the rage isn’t working anymore on me. So now they’re moving to tears, and now they’re moving to threats, and then they’re moving to threats of suicide because I’m not responding to the threats.
So it’s like a smorgasboard, and you have to see all of it as manipulative behavior and all of it as just kind of more, more of the same, but in a [00:18:00] different suit. , what
Beth Rowles: do you do with that threat of suicide? Do you just ignore it? Do you call the authorities? How
Shannon Petrovich: do you I would always call. I would always call because it, it’s either serious or it’s not.
And either way you call it out. Okay. And so, you know, then, you know, you’ve done what you could and, and you’ve, you’ve accomplished, you know, letting them know that this now is out of your hands. It’s the same with violence. As soon as someone is out of control. They’re out of control and so if they’re outta control, self-harm or outta control harmful to others, it’s no longer your job to sit there and take it.
You have to call. So I would call 9 1 1 and let them sort it out. . Now of course then you have to deal with do you feel guilty about that? Absolutely not. They made the choice to make those threats and they have to deal with the consequences of that. Hmm, [00:19:00]
Beth Rowles: absolutely. I love the, the reminder that it’s not, in your control,
It’s just not something that you can fix. And, and they are out of control and need, need help with that, but we don’t have to jump in and save them. And I love to like remind my client’s guilt is when you have caused harm, you’ve actually hurt somebody. And them making those choices is not. It has nothing to do with you.
Exactly. They’ve decided to make those choices. Hmm. I love like I said, your book, that it’s a journal and it’s helping people. What is it really? What would somebody find if they get your book? Is it taking them through, like inner Child Healing or is it, just tell me about how it came into being and what it
Shannon Petrovich: does.
So we start with the in internal self dialogue because that can have become so toxic. And some of us brought that from early childhood experiences and some brought it from those kinds of relationships. But either way, we have to address that first because if we’re still [00:20:00] beating up on ourselves, we can’t pull out of that fog with another person.
And so that’s the most important first piece. And we start with that. So there are is throughout the book, I kind of give insights, perspectives, information, and then a bunch of journal prompts. And some people love to journal and some hate it. And so you can use those just to think through what I’m asking you to think through.
and then we move into how did the relationship start? What’s going on? How do you assess sort of the gaslighting, the isolation, the the love bombing and devaluing and the cycling of all that, and where you are, are you trauma bonded to this person, which means that you feel hooked in by them even though you know it’s a negative relationship.
Then we, we talked about boundaries and that sort of thing. And throughout, like I said, journal prompts, but then we work through how to recognize the [00:21:00] rational mind from the emotional mind. Mm-hmm. , because what’s true of our US is that we get really confused with the like we can have all the rational ideas.
In motion and recognize I need to get outta this relationship, or I need to set boundaries, or I need to A, B, and C. But our emotions are all kind of hooked in and trauma bonded to this person. Still, what we need to realize is that we, our, our emotions are attached at a deep, deep level. and our emotions may not be on board.
We have to use our rational mind to make a wise decision and then drag our heart along for the ride . And it may take a while to heal that you can love and decide to leave. You don’t wait until your heart’s on board, you have to make a rational decision.
Beth Rowles: Love that sounds really powerful and can help so many people.
Tell everybody where they can find [00:22:00] you and go find your book.
Shannon Petrovich: So my website is no foggy days.com. and it, you can also get there by therapist talks.com. YouTube is therapist talks also. And on my website you’ll find a newsletter you can sign up for, for information. You’ll find blogs, you’ll find my my book link, and also my connector to the YouTube channel.
Oh, I love it.
Beth Rowles: No, foggy days.com. That’s awesome. Therapist talks on YouTube. I love your YouTube channel. You give so much, and I love that you’re sharing it and getting all this, you know, necessary, needed information out to people who desperately need it, but may not be able to talk to you one-on-one or or somebody else.
So it’s really beautiful the work that you’re doing. Thank you so much for being here today.
Shannon Petrovich: Thank you so much, Beth. It’s been a pleasure.
You can find my guest Shanon Petrovich at her website nofoggydays.com or:
If you’d like to master your emotions and learn exactly what they mean, download my free emotion assessment called The Princess & The Peeve. You can also purchase my masterclass on emotions called Royally Guarded. You’ll learn what your emotions feel like, what their Royal Quest is, and how to use them to take action.
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