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Abuse – Power and Control – The Handmaid’s Tale

Recently I have been binge watching The Handmaid’s Tale. I must say this is probably not the best show to binge watch because it is tale of a very dark totalitarian society. Nearly every episode is dark, disturbing, and rather abusive. However, there are may parallels between the abuse of power displayed and what life was like with my abusive ex. There was a day when an unhealthy life with him didn’t seem crazy or abnormal. If your life is crazy every day, eventually crazy can become a normal day. Also, growing up with my abusive father as an example did not give me any insight or knowledge to recognize something was wrong in my relationship.

In this story, the character June (or Offred), continues to learn through pain what will and will not be tolerated. She has been deprogrammed about any previous beliefs, learns a new way of thinking, and eventually adopts this as a new way of life. In reality, this is not that different to life with an abusive person. The abuser continues to reprogram you to a new way of thinking. Their way of thinking. Your views are no longer allowed… unless they match their own views.  Just like in this show, the rules may not be stated or even clear, but you learn them just the same. However, the game is always changing and that continues to keep you off-balance. On more than one occasion, I remember feeling it may be easier to give in rather than fight.

My abusive ex did a great job of isolating me from my family and friends. In this story, you can see a similar thing where she has been removed from any other people that might make her question this reality. Outside influences are a problem for abusers, this may make you question your life. In fact, in this story, if anyone became too much of a problem they were discarded. Not so different with an abusive person. Perhaps the story is you cannot trust particular friends or family members, that the abuser is the only one who is on your side. If you are the one to leave the Narcissist first, you may be subjected to stalking or their Narcissistic rage. In the early days, I remember breaking up with my ex on more than one occasion. Somehow he would convince me to return and how things would be different. In those days, I didn’t stay away long to realize life could be healthier without him.

Just like in the story, my abuser would make me question my own reality. My abuser was really good at leading me into thoughts that he had planted in my head. In old journal entries, I can see all statements that seem like they were ‘suggestions’ put into my head by my abuser. I had never thought of myself as a vindictive person, but I wrote this in my journal  more than twenty years ago.  It was also interesting to see that I wrote “he picks me up when I fall down” and looking back I realize he may have been the one knocking me down.

September 23, 1996

I feel like there is a hole in my heart. I do not feel good. Even though I am the one who thinks we should break up, every feeling in my body hurts without him. If love is supposed to be a wonderful thing, why does it hurt so bad? He’s right I do not have anyone to compare him off of. I have never been in love before.

I do not know what to do, it’s not fair to him that I can’t let the past go very easily. I’m so afraid I won’t be able to let it go. I want to but it’s not that easy to forget. I dated him because I liked him so much. I stayed with him because he was there for me. I feel horrible inside. I want his arms around me right now for support.

Why is it that I can’t let go? What is so wrong about him that I want to break up? He is so supportive of me, then picks me up when I fall down. He loves me! Am I just crazy or scared?

Maybe it is better for him that I end this. Can I treat him well? Can I forget the past? Can I love him like I used it? I wish I knew all the answers. I love him so much I don’t want to hurt him. So why do I? Where are the answers?

September 24, 1996

I feel much better now. He came over earlier and we talked and he helped me with my homework. I love him so much it hurts. Why does love hurt so much? It is supposed to be a wonderful thing, but it hurts a lot. I am really going to work on my being vindictive, and I will start recording things in my journal more often. So I can look back and she what has changed on his part & mine. I am going to sleep now. I am tired.

In one episode in season 2, you can see where she starts believing that past actions are the reason why deserves mistreatment and that is her fault. During our marriage, I remember actually thinking that my ex was God’s punishment for some of the bad choices I made in life. My father was good at preaching about a punishing God and how my mother deserved horrible things. If that were the case, would my past actions warrant this daily abuse? In fact, you can my comments sprinkled throughout my blog posts where I blame myself for picking this man in the first place. It was was easy to start blaming myself for all the problems, pain, and suffering. In this video, you can see where June seems broken and unable to fight.

The main character Fred, uses religion as a way to control and justify his behavior. However, the show continues to show us that he is less pious than he pretends to be. In fact, the show does good job of showing the character’s weaknesses that he does not display on the surface. My ex often gave me glimpses of his inner struggles after having too much to drink. Or how often he said how important our family to him, but his actions rarely match his words. Or similar to my father who was always preaching about the bible and how I should “Honor thy father…” He used religious as a weapon for control others and didn’t really live a Godly life himself.

Elizabeth Moss also mentions in an interview that the worst thing is the sense that everything is normal when they are not normal at all. This is very similar to what it is like to be with an abusive person. Your inner gut instinct continues to scream at you that something is not right about your relationship with your abuser. The abuser often gets you to second guess yourself, doubt your instincts, and deny your intuition. The abuser needs  you to believe that you are the one who is crazy and not the situation. If something is repeated often enough it can eventually seem like the truth. Journaling for all these years has helped me keep track of what really happened so I can remember the truth.

In reality, how different is this series to life with an abuser? An abuser often consider themselves above you or that you are their property and not their equal. You are not entitled to independent thinking or allowed to have your thoughts and opinions. Oftentimes, I remember thinking that maybe life didn’t have to be this way. Maybe this wasn’t what marriage was supposed to be like. He would say, “Everyone has problems. You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.” These words seemed true and made sense. Although, I would see the neighbor across the street come home to be with his family or spend time outside playing with the kids.

This tale of abuse of power and control isn’t so far from the truth. In reality those of us who have encountered abuse know these tales all too well. Now I just pray my daughter will begin to see the truth about her own experiences. Otherwise she too may end up living a unbalanced life full of too much power and control.

Once an Abuser – Always an Abuser

I have mentioned this before that my father is mentally ill. For this reason, I have a difficult time blaming him for his insults. However, how many times do we allow an abusive person to keep abusing us before we say, “No more!”? They say he has Schizoaffective Disorder which means he fits into one of the cluster personality disorders. However, I am not buying that he isn’t just flat out abusive too. Honestly, I believe abusiveness is also a disease and I do not believe one can recover from being abusive. It is difficult enough to recover from being one who has been abused.

In a previous post, I discussed a horrible message my father sent me about my daughter “choosing to live with an abuser over me”. Recently, my father started calling me again. To give you a little context, my father is in a Psychiatric Hospital and declared incompetent. However, that does not prevent him from being abusive to anyone he contacts. This was a message sent to me last January from my father. How sick is my father that he would send a message like this to his daughter.

“As far as “behavior” is concerned, “Judge not lest you be judged.”   For one who found her first true love while performing at a “peep show,” and what great judgment you demonstrated in your choice of a first husband, and the fact that your daughter, my granddaughter, has chosen to live with an “abuser” rather than you, you do not sound like you are in a position to judge anybody!   I suggest that you “judge yourself, so that God and others do not have to!”

These kinds of abuse bring me full circle. After all, I feel I married my father. My ex-husband and father are like two peas in a pod. The other day, my father sent me this awful letter where he had ripped out the inside of a card I sent him and wrote insults on it and sent it back. This is definitely not love. Abuser seem to love to send you reeling emotionally and the words are so painful… they stick and they hurt.

 

His comment about my mother is just meant to hurt me. My mother and father have not spoken for more than 20 years. Obviously he just means to strike a blow and hit me personally. So, after receiving this message, I blocked my father from calling me. I did call him up briefly and let him know that he is no longer allowed to call me be abusive. That his behavior was unacceptable.

He sends me a message and says how stunned he is that I would have said such a thing.

4/6/7

Dearest Daughter

I was stunned by our phone conversation yesterday. I had no idea you were hurt so bad – you gave me a constant rant of your hurt feelings caused by the obvious fact that divorce destroys everyone’s happiness, and for good reason!

I tool, have suffered years of hellish pain as a result of your mother’s decision to leave me shattered by her faithlessness and causing me years of near-insanity.

You weren’t the only one hurt. I thank God that after 27 years of being a basket case lost in a world of misery and confusion, (name of ex-wife) was brought to me by God to pick up the pieces; but even though a 161-IQ Literal Genius, after another eleven years of trying, she could not restore me to my good sense and she turned me over to your Aunt for a dose of “tough love”, stripping me of all my worldly belongings and allowing me to be beaten unmercifully by VA staff and guards, taking all my money and freedom, and damned near all my hope. I think even Jesus cooperated! (He’s very wise and I wouldn’t put it past him.)

I guess Jesus saw something in me worth saving, and you were right, I guess it must have been something I said or did along the line that upset the applecart. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, without you. I hope that someday, maybe you can find time to help me discover what it was. I was never mentally ill, just emotionally crippled.

I’ve always wanted to just silently hug you in my arms and just be glad, as I am now, that your mom and I conceived you in love on that wonderful night in the Winnipeg Inn on that idyllic trip we managed to Canada.

During our belated “Honeymoon”.

I think we have a lot to talk about that cannot be done on a pay phone.

When can we meet?

Love,

Your Father

Regards to your mom!

Well, I am sure this letter was meant to make me feel sympathy for him, but I don’t. I am very much sick of his constantly bringing up issues with my mother as if he didn’t have a thing to do with their problems. He is the innocent one. I think not! He is a horribly abusive wordsmith. Bring up his IQ, as my therapist said… he may be intelligent, but he has an Emotional IQ of Zero.

Although he is my father and my Aunt loves to make me feel sympathy for him. She says he has frontal lobe damage and he is unaware what he is doing. I doubt that truly. He knows exactly what he is saying and wants it to hurt. Then as any typical abuser does, he is all confused of why you ‘the irrational one’ are all bent out of shape for nothing. In fact, everything he has said or done is just because my mother left him. Maybe she left because he is an abusive asshole and if he didn’t get his way he would tear you down.

He may be my father by blood, but this is not a love father who writes these messages to his daughter. This is an abusive man who is rather hateful. My mother says for over 40 years he blames everyone else for his problems and believes the doctors are wrong who have said he is incompetent. I need to remind myself where he is, say a prayer for him, and let him go. Why do we subject ourselves to abusive people, even if they are a relative.

My phone remaining blocked and no amount of guilt my Aunt can lay on me will make me feel sympathy for him.

 

Generational Effects of Abuse

domestic violenceThis is a story of domestic abuse and how it often runs in families. The cycle of abuse is a tough one to break unless you begin to understand the facts about abuse.  Domestic abuse has more than one face and can affect you in many ways, including unknowingly teaching your children, by example, to choose similar relationships when they are adults. My family story includes all types of abuse, although I can’t say absolutely that sexual abuse exists, but red flags existed.

Types of Domestic Abuse:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Financial Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Spiritual Abuse

When I was sixteen, I made the decision to distance myself from my father. However, I often felt guilty for not talking to him, and that guilt would drive me to call him again. My parents divorced when I was three years old, and I visited him twice a year every year up until the age of sixteen. At the age of sixteen I flat out refused to see him and from them on I think I saw him five times in over 20 years.

There are so many times my relationship with my father confuses me. On one hand, I don’t want to be around him when he is abusive, and that is more often than not. However, I know he suffers from mental illness, and that is not entirely his fault. Now, my aunt has taken over my father’s finances, and he is in a nursing home. My father is so out of control that the thought of my taking over his care gives me panic attacks.

My father has always been ill in more ways than one. As a child, my family protected me from the truth, which probably didn’t protect me at all. My father was diagnosed with Schizophrenia back in the 1970s. Although, in the 1970s, that classification was often incorrect or not a reliable diagnosis. My father was certainly extreme in moods and his behavior often exhibited those of Bi-polar with the tendency to have manic swings.

Approximately ten years ago they diagnosed my father with Schizoaffective Disorder because there seemed to be more than one mental illness present in him. It is very likely my father is also an alcoholic, but he hid this from me very well when I was a child as I never saw him drink.  Oftentimes, substance abuse and mental illness go hand-in-hand.

I do have sympathy for my father because he was a victim if abuse by his father. My grandfather was an extremely controlling and abusive man. He regularly beat his children, but my aunt said my father, being the oldest, always got the worst of it. So it is difficult to say if my father was born with this illness or if all the trauma from physical abuse created it or exacerbated the issues.

My grandfather was also a victim of abuse from his father. What I have learned about my great-grandfather is he was alcoholic that was extremely physically abusive to his children. So my grandfather was regularly beaten, and this cycle of abuse continued when he became a parent. My grandfather never drank a day in his life and might have been considered a drunk alcoholic.

What I remember of my grandfather has he had a grandiose image of himself, and he expected his family to uphold that image. He was in the military and always dressed the part. They had a Rolls Royce, not sure if it was one they fixed up or not. When I was a child, they drove talking Cadillacs, huge expensive motorhome, and a huge boat. He was always living beyond his means to impress other people. I know they made a lot of money, but they were always broke. My grandfather was always looking for getting rich quick schemes that usually don’t result in anyone getting rich. My grandfather definitely used finances and threatening to take the children away to control my grandmother.

My father was an amazing artist, and that was not acceptable to my grandfather. So my father wound up going into the military too, and I am sure he was extremely resentful. However, I remember my father was always trying to please my grandfather, even up until the day my grandfather died. To this day, my father also talks about how great my grandfather was and doesn’t even discuss the abuse.

After my parents had divorced in the 1970s, my father had a break that landed him in the hospital. Perhaps he snapped because my mom had finally decided she had it with the abuse and took me and left. So my grandparents brought him home to live with them, and that was where I would visit my father. My aunt discusses how they took care of my father and never discussed his mental illness with anyone. I am sure they were ashamed of his illness.

When I was a child, my grandparents would often blame my dad’s illness on my mom. They told me she was the reason he was sick. They also told me all the time when I was a child that when I grew up I would need to take care of my father. That entire side of my family would just tear my mom to shreds every time I came to visit. This experience was so negative for me that was why I decided to stop seeing them when I was a teenager.

So, as you can imagine, this created a lot of stress and anger for me when I was a child. Plus, I was an only child, and I had no one to discuss this with whenever I returned home to my mother. My mother would often not say anything negative about my father, which is good on some levels. However, I needed someone to explain his illness to me, especially as I grew older and began to witness some of the outbursts.

Eventually, I came to learn more of the story about my father. However, since we never discussed abuse, I wound up picking a verbally abusive man to marry myself. My ex-husband had extreme moods too along with that grandiose image of himself. In fact, I would say I married someone who was very similar to my father. Generationally, domestic abuse does seem to run in families.

When I was dating my ex-husband, I confided in him one of my greatest fears. I knew the illness my father had could be hereditary, and I was afraid it could happen to me too. Throughout our marriage, this was my ex-husband’s favorite way to hurt me. Tell me things like, “Look how crazy your are acting.” I am sure he enjoyed throwing that bomb at me whenever he was angry.

Hopefully, I have made enough difference choices that the cycle of abuse may end with me. I pray that my daughter makes difference choices than I did. Look at how many years this cycle of abuse has been present in my family.

 

One Way Relationships with an Abuser

Hard to believe it was 9 years ago when I made the difficult decision to get divorced from my verbally abusive husband.  Although there were so many things wrong with the relationships, it was a very difficult decision to make.  My relationship with my ex-husband as very one-sided and I always felt drained with him.

My biggest complaints would have to have been:

  • He was a married man behaving like a bachelor
    • My expectations were that we were a family and would spend more time together
  • He was not much for being a father to our daughter
    • My expectations were that he would contribute and help me raise our daughter
  • He was very emotionally disconnected for my husband
    • My expectations were that we were married and would need to compromise on more decisions
  • He drank too much and too often
    • This became a very big focus for me and I mistakenly believed his drinking was why he was so nasty
  • When he drank he was often very belligerent
    • One of my mistakes was belligerence was because of his drinking rather than the fact he was verbally abusive
  • His mood swings were very extreme and I never knew what to expect
    • This was the ‘walking on eggshells’ times, when I mistakenly believed I could make/prevent him from getting angry
  • He often ignored me as punishment
    • My expectations were that we would talk like adults and work on a solution we could both live with
  • He was extremely lazy
    • It is my belief that he felt he worked and that entitled him to do nothing when he was home
  • He watched sports all the time (no exaggeration here)
    • My expectations were now that we were married, he couldn’t continue watching sports like a single guy could
  • He used our daughter as a weapon
    • Threats to retain custody of our daughter if I left was a method of control to keep me in line

My ex-husband was rarely emotionally connected and it always seemed intimacy made him uncomfortable.    He was often stay out after work and hanging out at bars with his friends or co-workers.  His excuse was always because it was ‘work related’.  However, he had a family and a little daughter and he usually arrived home after she was in bed.

During those years I remember having very strong mixed feelings about his being out.  On one hand it made me feel physically better when he was away from home, like I could breathe.  On the other hand I was left to be a single parent and he was often playing bachelor instead of married man.  I never understood that because when I had my daughter it became easy to sacrifice these things to be a mother and raise her.

There are many times I told friends that I think he was perfectly happy with the way things were back then.  If I had just stopped complaining and been okay with his doing whatever he wanted… we might have made it.  However, being okay with all those things would have been asking myself to simply discard all my personal emotions and feelings.  I guess I really expected him to grow up and start acting like a husband and a father.

Actually, I think most of our fights were about my criticizing that behavior and he did like to be challenged.  Although he never really stated what exactly he wanted or didn’t want.  He just simply did what he wanted to do and I had better have been okay with it.  There were no questions about what would be a healthy compromise to make both of us happy.

Now there were plenty of times when he was home and we would get into fights about his not being home.  Then he would just use that as an excuse to not come home again and stay out drinking with his buddies.  I remember one he said that most of his friends were divorced.   I honestly cannot remember if I responded to statement,  but if there behavior matched my ex-husband’s behavior it wouldn’t be a surprise.

When my ex-husband was home he was usually exhausted or had a hang-over.  So usually it was like being on egg-shells when he was home and realizing if I said anything it would lead to a fight.  I use to believe I could prevent or make him angry.  It took me a long time to realize I had no control over his emotions.

When my daughter was younger she would say, “Daddy isn’t angry, he is just very serious.”   Now that same thing has become a bit of a joke to her because she knows that is not true.  So she sees people on TV who are angry and says they are just really serious.

I just ran into an old friend yesterday who I have not seen for at least 10 years.  It was nice to see her and we exchanged information again.  She had a very healthy marriage and a healthier life than what I had.  I asked her, “What did it look like from your perspective?”  She said, “You always seemed very isolated, and it seemed as though he wanted you that way.”  That was interesting because I think that was exactly what was going on that made it so hard for me to get away from him.

Abusive Experience – Journal Entries 4

journal entriesLooking through those other journal entries made me hunt for one of my older journals.  I found the one I was writing when I met my abusive ex-husband.  In reading those words now I can hardly believe I could have ever felt positive things about him.  As long as I can remember he has been angry, entitled and controlling.  My journal entry actual makes him seem fun and enjoyable to be around.  Either my perception was way off or he was acting completely different when I met him.  Perhaps my having low self esteem had a lot to do with this.  It certainly made me an easy target for an abuser.  I do believe my ex-husband would not have picked a strong healthy woman because she would have left him quickly.

June 3, 1995

…Anyway, on May 13 I met a guy named Dick,he is a really great guy.  He works for an insurance corporation, and from how he talks about it, he really likes it.  He is so intelligent, I really enjoy our conversations.  It seems we can talk for hours and hours and never run out of things to say.  I feel one of his greatest qualities is his honesty, he speaks truthfully, what’s on his mind.  I like that.  (What? That is totally not my ex-husband.  Did he completely fool me?)

Are they really that different in how they present themselves when you first meet him.  I will still say today I think he is pretty intelligent, but I would consider it more manipulative in character.  He has not been a happy person for twenty years.  Even around our daughter he seems so angry, and when she was younger she use to say he was just really ‘Serious’.  Now she laughs about calling it that.

…I can’t say I am in love, but I have that fun little high you get when you are really happy.  Not to mention he is absolutely gorgeous.  He has a beautiful body, I swear he could model.  I like his eyes, and his different facial expressions he makes.  He is six feet of gorgeous incredible hunk material. I can’t seem to get him out of my mind.

Well, that kind of shows you how young and infatuated I was.  I was 21 when we met it sounds like I was completely obsessed with him.  Maybe I was so infatuated I missed any early warning signs there might have been.  He was in really good shape when we met and I remember he did not drink very much because he was working out.

Oh, in reading further,  here comes the warning signs.

June 5, 1995

Well I am on the phone with Dick.  He is a little upset right now, because he lost a bet and his friend wants the money now.  He is a really great guy, why is he so sweet, where is that little something that I can’t see.  I mean he’s too good to be true.  Common statement but, he is really intelligent, and gorgeous.  I am going over to his house tonight.  His mother is going to come visit him next week I think.  I’m a little nervous, I want his mother to like me.  Dick was raised by her, and he turned out great, so you really need to look at that as his parents doing.

Wow, again I am just baffled in reading this.  His mother was an alcoholic who was abusive and passive aggressive.  She was horrible to him when he was a child.  She was pretty awful to me to in her passive aggressive way.  She never said anything directly, always those passive insults where you question if they meant you thought they did.  Okay, perhaps I should be telling you my other secret.  The one I never talk about.  Good God, this blog is written anonymously and I still do not want to share that secret.  What is wrong with me?

June 6, 1995

I’m talking to Dick right now.  He is silly, giving me a hard time about last night because I slept on the couch.  He says his ego was shot because I didn’t sleep with him.  It’s only cause I didn’t want to wake him up.  So I went to sleep on the couch.  He really is a nice man, he’s funny, nice gorgeous and intelligent.  He says some cute things.

I like talking to him, he likes to argue with me about silly things, I think he is joking around.  I’m going over there again for the third night in a row.  I like his apartment, I feel comfortable there.  The more I’m over there, the more comfortable I feel. Tomorrow we might have lunch.  I’d have to shower there though.

Some of my comments are that I cannot read him, that he seems too good to be true and so it seems as though I was looking for a problem.  I am saying how I think I can fall in love with him but yet it was like I couldn’t get to know him.  Maybe I was not as blind as I thought.  Perhaps he was not being himself which is why I couldn’t figure him out.  Nobody is perfect and sure people put their best foot forward when you meet them.  Yet when I think of the 10 years of our relationship I cannot remember any good times.  My

June 8, 1995

Well I just got home from work, it was really tough.  First it was come back after the game.  Then it was no, I lost money on the game so I wouldn’t be good company.  My house is pretty clean, I cleaned and did laundry before work so at least I came home to that.

I called Dick to tell him I was home, he was half asleep.  I wonder if he’ll even remember I called.  I hope he calls tomorrow.  I wonder how things are going to turn out between us.  He is a really great guy.  I have not known him for an extremely long time, but things seem well right now.  Well I am exhausted, so I am crashing and I will write more tomorrow.

Okay so check out this next entry.  Okay so it was the 90’s but it sounds like I am whining and dining him, not the other way around.  Not that there is anything wrong with that but it certainly sounds like he is in control here and keeping me guessing.

June 9, 1995

Tomorrow I am ordering flowers for Dick and I am sending him roses all different colors I think.  I am bringing home one flower and putting it on my bed with a card.  I am cooking him dinner, place-mats, candles, wine, the works!  I’m cooking tenderloin, baked potatoes, corn and a salad.  I’m getting a twelve pack of Miller light.  I am having whipped cream and strawberries for desert.  Well, I had better go because I have a full day ahead.

Reading these journal entries, it is really clear that it was unhealthy, I was pursuing an unhealthy relationship that was not meeting my needs for a long time.  My ex-husband rarely did anything that required much thoughtfulness.   I cannot undo my past but I do wish I had been able to see that my ex-husband was never putting effort in like I was.   I do remember he blamed that on an ex-girlfriend.  That she hurt him and that was why he was not giving like he did with his ex-girlfriend.  So I guess I believed he would get over it and start doing that?

Greatest Lies Told About Domestic Abuse

The myths Society paints about Domestic Abuse truly prevent awareness about emotional & psychological abuse and make it very difficult to spot.  Society really paints a picture of Domestic Abuse involving physical abuse or violence.  When I talked to a lawyer one time the first question they asked me was, “Has he ever hit you?” That is very frustrating because without physical abuse you cannot prove long-term psychological abuse in the courts.  What makes this worse is there is no legal way to prevent the children from emotional abuse which is so damaging.  So even if a woman makes the decision to leave her husband she may be subjected to sending her kids over there to be emotionally abused.

Even women I talked to often excuse unacceptable behavior by saying in excusing tones;

“Well, men are just jerks.”
“Well, he is just being a man.”
“At least he doesn’t beat you or cheat on you.”
“He probably just had a long day.”
“What do you expect, he is just a guy.”

It really was not until I was divorced from my ex-husband and his continual harassment & threats pushed me into a Domestic Abuse support center that helped me understand he wasn’t just being a ‘jerk’ but that he was being emotionally abusive.   They described my ex-husband as a Classic Domestic Abuser.

Some of the most important things have done and wish I had done earlier are things like building up my own self esteem, creating a very healthy support network, learning more about what I will and will not accept, deciding I would rather be happy alone than miserable in a relationship.  I also believe it is really important we educate all our daughters/sons of what emotional abuse actually looks like.  Spreading awareness about what is or isn’t acceptable in a relationship to our youth is critical.  Perhaps this will make abusive relationships easier to spot and more acceptable to talk about.

I think the not-so-good ones out-number the good ones and you have to be extra careful.  It is not like they are going to be an real jerk on the first date because most pof us wouldn’t choose go on to a second date.

Resources:

Verbal Abuse Can Impact Any Relationship

I truly think God must have a sense of humor.  I am not completely rid of my abusive ex-husband or abusive ex-boss but it sure makes me feel fired up to write more about verbal and emotional abuse,  because awareness is key.

Verbal Abuse can happen in almost any type of relationship and anywhere;

    • in intimate relationships, marriages, or even families
    • at school with other kids, colleagues, teachers, and sometimes parents
    • at work with a boss, owners, management or co-workers
    • in customer service with utilities or other companies you pay bills to
    • debt collectors (these are among the some of worst)
    • by neighbors or people in your community
    • by friends or ex-friends

Emotional abuse is not limited to intimate relationships and can be found in all sorts of encounters throughout life.  Some of these situations are very short-lived like when you deal with an abusive customer service representative or perhaps a someone managing your affairs.  It is easy to not recognize these situations as abuse because they do not occur on the regular basis and it is easier to put them out of your mind.

Obviously, the vast majority of these situations would involve verbal or emotional abuse.  Of course, anything physical would allow you to take legal action.  No, this the type of abuse that is sly and usually done through words, actions or even the silent treatment.  Most verbal abusers have patterns and will often repeat these behaviors.  Almost anyone is capable of having a bad day, but these encounters should not be come the ‘new normal’.

Once an abuser or bully sets his target on you it very difficult to get out of the path.  Sometimes it requires you sever any connecting relationships in order to get away from the assaults.  Unfortunately, it is usually impossible to reason with these types of personalities.  Especially, if you are dealing with a narcissistic, sociopath or someone with a personality disorder who lacks empathy & remorse.

First example:
When I divorced my abusive ex-husband, it seemed he would use any kind of connection he could to get to me.  He would use anyone who was connected to me in order to pass messages or simply stir the pot.  You know, bizarre situations that seem to pull you back into the abusive insanity.  Where he is now talking to one of your friends and you being to wonder if they are repeating everything you say to your Ex.  Now that I have severed every possible connection, the only one he has left to use is our daughter, and he most certainly tries to use her as a pawn.

Second example:
When I left my last job, my boss would use my old co-workers to spy on me through Facebook or Linked In.  It was really sneaky and felt like stalking or rather ‘silent stalking’ (if there is such a thing).  All the while, he said nothing directly to me, but outright ignored me.  Even when I was trying to clean up connections since I was tied to almost everything within the company.  It really felt like I was getting divorced all over again on my last day.  Having to sit there while we removed my administrative access to everything.  Eventually, I disconnected myself from every connection we had in common.  Perhaps that was his personal goal?

Time to Say Goodbye
Unfortunately, some of these relationships become reoccurring and can make it impossible for you to ignore the abuser’s behavior.  Reoccurring abusive situations are often with a intimate partner, boss or management, or even someone in your own family.  If this relationship becomes one you cannot avoid and is effecting you emotionally, only you can decide when it is time to say goodbye.

Sources:

 

12 Signs Your’re in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

It took me more than 10 years to figure out I was in an emotionally abusive relationship with my ex-husband.  The trouble is that society often paints a picture of abuse as being physical not verbal, emotional, economic or sexual.  During my marriage I remember thinking, “If he ever hits me, I am leaving.”  However, he never did hit me and at that point I was basically giving permission for him to do anything else.

  1. Feeling like you are on egg-shells and always worried about how your partner will react
  2. Makes you feel like less of a person than you know yourself to be
  3. You feel like you have no say when it comes to money, spending, purchase, etc…
  4. You spend too many hours trying to think up all possible scenarios in attempt to avoid a fight
  5. You feel certain rules are set only for you while he/she does whatever they choose
  6. Says/implies you are crazy or you are starting to believe you are the crazy one in the relationship
  7. Makes jokes that put you down, but then says you are too sensitive when you bring it up
  8. Expects you to act a specific way or dress a certain way (hair, nails, clothes, etc…)
  9. Will use children against you (threatening he/she will get custody and take the kids away if you were to leave, etc…)
  10. You feel things are your fault, he/she places fault on your head and claims/implies you made them angry
  11. Receives affection mainly after a fight, wants you to forgive and forget, makes claims it won’t happen again or “I will change”
  12. You are starting to second guess yourself or feel you can’t do anything right

Resources:

 

Abusive Men and the Second Wife

There are many times I wonder if my abusive ex-husband is nicer to his new wife than he was to me.

My Abusive Ex-Husband’s Wife
My ex-husband’s wife tells my daughter I am crazy. No doubt these are things my ex-husband as told her about me that she is repeating. I am unable to get inside her mind to know why she might believe I am crazy, however I think it is not very normal or healthy that she tells a young child these things anyway. My daughter once said she her her father say to his wife, “She has a big caboose.” Sorry, but there is nothing nice about that comment. My ex-husband was always full of criticisms disguised as ‘jokes’.

She also transferred to my daughter’s school three years ago and created all sorts of problems. Almost daily she would show up in the cafeteria, when my daughter was eating lunch, and give her some sort of gift (candy, pencils, and other gifts). Initially my daughter really enjoyed receiving these gifts & attention. However, very quickly it started to make my daughter feel very uncomfortable. Especially when her friends began to get jealous and when they would ask this was her mom.

Given all the all the crap my ex-husband’s wife pulled we certainly think less of her.  Not sure what she was thinking when she transferred to my daughter school as an assistant teacher and it created major problems between the school and myself. Although, to this day I am more pissed of that the school for not protecting our daughter and staying neutral. You can read that sorted story under What a Tangled Web they Weave.

She also sent me an email not too long ago with the suggestion that I have some mental illness that I should look into. I will admit I was rather unhealthy when I was married to my ex-husband but I feel pretty okay now. Occasionally, when we deal with some of these insane situations my ex-husband has put us through it makes me question my own sanity. I remember someone once said, “How can you expect to react normal to constant abnormal situations?” I guess that is a good point. I did my best to disconnect when my ex-husband would threaten to take me to court or take my daughter away.

I do try to encourage my daughter not to talk about her father and step-mother unless it is a situation where she feels in danger. If it is just negative talk from them I have suggested she talk to my husband because he is not emotionally involved and it won’t hurt his feelings.

However, when I hear that things sound exactly the same when I lived there is certainly reassurance that I did the right thing by getting out. My ex-husband’s new wife cleans his house, does all the shopping and often takes care of our daughter for him. It sounds like she doesn’t like cleaning up after him, I didn’t like that so much either, but if she doesn’t clean up it will not get clean. I remember when I was married to my ex-husband he only cleaned the house when his mother was coming to visit. I am not talking about just vacuuming the house but scrubbing it spotless like a hospital. Not sure whatever dysfunctional reason that was for.

Also, my ex-husband never slept in the same bedroom with me.  He slept in our guest bedroom which I always thought was strange.  He use to say it was because he snored but I think he just preferred to be in another room.  He doesn’t sleep with his new wife either. Sorry, but I think this is very strange.  One of my very best friend’s parents slept in two different rooms and even as a child I thought that was unusual.  Perhaps it is more common than I know but I wouldn’t think this makes for a healthy marriage.

Another thing is the guest-bedroom is right next to our daughter’s bedroom. This really bothered me when she had all those complaints going on about her vagina hurting. I wonder if I will ever know the truth about what those complaints were all about. Plus, it just stopped all of a sudden when she was 9 years old. There was never a medical explanation for her complaints. This story is in the post Abusive Experiences – Journal Email Entries 2006.

My Abusive Father’s Wife
My abusive father was awful to my mother and they divorced when I was a very young child. Well, it was more like my mother fled from my father and moved as far away as possible. My father was physically & emotionally abusive to my mother.

It was about 8 years ago he was married to his new wife.  When we spoke I really liked her and I could really identify with her.  She was very nice to talk to whenever we spoke.  I was under the impression that my father was really nice to her, but recently learned he very verbally abusive to her too. You may have read one of my earlier posts Accepting Unacceptable Behavior where I posted a version of my father’s story.   He certainly made it sound like she was a gold-digger. However I liked her when I first met her and I had a hard time believing his version of the story which made her sound completely different.   However, she recently emailed me and I think his version probably contains less of the truth than hers. She said she really stood up for my mother when he would talk about her the way he did. My father felt she was being extremely disloyal for not siding with him.

What’s Her Story?
So when men talk about their ex-wives you need to consider talking to her before your believe it.  In the book Why Does He Do That?, the author he says this very same thing.  He says you should get the ex-wive’s story even if you do not believe her because you may find out it is the same story you are coming to know.

Was It All Her Fault?
Does he ever say he did anything wrong? I am not talking about a comment that says he was mean to her because she cheated on him. What was his part in the relationship going wrong?  It is usually never 100% one person’s fault. I do believe in an abusive situation I do believe you are at a disadvantage for keeping calm. My ex-husband really worked hard to upset me. Looking back I realize that was so he could say, “You do it too.” -or- “Look how you are acting, look how crazy you are.” All this designed to make sure he could say ‘I was wrong’ or ‘we were both wrong’, because he never said ‘he was wrong’.

What was my part? Yes, my ex-husband was abusive, but I picked him.  He was kind of a jerk when we were dating but I was too insecure to break up with him or not okay with being alone. I also picked him for all the wrong reasons. I am not sure I was really looking for a ‘nice guy’ when I was younger. I know I thought of my ex-husband as being ‘gorgeous’ and I think that clouded my judgement that he was an asshole. It is true things got much worse as we continued to date and especially after we were married. However, he was never a really good guy that just magically turned into an abuser one day.

I Am a Second Wife
Now, I am a 2nd wife now to my husband too.  I have not heard his ex-wive’s story directly.  However when we first met five years ago, she wasn’t even showing up for her visitations with her daughter.  She also was not paying child support each month, it was only $200 a month.  However, two years ago she was in trouble with the state for not paying child-support and she wanted my husband to just agree to waive it.  The child support office treated my husband with disdain at first when they thought he was the one not paying.  They changed their tune really quick when they realized he was the custodial parent and it was her mother not paying child support.  They told us he couldn’t sign it without going to court to get it changed.

He tried to tell his ex-wife this very thing and then she turned around and sued us for custody. This frivolous suit ended up costing us $2,000 to have our attorney just send responses to her suit. It was a complete waste of money and it caused some trouble here for a while. In the end it all worked out and unfortunately it gave his daughter (our daughter) a different opinion of her mother and really helped her bond with me. So, there turned out to be a silver lining with that situation.

My Abusive Ex-Husband
My ex-husband has done some pretty crazy stuff that my husband was able to witness. He certainly does not like my ex-husband, but I believe more for his behavior than my stories. My husband has learned a few interesting thing when he has to deal with my Ex. He knows my ex-husband likes to talk about himself and will distract him by complimenting his truck or whatever. My ex-husband doesn’t even see that and gets really excited and goes on and on about himself. Wow, this really made me think about the song originally written & performed by Carly Simon, performed by Brooke White “You’re So Vain”.  Haha!

Things to Consider
Whether you are the first wife, second wife, third wife… to an abusive man you  might wonder if he is being nicer to his new wife or girlfriend. You also might be wondering if things will be different with you.   Unless he has done some seriously soul searching it is unlikely he has changed. However, I suppose it is very possible that you or the new wife/girlfriend may respond to his behavior differently or perhaps it just hasn’t escalated enough yet. My dad was with his new wife for four years before she finally decided to get out.

When I was starting to date again, I knew it was very likely I could pick the same type of relationship I had with my ex-husband. I knew I needed some time to get to know myself and what I liked. I had a pretty good idea of all the things I didn’t want in a relationship but not clue what I did want. Also, I was able to witness my mother never picking a decent man. So, I knew I had to be extra cautious with any man I picked. Currently, my husband and I are going on four years and I think we are doing pretty good.

Resources:

Abusive Relationship – Warning Signs

abusivechecklistOne of my biggest concerns is my daughter will grow up and marry an abuser herself.  All I can really do is teach her the facts and perhaps inform her of the warning signs.  After all there were early warning signs in our relationship, when we were dating, which I  missed or chose to ignore.  Several websites, have very good lists of warning signs,  this one is from the Red Flag Campaign.  Let me go through the ‘red flag’ list and see how many were present in my relationship.

I also listed many of these resources at the bottom of this post that discuss the various ‘red flags’ of abusive relationships.  The warning signs are almost always there but usually the abuser keeps themselves in check for a while, however they always slip up here and there and can’t keep up the act forever.  As I was writing this list I noticed many things were much worse after we were married.  The relationship did not get better after marriage, only worse.  My ex-husband was never physically abusive with me but he was abusive in every other way.  The emotional  verbal abuse caused me such physical illness I was almost certain I was dying of cancer.  I also truly believe if I had stayed in that relationship I would have ended up with some permanent physical illness because of the constant emotional stress.

*Note* As you will see, most of these ‘red flags’ are checked off as being present.  I might have been able to justify a few of these away, but this is a pretty long list an I could think of examples for almost all of them.  Of course, I never had a ‘red flag’ or ‘warning signs’ list when I was dating my ex-husband.  I think that is why it is so important to share this list with our daughters and perhaps even our sons.

Red Flags ‘Warning Signs’ of Abusive Relationships

  • Abuses drugs or alcohol – √
    • My ex-husband was drinking excessively since the moment I met him.  In fact he knew ever bartender in town very well.  They would often give him extra shots for free because he tipped so well.  This was a big time red flag.
  • Have history of trouble with law or getting arrested – √
    • This is another issue for him, in fact I think he thought his acting aggressive was admirable.  He was in very good shaped and worked out all the time and I was blinded by the fact that in my early 20’s I thought he was so attractive
  • Don’t’ work or go to school
    • This would not be a red flag because he graduated from college and was a very successful salesman who made a lot of money.
    • However during our marriage he lost a job where he was one of the top salesmen in the company.   The company had to let him go because some woman turned him in for being dishonest in which he said, “everyone at work does it.”
  • Blame you for how they treat you or anything that happens – √
    • When we were dating he would say that I was just confused and he needed to give me some time to think.  Not that he was doing anything wrong.  He often said that I was too sensitive and could not take a joke.  His jokes were often mean and very personal.
    • I also do not believe he thinks he did anything wrong during our entire marriage or since actually.
  • Abuse siblings, other family members, children or pets
    • There was nothing while we were dating that I could point to but he most certainly emotionally abuses our daughter since our divorce.  He has been putting her in the middle since she was 5 years old.
  • Put down people, including family & friends or call them names- √ 
    • While we were dating he started telling me that my mother did not understand me anymore, but that he understood me.  He definitely put everyone down from people we knew, acquaintances, co-workers, etc….  He still does this today as if he is something perfect and everyone else in the world is beneath him.
  • Are always angry at someone or something – √
    • Yes I cannot think of him ever being happy.  He liked to fight, he liked drama, and he made sure our lives were full of chaos.
    • Even today he buys Rolex Watches, expensive cars, country club memberships and he seems like the most miserable person I know.
  • Try to isolate you and control who you see and where you go – √
    • When we were dating he did not want me to talk to other guys.  I use to go play pool a lot and he really gave me a hard time I eventually gave it up.  My world revolved around him and I am not sure how much was my doing or his influencing.
    • While we were married I know my living so far away from my family was a control factor for him.
  • Nag you or force you to be sexual when you don’t want to – √
    • I do not know about when we were dating but for sure when were married.
    • He slept in another bedroom in the house and would complain he didn’t want us to live like roommates.  This meant he wanted us to have sex but it was okay to sleep in different bedrooms.  He also would show up drunk, late at night and knock on the door until I would unlock it (warning flag if you lock your own bedroom door at night) and I would let him do what he wanted to get it over with.  Very impersonal & uncomfortable sex that would leave me crying when he left.
  • Cheat on you or have lots of partners – √
    • This is another one I am not sure about while we were dating but I am positive he had an affair while we were married.
    • He was calling another woman for a year all the time, had his cell phone bill sent to his work, and when I downloaded his bill I found all the calls to a number at 2 & 3 am.  Then after seeing that I realized he was calling her all the time for an entire year.  When I confronted him about it, he said “She was like one of the guys.”  Plus, I overheard on a telephone call telling someone , “My wife is bitching, she is suspicious, we are going to have to cool it for a while.”  No matter what I know the truth an I knew long before I got a hold of the cell phone bill.  For a while I just wasn’t ready to deal with his affair, so I stayed in denial.
  • Are physically rough with you (push, shove, pull, yank, squeeze, restrain).- √

    • Not while we were dating he never laid a hand on me.
    • Even while we were married he did not physically abuse me, his was one of mental abuse.  However, he did kick a hole in our bedroom door, physically block me from leaving the house with his body, threaten to hurt me with words meant for intimidation.  My ex-husband was most certainly a bully.
    • Our daughter is even very worried about making him angry and keeps her thoughts to herself.  She has learned to just agree with him even if she doesn’t.
  • Take your money or take advantage of you in other ways. – √
    • I guess while were dating he took advantage of my wanting to buy sometimes.  I didn’t mind at first but certainly had a problem after a while I just never said anything to him.
    • When we were married he was extremely Financially Controlling in many ways.  Hiding money, keeping track of what I spent, keeping us broke as I mentioned earlier, making sure we stayed in debt, buying whatever he wanted but I had rules, etc…  When he was happy with me it was our money, our house, our stuff.  When he was pissed it was his money, his house and his stuff.
  • Accuse you of flirting or “coming on” to others or accuse you of cheating on them.- √
    • I had  not thought about this but he was always accusing me of cheating on him, in a ‘joking’ way.
    • Even at the end of our marriage he was accusing me of having an affair and threatened divorce.  Of course I had already filed for divorce at that very time.
  • Don’t listen to you or show interest in your opinions or feelings. . .things always have to be done their way.- √
    • In our household he was definitely the rule-maker, not me.  He was extremely manipulative and would say he didn’t expect anything from me but his actions made sure I knew different.  When I complained about our marriage he would simply reply, “Every marriage has problems, you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.”  He made sure he knew me well enough to use anything personal I said against me in a hurtful way.  Other than that he did not know me or listen at all.
  • Ignore you, give you the silent treatment, or hang up on you. – √
    • I think did ignore me a bit when we were dating.  Although I mostly remember him knocking on my door & calling my house from his cell phone outside door until I opened door, often at 6am in the morning.
    • When we were married he would just ignore me when I would try to talk.  Eventually I would get mad and yell at him and then he would make me feel like I was the crazy one.
  • Lie to you, don’t show up for dates, maybe even disappear for days. – √
    • I don’t know about this one while we were dating.
    • However, when we were married never came home when he said he would.  He always made promises and never delivered on any of them.  I eventually knew I couldn’t’ believe a word he said but felt the disappointment anyway.  He often used our fights as a reason to justify staying out late & drinking and not coming home.
  • Make vulgar comments about others in your presence – √
    • I seem to remember he would say things deliberately that he knew upset me, only to get a rise out of me.  Including using racial words that upset me.  He told me once, “I don’t really care, I just like getting you upset.”
  • Blame all arguments and problems on you. – √
    • Everything was my fault or ‘our fault’ and never his fault.  I know many of his reactions were meant to set me up to get angry so he could say I was wrong too.  When I finally figured this out I had to work very hard to not react.  He was very good at pushing my buttons.
  • Tell you how to dress or act. – √
    • While we were dating he was very controlling and would want me to get my nails done, my hair done and tan.  I did so much of this to please him.  He wanted me to be his little showpiece.
    • Even when we were married he would bring me out to show me off, not to spend time with me.
  • Threaten to kill themselves if you break up with them, or tell you that they cannot live without you. – √
    • He definitely put on a guilt trip to get me to go back to him when we were dating.  He was so in love with me.  Yeah right!
    • Also, when we were married he made himself sick to try to get sympathy.  The last time I was so ready to get out permanently I could care less.
  • Experience extreme mood swings. . .tell you you’re the greatest one minute and rip you apart the next minute. – √
    • When we were dating his moods were not quite as extreme, although I remember we fought a lot when he was drinking.
    • However, when I was married I swear he was completely unpredictable.  Get pissed about the tiniest things or be completely calm about something I was sure he would freak out about.  Every day his behaviors were very extreme. Working out all the time or never at all.  Eating really healthy or nothing but junk. Home all the time or never home.
  • Tell you to shut up or tell you you’re dumb, stupid, fat, or call you some other name (directly or indirectly). – √
    • He did this plenty while dating and when we were married.  He still does with our daughter.
    • When we were married he didn’t say directly I was stupid but that I didn’t have a degree and nobody would hire me without one.
    • With our daughter he wouldn’t tell her I was mean but that she would get in trouble I was going to be mad at her.  Always highly manipulative by saying things without saying things.
  • Compare you to former partners.
    • Not sure about this one but I remember him blaming his inability to commit to the relationship or treat me right was because he was treated wrong by former relationship.  This was just an excuse really.   Oh but he did say that my not having orgasms was my problem because he never had this problem before.
  • You feel afraid to break up with them. – √
    • I was so afraid to break up with him because he was harass me.  Call me continuously or show up at my door at the crack of dawn.  Sometimes it seemed easier just to stay with him.
    • I was really afraid to divorce him too because he made me feel like I would lose my daughter.  Common abusive fear tactics.
  • You feel tied down, feel like you have to check-in.  – √
    • I certainly felt like I couldn’t make a move without checking in with him first.  If I did anything on my own I would get in trouble.   I felt like this with our marriage, like I had rules but he didn’t.
  • You feel afraid to make decisions or bring up certain subjects so that the other person won’t get mad. – √
    • I use to believe I was responsible for making him angry.  He had made that very clear.  
    • This is another issue for him, in fact I think he thought his acting aggressive was admirable. He was in very good shaped and worked out all the time and I was blinded by the fact that in my early 20’s I thought he was so attractive
  • You tell yourself that if you just try harder and love your partner enough that everything will be just fine. – √
    • I really think I believed I somehow could make things better.  I always tried to work on our relationship but what good did that do when he never made an effort.  It took me many years to realize he was not going to change and I didn’t like one thing about him anymore.  I knew if I couldn’t accept things the way they were and I knew I could never do that.
  • You find yourself crying a lot, being depressed or unhappy.- √
    • I was definitely upset a lot, crying often, and very depressed on many occasions.  I also felt physically sick throughout most of our marriage with stomach problems, anxiety, panic attacks, migraines, etc…  Amazing how much better I felt after I left.
  • You find yourself worrying and obsessing about how to please your partner and keep them happy. – √
    • When we were dating I went to great extremes, cooking him dinner, planning evenings out, surprises.  He never really did any of that in return.
    • When we were married , still my entire world revolved around what he would do or how not to piss him off.
    • Even when we were divorced I was always trying to figure out how to communicate with him without pissing him off.
  • You find the physical or emotional abuse getting worse over time. – √
    • The emotional abuse certainly got worse over time.  Especially after we were married and he felt he had me trapped.  Plus, I think he cared even less as time went on.  Not that I think he ever had empathy but I think he just didn’t care if he upset me or not.

Sources: