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.

Wanted: 50 stories of survival

April 1, 2013_ I’ve decided to write a book about survival. 50 stories of life after abuse from 50 survivors. No joke.

Writing has been my therapy as I live my life forever connected to a narcissistic abuser. I have be able to process here on this blog a lot of the pain and trauma caused by my ex-husband’s actions.

But, this problem of domestic abuse seems to be growing and that troubles me. I also struggle with the hopelessness of domestic abuse and the legal systems around the country that allow it.

So, I’ve decided to collect stories of abuse and survival from others and interview at least 10 lawmakers around the country about domestic abuse and try to figure out why so much of this is still a large problem.

If you would like me to consider your story or you would like to nominate someone else, please comment here. I need the person’s email address. Your comments will remain confidential. I will not publish anyone’s identifying information.

Also, if you know of a lawmaker who you think should be included in this project, please pass the name on.

Let’s work together to begin to understand this horrible issue and finally put an end to the abuse that dominates so many relationships.

If you can help by donating some funds to allow me to do this work, please consider making a contribution by clicking on the bottom at the top of the page.

Thank you.

On my way to health

Dec. 9, 2012_ In 1994, I married a man despite that he often lied to me, broke many promises, was irresponsible, unkempt, seemingly helpless, awkward in social situations, selfish and self-centered, unliked by my family, a loner, had a horrible relationship with his mother, lacked basic general knowledge of the daily responsibilities of life, such as how to care for things, and despite that we were already in “couples counseling.”

As I write this, I am shaking my head at my stupidity. Unbelievable that I could have jumped so willing off a cliff to my emotional near-death.

As soon as I hit the bottom of the abyss of my marriage, I began a very slow climb back to the top. I fell back many times and with a sense of hopelessness often, but, I did climb out, back to the top and past my abusive partner in crime.

In 2005, I divorced the man I married, my abuser, my Narcissistic and co-parent and began my new life. In 2010, I began my true recovery process from the Post Traumatic Stress of my connection to this man. It has been a rough. I’ve cried a lot of tears and spent a lot of time devoted to thinking about him, someone I hated.

In 2012, about November actually, I began the process of closure and hopefully, back to my emotional health and my self.

Wow, 18 years. That took a long time for me to “get it…”

…That I am not to blame for his treatment of me but I am responsible for choosing to accept it. And that unless I made the decision and took action to not accept it, I was going to stay in a horrible place in my heart. Nothing would make me truly happy if I didn’t make some serious changes in my thinking.

I needed to:

1.) Recognize that how I am treated by anyone is not my doing most of the time. Oh sure, if I cut someone off on the road, they will likely give me the finger. But, by in large, how I am treated is more about how that person feels, fears, believes.

2.) Since I am not responsible how I’m treated, then I need to stop trying to control how I’m treated. I need to stop trying to play by the rules so that I can say “I’m doing everything right, why aren’t you treating me better?”

3.) I need to accept who I am and like who I am. I do not need to change, or hide myself, or strive to be “good” anymore.

4.) I need to have faith that when I am myself, that some one will like me, even love me, just the way that I am.

5.) I need to be grateful and joyful that God has given me traits and gifts that are uniquely me and that is something special.

6.) I need to stop hoping that the love of someone else will give me validation.

7.) I need to stop being scared that no one could ever love me for who I really am.

It took a long time and a lot of emotional work, but I believe that I am getting there. I no longer have a sense of tread, a bit in my stomach when I think about me and love.

When I was in college, I fell in love with a boy who approached me. He was gorgeous and kind and he treated me wonderfully. But, I kept everything about myself hidden because I was afraid that if I showed him who I was, he surely wouldn’t love me. He might even run.

Instead, he was confused and because of that confusion, he did run away.

I will always feel badly for his confusion.

I entered every relationship since then feeling scared to be myself when I was with someone I hoped would love me. It was exhausting and likely the reason I steered clear of dating.

My privacy also creeped into my “safe” relationships with women. Even my good, good friends knew that I was holding of myself back. I compensated by being the friend that could be counted on, who could help solve problems, who would listen. I was capable to no end.

But, I wasn’t authentic.

I was playing the role that I thought would relieve me of fear of abandonment. If I could be perfect, then my loved-one wouldn’t leave. When I look back at my relationship, even in middle school, I see that I was afraid of being hurt, rejected.

I had been rejected by my family in ways that I have described before, so I didn’t trust love. I knew that someone I loved could at will pull the rug out from under me, so I treaded lightly. I was skittish when faced with exposing my true thoughts.

It is no wonder that I don’t enjoy alcohol, because I don’t trust myself when I’ve lost control of my actions. I may accidentally offend someone and drive them away.

If I didn’t stay on top of my actions, then certainly I risked a high probability of being left and that was a pain I wanted to avoid.

So, when my ex-husband came around, interested in me. His obvious flaws were comforting to me. I could help him solve problems, be there for him, support him, be the girl that didn’t give him any shit. I prided myself of being non-judgmental and low-maintenance. When he treated me well, I believed it was because of how I acted toward him. When he treated me badly, I knew it was because I had failed to stay the perfect girlfriend and had to find a way to change.

Our therapists didn’t help matters either, because she used to speak to us about communication and compromise. Great if we are healthy people, but for two very unhealthy people, Narcissist and co-dependent that we were, that advice only fueled out dance.

I think it should be a prerequisite that before anyone goes through couples therapy that they first go through individual therapy and be diagnosed for any issues that might be harming the relationship. Because there is no point in couples therapy with unhealthy people.

Today, I know that I should have listened to my heart about my ex-husband. I should have spent time on my own stuff before I went into any relationship. But, I can’t turn back the clock and the good news is that in those 18 years, my sons were born and they are incredible and well worth my struggle. God wanted those boys born.

But, finding health is the purpose for all these blogs and I think I might finally be on the road. I want to thank all the people in my life and online who have listened to me and been patient with me. I am grateful.

Finding forgiveness doesn’t mean taking him back

Dec. 5, 2012_ Thanks to the internet and the many, many sites written by so many victims of domestic violence, I have learned so much about my own journey attached to a violent, raging, ex-husband.

During this period of my life, I have shared here the various ups and downs that I have faced posted divorce with my abuser.

Today, for the first time in years and countless posts ago, I feel OK. Maybe not healed, but well on my way. And it feels good.

My abuser, as you know if you have read my earlier posts, beat me for at least 10 years, lies to me to this day totaling many thousands of untruths, sued me twice, including for custody of our two teenagers. I feel like I have been through a very long-lasting hurricane, sometimes huddled into a small room in a fetal position, sometimes shouldered up against the barricades fighting for my life and unwilling to give up.

But, finally after reading one more blog from a survivor and one more visit with an exceptional therapist I think my closure and forgiveness is rising.

My ex is an emotionally unwell man. Likely suffering with a personality disorder. I’m no professional, but the signs of Narcissist Personality Disorder at clearly there with my ex. He had a childhood of neglect by his only functioning parent, an alcoholic to boot. One of the classic setups for Narcissism.

His disorder creates a reality that is a moving target daily. He can never settle his emotions in a healthy or productive way. His disorder is likely the reason he was physically abusive and emotional damaged. He hurt me because I wanted intimacy and his honesty. But, that need created fear in him and triggered his actions.

Because of my own baggage from childhood, I accepted his accusations of blame for his horrendous actions toward me and allowed myself to own the responsibility because I believed that my need was incorrect and wrong.

But, it wasn’t. It was in fact a normal human response. It was love.

I wanted to be a partner in life with my ex-husband and all that that meant. Through thick and thin. I wanted a best friend. I wanted someone to have my back. Just like everyone.

This was not too much to want, expect or ask for, as I was lead to believe.

But because I grew up with an alcoholic father and a mother abused by her two husbands, I believed that I needed to placate those who I wanted to love me in order to get their love. I believed that in order to have my mother’s time and company, I would have to behave a certain way to make it easy for her to love me.

My poor, late mother did love me. But, she was living in a hell trying to manage her own emotions, her own survival with her narcissists. In that emotional hurricane, her kids were sacrificed. She didn’t have the strength to save herself or her children. She slowly died in her heart as she lost the ability to handled the constant fear of living with one damaged husband after another. Two very emotionally broken men.

From my vantage point, a child’s view, I couldn’t see that my mother was so wrapped up in her own survival, her own damage as a result of abuse. I saw that my mother was turning away from me time and time again and I couldn’t understand why, except that it must be me.

It is not until this moment that I realize that my mother was just like me. Hurt and scared and alone and hopeless and so very worried that she had picked the wrong man to be her life partner. My mother fought to stay in denial because she couldn’t bring herself through the process of healing.

I have been through that process and it is very scary and painful and it takes a resolve to do it despite the pain. Because my parents were in the middle of their own narcissist dance, they couldn’t focus on their kids. My mother was robbed of so much as a result. She wanted to be a great mother, but she couldn’t. She was suffering so much, unable to see what was really driving her emotions and sucking the life from her.

My father and stepfather each drove my mother to emotional unhealth at a time when her mothering was necessary for her children. The disfunction was there for so long, that I’m not sure that I recognized it as wrong. Instead, I wished for something different, that felt better. I didn’t allow myself to hope that I would ever get better, that it even existed.

I allowed myself to take responsibility for the actions of others toward me. I took action to do what I could to make my relationship work, despite the other people in them. I didn’t question why someone mistreated me. I accepted the treatment and tried to change it. An impossible and crazy-making task.

For years, my anxiety ran through me and controlled me. I feared abandonment. I loved hard those around me. Loyal to a fault and willing to tolerate crap to the point that crap is all I got. I fought it only with my words but not with my actions. I yelled. I begged. I talked til I was blue in the face. In any attempt I could find to fix it and make it better so that we could get along.

The trouble is that too many of my choices in relationships did not include a healthy person willing to do the same.

I was a giver to many takers. I gave my time, my energy, my logic, my efforts to try to figure out why it didn’t work.

It was enough to make me nuts.

And had I not realized that something was very, very wrong with my thinking, I might have been too broken and exhausted to parent my wonderful and deserving children, just like my mother.

Surviving trauma is one thing. Living through it is another. And trauma is all consuming leaving little time for anyone else.

Today, in my understand of what my ex-husband’s narcissism has done to me and why I allowed it, I suddenly understand what my mother was going through and why she wasn’t able to be the mother I wanted her to be … and I knew she wanted to be.

I was so mad at her for not being there. I didn’t realize that she was suffering too.

Had someone told her that her abusers were emotional ill and unable to change, that she was not to blame, that she was a victim trying to survive, she might have found the peace that I am finding and the ability to be a better mother who is healthy enough to be there for her kids.

I hope that I have the time with my children, who are nearly grown, to show them my best for them and be the best mother I can be.

I forgive my mother. I forgive myself. I forgive my abuser. He doesn’t know what he is doing to others. He may never know or understand others feelings. He may always be so afraid of feelings that he is willing to hit another human being to get away from them. He too is a trauma victim in need of help.

I will pray for him tonight. I hope he doesn’t lash out at me again. I will stay away from him forever, because he is not safe. But, I will no longer hate him. Instead, I truly pity him for the life that he has and the hell that is in his heart. I will pray for my children that they will be unharmed by their only father, a man they want to love and be love by. I will pray that my scars will heal and that I will be the mother I want to be for my children and that they need and want. I will pray that my children’s scars will heal as well.

This disorder has hurt some many lives and yet personality disorders are only beginning to be understood by the medical community. I am grateful that I at least got some answers that have helped me heal.

I hope that I will turn to other when my abuser strike again and not turn against myself. I pray.

 

Control? What does that mean in a bad relationship

Dec. 1, 2012_ In 1990, I met the father of my children, my first and only husband, my partner, my abuser, the man who beat me so many times I can’t count, who left me with babies for days on end in good times and bad, who used me, cursed me and who lied to me maybe millions of times.

He was a wife batterer. He was a controller.

But, though I understand completely that the bruises on my body after one of his episodes meant that I was a victim of violence and he was an attacker, I have always struggled with describing my ex-husband as someone who wants to control me.

I’ve read so many stories about abusers who wouldn’t let their victims out of the house, spend time with friends, work, handle money, and so on. But, my ex-husband never did that. My ex-husband didn’t try to control my every move, my waking hours, my whereabouts, my goings-on. So, he couldn’t be controlling, right? He didn’t fit the mold of an abuser, I thought.

That logical has kept me up at nights, spinning in my mind just how does this all compute. If my husband is an abuser, then shouldn’t I feel controlled? Shouldn’t he be checking up on me during the day to make sure I was doing or not doing whatever he wanted? Shouldn’t he be ordering me around? Shouldn’t he be paying attention to my whereabouts? Shouldn’t he care?

He didn’t.

He didn’t check up on me. He didn’t keep money, friend or family away from me. He didn’t restrict where I went, with who or when. He didn’t call me repeatedly. He didn’t follow me around. He wasn’t even jealous, suspicious or dramatic about my relationship with anyone.

He didn’t really show any concern about my daily life at all. He didn’t pay attention to me in the slightest.

How on earth could my husband be a controller? This didn’t compute. And in my darkest, silent hours, I still struggle trying to get my head around this puzzle. How could I call him a controlling abuser if he didn’t really care about me at all.

But, he is. And he does care about me. And he is controlling as hell. Just not about anything he doesn’t care about. And what he cares about …  is him.

My ex-husband cares only about how his world is functioning at every moment and like the Earth that has a moon in its orbit, my husband cares about me and my interactions with him when I’m hovering over his horizon or messing with his gravity.

My ex-husband to this day controls his world with precision.

He controls everything when it matters to him and nothing when it doesn’t.

When we were married, I was exhausted with my husband’s constant comments on everything we did or I did that effected him. He had something to say, an opinion to render, a learned position, a condescending explanation of how much better this would be or that would be if I would just stop the direction I was headed and follow the course he laid out.

Often, he would notice what I was making for dinner and he would chime in that green beans were a better choice than corn or bowls were necessary instead of plates, or when we should sit down or when the children should be excused.

For years, I didn’t realized the number of times he offered his opinion on every move I made because so often I trusted myself way more than I trusted him. I thought it was cute,  supportive and frankly wrong most of the time. I used to read his involvement as loving.

I would enjoy his input as a partner would. I felt we were in the foxhole of life together and I was happy that he wanted to participate. That was a bit of a new experience for me in my life. I had spent my adult years so far on my own and it was exciting to have someone who cared that much about “us”.

However, soon the constant corrections he offered became annoying. I knew his life story, or at least the version he told me. I compared it to mine and I was not impressed that he had much to add to what I already knew. Because of how I was raised, I could handle a lot on my own. I was a bit of a tomboy, too, so gender roles didn’t work for me either.

I could do a lot. I could cook, sew, clean, sure. But, I could also mow a lawn, drive a car well, fix a flat, paint a room, build a shelf, train a dog, take care of babies, handle money, and so on. My ex, who had lived with his alcoholic mother as an only child in the same two bedroom apartment his whole life, had never mowed a lawn, enjoyed a big Thanksgiving family gathering, swung a hammer, walked a dog, or any number of typical childhood experiences or early adulthood mistakes. He had never lived alone, either. I had for years.

When my ex offered his two cents on my endeavors, most of the time they weren’t worth rubbing together. He was smart, but he wasn’t street smart. He wasn’t even really book smart. He was however, very clever.

And like all evil monsters, he used his brain power for bad instead of good. Well, in truth, he used his mental fire power to stay ahead of his demons and control his world.

I didn’t feel like he was controlling me, because I wasn’t listening to him.

However, he was trying like hell to do it because every day of his life, he is trying to control his second to second existence. He is controlling for sure. He is trying to control his own thoughts. He is trying to control how people think of him, all people. He is trying to control his environment and how people react to him. He is trying to control the outcomes of events, minor and large.  He is trying to control his every moment and that takes a lot of energy.

His radar scans the worlds in orbits with him at the center. I was and am irrelevant to him when I am outside his detection. He doesn’t care one wit what I do then. But, when I orbit around into his range and suddenly affect his mood, desires, fears, image of himself, thoughts, whatever, then I become something to control.

And you know we all do that to some extend. We all are afraid of the unknown from time to time, or hope that we are liked or respected. We all want control over our own lives, at the very least.

But my ex-husband, is willing to do anything to have it.

He will say or do anything to keep me under his power. He will direct me, talk over me, lie to me, hit me, leave me, threaten me, bull shit me, walk away from me, accuse me, assign motive to my actions, lie about me, hurt me, yell at me, call me names, laugh at me, smile at me, lie to himself, throw me aside, tell me he loves me, do anything to maintain the higher ground, or at least think that he has it.

He will control his world and anyone who comes into it.

I am not an easy woman to control. I’m independent, capable, smart, educated, friendly, strong, responsible, worldly, a jack of all trades. Some may think that I’m stubborn. I also trust myself and don’t seek help, even when I need it. I don’t like the feeling that I need anything from anyone because it makes me feel vulnerable and unlikeable, even unlovable. This is not an ego thing. I am not prideful. I truly would love the support and advice of someone who cares. I am untrusting that anyone will WANT to come to my aid, that I am worth that to anyone. I take care of myself, because I believed for so long that no one else would. This makes for an interesting dynamic and an abuser.

At first, his control over me was completely foreign to me. I didn’t know what it was. I had never experienced anyone taking such an interest in what I thought or did. Then I started to like his involvement because it was better than the void of disinterest when my ex’s radar beam was pointed in the opposite direction and I was invisible to him.

Then, I became annoyed. He seemed to always take the position that he knew better than me, even when it was clear that he didn’t.

Then, I was resentful and angry, especially since he spent so little time at home and didn’t care very much when he was. And after all, he was solving our emotional turmoil with abuse.

His control of me, or lack there of, confused him and upset him. When he wanted what he wanted and if I was in his way, he would pull out his bag of tricks and begin to work me and the common situation until he got what he wanted, and he always did. Even when he didn’t get exactly what he wanted, he would spin it in his head to believe that what he got was what he wanted all along. But, not in a way of accepting … you know “you win some, you loose some,” But in a “No one is going to get over on me,” way.

Even today, as we are forced to co-parent our children, he will do anything to make sure that he feels like he is the puppet master pulling the strings, that he is in-charge. When he doesn’t feel like he is, he zigs to the left or the right and keeps seeking a way to feel his own power. It has got to be exhausting.

My ex loves control, and we all do at times. But, my ex can not accept that somethings are not in his control. That makes him crazy. He plays a daily psychological game with himself that he is dominant over everything. That the world has nothing on him. That he is the master of his world in the worse possible way.

He will do anything to maintain that belief system.

Including hit me, file a custody suit against me, blame me or anyone for anything negative in his life, take little responsibility for his actions, choices, repercussions.

Knowing this, I try to stay out of his radar, but its hard to do. First, we have minor children together, so this makes it difficult to have zero interaction. Second, I can’t anticipate where is beam of radar is turning next. I can’t try to anticipate crazy. Who knows what will get his attention.

The years I spent with him, I wasted many, many hours of my life trying to figure him out and figure out what he wanted. I put so much energy into him, that I didn’t put much into my own life. No wonder why I was so unhappy and unhealthy. My choice sucked. I struggle even know as I write this, that I am still wasting time on him.

When I decided it was time that I make a better choice, I had to accept, though it took me years of therapy, that my ex would always have some power over me because I was not willing to play this game by his rules. I was not willing to hurt anyone at all cost to win.

I had to accept that I will likely forever be involved with a controlling abuser and there was nothing much more I could do about it.

Like someone who has had cancer and constantly wonders or worries if the bad cells will come back, I am haunted by the knowledge that my abuser is out there, capable of doing devastating harm to me, my children, my life, if I happen to get to close to his atmosphere.

The years I spent worrying about how to avoid getting hurt by him and the efforts I have made to achieve a harmonious existence with him sometimes seems like a waste of my time, my life. But, regrets don’t change much.

I fight today to find peace, despite my bad relationship with the father of my children and know that I can’t change it. I work to keep my distance as much as I can. No phone calls. No meetings, unless we are with a counselor. I don’t even make eye contact when we are in the same room. Again, still spending energy on him.

I try to find grace when confronted with one of his only current ways of engaging with me … emails. I try hard not to respond to his rants and accusations. I try hard to avoid comment whenever possible. I’m trying to find my way around space without brushing up against him, without coming into his focus. But, I don’t want to spend too much of my shortening life on this dance that took so much of my time in the past.

It isn’t easy.

I struggle with it.

I am co-dependent by nature and so breaking away isn’t a picnic.

But, with the help of a great therapist and this blog and friends and family and the smiles of my wonderful children, I’m getting there. I hope someday soon I won’t wake up needing to write about this relationship and the pain it has caused me. I hope one day to find a relaxed existence that doesn’t include a moments through about him. I hope to no longer need to control my world for fear that if I don’t, disaster will fall. I don’t want to be as exhausted as my ex. I want to be me. Happy. At peace. One day I will.

The wheel of power and control

My ex-husband and abuser beat me many times during our 15-year relationship. He left many hundreds of times in anger and with threats of divorce and financial ruin. My abuser cursed me out more times than I can count and lied to me just as much. Sometimes he lied about little, silly things. Sometimes he lied about very large things. Lying was his most common form, in fact.

I used to say, as if I was the only person on the planet trying to figure out abuse, that it was like he had a toolbelt of horrible attacks that he would use against me. I knew why he was using those tools. He was looking to better his position, no matter the circumstance. My abuser, like most abusers, was unable or unwilling to take personal responsibility for anything, so the tools in his belt helped him wiggle out from under blame.

When I look at the well publicized Wheel of Power and Control, I’ve highlighted all the tools that my ex did and still used on me whenever he feels he is in emotional trouble or his sense of control is slipping.

Here is a look at what I’ve experienced beyond the list above:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to all who have helped me

Dec. 4, 2011 _ Today, I am thankful in more than words can express for the love, support, understanding, and time that so many of my family and friends have given me in my efforts to handle an abusive ex-husband and co-parent. There is no way that I could have moved forward and not ended up in a ball on the floor without these people’s kinds words, prayers, and willingness to listen.

It is not easy to talk about abuse. In fact, it is very hard, embarrassing, humiliating, shameful, guilt-inducing, and so on. I struggle with it every time I begin the dialog. But, after I have started talking, it flows out of me like a river. I held it in for so long, that when the flood gate opens, it spills out.

There are so many people who have been there to listen. This is my friend, the social worker, who knew both my ex and me and spent many a night hanging out with us. In fact, for a very short time, she even lived with us. She never saw a second of the abuse, but her instant support when I finally told her what had been going on was unprecedented and so valuable to me.

My sister has been there to listen to so many stories, heart-breaking tales about what had been happening in my life when I was married, and how the abuse continues after divorce. She takes care of my heart like a mother and understands my ex like no one else I know. She keeps the anger for me that I know I have toward him, but attempt to put away so that I can co-parent with him. She doesn’t have the same duty, so she will defend me with zeal whenever I need it.

My step-mother has listened to me over and over vent about the latest infraction or abusive situation. She gives me the perspective that only a 70-something woman who has had children, marriage, and divorce, can have. She gives me the advice of forgiveness and shows me how to move on. But more than anything, she gives me time.

I have another friend, who has had a lousy year of personal struggles that are so taxing and painful, and yet, she will offer sound advice to me and has never once told me that “life could be worse.” She hangs in there and helps me face the trials and tribulations of my forced involvement with my ex.

Then there is my lawyer friends, two women in fact, who have given me so much advice about how to face a custody suit, an abuser, and someone who is willing to see me fall. Those women have given me more free advice than could be understood. No business manager would ever allow that. And yet, they did so with love, and patiences, even when I really haven’t felt rational.

My sister-in-law spent many hours on the phone talking through the issues at hand and helping me sort through the logic or lack there of, of my ex’s actions. Her husband, my brother, who often didn’t know what to do gave me his love straight up instead.

My dad, who was so confused by ex’s actions and abuse, struggled almost as much as I did in trying to understand, has stayed by my side and I will love him for that.

My cousins and aunt have circled the wagons at a level that didn’t fit with my own self-worth. These are people who knew nothing of the abuse my ex was doling out, accepted him with open arms into our family because I asked them to, and then, did not look at me with any judgment when I told them why I was leaving this man. They accepted the situation and new reality quickly, with support and love toward me and my children and offered themselves in anyway that they could.

My dear friend who was so shocked to learn of my divorce that it rocked her world. She liked my ex and she knew my kids well. But, when she found out why I left, she rallied around me with such support. She will leave me 3 minute voicemails that are so natural and supportive that I find myself talking back to the recording of her voice.

There is my best friend from high school, who after all these years have come to my emotional support.

And so, so many more people that can’t fit into this blog today. I truly really wish there was a way that I could thank people who have been there.

The only way that I can is to help others in their name and by following their example of support.