Discovering who your ex really is

My sister has been really supportive throughout my marriage troubles and now the split has happened she has begun to send me through helpful books she’s found on Amazon. I’m currently dipping in and out of A Woman’s Guide to Divorce by Phyllida Wilson & Maxine Pillinger and Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft.

The former is UK-centric and I have found some of what I’ve read so far to be both useful and somewhat scary. The advice on communications in particular helps to put in perspective everything that is said and done and how you react to it so that you retain your own self respect if nothing else.

The latter is maybe less useful but more interesting to me. I love popular psychology anyway and I could spend all day browsing that section of a bookstore, but combine that with a potential glimpse into your own past through completely new eyes and that’s me hooked.

I have long held that my ex suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder – I’ve even expressed that thought to him. Essentially someone with BPD is absolutely terrified of abandonment by their nearest and dearest and yet they almost pathologically push those same people away through their controlling, over-bearing, accusatory behaviour and raging outbursts which can be triggered off by the most innocuous thing leaving the recipient feeling like they are ‘walking on eggshells’.

It is widely believed that BPD sufferers are predominantly female however there is a school of thought that says the reason for there to be this skewing of the figures is because the same behaviour in men is more likely mistaken for either Bipolar or anger management issues what with all that testosterone surging around.

Bancroft’s book doesn’t really touch upon BPD but what it does do is classify different types of abuser.

The reason I concluded that my ex suffers with BPD is because I Googled ’emotional abuse’ and found that what I’d experienced didn’t fit with all the standard definitions. However something about personality disorders came up and I found myself reading terms that I’d already thought in my own head: ‘walking on eggshells’ ‘perceived slights’ ‘no-win scenarios’…

What I have discovered from reading Why Does He Do That? has been even more of an eye opener though. It turns out my ex almost exactly fits the author’s definition of ‘The Victim’ as one of his ten types of abuser. After reading that section I immediately handed the book to my mum who was equally gobsmacked by just how spookily similar the description was – it could almost have been written just about him.

I guess reading these descriptions, combined with speaking to a counsellor, has given me a good deal of belief in myself and my reasons for leaving. As a victim you can so easily question yourself and memories of the distress you have experienced on so many occasions can begin to fade away to the point where you begin to believe that you must have imagined it or you rationalise it away.

I would recommend any woman who has ever wondered whether her partner’s more negative behaviours – the ones that have really affected her – do some research into personality disorders and abusive ‘types’. Knowledge is power and behaviour can be predicted.

*Picture credit: Masked Man by Naruto-gomes

 

 

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Escaping the madness

So much has happened – I don’t really know where to start. My husband refused to leave the family home. I’ve read a lot of accounts about this happening to other people – it’s not uncommon. My own solicitor expressed concern over me leaving our home with the children, however three days into what he termed “a trial separation” I was brought to the brink of despair and had to make that most difficult decision.

When you tell your husband that there is no hope of a reconciliation, that that door has closed, if he is not ready to hear or accept that then you can’t always predict how he will react. After making every promise under the sun to change, to address his issues, to cut right down on the drinking, to set to work immediately on improving our home, to book us some sort of luxury holiday for 2017 – you get the picture – then telling me that his brain was “completely re-wired” after two days, all the while making his very best efforts not to point the finger back my way, I just shut down.

It was all too much and at the same time that old cliché, too little too late. Maybe that sounds unreasonable but remember, I have been through cycle after cycle of this and yes, this time was different in that I handed him a letter from a solicitor to draw a line in the sand, this time I knew that I didn’t love him any more and told him so and this made his reaction and his responses that much more dramatic but I know who he is, what our life has been like together and how promises quickly wane and become obsolete.

By Wednesday evening I girded my loins, told him enough now, I still wanted a divorce, there was nothing he could do or say to change my mind. I can only describe what happened next as some kind of meltdown where at least two alternate personalities suddenly materialised – a tearful child curled crying in the foetal position and within a heartbeat a brutal manipulator who’s sole purpose in life was to prevent me from taking matters into my own hands.

I was going to explain what happened next in detail but, despite this being an anonymous blog, I can’t say for sure that anonymity is guaranteed and I don’t want to risk over-sharing. Suffice it to say that he chose to use our 6 year old son as a pawn and said a lot of very destructive things to him at that point (this was after our son had gone to bed) and he wouldn’t stop or back down until I told him what he wanted to hear (that I would put the idea of divorce out of my mind and continue to consider working on the relationship).

Explaining it in this way really doesn’t give any idea of how traumatic the whole incident was. I was in contact with my parents and my sister during and in the immediate aftermath and they were so concerned by the turn of events that my mum and dad immediately told me to pack our bags and come to live with them.  I had to put on a façade for two days then in the run up to the weekend when I planned for us to make the move.

To cut a long story short, my husband went off like a wonky firework when he discovered that we weren’t coming home. It has been a month now. A month of commuting 30 miles to infant school on weekdays, and my six year old missing out on his Beaver Scouts as we are just too far away to hang around that late.

But – despite the 60 mile round trip (80 miles if you factor in the extra 20 miles to and from my workplace and 120 miles on the day I don’t work and have to drive two 60 mile round trips in one day) – I realise how lucky we are to have been offered this safe haven.

One of my biggest worries about telling my husband that I want a divorce was what would happen if he refused to leave and we were forced to live together. I’m sure this is the case for many women. Of course you worry about how you will cope financially but you figure you’ll muddle through somehow – that the courts will step in and force unreasonable partners to make fair settlements.

The very first obstacle to moving forwards is a partner in denial – someone who will do everything in their power to cancel out the words you have spoken, the decision you have made. The courage you have slowly built up over the course of weeks and months in order to finally say “enough is enough”.

Without a real separation of our lives I’m not sure I would have been able to instigate the divorce process.

*Picture credit: Escaping Madness by Andrew Paranavitana

 

 

 

The evolution of emotional abuse

People who haven’t experienced emotional abuse sometimes wonder how it is possible to fall into a long term relationship with someone who is capable of behaving in such a destructive way. What you have to understand is that not only do people change over the course of time but life experiences change the dynamics of a relationship.

I was with my husband for ten years. The first four years were child-free. He is a shift worker and during that time we spent plenty of time together (including one and a half years living together in our jointly owned home) and also a significant amount of time apart (due to his shift pattern, working weekends, etc.).

He never tried to stop me from seeing my friends and family or gave me reason to feel concerned in that respect. However there were some early warning signs with regards to his temper and uncontrollable outbursts. He had split up with his ex-wife 18 months before I met him and was back living with his parents at that time. I used to stay at their house frequently and I’ll never forget the first time he exploded in a fit of anger.

It was aimed at them, his parents, not me, and I remember shutting myself away from the madness upstairs as what seemed to me like a scene of huge significance to their ongoing relationship unfolded below.

If I had ever screamed at and disrespected my own parents in that way there would have been a huge rift between us and yet, once things died down, the next day everyone acted as if nothing had happened. It felt as though I must have dreamed the entire thing.

And so we all carried on as before and I came to the conclusion that this was just someone else’s family’s version of ‘normal’.

My memory of our early arguments now eludes me – what they were about at any rate. All I remember is how I was changed by those confrontations. I’m a quiet, non-confrontational kind of person, yet the words ‘screaming banshee’ came to mind when I reflected on my own reactions back then. I even broke the locking mechanism on our newly installed front door when he upset me so much on one occasion that I slammed it violently on my way out.

Of course he never let me forget that and used it as a way of defining me as the one with ‘anger management’ issues.

After the birth of our second child things changed noticeably. Where before his temper tantrums had gone somewhat under the radar being fewer and further between, both patterns of unacceptable behaviour and angry flare ups became much more frequent at that time. He began demanding more of my time and attention at a time when I really was running on empty and he let his work and increasing obsession with competitive running and intensive gym sessions act as an excuse for leaving me to it with the kids.

At the same time he began to act possessively and get jealous if I arranged anything social that didn’t involve him. He also began to binge drink with increasing frequency and when these two factors collided I was facing the beginning stages of unbearable and cyclical abuse.

 

Building your wings

As I write these words I am just beginning on a trajectory towards becoming a single mum. I’m already a blogger and I have been reading stories from the other side of the fence for a while now – you know, that greener pasture where picture perfect families while away their time together in perfect harmony whilst I have felt the sting of bitter tears wondering just how I managed to make such duff life choices – particularly where men are concerned.

I have been married for five years – partnered for ten. I have two little boys under 7. I have regularly dreamed about leaving my husband on and off for the last three years after being subjected to ongoing bouts of emotional abuse and coercive control, walking on eggshells on a daily basis and feeling trapped and dependent.

Of course everything has been normalised by fact that he has never done what ‘real’ abusers do to their partners: the belittling, the demoralising, the humiliating, the name calling or the raising of a fist. On the contrary, I have been bombarded with statements of profuse love, and regularly accosted with demands for particularly hip-jutty hugs.

My family and friends have never been off limits but my time with them is always questioned, often sabotaged and never without some sort of an aftermath.

The abuser takes your grievances and turns them back on you: “You feel like your opinions are never heard? What about my opinions?” – thereby dodging the need to ever address the real issue and simultaneously planting the seeds of doubt about your own role as ‘part of the problem’.

It took a course of counselling for me to finally accept that it really is his problem not mine and now I’ve been shown that light I know it is time to take action. No amount of further discussion is going to put things right or turn things on their head to the extent that I could genuinely be lead to believe in a happier future within the relationship and so I just did the necessary – found and took on a solicitor, delved into my life savings (which may or may not be enough to fund a messy divorce) and gathered together the paperwork.

All that’s left to do is confront him with this information. I know the time, I know the place, I know that myself and the children have temporary respite from the storm in the immediate aftermath.

I also have unshakeable faith that I can cope as a single parent – that I will thrive and we will re-build new lives however messed up the finances or downsized the existence. I am making a calculated choice – I am embracing the saying that sometimes you’ve just got to take the leap and build your wings on the way down.

*Picture credit: Jump by Ain Lim on Flickr