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How To Leave a Scary Person

I hope this doesn’t pertain to many of you. If it doesn’t, maybe you’ll read anyway, and can help someone else who might be navigating this particular hell. Domestic abuse is sadly, frighteningly common. I’ve noticed in the comments that some of you are dealing with scary wing nuts, beyond the general order of just your run of the mill cheater, narcissist wing nut. So I’m passing along what I learned about leaving a scary person, FWIW.

But before I go any further — some professional resources. I am just a chump. When it comes to the scary wing nuts, call in the professionals, folks.

The Domestic Abuse Hotline — one stop shopping here on how to make a plan.

Mosiac Threat Assessment — some handy quizzes and resources for exactly how nuts your nut is and how to get away. (Mine scored very highly. Freaked. Me. OUT.)

And your local police department and county courthouse. These people are trained and helpful. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

Okay, my story. I had several Protection from Abuse orders on my ex-husband. They were temporary. I would’ve made them permanent, however, I dropped two of them to eventually get a post-nup settlement to divorce (there was some horse trading with the lawyers). The ex was a lawyer and anything on his permanent record would hurt his membership with the bar and a future ability to get a security clearance. I did a calculus of how much I wanted a divorce versus how much scarier he would be if I got a permanent order and he became unemployed with a vendetta. I dropped another PFA because I stupidly, stupidly, stupidly thought He Would Change because he went to therapy. Don’t be stupid like me.

When I dropped them, he — and probably the rest of the world — took it as an admission that I trumped up charges. Or what I alleged wasn’t true. And I have to tell you, quite shamefully, that when I was going through it, I was constantly plagued with second guessing — okay, maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe he didn’t mean it that way. Maybe he just lost his temper. That isn’t who he REALLY is. He was in a rage and lost control of himself. I KNEW I didn’t report anything that wasn’t true. What I doubted was exactly how seriously I should take it.

It was that bad. He threatened to kill me. He threatened me that if anyone knew about his cheating, if I told anyone at his work place, that he would “hunt me down” and burn down my house. He wished his ex-wife dead (she filled me in on him). He wished her baby dead. He said he would “piss on the grave.” He threatened to take my son from me, he would gang up with my son’s dad and make allegations. Join forces. Sometimes he was more subtle, he would say “Oh you can’t leave me, what would he make of that? He’ll take you to court again.” Other times he was just out and out threatening.

He screamed at me — folks you don’t need to be hit to get a PFA. Of course, I’m only talking about the USA, I don’t know how it is in your country, but most place recognizes threats and verbal abuse as ABUSE. He’d get inches from my face and scream at me. He was a gun nut. He had hand guns, rifles, hunting rifles. Over 20 guns in all. I thought it was a cultural thing (he grew up in the country, he hunted). I tried to be open minded about it. But really, it was an intimidation thing. It’s one thing for a grown man who outweighs you by 50 lbs to scream at you, it’s quite another when that man has firearms. He never waved a gun in my face, he didn’t have to. He had one under the mattress at night, one in the dresser drawer, one in the closet, one in his car. If he wanted a gun, he could get to it — quick.

But I told myself It Wasn’t That Bad because he was sorry. He was very, very sorry. He’d get drunk and then he’d get even sorrier. Waking me up in the middle of the night to tell me how sorry he was. How horrible he’d been, how I didn’t deserve it. I told myself It Wasn’t That Bad because the next day he was so normal. He went to work each day, he’d talk to the neighbors, his co-workers told me how delightful he was. He’d smile at my son over his homework. He’d kiss me and flirt. He could turn it on and turn it off. I liked the nice, “normal” guy. No one else saw the crazy guy.

Which takes us back to the point of this article (enough about me) how to get the hell away from one of these freaks. BELIEVE YOURSELF. One of the most helpful pieces of wisdom I got in shrinkage was that when you’re in one of these situations, you tend to minimize it just to survive it. You spend a lot of time and energy calculating exactly how not to give offense, how to not to set off the trip wire. That shit becomes normal. So when you have to relate it to someone else, you couch your language. You may speak with an air of matter-of-factness, when the appropriate affect should be AAAAAIIIIGGGHHHHH!!!! Hair on fire, running down the street.

If you’ve lived this, you need a reality check. You need a LOT of them. When you get away from it (I’m years away from it), you’re going to wonder how you ever withstood 5 seconds of this shit. But when you’re in it, it’s your whole world. You get tunnel vision.

Which takes us to our next point. DON’T ISOLATE YOURSELF. Reach out, talk, talk, talk. Sing like a bird. Expose that motherfucker. And please, chumps with the Scary People — watch the faces of the people who care about you. Pay attention. Listen to their reactions. I would tell some off hand nugget to a mental health professional and their eyes would bulge. Really?! They told me I was dealing with a disordered person. It took me over a YEAR for that to sink in. I read, I listened, I had false reconciliation attempt after false reconciliation attempt to get a different outcome, because it was so very hard for me to reconcile the holographic projection of Mr. Sparkles, with the abuser he really was. Because I was invested. Because this shit was deeply embarrassing.

The beauty of a reality check, of telling your story, of surrounding yourself with people who aren’t crazy, is that the tunnel vision lessens. Light creeps in. This controlling person loses control of the narrative. Other voices start to crowd out the crazy. You’re going to need a lot of reality checks in the beginning. It’s okay. Take as many as you need — just keep listening. Get stronger.

Next tip — YOU ARE YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY. I’m not trying to blame the victim, but you need to understand you’re wobbly. That voice telling you to run far and run fast is your FRIEND. Spackle feels real good, but it’s hurting you. Operate with complete lucidity. It’s okay to hope that this abuser will get better. Just DO NOT act on that hope. If they go to therapy, if they promise, if they cry — keep running. They can get better over the many years of therapy it will take (I promise, they’re not in it for the long haul) — just don’t YOU waste your time waiting for it. You don’t owe this person jack shit. Getting better is on THEM. It should not be predicated on you holding their hand. That’s manipulation. They all want you to wait, wait, wait and be understanding. Not your job, chumps. Not. Your. Job. The undertow of taking one of these assholes back is great. Don’t underestimate it. Be STRONGER.

MAKE A PLAN. Your county, your local shelter, a legal resource center can line you up with help and in some places free counseling. Do NOT tell your abuser what you are doing. Don’t mention lawyers. Don’t make threats. Just make a plan to leave, be an actress, and get those ducks lined up. I suggest moving out in secret, quickly. Switch off everything in your name. Change your phone number. Get them served with papers and a no contact order that day. Coordinate! I had a bazillion Excel spreadsheets with To Do lists for leaving him. I hired a mover, got helpers, did an inventory of everything we owned, took pictures of each room with a checklist (what came, what was left). Having a plan gave me a measure of peace. It felt good to take my power back. It felt fucking EXHILARATING to leave.

ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION. Have your own computer and make sure it’s not bugged. Tell your local police you have a PFA and give them the abuser’s picture. Have your lawyer send a no contact letter. Take a self defense course. Get a dog. Get a cousin in the Russian mob. Maybe they’re not that insane, but you know, why risk it? The most dangerous time in a relationship with an abuser, they say, is when you leave. So don’t take any chances.

Personally, I think the greatest weapon you have is your voice. Expose. These creeps are usually pansy ass bullies. Weak creatures. Narcissists. The worst of them, sociopaths. Stand up to them. Let them know you are ON to them. The sparkle shit isn’t going to fly any more. Monsters need to feed, they’ll go off in search of easier prey, easier kibbles.

It’s so much better on the other side, chumps. You’re going to wonder how the hell you ever got caught up in all that insanity. As I wrote in the previous post, fix your picker, shore up your heart. And find some good people — they’re out there. It’s going to get better, I promise.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • ChumpLady – As someone who works everyday with victims of Domestic Violence at a police department, I cannot thank you enough for this post. Everything you say here is important. Please, please, please, listen to your instincts when this stuff is going on. If you listen to the asshole/assholette, you will just find yourself in the same situation again and again. Actually, it will probably be worse, as the cycle of violence increases by way of frequency and lethality over time. Leaving is tough, and very dangerous, so don’t do it until you have a plan. If you need help making a plan, call on local law enforcement or domestic violence resources.

    Also, I do need to add that different courts have different criteria on what will get you a protection order. Don’t just assume that if you apply for one you will get one. I know several court commissioners/judges in my area who will not issue a protection order unless there is physical violence cited in the petition.

    And please if you have had a bad experience with law enforcement in the past, don’t let that stop you from calling 911. We REALLY ARE there to help. And REALLY DO want to keep people safe. And the more you have documented via police report, the more seriously your petition for a protection order is taken.

    And finally, please realize that a protection order is really just a piece of paper. It doesn’t stop a crazy person from being crazy. It won’t stop bullets, or hands that want to strangle you. The safety comes from developing as safety plan while you are in the relationship and then getting the hell OUT of the relationship.

    • Thanks Dani! And thanks for the work you do. I know for myself, I was so very grateful to the legal services center in my state, my free attorney (whose sole job was to prosecute these cases), to the shrinkage I got. People took it seriously — they took it VERY seriously. I know not everyone is lucky enough to get compassionate professionals, but I want to believe they’re out there. They’re all Dani’s.

      And your point is such a good one — document, document, document. It does have weight. The goal, as you say, is to get out. Only then can you undo the mindfuck. And for me, that was the hardest part of all.

      • Dani, I did have a bad experience with law enforcement, when I first asked for a divorce my husband attacked me and then told them I attacked him. I ended up in a very bad place with him, it gave him more control because they believed him, I got arrested. I got a deferred dismissal and he used my probation to further control me. I could not call the cops after that, his manipulations worked so well. When he pulled a gun on me I did call the cops, he got a DUI but he convinced them I was just “getting revenge” for my DV arrest. There is some fucked uppedness in the system that a manipulative asshole can use. However, that gun, that moment of knowing I was going to die, that made me go crazy – I had the money to hire a lawyer and fight for a PO and managed to get it. I just got it renewed. But law enforcement is full of good ole boys and it was that first attack that got me stuck, an abuser’s dream, now he can just punch himself and tell the cops you did it, he can threaten to get a PO on YOU because you have this shit hanging and they will believe anything after that. I can’t go on. And how he set me up is not unusual any more. Check this book/article:

        My point here is, the cops are not well trained, they are often mysoginists, don’t think because you are innocent and the victim that calling the cops will go down that way.

        • I am very sorry that happened to you. I can’t speak for that department. All I can say is that cops are not poorly trained. DV laws are pretty standard across the country. They all receive the same training in the academy. Some cops/departments just choose to ignore that training, and THAT should be a crime. I grew up in a small town in Georgia and THAT was a town of good ‘ol boys for sure. Every time the police were called to my house because my father was beating the shit out of my mother… nothing was done. I get what you are saying and I’m sorry. I often deal with victim/defendants. People who are victims, but are arrested due to manipulation of the police by the abuser. It is a very sad circumstance. I’m sorry there was not more support for you in the system your situation happened.

          I have read the article you sited, and deal with issues like that often.

          But please don’t assume that all police are ignorant and uncaring . Most do care about doing the right thing.

  • Three years ago my husband and I went to see my doctor to get some help for some issues I was having (stress is a bugger lol). He went in with me to help with communication as I relatively sucked at speaking their native language. After a few minutes, he left the doctor and me alone to discuss further. The first thing she did was give me a box of kleenex and asked if I was okay, if he had ever gotten physical (he wasn’t physical but excelled at verbal and emotional abuse). She also gave me information on a women’s shelter that took children and lots of advice as to what to do in order to get us away from my husband safely. It didn’t sink in then that he was that bad, it had become my ‘normal’. The second and last doctor I saw while I was there gave me anti-anxiety medication in order to cope until we left and said that I would no longer need them once I was away from him. I’m almost a year away now from the crazy in a physical sense and time (with lots of no contact periods) have helped when dealing with him by phone or email. I can see now lots of crap I normally wouldn’t have put up with that I did in order to protect our son, and deal with life in a country that doesn’t like foreigners until it was possible to get back home. I probably should get an Oscar for my ‘behavior’ in order to leave quietly and legally with my son back home to the US lol I’m now being treated for PTSD but I, as well as my son, are doing so much better – we no longer have to tiptoe and try not to ‘wake the kraken’. It’s going to take more time to rebuild myself – my mom says I used to be fearless before I left a decade ago but now there’s a hesitancy and fear when I approach new situations, but I’m already stronger and I will get there. So I echo much of the advice here, trust your instinct and make sure that whatever you do is done logically and with a full plan in place, including a back up. Check into every possibility you can think of that could happen, research every possibility, even start a savings fund in a coffee can if necessary to use as seed money for the new life.

    • Heather.. I had to leave a foreign country with the X as well. I, too, am being treated for PTSD. I think the feeling of being so alone, and so isolated really added to my inability to see clearly what actually happened to me. I was in a Latin American country, where abuse isn’t exactly rare, and neither is cheating. I began to wonder if all I was going through was somehow just normal…. like we all did, I guess.

      I was recently telling a friend of mine that my X used to force me to have sex almost every morning. She looked at me and narrowed her eyes and said, “they call that rape, you know.” I was absolutely floored. Couldn’t sleep for a few days and lost a few more pounds, but somehow assimilated it. I think that is a good example of how we normalize what our lives become. I couldn’t look at the ugliness of who I chose to be my life partner… ’cause he would never do that to me… he LOVES me…. right?

      Glad you’re out, and home.

      • Tamara and Heather,
        glad you both have come out on the other side!

        A very good friend is from a conservative mid east country and was pressured by family to enter an arranged marriage with someone she met 2 days earlier. She ended up in the States for his job, and he beat her, burned her, raped her, and isolated her (no drivers lisence and he took her passport) – she found the strength one day to just leave – knowing no one here.

        She was able to stay in the States under the Violence Against Women Act – she couldn’t go home because as a divorced woman she would essentially be treated like a prostitute in her home country. Today she is a perm resident, has two degrees and professional career, married an American and is a mother. She thanks God every day for this country. I’m in constant awe of the strength and courage she had to just leave an entire life, family, and culture behind – because she had just had enough.

    • Heather — congrats for getting out of the country with your son and away from him! Wow. That took guts. You made a good point about no contact — it’s the only way to heal and decolonize your mind.

  • I thought my X was going to kill me once. We were getting ready to move across country and he was in a bar with some friends, I left to go say goodbye to my kids and he followed me home, on foot, when I got into my car he grabbed me out and threw me to the ground. I got away from him and locked myself in my car. There was much screaming and yelling and he finally picked up a large rock and threatened to break out my windshield if I didn’t get out of the car. Foolishly, I got out and he then threatened to hit me in the head with the same rock. The neighbors called the police and I lied to them. I lied. I told them he hadn’t threatened me. I had a large court case at stake and couldn’t afford him going to jail. I out my safety second….. I was an idiot.

    Two days later, I STUPIDLY moved to Florida with him. On the way, late at night in Nebraska we were looking for a hotel. He drove off the freeway at a very dark exit and said “there’s some nice places here.” There was nothing around for quite a ways. At that point, I thought “this is it. He’s finally snapped for good and is going to leave me in some ditch somewhere.” It was odd, I wasn’t shocked or really even afraid. It all seemed like it would have been the logical conclusion, the only possible ending to our relationship.

    This was all before D Day.

    • I’m so glad he is your ex, Tamara. So, so glad. You know, I do the same thing you do when I talk about this — I say I stupidly did this, I was an idiot to do that. We are not responsible for these creeps. You loved a fucked up person utterly unworthy of you, I did too. It’s embarrassing. We beat ourselves up. The important thing is that you LEFT. You got out. You learned. Not stupid or idiotic at all. Very brave, really.

  • Thank you ChumpLady, this helps so much. This blog feels like my lifeline right now. I need to read this about ten more times. Or maybe every day until I get the hell out.

    I think you have explained my experience with the Domestic Violence Hotline. I called because he was screaming and calling me vulgar names in front of the kids, and they told me I need to relax and paint my nails or take a bath. I probably was talking like it was just another day, even though I felt like my hair was on fire. LOL I have been conditioned not to raise my voice or sound angry or upset. Now I am afraid that nobody will take me seriously if I call for help.

    My nut scored pretty high. I do wonder how I got dragged down so far and hardly realized it was happening. The affair was catalyst that made me decide I’d had enough. Maybe I shouldn’t be so angry about it.

    I am hoping that he will be a pansy ass when I file, but I won’t count on it.

    • QS, it is scary to leave, no doubt about it. But you’re living the nightmare NOW — it only gets better and better when you get out. You just need to reach out, get IRL support, make a plan, and DO IT.

      If he’s an asshole when you file, let your lawyer or the judge deal with that. They see disordered, asshole wing nuts every single day. Let them take the burden of dealing with him off of you. The important thing is to get UNstuck. To leave. To go no contact. You don’t heal until you get space and time and quiet from their crazy.

      • My heart feels a little lighter this morning. I have promised myself to start taking some of these steps. I will make at least one contact today, and start making my plan.

        My first attempt was over a year ago when I told him to get out. That was right when the affair was starting, though I didn’t know it then. I think I have made three attempts, and then caved every time because I still loved him, and the kids begged me to let him stay. Then the threats got really serious and I was just too afraid to kick him out.

        What Dday did for me was to drain out all that love and compassion I had for him. I realized that he had never been in love with me, and had married me so that I would support him (and he admitted this). That has been a brutal emotional shock that I am still trying to assimilate. All those years were a lie.

        I have been slowly backing away from him, like you’d do with a mean dog. Eventually I will have to turn and run. I am finishing school this summer, so unless things get worse I need to wait a little longer.

        I am so grateful that you wrote this Tracy. I know this goes beyond the scope of the typical cheater. But there seem to be a lot of us, so maybe it doesn’t. Cheating is abuse, and abusers abuse in many ways.

  • Chump Lady,

    Once again you are my hero.

    Psychological abuse (gaslighting), emotional abuse (if you don’t take me back I’ll kill myself), death threats (I know people from my years in an ethnic-oriented gang. I can make one phone call & have someone killed), threats of violence & intimidation (Chinese cleaver, blade is literally 8 inches by four inches), isolation tactics (my friends don’t really like you, you aren’t actually invited), even an overt death threat (I’m gonna rip your throat out with my teeth).

    And through all this, I was the most vocal person insisting I was not being abused.

    At one point, I’m holding busted ribs and a doctor, two nurses, & an x-ray technician are all trying to get me to come clean on how exactly my ribs got fractured. Meanwhile, Andy is playing with our three year old in the waiting room, and I’m insisting that I’m not being abused. And I put off seeking medical treatment for 3 days until the pain was too much to ignore.

    People think abuse is all black eyes & busted lips, but that’s not what it looks like. The technical term is mind-fuckery. This is the basis on which all abuse occurs. Abusers get off on control. It isn’t that they don’t know any better. If they did not know better than to play with people as they do, they would not make such threats if you speak the truth and fuck up the appearance they have carefully cultivated.

    Abuse is bruises under your clothes, bruises on your mind, deliberate warping of your beliefs to make you easier to control and manipulate. Abuse is slowly and with pre-meditation isolating you from anyone who threatens their control and possession of you.

    There is nothing cute, sweet or “romantic” about a possessive partner. They are poison.

    • Absolutely poison. Ugh, totally chilling that he’s playing with your child in the waiting room.

      Good point about the mindfuckery. It really is THE point. No one can abuse you without your consent, at some level. I’m not saying you asked for it, or were not manipulated. But fear and enmeshment drive this shit. And that’s mental. The rebellion — I’m not taking this and I’m getting the hell away from you! — has to come from within. Abusers are so good at laying on the guilt, frightening you, making you doubt yourself, and as you point out — isolating. Mine moved me out of state. Gave up my job, made myself financially vulnerable. Raised the stakes way high.

      On this blog, I do hesitate to mention exactly how scary my ex was, and how freaked out I was by him. Mostly, because I feel this makes me look even more chumpier than I already admit to. I took this asshole BACK, again and again and again. So, yeah, how scary can he be?

      I also hesitate because most people stories are not as dramatic as yours or mine. It’s the midlife crisis, the coworker affair, the tawdry Craigslist hookup. I still think that is abuse. Infidelity, the lying and the gaslighting and the blameshifting are abusive. But when you factor in Abuse abuse, people can distance themselves. Oh, well okay, YOU shouldn’t reconcile, because your ex was a super creep. Mine, however, Has Potential.

      Abuse is on a spectrum. It’s all bad. And we shouldn’t tolerate any of it.

      • ETA, on the subject of taking him back. It’s very common. My lawyer said it takes women on average SEVEN tries. (Took me four DDays, and about one year).

        Part of that I think was the bargaining stage of grief. And part of it was this weird, weird idea that I could APPEASE. That I could somehow manage him and mitigate the risk, and control this outcome. Which of course, I couldn’t. But it took me too long to figure that out and let GO.

        • CL, I know, I blamed myself too, but it’s a normalization process. The boundary crossings are small at first, then they get bigger over a long time until nearly every boundary is crossed and you’ve accepted it because you love them and they are going to get better and it’s all going to be OK, except it never is. But the abuse level, the tearing you down is so slow it becomes normal. And then we beat ourselves up because how did we accept that abuse but the cheating woke us up? That bright line in our ethics, what is that? We won’t share the abusive asshole, he’s ours – then the abuser ups the abuse faster and faster because we keep trying to keep them. Then it’s plain to us, we can see the abuse cycle because it’s no longer slow. That is what it was like for me.

      • CL I do that too… not mention how scary he was. I can handle being the chump who took back a cheater, but being the chump that accepted physical and mental abuse, and then tried to reconcile again and again is something different. It’s embarrassing. I also notice that people have a very different view of women (and probably men, though I have little experience in that realm so don’t feel qualified to comment on it) who were abused. Somehow we are seen as not bright enough to see what was happening, or to get out soon enough.

        We have had many conversations here about the insidiousness of abuse. The calculated way we are isolated and systematically stripped of any perspective that shows how fucked up our lives become. People who have not lived it, have no idea how that can happen to strong, intelligent people. But it does.

        Thanks for all the support, and for putting us chumps together, in one spot, so we know we aren’t the crazy ones. It helps, immensely!

    • I guess you could say I’m the abuse equivalent of Chump Lady.

      I keep bringing this stuff up because it never starts with this shit. It starts small, things I’m sure many of the chumps on this site have experienced: “I never said that. You misunderstood. That’s not what I meant.” Angry silences for days at a time (I’m not giving you the silent treatment; I just don’t have anything to say).

      For the record, all those are examples of gaslighting, which is a form of psychological abuse designed to keep the victim under the abuser’s control.

      Fellow Chumps, your cheater did you a favor–a big one. By crossing a clearly marked line in the sand, giving you the wake up call to get out, they spared you many of the same experiences some of us have commented about.

      The layman’s technical term for abuse is “mindfuckery” and cheaters do that to their partner every day. *That* is why so many people with unfaithful spouses live in “zombie-movie-extra fog” for weeks or months after the betrayal. It isn’t who she fucked; it isn’t how many he fucked. Its the mindfuckery betrayal that fucks with your understanding of who you are and where you belong in the world. And *that* more than anything else is what should have you pissed off.

      No one has the right to make you doubt your sanity, to make you doubt your ability to make good choices, to make you run every goddamn decision for your children through a four level logic filter before you settle on a course of action. Women (and men) with unfaithful spouses go through these kinds of gut wrenching experiences every day for weeks after their cheating spouse is outed (do we move back home with my momma? do I have to get a different job? are my kids really my biological kids? {there’s a special place in hell for people who make men ask that question} did the bitch/bastard give me an STD?)

      And none of these doubts and questions have anything to do with the Hollywood picture of stereotypical “abuse”.

      If your spouse had a two week fling and feels absolutely horrible about it and is willing to submit to all kinds of invasion of their privacy to make you feel better and prove that *this time* you can trust them, maybe this rant doesn’t apply to you. Maybe.

      But we all know how rare that scenario is.

      I would go so far as to say, *anyone* whose spouse cheated for 16 weeks has been at minimum psychologically abused. Anyone whose husband or wife lied, deceived, manipulated and betrayed you for 4 months has at minimum been mind-fucked. The CIA can brainwash someone in 1 week–7 days. In sixteen weeks, a cheating spouse *will* fuck your head, and that in its simplest form is abuse.

      The same things that keep a victim with their abuser for 6 years are the same things that keep a chump with a cheating spouse for 6 weeks. its the same shit, different degrees of douchebaggery.

      • Great post, Blue eyes. People do not seem to understand the less obvious abuse. It is insidious and does great harm.

  • CL,

    Your best post EVER.

    Two thoughts.

    1. Abuse can take many forms. In the case I know as Chump Son, it was a father who would yell and scream but never hit. Too smart to hit. But boy could he blast you with his sudden “air raid primal screaming.” Go from zero to screeching sixty in an instant, upsetting everyone. And go all night. That is not normal. That is not, as he later described it to me, just “a slip up.” It’s verbal abuse and manipulation. Also a big gun collector. No overt threats, but…well…you knew the guns were there. This is not good for small children, or for anyone, for that matter.

    2. A couple of those who have written in mention having husbands from another country. I work in foreign relations. I would warn folks to be extra careful about cross-cultural relationships. I’m not saying they can’t work. They certainly can. My wife is Latin American, and we get along very well and the bi-cultural quality enriches the relationship. But you have to be very careful. I think there’s more risk for women here than men, though there’s risk for both. Many cultures in the world are far more sexist than the U.S. (And I’m not saying we don’t have our wing-nuts.) Many of these cultures combine courtliness before marriage with a concept of total possession after marriage. In some cultures, it’s normal to have affairs, to hit your wife and kids. Moreover, living in another culture is intoxicating and can affect your judgment. Sometimes you meet someone abroad and it all seems so new and wonderful. Just because someone you met can order coffee in their native language, and do so much better than you can in your halting command of that language, does NOT mean that they are a genius. So, by all means make friends and explore the world, but tread carefully. Cultures often have many layers, and in some places/cases courtship means one thing and marriage means possession or submission for the wife. Make sure that you know a place and a person VERY well before getting all involved.

    Again, I’m not idealizing U.S. culture here, but I did see the foreign culture element mentioned above. Other countries legal systems can also be very different.

    Wow, CL, you really are plowing new ground with every entry.

    With. Every. Entry. (I learned that technique from you.)

    Your Admirer,

    Chump Son

      • I have. Have you done my laundry yet?

        And whatever was in that tupperware in the fridge was delicious! 🙂

      • Yeah, the air-raid-siren approach or, what I would call Ambush by Sound Blast, is one that some guys like to use. In my case, the user/abuser would get some criticism for something bad he had said, for example. Then he’d let things calm down, let us think that maybe all was OK, and then he’d erupt and change the subject explosively. So, if he’d been impolite/inappropriate to someone, that was lost. The reply would be: “A man that works as hard as I do….!!!!!!!!!!!! [shouldn’t have to take any criticism, like a regular person].” So, the subject changes and Dad has a right to sound off all night about his bitter work experience. In the sound blast, the original remark (maybe an insult to some other family member) was lost in the loud self-sung chorus of his own victimization. Poor thing! He had to “work so friggin’ hard,” and we were such ingrates (to not want to be insulted).

        Anyone else ever see a version of this? I grew up thinking it was both: A) normal and B) unique to my father’s suffering as a guy who didn’t like his job.

        As far as the work complaint goes, if you father children, then you will have to support them. And if you are in the work force (and particularly if you have unexamined personal flaws, terrible interpersonal skills, etc.) then you may not get the “great job” you think you deserve. In fact, most of us do not get a great job. Folks with character can put these things in perspective, can not necessarily get the brass ring but can be decent to their families. In fact, folks with character and persistence will actually be more successful. But the grandiose, fragile, narcissistic persons get VERY angry when things don’t go their way. Hey, it takes a long time to accomplish anything.

        Anyway, Chump Son would be very interested if any readers recognize the “silence-to-air-raid-siren” technique I noted above. Also if you recognize the “I work so hard” victimization line. Some fathers (in my experience) seem to think that their kids “owe” them something because they (the fathers) have to work. Well, I got news for them. The kids didn’t create themselves. Children are parents responsibilities. If you ask me.

        One final note, there is another David who I noted adding comments to one of the featured articles. Different David. Different ideas from me. Just saying!

        • I don’t get the air-raid from how hard he works, because he doesn’t. It will be because he twists around something to mean that I lied to him or I used an angry tone of voice or I said something that he somehow took to be an insult or I made his whore feel bad or I structured my sentence incorrectly or good lord I didn’t know what would set it off.

          He does like to wait until I am just falling asleep at night, even if it’s something that happened in the morning.

          Funny though, my father used to always make us feel guilty for every dime he spent on us.

          • I’ll have you know that I was the yeller in the family…he would fuck with my head and subtly torture me till about every 6 months or so I would totally lose it and then he would tell/I would look like the “Crazy Bitch!” Worked real well for him!

        • Best thing that could happen to us kids and my mom was for my Dad to pass out from drinking before we crossed his path. When he stopped drinking, he became a much nicer guy. He had a good heart, but was a monster when he drank.

  • First of all I just want to say that I hope you realize how MUCH you are helping people CL. I sincerely hope you continue to gain readers, not just because you deserve the recognition, but also because there are so many out there that need you, but just haven’t found you yet.
    In my case, he didn’t abuse me physically as far as putting hands on me but would fly into such severe rages that I was almost always on alert. I was actually scared, and would be relieved when his truck wasn’t in the drive when I got home. Who knows what would set him off? Now because all of the years of cheating were revealed it probably had nothing to do with me – I was probably just in the way but he didn’t want to lose his safety net and respectability. And the financial perks, etc.
    That is why I never would move, or quit my job, or do any of the other things he urged so he could “take care of me”. Deep down I knew I didn’t feel “safe” or totally trust. Maybe in the beginning but less and less over the years. I never would give him the total control he needed from me and I think that enraged him too. I must say I am in a very uncomfortable stage of this process right now, but I know it’s necessary to heal. And I’m not afraid anymore. I Thank you CL, I thank you ALL!

  • I was granted leave to remain in the US and vain early citizenship on the basis of incontrovertible evidence I was able to provide.

    That evidence box contained many many things. Including a photo of his thumb and finger print bruises very clearly and neatly covering my chest and shoulders.

    Reading this story reminded me of how proud I was showing him my handiwork where I spackled my spine indentation out of the bedroom wall.

    Thank f$$$k I’m not there any more.

  • CL – thanks so much for this post.
    “When you get away from it (I’m years away from it), you’re going to wonder how you ever withstood 5 seconds of this shit. But when you’re in it, it’s your whole world. You get tunnel vision.” ….so true… I’m nearly 14 yrs divorced from ex and I still shudder at recollections that periodically surface – and look back on myself as someone very different from who I now am.

    I never considered myself as being ‘abused’ because I wasn’t physcially hit or beat, and I didn’t fear him. Only in the past few years do I really recognize that, things like:

    tipping me over in a canoe in the river and trapping me underneath it;

    leaving me stranded at night in sub zero temps on a dirt roa in the woods after an argument (had to walk to the main road and hitchhike home);

    taking a shotgun and spreading gun shells all over the house and calling from a hotel to threaten suicide (on a day I caught him with OW),

    demanding a sexual favor in his friend’s hot tub then walking out and leaving me there (in a strangers home) with a 2 week old baby when I refused;

    or not taking me to the hospital while I was in labor – when I said it was time to go, because he ‘had a headache’….

    as both dangerous and deeply humiliating pyschological abuse.

    To this day I have memories I’m not entirely sure happened.

    • My God Marci,
      Among other “highlights” I was abandoned in a semi- deserted town in a bad part of a town I’d never been in. I ended up (luckily) being picked up by police who believed my story, but when I finally (walking 5 miles) made my way back to the hotel I was at first accused of spending the night with another man! The whole thing was so bizarre that after my story was “confirmed” I was just so grateful to be in his arms that I buried that shit in my mind till a few months ago. No wonder he had me believing I was crazy!

  • Holy crap….when I first started reading your latest post I thought “my ex was not an abuser”….but as I read on…I realized that, post-bomb and before he moved out, he was a fucking lunatic. I remember I actually sent a letter to my parents telling them if something happened to me to investigate HIM. If I went missing and didn’t take my dogs, then something was UP and it was NOT GOOD.

    I was afraid of him. It’s like he was a split-personality. I would look into his face and see nothing—no expression at all. It was like he checked out. He became sexually deviant and abusive. He wanted supreme control over MY life even though he was fucking his whore. And I went along with it because I, too, was incredibly embarrassed at what my marriage had become. My life had become surreal. My close friends worried about me so much. My family did not have a clue. My therapist told me that if I felt scared I could go to her house…he did not know where she lived. I scoped out all the hotels that would let me take my dogs. THAT is how scary it was for me.

    Finally he left, thank God. After reading this, I am amazed at how much I withstood at the time. I will never go through that shit again.

    • Wow – scarey.

      Isnt it funny how “clear” it is looking back? And by “funny” I mean terrifying… that slow descent into utter madness 🙁

      • Very true Fallulah, although, I am very thankful that it didn’t get too much worse. We had firearms in the house. He was cleaning a .357 revolver at our kitchen table one day and I asked him what he was doing he said ‘cleaning off DNA”…he had gotten jealous of an attractive man who had chatted me up on an outing. What a putz. He told me he had gone to where that man lived and stuck the gun in his mouth and told him to ‘stay away from my wife’. I nearly laughed out loud. He was screwing around but I needed to remain the obedient, sweet, little wife. Un-fucking-believable.

        Anyhow, I am a really good shot and I am not afraid of weapons. I was taught by my daddy how to shoot and to respect weapons always. It was after the episode above that I wrote the letter and sent it to my parents. Needless to say, it freaked them out.

        he finally left a couple of weeks after the above incident and when we both started fighting (we had been drinking—-a VERY BAD combination) and he pushed me down…and when I got up, he pushed me down again and said ‘stay down!’. I told him to leave which he did but came back the next day…a few days later he left for good. And I was so relieved. It was like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.

        I know I didn’t have it as bad as some others here. I am sorry for those who did have it worse…and for those whose children also suffered. The good thing is, Tracy has created a haven for all. Where those going through it can vent or get feedback and those of us who have been there can tell you what it is like on the other side. There IS another side…and sun is shining so bright!

        • Blimey – I’m so sorry you went through that.

          Yes – I feel bad for those here who have kids. It was all I could do to try to protect myself – let alone others. And something about someone hurting children, directly or indirectly, gets me from 0 to 60 in about 0.08 seconds.

          Yes you are right 🙂 SO many great people here 🙂 And yes – life is good the other side 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • C.L…. learning of your story it seems as tho it is a tale of overcoming abuse , more so than cheating.
    I am very familiar with the workings of domestic abuse.
    I served on a Board of Directors with Anita Hill, in Norman , Ok. I am proud of the fact that you were able to get out of a very bad situation.
    I will will admit that I was looking to you as a model of not accepting adultery, and find out that your story is more dealing with abuse, which is NEVER acceptable and should NEVER be tolerated…. the “cheating” is a “footnote” on list of great reasons to leave… not THE reason to leave.
    Now knowing this I think many of your followers will think… since he isn’t threatening to kill me , or my kid… perhaps the simple fact that he is “just cheating” really isn’t so bad.
    I’m I alone in this opinion ?

    • I don’t think so – reading the comments here, it seems to me that cheating is concomitant with one or more other types of abuse.

    • You are alone in this opinion so far as I’m concerned. What you’ve said is not true, cheating is not a “footnote” to abuse. Cheating is abuse. It is not surprising that many cheaters are emotionally and/or physically abusive and corroborates what CL believes, and for the record so do I. There are certainly people that cheat due to entitlement issues, but usually in a long term relationship it happens when an abuser has over years beaten their spouse down to the point where the cheater thinks that now anything they do is acceptable. Chumps are loyal and responsible and they take on the problems of their spouses thinking that support is returned, the cheating wakes us up even when the abuse has become our normal. I’ll leave it at that. I’ll ignore all your “pride” too.

  • There is a brilliant book by Lundy Bancroft called, Why Does He Do That, subtitled (Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men)! You may have mentioned it already and apologies if you have as I am a newbie in class and have not read all posts. Lundy is a man, contrary to what I initially thought. This for me makes the book more powerful and I believe as it is perhaps a bit less biased than some books in that genre. It deals with all forms of abuse from infidelity to domestic violence. It is well structured and very common sensical. Definitely one to keep by the bed for those moments when you feel like you’re losing the plot.

    • I have heard that book is awesome. Thanks for the reminder – I’m going to read it sooner than later.

      • Lundy is good, and he is adamant that marriage counseling with an abuser is a very bad idea. Makes you realize why your spouse insists/insisted on doing it, highly recommend the book. And please read “Gift of Fear” too.

          • I would recommend Shari Schreiber and Tara Plamatier’s stuff for men who are dealing with disordered women. Like the Lundy deal, having someone of the same gender as the abuser write about it does seem to lend some credibility.

  • Wow, everyone has written so many stories that parallel mine, to varying degrees. I hurt for you who have suffered more than me. Since I see that these stories are similar, I am glad I am making the decision to get out before things escalate to physical abuse.

    Psychological abuse is hard enough. I have been living seperately from my STBXH for months yet am still numb and zombie-like from the mindfuckery. I hope someday I will be whole again, but I am not even close to being my regular self. What gives me hope is that I remember, vaugely, what it felt like to feel normal. It was a long time ago, but I have a vague memory. I believe if I would have stayed for another 10 years that feeling would have probably dissappered. And it would be much harder to get back to feeling normal.

    By normal, I mean not having to walk on eggshells all the time. Not cringing whenever I would hear his key in the door because I *never* knew what kind of mood he would be in when he came home. Keeping the kids quiet so he wouldn’t erupt his temper on them (and me). Finding ways to keep the kids out of the house and away from him as much as possible so there was less *opportunity* for him to yell at them. Being woken up at 3am with his angy questions “Where is my book?” or other random object he wanted that he somehow thought I should know about. Or him coming home from the bar after drinking too much, waking me up from a sound sleep and demanding some sexual favor at 3am when I had to go work the next morning…and getting angry or giving me the silent treatment when I either didn’t comply or didn’t comply with as much energy as he thought I should be putting into it. Not inviting my friends over to our house because I never knew what mood he would be in and I didn’t want to subject my friends to a tense environment (in a sense, I isolated myself). Of him blaming me for most things that would go wrong (or required effort on his part), and me second-guessing my self worth as a wife. Questioning my ability to love and be loved. Being scared when he would do or say something nice because he usually had ulterior motives and I dreaded the fallout. Of him beating up the dog and saying that if the dog barked one more time, he would execute him on the spot. Of him saying nasty things (“I don’t love you”), negatively comparing me to his friend’s wives, but then acting like everything is normal hours later, and wanna have sex? Moodiness that wouldn’t quit.

    All of that stress was so *aging*. I feel like I’m 100 years old, even though I’m only in my thirties. I want to feel like a normal human again. I am going on faith, and the words of those of you who have been through this, that there is light on the other side. The more stories I hear from you who have found a better life, the more I am encouraged. I do know that the abuse most likely would have escalated if I stayed. He has threatened me before. I am lining up my ducks to leave. CL’s post confirms my strategy and reminds me that I need to be even more diligent in my planning. Thank you, all.

    • DuckLinerUpper,

      Please check out my post, above, and let me know if your experience correlates with mine. Thanks for writing this. I know it was tough for you, and my own situation as Chump Son was not quite as bad, but many of the patterns are quite similar. One thing that abusive types do is they keep families isolated. No visitors. No overnight guests. No witnesses. Makes control much easier.

      I know what you mean about the eggshells reflex (as in walking on eggshells). It goes away after a while. You are doing well.

      Lundy Bancroft’s book is very good. His main point is that abusive men do what they do because they can. There is not really some deep reason behind it. These guys may have been abused in childhood, but Bancroft, if I remember correctly, basically says that they have surprisingly little remorse for the yelling/abusing/hitting they do. They think they are entitled.

      In my case, it was all yelling, but that was plenty. The yelling gets internalized by a kid and then it goes on for a long time. That’s why I think that accommodating that sort of thing is a bad idea, particularly bad for the kids, who develop co-dependency coping traits and perforated boundaries. It’s like cultivating prey for some future narcissist.

      • David – Yes, your earlier post had a lot of similar experiences. It is eye-opening to see if from a son’s perspective, and how similar it is to a spouse. Different relationship, but the emotional impact is very much the same. It sucks living with midfuckery. Another good reason to get my kids away from my STBX. He will have some custody, but at least they will have one safe, calm house (mine) where they don’t need to walk on eggshells.

        What you said about abusive men (people) doing things “because they can”….this is certianly true in my STBXH’s case. He uses entitlement, male priveledge, physical strength/intimidation, police officer priveledge, etc. to his advantage all the time. He’s actually said out loud “I can do what I want, because I’m bigger and stronger.” He talks about how in other countries, it’s legal for husbands to hit their wives. Jokes about it. Ha, ha, soooo funny. Jokes about how he sometimes wants to hit our kids. Ha, ha. But I know he isn’t really joking – he’s *testing*. If these things were legal, I bet he would be doing them. With no remorse. Because he *could*.

        • There is this sense of entitlement that Lundy Bancroft discusses, the idea that some guys have that it is their right to yell or to hit. Yelling alone should not be minimized. An adult might decide to tolerate verbal abuse (not a good decision, but one an adult could make), but for a child, the situation is different. The verbal abuse will get embedded in the child’s memories/mind and continue (at least with some kids) even after the situation is over with.

          You are right to get away from that guy. “Because I’m bigger….” Such a sad, pathetic line. All of us are going to get old, so the idea that “being bigger” really means anything is silly. Your ex is a child-man whom you can leave behind. If he’s so “big,” he can try taking care of himself!

      • The verbal abuse one hears as a kid, gets stuck in your mind like a tape. Yelling, criticizing, ridiculing, calling names etc. all gets stuck and you struggle with it for your entire life.
        My dad said things to me, David, that I could never imagine saying to a kid. It is something one has to deal with forever, it seems.

      • I would think Bancroft’s assertion re the abuser would apply equally to women abusers. I have not read his book, but abusers, to me, are all cut from the same mold.

    • Duck, I can relate to almost everything you have written. I am glad that you are separated. You are on the right path. I will be following soon.

      One thing, don’t blame yourself for isolating yourself. He isolated you, and it was most likely on purpose so that you would not have support.

      • Quick, thank you for the reminder not to blame myself….because I kind of do, but I’m working on that. That is part of the hard road back to “normal” is to quit blaming, learn from it and just move on. It helps to read everyone else’s stories, read everything I can get on the topic, and realize that all sorts of intelligent people get into relationships like this and have similar reactions to mine. I was just being human. He was horribly moody (the air was so thick you could cut the tension with a knife on most days), so it is logical that I didn’t want to have friends over.

        • I know what you mean. I haven’t had people over for a long time. Even my daughter won’t ask to have friends over anymore. I know we have to resist being isolated, but it is very difficult.

  • Chump Lady – this is a great post today. You’ll never know how many people you helped. When I found out my husband was cheating I asked him to go to counseling. I still loved him. I still wanted the fantasy family. He refused to go stating that there wasn’t anything wrong with our marriage. So I went without him. I knew I could fix our marriage. I did everything else, I could fix it.

    Well, what an eye opening experience my first session was. My therapist suggested that I read The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans. I read it in two days and turned it flourescent yellow – I highlighted everything it it that pertained to my idiot husband and found out just how bad off I was.

    Things I took as normal:
    Screaming and yelling…the silent treatment for days, weeks, months…. walking on eggshells – dozens and dozens at a time….never resolving any issue….his constant need to know where I was and who I was with and when I’d be home and why did it take so long…versus him telling me it was none of my business when I asked him one question…having me be responsible for EVERY decision, so if I made the wrong one i would never live it down….I should burden the job, the kids and the house, because he can give 150% to his job and friends, but don’t ever expect that at our house. You get the picture.
    I could not believe my life had been reduced to living in the corner like a cowering dog.How could I let my kids grow up in this environment? I was so embarassed. How could I tell people? Fortunately I have a great mom and a few trusted friends. I started
    planning my getaway. After I made the decision to leave I felt better. I started to let things he said and did roll off of my back, because I knew I was leaving.

    It took me one and a half years to leave after I made my decision. I have been away from him for over two years now. It took almost a year and a half for me to feel ok. I never knew how tired I was trying to hold up the front to my friends and family, trying to keep the kids in line so as not to set their dad off. etc.

    I am stronger. I have read alot, I have learned alot. I have a great lawyer who knows what an idiot this man is. Mr. Control took over two years to sign any papers because he told me “he was gonna make me wait”. So I am still not divorced. But my day will come.

    For all of you out there wondering what you should do, think long and think hard. READ – there is a wealth of information out there. Do not be embarrassed to ask for help. Sometimes friends and family see what is happening but don’t want o get in your business. Do what YOU NEED to do for yourself and your kids.

    It is so worth it.

  • The kids.

    From my memory, a raging Dad often holds the kids as kind of sonic hostages. By that, I mean that Dad can start yelling so loudly that Mom will cave on anything just to get him to shut up, because if he keeps yelling, the kids will cry, get upset, etc.

    My experience.

    Chump Son

    • Oh yes. He knew I would give in to almost anything to get him to leave the kids alone. I finally told my oldest that she can tell him to stop it when he yells. I figured it was better if she feels like she has some control. So now when he starts raging, the kids and I are all telling him he has to stop. It has been pretty effective.

      • As the oldest male child, I would try to re-direct my Dad’s wrath onto me, to protect my mom. It worked, but I paid a heavy price.

        • That breaks my heart. It was noble of you, but I would hate to think my kids would try to protect me. It is my job to protect them. I didn’t think about it that way. My hope was to make them feel less helpless, to give them some power to help themselves. It is so hard to know how to help them. Except to get out. I am actively working on that now. Thanks to all of you (especially CL) for kicking me out of this paralysis.

          • It was just instinctive, Quicksilver. I could not stand watching him berate my mom.
            Living with an alcoholic parent is a nightmare for kids.

  • I was really really chumpy about a lot of stuff w/the ex, but the physical violence was one place where I was pretty good at setting limits. The first time he threatened me physically, I called the cops. He was so surprised and FURIOUS!! BUT he didn’t do it again for many many years. At the time of his first affair, during all the fighting and crap afterwards, he did some more vague threatening, and I left (w/kids) to a friend’s house, made it clear I would call cops again if I had to, and this time he would be arrested. He didn’t try it again for several more years. Then in the middle of a nasty fight he grabbed me by the throat and held me against the wall, screaming in my face. 6 foot 3, works out at least 3x a week – very very very scarey. As soon as he let me go, I grabbed the kids and went to a shelter. Told him our relationship was over. He was SHOCKED, begged me to come back, said he knew he was wrong, would see a therapist, etc. At that time, I was ready to leave for good (finally!), but knew if I did, he’d have the kids 1/2 time (hadn’t ever threatened or hit them, after I made it clear when the kids were small that if he ever did, I’d not only leave w/kids, I’d call Youth Protection as well as the cops), and I couldn’t stand that, not just for me, but for the kids as well. So I came back, he saw a therapist 5 times (oh yeah, that’ll fix 40 years of fuckedupedness!), admitted the strategies the therapist taught him to reduce his negativity were really helpful for all sorts of things, but never used them again. BUT, never threatened me again either.

    So I stuck it out 3 more years, there was the second affair, and I turfed him – knowing that my kids (ages 12 and 13) now had the right to choose how much time to spend w/each parent. Funnily enough, they’ve chosen to spend 85% of their time w/me. Instant karma, I guess.

    But all during the separation process, I never had a single important conversation with him in private. We talked at the pub, at the Starbucks, sitting on our front steps (nice busy street, w/nosy neighbours – gotta love ’em). He never even realized what I was doing. Thought we went outside so the kids wouldn’t hear us. Idiot.

    And of course, when he was trying, months later, to convince me to reconcile, it comes out that he really believes the threatening was ‘not a big deal, because he never actually hurt me’. Sick, sick, sick, sick. I know now that if I hadn’t been so clear w/limits, he woujld have been hitting me as regularly as his father did his mother. And I feel like he should have a warning label tattooed on his forehead.

    Now if only I’d been as good at setting limits around the negativity, criticism, and neglect of our relationship and of his kids. Maybe in that case we would have separated before we had the kids – that would probably have been best, frankly!

  • CL, thanks for writing this post, I was beginning to believe I was a minority, but I’m seeing where most chumps have dealt with rages and fear. I have been through a lot of therapy because of the attacks when I tried to divorce and because I blamed myself for not leaving long before the cheating was discovered.

    I want to add one thing to your post. I am a strong person and I see many others like me here, we are responsible and we love hard. My abuser used his fuckedupedness to induce pity from me (and others), it was part of his control tactics. He was depressed, had anxiety and the rages? He didn’t know where that came from but he would never hurt me but I should get away from him if he went into one. He was working on it, honest, I’m a chump.

    He isolated me without the stereotypical “watching you every minute” thing, but he did email and call a lot to tell me he loved me, or missed me, like at least twice a day – that is watching you without you realizing it. To isolate you; First, he hit on my friends and did creepy things so they didn’t want to hang with me/him, they were afraid to say anything, they just drifted off. Second, he didn’t forbid me to go any where, no, he would tell me that people were “using me”, “only wanted to fuck me”, that they “obviously made me upset so he hated to see me with them” that sort of thing to get me to stop seeing/talking to them. He would ask me not to go places/do things because he didn’t enjoy those things and he’d “miss” me if I went without him. These were things he pretended to enjoy before he moved in.

    When I was left with only a couple of friends and the cheating was discovered he co-opted them. He lied to them about what was going on, he made me out to be a nutcase. This worked for a while because I was still not talking about our “personal” shit. That’s another thing to watch for, does your spouse stay in hearing for every call you are on? But he demands his privacy for his calls? Does he tell you that what happens between you is “private” and get upset if he hears you talk about him?

    I am just over a year out from my divorce, I just got my protective order renewed for 2 years because he would not stop contacting me. I am a lucky person, my ex is afraid of going to jail, very afraid. I urge caution in getting a protective order because it depends on the person whether it will work. They have to be afraid of the consequences, and if you get one, you have to report every violation. As CL says, the judge won’t take you seriously if you let anything pass. Also your abuser won’t take the order seriously.

    • Hi Datdamwuf, This one sounds like my ex…ohhh their “isolating behaviors” are so similar and so are the “cooptation techniques” 🙂

    • That was really interesting to read how he isolated you. I am not even sure what happened with me. I had a lot of friends when I met him, and then one day I realized that they were all gone. The only “friends” I had are friends with OW. Now I see how he set that up, and I have absolutely no friends any more except at work. Thank goodness he has no access here.

      My h is also very afraid of going to jail, but I also think he is arrogant enough to think he can play the system and make me look like the crazy/violent one, just like your ex did.

      • People think they’d never allow a controlling partner to isolate them, but they’re smart about it (gotta be that Narcissism playbook, wonder where they get it).

        They don’t say ‘I don’t want you to see your sister, I don’t like her’. We would never put up with that! They say ‘I know your sister doesn’t like me.’ ‘Oh, you’re going to your sisters? That’s too bad, because I was really looking forward to taking you out to that restaurant we mentioned, I was missing you so much today.’ They say ‘I’d rather not go to your sister’s, you know I don’t really feel welcome there, they don’t seem to like me much. But you go ahead! I’ll be fine (sigh). My back is a bit sore, but I’ll do the garden, it really needs doing today. (sigh).’ They say ‘Have you noticed how your sister criticizes you behind your back? I didn’t want to say anything, but it seems so unfair, when she’s so nice to you to your face …. Yeah, tonight when you told that story and then turned away, she rolled her eyes ….’.

        And you wake up one day, and don’t understand why it’s been so long since you really talked to your sister, or spent a good chunk of time w/your best friend, or went out in a group w/your long-time friends …. And you have nobody to share the hard stuff with, and nobody to remind you what real love and caring and support are like, and nobody to help you remember that you will NOT be alone if you walk away from him/her.

        For stupid people, they really can be quite smart, about the manipulative stuff.

        • Karen,

          You are so on target.

          I get so frustrated with people “I would never allow that to happen to me”.

          Bitch, in what alternate universe do you think I *allowed* it to happen?

          They lie, they deceive, they manipulate. This is what they do, because this is who they are.

          I finally had to embrace the concept, I can tell when Andy is lying because his mouth is moving.

          Is it 100% true all the time? No. Is it true 95% of the time? Hell yes! The other 5% he’s only telling the truth because it serves his purposes, so I shouldn’t take it at face value anyway.

          I hope you don’t mind Karen, but your comments are so on target, I’m quoting you on my blog.

          • Don’t mind at all! I would love it if others got that ‘aha’ moment that I get when I’m on CL and recognize something that really fits with my experience!

          • I think we fail to recognize it because this type of behavior is something we would never consider doing. So, we just do not believe there are people out there who are so abusive. I know a few guys dealing with abusive wives and they get little support.
            I recommned reading Richard Skerrit’s books for vicitms of disordered spouses.
            “Meaning from Madness” was ,particularly, helpful to me.

      • I missed my brother’s wedding, as I knew going would set my XW off. They isolate the hell out of you.

    • Mine is afraid of jail too….I lied and told him that the police knew, and the landlord and that’s how I got him to stop “coming home” at night, he started to go crazy when I gave him 48 hours till the locks were changed, but the lies worked. He still kept coming by because he left everything but strangely enough it was my daughter calling him to stop that. Guess he still had enough sense to feel ashamed…? I’ll never know – I’m just very grateful to her!

  • Dear Chump Lady,

    I have my own blog…sort of a tongue in cheek tell all on finding my husbands online dating profiles.
    I started it as a way to sort things out…as in I am not crazy.

    My husband is a scary person… took me a few years of gaslighting until one day I was driving along and said to myself…”I am not crazy, I don’t lose or break things and I know what I heard.” That was a turning point. To realize that the gaslighting alone is abuse and the cheating or “only looking”cheating is abuse.

    I am stuck financially, part of it is the debt he has put me in (yes, part of the gaslighting), the other part is I have to be careful. Everyone who knows him tells me (because I do talk to close friends and family) “You’ll have to disappear, if you leave him.”
    He’s never hit me, he yells, kicks and breaks furniture, but the scary part is he many times gets very angry and doesn’t lose control. He was a Marine for many many years, special ops (I’ve seen proof of this, because men lie) and he has a lot to lose if he has any run ins with the police.
    At the same time he has told me on numerous occasions that the only reason he doesn’t kill anyone is because he doesn’t want to deal with any possible consequences. But has also told me that he’s certain he could kill someone and no one would know.
    He’s a pro at gaslighting, I have learned a lot of mind tricks from him, have learned to use his own tricks on him. He makes threats…not directly, just in theory…”If a cat scratched me, I’d wring it’s neck.” Of course I have cats.
    What am I doing? I have a storage unit and am getting all the important items out of the house, paperwork, photos, items I can sell later. That way when the inevitable happens there’s not too much damage he can do around the house.
    Like a chess game, hopefully I’ll have all my pieces in place when one of us goes for checkmate.


  • One last thing.
    Reading the comments…I forgot yo mention the isolation. I can’t have a phone conversation without it being on speaker phone. My family and grown children know this…I keep my phone silent and get back to them when I can. They know not to say anything that may “get me in trouble.”
    A few years back…he was out of work and was in the process of starting a new job. I had a sister (2 lived close by, along with my parents) who was severely disabled and we were going to do some art projects together…,”once he went back to work and I had some free time” because he consumes my time and energy.
    My sister called and left a voice message “Hi, (my name), give me a call, I’d like to see you.” She left that message on my phone 3 weeks before she died unexpectedly.
    I never had a chance in those 3 weeks to either call her or go see her.
    How fucked up is that?

    I want my life back…better than before.


  • My ex used to suddenly start yelling at me if he didn’t like something I did, even if it was unimportant like I was making spaghetti wrong or something.

    He would constantly insult the way I looked, like for example buying underwear I’d ask him what he preferred and he would say, “just get anything that fits, no one’s going to see it anyway.” or when I expressed frustration with how he had the nerve to try to pick up women when he was with me and he told me he got away with it because “no one would ever think I was with you.”

    The worst thing he did was threaten suicide to pressure me to have an abortion.

    Even after we broke up, he would secretly follow me and call me the next day and tell me everything I did, what stores I went into, what I bought, who I talked to, etc.

    I’m so glad I’m free of that shithead.

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