Thursday, January 26, 2017

Responding to Insults from your Co-Parent

I just got a long series of texts ending with "you are the worst co-parent in the history of the world."  Wow.  Talk about nonconstructive communication.  Now what?

I can't make him stop.  I can only control my behavior.  So what is in my control?

I can say "I see we are ceasing to have constructive conversations via text.  I'm happy to talk to you about these issues in person, in a public place.  E-mails and texts will only be a place for logistics and sharing positive sharing messages about the kids."

I can't control his communication to me, but I can choose to ignore it.  Or I can use the broken record technique and repeat these three sentences.  Above all, I will not engage in a texting war!  No one wins one of those.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Guide to Conversation Topics with an Abusive Co-Parent

I've learned over the past few years to avoid conversation with my ex as much as possible.  That seems intuitive, but my ex sometimes makes it very difficult.  He will corner me when at a soccer game or while dropping off the kids.

It is super strange to me, but the day after acting like a complete jerk, he will come up to me and try to carry on a conversation.  He will share about his day, his job, his other family.  As if I care!  Then he will also pry about my life.  Like he really cares!

Here is a list of appropriate topics of conversation to have with your abusive ex:

1. Weather
2. Kids
3. Repeat

Seriously, do not engage in anything beyond small talk.  I've realized the only reason he has to talk to me is: 1) He is possibly mining me for information he can use against me later.  2) He is possibly looking for a way to exert control or belittle me.

Don't talk to your ex like they are the enemy, but don't talk to them as your friend, either.  Talk to your ex like they are some random person at the bus stop who is giving you a creepy vibe.  Share nothing personal!  Believe me, I've learned the hard way.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Abuse and Co-parenting: Setting Boundaries

I found my divorce was sort of anticlimactic, because it doesn't really mark the end of your relationship.  Wouldn't it be awesome if you could just part ways at the court house?  Well for many of us, that's just not possible.  It's like "see you Friday at 6:00" and little is really changing.

For 12 more years, I'm going to see my ex at least twice a week.  He coaches my son's soccer team.  We both show up at school events.  We text back and forth regularly about arrangements for drop offs and pick ups.  

Sounds okay, so far, right?  At least he's an involved parent and not forgetting about his kids.

Well, think again.  All these interactions leave openings for abuse.  On the soccer field after the game he threatens to take me to court.  I get nasty e-mails and texts all the time about my failing as a parent.  I can't completely escape his abuse.

What can you do?  It's really hard for me, but I'm getting better at setting boundaries.  For example, I no longer engage in arguments over text or email.  On his last ranting e-mail, I politely addressed his concern, offered to meet in person with the children's therapist, and then set a boundary: "Text and e-mail are for logistics only."  

He has no sense of boundaries, so of course his response is basically: "You don't get to decide that!"  The ranting e-mails continue occasionally.  But I will not respond.  Sometimes I used the broken record technique and repeat "text and e-mail are for logistics only".  I have set a boundary.  It has made life a lot better. 

How do you cope with co-parenting with an abusive Ex?  Any tricks or tips?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Shame and Domestic Violence: Myths leading to Victim Shaming

As I separated from my future ex-husband, I told about everyone who would listen that my ex was a cheater.  But I told NO ONE that my ex was an abuser.  What's up with that?

If you want to explain that you do value the institution of marriage and justify your decision to file for divorce, wouldn't you tell people he insulted you and shoved you around?  I mean that's a pretty good reason.

On the other hand, you hear often about marriages where people can get past infidelity and heal the relationship.  That's not as good as an excuse.

So why wouldn't I tell anyone about the abuse?

The answer is SHAME.  I felt incredible shame around being a victim of domestic violence.

I think it goes back to the fact that people have a severe lack of understanding and compassion for victims of abuse in relationships.  People think we're nuts.  We must be crazy.  We must like it.  How could we pick a person like that to commit to?  And then choose each day to stay?!?!

 I felt incredibly naive and foolish for falling for a man who would abuse me.  I felt so absolutely spineless and weak for staying so long.  I was filled with shame.

There are a lot of reasons people end up and stay in these relationships, and that's going to be another post.  Today I just want to try to dispel a few of the myths that I think lead to victim shaming in domestic violence.

Myth #1: It's easy to spot an abuser.

No, it's not.  Often abusers don't reveal their nature at first.  I asked my ex once why he no longer treated me the way he did at first, and he actually said "I was wooing you then."  They know that they can't get a partner by beating the shit out of them on the first date.  They save that stuff until they have you hooked.

Myth #2: It's easy to leave an abuser.

It's not easy at all.  Many victims lack a support network and the resources to leave.   Abusers are good at cutting you off from your family, friends, and career goals.  It seemed very generous when my ex offered to let me quit my job the first year we were married.  Now I realize he wanted to get me more dependent on him.

Also, frankly we're afraid of what will happen when we leave.  If your abuser goes into a rage because you turn the toilet paper roll the wrong way, what do you think is going to happen when you tell them you're leaving?  It's not an irrational fear, either.  People are murdered all the time after they tell their abuser that they are leaving.

The truth is, it's not easy to spot or leave an abuser.   The culture of victim shaming is one tragic reality of domestic violence.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Alone during the Holidays?

If you are missing your kids today, you are not alone.  Holidays are hard when you have to sacrifice time with your kids so they can spend time with your ex.  Especially when that ex is a jerk, or worse.

The only reassuring thing I can say is that in my experience, it does get easier.  The first time I had to leave my kids with my abusive ex, I vividly remember trying to run some errands but suffering with a horrible headache the entire night.  I don't remember my first Christmas Eve without the kids, but I imagine it was a similar experience or perhaps even worse.  The holidays just tend to make every loss seem more vivid.

But today, four years later, I can relax at home and halfway enjoy myself even though I'm alone on Christmas Eve.  The nagging worry that something bad could be happening to my kids is not entirely gone, but it's muted.  I try to focus on the positives; they will be with the extended family so they will have a good meal and more attention.  I still miss my kids, but I am not paralyzed by the void they leave behind.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

When child protective services can't help

I've called child protective services twice now.  The system was surprisingly efficient and responsive.  Both times DSS investigators had scheduled visits within the week.  But they will do nothing to help me.  I guess they cannot do anything to help me.

They do not have the power to alter a court order.  They do not have the power to force my frightened children to speak about what happens at their dad's house.  They are powerless.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Calling child protective services on your ex

When my furious ex demanded to know if I called child protective services, I knew I had to lie to protect myself and my children.  I'm typically a compulsive teller of the truth.  I have trouble with even white lies.  So I'm definitely out of practice, but I did my best today.  I acted confused and concerned.  Hope I did OK.  He seemed to buy it.

The case worker visited their step mom today and went to my ex's work!  He's got to be really angry, but he also seems scared.  Scared is good.  He angerly referred them to his lawyer.

I talk with the case worker on Monday afternoon with the kids.  I'm nervous they won't speak up.  Especially my daughter.