Victims can learn to understand the play field

Aug. 12, 2013 _ I spent some time this weekend with a friend who is divorcing an emotional abuser and she wanted some advice in putting in writing their parenting plan for their 5-year-old daughter.

As I helped her navigate this complicated form, I was able to relive my journey through family court and the fear and ignorance I had back when I believed the court system would protect myself and my children from an abuser.

Standing in the shower this morning, I realized there was something here worth sharing with all those other women trying to move through family court with an abuser.

(Just a quick disclaimer: I know that don’t all abusers are men, some are women. And I know that all state courts are not the same. My journey was in Florida and it is important to understand your own state laws.)

The first thing to know is that despite any police report or other evidence of abuse, family court will begin the case and hope to stay in a place that believes that both parents are equally entitled to raise the children and that both parents have the same rights to decide how the children are raise.

That is very important to understand. No matter how much you were abused, the family court in Florida wants to believe a falsehood: That a wife abuser can be a good father.

Take a minute to yell about how stupid that sounds and sucks, and then move on. Because, you can’t change that premise, no matter how wrong you believe it to be.

The next part of that premise, is that the family court doesn’t believe that a child should spend more time with the mother than the abusive father. In fact, the family court sort of believes that the fathers in this state have been unfairly treated by mothers and their attorney’s, so they might be bias to cutting them some slack and giving them more importance.

The family court also assumes that mothers are more likely to fight irrationally for control of their babies, like a mother bear who protects her cubs, and that is not necessarily a good thing for the kids. In other words, the court is likely to assume that you are crazy, hypersensitive and unreasonable in protecting your children. They are going to assume that you think your kids are in danger being with your ex because you are an over zealous mother rather than a victim of unthinkable trauma.

And these are the reasons why you need to get it together and in an hurry for court. Because we know that those assumptions are not correct here. Just read through my blog to find one story about just how an abusive man can hurt his kids.

Nevertheless, you have two choices here:

1. Accept this and learn to work within the system or

2. Fight very hard to prove that your ex is dangerous (and by the way, courts, judges, parent coordinators, mediators and even your own attorney do not want you to do this.)

If you choice number 2, you better have a boatload of proof and lots and lots of evidence that your ex has hurt your child in the past. You will also need a lot of money to pay a willing attorney. If you don’t, and really even if you do, the courts aren’t going to like it at all and that means that they are going to question your parenting for having done it.

Courts want to believe that you are willing to finally work with the father of the child now that you are out of the trauma of the marriage.

I know, it is ass-backwards and doesn’t make any sense to a good mother, nor is it easy. And, choice 1 is completely different than choice 2. If you try to go down the choice 1 route, and then switch to choice 2, you look like a liar. If you stay in choice 2, you look crazy.

The only good news is that if you start down choice 2, let’s say with your attorney, switching to choice 1 makes you look like someone who has learned and is willing to accept her situation in the eyes of the court.

Please don’t misunderstand me … this pisses me off to no end. I think the legal system is very flawed and rewards lying and manipulations and doesn’t really deal with what is best for the children, but I learned to accept this and that helped me heal from the trauma and do my best in court.

Abused mothers have a very narrow road to walk through family court and so much is at stake. And my biggest problem with this system is that it further traumatized an abuse victims. Victims have been through hell and are not given a chance to heal and process what has happened to them at the hands of their loved one.

And then, they are thrown into an arena that completely dismisses the abuse, not because they don’t believe them or want to be fair, but because they don’t care. How depressing is that.

Instead abused mothers have to enter court with their abusers and have to wipe away the trauma without help and suddenly pretend that the co-parent on the other side of the room isn’t the guy that beat them senseless. Now that is crazy-making.

And if the mom tries to protect herself from that ass who beat her by keeping distance, she is treated as through she is putting her needs over her child’s.

So, what to do. Learn as quickly as you can to accept it so you can protect your child. It took me therapy, friends and a good lawyer to do get centered enough to handle the court process.

I will write later about how I handled the court system. But, the best thing to do is to find someone who can help you process the unfairness of all of this, because you need to be at your emotional best when facing this process. Good luck and bless you in your efforts.

 

 

I’m changing the name of DV, so that victims will get help

Aug. 9, 2013 _ For 10 years, I was physically assaulted by my then husband and I didn’t believe I was in a domestic violent relationship.

I didn’t believe I need the help of an emergency shelter. I didn’t need the police. I didn’t need anything but answers from someone who figured out our marital problems, so that we would stop having violent incidents.

I believed that I was just as much responsible for the abuse as my husband because I was arguing with him about whatever and I was not able to find peace with my husband. I believed that I was involved in a difficult relationship, equally and maybe mostly, to blame for the downward spiral of our dynamic.

I labeled our relationship “a bad or difficult relationship” that lacked all the good qualities I craved: communications, empathy, understanding, love.

It took a very long time for me to accept that I was in a “domestic violent” marriage and I was the victim of this very common problem.

It took me a very long time to realize that being a victim means that I am not responsible for the abuse I took and I did not cause the assault. I may have played a role in difficult marriage, but I was not the slightest bit responsible for the abuse.

The only person responsible for the abuse was my husband and the reason we had such a difficult marriage is because my husband abused me when he decided abuse was his best offense to get what he wanted when he wanted it.

I was a victim of domestic abuse and that looks a lot like someone who is partly responsible for a difficult relationship.

I was very resentful about being the target, the scapegoat, the punching bag for someone who abuses others. I was hypersensitive to a lot what my husband did because sometimes, what he did really hurt. I was anxious a lot, because I had something to be anxious about. I was paranoid, because someone I lived with would do unthinkable things to me.

I looked a lot like an angry controlling wife to the outside world. I wasn’t though. I was an abused victim in denial and shock about my situation.

I desperately want to reach others, other victims and let them know something they may not want to hear. They are domestic abuse victims, not women (or men) in a difficult marriage.

I keep thinking that the correct term in victims of a traumatic relationship, instead of domestic abuse victims. If we change the name, maybe we will reach more women who know something is really wrong, but don’t know or want to know its domestic abuse.

It seems easier to say you are a victim of a traumatic relationship then to say you are the victim of a domestic abuse.

The key word is victim. Being a vicim of anything means that you were not responsible for what happened to you. I was a victim of violence at the hands of someone who wasn’t suppose to assault me, ever for any reason.

I was a victim exactly the same as if I was the victim of disease. I didn’t bring it on by my behavior. I was blindsided by it.

My responsibility for my own victimization came when I stayed long enough to be hit again. And that is also where it ended. My angry self didn’t cause abuse. I wasn’t in some dance that caused abuse.

I happened to marry an abuser, something I did not know when I got married and got pregnant by an abuser. I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t earn it. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time by no known action on my part.

For all of those victims who think they have to change some behavior, you do, but it is not the behavior he or others are telling you. You need to accept that you are not the reason why you are hit and therefore, you can’t be the reason why he will stop hitting you.

You can make it much more difficult for him to hit you, you can leave and put a very big locked door between you. You can go to the police. You can speak out and let everyone in your life know that you are getting hit.

That is your best hope to make it stop. But, you go ahead and call him an ass, he is. You go ahead and call him a criminal, he is. You go ahead and be mad that you were hurt by him. Who wouldn’t be.

And when you come to accept that you are not just in a bad relationship, you were hooked up with an abuser and you can be OK again. Hang in there.

Forgive me, DV agencies need to improve

August 8, 2013 _ I am very grateful for the services offered by my local domestic abuse agency and the support I have received, but, um, I think the agency needs to make a dramatic change.

And, I think that most agencies need to do the same _ that is, completely reevaluate the goal, the services and the approach. As I write this, I want the hit the delete key and erase all of this and just accept the services that are provided for free! But, to do so would be to deny the feelings I feel and continue the “just shut up and accept it” mentality that got me into this mess in the first place.

So, I’m going to point out a few things that I see and how we can improve services for the victims of domestic abuse.

  1. Do not hold support groups that are lead by young, unmarried college kids who have never experienced abuse. I sat last night in such a group meeting with four other victims. The leader, a nice enough young women, more or less “taught” us how to set boundaries off a printed sheet that included how we women need to give ourselves 30 minutes to meditate or read and stand up to friends who ask too much. Yep, she is right, but the frozen daze on these women’s faces told me something really important _ these women are suffering big time and lessons in self-care is like trying to cure cancer with aspirin. Our group leader was trying her best, but she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t get what is going on. She set up one more voice in the heads of these women that they need to “do” something to make the abuse stop. Really? Victims are victims are victims. It sucks. The only thing a victim can “do” to make it stop is leave. The only thing a young therapist should be teaching a victim of abuse is that it is OK to leave.
  2. Don’t treat women like second class citizens. I love that my local agency hands out free stuff for women of abuse, but frankly the free bread and hygiene products getting handed out sure make me feel like they see me as a victim of life instead of a victim of abuse. I really appreciate the gift of the bread, but I don’t need bread, I need help in protecting my children from their abusive father. I need help understanding a legal system that doesn’t understand domestic violence. I need help recovering from abuse and how it made me feel. I need help dealing with PTSD. Your loaves of bread, make me feel like you see me as incapable. Wow, did I really write that .. Yes, I did. But frankly, treating domestic abuse victims like they are charity cases just keeps the shame alive.
  3. Create programs that help women navigate their way out beyond the emergency shelter. I was financially beholding to my abuser, unemployed, and so on, but I would never have left him if all I had was a temporary shelter. I left because I figured out how to get out without having to go to a shelter. Why do you think so many women stay? This is the alternative? Community living with strangers in a temporary setup with your kids? Who wants that? I learned how to take a blow from my husband. I had some piece of normalcy with my abuser. And hey, I paid the price and got what I got. I’m not saying the shelter wouldn’t have been better for us, but if your agency is saying it wants to help, then maybe you should think about what really will.

Look, I’m not trying to push aside all that agencies do. I use them after all. But, I am saying that there is a mindset that needs changing. Victims are just that, victims of someone’s criminal abuse. They are not stupid for staying with an abuser. They are hurt. And hurt people need help, but the right kind. They need to process the trauma they have experienced.

They need to know that they are NOT the reason they have been abused. They need to know that they can get through this and find joy on the other side. They need to know that there are people, in this crazy evolving world, who understand.

The do not need lessons in life any more or any less than any of us. Think of it this way, imagine what you would say to a person who lost their leg in a car accident in which they were the passenger. Gee, let me teach you how to drive a car so this won’t happen again.

Umm, may be helpful, but that is not what that victim is thinking about.

It’s time to listen to those who have been through it and understand how much it sucks. And if you want to help, well then, ask a victim, “How can I help you?” or simply say, “I’m here.”

I’ll write more about this because there is so much more to say, including, thank you to all those who help and give to victim agencies.

Accepting my journey, my abuser and who I am

Aug. 4, 2013 _ Today, I’m sitting on my sunny back porch, tapping away on my laptop and enjoying the birds flying around my back yard.

My children are with me, safe and sound. My abuser is no where near me.

I am content today and not afraid and when I am feeling this way, I’m grateful.

I don’t always feel this way.

As you know, my ex-husband and the father of my children is an abuser and likely a narcissist, who has spent years and years lashing out at me in so many horrible ways. The worst experience by far, even worse than being strangled, was a frivolous custody suit he filed against me 5 years after our divorce. I was never so scared as I was in those months during that suit.

I had to imagine a future that sent my innocent boys to live the majority of the time with my abusive ex-husband, who has never done anything solely for the sake of his children unless it also suits his needs, narcissistic supply or was some necessary variable in some fabricated plot he was spinning.

But, all of that is past me now, or I should say FOR now. Who knows when he will strike against me or my children again.

I’ve learned, after 20 some years of life with an abuser, that I don’t control his actions in the slightest and therefore, I never know when he will attack again.

I accept that there is nothing I can do to alter my ex-husband’s choices, though for years I believed that I could. He is who is he is, a very dysfunctional and dangerous man, to himself and others and the best I can do is avoid him at all costs.

I used to try to “get back” my life before abuse and get back on the path I wanted to be on … marriage, grandchildren, growing old together …. yada yada yada.

I know now that my path is different than that. And finally, I’m OK with that.

I am grateful.

My path today includes lawyers, counselors, parenting plans, and careful walks with children who are confused by their family.

My path today includes learning to live well despite having PTSD. My path today includes feeling the feelings I have tried to stuff for so many years.

My path today is more about acceptance than I’ve ever had before.

I am a strong woman who is a survivor and I continue to find the good twisted up on this journey.

God, thank you for my children. Wow, I’m glad they are here. The abuse I took from their father sucked, but is so outweighed by the delight of these kids.

I set out today, with new resolve to work hard on this issue that faces our country. I want to spread the word, with other victims today, that domestic abuse needs to stop.

It starts with legislation that prevents abusers to have custody of their kids and prevents forced contact with victim and abuser. It includes shaming the abuser by his or her peers so that they don’t believe they can get away with it any more.

The path I am on now is one that includes pulling together as many people as I can to help end this horrible crime and put families back together.

Together, we can make a difference. Together our voices matter. Together, we victims of abuse, we survivors, can let others know that domestic abuse should not be tolerated anymore.

 

Who wants to name their bad relationship “abusive”?

There are thousands of women, and men, out there living a silent hell in horribly abusive relationships, marriages and unions who haven’t let go of the hope for a happy life with their abuser.

These victims don’t want to face the truth about their partners because they don’t want to give up the hope for a loving relationship and for remarkably simple reasons, they believe their abusers are their only chance.

Victims tell themselves a variety of excuses for the abuse that keep them in the relationship. They believe:

  • Their partner has some sort of illness or condition like bi-polar or aneurism that is causing the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde behavior;
  • They themselves are the cause, by putting high expectations or unreasonable demands on their abuser;
  • That couples counseling will solve the problem;
  • That circumstances are the cause, such as a negative job or difficult childhood;
  • That there is something they can do to heal, fix or make better the relationship/abuser.

And more subconsciously;

  • They are not good enough for better;
  • They are too demanding;
  • They will take any kind of love, no matter how unhealthy or diminished.

The dynamic of abuser and victim is not really complicated but is very misunderstood and is only now being investigated. Here is a great article that sheds light on the dance.

In order for the dance to stop and the dynamic to end, the victim must realize that these are not truths or causes and that the abuser will not change, not without a lot of self-sought help.

Abusers are of course broken human beings who are in their own dance within their thoughts to handle a very deep fear and insecurity. They make the choice to abuse as a way to deal with fear. Victims may see through to the heart of the abuser and have compassion, sympathy, even pity. So, the victim believes that there is something out there that can “cure” those dark and broken feelings within their abuser and they will try to find it.

Victims I know, myself included, decide not to throw away the abuser simply because they abuse. Instead, we held out in the hope that they would and could change.

I spent many years trying to find the trick or answer that would change my ex-husband so that we could have a normal life and raise our children in peace.

I didn’t give up for a very long time, because so much was at stake.

And with each year of failure, my self-esteem, already so damaged, slipped more and more.

My relationship was no where near what I had hoped for and was beginning to believe was impossible no matter what.

I lived in a delusion that controlled nearly every thought I had all because I thought this was my only shot at my dreams and didn’t want to loose it.

I paid a very high price to cling to something that never was. My ex-husband may have been able to fake the part of a husband and partner in love, but he never, not from day one, ever was.

Finally, I began to accept it and the truths about him. That he was completely self-centered and was never going to be a partner. That he would do anything, including hurt me in anyway, to get what he wanted or vend off his deeply inner pain. His fear and desire drove him every minute of his day and there would never be any room for others.

My ex-husband still lives this way, from the bits and pieces of his life that I see through co-parenting. He still abuses me, too, though not physically. I am not a person to him, but no one is. I am a tool that he uses to make himself feel better in the moment.

He doesn’t really care about the future, as much as he cares about himself in the moment.

I left him after 15 years together, 10 years of physical abuse and emotional abuse beyond comprehension. I struggled in disbelieve that anyone could care so little about their wife, mother of their children, another person. I was in shock and denial for a very long time, even after I divorced him.

Finally, I accept the simplicity of the situation: I married an abuser, who likely has a personality disorder that will never be “cured” and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in that dance. I want peace in my life more than the fantasy of the white picket fence life I had in my head. I want peace in my life more than I want a husband. I want peace in my life even more than I want food on my table.

Finally, I accept that there is nothing I can do for my abusive ex-husband except pray for him and those in his path. And it is best that I stay away from him in every way.

Finally, I accept that there is nothing I did to deserve this fate. I tried to make it work with a man who said he loved me and I gave it a very good try. I did my best, that was the choice I made. Then, I made another one. I couldn’t give anymore of my self to this person who would never give back. I didn’t want to be with someone who was so careless about my vulnerabilities. I longed for something real and better, but it was never going to be with this man.

I accept that leaving is messy and has a lot of hurdles. Unfortunately, the courts in most states don’t understand domestic abuse and so therefore add trauma to the already traumatic situation. Unfortunately, I was a stay-at-home mother, years out of the work force, so I had to make my way through the economic hardships that it caused.

I accept that I have traumatic stress from the years of anxiety he put me through and I need to continue to work with excellent therapy to heal from that and I accept that I have to co-parent with my abuser because the family court says I must.

I accept that our society is learning too slowly about domestic abuse and how it works and damages children, families, and even the fabric of our communities.

And, I accept that I am OK despite all the bad stuff. In fact, I am grateful for the life I have, my children, my friends and my successes. I am grateful to have a journey to travel and I am grateful that I have stopped putting energy into trying to get back on some path I thought I was walking.

If you are reading this and think that you might be in an abusive relationship, please get help. You need it and it will be better. If you are reading this and think you know someone who is being abuse, please reach out to them. It will be very bumpy if you do, but you are saving a life, maybe the lives of children. If you are reading this, and you are a lawmaker, please learn about what really does prevent domestic abuse and bring it to your state legislature.

And if you are reading this, and know an abuser, please help by letting them know you know and you don’t condone it. Abusers abuse because they can and have very little backlash for the choice. When they realize that their avenues of abuse are shutting down, that’s when they stop.

Abusers can be “shamed” into stopping. They can not be “loved” into it. It’s that simple.

What will stop DV

June 30, 2013_ After years of surviving the trauma of domestic abuse, both emotional and physical, and learning to manage the hurt, damage and pain of my walk being attached to a domestic abuser, I stand today wishing there was a way to make it all stop, for me and for every other victim of this senseless abuse.

Often, when my ex is in the throws of pulling us over the cliff of abuse, I feel a panicked instinct to hold back myself, my kids even my ex from going over the cliff of destruction that abuse causes everyone. My ex makes choices in the moment of his life and doesn’t always think through to the end of how his actions will effect others or even himself.

Abusers, and my ex is not an exception, don’t understand how to live in relationships with others so they watch others and play at being a role. Sometimes, when they have learned well, they can mimic a healthy relationship for a while. My ex has learned how to be a good employee for example and he does this “work” because he wants a certain outcome for himself _ the job that gives him positive feedback. He eats up two forms of feedback 1. Adoration and 2. Fear. That is what he is always seeking from the relationships in his life. Those in his orbit must give him one or the other or both. If they don’t, then he will work to get them to or he will eventually dump them and move on.

I work very hard to provide neither for my ex because I believe today that it is best for all of us, my children, him, his wife, if I am not in his orbit at all. Unfortunately, because of our children, I still am no matter what I do. So, I can never totally leave.

This journey is difficult and taxing on me and my kids. I am emotionally re-traumatized all the time because I care for the well-being of my children. I care that my ex will take us all over the cliff again and again for no good reason. When my ex sued me for custody of two teen-age children, I knew that he was making a horrible decision for himself and not just me and the kids.

I knew that he would not win all that he sought. I knew that had he spoken to me first about what he wanted, I would have come to a form of agreement. I knew that he would have to pay a boat load of money and I knew that the kids would resent the court order that would then dictate their lives. I knew that custody suits don’t leave anyone without scars and I knew that it was a horrible parenting decision to do it.

I also knew that the case would drag on for months and would end sometime in my oldest son’s 17th year, so close to 18th birthday when legal custody dissolves.

To me, the custody battle was a pointless, damaging jump over the cliff that would hurt all of us deeply.

I believe that to my ex-husband, it was an opportunity to dominate me causing me to fear him and it was an opportunity that would be lost with my child’s 18th birthday. He had to act fast in order to capitalize on our child’s minor age and get the last drop of abuse that he could out of me over this.

My ex also found a way to dominate another human being legally and that matters a lot to him. The one thing that kept him from abusing me physically or any other way, was if someone found out that he was breaking a taboo and stained his image. Abusers, and specifically narcissistic personality disorder abusers, link every choice they make back to their own thoughts on how they think others perceive them.

For a very long time, my ex didn’t want anyone to know that he would hit me. He believed that if he was labeled an abuser, he would loose his status in his society. He saw professional football players, many who he wrote about as an NFL national sports writer, get beat up in the press for their abuses of their girlfriends and wives, so he was afraid of that happening to him. He also was able to read that in polite circles, DV didn’t happen. So he didn’t want to be outed.

I didn’t want it outed either. First because I was trying to keep a fantasy going that we could be happy. Then, because I didn’t want my children to have a bad childhood. Until, I finally wised up and realized that silence is what keeps DV going.

In the quiet, hidden corners of relationships, abuse happens everyday because abusers know completely that they can get away with it … that it won’t sink their reputations.

My ex eventually told his new wife that he hit me, but he did it through tears of regret and his own victimization. Of course, I wasn’t there, but between court testimony and his own story he told me, he explained, I’m sure very effectively that he was essentially abused by me and found himself with no good choice but to hit.

An I imagine, because I’ve been there, that his wife is holding onto the fantasy that her husband is not a monster who would hit his wife.

And when his wife bought into the idea that I was evil, of course she would deem me an unfit mother and wonder why my ex wouldn’t want to protect his children from me with a custody fight. Of course, I don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of their lives, but I did hear some pretty unbelievable spin during a court case and heard my ex’s wife speak through clenched teeth about my short-comings as a mom and ex-wife.

And of course, the reason why my ex was able to push and push a custody battle for teen-agers who had lived quiet well and happily for five years post divorce is because he could. Lawyers don’t care about the damage the suit would do to my children. Judges don’t question why a case has been filed even a tenth more than they just judge the allegations. But worse, friends and family don’t want to get involved in the dirty laundry of others.

Most people struggle with their own dramas that they don’t want to engage in others. It is a sad state of our society that we all don’t want to help each other out more. It is so easy to just sit and judge from the position of well, I may think what I think with limited informations, but I don’t want to engage.

As a victim of domestic trauma, I can’t tell you how little I am asked about it. I know it is because people don’t feel that it is an acceptable subject to discuss for any of us. I wish I could tell them, that I want to talk about it. It is helpful to do so and helps me feel it instead of bury it, where it continues to do damage.

I wish people would look at my ex and tell him to his face to stop hurting his ex-wife and children. If they did and didn’t buy any of his bullshit spin, then he would stop abusing. It really is that simple. Abusers abuse because they can. The day they will stop is the day that it because socially unacceptable to abuse …. even more than the legal status of abuse.

The day my ex will stop abusing me and his children will come when he is shunned by people, not even everyone, but by most for doing it. For every person that believes that giving him the benefit of the doubt is helpful, he grows stronger in his belief that he can get away with this very unhealthy coping skill. And that is all that it is for him, when he is struggling emotionally for whatever reason, dominating someone makes him feel better.

If you want to help in the fight to stop domestic abuse, then start by letting the abuser know that it is not OK with you how he chooses to cope with his pain.

Healing through feeling

June 22, 2013_ This morning my pain is intense and my PTSD has been triggered. My children are coming home tomorrow after two weeks with my abusive ex-husband and I am flooded with worry.

My anxiety is not the result of any fact that I know today. I haven’t received a call from my children that they have been physically abuse, or even emotionally hurt. But, my anxiety is high nevertheless.

When I have the time to dig into those feelings, I try to understand what is going on inside my head and my heart. I don’t want to. I would rather avoid facing the wounds inside of me that are caused by having a relationship with an abusive, narcissistic man. But, I know that if I don’t face it and let myself cry,  then I will not be healthy for who knows how long.

So, I sit in the morning quiet and let myself go there:

1. After 20 years plus with this man in my life, I am still in shock and want to believe that the bad half will go away or was all some joke and the good half will be back. I married this man and procreated with him because I wanted it to work, have a family, have what everyone else wants: A peaceful, happy family life to live out. I ignored all the signs, all the lies and hurtful actions of him early on or chalked it up to immaturity. Later, when it got really bad, I put on my “I can love him enough to fix him” hat and dragged us both through an army of therapists … rarely speaking about abuse but instead focused on cooperations, compromise and communication. I believed that the abuse was a symptom of our bad marriage. If the marriage got better, than the abuse would stop. It is hard to believe that I still cling to the idea that some how some way, he will change.

2. Mostly, though, I hear the far off voice in my head that explains how it will go… I will always be a target in the sights of an abuser because, I’m here. That brings me so much pain. Imagine what life would be like if your rapist lived around the corner and had court-ordered access to you. That is what is feels like for me every day. Sure, I can stuff it down a lot, or hide from the thoughts for periods of time, but mostly, I live with the dull ache of a trauma victim who can never quite feel safe. Most people who are not trauma victims or abuse victims believe, falsely, that I should be able to just get over it and move on. I wish with all my heart that I could. I’ve tried, hell, I keep trying. But it isn’t that easy or simple.

I live with an altered life than before meeting my ex-husband. I will always be vulnerable to his self-serving games in some degree and there is not much I can do about it. Because, and it has taken me years of therapy to understand this, I don’t control it. I can only accept it. My ex is an abuser and will always be and only he has control of that. No matter how much I try to get away from him, to run for safety, I will always be tied to him through out children. There is no final peaceful end zone. I now have one minor child and one who is 18 and just because the courts are no longer involved in our older child, doesn’t take away the vulnerability. My ex continues to manipulate our oldest for his own gain and at best, I can only watch in horror and hope that God and my love will help him handle it and understand it and not because co-dependent to a father who really only cares about himself.

3. My stepfather was emotionally abusive and treated my mother and her children badly for 25 years. As a child, I had hoped and believed that one day, the man would be exiled from our lives because my mother would wise up and leave the man. It never happened. Peace for me and my siblings finally came in only two ways: emotional detachment from my mother and the death of my mother. My mom died at a relatively young age and that is what finally brought the abuse by my stepfather to an end for me. I could finally turn away from him for good and never experience the abuse again. I was able to finally process and heal, but it came at such a great cost. I often will say that I would give anything to have my mother back, but I sometimes wonder if I would sell back the peace I have away from my stepfather’s abuse.

4. Most of our society, close friends, lawyers, judges, etc., don’t understand the abusive/victim relationship and just how emotionally damaging and unfair it is. Maybe it is because, like me, no one can quite believe that anyone, especially someone who looks normal, can be so cruel to another person, or a member of their own family. Whatever the reason, I can’t tell you how re-traumatizing it is to have to battle the misunderstanding of the hell that I deal with. Abusers are excellent at redirecting blame and dismissing and minimizing abuse. There is nothing more gut-wrenching that trying to sort through those feelings as a victim. I already blame myself of the abuse I suffer in more ways than I can write. When a loved one, or an attorney or counselor buys into the notion that it takes two to tango or that now that the marriage is over, the fighting should end, a victim just feels lost and hopeless all over again.

My ex shifts the history of our life over and over to suit his current story. His story about himself play out in just a couple of ways, a. his is a miracle who somehow made it through a horrible childhood in which he was seriously mistreated by a drunken mother and absentee father so the standards for his conduct today are lower than everyone else. He should be applauded for everything that he has accomplished since he did it on his own and if he doesn’t know how to act within a family or a circle of friends, he has a good reason. OR b. he is so mistreated by (fill in the blank) that he is entitled to strike back with whatever means he has.

My ex doesn’t stop, ever, to think about how his actions effect anyone, ever, except how they might treat him as a result. He creates a stream of pity and awe from those who he wants to keep around in order to maintain a stream of “love” toward him. This is like the one way street of harvesting a crop. A farmer doesn’t fertilize the field because he wants the corn to feel better or be treated well. He spreads the BS so that the plants will produce for him. This is the same for the abuser.

He also stomps on anyone who he thinks he can in order to shore up his self-image of power and superiority. And only he knows the delicate dance of self-thinking and image project that is necessary to be both passive and aggressive  without ruining the whole think.

5. I used to play a pretty critical role in this dance, I still do in fact, but I’m not in control of most of it. But, when I was married and shortly after, I thought I was able to touch the right nerves to prevent abuse. But, I wasn’t. I used to get hit a lot when I was married. Soon after, my ex was afraid that I would tell what he did to me, so he switched his story to show the world that he was a great ex-husband .. he got pity from others and kept me from telling on him. He found a way to benefit from it all and I thought it worked. Our children had civil parents in divorce and that was my incredible hope for them.

The role I played, and now see, to keep it tolerable …. I would always real him in when I saw he was headed toward hurting me or the kids. I would talk to him and face him. I would confront him and “teach” him … because afterall he always played the role of poor nearly orphaned boy who didn’t know better. I believed him. So, I would coach him or instruct him that his actions, he may not realize, is hurting some people.

When he was unduly harsh in punishment with our children, I would calming speak to him about why that wasn’t a good idea from one single parent to another … and he, would listen, but never agree. I would then make some statement about what consequence might come, maybe to him, if he were to ever hit the kids. Dropping hints that he might not like a visit from the police.

Sometimes, I would try to appeal to his better nature of why he shouldn’t say move is “new” girlfriend into his house the day after he introduced her to our children. Or maybe he hasn’t thought about how that might look to a judge. Sometimes, I would stand firm on issues that I believed were absolutely in the worst interests of our children, like spending weeks away from home in his sole care, where they would have no escape if he began to hit.

But, these “games” were extremely draining and got a lot harder once he married and had a new supply of attention. It became harder for him to keep going with the story-line too. She was very insecure, understandably so, and couldn’t understand why he spent so much time touching base with me. So, the story had to change.

He started making false accusations toward me and picking fights that were based in fantasy. He screamed at me one day in a parking lot, that I had abused him. This was strange only because he never denied the abuse before. Not in front of attorneys, not in front of counselors, not even at a spouse abuse intervention group where he was suppose to be in therapy to stop hitting me.

I knew then, the I was in over my head. I couldn’t keep us with the speed of his spin or the level to which he would sink. I wouldn’t go there. I may have been playing a game with him, but it was with purpose to protect my children and stop abuse. I honored him when he seemed “healthy” and I played to get us to authenticity. I had hoped that by trying to see thinks his way, although I didn’t have faith in it, we could stay somewhat healthy as co-parents.

I set boundaries, not because I was some broken controlling bitch, but because without them, a lot was at stake for us all. I didn’t want to have to call the police and ruin all of our lives. I didn’t want my children to live with the result of going over a cliff because my ex didn’t have the best judgment.

But, judgment wasn’t the problem and trying to mitigate that deficiency was a mistake and pointless.

Instead seeing a woman trying to stay ahead of expected abuse, both emotional and physical, for herself and her children, society sees a woman who is crazy, holding onto the past, and bitter.

6. Family law is broken and society is responsible and that sucks. Call me what you want, bitter, resentful, damaged, crazy … it doesn’t hurt me as much as the reality that for me and my children, we will always have an abuser in our lives … a man who will may hurt us for any reason at any time and with no warning. A few miles from my home, my abuser lives and that thought can cause my anxiety to skyrocket. It is not fair that I am forced to co-parent with a man who has no limits to how he will hurt me if it suits him. But, it is true and I do not have the power to change it. When we first divorced, I moved 6 hours away from my abuser. Less than a year later, he moved three miles from my home, tried to socialize with my brand new friends, and lied to our old ones. He sued me twice, first for child support reduction despite his new job that more than doubled his income, and then for custody of our teenagers five years after our divorce. He abused me in this way because he could and still can. He is allowed to use the court to harass me as much as he wants and as long as he has friends and attorneys who tell him he is right then he will keep it up. I have to live with this daily and it sucks.

7. My ex is not well and won’t likely get well so this is my life. It casts a dark, muddy light on it that I would do just about anything to make go away, except the few actions that would work … walking away from my life or my children. I wouldn’t give up the children, their birth, their happiness for anything in the world. Nothing would cause me more pain. I have sacrificed my life in many ways for theirs. Oh not like some hero … far from it … I have been a mess many times with my children. Weak and broken and lost. But mostly I can be strong for them and I strive to be stronger every day. I want the best for them, even if I am unable to give it. I am never unwilling. I pray that God will protect them where I can not. I pray that God will lead me where I don’t know where to go. I seek professional help so that I can learn how to navigate this for them. I don’t want the only answer for peace to be death or an end.

8. My heart breaks for my children. My first born is such a sweet young man who only wants everyone to get along and doesn’t understand why that doesn’t happen. He wants his family to be normal and together and he doesn’t want any more trauma in his life. He is hoping that there is something he can do to make that happen … just like me so many years ago. He is on his own journey that will have more pain and that he won’t likely understand and I wish I could find the right words to help him, but I don’t know what they are.

My children didn’t get the best childhood that they deserved and I’m like any other mother out there …. I wanted them too. My guilt runs deep that I gave these children their father and then gave them a divorce and then didn’t stop the rest of it. I didn’t have the power to do it and I am so sad about that. My children are precious and special and when they get home tomorrow, they will have feelings that they don’t understand … what they are, I won’t likely know … but I can guess.

At best, they will long for a single household, married parents and peaceful family relationships. At worst, they will have to decompress from whatever emotional hoops their father put before them and now have to try to figure out if I am the enemy or the mother they have always loved.

So, I sit here this morning. Crying and writing. Trying to let out the feelings that keep me up at night and cloud my mind. I want to have the normal life that others don’t understand why I don’t have. I want to live in the moment and enjoy. I want to go back and start over and pick the person who is healthy and not an abuser. But, I can’t. I have to live with that mistake forever. And I have to fight the urge to run from my feelings and pretend. I have to fight trying to think my way out of this mess and just feel how bad it feels. I have to fight wanting to “do” something to fix it and just feel it.

And I have to live with the truth that I am different than others. I am not married to my soulmate or best friend. I am not without damage. I don’t trust people much, but so desperately want to. I have a deep disappointment that will never go away and I will loose people in my life because of it. Not many people want to hang out with someone who isn’t normal.

 

 

How to co-parent with an abusive, narcissist ex-husband

April 13, 2013 _ If you are reading this, you are most likely trying to figure out how to stay sane and keep your children safe because you are co-parenting with an abusive man.

I know that most of my readers stop by either because they know me, or because they have found me searching for help. I am going to speak to the latter today.

Dear Mothers of children of an abuser, I understand your anxiety. I’ve been there. I have two children with a narcissist abuser and have been trying to co-parent with him post divorce for 8 years. It isn’t fun. In fact, it has been the most difficult experience of my life. Worse than loosing my mother to cancer. Worse than anything I’ve ever been through and it has taken years of therapy, support from friends and family, journaling, courtroom battles, lawyers and so on to get where I am today _ finally finding acceptance and inner peace. You can get there too.

If you want to learn more about my personal story, please read through this blog site, email me or comment. I am happy to help you in anyway I can beyond this site. But today, I’m going to give you some quick tips on how to handle this challenge in your life.

Part I

Understand what you are dealing with. An abusive man will not change, ever. Period. So stop trying to help him, make him, figure him out. You must come to terms with this as quickly as you can. Denial is very dangerous in this dynamic. I know you believe that he has some good in him and that good, if nurtured by you, will come out. It won’t. I have been researching domestic abuse and narcissism for more than a year now and I have yet to find one story about an abuser who has changed their spots and lived happily ever after with their mate. You must let go of this pipe dream, albeit noble.

Letting go of the denial is the first step to grieving the loss of your dreams of a happy family, hope of a better future with your husband and the father of your children. But you must and time is of the essence.  As you begin to accept the truth that you will never be able to control your ex from stopping his horrible behavior toward you or your children. Basically, you can’t. You can set boundaries and involve the authorities on a small scale, but abusers are very good, better than you, can manipulating the system in their favor. So this is a fight you will likely loose.

And that realization leads to anger and depression. But, that too is part of the process of finding inner peace and a better life.

Once you have given your chance to feel all of these feelings, you will be on a much stronger road to recovery. You must allow yourself to cry and shout and basically wonder how you got into this mess. This stage is horrible. Talk to a trusted friend. Watch sad movies that cause you to cry. Listen to sad music. Feel it. It will help in the long run.

You need to get to acceptance as quickly as possible and the only way to get there is through the fire so to speak. Avoiding the pain will do you and your children no good.

Your ex-husband is a dangerous man and you need to be healthy to deal with him and help your children handle their father. Look at it this way, some people have to cope with chronic illness. Some people are born into devastating poverty. There are tragedies abound. I turn to God to cope with this fact. God promised us each a life to live, but not without challenges. He promises to walk with us as we faced those challenges. This is ours. We must walk with an abuser as we raise our children. I have a dear friend who’s child has autism. Another friend who’s child passed away when he was 2. Another friend who’s child has Asberge’s. My nephew has type 1 diabetes. These are all challenges they have had no choice in but have to face. Denial hurts their walk. It doesn’t help. They must accept their circumstance quickly in order to navigate it the best way possible. Our children have an abusive, narcissistic father. The best help you can give them, is to let go of the fantasy that he will change, or that the legal system will change, or that fairness will win out. Your life and your children’s lives matter more than maintaining a fantasy. Get over it and get real.

Part II

Get a great attorney and a wonderful understanding therapist. You need to get as much in the court system as possible. Do not try to be forgiving, kind, noble or understanding of your ex-husband plight. He wants you to believe that he is the victim, not you. Don’t feel guilty. That is your co-dependancy talking. Ignore advice or comments encouraging you to find ways to get along. It is not possible for any length of time. Instead, figure out ways to get as much covered by parenting plans, court order, etc. Don’t settle for anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Hang in there. You won’t win everything, but fight hard for what you think is right for your children. Think always of them and what will give them the best shot at a normal childhood. But always remember, they will have to deal with the challenges of their father. You won’t be successful in protecting them from that.

With a very, very detailed parenting plan you will be on the road to a peaceful life. Your ex will not likely violate a court order. Or if he does, you will have the court behind you and there are serious consequences to the violation. If he does violate, seek legal help immediately. Don’t hesitate. Remember the first time he hit you? Did you call the police? Mostly likely not and look how that worked out. Learn from the mistakes of our past. Involving the legal system whenever you can will cut down the episodes of violations because most abusers are wimps at heart and don’t want to get in trouble.

Also, you must follow the plan at all times. Do not make “an executive decision” for the sake of your kids. If you do, you will be seen as the problem and the courts will act accordingly. I know this is hard, because who knows their kids better than you. But, you must remember that once the courts are involved in custody of your children, you are not the final say over their upbringing. When this gets you down or angry, then reread Part I! Grieve and move on. Remember, we all have challenges.

Part III

If your ex-husband is a narcissist, like mine, then you need to understand his personality disorder or you may continue to be a victim of it. Abusers will abuse whomever they want. You are not the reason for their abuse, no matter what you have been told. Abusers want to dominate others at all times. They will never learn from their own experience. They will always spin events in their lives so that they are the winner. Read about narcism. Read about the dynamic. Read about your role in the relationship. It will help you know how to react.

I have found that limited contact is the best course. I am not able to eliminate contact with my ex because of court ordered communication. But, I have the “permission” to stay away from him as much as possible. And after years of trying to find a way to “get along” with him, I have finally found it is best to steer clear. I had to mourn a lot over this decision. Early on, I wanted contact so that I could watch over my children while they were with him. Later, I was sad that there was a part of my children’s family lives that didn’t include me. I had to realize that that was part of life. Not fair, but accurate. And the sooner I accepted the truths, the better I and my children would be.

Today, my 18 year old has to deal with his father, not me. The more I let that happen, the better for my son, who needs to learn the skills in dealing with a narcissist. He will have one in his life for as long as my ex is alive. My younger child has to handle it as well. My job for my children is to provide a listening ear and an understanding heart, but not to meddle in their relationship. It is hard, but it is best.

I do whatever I can to remain detached from my ex. Here are a few things I did that you might find helpful:

  • I got a new email address that I use for friends and family. My old email is just for my ex and spam! I check it only every few days or so and only when I’m emotionally ready.
  • I find ways to do exchange of children without seeing my ex. I ask friends or plan for school pickups, etc.
  • If I do have to pick up my children at their father’s house, I get on the phone while I’m in his driveway. I don’t make eye contact and I move as quickly as possible.
  • When my kids are with their dad, I communicate with them directly using their cell phones.
  • I don’t lie about the abuse I experienced when we were married. I share with people when necessary why I don’t want contact with my ex.

If I never have contact with my ex again, I am OK with that and I do think that is best.