Why Abusers and Narcissists Should be Feared

no-more-logo1.jpgMy life with an abuser, someone who exhibits narcissist behavior, has been traumatic to say the least. I don’t use those terms lightly or as hyperbolic bluster. I was beaten for years by my husband, who continued the abuse emotionally, legally and financially after divorce.

I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. I worked for years on recovery through difficult therapy and eye-opening research. I have survived by my own hope and responsibility for my children. My kids have suffered through a kind of chaos only children of domestic abuse understand.

This happened to me, a middle-class, professional woman, because I diminished the warning signs of a troubled man and dismissed my gut feeling that I was settling for less. It happened to me because I believed that love would conquer all negatives and would eventually bring out the best in everyone.

I was idealistic, foolish and wrong.

I didn’t know that a narcissistic, abusive man was never capable of being anything other than a threat to me and our eventual children. It didn’t matter how much he told me he loved me or how many moments of delight we might have been able to string together.

Believing that “for better or worse” applied to a union with a narcissistic abuser turned out to be a costly mistake.

I wish I had known then what I know now.

No one should ever marry a narcissist or anyone willing to exploit another. They are dangerous. They will cause their family unimaginable pain, likely for the rest of their lives. No one should ever allow these people to be a primary parent or co-parent with another. No one should ever allow one of these people to be in charge of another human being’s daily life. They create life-changing, toxic environments for the victims dependent on them.

These people are known to be:

  • Liars
  • Manipulators
  • Selfish
  • Abusive
  • Entitled
  • Ragers
  • Blamers
  • Willing to discredit their closest friends and family
  • Exploiters of the weak
  • Willing to capitalize on others’ pain
  • Revisionists
  • Insecure
  • Braggarts

And they are willing to train all these negative powers directly on the closest people in their lives the minute they realize whatever consequences there might be aren’t enough of a deterrent to outweigh the gain it brings them.

They can’t be trusted. They have horrible judgment that is often masked by bravado and spin. They are often fired, repeatedly throughout their careers, or suffer other forms of failure. They don’t have long-term friendships that are rich and deep. They have dysfunctional relationships with their children and family.

If you are in a relationship with one of these people. You may be in denial or still clinging to hope that somehow, under the right circumstances or with your love, things will change. You might experience a temporary improvement of your relationship conditions, but it will never last and before you know it, you will be back in a mess that you can’t seem to figure out. “High maintenance” doesn’t even cover the way you will have to manager this relationship.

If you are in a relationship with one of these people, and you want happiness and peace in your life, then you must get out as carefully as you can. They don’t like to be dumped and they will retaliate.

If you are being courted by someone who looks a bit like this, you need to seriously take stock of your next steps. You may not have stumbled on a narcissistic abuser, but to be on the safe side, you need to find out. A lot is at stake.

Because if you have partnered up with a narcissistic abuser, you are in more emotional, financial, psychological and physical danger than you realize. You owe it to your future self to find out.

 

 

 

Please help with this anonymous survey

Dear victims of domestic abuse,

I am collecting data about how domestic abuse continues after separation and in particular how abuser can often use children in their efforts to gain back control and power in the relationship.

Please consider helping by taking the survey, a Google form document. It is anonymous, and no way for me to track your information, unless you give it to me. If you do, I will not share it with any third party and only use it to communicate directly with you.

Take the survey by clicking this link.

And thank you for reading this blog, a much needed and useful therapy that has literally saved me from craziness.

Be safe. Be well. Speak out.

Thank you.

 

Tips on divorcing a narcissist

Dec. 7, 2014 _ If you are reading this, it is likely because you’ve been searching for help in dealing with your partner, soon-to-be ex-partner or ex, or co-parent of your children.

First, let me tell you, that no matter what you think, you are not alone or the first person facing this.

Second, without knowing a thing about you, I’m going to take a stab at your journey:

  1. You are a women dealing with a man.
  2. You have been trying for years to understand just why this relationship has been so difficult, maybe you have even sought couples counseling or your own therapy for help, but you haven’t been able to make heads or tails of it.
  3. Your mate had a difficult childhood with his parents that involved some form of attachment issues. For example, he was left to raise himself by a single, working mother too busy to truly attend to his needs, or by older parents, or he was an only child, or raised like one with much older or younger siblings. Or, his parents never regulated his emotions as he grew and didn’t offer social guidance, at all. For example, his parents would let him carry on whenever he didn’t get his way without so much as one comment about a better approach, but rather they would allow him to use over the top reactions, ignore it or reward it, but added distance to the equation so they could get a break.
  4. Your mate has had difficult relationships in the past with family members, coworkers, friends, girlfriends, etc.
  5. He was charming, or seemed charming, in the beginning of your relationship and that is what got your attention. He might have come on strong, quickly, with you about love, future, commitment. He seemed to truly “get you.”
  6. He is still charming when you are together in public. In fact, he is his best when you are “playing couple” with others watching. But, behind closed doors he is cold and not interested in couple conversations or “togetherness.”
  7. However, there is something a little off with his charming act. Maybe its that he laughs too hard at his own jokes. Or that his opinions all seem a bit condescending. Or he just doesn’t seem authentic.
  8. You can’t string together more than a few weeks of your life with him that doesn’t involved some sort of crisis or drama or deep pain.
  9. You are either in the middle of an emotional crisis with him; recovering from an emotional crisis with him; or feel an emotional crisis coming.
  10. You are tired, hopeless, depressed.
  11. You just want it to stop and for everything to be normal in your life.
  12. You take some, if not all, of the responsibility for the relationship. For example, you say things like “I married him, so I have no one to blame but myself.”
  13. You feel that your daily life surrounds trying to figure this relationship out and how to make it better.
  14. You really can’t understand how it got this way or who is right or wrong any more.
  15. You don’t see your relationship as abusive. At best, you see that you are a strong woman who signed on to love your man through thick and thin and he needs your help. At worst, you are a co-conspirator or even the reason why he gets so mad. He tells you that, too, often.
  16. You believe that you have brought this on somehow, by, you believe,  your tendency to love troubled men or maybe you believe your a handful.

Statistically, if you are involved with a narcissist that is causing you great pain and ruining your union, you are likely an empathic, loyal, never-say-die woman. Women are hardwired to be tolerate of childishness. We stay with abusers to the end or at least close to it.

I am not a mindreader or a mental health professional. I am just a victim of domestic violence at the hands of what I came to believe was a narcissistic abuser. I spent 15 years with him. We went to 8 different therapist from the beginning of our union until the end and even after we split up. He went to batterers intervention, anger management class, and therapy on his own. I read all the marriage self-help books of the day. He even tried to read a few. After I left, I spent years in therapy, group support meetings, basically in various stages of trauma recovery no different than a returning war veteran.

Learning about narcissism and how it works was the first step to my healing. Learning about trauma and how it lingers in our emotional attics is how I healed.

You can, too. But it is really hard to do alone. So here are my tips, one victim/survivor to another:

  1. Learn about the psychology that is driving your mate. Not from him, but from experts. You don’t have to hold a PhD to understand emotional and personality disordered. You’re not going to be prescribing medicine for yourself or you mate. You are just going to understand the rules of the playing field your on.
  2. Don’t listen to bad advice, including from him. Narcissist will NEVER be concerned with your needs, what’s fair or being honest. They may act that way for a conversation or two, but it is acting. Don’t take advice from someone who despite your years together will lie to you in a second if it means he benefits even in the smallest way.
  3. Build a team of people around you who truly care about you. This is going to be along haul navigating a breakup with a narcissist. They will lash out at you again and again. You need emotional help in handling this well. Think of it this way, you need “sponsors” who will be there for you to listen as you recount one injustice after another. Its in the telling that you will begin to heal. But, you need good listeners, not advice givers by people who take the “it takes two to tango” philosophy. When you are with a narcissist, the dynamic is different that typical marriage. Typical advice doesn’t work.
  4. Find an excellent therapist who understands well personality disorders and trauma treatment. This is a specialist. Not a family counselor. You have to ask for this. You will know it the first time you are in the office if you have picked the right one. They are excellent, active listeners. Don’t interrupt you over and over with comments on what you can do to help the relationship. Your local domestic abuse shelter should have names for referrals.
  5. Find an excellent attorney who is NOT a narcissist. (In fact, stay away from any narcissist right now.) Attorneys who care about you, helping you navigate this and want to protect you with all legal avenues is what you are looking for when you begin to shop around. You must stay away from the attorney who tells you how great they are or how many cases they have won or don’t have experience with narcissist. In a small town, this is very hard, because attorney can be consumed with building a reputation among judges and other attorneys over a reputations with clients. When you find  an attorney who will listen and offer you options and then guidance in those options, you have a winner.
  6. If you can’t afford any of these first steps, then make your way immediately to your local domestic abuse shelter and ask for help. Most shelters today offer way more serves than shelter. I can be humiliating at first or spark shame in you. But try with all your might to get past that emotion and act. I found three years of FREE trauma therapy at my local shelter. I was horrified, simply horrified the first time I called and them stepped foot in the door. It went against everything I believed in. I felt like a charity case and that was demoralizing at a time when I didn’t need further humiliation. Truth was, I needed them very much and they were going to help me out of shame. My ex was not.
  7. Begin to see the truth about abuse. You didn’t cause it. You are a victim, which means that something out of your control happened to you that caused you deep pain. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t send some special message to the universe that brought it on. You don’t deserve it. Look at it this way, if you had some control over this, wouldn’t you have had success at trying to get him to stop being such an ass? You don’t control the actions of another person, no one does. He abuses for his own reasons. He chooses to abuse you rather than talk through your difference, anger, pain, etc. He chooses to hide from his own demons, rather than face those issues from his past, etc. and heal. He chooses emotional Unhealth over emotional health. You have no control over that. None. Zilch. No matter he says. No matter what you have said. No matter what.
  8. Get and stay educated on this. There is more and more very helpful research coming out every day that explains why this happens and what to do about it. Stay connected and you will stay strong.
  9. Make a plan before you act. Reacting to an abusers actions can be just as damaging as the first action. It is completely normal to want to scream at someone who is messing with you in a painful way, but not helpful to the situation. You need to move away from your instinctive brain and get to your thinking one. First, build margin in your life so there is time to feel the pain his action caused you away from him, then scream at the stars, then think about what has happened, then react only if you feel that it is necessary. For example, my ex used to email me multiple times a day with all sorts of nasty and accusatory comments about me. Because I had a smart phone and a business to manage, I would check my email many times a day and that meant that at any minute I would be emotionally gut punched by my ex and want to react instantly. And that he why he did it. Because I would fire back an email and engage. I soon realized that was not working for me. So, after having the same email for 13 years, I changed my email address and left the old one for him. I took it off my phone and no longer got automatic pushes from that account. All my business clients, friends and family now had another email address. As it turns out, I realized that I left a lot of spam mail behind, too. My new address collects those who I really care about and my old email address is for my ex and all junk mail 13 years of an address will get you. I check it when I’m emotionally ready to read his junk and he no longer gets off by getting instant reaction from me.
  10. Make a plan before you leave. You MUST forget about trying to play fair or be nice the narcissist you are trying to leave. It will not bring out the best in him and it may bring out the worse. Instead, you have to think of him as a business colleague gone wrong. Yes, keep your integrity and don’t forsake your soul. Even if you have momentary thoughts of revenge, the narcissist will ALWAYS one up that. He will ALWAYS be willing to hit lower than you. But, your inner voice to look for a way to work together, be fair to him and keep a goal of civility can not be your driving force. You must think about what you need to do to get out with as few scars and problems as possible. Narcissist fill out history with all sorts of horrible things they have done, including murder, to get the upper hand in ending a relationship. You must protect yourself by understand what you are up against. So, you no longer tell him anything about your plan. This is between you and your attorney. He is now on the other side of the table and against you. You must face this. You no longer owe him intimacy or knowledge about who your are or your intentions. In fact, you can’t give him this. He will use it against you. Shut down all discussions with him about what you are doing to get out even if it means you leave him in the dark about the fact that you are leaving. You are NOT manipulating him. You are protecting yourself just like if you were to hid in a bedroom closet during a break in. You know that nothing good could come of you walking up to the intruder and announcing “I am calling 911 right now, just so you know you should get out.” Narcissists don’t have morals so don’t expect moral decisions to come in the face of your morality.
  11. When you are strong enough emotionally, meaning you have sought help and your therapists thinks you are well on the way to recovery from the injury, hold your abuser accountable. This means that you will set firm boundaries no matter his verbal antics, do not respond to any accusation, no matter how silly or explainable (your abuser is throwing up gorilla dust to get a rise out of you. You must don’t respond to this.) Learn the laws in your community regarding his actions. For example, if your abuser is constantly emailing you, your state might consider that cyberstalking. One email from you telling him in writing that he may not contact you or he may only contact you under certain restrictions (your children’s health for example) may be all it takes for him to understand that you are serious about protecting yourself from further abuse. You can not reason with him to stop abusing you. You can only set boundaries of tolerance. When you do, you stand a chance of getting away from it. Learn about restraining orders also. Please, please learn about them first because many a child custody case has been decided by a judge who thought a woman with a restraining order was a women with an ax to grind and not worthy of custody of her child.  But, thankfully, that tide is changing, too. Learn about the VAWA, violence against women act, a federal law that identifies what is considered “violent” and what is not legal. Knowing these laws can help you set firm boundaries, build confidence and face the evil in your life.
  12. Lastly, this is a long journey, but well worth it. I have been divorced for nine years and I am grateful to God every day that I was able to get out. Yes, I am much less financially stable then when I was married. Yes, it is difficult to be a single mother. Yes, at times I’m exhausted by life. But, I also have wonderful moments of peace, something I rarely felt while married. I have also made a ton of mistakes in this walk, and that is OK. I went through at least 5 therapist before I finally heard the truth and then another two before I found help in navigating this and healing. For years, I was white-knuckling my trauma and hoping I would make the “right” decisions. Being perfect is impossible. Mistakes while under incredible duress is absolutely expected. You do the best you can, pray and pick yourself up and move on to the next day.

I hope this helps. I know it is too long for the internet, but if you are like me, you have been search and search for help. Remember, you are not alone. Not even close. Narcissism seems to be on the rise. The odds of you meeting one are high and to fall in love with one, high as well. In fact, the very reason that makes you liked by people, you are empathic, is why narcissists grab you. And let me tell you, you don’t need to change that about yourself. That doesn’t make you wrong. You do need to learn that not everyone deserves to benefit from that side of you and you deserve to have people in your life, whether friends or a partner, to treat you the same way and cherish that that makes you, you.

 

The rise and fall of an abuser

August 24, 2013 _ As followers of this blog know, I have been in a relationship with an abuser for more than 20 years and have been victimized and survived many forms of abuse found on the power and control wheel.

My abuser, someone I believe to be a narcissist, has used me over and over as a way to build himself up in ways that are both “normal” (such as marrying me and become a part of a family) and abnormal (such as beating me in order to feel dominance).

He has also played me in order to gain attention of any kind, including negative attention, just like a small child might act out. It doesn’t matter to him if he reaps a harvest of admiration, respect, sympathy, or anger, distain, fear or pity. To him, all attention is good.

Healthy people tend to want positive attention, not negative, respect not pity. But, a narcissist will take their “supply” in any form because it all puts them at the center and that is the goal.

For my abuser, he has spent his life trying to find a place of belonging with people, but that place must be a position of power, control, and as the center of the relationship.

Narcissism is the ultimate form of self survival because no matter the environmental circumstance, narcissist can twist it to serve them and provide their supply.

I have been through a lot of drama and trauma with my abuser, my ex-husband and co-parent to my children. When I first met him, he was pumping the well of pity and sympathy. He told his story of a child of horrible abuse and neglect. He was poor, disorganized and tormented, but somehow was rising above his station. He played on half-truths to pull pity out of others, for example he told how his father “committed suicide” on my abuser’s first day of his senior year of high school. The truth later revealed to me by his mother, was a bit different and suicide was not the cause of death. But, my ex learned that when he told the story, people, generally women, dropped their walls and immediately empathized if not pitied him. I was one of those women.

Later, sometimes in the same day, my ex would spin another narrative of a man, who was “raised by wolves” (he used to say with a sly grin), and pulled himself up by his bootstraps to ultimate fame and success (He became a nationally recognized NFL sportswriter for a major media outlet.)

No matter the version of the story, he never gave anyone credit for his success, not editors who gave him a break, not friends or family, or wives and children. And he always blamed others for his hardships. His mother was to blame for his childhood. Editors were to blame for not recognizing his superiority. And of course, me for causing him to abuse me.

When I left my abuser eight years ago, I left a man who began to play the sympathy card with anyone who would listen. I left him because I got skinny and was shallow enough to take his children away from him. To me, he played the “I’m so sorry and you had to leave me” card, which I actually believed for years that he meant.

After his sources of supply changed, his story changed. Now I was the abuser and he left me. He was superior and deserved to be treated that way by everyone, including me. He was the better parent, more reasonable and educated. He did everything he could to get above me in every respect. It was during this time that he sued me for custody of our teenagers (and of course didn’t get much in our settlement more than what he already had.)

But the act of the suit was the high for him, not how it worked out. Because the circumstances don’t matter for my abuser. The details are just the cards he has been dealt and he will decide how to sort it all out to come out on top. In his world, he will always win so the goal is always a moving target.

Today, my abuser is on the downward spiral of life, lost his job three months ago, limited income and just got hit with a $30,000 college bill for our 18-year-old. (and that is just for one semester)

He is on thin ice with his children because they are getting older and have questions about his actions. They love him for sure, but he is falling off the towering pedestal.

God only knows what is going on with his current wife, but my guess is that if he stays unemployed much longer, his wife is going to loose her patiences and begin to question his lies. I know first hand how that can turn out for her.

As my ex faces the rise and fall of his life, I have a good idea of what he is emotionally juggling. But, of course, it is only my guess. I am doing my best to keep my distance as much as possible. As he seeks pity instead of respect, I won’t become a source of that for him. I know better.

And even through he has hurt me in more ways than I can count, I am still vulnerable by my own feelings of empathy for this broken man. I feel sorry for him for sure. And I am still stocked that anyone could go through life so detached from other human beings and only concern themselves with themselves.

However, I have accepted that it is true and my ex is broken beyond repair and his relationship with his fellowman is one I would never want. No matter how much damage he has done to me, he hasn’t broken my heart to love, feel and grow. What a blessing, thank God.

In the end, abusers’ ups and downs through life will never bring them what they really seek, to fill the holes in their hearts, a deficit that they can’t even understand, but know they want.

I used to say to my ex-husband, and it used to drive him crazy when I did, “Please just be real with me.” It made him mad because it is the one thing he will never get.

Are all domestic abusers NPD?

March 17, 2013 _ I have been asking myself this questions for sometime now. Read about abuse and narcissist personality disorder and the two conditions look very similar.

As I recover from abuse and the trauma that it has caused me, I want my story to be useful to others. As I write and read and learn, I see that my abuser is very likely suffering from NPD and that explains a whole lot about our story together and the mess that it was.

Living with someone who has NPD means never being able to get balanced. I lived for years completely unbalanced and off centered. It sucked.

I thought for a long time that it was because I didn’t know when the next physical blow was coming for next. But I realized years later, that the lies he told me were just has off-putting as the hits he landed on my body.

He made and still makes a career of trying to keep others off balance so that he can keep the upper hand.

That does a number on anyone around him.

Learning about NPD enabled me to finally find a path around his craziness and to bring my sanity back. Like before, I am still vulnerable to attacks by anyone. Everyone is. But, today, I can process them much quicker and avoid long periods of confusion and self-blame. I can get my balance back a lot quicker.

Writing helps me find my center.

What do you do? Let me know and help others in the process.

An abuser will use anyone, including children, to control his own world

Dec. 6, 2011 _ I am not a psychologist or have I ever had any training in the field, beyond my college classes more than 20 years ago. But, I believe in the science and I feel that people can be better understood when they are examined through the educated eyes.

A good friend of mine, a social worker, was the first to indicated that my ex-husband and abuser, MAY have a personality disorder. That information proved to be very helpful in my own recovery from abuse and helps me today handle the repeated emotional abuse that my ex-husband inflicts on myself and our children.

I have been through years of therapy, as has my ex, but that statement has never been brought up in that way. Oh, yes, there has been discussions of bi-polar, emotional immaturity, ADHD, impulsivity, poor judgment, medication, and depression, on the sofa of many a therapist about my ex.

My ex-husband’s father killed himself by jumping off a building to end a long, progressive life with bi-polar illness, so often the therapists would assume that my ex inherited that illness.

However, when I took to reading about personality disorder, nothing fit my ex’s behavior more than that. It was shocking. It was also shocking to read that those who suffer on this spectrum that range from narcissists, to sociopaths, and so on, will use anyone, including their own children, to advance their own personal agendas.

And again, the evidence in my case proved this to be true. My ex’s custody suit against me to gain control of our children was way more about him and his current marriage than about our children and what was best for them. I came to realize, as the case progressed and evidence was released, that my ex had painted a much different picture of our life as co-parents to his wife than was true, and the deception had finally caught up to him.

Instead of coming clean about his tales of woe about his unresponsive and sabotaging ex-wife to his new wife, he threw our teen-age children under the bus and filed suit against me to show his new wife that he would finally put to an end the alleged misdeeds of the mother of his children.

His petition read like a paperback work of fiction. He accused me of preventing him from seeing our children, despite his weekly visits, invitations to birthday parties, sporting events, school conferences, Open Houses, and so on. He said that I refused to consult with him about the big decisions regarding our children, even through our phone records showed dozens of monthly text and phone calls between each other and our email accounts were filled with notes back and forth. He said I cancelled visitations with the children, when he cancelled often for work and play, including 4 cancelled scheduled visits with the kids so that he could take a 12-day vacation to Europe … less than a month after he filed suit.

When we got to depositions, and our testimony was on the record, now frozen in time, he painted a much different story, one that was much more truthful and accurate, including telling the lawyers that without me, he could not be the good father he is today and that I was a “wonderful person.” I was so confused to the point of tears and in the arms of my attorney said, “If that is how he feels, then why are we here?”

However, when his wife stepped into the room to answer questions, the picture became clear. She told stories that fit the original petition. She said I refused his attempts to speak to the children on the phone, that I was a “horrible” ex-wife, and I stood in the way of my ex’s ability to bond with our kids. She also said that her husband, my ex, who traveled about 200 nights out of the year as an NFL sports writer, “only occasionally” spent a night away from her home, a town without an NFL team. Not only I, but my attorney was taken aback with that statement, leading my attorney to say “Do you …. understand … your husband’s job?”

But, with that misrepresented statement, and several more like that one by my ex-husband’s new wife, I realized just what had been going on for the last seven months and just why we were going through this very expensive and disruptive experience … my ex was covering for his lies to his wife about our relationship as co-parents and was likely trying to weasel out of pressure she was increasingly applying as their newlywed marriage aged.

As a result, he was willing to use our children, potentially disrupt their lives in such that if he won, our teenage children who had been living with divorced parents for six years and were in their own groove of friends, activities, etc., would have to change houses ever two days. The though of the logistics alone still cause me pain for my children. But, they now have to live with the fact that their father sued their mother for custody. I tried hard to prevent them from finding out, but I don’t know if they did, and I won’t be able to prevent him or anyone else from telling them once they are 18.

I am simply saddened that my ex was willing to use our children in this way. I have seen him use our children as extensions of himself before, but this was pretty low. He never once considered what was best for them and instead was in a jam and decided to use what he could to pull himself out.

Just like physical abuse, the lawsuit was extreme and caused a lot of collateral damage, but he did it anyway. He is willing to do just about anything to handle his own life and get to another day.

I sometimes blame my ex-husband’s wife, but it is hard for that to stick. I’ve been in her shoes and I understand that the stories that my ex tells don’t add up. He is clever enough to cover most of his tracks, but not all and those inconsistencies create confusion and doubt, but in such a way that you feel like you are trying to pin a shadow to the wall.

My ex only shares information about his life with people when and only when he thinks it will advance his daily cause of maintaining his image and creating a false sense of self. He works at it every day, spinning facts, withholding information and out right lying to anyone he needs to to keep his fragile self-esteem from imploding.

He is living the definition of someone with a personality disorder and the reality is that those who suffer from this particular mental illness have very little hope of change. They are too consumed in their skewed and constance sense of self that they don’t believe they have a problem.

Even today, after all the crap my ex has done to me, he will email me to say that has been nothing but supportive of me and responsible toward our children. And I think that he truly believes that.

In the meantime, my children will have to learn to navigate their own lives in the wake of a mentally ill father, who doesn’t see them as individuals, but as objects that he owns. He will likely continue to use them and the best I can do is love them and let them know that they are terrific people who deserve the best.

When they struggle with their Dad, I will let them know that their father loves them in the best way that he can and if it doesn’t rise to the level that they wish for, that I understand. But, life is full of challenges and we can grow stronger in the face of them or we can wither away in self-pity.

I hope that my children rise to the levels of grace, love and forgiveness and I pray that I can be an example of that for them. I hope that I can.

Forgive? How is that possible?

When I first left my abusive husband, I was so relieved that I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I didn’t think about the “death” of my marriage, what I had lived through or anything negative at all. I wasn’t mad or even sad, I was happy. Because for the first time in at least a decade, I had hope. My depression was lifted and I was grateful.

But as the years passed and my ex-husband continued to try to control me and my children, the continued struggle of dealing with an abusive man was taxing.

I also made the mistake of continuing “the secret.” I was so glad to be out of the marriage, that it was easy to continue the ruse that my ex-husband was nothing but a caring, understanding man. I didn’t even care that some friends and family thought I was crazy to leave him. Let him have that, I thought. I have something much greater, peace and hope.

I told my immediate family and very few friends, just why I left. But that was it. And I moved on. And I believed, incorrectly, that I had forgiven my ex.

But through the years, as our broken family has navigated the river of life, I have realized two things. I am still involved with an abusive man and I still need to work on forgiveness.

Oddly, both were surprises to me. Part of me believed the game that I was somehow to blame or that our marriage “mixed” poorly and that led to the violence and betrayals. I also believed that forgiveness happens when you are not feeling pain or you no longer fear. Both assumptions are completely wrong.

It is still difficult for me to get my head around that I am not to blame for my ex-husband’s abusive actions. But I’m working hard on it. When I read about other women’s stories or hear them speak in group therapy, I see how similar our stories are and that helps me to see that an abusive man is different than all those “regular” husbands.

Abusive men have a moral compass that is different than most people. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have the same stresses in life as anyone else. When my ex-husband complains about me, he sounds like any other man complaining about his wife, but he has another motive than just venting and letting off some steam. He is building a case to free himself of responsibly to another person. He is creating an enemy in his mind so that he can focus his energies on his own needs and desires. In all my years with my ex-husband, he never looked into my eyes and sincerely thanked me for anything I ever did for him or on his behalf. He never told me that I was important to him and he never showed me one bit of gratitude for any effort I may have done for him.

And though it was difficult to put into words well… asking for recognition from your husband just feels awkward and demanding… I knew how empty and sad I felt about it.

But in the heart of an abuser, they must maintain the victim mentality so accepting that their spouse did anything good for them doesn’t fit.

So as I get help and understand the mind of an abuser more and more, the pattern keeps coming up the same. I think about my friend’s marriages and how they generally work without abuse… One dear friend has a marriage that impresses me so much.. because as much as they argue and fight, yell and complain to each other, they are truly best friends and in the end, they come back to compromise and love toward each other. They don’t hit, lie and ignore each other’s needs. They work it out with a common goal to come together. The wife in that union, is as opinionated as me, is a strong willed as me and is smart as me and her husband doesn’t end their marital disputes with violence.

The other assumption is that ultimately, I have to find forgiveness for my ex-husband even in the face of continued controlling behavior. I need to forgive him for my sake, for his sake, for the sake of his new wife and most of all for my children’s sakes.

I am not saying that I should forget. In fact, I always got that mixed up. I would forget and not forgive. But instead, I need to forgive and never forget. My therapist suggests to me that I keep as much distance between my ex and myself as possible in order to reduce the incidents of controlling behavior and to help me heal my scars.

Much like a returning soldier who has flashbacks, I can quickly return to the emotional state of fear, panic and stress with just a little of my ex-husband’s controlling behavior. The fact that he is still keeping “the secret” also plays a role. He has not been honest with his current wife, and let’s face it, that shouldn’t be a surprise. But he likes to maintain his innocents with me in our new public life, and that is truly hard to stomach.

The less time we spend together the better. It is not easy with two children and with his fame. I am often approached my people who want to know what my NFL sports writing husband is up to. I am still approached by even family members who want autographs and tickets from him. My children’s school mates are impressed with their “famous” dad and that means I get the questions from the kids when I’m chaperoning field trips and handing out snacks.

In the end, I take responsibility for that. I married him. I had children with him. I divorced him. The post traumatic stress I feel now is for me to cure. Part of that is to realize that my ex-husband is just trying to get by as well. I don’t believe that an abusive man has a mental illness, but I do believe that there is something broken inside and that helps me to feel empathy for him. I don’t believe he wanted to hit me, I believe he wanted to live without responsibility to another person and he is willing to hit me to make that happen. And I know he has not learned this about himself.

So I work every day to find forgiveness in my heart. I am grateful that I have God to help me with this. Because there is no way I could do that on my own. I must forgive my ex-husband even in the face of his controlling behavior. I must find a way to forgive so that I can move on.

Life is too short to be abused or to stay a victim

If you have read any of my other posts, you have a pretty good picture of how long I stayed in an abusive marriage and what drove me to stay in it. Fear is a powerful emotion and directed many of my actions. There was a lot I was afraid of when I was married and that fear wore on my life, my health, everything.

Just before my second child was born, I found out that my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. And within months of his birth, she was scheduled to undergo massive chemotherapy. I wanted to be with my mother during this time, but she lived 1500 miles away. My sister agreed to let me and my kids stay for the summer at her one-bedroom apartment  just 30 miles away from my mother’s home so that I could help my mom handle the rigors of her treatment.

My husband agreed that I could spend the summer there with the kids and told everyone who asked that it was the right thing to do. He would stay home and work and the kids and I would be gone for about 3 months. But in truth, he really didn’t care that we would be gone and was happy to have the house and his life to himself.

During the summer, I juggled caring for an infant, my 4-year-old child, my sick mother, living in a one-bedroom, 4th floor walk-up apartment, and plenty of doctor visits. I was glad to do it, but I was also exhausted. My ex-husband spent most of the summer avoiding my phone calls, arguing with me, and basically being detached from what I was going through. I felt completely unloved by him and struggled with my pain that he didn’t seem to understand the weight that I was carrying. Nevertheless, I had much bigger, and daily issues to tackle… my mother was dying and in such pain, my baby was learning to crawl, my 4-year-old was spending his first days in day-care. I would hit the bed at 9 p.m. and not move until 6. I lived the life of a single mother and that turned out to be a blessing.

I learned during that time that I could take care of myself and my kids without my husband. I learned that my husband _ even in the face of incredible pain and suffering _ would not be there when I needed him emotionally. I learned that my kids could survive just fine without their Dad in the same house.

It was an experience that helped me just a few years later.

The next summer, my mother needed me again, so the children and I went back to her home and took care of her again. But sadly, by the end of the year, my mother lost her tiring battle with cancer and our family was crushed. She was a very important and loving part of our family and without her, it changed my life. It was because of her premature death that I decided it was time that I took care of my health so that I would be around to take care of my children.

I sought medical help and got the extra weight off, which was a huge decision and committment. I began to workout as well and trained for a 60-mile breast cancer fundraising walk. I got into therapy again to mourn my mother’s passing and I became even more active in church. I also decided for some reason that I still do not know, to go back to school. I made the decision so quickly and without much thought, that I still can’t believe that I did it.

Within 18 months of my mother’s death, I had changed my weight, my health, my employment and my spirit, all for the better. However, one problem still remained. I was still getting beat.

The first time following my mother’s death that my husband hit me was extraordinarily painful because I realized that my mother, now in heaven, could see what was happening to me and my secret was now out to her. I imagined the look on her face as she watch my husband throw me against the wall. And I realized that she would have said to me, “Honey, you have to take care of yourself and get out.”

I had changed my entire life and finally gotten healthy physically and financially, but what good would it do if I was still living in denial about my marriage. As I talked about this with my therapist, it all started to come together. Life was way too short to wait for an abuser to get better. Life was way to precious to allow myself to live as a victim. Life was a gift from God and I wasn’t treasuring that gift, something that my mother fought so hard to prolong.

I could no longer disappoint her, me or my children. It was time to act and take back my life. I finally had hope. Ironic, that in the middle of imminent divorce, the death of a parent, and the fear of how everyone was going to take my decision, I finally had hope that my life would be alright.

In the Mind of the Abuser

As I have been spending some time trying to heal from the results of being in an abusive marriage, I have found some really incredible websites that have been so very helpful in gaining perspective. One is this site: http://www.mvwcs.com/mindabuser.html

There I found something that really described my ex-husband almost to the letter:

In the Mind of the Abuser

Abusive people typically think they are unique, really so different from other people that they don’t have to follow the same rules everyone else does. But rather than being unique, abusers have a lot in common with one another, including their patterns of thinking and behaving. The following are some of their characteristics.

Excuse Making

Instead of accepting responsibility for his actions, the abuser tries to justify his behavior with excuses. For example: “My parents never loved me” or “My parents beat me” or “I had a bad day, and when I walked in and saw this mess, I lost my temper” or “I couldn’t let her talk to me that way. There was nothing else I could do.”

Blaming

The abuser shifts responsibility for his actions away from himself and onto others, a shift that allows him to justify his abuse because the other person supposedly “caused” his behavior. For example: “If you would stay out of it while I am disciplining the kids, I could do it without hitting them.” Or he may say, “She pushes my buttons.” Statements like this are victim blaming. If he really had buttons she could push, she would push the one that says, “vacuum” instead the one that says, “hit me”.

Redefining

In a variation on the tactic of blaming, the abuser redefines the situation so that the problem is not with him but with others or with the outside world in general. For example, the abuser doesn’t come home for dinner at 6 p.m. as he said he would; he comes home at 4 a.m. He says, “You’re an awful cook anyway. Why should I come home to eat that stuff? I bet the kids wouldn’t even eat it.”

Success Fantasies

The abuser believes he would be rich, famous, or extremely successful if only other people weren’t “holding me back.” He uses this belief to justify his abuse. The abuser also puts other people down verbally as a way of making himself look superior.

Lying

The abuser controls the situation by lying to control the information available. The abuser also may use lying to keep other people, including his victim, off-balance psychologically. For example, he tries to appear truthful when he’s lying, he tries to look deceitful even when he’s telling the truth, and sometimes he reveals himself in an obvious lie.

Assuming

Abusive people often assume they know what others are thinking or feeling. Their assumption allows them to justify their behavior because they “know” what the other person would think or do in a given situation. For example, “I knew you’d be mad because I went out for a beer after work, so I figured I might as well stay out and enjoy myself.”

Above the Rules

As mentioned earlier, an abuser generally believes he is better than other people and so does not have to follow the rules that ordinary people do. That attitude is typical of convicted criminals, too. Each inmate in a jail typically believes that while all the other inmates are criminals, he himself is not. An abuser shows “above-the-rules” thinking when he says, for example, ‘I don’t need batterer intervention. I’m different than those other men. Nobody has the right to question what I do in my family.”

Making Fools of Others

The abuser combines tactics to manipulate others. The tactics include lying, upsetting the other person just to watch his or her reactions, and encouraging a fight between or among others. Or, he may try to charm the person he wants to manipulate, pretending a lot of interest or concern for that person in order to get on her or his good side.

Fragmentation

The abuser usually keeps his abusive behavior separate from the rest of his life. The separation is physical; for example, he will beat up family members but not people outside his home. The separation is psychological; for example, the abuser attends church Sunday morning and beats his wife Sunday night. He sees no inconsistency in his behavior and feels justified in it.

Minimizing

The abuser ducks responsibility for his actions by trying to make them seem less important than they are. For example, “I didn’t hit you that hard” or ‘I only hit one of the kids. I could have hit them all.”

Vagueness

Thinking and speaking vaguely lets the abuser avoid responsibility. For example, “I’m late because I had some things to do on the way home.”

Anger

Abusive people are not actually angrier than other people. However, they deliberately appear to be angry in order to control situations and people.

Power Plays

The abuser uses various tactics to power trip others. For instance, he walks out of the room when the victim is talking, or out-shouts the victim, or organizes other family members or associates to “gang up” on the victim in shunning or criticizing her.

Playing Victim

Occasionally the abuser will pretend to be helpless or will act persecuted in order to manipulate others into helping him. Here, the abuser thinks that if he doesn’t get what he wants, he is the victim; and he uses the disguise of victim to get back at or make fools of others. Abusers will often claim to be the victim in order to avoid being held accountable by law enforcement. He may assert she was the one who was violent. He will display what are clearly defensive wounds, such as bite marks or scratch marks, and claim she “attacked” him. Or he will declare that the physical marks on her were caused when he was trying to keep her from hurting herself.

Drama and Excitement

Abusive people often make the choice not to have close relationships with other people. They substitute drama and excitement for closeness. Abusive people find it exciting to watch others get angry, get into fights, or be in a state of general uproar. Often, they’ll use a combination of tactics described earlier to set up a dramatic and exciting situation.

Closed Channel

The abusive person does not tell much about himself and his real feelings. He is not open to new information about himself, either, such as insights into how others see him. He is secretive, close-minded, and self-righteous. He believes he is right in all situations.

Ownership

The abuser typically is very possessive. Moreover, he believes that anything he wants should be his, and he can do as he pleases with anything that is his. That attitude applies to people as well as to possessions. It justifies his controlling behavior, physically hurting others, and taking things that belong to them.

Self-glorification

The abuser usually thinks of himself as strong, superior, independent, self-sufficient, and very masculine. His picture of the ideal man often is the cowboy or adventurer type. When anyone says or does anything that doesn’t fit his glorified self-image, the abuser takes it as an insult.