What to Know When Leaving an Abusive Spouse
Abuse takes many forms. Physical abuse is just one factor. But berating, yelling, limiting your contacts with others, and withholding access to money are just a few tactics abusive spouses use. It's all about control. And it seems frightening to leave. But you can't live in that misery.
It Will NOT Get Better - EverWhile there are women who are abusers, as my experience and practice have shown, the vast majority are men, and I will address this guide from that perspective.
That abuser will not change. He has you where he wants you. Scared to leave, afraid that you will be homeless, your children taken from you, rejected by your friends, family, church and society. Hoping that your kindness and submission will change his heart is a fantasy. He is very likely a narcissist, who loves himself far, far more than he could ever love another, including you. Your act of love is not interpreted as such. It is nothing more than the submissive response he desires. There is no incentive for him to change.
Get Out Right AwayGo to a trusted relative or a friend. Grab the kids and go. Don't worry about packing. People matter. Things can be recovered and replaced. It will be the hardest thing you've ever done but it's where the abuser's power over you is cut.
Expect Him to Start Making Lots of Noise - But Don't Give In!You have just taken from the abuser the thing he needs the most--you. And like the adult brat that he is, he's going to throw a temper tantrum.
Sometimes he starts with the profession of love, pulling at your heartstrings. "I'll get help, I'll never do it again, I love you, can't live without you", etc. Hogwash! If he loved you, you wouldn't have needed to leave his grip. As hard as it is, stand your ground. "No" is your new favorite word. Because his words cannot be trusted. And when that doesn't work, he resorts to the next level...threats.
When feigned kindness fails, he shows his true colors by getting nasty. If it's a threat to take the kids, ruin you, never pay child support, quit his job so he has no money, get you fired from your job, publicly smear you, turn your friends and family against you, it's nothing that should scare or sway you, except to stay all the farther away.
Remember, he's not reacting this way because you drove him to it. He's doing it because you now have real power in the relationship. You have taken something from him (yourself as his servant) that he really wants. And he will employ every weapon in his arsenal to bring you back under his thumb. But threats of violence are different. And they need to be treated differently.
Saying that he might hurt you, the kids, pets, or even himself is a different level of manipulation, and it is not to be taken lightly. He is desperate. He has nobody to pick on. And if he's desperate enough to talk that way, there is real danger. Your decision to leave was absolutely the right one. And if he had the habit of hitting you, that was just the warm-up.
Threats of destruction either physically, economically or legally are where this emotional infant lives. But if you refuse to make yourself available to him, that's how you win. He gained his power over you by heavy-handed tactics. And that's how he intends to bring you back. Surround yourself with people who care about you. They can make the difference between success and failure.
Get a LawyerIt's just that simple. Go hire a well-regarded domestic lawyer. If you can't afford one, find some direction at a volunteer lawyer service, or a charitable organization like the local YWCA or House of Ruth that helps victims of abuse. Whatever you do, you need help from someone who won't be scared by any of it and who can ably shepherd you through the process.