Tag Archives: control

Recommended: How Did You Brainwash Me? Kellie Jo Holly

Standard

Excellent article over at Healthy Place. For years, I’ve struggled with the why of the equation. I really identify with this:

According to Ms. Brown’s book, abusers do not “feel” the way we normally think of what it means to feel. Due to childhood abuse or perhaps mental disorder, many if not most abusers detach from their feelings at an early age. Instead of feeling, they observe how other people behave, and then mimic those behaviors appropriately. (emphasis added)

In this way, abusers become expert behaviorists without taking a step inside a class room. They know what works and what doesn’t work to get you to do what they want, and because they’ve detached from their feelings, abusers do not feel guilt for their manipulative actions.

This is probably why abusers cannot take responsibility for what they’ve done to you or admit they abuse you (with lasting regret). They do not comprehend that any wrong took place and may think that your fear and tears are merely a “show” designed to manipulate them, and baby, they ain’t fallin’ for it.

In short, abuser’s use brainwashing techniques naturally because “the set-up” is all they know.

Not sure they can’t take responsibility as much as they won’t.  I believe we all have choices to make and free will. At some point, getting your way becomes more important than loving your neighbor.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Thanks, Kellie~

New Series: But He Never Hit Me

Standard

Articles have been few and far between. I’ve painted pretty flowers, painted ratty walls and painted my nails. Whistling in the dark. Sometimes this business of open disclosure is tough.

I’ve been avoiding. Seriously, completely, absolutely avoiding for months now. Thrashing around the bed last night, I realized that freedom comes with speaking the truth. I’ve spoken on intimate topics before but this one has me stumped.

Living In Fear

Late at night I wake to noises in the house. I listen for the dog to bark, then remember  the pup knows the beast. Sometimes I picture his truck in the driveway, a knock on the door. When I answer, he  blows off my face with his favorite shotgun, then goes after my babies before turning the gun on himself.

Then again, maybe he hires someone else to do the job. That car that keeps circling the block? Why keep looking at the house that way? The truck blocking the drive when I try to pull out? I don’t breathe until it moves on.

I wonder if the news will reach my new friends.

I wonder if it will hurt.

But He Never Hit Me

I lived with him thirty years. I know what he’s done, what he’s threatened, how far he’ll go to exert his manhood, to exercise complete control. Without doubt he is fully capable—and killing all of us would be the ultimate last word. And yet I cannot scrape together enough for a restraining order.

He is careful. He rides the ragged edge, staying within the law. Funny how well versed he is in the finer details. I cannot point to one incident, one definitive moment and convince a jury that this man is dangerous.

I feel crazy. To those who see only his charming side, any such talk would sound like a one-way ticket to a padded cell. But I am *not* crazy. Enough darkness leaked out around the edges over the years to earn him a reputation and those who lived with him, those closest all know. Its the main reason the grown children refuse contact.

The writing won’t be pretty. I’m triggering like crazy just thinking about reliving this nightmare.

This will take several days. Please remember me in your prayers while I write. Planning to take it in small chunks chronologically and post as I go.

Tempting to write another article on sex. As tough as that topic was, it’s way the crap easier to emote on the horrors behind the bedroom door.

Recommended: Kellie Jo Holly: The Power-Control Dynamic and Abusive Anger

Standard

For every woman ready to move on and leave all the crap in the backwash, here’s an eyes-open gander on a topic most would like to forget about already.

An abused man/woman/mother/child can become abusive. The simmering anger fueled by our impotence to stop the pain can be redirected at innocent bystanders. We know it, we’ve seen it, we’ve probably tried it out a time or two, truth be told.

Here’s a lovely quote from an article by Kellie Jo Holly, “The Power-Control Dynamic and Abusive Anger.”

Like Kristen, I also heard myself say things that I thought I’d never say. I witnessed myself act out angrily in embarrassing and hurtful ways during and after my marriage. My abusive anger never once helped my marriage, and it holds the potential to ruin any healthy relationship I ever have.

Let’s just say that I learned how to be an abuser from an excellent teacher and could continue that pattern in my life if I chose to do so. Like Kristen, I choose not to use those tools any longer because I am not interested in hurting other people so I can retain/gain power or control.

The problem was that I knew two ways to behave: I could abuse or submit. I did not have any other tools in my toolbox. It’s like trying to build a house with only a screwdriver and an adjustable wrench. Both tools will work, but there are so many other tools that would make the job smoother!

 

Once again, Kellie Jo nails one for the home team.  Well done~

You’ll find the complete post here.

Invasion of the Peace Snatchers, Nighttime Edition

Standard

For the last three nights, I’ve wallowed in dreamland nonstop. I wake in the morning with head pounding, jaws clenched pit bull tight, not quite able to recall. . . was it a nightmare?

Don’t think so. I’ve had my share of those and this doesn’t feel quite the same. No heart-grabbing, couch-shaking terror on waking, just this vague impression of disquiet shadowing the day.

This morning, I remember.

The beast outlasted me.

Dreams and Other Realities

In the dream, we’re on a weekend visitation to my former home. The kids are small. My closest friend comes along for backup. Both my parents are there. The anti-husband ignores me and spends the entire visit working the crowd—fetching coffee for my folks, playing quiet games with the children. He caters to each  individually in the way they like best and they love the attention.

He never once sends a disparaging comment my direction. He doesn’t criticize in any way. As the night progresses, he wins them over, one by one. The dream plays on for hours.

Until finally, it’s just my best friend and I standing by the kitchen table. He wraps both arms around her. A genuine embrace. He pulls back and looks into her eyes with open affection.  Then again. He’s holding her in his arms until she melts. He pulls back, just a little and begins chatting, laughing, flattering. She turns, visage glowing and says, “You have to admit, he’s really something.”

And then, for the first time all weekend, he looks me full in the face and stares me down. I know this expression. I’ve seen it a thousand times, in a thousand places, for a thousand reasons—

—unadulterated venom.

He doesn’t try to charm me any longer, it’s not worth the effort. There’s no pretense. In his face I see covert, unspoken rage. This is the truth, witnessed for decades. Hatred both glaring and defiant that no one else will believe.

I turn to the kids and tell them to pack up their toys, we’re leaving. They’re tired. They don’t really want to go—and his expression changes. He turns away, starts playing to the crowd again, clowning, pretending this is all just one big fun time. He heads off to assist everyone getting ready to leave.

I’m left standing alone. I’m so tired and. . . he’s won.

When You’re Beat

I don’t like my dreams invaded. But there’s a measure of reality here I can’t shake this morning.

Recently a close friend lost their home in a natural disaster. I got the news from the beast along with a play by play of all he’d done to assist them in their suffering. There’s no doubt he did all those things and much more, front and center. First to arrive, last to leave. Helping, organizing, working the crowd of my former friends. People I love. People he hardly spoke to before my departure.

He possesses a weapon I’ll never muster—his hatred energizes him, fuels his efforts to see me discredited, to ruin my relationships through winning over my friends and family. He’s entrenched for the long haul and it scares the crap right out of my wounded soul. Lying, insinuations, innuendo all wrapped with deeds of kindness, individually crafted to flatter each insecurity. He will see me alone, isolated and discredited. Or else.

It’s how I imagine the devil worked the crowd until a third of the angels fell right along with him.

Wish there was a happy ending here, but I just don’t see it this morning.

 

 

 

Deal Breakers and Monkey Love

Standard

Women talk to me. Not sure why. Maybe it’s this strange tendency to laugh inappropriately during confessional sessions. More likely,  my Christian pedigree worked the magic– pastor’s daughter, pastor’s granddaughter, pastor’s great-granddaughter. We attended my father’s church for years, my household appeared to be in order, therefore surely I’m an expert on the ways of matrimony. The whole ‘older women instructing the younger’ kicked in somewhere around thirty-five despite the fact I didn’t have a swinging clue.

I did not cultivate bleeding hearts by the front door, they just appeared right and left. Quite possibly the teaching in our church contributed—just as politics or law enforcement tends to attract a certain personality type, the heavy emphasis on the wife’s submission  and patriarchal headship attracted men with an abusive streak, . I’m going to go with that theory and believe our churches were top-heavy with abusive men because the atmosphere made them feel all warm and snuggly rather than the cynical viewpoint that most men are abusive.

The Blind Shall See

For years, I did not understand what I was hearing. I spent lots of time waving my hands about and squealing. I tried to offer help but generally said something lame like, ‘my husband can be pretty difficult at times too.” or “when I figure this out, I’ll write a book and we’ll move to Reno.” They thought I was joking. Silly women.

Once upon a time, I was a highly social person. When I left, only a couple of good friends remained, both  blessed by the anti-husband’s seal of approval. Nice ladies who I loved dearly, but the fact remains, when I broke ranks, I lost their companionship.

Let’s take a moment while I feel sorry for myself a little.

***

During those years of informal counseling sessions, I did learn to recognize the difference between a difficult man and an impossible one. The difficult  might be proud or stubborn or shortsighted, but once they  recognized the unhappy wife in their kitchen,  they tried to make amends in some fashion, no matter how awkwardly. These wives would come back later, grab me in church with a twinkly eyeball thing that made my nerves scrape together and say, “Thank you *so* much Sister  Ida for praying with me the other day. Can you believe? Melvin prayed about it and already things are improving! God is so good!”

This always annoyed the crap out of me. For one thing, I couldn’t follow my own advice and expect a hallelujah chorus and, for another, how come God kept answering their prayers for marital bliss while the fish in my own kitchen continued to rot the airwaves? And another-nother thing. . . you know what kind of advice I gave? “Have you told your husband how you feel about that? Go home and talk to the man for heaven’s sake. He isn’t psychic.”

Despite my nasty inclination toward self pity,  I realized these women didn’t want instant perfection. They wanted to feel heard. They wanted to know their husbands cared enough to listen and respond and make a few adjustments in the right direction. (We are, of course, talking about women who actually came for advice, not the really scary women who  generally hung out by the alter offering advice no one ask for.)

Meanwhile, Back on Topic. . .

Yes, I was a stellar counselor to the weak and weary. This constituted the extent of my helpfulness. Still the hurting arrived on my doorstep whilst I continued to complain to the Almighty.

Looking back, I’m just now starting to see God’s plan.  I was learning to discern abuse in others even though I could not see the same patterns acted out in my own living room. Please explain this if you can because I do not have a clue. I’m going to blame the fog of confusion the beast kept wrapped about my mind with his constant stream of crazy-making. I do know the fog lifted only after I refused to listen to him any longer. Still, once my eyes pried open, many things snapped into focus and those  years of hearing story after story made all the difference.

The Turning Point

I was beginning to see a different breed of husband, tyrannical in nature, taking no prisoners, determined to have its own way at any cost. These men were nothing like the flawed yet somewhat reasonable men who took their wives feelings into consideration (upon realizing their wives had feelings.) No, the tyrants refused all compromise. Backed in a corner, they might give ground  only to extract a heavy price later. Their wives came away feeling worse with every encounter. They looked beat. They looked unloved.

Another distinction—the wives of these bullies showed up at my doorstep confused. No way they could articulate their ongoing troubles. If they did manage to come up with a complaint or two, they also supplied a half dozen reasons why nothing suggested would ever help. The scary part?  They were correct and I knew it. These women felt trapped—the rock and a hard place, the double bind, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

In contrast, the Normals had a really good idea what they wanted. They had actual, concrete problems. He spends too much money. He won’t help around the house. He looks at other women.

Problems loomed. Ignorance abounded. These ladies might or might not take advice. They might leave the living room and go do something stupid like running off with the pool boy. They might take  advice and discover they should’ve shelled out the cash for a trained counselor in the first place. They might be miserable, unhappy, unfulfilled and sexually frustrated but they were not held prisoner in confusion and fear.

The Big Picture

Here’s how I came to picture the difference:

In a normal marriage, you’ve got two imperfect people sitting on a sofa. They fuss, they smile, they smooch, they fuss some more.  They conflict. They scoot away from each other toward opposite ends of the sofa. Maybe one goes and gets someone else to come sit on their lap. The other may walk away, or the offending spouse may leave with their new squeeze. Or they may kick the third party off, learn to scoot closer to each other and eventually smooch some more.

In an abusive marriage, you’ve got two imperfect people sitting on a sofa. Right smack in between, you’ve got a five hundred pound orangutan holding hands with the husband. The monkey makes sure his boyfriend always gets his way. The man may scream, holler and yell, or make snide remarks and sulk and brood. He may get some girl on his lap and smooch her while the wife tries to peek around the monkey. Every time she thinks she sees something, the monkey smacks her good. Every time she tries to say something, the monkey smacks her good. Every time she tries to address something, the monkey smacks her good.

The monkey is a deal breaker. You cannot reason with a monkey. You can’t fix a broken marriage as long as that monkey is on the sofa.

Deal breakers come in other forms—drug abuse, alcoholism, mental illness.  The important point here? To realize that advice given to Normals will not apply to Monkey Marriages. Books written for conflict resolution, counseling, marital advice, sex education will not work.  So the big step—the very first, very big step is–Name the monkey.

The First Step is Always the Toughest

If there’s an orangutan on your sofa, you are being abused. Or you’re Steve Erwin’s wife. The first is more likely.

In my experience, this is the most difficult step to freedom. Stop allowing the one abusing you to define abuse. You must discern. There are objective criteria. There are books out there to help you understand. Ultimately, you must stare that monkey down and say its name.

If you  identify abuse, you need to understand a few things to get  free. You are dealing with a different animal  entirely. Stop focusing on your mistakes, your issues. Stop taking blame for everything wrong in your marriage.

Of course you make mistakes. Of course you aren’t perfect, who claimed you were anyway? Of course you have issues from your childhood.

None of that can be addressed with someone whopping at your head so stop trying.

You are never, ever going to make that threesome work.

Recommended: The Abuser’s Evil Demands for Forgiveness by Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood

Standard

This one article can set you free. No kidding. If only I’d understand how this cycle of build-up/abuse/honeymoon worked, so many things would’ve been different.

I don’t talk much about the good times because looking back, there weren’t any. And yet the beast said I love you every single day. He cried if his last blow up were particularly heinous, he brought home flowers and even the occasional you’re-a-wonderful-wife Hallmark card.

He also demanded that I forgive him instantly and never mention the incident again. He made sure I realized this was really my own fault an if I weren’t such a rotten wife, things would be different. After all, how much can a man be expected to take?

When he admitted to using porn, he demanded instant reconciliation– as in, I got one night to be upset and I’d better be ready to go by the next. For some strange reason, this didn’t work out so well.

What I didn’t know? The anti-husband acted like a typical abuser– build-up the tension, look for an excuse to rage followed by The Incident, then his idea of repentance. Other women use to come in my kitchen  and make over the flowers on the table, totally unaware I paid for every single one in ways they wouldn’t understand. Those were not I-love-you flowers, those were I’m a jack-ass flowers (but now that I’ve brought them home, you have to forgive and forget or you’re the one in trouble.)

Here’s an excerpt from Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood’s article:

Another common and wicked tactic of the “Christian” abuser is his insistence, on supposed biblical grounds, that his victim continually forgive him and love him. Anyone who knows much at all about the nature of abuse will realize that abuse occurs in a cyclical manner which involves several stages. The stage that comes right after the big blowup stage is commonly called the “honeymoon stage.” During this time, which can be short or long, the abuser can appear to be contrite, remorseful and even very kind. He expresses remorse over what he has done and promises it will never happen again. He makes promises that he’ll change, that this time all will be different. He might buy presents for his victim, fulfill a few past promises made to her or even appear to take an interest in spiritual things. His promises are all nonsense, of course. In fact, because his supposed sorrow and repentance is FALSE (he even has himself deceived about it), the cycle WILL repeat itself. After all, that is the nature of a “cycle,” right?

When the abuser “repents,” he always includes more or less flagrant demands that the victim needs to forgive him. He will often throw in a couple of “false guilt/blaming” missiles about how his abuse was caused at least in part by the victim. None of this is true repentance. In fact, this is abuse itself. The honeymoon period is within the cycle of abuse and is just another aspect of the abuse. It contributes to the confusion of the victim and works to strengthen the abuser’s control over her.

Head over here to read the rest.

Nowadays, I buy my own flowers, thanks much.

So This Week, I’m Going to Hell?

Standard

Just when I think maybe the anti-husband’s had just a wee change of heart, along comes an email to set my weary mind at ease.

As I said earlier, I limit contact for various reasons but since our finances are still joined at the hip, I can’t break contact completely. A two hundred dollar purchase loomed on the near  horizon. The charge would show up on his records, the man will rave.  Predictable but not so much fun..

So I spent an entire day in prayer before crafting a letter outlining the state of our finances here and expenses looming on the horizon. An entire day, people. Let’s take a moment to pause and think calmly about this ~

(Selah)

The kids and I aren’t exactly living it up over here. A brave, dear sister took us in. I slept on a cot in her bedroom for the first six months.  She doesn’t ask for rent, I haven’t been able to help  beyond food and toiletries. I help out with housework and laundry, she provided a safe place for the little’s to finish school.

The man has an excellent income. He also is in control of a business which brings in cash—lots of cash—every month. A business I started myself and ran until I had to run. Which means, a two hundred dollar curriculum purchase  is not going to break anyone. Sounds like whining I know but seriously? When you get to a point you’d rather live in a box under a bridge, things like money just don’t matter so much.

So to recap: Pray all day, get peace, write email mentioning the coming purchase as well as carefully outlining what’s coming up in the next few months (you know, wild extravagances like teeth cleaning and a mammogram) hit send and get doomed to the pits of a fiery hell.

Seriously.

The response came in three parts. If he could just practice a little brevity, but I digress.

Part 1—We’re broke, it’s your fault because you left.

Part 2—I’ve changed. But I would’ve been a perfect saint all these years if it weren’t for you therefore the reason I had to change is your fault. God has spoken to me about many things listed here in this email which proceeds straight from the Lips of Heaven. You should do a word study. I have. Because I’m holy and no way you are because you left.

Part 3—I now proclaim myself a prophet with divine unction and God is telling me, rightthisverymoment, that you had better repent! repent! repent! as your mortal and immortal soul is in danger. (Extra exclamation marks edited out, your welcome.)

Lots of love, the anti-husband

Sigh.

Printed out, this email would be pages and pages, full of half-formed sound bites I highly suspect he heard elsewhere as the man hasn’t had an original thought since he took to pickling his brain in earnest five years ago. Did it bother me? Oh yeah. I hate this sort of throw-everything-in the road and hope-something-sticks type thing.

I spent most of that evening trying to decide exactly what he was trying to get me to forget which is not my favorite activity. In the back of my mind the thought keeps ringing, I have to answer this. I cannot let this jerk say I’ve left Christ by leaving his sorry butt. Another part of my brain said to shut up, hold still, let it go.

Deep breaths.

I realized pretty quick what all the hubbub was about. A quick search of the online bank statement shows he gave a very large portion of savings away to his church, I’m guessing to buy the position he now occupies as a teacher of the men’s Bible study. Whatever. I’m certainly not arguing about money sent to his church even if I do think they’re nuts to let some guy in off the street and put him in ministry less than three months later. I’ll buy the curriculum, get my breasts flattened and be the bigger person.

And then the forward arrived, a lovely little study on repentance he’d received in his inbox *that very morning* which of course confirmed  God had both spoken to him of my need to repent and confirmed his new found role as prophet. The fact this devotional was written to Men Only and spoke specifically of the way men struggle with Pride and Stubbornness  seemed to miss his notice. It did not miss mine, however, as I tend to be observant like that.

Which is when I realized I had to answer or I’d get more email altar calls than a pants-wearing Pentecostal.

Time to set a boundary. Good gravy I hate that word. Mostly because I’m so very bad at setting them.

My response, both short and eloquent follows (although I cannot claim divine inspiration as only one person per email volley is allowed that luxury and I had no daily devotionals arrive in my inbox to back up said claim):

“I did not leave my first love (Jesus), I left a man who abused his wife and family. My immortal soul is not in danger.  I sent an email on finances and  I don’t appreciate your dooming me to everlasting darkness. In all this time, I’ve never once pulled the God card on  you and the Lord above knows I could so cut it out already.”

His response was swift. Paraphrased of course: “God did so tell me to say that and I know because I ‘felt compelled.’ None of this is really my fault because you left me twenty years ago in spirit by pulling away in love and affection.”

So the hell of the last twenty years is my fault because—after ten years of verbal/ emotional abuse, threats of violence and  bullying—I pulled away? Even if the man were a perfect angel (which he wasn’t, trust) your wife pulls away and you get a free pass to blast the living crap out of both her and your children for two more decades?

Now *that* hurt.

I would say something witty and clever now but nothing comes to mind. This is the sort of twisted thinking that has me in counseling, trying  like thunder to sift through the wreckage.

And while the first email might have been laughable in its verbosity interspersed with delusions of grandeur, this salvo helped me remember why I finally gave up hope for a marriage that died way before the funeral.

No One Will Believe You

Standard

Recently, I asked a friend for feedback on these first few articles. With her permission, I’m going to address a couple of concerns.

She said she was uncomfortable with the term, “the beast.” Was he really that bad?

And here we encounter a problem I’ve bumped my head against numerous times. She may have asked if the anti-husband really deserves to be called a beast, but that’s not what I heard. Without realizing it, my friend triggered a case of the Wild-Eyed Crazies.

What I heard: Are you exaggerating?

The scary part? I’m actually minimizing.

Folks want to believe only what they see. In the case of verbal abuse, emotional abuse, bullying and other cases where a dominate party violates the trust of those dependent on them, scars aren’t always visible. You can’t imagine how many times I wished the anti-husband would just hit me already so I could call the police.

It’s hard for those outside  the fractured family circle to understand the kind of torment these men dish out.  If I walked around covered in bruises, black eye, broken bones protruding through the skin, no one would question my angst. But we’re talking injuries you can’t see inflicted by actions no one else witnessed.  You’re just going to have to take my word for it and that’s a huge leap for those who can’t imagine anyone would purposefully hurt their own wife and children.

It also plays smack dab into the hands of the abuser.

Typical Family Time

The beast loved to verbally beat the bloody hell out of me and the kids right before company pulled into the driveway. Then as we stood there bleeding, he morphed into Totally Charming Man– witty, funny, man’s man, envy of wives everywhere.  Throughout the coming evening, he sat  back and watched, taking potshots at each of us in turn, saying things no one else could possibly understand without the subtext.

Challenge anything he said, I wound up looking like a heinous bitch. The kids react, he punished them publicly, making an example of them, showing his audience how fully he controlled his home. Was this abusive? Taken as an isolated incident, maybe not. Day by day, damaging friendships, dividing the individual family members from one another, isolating the family unit which no longer wants outside contact with the world– You bet it was.

Could anyone else tell what was going on?

Only if they’d lived through  something similar. Later, several friends came and apologized. One said, “I lived with an abusive alcoholic father for 18 years and you had red flags waving all over the place. I should’ve known.”

Appearances Are Deceiving

Ours looked like the perfect Christian home. Others wanted to model our success. But please understand—if you only saw us sitting in a pew an hour on Sunday morning, is that really any indication of what goes on behind closed doors?  If you come over once every three months for barbeque and cream soda, can you possibly have any inkling what’s going to happen the minute your car pulls out of the driveway?

Tell Me What Happened

I can’t. If I told you I was sexually abused as a child, would you ask me for details? Would you want me to recount the incidents, one by one so you could judge for yourself how damaging these might  be? Would you decide that fondling really isn’t all that bad and I should be over it by now? Or get into a discourse about how your neighbor’s wife was repeatedly sodomized and that is much, much worse. In comparison, what you describe doesn’t sound  like abuse at all.

And yet, abused women who live with hateful domination, verbal onslaughts lasting hours on end, raging fits designed to punish them for their crimes,  and constant  threats of violence  get this reaction all the time. Tell me a few incidents. Tell me what happened. The implied message? I’ll be the judge of whether this is abusive.

The very worst incidents are the ones I don’t want to remember. The words ‘domination’ and ‘manipulation’ and ‘bullying’ are codewords for memories that lap at the edges of the very stuff it takes to get through another day. I use them to talk about what happened without plunging back into the muck. A triggered memory–one that shows up without invitation– can set back recovery by days, weeks, even months, depending on  how long  it takes to find the shreds of truth that barely hold me up and weave them back together.

It’s taken years to even admit to myself that abuse took place. How can I expect you to understand in the thirty minutes before you head back to your semi-normal family and the husband who may annoy the crap out of you, but never would purposefully set out to destroy your soul?

Google This:

  • Emotional Abuse
  • Verbal Abuse
  • Sexual Domination
  • Manipulation and Control.

If you really want to help,  really want to understand, you’ll have to educate yourself. Material is out there, pages and pages of the stuff. You’ll have to put criticism to one side and realize that women and children coming out of these marriages are showing the *effects* of abuse.

Please try to understand:

That pain you see, making you uncomfortable, isn’t free floating out there in space.

Something caused it.

*Someone* caused it.

The pain itself is a pretty dadgum good indication the story is authentic and, Yes Virginia, it really was that bad.

Don’t  judge  victims based on your own observations. You can’t see the damage done to the human spirit with eyeballs. You can’t examine the broken and bloody soul, x-ray the innards, assess the wreckage. What you *will* see is a fairly put together woman who’s learned to shut up and play nice, peeking out around the very frayed edges who probably overreacts to seemingly minor statements.

You can’t expect a survivor to explain in ten minutes it took her a lifetime to understand.

Recommended- Yashar Ali: A Message to Women From a Man: You Are Not “Crazy”

Standard

Excellent article on gaslighting over at the Huffington Post:

“Gaslighting is a term often used by mental health professionals (I am not one) to describe manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they’re crazy.

The term comes from the 1944 MGM film, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. Bergman’s husband in the film, played by Charles Boyer, wants to get his hands on her jewelry. He realizes he can accomplish this by having her certified as insane and hauled off to a mental institution. To pull of this task, he intentionally sets the gaslights in their home to flicker off and on, and every time Bergman’s character reacts to it, he tells her she’s just seeing things. In this setting, a gaslighter is someone who presents false information to alter the victim’s perception of him or herself.”

“Whether gaslighting is conscious or not, it produces the same result: It renders some women emotionally mute.

These women aren’t able to clearly express to their spouses that what is said or done to them is hurtful. They can’t tell their boss that his behavior is disrespectful and prevents them from doing their best work. They can’t tell their parents that, when they are being critical, they are doing more harm than good.”

Abused women will relate. In my case, things went from the type of behavior described here to a more deliberate form of crazy-making but Mr. Ali does an excellent job describing the practice in layman’s terms.

You’ll find the entire post here.

There’s Always a Message

Standard

Today the little check came in the mail, money from my mother’s estate. A few hundred dollars every month he believes he deserves and shouldn’t have to send.

When I finally left after three decades of non-stop verbal and emotional abuse, I stopped all communication with the beast. Much later, I told a counselor the only way I got out was on the run, hands over my ears chanting, “I know the truth, I know the truth, I know the truth.”

All others voices had to stop to save my family.

Early in our relationship, the Estranged learned that if he just keep talking long enough and loud enough,  he’d elicit some emotional response—fear, anxiety, guilt.  Any one of those in sufficient quantities and he knew I’d cave to his current demands. He’d put another in the win column. Nothing would ever change.

Confusion was his favorite weapon. Change the subject, get loud, get furious.  So once I was out and my family safe, I  turned off the cell phone and checked voicemail a few times a day. The kids knew how to get in touch. That’s all I cared about at that moment.

It took decades to understand that  the way he treated us defined abuse. The man was vicious and he enjoyed the carnage. I lost hope years back he’d ever change and while running and hiding isn’t exactly pretty, sometimes you just have to do the needful things.

Of course once the phone calls ended, the emails began. Those of a long and ranting nature (which meant every stinking one during those first days) met the trash bin without reply. Anything I absolutely had to address got the short and not-so-sweet treatment.

“The gas bill is in the drawer with all the others. Ida”

“Insurance is due in three months. You can’t find a copy because they haven’t sent the renewal yet. Ida”

“I will not return the car. I need transportation. Ida”

I deleted all the curse words before sending. Mom would be so proud. . .

My lack of communication infuriates The Estranged but then what doesn’t?  After three decades I know:

Anger is his go-to emotion.

Rage his drug.

 I’m his target.

Once the emails stopped, I started getting messages through friends. A six page, rambling letter (hand written, mind you) about how disappointed one woman is in my failures as a wife and Christian and how sorry she is to see that I’ve ‘hardened my heart against my husband.’ She understands because she has anger issues too! And if I’d just read these lovely books she sent on anger management, surely I would see the error of my wicked ways.

I keep this one on the shelf, tucked inside the book she sent. Someday, I just might send this Ivy League graduate a discourse on the difference between Anger and Fear.

Others messages were more subtle and bespoke the same confusion I struggled with day after day for so long.  My mother calling after a particularly long rant-fest with the beast, begging me to have my teenage son ‘just talk’ to his dad so the man would let up on us. A friend who’s support will always mean the world to me,  slipping into conversations about how my husband is calling hers and ‘You know he’s gone back to church, teaching Bible study now, doing all the right things’ and ‘he says you won’t even go to counseling.’

So when the check came in the mail today, the heart rate went  orbital. Recent messages have been subtle but oh-so-very clear. And in ways only another woman who’s ever spent the night thinking her husband’s coming up the stairs to blow out her brains could possibly understand—more threatening.

There was no letter. No note, no card. No meaningless little notation on how he’ll love me forever or signed, Faithfully, The Beast. Nope—that’s all over.

He simply wrote my name in big bold letters. He added Mrs. to the front. And scrawled a heavy underline beneath my last name to remind me who’s name I still carry.

Not for long you anti-husband you.

Not for long.