DivorceForce has been lucky to have Marina Sbrochi as a contributing writer since we started. We learned about Marina’s commitment to doing right by children in the face of divorce, and felt compelled to share her perspective with the DivorceForce audience.
Marina recently went back to school, and her story is quite inspirational, as she has picked up herself from abuse, divorce, and other challenges and moved forward. We want to share a bit of her story with you.
DivorceForce: You recently went back to school. Tell us a bit about that curriculum and what it now prepares you to deliver to people in need.
Marina Sbrochi: I recently completed a Masters in Professional Counseling and have completed the state requirements. I'm now called an LPC-Intern, licensed professional counselor. It was a two-year program that included the study of psychological theories and methods, and all that surrounds those topics. Additionally, we had two quarters of practicum experience, live in the field. I did my practicum at a sober living halfway house for men, working with addiction, trauma, anxiety and depression. Community building was vitally important there too.
On my own, I traveled to Phoenix to attend a weeklong intensive training in Clinical Hypnosis from the Milton Erickson Foundation. Wow. That was a game changer. There were about 30 different people from around the world at the training. The instruction and experience were invaluable.
DivorceForce: In various postings on YouTube, you are quite open about the verbal abuse you have encountered. Please tell us about that. Was this a motivator for your professional path?
Marina Sbrochi: I first opened up about my abuse to friends when I was 25 years-old. I was engaged to someone, and it was like being in a prison without bars. Embarrassed and shameful, I moved to New York and developed the mantra, "If I want to get shit on, I'll stick my head under a dog's butt! I will not take shit from any relationship."
I also grew up with a verbally abusive father. I ended up being angry with my mother during my teen years for the abuse both she and I suffered. Did I put two-and-two together then? You bet I did. It wasn’t until I ended up in the engagement relationship that I began to understand what happened to me and my mother.
I had always considered myself a strong woman; and when I was trapped in that relationship, it shattered everything and brought every insecurity I ever had to the surface.
I went through an angry phase for a bit—just pissed that I had to be so much of a train wreck. I had to let that go.
I realized I can't change the past. I can only influence the future.
I wanted to speak out because verbal abuse is silent and shameful for everyone. And most people are not just "verbal abusers"—they're also good friends and have many positive qualities too. It's just that the verbal abuse is such a bad quality that it diminishes all those other, nice characteristics. And it kills souls along the way.
If we all learn to become more aware, we can talk about it more and create an environment where the verbal abuser can change. There is another way to be, and it doesn't have to be bad.
So yes, it definitely motivated me on this path of helping people find another way of doing things.
DivorceForce: You have made the statement, 'It doesn’t matter who it is—romantic partner, friend, colleague, parent—your mental health is too important to not remove yourself from that damaging relationship. We have to call out bad behavior.' We all have fights with our significant other. What constitutes fighting, as opposed to downright bad behavior? Where does bad behavior cross over to abuse?
Marina Sbrochi: I'd say you know it crosses the line when you just get that feeling like ew/ouch, that didn't feel good. I don't mean like feeling bad because you got called out for not paying attention while your husband was talking to you. I mean, when after a comment, it kind of feels like you got punched in the stomach. Or a virtual slap in the face. Calculated. Mean. Triangulating. Gaslighting. That's abuse.
DivorceForce: Dealing with your kids is a passion of yours. You have written the book Nasty Divorce: A Kid's Eye View. What is your message and guidance to parents with regard to dealing with their children?
Marina Sbrochi: Nasty Divorce: A Kid's Eye View was written to open eyes to the damage that high-conflict divorce causes for children. There are many clinical books. Of course, you know it's not good to act that way. Yet people seem to still do it. So I thought, why not let the kids tell the story, and maybe someone might see him or herself in that story and have the realization to stop and adjust behavior.
There are tips in the book that show people how you can change, or rephrase something in a way that would be more beneficial to the children.
DivorceForce: For those who take time to get to know you, they will find someone that has had demons from the past (and maybe present), but continues to charge forward and make a better life for herself and others. What do you suggest for others who want to move forward, but might not exhibit the strength and drive you display?
Marina Sbrochi: For anyone who has survived (fill in the blank), take a look in the mirror—you've lived past the worst. You have survived. You're a Phoenix. Now rise.