There's nothing worse than co-parenting with my abusive ex-husband.
Of all the things I have endured over the past ten years since I separated from my abuser, nothing compares to the pain, torment, continuing mental games, and anxiety I’ve experienced while co-parenting with my abusive ex-husband. As I look back over the past 10 years, if there was one thing I could change it would be my response to co-parenting with my abuser. I realize I can’t change the fact that I hid under my secret, which led to the judge granting us both parenting rights, but I do wish I was stronger in establishing my response to my abuser earlier.
Recovery from Domestic Abuse - Co-Parenting with my Abuser
The first four years after the divorce were challenging since my oldest didn’t receive his driver’s license yet. In a weird twist of fate, my abuser lost his ability to drive shortly after he moved out so it was up to me to move the children back and forth. I look back and can’t imagine how I moved the kids between our residences, sports activities, and their social events. I have such vivid memories of sitting in his driveway waiting to see:
Since I was unable to voice my opinion, I also remember all the times he asks me to trade his visitation days. In the beginning, my inability to stand up to him allowed him to switch the visitation schedule to whatever worked out best for him. Years later, when I finally grew the courage to start telling him no, it was too late. The idea of me giving into his request just so he wouldn’t yell at me wasn’t going to change.
After a while, it just seemed like everything else was a priority to him instead of being with the children. Pretty soon I just started to take the kids, offer a little stability, instead of his continuing trying to keep his world convenient for him. I found that no matter how intact my divorce agreement was, the kids got sick, school holidays or doctor’s appointments messed up the custody schedule. Maybe I experienced this worse than other people due to my abuser losing his ability to drive, but from what I hear from other victims, this continuing to maintain control by our abuser’s is a common occurrence.
Obviously, the parenting approaches are different between us. I know this was so confusing to the children! Early on, I made the mistake of thinking their dad and I could talk about certain guidelines that should have been consistent between the two houses, but that ended up being a big mistake. As soon as I put a thought out there, almost immediately I gave my abuser an edge on knowing what was upsetting to me. As I now realize, this guaranteed that it wasn’t going to happen at his house. Examples: homework, studying for tests, ensuring kids brush their teeth (when they were younger), dating, and socializing with their friends (when they were older).
For some reason, the homework piece seems to be something that so many abusive ex-husbands don’t want to be a part of. I hear this so many times; it seems they want the children for the fun times; the homework remains our responsibility.
Oh, So Many Frustrating Times
Even though we weren’t living together, my abuser still knew how to upset me. Looking back, I am sure he continued to enjoy his ability to ruin my day tremendously! He maintained the power and control yet didn’t have to deal with my ill moods; sounds like a great win for him. Unfortunately, I was powerless to know I had another option.
I wish I had figured out what boundaries are and put them in place so many years earlier. There are many boundaries that I needed help with establishing, the first being how to say no. Since I continued to hide behind the secret of my abuse, I didn’t find out about Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I strongly recommend reading this book and then rereading it annually until your boundaries are safely in place. This book is one of the greatest tools I used to defeat the power of my abuser towards me.
The concept of self-empowerment, strengthening my ability to start to take control of my world, was something that I never thought possible. My journey over the past 10 years though has taught me that this empowering myself to take control of my world is the most important thing I can do to stop the impact my abuser has on my world. Over the next few blog entries, I will continue to write about what self-empowerment is and how we can go about incorporating it into our worlds.
Hi, I'm Sue
Welcome to my blog! I served twenty-one honorable years on active duty, living a double life of capability and accomplishment in the service while enduring brutality and abusiveness in my twenty-one year oppressive marriage. Today I'm happily married and have three children who are my inspiration and motivation.
My goal is to help combat the lies of abusers with the truth of God. I hope you find my words to be healing and helpful through your own life experiences.
Being separated from my abusive husband didn't make me a domestic violence survivor. It surely didn't release me from the grip of his brainwashing control and the innate power he had on me.
Read the full raw story in my new book, Rock Bottom and Faithless.