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‘I’m Afraid of Him’

Hi Chump Lady,

I look for all the world like I have achieved meh, but behind the scenes I am a struggling wreck. I have become so terrified of my ex that I am convinced he will harm me. And here’s the twist — I’m pretty certain I am just being dramatic!

He sends me hateful emails, but there isn’t any concerning language or intent. Just the standard you’re awful for x, y, and z. He changes my son’s clothes immediately so that nothing of me remains, placing my son’s precious stuffed animals (that I gave him) in the closet for safe-keeping. The list goes on. But still, these are petty and vindictive, but these are not dangerous.

My fear all started a year and a half ago when I saw unbeknownst to him, a few texts from him to his friends and family members where he was telling them he could not wait until I got hit by a truck and died. There was so much hatred in these texts, that I felt a trill of fear, but chalked it up to private venting. About a month later I was forced to meet him to retrieve my dog. During this event he yelled at me, calling me names laced with profanity and ultimately shocked me so much I began to sob.

He told me he would do whatever was necessary to prevent me from leaving with my dog all the while smiling like he had just won the lottery. He had this look on his face, like he was high off of his power and was loving making me hurt. I was so scared that I went into a nearby building and called the cops who promptly told me that they didn’t have enough manpower to send someone out unless a crime had been comitted. I have no proof of this interaction and ever since, have begun to question whether or not my feelings are an accurate portrayal of events, or the result of being emotionally distraught. Honestly, Chump Lady, how do I tell?

Each day I lean more and more towards the realization that living my life in fear from a single incident is just so silly. And yet each interaction with him, however inane, continues to feed this crippling fear. Just the idea of having to see him makes me shake and sweat. How can I wake up from this story I’ve painted where he is this villain waiting in the shadows to stab me? I want to be me again!



Dear IsThisReallyMyLife,

Well, we don’t know if he isn’t a villain in the shadows waiting to stab you. So, I’m not going to write off your fears as irrational. We have internal alarm systems for a reason.

In fact, a real chump issue is spackling over red flags and second guessing our alarm systems. Part of this is noble, we don’t want to ascribe bad intent, and part of this is madness — stop gaslighting yourself. Fear is a valid response to hostile behavior.

We could try and parse all day What He’s Really Thinking. Is he digging your grave, or is just a Grade A asshole? Is he venting, or is he actively wishing you dead? We don’t control his scary. We do control how we respond to scary. So let’s focus your energies there.

1.) Assess the threat. One out of four women (and one out of nine men) experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. What kind of scary ex do you have? Gavin De Becker’s book The Gift of Fear and his MOSIAC site with its threat assessment tool are good places to start. Also, Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That — Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. A little untangling of their ugly skeins will show you, it’s not about you. It’s a power trip. So you can’t “nice” them into better behavior, but you can recognize them for what they are.

It’s more frightening to be taken unawares, then it is to think, “That’s a monster. I must avoid it or slay it.” Oh, or co-parent with it. Expect him to be a jerk. Wear armor and prepare for him being a jerk. Realize that jerk is his immutable state of being. Accept his intrinsic jerk-ness. Don’t let your guard down and think he’ll behave in any way that isn’t jerk. If he does, that’s gravy. But approach all encounters EXPECTING pure jerk.

2.) Don’t show him your fear. I think your observation that he gets off on your pain is absolutely correct. So deny him that. Don’t feed the beast.

Think of co-parenting as a prison term. What would you do if you were in prison? Would you spend all day cowering, or would you lift weights, get some scary tattoos, and join a gang? Take a page from that playbook. Project Badass Motherfucker. Don’t be alone with him, always have someone from your posse with you.

3.) Learn some self-defense. It’s not just about karate chops. Most abuse starts with microaggressions. You can learn how to set strong boundaries AND kick someone in the solar plexus. I wrote an article on 5 Self-Defense Tips Every Woman Should Know. Apparently anyone can break a nose or stomp on a foot! Consider a self-defense class to boost your bully-facing confidence.

But, but Tracy! It’s not fair that she should have to conform HER behavior because HE is an asshole! 

You’re right. It’s not fair. Get back to me when the world is fair.

I don’t know how to make this situation less unfair, but I do know there are things we can do as chumps to take our power back from fuckwits.

I won’t tell your fears are irrational. I still have nightmares about my ex trying to kill me. D-Day was 14 years ago. Respect your fears. Learn from them. And rock your new life. That’s the best way I know to fight monsters.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Please trust your gut. If you have someone else you trust that can do handovers, do so. Start doing hand-offs at a police station.Get a camera for your house and warn your neighbors.


    Female murder victims are usually killed by their romantic partners. In my own history, 32 years ago I was hospitalized by my cheating live-in boyfriend, LONG AFTER HE MOVED OUT, when I called him and told him to come and get the rest of his things. There had been NO physical violence EVER previously.

    Cheating on your partner is a category of VIOLENCE. It is also EMOTIONAL VIOLENCE. There is every likelihood that things can turn physical, even if you have left, even if there has not yet been physical violence.

    The MOST dangerous time for a woman is AFTER SHE LEAVES. This is a well/known DV statistic.

    Start keeping a JOURNAL of incidents where you feel threatened. This man is VIOLENT.

    • Exactly right, Velvet Hammer.

      IsThisReally—your X’s behavior is alarming enough to take a lot of precautions. A person admitting to friends and relatives that you get hit by a truck, then playing power games at dog handoff, is scary. Things could escalate badly at any given time.

      Please reduce your contact with him (don’t let him have your dog under any circumstances; the dog is an extension of you and he may harm it), force all correspondence through Our Family Wizard.

      And next time he pulls that nonsense, call 911.

    • PS…

      I said my gut has never been wrong. Not one time, in my entire life.

      But I have ignored it.

      On that night 32 years ago when he came over to
      get his things, I was in bed reading and I had an overwhelming feeling that I should not go outside. He was asking me to come outside in this super sweet, wheedling tone of voice, calling me “babe”. He had never laid a hand on me so, Systematically Desensitized To Abuse Velvet Hammer dismissed her intuition and went outside.

      I got dragged by my hair and he broke my foot in the ensuing assault. A chunk of my hair was pulled out. This was in 1988 and at that time the officers who responded asked me if I wanted him arrested. I said no (classic abuse victim response).

      Since then, in California they changed the law so that responding officers automatically make arrests and no longer ask the involved parties.

      The law was changed because of Nicole Brown Simpson.

      Do NOT ignore those very accurate warning signals. EVER. Your brain is taking in all kinds of very subtle information. Animals HONE their intuition; humans are taught from birth to DENY it. It’s part of how we end up with cheaters and stay with them IMHO.

      • I too was violently attacked and a knife held to my throat by a cheating partner when he realised his free accommodation was over. Prior to that, he had never been anything worse than a limp wristed wimp.

        When a man shows you who he is, believe him.

        Never let yourself be alone with him. Finding a safe place to do hand overs is an essential strategy.

      • Right on target. Listen to your instinct. And don’t listen to the words of liars when they try to play

        • No. We teach our boys from birth to ignore their emotions, a very very crucial part of the system.

          • YES! So offing true! Sometimes I wonder what has happened to “men” over the years? They all seem to turn out to be cheaters liars and cowards. Not all but many. This stupid toughen up and mysogonyst put down women shit is enough! I don’t have kids but my sister has twin 9 year old boys. Her husband cheated 9months after she had them! And her D day was 2 years after he started. 4 young asian whores (my sister is adopted from Vietnam). So I suspect her ex had an asian thing. Weird. Anyway, from the start, my sister and myself have embraced emotions and encouraged her sons to cry, express your feelings, its ok and normal. They have fun with us and play with makeup. Itsnone of this macho stuff. They are the best kids ever! Very kind little humans.

      • WOW, I am so sorry! The fact that he was never physically violent before is even more concerning. I, too, like the original poster sometimes is in fear of what he can do, and I don’t think I am being paranoid or exaggerating at all. He is a covert narc that kept the mask for such a long time and still does to most people, but the hatred he shows towards me, the one he cheated on and left is something I never even thought was possible to come from someone who some years ago would jump in front of a bus to save me. If he is capable of that kind of behavior he is capable of anything, these are not reliable people, and in many cases I see, things like that kept happening over and over, and everybody kind of dismissed, until it was too late. The other day I told my parents, who to this day refuse to accept their upper middle class educated daughter is a victim of domestic abuse: “What will have to happen for you guys finally believe in me?”. He is also not physically abusive but the emotional, financial, and psychological damage is done with hints of sadism and people think I am the one who doesn’t let go. I finally got a pit bull lawyer and I am at least transforming my fear of him into motivation to defeat him, but not without thinking that there could be consequences. But like CL ALWAYS says, our world is not fair and we need to deal with it.

        • Chump78 your story sounds familiar. It took me a long time to come to grips with the term abuse. Psychological abuse is so hideous because it’s invisible and hard to understand unless you’ve lived it. I still go through days where I think I’m crazy and I doubt myself. I read an old email or see a photo and I actually believe for a day or two that, in my grief, I invented his abuse. Then I call my social worker at the women’s refuge and they remind me of all the psychological torture and bring me back to reality. It’s all part of recovering from brainwashing. My abuser has completely rewritten history and is now the big victim of a selfish, bitter, money grubbing wife. His cruelty is outrageous and he’s very clever at covering it up. His lies are grotesque and mean. I didn’t think I would get the smear campaign but I am now experiencing it. I always underestimate his ability to harm me. He went from the most wonderful man to the worst abuser virtually overnight and that abuse has ramped up over the year since he left me for her. Its no surprise he left me to be in a sadistic S&M relationship-he wants to abuse women. It’s mind fucking isolation to be psychologically abused and it’s not safe. The refuge puts me at their top priority list because suicide is so high for women like me who get emotionally tortured. Get help and educate your family.

          • I want to add that I’m afraid of him too. Not of physical harm but I find it very scary that someone can make up a reality, lie to your face even though the truth is so obvious and then tear you down more about the lie. If someone can do that so easily, there is something wrong. That, combined with no empathy and a predilection for inflicting pain is absolutely terrifying. Especially if you knew someone to be something else one day and then a lying monster the next. Chilling. I avoid him like the plague and I break into a sweat when I see his name.i trust my gut.

            • Yes, yes, yes.

              I can pinpoint the moment Wasband’s “cheese started to slide off his cracker“ (thank you CN for that phrase).

              There was no blowup, no big violent scene, no anger. Just a quiet, subtle little shift within him.

              Others could not see, but I knew. My blood ran cold. I knew he was capable of anything. ANYTHING.

              It’s terrifying. It’s not your imagination going wild; it’s real. Very real.

        • Intelligent, covert narcs are the worst.
          My intuition was spot on each and every time. Sometimes I ignored it, sometimes I refused to ignore – but, you never know.
          With someone who can deceive EVERYONE around, there is no stopping.
          Abuse, physical, emotional ( I wasn’t even aware due to extreme roller coaster ???? of feelings) etc.
          When someone can hurt you so much (the reason is related to their cheating behavior) that you are crying on the floor( while pregnant) and when the person looking at you with a cold shark eyes , goes to bed like it’s a regular day- you know.
          Nothing is off limit.

          • Take heed doubting chumps:

            “ … you are crying on the floor( while pregnant) and when the person looking at you with a cold shark eyes , goes to bed like it’s a regular day- you know.
            Nothing is off limit.“


            “… someone can make up a reality, lie to your face even though the truth is so obvious and then tear you down more about the lie. If someone can do that so easily, there is something wrong. That, combined with no empathy and a predilection for inflicting pain is absolutely terrifying. ”

            Others may not understand because the shift is almost imperceptible. Tell someone who has been there; someone who knows.

    • The ex last month could not reach me by phone I had blocked him he then emailed me he has been in a rage and fury ever since he was unmasked and our friends found out about his double life . He acts appalled that I finally stood up for myself. The abuse was bad before but now it’s blind rage , insanity rants and calling me every vile name he can think of along with lies , smears of my character. He told me if you were a man I would kill you .

      • But yet it’s likely he only terrorizes women.

        My mother always warned that there’s nothing more dangerous than a 200 LB two year old.

  • Don’t underestimate the trauma response. Infidelity is trauma-inducing. Add to that the “duper’s delight” that this man is power-tripping you with. Your instincts’ reacting doesn’t necessarily mean a red flag to your physical well-being, but it very well could be your internal signal that here is someone you cannot trust at a visceral level.

    From a faith-perspective, we would say that you are feeling the presence of evil at work.

    The power of “no contact” is vital. Stay away from the source of harm.

    I felt this way about my ex for a long time. Visibly shaking after each encounter in which I felt his false niceties at play. He doesn’t know that I discovered his secret email account revealing the truth of his affair, and so he was not aware that I knew each time he was lying to my face. Each lie felt like I was seeing a sly grin on his face. I felt hatred and resentment for me ooze out of him.

    Was any of this really going on in his mind? Were these his intentions at the time? Who knows.

    After more than a year of trauma counselling, I’ve been able to rewire my brain from the damage caused and learned some really key strategies for how to manage interactions with my ex. I no longer walk away from the very occasional encounter with a feeling that I have just faced an evil monster. It’s starting to feel more like I’ve just dealt with a very annoying teenage boy. I don’t feel gripped with fear so often anymore. I tend to shake my head at how pathetic it is, call my cousin to share the latest “gift that keeps on giving” story about my ex, and we have a good laugh at how pathetic he’s become.

    This is not to say that you may not be facing a real physical threat and that certainly needs to be assessed. But, certainly PTS is a very real thing when it comes to recovery fro the damage of infidelity, and if not processed adequately, it will flare up when triggered.

    Your fear is real, it’s just a matter of properly identifying what kind of fear it really is.

    • I’ve dealt with two abusive mind fuck colleagues since my divorce and in both cases I went on the offensive and they soon stopped their behavior. Get another dog who will protect you from him. Get an alarm system. Get cameras – overt ones and hidden ones. Call the police every time his behavior crosses a line. Get a restraining order. Tell him how far you’re willing to go if he threatens you. Arrange all meetings in front of the police station. Never meet him alone. Do you have an uncle named Vinnie? These people are cowards at heart and you can fight back. That moment when you take action and you see their fear and they step back – it is precious and it will heal you. You will be stronger in all aspects of your life.

      • Chomping, how did you deal with it work? How did you go on the offensive? I am having this at work also with, unfortunately, the HR director. Can you share the tools you used?

      • Helpful thank you. Having had ‘symptoms after escaping emotional stressors’ it is an encouraging perspective that they are a sign of healing after the stressor has been removed.

  • Hi, he’s trying to scare you. Learning self defence skills are good. Abusive people are very clever. Keep any emails, texts that are abusive. emotional abuse is just as bad as physical abuse. he’s lost his power over you. he probably realises what he’s lost.
    It might be a idea to change your email address.
    Good luck for the future
    Those rants to his friends, you don’t know what they really think if him, they could be scared of him. A lot of people stick up for abusers.

  • PS…

    I am currently enrolled in a 52 week domestic violence prevention class at my local shelter. It’s intense and eye opening.

    Your XH taking the stuffed animals away from
    your son is EMOTIONAL VIOLENCE.

    I’d also start calling a domestic violence hotline and talking about what’s going on. It helps break the spell of minimization and will get you connected with the resources you need to keep you and your son safe.

    My danger signals are going off reading your letter and they haven’t been wrong yet….not one time in my whole life.

    • I, too, wanted to talk about the ex’s actions with the son. It is not normal behavior for the child’s father to make the child change his clothes immediately on pick up and to confiscate his stuffed animals, which function as “transitional objects,” and provide comfort and security for the child, and ease separation from the mother. This is child abuse, emotional child abuse, and should not be minimized.

      • Sadly this will also likely be a case of a parental alienation attempt in the future.

    • My XW, who makes the kids throw away any gifts from me or my family to them. I was spring cleaning and found and boxed some stuff for the kids. Gave it to them when I picked them up for Weds visitation. She went through the box and threw stuff away that SHE thought they shouldn’t have. Then she “convinces” them they shouldn’t keep it.

      Her reasons “I don’t want your stuff tainting my house” She went ballistic when I filed for divorce after another affair came out. I see CHUMPS do this also. I am glad you called it what it is, emotional abuse.

      • My ex has repeatedly tried giving my kids gifts to decorate my house — large framed pictures, decorative objects, things for my yard, even kitchen things. I don’t want his personal touch in my house. It’s not abusive to reject these things. I stick to my boundaries. Let him decorate his own house and leave mine alone. It’s manipulation.

        • I can relate to this. I have been inundated with things. I have inflatable lawn ornaments. They have slowly been aging and not inflating. He has replaced every single one. I was trying to cull the amount of things in the yard. NOPE. It’s. A. Gift.

          He sends them home with bags of candy every custody exchange. They each have a bin full of candy from at least 2 Christmas’s, 2 Easter’s, 2 Halloween’s, etc. We don’t need more candy.

          He gets them new stuffed animals. They still have the tags on them. They’re that new. He used to complain about their rooms prior to leaving. Now there is more things in there.

          He insisted on maximizing the storage space in their rooms. So there is no place to put anything else. It’s all ready filled and the floor is loaded. When he left, the house became extremely spacious. He was a hoarder in training. They are following his path with his help. I have tried to thin the herd so to speak but it’s hard when he uses this as a way to manipulate them. It’s a pseudo love language. He has convinced them that these objects are not merely objects but represents his love. Even though when he was here he would frequently declare that these objects don’t love you. Etc.


          • Any gifts from their grandparents and myself stays here at my place. The kids now stand up to their mom about the clothes. I also told my kids if they bring clothes to their moms they have to leave a set at my mine.

            • Sounds like an awesome response. I cannot even get them to bring back clothes I have purchased for them when they visit him. He insisted they leave some there. He cannot possibly purchase clothes himself. The sizes are conveniently located in the coparenting app for all their current apparel. I’m not kidding you. I just spent a large sum for clothes because they both grew. He bought socks once that I’m aware of.

        • I was talking about gifts for the kids. Not to decorate a house. I would reject anything like that. The writer talked about stuffed animals and clothes.

        • This is a little different. OP’s ex is making their child change his clothes and takes away stuffed animals that are already his and not allowing the child to wear or have anything with him associated with the OP.

          That’s not the same as deliberately sending the child home with objects to decorate her house.

          It’s still manipulation, but a different kind. He’s erasing her presence from the child’s mind at handoff. It’s purposeful alienation.

  • I can relate to this. I think I’m scared of my ex because he was living a fake life with me and I was blissfully unaware of his affairs. He hid it SO well that I believe him to be capable of anything. He also keyed my car (I have no proof but no other enemies),he hid my car keys so I was trapped at home, and once blocked my car in the garage and wouldn’t move until I “apologized”. Yikes, typing that out makes me realize he is pretty scary. The mindfuck comes in because no one believes he’s capable of these things bc he’s SO nice. So then I start to rationalize and think “oh come on he didn’t hide your keys you LOST them..some random person keyed your car..” this stuff happened all within a couple months after he filed for divorce but refused to move out. I’m choosing to trust my gut despite what others may think of him. I’m very cautious around him and set up a camera in my house bc he still has access until it sells.

    I say trust your gut. It was me trusting my intuition that led me to discover he was cheating. He had left no other clues other than accidentally sharing another woman’s Facebook status on accident one day..weird. Also, Gavin Debeckers book is excellent.

    • Yep. Mine created a leak in my transfer case while it was parked at the flight service we used (we lived remote off the road system) this was a week before I was going to be driving the vehicle long distance WITH HIS SON on a very dangerous remote highway. It was absolutely not an ‘accident’ the mechanic showed me the standard screwdriver marks on the case. It had to be him. But there was no way to prove it. I’m just glad I noticed the leaking transmission fluid before I got on the road!

      • That’s terrible

        That reminded me of the nail in my tire I had too. Or the fact I had to continually get the air in my tires filled when he still was living at my house but had filed for divorce. Now that he left, my tires have been fine. I get these things happen but when they happen all at once after discovering his secret life I can only wonder.

  • Let me echo the advice to trust your gut. If law enforcement in your area won’t lift a finger until a crime is committed, you can’t count on them. I know that is scary and it sucks. I’m sorry. I don’t you or him but judging by your remarks I would say he enjoys making you scared and does get off on feeling powerful by having that effect on you. Don’t feed that beast. Steer clear of him. This is one reason No Contact is the path to the truth and the light. If you don’t ever need to see him again, don’t. Bin his emails and never pick up a phone call from him. If you share children then only respond to important, necessary items in the emails. Ignore the hate. Nothing tells them you’re done with their BS like a hate filled manifesto worded around a child pick up where the Only response is “Billy will be ready at 8pm” with zero acknowledgement of the other crap in that email. You are not over reacting and you are not crazy. You feel the way you do for a reason.

    Narkles the Clown didn’t get scary until I told him I knew about the Flying Whore. Once he knew that his affair was exposed it was like a switch. No open threats but the verbal abuse and rage incidents skyrocketed until the day came on the agreement for him to leave. The locksmith arrived at 8 am the next day. The alarm was installed by 2 pm. An acquaintance from high school, who turned out to be a fellow chump, checked on me daily For a year, because from hundreds of miles away he knew how scared I was. Narkles the Clown is a small time gun nut. He owns them but they sit in a safe gathering dust….probably part of an AP mirroring from the past like wine tasting, snowboarding and ear candling. Either way it’s why I signed up for Krav Maga, a military self-defense program that focuses on real world situations. It helped me view my surroundings differently so I was more comfortable and it provided me with the self-efficacy in protecting myself including skills like disarming someone with a weapon. I guess my point is to find something that works for you. What will make you feel better? What will help you sleep at night? What do you need to feel safe?

    • “Nothing tells them you’re done with their BS like a hate-filled manifesto worded around a child pick up where the Only response is “Billy will be ready at 8 pm” with zero acknowledgment of the other crap in that email.”

      Mine’s hate-filled manifesto always comes preceded by himself proclaiming to be nice, easy-going, and super-duper flexible. IT ACtually became the butt of many jokes between me and my best friend. After more than 3 years, I also finally got there! It feels like such an achievement to finally leave the madhouse!

  • Trauma counseling may help you sort out what is a real or imagined threat. However, I second the opinion that having somebody go with you to do hand-offs is a good idea.

    Many of us spackled over red-flags for years, and recognized abuse and violence for what it was only after we were out of our marriages. You may just now be recognizing it, and your gut is in overdrive telling you to “stay away!”.

    This asshole sounds like he gets off on your pain. So, the obvious solution is to not allow him the pleasure, right? Well, maybe. OR he might escalate until he gets the reaction he wants. And that is why having somebody with you is a good idea.

    I understand why some women own guns to protect themselves from violent exes. However, you have a child to consider. So taking some serious self-defense classes may be in order. Anything you can do to not feel weak in his presence. And, above all, maintain grey rock.

  • I don’t think post writer is exaggerating at all (and I’m usually considered a very brave person). She knows the best the level of hatred she’s seen in him (I mean, wishing a mother of one’s child to be hit by a truck) and her previous experience with him.

    Take him seriously. Several people have already given you a good advice. Call domestic violence service. Talk to them, ask for advice. Don’t be alone with him, if you can help, including at handovers. Have handovers in front of the police station (or other public space). If you talk on the phone, inform him in advance that you’re taping all conversations (and then do it). Grey rock as much as possible, everything via emails so you have evidence. Document, document, document.

    Good luck.

      • Yes. I also found that during a child exchange, filming him (or pretending to film him) with my cell phone always makes him behave.

        In my state you cannot film someone without their permission, and the film is not admissible in court.

        HOWEVER, just the threat of getting it on tape was enough to make him behave.

        Eventually our lawyers put a stop to it because it was traumatic for the kids. But it’s a good strategy should you find yourself in an unexpected situation.

  • It’s a mindfuck but trust your gut. Mine started off small. Just the yelling and screaming right in my face with spittle flying in my face. Then it was the pushing, then he put his foot behind my ankle and pushed me over. Then he’d pin me on the floor kicking me. Until the day he pinned me to the bed with a broken whiskey bottle to the neck. And I kept thinking “oh he would never” and then he did. I documented his behaviour over a period of six months and it makes horrendous reading. Even worse though was the mindfuck. He’d hide my purse so I couldn’t get to my car to go to work. So I hid it somewhere else. So then he’d lock the bedroom door where my clothes were so I couldn’t get dressed. Then he’d leave the key inside the lock as my son and I tried to get into the house so I took all the keys to one particular door so we could get in. So he jammed something in that keyhole too. See how it goes. Please document, document, document and install cameras and so on. If the hairs on the back of your neck are standing on end there’s a reason for it. Stay safe!

    • Ugh the hiding stuff will make you go insane. I thought I was going crazy when he hid my keys. I knew he did it but I couldn’t prove it wasn’t me being absent minded. I’ve never lost my keys before though.

      • Yep that was the mindfuck. I kept saying “oh he wouldn’t” until the day he jammed another key into the lock to stop us getting in the house – and then even I had to admit what an asshole he was. One thing I did though was I ALWAYS spoke up and documented it. Talked to my employer about the violence and had photos taken. The shame was on him but he still continued (denies it all now of course or “can’t remember”!!) I did get a domestic violence conviction against him though but I found out later that schmoopie was telling everyone she had to leave him because she was afraid he would kill her. Should have asked me first I guess.

      • Oh yessss…. keys taken and I was he told me that, of course, I lost them. I used to leave them out and about on my desk, kitchen counter but that is not losing something. After three sets of keys went “missing” I wised up and kept them close to me all the time. This also took away the safety zone of my car since I knew that he had the second set of keys. There was literally no safe space in my home.

        Things I would never thought happen:

        – He wrestled me to the ground and slammed my head against a wood floor
        – Picked my up by my neck and threw me on to a couch
        – Physically restrained me, took my phone and then pinned me down and broke my foot by kneeling on it.
        – Violated every locked or corded off door. I was not allowed to secure myself in “our” bedroom even though he didn’t sleep there he always insisted on me respecting the locked door when he was using bedroom / bathroom. He was furious when I dismantled the lock and created a full out scene in front of our youngest child.

        Once you have been discarded all bets are off.

    • Oh man! Im so sorry Attie! Im furious how he treated you! The hairs on my neck stood up when you said broken whiskey bottle to your neck. Thats one cut away from death. Im so glad u got away. My heart goes out to you! And every single chump here that has dealt with an abusive asshole cheater.

      Just today, 8 months after d-day and my ex has my extra set of car keys bc his name is on the lease and I am about to undergo a lifesaving surgery. If I died I wanted him to turn in my car for me. Well Today I locked my keys in my car. Couldn’t call triple A because they didn’t pick up after 45 min and my neighbor offered to drive me to my ex’s house 20 min away to pick up the spare set. I was normal and pleasant, but he got frustrated at one point where he couldn’t find some code number and snapped at me like a dick, when I nicely suggested he look for the number on the card in his wallet. This is 2 solid no contact weeks. We had an accordion breakup.Yep that snap brought back memories of who I don’t want to be with. It was good for me to see that.I thought no contact would be super awful but its helped me to get MY life back. Its been the best thing ever. And he waste of those NICE guy cheaters! Total mindfuck.

  • IsThisReallyMyLife this is so hard. CO parenting does feel like prison sometimes! I seriously would take CL advice about not going to see him alone if possible. I wish I had advice about the clothes and stuffed animals that is just so sick 🙁 your child does not need that. Hugs and hang in there.

  • Body Camera. Wish I would of got one when I first thought of it. I would probably have sole custody of my kids if I had. Also her behavior would change radically everytime I turned on my phone.

    • Mine too. Would come after me if I didn’t have my phone on me. If I did, she would act perfectly.

  • Dear Isthisrealltmylife,

    You have every reason to be afraid. I am coming to grips that I was abused for decades. As chumps we minimize the abuse. We internalize and blame our selves. By the time I left my thirty four year marriage, I was a terrified shadow of my former self.

    My earthbound angel of a therapist helped me see it wasn’t my fault. STBX was abusive. Adultery is abuse. The abuse escalated. My therapist warned me. Showed me the cyclical nature of abuse. Learning about that cycle freed me from his control.

    When my lawyer spent a good ten minutes talking to me about my personal safety, the dismal statistics for women attempting to leave marriage through divorce, I was convinced. I never told him why I was divorcing. He never questioned me yet felt compelled to warn me about my safety during the divorce. Mr. lawyer asked me to not even drive by my former home. I knew he was serious.

    I remember STBX pulling a handgun from the gun safe and “cleaning” it during an argument. I left the room and had the realization that I did not want to be a statistic. How many victims of an accidental discharge during “cleaning” a gun were murdered? I wasn’t going to be a another gun violence statistic.

    Now I live a three and a half hour drive away from him. I am a hard target. I carry pepper spray on my walks. I don’t listen to music on my walks, I am aware who is in front of me and who is behind me. Someone knows where I am and when I will be back. I have a system of locks on my doors that will resist any attempts to kick the door down. I lock all the windows and doors even when I’m just out in the yard.

    Some chumps will think this is an overreaction. It is what I do to stay safer. None of us are safe from violence. Yet we can take reasonable precautions to ensure we are safer.

    You are terrified for good reasons. Your intuition is screaming at you. Honor that.

    • 33 years: I am right there with you. The ex is a mechanic. I was terrified about my car for a looooong time. I never even leave my door unlocked when I’m home and my roomer abides by the exact same rule. Everything is locked up whether I’m home or not. These wackjobs are dangerous particularly when they think you got something they deserved( as in any part of the marital assets).

    • 33 years–I had a similar situation with my ex and a gun. He was playing with it while we were having a tense conversation. He looked at my face and asked if I was scared. I told him yes and he put it away, which surprised me, but I suppose he knew showing the weapon had the desired effect. I left with the kids only a few months later.

  • This is so hard. I was terrified of stbx. He said some backhanded threats – “If you weren’t who you are, I would have snapped and punched you a long time ago”.

    The court system is worthless. STBX cornered me during a dropoff (stood right behind me while I was taking my baby’s carseat out of his car), so I asked him to stay in the car for exchanges. I won’t be alone with him. I won’t let him touch me. My attorney said all those boundaries could be used against me in court to show that I’m angry and bitter and unwilling to co-parent. It is maddening.

    He’s never outright threatened to kill me, but financially, he gets $$$ if I die before the divorce is finalized. One heck of a motive…

    How do I deal with it?
    a. I put cameras over each entrance and exchange point.
    b. I audio record every exchange.
    c. A friend comes over for exchanges.
    d. I made a video for the police in case I die/dissappear naming stbx as the likely suspect explaining the motive.
    e. I stay on top of estate planning for my kids.
    f. My doors are locked at all times.
    g. I’ve told stbx that entering my house or backyard is trespassing and I would call the police.
    h. Friends and family have copies of all my leverage with instructions to release it all if something happens to me.
    i. Radical acceptance. What happens happens. I won’t lose more of my life due to fear.

    It is a horrible situation. And the police won’t act until you have extreme documented threats or you are actually harmed. I have recordings and photos, but my attorney says a judge won’t care because they will compare my emotional abuse to the physical abuse cases they see.

    On a brighter note, that fear has decreased over time. I think a lot of the fear was from my body being flooded with ‘danger’ chemicals from all the gaslighting. As I’ve distanced myself from the emotional abuse, my body feels much more at peace. Read everything you can about C-PTSD – it helps explain how your brain has been rewired from the trauma.

    Good luck, you aren’t alone.

    • To clarify, my attorney is great and understands what is going on. But stbx is a charming, manipulative snake, so she’s preparing me for a nasty custody battle. She’s painfully honest about the realities of the court system and advising me to pick my battles wisely.

  • “Action cures fear!” – from David Schwartz, Ph.D. in The Magic of Thinking Big.
    I think Tracy is 100% correct that you should take a self defense class. It will give you confidence and help you to take back your power- from him and the rest of the world. Start it NOW- remember “A year from now you will wish you had started today!”
    Also if possible bring a friend with you when you drop off and pick up your son. If you can’t do that have you phone ready to call 911 and have it on video to record the exchanges, just in case.

  • All of the above (self-defense classes, second adult, exchange at police station if possible, journaling on paper and online, recording every exchange and uploading it to the cloud, fences, locked doors) and consider wearing a vest.

    This guy is bad news and you know it – don’t talk yourself out of knowing it.

    Also, not just trauma therapy for you, but family and possibly individual therapy for your son. He may not be telling you all that happens at daddy’s house because he has been threatened.

  • You are not alone. Listen to your body! There’s good advice given here.

    My STBX is scary. He is armed. He plays mental games for his amusement on OFW. I’m doing “hard time for years in personal prison.” When I stop one mental game he merely moves onto another one. It never stops.

    Our children are merely pawns for his own games. Exchanges are done in public. I pray for GOD to protect them when they are not with me. It’s all I can do. ????I’ve tried everything else and been told “it’s not abuse.” “He’s a kind and supportive parent.” Meanwhile I watch the slow motion car wreck of my children’s lives unfold before me. I can not do anything else to intervene. We share custody.

  • This is terrible tension for you. I have a few suggestions:

    (1) Set a new visitation exchange point for your child. Select a law enforcement office, and do the exchange in their lobby. He might be more subdued with cops as witnesses. If he balks, ask your attorney about how to make this happen.

    (2) Whenever possible, get someone to go with you to EVERY in-person contact with this person. If I were your neighbor, I would volunteer. No one should have to face that man’s small-dick energy alone.

    (3) Document everything. Check online whether your state is a two-party or one-party consent state for taping conversations. ( There are smartphone apps that record calls; just search for “call recorder” and be sure to read the fine print about any hidden costs. If it’s one-party like my home state, you can record conversations with him with just one person’s consent (yours). You can buy a mini voice recorder and/or a mini camera for under $150 if you must be discreet, or you can just openly hold up your phone and let him know that you are recording the conversation. This is evidence of his verbal abuse and any threatened physical abuse. It may help you just to be able to review it again at a later time to see if you were just frightened in the moment or if he was truly threatening. It also might be used in court (ask an attorney to be sure). I also don’t know if the law differs for in-person conversations vs. phone conversations being taped, so you may want to research that further.

    (4) If you think he might abscond with your child, buy a Jiobit tracker and sew it into the lining of the child’s backpack or the strap before sending your child to be with him. Their battery can last for a weekend and give you peace of mind by tracking where your child is. Similar products exist that will easily fit on a dog’s collar, too.

    I hope even a little bit of these suggestions is helpful to you. And I 100% agree with the suggestion to get martial arts training so you can defend yourself. Also, I am just a regular person, not one with legal training — I’ve just been through some ugly situations. So take any of my advice with a grain of salt!


  • He’s abusive. You’re not crazy… you are in DANGER. Take all this advice today.

    Sending love and support.

  • Definitely listen to yourself! That same voice you have been ignoring for years.

    I used to have nightmares my ex was taking everything I have and leaving me out to dry. I ignored all my alarms.

    It was until now 2 years post filing (he is being indecisive and dragging divorce out) that I realized how abused I was. Talk about a wake up call. I shiver everytime I see a text or even a message through the coparenting app. Hopefully that eventually goes away.

    I am “forced” by my states laws to share custody. I document everything and didn’t matter to the judge. I am terrified to turn my baby over to him. DD doesn’t want to go. She is 8 and knows the monster he can be. Luckily my SS somewhat helps. She is in therapy thank goodness.

    I would get your child into therapy. It goes along way.

    I pray for all the kids who are bound by courts to and forced time to see their monster parents. I pray for the chumps who turn over their kids knowing this and give them peace.

    • Who is “SS”? It doesn’t seem like you’re referring to social security. I wish that was in the FAQ.

      • DD means Dear Daughter and SS means Sweet Son.

        It takes a while to figure it out! I’m right there with you.

        • I thought it was DD was dear daughter and DS was dear son. Never heard of SS. Learned something new.

  • I want to second the recommendation to read The Gift of Fear and use the Mosaic Threat Assessment Tool. That book has been a huge help to me in all walks of life, not just dealing with my ex. It helps you to trust those “gut feelings” about people and situations and gives logical explanations for why you have those feelings. When I was going through my divorce I used the threat assessment tool to help show me that I WAS being reasonable to be afraid of my soon-to-be-exH. I did not cower in fear, but I knew that I should take steps to protect myself and my children from his anger. Men (and women) who have previously been non-violent occasionally lash out dangerously. In my opinion, it’s very, VERY important that you are never alone with him. Many of these guys are narcissistic and will not act out if there is a witness because it would hurt their image. Your son is NOT a witness, though. You need to have another adult with you.

  • I was just thinking about this yesterday. XBF and I work at the same factory. I left my work coveralls in the work washing machine by accident between shifts. XBF works the shifts between mine. When I took my coveralls out of the dryer they were ripped to shit. They were not new by far, but the damage is excessive. Was it him or wasn’t it? There seems to be always little things that could be a coincidence or not. I used to keep African violets. Suddenly they started dying a few years ago. I couldn’t keep a houseplant alive for anything. After he moved out they all started flourishing. Plants in my yard I’ve had for years and never bloomed suddenly bloomed after he left. Was it him or wasn’t it?

    I have been NC since he moved out except for legal matters regarding the house and one incident where I blasted him back in January. I know he’s been trying to get my attention since he left. Leaving small things in my work cubby, giving my friend a tonne of old photos he had developed to give to me just recently. Is he trying to make me crazy or is it just me?

    I don’t trust him. I’ve seen him rage. It’s scary. He’s a huge guy and a heavy drinker. I keep my door locked always and our neighbours all know what happened. Everyone at work knows what happened and I wonder if he wants revenge because his reputation suddenly went from being the “nicest guy” to being the “guy who destroyed sodisturbed73’s life”. I don’t want to be paranoid but if this escalates I will need evidence of previous events.

    • Check with HR and find out if it’s legal first. Then, go online and get hidden cameras. They can be put in pens, paper clip dispensers, etc. Get the ones with rechargeable batteries if possible. Put them by your desk and leave them there. Turn them on when you walk away from your desk and turn them off when you return. It probably won’t take long to get evidence if he’s doing stuff to your area. Obviously dont name who you think is tampering with your desk area. Just say stuff has come up missing.

      • I don’t have a desk or even an area where I usually work. I can be scheduled anywhere in the factory on a given day. I do have a locker with my belongings that is locked. He wouldn’t dare be caught in the women’s change room, that is automatic dismissal. Also, my jacket got stolen from work when I forgot to put it in my locker. I’ve had it for six years and nothing ever happened. But I cant prove it and it’s my fault really for leaving it there. It could have been anyone but it’s never happened before. He would never do anything overt because everyone would know it was him. But just little things that could be a coincidence but I feel like they aren’t. I can get a camera for my locker and say I forgot it in there if I catch anything.

    • Funny you mention your plants flourishing after he left. I had the same experience and I also wondered if my ex was doing something to my plants. Or, maybe it was just his toxic, negative energy. All I know is my plants and pets are doing much better without my toxic ex around. So yes, it WAS him.

      • A few months before I found out about his side piece, I had planted about 300 vegetables of different varieties. I’d brought them in during a pre freeze warning and put them in the kitchen and went to bed. Jackass woke me up sneaking outside to bring the plants in that he’d snuck outside the night before when I went to bed. I caught him red handed after he’d let them freeze. It’s inconceivable that someone would do this. It’s petty and sick. But they aren’t beneath just about anything.

        • I thought maybe I was crazy or overly paranoid. Reading both these responses makes me feel 100% better. Thank you Sisu and Sugar Plum!

  • Why would you doubt your gut? This man has told others he wants you dead very very much. THAT is over the top if you ask me. You’ve done nothing to warrant that much hate and vitriol. Did you murder his child or pet dog? Did you rape him? Did you maim him or a loved one of his? THOSE would be the only reasons for that level of hate.
    When I was married, my ex used to make these stupid comments. I didn’t understand, at first, where they were coming from. Stupid stuff like, “You probably wish I’d fall and sprain my ankle.” It wasn’t until he started with the full mind fuck that I started to see the pattern. Those comments were always about physical injury and it was HE who really wished it on me. When we were going through our divorce, he started claiming that he just knew I wanted him dead and would probably hire somebody to kill him. He was making almost 300G a year at that time and I wasn’t working. The reality is that he absolutely could afford to commit murder for hire. I did not doubt my gut. I’m already trained in combatives, martial arts, and defensive tactics. I’m also trained with weapons. I had one weapon for self defense in the home. I additionally purchased a rifle and a smaller weapon for concealed carry. I also had various heavy objects, flashlights etc., stashed conveniently around. I invested in motion sensor floodlights, security cameras, and an alarm system.
    He’s a coward and a bully. He isn’t stupid, he doesn’t want jail time. I honestly believe that he would have killed me if he could.
    Your subconscious registers so much. Body language, fraction of a second facial expressions, etc. Your gut is being told by your subconscious that picked up something that he is a threat. Listen to your gut ALWAYS. Ignore what society has conditioned you to do, spackle. That could get you killed. There are many women dead or seriously injured that wished they had listened to their gut. Don’t become a statistic.
    Mitigate threats and danger where you can. Have a weapon, heavy flashlight, taser, or gun if you’re willing to do the training. Always remember that the best security is layered protection. Install a security system, cameras, etc. Have your phone on tape recording. Install in home nanny cameras. Tell a friend when you’re going somewhere. Have a friend with you if at all possible at child exchanges. No more pet visits.
    Doing all of this will help you feel safe and give you back some of your power.

  • I 100% agree with you. My XW was/is a violent person. Would get into physical fights with her brothers who were 6’3” tall. She would physically assault me. Nasty person.

    Anyway… one time she came over to my roommates house. I told her if she would just sincerely apologize for her affairs I would reconcile with her. She said “I did apologize” and then tried to run me over with her car. I had a moment of ‘Did that just happen?’ Because of her crazy behavior after DDay I never was alone with her. My roommate was watching. I asked him, did you see what happened? He said “yes, she tried to run you over”. Always have a witness. She would scream at me in front of my house. My roommate had to calm her down. She would get into my face screaming so I would react so she could call the cops and get me arrested.

    My XW usually only tried this behavior when no one was watching. Plausible deniability. Never be alone with him.

    I have since remarried. My wife is concerned about my XW after all the craziness she has seen. Bugged me for a long time for cameras. So we have them up. Told my kids about them so my XW knows she will be watched if she tries to come over.

    Trust your gut. And men, women can be physically abusive also.

    • “Trust your gut. And men, women can be physically abusive also.”


      Time a million!

  • I came and still do fear Narcula’s retaliation. It was and still is always a 1000 times worse than anything I ever “did” in his mind. Hes always 10 steps ahead, too. Abusers are often plotters and schemers and lay in wait like a snake to attack. Narcula’s attacks are always when its the worst for me and the best for him. I remember the look she describes in the ex’s eyes. I saw that many times and expect to see it when he takes back ‘his home’ the one we built together. He really does get a chubby out of hurting women and getting away with it.

  • I was never afraid of my husband til the whole breakup thing started. He became a cold hearted stranger and very short and harsh because he’d made his decisions and didn’t want to hear anything from me. He really scared me, such was his radical change. There was even a strange gas leak in the basement that the utility guys freaked out about. So I have no idea if he really wanted me offed accidentally but You never know. As time went on, most of our disagreements were over the phone as I never wanted to see him again. Or see him with that woman. He was a major dick and would try to steamroll me on assets etc. one day I don’t know what he said but I yelled at him ‘don’t threaten me, buster!’ And he backed off so fast. Said he wasnt threatening me. But he stopped his dominating. We have found a civil place now if we have to deal, but I Still refuse to be in the same room. It’s taken awhile for my kids to accept but they finally realize this is for the best. I’m pretty meh…but cautious always. When they show you who they are, believe it. Put the child in old Jammies and skip the stuffed animals. You response to his shit is to say whatever! And leave. Don’t make it easy to hurt you. Curbside pick up and drop off only. He sounds more like a gaslighting mind fucker but you never know.

  • I hope you saved those vile texts. If he does something to warrant a protection order, those would be useful.

  • Yep. Mine created a leak in my transfer case while it was parked at the flight service we used (we lived remote off the road system) this was a week before I was going to be driving the vehicle long distance WITH HIS SON on a very dangerous remote highway. It was absolutely not an ‘accident’ the mechanic showed me the standard screwdriver marks on the case. It had to be him. But there was no way to prove it. I’m just glad I noticed the leaking transmission fluid before I got on the road!

  • My X was violent and stalked me. I stayed up one night crying and praying he wouldn’t kill me. Some of my friends wouldn’t come over as they were afraid of him too. But I didn’t cower in fear.

    I went no contact, didn’t answer his crazy emails, blocked him on everything kind of digital media and made sure he was off my phone plan so he couldn’t track me.

    I called the cops each and every time he stalked me or wrote me creepy texts. They couldn’t do anything, but it was documented.

    I sold my house and moved to another city. He has no reason to be in my town or neighborhood anymore.

    Don’t ignore the fear and don’t just wait for something bad to happen. Protect yourself!

  • If your community has a family violence center, work with one of their counselors to develop plans and strategies. These services should be free.

    If posssible, have someone come with you for pick-ups and drop-offs. Hire some one if need be. You would pay them to be a witness, not a bodyguard. If your EX asked who the other guy or girl is, you just answer “a friend” and don’t say a word more. If your child asks, you just say, “a friend” and don’t say a word more.

    Record your interactions with the EX. This may or may not be legal in your state, but it can be powerful evidence in other ways even if it cannot be used in a court room. You can use your phone, but an alternative secondary device (old phone, $25 digital recorder, etc.) is better.

    Take proactive measures when you meet your EX. Make sure your car is parked so you can pull out immediately–no turning around in a cul-de-sac or backing out. Be sure your EX is not parking you in so you cannot leave (this was my EX’s favorite way to hold me hostage).

    Get over your fear of public embarrassment (easier said than done). Be ready to raise your voice and start walking away any time you need to exit a situation. Your EX knows you don’t want to make a public scene. But if you take your child’s hand and and say, “We are leaving now” and he tries verbally or physically to detain you, repeat your intent and the top of your lungs. “We are leaving now.” If he continues, shift to “Stop harassing me. Leave us alone.” The goal is to be calm and loud. You are creating witnesses and you want him to know it.

    It is impossible to tell if your EX is a physical danger to you, but you have plenty of evidence that he wishes to harm you emotionally and psychologically (and doesn’t care if your child is hurt in the process). Therefore, you should take protective action in your future dealings with the EX.

  • My ex did the same threats and more while I was still living in marital home. Police officer did come out told me “he had seen these situations go bad all the time, take my children and hide at a friends house.” After divorce it hasn’t stopped. My dad swaps kids at a police station ( got that put in orders). All communication through our family wizard (still hasn’t Stopped). Me and My extended family also have tasers, installed an alarm system and security camera’s on our houses and persons because he has threatened us all. My dad has a gun. I am taking shooting lessons and buying a gun too. Your fears aren’t irrational-Protect yourself.

  • I was also afraid for my personal safety from xh until several years after I went no contact. He was psychologically and emotionally abusive. We had agreed to shared custody of our sweet old dog. X raged or tried to grab me at most exchanges unless there was a witness. I have several friends who were willing to come with me to trade dog custody. My friends knew I felt deep fear of x, they didn’t talk to me about whether they thought my fear was well founded, they simply supported me during the transition until I could go full no contact.

  • I’m mostly a lurker here nowadays, but I feel strongly moved to comment. Your ex sounds a lot like mine. He doubled down on the verbal abuse and humiliation after I left. Coparenting gave him ample opportunity to dish out the abuse. None of it was physical but both my children and I were frightened that it would escalate. Though he seemed out of control during his episodes, I believed they were calculated to control us.

    To add to Chump Lady’s advice, I would keep records of all these interactions. If any of them occurred online or via text message, I would keep records of this. If by social media, take screenshots before they can be deleted or altered. You don’t know the future–he could try to interfere with or change custody for example, or worse. I’d also consider giving this evidence to a trusted friend.

    In my case, the verbal abuse got so bad it interfered with my life, and I began to question my sanity. The best thing I did was find a counselor who had experience with victims of domestic violence. I found her by calling a domestic abuse hotline.

    Please take care of yourself and don’t for a minute question your instincts.

    • Also too, depending on laws where you live, the letter writer might consider having an attorney write a cease-and-desist letter that turns the tables and threatens him with a potential restraining order if he doesn’t stop his outbursts. In may places, the threshold for domestic harassment is low enough that this type of behavior might count. If he’s faced with a real legal consequence, the likelihood is that this coward will back down.

  • To quote Maya Angelou…”When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.”

    Cheater ex, said to me one night, “When I feel depressed, I feel like getting a gun and killing you and the kids, and then killing myself.” I believed him. It took me awhile to get my kids and I out of there, but I managed to get us gone.

    Eighteen months later, he kidnapped and murdered my youngest son and then he and a buddy killed themselves in another state. It was almost two weeks before I knew what became of my child.

    So many great suggestions in this thread. I would add a couple of suggestions of my own. A tracker/panic button for you, just in case, maybe something disguised as a necklace. And perhaps cheater changes your child’s clothes and shoes the stuffed animal because he thinks they have a tracking device in them. Cheater may be planning a parental abduction himself. Also, tell a friend each of cheater’s stunts and ask them to document, time and date. That way you have corroboration. One last thing, Gavin DeBecker has an excellent website that has a Mosaic Threat Assessment. Take it, it’s an eye opener.

    Keep yourself and your little one safe. I will keep you in my prayers.

    • Oh Tessie, your story makes me cry. Sending you love and hope.

      But it’s true that abusers want to find a way to keep hurting us, and they can do it through our children. I used to do CPS investigations and it doesn’t hurt to take front & back shots of your little ones in their underwear the day you hand them off, with your phone providing date and time. Then check them when you get them back. Older kids can tell you what happened but young ones cannot. Impatient angry parents grab their kids and leave scratches and bruises, then try to blame the other parent. Abusers must have power and control. They hate paying child support & will try to get full custody, even when they have no real interest in parenting. Also note any changes in your child’s behavior such as bed-wetting, tantrums, and document. I’m also thinking you could put a tracking device in a child’s shoe?

      I’m always amazed at all the fantastic advice offered by fellow chumps. Listen to your inner voice too. We have been treated for so long like we are too stupid to catch on to cheating, but we have learned a lesson. Caution & vigilance is essential.

    • Tessie,
      Every time you comment and mention your little boy I am reduced to tears. Knowing that the very deepest pain and trauma I have experienced doesn’t even come close to what you have endured leaves me awestruck at your strength. The simple fact that you survived what that bastard did to you and your children, I can’t even find words.
      I keep you in my prayers always. ????

    • Tessie,

      For years I’ve carried that quote around in my head because it applies to many situations. But now when I remember Angelou’s words I will always think of your child and think of you using those words to light the way for others.

  • Self defense is an amazing suggestion! I recommend it for everyone. Not just the ability to protect yourself, but the self esteem it instills in you is important. I have done martial arts since I was an 8 year old. My dad wanted me to have the ability to not only think my way out of a situation, but also protect myself while doing it. It’s a great workout, and an awesome stress relief. The amount of times as a woman walking around on her own, I’ve only had to use what I know once. When you know you can protect yourself, your whole body language changes into “Don’t fuck with me.” Also, look into pepper spray or a taser. Non-lethal self defense tool vary in legality, so check what is allowed for you to carry and please, take a class on how to use it!

  • First, the great suggestions above are important for all women living along (and probably most if not all men, too). But what concerns me is that you are telling yourself this is a “single incident.” It’s not. It’s abusive emails. It’a emotionally abusing your son to get at you. It’s the

    1. Motion detector lights outside your home, front and back. It’s worth getting the kind with cameras that record and send info to your smart phone.
    2. Locks on all windows accessible on ground level and potentially by ladder. Can someone get on a porch Others have old-school storm windows on the outside & latched from the inside.
    3. Changed locks and new deadbolts on all doors.
    4. Security system with inside video. (And don’t put up the signage that announces the alarm service. Maybe a general “protected by security” sign.)
    5. You may have trouble moving the drop off/pick up to a neutral site. Collect these emails, along with the threat sent to others that you obtained, to your lawyer. Ask about changing the court order to provide a safe location. If you don’t have a police station nearby, choose a business district or shopping center with security cameras. Always take a 3rd party with you. Get a list of people who will help and rotate.
    6. I don’t know how old your kiddo is, but I would stop sending his beloved stuffed animals to X’s house to be put in a closet. That doesn’t comfort your son. But maybe buy a new one and tell him that the new animal knows his job is to be there for him at Dad’s place (even in a closet!) so that the other ones can stay in his room.
    7. I hope you don’t let him anywhere near your dog. Get the GPS tracker for both your dog and your kiddo’s backpack.
    8. Understand that someone sending you hateful emails is abusing you. Document all of this. And as someone said above, make sure your estate planning is up-to-date. Name a guardian for your kids. Give others copies of the emails and other documentation. Don’t walk around in a fog or with earbuds in. Park in places that are well-lighted and not far from others.

    I don’t have kids, and I don’t fear an X, but aside from the kiddo protections, I do all of this. Plus I did 3 years of self-defense classes. That’s not to say I live in fear. That’s to say that I believe what Gavin de Becker talks about in “The Gift of Fear.” Pay attention to your surroundings. Listen to your instincts. That doesn’t mean be paranoid but you’re concerned enough to write to CL about this. So listen to yourself.

  • Your gut is definately screaming at you to beware because something is off. You may not be able to put your finger on exactly what is off (at least not to justify to law enforcement). Even though you can’t specifically identify what’s wrong, trust your gut telling you that something is. Don’t spackle, diminish, or ignore your gut – EVER! This could be your life saver.

    As CL said, your alarm bells are going off. Trust them. As others on CN advised, don’t ever be alone with him again. Your son being with you doesn’t count. It needs to be another adult. Parenting software only, exchange for visitation at police station, install security cameras & improve overall security with better locks, window locks, etc. Yes, this can be expensive. Don’t talk yourself out of it because of the expense. Borrow money if you have to (yes, it is justified & you do have reason – don’t downplay that to anyone).

    Know that tightening things up by providing better protection for yourself and your child will likely cause him to act out more at first in resistance (as every bully does). Have the security set up before implementing somebody the other things. Do the security first & do it Now! (Not in a week or two or see how it goes first. Just do it & get in it TODAY!) Moving to parenting software & exchanges at police station should be implemented by your attorney vs personally coming from you.

    As almost everyone here has told you, that gut feeling is forba reason. Don’t ignore it or play it down like I did. I know you’re an emotional wreck right now and emotionally hurting. That’s when a bully (& sociopath) strikes the hardest = kicks you when you’re already down. Tell yourself you will dwell on and deal with your emotional pain & grief a little bit later. Right now, you need to protect yourself. Of you cant do it for you, do ot for your child. No, it’s not an exaggeration as you do have reason to be concerned. If you cant stop thinking about that, simplyvremind yourself better safe then sorry!

  • If you still have proof of those texts or emails he sent to family & friends, it might be enough to at least get a temporary restraining order against him. Ask your attorney AND call a Dosmestic Abise Hotline about it (I suggest Catholic Chatities as they were a tremendous help to me). Get the restraining order if at all possible. Believe me, you won’t ever be sorry you got it but, you may be sorry that you didn’t.

  • Hyper vigilance and catastrophising are trauma responses. Once you’ve read Lundy Bancroft, read Pete Walkers Complex PTSD.

    Best thing I did was read these two books. I was able to recognise the abuse for what it was. Second best thing I did was install cameras, change locks, get a series of police reports on file (they care about patterns not incidents) and install a panic button.

    Only had use for the camera once. He’s covert so once his activity was caught on camera I didn’t have to worry about him hiding out in my garage anymore (oh yes he did). I told him what I had on camera too. That strategy worked.

    Be fearful but find peace. Solid boundaries, An evidence collection mechanisms make a big difference.

    • Yes my covert narc ex has access to the house we still own and was coming over to see our baby during this quarantine stuff. I left a camera on the kitchen counter when I went for a run and lo and behold he pops up on camera not two minutes after I left. He spotted it and immediately turned back and left. He hasn’t tried to come back upstairs since. Pretty effective when they know they are being watched. He also probably wonders where else I have cameras now.

  • >>>You’re right. It’s not fair. Get back to me when the world is fair.<<<
    Five years now since exh2 The Evil One left and I still get a pang of fear and anxiety when I meet up with him to exchange now-12-year-old-DD.
    I dont think he'd ever do anything face-to-face to me, but covertly? He has. Nothing physical but a lot of bullshit I've learned to just shrug off.
    He is a vindictive, abusive, narcissistic sociopath.
    I go up and down with feelings regarding him — sometimes heading to a public parking lot to exchange dd I'm calm and rational. Other times, I'm a bundle of nerves and nervous wreck.
    I usually have someone with me or at least on the phone with somebody and I tell them exactly where I am.
    I use Bluetooth ear buds so even if I'm listening to music, he thinks I'm on the phone with someone as I have no doubt he's got his OWife on the phone if she's not with him.
    I try very hard not to let it run my life, but I always keep it in the back of my mind.
    It sucks living like this, and 99.9999999999% of the time I dont let my fear of the what-ifs and could-bes keep me from living.
    Also, exh2/TEO got himself caught up in near-death experience a few months ago and though it hasn't made him a nicer, kinder, gentler person, maybe it shook him up enough to leave me the hell alone.

  • I could have written this letter a couple years ago. In my case, there was no real threat. Just a bunch of bluster from a True American Asshole. But, because I was so worn down and traumatized by him at the time, I felt in danger. Once I even fled my home with my daughter to stay with family out of fear of him. In the end, he was lashing out because he was, for once, being held accountable for his actions.

    Your case may be the same. But, there are enough stories out there about seemingly docile guys murdering their families, that I think it’s normal to be worried…that a guy, who is being verbally aggressive toward you, and has wished death upon you (if even as a vent to his friends), should cause you concern for your safety is, I think, rational.

    If it’s any consolation, once the divorce was done and the dust settled, my ex calmed down and my feelings of fear also died down, as I became more emboldened and confident…and as I began to recognize more and more that my ex was just a bully coward. I look back now and feel silly for being scared, but at the time it was real.

    So, you’re not alone, and I think it’s reasonable to take precautions and DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!! But, also, work on building confidence and detachment from him. And, let his past behavior dictate your fear level. Like, has he ever physically hurt anyone in his life? If the answer is largely no, then you can let a little more of your fear go.

  • I am a Chump (x3 if you’re just counting those I married) and a domestic violence survivor. Thirty-odd years ago, I was strangled into unconsciousness by my then-husband and dropped on the highway with my dog. I never went back. And then two and a half years ago, I left my cheating and physically abusive third husband of 18 years. We had been together for a quarter of a century and had some good times, but once I was had some health problems that required my attention, this depriving him of my full attention at all times, the devaluation began and accelerated rapidly. It took me a long time to see the abuse for what it is. Domestic violence victims are chumps, too. We spackle like crazy, we smoke the hopium pipe, we pick-me dance, we excuse all sorts of aberrant behavior because we just *know* they really love us, and they didn’t *mean* it when they threw the coffee pot at us/threw us down the steps/knocked us to the ground/etc. and at least they didn’t HIT us. Until they did. Or maybe they never hit us, but strangled us instead. Most domestic abusers are cheaters as well, so, yeah, we’re chumps. I’ve been chumped six ways from Sunday. At least.

    Here’s the thing, “IsThisReallyMyLife,” we don’t OVER-estimate the threat. We tend to underestimate it, because it’s embarrassing to be a victim of domestic violence, and we cannot believe that the man who swore to love us forever would really be capable of such a heinous act. We must be imagining it; our imagination must be the problem. HE couldn’t be the problem, because he’s not like that. (He wouldn’t cheat, either, right? I was convinced for a quarter of a century that he would never cheat. A quarter of a century during which, it seems, he constantly cheated.)

    The best indicator of whether a man is really dangerous is YOUR GUT. Trust it. If your gut tells you he’s dangerous, don’t let your head talk you out of your fear. He’s really dangerous. Steer clear of him. Don’t spackle, don’t indulge in hopium and do not become a statistic. Don’t let anyone else talk you out of your fear, either. If you’re afraid of him, he’s dangerous.

    Lundy Bancroft’s Books — any of them, really, but “Why Does He Do That?” is a good start. And “The Gift of Fear by Gavin Somebody (DeBeck?) is required reading in your situation. NiCarthy’s book about escaping an abuser is an excellent resource as well. I wish I had the exact title, but I have to leave for work (I’m already late typing this) and hopefully someone else will fill in the blanks before I’m off work at 7:30 am.

    Trust your gut. If you’re afraid of him, he’s dangerous. We don’t over-estimate danger; we under-estimate it. Don’t be a statistic!

  • IsThisReallyMyLife, we know cheaters certainly don’t have love or respect for us. I don’t believe it’s an irrational fear or that you’re silly.

    There were so many little things that you couldn’t write down all of them. The trigger that set off the danger signal was the HATE you became aware of when you read the email. Yet you passed it off until you saw the hatred passing off the dog.

  • His smiling is the sign of a sociopath. They have no conscience.
    Visit the police. Ask if they have a cop who is an expert on DV. They need to become familiar with your story. Even if they can’t provide protection at this point they will remember you if the time ever comes. They might be able to provide you with the name of a therapist who deals with this. Have the exchange at the police station even if it’s outside.
    Every single neighbor needs to know. Never be by yourself with him.

  • Dear Life, please stop second guessing yourself and ignoring and talking yourself out of blatant warning signs! You are not overreacting or paranoid. This guy is dangerous! First, don’t send stuff over there that is nice or special to your son. This guy is hateful to do this. Please start having drop off and a place like a police station. Stand up for yourself and advocate and don’t back down. Go back and date and document these events. You have copies of the emails. Call them to get information on the process for neutral drop off. Do not ever have yourself in a position to have him carry on at you like that. He loves it that you are afraid of him. Start using a parenting app family wizard. Have it by court order and you don’t talk to him and block him from email. Take your power back. It is not good for your child to see this. Stop today ignoring these warning sign and never be alone with him ever! Never allow him in your home for any reason.

  • I realized that with my cheater, I’ve spent a lot of time wishing he’d go back to the person I loved. To be that husband and father that tried so hard and loved and cared for his family. The family man he told us all that he was.

    But what I’m realizing is, that nice part of him was a show. And I know he is generally a mean person, I know it from watching how he interacts with others. Expecting him to be nice like he was in the beginning is hoping for a unicorn. He’s a pickle and he’ll never go back to being a cucumber.

    When they switch, they turn on a dime and the mask falls. You are left with a truly disordered person. The week before my x walked out on his family he told me he was dangerous. He kept saying that word over and over, dangerous, then danger – us. I came to believe and understand that he was trying to tell me he had become a danger to us. I thought he’d kill me that night. I asked him, are you going to kill me? He was very drunk that night, I thank my higher power that he up and walked out of the house that night to spend the night with Schmoopie, and was gone for good within a week.

  • Trust your instincts and never be alone with him ever again. Unfortunately, anyone can be blindsided when someone we placed our trust in chooses to engage in abusive behavior. It’s that desire to fix or deny a dysfunctional situation that makes us second guess our instincts.

    My Mr. Nice Guy ex, after he became involved in an affair with a woman who described herself as “crazy”, became emotionally and physically abusive towards me. I ended the relationship and got the hell out of Dodge when I discovered the texts between them from months before, where they mutually discussed strangulating me and punching me in the face while sexually assaulting me. Batshit Crazy also shared her sickening fantasies of helping men to torture and murder women. The texts and emails between them discussing abuse were documented (Batshit Crazy was sending this crap during her work time, so her employer was notified about her unprofessional conduct). I notified everyone, both of their families included, about their behavior. These kind of people hate exposure, because it takes away their power to gaslight and manipulate.

    They’re both reprehensible POS, and it was a wake up call that Mr. Nice Guy was no longer the gentle person I had known for many years. I’m still concerned that one of them will cause harm to another person someday.

      • It certainly was a horror show. The worst part is that even after his mother experienced health issues as a result of the stress (his violent outbursts and failed suicide attempt as a result of his infidelity and substance abuse being exposed) his parents continue to chose to be in denial of his issues. Detaching from all of them was the best thing that I did.

        Batshit Crazy lives several hundred miles away, but I’m sure she’s engaging in the same M.O. with another troubled person. I’m doing far better these days, but I’m quite careful about who I allow into my life now.

        • What’s shocking is not that Batshit wanted you dead but that she was open about it and found your ex to be complicit. That’s absolutely terrifying. It must have taken ages to be able to sleep through the night after that.

          So many adulterous poachers dissemble their aggression, particularly women. But the fact that their aggression exists is a given considering their behavior.

          • I had anxiety induced vomiting for months (anyone who claims that infidelity isn’t a form abuse is in denial, imo). I’m still concerned that Batshit will someday successfully encourage another man to harm his spouse/partner for her.

            His complicity in her behavior completely blindsided me; this was someone who, prior to his involvement with this addict, never expressed a threat of violence towards anyone in the two decades I had known him. Suddenly he’s badmouthing me, his parents, his boss and making callous, vile comments that he had never expressed to any of us. None of us realized how much cruelty he had hidden, and friends and my own family still have a hard time grasping what he was really like under the surface.

  • I’m over 5 years out from D Day.
    My ex told me he was leaving just because he “wasn’t happy” then I found out about AP #4 ( or #5 depending how you look at it because he hooked up with her before).
    Once the cat was out of the bag and he knew he couldn’t gaslight me anymore there was no more charm or pity….all rage.
    He told me once he would see our house burn down with me in it before he would let me have it.”
    Just w.t.f??????
    Then my kick ass atty let him know that not only would I get the house, but my alimony would pay the mortgage and if he ever made a statement like that again we would take appropriate steps to stop the abuse.
    Game over.
    He knew the spell was broken and I wouldn’t be playing his games anymore. He settled very generously and now he avoids me like the plague.
    The second you really push back he won’t know what to do.

  • Is this really my life-

    I second the recommendations to always err on the side of safety.

    Even as an assault survivor myself I find it chilling to learn from other commenters that some cheaters can become violent for the first time after being exposed and dumped. This fits my personal theory that cheating is a form of “sub-violent” battering.

    Batterers, according to specialists, typically operate on a “beat by need” basis. If they think they have victims under control, violence is just unnecessary effort. Once they sense they’ve lost sexual control, out come the threat, fists, etc. This could explain why victims, prior to assault, are reportedly staristically more likely to be assertive and have good self esteem, contrary to bias old theories. This could turn out to be true of victims of cheating as well.

    After going through the process of prosecuting a violent, stalking former coworker many years ago who managed to con and gain allies among several people around me, I learned that second guessing danger can be a dissociative reflex and part of PTSD.

    There is often social pressure on victims to minimize risk just in the moment when victims need social support for survival. That pressure can be potent and disrupt all-important intuition as victims are torn between heeding their guts and not losing allies. Thankfully I had allies who supported my instincts and helped me fight back. I was motivated to protect my allies as well since stalkers and batterers often go after those close to their targets.

    Stick with people who don’t minimize the risks and help you plan and even scheme. Bonus if they make you laugh while aiding and abetting your fight for safety.

    One friend in particular probably added years to my lifespan with her spot-on sense of humor. She was spot-on precisely because she got the seriousness if it.

    This friend was the daughter of the first black woman judge in the history of her southern state. She was charming and adorable, genuinely caring and friendly to most people but she knew the ropes, the justice system and the stakes. When the stalker’s cohorts would try to call to spy or manipulate during the start of the criminal case, this friend– who stayed with me during this ordeal– would answer my phone and feign naive interest in what the collaborators said. Meanwhile she was laughing under her breath and mouthing to me the crazy things they were saying while pressing the record button on the phone. Then she promptly called the police and reported witness tampering.

    This cut all the stalker’s allies out from under him in one sweep. They didn’t like getting calls from the head of the police terrorist unit saying they were risking jail by meddling. The terrorist unit then went and re-arrested the stalker, SWAT-style, on the property of one of his enablers. My friend flashed her dimples, shrugged and sighed, saying “Pity they made me trot out my inner beast.”

    It took cracked ribs, a wrecked knee and recorded threats to get authorities to take action in my case. But because of the dire statistics, theoretical danger should be enough to start taking every security measure and going to lengths, even stealthy lengths, to gather evidence to build a case against the threatening person in order to keep them away from you and yours for good.

    I second recommendations to get a security camera system, guard your car, use the buddy system, wear a wire and hidden camera or, if you can’t avoid all future direct encounters, make it openly clear you’re recording all encounters.

    Though evidence taken by stealth is often the best to show authorities why you need protection because perps “let their hair down” if they think they’re unobserved, don’t compromise safety to get this evidence. The perp in my situation was prosecuted because of secretly recorded phone calls.

    Check your state laws regarding the legality of audio recording conversations without the other party’s consent. It’s legal in some places, illegal in others.

    In states where only “all party consent” recording is legal (where everyone in a recording must give consent) there are sometimes loopholes making taped evidence admissible in court if a crime is caught on tape (for instance terrorist threat or assault) even if a person being recorded did not give consent. That was the case in my situation.

    Furthermore, even in states where audio recording others without consent is illegal, videotaping unconsenting others without sound may be legal depending on the physical setting. Always check state laws.

    I also second Tessie’s view that the ex might be removing clothes and stashing toys for fear you are hiding monitoring devices in these items. This suggests the ex may be projecting and could already be trying to stealth-record or monitor *you* in a secret war for full custody and/or is doing something that could lose him custody if he were caught.

    In your scary situation, I wish you had full custody so you could move 1000 miles away and be free of this monster forever. Barring that, I wish you safety, protective allies and eventual peace.

  • WASband used to tell me he could kill a person with plants (poisons) and no one would ever know. I never felt threatened, but in retrospect it fits in with the whole covert narc that he is. He’s pathological, despite his upstanding image in his fancy profession. He is smart, and it’s probably true, he could with his educational background. I did tell trusted people that if anything ever happened to me dig deeper. I still SMH at MYSELF for thinking that a comment like that was ever benign.

  • I know people laugh when I say this, but I swear the cheating ass hole ex acted like he was possessed by a fukin demon. And I say this in all honesty and seriousness.

    The guy was pretty easy going and not threatening. But when any mention was made of his whoring, or me saying I would tell anyone, here comes Satan incarnate. He sounded different, he looked different, he acted different, he was different.

    I had a previous violent abusive ex and when the second ex was defending his cheating or the whore, I promise you he was channeling the same exact Master as the first one, whatever that might be. If you wonder where the universal cheater transcript comes from, that’s the source I think.

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