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Expert Advice on Abuse After Divorce

Relationship difficulties

Leaving an abusive relationship through divorce might not end the abuse, especially if you have children together. Since this behavior has become routine, your reactions and stress don't instantly ease once you've left the relationship. Thankfully, there are things that you can do to normalize your life. Get advice from a dating coach on how to cope and move forward.

Abuse after Divorce Advice

Reader Question

I am looking for some more information regarding abuse and divorce...this is a brief summary of my situation that I need some more help with. I have been divorced from my very abusive (sexually, physically, and emotionally) ex-husband now going on 13 years. He continues to harass, threaten, and manipulate everyone involved with us. The kids hate me based on all sorts of lies. He has lied to clinicians and doctors indicating to them I had a bi-polar disorder so that now they refuse to see me, return calls regarding my concerns for the children, and have completely cut me out of their therapy and I quote "We are going to take Robs' information only as fact, nothing from you." He has manipulated the court system looking like the victim and when things don't go his way, he files a police report on me for something trying to get me in trouble, which has worked numerous times in the past. He has recently threatened to kill me in front of my 8 year old (who isn't his child) and the police refused to do anything about it saying it's his word against mine. They refused to take into consideration that he almost killed me three different occasions and there are 28 domestic violence disorderly conduct charges and six battery charges against him as well. I have called social services, and of course, he creates the perfect family environment when they eventually go there. Things are out of control, he continues to break into my apartment, though I can't prove it, but after 20 years I know how he operates, and no one else hates me that much. He continues to threaten and harass me on the phone and through email, calling me names, insulting me, and using the kids as blackmail, not to mention all of these wonderful things he is doing in front of the children and even involving them. He allows them to read all my emails; he constantly is putting me down to the kids and so is his now wife; the girls are completely brainwashed with his nonsense and they hate me. I am the one paying for everything, I am always there, I am providing the school clothing, winter apparel, school supplies, personals, makeup, jewelry, concerts, sporting events, and anything else that they do not get at their dad's house. I am not sure how to help my kids or respond because it is in response to his inappropriate comments. I have my ex husband sociopath raising sociopath daughters now. They are beating each other up daily, calling each other whores, sluts, etc, and this has recently started in my home now too. My son hears them calling me these things and he is horrified. Constant chaos, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and they are not getting help at all, and the more I ask my ex to take them in for therapy and we all need it as well to work together, he bucks and his comments are, he doesn't have the time or money for that. I need help, and some suggestions here, because after 13 years I should be able to live my life without such restraints, and living in fear, losing sleep, etc. Thank you so much for your time and feel free to email me if necessary. Thanks again!~~Debbie R

Expert Reply

Dear Debbie,

You and your ex-husband are engaged in a high conflict, post-divorce battle. For people who have not experienced the kind of high conflict you have been going through, it may be hard for them to understand your pain and your behaviors. Professionals, law enforcement, school personnel, etc. see your ex-husband present himself in-control of his emotions, even rational and logical in his behaviors and responses. What these professionals don't see is how he behaves differently with you and the kids. The problem is that when you try to explain to your concerns, to him or others, your words and behavior come across as illogical and irrational, while his looks like the calm, concerned parent. Worse, the more you try to get the professionals to understand, the more hysterical you come across. I understand. I get it. After 13 years of this kind of connection with your ex, it may be hard for you to see how your behavior has contributed to the problems between the two you. I commend you for asking for help and some suggestions.

What you have to understand is that you can't change your ex's behaviors. You can't make him see how he is affecting you or the children. The only person you can change is you. Moreover, when you change your behavior, you influence your daughters' behaviors. As a loving parent, who worries about the craziness surrounding her children and just wants to make things better for them, changing your behavior won't be easy, but it is necessary. When parents engage in high conflict behaviors post divorce, the continued conflicts have a negative effect on the children. Mental health issues, high stress levels, low problem-solving skills, and in particular for girls is the high risk of early sexual behavior.

Counseling session

Because of this high conflict, post-divorce world you and your ex have been living in has gone on for so long, your interactions have become routine. Normalizing your exchanges also means that your stress tolerance levels are high. Having a high tolerance for stress is not good for your health, mental processing, or social life. What I am trying to say is that your world revolves around your post-divorce. In order to really change your behavior, you'll need to let go of trying to control everything. This can be particularly daunting for someone who tries to make things right for those she loves. I am going to recommend that the first steps you take to change are the ones that take care of you. Like the airline's safety instructions, first put on your mask, then assist others.

Look for ways to reduce stress. Meditation and yoga are two practices that have scientific support for being effective. Also, seek out the services of a mental health professional who works with woman and has extensive knowledge of high conflict, post-divorce issues. Practice socializing. When in the company of friends or dates, practice NOT talking about your ex, his wife or your daughters, instead focus on your interests, accomplishments and listen as the other person tell you about himself. Finally, look for information on high conflict divorce. By understanding how damaging this is for your children, you may be motivated to take the necessary steps to disengage with your ex.

Refocusing and approaching things differently takes courage. Behaving differently is courage in action.


Expert Advice on Abuse After Divorce