In part 1, we explored some important concepts about preparation and getting out of an abusive relationship. These ideas apply no matter who the abuser is, or what their relationship to you. This time, we’ll delve into how to begin mentally retraining yourself to put distance between you and the abuser. Even if you are not yet out of the direct line of fire due to children or other entanglements.
We will start with an Aubrey Rant (I think I should trademark that!), specifically for those who have minor children with their abuser. There is no law anywhere in the world that requires you to subject yourself to abuse, harassment, or terror in the name of “co-parenting.”
People got divorced and had visitation arrangements long before cell phones, texting, and the internet. I say this because there is absolutely no legal requirement for you to make yourself accessible 24/7/365 to someone who will use the children as excuse to threaten and harass you night and day. Don’t give in to that demand or any bullying tactics by your abuser’s attorney. In the US, you have a Constitutional right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” which is directly opposed to the abuser being given free rein to destroy all 3.
No Contact and Co-Parenting
When it comes to “No Contact,” the concept gets blurred when you must communicate about children. So let’s get more specific. You can arrange ways to communicate without subjecting yourself to continued abuse—most of which is aimed at getting you to react in such a way that it can be used against you. No Contact is really a way of managing the information flow so that you don’t get rattled and default to your survival responses—sure to be leveraged by your abuser.
To an outside observer, it appears as though the abuser is calm and factual while you are reactive.
The truth is that the abuser has programmed you, and knows your every weakness; plucking on those pain points in every covert way possible. My foremost recommendation for this is Our Family Wizard. Requiring all communication to go through OFW means everything is recorded and accessible to the courts. However, this doesn’t mean your abuser won’t try to bait you. In fact, he/she will be certain to work hard to appear the “sane” one and paint you as the crazy, reactive one.
Time to Retrain Your Brain
All that said, now is the time when you work on retraining your brain.
Be Your Own Best Friend
The first question I learned to ask myself was not, “Is this true?” when he or my mind would verbally lash me. The first question was, “What would you say if I said this to your best friend?” Oddly it helped me to start seeing myself as my own best friend. Why would I think so little of myself and yet want to defend a best friend? Because the abuse taught me to. I couldn’t fight for myself but I could stand up for others with ease.
Turn Fantasies Into Strategies
Another critical piece to explore is turning your fantasies into strategies. I don’t know an abuse survivor who didn’t fantasize about a different life; about getting away and starting over. The difference between those who do it and those who don’t often comes down to strategy. It’s about being able to see even one open door to exit.
My one open door was when Captain Crazy announced he was taking a job 1,000 miles away, and we were expected to move. He was trying to isolate me again after my third attempt to divorce him. Suddenly, I saw a door: I let him think we’re moving “at the end of the school year.” This gave me a plausible excuse to postpone moving me and my kids, get him away, and then file for divorce.
Preparing that strategy, mentally, was what I needed in order to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even when you are not yet out of the abuse, reframing your thinking to look for opportunities and prepare for the possibilities gives you a clearer head and a sense of power.
You’ve Got This
The point is, with abuse, most of the damage is in your head. Working carefully to retrain how you think about yourself will give you more strength, and more focus to free yourself when the time is right. If I can get out after 25 years and 4 tries, trust me, so can you!