A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Warrior

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.

42 Comments

  1. Tee

    <3 Love this! Great Job! and yes, Warriors together we will be!!!

  2. coco

    I am not a warrior either, but am learning to be. Thankfully God has placed lots of people in my life that provide counsel in that regard. One thing that I didn’t realize and still don’t quite understand is that when you are a part of these “high conflict/high intensity” relationships, the boundaries are as much for the survivor as they are for the abuser. Meaning, there is a part of us that still wants to defend and explain, or that is used to being in that cycle. When I set up a separate email account to only deal with communication from my husband after our separation, it was an act of will to not check it more than once a day. It is easier now, but at first I was a bit surprised at myself. It feels good to let it go and to gradually free your thoughts of what is he feeling/doing/thinking/how will he react to this. So, yes, thank you for another great post and reminder to be a warrior!

  3. Anonymous

    “Do NOT tell your abuser what you wish he or she would be.”

    All of what you say is so true and I have already experienced it or talked myself through it. I appreciate, for one of many, you sharing your thoughts and advice!

  4. Loren Haas

    Very good posting Megan! One of the most difficult parts of separating from an ex-spouse is realizing that they are no longer for your best interests. In many cases they never were. I had difficulty coming to grips with this in my divorce, and we teach about this a lot in the divorce recovery group we lead. Being dedicated to our marriages, the default setting is to engage our spouses. Even after they prove unworthy of that, we have to work to break the dependence.
    All of your points are excellent. I would like to add:
    5. Develop a network of support. You will sometimes slide on some of these points, so form a “posse” to back you up! Seek out people who have your interest at heart- friends, relatives, co-workers that love you and are your allies. Engage them in a plan to stay strong and on task. Frequently, a support group helps and by supporting each other you are all stronger.

    • MeganC

      Loren — I am glad you added that point. One of our readers (above — “T”) suggested the same thing, stating that we need help to “keep our heads on straight”! :)

  5. Anon

    I completely relate to this post. My ex certainly uses any information he has about my plans, to sabotage them, whenever he can, so that boundary reminder is very important for me. My ex ended up getting 50% custody of my kids, because he is a saavy abuser and knows how to look squeaky clean when he needs to. I now have to have almost daily contact with him, because of the kids.

    I have had to be SO careful with my boundaries with him, and it is really hard at times. Harder still is watching my kids exhibit signs that he is starting his emotional manipulation with them. Then there is the discouragement of talking to lawyers, only to be told I have nothing that the courts consider to be enough to get more custody and that they don’t consider emotional abuse to be enough to change our original court order (which was made under duress, while I was still under his house, under his thumb).

    Meanwhile, my children are confused by their father. They love him and are scared of him and I can’t be in that house to get in between them anymore. I’m fighting for them, more than for me now, and am hitting a lot of brick walls. Pray for a way forward. My 8 year old son (who witnessed a lot of the abuse) is diagnosed with OCD and anxiety and I know it is exacerbated by, if not largely attributed to, the way his father is with him. He should not have 50% custody. Something needs to change in these courts. Physical abuse isn’t the only kind of abuse and it isn’t even the most damaging. So, yeah, I am trying my hardest to be a warrior for them, and for me.

    • MeganC

      Such classic abuser behavior from your ex. Praying for you today, dear friend, that you win the battle for your children’s hearts and the battle for their peace. You are walking a tightrope over there. You are on my heart today. Fighting alongside you. Big hugs.

    • Dear Anon, oh how I wish the courts would understand the effects of emotional abuse by a domestic-abuser parent. So often the court makes the nonsensical assumption that just because an adult *may* have abused their mate, doesn’t mean he or she is going to be a bad parent. In fact, the assumption almost seems to be that their parenting will be fine, even though they have been a nasty sneaky liar and bully to their spouse. How silly is that? We are talking about people who don’t abide by the common rules of courtesy and decency, who are covertly aggressive, who are slippery and manipulative and do their worst behind closed doors not in courtrooms.
      Is there any way you can get your son’s OCD documented sufficiently and the therapist to testify that the OCD is being greatly exacerbated by the visitation with his father? But you may have tried that already and maybe it’s a dead end.
      So many dead ends when it comes to trying to protect our kids, and so many ginormous gaping cracks and defects in the System that is supposed to protect kids from abuse. I’m talking about Child Protection Services, Family Courts, Criminal Courts, etc. The whole system overall.

  6. We can be warriors together.

    I think they call that an army. :)

  7. Meg, you demonstrated a very classy no in that email exchange.

    • MeganC

      Thank you, BIT. I’m learning! And I love your army comment!! :)

      • Bethany

        I like the army comment too :) We are an army. You, Jeff, and Barbara are our Generals, and our battle cry is “Justice”! I feel like a Warrior!!
        Thank you so much for the practical advice. I will be reading it again, taking notes this time :) and work hard on applying it.

  8. Joyce

    Praying for you Anon!

    Thank you Megan – wonderful post! I put my husband’s emails in its own folder so I don’t have to look at it all week before the visitation day. I only answer straight to the point with no discussion. He is trying very hard to rile me with what I am “supposed to do”. Today’s was that I would get MY divorce finalized, in a threat that it would mean more visitation.

    To all those in my situation, where what we have been through is not considered “enough” to protect our children – God sees it all. He is still our Deliverer and as warrior princesses (or princes) we line up behind the Breaker who goes on ahead of us and breaks us through this circumstance.. (Micah 2:13) Even if it is not in our nature to fight, knowing we are not alone in the battle helps me tremendously.

    • I feel for you. The person I left was not a person but a monster. He refuse to set times we could all meet somewhere to see the kids, church, the library ect…..continually threatening me over his need to be alone with them, it was his “right” after all….even when I thought setting up meeting places for him was the right thing do, in other words I made all the efforts, align our schedules to meet his needs, he never showed. He preffered the story that “I was keeping the kids from him”..which of course i was keeping them from being Alone. …..I also found that when I did provide a safe place for us all to meet, he would then use that against me also, like “If I was a threat then why did you let me see them here or there”

      Its like I did everything humanly possible to not only accomodate the pressures from church and court, only to have that used to invalidate the reality of the childrens safety being at stake.

      Of course once he learned he could file criminal charges for ME not allowing visits alone, he was so emolded by that, he had all the power over us…..outside of that arena, i could put up with all the doubters of how I was forced to handle his demands, it was never about the kids, it was about regaining control over me!
      But like I was going to say outside of the court arena, it was a very slippery slope but at least I was always in ear shot, they never left in a car with him, or had to go over nights…..If i had to endure the 50, 60 phone calls a night, the countless messeges, the fits and rages…of course i could un hook my phone at night but that was not a good choice because if he couldnt at least purge on the answering machine, then he would show up at the house no matter what time of night it was. I did not have email at that time, but he would leave cryptic messeges on my car at night, or leave letters on the doorsteps, in windows..

      ..one time after we fled our house and found a new address, he went into an Evangel Book and Bible, told the lady that worked there to send a card to his wife, cried to her how he was so sad lost and lonely without us……Needless to say he was able to swindle our address from her off the mailing list. I remember her account of this, after the fact she had told me “”His countenance had changed”, he seemed, to her like a new man!!!

      I often wondered the extent of his mental illness, like was he a sociopath, did he have Bi-polar disorder, any name I could of attached to it would of given me some relief at that time, then at least I could make him stop, so I thought. Or at the very least if I had a name other than Äbuse” something that sounded more “Official” or more “”well known” Somebody would of taken me seriously, or supported us instead of him. I remember back then, all these strange rationals your brain goes through to preserve some sort of human status.

  9. Excellent post, Megan, and a very good job handling the e-mail exchange.

    It reminded me a lot of the e-mails I dealt with in the first few years after divorce…the baited attempts to draw me into an argument. I came to realize that neither open communication nor logical discussion were her goal…just opportunity to inflict wounds and spin lies.

    • Tee

      :( that’s what I am dealing with now.

      • Jeff S

        “I came to realize that neither open communication nor logical discussion were her goal…just opportunity to inflict wounds and spin lies.”

        Yes, we need to learn how to stop unhealthy discussions. Megan and I wrote these two articles (mine was “the fallacy of making healing dependent on those who hurt us”) which share a similar theme of setting boundaries on these kinds of conversations. Sometimes we engage them because we aren’t standing up to the abuser, sometimes we engage them because there’s something we feel we need (but don’t). And I’d suspect there’s a lot of interlocking going on- we allow them to do what they do because we mistakenly think we need something from them. At times it takes a great deal of strength to hang up the phone.

      • Tee

        I need nothing from him. However he needs mental help and counseling. Supposedly today he is going for counseling and tomorrow for a psych eval. Time will tell if it helps him. I believe he is on the wrong meds which is causing him to be this way. But I’m not sure. We had been married for a year and 3 mos before he just snapped and lost his noodle. I have boundaries set, but he doesn’t understand them. Doesn’t matter that a 5yr old could understand them and take it as ok mom since that’s what you said that’s what I will do. No instead he asks and asks and asks and asks. I go for hours before I engage in a conversation with him after the bombardment of text messages. That is the only way we are currently communicating. I sent Barb a copy of our conversations. Hoping for extra support. I have been going to counseling since this started a month ago. Before I respond I try very hard to leave emotion out. I think about what he has said and I pray. Then I respond the best I can.

      • Tee – For me, when going thru that, it made things a lot easier to keep reminding myself that I should not expect to have a rational dicussion with an illogical personality. It’s like trying to get an insane person to view the world correctly by having a rational discussion with them. Not going to happen!

      • Tee

        Thanks Joe , you are right. Having a convo with a person that is not in reality just doesn’t work. :’( I am torn and broken

      • Jeff S –

        “we allow them to do what they do because we mistakenly think we need something from them.”

        Yes, in my case, it was understanding. She would throw out these crazy accusations that made no sense, and I felt compelled to try to explain my position. I eventually realized that understanding my position was never one of her goals…and, therefore, would never happen…

      • Praying for you, Tee!

        It’s a tough situation to be in. Based on my experience, it does get better with time, but only after an extended period of consistently defending boundaries and refusing to be drawn into arguments.

      • Tee

        Thank you for your prayers. This is a completely different person than I married – everything was just fine Til nov 2nd. Then I don’t know what happened. I have no understanding of the events that took place. It makes zero sense. He was supposed to be a Christian, no games kinda guy. And he was for the year and 3 mos we were married and before we were married. Then ……… BAM ……… This month he went off his rocker.

      • Jeff S

        I’m praying for you Tee. I have a friend in a similar situation (guy had been ideal for three years and then changed completely after just one month of being married) and it’s tough. I’m so sorry for you. Please remember that your first job is to protect yourself and that you did not cause this.

      • Tee, I have your email and am sorry that I have not had time to read or answer it yet, but intend to do so.
        If it helps any, my second marriage was good for the first year, then he slid down hill, which I now in hindsight see as him reverting to deep seated behavior problems he’d had before, but had been hiding or masking or temporarily rising above in that first happy year of marriage.
        I’m not saying that is what is happening with your ex, as I don’t know, but I just want to show I have a little in common with your experience re that first part of the marriage being happy.

        Mental illness in the abuser is a whole topic and I’ve been working / struggling to write a post on it for some time. Will get there eventually, I promise!
        But in the meantime, know that the secular professionals who understand and have researched men who abuse their partners say that most such men are not mentally ill. If a man has a mental illness and is abusive, that means he has TWO problems: mental illness is one, abuse is the other. The mental illness may make the abuse problem worse, but treating the mental illness will not cure the abuse because abuse is a problem of entitlement thinking, and it comes down to the fact the abuser believes he has the right to mistreat his partner, and he chooses to do so.

        I know. It’s horrible horrible horrible; and really hard to get your head around.

        I would suggest you don’t focus too much on what your abuser needs in the way of mental health treatment, medication adjustment or whatever. Let him and his treating practitioners worry about that. Focus on your own safety and well-being.

        Hugs to you.

      • Bethany

        I know exactly what you are going through Tee and Barbara is right. You need to make sure you are safe first and let your abusers doctors get him stable. You can’t do anything for him (believe me I tried for 7 years) My abuser is a saver Bi-polar and almost killed me while stable on his meds!! I will be praying for you!

  10. Bethany

    “If a man has a mental illness and is abusive, that means he has TWO problems: mental illeness is one, abuse is the other. The mental illness may make the abuse problem worse, but treating the mental illness will not cure the abuse because abuse is a problem of entitlement thinking, and it comes down to the fact the abuser believes he has the right to mistreat his partner, and he chooses to do so. ”

    This is so very true Barbara, I worked VERY hard for 6 long years of my 7 year marriage to get my husbands mental illness under control. The last year we finely did and he was no longer having bi-polar episodes! As long as he stayed on his meds he wouldn’t have any mental problems. I thought for sure the abuse would stop because I thought that the abuse was part of the mental illness. Boy was I ever wrong!! It actually got worse!
    Its a long story but if it would help with your article I could try and write it out for you in an email.

    • Even better, Bethany, why don’t you write it as a guest post for us? Draft it up and send it as an email attachment to the three of us.
      Looking forward to it!

    • Tee

      Bethany, I for one would like to read your story. To help me understand maybe a part of what is going on. Barbra, I understand how busy life gets, and I am starting to believe that there was/is some sort of deep seated problem from the past. I am so thankful for everyone’s prayers. Although I slept very poorly last night I have had a sense of peace in all this chaos.

      • Tee, difficulty sleeping is very common for people who have recently separated from an abuser.
        I have certainly experienced that myself. At such times it’s like my brain is in over-drive, churning and mulling with fear and anxiety and anger and hurt and re-running traumatic events and trying to figure out what I need to do next. I have had so much to think about that thinking over-rides sleeping. But hey: I have had good reasons – there’s a lot to think about when one is coming out of the fog and trying to maintain one’s safety while post-separation abuse is continuing or episodic.
        At such times I have found it helpful to use a mild sleeping pill, one with only a 4 hour half life in the body, so I don’t feel ‘hungover’ in the morning. But I need to be careful to not use such pills all the time. I have managed to take them occasionally but not habitually, and that has been helpful to me, in getting me through some really tough times.

      • Tee

        I took a full strength ambian it didn’t work :(

      • Clearly you have a *lot* of thoughts and feelings swirling around, Tee. Keep venting to safe places (including this blog) and it might relieve some of the pressure. Also are you able to get face to face counselling?

        If it’s any consolation, it does tend to subside eventually. But it’s usually hard in the early days. :(

      • Tee

        I have been going to counseling since this started at the beginning of November. :(

      • Jeff S

        Tee, of you continue to have trouble sleeping, your therapist (if you have one) can refer you to a psychiatrist for temporary medication that will help. Mine did, and he is very hesitant to recommend medication. But for a temporary basis, he thought it was worth it for me to get sleep. I actually didn’t end up getting to see the psychiatrist due to insurance stuff and I started finally sleeping through the night, but I thought you should be aware that there may be better solutions than Ambien out there for you.

        I went for probably 5 years averaging 3-4 hours of sleep per night while I was married. I rememeber the first night I finally got a full nights sleep after the separation. It was wonderful and peaceful because I knew I was making progress.

      • Tee

        I do have a psychiatrist already (but that is another blog for maybe my crazy life story to help someone else), he is the one who put me on ambian, after trying something else that didn’t work.

    • Boy was I ever wrong!! It actually got worse!

      Oh…wow. :(

    • coco

      This is an excellent point! When our “therapist” suggested my husband take some meds for depression, I was hopeful! But actually every time he took one in front of me, he had some disparaging statement to say about me being the reason he had to take them, etc. He didn’t even make it a month before he stopped. In my case, his “depression” just made things worse, and gave him an additional outlet for his verbal and emotional abuse. It also provided him with another excuse, and probably helped me rationalize and excuse his behavior! So yes, it’s important to remember that an abuser chooses their behavior.

      • In my case, his “depression” just made things worse, and gave him an additional outlet for his verbal and emotional abuse. It also provided him with another excuse, and probably helped me rationalize and excuse his behavior! So yes, it’s important to remember that an abuser chooses their behavior.

        We could easily re-word Coco’s statement and it would apply to many other abuse situations. For example:

        His drinking just made things worse, and gave him an additional outlet for his verbal and emotional abuse. It also provided him with another excuse, and probably helped me rationalize and excuse his behavior!

        His drug use just made things worse, and gave him an additional outlet for his verbal and emotional abuse. It also provided him with another excuse, and probably helped me rationalize and excuse his behavior!

        His autism or asperger’s syndrome just made things worse, and gave him an additional outlet for his verbal and emotional abuse. It also provided him with another excuse, and probably helped me rationalize and excuse his behavior!

        His physical health problems just made things worse, and gave him an additional outlet for his verbal and emotional abuse. It also provided him with another excuse, and probably helped me rationalize and excuse his behavior!

        His bi-polar just made things worse, and gave him an additional outlet for his verbal and emotional abuse. It also provided him with another excuse, and probably helped me rationalize and excuse his behavior!

        His grief over his mother’s death just made things worse, and gave him an additional outlet for his verbal and emotional abuse. It also provided him with another excuse, and probably helped me rationalize and excuse his behavior!

        …need I go on?

  11. Bethany

    Tee, I’m not a writer but just a few months ago I was searching everywhere looking for answers just like you, so I will put something together and email it to Barbara. Hopefully she can work her magic on it.

    • Tee

      You don’t have to be a “writer”. By sharing your experience(s) you are a warrior writer :)

  12. A Non A Mouse

    “If a man has a mental illness and is abusive, that means he has TWO problems: mental illeness is one, abuse is the other. The mental illness may make the abuse problem worse, but treating the mental illness will not cure the abuse because abuse is a problem of entitlement thinking, and it comes down to the fact the abuser believes he has the right to mistreat his partner, and he chooses to do so. ”

    That is so true……I used to think that there was some type of mental illness that made him the way he is with the abuse. ENTITLEMENT is the key. He would say things like “It’s not the first time I’ve hit you, it wont be the last”. He felt like he could treat me however he wished and that what he was doing was ok. Then turn around and do things publicly to be “nice” so others would see him as such a sweet guy. It’s all about appearance. He knew exactly what he was doing, it was not about anger management, bi-polar, or other issues. I still do think he may have a mental illness on top of his entitlement issues, but no matter what abuse is still abuse and I think it has more to do with spiritual issues than mental issues.

    • I especially enjoyed hearing “”If I was REALLY going to hurt you, you would not be here right now!””

      OR, “”I was trying to restrain you from hurting yourself!””

      OR “” That was not a punch!!!! I TAPPED you on the head to get your attention!!””

      ALL so obviously transparent back tracking of a guilty person. Stupid yes, but not mentally ill or out of control. Very precisely in control, that is the whole point to their agenda.

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