Woman covering ears with pillows

Someone asked me the other day how I got to such a point of peace and acceptance of my ex’s continued attacks, threats, refusal to cooperate with the children, and attempts to punish me, where is the anger? Especially in light of the fact that I have not called or texted him since 6 March 2012, or emailed since 2011.

It’s very simple: I get furious, I swear, I rant, I call him every name in the book… then I move on. I never do it to him and I never share it with my children. I have wished him dead, I have wanted to pummel him to bits with a baseball bat and I have fantasized about having the power to actually make a voodoo doll work. I have hoped he’d get a sexual disease or develop Erectile Dysfunction. I have even hoped he’d become an alcoholic like his father. These instances are how I let out my negative emotions to – for lack of a better term – cleanse myself of the nastiness he left behind.

There are two things a person should never be angry at:
what they can help and what they cannot.
– Plato

I’m human. The difference is that, in my process of liberation and deliverance from abuse, I have learned that letting off that immediate steam is helpful in the short term, but does not get me to where I need to be for the long run.

Sick with Stress

I spent many years having horrible gastrointestinal problems, severe headaches and of course, clinical depression and PTSD – or, more accurately – Intra-traumatic Stress Disorder, that was misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder. Now I am healthy as a horse most of the time (except the sleeping problem, which I’m still working on) and thoroughly enjoy the fact that I’m not suffering from one ailment after another that keeps me from being able to have an active life. Being sick was a physical manifestation of all the fear and pain being kept inside as I fought to protect my children, and to appear normal to the outside world. I am grateful not to be there anymore. It sometimes kept me from going to my children’s school events and the stress of having to try to cover up my horrendous situation caused me to become almost a hermit. I often avoided other people so I didn’t have to “act” all the time. Those who know me personally can tell you I am the furthest thing from anti-social imaginable.

The Long Run Approach

What does work in the long run, is a multi-pronged approach to dealing with the continued crazy-making.

  1. I look at his behavior from the sharp eye of understanding specifically what the pathology of the abuser is. I know exactly what his craziness looks like and can now predict with great precision what his next act of stupidity will be. I try to find the entertainment in that predictability and sometimes even bet my friends in advance. (I even won a bet Monday!)
  2. I look at whatever he has just done, and how it can be of benefit to my children and me.
  3. I document, document, document, which helps me feel empowered in that I am taking some kind of action in response to the Lunacy of the Week.
  4. I force myself to say (usually out loud), “Okay, God. He’s your problem to deal with now.” Might sound a little corny but it almost feels like outing him to the one and only “person” with authority to really give him a good smackdown. Although I don’t really believe in a God of retribution, I do take some comfort in knowing that God/the universe/Karma has a way of evening things out. That’s proven true in my life for certain.

I Have My Moments of Anger

I do have my moments, though. I have moments where I seriously ask God why my dear friends had to go to heaven while this mean monster whose only goal in life has been to make me miserable is still allowed to walk the Earth. I have moments where I fantasize about doing all sorts of things to him as payback for the pain. I think how I could very, very easily ruin his career and potentially land him in jail, but then I remember, that’s not ME. I am not that person. I am not that person who (even though the law says if he doesn’t arrive at the appointed day and time to collect the children he surrenders that visitation) refuses to allow my children to see their father when he steps out of bounds. Yes, I could very easily say, “Well, that’s just too bad now, isn’t it? You didn’t adhere to the schedule, so you have lost your chance.” What exactly would that get me and how would I explain it to my children later on if they asked why I kept them from seeing their father? My job is to give my daughters wings to fly and a strong moral compass, which includes allowing them to make their own judgments about their father. So far, they are doing a fantastic job.

I Can’t Change Him, But I Can Change

Seriously, he is doing great showing his true colors without me even making an effort. He has proven himself time and time again to be a vindictive, abusive, controlling, manipulative, lying, cheating, threatening, thieving jackass, not to mention completely idiotic in many ways. He kept referring to me as “Mrs. (maiden name)” in court, over and over, which really made me laugh. But you know what? Our friend Plato was right: I can’t help it that he’s those things and will never change and there’s no use getting mad about it. There’s also no use getting mad about things I can change, I just take action to change them. You are all familiar with the Serenity Prayer, I hope: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” Trust me, if you can begin to master this idea, you will have a lot more peace in your life.

I think that what makes this so hard to deal with during recovery, is that we just don’t want to come to terms with the fact that the person we were married to, had children with and attempted to build a life with, was really a horrible person. I’m not saying that they are not worth something because God created them and that gives, in my opinion, inherent value. However, it is extremely hard to accept the fact that not only did you devote yourself to this person, you tried to justify it based on some thin “redeeming” qualities. Then you find out they really have no redeeming qualities at all and it can make you feel like a sucker. It is interesting how we make excuses for our own abuser, but if a friend tells us the same about their significant other, we practically raise up a lynch mob to take care of it ourselves.

A friend will ask why you’re crying.
A best friend will already have the shovel ready to bury the loser who made you cry!

As I have progressed through the stages of grief in dealing with this lunacy, I have discovered that I can find exactly zero redeeming qualities in the man. Really. So, he makes a good salary, big deal. He certainly would not have risen to where he is without me, that’s for sure. I used to justify remaining in the marriage because he was this, that or the other, none of which really matter… Some “reasons” were as ridiculous as the fact that he’s a good cook. That is another reason it’s hard to forgive yourself for staying in the relationship and “allowing” the torture you endured.

Reminder number 2,319: this was NOT your fault.

Let It All Out!

So, don’t get down on yourself if you need to vent, just have a healthy vent. Find a friend or a pillow and let it all out! Say whatever you want and punch the snot out of the pillow if it helps release the energy! My friend Kimberly keeps a stack of unwanted plates just for this occasion and smashes them to bits which she then leaves where they are, because she says, “I was always picking up the pieces”. My favorite technique became pounding the dirt in my yard with a hammer (sometimes with something of his underneath).

Yes, there are healthy ways to channel your outbursts, and I hope you’ll use them. However, I also hope you’ll cut yourself a break and not feel guilty or feel like you are backsliding in your recovery when you do have one. I have accepted the fact that any time my ex lashes out and involves my kids, it’s going to royally piss me off… And I have a plan to deal with it. Meanwhile, he’s just behaving like a petty child attempting to get payback for all the “sins” he feels I have committed against him, the most grievous being the audacity I had to escape him and move on with my wonderful life.

Breaking free from abuse does not mean disconnecting yourself from your emotions. Just learn to channel them appropriately and you will find much more peace in your life!

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Aubrey Cole

Aubrey Cole

I survived a quarter century of psychological, emotional, economic and sexual abuse. When I got out, I vowed to help others do the same and founded the Emotional Abuse Survivors Network project in 2012. Now, I offer hope and healing to others on their journey as they rediscover themselves. My forthcoming books, Bodies in the Basement and Define Winning, chronicle my experiences, escape, and recovery. There is nothing so special about me that others can't emerge and thrive.
Aubrey Cole

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One comment:

  1. Profile photo of KG

    September 16, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    We should have a “like” button on SwanWaters too. 😉


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