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Escape Tips

“Heartbroken” asked for some escape tips. Fair enough. It’s not a life skill most people are born with — how to flee a toxic relationship. This stuff is learned through trial and error and domestic violence websites. Without further ado, I’ll post some tips I learned. There are also pointers at How to Leave a Cheater elsewhere on this blog.

1.) If you’re in danger, don’t wait for the perfect moment. Just get the hell out. Seriously, if your cheater threatens you or is in any way violent, call a domestic abuse hotline, get professional help, a protective order and get OUT. None of your possessions are worth risking your life over.

2.) Don’t tip your hand. Don’t threaten, just decide and act. Don’t try to build consensus with your cheater about how this relationship is going to end. This person demonstrably does not have your best interests at heart. Cheaters want cake. Telling them you’re leaving, or threatening to leave is putting them on high alert that kibble supply is ending. That’s going to up their manipulation and mindfuckery. They’ll try to fuck you over first, guarantee it. So — keep your mouth zipped. Just make a plan and execute it. You are enforcing a major boundary — you must let go of the consequences, like how your cheater feels about it.

3.) Start moving things out on the sly. Financial papers, family heirlooms, winter sweaters. Anything important to you, or that will not be obviously missed, that you want — get it out of the house and store it in a trusted friend’s basement or a storage locker.

4.) Consult a lawyer. There may be legal ramifications if you leave the home. But also consider — what’s more important — your sanity or a house? You will divide property equally in a divorce, usually — so you’ll get something. But make sure you act legally in terms of what you take, and monies that you move.

For me, when I moved out — I made a spreadsheet of all of my possessions and joint purchased possessions. (This would be impossible in a long-term marriage, but mine was a short-term relationship.) I assigned value to joint property, and had some receipts. I photographed everything I took and everything I left — so there could be no arguments later like “you took my diamond encrusted fishing rod!”

Cover your butt and get legal help to anticipate the sort of things a disordered person will go after you for. Think strategically.

5.) You’re in crisis. Act accordingly. Don’t wait for the stars to align, to leave when things will be more comfortable financially. There is never going to be a perfect time to go, when it will feel right. It WILL feel scary. You have to face that fear. What if a tornado blew your house down? What if this was a hurricane? You would react to a natural disaster — you’d seek shelter, move in with relatives, accept your losses. This is a disaster — man-made and not your fault, but a disaster all the same. Accept it as such.

6.) Put everything on the table. Don’t say to yourself, well, I could NEVER… Nope, it just might have to happen. Consider that you may lose significant income, you may have to humiliate yourself and ask your family for a loan until you get on your feet, you may have to sell something to afford your legal retainer (like your wedding ring — hey, it had bad mojo anyway). Maybe you need to go on public assistance or move in with family for awhile. Accept it — give yourself those options. These things are temporary.

Losses can be regained. In fact, you have much better odds of recouping your losses when you are captaining your own financial ship. You control YOU. You are no longer subject to the whims of a crazy person. Put more faith in YOURSELF, that you can navigate your own life, than faith in that failing, toxic relationship. Your cheater is not your friend. They are not going to help you, unless legally forced to do so. Start advocating for yourself and bust a move.

Your better life is here waiting for you.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • Yes, and yes. Especially the part about not letting on that you’re leaving. Don’t threaten it ahead of time. Don’t throw hints. Just do it. Don’t be wishy-washy, either. Once you leave, stay gone.

    I’d add that you might want put seeing a lawyer near the top of your list, since their advice about what to take, etc., may affect your decisions. But rest assured that a good lawyer will give you the confidence you need to leave ASAP. Mine did (both of them). They had my back, and it really helped.

  • My stbx did that. But he control all our banking information and all other paper works. He filed came home for two weeks. He took me out for our anniversary dinner and in two day disappear. Not taking anything with him. He the sole provider. I’m trying to understand what I have done wrong. Maybe he sees himself being abuses.

    Right now I’m staying with family and he living back at our old place. We only contact when he email me and when I was trying to figure where my stuff was to pack. He empty out our apt with my things and throw them all in trash bags then place it in the basement.

    My lawyer trying to get him pay support.

    • Amy, thank God you have a lawyer.

      Your husband is an abusive piece of shit. Controlling the finances, throwing your things in trash bags, pretending to celebrate your anniversary while having filed for divorce — is very messed up!

      Can you get a friend or a family member to help you go retrieve your things? Stay strong! And let your lawyer fight for support. How did he get back in the house after he left, and YOU are the one at your family’s? If he has been at all threatening please reach out to a domestic abuse hotline

      • Right now we living in different state. He did not come home and I was emailing him all night begging him to come home. I would do anything he wants.
        Then the next morning email me telling me he wanted a divorce and glad that I’m ok with it. I went back home to my parents bc I was not sure how much money in our joint account. If I can paid the rent and food. I thought if I give him space he will reconsider. He mail me the paper at their house. They only time he contact me is to see when I will come get my stuff and our pets. He allowed me to come back for the Christmas to pack my stuff. He said he gets mover to delivery it back to my parents but its still is there. I manage to get stuff I can fit in the suitcase.

        • first, the stuff, hope for it but don’t count on it.
          second, you ARE LUCKY. you have emails PROVING he knows you and your child HAD to leave the STATE, he put you and your child in a desperate situation. Sucks emotionally. In the long run HE GAVE YOU BULLETS FOR THE COURT ROOM.
          Get your lawyer to file an emergency temp relief hearing based on feeding your child as well as you having no money for yourself. keep every email, keep every text. these are proof of what he did to your CHILD. the courts don’t give a flippity fuck about how horrid he is to you unless it is physical abuse. the courts will go up in arms about him doing it to your child. that is how the system works, use it to your advantage.
          When I get upset, yes, occasionally it happens, I think about what he did to my kids. Look what he is doing to your child. If you can’t be pissed off for you, very hard when you are trained to be less than him, you CAN get mama bear furious about what he did to your child.
          You are looking at what he has taken, how he played you. Stop focusing on that, look at the ammunition he just gave you in regards to getting custody in a dif state bcz of HIS ACTIONS. make sure your lawyer points that out to the court so when he whines he wants visitation, you can say since he put you in the position of having to move so far away, he should have to incur the total expense and travel of visitation.
          Buck up buttercup. It is early on, you are shell shocked. Put that energy into being pissed off and getting him back. 😉 You WILL BE OK.
          Remember, emergency temp hearing, custody, child support, maintenance (alimony) and he has to travel and pay to do visitation. Status quo means what ever the norm is when ya’ll go to war later. If you can’t agree on how custody, visitation, all the kid stuff, the court doesn’t like to rock the boat and change everything if it has been working for months. Over inflate your expenses A LITTLE. if you can live on a stupid small amount now, the court will question why you need more later. don’t go bananas or the court will know and you shoot yourself in the foot.
          He gave you HUGE gifts, you just are too emotional to see it RIGHT NOW. Trust me baby, he fucked up.

          • We do not have kids. He made sure of it. I was doing fertility treatment. When he left.

          • just reread, do you have kids or just pets? if it’s just pets, let them go. you can get an apartment easier w no animals, not to mention the cost of caring for them. I got all 4 animals, now 3 bcz our oldest dog got sick I had to pay to put her down. extra 20-30 a week to feed them. think smart girl. if you don’t have kids w him, get a therapist and get away. you are lucky, you just need to see that. I am stuck with roy for 14 years until my youngest graduates. you can just walk away.

            • oh fertility. are you on meds? I only ask bcz I had to do that too and holy jesus do they mess with you emotionally.
              honey, be grateful. I know it sounds ez, but LONG TERM, if he could do this to you now, do you want him to father your children? he is a jackhole. just borrow a pickup truck, go get ur shit and pretend he died. if he is dead, you can still grieve and be sad, but you can’t contact him. dead is good. 😉

              • My stuff is in California and I’m in Texas. I do not have keys to get back in and he remove my name off the lease. Yeah fertility treatments. I been off since October.

              • he can’t just take you off the lease. call ur landlord. honestly though, fuck it. ask for the financial worth. easier that way. he’s a douche bag…

            • I could never let my pets go, not to the ex. That is a personal choice, I would never condemn my pets to living with that abusive asshole. everyone has to decide for themselves what’s important to them.

              • I have all the animals, 4 down to 3, plus 3 boys all in a 1500 sq foot house. NOT that I don’t adore my dogs, I do. What I meant was that you have to prioritize. There are times I worry if I have enough food to get through til Friday when the next check comes. I can’t continually dip into the wreck settlement. If not for that settlement, I couldn’t have even put down my oldest dog who had a soft ball size tumor grow from nothing to that in 3 months. An akita, a great dane and a yorkie. The food bill is outrageous. So while I adore my dogs, if not for my wreck settlement, I would have to choose between feeding my kids and my dogs sometimes. As soon as the divorce is settled I can pay off the house and that will eliminate a big bill. until then, we budget and pray.

          • “the courts don’t give a flippity fuck about how horrid he is to you unless it is physical abuse.”

            One word of warning for others who may be planning to use the information in these comments: in some states, it genuinely does not matter how physically abusive a person is. So long as it is directed at the spouse, and not at the child, there are states where the judge will literally look at you and announce your injuries and the police reports have no bearing on custody.

            Consult your attorney to determine if bringing up the physical abuse will actually do you any good, or if it will just piss off the judge.

            • My stbx is just controlling. So in the court eyes it not abuse that what my lawyer said. I do want my pets even with their health issues. He already pawn them off to his parents. But I can not go get them yet because I can not afford them nor do I have a car. So once this is over I can get them and get my life in order.

  • Oh, this I can help with!
    If you are being physically abused, get out. go, run be free. Being dead doesn’t solve your problems.
    Beyond that…
    Get a kindle/nook/tablet/computer and READ. So many awesome books out there with great tips. For the women on here, you need to stop thinking emotionally and think like a cold stone biatch. or a man. 😉 There are books that can teach you this. Basically, you are setting up the chess board right now, if you don’t know how to play chess, you better learn.
    Money… I got lucky. I was in a car accident, not my fault. the stars aligned before I got the settlement. yes, we are fighting over if it is marital property but fuck that. I will spend it all before I let him have a dime.
    Most expensive things at the grocery store, name brand diapers, expensive shampoo conditioner, teeth whitening strips (name brand ppl). Buy it on the debit card, return for the cash. Won’t show up on the account. Replace the needed stuff for generic, keep old bottles of the hair products, dump less expensive stuff in the old bottles, generic diapers… pocket the money and unless there is blood involved, HIS, you don’t spend that money. Hide in a Ziplock bag duct taped under the bathroom sink, or hide it in HIS closet or his area of the house.
    make copies of paperwork. don’t know if it is important? make copies of that too. you can’t have too much. I hid this in the rafters of the attic in a suitcase for almost a year. I went thru BOXES of paperwork (hoarding little fucker helped me out in the end on that deal) and I made copies or just took shit.
    3 years, almost 4, we bought a house in my home town. We lived in IL at the time and since the housing market was so bad and we could afford it, we bought a house here for next to nothing and planned it being the retirement house. I think subconsciously I knew what I was planning? At that point I wasn’t planning though so I don’t know. The school district was redoing the boundaries right before I left Roy. One day I am just planning, hoping by some miracle my guardian angel would let me know WHEN, the next day I get a letter in the mail stating my kids are going to be going to the crappiest school in the district. Initially I called and harassed the school admin office, still planning, not realizing what I had just been given. This was in March. By April Roy and I had to make a choice about the kids schooling. I was setting up the chess board mentally at this point. I was planning my moves VERY carefully. Roy and I agreed I would move to the retirement house 5 hours away, school system is awesome here. He would come every weekend, he would try to sell the house, he would put in for a job transfer, we would figure it out. Uh, yes Roy, we certainly will figure it out. Told friends our decision because of the school situation, let everyone know WHY kids and I were leaving. May gets there, I am still planning and hiding money and praying HARD. I am still doing enough of the grocery shopping to put away a little at a time, being bitched at constantly for what I am buying, but I HAVE A PLAN so fuck him. Right as school is getting out, I told Roy I think we need this separation because I think we need a divorce. NO, I don’t want to file immediately, besides, since I am moving to another state, I have to meet residency requirements. If you would prefer Roy, you or I can move to an apartment in the new zoning area where the kids could stay at their previous school so we can sort this out. HUGE BLUFF. I knew we couldn’t really afford another house/rent payment, so I was fairly certain on the answer. Then the lawyer called, settlement was coming soon. Holy baby Jesus, stall that dam thing! Lawyer was aware of what I was trying to do so he made sure Roy didn’t have to sign any release papers for that. Lawyer was very upfront about possibly being marital property but fuck that, I needed the gd money in my name only with him not knowing the case was being settled.
    I lied lied lied. Biggest reason I lied, I was taking the kids to a different state. I HAD to make sure he was fully informed, regardless of our agreement to move the kids because of school. Federal law over residency and childrens home state, THIS IS WHY YOU NEED TO RESEARCH! Posted all sorts of shit on facebook, took pics of him strapping the carrier to the top of the van for when we left so I had proof I didn’t just up and leave one day. Took pictures of the entire house and it’s contents that I left behind. Bye Bye super duper huge house with double walk in closets and perfectly matched furniture. Bye Bye inground pool with beautiful landscaping. bye bye 3 car garage. Hello foreclosure that needs a total makeover, hello mismatched garage sale furniture, hello detached garage with no electric garage door opener. HELLO FREEDOM.
    When I moved, I got an attorney here. My dad is well known here (small small town, he owns a business). Found a total bitch lawyer. My dad said she is a complete bitch, well good because I don’t want to date her, I need hard core legal advice. She told me to keep my mouth shut, get a lawyer in IL, get the kids in school, enrolled in activities, build a life fast. She told me the longer I was here with out Roy knowing my plan, the better off I was. Told me to keep the money in my name, do not put it in a joint account, do not pay off any bills.
    Called my youngest son’s old preschool teacher in IL, her husband is the city attorney there. He told me who the best lawyer in IL, our town, was to have. Contacted him, had no REAL money for a retainer yet.
    Settlement came through, banked it and kept my mouth shut.
    Roy was getting pissy about the settlement taking so long. Uh, I will call that lawyer…
    Roy got mf’ing fired AGAIN. First time was with OW. Was he fucking another person at work? I don’t know. I know he was the first time. Second time, didn’t give a shit. Lawyer here said if Roy moved into the house here, since we aren’t legal residence yet, the court would do nothing to get him out of the house. I couldn’t get him out if I let him move in.
    Called lawyer in IL and sent him a cashiers check from the settlement. Offered joint custody with me as primary. I knew Roy didn’t know the difference between joint custody and 50/50 split, which is what I implied we would do during our conversation in May if we got divorced. Status quo, most important part of a custody battle aside from primary care taker. RESEARCH!!!
    Filed and now here I am.
    I screwed up on some things. I don’t think any of us can plan it perfectly. I did the best I could.
    Shared so much because I planned for almost a year and when the window opened, I was ready. You may not have as much time, but the more prepared you are, the better the odds of you landing on your feet.
    My thing is, yes I lied ALOT. BUT he was fucking that fugly bitch who worked under him and almost cost us our entire lives when he got caught and was fired. I stayed for years miserable and unhappy FOR THE KIDS and he went and fucked that bitch and put our kids entire lives in jeopardy. Fuck him and fuck his whining about me lying. I planned and lied FOR my kids. FUCK HIM.

  • I would underline 3 times consulting with a lawyer. It’s usually free for the first 1/2 hour sit-down to see if her or his services are a good match for you. It’s just a cost of doing business for the attorney–they need to find new clients.

    I live in MA, and the legislature just passed (in 2011) an overhaul of the alimony statutes. From my perspective, they kind of suck if you are an older, educated SAHM, since workforce reentry–or–finding a job that will support you is quite the challenge. Since they are so new, there hasn’t been much time for challenges in court to alter the statute. Coupled with the cost of living in the Boston Metro area, it’s a double whammy. And for the coup de grace, it’s a no-fault state, so the judges don’t care if your STBX did it in the public square hanging upside down eating bananas at the same time…except that that would be some kind of misdemeanor if caught. hahaha.

    Adultery, betrayal, and the wreckage of one’s own and ones children’s lives figures not one whit into the court’s calculations.

    So, it’s good to know things like that about your particular locale, so you can execute the most self-protective strategy. Me, I go to court on Weds (wish me well!), and will be able to talk more after that. Stay tuned.

      • Thanks… btw, I don’t have a wolf…never did (or a wolf -x) but I’ve had lots of Newfoundlands…average weight 120# for a bitch, 150#+ for a dog. One of my bitches had a sire who weighed 175#, but sweet as pie. Waaaay better character than my STBX! Your story about eating everything in site cracked me up — I had one guy who had…similar tendencies. Part dog/part goat. All the food in the kitchen was 5-6 ft off the ground, and locked. I have one girl with me now…am jonesing like crazy for a pack. Of course, they call Newfies the nanny dog–the dog in Peter Pan was a Newf. They really do take care of you (as much as they can without thumbs :). Her fur has soaked up many a tear this last year. They rock.

  • One key piece of financial advice: open new credit in your name only. (I suggest getting a credit card with a limit at least high enough to pay the attorney’s retainer. Meanwhile, you can be saving up money otherwise, but that way you know you can file the moment you decide to if needed.) Then, get your name *off* any joint credit (or close the accounts). If you are just an authorized user on “his” credit card, one phone call will remove your name (and your liability!!). Very easy. This is critical, though, so he doesn’t rack up debt for which you will be liable. (No matter what’s decided in a divorce settlement, if your name is on the credit, the lender can come after you.)

    • VERY good advice, Psyche. I would add getting a checking account in your name only, as well as having all bills and statements sent to your work address or a P.O. Box.

      I got my own checking account with our home address, and XH happened to grab the mail the day my new checks came. BIG MISTAKE. He wanted to know why I had my own account, how much money was in it, what I was buying, why I hadn’t discussed it with him, etc. I thought it was overkill until I discovered HE had his own checking account that he was funneling funds to (statements sent to his work) so he could spend money on OW, set up his new apt., etc.

      Be tactical – but stealthy.

  • forgot one bit of advice I thought was super funny even if a bit expensive… if there is a lawyer you don’t want to use, s/he is too expensive but dam good, s/he is unethical and you have heard s/he is good, what ever reason, go for a consult and pay the $50 and then ur ex can’t use them. you are not required to use him or her, but attorney/client issues prevent the x from using said lawyer.
    I wasn’t worried about the whole credit situation since I knew I would have cash. Roy quit paying ANY bills, medical for the kids (I took them to the doc, my name) medical for me, he quit paying it all and I didn’t find out until I needed to get a car. long story, he is a douche and wanted to fight over the family van. I figured I would get a car, end of fight. holy shit my credit is a wreck! Get a copy of ur credit report and start working on it before you leave, plus get one when you do leave if there is a gap in time. this way you have proof if he screws you like Roy did me. Grace of God I got a loan for a car. I am now rebuilding and cleaning up my credit so DEFINITELY get a credit card, excellent advice.

  • Get your OWN laptop and/or pay as you go smartphone. Pay for it in cash. Hide it (trunk of your car, friend’s house).

    Why? Tracking software. Spyware. Keystroke loggers. Browsing history.

  • Great advice here, as usual.

    The big thing is that if you or your children are in physical danger, just leave. You can’t afford anything else. Grandmother’s china isn’t worth it.

    Other thoughts.

    1. Accumulate cash. You can get a nest-egg by getting cash back from groceries, or buying items and returning them. Try to accumulate as much of the retainer fee as possible.

    2. Shore up your financial future. If you’ve been a stay-at-home-parent, you need to be able to support yourself and your kids. Start taking that class to sharpen your skillset, or go find a job. Talk to your lawyer about the feasibility of having your STBX pay spousal support for a transition period.

    3. Establish/strengthen your credit. If all you have had is joint credit, take out a card in your own name, use it, and make timely payments on it. If you have been working on your credit, remember that the most useful thing you can do is make on-time payments. After that, make sure your credit balance is low. No card should be higher than 20% of the limit. Don’t take out new cards if you have cards, since hard credit inquiries reflect negatively on your score.

    4. Decide what matters and get it out of the house. I’ve taken my art to my office. Go through the photos and either digitize them or put them in a separate storage locker. I’ve removed a couple of small pieces of both very sentimental and valuable family heirlooms my mother gave to STBX: a set of cufflinks that belonged to my grandfather as well as a rare and quite valuable coin she gave him. Neither meant anything to her, but she would hate to have them go to a cad when she has sons of her own that could have them.

    5. Do the house and car maintenance now. Right now, there are two incomes covering that expense (or, if you’re the SAHP, you need for your STBX to pay for this). Do it while you have the money.

    6. Get a better picture of the finances. Since tax time is coming, and since STBX has no head for paperwork, I do the taxes. Apparently I’m too stupid to understand what I’m reading. 😉 This year, I’ll ask for more financial data. I know that for many of us, our cheaters are in control of the finances. However, many cheaters are so egotistical that if you start to make inquiries about the finances, you can do so in the guise of knowing about retirement. Cheaters love to tell you how clever they’ve been.

    Here’s hoping that we can make our escapes as quickly and as easily as possible, given the circumstances!

  • Also check out the posting on How to Leave a Scary Person if it applies. I refer back to that every now and then.

    One thing I have finally admitted to myself is that I need to allow someone else to tell me what to do. I think it’s years of abuse and mindfuckery that has left me doubting myself, unable to make decisions, and weak on boundaries.

    The more I am able to follow CL’s advice, the better off my situation has become. I am still being a pathetic chump and letting my fuckhead abusive husband take advantage of me. Thanks to my sisters’ encouragement though, I am starting to be able to defend some boundaries, and am limiting contact as much as possible, even living in the same house. Now I need an attorney in my county who gets the whole NPD DV dynamics, and can give me some good direction on restraining orders, filing, house, etc. If your cheater is NPD or BPD, try to find an attorney who understands how to deal with these people.

  • This hits close to my heart because although my ex abandoned the marital home and me, he controlled all of the finances, was the “breadwinner”, and eventually became a total tyrant, even breaking into the house. You life dramatically changes when you start sleeping with a baseball bat because your spouse finally exposed himself as a total lunatic.

    1. Poker face, poker face, poker face. The person does not need to know your intentions. They are not entitled to know what you are thinking. Say nothing. This should scare the shit out of them, but that is not the point. The point is protecting yourself.

    2. Get as much information as you can now. The more time goes by, the less access you will have to information. That is, watch, take notes, and observe. You are very keen right now. Become small yourself, though, shrink, be invisible.

    3. Consider filing first. This gives you more control. That can be negotiated away later. This way, you can quickly get temporary hearings if need be and it establishes the divorce process.

    4. If you are going no-contest, no fault, there are law centers that will take on your case pro bono. If you are not sure where to find them, contact a nearby law school or justice center. They are happy to help. I retained a lawyer, but met with a pro bono attorney for the allotted hour. It was actually one of the best hours filled with good legal advice I received– It was an earnest recent law grad who clearly wanted to work his way up in that firm.

    5. Get your own checking and savings. Change your passwords. Remove them from accounts. Notify people as to what is going on.

    6. You do not need shit from a person who is shit. Their money and assets are shit. You don’t need shit in your life. Get everything you deserve, but sometimes it is just easier to cut the shit, because all they can deal in is shit. Even at your worst, you are better than their best.

    Also remember, just because you are awarded assets, alimony, or child support does not mean that you will necessarily get it. If they can weasel out of a commitment, they can weasel out of a court order.

    • “Also remember, just because you are awarded assets, alimony, or child support does not mean that you will necessarily get it. If they can weasel out of a commitment, they can weasel out of a court order.”

      ^^^^This is so important to remember!

      Cheaters don’t play by the rules, they break them. So when negotiating a settlement keep in mind any option that will get you the most UPFRONT.

      I took less than I legally could have gotten because I knew my WXH had shit for brains when it came to money and he would weasel out of paying any payment agreement. I didn’t want to chase him down for any monthly payments.

      So I accepted a one time cash payout, the lion’s share of his 401K instead of going after every penny I was entitled to. I did leave with about 50 grand less than what I should have, but that extra money would have been a court judgement, that after all the extra time and money spent getting it, he would have never paid. Now I have the cash and I never have to speak/contact him again. That is a victory worth more than 50 grand.

      • Yes, it can cost a lot to be free. It’s only money, so get what you can and then just get away! I know some chumps got really screwed out of their financial security, for sticking with a morally bankrupt person. I lost ALL my retirement funds because his whole family was a mess with bad credit accounts, when his parents passed we got screwed over for all that, and a lot of it came from me. Oh well, I’ll be working til I’m about 80, unless the money fairy visits me!
        Another thing, I’m not sure anyone has said- I took the classy, high road as much as I could, and I’m proud of that. I was nicer than I had to be to X, we have 3 sons together. I was even civil to OW! Just because I’m not a worm like she is. It allowed to get out, and hang on to my values, too.

  • DO NOT EVER EVER EVER bring up NPD or BPD to anyone involved in your case if you have children. Explain x’s behavior that meets the criteria for either disorder. Tell your lawyer exactly what and how he does stuff. DOCUMENT every single thing in a notebook, or email it to yourself, save in a locked file. you need to have clean hands during custody and if you bring up (even if he is fucking Hitler) that shit, it can come back to bite your ass. What’s it called? Parental Alienation Syndrome? You bring up what YOU THINK he has/is to the wrong person and you are screwed. Explain the behavior, DO NOT give a diagnosis. Give specific examples of his (oops, or her 😉 ) behavior but don’t pull the diagnosis out of the bag.
    KB, you are dead on with the control of finances. I have all boys, no daughters, but if I did have a daughter, she would NEVER be allowed to be her mother. So many of us are the classic example of what not to do .
    ONE MORE WARNING… on the job situation. If you are a SAHP with kids and you are the primary care giver, don’t get a job. DON’T DO IT. Both lawyers told me no. Not much of an issue for me bcz I am disabled. If you get a job off the bat, it can bite you in the ass over custody. You can’t use his work schedule against him, you can’t use primary care taker over him, you just evened the fucking playing field when it comes to custody. Yes you will need to work. until you have custody, public assistance is fine. cash is king but don’t put it all in the bank. even if you put it in your name only, it is trackable marital property. fuck that. it’s yours, you worked hard to steal it. 🙂

  • Random things;

    My ex “knew his rights”, he moved out when I said “her or me” then he begged and had me doing the pick me dance, but when I started divorce he moved back in and would not leave. I was afraid to leave because he lost his job and would not pay bills, I could not afford to rent somewhere and pay the mortgage. I didn’t want to loose my home of 20 years (mortgaged long before he arrived). So, his abuse escalated, but I convinced myself he wouldn’t *really* hurt me, I was wrong. He nearly shot me. Then I went full court press, I went over the wall making sure I was safe and it worked. BUT, I should have done it way sooner. Listen to your intuition, don’t logic your way to waiting if your spouse is dangerous – only you can know if you are safe or not. I almost lost my life for the sake of saving my house. Normalization to abuse can really fuck with your head. I repeat, don’t logic your way to to waiting, hear your inner voice, heed it. PLEASE note, if your spouse threatens suicide, recognize that this is scary abusive behavior on the escalation road to hell.

    I’ve listened to my inner voice and the admonishments of Gift of Fear ever since the day of the gun; hear your intuition, never dismiss it, if there is danger then mitigate anything you can and stop worrying about what you can’t. For example, the day I went to court to get the protective order, there was a very good chance I’d lose. Mitigation; I had an apartment lined up, I had the cat carriers at my door, a suitcase packed and loaded in the car so I could race home, grab my cats and leave. AND I had my neighbor with me so I’d have a witness if he got there before I could do it/get away. I am so glad I didn’t have to do any of that, but I was prepared.

    The other stuff the ChumpNation has said is right on, put together all financial records and take them to a secure place. Get your ass off his credit cards and his name off yours. If you are in the beginning and your spouse is being nice? Ask him to unjoint your bank accounts, I managed to do that early days when he was sure I wouldn’t really leave him, he did it to convince me all was well. Trust me – it is fucking impossible to unjoint bank accts without the consent of your spouse. So if you know it will piss him/her off, don’t bother, just start putting your money elsewhere.

    I never thought I would say this, I am honest to a fault but if I had a do over? The number one thing is that I would have lied to my ex, got everything done and moved the hell out before ever saying the word divorce.

    The last thing, if your state allows you to file for cause – do it right away. Doesn’t matter if you can prove it. Don’t be afraid to tell the truth when you write it, the abuse, the adultery, the desertion, whatever it is. Based on my experience and others here, the cheater doesn’t want to be “humiliated”, put in the details in your filing. I let my ex stonewall and “negotiate” after the PO was issued for 6 months, that was a mistake. Don’t be that person who is still “trying” to get a divorce 3 years after the split. If you are in a no fault state, still you file because once you do your spouse cannot stop the divorce, all they can do is pay more to get there (you will too but it’s worth it). Damn this got long.

    • Damn, the part about mitigation for after the protective order hearing wasn’t clear; I had a temporary order, the hearing was to make it permanent, or lose it completely. He’d already made it clear that he would be right back in my house if I lost and there would be hell to pay.

  • Get a credit report on your STBX while you are married.

    LOTS of great advice here–take notes and follow it. How awesome it feels to take control back.

  • maybe it’s bcz of the lawyer I got that I am confused.
    Why would you even consider filing unless you had a definite temp order hearing in place and put on the calendar? That would be like firing a gun with no bullets wouldn’t it?????? Aside from the 30 days in the house so he could get settled, it went as my lawyer said it would. I agreed to the 30 based on therapist saying to tell the kids in advance of a parent leaving, not for Roy. Original question though, why file without being on the docket for a temp hearing?????

    • all4freedom, I do not have children, it’s different if you have kids because you have the whole custody thing to navigate. Sorry I wasn’t thinking about children. I filed and dates were set for discovery, etc. and a court date for the divorce hearing itself. What it did was force my ex to either settle or spend big bucks on an attorney and let the judge decide the settlement. Ex settled two weeks before the court date.

  • Thanks for this one CL.

    It’s pretty much what I did. I followed your “how to leave a cheater” quite accurately.

    After all of my previous attempts to “negociate” an amicable separation, only to be met with rage, blameshifting and gaslighting, you made me realize that she was about to lose her kibbles. She wasn’t going to let that happen without a fight, and she loves to fight.

    So I planned to leave and did it. It was so liberating, a huge relief. It’s nearly 8 months now and I’ve never looked back.

    I especially agree with your “don’t tip your hand”. Everytime I tried to bring up the subject as nicely as I could it was met with verbal aggression. I guess there are no shades of grey, no nice way, when it comes dumping their sorry cheating arse. Plan your escape well, and follow through with it. Never doubt your decision. Trust that they suck.

  • It may be hard to remove documents to scan/make copies of the documents without being detected. I’ve advised friends and clients to take photos of documents with their iPhone and text or email to me for safekeeping. As written above, be careful if necessary to clear your sent messages folder. But, smart phones take great, clear pictures of documents that can be printed as well as any copy.

    The fact that we all have such handy dandy advice? Further proof that THEY SUCK.

  • Just saw your response! Excellent! I’ll read in detail on my lunch break, but wanted to thank you for acknowledging my question.

  • What about if he lives in MY house? Technically, it should be easy just to change the locks when he’s at work, etc. but we do have a child together and I don’t want to jeopardize any future child support or his cooperation if I start doing drastic things. Then again, “don’t underestimate a cheater” sounds like profoundly sound advise. After all, he’s already fucked me over in ways I never thought he could.

  • My tiny bit of advice is about insurance. Utilize as much as you can while you have it! I have a full time job but I had his medical, and I was double insured on vision and dental. He has good medical insurance, and I have insulin-dependent diabetes, so I try to stock up as much as I can on medical supplies because they will cost a bit once I get on my own medical.

    I also got contacts and I am getting as much dental work done as possible while I’m still double-covered. Just something to keep in mind!

  • I wonder how long fellow SAHMs were planning their exit? I’m 6 months post DD and things have been dragging for me. I still don’t have a job, because finding one in Pennsylvania that pays 40k with no career to speak of is impossible? I barely have got some measly savings from returning things like crazy, my kids still don’t have health insurance and EVERYTHING is in his name: cars, stocks, bonds, boats, etc. kicker? We’re not married. I feel like my situation is hopeless 🙁

  • I am trying to leave someone but he lives with me. The house is mine alone, but in Illinois, you can’t just change the locks or put someone out because then you will be the one to get arrested. You have to go through a formal eviction process and in the meantime the person can continue living with you and making your life hell. Since I’ve told him I wanted him to leave, I have already had a few costly things mysteriously break down in the house, but there’s no proof he had anything to do with it. he is a skilled technician and handyman, he can make things look like an accident or natural failure, and I wouldn’t have a clue. I really do not want to go to court and start an eviction process because of this. If I get an order of protection, he can easily just accuse me of being crazy and overreacting and end up back in the house, making my life hell. I am worried that I will not hold up in court. We are not married, we are engaged and have been together for 5 years now. Please help!

    • Sara and fellow chumps: since I’ve posed the question about escape tips, I’ve consulted with a law enforcement officer (cop), and I asked about the same exact scenario you’ve referenced. I am also the sole owner of my house, and my STBX has no legal rights to it. He’s not even listed on the deed. This is what he said: “it is your house, therefore, you can do whatever the hell you want with it. Change the locks, put his stuff out, whatever. However, he can always sue you for such actions IF he’s been able to establish “residency” at said address by simply having his mail delivered to it.”
      It’s a contradiction, I know, but laws often have as many of them, as they have loopholes. Ive been advised to consult an attorney as well, but haven’t had the funds to do it.
      I live in Pennsylvania, if it’s relevant, at all. I’m still not clear if local laws come into play at all. Random people are full of random knowledge, and recently someone has told me that there’s some random federal law on the books which enables you to “do whatever the hell you want” with your own property. I know it’s tricky, though. For this reason alone, I’m on the side of carefully crafting a plan before you take any drastic action. Not to put any unneccary fear in you, but make sure your STBX doesn’t have hidden cameras installed at your house. This is my latest discovery, and as freaked out as I am, I’m playing along like I’m not aware of this, until it’s time to act. In my case, it will mean getting the locks changed on the same day as getting alarm installed. Doing final sweep for hidden devices, and if necessary, putting a protection order in place. I’m even considering having a police officer assisting me with putting STBX’s stuff out, just to be on the side of caution.

      • heartbroken, if the cops won’t do it, you can hire a constable. (I did this.) It wasn’t too expensive.

    • I think you should call the cops and explain your situation. I think a protection order is what you need. If he violates it — he goes to jail. Period. Please talk to local law enforcement.

  • Hi CL,
    What to do when you have a common business with your serial cheating spouse? This is the only way for now that I can make sure that my finances for the kids and I are secure. I have to work with him 🙁 not easy, he travels a lot overseas and I transferred my office at my home to have less contact. I feel the family business is yes a revenue for me that I am grateful for but as well is a way he can keep the control on this all situation, especially the finances.
    There is the option of buying me out of the company since I have shares but he kept the company in debt to say that there is not money to buy me out…
    How to keep it sane in the meantime?
    I am separated right now, filed already for divorce.
    I am so grateful you have this blog, I read it regularly to give me strength, thank you 🙂

    • I think you actually just hit the nail on the head:

      “the family business is … a way he can keep the control on this all situation”

      That’s exactly what it is. For what its worth, consider making buying you out a part of the divorce.

      This guy is a “serial cheating spouse” who “travels a lot overseas”. Do not for a second think that if you allow him this control, he will not use it to control you. If you start by handing him a weapon on a silver platter, he will escalate to pushing for more and more control.

      Abuse does not de-escalate. Control is the basis of all abuse. I’d bet you dollars to donuts, if you take the inappropriate financial control away from him, he’ll start trying to use the fact you have kids together to justify controlling your life. If you take the inappropriate family control away from him, he will try to use child support to control you.

      If he wasn’t in the habit of controlling you, he would not be a “serial cheating spouse”. He would be someone who changes girlfriends on a regular basis while waiting for the divorce paperwork to be resolved–because rather than being a cheater, he would have been up front with you about wanting to date other people.

      I say this as someone who is now 21 months divorced — and spent 30 months documenting all the bullshit before the court was willing to actually get involved and tell Andy to knock it the fudge off.

      Think long and hard before taking a settlement in which he controls your ability to feed and house your children.

      If someone is an acknowledged axe-murderer, the last thing you want to do is hand them an axe.

      • Thank you for comments, I am so glad I found this blog to share the experiences with other people 🙂 When I was starting to read this articles, I couldn’t believe the stories!!! WTF is wrong with people and cheating thinking they will get away with it?!
        I am preparing all the documents in the meantime. I know some couples find a way to continue successfully doing business together after a divorce but I guess they are grounded people and it is not for everyone. I do not want to have my STBXH in my life but since we have built a nice business together. I was hoping we could continue, I love my work and it is giving me the freedom to take care of my children. Unfortunately, when we deal with a narcissistic cheating spouse the best way is to run and never look back. I am ready

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