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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I didn’t either and I was the victim.

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

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

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

 

This morning, finally, maybe the beginning of social un-acceptance

Sept. 10, 2014 _ I think we might have turned a corner. I’m holding my breath, hoping its true.

Have we, our society, our male role models, reached a point where enough is enough and standing up against abusers is the right thing to do instead of an act not done in polite circles? God, I hope so.

As I’ve followed twitter and news media on the punishment of NFL player Ray Rice and his violence against his wife, I’ve been in tears a lot. It is nice to see players and other men call the abuser out over and over and leave the victim alone. She is not being blamed or shamed because of what he did.

Player after player have posted their comments about the punishment Rice received, and they are blunt and to the point.

Bronco’s player Chris Harris tweeted:

“The NFL should have zero tolerance for domestic violence. There is never a reason for any man to be violent towards any woman.”

Bless you Chris. Your words help so much. Your words will alone will stop some guy out there from hitting his wife. Your words will help heal a victim who thinks she caused the abuse. Your words will help put an end to this crime. Your words will save a life.

Abusers abuse because they can. Because they don’t loose too much if they are caught. Look at Rice. Convicted with a slap on the hand, two game suspension, endorsements in tact. … At first … just a few days later, the consequences of the choice to abuse just skyrockets for Rice. And other abusers are watching.

I know that my abuser, my ex-husband, and national NFL writer, is watching. He said the same stuff as Rice. He is sorry. He is horrified by his actions. He has to live with this horror. He, he, he, he … Never though does he say a thing about what I live with. Nightmares. Flashbacks. Shame. Broken dreams. …. Rough, yes. But, its hardest when I stumble on my ex’s latest sports show or column where he pontificates about the abusive NFL player … hard to watch, so I try hard to stay away from that. Because, when he does that, I know my abuser thinks he got away with it, and therefore, will do it again. Maybe not hit me, but he might sue me, or worse, hurt my children.

This morning, I have a little hope personally that my abuser will keep his head down and leave me alone. This morning, I am comforted by complete strangers, men of the NFL who are standing up and saying no more. This morning, I am reminded that my ex can hurt me again, but I am a survivor who has a good life despite him and because of me, my loved ones, my friends and family. This morning, I am hopeful that we are moving in the right direction and maybe we can put an end to this crime.

Abusers aren’t bad husbands or out of control guys with anger management problems. Abusers are criminals and need to be told over and over again, “NO. You can’t do that.” And they need to hear it from everyone. Not just their wives. That is how it will stop.

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.

How to cope and recover after domestic abuse

Nov. 16, 2013 _ Domestic violence reeked havoc in my life, my children’s and to this day, eight years after the last physical assault, still weighs on my heart. It doesn’t help that I must, by court order, have limited contact with my abuser, the father of my children. Imagine being forced to communicate with someone who beat you up, assaulted you, called you every name in the book, betrayed you and repeatedly used you _ it sucks.

But, today, I’m healthier emotionally than I have ever been and it is in large part due to great counseling from a very well trained domestic abuse counselor at my local DV agency. With therapy, I am processing the trauma of abuse and healing from PTSD, a condition I never through applied to me.

If you are involved in some way with a domestic abuser, my prayers are with you. I know that your life is harder than most realize. I hope that you will seek help from a very good therapist who understands domestic abuse.

Here are my tips to learning to cope and recover:

1. If you are still living with your abuser, please make a plan to leave as soon as you can. If you have children together, it is very important to meet with an attorney first, before leaving. Many states have antiquated family law that doesn’t yet recognize the facts and dangers about DV. You need to get as much custody of your children as you can and have as much in writing as possible. Please don’t live in the fantasy that you will be able to work together post divorce as parents. Sadly, your abuser is more likely to use your children as a way to continue to control and get power.

2. Get help from your local domestic abuse service. Google domestic abuse and your city to find out who and where you can get help. You need help from people who understand the difficulties you face. Domestic abuse is a crime and like most crimes, it results in a traumatized victim and a demented criminal, and that is hard enough of course. But, with domestic abuse, the victim is often falsely accused of causing the abuse and held at least partly responsible for the dynamic. The legal system, friends and family can cause further trauma, as a result. A good therapist can help you process all of those feelings in a way that can help your recovery. Please don’t try to go it alone. I think it is impossible to recover without the help of good people in your corner.

3. Grieve the loss of your “traditional” life. This means, you must walk through the pain of grief, which is not easy to do after going through the pain of abuse. But, grieving is a healthy step, one that we often gloss over. It is Ok to cry about your disappointment, fear and pain. No one gets married believing that they are going to end up in a mess. It sucks and you deserve to have a bunch of days in tears over it. The best thing about grieving is that when its over, days, weeks, months later, you will feel so much better and the clouds will begin to clear.

4. If you have children together, spend a lot of time working through every parenting issue you think you might face in the future and get it in writing now. The more you have on paper, the less chance your abuser will have to continue to abuse. Get as much spelled out as possible about the kids’ schedules, schooling, medical decisions, activities, church, vacations, drop offs and pick ups, and so on. Don’t spend too much time trying to control how your ex cares for your children, no matter how worried you are about his judgment. Judges don’t like parents who try to control what an ex does with the children. But, when it comes to how you two work together, get it in writing. Abusers love gray areas, because it gives them a way to fight. Abusers really enjoy fighting.

5. Build a new life in ways that make you happy and brings joy. Go back to school. Get a new job. Move. Take care of yourself. This is one of the hardest goals to achieve because it takes two things most victims don’t have, money and time. But, it is so important. Do your best to find ways to take care of yourself and don’t judge yourself too harshly. You have been through hell and you need to understand you aren’t perfect.

6. Cut people out of your life that judge your marriage with the abuser. You do not need anyone in your life who wants to “stay neutral” or think that have a ligitimate opinion on your life together. They don’t.   You need to surround yourself with people who love you, support you and have only the best comments to say to you. If someone wants to tell you how to get over it, get along with your ex or how to feel, you need to find a new friend. Victims are often co-dependents, and really bad at recognizing a good friend vs. a bad one. Tell yourself over and over that you need supportive friends and family only at this time. It is no time to give your time to the wrong people.

7. Work hard to keep distance between you and your abuser. For safety reasons, you need to distance. No contract or limited contact is advised for emotional and physical safety. Work hard at breaking the ties that bind you with your abuser. It takes time, but keep at it. You will be thankful when you finally realize your abuser is completely out of your life.

 

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.

 

Recovering from trauma ain’t easy, but you can do it

August 25, 2013 _ When I started writing this blog a few years ago, I did it as a way to get out my thoughts and feelings revolving around my abusive ex-husband and the pain I felt about co-parenting with him.

It was also a very visual way for me to face what had happened to me in my violent marriage and sort through it, understand it and my role in my abuse.

Abuse, and especially violent abuse, by a loved one is incredibly traumatic. My husband hurt me in every way possible, including being 100 percent willing to deceive often, on big issues and small and with no regard for how that might effect me.

This blog and all the research I’ve done through the years, has helped me tremendously understand just what was and is happening to me and what responsibility I have had through it all.

But, no amount of writing and research has been more helpful in my journey to heal, than simply letting go of the gravity on my emotions and letting myself weep.

Trauma isn’t about personal responsibility or making sense of anything. Trauma just happens and it sucks and that is worth a good cry. And each time that I have allowed myself to sob over the unfairness, loss, broken fantasy, and randomness of being a victim of abuse, or for that matter, anything else, I begin to feel better and to heal.

The world tell us that domestic abuse is a couple’s dynamic issue, one that can be fixed with the right combination of therapy and personal resolve. Not true. Domestic abuse is and always will be the victimization of one partner at the hands and mind of another and in most cases, it is a crime.

It is no more about a dynamic between two people as is a robber and his target or a rapist and the quivering victim.

And the feelings surrounding domestic abuse suck. Who would want to feel it. No one I know. That is why so many victims bury the crime and continue with their abuser. To realize that you married, procreated, sleep with someone who is a criminal without morals, ethics or a desire to honor you is awful.

It is much easier to believe that your abuser is just mentally or emotionally challenged and means well.

When I finally realized that my abuser is dangerous to me no matter what I do or how I treat him, I started to truly get healthy and I began the journey to build my life again, this time with weathered eyes and a scarred, but wiser heart.

I credit my therapist with my true recovery because she walked me through the healing process, which is the grieving process.

The education and this blog helped me understand what was happening and that helped me believe it was worth it to face the pain. I stopped blaming myself and started to see just how random it was to marry an abuser.

Oh sure, I am a “type” that hooks up nicely with an abuser, but for all the best reasons. I’m empathic, tolerant, loyal, understanding. So because I have those traits, I should land with a criminal? No, even I see that. I certainly have responsibility in my marriage. I wasn’t perfect. But, I’m not responsible for abuse. No victim is.

Leaving a door unlocked doesn’t mean you invite everyone into your home to steal your things.

Real recovery for me came with the tears I shed when I realized that I wasn’t responsible, which means, I couldn’t find a way to change it, him, to make it stop. I realized that I was a victim, not responsible for the pain and trauma that was coming my way. Any more responsible than a victim of disease or an accident.

Then, my sobs were about the unfairness of it all. I wanted just what everyone else wants, a peaceful, happy life with family and friends. My version included a long, happy marriage with the father of my children. But, I didn’t draw that card, any more than my nephew didn’t draw the card that included a life without Type 1 diabetes.

Grieving that was and still is my ticket to emotional health and happiness.

All the cliches are true: Life isn’t fair; getting knocked down isn’t the trick, its how you get back up; make lemonade out of lemons … and on and on.

But, I couldn’t get there until I allowed myself to face the pain of the true trauma: That I trusted a man who used that trust against me and hurt me again and again. That it really hurts to be hit by my husband. That it sucks to be lied to by my partner. That someone has the right to use my precious children as pawns to hurt me and mess with my heart. That the court, i.e. strangers who didn’t know my children, had a say in how I was going to raise my babies. That I wasn’t going to grow old with the father of my children. That I was going to get divorced. That I felt really bad about all of that.

I’ve cried and cried on my therapist sofa about all the voices in my head that tell me its all my fault or only what I deserve, too. In fact, that is where she started with me. After I grieved that feelings of worthlessness, then I could move to the above paragraph and cry about that.

Now, I try to remind myself to feel, laughable and trite as that sounds. After I give myself time to cry, I feel better every time.

Trauma needs recovery and recovery comes on the other side of grieving. Not even understanding and analytical thinking does it. My blog has been very helpful for me, but not nearly as much as sitting with a kind and caring therapist who says things to me like, “A feeling is just a feeling,” and “You will feel better walking through the pain.” And who asked me the tough questions with kindness and love, “What would you tell that little girl inside you?” and of course, “What do you want to say to your abuser?”

Those questions began a river of tears and a path to real recovery from trauma. The dictionary says that trauma is a deeply disturbing experience, a victim is someone who is injured or killed as a result of a crime or accident and recovery is the return to a normal state of health or the recovery of that which was lost. How didn’t that make me cry before?

Trauma happens to us all. We are all vulnerable of becoming victims and recovery is possible for every single one of us. I wish you all the opportunity to grieve your own losses and traumatic experiences and I know that you will come out on the other side recovered. Blessings to you all.

The rise and fall of an abuser

August 24, 2013 _ As followers of this blog know, I have been in a relationship with an abuser for more than 20 years and have been victimized and survived many forms of abuse found on the power and control wheel.

My abuser, someone I believe to be a narcissist, has used me over and over as a way to build himself up in ways that are both “normal” (such as marrying me and become a part of a family) and abnormal (such as beating me in order to feel dominance).

He has also played me in order to gain attention of any kind, including negative attention, just like a small child might act out. It doesn’t matter to him if he reaps a harvest of admiration, respect, sympathy, or anger, distain, fear or pity. To him, all attention is good.

Healthy people tend to want positive attention, not negative, respect not pity. But, a narcissist will take their “supply” in any form because it all puts them at the center and that is the goal.

For my abuser, he has spent his life trying to find a place of belonging with people, but that place must be a position of power, control, and as the center of the relationship.

Narcissism is the ultimate form of self survival because no matter the environmental circumstance, narcissist can twist it to serve them and provide their supply.

I have been through a lot of drama and trauma with my abuser, my ex-husband and co-parent to my children. When I first met him, he was pumping the well of pity and sympathy. He told his story of a child of horrible abuse and neglect. He was poor, disorganized and tormented, but somehow was rising above his station. He played on half-truths to pull pity out of others, for example he told how his father “committed suicide” on my abuser’s first day of his senior year of high school. The truth later revealed to me by his mother, was a bit different and suicide was not the cause of death. But, my ex learned that when he told the story, people, generally women, dropped their walls and immediately empathized if not pitied him. I was one of those women.

Later, sometimes in the same day, my ex would spin another narrative of a man, who was “raised by wolves” (he used to say with a sly grin), and pulled himself up by his bootstraps to ultimate fame and success (He became a nationally recognized NFL sportswriter for a major media outlet.)

No matter the version of the story, he never gave anyone credit for his success, not editors who gave him a break, not friends or family, or wives and children. And he always blamed others for his hardships. His mother was to blame for his childhood. Editors were to blame for not recognizing his superiority. And of course, me for causing him to abuse me.

When I left my abuser eight years ago, I left a man who began to play the sympathy card with anyone who would listen. I left him because I got skinny and was shallow enough to take his children away from him. To me, he played the “I’m so sorry and you had to leave me” card, which I actually believed for years that he meant.

After his sources of supply changed, his story changed. Now I was the abuser and he left me. He was superior and deserved to be treated that way by everyone, including me. He was the better parent, more reasonable and educated. He did everything he could to get above me in every respect. It was during this time that he sued me for custody of our teenagers (and of course didn’t get much in our settlement more than what he already had.)

But the act of the suit was the high for him, not how it worked out. Because the circumstances don’t matter for my abuser. The details are just the cards he has been dealt and he will decide how to sort it all out to come out on top. In his world, he will always win so the goal is always a moving target.

Today, my abuser is on the downward spiral of life, lost his job three months ago, limited income and just got hit with a $30,000 college bill for our 18-year-old. (and that is just for one semester)

He is on thin ice with his children because they are getting older and have questions about his actions. They love him for sure, but he is falling off the towering pedestal.

God only knows what is going on with his current wife, but my guess is that if he stays unemployed much longer, his wife is going to loose her patiences and begin to question his lies. I know first hand how that can turn out for her.

As my ex faces the rise and fall of his life, I have a good idea of what he is emotionally juggling. But, of course, it is only my guess. I am doing my best to keep my distance as much as possible. As he seeks pity instead of respect, I won’t become a source of that for him. I know better.

And even through he has hurt me in more ways than I can count, I am still vulnerable by my own feelings of empathy for this broken man. I feel sorry for him for sure. And I am still stocked that anyone could go through life so detached from other human beings and only concern themselves with themselves.

However, I have accepted that it is true and my ex is broken beyond repair and his relationship with his fellowman is one I would never want. No matter how much damage he has done to me, he hasn’t broken my heart to love, feel and grow. What a blessing, thank God.

In the end, abusers’ ups and downs through life will never bring them what they really seek, to fill the holes in their hearts, a deficit that they can’t even understand, but know they want.

I used to say to my ex-husband, and it used to drive him crazy when I did, “Please just be real with me.” It made him mad because it is the one thing he will never get.

Forgive me, DV agencies need to improve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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