It’s day 16 of Domestic Violence Awareness Month for men and boys, the invisible victims of domestic violence. Today’s In His Own Voice combines the usual physical, verbal and emotional abuse with a special subset of Crazy — animal hoarding.
Animal hoarding is not only abusive to other family members, it is abusive to the animals. “Heart Broken Geek” has put up with a lot of abuse and horseshit during his marriage. Figuratively and literally.
Animal Hoarders Edition
My soon to be ex-wife and I were together for 12 years, 9 of them married. We have two beautiful children. I adopted my stepson three years ago when he was 12.
Before I finally left, we tried talking things through. For the first time in our marriage, I didn’t give in. It didn’t matter though. She refused to stop with the animal stuff. She boards horses, owns horses and runs a horse rescue. On top of that, she has goats, chickens, dogs, cats and the occasional cow.
If you were to hear my ex talk, I “all of a sudden pulled the rug out from under her” in June 2012 when I sat her down and told her how unhappy I was and that I’d probably be leaving. This was not all of a sudden. In reality, I had been trying to get her attention every way I could since 2006, maybe earlier.
Everything was “fine” for us, as long as I suffered in silence. However, anytime I voiced a concern, she would go off the deep end and it would be my fault.
I was tired of our bank accounts being $700 overdrawn and getting blamed for it. I gave her 100% of my paycheck and only took $40/week for lunch and gas money while we were together. I was tired of her horses being fed while we struggled to feed the family.
I was tired of the stalls being immaculate while the house was a pigsty. She is content to live in filth. If I didn’t clean the house, it didn’t get done. Unless we had company coming over, then she would flip out and scream at everyone.
But most of all, I was tired of being alone. Always.
She claimed she was home “90% of the time.” While that was true, she was either at the barn for 4-5 hours a night or on the computer looking at rescue horses, emailing, buying, selling or texting about horses.
If you’ve ever watched an episode of Hoarders, you’ve seen the anger when the hoarder is confronted with their behavior. My ex has the same attitude. Whenever I tried to talk to her about her out of control animal rescue, I got “How DARE you question why I do this! It isn’t MY problem, it’s YOUR problem!”
Two winters ago, I had acute bronchitis and needed medicine badly. She told me we had no money for it. I told myself, fine, I’ll man up since the family is broke and go without medication. That same night, while I’m wheezing and coughing, she bought an $80 fake horsetail for one of her horses to wear to a show because the horse “needed it.”
Another time, I was so sick I couldn’t drive myself to the doctor’s office and asked if she could take me. She said she couldn’t miss work. Her horse got a sick stomach later that night and she took the next 3 days off work to care for it.
In March 2012 she told me, “I need to cancel the cable, so we can get caught up on bills.” At first, the child in me screamed, “Fuck that! All I have in this house is my chair, the TV and my Xbox!” The adult in me said, “Ok, man up, you have bills and she said she’ll have it turned back on in August.”
Two weeks later, I went to the barn and the Port-a-John was still there from the barn fire the week before. I asked, “When does that have to be back?” She ignored me. Her friend, who obviously didn’t realize I wasn’t supposed to know answered, “They come and empty it twice a week.”
I asked, “Why would they do that? Why wouldn’t they just take it back?” Her friend replied, “For $80 a month, it’s the least they could do.” I looked at my wife and said, “You cancelled my cable, so you could have a crapper at the barn?” Her attitude was once again, “How DARE you question me?”
She also boards dogs, even though they destroy our property. For example, two years ago she called me at work and asked, “What’s a good way to cheer up Daughter?” I asked what happened to upset Daughter. My wife informed me that the three Jack Russell terriers she was boarding had killed our daughter’s kitten in front of her. I raised my voice, which I try not to do, and asked, “Are you fucking kidding me?!”
My wife was silent and then said, “I don’t see how raising your voice will help.”I took a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry, I just don’t understand why you keep bringing in animals to do this to our family.” More silence and then she yelled, “You need to call a lawyer because I’m sick of this shit!”
Three hours later, she calls again, “What can we do to cheer up Daughter?” I was taken aback. “ I buy her a dozen roses or carnations once or twice a year, it makes her happy.” When my wife got home that night she gave our daughter the flowers and said, “Mommy was thinking about you.”
One time when we were arguing about the marriage and separating, she started to sob and rock back and forth like a child. Then she started clicking her fingers together in the air and her eyes rolled back a little. I told her I was terrified of her and that this (I pointed to what she was doing) is not how an adult discusses things. “This shit is creeping me out,” I told her. She accused me of being a heartless, horrible man and a freeloader (she earns more than twice what I do, but takes the bulk of my pay to pay household bills and spends the bulk of her earnings on animals.)
At one point, the bank threatened to foreclose on our home. That didn’t stop her from buying two more horses and retaining a lawyer to sue some other idiot over horse related crap (breach of contract).
Before I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, I slept a lot, but it wasn’t restorative sleep. One day, I came home after work and laid down on the bed. She woke me up by raining blows down on me and screaming, “You’re not a man! You’re no kind of man!”
That’s not the only time she’s hit me. She’s also told me I’m a horrible provider, a horrible dad — usually when she was frustrated or not getting her way. Later, when I would mention how hurtful her behavior was, she’d deny doing and saying these things or I’d get some version of, “I was in a bad mood” or “I was really upset.” As if being “really upset” makes hitting your spouse or saying nasty, cruel things to your spouse ok. It doesn’t.
We attended a few couples therapy sessions toward the end. The therapist told my wife (after listening to me) that I felt discounted, unloved and ignored. During this session, I told her I would no longer support her crazy horse antics. The therapist suggested my wife spend less time on the horses and more time on the marriage.
The day after our session, what did my wife do? She brought a pony into our house and gave it a bath in the family shower where, of course, it shit all over, tore up the place, etc. When I reminded her this was not what we agreed to in therapy, she told me I was a selfish dick. The horse had a photo shoot the next day for one of her horse rescue projects and it needed a bath, biohazard and property damage be damned.
Every single time our relationship has been on the ropes, “we” fixed it. And by “we” I mean I had to keep my mouth shut and just accept that’s how she was. She never changed a damn thing. Of course, when I mentioned this to her once, she just stared at me blankly, like a dog does when you try to discuss philosophy with it.
She’s told mutual friends in front of me that she “resents being married and having kids” and that she “never got to be single.” Well, she’s about to get her chance.
My weakness was/is I hate to see her cry. It tears me up inside and breaks my heart. We cannot, nor could we ever, have a rational adult conversation. As soon as I expressed unhappiness about anything, she exploded into tears. I now believe her tears were nothing more than a manipulation.
Toward the end, she asked what I wanted from her. I said, “No more animals. Enough!!!” That weekend she decided to board 3 dogs, rescue 5 bottle-fed kittens with diseases and bought two new ponies.
We decided to stick it out through the holidays for the kids. For the ensuing 6 months, every day of my life was a 16-hour argument. She started texting at 7:30AM and kept going until bedtime. I now wonder if she ever really loved me, but rather took pity on me and “settled.”
After I told her I’d had enough in June 2012, she posted an ad on Craigslist looking for male “insight” into our situation. Why see a therapist when there are plenty of well-meaning men on Craigslist, right?
The funny thing is, even though I know divorce is for the best, I still feel guilty about putting my happiness and safety first. I am also very worried about our kids. I feel empty and any energy I have is just going towards surviving and getting through the day. I still feel like the bad guy she makes me out to be, and like I am being too hard on her. My rational brain knows this is ridiculous. I can see now how my mom groomed me to put up with my wife and her horseshit – literally.
My mom was . . . not normal. I often wonder if the extremity of my mother’s abuse makes my wife’s abuse seem like “no big deal” in comparison. My mother beat my brother, our father and me with everything from fists to ladles to boots to brooms to baseball bats. She put cocked guns to my head and put lit cigarettes out on me. Her father was an abusive alcoholic, so by my mom’s definition, since she didn’t drink, she was a way better parent.
I know I am a codependent. I learned how to entertain mom in order to keep her calm or diffuse her anger. My mom used to go on beating frenzies and actually beat some of my friends, too. I stopped playing little league sports because I got tired of looking at the bench and seeing her rolling in the dirt with some other parent.
She once punched out my third grade teacher in the middle of class. The teacher wanted a conference to discuss my poor penmanship. My mom worked second shift at the time. Instead of scheduling an appointment with my teacher, she took off work and came to the school unscheduled.
She walked in and said, “I’m here for my conference.” The teacher said she needed to schedule one. My mom replied, “You wanted a conference, here’s your conference” and punched her in the face, over her desk. This was in the middle of the school day. It was humiliating.
I don’t know how my mom was never arrested. I honestly think she had the whole small town bullied. She even threatened the goddamned mayor once and nothing happened.
I remember in 6th grade I got an “F” in Math. At the Parent/teacher conference, my mom took one look at my grade and backhanded me over my chair, busting my nose. I still kinda laugh at the teacher’s expression, who had no idea what to do and started apologizing for giving me the “F,” even though I deserved it. No one really knows what to do when confronted by “crazy.” I think it makes sane people recoil and go some place in their minds until it’s over.
When I was 19, my mom was snooping through my stuff, which she did on a regular basis, and found the receipt for the engagement ring I bought my then girlfriend (not the horse lady). My mom swore up and down that I bought this $100 ring because my girlfriend and her mom coerced me and wanted to steal my credit. She then beat me with a baseball bat and tossed me out into the mud. That was the day I left my mom’s house.
It has been over a year since I moved out of the house I shared with my wife and our children. In that time, she has made numerous threats and has been trying to alienate our kids, but not with much success. She is now targeting the kids, even going so far as to assault our son, and is using them as unpaid farm hands.
She has also moved in one of her Craigslist men. This guy has a rap sheet and has been inappropriate with my kids (ticking our 12-year old daughter even after she asked him to stop and using corporal punishment on our 15-year old son). I expressed my concerns to my ex. She went into one of her rage episodes and made threats. Then she and this dirtbag retaliated by lying to my boss (about something that was very easy to disprove) in an attempt to get me fired. It didn’t work.
I reported these incidents to CPS. They wouldn’t open a case, stating there wasn’t enough evidence — even with this guy’s rap sheet. My attorney looked into getting a protective order, but our county is in the Dark Ages when it comes to female abusers — even when they’re endangering and abusing their kids.
I have recently ended contact with my mother, who, despite her advanced age is still a horribly toxic and abusive woman. I know I have made the right decision and am slowly healing, bit-by-bit. But there are days when I am still overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, and still take on more than my share of blame. I still struggle with anxiety, panic and depression. I don’t know if it will ever end.
Right now though, my priority is taking care of my kids and making sure they’re safe. We haven’t been to court yet, so the future is uncertain.
In His Own Words is an effort to help raise awareness about the invisible victims of domestic violence, men. If you would like to submit your story, please follow the guidelines at the end of this article.
Counseling with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. Coaching individuals through high-conflict divorce and custody cases is also an area of expertise. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for more information.
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Hey thats craziness and although my ex-Hitler didn’t hoard animals, I can identify with the insanity and abuse. Sorry you had this awful experience with your mom and your ex-wife. It is very difficult to see your children under the same roof and then a nut-case guy in there now too. Hang in there, your personal peace & serenity will eventually return and make you a better father for your children.
I have noticed that certain Axis II personalities have the “animal rescuer” persona going.
The animals serve a couple of purposes;
1. It maintains their “I’m a good person” identity within society and social media.
2. Animals don’t talk back and never question them, just obey.
3. On occasion, they adopt or care for older pets…when they go “missing” no one thinks twice about it.
Too right…it is all about getting what I like to call ‘moral cred’ from ‘things’ they don’t really have to put any effort into. Even when the animals live in filth along with these nutcases, are left to be hungry or sick then they still ‘rescued’ them and love to talk to people about that and how horrid the animals situation was before they came from on high and ‘rescued’ them. It’s just despicable.
“they don’t really have to put any effort into.” Bingo! That is a huge one.
4. it gives them sense of identity, borderlines have no sense of self and often feel “empty”, so plenty of animals compensate for that, at the expense of others, including these animals
“No one really knows what to do when confronted by “crazy.” I think it makes sane people recoil and go some place in their minds until it’s over.”
–from the Oct 16th post to “In His Own Words”
First I want to say that I am in awe of those who have contributed to the “In His Own Words” theme. I know that it means emotionally re-living your spouse’s nausea-inducing fits of rage, the impenetrable gas of their manipulation and dishonesty and criticisms, their betrayal and lack of love, their lack of responsibility for anything…
During my “awakening” I started to keep a journal to record the abuse I was experiencing and figure out what to do about it. Sometimes, in fits of optimism (or co-dependence) I’d pitch them–dumb, dumb, dumb. (Oh, and BTW, HIDE YOUR JOURNAL!)
So I know that writing about it is tough! In the heat of the moment, when my wife amped up her aggressiveness, gaslighting and other emotional craziness, my brain would become numb like it had been flooded with molasses. Later, trying to write, there just was so much resistance to living the event all over again. Besides, it is hard to remember something that makes absolutely no sense!
So I really respect your determination to put the pieces together. This series is a treasure to any similarly abused men looking desperately for someone who understands their situation. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
And be proud of the incredible judgement, restraint, and care for your children that you displayed under pressure. In my book these are examples of the best in human character–even more-so because, in spite of it, you were cast as the villain by social workers, therapists, courts and former friends. My hat is off to you all.
Postscript: I have been out of the crazy situation for some time and am doing much better. Yes, I was financially slaughtered by family court and I don’t have nearly as much time with the kids as I would like. But we make the best of it. I continue to adhere to “no contact” with my ex (except for infrequent parenting interactions which I keep brief and to the point). Toward the end, before I moved out, I stopped being completely open about my plans and I would suggest that you do the same. If your wife is like mine, any freely given information will be used against you to the greatest extent possible. You are not being mean by “surprising her” you are saving your own skin and that of your kids. Many, many thanks to Dr. Tara and to all who have contributed here.
Just was able to finish reading this one. It was particularly hard for me to read this one since I felt like I was reading about my mother…only my brother and, more so as the oldest, I were ALWAYS the slave labor taking care of HER rescue animals. As well as the house, the meals, and anything else that needed to be done. Thankfully, I worked(with her unfortunately so was paid peanuts and sometimes not at all if she ‘couldn’t’ pay me that time)so was able to hide some of it from her alcoholic boyfriend(of course she pretended he didn’t treat us like scum and hit us everyday)and pay for necessary things for us. This is the same woman who borrowed money for the power bill from me as a kid working my own beverage stand in the summer. Even as a kid I made up a piece of paper she had to sign ‘promising’ to pay me back. No trust there, eh? Yet to hear her tell it she heroically supported us single-handedly and ‘never’ bad mouthed our dad. There’s active bad mouthing and then there’s what she did…insidious and under the radar while making her look like the worthy victim.
Considering how emotional, mostly angry, I’m becoming just writing this comment fills me with admiration at the person that wrote this selection of the ‘in his own words’ series. As a child of someone very similiar sounding I’d like to extend..I don’t know, some hope in case there’s a fear your children take her side. I started talking to my dad again after I was in my twenties. In the capacity that we, his adult children, need him he has been there a far greater degree than she has ever been and it’s apparent. When he came to see my for my birthday some years ago I was puzzled to hear him apologize to me about leaving and to assure me that he would always care for my mother ‘as the mother of his children’…in front of his new wife and their two sons! I told him point blank that I don’t blame him since had I been him I would have chosen to leave such a toxic evil woman as well as stay away from and that I was well aware of what a totally impossible headcase my mother was. My point is that even with her and her boyfriend(s) putting forth their ‘best’ effort to alienate us we still don’t hate him and I look forward to talking to and seeing him. You sound well on your way to earning what SHE’LL never have…your childrens respect and genuine un-coerced affection.
Heart Broken Geek says
Hi Tamiko! I am so sorry you had to go through all of that nonsense. I was a card carrying “animal lover” before I met my ex. From the onset, I too was amazed by how caring she was… she immediately started to foster dogs when I met her.
However, it didn’t take long before I started to realize why most people don’t do that. The amount of property damage these mentally damaged dogs did to our home was unbelievable. It culminated with the two Maine coon cats we bought, at a pet shop, for a total of $1200 (which that in of itself should have told me something) were afraid to go to their liter boxes. Why? Because one of the nut case dogs she was fostering was placed in a kennel in the back room where the boxes were. Every time the cats would go through the kitty door, the dog would go bonkers and scared the cats.
They eventually started urinating on our mattress. I can’t tell you how many times I would go to lay down to take a nap and would do so in a puddle of cat urine. We had to get a new mattress, and since the cats wouldn’t stop, we had to sell the $1200 worth of cats for $25. And that check bounced.
That was the start. It was around that time (very early in the relationship) I took pity on her, because she had to sell her horse due to her fresh divorce. So I bought her a horse (and I don’t make a lot, so it was a huge gesture on my part).
Little did I know, it was like giving a recovering alcoholic a bottle of booze as a present.
I was only 26 when I met her. I didn’t realize all of the problems I had, as I had laughed and joked my way through life as a coping mechanism. I certainly didn’t understand animal hoarding and didn’t hear about BPD until I was around 37 or 38.
Now the guy she is with is an unbelievably huge bag of crap and I worry about my kids constantly.
Whereas I feel I am TOO self-aware, people like my ex have zero self awareness. It blows me away.
I’m sorry you had to suffer such nonsense, too! As much as these types ‘love’ animals you’d think they would offer better conditions than what they get ‘rescued’ from! I, too, adore animals and actually became quite adept at caring for a ridiculous variety of animals since I couldn’t bear to see them suffer from her bad case of the crazies. For gods sakes I had parvo when I was a kid…what they call ‘fifth disease’ and she acts like that was as normal as chicken pox! Now I see them as the leverage they were and am absolutely set on taking care of my one perfectly behaved cat that I took the trouble to train. For some reason she’s told me periodically that ‘she(the cat) needs friends’ so I ought to get more pets since her ‘grandkitty’ would like that. ‘Ain’t no stops on the crazy train’….
I know what you mean about it ‘blowing you away’. Setting firm boundries has helped enormously. I once went a period of a little over a year of not speaking to her after an epic screaming match on the phone. I kept trying to diffuse the situation and she would not stop calling to deliver more crazy-isms. Finally, I told her I was done with this, was going to be hanging up on her and that if she tried to contact me again via any means I was going to go to the cops to get a restraining order that I would then tell everyone about. Blackmail? Shamefully, I feel like it was but I was at the end of my rope and was starting to fear what they say about mental illness being contagious! Now she’s remarkably well behaved compared to what she was but I still frequently tell her ‘no’ and to behave herself. Eternal children on a power trip is how I think of it so that’s how I treat her…like a poorly behaved child. 😛 The latest skirmish will be telling her no since I’m currently expecting my first child(:D) after years of being terrified to be a parent. She’s already had some mild tantrums that I’ve told her no about several things she’s announced most notably buying their love, mocking them over ’embarrassing’ pictures, and sending them back from gmas ‘spoiled rotten’ and ‘hopped up on sugar’ for us to deal with. ‘Still ain’t no stops on the crazy train’…especially since she thinks she’s going to EVER have access to them.
Gosh, I’m glad someone else got out and am simultaneously sympathetic for the ‘survivor guilt’ I bet is happening.(Or has) I know I had a strong dose of that myself and wanted to do everything I could to mitigate my brothers suffering since he had three more years after I left. The guilt was crushing and I snuck him money and got him out of the house as much as I could since that’s all I could do at the time. Could your children maybe adopt the policy of ABR? Surely if she didn’t let them, I couldn’t imagine she would, then that would show as suspicious in court? That’s something I had never heard of when it might have been relevant to my home life. Now I see those recordings would have been worth far more than their weight in gold since we and the rest of the family never spoke up for fear of failing! After all, if we had tried and failed to get away then we KNEW things would be so much worse afterwards.