Emotional Manipulation Tactic #12 – Fear

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Fear can be paralyzing, especially when we are stepping into the unknown. It’s one thing to think about making changes in your life (divorce). Or even deciding to make changes (to leave). But the real kicker comes when it’s time actually to make those changes happen (to move out). And that, my friend, is where all of us run smack into fear. It can be totally paralyzng. The Narcissist FEED on that fear, making you believe that you can’t make it on your own, that you’re not worthy. Then there’s the fear of what if’s. Can I make a living? How long will the divorce process take? Is it best for the children? Can I afford the fight? You can bet your last dollar that the narcissist will threaten to take away the children, threaten to leave you with nothing and tell you that no one will ever love you again.  

He made me the victim, and my acceptance of that role allowed him to keep his control over me. He projected his issues onto me, leaving a husk of the person I used to be, to feed his ego. I didn’t see through his ruses. I didn’t call them out fearful of his repercussions. I allowed his behavior to go unchecked by not actively taking a stand against it — and for a good reason. When I did stand up to him, he punished me, abusing me both verbally and physically. I failed from the beginning to set proper boundaries.

I was also afraid of being alone, pure and simple.  Alienation was a significant factor why I stayed as long as I did. While living abroad for ten years having three small children including one with special needs, I couldn’t pack up and leave. We moved so frequently is was easy for him to alienate me from friends and family that supported me. I was also alienated financially, having given up my career to support him in all our moves. We relied solely on his income. My career was long gone. I was terrified at the thought of getting a job having been out of the workforce for so long with my skillset being significantly outdated, or so he made me believe. How would I support myself and my children?

His controlling and abusive behavior didn’t end when I finally found the courage to leave.  In fact, it got worse.  Much worse. I had no money of my own, and for the sake of the children, I was forced to stay in the marital home during the divorce process when he refused to leave.  I suffered through stalking, verbal and physical violence, hidden cameras, and  flamboyant and unpunished violations of court orders.  I lived in a House of Horrors and was imprisoned in a dungeon built by his malice

With the help of his greedy and unscrupulous lawyer, he coldly and masterfully orchestrated devastating attacks designed to make me look crazy and violent in attempts to get custody of the kids he hardly even knew.  The police were called to our home (10) times during our year of divorce.  He lied, cheated, and stole.  He staged more than (33) events and recorded them as false “evidence”.  He dragged me into a maelstrom of Machiavellian schemes designed to isolate me from everything I had known and loved.

But to his chagrin, I survived – thrived once free from his control!  Once I determined to knock those walls down, everything started to focus into a plan, albeit slowly testing my patience. I chose to jump out of that pot of boiling water and began to take control of my life. Yes, MY life – not his, not our kids, but MINE. By eliminating the ignorance of the “what ifs” and fear of the unknown, I began to eliminate the anguish allowing myself to make my own choices, move forward one battle at a time and change my life, piece by piece.

Once I accepted that fact and that I deserved better, then I could begin my road to recovery, feeding my spirit that so desperately wanted to be happy. I changed my thinking process entirely, working diligently to “Let Go” all those evil thoughts and memories that were conditioned in me, allowing me to accept MY truth and MY reality. I wasn’t crazy! I’m an amazing mother, and I did the best I could. No regrets. Move forward.

Hopefully readers, through my journey, learn a few things about the divorce process and that the only winners in this game were the attorneys. But I did win in some ways. By understanding my light bulb moment, I overcame my fear of leaving my invisible prison; I realized that I was abused by the person I loved, who truly didn’t love me back.  He wasn’t capable o loving me as a person; he only loved what I could do for him.

To this day, he continues to threaten me – to sue me over my Blog.  Once again, his perception is that the world (and my blog) are all about him.  However, according to the Judge during one of our numerous court hearings (three years later still continuing), that I have the constitutional right to tell my story, my truth.

And so I write, not to defame or disparage. I choose to share my experiences to inspire others how to break free of an abusive partner while learning to identify common manipulative tactics of the narcissistic type and how to deal with them.

It’s so crucial for women to speak their truth, which is the most powerful tool. By sharing my journey through my Year of Thorns, I hope inspires others like me to stand up to the injustice, bullies, and tyrants, who made us victims. Abuse in all forms is wrong.

If you’re in a toxic relationship, get out. It’s not healthy for you or the children. IT WILL NEVER GET BETTER!  For those out there who are depressed or scared in a toxic relationship and fearful of the unknown, know there’s hope at the end of the rainbow, even in the worst of times. Hold onto that inner spark of strength; have faith in your guardian angels; and listen to your inner spirit, who will guide you.

Slowly over time, you will began to identify their emotional manipulative tactics.  YOU will learn not to engage or accept those devaluing messages thrown your way. As long as you stay true to yourself, your beliefs and all that you hold to be true in your heart, YOU will find power in your passion. YOU will be victorious, independent and free no longer harnessed by fear or control!

In Steve Maraboli’s Unapologetically You, he writes “We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, you are here and now with the power to shape your day and your future. You only get one life.”

As you gain clarity about who you truly are, not by how others define you, you can become who you are meant to be.  As Oprah once said, “You don’t become what you want. You become what you believe.” Believe in yourself.

Police Report #1

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January Journal Continued . . . 

The kids needed cash for various things such as ski club and travel money for our daughter’s upcoming Distributive Education Club of America (DECA) trip.  Scott refused to give me or the kids any money.  So, I went to our local credit union and withdrew $100.  Scott even stated that he will not pay the overdue credit card bill that is in my name, purposely damaging my credit.   

I had opened a new card about a year ago to get the double airline miles.  When I applied online, I couldn’t figure out how to add another name.  Besides, I thought at the time I should start building credit of my own, having contemplated divorce even then. But I considered it a family account as I put all the monthly utilities and joint expenses on that card, most being direct debit and all paid from our joint bank account.  

“I refuse to pay for anything that isn’t mine; you have to pay for your own expenses and attorney fees,” he said. (I was so glad I had secretly began recording our conversation, showing proof of his attempts to alienate me from our finances.)

When I expressed “You know I don’t have any money of my own. It’s all in our joint account,” Scott then stipulated, “Well then, I guess you need to sell some of your jewelry or go get a job.  I’m not paying your credit card bill.” 

Having heard enough, I left and headed over to a neighbor’s house where we drank a glass of wine and soaked in her hot tub.  I did not want to have to deal with him anymore that day knowing there was no way I could battle with the silver tongued devil.  When I returned to the house later that evening, Scott pounced on me in the kitchen the moment I walked in the door.  He was obviously drunk, slurring his words and visibly angry with his stance.  

He wanted to know, “Where did you go?  Who were you with!?”   Once again if insinuating that I was having an affair.  Then he accused me of being drunk having noticed that I took a bottle of wine with me when I left earlier.  

Finally he got around to the real subject that was bothering him.  He had noticed the tax files were missing from our home office, and asked, “Where are the tax files!?” 

I explained, “I dropped off the tax files to be copied.” I did not tell him I had left the tax files with my new attorney. But it didn’t really matter either way.  His reaction was NOT normal, unless he had something to hide.

Because I had temporarily removed the tax files Scott was now accusing me of violating the MSQ and MRO orders. Scott then demanded to know when, where and with whom I left our tax files with?  When Scott didn’t get the answers he was seeking, I could tell his anger was quickly rising.  He stood within a few feet of me, purposely invading my personal space, screaming now within inches of my face demanding answers.  

Not knowing what else to do, I bolted, running up to my room.  Scott was right behind me as he chased me into the master bedroom. I managed just in time to lock myself in the master bathroom slamming the door in his face. Terrified I dialed the police.  I didn’t doubt for one second it could have escalated to physical abuse if I hadn’t locked myself in the bathroom.  He was crazy mad, and Mr. Hyde was banging on my door yelling “I’m pressing charges! You just assaulted me with the door!” (Keep in mind, I am recording everything.)

Not long after I made the call, the police came and made sure I was ok. The officer told Scott to leave me alone, and left.  Instead of listening to the officers, Scott’s irrational and erratic behavior escalated.  I had to take refuge in the master bathroom again while I heard Scott pacing outside the bathroom door shouting more obscenities and ranting. (Thank goodness I had video taped Scott’s erratic behavior that day, proving I hadn’t assaulted him with the door. It would come in handy later.)

When all was quiet and it seemed like Scott had given up, I went to check on Cooper. I hoped our son slept through the whole ordeal. I was relieved to find him sound asleep.  When I went to go back into my bedroom a minute later I found the door shut and locked. Scott must have waited for me to open the door, then snuck in while I was checking on Cooper. I was banished to the basement again without my PJ’s, toothbrush, and my medication.  I could have picked the lock, but I wasn’t about to sink to his level, nor did I want to disturb the drunken Supreme Being, afraid of his retaliation.  I’d had enough of Scott that night.  Best to stay away. 

Unbeknownst to me, Scott sold more E*TRADE stocks that day and requested that the check be sent to him via overnight express. Another MRO & MSQ violation. 

Words of Affirmation – Emotional Manipulative Tactic #2

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Emotional Manipulation Tactic #2 – Words of Affirmation

Words of Affirmation” are just what you want to hear from your significant other – that they love you, how important you are to them, they are sorry, and how they will never hurt you again. The only thing is – you never hear these things from them unless you are extremely upset and threatening to walk away. Or when they feel the need to exert their power over you in some way. It could be when you’ve reached your boiling point, like a frog about to jump out of the pot, but these words of affirmation are what your abuser knows will get you to stop being angry and stay. Unfortunately, this probably isn’t a true feeling of love or respect for you. It’s just giving you what you want to hear (or gifts) to calm you down – that’s appeasement, not love. 

After Scott’s last physical attack in October, I threatened to leave.  Scott then claimed to have an epiphany, that he would change and do whatever it took.  He bought me Hallmark cards of affirmation daily and wrote me letters stating how much he loved me and was sorry for all that he’d done in the past. (Looking back I think he was just buying time, hoping I wouldn’t press charges or file a PPO – Personal Protection Order.)

Upon returning from my birthday cruise (that he went on without me), Scott presented me with a beautiful platinum 5 diamond ring stating, “Happy Birthday. I love you with all my heart and I want to make (US) work.  It was the nicest piece of jewelry he ever gave me. But his words didn’t sound sincere, even then.  So Scott was making this grand gesture at the time trying to save our marriage by buying me gifts and showering me with words of affirmation.   “I will change and do whatever it takes” he proclaimed.   That lasted about a month, if that.  

January Journal Continued . . .

I awoke to Scott shaking my shoulder. I bolted upward and asked with my heart pounding a million beats per second. “What do you want now?” indignant that he had picked the lock, again.   Sleep was becoming difficult.  I never knew when he would ‘pick’ the lock and let himself into my bedroom.  My bedroom had become my invisible prison.  It was the only place I felt somewhat safe.  But was it?  After all, according to Scott it was HIS house, HIS room and HE could enter anytime HE felt like it with no regards to my wishes, privacy or our agreement; which apparently never took place.  I was crazy and delusional.

Standing over me in the dark Scott clamored “Where’s the ring I gave you for your birthday? I need it back!” 

“What?  It was a gift.  I’m not giving it back to you” I said, refusing his demands, pulling the sheets up trying to protect myself (and hide the ring I had on). 

In the most patronizing voice Scott could muster, he demanded, “I need it back so that I can pay attorney fees!” He said, angrily shouting at me, now holding out his hand expecting me to comply. 

Groggily I actually laughed with disgust upon hearing this. Rolling over, turning my back to him I replied, “Nope.  Sorry” hoping that he would go away and leave me alone.

I firmly believe if it came in a box, wrapped with a bow and a card that said Happy Birthday, it’s a gift.   If he feels that he needs the money that badly, let him sell one of the numerous watches or electronics I had bought him over the years.  It was ridiculous – and why that ring?

Not happy, Scott replied “Well, we will just see about that after I speak with your attorney. Good luck on paying your attorney fees!”  He knew I didn’t have any money of my own, that all our finances were held jointly.  And, he was making sure that I didn’t have access to those funds. Threats and more threats filling me with worry and fear.  Exactly what he wanted.

It took me hours to fall back asleep after he stomped away. Damn him for making me worry, not to mention scaring the hell out of me in a deep sleep. I had the ring on, thank goodness, and I was scared he would try and rip it off my finger.  I bet he had gone through my jewelry already looking for it. After that night’s incident, I wouldn’t put it past Scott to take anything of mine worth value.

Once again, we later learned that day Scott had sold additional E*TRADE stocks and changed the statement mailing address to that of his work office. That way I wouldn’t see his selling/moving of our funds. This also was in violation of both the MRO and MSQ orders.

Now What?

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December 28th – (After my lightbulb moment) Happy Anniversary

Once I made the conscious to decision to leave Scott, letting the hotel screen door slam as I walked out, I wiped my tears and pulled myself together.

I was eerily calm riding in the back of the beat up old Uber van. The driver barely spoke English and couldn’t find the hotel I booked last minute. I had called my brother, who has a place in Marco Island. He said I could stay with him for a few days while I figure out next steps. So I picked a hotel midway between Sanibel Island and Marco, near the airport in Naples where my brother graciously offered to pick me up in the morning.

After Scott left me in full panic mode in that small hotel room to go have dinner with his mother and kids, his last words echoed over and over. “Suit yourself. You’re being selfish. You’re overreacting. You’re a horrible wife and mother. How dare you abandon your family. You’re a fucking psycho bitch.” Plus much, much more. Happy Anniversary.

Then the messages started rolling in from Scott. Most would think your partner of 30 years would be worried. Show concern. Ask if I was ok. Beg me to come back. Or, even give me space to breath. Nope. Instead I was inundated with hateful, spiteful, messages. Even lists. List of all the times he ‘claims’ I left the family. Lists of times he claimed I overreacted. Lists upon lists of mean, hurtful, hateful words.

It was abuse – verbal and mental abuse at its finest. I’d already come to recognize the signs having read Patricia Evans “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” that really started it all on my path to understanding and breaking free. (If you haven’t read it, you should.) More on that to follow.

Both Scott and the kids had the following week off for “winter break.” So, I knew I wouldn’t be putting a burden on anyone with my absence. I just couldn’t fathom getting on that plane tomorrow. It’s difficult to explain how strong the feeling was — like a lightening bolt hitting me with complete clarity. Call it sick sense, panic attack, divine intervention, who knows. I had no doubt whatsoever I was doing the right thing. I knew I had to make a change and now. My life depended on it.

It didn’t really hit me until the kids called after their dinner. They wanted to know where I went. All I could think to say was that I wasn’t feeling well and decided to stay with my brother and family in Florida for a few more days while they headed back to the arctic tundra where we now reside in Michigan.

Now in the airport hotel room, the tears began to flow. This time in great waves. I cried for my children. I had stayed in this marriage thinking that by keeping the family unit intact, I was helping them.  Instead, I was doing the opposite.  I had hoped this vacation would bring us all closer together.  But it only verified what I knew to be true but couldn’t accept; our family was dysfunctional.  That’s not the message I want our children growing up with any longer.

I cried that my marriage had come to an end. The very foundation of my marriage was broken and couldn’t be fixed.  That became abundantly clear when my knight in shining armor wouldn’t go to battle for me.  He didn’t want to put a mark on that glossy veneer.  Scott’s threats over the years haunted me. He said he would destroy me if I ever found the courage to leave. And I believed him.  I cried because I was scared as hell. Now what?

Why stay in a relationship that is toxic?

 

Why Did I Stay? 

Why did I stay despite everything?  Many of us get into unhealthy situations because our partners held up a facade. I felt I had met my soul mate — that one special person in the universe just for me. It’s no surprise that I fell in love with someone like that! Scott once seemed perfect, but once I was married the relationship changed slowly over time due to children being born, job changes, and other major life changes.  Eventually I began to see a completely different side of him.  It was clear that I had married Dr. Jekyll and was living with Mr. Hyde, or the Supreme Being. The person who once seemed perfect became an angry, demeaning, demanding, and harshly critical narcissistic psychopath.  Sure there were warning signs from the very beginning, but I was in love and felt an obligation to stay. Plus the sex was off the charts.

For most people in abusive relationships, we carry around with us internal obligations that tend to make us want to stay in the relationship. One being the feeling of love for our partner. These feelings can persist and be very strong even when our partner doesn’t give or show us love in return.  We stay because of the few crumbs fed to us along the way with words of affirmation and/or actions along the way.  Like a carrot dangling at the end of a rope.  The second is a feeling of responsibility and obligation to our partner, our family, and even others beyond that. Our disordered partners often work hard to build up this feeling of obligation, hoping it will keep us locked in despite the way they mistreat us. 

I also stayed because of the way Scott’s manipulative behavior effected how I viewed myself.  He made me the victim, and my acceptance of that role allowed Scott to keep his control over me.  Scott projected his issues onto me, leaving a husk of the person I used to be, to feed his ego. I didn’t see through Scott’s ruses.  I didn’t call them out fearful of his repercussions.  I allowed Scott’s behavior to go unchecked by not actively taking a stand against it — and for good reason.  When I did stand up to Scott, he punished me, abusing me both verbally and physically.  I failed from the beginning to set proper boundaries. 

 Scott started the negative comments and hammered them home until I believed it entirely. When you start to feel so low and worthless, you genuinely believe that they are your best option. You believe that no one else will ever love or accept you because that’s what they’ve conditioned you to think – even friends won’t accept you. Because of that, you fear the thought of being alone (one of my greatest fears).  You think no one else will fill the gap in your heart that has been pried wide open with manipulation and malicious criticism. You fear that all the insults and criticisms were true. I let harsh words and his poisoned opinions rule my thinking. 

Alienation was also a major factor why I didn’t leave. While living abroad for ten years having three small children including one with special needs, I just couldn’t pack up and leave. We moved so frequently it was easy for Scott to alienate me from friends and family that supported me. I was also alienated financially, having given up my career to support him in all our moves.  We relied solely on Scott’s income. My career was long gone.  I was terrified at the thought of getting a job having been out of the workforce for so long with my skillset being significantly outdated, or so he made me believe.  

The rest was fear, plain and simple.  Fear of the unknown and Scott’s continuous threats I’d heard so often:  if I ever left, he would leave me with nothing and ruin my relationship with the children.  Scott did exactly that.  But I did survive, and I hope that our children will one day come to understand his illness and forgive me for staying as long as I did in a toxic relationship that ultimately dragged them into the middle. 

We often stay in abusive relationships for reasons that are healthy, even though the situation isn’t.  Scott projected his insecurities as a detached parent onto me making me question my sanity and parenting abilities, the very thing that mattered to me the most. Then there was my internal conflict to keep the family unit intact for the children.  But soon I realized while my vows were pulling me in one direction, the need to care for myself and my children in the other direction had to be my priority. I had to save myself and my spirit if I was going to take care of our children, stopping this dysfunctional modeling, hoping they would learn what a healthy relationship is eventually. 

When we think about making major changes in our lives, our thoughts naturally go to the world around us. We not only want to do what is right in principle; we also want to do what others will approve of. I guess one of the things that surprised me most in my educational journey was how strong this feeling was for me. I was always a people pleaser, needing validation and social acceptance. I hated being alone. I was really carrying around a strong feeling that an awful lot of people would judge what I did, especially living in such a small community. Even writing my book/blog, I worried what others may think knowing what happened behind the closed doors of our seemingly perfect Facebook life. 

I felt shame and embarrassment; I never thought I would get divorced, no matter what Scott did to me.  I had to work hard to get a handle on this. In reality, people didn’t really care. The negative judgment from others really isn’t there. The thought that I am a good mother because I kept my family unit intact needed to be set aside, replaced with thoughts that are centered in more basic ideas. “I am a good mother” because I care about my children. Now I have the courage and ability to hopefully be a role model to my children. I want them to also be free from their father’s manipulation to truthfully assess the goodness of their lives. I am a “good person” because I love and care for myself, my children, and for others.  

It’s time to believe.

Believe . . .

To accept (something) as true; feel sure of the truth.  

Hold (something) as an opinion; think or suppose.  

Believe in yourself, your intuition, your courage, your strength, your future.

 

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