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.

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.