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.