I have had so many people ask me about this blog post. Once upon a time, I was in an abusive relationship. If you know me and know how accomplished and successful I am, this fact may amaze you. I have also been married to someone who had co-parenting responsibilities with an ex-spouse and communication was not always easy.
PHYSICAL ABUSE is not the most common form of abuse. Nor are abusers all MALE. Abuse is gender neutral. I am a master at seeing red flags now and hope I can shed some light by sharing this interesting post I found –
Check out this article about Gaslighting: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/gaslighting-know-it-and-identify-it-protect-yourself.
Abusers use ISOLATION,GASLIGHTING and VERBAL and EMOTIONAL tactics to CONTROL and MANIPULATE their victims. Often, they make logical justifications for their behavior to isolate their victims, such as “Family means only you, me and the kids” or “You don’t need friends outside of our relationship.” Don’t fall for these tactics and don’t be isolated. It is not healthy for you. Once you are isolated, you don’t have a safe support system and you lack a position of power. Once isolated, an abuser has full control. It is a downward spiral from there and takes years of recovery.
Many abusers don’t actually recognize that they are being controlling, manipulating or abusing. If you see that your partner or ex-partner is pushing friends and family away from you or you are becoming silent or non-confrontational to avoid a fight, RECOGNIZE that you may be suffering ABUSE.
The abused typically feels, or is told, that they are overreacting or they are being unreasonable. They’ve been told they are a “bad wife, dad, husband, or child.” They are given compliments attached with a ‘BUT’ which negates anything preceding the word ‘but’, such as, “you’re smart, but you’re stupid to be an engineer.” (My personal favorite that I received along with, “You’re fat.” Note: I was a 125 pound body builder with 4% body fat. Try that on for size.)
An abused person may think if they just stay quiet and don’t upset the abuser, the situation will improve. It doesn’t. It actually gets worse because the abuser knows how to control you and will escalate.
Avoiding the abuser also does not help. A bully only stops when confronted and shown that their abuse and control is unacceptable and will no longer work. Think A Christmas Story; the bully stopped bullying when he was beat. Unfortunately, this is typically a necessary confrontation. I DO NOT recommend this against a physically violent abuser or one who threatens violence. (My particular abuser vaguely threatened to kill me. Never take even the slightest vague threat as anything less than life threatening! #breathingisgood) In that case, LEAVE and get assistance.
For a verbal confrontation, it is best to have a witness as opposed to a confrontation in private. Bullies don’t always bully in public. And, it is good to have witnesses to control the situation. Confrontations at a family counselor are also possible, if the abuser will attend.
If an ex shows up and confronts you at your HOME or office, you are well within your rights to close the door and don’t open it or, preferably, CONTACT the POLICE or authorities. You may not want to call police if children are around, but your abuser knows that too and will use it against you. Contact the police as soon as the incident is over and report it. Advise the abuser that you have made a report of the incident and the police will be called if there is a repeated event.
Boundaries are healthy for relationships and critical for past relationships that are changing. Your relationship with an ex-spouse is not over if you share children. It is merely changed. Ex-spouses who share parenting duties must learn to co-parent in a mature way, beneficial to the children. If one is abusing calendar or contact rules, you can return to court for clarification of divorce decrees regarding the children. This is STILL ABUSE! A judge may fine-tune custody rules. Counselors and church counselors can also help.
Maintain boundaries and limit an ex’s contact with you to a preferred mode, i.e., by phone, text, email or calendar with one designated mode for emergencies. I have a friend whose ex is so abusive and caustic that his new wife is actually the point of contact with the ex-spouse, a novel idea that works great for them. LIMIT acceptable hours of CONTACT unless it is an emergency. For example, on non-custodial weekends, limit acceptable contact – for co-parenting communication only – to before 6pm unless an emergency. There is NO reason an ex needs to text you at 2 am on a weekend when you don’t have custody. This is harassment.
If possible, have new partners communicate so all are on the same page for parenting expectations. This may not be possible. If it is not possible, leave new partners out, but keep them INFORMED and do not let ex-partners dictate unreasonable or controlling limitations on you OR your new partner. This is merely a continuation of abuse on you via threats against your new partner. This goes BOTH ways. Teach children that adults can have normal relationships with ex-spouses and new partners. Teach children what normal adult relationships are. Although children are important, the core of the family unit is the adult relationship as the family unit revolves around this relationship. After a divorce, there may be new step-parents, but the adult relationship is still the center of the family.
If all else fails, seek continued divorce care counseling. Take my advice and seek a professional’s care. Google “Abuse.” Try WWW. TheHotline.Org or WWW. DomesticShelters.Org or many other location specific sources of assistance.
Note- Gaslighting and emotional abuse affects men and women! For men, see:
Do you have any comments or stories to share? Information helps us all.