There came a point in my abusive relationship that all I could do was get down on my knees and pray. I had to turn it over to God because on one hand, I took vows and I took them seriously. On the other hand, I found it hard to believe that God wanted me to be hurt every day and now watch my children be hurt. Was I being tested? Was there a lesson to learn? So, I humbled myself and I gave it all over. That day happened when my ex, held a hatchet to my son and said, “I am going to kill him.” It was in a covert way, my son does not remember this because of how it was done but I will never forget the fear I felt as we were camping, and I was now afraid. I took the kids for a walk and let them play as I knelt in the park and prayed. I remember telling God “I can’t do this anymore. I’m afraid and alone. No one knows what I am living. No one knows the fear and anxiety and spirit-crushing criticism I live with every day. I need guidance. I need to know what to do.” I feared for my children. I wanted to believe that he would never hurt them, but he hurt me, and I was supposed to be loved. I remember sitting there, with tears just streaming down my face as I watched my boys happily play with each other. I had to smile at that. They were my gift from God. I sat in nature watching them for quite some time when I had this surge of energy. That is the only way I can explain it. Something washed over me, and I knew that I had to start being honest with the boys and put a plan in motion.
We finished out our camping which went okay. What was important was that the boys had fun with their Dad. We returned home and the next day I went and got a restraining order against my ex. I went before a judge and told him exactly what happened and how scared I was. He said because I waited over the weekend, which was a holiday and I wouldn’t have been able to get a restraining order anyway, he would give me one, but my ex would be allowed to stay in the house with orders to behave. As usual, I had hit a roadblock put there by a man in charge. I took the order of protection, this was now his third, to the local police department to be delivered to him. I looked the same officer in the eye that had delivered the last two and said, “I am afraid.” He said, “If you call us, we will be there in less than 3 minutes. We will not let him hurt you or your children.” It’s funny how God puts people in your path. That same officer showed up at the marital home after we were divorced and had sold the house. My ex had stopped by and threatened me, so I called the police. I was in the process of packing and low and behold, 3 officers came and one of them was him. He wanted to go my exes place of business and talk with him, but my older son was working, and I didn’t want him to witness that, so I asked if they could drive by a few times that day and if they saw him, stop in. They did drive by, many times. He did not come back, and I felt protected.
I was being driven to put a plan in place, so I sat the boys down and we talked about their Dad’s abusive behavior. I asked if they liked feeling scared knowing Daddy is coming home and what he will be like and they said no. I asked if they felt like Daddy was ever happy with them and they said no. We started a very open, and honest dialogue about their father, their fears and their desires. I did not make excuses for their Dad this time, but I also did not insult him. I let them talk and I listened. What I heard was he was upsetting the household. They felt like they were on a rollercoaster and they felt conflicted about loving Daddy and not liking his behavior. I said, “I can make you feel safe for now by making a plan. Do you two want a plan of action?” They did. So, I said, “if Daddy starts to yell at Mommy, you take the phone upstairs, if you feel it is getting out of hand, call 911.” My oldest was 12. “If Daddy is being mean or grumpy and you feel like he is going to start to behave badly, we will get in the car without telling him and go away for a few hours. We can go to Barnes and Noble, the playground, we will just get out of the house.” They agreed, and it gave them some control over their environment. I made sure to let them know it was okay to love their Dad and not like his actions. It was okay to set boundaries as long as you did not disrespect him when he was parenting. And that is a very hard tightrope to walk. The three of us were constantly balanced on a tightrope for a man we all loved and hated at the same time. We hated the way he was. We hated his yelling, his temper, his inability to be a family man. He was never happy and so I started to teach my kids that we are all responsible for our own happiness. I’m not responsible for making Dad happy no more than he is responsible for making me happy. I used the example of myself who they saw get yelled at every day and yet I still was kind to them and others and I still smiled because he was not going to steal my joy. My kids often said to me, “Daddy loves you. He just doesn’t like you. He doesn’t see you the way your friends and others see you. He doesn’t know how many people like you, mom.” But they were too young to tell them and have them understand that my ability to keep my head above water, while he tried to push it under was exactly the reason he loved me but didn’t like me. He was well aware of my friends and was jealous. I couldn’t tell the kids that. He was well aware that I didn’t have the communication issues with others that I had with him. I couldn’t tell them that his sense of self and insecurity was exactly why Daddy acted the way he did.
That day in the woods, I didn’t give up fighting. I handed over the anxiety and fear and worry to God and I did what I felt I had to do whether it caused me fear or worry or anxiety because I knew God was taking care of those emotions for me now. I gave up second guessing myself because the one person who was supposed to love me, was constantly trying to keep me off-balance and have control over me so he felt better about himself. I stopped fixating on that. I stopped trying to make him see how this was destroying us. I knew at that point, he wasn’t going to change, and it was now a lesson of life for my boys on how to survive.
The day he walked out the door the whole house breathed a sigh of relief. I sense of calm came over the house. It was like the whole house settled into a sense of peace. There were no more unobtainable expectations. Just three people who loved each other and would make it through together. That is not to say the boys did not miss their father, they did but not as much as they thought they would, and they certainly didn’t miss the drama and control.
It doesn’t stop when they leave. The abuse and control. He used the boys to try to manipulate me. He would come through like a hurricane and I would play FEMA. He tried to drive a wrench between the boys and me, but I just did my best to handle things with grace and forgave myself when I couldn’t. I did my best to be consistent. I did my best to be the one thing my boys could count on being constant.
I think the key in all of this is you. You must love yourself enough to move forward. You must love yourself to know you deserve better and care enough about yourself to be alone rather than endure the constant abuse. And while I stayed so that the boys would be safe from their Dad’s abusive behavior, they often tell me now that they are older, that they wish I had left sooner. There is no way to know if I kept them safer or not. It could have gone very wrong as he was very verbally and mentally abusive so I listened to what my gut felt was the best for the boys at the time.
And it is true. You do find love again. I am blessed to be with someone who makes me feel safe and wanted and wants me to be me. He does not set out to change me. We don’t argue. We discuss. We listen. We don’t beat a dead horse. We move forward. Something you cannot do with a Narc.
Get in touch with yourself. You are still there. You are still worthy of love and respect but you won’t find it hanging on to someone who doesn’t know how to give it.