Dear Chump Lady,
My husband doesn’t want a divorce, and he said that he wants to rebuild what we have. I’ve told him that I can never trust him again and that I need to move on, but he keeps telling me that he wants to come home. I know I need to file for divorce, but I’m afraid. Everyone keeps telling me that these people get very vicious once they are served. I’m finishing up my degree right now, and I can’t focus with all of the drama. I dread the moment he turns on me. I wanted to hold off until May, then file. However, his pressure is pushing me forward.
Thing is, the lawyer told me that since he’s co-owner of our house, I can’t keep him out. What if he gets vindictive and stops respecting my wishes not to see him? I freeze every time a car door slams outside in case it’s him. What if he moves in? He doesn’t have a history of violence, but just seeing or talking to him is traumatic for me. I’ve been communicating via text only. Right now, I’m going to stall as long as possible, but if I’m forced to file before I graduate and he starts coming around or moves in, I’ll stay with friends. Does this sound like a good idea?
I would defer to your lawyer on this one. If you were to start the divorce process, then you could push for a property settlement, which could include terms about who lives where right now and how you’re going to pay for that. (Some states, if you’re in the U.S., require physical separation for a specified period before you can even file, so may as well start the clock ticking now.) It may be that your lawyer can get some temporary support papers in front of a judge ASAP and the idiot would have to pay your rent, if he insists on moving back in. Figure out what sort of arrangement you can negotiate, but you can’t negotiate anything if you don’t tip him off to the fact that you want to divorce him.
I don’t see how delaying the divorce filing will keep Mr. Cheaterpants at bay. Right now he says he wants to reconcile with you. I would assume he’s moved out to be with the OW? So either that’s not working out so well, or he misses cake. Often cake eaters amp up the drama (reconciliation noises) when they sense that cake is slipping away from them. It’s about control, not a sincerity to do better or be better. If that was the case, then he would respect your desire for physical separation and be in therapy working on his entitlement, fucking around issues.
Also, Theresa, pay attention to your fear. It’s not an irrational thing. Your hypervigilance is trying to tell you something and you’re right to listen to it. I don’t know the specifics of what he’s done to make you fearful, or why you believe he will turn “vicious” — that must be based on some experience of him. I can tell you, as someone who had protection from abuse orders, he doesn’t have to hit you for you to get a PFA. Raging at you counts, verbal threats count, possessing firearms counts. If he’s created an environment that someone would reasonably construe as threatening, you can get a temporary PFA at your county court house. Generally it’s good for a month or two until you go to court for it to be permanent. Once you have a PFA (temporary or permanent), he cannot contact you or be in proximity of you. If he violates it, he goes to jail.
All to say, if he comes back and there is a domestic “incident” — don’t take any chances. Don’t be alone, and call the cops.
I’m sorry all the drama is interfering with your studies. But I think you need to make a plan to extricate yourself from this marriage, and get appropriate professional help to make that happen. Just waiting for him to show up on your door step is giving him the power here to up-end your life. Take your control back and start directing this. Besides being good for you, it’s always a good strategy with narcissists. Some of the best advice I got when I was going through it was — GO ON THE OFFENSIVE. Narcissists are always surprised at this. They really do think you are an extension of them, and when you act with agency, it’s as if their right arm suddenly started whacking them, and having a mind of its own. Loss of control is terrifying to them — and gives you a running head start to get the hell away from them.
Run the living with friends scenario past your attorney. If you move out, it may be construed as abandonment and he could get the house. Conversely, he has abandoned you and left the house, so see if you can make some hay with that, legally.
If he gets scary, do NOT HESITATE to go stay with friends — but then get that PFA and throw the motherfucker out. But whatever you do, lawyer up. You need a plan, and some good professional assistance to help you execute it.