Welcome to Domestic Violence Awareness Month at Shrink4Men. In His Own Words Abused Men: Living a Nightmare, is the first in a series. To raise public awareness about male victims of domestic violence, I’ll publish an account about men who have been abused by their wives and girlfriends everyday in October.
Men comprise approximately 50% of domestic violence victims, but we rarely read or hear about this. In this respect, men are invisible victims.
Living a Nightmare is Gerald’s (not his real name) story of how his wife abused him during the marriage and continues to abuse him via administrative violence in the family court.
Thank you, Gerald, and much strength to you and your children.
Living a Nightmare
Even as I begin typing my story, I’m fearful she’ll somehow figure out I wrote this. And that I will, once again, be subjected to her spite and vindictiveness, which knows no bounds. Nevertheless, I hope writing this will somehow help me and, perhaps, other men like me.
I’ve been living a nightmare. My now ex-wife has, and will likely continue to successfully manipulate people to see her as “the victim” and me as the “villain.” Including people who can influence things like child custody (e.g., evaluators).
I’m beyond frustrated at the complete lack of resources available to abused men. I’ve been looking for self-help books online and find nothing geared specifically towards men. It’s hard to believe there are aren’t any books and other resources for men. I’ve considered getting one of the hundreds of books available to abused women and just switch the genders. But when you’ve been abused, you don’t want to see the word abuser being referred to as he/him.
I was with my ex-wife for over 13 years. I ignored so many red flags. For example, she’d fly into fits of rage over seemingly simple and/or minor things. One time, she berated me for more than an hour because I went to the bathroom and didn’t open the window in anticipation of her coming in later.
After telling her she was “it,” she constantly asked “When are you going to propose?!” To my regret, I proposed before I was ready, and only did it to get her off my back. Little did I know, “When are you going to propose?!” would be replaced by, “When are we going to have babies?!”
She grew up in a broken home. Her dad has been divorced three times. I’ve never seen it, but she often spoke of his uncontrollable temper. Claiming he’d throw plates (and the family cat) against walls. She said her dad would get violent over something as small as the phone ringing during dinner. Additionally, she believes he cheated on her mom.
She “thinks” she was raped in high school, and claims to have had two abortions from two different guys. One in high school and one in college. She also says she had bulimia before meeting me. Admittedly, she’s been through a lot. Apparently, she seems to think it only fair that I be as unhappy as her.
Marriage, Kids and the First Lies
We “unexpectedly” got pregnant only two months after the wedding. She tells people she told me she was going off birth control and that I was “fine with it.” That’s a lie.
We had two more babies, also unplanned (by me). During our first pregnancy, she developed severe obsessive compulsive disorder, around “something bad happening” to her and our unborn child. Ultimately, nothing bad happened, and our first daughter was born perfectly healthy. Afterward, my wife’s anxiety turned into obsessing over our daughter.
Our marriage became a living hell, to me at least. I read as much as I could about OCD, trying to learn how it was affecting her and how I could better support and relate to her. Nothing helped. We were both miserable, but we both loved our kids beyond comprehension.
She began telling me that I was “100% responsible” for our marital problems. I believed her.
The Abuse Cycle Begins
She had and continues to have such unbelievable anger and resentment toward me. How could I keep upsetting her so much!? She told me I was a bad person. She began calling me names. Her yelling and swearing worsened. She acted like this toward me in front of our kids.
She slammed doors and threw objects at me. She came after me once, fists flying. I had to grab her arms to hold her back, leaving a mark on her forearm. “Look what you’ve done to me!!!” she yelled.
For almost four years, she spent nearly $8,000/month on her credit card (despite me not making that much). I once pled with her to stop the spending, and she yelled at me for being “controlling.” We were in massive debt.
She kicked me out of the house repeatedly over the years claiming I upset her. I’d routinely sleep on our couch or at my parents’ house. She threatened divorce at least 38 times throughout our marriage if she didn’t get what she wanted from me.
I told her I didn’t feel comfortable having a fourth baby. So she began calling me the “Dream Crusher.” She manipulated me with sex to get what she wanted, and withheld it if she didn’t.
Her erratic behavior got worse when she was drunk. One night, she was so out of control I actually considered calling the police, but I just couldn’t do it. I always felt (and still do) this need to protect her. I tried to escape her by going into our kids’ bedroom, hoping she’d leave me alone. She did not. As I laid down, she dumped a pitcher of water on me.
Smear Campaign and Gaslighting
Later, I heard her tell her mom how she “had to” dump water” on me because I was “acting so crazy.” I felt like was losing my mind, due to her gaslighting and projections. She’d say things like, “You have absolutely no concept of reality.”
After four years of her abuse, I finally told my parents what had been going on. I was afraid no one else would believe me. After all, she is “so sweet” and very intelligent. Everyone likes her.
My parents, being religious, are against divorce. However, over a period of years, they regularly urged me to get out of my marriage.
One day, after being yelled at for I don’t know how long, I finally broke down. I told her I couldn’t take it anymore. That I didn’t know what was going on, but something was very wrong. I felt like I was losing my mind.
That afternoon, in my home office, she said something I’ll never forget. She admitted to setting me up to fail, putting me in no win situations, and something she called “checks and balances.” She explained, when things were going well, she’d intentionally make them bad in order to control when the bad would happen. It was crazy talk, but it explained so much!
I recently brought this life changing (to me) confession up to her. Unsurprisingly, she completely denied it ever happened.
Divorce and False Allegations of Abuse
She filed for divorce in April 2012. In January 2013, she falsely accused me of molesting our daughter. This never happened.
As it turns out, she got the idea from snooping through my phone before we separated. She saw texts between a friend and me wherein my friend referred to attractive adult women as “baby girls.” The false allegations nightmare she created has since gotten progressively worse.
My ex has — through lies, distortions, and half-truths — insinuated to the custody evaluator that I have also molested our two boys. This also never happened. I was the primary caregiver for all three kids, while working full-time during her four years in professional school that I worked to put her through. I now have no custody and only supervised visits.
My world has crumbled and I have nothing left. My kids are my world and we miss each other tremendously. She controls when I talk to them on the phone and for how long. She monitors all conversations via speakerphone.
I have been all but removed completely from their lives. She’s removed my immediate family from their lives. Their favorite nanny of three years has also been removed from their lives. Why? Because the nanny told the truth to the evaluator about my ex’s crazy behavior.
Meanwhile, she’s spread lies and half-truths all around town. I’ve lost friends. Each day, I grow more miserable. Before marrying her, I was an incredibly happy person.
Her abuse has lasted 13 years and counting. I never realized it was abuse during the relationship. It’s still painful to admit that I allowed myself to be abused. When I would tried to bring it up, she’d turn it around on me.
Cheating and Blame Shifting
One time during the marriage, she cheated on me with a woman and blamed me for it. Her excuse? Shortly before her one night stand, I’d told her how unhappy I was. So, she got drunk and drove somewhere after kicking me out to my parents’ house for the night, leaving our kids (ages 4, 3, and 1 at the time) home alone.
The next morning, she confessed. And blamed her behavior on me, saying she only drank so much and hooked up with some random woman because I had upset her so much. I’d no idea she was bisexual.
I feel like such an idiot. Only now, away from it all, can I see things more clearly. Yet, she’s taken the only thing I care about – our children. My denial and devotion has led to my demise. I’m an empty shell of the person I once was.
By no means am I free from responsibility. Despite being told I was 100% responsible for all of our problems, deep down, I knew I should only accept 50%. And, I do. Early on, I became so detached and disengaged from her because of how she treated me, there was no hope for us. Instead of admitting this, I began to despise her.
Reactive Abuse and Secondary Health Issues
Her unpredictable moods, temper, and inability to control her emotions, among other things, were too much to handle. Her 13+ years of abuse led me to do some things towards her as a way of getting back at her. I’m extremely regretful and sorry for my actions and how they may have affected her. In no way do I attempt to justify my behavior as it relates to her.
My point is, I started to change as a person as a result of the way my ex treated me. I’m not a bad person, but she led me to believe this over our years together.
Years of pent up frustration, confusion, anger, and resentment began to eat away at me. I developed gastric issues and had not one, but two separate surgeries for two unrelated afflictions in my gut. I also developed an autoimmune disease, one that will plague me for the rest of my life.
How I wish I’d the strength and fortitude to leave her long ago, but I stayed “for the kids.” Instead of modeling healthy relationships and self-respect, I’m afraid I taught them it’s acceptable to be treated the way I was and that you just have to deal with it.
Now, she’s keeping the kids and I apart. My disdain for her grows everyday. I hate who I’ve allowed myself to become. I am not this person.
If you’re reading this and can even vaguely relate to my experiences, get out. Get out! My therapists told me to leave her. My parents told me to leave her. What I wouldn’t give to go back now and heed their advice.
These people are TOXIC. And, when push comes to shove, they’ll shove you so hard you won’t know what hit you; and they’ll keep doing it. I never thought something like this could happen to me. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.
Don’t allow your life to be ruined anymore than it has been already. If you think you’re being abused, it’s very likely that you are. Trust your instincts! I shoved mine aside. Don’t lose yourself to this person. They’ll keep taking and you may never get it back.
Much gratitude to Gerald for sharing these very painful experiences. I hope the custody evaluator will believe the evidence instead of your ex’s malicious and destructive lies, so you and your children can be together. You’re not alone, Gerald.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals with relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. Since 2009, she’s specialized in helping men and women break free of abusive relationships, cope with the stress of ongoing abuse and heal from the trauma. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. If you’d like to work with Dr. Palmatier, please visit the Schedule a Session page or you can email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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