domestic abuse victim

How Should Domestic Abuse Victims Handle Divorce?

domestic abuse victim

 

Domestic abuse typically occurs behind closed doors. If you have experienced continued emotional or physical abuse from your partner, do not remain silent any longer. It’s time for you to experience a sense of calmness and security; it’s time for a divorce.

If you are a domestic abuse victim seeking a divorce, you will need a compassionate yet professional lawyer by your side, every step of the way. They can help protect your rights as well as help you feel safe in your life even after the divorce has been settled.

Different types of abuse:

Abuse has been defined as a pattern of behavior displayed by one person in an effort to gain and maintain control over another. Take note that when we say a pattern of behavior, we mean that this is something that is occurring more than once. While it is easy to assume physical or violent behaviors when talking about abuse, it is important to know there are many different ways your partner can be abusing you.

You may not even realize that you have been experiencing abuse in your relationship if you only consider physical or violent behavior as abuse.

Below we’re going to discuss some of the behaviors your partner may be exhibiting that fall under the term abuse:

  • Physical Abuse – This can include punching, hitting, slapping, kicking, strangling, physically restraining someone against their will, driving recklessly with your partner in the car, or in general making someone feel physically unsafe.
  • Sexual Abuse – While sexual abuse can be physical, it can also be non-physical as well. This can include rape, forced sexual acts, withholding sex, using sex as a weapon or even to pass judgment or assign value. Not only can sexual abuse have an effect on your body, but it can take a huge toll on your emotions and mental state.
  • Verbal/Emotional Abuse – These types of abuse may be harder to spot, but using words against your partner can cause severe emotional damage that can take a long time to recover from. This can include spreading lies, calling someone stupid or ugly, or even talking down to your partner.
  • Mental Psychological – In this case, your partner is likely abusing you through actions or words that have been attacking your sense of mental health and wellbeing.
  • Financial/Economic – Abusers will find any way possible to maintain their control, this can include controlling your households budgeting, not allowing you to have access to accounts, withholding spending money, preventing you from having a job or earning your own money.
  • Cultural/Identity – You partner may be using your identity or cultural beliefs as a way to cause you to suffer or control you. This can include not allowing you to follow dietary customs, preventing you from dressing accordingly to your beliefs, using racial slurs, threating to out them to their friends and family.

How Should Domestic Abuse Victims Handle Divorce?

Where do I start?

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you need to find the courage within yourself to advocate for your own rights and happiness. The first thing to ask yourself is if you feel physically safe in the environment in which you live. If you live with your spouse and feel threatened by potential violence from your spouse, you must seek safety before anything else. You may wish to call the police. It is only after you feel safe that you should look into legal matters.

How a Lawyer Can Help

Once you are in a safe environment, it is best to begin your search for a lawyer as soon as possible. Seeking assistance quickly regarding divorce can help you battle legal matters and gain freedom in your life. You’ll be able to sort through the following topics:

  • Child Custody – It is likely that if someone is abusing their partner, they will potentially abuse their child sometime in their life. A lawyer can make sure both you and your child/children are protected from the abuser.
  • Division of Marital Property – In some cases, the behavior of the abuser can impact the outcome of how the property is divided, giving the victim the larger share.
  • Order of Protection – A lawyer can help you file for an order of protection against your abuser. It will state that your abuser cannot have contact with you. Having an order of protection can help you feel safe during and after the divorce process.

Seek Assistance:

Do not feel trapped in an unhealthy, abusive marriage. Muster up the courage to find a lawyer who supports you throughout the entire legal process in order to end your unhappiness and worry. Going through the court system can be an effective way to end your marriage as well as feeling like someone has your back during this time. Find the strength to save yourself from domestic violence and live the life you want.

It’s time to take action. If you or someone you know is caught up in an abusive relationship, know there is a way out. Asking for help shouldn’t be something you are afraid of. Get in touch with a legal team who cares about you, and your well being.

The post How Should Domestic Abuse Victims Handle Divorce? appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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58 signs you may be codependent

Codependent Relationships: 58 Signs You May Be Codependent

58 signs you may be codependent

 

Codependent relationships are a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, abusive behavior, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.

According to Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More, “As professionals began to understand codependency better, more groups of people seem to have it. Adult children of alcoholics, people in relationships with emotionally disturbed people, people in relationships with irresponsible people and people in relationships with abusive people.”

Basically, a codependent is a person who gives more in a relationship than they get and holds onto the hope that their partner will change. Codependents enable, make excuses and make the relationship problems worse due to their inability to care more for themselves than they do their relationship partner or, the relationship.

Divorce court dockets are filled with people wondering what they could have done differently to save their marriages. If you are codependent, there is always something you can do to make things better, regardless of how darn bad a marriage gets. Are you codependent?

Below are 62 Signs You May Be a Codependent:

1. You know you are codependent when your therapists tell you to take back your life and you think, “I have to get a life first!”

2. You know you are codependent when you honestly think you can change your abuser and that someday your abuser will come through for you. All you have to do is hang in there!

3. You know you are codependent when things are going well but you are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

4. You know you are codependent when you jump through hoops and you aren’t even in the circus.

5. You know you are codependent when “I’m a Slave For You” is your favorite Britney Spears song.

6. You know you are codependent when you starve at an all-you-can-eat buffet because your partner can’t find anything they want to eat.

7. You know you are codependent when someone asks you, “What do you think?” and you are baffled because you haven’t given it much thought.

8. You know you are codependent when it is your birthday party and you go out of your way to see if everyone is enjoying themselves.

9. You know you are codependent when your motto is “whatever it takes”.

10. You know you are codependent when you get a sex change because your partner decides, suddenly, that they are gay. You go above and beyond to keep a lover happy!

11. You know you are codependent when your least favorite song is Mary J. Blige’s song, “No More Drama”.

12. You know you are codependent when you develop spondylitis because of the sack of guilt on your back.

13. You know you are codependent when your favorite childhood game was “SORRY”.

14. You know you are codependent when you love the cologne “Obsession”.

15. You know you are codependent when you have just come out of major surgery with the operation taking longer than expected and you feel guilty that your partner had to wait additional time.

16. You know you are codependent when you have 200 channels to pick from but you hand the remote to your partner.

17. You know you are codependent when you are told you are indecisive. You initially deny this then you say, “I am not indecisive…am I?”

18. You know you are codependent when you are from a warm climate yet you live in a place with a freezing weather 9 months out of the year because your partner has a weird fixation with sledding.

19. You know you are codependent when you apply for a job and the interviewer says, “Tell me a little about yourself” and you proceed to tell them about your partner’s love of hunting, skiing, and baseball.

20. You know you are codependent when you deny the first dance with your wife at your wedding reception because your mother is pouting in the corner because no one is paying her any attention.

21. You know you are codependent when you train intensely for a marathon and on the day of the event, you don’t run it because your partner is having a moment.

22. You know you are codependent when you apply for a “catering” job and your potential boss ask you if you have any experience and you reply, “Plenty”.

You know you are codependent when you hate country music but love the song, “Stand by Your Man”.

24. You know you are codependent when you think “Pleasant dreams” is an oxymoron.

25. You know you are codependent when your favorite Led Zeppelin song is “Ramble On”.

26. You know you are codependent when you could relate to the Secret Service for “taking a bullet” for protecting your guy. The only difference is they get paid for it.

27. You know you are codependent when you respect Paul Simon but don’t get it when he sings about “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”.

28. You know you are codependent when your dad doesn’t give you any credit. He runs down your new fella saying he is not ambitious enough yet you are dating Pete Cashmore.

29. You know you are codependent when you apologize to your therapist for “talking too much” yet you are paying him/her for the privilege of talking.

30. You know you are codependent when you love the Beatles song, “We Can Work it Out”. It is your relationship anthem!

31. You know you are codependent when your therapist tells you to love yourself unconditionally and you come up with, “what else you got”?

32. You know you are codependent when you compare talking about yourself to The Wicked Witch in “The Wizard of Oz” losing the plot when Dorothy threw water on her.

33. You know you are codependent when you are attracted to irresponsible, rude bad boys who put you in your place and 20 years later you are still taking it.

34. You know you are codependent when your therapist develops writer’s cramp when you start listing all the things you hate about yourself.

35. You know you are codependent when you are raised in a “no talk of feelings” type of family and you tell your partner that your parents did the “best they could”.

36. You know you are codependent when stalking laws were written with you in mind. Get out from behind that bush!

37. You know you are codependent when the school bully takes your lunch money every day for a year but you forgive him because he has had a tough time of it at home.

38. You know you are codependent when your partner gives you flowers every time he cheats on you and now you have enough flowers to open up your own garden center. And, he is still cheating.

39. You know you are codependent when your drill instructor calls you a “no good, walking the dog, lowlife scumbag who doesn’t have what it takes” and you are impressed with his insight.

40. You know you are codependent when you easily forgive your parents because let’s not forget they had it so bad when they were growing up BUT you can’t give yourself a break on anything.

41. You know you are codependent when your favorite CD is Janet Jackson’s “Control”.

42. You know you are codependent when you have more issues than DC Comics.

43. You know you are codependent when you give great advice but you don’t practice what you preach.

44. You know you are codependent when you want to see your favorite group Santana in concert. You choose not to go when you see the name of the concert is, “An Intimate Evening With Santana” because you don’t do intimacy.

45. You know you are codependent when you seek out people who are emotionally unavailable. The irony is they think you are too emotional.

46. You know you are codependent when you work out to “If I Can’t Have You I Don’t Want Nobody, Baby” by Yvonne Elliman.

47. You know you are codependent when you can relate to a puppet because someone is always pulling your strings.

48. You know you are codependent when the people you admire are looked down on by other people.

49. You know you are codependent when your mother talks shit about you, yet you go out of your way to get her something nice for Mother’s day because deep down she, “really cares.”

50. You know you are codependent when you always reward your abusers for bad behavior.

51. You know you are codependent when you live by the expression “he isn’t so bad once you get to know him.”

52. You know you are codependent when you receive praise and scratch it off like a dog with fleas.

53. You know you are codependent when your mom tells you that you are weak for needing help and you think she has a point.

54. You know you are codependent when you don’t realize you have the strength to rid yourself of your abuser.

55. You know you are codependent when the title of the song “Sacrifice” by Elton John describes you.

56. You know you are codependent when you hang out at bars and attract all the damaged women who need to be rescued and, you think you got lucky.

57. You know you are codependent when you don’t do yourself any favors.

58. You know you are codependent when, after reading this list, you still can’t acknowledge your codependency.

The post Codependent Relationships: 58 Signs You May Be Codependent appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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the narcissistic parent

The 10 Commandments Of The Narcissistic Parent

the narcissistic parent

 

My son walked into the room and handed me the phone. “Dad can’t talk right now; he just poured a bowl of cereal and doesn’t want it to get soggy.” My ex, who hadn’t talked to his son in twelve days, was more concerned about his cereal becoming soggy than a few moments of communication with his child. That is what it is like to co-parent with a narcissist.

In fact, there is very little co-parenting that occurs, most of your time is spent attempting to undo the damage a narcissist can do to his children. The narcissistic parent isn’t capable of “normal” paternal instincts. They view their children as objects meant to fulfill the narcissist’s needs, instead of the other way around.

A couple of years ago I found the list below on a blog that is no longer online. I’ve not read a more appropriate description of how the narcissistic parents. If you are divorced from a narcissist, I suggest you print out The 10 Commandments of the Narcissistic Parent and tape it to your frig. You will be referencing it often!

The Ten Commandments of the Narcissistic Parent:

  • I am who I tell you I am.
  • You will tell me things I want to hear or you will not be heard.
  • You will feel the way I want you to feel or you will be forsaken.
  • Love is conditional upon the aforementioned.
  • Intimacy is vulnerability, and thus, death.
  • There is only one road in and out of here.
  • Children are like toys that become useless when they break, which is why they must be replaced with better toys.
  • Parents are really one person in two bodies. When they individuate, they die.
  • Conversely, siblings are really one person in several bodies. When one individuates, that person shall be hunted down and slaughtered for the greater good.
  • Narcissism is a myth.

Let’s go over each briefly. Allow me to add my own two cents to what Jay wrote based on real-life experience.

I am who I tell you I am:

Our children learned this about their father the hard way. I don’t suppose there is an easy way! Their father would say one thing, do another and when they questioned his behavior, he would become highly offended. He thinks of himself as a loving, involved father even though he goes years without contact with his children.

In his mind, he is loving and involved but doesn’t see or talk to his children because they have the audacity to point out to him that “loving and involved” fathers behave in a loving and involved manner. Since his children are people who know he is not who he tells them he is, he chooses to surround himself with people who will believe he is who he tells them he is.

Confusing huh? Imagine being a child and attempting to intellectualize and rationalize such behavior from a parent.

You will tell me things I want to hear, or you will not be heard:

Refer to the example above. Our children didn’t tell their father he was a loving and involved parent, so he know refuses to hear anything they have to say. He ignores text messages, doesn’t respond to emails. He is completely out of touch because they failed to tell him what he wanted to hear.

You will feel the way I want you to feel or you will be forsaken:

This is the one that does the most damage. The narcissistic parent places no value on his children’s feelings. When we don’t value other people’s feelings our actions can do irreparable damage to those people. Our son was upset over something his father wrote him in an email. He responded and told his father, “Dad, when you say things like that, it hurts my feelings.”

His father responded and told our son, “I am not responsible for your feelings.” And then he went on to explain to the child just how unreasonable it was for his son to expect him to care about his feelings. You can’t tell a child in one voice, “I love you” and then tell them “If your feelings got hurt it is your fault” in the next and expect that child to not be emotionally damaged.

Love is conditional upon the aforementioned:

Yes, if a child refuses to feel the way the narcissistic parent needs them to feel, love, attention, caring, concern, all will be withheld. The bad news for the narcissist, children eventually adjust and move on.

That old saying, “out of sight, out of mind” works against the narcissist. I can, thankfully say that as adults our children rarely think about or mention their father. When you withdraw your love from someone they will eventually “let go” of their love for you.

Intimacy is vulnerability, and thus, death:

The narcissist alludes to intimacy without becoming fully engaged in intimacyTrue intimacy with another person means allowing yourself to become vulnerable, emotionally dependent.

Vulnerability and dependency are the kiss of death to the narcissist. Your child will love the narcissistic parent; the narcissistic parent is only able to love what the child can do for him.

There is only one road in and out of here:

And, it is a bumpy road! The road out is far more difficult to navigate.

Children are like toys that become useless when they break, which is why they must be replaced with better toys:

My ex replaced our children with a step-daughter. She reveres him, she extols his wonderfulness. She is much like his children were before the divorce. She will forever be the recipient of his goodness, until she questions a behavior or, disagrees with a belief. When that happens, she will learn how bumpy that road out can get.

Parents are really one person in two bodies. When they individuate, they die:

When my ex and I divorced in his mind I was dead. I was no longer an object that was of any use to him so any needs, feelings or desires I had become of no consequence to him. Since I was no longer important to him, he felt our children should view me through his eyes…I was someone who didn’t matter.

He could not co-parent with me; doing so would mean acknowledging me as an individual outside himself. To him I am not an autonomous human being, I’m something he tired of and discarded. The fact that our children love me and refused to also abandon their relationship with me plays an important role in his inability to continue to have a relationship with them.

Conversely, siblings are really one person in several bodies. When one individuates, that person shall be hunted down and slaughtered for the greater good:

When we divorced our children were 14 and 7 years old. The older child was quick to call his father out for hurtful behavior. The younger child made excuses and did whatever he could to keep his father happy. All the younger child cared about was spending time with his Dad. Due to that he detached himself from the emotional pain and focused on pleasing his father.

Our older child individuated, became separate from his brother and had to be done away with emotionally. Our older son is now 33 years old. His father has rarely acknowledged him since the divorce. He came to his high school graduation after 4 years of never attending a parent/teacher meeting, extracurricular activity, regular visitation and refusing to enter into counseling. That is the only time since our divorce that he has shown interest in our older child.

His child was “hunted down” and “slaughtered” emotionally.

Narcissism is a myth:

I believe that a narcissist knows they are different. They realize they are unable to form normal emotional attachments with others. Admitting to that difference would mean becoming vulnerable to the opinions of others. It is for that reason that most narcissists will deny their disorder.

The narcissist is awesome, just ask him. Awesome people don’t have personality disorders dontcha know? For the narcissist, any relationship problems are about YOU, certainly not about them and their awesome selves.

I tell clients who are co-parenting with a narcissist to keep their expectations low. Don’t expect the narcissist to tackle parenting with the same parental instincts they have.

And, never believe that you can “get through” to the narcissist and hold them accountable. Focus on your parental duties, be diligent in cleaning up the emotional messes the narcissist leaves behind and get your children into therapy. They are going to need it!

The post The 10 Commandments Of The Narcissistic Parent appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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When Sex Abuse Victims Aren

What Happens When Sex Abuse Victims Aren’t Supported And Nurtured?

When Sex Abuse Victims Aren't Supported And Nurtured

 

Three weeks ago, I wanted your decision to call off the engagement, to be about me-about something I did or didn’t do.  Three weeks ago, I began the inner dialogue of playing the ‘what if’ game:  “What if I had sent a more loving text?”; “What if I had sat closer to him at soccer practice?”; “What if I had planned a romantic weekend instead of buying Valentine’s Day gifts?”

Three weeks ago, I was drowning in self-doubt and self-blame. I thought about all of my flaws: my middle-aged after three children body, my short-temper, my overly analytical mind.

Three weeks ago I needed something tangible, something I could isolate- an exact moment when I destroyed the relationship. This discovery would empower me: it would give me control.  If I had this tidbit, then I would not be a victim again. I would protect myself.  I would use this as a reminder to what I had learned so many times: never be vulnerable; always be vigilant.

My vigilance was complete and steady until recently. 

I fully blame the media for my change in heart. I was inundated with another v-word- vulnerability.  Vulnerability was all the buzz when it came to unlocking the secrets to finding and keeping love.

Studies were conducted, articles and books were written, T.V. shows and documentaries were made. All of these purported the same message: Vulnerability is key to a true connection.  But, I am a hard sell.  It wasn’t until I went to see a long-awaited film that I gave this notion some real thought.

In late October, on a really bad date, I went to see the film A Star Is Born. I was absolutely stunned by the performances both actors gave. It wasn’t just the vocals or the acting- although both were superb-rather, it was the lesson they learned.

The characters, both struggling with their own demons, together find their way out of hell by letting down their guard and trusting the other. The scenes where Ally and Jackson allowed themselves to be vulnerable were both uncomfortable and beautiful to me.  I wanted to be Ally—not just because of her voice and marriage to Jackson- I longed to know what it was like to trust someone enough to be completely vulnerable.

When Sex Abuse Victims Aren’t Supported And Nurtured

Vulnerability is often learned at the hand of trauma.

I have learned this more times than I will ever admit. Sometimes it is extreme like sexual and physical abuse and sometimes it is a matter of being demeaned, humiliated, ignored.  And unlike adults, children are not allowed or not encouraged to feel how they feel. They bury the feelings of betrayal, confusion, anger, and rejection. Or if they are allowed to feel some of the emotions, it is not under the care of a professional or a trusted adult.

What makes childhood abuse so detrimental to future relationships is the victim learning the hard way that you cannot trust those who were supposed to have protected you.  It is the memory of recalling what it was like to be in a situation in which you have no control and no one would answer your calls for aid.  It is the anger that comes with knowing that telling about the abuse will make things worse and leave even more people broken and hurt.

Children learn quickly.  The subtext that they pick up on really quickly is this:  society blames victims- especially women.

When a woman is raped, how often does she feel the scrutiny of outfits and interactions? When a woman is abused by her partner, what gossip does she hear about her inabilities and insanity? When a woman is mentally terrorized, how often does she see another rewarded for her tenacity to go through the hell?

The blame game impacts every young woman-those who have experienced abuse and those who have not.

It is extremely common for trauma victims to blame themselves because they are looking for a defense mechanism against the most awful feeling in the world: powerlessness. It is also extremely common for all humans to want to understand. Children who have known trauma, don’t often get to address these issues.

When a caretaker or parent doesn’t ensure that these feelings are addressed, the child will find a resolution: self-blame.  The repercussions will certainly continue if the victim (If we) never come to know that it wasn’t our fault; it wasn’t our choice; it wasn’t what we deserved.

What I deserve (d) was the ability to be vulnerable, to have parents and caring adults protect me from the evil that targeted me.  I deserved to be believed, supported, and nurtured when these same adults failed to protect me. I didn’t deserve to have my pain buried, to have my self-esteem diminished, to have my self-love lessened. I deserved complete and unfaltering love.

I believe in healing.  I believe that trauma is only a part of who we are.  I believe we have to stop re-traumatizing ourselves.  I believe we have to stop repeating the cycle of pain.  I believe that we can see ourselves as brave warriors and not victims.  And I most definitely still believe in love.

The post What Happens When Sex Abuse Victims Aren’t Supported And Nurtured? appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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gaslighting

Gaslighting: How To Recognize It And Protect Yourself

gaslighting

 

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse. It is defined as a way to manipulate someone to make them question their own sanity.  As you can imagine it is a particularly dangerous form of domestic abuse. This article explains a little about its history and what it can look like in relationships. It also gives some ways to stand up it.

Still, from the beginning, I want to stress that If you are being psychologically abused with gaslighting I believe ultimately you will need to leave. If you are in a situation where you can’t leave yet or there are children involved and you must have some interaction, these tips might help you keep your sanity when he is trying to distort is.

Where the word gaslighting comes from

Gaslight is the name of a play that was made into a movie in the 1940s. In its most famous version, Ingrid Bergman played the heroine. I will try not to give the whole story away because I think everyone should see the movie, but I will touch on parts of it to illustrate how gaslighting works.

The basic plot of the story is that a young woman’s husband is systematically making her feel like she is going insane as part of a plot to steal her gems. The title comes from how the gas lamps would dim when he is pretending to be out of the house but secretly in the attic.

When she tells him about the lights, he says she is seeing things and tries to get others to believe she is mentally ill. Other times he takes things from her and then tells her she loses things. Over time, she begins to think she is going crazy. He tells others around her that she is sick, ensuring that she has no outside reality check.

During the course of the movie, we watch her deteriorate, starting to be easily frightened, avoiding going out, and eventually becoming what he tells her she is. The woman doesn’t recognize what is happening until a detective from the Scotland Yard, who had been following the husband, tells her what he was doing.

Most of us will not be helped by Scotland Yard so we will have to learn to be our own detectives. The first step in protecting yourself from gaslighting is to recognize what it can look like.

How do you know if you are being gaslighted?

It is not easy. It is designed to be unnoticed. Fortunately, we all have an inner voice that tells us when something is not right. In the movie, she hears the inner voice the first time he tells her she loses things, but she quickly overrides this voice. She trusts him. She thinks he loves her and she is willing to believe she makes mistakes. So, she accepts the lie.  That is the key to gaslighting.

Here are some examples of what gaslighting might look like off screen.

Covert gaslighting

You get stuck in traffic and are late to meet him.

“Sorry I am late.”

“Oh, don’t worry.  You are always a little late. I have learned to expect your magical sense of time.”

You are confused. You aren’t always late. You make it a point to be on time. But you start to wonder if you are late more often than you realized and maybe you do have no sense of time.

Aggressive gaslighting

He invites you to go to an event with his friends and you greet them happily. Later he says, “I was surprised when you flirted with my friends.”

You weren’t flirting with his friends but now you wonder. ‘Was I wrong to say hello with a hug?’ Maybe I do touch people too much. Again, you question yourself.

Supportive gaslighting

You excitedly tell him about your new job.

He says, “I am so happy for you. I know how much you disliked giving presentations at your last job.”

Again, you are confused. You like public speaking and actually will miss it.  Now you wonder why he said that. Are you more nervous about the presentations than you realized?

As you can see gaslighting can look very benign, even kind and supportive. This is part of how you can be tricked into believing it. Bit by bit, you start to question who you are. If it goes on long enough you can begin, like the woman in Gaslight, to believe his version of who you are.

This is the essence of crazy making. Being conditioned to believe something that isn’t true. It is important to note he doesn’t believe this picture of you either. One of the most disturbing realizations about gaslighting is that his lies about you are made on purpose.

Protecting yourself from gaslighting

Ultimately, I think this is a situation where you have to leave but until that is possible, you can take some steps to protect your sanity.

Get an outside perspective. In the movie, he isolated her from people to prevent others from dispelling his illusion about her. The lie loses its power when you no longer believe it.  This is why if you suspect this is happening to you, it is imperative to get outside help- a counselor, a friend, a family member who can remind you of who you are. If you are self-employed or work at home, consider getting a job with coworkers. This can be a valuable reality check.

Speak your truth. Every time he tells you what you are doing, being, thinking, ask yourself if you agree. If your first thought is no then say ‘No, that is not true, I usually am on time, I was not flirting, I like public speaking’ etc.  There is no need to argue. You are not trying to convince him. Remember, he knows that what he is saying about you is not true. You are reminding yourself of who you are and at the same time drawing a very important boundary. I am the one who defines who I am.

Listen to your inner voice. When I first suspected I was being abused I called a hotline and immediately apologized about calling them because my husband was not hitting me. I said I just feel like I am being abused. She said, “If you feel like you are being abused you are being abused.” From these words, I began my journey to recovery. There was nothing I could see or prove to myself or others. I only knew that it felt wrong. And that is all I needed to know.

In the movie, the woman finally does stand up to him when she realizes what he was doing and still he tries to manipulate her to the end.  Abusers are getting something out of the abuse so they rarely just stop it. Standing up for yourself and your reality is something you do to maintain your sanity as you begin the processes of leaving.

You might spin your wheels as you try to figure out why he does this. In the movie, he was after jewels, but for most of us, there is no logical reason. To control us? To have power? To protect his own reality? I am not sure we will ever know but it doesn’t matter. The goal here is not to change him. It is to protect yourself. And the stakes are high. He might not be stealing jewels but gaslighting can steal your very sense of who you are.

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domestic abuse victim

Domestic Abuse Victim? Where To Find Help

domestic abuse victim

 

There is help if you are a victim of domestic violence!

“Look at this food you have fixed for me! Do you call this dinner? I wouldn’t even feed this to a dog!” he screams as he swings his lengthy arm across the table knocking the food onto the floor.

Quickly she kneels to the floor. Her eyes dare not to look at him for she knows what will happen. She picks up the broken plates with her shaking hands and holds back the tears until she is alone.

Suddenly, a blow to the back of her head causes her to fall unconscious to the floor. The room is dark. There are faint cries in the background. It is her youngest son. She knows she must get up. If she does not, she fears his anger will be redirected to her son. She struggles to open her eyes, but she cannot. She tries to move her arms, but they will not move. She wants to cry out to her son to comfort him, but the words will not come. Slowly her son’s cries become more distant and then…nothing.

Every three minute a woman is beaten by her husband or boyfriend.

More women die from domestic violence than heart failure. Most abusive men have grown up in an abusive household.

Domestic violence happens every day. You are not alone. There is help out there.

Choosing to escape a violent relationship is scary. There are so many reasons you think of to stay. He might change or is just having a bad day. Maybe I should have done something better. Maybe it is all my fault. No one deserves to be abused in any form whether it is verbal or physical. And, statistics show that without help, an abuser will not stop and will only become more violent.

So you may be wondering how you will live. I do not know if I can afford it on my own. There are many sources out there willing to help you to get back on your feet in a safe environment.

Where will I go where he will not find me? He swore if I ever leave him he will kill me. You do not have to live in fear. There are many resources online, and you can find a local number to a crisis center in your phone book.

The first thing you need to do is to realize you are a domestic abuse victim.

Once you have done that then you need to make a plan.

When you get a chance to be alone, you can call the domestic violence helpline. They will offer you suggestions on what to do next. If you are in immediate danger call 911. If he is only in jail for a few hours then pack a bag and run to a shelter.

If that is not an option and you have the time to plan your escape then here are some suggestions to help you when you are ready. Pack a suitcase and hide it in a bus station or a friend’s house. Get a cell phone. A pre-paid cell has no contract, so there will not be any bill sent to your home. If you can stash a little money back if it means you have to tell him that you spent more at the store than you did.

Find a friend that you can trust. Whether it be a family friend or someone from the crisis center. Let them know of your plan and let them help you to make your getaway.

There are many support groups and advocate agencies out there. It is up to you to make the first step.

The post Domestic Abuse Victim? Where To Find Help appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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before leaving your abuser

11 Steps To Take Before Leaving Your Abuser

before leaving your abuser

 

Breaking up a marriage where there are children involved is a heartbreaking and extraordinarily difficult decision for any mom to make. She may have no choice if she is being abused, whether verbally or physically.

Allowing the abuse to continue sets a bad example for her children and has a deep impact on them, even if they are not being subjected to abuse themselves. They will be more likely to grow up thinking that this pattern of behavior is normal, and become either an abuser or a victim of domestic abuse themselves.

As she is most likely the primary caretaker of her children, it is up to her to break the cycle of abuse in her family. Unless her husband is willing to acknowledge and make amends for his actions, go to a therapist, and permanently change his behavior, the only recourse she has is to end the marriage to protect herself and her children. It’s vital for her to not only take financial precautions, but also to practice self-care, and use stress reduction tools and healing techniques to get through this difficult time and begin to heal.

If you find yourself in this situation, take these important 11 steps before leaving your abuser.

1. Safety First. Your family’s personal safety is the only thing that really matters. If either you or your children are being subjected to physical violence, take them and leave the home right now. If you suspect that physical abuse may be imminent, take the children and leave right now.

Use the resources listed in the Emergencies Tab on the Breaking Bonds website, a free resource for abused women, to find a secure place to stay if you don’t have somewhere else to go. You can access the rest of the information on this website from a safe distance.

2. Have Money. Before alerting your abuser that you plan to leave him, set aside hard cash for emergencies and transfer up to half of the balances in the bank accounts to an account in your name alone. Have the bank mail the statements to a post office box instead of to your home. You will need to be able to pay bills until you are able to petition the court for financial assistance.

Abusers will frequently drain the accounts once they discover they are going to lose control over their victims in order to retaliate or to force them to drop the divorce petition or settle for unfavorable terms. Do not drain the joint accounts yourself and leave your husband without any funds, as that would be unethical.

Disclose what you have done with the money in your first meeting with your lawyer.  He or she may have different advice as to whether you should move funds to a separate account before filing for divorce. Inform him or her that an abuser will do whatever it takes to be punitive and maintain control, and it is highly likely that he will drain the household accounts as soon as he is aware that his wife plans to divorce him.

Although your attorney can ask the judge in your case to issue a temporary order to freeze your jointly held bank accounts, such measures will take time. You must have funds for the day-to-day living expenses for your family and to pay your attorney and court expenses in the meantime.

3. Go-to Bag. Prepare a go-to bag that contains contain cash, your driver’s license, credit cards, checkbooks, a list of your assets and debts, a set of clothes for you and the children, toys, court papers, your passport, birth certificates, medical records, marriage certificate, social security cards, medicines, insurance information, immunization records, welfare documents, immigration papers, and other legal documents. Keep copies of court papers in your possession to prove to the police that your spouse is violating a court restraining order if you have to summon them.

4. Make Copies. Make copies of bank and other financial statements, deeds, paystubs, recent tax returns, estate documents, and emails, texts, posts, or video that incriminate your abuser or prove his infidelity without alerting him that you plan to file for divorce. Store this evidence somewhere safe outside the home. Abusers frequently remove or destroy records once they become aware of the divorce.

5. Protect your Children. When you leave your husband, take your children with you to avoid losing custody of them. The courts may consider your leaving them behind to be abandonment, a sign that you are an unfit mother willing to leave them in danger. Or that you are lying about the domestic abuse. Even if your husband tries to intimidate you to leave without the children, do not let him force you to leave the house without them under any circumstances. Call the police if you must.

6. Document Abuse. Take pictures of any physical abuse and date them. Start documenting verbal abuse in a journal that you keep outside the home. If your abuser becomes violent, call the police immediately and have them take pictures to document the abuse. Make sure that you have written down the names of the officers who are present. Have your abuser arrested. If you give him a free pass, the abuse is likely to escalate. Protect yourself and your children.

7. Get Help. Use the Resources Tab on the Breaking Bonds website to find safety resources, therapists, and financial and legal assistance in your area.

8. Protect Credit. Before you file for divorce, obtain a credit card in your name alone. You may not be able to get credit based on your income alone, so make an application to get the card before you file for divorce so that you can qualify for credit based on your joint income with your spouse. As soon as you file, close any joint credit cards that have a zero balance and put a freeze the jointly held credit cards. You won’t be able to close them out completely if they still have a balance, but you can prevent any additional charges from being added to joint debt by freezing the account.

You are responsible for payment of any joint debt that you or your husband incurs during your marriage, even debt that your husband will ultimately be assigned in the settlement. Credit card companies are only concerned with whether you signed for the card, not the terms of a court order. Document all phone calls you make to the credit card companies and send them follow-up letters requesting that the lender report to the credit agencies that each of these credit card accounts was closed at your request.

Late payments and skipped payments will adversely affect your credit score for years to come, so do your best to make sure that payments are made by the due date for any debts you or your husband have incurred while the divorce is still going on. Your credit score will affect whether you can buy a home in your name alone or if you can refinance your existing home to remove your husband’s name afterward. It also affects the rate of interest that you will be charged on any loans you apply for in the future. Do what you can to protect your credit score.

9. Confide Well. Be careful whom you confide in. Some of your friends, colleagues, and family members may be judgmental or repeat to others what you have said to them in confidence. Even worse, the word may get back to your abuser. Do not confide in your children unless it is absolutely necessary, as they are dealing with enough emotional turmoil and deserve to have their childhood protected.

When discussing the situation with your children, say that you don’t feel safe living with their father or leaving them alone with him. Tell them that he does bad and scary things, not that he is a bad person. It is not necessary or helpful to elaborate. The best plan is to confide mostly in your therapist and your dog. Then give it to God.

10. Self-Care. Take care of yourself so that you can handle the stress of the divorce effectively. You will need physical energy and brainpower to deal with a very manipulative and unscrupulous opponent over a period of many months. Begin making changes now in your daily routine so that you get enough nutrients, exercise, and rest to feel empowered and think clearly. Mindfulness, deep breathing, meditation, prayer, time with friends and family, journaling, time outdoors, uplifting music, comedies, positive affirmations, massage, aromatherapy, and a daily gratitude practice are all wonderful tools to reduce stress and stay strong during this difficult time. Use the tools that work for you regularly to begin to heal. This will also boost your self-esteem and confidence.

11. Choose You. Choose not to be a victim any longer. Stop blaming yourself! He has been brainwashing you into thinking that everything is your fault. He is the one who is mistreating you and making your family life miserable. Take back your power and take appropriate action. Do not argue or engage with your abuser. Use your legitimate fear of him to protect yourself and your children. Use your anger, which is telling you that something is very wrong with your life, to overcome your fear and make the changes that you need in your life.

The post 11 Steps To Take Before Leaving Your Abuser appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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parental alienation cause ptsd

Does Parental Alienation cause PTSD?

parental alienation cause ptsd

Does Parental Alienation cause PTSD?

Let’s start with what Parental Alienation Syndrome is. It is an aggressive form of psychological abuse whereby one parent, usually, degrades and destroys the relationship between the children and their other parent.

Though primarily occurring in high conflict divorce and custody situations, it can be seen in intact families, between parents of parents, and even worse, child protective agencies. This destruction of a once very strong bond between the children and the parent is like a living death with no closure and thus a daily reminder of someone we love and feel disconnected from.

So what is PTSD?  PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  But what does that mean?  The DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists it  with a diagnosis code of 309.81 and describes it as follows:

the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate (Criterion A1). The person’s response to the event must involve intense fear, helplessness, or horror (or in children, the response must involve disorganized or agitated behavior) (Criterion A2). The characteristic symptoms resulting from the exposure to the extreme trauma include persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic event (Criterion B), persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (Criterion C), and persistent symptoms of increased arousal (Criterion D). The full symptom picture must be present for more than 1 month (Criterion E), and the disturbance must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (Criterion F.)

But what does all this mumbo jumbo mean?  It means that when a devastating event or series of events occur to an individual, it can have profound effects on their ability to cope and deal with it.  The victim becomes paranoid or scared. They have panic attacks, uncontrollable crying, inability to think clearly, anger, fear, hatred, rage, uncontrollable fight and flight responses, even reoccurring thoughts or dreams of the event.

It can lead to extreme depression, exaggerated emotional responses including irritability and anger, substance abuse, insomnia or excessive sleep, nightmares, heightened attention and reactions, inability to concentrate or finish a task. Basically, the person feels lost, confused, scared, and all alone.

PTSD is classified with three levels or types. Acute PTSD occurs within the first 3 months. Chronic PTSD continues for 3 months or more. And Delayed Onset PTSD occurs after 6 months or more have passed and then the symptoms appear.

You can actually have PTSD but not know it because you have learned how to cope with it, control it and deal with it by compartmentalizing it. In other words, you have learned various tools and tricks to put it at bay so you can focus on what needs to be dealt with and then at a later date, when you can allow yourself, you break down from the PTSD. PTSD is not just a word or phrase for a tragic event; it is literally about the signs and symptoms caused by the reaction to this traumatic event.

How does parental alienation cause PTSD?

Parental alienation is severe trauma to an important relationship between a parent and their child. It is pervasive and goes on and on day in and day out until finally, the victims either concede to the stress of the emotional abuse or fights back with all their might. Each person’s response to this trauma is different.

For the Targeted parent and the children, it becomes a roller coast of emotions, fears, devastation, and abuse.  A living death with no closure, they cannot move forward in a positive way. They are traumatized by the aggressive attacks from the alienator and hence the severe responses that we often see in the children and then in the targeted parent.

One might even venture a guess to say that the alienating parent is suffering from PTSD because of the loss of the marital relationship and control but is in survival mode to make sure that they are not abandoned and that they win at all costs.

Some of the many responses I have heard and seen from the trauma of PAS are:

  • Uncontrollable rage and anger,
  • Constant Fear,
  • Constant anguish,
  • Paranoia,
  • Avoidance of the aggressor,
  • Avoidance of the children,
  • Substance abuse of all kinds,
  • Inability to think rationally,
  • Inability to control their emotions,
  • Distancing themselves from everyone around them,
  • Putting up walls to protect themselves,
  • Flunking school or life,
  • Obsessive-compulsive issues,
  • Deviant behavior in the children,
  • Hypervigilance in everything they do,
  • Burying themselves in school or work,
  • Panic attacks,
  • Nightmares,
  • Over-exaggerated responses to stimuli

I could go on and on with the signs and symptoms of PAS but there is no need. From this list, you can see how the psychological abuse of PAS has the same signs and symptoms as PTSD. This proves that PAS should be considered a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by the trauma of psychological abuse. And this opens the door to an additional way of treatment for the victims of Parental Alienation.

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recovery from narcissistic abuse

4 Stages of Recovery from Narcissistic Abuse

recovery from narcissistic abuse

 

Recovery from narcissistic abuse comes in stages. The early stages are chaotic and, at times, you feel as if you have no control over your recovery.

You’ll blame yourself for problems in the relationship with the narcissist. Hell, you’ve been conditioned by the narcissist to take responsibility for all the problems so, it’s only natural that you continue to do so after the relationship ends.

That relationship has destroyed your self-confidence, self-esteem and a great portion of your self-identity. It will take time to realize you’ve been abused and due to that abuse lost parts of who you are.

In the beginning stage, all you’ll know is that you are hurting more than you’ve ever hurt in your life. The thing for you to focus on is that you’re not alone and there is always hope of recovery.  Everything is eventually going to be OK.

4 stages of recovery from narcissistic abuse

1. Devastation

Emotional symptoms you’ll feel during this stage:

Emptiness, shock, suicidal thoughts, inability to focus, depression, numbness, bitterness, anger detachment from family and friends, preoccupation with the loss of the relationship, an inability to experience joy.

Physical symptoms you’ll experience during this stage:

Inability to sleep, loss of appetite, weight loss, headache, fatigue, digestive problems, somatoform disorders.

About the Devastation Stage

This is the stage immediately following the divorce/breakup from the narcissist, in which you feel all-consuming desolation. Your heart and mind become numb, and you are unable to function properly in your day to day life. Your job performance drops. If you have children, focusing on caring for them will become almost impossible.

You’ll do what you must do during this stage to keep up with your daily responsibilities but, at the end of the day, you’ll not remember what you’ve done or how you managed to get it done. I refer to this as the stage of lingering haze where you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms akin to those experienced by a heroin addict.

You will feel more fragile and vulnerable than you ever have in your life.  Psychologically, you are extremely raw from the erosion of your self-identity that took place during your relationship with the narcissist. At this point, you are still the victim of the narcissist. I’ve known women who talk themselves into believing they deserve the pain they are experiencing.

It is easy to become so manipulated by the narcissist that, even after he is gone, you still believe you were too needy, clingy, worthless, and crazy so, it all must be your fault.

2. Taking Care of Yourself.

During the entire healing process—but especially right now—you must remember to treat yourself well, both physically and emotionally. Mentally you are processing a lot of complex emotions. It’s well known that emotional stress can cause negative impacts on your body. Learning to regulate your physical response to your emotional reactions is imperative to keeping you physically and mentally healthy.

  • Practice meditation whenever you can. My beautiful friend and ice-skating partner, An Old-Fashioned Girl, has shared many techniques on our website that you can try throughout the day. She offered one example where you simply take ten deep breaths in a row—and you can do this anytime, anywhere!
  • Take a multivitamin with B complex each day. This will ensure you’re receiving all of the nutrients you need. B6 and B12 can also help to combat depression. Fish oil is an excellent supplement to keep your skin and hair strong, but it also has some great antidepressant qualities.
  • Exercise! Go for a walk each day. Spend half an hour at the gym. Don’t worry if your workout is less intense than it used to be. Your goal is to work off pent up emotional energy by getting your heart rate up. A walk around the block, dancing to music alone at home, or working up a good sweat at the gym are all appropriate forms of exercise. As long as you’re moving, it doesn’t matter.
  • Get seven to nine hours of sleep. Adequate rest is essential to your mental health, and you won’t be able to get through this if you’re exhausted every day.
  • Go outside and get some sun. Wear sunscreen, of course, but enjoy the natural light of the outdoors, and absorb some vitamin D from the sun. You’ll feel better.
  • Take care of your basic hygiene each day. Don’t skip out on brushing your teeth or taking a shower. The more you get into a routine, the easier it will become to form good habits.
  • Get away from the mirror. Seriously, you look fine. The narcissist conditioned you to feel especially self-conscious about the way you look, but no one is judging you as they did.

3. Denial

During the denial stage, you’ll feel, volatility, pseudo happiness, manic moods, substance abuse, impulsivity, attention seeking, cyberstalking the narcissist.

You lash out at everyone and everything except the narcissist. You may go out drinking, partying, and dating recklessly—all in a monumental effort to convey the message that you are fine. You may become very impulsive, blowing your savings and harboring delusional thoughts of returning to the narcissist.

A big part of the denial phase is still believing they must be interested because of how amazing things were when you were in love. It doesn’t seem possible that they could already be in love with someone else (and it wouldn’t be possible, in a normal relationship). You believe that what the two of you had together was true and beautiful and that he is missing it as much as you.

Instead of recognizing that things are over, you spend a lot of time wondering what you could have done differently to save your perfect relationship. You look back on every single moment that led to the “downfall” and wish that it hadn’t gone that way. You think of creative ways to fix the things that you supposedly broke. You find yourself longing for another chance to make it right.

You forget that your “mistakes” during the relationship were perfectly reasonable responses to unacceptable behavior from the narcissist.

4. Education

During the education stage, you will feel, uncertainty, anxiety, curiosity, disbelief, enlightenment, a compelling urge to learn more.

This is where things start to change fast. Somehow, you come across the topic of psychopathy or narcissism or sociopathy. Whether it be through a lucky Google search, some prior life knowledge you picked up, or a skilled therapist, you now have the biggest piece of the puzzle. This is why the label matters. From here, everything starts to fall into place. You begin to understand why he behaves the way he does.

How could someone who thought you were perfect be the very same person who intentionally hurt you? How could they go from obsession to contempt in the blink of an eye? It isn’t possible. There’s no way you dated a narcissist. They loved you. Right?

The more you question and educate yourself, the better you are able to understand what it is about you that made you vulnerable to the narcissist. What you need to change so you’re never in that position again. Best of all, you’ll begin to feel less shame and self-blame and realize that, as much as he tried to erase who you are at the core, you’re going to survive, become whole again and armed with very valuable information about yourself and what to stay away from in your next relationship.

Knowledge is power to survivors, and poison to psychopaths. The more information you have, the better. And once it all begins to sink in is when the true healing begins.

 

Photo by Asdrubal luna on Unsplash

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sexual assault in marriage

Forced Consent: A Story Of Sexual Assault In Marriage

sexual assault in marriage

 

Sexual consent in marriage or a relationship takes on a very gray hue compared to the traditional views of sexual assault. Incredibly, researchers estimate that 10 to 14 percent of married or formerly married women have experienced at least one forced sexual assault in marriage by a husband or ex, according to the National Online Research Center on Violence Against Women.

Walking down the aisle does not give your husband blanket consent to have sex with you at any time. No still means no.

Sexual experiences should be enjoyable for both parties! That’s the whole point, right? (Well with the obvious exception of procreation.) Marriage starts out (usually) because you love each other. Sexual intimacy takes things to another level. But what happens when one partner isn’t in the mood?

In any long-term relationship, there will be times when one partner wants sex and the other doesn’t. It’s part of the natural rhythm of life. A loving relationship has something called sexual communal strength, which is each person’s motivation to meet their partner’s sexual needs. Sometimes, the person who isn’t in the mood delights in seeing their partner happy by meeting their needs, so they oblige because they too gain pleasure. This is still a mutually beneficial situation.

Unfortunately, sometimes this can turn negative. When coercion is involved or when a person ignores their own needs, we enter the territory of unmitigated communion. Those mutual benefits are missing. As you can imagine, this can lead down a slippery slope of dissatisfaction, resentment, and negativity. (And yes, marital rape.)

Sexual coercion is defined as unwanted sexual activity that happens when you are pressured, tricked, threatened, or forced in a non-physical way.

That means that using guilt, continually asking after being told no, yelling, calling names, and threatening to withhold something else from you if you don’t submit are all acts of non-consensual sex and toe (and often cross) the line of rape. Yes, even in marriage.

Sexual Assault in Marriage: Forced Consent via Coercion is Not Consent.

Lack of consent, while you are sleeping or drunk, is not consent either.

Legitimate consent is the presence of an enthusiastic “yes” (verbal or non-verbal) void of manipulation, threats, or head games, not just the absence of a “no”.

My Story

After the drinking began, this part of our relationship began to go downhill. I disliked being close to him more and more. His actions annoyed me, his breath disgusted me, and his constant hounding made even the idea of sex less desirable.

I would say no. I would say I was too tired. I would use the kids as an excuse, anything to avoid a fight or him getting angry.

At first, I wanted to protect his feelings. I would oblige as often as I could bear, but I would spend the entire time just hoping and praying one of the kids would start to cry. Often they did and I was saved.

Over the years it got worse. Every pop of a beer can, every drunken sway was another nail in the coffin our relationship in general, never mind in the bedroom.

But he never saw that. He saw a spiteful, cold woman who didn’t desire him.

I saw in him a selfish, addicted man who put himself before all others.

I would give in to avoid the badgering and fighting. It was often easier to submit and just get it over with.

I would shudder at his touch at least half the time. I can’t say I never got any enjoyment out of it, of course. There were some decent times over the years but it got harder as time went on. I couldn’t always escape in my mind enough to give in to the moment. I would imagine I was with other men. A few of my favorite TV characters got me through the nights over the years.

Sometimes he’d notice and give up. Sometimes he didn’t care.

Was that really consent?

Was saying “no” the first five times in an evening but eventually giving in consent? Was saying “fine” or “I guess” truly consent? What about saying nothing? What about drawing back when he touched me?

Was this really enjoyable for him? How could a man who insisted he loved me treat me in this way and be perfectly ok with it?

Sexual Assault in Marriage

It’s absolutely mind-blowing that 10 to 14 percent of women who are or have been married have been assaulted by their partner, don’t you think?

Why might it be this way, you wonder? For starters, marital rape wasn’t even a crime in all 50 states until 1993. That means that until then, women were still treated more like property than free citizens. In the United States. In a lot of our lifetimes, or at least our parents’.

And still it continues, not just in gen X or Y, but millennials too, even though we grew up in a changing world that appeared to set women free.

There is something fundamentally wrong, in my opinion, with a culture that essentially allows this to go on still. How is it ok to coerce someone into the most intimate act between two people? And even more disturbing is: why would someone want to have sex with an unwilling “partner”?

I’ve heard stories from many women in my single moms’ community of sexual manipulation and coercion.

“With my ex, no wasn’t an option he accepted often. Woke up to him on top of me more times than I can count.”

“I was guilted all the time and made to do things I wasn’t comfortable with because I didn’t want him going somewhere else to get his needs met. He did anyway though.”

“You can’t deny me the right…”

“If you don’t, I will…”

“Since I have to beg for sex you’ll see how it feels to beg for something that you need.”

“If you won’t have sex with me, I’ll find someone who will.”

The back rubs that could never just be.

The constant insistence where you just finally give in to make it all stop.

Drawing the Line

I recall the day I told him NO, forcefully, and with confidence.

And I told him I wasn’t doing it anymore. At all. Maybe ever.

We’d been trying to save our marriage. He’d gotten sober to appease me once he realized I had one foot out the door, but none of it felt genuine or real. (And it wasn’t, as he has told me since then.)

I did it unwillingly for years and years and completely disrespected myself in the process.

I had a lot to think about and I didn’t need to be doing something I was regularly coerced into overshadowing it all.

You see, I still wondered if it was my fault. If there was something I had to change inside me…could change inside me…that would make me want him and love him again.

Months later he tried to make things better by sending me several links to articles that tried to imply what a horrible human I was for not having sex. They included such gems as “letting Satan into our relationship” and that “God was crying” over it. (His addiction had nothing to do with any of this, of course.) He made it clear that he was unwilling to let me try to heal at my own pace, and that he was seeing my harnessing of my power as a betrayal to him rather than something I owed myself.

I had always thought that his nastiness over sex was more related to his drunkenness but it wasn’t — he actually meant it. No matter how much I tried to get past the barrier and negative association I had with him and sex it was all about his comfort and not mine in the end.

He couldn’t accept that when I set a boundary of no sex while I sorted out the future of our marriage that it was his fault. He tried to use guilt, religion, obligation, anger, and more to make me change my mind.

In the end, the only way for me to break my chains was to set myself free.

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