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You are not alone

If you are a man who has been the victim of abuse, rest assured that you are not alone. Whether the abuse was verbal, emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, financial, or a combination of these, you are not alone. Whether you were abused by your wife or girlfriend, your husband or boyfriend, your father or mother, you are not alone. Whether you have endured the abuse for a month, a year, or a decade, you are not alone.

If you are here because you think you might be a victim, there’s a good chance you are. Though this may be a first step for you, it is a huge step to take. Understanding the nature of abuse and its effects is crucial to your recovery.

For those of you who are in abusive relationships now, you are probably beginning to face a very difficult truth: you must leave. This is not about if, it’s about when and how. And as you may have already realized, you cannot wait to be liberated; you must free yourself. Frederick Douglass summed up his courageous escape from slavery as an act of will: “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

The goal of this blog is not fully clear to me yet. I know that there are many websites and resources for men who are learning what it means to be a victim of abuse, so I want to add more than just encouragement. My hope is to provide whatever help I can to struggling men. What that looks like in my head right now is a sort of database, a crowd-sourced pool of resources for men to find help at a very local level. This may include phone numbers and addresses of male-friendly shelters, hotlines that offer support for abuse victims, and contact information for local support groups. If you have any ideas, suggestions, or information, please visit the contact page and send me an email. I would love to hear from you.

Every situation is different, and each one requires a unique solution. However, the more information that is available, the more stories that are shared, the more voices that are raised, the more we can establish connections that will allow us to help ourselves and others. By building a substantial network of resources, we can help individuals reclaim their lives and combat the myths about men as victims of abuse.

I am not an expert in psychology, mental health, relationships, or the law. I have no official credentials to offer, nor any professional experience to draw from. I have nothing but my own experience and my own research to offer. Still, for whatever it’s worth, I want to share my story and what I have learned so that I might help others in some way. This seems like as good a place as any to begin: you are not alone.

If you need immediate help, call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.
Toll free, 24/7/365.

Step 4: Assess your situation

Here’s the short version:

Before deciding how and when to leave (remember, it’s not about if), you need to take stock of your situation. Some of these are probably obvious, but it helps to consider everything in one list. Answering these questions will help you formulate a solid plan to leave your Abusive Partner (AP).

  1. How long have you been together? Are you dating, married, or something else? If you’ve been dating for a few months and have no other attachments, you are lucky. Getting out of such a relationship is relatively simple compared to others. I’m not saying it’s easy; there are just fewer variables to worry about. If you are married or living together, this can make everything more complicated.
  2. Do you have any children? How old? Are they biologically yours? If there are no children involved, the task of getting out is greatly simplified. If you do have children with your AP, they can and probably will be used against you. To be honest, children are often the most complicating factor in getting away from an abuser. Their ages may be a factor: younger children actually seem to fare better with a change in circumstances than older ones. Teenagers can be especially sensitive to the trauma of a divorce or separation. Non-biological children (stepchildren or adoptions) can also make it more difficult. Being a legal custodian and being a legal guardian are two very different things in terms of your rights.
  3. Are your finances mostly divided or intertwined? Do you have any significant assets (either singly or jointly)? How much debt do you have, and what kind? This is probably related to the length and nature of the relationship. If your financial lives are still fairly separate, try to keep them that way as long as possible. The more intertwined they become (joint accounts, mortgages, investments, assets, etc.), the harder it will be to untangle them. If you have little to no debt, then there isn’t much of an issue. If you have a lot of debt, especially jointly, then you’ll have to figure out how that’s going to be handled.
  4. Do you still have close friends and family members? Have you been alienated from anyone who can help you? Who could you turn to if you needed help right now? If you still have close friends and family members, hold on to them. They will likely make a huge difference on your chance of success in getting out. If, like many victims, you’ve been alienated from these allies, you should begin trying to reestablish contact as soon as possible. I promise, you will need help.
  5. Do you have any money saved up or stashed away? Are you able to begin saving immediately? Who can help you out financially until you are on your feet?  If you have a lot of money that can be redirected or your AP already doesn’t know about (legally, of course), you have an advantage. Likewise, if you have a good network of allies who can help you with living arrangements and other physical needs, great. However, if you have no money saved and no allies yet, there is still hope. Shelters and abuse hotlines (like thehotline.org) can help you. 

     

     

Keep reading for more detailed explanations.


Length/status of relationship

How long have you been together? Are you dating, married, or something else?

  • Short time: If you’ve been together for only a few months and have no other attachments, you are lucky. Getting out of such a relationship is relatively simple compared to others. I’m not saying it’s easy; there are just fewer variables to worry about. No matter what, if you are in an abusive relationship, the best time to leave is now. Do not wait any longer; it will only get harder.
  • Long time: The longer you are together, the more invested you feel. Even if you aren’t married, a long-term relationship comes with lots of emotional ties that can be difficult to sever. This goes for both of you; your emotional attachment to the AP is one of her best weapons against you.
  • Dating: It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together, if you are not yet married or engaged, get out while you can. If she can get you to make any sort of commitment, she will. Even if you are living together, you are still in a better position to leave now than if you wait until a marriage (and/or child) is on the horizon.
  • Married: This is by far the toughest spot, especially if children are involved. If you’ve been married for only a few months, you might be able to go through a relatively painless divorce. Obviously, that’s no guarantee, but there’s a chance that your stuff and her stuff are easy enough to distinguish, and you may not have gone through the process of joining bank accounts or financing a home together. If you’ve been married for a couple of years or more, prepare for the worst. Though this list is meant to be helpful, I can’t pretend like some situations aren’t simply harder than others.
  • Something else? There are a number of possible scenarios that don’t fall under simply dating and being married. One of the most common is probably the “on-again-off-again” cycle. You date for a while, and things seem great. Then the inevitable fight begins that leads to a “We are done!” kind of ending. Of course, it’s not over. Eventually, you end up back in the same place, thinking this time it will be different. Then, without warning, the same fight, the same breakup, the same reconciliation, and so on. This can easily happen within the boundaries of marriage as well. In any case, it is unhealthy at best and catastrophic at worst.

Children

Do you have any children? How old? Are they biologically yours?

  • No children: If there are no children involved, the factors that affect when and how you can leave are significantly reduced.
  • Young child(ren): If there are young children, this can put extraordinary stress on the victim of abuse. First, you are afraid for their own safety and well-being. Second, you are afraid of the long-term effects of witnessing the abusive behaviors towards you. Third, you are obviously concerned about the implications of leaving the children with your AP. However, younger children may actually handle a divorce better than older ones, even adults.
  • Older child(ren): If the children are of a certain age, you may be able to explain some of what is going on to them. That is not to say you should unload on them or expect them to be your emotional support. Still, older children may be more likely to feel threatened by your decision to leave and may feel abandoned.
  • Stepchildren: If your AP has kids who live in the home, be prepared for a serious loyalty split. No matter how close you are to them or how long you have cared for them, you can bet that your AP will do everything she can to show them how much better she is or how much more she loves them. If there are biological children and stepchildren, then the lines of loyalty could fall in many different directions. In any case, you very likely have no legal standing in the lives of your stepchildren. If you leave, they will almost certainly stay with their biological parent.
  • Adoptions: If you and your AP adopted a child together, you should be able to maintain legal custody even if only jointly. In this case, I suspect that the custody situation will largely follow the same arc as a biological child. It all depends on what the paperwork states about legal (not just physical) custody regarding the adopted child(ren).

**Because of the extremely convoluted nature of the subject of children when it comes to divorce and abusive relationships in general, I am going to write more extensively in a separate post.


Finances

Are your finances mostly divided or intertwined? Do you have any significant assets (either singly or jointly)? How much debt do you have, and what kind?

  • Mostly separate: If you and your AP are still somewhat independent as far as finances are concerned, you are in a good position. Keep it that way as much as you possibly can. If she starts pushing for a joint bank account or to refinance your home, stall her. Do not commit to any financial decisions that will further entangle your life with hers.
  • Mostly intertwined: If you have already reached the point where your finances are pretty much inseparable, you will run into a number of problems you might not have considered yet. Again, like everything else discussed here, there is hope. There are certainly ways to untangle the financial mess, but you probably won’t be able to do that without serious help.
  • Few assets: If you don’t have much in the way of physical assets, that’s good. It means that there are fewer things to argue about in terms of ownership or legal rights. This is particularly important when it comes to marital assets (which by definition are those assets you accrued during the marriage).
  • Many assets: If you share a number of valuable assets with your AP, she will likely use them in a variety of ways to control you. Even things like retirement accounts can be hotly contested in divorce proceedings. Take stock of ALL financial assets, both individual and joint, so that you know what to expect.
  • Little debt: If there isn’t much debt between you and your AP, there won’t be much to argue about. If either of you has outstanding personal debt incurred before being married, then it shouldn’t be considered marital debt (things like credit cards and student loans are likely to fall into this category). Anything taken on during the marriage (i.e. mortgage, car loan) will probably be considered marital debt and will be divided equally.
  • A lot of debt: If there is any significant debt, this is another possible means of control for your AP to assert. In general, it makes sense to split marital debt evenly and for each person to take on his or her own personal debts. Obviously, APs don’t always do things that make sense. You should once again take stock of your debts just as you did your assets.

**As with the issue of children, the financial stuff can get really complicated. I will write more extensively about that later.


Allies

Do you still have close friends and family members? Have you been alienated from anyone who can help you? Who could you turn to if you needed help right now?

  • Family: If your family is still in your life, they might just be the most important people you have. Parents and siblings (and extended relations with whom you are close) can be powerful allies. Chances are, they’ve been waiting to help you since the moment they realized what was going on. Even if they don’t know yet, hold onto them tightly. Don’t let your AP isolate you from them.
  • No family: If you are in the unfortunate position of being isolated from your family, don’t despair. Many families are able to reconcile with relative ease once they know the details of what you’ve been through. As discussed elsewhere, you should definitely not be afraid to tell them. If you have no family to speak of, then you will have to make do with friends. Don’t worry, though, your friends can be just as supportive as family.
  • Friends: If you are lucky enough to still have friends, you have an excellent chance of getting out. Again, you may have to tell them what’s going on, but don’t worry about being abandoned. What kind of friend would actually want you to remain in an abusive relationship? This group of people can be extremely helpful in finding a place to live, securing a job, locating child care services, and all the other things you aren’t even considering right now.
  • No friends: If you have lost contact with your friends, you are certainly not alone. Alienation and isolation are absolutely devastating tools that your AP has been wielding long before you knew it. Still, you can make new friends or reconnect with old ones. Doing so may make all the difference. Leaving an AP is extremely hard even under the best of circumstances; you will need all the help you can get.

Resources

Do you have any money saved up or stashed away? Are you able to begin saving immediately? Who can help you out financially until you are on your feet?

  • Money: If you have some independent source of income or previously acquired wealth, then you are lucky. You should start squirreling some away as soon as you possibly can, preferably in such a way that your AP can’t find it. She would love to claim your money as her own, so as long as it is legal, you need to keep it far away from her.
  • No money: If, like most people, you are not independently wealthy, you need to begin thinking about what you are going to do when (not if) you leave. How are you going to pay rent or buy groceries? The ideal solution is to begin saving money in any way possible. Get a little cash back at grocery stores, stash some of your paycheck each week/month, pick up some extra work. Do whatever you can to begin preparing for your departure.
  • Allies: As explained above, your allies are going to be invaluable to you. They can give/loan you money, they can give you a place to sleep, they can help you put your life back together. If you have such people in your life, then be sure to lean on them as much as you need.
  • Other options: If you don’t have the resources to leave, what are you supposed to do? If you can, take some time to get your situation together in a way that will make leaving a little easier. Save a little money, reach out to your allies, get whatever support your can. If the worst happens and you find yourself basically on the run, then, shelters and abuse hotlines (like thehotline.org) can help you.

Reminder: All opinions presented herein are my own and are not mean to be taken as legitimate legal or financial advice.

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Step 3: Tell someone

Here’s the short version:

  1. Tell someone what is going on. A friend, a counselor, a pastor, a coworker, a teacher, a family member. (For obvious reasons, I don’t recommend telling anyone who is a “mutual” friend.)
  2. No matter how embarrassing you think it is, you need the perspective. Your AP has likely been working very hard to disconnect you from reality, and someone outside of the situation is often able to see it better than you.
  3. Resist her appeals to privacy. What goes on in your home or your relationship is “nobody else’s business,” right? In a normal relationship, yes. In an abusive one, no. Silence is the abuser’s best friend, never the victim’s.
  4. Once you establish contact with an ally, maintain communication as if your life depended on it. If your AP suspects that you may be regaining your senses, she will probably redouble her efforts to isolate you. Don’t let her!
  5. A counselor can literally be the difference between life and death. If you can afford it, do it. If you can’t afford it, borrow money.

Keep reading for more detailed explanations.


Is this normal?

Once I was able to start talking about what was going on, I found myself asking my allies what was normal. Is it normal for a wife to rifle through your discarded emails looking for things to fight about? (No.) Is it normal for a wife to call your children into the room to take part in an argument? (No.) Is it normal for a wife to threaten to kill you, your family, your kids, herself? (No, no, no, no.)

Now, when things like this occurred, I often had a sense that they weren’t exactly “normal,” but I became an expert at justifying them. Several people, including my counselor, called me out for doing this as I told them what had happened. I would tell them about crazy things that my AP did or said, but I would frequently explain the behavior away as if it weren’t really that bad or that important.

For example, if someone points a gun at you, it doesn’t matter whether it’s loaded or not. First of all, you can never be certain it’s unloaded; even if you think you are certain, that’s not a belief worth losing your life. Secondly, if she thinks or knows it’s unloaded, why is she bothering to aim it at you? Because she wants you to be afraid of her, which is sick on a number of levels. She is interested only in making you afraid because fear is an effective tool in controlling you.

So this list is about finding someone to help you regain your sense of what is normal. It’s like being tossed around by the waves and suddenly finding the sand under your feet. You’re still going to get knocked around some, but if you keep your balance, you can walk right out of the mess onto dry land.


Tell someone

I would say it doesn’t matter who you tell, but that’s not entirely true. I would avoid mutual friends and pretty much anyone in her family. Also, be wary of coworkers; you don’t necessarily want the entire office (or any workplace) finding out about your situation.

If you’re like most victims of abuse, you probably don’t have a lot of friends or close family relations. This, of course, is by design. The more your AP can isolate you from people you care about and trust, the more she can twist your understanding of reality to match her version of it.

While a counselor is probably the best option (see below), there are other people who can help you. If you still have a best friend, he may be the most obvious choice. Also consider someone like a pastor, someone who you know will respect your privacy and listen without judgment. Family members, parents and siblings especially, can be of immeasurable value. If you think your estrangement from them has caused them to hate you or write you off, think again. That may happen in some cases, but you may be surprised to find how ready and willing they are to help you.

Whoever it is, find someone as soon as possible. Do not wait any longer. Seriously, the more you put off telling someone, the harder it will be to do.


Perspective

How do you know what color your eyes are? Well, you were no doubt told as a child, but you also have seen yourself in a mirror and in photos. Obviously, you believe what you see and hear regarding your eye color. You don’t have much of a choice because you simply cannot see your own eyes. The only way to see them is by reflection or by another person’s word.

How do you know what kind of person you are? Can you “see” yourself directly, or is it kind of like trying to see your own eyes? Even among perfectly normal, healthy individuals, the act of introspection can only provide so much information about your inner self. After all, you are the one who’s doing the looking and being looked at. It seems hard to judge or even observe yourself with any objectivity. I always think of it this way: when I look over something I’ve written, I am either far more critical or far less critical than other people. I assume this has something to do with bias, but that’s not exactly in my purview.

So, it makes sense that you may not be able to observe your own thoughts and behaviors, much less evaluate them in terms of mental and emotional health. Having someone else’s perspective can make a huge difference in your ability to make corrections and reground yourself in reality.


Privacy?

If your AP is anything like mine, she puts a high premium on personal privacy. This is not to say that she cares about anyone else’s privacy in principle (or in practice). What I mean is, she is desperately afraid of revealing too much about herself to other people. The reason is fairly obvious, but I didn’t realize it until it was far too late. She doesn’t want anyone to know how weak and unstable she is, so no matter how she acts in public, she will almost always try to hide her craziness. If she does do something outrageous when others are around, she’s likely to play the victim or cast blame in any direction other than herself.

The problem is, at least for most people, we want to respect the privacy of others. It only seems natural that you would not share personal information about anyone if it weren’t necessary. However, when dealing with an AP, you have to understand that privacy and secrecy are very different, but they are all too easy to conflate. If you are physically injured, your assailant no doubt wants you to stay silent so she doesn’t get into any trouble or face any consequences. This is not privacy; it’s complicity. You are silently protecting the very person who hurt you, which makes you an accomplice to your own suffering.

Based on my own experience and what I’ve read so far, this is beyond typical. It is downright predictable in abusive relationships. Silence is always going to favor the abuser, never the victim. While you may want to protect her “privacy,” remember that it is your life (and possibly the lives of your children) at stake. No amount of public humiliation is worse than the psychological, emotional, and physical scars you will carry if you refuse to tell anyone about the abuse. I’m certainly not suggesting you take out a radio ad or post everything on Facebook, but don’t be afraid to tell a few trusted individuals who can help you.


Maintain contact

Once you have an ally or two, keep in touch with them regularly. I cannot stress this enough; one emotional, open-hearted conversation is not enough. You will not automatically heal just by saying a few things out loud. You need a relationship with another person. That’s where healing comes from.

Also, and you probably already know this, it is extraordinarily hard to get out of an abusive situation. You really need to have someone close who can help you get and keep your bearings. There will likely be many times when you think you can handle it on your own or you are in danger of getting sucked back into the arms of your AP. An ally can prevent you from backsliding and putting yourself in greater jeopardy.

Email, text, face-to-face, it doesn’t matter. Talk as often and as regularly as you can. The more you share, the more you will get a sense of who you are and what you want.



Counseling

 

One of the best things you can do for yourself is find a counselor. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Counselors are literally paid to listen and not judge you. Whatever the method or the philosophy behind the approach, most of them will give you an objective ear.
  • They can help you re-establish your grip on reality. Your AP’s voice is likely so embedded in your psyche that you don’t even hear it anymore. That’s because it sounds just like your voice now. You have thoughts and feelings and sensations and desires and fears that weren’t there before; she hasn’t just recorded her own ideas onto yours, she has reprogrammed the way you come with ideas in the first place.
  • They are bound by confidentiality. What you tell a counselor stays there, so you can actually be honest. I remember the first time I opened up to my counselor; I sobbed as I blurted out all the crazy stuff I had seen, heard, and felt. It was simultaneously excruciating and liberating, and I can say without hyperbole that I am probably alive because of it.
  • Finally, you have probably sustained significant psychological and emotional damage from the abuse. These are not wounds that will just heal with time, nor are your loving friends and family generally qualified to aid in this kind of recovery. A professional is likely the only way for you to find your way back to a healthy place.

Of course, there are some drawbacks, the most obvious of which is cost. Yes, counselors are expensive; however, many of them take insurance or calculate fees on a sliding scale. Frankly, the money you spend on therapy is an investment in your life and general well-being. You probably can’t afford not to see one.

Also, if you are in an abusive relationship, it may be very difficult to make the time to go to a therapist. After all, your AP probably loves to know where you are at all times, right? If you need to, tell her you want to see a counselor to help you be a better man for her. (I will have an entire post dedicated to honesty later). Borrow money if you have to, but do whatever it takes to get some professional help. Remember, you’re not crazy, you’re hurt.

EDIT: For the sake of clarity, I want to state that I am not at all suggesting or condoning any sort of smear campaign. By telling someone about your experience, you are trying to build a network of support, not aimlessly badmouthing your AP. As difficult as it is, you must always be the bigger person. Don’t engage in gossip or passive-aggressive warfare; these are tools of abuse, not recovery.

Step 2: Safety first

Yes, this could very well have been step one. The idea here is to secure yourself and other key things so that you don’t lose them or let your abusive partner (AP) destroy them.

Here’s the short version:

  1. Physical safety: Secure any and all firearms, preferably removing them from the home.
  2. Important documents. Copy or store tax returns, bank statements, old letters from family and friends, birthday cards, photos, etc.
  3. Digital goods. Save photos and videos of the kids, the draft of your screenplay, any work documents, etc. Backup your phone ASAP.
  4. Passwords. Change ALL passwords (as safely as possible), particularly shared email accounts, cloud storage sites, online banking, etc.
  5. Reputation. This is a tough one. If your AP has begun a smear campaign, consider sending some thoughtful, respectful emails or texts to friends, neighbors, coworkers, or other colleagues to assure them that they may not be getting the full story.
  6. Personal keepsakes. Anything with emotional value should be secured however possible. Old baseball cards, your grandmother’s jewelry, the coffee mug your kid made in 1st grade, etc.

Keep reading for more detailed explanations.


Imagine your house catches fire. You have only a few seconds to get yourself and the kids out, and there’s no time to go searching for the stuff you know you will miss when it’s gone. Obviously, in an emergency, your life is far more important than any particular object. But you’re in a unique position right now. As you read this, you may be considering your escape from an abusive relationship, and you may have the opportunity to begin saving some of these valuable items before the figurative fire burns everything else around you.

Some of these things are considerations I read about before my escape, and some of them are things that I was unable to save because I did not act quickly enough. A month or two after you leave, you may be kicking yourself because you suddenly remembered something of great personal significance that you left behind. Please don’t do that to yourself; take a few minutes and look at this list, and you may avoid the regret that I am currently fighting.



Physical safety

As many of you have already discovered, your AP is prone to some scary violent outbursts. In these moments, your physical safety may have been in question, or you may have worried that she would turn her wrath on your favorite shirt or the guitar your father gave you. Whatever you have witnessed, you know the sick feeling of dread that precedes each episode. What next? How is she going to raise the stakes this time?

I have received a number of disturbing threats (some vague, some immediate) to my person and to my possessions. I have looked down the barrel of a gun, I have wrestled away sharp instruments, I have dodged heavy, blunt, airborne objects. I have watched beloved photographs burn, I have watched birthday and Christmas gifts destroyed and discarded, I have searched in vain for precious artifacts that are lost to the digital void. Out of these domestic horrors, though, I can produce a few words that may help you engineer a better outcome than my own.

If you have ANY firearms in your home, find a way to secure them immediately. Do not wait for this one; you never know what will set her off and what she is capable of if she gets a hold of a deadly weapon. Do you think murder-suicide situations are usually planned in advance? I have no data to back me up, but I feel that it’s safe to assume that most cases of such drastic violence are the result of sudden, passionate anger colliding with conveniently located weapons.

The best option is to get rid of the weapons entirely. If that is not possible, at the very  minimum you should make sure that all ammunition is stored separately, and that all weapons are basically inoperable. Even if this only buys you a minute or so, that could be the difference between another scary episode and an outright tragedy.


Important documents

As soon as you can safely do so, make copies of your tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, and any other relevant financial documents. If possible, store the originals somewhere away from the house to avoid their destruction. Paper burns very easily, after all.

Likewise, store and/or copy old letters from family and friends, birthday cards, photos, and other memorabilia. These are exactly the kinds of things your AP would love to destroy in front of you as punishment for whatever crime you may or may not have committed.

If you can’t physically save them, at least try and take pictures of them. Also, there are a variety of apps that you can use to turn paper documents into PDF files by scanning or photographing them with your phone.

When you are trying to finalize the paperwork for a divorce, and your AP’s attorney hammers you with a huge pile of discovery requests, you’re going to want access to all those records.


Digital goods

Right now, or at the next possible moment, back up your phone. You have no idea when or where disaster can strike, either a technological failure or the vindictive force that is your AP. How many pictures do you have of your kids on your phone? How many videos of your favorite memories? These can be wiped out in devastatingly quick fashion, and they are simply not recoverable without backing up your phone.

Likewise, make sure you have stored copies of everything that is important to you in the digital world. If you work from home or have important documents of any kind saved to your computer, they are in jeopardy. Upload them to a cloud account or save them to a USB drive or SD card that only you know about.

These may not seem like priorities right now, but when will they be? When your ex is setting your woodworking project on fire in the driveway? Or throwing your family photos out the second floor window? Or soaking your suits in a bathtub full of bleach-water? No, when she goes berserk, you don’t need to worry about her smashing your laptop or hiding your phone. Save these things while you have a chance to do so carefully.


Passwords

Sure, at the time it made perfect sense for you to merge your bank accounts or set up a joint email. You may even have the cute little married couple moniker as your Facebook name (Jennifer David Smith). Guess what? If she knows your email or Facebook password, she probably knows them all. Like everyone else, you have one or two passwords that you use for everything, and you probably can’t remember all of the different services that are protected by them. Amazon, Netflix, Youtube, work email, bank account, PayPal, eBay, iTunes, Zappos, Credit Karma, etc, etc, etc. So much of your life depends on web-based programs that all operate under a handful of passwords that she knows. What happens when she changes the password on your credit card so you can’t see how much she’s spending?

This particular issue is a very difficult one to solve because so many aspects of your life are mixed together with hers. The goal is to change ALL passwords (as safely as possible), particularly shared email accounts, cloud storage sites, online banking, etc. However, if she figures out what you are doing before you actually leave, she may try to retaliate or stop you.

One possible solution is to begin by securing certain files that may be sensitive. For example, make sure you have not created a Google document with incriminating information about possible apartments to rent or friends to stay with. Also, don’t use your own browser or YouTube account to look up things about abuse or divorce. Use the privacy features on your browser to keep from tipping her off.

Finally, I recommend creating a new password (or maybe a couple of different ones) now. Make sure they aren’t something she could easily guess, but you need to be able to remember them. This way, if you have to leave suddenly, you can change all your passwords as quickly as possible without having to create one on the spot.


Reputation

This is another tough one. One of the most fun consequences of leaving an AP is the smear campaign. She will gladly spread all kinds of information about you, whether it is true or not, in order to sully your name. The more people she can infect with her poison, the easier it will be to manipulate you further. Sadly, I don’t know of too many antidotes for this. The only two possibilities that I found to be effective so far are:

  1. Honesty: Make sure you are being honest with yourself and other people about who you really are. If you try to tell your friends that you are the victim of abuse by badmouthing the AP or behaving in crazy ways yourself, you will just confirm her gossip about you. If you refuse to admit that you aren’t completely perfect and come across as narcissistic yourself, then your family and coworkers may actually believe what they are hearing about you. RISE ABOVE. No matter what she says or does, you have to behave like an adult.
  2. Direct communication: If your AP has spread lies about you, I don’t think you are required to sit idly by and take it. When she mails your best friend a copy of all the “mean” texts you sent to her, tell him what’s going on. When she shows up at your job and tells everyone what a selfish jerk you are, take a minute to write an email or sit down with each person and explain the situation. Keep it very brief and light on the details. You don’t want to come across as defensive, but you also don’t want to imply your guilt with an air of shameful silence. In one of the worst possible scenarios, she may contact your children’s teacher(s) and inform them of your monstrous misdeeds. The same applies: send an email or even have a phone conversation to reassure them that you are their for your kid(s) and would like to keep a line of communication open.

Just remember to pick your battles carefully. Your AP may sling mud by the bucketful, but you can’t engage in most of those encounters. If she is being downright slanderous, you have the right to defend yourself to the affected parties. However, you have to accept the possibility that you are going to lose a few friends in this process.


Personal keepsakes

In the heat of battle, nothing is sacred. That coffee mug your kid made for you in 1st grade is perfect ammunition in the hand of an AP.

“If you don’t apologize RIGHT NOW, I’ll smash this cup! You don’t deserve it anyway! You’re not even a father!”

Likewise, your favorite shirt or the picture of you and your friends fishing or the birthday card from your sister become weapons of emotional devastation. In my experience, the AP is likely to try and inflict pain as a response to her own suffering. If that means destroying a precious object of yours, so be it. Like I said, nothing is sacred.

If these objects are lying around your home, begin collecting them and storing them in a place where they can’t be easily held hostage during a meltdown. I assure you, you do not want to see the evil gleam in her eye as she smashes your late father’s guitar or throws your old photos in the fireplace. It may not seem like an imminent threat, but I’m telling you, she is capable of anything to prevent losing control over you. Do not gamble with the irreplaceable artifacts of your life; protect them now and enjoy them later.

Gratitude

I am grateful to have parents who love and support me, who always made sure I knew that I was important and that they were proud of me. I am grateful to have siblings who were instrumental in my escape from an abusive relationship and constant sources of love and laughter. I am grateful to have friends who know me for who I am, who have given me hope and strength, who laugh at my stupid jokes. I am grateful to have children who are smart, beautiful, funny, amazing, talented, and kind, who make me proud every day. The men and women in my life are all wonderful people, imperfect as they are, and I would not be who I am or where I am without them. And even though my ex-wife is a very sick woman who has no idea the harm she is doing to her children by alienating them from me, I am grateful to her for bringing those children into the world.

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