Are You Open About the Abuse?

Dear Readers,

I’m writing a story about women who no longer hide that they are an abuse victim. Are you will to be a part of an article I am writing about this subject for divorcedmoms.com? If so, please msg me at Thriving in Crazy Land on divorcedmoms.com. I would like to interview as many women victims of domestic abuse as possible.

Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,

J.B.Cole

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.

 

It has been awhile since I’ve posted

June 22, 2014 _ I am a survivor of Domestic Violence and Abuse, recovering from PTSD, a mother of two wonderful children, 51 years old, divorced, a writer, businesswoman and unfortunately co-parenting with my abuser under court-order.

It has been 20 years since I was first physically attacked by then husband, 9 years since the last time he attacked me.

It has been one day since he last emotionally abused me. He did it by creating a fight with me while our child is in his care by telling me that our child is upset with me over my parenting style and a “decision” that he fears I’ve made. When I wouldn’t engage with his abusive texts, he contacted the parenting coordinator and told her to call the judge and report me as neglecting my duty to communicate. I asked to see our child so that I could hear the concerns directly, my ex said no.

After 20 years of abuses my ex has expressed, the details aren’t really all that important anymore. There are so many incidents of controlling, malicious behaviors, that they blur together.

My brain works very logically. I want to understand relationship dynamics because I want to get along with everyone. It is part of my co-dependent nature. When sudden trouble shows up in any of my relationships, I am immediately disturbed and begin the exhausting process of pealing the events and actions back so that I can understand how we got off on the wrong track.

However, relationships with some people don’t work, no matter the path it takes. Some people have problems, to say the least. And that notion has always been hard to get my head around. I’ve always believed in the fantasy that with enough, acceptance and explanation to avoid misunderstanding, people’s better nature will win out and relationships will run smoothly.

That fantasy has caused me years of pain.

It took me just about half a century to learn that some people are very broken and their better nature is hopelessly entangled in their own fear and personality disorders and impossible to operate normally, and

I don’t have the power to cause anyone to operate through their better nature.

Some people aren’t waiting to clear up a misunderstanding.

Some people don’t want relationships to run smoothly.

Some people don’t care if another person is hurt, or worse, want others hurt.

I think that fantasy is one many hold. I don’t think that I am alone. In fact, I’ve seen many people believe that my ex, an admitted abuser who relishes dominating people in every way, can be reasonable, even kind and loving if only he is in the right circumstance.

I’ve seen that in many domestic abuse cases. So much of our society believes that abusers are abusing because of circumstance and not because they are criminals. It doesn’t compute to believe that a person can follow the rules of society, like marriage, jobs, children, etc., and still be a criminal.

My therapist said it this way to me, “Crazy people still go to the grocery store.”

So true.

The danger in assuming that all those people milling about the grocery store are sane and reasonable, is that we afford a lot of latitude to sane people _ we don’t have protecting boundaries in place for ourselves and for our children.

Last night as I worried about my child, I forced myself to watch a sad movie. It is a trick I have to make myself cry _ really. I have to find ways to make myself cry when I’m worried about my children and my ex because if I don’t, the fear of trauma is trigger in me. Years and years of abuse means fight or flight reflex is easily accessed with who knows how many extra synapses created in my brain. Crying, feeling sorry for myself, actually helps way more than my normal reaction … to problem solve (part of the reflex).  But, years and years of abuse, means that I want to problem solve way more than I want to feel sorry for myself.

So, I force the feeling to come using tricks, designed by my therapist. Watching sad movies, listening to sad songs, photo albums … Essentially, I am forcing myself to feel the real feeling behind all of this.

I am sad that I was abused by my children’s father. I’m sad that I won’t grow old with my children’s father. I am sad that I couldn’t stop my children from having a fucked up childhood. I am sad that my children are forced to navigate life with an abusive father. I am sad that he won’t ever get better.

Feeling the real feeling helps me to no end. Oh, it sucked last night as I cried my eyes out. But, just a few minutes later, I felt a lot better and I accept that there is no problem solving I can do, no fight or flight reaction that will change the truth about my situation … that my ex, the father of my children is a criminal and the courts and society don’t truly acknowledge domestic abuse as a real crime against a person.

Even the term, “domestic abuse” downgrades the crime. “Domestic” implies a lesser crime that just assault. It implies that there is something within the control of the domicile that caused the abuse, rather than the truth, that one person has criminally assaulted another. And in fact, it is worse that stranger assault, because within a relationship, the victim doesn’t have boundaries in place to protect against abuse. Instead, there is trust that abuse won’t happen.

The terms we use actually help keep domestic abuse going and let the abuser know they can get away with it.

One day, I hope that we stop calling it domestic abuse and start calling it what it is: assault.

My ex is a criminal. Make no mistake.

He was never arrested, because I never called the police. And frankly, with the laws in my state, it is really possible that we both would have been arrested if I did call the police, even though I was the attacked.

When abuse means attack and emotional abuse means conspiracy to harm another and corruption of a minor, then we will making some progress.

But, we aren’t there yet.

The movie I watched to set off my healing, cleansing tears was Philomeana … a true story about an Irish women who had her son taken away from her  at an Irish home for unwed mothers run by the Catholic church. On her baby’s 50th birthday, she tried to find him with the help of a journalist. She did find him, except, that he had died years before as a result of AIDS. In her search, she finds out that the nuns had sold her child out from under her, without even able to say good-bye and when she finally confronts one of the aging nuns who did it and showed no regret, Philomeana instantly forgives her. Wow, powerful. This poor woman, I thought as I cried a river.

But, back then, the church believed a fantasy too. That this was best and Christian. How truly sick is that, well really sick. But, an entire institution thought it was OK.

Thank God I didn’t have my children taken away from me. Thank God I didn’t go through that hell.

With time, and awareness and understanding, I pray that we as a society come together and change the collective fantasy that domestic abuse is something within closed doors and between two people and therefore is none of our business. I pray that we realize that abuse is criminal and criminals should not go through life without additional boundaries.

Criminals have been given the same choice as all of us. They could have navigated their lives and pain without taking it out of others by committing crimes against others. They had the same choices as you and me. To make mistakes, to get angry of course.

Those who attack others have shown their colors. We should believe them and act accordingly. Today, would we give those nuns the keys to the nursery? I don’t think so.

Watching Philomeana forgive that nun, reminds me that forgiveness is best. But, wow, so hard to do. However, forgetting is not required and boundaries should never be loosened.

To all those women getting bruised today, hang in there and get help. You need it and deserve it.

October is a time to remember

Sept. 28, 2013 _ As Domestic Abuse awareness comes on us again, I pray for those victims still entangled with their abuser. They need my prayers and those of everyone else.

Living with an abuser is horrible and traumatic and it doesn’t really matter if the abuse is physical, emotional or all the other ways abusers work. Victims are trying to survive mental anguish caused by the fact that their partners, who are suppose to love them, are exploiting them on a daily basis.

I was talking to my sister yesterday about the dynamic. Abusers will do anything in the moment to get the momentary high of power and control. They fear what will happen to them if they loose control for even a second and will do anything to maintain what they believe is dominance over anything that could disrupt their world.

Most people can relate even a little bit to those feelings, so when we see it in others, we assume that it is normal and the abuser is managing it like the rest of us. However, the abuser is not. Instead, the abuser is hypersensitive to those feelings and work every second of their day to stamp down the insecurity and fear by creating a belief that they are in control of everything.

That makes it hard to be a partner with anyone. And it is exactly the reason why spouses are targets.

Because the abuser is so consumed with internal struggles and “voices”, he or she has no real ability to have compassion or empathy for others, even those closest to them. Or the patience to let someone else be in control of anything, like a good partner would.

I used to spend hours and hours trying to reach the empathy in my then husband whenever I was the direct target of his abuse. I didn’t know what I was doing, because I had very little understanding of the dynamic. I still thought our marriage was sort of normal, albeit in trouble.

Sometimes I would stay up with him until the wee hours of the morning trying to “get through” the wall he built around himself. He acted as though it would kill him to care about me or anyone else. He was like a little child refusing to open his mouth to his vegetables. Sometimes, i would break through and he would finally seem to let his guard down and we would hug and he would tell me he was sorry and I would be relieved. I had hoped that now that we understood each other, we were healed.

Finally, I was just worn out and didn’t want to work that hard to get to some emotional place with my husband that still included violence.

But, when I think back on it now, I know that understanding why I put up with 10 years of abuse is very important to my recovery.

My recovery has taken years. Therapy. Friends. This blog. And time.

It has also included something fundamental. The end of physical abuse and a respite from abuse and trauma.

It is impossible to heal from trauma while it is still going on. While trauma is happening, survival is the only goal and doing whatever is necessary to do it.

And part of recovery is the sad truth that an abuser can’t be changed by anyone.

My abuser will always see me as a source, called narcissistic supply. A well where he can find the sense of dominance or adulation. As long as we have children together, he will always have a way to dominate me.

My abuser will always need to seek a feeling that is only generated when he is either dominating another human being or is worshipped by them. Of course, he doesn’t always get this, but it is what he seeks. Like any addict, the feeling he gets is more important than anything else.

And it is vital that I understand that and accept it. I can’t change him. Sure, he can change if he wants to. But, like all addicts, it is solely up to him. So, until I see that happen, I accept that I have an abuser in my, and my children’s lives and we will always be in danger of his actions.

I haven’t been physically abused for years by him, but he has lashed out at him using our kids again and again and I still have cause for concern whenever my kids are with him. The simple truth that most people just can’t believe, is that an abuser can do permanent damage to others, even cause death.

Most of us belief, completely, that THAT kind of danger and destruction is only in the movies, or would some how be controlled or unveiled by the authorities. And that though we see horrible events on the news, that kind of thing doesn’t happen to people we know. I belief, that is why people have the hardest time accepting that an abuser is dangerous.

It certainly is the reason why I believed, despite event after event of physical and emotional abuse by my husband, wasn’t domestic violence. And that my husband was basically a good guy who was in a bad way.

But, the reality was and is, that my ex-husband is very dangerous and is capable of anything. It is the grace of God that I was not killed while married to him. He attacked me so many times, I can’t count. Life is fragile and precious. Any one of those times could have resulted in my death. He certainly wasn’t concerned with to what degree he was hurting me at the time.

I don’t accept anyone’s impression that my ex is a good father because he gets involved in their lives, or drove them to school or made their lunch. A good father doesn’t choke their pregnant wife. A good father doesn’t use other people ever. A good father is honest. A good father has character. Integrity. And lives by the law.

A good father would never put another human beings’ live in danger willingly.

That is the truth of an abuser. There is no other way to look at it that makes sense.

Trying to give the abuser the free pass that he can treat one person one way and another person another way and call him healthy or a good parent, is what endangers so many victims to this day.

I pray that during this coming month of Domestic Abuse awareness that we all think about what we are allowing to happen, because we don’t want to get involved or believe that abuse is in fact, domestic. It is not.

Abuse is abuse and it is wrong no matter whether it is in a home or not.

Reach out this month to someone who is a victim and let him or her know you care.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

What does an abuser look like

July 6, 2013 _ If there is one thing I could do to help victims of domestic abuse, of course it would be to pull them away from the abuse … but, that really wouldn’t prevent further abuse, believe it or not.

Abuse is in the control of the abuser, not the victim or anyone else. But, I have learned from my own experience and others’ that abusers abuse because they can get away with it.

Studies show that most abusers are interested in maintaining control and power over someone for whatever reason that makes sense to them …. usually related to the fears created by a twisted sort of low self-esteem/sense of entitlement. Abusers believe that they are entitled to power all the time, but they suspect that they don’t have power because of some short-coming in their actions. Therefore, they are motivated to get power at any cost, including the sinking to moral and ethical lows such as abuse.

They may know that abuse is “wrong” in the eyes of society, but that conflicts with their deep feeling that they can do anything to gain the upper hand in a relationship and should. So, they only physically abuse those who won’t expose it or who will tolerate it. If an abuser hit their boss, they would not get the upper hand in that relationship. They’d get fired and they know that. If he hits his wife, she is not likely to expose it, because she has a vested interest in maintaining the relationship, especially if there are kids or financial dependency.

Abusers are so driven to maintain power and control over others, that they have many, many tricks to do so. Physical abuse is just one way.

It is so important that we understand abusers in our society because in doing so, we have the best chance of stopping it. Our society has the wrong picture in its head about who are abusers. We seem to think that abusers stand out, are poor, are uneducated, are mean and unhappy all the time, and don’t know that abuse is wrong.

But, the facts don’t support that. Most of the people in my life were shocked beyond belief to learn that my ex-husband was abusing me. He is a successfully, nationally known sports writer who is married, pays (mostly) his child support, is on television, radio, knows famous people and can be charming.

He is like that in public. In private, he is shallow, detached, lacks empathy, is self-centered and self-serving, closed and arrogant on his best days. On his worse, he is so deeply offended that his opinions, desires, wishes are not being completely honored that he will yell, hit, insult, and hate his family member.

This is so horrible and confusing for anyone who wants the intimacy of a family relationship. Family members of an abuser struggle with this behavior. We want something difference from him. Me and my children didn’t want to throw away our husband and father. We just didn’t want to be abused.

Abusers are everywhere and we all just keep trying to keep them in the box where we had them. As a wife, I didn’t want a divorce. I wanted a happy family and couple life … so despite the in-my-face evidence that my husband didn’t want the same thing, I kept forcing the facts into compartments that allowed for my fantasy. I wanted a happy marriage with the father of my children … so I had to find a way to make this work with my abuser. I tried years of therapy, relationship books, couples seminars, anger management, abusers intervention group, and on and on…. Until finally, I realized my fate. I wasn’t going to have a happy marriage with the father of my children and every day I pretended that, I was a day closer to death.

My abuser looked normal to everyone, albeit a bit opinionated. My friends and even some of my family want a fantasy too. They want to be free of conflict. Domestic abuse doesn’t allow for that. Holding an abuser accountable, means that you must force yourself out of the fantasy of peacefully co-existing with this person.

My hope is that abuser will find it harder and harder to get away with abusing. That when an abuser is exposed, that we shun him, charge him, offer painful consequences, call him out and hold him and him alone responsible. Only then, will it stop. Today, unfortunately, an abuser can talk his way out of that responsibility and a lot of people buy it.

My ex-husband’s wife bought his story that he only hit me because I was such a bitch that he was driven to hit me and he is so ashamed. She has a vested interested in him being correct. My children want their dad to be great, so they try to sort through the pain of the truth. It pains me to watch it. Our friends who know want to believe that the person they know who is charming and fun and a great dad and husband, only abused because of some dynamic problem that brought out uncharacteristic behavior.

And most people still believe that domestic abuser are crazed monsters who looks and sounds the part. Hollywood paints the picture of this and we believe it. What a disservice to the victims of real domestic abuse.

 

 

Add your voice

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.