You left your abusive husband, but new threatening, intimidating behaviors have cropped up. You may be wondering if you’re experiencing post-separation abuse.
Laurel’s on the podcast for the final installment of her story, answering the question: What Does Post-Separation Abuse Look Like? Tune in to the podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Post-Separation Abuse Looks Like: Discovering More Financial Abuse
Often, victims discover even more financial abuse –
- Secret bank accounts
- Money spent on pornography or other secret sexual behaviors
- Withholding of money and other assets
- Withholding of financial information necessary for the divorce process
Breaking Into the House? That’s Post-Separation Abuse
Abusers will often sneak into your car, garage, or home – regardless of the agreement that you have in place.
If you, like Laurel, notice items out of place or security systems having been toyed with, you may be in danger. It’s important to consult your attorney and/or law enforcement if you believe that your abuser may be coming into your home or vehicle without your permission.
Harassment, Threats, Intimidation – That’s Post-Separation Abuse
Abusers may send threatening emails, have you served publicly, or try to humiliate you by making a public scene. Here’s Laurel’s experience:
“[He was] sending intimidating emails and other things, nothing that anybody could point a finger at and say, oh, this is dangerous or this is aggressive, but all the things that were done that he knew would be frightening to me that no one could necessarily put a finger on.”
Laurel, Member of the BTR.ORG Community
BTR.ORG Is Here For You
At BTR.ORG, we know how difficult it is to navigate post-separation abuse. You don’t need to do this alone anymore. Please attend a Group Session today and find the validation that you deserve.
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. So the last three weeks, we’ve had Laurel, a member of our community on the podcast to share her story. In today’s episode, we are going to listen to the rest of her story. So if you haven’t listened to the episodes before, go back three episodes, listen to those and then join us here. In the last episode, we were talking about housework. Laurel mentioned that she has some physical limitations and that he would use those physical limitations against her rather than trying to help her. So we’ll just jump in right there.
What was his reasoning for you doing more housework when you had this condition?
So, because I have an immune issue, I asked him when he came in from out in the community that he please just wash his hands so that I would be exposed to less germs (“Hey, when you come in the house, can you please just wash your hands?”). I mean, lots of people do that, especially during pandemic times. This was before that, but that’s become a normal practice for a lot of people. But he believed, I’m doing the thing and I need to get this benefit that I want out of it. And the benefit that he thought he was entitled to was that I should do extra housework for him because he washed his hands.
“He Told Me My Intentions & Feelings”
Wow, right. This is so hard for me to wash my hands that this makes up for me not doing the dishes or something,
Yeah, it was super weird, especially near the end. He told me my intentions and feelings. So he would say to me like, “You are blaming me.” And I’d say, “No, I’m not blaming you – I’m blaming myself.” He’d say, “No, I feel blamed. So you are blaming me.” And I’d say, “I’m not blaming you.”
Or he would tell me in other situations, my intentions, my thoughts, my feelings, my internal process. And when I would tell him what my real thoughts, feelings, intentions, or internal process were, he said, “Well, when I tell you that I think or feel something and you tell me that I’m wrong, what’s that called? That’s called gaslighting. You’re gaslighting me. You’re abusing me.” So that was pretty crazy-making.
In fall of 2017, we had moved into a new house that spring and the rage attacks were getting so frequent and so intense and with less and less time between them that I felt he truly hated me by this point.
“I Was Sleeping With the Bedroom Door Locked Every Night”
He walked around with such a rage all the time. His body was so tense. He had this look of contempt and hatred on his face almost all the time by this point. It got so bad that finally after an event when he had a rage attack on me, I said, “Do you wish that I was dead so you could have the insurance money and go live your best life?” And he just looked at me and he didn’t answer me. I stood there and he didn’t answer me and I felt sick to my stomach and I just walked away and I went upstairs and I just went into the bathroom and I started to cry. About 45 minutes or an hour later, he came upstairs and said, “No, Laurel, of course I don’t want that.” He made no attempt to comfort me, no attempt to hold me, hug me, touch me, nothing to convey any kind of love for me as his wife.
So if I had understood what I was dealing with at the time, that really should have been a clue that I needed to get out, that it was becoming unsafe. We were sleeping in separate bedrooms by then and I was sleeping with the bedroom door locked every night.
That is so scary.
Abusers Often Mock Their Victims
It was terrifying. Before he left, he’d walk around the house at night proclaiming, “I’m divorcing you! I’m divorcing you!” In the last couple weeks right before he moved out, he said, “You should be glad I’m divorcing you so you won’t get abused anymore.”
Yeah, I asked my therapist about that.
Yeah, what was that?
I said, “Do you think that he actually recognized that he’s abusive?” And she said, “No, I think he’s making fun of you” <laugh>. So she still did not think that he actually identified that he was abusive.
Sneaking Into the House, Secret Bank Accounts
A couple things happened after he moved out. We had had an agreement that he was not going to come to the marital home without making arrangements in advance with me. And during the divorce discovery process, I did get confirmation of something that I suspected after he moved out. I would come home sometimes and it seemed like someone had been in the house and I thought that he was coming in when I wasn’t home and I was afraid to change the locks at the time because of the laws in my state. I thought that I could face some legal ramifications if I did that because he was an owner of the home as well. It wasn’t until I was getting ready to travel for Christmas that I actually did have someone change the locks because I didn’t want the house vacant with him coming in. So I just took the risk anyway.
But when we were doing discovery for the divorce, he withheld most of the discovery, had secret bank accounts and all the things and wouldn’t turn over discovery on them.
Trauma Mama Husband Drama
I’m gonna take a break here for just a second to talk about my book Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page which has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book Trauma Mama Husband Drama is a picture book for adults. So it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations as well as infographics at the back. Back to our interview.
“This Is Severe Abuse”
One of the things I did find on the one credit card that he turned over statements for was that he had purchased another key fob for the home alarm system. So I think he was using that to disarm the house when I was away so he could get in.
I’m so, so sorry. All of these things are awful. They’re also kind of typical of so many of the stories that I hear and they are extreme, they’re really extreme. It’s fascinating to me that abuse at this level, which is serious abuse (not that other abuse isn’t serious as well), the reconciliation people or other people would not recognize as such, which is really, really scary. I’m so, so glad that you’re willing to come share this so that people can recognize this is severe abuse.
How Did The Abuser Continue to Try to Intimidate Laurel During the Divorce Process?
Yes. And I am grateful that I can be here to share this with other women because I am hoping that other women who hear their circumstances in what I’ve shared today, that a light bulb will go on for them, that this is abuse and to get help and get to safety.
One other thing that I wanted to add was during the divorce process, there were a number of things that he did to also intentionally terrify me. For example, he tried to have me served, but I was out of town on a work trip and according to the laws of my state, he could have just then sent it by certified mail. But instead, he sent a process server around repeatedly to embarrass me and shame me in front of my neighbors and to terrify me.
There were other things that he did during the divorce and during the process after he left as well, like sending intimidating emails and other things. Nothing that anybody could point a finger at and say, “Oh, this is dangerous.” or “This is aggressive.”, but all the things that were done that he knew would be frightening to me that no one could necessarily put a finger on.
“I Was His Emotional Punching Bag”
It was a repeated pattern of behavior up until spring of 2019 and that’s when the stuff sort of snapped for me. I was still involved in that reconciliation industrial complex group. At the time his mother had passed away and I had, of course, during the marriage become his scapegoat. I was his emotional punching bag. Whenever anything in his life upset him that he didn’t like, he would take it out on me.
Even though we had had zero contact other than the divorce for quite some time, immediately after clearing the business of her death, he took actions to covertly aggress against me again. That was when I realized there is no amount of fasting or praying that I can do to stop this person from being abusive, and that this good guy that I thought I married wasn’t the real him. The abusive person is the real him. I spent all this time fasting and praying to try and “get back to” this man that I thought I’d married, but that was never who he really was. THIS was who he was.
That is a very hard thing and it’s shocking, right? It’s shocking to realize, “This is who he was the whole time and I didn’t know.”
The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans – A MUST READ!
Yes. And there were a lot of other things that were overtly abusive that did happen in the marriage as well, like screaming at me, calling me names. Those types of things. Telling me how everyone, like his family, his friends, naming certain people, say he’s so good with me; he’s so good to put up with me in all my issues, how nobody else would ever put up with me and all my issues, how lucky I am that he’s so good to me; all that type of stuff.
Patricia Evans’ book on verbal abuse is really good for anybody who thinks that they might be experiencing verbal abuse and wants to learn more about that. It’s called The Verbally Abusive Relationship, and that helped me to understand what I went through. But a lot of that stuff is more easily identifiable.
Yeah, I recommend that book as well. It’s on our books page. I appreciate you sharing because it really does help women to understand that what they might be experiencing is extreme abuse. That’s abuse; there isn’t any other word for it. There’s no way to put a euphemism on it. That is abuse, and if someone says that it’s not, then what goal do they have? To keep you married for some reason, or do they have your safety in mind? A lot of people don’t understand abuse, so they think the worst case scenario is divorce. But the worst case scenario is you being abused. And you experienced that for more than 18 years, right? 18 married, and did you say seven before that?
How Is Laurel Doing Now?
Yeah, we were friends for seven years before we dated and then we dated for two years before we got married. So that was nine years prior to marriage, and then there were about two years of the divorce process. A little actually closer to three if you count the last year of legal mess.
Yeah. And he abused you through the legal system as well?
That is correct, yes.
How are you doing now, because you don’t share children? Thank goodness you’re able to have a clean break. And now that the legal stuff is over?
It’s been very difficult; I won’t lie. I was diagnosed with PTSD from the abuse that I experienced; I had panic attacks, I had nightmares. I never had panic attacks in my life before this, and it started during the divorce process with the stuff that he used to terrify me. And so I’m still recovering from PTSD. We’ve done EMDR, which I’ve found to be very helpful. We’ve done brain spotting, which I’ve also found to be very helpful. I’ve explored some other modalities as far as managing my own emotional state and physical state cause my nervous system is very hyper-sensitive and hyper-reactive. I’m hyper-vigilant because of everything I went through. So there are some other practices that I’ve taken home that I can use when I’m feeling activated that have been helpful.
“Using My Voice Has Been Helpful to Me In My Own Healing”
I do want to say that this was something that was important to my recovery: I never would’ve snooped in someone’s private things prior to this crazy-making experience I went through. But when my ex was preparing to move out, I did go to the journals that he occasionally kept, which I had never looked in our entire marriage. I photographed everything and I went through it with my therapist and processed through it with my therapist. It was very helpful to me to understand the level of projection and manipulation and dysfunction that was happening there. That was important to me. So that’s a tool that I use to help myself know what was real.
Since then, I am in a new home. It’s taken me a while to get settled and I’m feeling much more hopeful about my future. I’m using my voice to speak truth. For the past two years, during domestic violence awareness month, I executed a social media campaign of a topic a day regarding domestic violence. Each of the topics included extensive supplementary materials and supportive materials to get people more resources so they could get educated. I have had some people say that they have found that to be helpful. So using my voice been very helpful to me in my own healing. And for me to be able to understand what is true and what is real, that’s been very helpful to me.
Are You a Victim of Financial Abuse?
I’ve found that to be the case too. Being able to just speak my story and share and be listened to, and taken seriously and know that other women who are listening to this are nodding their heads. When you said, “I’m shaking my hands, like, ah!”, they’re doing that too as they’re listening because they have also experienced this. And so the collective validation of victims who have been through this is helpful. I’m so, so glad that you are safe now and continually becoming more and more safe over time. Now that that legal abuse is over, I’m assuming is it over?
It is over, yes. And I will say that one thing we did not talk about was the extensive financial abuse. A lot of which I didn’t find out about until some of the discovery process and the divorce. But that is a component for most people experiencing domestic violence.
“Divorce & Sharing Children Has Brought So Many More (Abusive) Things to Light”
It’s shocking to me how much you learn after. I want to honor all women for where they are and where they want to be. I was just shocked in my own circumstance, as it sounds like you were, by all of the things that I didn’t know. But once I went through the divorce process and was divorced, all of the things that I see now, and that are continuing in my situation because I share children with him that are so obvious to me now. What I know now, I don’t know if I ever would’ve known had I stayed married. Divorce and sharing children has brought so many more things to light that I wasn’t even aware of at the time.
Yes. And I had to deal with him after he left during, of course, some of the divorce process and some of the behaviors that I had seen in the marriage, I saw him executing over and over during this process. So that was very eye-opening to me as well, being out of the environment and still seeing the behaviors and being able to recognize them for what they are. Once I was out of the situation, that was also very helpful to see.
Well, he was still trying to maintain control, still trying to control the narrative even though you were going through the divorce process.
Support the BTR.ORG Podcast
Laurel, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us. Also, it sounds like you did a lot of your own processing and writing some of these examples down and really processing what happened to you. And I appreciate that you are willing to come and share that with all of us today, so thank you so much for taking the time to be here.
Thank you for having me. I’m grateful to share this and I hope it helps others.
If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week, stay safe out there.