Why Women Stay in Abusive Relationships

This is an interview I did with Clara Baldwin,

Founder of Peace>Pieces. Click here to listen.

Clara Baldwin: I’d like to welcome on the show, our next podcast guest, September Burton. She is a fertility expert and abuse survivor. September started her career as a US Navy personal chef to four star admirals station in Sicily, Italy. She also is the founder and CEO of 4 Months to Fertile working with couples and mothers, struggling with primary or secondary infertility. And she is the organizer of the first ever Colorado Fertility Conference. Welcome to the show September.

[00:00:27] September Burton: Thank you so much for having me on.

[00:00:29] Clara Baldwin: Of course, of course. Thank you for coming on. So we’re just going to jump in, let’s start with learning a little about yourself and where you’re from and what do you do now for a living?

[00:00:39] September Burton: From Colorado. Like you said, I was running the Colorado Fertility Conference while I was there. I’m actually getting that started back up again, even though I am not in colorado right now, I’m still hiding. Hopefully, one day soon I will be able to come out of hiding. But for the time being I’m still working on the Colorado Fertility Conference. And then I do a lot with Hawaii surrogacy, working on nutrition for a lot of their surrogates and intended parents.

[00:01:09] Clara Baldwin: Wow. So you have a lot on your plate, it sounds like. And you were raised in Colorado, is that correct?

[00:01:14] September Burton: I was actually  raised in California. I went to Colorado in 2011.

[00:01:21] Clara Baldwin: Very cool. All right. So jumping into your story, if you don’t mind, can you tell us a little about your situation, that inspired all of what you’re doing now for abuse advocacy?

[00:01:31] September Burton: Yeah. So, I was with an abuser for about five years. I actually did it twice cause I didn’t learn my lesson the first time. I didn’t the nice thing that happened at the end of the second relationship was that he, it’s actually kind of funny now because he looked at me one day and he was like, you need therapy. And so, I thought ok I’m going to go get it therapist and ,so we did, I went down I’m to amazing wonderful therapist who instantly saw what was really going on and, and was able to help me be able to see what was going on and see the abuse and, and then I was able to kind of put a name to it, you know, obviously she met him once and so she can’t obviously diagnose him, but I was able to narcissism to a lot of his behavior. And when I started researching narcissism and reading some books on it and things like that, it was like, Oh my gosh, like, how did they know my life? And so I did a lot of educating myself on narcissism. I think I might’ve learned about that after the first relationship. I wouldn’t, I would have seen the red flags and wouldn’t have done it the second time. But unfortunately I didn’t seek a therapist the first time. And so there was nobody to kind of help me to be able to see what type of abuse that was that I was in, that I experienced in the first relationship.

[00:02:50] Clara Baldwin: So you said there were two situations and yes, narcissism goes hand in hand with abuse. I also didn’t know that until I, you know, got into the podcast, started researching a lot, but yeah, it’s something that not many people know. Could you let our listeners know a little about the definition of narcissism? Possibly.

[00:03:06] September Burton: Yeah. Narcissistic personality disorder is like, they’re empty shells of human beings and they come off as so charming and, you know, they’re so wonderful and what they do is they like look so deeply and intently into your eyes and they figure out all of your weakest points and then, you know, once they start to turn on you, they use every single one of those things that they learned about you, all of the trust that you gave them, everything that they learned in the deepest, most intimate moments, they completely throw it in your face and use it against you. So as long as you’re feeding their ego, when you’re telling them how wonderful they are and that they’re God and, you know, they’re, Kings and things like that, then you’re good. You’re safe, you’re not going to be, you are being groomed. But, they’re not going to turn on you, but if you start to see through the mask and you start to say, Hey, I have needs too. Then that’s when they’re gonna start to turn on you and they use gaslighting techniques, which, you know, gaslighting is anything that causes you to question your reality. So lying. A good example that I like to use is at the end of the relationship, actually, after we separated, my girls came home one day and their hair had been trimmed. It wasn’t like a haircut, but it had been trimmed. And so I sent an email to him and his mother and stepmother and said, Hey, can you guys just communicate with me? Like, please just let me know if you’re going to cut my kid’s hair. And the response I got back from his mother was well, didn’t look to me like they had haircuts. So that’s gas lighting. You’re wrong. That’s gas lighting.

[00:04:47] Clara Baldwin: Yeah. Very well said. So going back to your personal story, how old were you when you met this guy? Were you guys married? How did it all start?

[00:04:55] September Burton: Well, the first story I was 24. When we met, we got married. I was 24. We got married and had our first baby when I was 25. And I was just very naive. I had been raised very religious and very sheltered and I didn’t, I didn’t know that people treated other people this way. I was just extremely naive. And, by the end of the relationship, he was physically abusive and he was, he was pretty rough.

[00:05:22] Clara Baldwin: how far along in the relationship did you notice these red flags? Did you notice right away or did it take awhile?

[00:05:29] September Burton: Honestly, I didn’t even really, except for the physical abuse, I didn’t know anything was going on with the emotional and psychological abuse until after the second one. Just because didn’t research, didn’t learn and study, you know?

[00:05:44] Clara Baldwin: I see. Yes. So he physically abused you, emotionally abused you, can you give maybe some examples of what he would do to you?

[00:05:53] September Burton: The first one, I have a lot more clarity on the second one, just because there’s such a big time gap there. I did a lot of healing and a lot of self work on myself in between the relationships. But, I just don’t remember. I think I just kind of blocked a lot of that relationship out.

[00:06:13] Clara Baldwin: And that’s perfectly fine. That’s healthy for you to do. So we can move on to the second relationship coming out of that first abusive relationship. I’m sure you had healing to do that you hadn’t yet. Did you jump in before you had completely healed to the second relationship?

[00:06:29] September Burton: Kind of what’s interesting in my situation is that I didn’t actually just jump in. I, when he left, I was 11 weeks pregnant with our fourth child. And so I wasn’t didn’t have much of a social life. I wasn’t really going out. Definitely wasn’t dating. I wasn’t going to date while I was pregnant. And so I really stayed home and worked on me. And so when I didn’t have the other kids, I was just alone and I really spent a lot of time getting to know myself self and doing a lot of healing work like meditation and a lot of that kind of stuff, learning about my ancestors and just really getting to know myself.  And so it was about a year and a half before I even met the second one. So it wasn’t like a quick jump in thing, but it wasn’t long enough, obviously.

[00:07:16] Clara Baldwin: So you took a bit of time, you jumped in, where did you meet this man? And how far along was it till you guys started dating?

[00:07:23] September Burton: We met at a networking event. And when we first met, we became friends and I saw him as like a drinking buddy. And, about three months after we started spending time together was when we actually started dating. But when I say spending time together, it was probably like once every other week or so that we would go out for a couple of beers. So it’s not like we were spending a lot of time together. And so it was probably about three months of that. And then we got into the dating scene and the dating definitely moved too quickly. That’s something that I’ve had to process because in a lot of times, sometimes I’ll say, no, it didn’t seem like it was a relationship that moved that quickly. But now looking back, it, it did. I got too attached to him too quickly, but it’s kind of a red flag and a dangerous thing.

[00:08:14] Clara Baldwin: So you started getting attached quickly, moving fast. That is pretty common. When it comes to abusive relationships, you just jump in when you don’t even know the person deeply enough. Did you guys move in? When did you, you know, when did you see these red flags with this relationship?

[00:08:29] September Burton: The red flags started fairly quickly. We didn’t move in together for awhile. We didn’t actually move in together until after I got pregnant and that pregnancy was planned. I already had kids, he did not have kids and he wanted a biological child. And so he asked me to have a child with him after watching me as a mother for a very long time. And so I didn’t move in with him until after I got pregnant. But, the red flags that did start right away were things like I remember one night I was at his house and he had some friends over and we were playing a game and it was like a strategy game. And I just didn’t care. Like I just didn’t wasn’t into the game. I was just there to have a good time. And so I wasn’t even really trying. And then I made a move that I guess he was impressed with. And he was like, Oh, I’m so glad she’s learning. And that was so humiliating to me. You can’t humiliate somebody, you say you care about in front of, I mean anywhere, but especially publicly. And so that was probably the first like massive like red flag. Like he just humiliated me in front of other people.

[00:09:31] Clara Baldwin: When someone humiliates you, it kind of just sets you back. You’re just like, who are you? You know, why would you do that to me? It can really take a knock on your self esteem as well. Aside from that. Were there more red flags after that? Did he physically hurt you or was it emotional?

[00:09:46] September Burton: The physical stuff didn’t start until our daughter was about six months old was the first time that he pinned me down to the bed. And so that, was a little bit later that that started he definitely used sex as a way to overpower, but not it’s kind of an interesting dynamic. Have you watched the show big little lies?

[00:10:10] Clara Baldwin: No, but I have heard about it.

[00:10:12] September Burton: Yes. It’s it’s hard to watch, it was extremely triggering, but, the Nicole Kidman character and kind of the sexual relationship that he, she has with her husband in that show is kind of mirrors what it was like for me. I thought that it was passionate and wonderful. And then, but looking back from a different, through a different lens and understanding domestic abuse and power and things like that, I see our sexual relationship very differently than I did when I was in it. So he definitely used that as a way to overpower.

[00:10:46] Clara Baldwin: Yes. And that is again, you know, a common denominator when it comes to abusive relationships. People don’t think about the sexual abuse, but I feel like most people that have come on this show has brought up sexual abuse as well, being a factor in their relationships. So it’s horrible. I mean, you’re in a bubble. You don’t really realize till after you look back on it. For sure.

[00:11:05] September Burton: Then I worked with a second therapist just for a very short time. And she taught me one of the things that she said was that makeup sex is actually about power, right? He goes for makeup sex. He’s really trying to take back his power. And so that was a very interesting perspective because everybody always thinks that makeup sex is so passionate.

[00:11:28] Clara Baldwin: When you think about it, I mean, how degrading is it that you spilled your heart out to someone, you were probably in an argument, you were on this emotional level and then suddenly it’s like, Oh, take off your clothes. You know, it’s kind of degrading and people don’t realize that, but it is a very popular thing in relationships. So moving forward, in this second relationship, you have a child with him. I mean, this is super serious. How far along was it before you had kind of a tipping point? Where you felt like, Oh, no, like this relationship, isn’t what I thought it was. And I don’t think I want to be a part of it.

[00:11:59] September Burton: I knew I was being abused and actually one of my girlfriends, she saw that I was being abused too, and it’s kind of interesting, and this is one of the messages that I really want to get out there. So with this girlfriend of mine, we went to lunch one day and, we were, I was talking to her and just kind of venting to her about stuff and the struggles that we were having in our relationship. And she said “I’m going to get on Amazon right now and order you book and have it sent to your house”. Well, the title of the book, was The Verbally Abusive Relationship. And, um, and so obviously she saw that I was being abused, so she’s buying me a book like that. Yeah. But the message that I think is important here is, you know, as women we’re taught, Hey, if he ever lose a hand on you, you get out of that relationship. Right, now you get out. Well, we don’t talk about that with like emotional and psychological abuse. And I think that we need to, because you know, we’re taught while you were, you go to a therapist, you go get help. You, you know, you do this, you do whatever it takes to make the relationship work. And there’s kind of thing. As long as he is not physically abusing you, then it’s all going to be okay. It’s all work outable. And that I think it’s extremely dangerous now coming out of that and being on the other side of it, I think that’s extremely dangerous.

[00:13:14] Clara Baldwin: That’s such a good point because it kind of trails back to just mental health awareness, how we don’t treat our mental health, like a broken bone. We don’t run to the doctor. We don’t just leave that situation and make ourselves better. It’s kind of just unsaid, like deal with it, you know, make it work in the marriage. Yeah. It can be extremely toxic. So I love that point. Earlier in our communications on email, I love the quote that you mentioned. Um, you said, I believe it must be my fault that I was being abused and that only if I were a better, smarter, skinnier, quieter, wealthier, and so many more “er’s” then he would stop abusing me and we could be happy together”. Can you please let listeners know how important it is to get out of this mindset and not feel like it’s your fault for being abused?

[00:14:00] September Burton: Well, one of the hardest parts about this type of abuse is that they lead you to believe that you are crazy and they, by the grooming and by all of that psychological abuse that they do, and they do it so covertly and so slowly over time, they, you end up thinking that everything is your fault. And so when they do something, that’s an asshole move, it’s your fault and you end up apologizing. One of the, an example of that is, one day we were, we had just come home from a cruise or a vacation. And I was pregnant with our first child and we’re sitting in an airport restaurant with, he’s an attorney, and so there’s another attorney from his firm and then one of his paralegals was a woman and we’re sitting in the restaurant with them and he turns to the woman, his paralegal, and makes some comment about the seashell scratch and sniff tattoo on her inner thigh and how that reminded him of the ocean. And I was just like disgusted, of course, one, a sexual harassment of one of his employees is, but two, like say something like that in front of your pregnant, significant other it’s just horrifying. So, but what ended up happening was I apologized to him because he was mad at me because the other attorney turned to me and he looked at me and he said, are you sure you want to be with this guy? And I, you know, almost in tears at that moment, I said, I’m already pregnant. Like I felt completely trapped. I felt like I had no way out. And then he got mad at me for saying I’m already pregnant rather than accepting responsibility for them disgusting comment he just made. He got mad at me and I ended up apologizing. And so that’s one of the things that they do to you is they lead you to believe that everything is your fault.

[00:15:55] Clara Baldwin: That’s just pure manipulation. Moving forward, do you remember the day when you left that relationship and I’m sure this is going to be very inspiring to other people in abusive relationships, especially ones who have children or pregnant, like you were, how did you go about escaping the situation?

[00:16:11] September Burton: So actually I didn’t, he was the one to leave. That’s the next part of a narcissist is that they do what’s called a discard. And discarding is basically like, they’re, they’re done, you’re not feeding their ego anymore. And so they’re just gone. Usually they’ve got somebody else already lined up. Another source of their narcissistic supply is already lined up. And so he was the one to leave. And, it wasn’t and I was still holding on to, well, you know, things just got out of control and in another year we’ll try again and then we can be together and we’ll be happy and everything will be fine, but we just need some breathing time. And that was the conversation that was happening between the two of us. And so it was, I think it was my therapist who really was the one who was able to help me see, and I saw her every single week, never missed a session. And she just kept, kept working on it, like in rebuilding my strengths. And so after he had been gone for a little while, and I started to see the reality of what had happened and the abuse. And I started to remember who I was before I got into that relationship and regain my strength and things like that. That’s when I cut him off, because for a while he was still coming over at night for sex. Basically, just using me at that point. And so, you know, that’s when I, I got to a point where I cut him off and just said, no, that’s it I’m done nothing to do with you. So it took a long time and it was a very gradual process. So I don’t know that I have good advice for anybody listening other than, you know, just trust your instincts. If I had trusted my instincts, I would’ve been out of that relationship so long way before any of this happened.

[00:17:55] Clara Baldwin: Yeah. It’s the gut feeling that we always ignore, but it’s the one that you should listen to. And I’m sorry that happened to you. It does take a lot of strength and courage to leave a situation like that and better yourself. For people listening, other than therapy is there anything else that you would give as advice into healing and becoming your whole self?

[00:18:15] September Burton: No. I think that the biggest thing, and this is almost becoming a cliche at this point, but it’s so true is it’s the self love piece. It’s get to know yourself and fall in love with yourself. And there’s so many different techniques to use to really start to get to know yourself. I use meditation a lot. I still do a lot of meditation and for me it makes a world of difference. It calms down the brain waves that are just going crazy. And it helps me, there are so many other techniques out there, so many other ways to love yourself and it really at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about. Because, you get into these relationships because something is missing in you. And so if you can start to meet your own needs, then you’re not looking outward for somebody else to meet your needs. And they tell me, I will not claim to be an expert on healthy relationships, but, that’s when you attract a real, genuine human being who’s capable of empathy and who is capable of a healthy, true relationship. So, I think just working on yourself, just really, really focusing on being the best version of you and making yourself better every day. My story is so horrific with all of the stalking and the craziness with corruption, because he’s an attorney and all of that kind of stuff, so there’s definitely a book there but that’ll come right now I’m getting my story out on my blog and doing podcast interviews, just trying to really help other people, see the red flags and be able to get out as quickly as possible so that this, I mean, it’s an epidemic at this point, these types of relationships and these types of users, it’s truly an epidemic. So, really just trying to spread the word, educate people and say they take care of you so that you have the strength to get out.

[00:20:00] Clara Baldwin: I agree. It is an epidemic and the legal standpoint with domestic abuse is horrible. I personally was raised around domestic abuse with my parents. Police can’t really do much about it. If you don’t have hardcore proof, if they’re not at the scene. Yeah, it’s just, it is very hard, but I’m glad that you’re spreading awareness. We need more people like you in this world. I guess my last question that I would like to ask you is if you could give your 10 year old self who was standing in front of you right now, what is the advice you would give her?

[00:20:34] September Burton: I would tell her one–you’re going to make me cry. One that everything always works out. So just be patient let it work itself out. Two take care of you.

[00:20:50] Clara Baldwin: Oh, you’re gonna make me cry. Yeah. It’s a, it’s a powerful question because you literally visualize yourself and you see that all the things you went through in that time span, as a child to an adult now. You’re very inspiring. And I wanted to thank you so much for coming on today as a guest. I know sharing your voice is super hard. It takes a lot of courage, but it will impact all the listeners out there. And I know people listening to this are going to give so much great feedback and want to connect with you, so thank you so much for coming on.

[00:21:23] September Burton: Thank you for having me. And I really feel like, for I think a lot of people, maybe not everybody, but a lot of people sharing your story is a big part of your healing journey. And so, you know, part of this is self serving because it has a little bit of my healing. My personal healing journey is to get out there and speak. So I really appreciate you giving me the space to be able to do that.

[00:21:43] Clara Baldwin: Of course. And I appreciate you so much. Thank you.

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