Shifting sands

Right now I am pretty numb with despair. Despair that my life seems to be dictated by the vindictive whims of one man. Despair that my children have to witness me breaking down in tears so often. Despair that they must be subjected to emotional abuse.

Things reached a critical mass a few weeks ago during a hand over at lunchtime one Saturday afternoon. He hadn’t had the children overnight for a month. I needed a break. Our five year old refused to go, screaming and crying whilst I told him he must go. If he didn’t go it would be setting a precedent that he never had to go to his dad if he didn’t want to. I would be accused of ‘poisoning’ him against his father.

His father started being unkind. In the street outside our jointly owned home (where he still lives) he began telling our child “Mummy doesn’t want to take you with her because she’d rather have her social life”. He approached me with bitterness and anger in his eyes and demanded to know where I was going, who I was going with, what I was doing. He demanded to know if I had a boyfriend, mentioned the name of my ex and kept repeating to the children the notion that I didn’t want them because I wanted to go out without them.

Maybe this doesn’t sound too bad to read it written down like this but I was desperate to get away. I was upset, frustrated, worried about the effects on the children, I felt harassed, provoked.

He leant in to my car where our five year old was still sitting and began saying something derogatory about me. I gave him a tap on the bum to ask him to move away from my car and our child.

Little did I know that 24 hours later he would have reported me to the police for assault.

I had to wait three weeks to be interviewed (voluntarily) and I won’t know the outcome for a few days yet but I get the impression that the matter will be dropped. It has been an enormous waste of police time and resources and left me reeling.

In the meantime I have had to chase my solicitor relentlessly to try and figure out just what on earth to do going forwards. I simply cannot be around my ex – I have started to show physical symptoms of stress and anxiety and when he is nearby I feel tearful and shaky.

I need to change the way we handle hand overs of the children. I need to find a way to force him to provide me with contact dates in advance and stick to them for the sake of us all.

However I have now discovered that pursuing a ‘Child Arrangements Order’ could cost up to £7500 in solicitors fees and I cannot pay that sort of money.

I have begun to feel as though I am trapped in my own life – at least until the children come of age, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen years from now.

These are supposed to be the precious days of our lives aren’t they? Not some kind of ordeal to live through.

I have so much sadness right now.

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To be hated…

It’s been a funny kind of summer so far. I have heard very little from the Husband for a while – he has had the children on three occasions in June – two of them overnight. Tonight is the third and last overnight for June. It’s Thursday. This was arranged on Monday. I pay for the children to go to after school club on a Thursday – £24 and I normally pick them up between 5 and 5.30 after I finish my working day. He will pick them up, give them tea, let them bounce off the walls for a couple of hours before putting them to bed and taking them to school in the morning. He is also off work on Friday and over the weekend but he has asked for them Sunday afternoon only.

There is nothing for me to do tonight even though I don’t have to get up in the morning because it’s my day off. It was too late to arrange anything although to be fair I think I am probably too tired to do anything right now anyway – I will just enjoy this peace and quiet, not having to jump to the constant demands and break up the inevitable squabbles. I will enjoy having the freedom to start watching a DVD at 6pm or listening to my music loud or staying up past my own bedtime. Woo! What an exciting life I lead.

What has become very apparent is that the Husband has been spiralling into a vicious mood in recent days. I’m not sure what’s triggered it, whether it’s his lack of success with the ladies lately or his 8 days in a row at work culminating in two night shifts or just the fact that when he knows he’s going to be seeing the children it is his one chance to force his way into my life and my consciousness while we manoeuvre our way out of the shallows and into the cross currents which represent our co-parenting exchange.

His phone broke the other day and during the period when he didn’t have the phone I had to physically attend his house to write my number down for him as he made no attempt to contact me regarding child contact or indeed to speak to the children for over 7 days. I found out that he had his phone back fixed but all the numbers wiped out however he did not attempt to contact me or the children. In the end I texted him saying “do you ever want to see your children again?” to which he replied “who is this?”.

I replied “your children’s mother”. He countered “The one who left me?” before telling me he didn’t want to talk to me – “you are the last person I want to speak to”.

A couple of days later I thought I would pre-empt the shit storm that ensued last year by texting him with dates of parents evenings coming up at school plus an information evening up at the Junior school where our eldest will be starting in September and all the details of the birthday party I have arranged for our youngest at the end of July. He didn’t reply to this but later in the day he texted “It looks like your car is still registered at this address”.

I thought that was odd and looked out my Vehicle registration documentation and driving licence and both are registered to my current address. I asked him what he’d got there and he said “Renewal notice apparently”. I asked “renewal of what?” to which he replied “stop bothering me”.

I pointed out that I had gone to the effort of providing him with important dates recently and that it would be kind of him to simply tell me which document it was he was referring to – i.e. which agency it was from.

He replied “you FINALLY have started doing that. Remember the way you left me? You can crawl under the nearest rock as far as I’m concerned”. I told him I would stop providing him with information if that was all the thanks I would be getting and he said “you should be doing it anyway!”.

He then tried to get me to call him, tried to call me, which I declined, told me it was my loss and when I asked what he was trying to call me for he said “To tell you about the document!!”.

He tried to call again this morning and I didn’t answer. It was 7.40 am – prime school run prep time so no reason not to suppose that I could have been in the shower/making the kids breakfast, or any number of other tasks that need to be completed like clockwork in the morning so we all get out of the house on time. He told me “there’s always an excuse for you not answering your phone and I’ve had enough of it. Your post will be in the recycling bin, unless you want it somewhere else?”.

I texted “just leave it inside the door and I’ll get it when I drop the bag off”. He responded “Now why would I do that? You haven’t even tried to call me back”.

When I dropped the bag off the post was by the door. I flicked through quickly and immediately recognised the yellow logo of the AA (that’s Automobile Association for any of you Americans out there 🙂 ). It was a letter dated May telling me that my breakdown cover had been auto renewed.

He could have mentioned AA to me at any point and there would have been no need for any further discussion on the matter. This is a classic case of him using the smallest tool to try and manoeuvre himself into a position of power – some small piece of information that he thinks I will be desperate to get my hands on. Because I wasn’t and didn’t jump to his demands or take his calls, he became irate.

This afternoon he texted me “when will we be divorced?”. I replied “Not before September” (which is when our Financial Dispute Resolution appointment at court takes place) and he responded “I hate you”.

About half an hour later he texted “will the children have eaten?” – an entirely practical, innocuous, reasonable co-parenting type question which fails in any way to acknowledge his previous vitriol.

So there we have it – undisguised hatred. And what does that feel like? At my weakest moments it feels like a knife in the heart.

I am not a bad person – I have lots of friends and I don’t have enemies. I don’t engage in backstabbing gossip or think the worst of people. I try to always be kind and loving and open. I know from my recent attempts at relationships that I am the kind of person who wears her heart on her sleeve, bends over backwards to be thoughtful and generous – generous with my love and my affection, but also financially, I pay my way and I don’t expect to be given a free ride.

Even though I give a lot less fucks than I did as a young person I still generally want to be liked and well thought of. It really hurts to know that someone is out there thinking dark black thoughts about me, sending their negative karma my way.

I unexpectedly bumped into the Husband’s mother in the supermarket this morning and I’ve never seen someone smile at me through such gritted teeth. I know there must be a mad concoction of what he tells them and the destructive behaviour they must witness in him which all adds up to them feeling nothing but angry and bitter towards me, but it is blind of them. I haven’t taken their grandchildren away from them, their son has messed his own life up – two failed marriages with children, two women who’s experiences mirror each others so closely that we have bonded over the debris and identify so closely that we are now more like family to each other than either of us ever wants to be with him again in this lifetime.

 

Somewhere over the rainbow, childcare works…

Another day, another stressful phone call with the husband. I’ve been asking him for a list of dates for child contact for the last 2 weeks since the old list ran out. In that time he’s seen them once – for one afternoon before depositing them with his parents for the night and not returning til the following morning.

The only date we had talked about and agreed upon a couple of weeks in advance was this coming Thursday – a school holiday day when I’m at work and out 9-5.

His attitude to me (which is never exactly good) appears to be on the down swing. He has no respect for me or understanding of what it’s like to be responsible for keeping the children fed, clothed, entertained, healthy, morally sound and well behaved, supported in their education, looked after when I’m not around, and just generally alive and safe and content.

I asked to confirm that he was still having them on Thursday and he just casually mentioned that he can’t any more because he’s got to work now. There was no apology, no sense of dismay for having forgotten to tell me as soon as he’d found out himself. Then to add insult to injury he implied that the there was something unfair about me asking him for a list of dates and told me that I am trying to use him for childcare. I tried to point out that as their parent, the childcare analogy is moot but he talked over me repeating the phrase “because you’re a little bit of a bitch” a few times before hanging up on me.

He had spoken of getting his mum and dad to have the kids on Thursday (his dad is 80) but I would be happy if I never had to see his father ever again after his rude and aggressive behaviour towards me each time (even after over a year of separation). I sent him a message telling him not to bother asking his parents, that I would make other arrangements.

I have sent a message to his ex wife asking if she would be able to have them for a half day as she lives in the town where I work, doesn’t work herself and has mentioned in the past that she could cover for me if I ever needed someone and she has willingly agreed which is a big relief as it is too late to book a holiday club now and I really couldn’t have afforded it anyway.

I’m trying to let it wash over me and take it in my stride. Having coped alone with this same kind of “help” (or lack of) and bad attitude from him for the past year at least I know I can juggle through, just about have enough leave from work and can just about afford to pay for childcare.

One thing is certain – I need more help from him financially, particularly if he is unable or just unwilling to care for the children himself when I can’t. If I can’t rely on him to make firm dates to have the children and stick to them then I need to make childcare decisions which leave him out of the loop for my own peace of mind and sanity.

I know from experience that he will get angry and belligerent if, closer to the time, he finds himself free and asks to have the kids last minute when I’ve already made prior arrangements, then of course I’m the bad mum who refuses to play the co-parenting game in the “best interests” of the children. Essentially I can’t win.

Also, I’m not sure if it’s simply a case that he hasn’t heard the children speaking about the (ex) boyfriend recently but he appears to have been pumping them for information.

He knew that the boyfriend was a smoker (although he’s given up now) and he’s been asking our eldest if the boyfriend has died. Today as my son was shutting the door of my car when I picked them up (they spent four hours with husband’s family) he actually shouted “find out about [boyfriend’s] funeral “. My son tells me “Daddy doesn’t like [boyfriend]” to which I reply “how does he know, he’s never even met him”. There’s bitter and resentful and then there’s selfish and hateful.

The people he calls friends don’t know this about him. They think of me as “Cruella” – as though I’ve not only wronged him by daring to walk away whatever the personal cost to me, but continue to wrong him by trying to control his relationship with his own children. I see myself more as Dorothy, caught up in the raging whirlwind, doing the best I can and trying to hold onto the belief that there’s a mystical portal of peace and tranquillity from all this insanity, somewhere over the rainbow.

Who you gonna call?…

In two week’s time it will be a whole year since I told the husband that I was leaving him and one week later I made my physical departure with the children. I remember the trauma at the time – those first horrific phone calls which I took on speaker phone and my dad filmed on his phone for evidence of the abuse and the twisted facts.

I remember my mum saying to me, this time a year from now imagine where you’ll be; imagine how much happier you’ll be. And it’s true, I’ve come a long way – me and the boys have been in our own (rented) home for five months now and I’m just about managing the money that’s coming in. I’ve been in a new relationship for 14 weeks and it’s been wonderful – I’ve been able to appreciate what it is to love and be loved by someone who thinks and acts like a normal, sensitive, open, understanding person – someone who is looking for the same things out of life that I am, who has the same values and thought processes as me. Someone who, whilst past that stage of life, has told me it makes him sad that him and I won’t ever have a baby together and experience that journey side by side.

But despite all of that the divorce is nowhere near done. We are waiting for an expert to give us a proper valuation of the husband’s work pension. We are still up in the air about house valuations. I don’t know how much (if any) of his financial information the husband has or hasn’t submitted to his solicitor.

Not only that but he is still behaving in an abusive, unacceptable way. This weekend he had the children and, surprisingly, his 12 year old daughter decided to stay with them as well for the first time since long before Christmas. (He’s now Father of the Year according to his Facebook status but that’s another story).

When he brought them back last night it was dark and pouring with rain and he came to the door of our house calling me a liar, saying I am rude. He then proceeded to throw open my recycling bin and then demand to know if I had started drinking beer as there were two empty cans in there. Now he knows that I know that he knows about my boyfriend so this was all very childish and done in such an aggressive, accusatory way. I had to point out to him that not only have we been separated for nearly a year but that he has been in another relationship for some time – a fact which he totally dismissed.

It’s by the by that his not so new relationship is badly floundering – he’s keeping the poor woman in a perpetual cycle the same as he did with me, the difference being she has no children with him, no ties – doesn’t even live nearby which just goes to show how powerful that Borderline manipulation can be – anyone on the outside looking in would have been long gone with a complete social media block on by now.

I had tentatively mentioned to him the fact that I’m supposed to be taking the children away to a holiday park with my family for a weekend in a couple of weeks time when I dropped the kids off on Saturday. The only problem with this situation is that, when my sister made the booking at the end of last summer we hadn’t realised that her kids February school holiday and mine were two different weeks.

I had forgotten all about it when the husband submitted his contact dates and had accepted his request for the Friday overnight and all day Saturday of that weekend. As a compromise I had decided, albeit tentatively, to take the children out of school on the Monday so we would be able to still go down for two days without impacting on the husband’s contact arrangement. When I told him this he surprised me by suggesting that I keep them for the weekend and take them down Saturday/Sunday instead of pulling them out of school on the provision that we work out an alternative date for him to see them.

I have to admit I was very relieved at that point, however, come Sunday evening’s unpleasantness on my doorstep he withdrew his suggestion and said he would still have the children thereby effectively blocking our weekend away.

I felt so conflicted – on the one hand I just wanted to forget about the weekend away – it was all just too stressful to try and work it out without his cooperation. On the other hand I felt bad about letting my sister down – she had deliberately booked this mini-break with me and the kids in mind and knowing that we haven’t been away as a family for the last 18 months.

Today at work I sent him a text telling him that either he was willing to be flexible or I would have to cancel the weekend away which would be very disappointing for the children. He proceeded, over the next couple of hours, to demand that I speak to him on the phone to ‘discuss’ it to which I repeatedly declined telling him to simply provide an alternative date if he was willing to do so.

It transpired that his real reason for wanting to speak to me was to try and convince me to drop the entire legal side of our divorce and instead go back to mediation because he was finding it all very expensive. Well, to coin a phrase, no shit Sherlock! It’s hardly a drop in the ocean for me either but I would come out of mediation with bugger all – there is no negotiating with someone who’s idea of what’s ‘fair’ is very far from your own. I am happy to let the courts decide.

All of these interactions are so stressful and hurtful and make me feel really helpless at times. At times I just hate him for being this way, at times I feel like I’m in control and then he ups the ante and I’m left spinning again. At these times all I want to do is run to the nearest phone and call… someone. It used to be my mum and dad but I began to feel that they are simply too emotionally involved. My mum gets very upset and even angry at me for, in her eyes, letting him bully and manipulate me. My dad wants me to take action that I feel would exacerbate a bad situation.

I do talk to my sister from time to time and she is less stressed but she also wants me to take action that I’m not comfortable with. I began talking to my boyfriend about it all which was a huge relief to begin with because he was a lot more neutral than my family, but as the weeks have gone by he is now beginning to feel wound up and angry by the husband’s bullying and his bitter rants.

It’s reached the point where I just don’t want to tell anyone even whilst needing so badly to share the facts of what is happening to me. I seem to be more able to put the super stressful moments behind me relatively quickly knowing as I do how the husband’s moods ebb and flow and how his threats and manipulations seem to fade when his triggers die down.

I am learning how to handle him – I am learning that turning off my voicemail and choosing when and if I take his calls will not lead to anything other than a frustrated rant on his part. I am learning that I can’t win with him so there is no point in entering a ‘debate’. I am learning that minimal contact works best.

Maybe I am truly in this alone emotionally and there is no-one to call.

 

 

 

Under attack

Last Thursday was my four year old’s first day at school. It was also the beginning of an emotional and verbal attack from the husband which would continue over the course of the following two days, leaving me feeling stressed, distressed and tearful.

It began with a screaming child – the four year old did not want to go in to big school and he had to be grappled kicking and screaming into the teacher’s arms. The husband had asked to come with us and as we were walking away he told me that our son’s behaviour was ‘getting worse’ and that this was clearly all because ‘children of broken homes are well known to suffer from behavioural issues’ and of course it was all my fault.

I was very clearly upset even before he said those words and they were designed to provoke and punish me. I was crying and running away back to my car, across the playground, pushing past grannies and buggies, desperate to put as much distance between myself and him as possible. When I got back to my car I jumped in and as I was driving away I saw him in the rearview mirror waving his arms around to call me back but I carried on.

About an hour later as I was packing up my shopping into my car at the supermarket he suddenly appeared, pulling his car into the space next to mine with a face like thunder – demanding that I stand and wait while he phoned up the local council to talk to them about his council tax bill.

I should explain that myself and the children have now moved into our new rental home – back in the same town as the husband and the school. It is a good and bad thing. I no longer have the motorway commute from hell just to do the school run, but at the same time I no longer have the distance and the cocoon of safety my family provided.

The husband and I also had our second mediation session mid-way through my house move and it seems to have created even more of a monster in him. He has been phoning, texting, harassing and haranguing me over the course of those three days. He also took matters into his own hands, driving round to my new home, when we argued on the phone and I hung up on him.  Fortunately I got his voicemail stating that he was on his way round and hot-footed it with the kids over to my sister’s house for the night.

He constantly accuses me of lying and poor communications. He told me that he would have the children over the weekend but only from 3pm on Saturday when I’d asked him to take them at 2. When I took issue with him he changed his offer to 4pm and told me he was doing that to spite me because it was the only way he could ‘get back’ at me and then he said, “make it 5pm”. He agreed that this strategy of his was ‘at the children’s expense’ and that he didn’t care because he just wanted to punish me.

When he did have the children he made our seven year old cry, accusing him of being a liar as he assumed that we had been making up a story about being at home the previous night (he didn’t know that we had literally jumped in the car and driven away probably about three minutes before he appeared on the scene). He told me that I should stop lying because it was rubbing off on our son.

He expects immediate answers to his texts and doesn’t ever appreciate that I have a choice whether or not to answer my phone or may not have heard it ring or may have been in the bathroom or the kitchen or putting one of our children to bed. He says I am ‘playing games’. He says I am coercive and controlling. He tries to insist that we must communicate first and foremost by phone. He knows that I will have no record of what is said that way and it is his fastest route into my head.

He tells me that I am ‘exaggerating’ when I say I find his behaviour and words intimidating. He is very dismissive but I told him that he cannot label or control how I think or feel.

I think he’s panicking about our up-coming financial settlement. I think he is lacking a serious amount of sleep given his shift work – he told me he had just come off a 19 hour shift on Thursday.

It is hard to describe just how distressing all of this has been in words. It has been like the verbal equivalent of being shot at – being an untrained civilian who is simply ducking behind parked cars with stress and adrenaline levels off the scale just hoping to get out of this situation alive.

But as quickly as the storm came on, calmer waters have returned. I have thought long and hard about my role in escalating madness. On the one hand I refuse to just lie down and let him walk all over me. He wants me to continue acting as his personal assistant, asking me, for example, to print off a year’s worth of his upcoming Duty rosters from my work station (we work for the same organisation). The implication is that if I don’t do it then how can I expect him to provide me with contact dates for the children in advance.

On the other hand I know I have to treat him like a child in some ways and pick my battles wisely, letting him feel like I am still in his control in certain ways whilst attempting to negotiate and pro-actively drip feed positive responses to some of his less radical suggestions.

He has suggested that he has the children for the first two weeks of October as he is on annual leave. My initial reaction was sadness – the thought of being away from the children for that long is hard, but I know they would be nearby and it would be a break from the relentless day to day of parenting so I have given a tentative yes.

Because I have been sending placatory messages and pieces of information that I didn’t have to, he is now back in ‘family man’ mode, desperately trying to make excuses to come round to our house (I have managed to put him off so far) and pushing for a date to meet up at the bank to remove my name from our joint account.

I feel so vulnerable here – I’m not sure how long I can put him off coming to our house. I’m not sure what the implications are but I told him in mediation that I didn’t want him to come inside – not until I’m ready. However I can almost guarantee that he will come round one day for some spurious and innocuous reason and, if refused entry (let’s face it, it would be hard to block someone’s entry into your home when they are, on the surface, being reasonable, and their children are inside) he will become very angry and once again begin accusing me of unnecessary provocation.

I feel so alone. I feel as though I will never be rid of his influence in my life and over my emotions. But I know that this must surely be the worst of times and things will improve once the dust has settled…

 

Homeless

Yesterday we had our first session of Family Mediation. It was the first time in over two months that I have spent more than five minutes in the husband’s presence and I was nervous. I have pushed for this mediation and had to cancel and re-arrange it twice because of his work so it was long awaited.

The way Mediation works (or did in this instance) was that each of us had half an hour alone with the mediator to explain our point of view and be given all the information we should need on the process before spending an hour and a half hashing it out together with the mediator as a ‘guide’. I had written and typed up a list of points – first and foremost to discuss our current living situation (me and the kids with my parents in their three bedroom house 30 miles from the kids’ school), and try and find some way to get back into our home, at least until financial matters are finalised.

Unfortunately the husband point blank refused to move out and the mediator didn’t dwell on the subject as nobody has the power to force someone out of a home which they own either fully or jointly. He pointed out that I was at liberty to move back in with the kids any time I saw fit but there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of me walking back into the lion’s den.

That makes the situation at ‘home’ sound.. well, almost dangerous. It’s not, at least not physically. As I’ve mentioned before my husband is not a narcissist. The way he has used our children as pawns in a power struggle between us proves, however, that he doesn’t think the way a normal, caring, invested father should and he sees no harm in demonising me if he thinks it will win him sympathy from our six year old.

He offered to buy me out of the house and came up with a figure which was only £10,000 short of the figure I’d had in mind myself. Weirdly, I wasn’t as thrilled with this outcome as I’d thought I would be. It was my intention to ask for the house to be sold and the proceeds split anyway and I had it in my mind that the lump sum would allow me to put down a deposit on a share of a ‘part buy, part rent’ property.

In theory, I could take the money and run with it but now I’ve tentatively started looking into the possibility of being eligible for a mortgage in my sole name based on my lowly part time salary and a minimal child maintenance sum the picture’s not looking so rosy. I’ve still got a lot of research to do and I tend to be optimistic about these things, but it kind of occurred to me earlier today that me and the kids are, effectively, homeless right now. We are in limbo.

I broke down in tears earlier, like proper heart-wrenching sobbing, and this was whilst I was lying in bed with the three year old supposedly singing him to sleep! Try explaining that to a pre-schooler.

I just suddenly thought, that’s it, my own home, the place I researched and fought for and furnished and lived in for the last 8 years (the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere other than my childhood home) is a place I will never go back into in the same way again.

I know it was my decision to end the marriage, my decision to leave the house, and believe me I don’t have any huge attachment to that place – it’s a nice enough three bed Victorian semi with a pleasant garden but it’s not really my idea of a ‘forever’ home (the parking and some of the neighbours leave a lot to be desired). So why do I feel so bad?

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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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.