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Learn About Coercive Control and Psychological Abuse

Tactic #8 — Separation Abuse

– Posted in: Intimate partner abuse Male perpetrators Why does he do it

This is the eighth of 16 blogs discussing the patterns of tactics from my power and control wheel – afeteparation Abuse.

It’s commonly assumed women should just leave their abusive partner, that she’s stupid for staying, and that if she left him, all her problems would be over. But this is far from the reality for many women. Often when women decide to leave, their partner promises to change.

Controlling men are guided by a belief system – that women are possessions, the man is the boss, that women should serve men’s needs, that what he says goes and his sense of entitlement means he is the one who is right. Based on this belief system, men respond to women’s challenges for him to change, by denying wrongdoing, minimising harm done, and deflecting responsibility by blaming the woman. Therefore, the act of apologising is often used as a manipulative strategy to stop women from leaving. Some men block her ability to leave by holding her captive, whilst others emotionally blackmail their partner by threatening suicide saying “you either take me back or I’ll kill myself” (1).

Some men threaten to kill their partner, the children and her family. Women are most at risk of murder when they decide to leave or actually do leave. The main reason given by men who murder their wives is, not that she provoked him, but because they felt they had lost power and control over her (2). Such men believe they own their wife and children.

This blog describes what many men do to women after they leave. Women are more at risk of post-separation abuse if they have children to the controlling man. So it also describes some ways men use children to maintain control over women.

Post-separation abuse is not something that only begins at separation – it is part of an ongoing campaign of power and control.

Many men escalate their tactics post-separation by engaging in stalking campaigns. Sometimes men’s stalking behaviours look like acts of love from an outsider’s viewpoint. For example some men leave notes on her car windshield, perform favours, leave flowers and other gifts and make phone calls. BUT . . . when all of these actions are adamantly not wanted by the woman, and when favours are done without her permission, women feel violated, trapped and scared.

Other tactics include endless legal hearings aimed at diminishing her financial and emotional resources, using visits with the children as opportunities to harass the woman further. Using social institutions to emotionally blackmail women. This tactic is achieved by threatening to go for custody of the children, or by negotiating for custody and property by creating a climate of fear. It’s also achieved by falsely accusing women of fraudulently receiving single parent government benefits, or of neglecting the children and reporting them to statutory agencies for investigation.

When women experience psychological abuse and continually feel controlled, but never experience physical violence, most find their experience extremely difficult to label. Elizabeth said, “When I was in the relationship I never would have labelled it as abuse, I just thought that was the way it was.” So she, like many women, was shocked and petrified when her ex-partner began stalking. Usually, women expect as Adriana did that “after divorce things settle, or we don’t have to deal with each other.” But she said, “It’s not like that at all for me.”

Post-separation abuse tactics designed to get her back

The abuse Karen experienced throughout her relationship with Felix diminished when she first left. However, she said, “that was a deliberate attempt to get me back. Once that wasn’t working, it got very nasty. He can be Prince Charming with all the bells on and a very caring, supportive person and then he lost it completely and started smashing up cars on the motorway with his bullbars and it got very dangerous. Then I came home one day and the house was smashed up. But me leaving initially, everything toned down, and about a year after it got really bad.”

Men who wish to win back control, try a range of tactics to achieve this

Adriana said Steven “goes against my needs and wishes. Everything’s about getting what he wants. Very overtly – ‘This is what I want, this is what I want, that way or no way’. And what he wants keeps changing mainly to go against what the norm is, what we agreed, or what the court told us we were going to do.” Steven’s abuse escalated over time with “Phone calls getting worse and worse. Affidavits got crazier and crazier. His abuse went from me and then it went to friends and family. The circle of who he abused got bigger and bigger.”

Harasses her

Susan said that after she and Anthony split up, “He really did harass. He used to ring and ring and ring. In the end I’d take the phone off the hook coz I was so sick of it. Then he’d come knocking on the door.”

Uses the legal system to maintain control

Donna said, “There’s been many court hearings. We’d got to court and the judge would rule, ‘right the property has to be sold’. And then Frank would do the, ‘Give me three months and I’ll pay you’. So my lawyer goes, ‘Well you want your money so give him three months.’ Then I’d get a letter two weeks later saying ‘go to hell, you’re getting nothing, go away’. But then I’d have to wait for another year for a court date to come up.”

Threatens to kill her

Adriana said her husband Steven “threatened to kill me. The moment that happened I called the police, I called the lawyers. I was concerned that he would try. It’s been ongoing court battles concerning access and custody. He believed that he was having access that weekend and I already told him prior to this conversation on the telephone that it wasn’t his weekend. He left a message on my answerphone saying that he was going to come and pick our daughter up. I called him back because I didn’t want him to make a fool of himself and travel and get stupid again. So I gave him a call and said, ‘No, it’s not your weekend’. Then he just threatened to get me killed. It was really bizarre. It was shit. It wasn’t good.”

Susan said her lawyer who did the protection order for her said, “‘it takes seven years to get out of a relationship’ and it was seven years of trying backwards and forwards. That really surprised me because you think get out of a relationship and it’s over, but it’s definitely not over when you’ve got children.”

Anne McMurray interviewed men and women about the experience of separating parents who did not gain custody of their children. One of the men described a common motivator that drives some men to abuse and control their female partner after she leaves: “You spend a year ‘score levelling,’ having conquests, not relationships. You inwardly cheer when an estranged wife is shot – like a victory – a chalk that one up.” (3)

Elizabeth said David’s responses to her leaving were, ‘anger, anger, anger lots of anger, lots of put downs, lots of undermining. He used to threaten me about having affairs, ‘If you try anything like that I’d give you the lead treatment.’ I wasn’t scared he’d shoot me but I was scared he could hurt me. He didn’t have a gun.”

Elsie said that, “Every duck shooting I get scared. Leon shoots where I live, so I always get scared that I’ll bump into him, so I usually hide for the duck shooting months. When I left him he said he’d get me. At the same time I don’t think he would. I think he’s too much of a coward.”

Misuses the custody order

Elizabeth said that one of the things in her custody order was that David provide clothes for the children when they were at his place. She said that David, “decided he wasn’t going to do that anymore and they had to bring clothes from my place and they didn’t want to do that coz it means packing their bags and toing and froing. So one of the girls decided that she didn’t want to go to dad’s any more so she stayed at my place. The other one decided she still wanted to go to dad’s, but she didn’t want to take clothes. She went there one weekend, didn’t take clothes, he dumped her back. So neither of them went for a while. My oldest son is now living with me coz he got kicked out of his dad’s coz he started to speak up for himself just the way I did and of course they didn’t agree with each other so he got kicked out. It was meant to be punishment ‘go and live at your mother’s’. Now my son’s decided he is not going back there so there is a whole lot of drama going on there now. Now it’s, ‘you’ve got custody, I pay you to look after these children.’ It’s like, ‘We haven’t got a court order, if it doesn’t suit me I don’t have to have them.’ So the orders suit him when they suit him and they don’t when they don’t.”

Inflexible over child sharing arrangements

Elizabeth talked further about ways David used the custody order to maintain control over her. She said that his attitude had been to always totally stick to the order, no flexibility. At one stage I had to go into hospital for a few days during the school holidays, and of course we split the holidays it was in the order. I suggested we just swap the weeks over so that while I was in the hospital the children were with him and that I would have them the following week. ‘No, no, no, no you need to make your own arrangements we’re sticking to the order.’ The order was God. Then one day he decides ‘oh no I don’t really want that any more’. The good thing about the inflexibility was at least he was incredibly reliable, I could count on him to stick to it.”

Uses the children to maintain power and control over her

After Susan and Anthony split up, Anthony “threatened to take the children away. He threatened to get custody of them. I guess he figured with that he’d have control over me with the children. He’s done that a few times. He rung up one day and said ‘I’ve put something in the letterbox for the kids’. I sent the oldest out to the letterbox. She brings in this something. I opened it up and it was a vibrator. I quickly wrapped it up again and put it in the rubbish. The thing that got me was that he used the kids to pass it on to me.”

Eight years after leaving her husband, Elizabeth said “there is still stuff going on with the kids. He was going to have the kids for the first week of the holidays. And Thursday night, ‘Oh no it’s not convenient.’ I’d arranged to have a holiday, then suddenly, ‘hello here are the kids to look after’. So it’s like he still does this stuff.”

Alienates the children from the mother

Elizabeth said, When I finally got into a place of my own David wasn’t going to let me have the kids at all because I was the one that walked out. He would tell the kids, ‘Your mother doesn’t love you, why would she have left if she loved you, if she loved you she would still be here.’ Then the few things that I did take to put into my new place it was like, ‘Your mother stole those things from you.’ They’d come round and they would say, ‘What are you doing with that? You stole that from dad.’ He wouldn’t let me take any of their toys, their clothes, none of their bedding, nothing. I wasn’t allowed any of it. So they’d come around from this well setup house to my house I was renting, but they weren’t allowed any of their stuff. I had no money to buy them anything so they were there with paper and crayons.”

Some men attempt to alienate the children from the mother by making accusations to statutory agencies that she has harmed the children, so whilst investigations proceed she is only allowed to see the children under supervised access. Many men tell their new wives that their ex-wife was abusive, is an unfit mother and some men recruit their extended family and friends into siding with him. I’ve counselled many women who have had such experiences and when they talk to the man’s previous wife or wives, they discover all the women have experienced the same forms of abuse and control.

Uses the children as spies to gather information to use against her

Elizabeth had a new boyfriend, but did not live with him and she also had lazer surgery to her eyes. She was able to afford this because when she was still with David she had medical insurance, which she maintained after leaving him. But she said David said to the, “Is your mother a prostitute, how could she afford to get that done, is she sleeping with the guy?” Then David approached WINZ (the Work & Income government department who was paying her a single parent benefit). Elizabeth said, “WINZ then investigated me for trying to just jolly well get a few extra dollars here and there occasionally to try and keep the kids fed and clothed.”

Elizabeth lamented that David was “there on his $200,000 a year salary begrudgingly paying child support, but I wasn’t seeing anything of it because you don’t when you’re on the benefit. And hauling me over the coals, because of meeting some guy who is prepared to come and give me a bit of help with this and that and the other and possibly get into a relationship with. And sending my own kids into the house to spy, to find out how many nights a week he stays, so it can be reported back to WINZ.”

Elizabeth found David’s treatment of her, and mis-use of the children “Intolerable. I have just despaired about it. I’ve never wanted to say to the kids, ‘don’t tell daddy this or don’t tell daddy that’, because I believe the kids should be able to speak freely and that whatever information either of us get about the other, we just put into a place and disregard it. He wouldn’t let the kids talk about me when they were at his place. Don’t talk about her at all I don’t want to hear about her. So the kids would have to start censoring what they were allowed to talk about, or if things would happen over there, ‘Don’t tell your mother.’ So I never wanted to get into that with my kids, because I didn’t think it was right. But then I am like, ‘well what do I do here?’ because yes I am seeing this guy, but I don’t want to say to them don’t tell daddy. So it’s like your values are constantly being undermined and compromised. Here’s someone coming into the inner sanctum of your bedroom as to who you spend time with and how often you might be sleeping with somebody, having that reported across town and through government agencies. Something that is absolutely and totally private and none of their bloody business.”

Economic abuse

Teresa said Patrick abused her economically. He did this “by what he did with the house and by living in it for six or eight months without me and me still paying half his mortgage.”

After Donna moved away from Frank she said she had “the threat the whole time of, ‘If you make this happen I will make you bankrupt.’ But see I’ve told the truth and the whole truth and I truly believed the justice system would see me right but it hasn’t. He’s lied. Not once in his whole time has he ever had to prove anything he’s said. It’s just been accepted which blows my brains. And he’s said some horrific things about me.”

For Donna, the negative consequences of leaving Frank went on for years. For example, after Donna left the relationship, Frank went into debt. She said that, “Because he has now borrowed so much money and gone into so much debt, if I force the sale of the farm, by the time the debt’s paid there will be no money for me. Because the place is now a dump – and it was beautiful – now he’s telling the judge that it’s an absolute dump and the only thing left is for it to be bulldozed. I’ve had no access to any money where he has used my tax number in the business and now I owe the tax department $7,000. I owe the legal aid $7,500 and the Social Welfare $14,000, so yeah I come out of it not getting my money. The agreement was that he’ll pay me $10,000 and the legal fees, the legal aid will be tagged onto the property, but I still have to pay the tax department. So every direction you look I’ve lost. Lost, lost, lost, lost, lost.”

Elizabeth said, “there was an insurance policy that David had continued to pay that he decided was a mistake and he wanted me to pay back all this life insurance money. It took eighteen months to go through the whole legal process and ended up in the disputes tribunal and he didn’t get what he wanted. So, the very next day he is into the Inland Revenue Department with an administrative review for paying child support. It’s been this constant ‘what’s coming next, what’s he going to do this time?’”

During the first few months after leaving her husband, Elizabeth said David “was wanting to settle the matrimonial property, so I said, ‘what would it take to get you to stop this terrible violence that was going on’ – verbal, not physical. He said, ‘Just agree to my proposal, sign the matrimonial property agreement and everything will be fine.’ Of course I just really wanted to believe that, so I said, ‘Okay’. And my lawyer said, ‘Well I still think we should…’ I said, ‘Look he said this thing will end if I sign this I don’t care about the money, I am going to sign it.’ He stayed in the house, my boys were pretty much living there, and I was out of the house. I had this access thing where I could go and see the boys after school. He broke his promise. The day the matrimonial property agreement was signed he drives around in a new car and hands me a trespass notice, which effectively cut off my access to my boys. I know I was totally naïve, but I was devastated coz I thought ‘hang on a minute that’s not how it was meant to be.’

Stalking aimed at driving her crazy

Teresa elaborated on stalking tactics that Patrick used: “After I moved out he would watch me from his car. He’d park round the corner and spy on me. He would ring me up, leave 12 messages on my phone in a day. When he moved my stuff he got a key cut for my new house and I’d come home and there’d be stuff inside. He would have come in and done the dishes, or put flowers on the table, or folded the washing. I had a 30th birthday party and he wasn’t invited and he wanted to come and he asked if he could come and I said ‘No’, which was very selfish. He parked around the corner to watch to see who was coming and stayed there to see what time people left. He was a constant presence. When we were together we’d been on a weekend away one time and there was a sex shop there and we’d bought a vibrator. He came around to my house and took it because he didn’t want me to have any kind of pleasure if he wasn’t there to give it to me. He’d do was listen to my messages coz I’d kept the same pin number on the call minder and I’d ring up and I would have gone to work with zero messages and I’d come home and there’d be four saved messages.

In response to Patrick’s stalking campaign, Teresa said, “I changed the pin number and I changed the lock and he was really pissed off. It was just awful, it was absolutely awful. I felt really powerless against it, I didn’t know what I could do about it and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings or be mean. I’d come home and pull all my curtains in the middle of the day so he couldn’t see me. In the kitchen there was a dishwasher space under the bench without a dishwasher in it and I had this huge urge for about two months that all I wanted to do was just crawl into that and just be in there because he wouldn’t be able to get me. I slept as well, my sleeping grew even more once I’d moved out coz he couldn’t get me when I was asleep, and I was doing something he didn’t know about.”

Stalking campaigns aimed at undermining her sense of security

Heather said Luke was obsessed and infatuated with her. “He’d say, ‘I know where you’ve been today’. I didn’t know whether to believe him or not. I thought, ‘he knows I work these hours, he could easily wait up the road and watch where I go after work’. I found it quite strange and then some little things he’d say I started to think ‘maybe he does’. I started looking around the house thinking he might have little cameras there watching me. He’d say to me, ‘I could just about tell you when you had your last dump.’ I thought, ‘my God what a thing to say, maybe he’s got this place screened somehow and I didn’t know’. I thought ‘maybe he’s tapped the phone’. I started to get all these funny thoughts going through my head.”

Heather thought, “‘I am having a baby with him, I’ve got to really think about that, we’ve got to remain friends’. Then he’d turn up at my door, ‘You can’t leave me standing out here, look your neighbours are looking.’ He’d put his foot in the door and say, ‘Let me in, I’ll just stand in here, let me just talk to you for a minute.’ I had 13 missed calls in an hour on my mobile. He was the only one that had my phone number. I’d just got it as a present from mum and dad for Christmas. I don’t know whether they knew something and wanted me to have it for an emergency. I actually got quite scared. He’d say, ‘I’ve been thinking about you all day. I’ve been moping around here all day hoping that you’d ring me.’ I thought ‘this isn’t healthy’.

Some women leave their partner, whilst others stay in their home and arrange for the man to leave. In the latter case, many men believe they still have the right to access that house whenever they want. Pauline said Chris “would come into my house, and one day I came out of the shower with a towel around me, and came up the hallway and he was in my lounge and I just went ballistic. I said, ‘Don’t come into my house like that.’ It felt weird after being married and with him for so long to suddenly feel creepy that he had seen me in a towel that he could have seen me partially naked it felt so creepy.”

Invades her privacy

Susan said that after she left Anthony, “he took away my space by following me everywhere. I’m pretty sure that he tapped my phones, I know that he was under my house, I know that he was listening and watching outside the windows. There were lots of things he did when I was with him, but I didn’t think they were a problem until I left and it got worse. He drilled holes in my bathroom floor so he could spy and holes in my bedroom floor, big four inch square holes. He made those right where you get undressed. The last time that we split up my biggest fear was that he would rape me . . . I think if you cut holes in people’s floor and underneath the bathroom there was a glass and a stethoscope.”

Susan did a lot of the crying over Anthony’s stalking behaviours. “When we had split up the last time and he was doing these things, I had my friends’ support. I locked myself in the house. I got a confidential number. I wouldn’t go anywhere alone. When I went up town I would find that he was usually across the road, or behind me, or in the shop. And the thing that’s really scary was, how did he know where I was going and what I was doing?”

Although some stalkers stalk women who are strangers, extensive research in USA highlights that most stalkers are women’s ex-partners. It is ex-intimate partners who are more persistent pursuers than are stalkers who are strangers (4).

Using the tactic of divide and conquer

Teresa said, “Patrick said a lot of things about me to other people and he was careful about who he said it to. He didn’t say anything to my closest friends because they wouldn’t have listened. But to the people at work he did and he told a lot of lies to people. I couldn’t ever negate any of it, because I didn’t know it had happened until later.” Teresa had to work with Patrick for the next eight to 12 months. His abuse entailed ongoing “nastiness, always when other people weren’t around, and the charm when they were. So I’d think I was imagining it. It’s amazing what you think you imagine. When I look back now I think ‘how could I have thought that?’ but I did.”

Separation abuse is extended to abuse against her supporters

Adriana said Steven “repeatedly called me a fascist and a bitch. Repeatedly. He intimidated a good friend in person. He came and destroyed bits around the house. He wrote affidavits, which were extremely damaging, not just to me but to the family, to his mother, brother. It started out I was a bad person, I was the one who was the bitch, but it went to all the people who supported my daughter and me as well. It was very hard because I cope much better with myself being the focus of the attacks and the intimidation, but when it generalised across to people I love and care for, that made it harder because I love them and I know how difficult it is for them to cope with that. They tried as much as they could to support me and help me and assist me, but now they have to keep themselves safe as well as try to help me.”

What does it mean for women who leave a partner after months or years of being controlled by him? Some women become free of the abuse, but many women do not. Separation from such men does not always lead to a better life. If women share children with the abusive man, they may never fully be able to escape the grips of his possessive control, even when children become adults, the abuse can continue around shared family gatherings.

These men are often very dependent on the woman they control. They believe that making her fearful will make her dependent. Men stalk, degrade, manipulate, harass, attempt to have their ex-partner criminalised, attempt to deplete her of her emotional and financial resources and attempt to block her ability to flourish, or enter a new relationship – because they want to limit her autonomy and independence. Attempting to make his ex-partner dependent on him is a strategic ploy aimed at getting her back. Other men want to punish her for humiliating him. When women leave, many men conclude that they have lost control over their possession and this humiliates them – as men – men who are socialised to be in control of “their” woman.

For any woman who has lived with a man who has been consistently controlling over time, the act of deciding to leave, or actually leaving should not be taken lightly by onlookers or the woman herself. Of course not all of these men go on to maintain a stranglehold over their ex-partners – but many do – so it’s important for women to follow their gut instincts and tell the truth to themselves about such a possibility and make arrangements that take the reality of separation abuse into account.

For safety planning ideas on how to stay safe when leaving a controlling partner checkout this blog post here.

 References:

  1. Hearn, Jeff. (1998). The Violences of Men: How Men Talk About and How Agencies Respond to Men’s Violence to Women. London: Sage
  2. Mahoney, Martha R. (1991). Legal images of battered women: Redefining the issue of separation. Michigan Law Review, 90(1), 1-94.
  3. McMurray, Anne M. (1997). Violence against ex-wives: Anger and advocacy. Health Care for Women International, 18(6), 543-556.
  4. Craven, Zoe. (2001). Book Review: Stalkers and their Victims: Newsletter No. 6 – Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse.

Watch out for blogs on the following control tactics:

One-Sided power games
Mind games
Inappropriate restrictions
Isolation
Over-protection & ‘caring’
Emotional unkindness & violation of trust
Degradation & Suppression of Potential
Using social institutions & social prejudices
Denial, minimising, blaming
Using the children
Economic abuse
Sexual abuse
Symbolic aggression
Domestic slavery
Physical violence
Cyber Abuse

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Related Posts

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Hope 12 January 2016, 4:01 am

I am happy to have found a website that offers us a place to talk and feel like we are not alone. I too have been in an abusive relationship for 25 years and am terrified. He threatens to kill everyone that I love and care about then afterwards kill himself so he doesn’t have to face any charges. I am so scared that I just deal with it because I don’t want anything to happen to the ones I love. I have no one to talk to it about. So this site is a godsend.

Su 4 January 2016, 8:48 pm

My empathetic heart cries so heavily, reading these articles. Knowing how terrified, isolated, belittled and alone you have all felt. I cry for your pain. My DV relationship ended six weeks ago after 18 years, numerous attempts to leave, homelessness and my own attempted suicides. And yes, I did love him, as we do.

I was physically, socially, mentally, emotionally, financially and sexually abused. He tried to kill me. He has beaten me, raped and sodomised me, smashed my things, thrown me out, confiscated things, jeopardised every job I had and tampered with every relationship with family and friends.

I am currently in refuge, without my son. Our son is 16, and chose to stay there instead of living in hotels, car, refuge, which is what I have had to do in this process. My ex is just beginning the ‘hate’ phase now, over government payments not going in his favour today. This is expected. I am just waiting for my window of opportunity to get my son out of there, because I know the pattern, without being complacent. My son knows of my plans and also knows the danger, and wants to live with me.

Most importantly, my son knows ME! He knows that I am a good person and how much I love him. But although most people would consider my position rock bottom, I consider how lucky I am. I am alive! It’s all baby steps and I will make it work because I have to, for my children.

For all of you beautiful souls, who have had to fight this ugly social disease, remember that you are already warriors who have survived countless weary battles on your own. You have more strength than you know and more strength than whole armies…inside you! Please don’t give up and get out if you can. Believe in yourself. You deserve so much more. Big love and keep safe!

Callie 28 February 2016, 2:53 am

My husband decided that he was not going to even try again to hold off what he wanted in life, so myself and his family could catch our breath after MRSA in his spine leaving him without nerve impulse below his upper legs. Try and get things right unlike the last time we requested he slow down in what he wanted, we could figure out how to include him unlike what we did from 1985 to 2009, we were just trying to get him to be caring of other people before himself. When he became tired of that idea he started hurting people when they tried interfering with him.

After he came home after rehab learning to walk after a MRSA Abscess caused his spinal cord to crush, I just wanted with his family to have a chance to figure out what his mood was. Before the surgery it was always angry and force needed to get him to listen to any other needs other than his. I found out within the first month he was home that he cared nothing for my needs for peace, he cared nothing for his father’s need for social acceptance, and he really did not care if I or his father kept friendships of 30 years. And I found if I did not submit after 31 years to my wedding vows to him he really did not care if I said no.

We now have nothing we can use to get his cooperation. If a weapon is produced he just makes sure the person wielding it is hurt so bad they cry if they even see my husband. The day he forced the sex issue with me, he ripped every stich off me and threatened to throw me out in minus 40 degree weather unless I submitted to his right as a husband. Now I don’t say no out of terror.

Karen 30 December 2015, 9:01 pm

My (soon) ex-husband used covert-aggressive ‘gas lighting’ during our marriage, but once I left him, he became very obviously abusive. I had felt controlled and undermined for years, but separation brought the controlling bully out in the open, which made recovery easier. I felt enormous guilt for my kids beforehand, but once he was out of the house, the relief and joy of being free and self-determining gave the kids a much better role model than I’d been when I was a defeated stepford wife. Friends said I was like a ghost for years, and they are enjoying hearing me laugh again.

Lyn Christensen 11 December 2015, 12:37 pm

My ex paints his ex-wife as crazy and white trash and abusive and turns everybody against her.

daniela 11 December 2015, 6:11 am

I have just come to realize that I have been suffering from this post separation abuse for years and years. I am in Canada and now have moved across the country and I am slowly healing but I have not addressed the legal aspect yet (was unable to obtain lawyer). I have two sons, and I fear a legal battle from him, now that I have moved so far away, I need help, my story is just as severe as all the ones listed on the list….thank you for having this website.

Jennifer 6 October 2015, 11:53 pm

I have an ex who mentally abuses my children and it would be great to talk to someone who can give me advice on this matter. The kids moved out of state with him and I let them because they really wanted to move with their dad. Now I barely have any contact with them and when my 12year old son calls me, all he does is yell at me and does not want to talk to me. I know my ex is manipulating him and I also have a 7 year old daughter who wants to talk to me but he controls her and never lets her call me. I know he is an abusive asshole and I am not afraid of him at all, but I would like some advice on how to maintain a good relationship with my children. It’s them who will be hurt through this. I do get them for most holidays and will have them for the summer.

Ruby 18 November 2015, 12:15 pm

Seek professional help. I think if you see a psychologist you could work with them to find the best way to safely work around your ex to communicate with your children and help them too. When they are with you, you could take them to the psychologist with you, and he or she could help a lot in the circumstance. Legal help could be another option, but I do not wish to advise this because this is an abuser so that may not be safe for your children or you. Concerning there is abuse involved, speaking with a therapist before making any rash decisions is safest/best.

Clare Murphy PhD 19 November 2015, 8:14 pm

Re Ruby’s suggestions, if you do go ahead and seek help from a psychologist/therapist you need to ask about their understanding of coercive control and domestic violence. Because on the whole it is not compulsory for mental health professionals to be trained in domestic violence and power and control and they can end up treating your relationship as if it is about two equals and this can cause major harm to victims….. Clare

Mark 30 September 2015, 5:40 am

I’m talking to a woman who just got out of a relationship just like described. I am her best friend by the way and when I heard all he says to her and how he used finances as his way of making her feel worthless, I said enough is enough, I have money, you need money for bills take it. I’ve tried several ways of politeness like I got her her favorite chocolate, she enjoys drinking tea and I noticed she didn’t have a tea pot, so I got that and she loves Halloween, I found fake Halloween flowers for her to put in a vase on her table. But my problem is I have regret, I didn’t try saving her.

I fell out of contact for almost a year with her, but I got a random phone call from her, that made my heart fall out and to the waste side because I promised to protect her for the rest of my days and I failed. I won’t lie, I’ve been in love with her since I met her, but I let her be with men like this for too long and I’m doing my best, to get her from the dark tormented depression in her head. But I’m lost and need to know what steps can I do that a psychiatrist can’t. I want to show her, how beautiful she is, that she can achieve her hopes, dreams and aspirations. She’s a shell of her old self but there’s times, when I get that radiant smile or the snurkled laugh or rambunctious display of happiness. I ask not as a love interest, but as a friend who cares and loves her for who she is inside and out.

Sasha 15 September 2015, 5:26 am

Hi, I’m going through a divorce at the moment and I’m afraid of his abuse every day I wake up. I have three young children under 5yrs old. He’s wealthy. I’m a stay at home mum. He’s told the world I’m an alcoholic, crazy, depressed, beat my kids…. Yet, I am a full time, school run, homework/play date/bake cakes mum. Also a qualified lawyer in a past life that now looks like a distant memory.

This ex husband (I filed for divorce in February), is making my life hell daily. Screaming at me in the street (my kid’s first day in “big school”) outside a hospital (my 2 yr old just got diagnosed with a rare learning disability), dressing me down. In front of him, I won’t back down. So my kids see that you stand up for yourself. No matter what. Behind closed doors.

My heart is broken (crazy I know people, I know… But I loved this man once, before he turned into the animal he now is). He’s blackmailing me now for financial settlement, he’s threatening me with disclosure of personal things people don’t know about. How do I do this…. I (yes I’m a lawyer, but I don’t have any experience in anything but diapers for 7 years). Help me. I’m based in the UK. Thanks

Abigail 12 September 2015, 1:03 am

After reading this I don’t feel alone in this constant battle any more. It has been 5-6 years since I left my abusive relationship and to this day it is still happening. Everything you talked about is exactly what is happening with me. I have tried every single legal route to protect myself. I either get denied or somehow it gets drop. My ex has found so many ways to manipulate the system. I feel lost and Like there is no hope. But I feel better knowing I’m not alone in this.

Johnson 30 August 2015, 3:22 am

I am a man and I am abused by all these things all by my ex wife. I did want our relationship to work for the best of my children.
My ex has tried everything to remove my parenting time. She uses tactics like this and also did this near the end of our relationship. There is not a whole lot of this kind of info for men out there and it happens to us too.

I know this is important info for support and this is a real problem out there.

Clare Murphy PhD 4 September 2015, 6:33 pm

Hi Johnson, I have written elsewhere throughout my website that I am writing about, and from, the perspectives of my Masters research, my PhD research, and related experiences in my consulting work. My research is in-depth and this website does not write about generalisations nor sweeping stereotypes.

I know that men living with female partners experience physical, sexual and psychological abuse, as do men and women living with same-sex partners. In due course I will write from these other perspectives.

That means I am currently discussing two main issues:
1. Heterosexual men who perpetrate emotional abuse and control against their female partners, and
2. Heterosexual women who have survived these same behaviours.

It takes time to research and write about every possible angle of abuse.

Patsy 3 August 2015, 6:46 am

As I sit here reading this article I can not help myself but cry. I’ve been out five years and I thought I was the only one. I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. Everything that I read was everything that I’ve been going through. I was abused for 10 years mostly mental abuse and emotional abuse, some physical abuse but not much. When I left it got worse — he threated to kill me on several occasions and even tried to kill me while my son was in the hospital. And it’s just not for me, it’s for the kids and even my new boyfriend who has been living with me for 4 years and I don’t even understand why he can’t just Leave us alone. He has a new girlfriend and even she told me herself she was abused and is now trying to help him pay less child support and only gain custody of two children because ‘I’m such a terrible mom’. Why would an abused woman help her abusive boyfriend abuse his ex as well?

Why can’t we just be free!!!

Maria T 13 July 2015, 4:03 am

I’m newly estranged from my abusive husband. The abuse started one month after we were married. He started with putting me down constantly, withholding and controlling all cash, interrupting me while I was talking and changing the subject. Things became physical soon after. He threw me into our closet doors with such force that they broke, stood over me kicking and punching me, when I started screaming he laughed at me and started imitating my screams. His drinking became daily and when I would go pick him up he would push me around and start yelling cruel remarks about me, my family, and anything that mattered.

When we got engaged he asked me to quit my job, retire, because he had more than enough money for the both of us and he wanted to travel. I was administrative manager for a State Agency I had been there 15 years, I put in for my retirement and married him. Less than a month later he told me to get a job that he wasn’t going to buy me anything I need like deodorant, shampoo, clothing. Having my nails done was completely out of the picture, going to see my kids and grandkids was forbidden and talking to my friends by telephone only enraged him.

I got a job working for the Chamber of Commerce and I started becoming active, attending council meetings, I desperately wanted my husband to be proud of me. Instead he used my time at work to sit home and meet women on internet pornography sites. He was meeting hookers at $500-$1000 a day rooms. Every time I found a receipt he would immediately start yelling at me saying I was crazy. His Viagra pills and injection medicines were always empty, I found out he had added a second line to our house number and also another cell phone.

The more things I found out the more abusive he became. I had to stay off work due to my face being swollen, bruised and cut. He no longer spoke to me and if I tried talking to him he would yell at me for interrupting his TV rerun. I would serve him dinner on a tray in the living room and than be forced to get on my hands and knees to pick up any crumbs left on the floor. I never got a chance to have a hot meal.

On important meeting nights he would show up drunk and disrupt the meeting causing me to be completely humiliated and ashamed. I stopped being active in my community and my life turned into being his slave, I was chained to the ceiling in the basement and whipped. The woman I was prior to marrying him was gone. I lived in constant fear, terror and humiliation. Once while I was passed out he allowed the guy who rented our back house to take me and rape me while their friends watched.

He told me on several occasions that he was going to have me killed or he was going to plant explosives to kill me. His mom, visiting from Germany, told me my name was no longer Maria and that from now on I was Marie. They planned a trip for me to go to Germany with him and I knew in my soul I would never see my family again so when we landed at LAX international terminal I took off. Without a penny to my name I left him.
He got on the plane to Switzerland and I thought I was finally safe but I was so very very wrong.

andrea 31 May 2015, 10:04 pm

I’m alone without help, my ex had abused me physically and emotionally for 12 years. I can’t even describe all what he’s done to me, it would take me a year to write it all. After him holding a knife to my throat I did manage to get away from him. I’m in hiding .. in another country, but he has my kids, my babies, he has them and refuses to let me ever speak to them unless I come back home to him. I know he will kill me if I go back, but he’s telling my children I don’t love them and that I left them, what do I do? Do I go and die maybe that would be better for my kids, if they think I’m dead instead of me just leaving them and don’t love them… I don’t want to feel this pain of being without my kids, and I don’t want my kids to feel any type of pain from me and what their horrible father says to them. My life may be safe now, but my heart is not, I don’t know which is worse.

Cindy 25 April 2015, 1:53 am

Wow I saw an article about narcissists that says, “Everyone has to keep speaking out, keep spreading the word about these people so they can’t hide behind their masks and lies anymore.” This was a first. All the other articles say run away, hide, no contact, don’t confront, don’t say anything. Is that because the victims are usually women and women are not expected to be fighters? Why doesn’t anyone ever say the names of these men? Would that be illegal to say the name of the person you had a relationship with?

I just warned the new woman my ex-narc brought to church with him after I broke up with him 30 days ago. I am a fighter, I challenged him every step of the way, I did no give him money, he gave me money and gifts to try to win me over. I told him I was never going to marry him or have kids with him and after another attempted three day silent treatment, I broke up with him abruptly, confronted him about his illness and refused to be friends unless he sought help.

He then showed up at church last week with a woman he was clearly already seeing during our relationship. I told her everything, including showed her pictures, text messages, incoming phone calls and even let her listen to a voicemail. She was crying so I believe she will continue to date him, but at least I was loyal to another woman and warned her. I told her to google the disorder and find out for herself. I also told one of his co-workers who happens to work with people with special needs and evidently the co-worker asked him about it.

I want to post his name, and the information everywhere. He is a weak, manipulative, cheating, lying mentally ill loser and I want other women to know. He is a covert narcissist, so he plays the victim role, hiding behind a stutter, church and supposedly a verbally and physically abusive father. He is supposedly such a nice guy that women have taken advantage of. Does anyone else want to out these guys, can we start a website, blog, something women can check? Would this be illegal? Someone please let me know?

anonymous 15 March 2015, 6:53 am

Why is the question, “why doesn’t she just leave?” When the real question should be, “why does he do it?”

To answer the question, “why doesn’t she just leave?” Because as a victim, we know something that the person asking this question doesn’t….the danger, the risk that just leaving, places on our life!

Shame on people for asking such a stupid, thoughtless, blaming question! Abuse is NEVER a victim’s fault! And a victim should NEVER be subjected by outsiders to being made to think if she should/could have done something different, like “just leave”, she would not have been a victim. Thanks, we victims, receive enough blame from the abuser and even from ourselves!

Marie 2 January 2015, 1:25 am

I am just approaching my third year of separation. It has been hell, my ex husband has sent me 24 solicitor’s letters in one year – all threatening to take my 2 little girls from me and eventually he has got half custody. My heart is broken and it looks like this is going to go on forever. My house has had 5 intruders at night in the past year. My computer was hacked. I found a bugging device in my home. My new amazing partner has been nearly killed in a car crash after his tyres were slashed outside my house. He has tried to terrorise me out of my home. My daughter is distraught going out to him and constantly crying when she calls. His brothers come to my house with him when leaving the girls home to me. I am not allowed to move to look for work with the children, as he has half custody, yet there is no work here. It’s like being a prisoner in my own home. I am so stressed out of my mind with worry and upset. Is there any future or is this my life from here on and how do I look after my beautiful girls and keep them safe? I have been a great mother – stayed at home as he would not let me work, yet now that we are separated he will not look after us financially. My house is still bugged. He has been regularly coming in to my home despite the locks being changed twice and leaving toothpaste squeezed out in the sink (he is a dentist) and lamp beside my bed turned on. I have been put on a porn site and harassed by crazy men. I cannot prove any of this is him – he seems to be untouchable and the police can do nothing to help me. How do I get out of this mess and off the legal road? Unfortunately for me, my ex husband is very wealthy and is using his money to make life hell.

tinat 11 November 2014, 3:17 am

This is my husband, ive been with him for 28 years and I am 42 right now. I can’t even begin to explain how I feel, exhausted, sick, confused, my heart feels like it’s totally ruined. I don’t know how to get away from him, I have 4 children by him and we have 5 grandchildren, he has total control over me. He has always been the one working, he always told me I didn’t have to work, but when I tried working, he would get extremely jealous, then make it where I had to quit. Now I am going to college, without his support of course, working a part time job that helps me pay for gas so I can attend school, but he won’t let me study when I am home, he says I spend too much time, studying, cleaning, cooking, taking care of other things. But if I don’t do these thing he says what did I do all day. When I am in there trying to get his attention, he is very short with me, or he doesn’t respond at all. He makes me feel like I am losing my mind. I have been going through this crap for at least 85 percent of our relationship. But now it has gotten worse, he is cheating, withholding money, he threatens to smash my face in if I talk to anyone. That he said he will never change, I will always have to deal with him. I DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO!!

Rachel2 22 August 2014, 3:44 am

Diana – well said! I’ll remember that comment. Brilliant and so true.

Rachel2 22 August 2014, 3:42 am

Amanda, I just wanted to let you know you are not alone. I too have experienced PTSD as a result of my ex-partner’s extreme bullying. I felt very isolated and alone. Please take Clare’s advice and also you may find local solicitors who have regular free open ‘surgeries’ who may also be able to help and give you advice regarding your right to legal aid. The very best of luck and my thoughts are with you.

Amanda 16 August 2014, 11:45 am

My husband bullied me into signing over my home 9yrs ago the whole status above had me in tears as I went through so much of the abuse. I’ve suffered from PTSD and all kinds of mental problems because of this horrid man. He’s now wanting a divorce and I was wondering do I have any rights to make him give me my half of our home now as a friend told me about a new law out for women like myself to get their rightful money that’s due to them. I live in N. Ireland I would be grateful for a reply.

Diana 23 October 2013, 4:40 pm

People who ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” are asking the wrong question. The real question should be, “Why doesn’t he just stop?”

Jennifer 3 April 2013, 8:37 am

Sorry I haven’t replied but this is the first time I’ve seen this website. I cringe when I read you have family pressures to give it a go. I also had this for 40 years – and who are they to imprison you in this relationship. Get out and plan it well, go to Woman’s Aid they will help you plan your escape and good luck, it’s hard but worth it. x

Faith 18 January 2013, 12:11 pm

May you please give advice!! Well I have been married for a year and my husband has been working while l’ve been at home and job hunting. My husband has kept his financial running very secretive, and although l have been running the house by ensuring he has clean clothes to wear, and cook and clean, and have sex, that’s all l’ve been worth to him. He is very secretive, and makes daily excuses of working late and when l complain my complaints are taken out of context. He throws anger tantrums, and when he does that he throws my clothes and chases me from his house.

I am fed up and ready for a divorce, but l have family pressure to “give it time”. I feel quite unsafe when l’m with him because he always over reacts and is never accountable for his actions. His reasoning behind chasing me from his home is always that I caused him to. I have tried counselling but he refused to attend sessions. Someone please help with advice.

Jocelyn 5 January 2013, 7:25 pm

Where do I start, I feel my whole life is ruined. I am from England and met an American who was stationed at the local Air Force Base. It was a whirlwind romance as he was due to go back to the States three months after I met him. I was 21 and very naive. I bought a plane ticket to the US and we started living together. He told me not to worry about getting pregnant as he was sterile. Well guess what? Three months later by some miracle I became pregnant, and this is where thirty one years of abuse starts.

I had no family or friends as I was an immigrant. He would come home from work and ignore me for days on end. I had no money to return home and my mail from England was opened and screened by him. If I complained it made things worse. I could be watching a movie and he would walk in and just turn the channel. I could not get a job as my visa had expired and I became an illegal alien. We were married at the court-house when I was nine months pregnant and in labor (he said that way I wouldn’t have to pay medical expenses, our child could be born on-base) After our son was born and we returned home things became unbearable. He would snatch our newborn baby out of my arms and take off in the car for hours at a time if I disagreed with him about anything. He refused to take me to immigration so that I could reside in the States legally. And if I complained about anything, he threatened to call immigration and get me deported. In his words “YOU WILL NEVER SEE YOUR BABY AGAIN” (sorry, mothers can get pretty upset when people mess with their kids). The mental abuse continued and he got orders to go to Guam. His Commanding Officer found out I was illegal and threatened to cancel his orders if I was not legalized. Well, I was legalized & we made it to Guam. I became tolerant of his mental abuse and it was here I had my first panic attack. I really feel emotionally drained right now as it’s 11-30 at night. Will continue tomorrow…..

Anonymous 13 September 2012, 3:07 pm

What do you do if you have three children 5 and under and another on the way and you’re in this kind of relationship? I am a student finishing my last year at university. I’m stuck with this man. There is nothing I can do. I have no money. The welfare system does not help people and they give you a hard time (don’t want to go through that) and my family (parents/brothers/sisters) are not supportive; they are worse than my husband. But there is nothing I can do. All I can wait for is to finish my degree and get a job that will support me and my children if I leave my husband.

Shamal 14 September 2012, 1:12 pm

Anonymous,
Stay strong and tell your story. Finish your education while planning how to get away. No one will understand, except us, so practice telling your story. Don’t let others devalue what you are telling them. They will think they have “seen it before” but they probably haven’t. You are the expert on your life and never forget that.

Saffron 21 November 2012, 2:07 pm

Do not let this man get to you. You are in a vulnerable position and at this stage I know how you feel. I came across an old diary while I was pregnant with my third child, with two under 4 years of age. I had written that I could not stand any more of his behaviour that he blamed on me and the kids. I had a baby and life took over and I stayed another 11 years while my mental security, optimism and self esteem sharply declined until I felt like a crazy person (and acted that way in the last year for sure). Don’t let the baby stop you from leaving him. He cannot change, does not want to and, while you remain unsure, you are weak.

Our marriage broke down when I went to University – because I was ‘selfish’. Finish your degree, but do not let an endless cycle of hope make you stay. And write everything down. This helped me tremendously not to doubt myself – and to see that it was a pattern that repeated and not just random ‘fights’. When you see the pattern repeating week after week for years – the ‘sorrys’ become meaningless and you are more able to withstand and not let your guard down to be hurt over and over again. When you stop forgiving him for his repeated transgressions – get ready for the anger. But keep it under wraps until you have finished your degree. Write, write and write it all down, cry in the shower, and remain strong. Don’t let this last baby go through the abuse your older children have experienced. That is my major regret. My youngest saw some pretty awful stuff and is confused about whether to treat me ‘mean’ and disrespectfully or with love like the older two learned. Luckily he worked much when they were young and he abused me when they were too little to see, and usually asleep.

I have protected this man well – too well. He is now a saint. Do not let this happen to you. Write it all down. Every conversation where you doubt yourself – write, write, write. This one thing – now that I am out – confirms I am not ‘mental’, ‘crazy’ ‘exaggerating’ or ‘lying’. This alone has been affirming. Best wishes – you can do it on your own much better without his moods and crap. Stay strong – Kia kaha. xoxo

Joanna 18 August 2012, 1:55 am

I wasn’t married but I have a child with my ex who is a narcissist in the extreme. He went absolutely mental when I filed for child support, then sent very vicious messages, abusive and just disgusting. He immediately quit his job and has just got another one which I only found out through the child support agency. He always pleads poverty to manipulate me about child support as well yet walks around in extremely expensive clothes and watches. It makes my stomach turn. He doesn’t care that I am struggling, just cares about himself. Threatened to have her when he wants, tries to get his mother to bribe me with clothes for my daughter, even money, which I refuse to accept. He has no limits or morals. These sorts of men will always just care about themselves. I have got to the point where, if the abuse starts up again, I will file for a no-harrassment-restraining-order and supervised visitations. Control freaks never change and can become very nasty and even dangerous.

Elaine 16 August 2012, 10:07 pm

Wow, this is probably the scariest thing I have ever read, and yet kind of reassuring at the same time.

This describes my ex to a tee. The really frightening part of it is that I have been away from him for 6 years, we are both remarried, and now he uses his new wife to stalk me as well. I swear sometimes the woman knows more about my life than I do, or at least she thinks she does.

I really look forward to seeing your other articles on this. I finally am beginning to feel somewhat vindicated because I’m not alone.

Shamal 4 September 2012, 10:53 pm

My ex is like this as well. He tells people whatever he thinks will make them think bad things about me. He told our far-away friends I was having an affair (I wasn’t), our close friends that he “takes care of” us (financially) so I don’t need to work. He “doesn’t understand” why I am stressed about finding a job. I just found this out. In reality, he stopped paying child support the same month I lost my job. I was wondering why my friends don’t take my job search seriously! Posts like this do make me feel not so alone.