I was never a warrior. I was sweet to everyone, responsive to others who seemed happy with me and was pretty sure I lived a charmed life. My parents always told me that I was “too trusting” and, goodness, they were right. My father was protective to the best of his ability. I am sure I would not have married the man I did, had my father been alive when I met my ex.
When I first left my abusive spouse, one of the first things I discovered was that I was going to have to be a fighter. For those of us who lived in very abusive and oppressive situations for years on end, this concept is absolutely foreign to our natural way of thinking and living. We didn’t fight back. We crept . . . we soothed . . . we walked softly . . . we tried not to set those off in our lives who had wild tempers or dangerous psyches. In a way, this is a different kind of fighting. . . silent, intense, restrained damage control. Becoming a visible outward fighter is unfathomable to our sorts. However, I found that was exactly what I had to do . .. . what so many of our readers are doing now . . . and what so many of our readers need to be doing now.
Barbara and Jeff have pointed out, many times, that abusers are always abusers. No matter how many boundaries we have set, they find a way to blast them. Giving them any sort of information about our plans is ultra dangerous as an abuser can stab us in the back with that very information . . . or shift their lives to reflect the change they think we want . . . for a while. Here are some principles that friends and common wisdom have given me for how to keep the abuse at bay. Again, being a warrior is counterintuitive. I have to absolutely, positively pull “fighter Megan” from the deepest depths of my soul and then struggle to keep her alive. But, for the sake of my children, and for the sake of healthy relationships around me, she needs to stay alive for the rest of my life. I often pray and ask God for supernatural help to be this warrior princess of His. And I draw strength from friends and wise counsel to fill in the gaps of what I might not see regarding abuse that comes my way.
Please keep in mind I am not perfect in this. I am working on it, still. And I get side-swiped now and then. And, again, this is a short-list. An abuser will use anything — even the boundaries we set, constantly twisting and turning things to try to shake our foundations. So, to the best of my ability, here goes . . .
1. Keep as much private as possible. Do NOT tell your abuser what you wish he or she would be. They will try to become this person for a while until they begin to bust at the seams (even abusers get tired of the facade!). You will only be hurt again, as you let down your guard in hopes that this change has really happened. Do not share your plans and do not NOT NOT share your vulnerabilities. If you are like me, it is hard not to be ultra transparent. Being ultra-transparent is just what our abusers want us to do. Do not share your future plans, dreams or hopes with your abuser. Listen . . . they are the pigs that will trample your pearls. It is downright foolish of me to share these pearls with my abuser.
2. Do not talk to your abuser’s closest friends and family. Do not hope that his people will set him straight. He has them snowed. They will only take your information straight to him. And his ammunition is replenished.
3. Keep heavy boundaries on emails, texts and phone calls. (This suggestion would be suitable AFTER the victim leaves) If he or she mis-behaves on the phone, he or she has lost his or her phone privileges. My abuser is down to ONLY email. He still tries to manipulate me with everything I “give” him. I do not send him friendly emails. Only matter-of-fact business emails. No signing off “love” and no thanking him for anything he does. Real life example from last week:
Meg: Well . . . Didn’t hear from you so I am going to go ahead and take the kids out for the morning. Let me know about Sunday. We are free around 10am. Megan
Dan: I will not communicate with you via this address, get yourself a different one. or keep the old one. i would like to talk to my wife, not the girlfriend of a certain man. by the way he has nothing to do with David from the OT, and you have nothing to do with Abigail.
I wish you would wake up, for your own sake and the childrens’. Dan
Meg: This is my email. You can use it or not. -Megan
No drama. I no longer allow myself to be baited or “sucked in”. Simple, straightforward short answers. Sometimes, it makes him try harder to rattle me. I am now trying harder not to be rattled! Abusers work hard to keep us on our heels.
4. Seek to be proactive in protecting yourself and your children. This is the hardest to wrap our minds around. We are still struggling to call our spouses or ex-spouses “abusers”. Now, we must protect ourselves and our children from the one who was supposed to be our protector (or so we thought). Get ahead of the game. Go to the free lawyer’s consultation or contact legal aid. Find people who are trustworthy who will protect you. Get the protection order. Do what it takes. Do not believe that he or she would not work against you legally. He or she has been working against you your entire marriage.
I hope this helps a bit. There are so many other scenarios we can discuss. Please bring them into the conversation and we can certainly do our best to help with each boundary-crossing situation that arises.
We can be warriors together.