Life After Leaving, Part 2: Not quite the End

Leaving wasn’t the end…

…it simply moved my new end-goal to finalizing my divorce. However, it still was a new beginning and an opportunity to learn who I could be on my own. Although our relationship was far past the point of reconciliation, my ex changed his tune immediately to try and get me back. If your ex didn’t respect your voice before, once they find out you mean what you say it will just be a lot of pointless wheel-spinning, manipulation, etc.. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we know when this applies to our relationship. The trick is if we can admit it.

I wrote my ex a letter of explanation detailing everything, after the protection order was finalized. We exchanged a few e-mails on an approved e-mail that was an exception to the Protection Order. Although things had fallen apart terribly, I didn’t want any ill for my ex. I just wanted to get away from him. So I worked very hard to write my letter in a factual, kind and steadfast manner. If any of you have seen the graphic on the ‘Cycle of Abuse’, you will understand what I mean when I say his response followed the quintessential honeymoon mentality. He was so sorry. He was getting help. He was willing to do counseling. Apart. Together. A separation instead of a divorce.

These arguments may have swayed me before, but, while he admitted everything I wrote in that letter was true, he never agreed that his actions and choices constituted abuse. That made it easier to stick to my guns… as did the fact that he point blank refused any of these options in the months leading up to my departure.

Repercussions

The ‘honeymoon’ period of his rationality lasted only so long as it took my ex to realize that I was absolutely serious.

My ex was angrier about the protection order than he was about the divorce, and ultimately I had to share the response to my e-mail of him agreeing to doing all the things I had put in my protection order with my lawyer and his lawyer. My ex was very retaliatory throughout the entire process.

I stuck to my guns, and in the end, it mattered more to me to be fair and stick to my request of a 50/50 split than to cater to my ex’s threats and demands. Luckily, I was in a position with family support to make that possible. Usually, people start from a place where they will negotiate from. I just stuck unwaveringly to what I wanted and knew to be fair. I didn’t want alimony, and I didn’t want any ties to my ex after the divorce was finalized. It dragged things out longer, but it was important to me to 1) stay classy, 2) hold my ex accountable, and 3) stand up for myself and what was fair.

Two years after leaving, I am still struggling to get out of my financial hole. Recovery has been tough, I still owe thousands of dollars I borrowed for my attorney. I missed a few bills before our divorce that have chased me down, up to and including getting my wages unexpectedly garnished. (Oops.)

My ex is still out there, bearing a grudge, and likely skirting sanity as much as he was when I was with him. So safety is still a factor. I’ve learned a few practical things:

  • If you’re registered to vote, it’s likely your home address is publicly accessible. (Some states have ways around this in Domestic Violence situations – but it’s more footwork.)
  • There are websites with generic information about you, and some websites (if you log in) that have your full address. Mindful of my personal safety, I’ve gone to each one and opted out, some required copies of my license to remove the information (I redacted some info). Note: Google yourself to find out where your name comes up.
  • Lesson learned, when I move again, I am getting a P.O. Box.
  • Make sure to have two copies of a protection order. That way you can give one to the police in case of an encounter, and still have your original.

Even with all of that? It’s worth it. Home is safe again. Home is a peaceful place again.

I’m happy.

Advertisements

5 Ways to Stay Safe

Reblog Tuesdays: This kind of list cannot be emphasized enough. I’ve shared my own story and some advice, but if you’re in a dangerous situation please seek help.

The original author asked what other safety tips someone might have. I actually wrote a brief post on this called “How Do I Leave” a few months after I left an abusive relationship. An Excerpt:

“Whenever possible, have someone else coordinate resources and plans for you, and perhaps be a point of contact. My mother did this for me. I barely had the mental capacity to get up in the morning, let alone function on any rational level due to my level of exhaustion.”

My mother, being my main point of contact, also gave me tasks, one at a time. Sometimes these situations can be overwhelming, and having someone to help manage your exit – if you can find them – will be a huge help and benefit your safety, as others can coordinate with them and you leave less of a ‘trail’ for your abuser to follow.

Got Hope Blog

One of the big questions many women (and men) have regarding their relationship is how safe are they. Safety is always an advocate’s number one priority. Some of the top tips of advice we can suggest include the following 5 ideas.

  1. Always be aware that you can be monitored online and on your phone.
    Due to all the technology advances, it is really easy to install programs on your computer and/or phone to monitor your activity. Sometimes abusers know exactly what is said in every text message, or they can look at your history on the computer. For that reason, a safer option might be to use the computers at the public library to research safe places to go. If you can afford a simple phone for emergencies, keeping a secret phone would be a good idea. Even if you don’t think they would do this, it’s one of the…

View original post 520 more words

Codependents Always Hope Things Will go Their Way

When I first got out of my abusive relationship, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out and understand my Ex. I found things like the ‘Cycle of Abuse’, and Narcissism, and those things helped me understand myself and my own reactions.

Now I’ve been researching more about myself, and learning that I have my own tendencies that make me vulnerable to Narcissistic partners. This is an excellent article worth considering, and I think it is important that we grow from researching everything about our abuser, and begin focusing on ourselves and how we can become stronger, more whole people.

Codependency Is Not Love With Dr. Nicholas Jenner

Of the two extremes, codependents (unlike narcissists) are generally seen as the warm and fussy ones. Self sacrificing and eager to please, they are an absolute delight to be around if you are the kind of person who likes to freely take and accept all they have to give and there are many who do.  Codependents get involved with a certain type because like a jigsaw puzzle they fit together nicely. One constantly gives, one constantly takes. A perfect dysfunctional meeting and matching of ideals. Of course this situation is normally doomed to failure and when the house comes crashing down, the codependent suffers more than most. The reason being they have invested heavily in the relationship and stand to lose much more in their view. This is usually because they have lost themselves in the relationship and identified themselves through their partner. The idea of splitting such intensity (not…

View original post 405 more words

Breaking Free

Shame involves that pervasive gut-twist of fear. It is the awareness that someone has learned some deeply hidden truth about you and they may think less of you, because you think less of you for it.

When I first left my ex-husband, I felt a lot of shame. That inner voice didn’t just whisper, it battered me with my own judgmental thoughts. It weighed me down physically and emotionally. Thoughts that were harsher than I would offer  any other person in my situation.

Continue reading “Breaking Free”

Benchmarks

A year ago today, I didn’t feel whole. Instead, when I looked at myself, I saw something resembling a shattered window. All the glass reflecting bits of me, refracting light every which way, but nothing whole.

Jumbled. Confused. Broken.

I wish I could reach back in time, and wrap the woman I was in a big, long hug. To tell her, “Your journey is worth it.” Because it is. It has been. And it continues to be.

There are days I still wonder if I’ll ever be fully healed again, moments of irrational fear and obsessive thoughts that lead to anxiety. But instead of derailing my day like they once did, I am able to start moving past them. Being able to write and process life and struggles and perspectives here has been such a blessing.

I am starting to come back.

Promotion at work. Slowly getting my finances in order. Starting back to school. Spending time with friends. Working on healthier habits. My own car. Renewed friendships. A healthy relationship.

Life doesn’t often allow us to stop and reflect. I still have a long way to go, and I am still cleaning up a lot of messes that happened when I was overwhelmed, anxious, and lacking in funds. But if I’ve come so far in just a year, where could I end up in another?

 

 

Leaving your abuser: Discretion in a digital world

Having written a post with tips on how to get away from your abuser many months ago, I thought it might be helpful to provide some information on covering your tracks. There is a plethora of information available to us online, but if our significant other has access to our computers, phones, or other media (instant messages, etc.) – and has had a history of abusing these or us – it is important to know how to protect yourself.

I expect this post will get updated from time to time. If you have found a good resource you would like to share, please feel free to link it below.

Computer/Mobile Web Browsing

This link is a great place to start, Cover Your Tracks, for the computer/mobile. A quick summary:

  • Learn how to delete the history on your browser so your abuser cannot tell you have been to our site.
  • Safest way to find information is at local library, friend’s house, or work.
  • Modern browsers and “hidden” modes. (Also you can search Google for how to browse in private.)
  • IMPORTANT: If you’re reading this YOUR ABUSER ALREADY CAN SEE YOU’VE BEEN TO OUR SITE unless you started browsing using a mode listed above.
  • Private browsing on mobile devices.
  • How do I cover my tracks if I haven’t used one of these modes or have already visited this page without one enabled? This website has some good information on how to erase your browsing history.

 

Additionally, hide smart, don’t just eradicate all your online activities. If someone goes looking for your online search history, make sure to leave some innocuous information – like news sites, etc. Essentially, misinformation.

For the tech-savvy abuser, be aware they may have access to spyware or keylogging programs.

Private messaging/mobile phone folders

Strategies

There are a lot of great strategies you can employ to take back control of your life, even if only in small doses. Consider if any of the strategies at this link will be helpful for you (see summary below of topics covered). Technology Safety Planning. This article was written from a Canadian perspective, but shares pretty universally useful tips.

  • Trust your instincts – if an abusive S.O. possesses information they shouldn’t about you, take note of it.
  • Plan for safety – there are resources out there, but you may not have immediate access to them. Finding someone you trust who can help you with research is great. (In an emergency, don’t forget the police. I myself called upon them twice here in the US, and they were both professional and kind to me.)
  • Use the safest computer/technology access you can.
  • Create a new email, Facebook or instant messaging account – be anonymous, and provide no details. Always sign out of your email or social network sites.
  • Check your mobile phone settings
  • Change passwords and pin numbers
  • Also keep anti-virus software up-to-date on your computer and other devices. This may assist you to identify and remove any unknown programs.
  • Minimize use of cordless phones or baby monitors
  • Get your own mobile phone
  • Get a private post box and don’t give out your real address
  • Google yourself
  • Save evidence and consider reporting abuse or stalking

 

Hopefully you don’t have to use these tips, but my “How do I leave?” post has been getting a lot of views lately, and I felt additional, detailed help might be useful.

Amused frustration

There are always loose ends.

My divorce was final over six weeks ago, and yet my ex has yet to send me the money he was instructed to. This is the second time in three months a check he has supposedly sent to the P.O. box has gone astray. His comment mentioned something about how ‘Frankly suspicious’ he was regarding us not receiving it, but he would resend one anyway. (I know him well enough, he would not send ‘a new’ check if he thought I had access to both. He attributes his own level of maturity and vindictiveness to me. Which is to say, a very little and quite a lot respectively.)

He then proceeds to snark at me for not contacting a group to sign documents which will allow them to work on doing away with a portion of our mutual debt. Does he provide the contact information? No. Has he? No.

This, after throwing a tantrum that he can’t reach me directly through our one e-mail. It is grating on him, that he doesn’t have direct access to me. He keeps suggesting I change the protection order, and I can’t quite understand what he thinks I think that will accomplish. I am quite happy with someone else vetting all communique’s. Continue reading “Amused frustration”

Through the storm

“His lawyer needs to see this.”

My attorney’s voice sounded tinny on the other side of the phone, and my sudden fierce determination not to be bullied seemed to have revitalized her after dealing with an obnoxiously resistant other lawyer and my ex.

After months of waiting for the other side to get their act and documents and time together, our attorneys had finally met. Hashed out a few details. And promptly improperly mathed the retirement funds of my Ex as they related to our 50/50 split. Having only had the documents for a handful of moments before they discussed, it was not until she was writing up a suggested final papers that my lawyer recognized the difficulties.

His lawyer seemed annoyed at the discovery, and reluctant to even deal with my ex. Having been married to the man for nearly a decade, I can’t say I didn’t blame him.

“He is going to go Ballistic.” Came the immediate reply. “I already told him he was out for no more money.”
Continue reading “Through the storm”

Brittle strength

So many moments of powerlessness envelop my memory, and it is easy to feel ashamed, or discouraged or foolish. Ashamed that I covered up so much. Foolish for protecting my family and loved ones from the intensity of my Ex’s childishness and mood swings. Discouraged that I spent so many years of my life struggling forward on a path I had chosen for myself, only to give up on it, in the end.

Early on in my counseling sessions, my therapist mentioned that it can be healing for people in my situation to look back at their life and pick out moments of empowerment. To find the moments of strength in history.

I can more easily point to days and weeks and months and years where my focus was just on getting through the day. There were many times I made concessions. Catered to his moods. Kept silent. Refrained from sharing information I knew might stir him to anger or upset.

And yet… there were times I drew a line, and dared him to cross it. And usually he would back away. Continue reading “Brittle strength”

Why didn’t/don’t you leave?

This isn’t meant to point fingers. To blame.

I’ve shared some of the reasons I hung on to my marriage and abusive relationship, because it felt like this was a question I came across a lot. Everyone’s response is often to say, “Don’t ask that! It’s inappropriate!”

Yet my mind doesn’t work that way. I don’t want questions to be off limits in my life. They should be an exploration, before which we have no fear. Questions lead to honesty, to communication, and they break down the barriers of isolation. Asking makes us examine things, sometimes painful things.

But maybe – the reasons why you didn’t leave might resonate with someone else. Maybe the reason’s you still haven’t left are because you haven’t figured out if that is the best thing for you yet.

We all have different reasons. Would you share yours with me? There is really no right or wrong answer here, merely a desire to understand better. To help those who ask that question, and are genuinely curious, understand better.

Why Didn’t I leave? Part II

Part II: The Practical Quandry

My personal emotional quagmire was not the only reason I struggled to leave. There was a practical side to things too.

  1. Where will I live?
  2. Can I afford to live on my own?
  3. How am I going to get around without a car?
  4. Will I lose friends and/or family?
  5. Can I afford to keep/protect my pets?
  6. How do I break away financially without him getting suspicious?
  7. What happens to our joint mortgage/bills?
  8. What happens when people get tired of helping me?

Even though I have a full-time job, people offering me rooms to stay, my situation over the past few years left me reluctant to put my life, livelihood, and living situation in anyone else’s hands. There are matters of trust I had to get past. Fears of inconveniencing others (though they assured me, time and again, I would not be an inconvenience.) Fears of being let down, or dropped, when I became too great of a burden. (I assumed I would be).

My ex’s patience with me was so short, I didn’t want to exchange that for simply another situation where people would be short and angry with me, too. I wasn’t willing to risk losing the independence I did have simply for a chance to be miserable somewhere else.

The fact of the matter was, I was paralyzed by the unknown of the distant future, and too emotionally exhausted to cope with more than one or two days of my present.

The reality of the situation, now that I am out, is this:

I don’t know what the next few years will have for me in the way of belongings, or possessions, or financial situation. I might be in a lot of debt for a long time. However, I will have my family. I will have my friends. I will have my pets. I will go home (wherever that is) and be at peace. Already I am sleeping more than I have in a long time, even when I don’t sleep well. Instead of ‘not sleeping well’ meaning 1 to 3 hours of sleep, it now means I ‘only’ got 5-6. Some nights I even manage a few, full eight hours.

I have no car. My personal space is limited to an 8×8 room. But I still have my job. The rest can come with time. I have a lifetime to figure that out.

Still, however, if I think too far ahead, the fear of the unknown is paralyzing. You see, for so long, when you live in an abusive relationship, it’s your job to overthink the possibilities. You have to be aware of what can happen, so you can minimize the fallout and the pain (emotional in my case, physical for some others) that you will experience. It’s something my counselor calls being hyper-vigilant, and was a way I survived in that terrible marriage for so long. But the trouble is, the things we learn to protect ourselves in an abusive relationship, don’t always translate so well to reality as other people see them.

I still marvel, that I am one of the lucky ones. I had the people to help me escape. I never let go of my job. I grieve the loss of children I’ve never had and may never have, but I know that choice of having no children made my departure easier, too. But I am out. And now that I am out, I realize that none of the above things really matter.

Because I will survive, and I’ll be happier doing so without an abusive marriage hanging over me. If I can escape that, I can do pretty much anything.

How do I leave?

Those who are struggling with issues of Domestic Violence involve not only the person experiencing that situation first hand, but also those around them who know or suspect what is going on. While there are a bunch of resources out there for people in domestic violence situations, the difficulty is in getting those resources to the people who need them. Not only that, but it can be difficult to disseminate the information in a safe manner.

My situation was helped by the fact I had a good support team. When I got married, I made a promise to myself to prioritize my friendships and relationships with the people I cared about. If you are going through a difficult time, I know it is hard not to hide away and isolate yourself, but try to keep or rebuild some connections. If you haven’t, now is the time to slowly start establishing any relationship that is non-threatening to your abuser. Try and have something you do with enough regularity that it becomes routine and he or she hopefully doesn’t question it. This might help give you a break, and will help you make contacts that may help you if you need to leave.

If you are in a dangerous situation I highly encourage:

  • Have a safe word or phrase (or two). I had a safe word for “Call 911 and come right away, I am in immediate danger”. I also had another safe word that was, “We need to move up my departure plans ASAP.”
  • Do not use any computer or phone that the abuser has access to, or that the abuser can access the history or contact records of.
  • Be wary of your use of social media and instant messenging.
  • Create an emergency bag you can store at a friend or family members home.
  • Whenever possible, have someone else coordinate resources and plans for you, and perhaps be a point of contact. My mother did this for me. I barely had the mental capacity to get up in the morning, let alone function on any rational level due to my level of exhaustion. Below are some links you may find of immediate assistance.

Preparing to leave:

Creating a safety plan

Why didn’t I leave? – Part I

Part 1: Emotional Quandry

Nearly five years ago, my husband glared over the breakfast bar at me, and snarled, “I am going to slit your throat while you sleep.” Standing in the kitchen, body strung taught like a bow about to launch an arrow, he had easy access to half a dozen knives of all shapes and sizes. I don’t remember the moments immediately prior. I don’t remember the moments immediately after. What I do remember is the hard look in his eyes and feeling more terrified than I ever have been in my life.

Although I called 911 – citing fear my husband was suicidal, and stating that I didn’t feel safe – I didn’t breathe a word of what happened to anyone. Not the full words. I did mention to two people, after a struggle, that he had said ‘something really bad’. Continue reading “Why didn’t I leave? – Part I”

Did my Abuser Love me in the Beginning?

Thought this was a powerful post, lots to consider in this.

Overcoming Narcissistic Abuse

One of the most difficult things to come to terms with is that your abuser did not love you. There are a couple of reasons why this is so hard to process. 

It is hard for us to believe that they did not love us, because they told us they loved us. Why would someone tell you they loved you, if they didn’t ?  Most people are very careful with the words “I love You.”

We have been brought up in a world that tells us not to say those words until we are sure.

We have been brought up in a world where we know that people will hold those words back, until they are very sure that they feel that way. Not only do people hold onto “I love you,” until they are sure about their feelings, they will also hold out on saying it, until they feel…

View original post 1,160 more words

‘A league of our own…’

I could root around in the terror, apathy and distraught moments of the last few months of my marriage, but instead – I am going to focus on the amazing women who brought me out of that dark place. Although leaving has been painful, it is like the bright, brilliant glare of a warm sun after being huddled in a dark, windowless, lightless room. My eyes are not used to the glow, just as my soul isn’t used to being cared for so lovingly.

Maintaining my friendships was never easy, but it was something I’ve worked hard at over the years. Often, when I went away for the weekend, or out for a night with my girls, he would stay home and drink (or make ‘fun’ references to being drunk). Especially in recent years. At the time I never put two and two together that it was an attempt to control me, and prevent me from going out altogether. He always said one thing, I don’t mind.’ and seemed to act another that put the lie to those words. Luckily, those tactics failed more than they worked, but I did fall for it some of the time.

But I digress. Because that’s not the point, entirely, of this post. Continue reading “‘A league of our own…’”