Friday, December 6, 2013

Don't Miss The Good Stuff

The holidays are here. Some of us may have mixed emotions, leftover memories of Christmases past haunting us. Often, it’s a time when single people pine for a relationship that mirrors the romantic movies and TV diamond commercials. It’s easy to go numb, walk through the holiday with blinders on hoping to not feel the pain. But, going numb means we also miss the joy of the season. 
While part of us looks forward to Christmas, another part remembers how our hopes and dreams were shattered in the past. Joyous times ended in violence. Soon, the holidays were something to dread, not anticipate. If any of that dread is still lurking in you, write in your journal, talk to a friend or therapist and clean out the hurtful feelings that are suffocating your happiness. 
It’s common to have our self-talk convince us to block out joy as if that will prevent us from being disappointed or devastated should things go wrong. It won’t. Both, disappointment and happiness come as a part of life. Focusing on the bad, does not exempt us from it nor does it lessen the pain. What it does, is keep joy at bay. Should our self-talk warn us to expect the worst, let’s tell it to shut up and replace those thoughts with a list of the blessings in our lives. Rosemary Clooney, in the movie White Christmas, had it right when she sang, “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep.”  Stay present and see the beauty around you. Make a list of the good things in your life. Count your blessings.
Holidays can make your life seem empty without a partner. You feel that you can’t be happy without that “someone” in your life who makes you feel special. That’s the downer voice, again. It’s not true. Yes, the transition time between relationships often stinks - that voice inside you whispers that you’ll never find anyone who will love you, you’ll never have a happy life. At this time of year it’s easy to rush into a relationship hoping that this new person is the right one. Often they aren’t, and you come away devastated and the downer voice inside is reinforced. Right now, accept that you don’t have a partner and that’s okay. There are people around you that love you. Embrace that love and let it fill you. Instead of putting off living, create a wonderful holiday for yourself and others. Revel in your children’s excitement. Invite loved ones over to decorate and make cookies, feed the hungry, ring the bell, join a choir, go caroling. Get involved in causes that mean something to you. Make each day special -- play. You may feel hollow inside at first but soon Christmas joy will fill you. Don’t put your life on hold. Create a new life that’s filled with the people and things you love. Stay aware and breath in the holiday spirit.
You are a blessing in my life. Thank you for your notes, comments and reviews of my book.

Merry Christmas Dear Ones.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rebuilding Your Self-esteem

Self-esteem -- the element that underpins all the work and decisions you must make as you recover from a controlling relationship. While you’re focusing on getting housing, a job, meeting the kid’s emotional and physical needs, it’s easy to put off caring for yourself. It feels like there is no energy left to nurture you. Even if you knew how. And you don’t need one more thing to “work” on. Chances are it’s been a long time since you even considered your needs.

You may feel like I did, exhausted, empty and tired of taking care of everyone and everything. I wanted someone to come save me for a change. Someone that would hold me, tell me everything would be okay, and fix my life, because I didn’t believe I could do it. A knight in shining armor looks real attractive at this time. However, too often those “knights” are abusers in disguise. If we look like a weak target, they swoop right in. We have to get healthy to attract a healthy partner. 

 You have to be the one who repairs your self-esteem. Bummer, right? Others can encourage you and tell you what’s right about you, but you have to internalize it. The process you are, or will be, going through is what is going make the needed changes. You will be amazed at yourself; how you can stand on your own two feet, fight your own battles and demand to be treated with respect- and get it. 

Most of us start out in the Wuss Section -- feeling weak and helpless. That’s why therapy, with someone trained in DV issues, is important. Group therapy is a great way to go. If you haven’t connected with a group, you should. It helps to be with others who are asking questions you hadn’t thought to ask. Some will be a little ahead you in the healing process so they will throw some light on your pathway. All will be empathic and can be trusted with your story. Having your feelings validated starts the rebuild process. You are not crazy. You deserve respect. He was/is a horse’s ass. 

Outside of therapy, you need to learn how to nurture yourself. You deserve time for yourself. Claiming time for yourself among the myriad of chores is difficult but not impossible if you accept that you are worth caring for. If you want to be a good mom, employee or friend, you have to take care of yourself first. Here are some of the things that I found useful:

Change your attitude about yourself:
  • Talk to yourself like you’d talk to your dearest friend. Stop the inner critic in its tracks and change to affirming and encouraging language.
  • Stop calling yourself stupid. Mistakes happen, that doesn’t make you stupid it makes you human. See mistakes as “learning experiences.”
  • Speak the truth about your good qualities. No more discounting yourself to anyone, especially to yourself. 
  • Learn to ask for what you want. If you don’t know what you want, choose something small to start with and ask for it.
  • Speak your truth firmly and kindly, even if it makes you uncomfortable. With time it will feel empowering.

Recognize and celebrate what is right in your life. 
  • Start a gratitude journal. Write down a few things that you are grateful for each day.
  • Pay attention to the things in your life that make you happy. Repeat them as often as possible.
  • Celebrate every pocket of joy that comes along. Hold on to it as long as you can. Don’t let the “what ifs” derail your joy -- that negative self-talk saying the rug is about to pulled out from under you.
  • Take a mental picture of the precious moments in life. Savor them and at night when you get into bed run a slide show through your mind.
  • Carry a notebook. When someone says something nice about you, write it down. 

Nurture yourself:
  • Use your good dishes and towels. You deserve them.
  • Take a bubble bath with candles, and a glass or wine or juice in a pretty goblet.
  • Let the cleaning wait. Do an activity you enjoy.
  • Reread your grateful journal and the nice comments collected in your notebook.
  • Create a spot for your treasures -- Items that have meaning to you -- shells from the beach, cards you’ve received, pictures, sayings that encourage you. Visit them, touch them often.
  • Learn to meditate/pray. Spend a few minutes a day remembering that some-being/something bigger than you deeply loves and values you.
  • Look into your own eyes and say, "I love you."

Manage your time so that you are doing mostly things that energize you:
  • Say, “I’ll have to get back to you with my response” instead of an immediate “Yes” when someone makes a request. Then take time to decided if you truly want to participate. If you lose a friend because you said no, they weren’t your friend in the beginning.
  • “Be fair with others, but then keep after them until they’re fair with you” Alan Alda. If they aren’t fair, let the friendship go.
  • Helping someone else should never hurt you. It’s okay to say, “I’ve done all I am able to do. Sorry, I can’t help you any further.” Everyone has their own journey. We have to let them travel it. Carrying them down their pathway will keep them from learning their intended lessons.

Decisions become easier when you've regain your self confidence which grows from good self-esteem. 

What activities have helped you rebuild your self-esteem?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tip For Moving On: Write a Mission Statement

When all your boundaries have been violated, it’s hard to set new ones, let alone, know what reasonable boundaries look like. When you’ve lived for a number of years by someone else's rules, it’s hard to know what your own “rules” are. When you’ve jumped to respond to others needs ahead of, or in spite of, your own, you forget that you even matter. These are only a few of the unhealthy things we take with us as we leave a violent relationship.
Writing a mission statement can help you reevaluate and determine the direction you want to go. It can awakened your ability to stop and listen to your inner spirit, that little voice inside that says, “This doesn’t feel right,” or “I’ve always wanted to  _____.”
A mission statement is your personal constitution. An expression of your vision and values. Written down, it becomes you road map and touchstone to what is important to you.  It may start out as a few vague lines, but with time, you will clarify your vision and make adjustments.
It will take some serious thought and time to develop as you think through your priorities and clarify your goals. It’s important that you write them out. Then you can begin aligning your behavior with your statement. Decisions become easier. Does this go along with my mission statement or against it? Acting on your values may feel uncomfortable at first (especially if, like me, people-pleasing has been a problem for you, or you’ve not been allowed to express your true feelings.) However, you will feel a sense of pride that you are taking control of your future. 
As you start, plan to:
  • Keep it simple. Go for 3-4 sentences at first. 
  • Keep it positive. “I will speak the truth with respect and kindness.” Not “I won’t let people tell me with to think.”
  • Include goals for your personal growth. (i.e. spend time reading, in nature, school.)
  • Include goals for your family life, and
  • Goals for yourself as an employee.

When I began to work on mine, I knew that I wanted to be and kind and confident woman. I was shaky in what kind of a job I wanted, but did know I could keep putting one foot in front of the other and watch for opportunities. 
I asked myself-- what is important to me as a woman, mother, worker, friend, and potential partner? What did I want to change about the way I was living?
Being a people-pleaser caused a myriad of problems. To put and end to this trait, my mission statement started with: Have integrity by speaking my truth firmly and with kindness. This felt very uncomfortable in the beginning. With time it became easier.
At first I wasn’t sure what my truth actually was. So, I pledged that instead of responding with an immediate “Yes” when asked to do something, I would say “I’ll get back to you,” or “Let me think about it.” This allowed me to take time to check my schedule, get quiet and listen to my spirit. No more overloading my schedule or doing something I wasn’t enthused about, then later, feeling angry and resentful.
Another part of speaking my truth was to stop biting my tongue when I didn’t agree with others. I promised myself that I would take a deep breath and express my opinion without criticizing other’s for theirs. It also meant I’d removed myself from situations or relationships that did not align with my values. (Yep, this may cost friendships, but it opens the door for new friends whose values are similar to yours.)
For too long, I had put everyone else ahead of me. I needed to learn how to nurture myself. While I knew that sometimes other’s needs would trump mine (i.e. a child in need of stitches,) this should not be the norm. I included; Take time for myself by nourishing my body and spirit with time alone, healthy food, exercise, yoga, meditation. I blocked off time on my calendar and held to it no matter what request came my way. The most important promises we can keep are those we make to ourselves. To break one of those is a betrayal of self that damages our self-esteem.
When I wrote the original version of my mission statement, I had children at home. The statement included; Keep my children the priority in my life by giving them my time, attention and providing a safe home. This meant I was very careful who I allowed into our lives and apartment.
When it came to being a friend, it was important to me to Laugh with my friends often, meet them where they are emotionally, and do more listening than talking.
Once on paper, you have a starting point. As you grow into your vision you will continue to refine and expand it. Best of all, you will boost your self-esteem and self-confidence by living in alignment with your intentions. Remember to be kind to yourself as you stretch some new and unused muscles.
Search for Mission Statements if you’d like to see an array of templates and suggestions. Or go to where you can build one by filling in the blanks. 
If you are willing to share your experience, click on the comment link below or stop over on my Facebook page and let us know what worked for you as you built your personal mission statement.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I'd Like to be the One to See You Through

Janis Ian sings a sorrow-filled, haunting song called From Me to You where she says: 
I’m  leaving by night
I’m leaving alone
I’m leaving it lie
When you waken I’ll be gone
I would not beg for me
As I would not beg for you
Though I’d like to be the one to see you through

It’s that last line that echoed in my head after I left my abuser. It’s one of the reasons we stay or are drawn back into unhealthy relationships. We’d like to be the one to see him through his inner struggle.
Many of us saw the vulnerable, pain-filled spirit inside our partners. We felt compassion. We spent 10, 20, maybe 45 years trying to heal his pain. We felt guilty that we were not successful. We didn’t want to give up on him. Couldn’t imagine anything worse then giving up on someone. He’d told us stories of how family and previous lovers had let him down. We wanted to be the one that stood by him, put our arms around him and assured him that everything would be okay. We wanted to save him, thinking that if we could do that, it would prove that we were worthy. (but that’s another blog)
It didn’t seem like an insurmountable task. He wanted to be treated with respect. We could do that. He wanted devotion, an eager sexual partner, children and a stable home. We could do that. After all, we wanted the same for ourselves. The answer seemed simple. All we had to do was love him unconditionally. Give him time to see that we were trustworthy, weren’t going to take advantage of him.
The problem was he wasn’t willing and saw no need to reciprocate. 
Stephen Covey in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” talks about Emotional Bank Accounts (EBA) between people. Kind words and actions fill the other’s EBA, harsh words empty it. If you have a friend who is always late for your lunch dates, you think, “She doesn’t value our relationship.” and you feel hurt and angry. If you have a friend who is never late, but this one time she is, instead of being angry you are apt to be worried. She’s made enough deposits into your EBA that one mishap doesn’t drain it. 
In a relationship where one person is doing all the giving and yielding to the other and rarely, if ever, receiving it isn’t long before their EBA is empty. Abuser’s don’t recognize others’ feelings. They don’t get it. According to our logic, if our partner treats us with love and respect, we would return the love a hundred fold, giving him the devotion he craves. We’d knock ourselves out to meet his needs and express our love in a million small and grand ways. We’d be that enthusiastic lover he talks about.
Controllers believe they get what they want because they demand it. Abusers logic tells them that if they treat us with respect they would become vulnerable. It would be giving in, becoming pussy-whipped, losing the battle between the sexes. How would that look to their friends? 
My partner talked a lot in terms of the war between the sexes. The concept was foreign to me. The more I tried to prove that I wasn’t in a power struggle with him the more adamant he became. He assured me that if given a chance I’d become a controlling bitch and made it known that he, not me, would be in charge at any cost. 
When our Emotional Bank Accounts run out, hopefully, we leave. An aching sadness comes with the realization that love doesn’t conquer all. It can never drive out the abuser’s need for absolute control. That is something the abuser has to relinquish on his own, then decide if he’s willing to do the work it takes to heal the pain inside him and relearn how to treat others. If the relationship isn’t important enough to him to go into treatment, there is nothing we can do. We can’t heal another. We can accompany him on his journey and be supportive, but not fix him. If it’s a journey he’s not willing to take, we have to do what’s necessary to save ourselves. 
Another song was popular around the time I left, “Sunshine” by the Isley Brothers. One line became an ear-worm to keep me strong: 
You can’t even run your own life, 
I’ll be damned if you’ll run mine. 

It took a while to understand that I didn’t have to be “the one.” All I had to do was be who I was and move on when it was time. We are all influenced and shaped by the variety of people who move in and out of our lives. No one person is our everything, and we cannot be someone else’s everything.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Forgiving Yourself

This could be the shortest bog I’ll ever write -- you have nothing to forgive. End of post.
While it’s the truth, you and I know it’s not that easy. It can take some time to internalize this knowledge. Still, when we think we’ve got it, some thought twirls up through the darkness of our past to needle us. “Maybe if I had stood up to him sooner.” “I should have left earlier.” “I let myself and children get into that mess.” All statements that blame us for something we couldn’t do or if we had done, would not have made a difference.
Having spent years believing that we were responsible for all the problems, our minds were on a spinning carousel searching for a way to make things better. We were convinced that we could make sense of things, so we could fix the relationship. There was no answer to be found because our partners were intentionally inconsistent to keep us off balance. They knew that as long as we were focused on trying to figure out what they wanted and expected, we wouldn’t have an opportunity to step back and see how outrageous they were treating us and leave them.
 Combine that with the constant battering of our self-esteem (teaching us that we are incompetent)--learned helplessness sets in. Scientists discovered that when an animal, trapped in a painful situation for a period of time, is given a way to avoid the pain it doesn’t take that opportunity. In the same manner humans who have had so many bad things happen that are beyond their control become exhausted and give up. They began to think, “Why bother. Nothing I do will make things better, anyway.” Learned helplessness. 
That was a lot to wrestle with, let alone find our way to freedom. But we did. We left.
Finding a safe place to live, work and raise our kids was a struggle. Those daily needs had to be a priority to survive, so we kept putting one foot in front of the other. Did we give ourselves credit for surviving? Did we see the magnificence of our efforts and achievements?  I hope so.
Out of the immediate danger, we believe we’ve come to terms with the truth--our former relationship would never have changed. However, inside our head that carousel is still turning. The feeling that we were responsible for the problems hasn’t left us. Nasty “I” statements that blame us for the whole mess haunt us. Let’s look at a few.
I let myself get into the relationship. We met a guy who lied to us about who he was. He played games with us. Told us what he knew we wanted to hear. How could we know that he wasn’t sincere? We couldn’t. Only time would tell us that. Just like a sleazy salesman, he put an unspoken time limit on his glowing offer of himself. Feeling very much in love, we rejoiced in his desire to be a couple and didn’t want to miss out on what appeared as a wonderful opportunity. Did we know this rushing into coupledom is a red flag. Not then. We do, now. We ended up in this relationship because we were tricked. That doesn’t make us stupid, it makes us human. We’ve learned an important lesson. Someone who really cares about us will give us the time we need to make a good decision about our future.
I put my kids through that. You did not make their home unsafe, your partner did. All you had control over was yourself--being the best Mom you could be under the circumstances. Your partner had the responsibility to cooperate with you to create a safe and loving home. You are not responsible for your partner’s behavior. You did the best you knew how to do at that time. Now you know better and will do better.  Seeing you leave the relationship and build a new life was, and is, an important lesson for your children.
I stayed too long. The relationship may have become too deadly, painful or you realized that things were not going to change. What ever the reason was, you left. You may wish that you had done it sooner, but you couldn’t leave until you were ready. Only you could determine when it’s time. Now that you know the red flags of an unhealthy relationship, you’re less likely to end up in another or if you do you will leave sooner.
When those self-doubts strut into our thoughts, let’s greet them with the truth- “I am sad that my children and I went through a terrible situation. I am not responsible for my former partner’s bad behavior. There was nothing I could do to change him. End of discussion. Go away.”

Friday, June 7, 2013

PTSD - Who Me?

When an idea for a blog comes, I’ve learned to jot it down immediately and a little description of my intention. Otherwise, by the time I start to write I have no idea what I was thinking. Too many middle-of-the-night, writing-in-the-dark, indecipherable-scribbles have taught me to get up and go to the computer to make notes.
For several months, I’ve had a document called “Healing from the Numbness” on my desktop. I’d planned to talk about how many of us used numbness to cope with the constraints of the abuse. Our abusers trained us to let go of our desire to pursue the things we enjoyed and instilled this habit in us by linking pain to any attempt we made to thrive. We learned to go numb, saying, "It really doesn't matter, anyway." When we left the relationship, the habit remained. Many of us have said, “I don’t know what I like anymore. I don’t know what to do with my life.” In my blog, I’d planned to talk about rediscovering our gifts and talents. About coming alive, reminding ourselves that we can go out to lunch with friends, see a move, take a painting class, be spontaneous. Especially, do things to show ourselves that we can set and pursue our goals and be rewarded not punished.
Somehow I could never get myself to write this blog. Other ideas seemed to stand up and wave their arms at me like eager kindergardeners, “Do me first!” They shouted. It was a good thing I waited, (a divine thing, as in, it was meant to be) While what I’d been thinking of writing is valid, the numbness concept for me has expanded.
Over dinner with a girlfriend one evening, I told her how after a speaking engagement it seems to take me longer and longer to shake off the darkness of my abuse experience. The heaviness, that once faded in the few minutes it took me to drive home, was now lingering for about 3 days. During this time, I had a hard time concentrating on anything, felt excessively tired and had to push myself to get things done. It felt like my brain had numbed out and refused to function. My husband, noticed the change in me.
My friend, a therapist, looked at me over a forkful of pasta, and said, “Were you ever treated for PTSD?”
When I left my ex no one knew about PTSD. I never considered that it was a problem for me. Really hadn’t been, so I thought. Good grief, the terrifying nightmares stopped about 25 years ago! If my ex does show up in a dream, he’s innocuous and I feel no fear. When I remember or talk about something that had happened, I'm not filled with fear or feel like I’m reliving the experience, but say to myself, “He did a cruel and terrible thing to me. It was not okay. That was then. This is now.” Didn’t that mean I had it licked?
My friend referred me to a therapist who works with those struggling with PTSD. I was tested. While talking with my therapist, I recounted a recent incident where I felt trapped in a car with an enraged driver - the trigger that change things. Being an advocate of touching base with a mental health expert as needed, I’m in treatment and discovering more about this numbing-out coping mechanism. 
At first I was stunned that I found myself in that car at that moment. Yes, and a little angry with myself. But, honestly, we can learn to recognize clear signs of danger and back away from people who are potentially violent. However, we can’t assume that everyone who shows signs of stubbornness, narcissism, anger (or any of the unflattering traits we all possess to some degree), are going choose a dangerous response under stress. Apparently, I’d forgotten that. This incident reminded me that all of us can find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation. People are going to act out, unexpectedly. When it happens we shouldn’t blame ourselves for not seeing some sign, just move ourselves to a place that is safe. We can learn techniques to prevent one episode from sending us back into the darkness. Then celebrate how far we’ve come. We saw it. We faced it. We didn't take responsibility for what happened. We put the blame where it belonged and sought help from a therapist- if needed, then moved on.
There is alway more I can learn about the affects and effects of domestic violence. I’ll be sharing insights as things progress. Stay tuned...
Comments are always welcome. Click on the Comment link below.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Standing Strong After You Leave (Part 3)

In the last two posts we looked at how we can stand strong against our abuser’s attempts to continue the relationship by turning on the Mr. Wonderful act and playing games with us to gain our sympathy and lure us back. In this final post, we’ll look at how we can respond to our ex’s attempts to re-establish their power position.
Lacking power in our former relationship, we spent a lot of time justifying ourselves durring our partners’ interrogation and accusations. Over the years, it became rote. Without missing a beat, our immediate response is to explain and defend ourselves.
After leaving our partners, we do not have to listen to or respond to their interrogations. And we shouldn’t. Abusers often aren’t interested in our responses anyway. We know they will never see our point of view or change theirs. We also know that our partners excel at twisting our words to make us sound crazy, stupid and inept. Their intention is to use this interaction to stir up the self-debasing messages they’ve planted in us, making us feel inadequate, fearful and powerless. By re-creating the unequal balance of power environment, they believe they have more leverage to bully us into complying with their demands. The best way to avoid this is to not converse with them. 
One of my therapists helped me develop what she called Broken Record Responses, pat replies designed to end a conversation politely and firmly. These did not include any information about me, my plans for the future or give any opening that allowed for further inquiry or response from my ex. We know that any information we give our exes can provide them with areas where we are vulnerable, opening us up to attack. You owe your ex no information beyond what the court orders you to disclose. 
Below are some examples you can use to put an end to the conversation. Develop statements that are unique to your situation. When your ex tries to start a conversation or provoke you, use the broken record response that fits. If he persists, repeat it once more, then walk away. 

  • “The children and I are fine. Thank you for your concern.” 
  • “I have it under control.” 
  • “You can direct your questions and concerns to my attorney.” 
  • “I’ll take that up with my attorney.”

It’s important to remain firm and direct with your ex. Never waste your time arguing with him. Keeping your focus on him is exactly what he wants. The longer he can keep you engaged the longer he will continue to play games with you. Over time, your ex will get tired of hearing the broken record responses and know that his tactics will no longer work with you.
In closing, I want to say, I love Taylor Swift’s song “We are never, ever ever ever getting back together, like never.” I find it empowering.
What worked for you? Click on the comments link below and share your thoughts with us.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Standing Strong After You Leave (Part 2)

In the previous post we talked about making a list of what we did and did not like about our partner. Reviewing that list helps us remember why we left. We can see that what we did love about him is far outweighed by what we didn’t. In most cases, we discovered that who we thought our partner was, Mr. Wonderful, was not who he really is. The person we loved was the facade our partner presented to get what he wanted. It wasn’t him. 
We can expect that as soon as we leave, Mr. Wonderful will reappear. However, below that mask is a cold, calculating mind working against us. We need to recognize the games he plays to subvert the power we’ve taken back. Once we understand the way our partners are trying to manipulate us, we can emotionally step back and call the behavior what it is. I suggest you give the games a name.
The Gonna make you act-out Game - He will try to come across to others as calm, collected, the sane one. He will tell outrageous lies designed to rile you and make you come unglued. His intention is to point at you and tell the court system, child protective services, friends, “Look how crazy she is. See what I have to put up with.” Don’t fall for this game. As angry as he makes you, remain calm and let the system work. Your peaceful demeanor may very well rile him, causing him to expose his true self. Stay steady and speak the truth no matter how embarrassed you feel. The shame belongs to him.
The Garner Sympathy Game - He knows the statements that have worked in the past. When they don’t work, he’ll come up with others. “I can’t live without you. I’ll kill myself.” “I thought you loved me.” “You’re taking my children away from me.” “You’re deserting me just like everyone always has.” “I’m in therapy. I need your help to change.” “The police took me to jail. It’s horrible. Do you know what miserable things I’m suffering here? Sleeping on a cold slab?” “The other inmates are threatening me.” “I don’t think I can survive much longer.” And thousands of other statements designed to tug at your heart or guilt you into giving in. If his behavior made you leave or put him in jail, it’s his fault, not yours. For years he’s taught you that you must fix everything for him, take care of him, cover up his bad behavior and clean up his messes. It’s his job to clean up his messes. As long as you do it he will not take responsibility for himself. You are only responsible for your behavior. He is responsible for the consequences of his.
The It’s Us Against the World Game - “Our love is so special/unique that no one else understands it.” “Other’s want to destroy us. We have to stick together.” “Other’s are plotting against us.” “You’re parents always hated me. They’re making you do this.” These are some of the declarations he may use to solidify your relationship and make other’s/the system the enemy. He’s blaming the outcome for his behavior on others.
The False Concern Game - “Are you and the children okay?” “Are you having any luck finding a job?” “We don’t need 2 attorneys. Most of them are sharks. I have someone who we can work with.” “I want what’s best for you and the kids.”  These are attempts to awaken the fear-based messages you received throughout the relationship; you are not capable of surviving without him, you don’t make good decisions, you can’t provide for your children, or survive alone in this dangerous world. No matter what your partner says, most definitely, hire your own attorney.
The Easing His Way Back into Your Life Game - “It seems foolish for us to pay two rents/house payments. Let me stay in the guest room (downstairs, or share one of the children’s rooms.) That way I’ll be there to protect you and the kids.” Once again, he’s playing the fear card. 
He may also try to re-hook you emotionally with sex. "Even if we’re divorced doesn’t mean we can’t have sex. Remember how great it was?" Never have sex with your ex.
The We Need To Talk (About the Children, Money, Property settlement, etc) Game. He want’s to meet with you alone. He may lure you with the promise of money or some item you cherish that’s in his possession. This may be a ploy to put you in a vulnerable position where he can terrorize you or harm you. Don’t buy into it, it’s too dangerous. Even those who have not been physically abusive, may, in desperation, step up their aggressiveness and harm you. Never meet your soon-to-be-ex alone or in a secluded place.
I’m sure you can come up with other games. I suggest you list the statements you expect your partner will use against you. Identify his intent with each statement. That way when you hear it from his (or her) mouth - try not to laugh aloud - you can mentally tick it off your list, “Oh, yes, this is the sympathy game. I refuse to buy into it.” This will redirect your thoughts, help you step back and not get caught up in the drama. 
I’d love to hear the games you’ve come up against. Please click on the comment link below and tell us what innovated game your ex plays. Feedback is available for those who ask.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Staying Strong After You've Left - Part 1

Survivors often ask me, “How do I stay strong and deal with my ex after I leave? He (or she) is still trying to control me and is pushing my buttons.” This is a good question to address with your therapist or in therapy group. They’ll have many helpful suggestions. I have a few thought on the issue, things that worked for me. I’ll deal with one of them here and others over the next few posts.
One of the reasons abusers can so callously attack their partners is that they have de-humanized them. Controlling partners believe that their victims are property. When a victim decides to walk away, the controller is stunned and cannot believe it is happening. As he sees it, the victim has no rights. The abuser cannot accept that the partner is actually going to leave. So, he will open the bag of tricks that have always drawn the victim back into compliance. If we can identify those "tricks" they lose their power over us. 

When these "tricks" don't work, controlling partners often ratchet up their bad behavior. Be cautious and use all available safety measures to protect yourself and children. We know that leaving is the most dangerous time. Even abusers who have not been physically abusive, may become physically violent during this time.
It’s important that survivors be positive in their hearts and minds that the relationship is over. This is not always an easy place to get to. Therapy is the best tool to help. Often we still feel love or compassion for our partner. The hope that he “may” change has been with us so long it’s hard to let it go. As we struggle with this, can we come to an agreement within ourselves that our partner’s behavior must end? Can we:
  • Accept that we cannot change our partner,
  • Accept that if we stay nothing will change,
  • Let go of the vision of our partner changing in the near or distant future so the relationship can be rekindled, and
  • Focus on this moment, right now, and what needs to be done to end the abuse?
One of the things that I found most helpful was to:
Make a List of What You Do and Don’t Love About Him 
Know that your partner will, most likely, put on the “Mr. Wonderful” facade he wore to reel you into, and hold you in, the relationship. Recognize that this is not who your partner is. To help you clarify this in your mind, divide a sheet of paper down the center. At the top of one column write “What I Love About Him” and on the other, “What I Don’t Love About Him.” Spend time listing what has been good and what has been painful about your life together. Chances are, when you’re finished, you will see how the bad far outweighs the good. You may even see that the traits listed on the love side are not really who your partner is at all, but who he’d pretended to be when you first met. (Who he’s pretending to be again to win you back.) Carry the list with you. When the ol’ heart strings start tugging on you, take out this list and remember why it’s not a good idea to stay involved with him. (I wouldn't whip out this sheet in front of your ex. We don’t want to aggravate the situation.) When he’s present, rest your hand on the folded sheet in your purse or pocket, as a reminder that you know he’s trying to con you and you’re not buying into his lies.
Having a list of what he did to you, in graphic detail, can keep you from minimizing or denying how bad the situation was. These can be painful to write. Take care of yourself. If you choose to compile this list. Don’t push yourself to do it all in one sitting. Consider having a supportive friend with you as you write.
In the next post we’ll look at some of the games abusers play to thwart your attempt to leave and stay gone.
Comments are always welcome. Click on the comment icon below and let us know how you keep your sanity as you deal with your ex.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Set Your Wings

My husband and I took Watson, our dog, for a walk in a local park. As we rounded a corner leading to a duck filled pond, my husband said, “Look.” He pointed to a flock of birds flying overhead. “Watch as they set their wings to come in to land on the pond.” As he predicted, they all held their wings steady and gently glided down to the occupied pond. Each one landing among the floating ducks without disrupting any. 
This was an aha moments for me. I’ve been reading a lot about the power of intention lately. Gary Zukav talks about it in his book “The Seat of the Soul.” Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and others. They have a lot to say about it, starting with knowing we can live with the intention to be kind and loving or angry and frustrated. On to asking for the right partner, job or situation to come into our lives. This is not a new concept. The Bible tells us to ask, seek, knock, and trust that it will be so. The more difficult of those for me is trust.
As I’ve struggled with this belief over the years, I’ve learned that we can also put our intention into hopeless places, hanging on to wishes and dreams that are not in our best interest or are thwarted by other’s intentions. 
Years ago, I thought my intention  to create a happy, loving, mutually fulfilling marriage was reasonable.  It was. However, I included a caveat that it would be with someone who was not a willing participant. I was intent on beating the odds that our marriage would work out. I tried to manifest my vision from a anxious, grasping, hang-on-at-all-costs mind-set. I was so determined to save that marriage that I couldn’t see the damage it was doing to me as well as my children. When I had exhausted all my energy, I faced the truth that I would never have the kind of marriage I’d hoped for with this person. His vision was vastly different from mine. When I surrendered my will to God’s, the marriage ended.
I didn’t lose the intention to live in a happy marriage, I just quit holding on to who I expected would be my partner. My mind-set was now from a place of peace and trust. I set my wings, and rode the breath of God to my current husband. Every day I am grateful for him and cherish every moment we share.
Along the same line, we can set our intention to work in a job that matches and fuels our passion in life, or one that just keeps bread on the table but sucks all the joy out of us. The choice is ours alone. I believe that we come to this earth with a God-given passion inside us. Sometimes we get side-tracked and we feel frustrated and unhappy. We can aim to find a job that fulfills us by keeping our options open to what that job might be. Then pay attention to open doors and whispered directions from our spirit, guiding us to opportunities, paid and unpaid. It takes trust. 

  • Trust that each job or activity provides us with a skill we’ll need for that perfect job.
  • Trust in our intuition (our gut) as we pick between opportunities.
  • Trust that we will arrive at exactly the right place at the right time with the right skills.

The duck landing was a beautiful example for relaxing into a new year. We can set our intention, then quit flapping around. We’ll weather the difficulties and neither let self-doubts take us off course nor do we try to fly faster. We let things unfold in their own time as we slide into our God-given purpose on this earth. All we have to do is stay open and aware. All will be well.
 I’ve set my wings for the New Year. How about you?