Excerpt from new book about co-parenting with an abusive ex

How to co-parent coverThis new Amazon ebook is due for release Dec. 13, 2015. Here is an excerpt:

“How to co-parent with an abusive ex and stay sane _ is that even possible?

What’s next, “How to lose weight without dieting or exercising?” Sure, whatever. If I overeat and sit around all day, I’m not going to lose weight.

How does anyone co-parent with an abusive ex and stay sane? Simple, don’t co-parent with an abusive ex.

Frankly, if you have that choice, take it. It’s the best option.

Abusers abuse and divorce doesn’t stop their need. If you share children together, you will always be an easy target.

However, most of us don’t have that choice. Since the mid-1990s, family courts believe abusers have the right to parent their children, and children have a right to be parented by abusers _ because the abuser is a parent.

To make matters worse, most family courts don’t want hear too many details about the abuser’s actions. Nor do parenting coordinators or attorneys. Even family and friends don’t want to know. And maybe even your children don’t want to know.

I didn’t either and I was the victim.

Abuse is painful and hard to look at, especially when we are invested in the abuser. No one wants to see the ugliness of domestic abuse. Why would we? Abusers look normal enough that we may marry them. We start to build a life with them. Trust them. Love them. Then at some point, they pull the rug out from under us.

They show their true colors and rip us apart. Who wants to see that….

How can you co-parent with your abusive ex and stay sane. Well, the truth is, it isn’t easy and sometimes you can’t stay sane through this. But, I know from my own experience and the experience of others that with life hacks, resiliency and your undying love for your children, you can maintain your sanity and even thrive through this craziness.
Though I know that this book doesn’t give you the real, direct answer you want _ to avoid co-parenting with your abusive ex_ I hope it will give you solid tips to help you get through this nightmare without losing your sanity forever.”

 

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.

Domestic abuse takes many forms

Nov. 12, 2011 _ I lived in a violent marriage for 10 years. I was hit, pushed, thrown, shoved, knocked down, jumped on, sat on, kicked, stepped on, spat on and choked over the years at the hands of my then husband.

Six years ago, I filed and was granted a divorce and custody of my two children. My ex didn’t fight one bit of my divorce or the terms. He didn’t get an attorney and he didn’t come to the divorce hearing. He quietly agreed to the divorce because he was afraid for the abuse to go public and he knew that if he fought it, he might be exposed, or so I speculated.

My ex is an NFL sports writer who is known nationally and he didn’t want to jeopardize his career or facing the public about his abusive ways.

And when I left, he never hit me again.

However, in the six years that has followed, he has cursed me out more times than I can count. He has stood in my house, pissed off, and refused to leave. He has screamed at me from my front yard. He has sent me nasty, name-calling emails over and over. He has lied about me to others and created fantasies about me, my life and my fate based on little to no information. He has threatened me many times. He has shorted me on child support over a half a dozen times. He refused to pay me the state required child support amount for more than three years and eventually took me to court to try and get it reduced and lost. He has threatened me many times that he would sue me for custody of our two children.

In April he followed through with his threat and sued me for custody. After seven months of court motions and mediation (he walked out after 5 hours), depositions and many, many hours with attorneys, he eventually agreed to a settlement that gained him just two extra days a month with our children and he had to pay all attorney’s fees (tens of thousands of dollars).

It has been a very difficult seven months as I have faced the thought of a custody change and my teenagers lives changing abruptly at such crucial times in their journey.

My ex accused me of all sorts of things, namely that I was sabotaging his relationship with the children, despite his hit and miss parenting and inconsistent visitation. He rarely calls the children or communicates with them via all the various forms available, yet he blamed me for that.

Since the custody battle was settled, my ex has continued to argue with me over the phone, in person and through email. He continues to blame me and accuse me of deliberately hurting him and violating him. I quickly diverted his communication to only email and told him to follow our new court-ordered agreement to stay clear of me and communicate with me only through email and only about our children.

He made a point of continuing his rude emails and giving me paperwork in person when I dropped our children off for their scheduled visitation, I assume as a way to let me know that he will not be “controlled.”

Domestic abuse takes many forms, but according to all experts, its purpose is the same _ the abuser wants to control the victim and require the victim to do as he wishes, whenever he wishes it.

I also believe, though I really don’t know if this is universally true, that my ex is in a negative emotional state that is causing him a good deal of stress. I am not excusing his behavior, I am trying to be aware of it, because until his stress level is reduced, he will seek to abuse and gain superiority over others, namely me.

Frustrate again _ working with someone who is unhealthy

A very dear friend of mine who also happens to be a psychologist sent me a great email recently that I should really pin on my bathroom mirror and re-read and re-read again and again because she tells me what I need to hear, that I should put as much distance between me and my ex as I can. That is the healthy response to his behavior and his behavior during the years of my attempts to have a normal marriage with him.

She is so right, and yet, it is still hard to hear and sad to realize that she is right.

I know what you must be thinking… “Why would I be sad about staying away from a man who repeatedly hit, lied and manipulated?” I know, I know.. it makes no sense.

Until I think about my kids. I don’t want my precious children to have to deal with all of this. They are innocent and didn’t ask for anything other than a happy childhood. They just want to love their mom and dad and they want everyone to get along.

They want civil behavior and smiles at awards nights and soccer games. They don’t want to think about who is right or wrong or worry about another parent. It is sad.

And I wish that I could give them that. I wish that I could give myself no drama in the rest of my life and I wish that I could have a friend in my ex-husband, someone who will treat me with respect and understanding. I wish that I could work with my ex-husband as parents and not involve our children in anything other than their wonderful childhood.

But as my friend said, that won’t work with my ex. I realize, those thoughts are just fantasies. But of course, that is why I stayed with him for so long. Trying everything I could to get him to stop hitting me, lying to me and manipulating me.

Mourning the death of a marriage is important. Feeling the sadness is hard, but necessary. And I am grateful that my friend took the time to write me and give me such good advice. I needed it.

Thank goodness for cell phones

As I wrote yesterday, I am worried about my children. But they are doing just fine.

The technology of today makes sharing parenting with an abuser a little easier to handle. My children texted and I spoke with them last night and they sounded fine.

I spoke with my ex and he seemed calm.

However, I am still worried.

My children have shared with me that their Dad is mean, hard on them, a yeller, and that their step mother is similar to their Dad. They love their Dad and want to see him and spend time him, but they tolerate a strict father.

I know my ex. He is all about power and control and being “strict” is about how it makes him feel and not about any parenting strategy or belief system.

However, if his only flaw as a parent is that he is strict, I’ll take it. He can be a lot worse. I will continue to pray for my children.

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.