Ending a Relationship with an Abusive Woman is the second half of Breaking Up with a Borderline Girlfriend. Abuse is abuse. It’s not a gender issue. Women and men engage in intimate partner violence at equal rates. Abuse is a gender issue in that society is woefully stubbornly lagging in its recognition and support of male victims. This is especially true of male victims of female perpetrators.
Ending a relationship with an abusive woman.
Breaking up with a borderline woman (or a narcissist or histrionic woman) requires an understanding of the dangers that lie ahead. This includes your own issues that got you into this relationship. In the previous article, I cover the following topics:
- Accept reality.
- Make an exit strategy.
- Commitment to self-preservation.
Ending a relationship with an abusive woman requires careful planning and strategy. So let’s discuss the remaining personal safety measures.
Document the abuse with trusted friends and family and medical, mental health and legal professionals.
If you haven’t done so yet, talk to trusted friends and family members. Let them know what’s been happening. Please be certain you can trust any potential confidante. I can’t emphasize this strongly enough. If you’ve doubts about someone, don’t confide in them.
If you haven’t discussed the abuse you’ve been experiencing with your physician yet, do it. Document any physical violence and seek treatment for it from your doctor or from an Urgent-Care facility. If you don’t have a therapist, now would be a good time to start counseling. However, be careful in your choice of therapist. It’s extremely important that you find a therapist with experience helping male victims of intimate partner abuse.
At the very least, find a therapist who doesn’t have an anti-male bias. This includes therapists who hold a binary view of abuse. Specifically, “men are perpetrators; women are victims.” This also includes therapists who make excuses for female abusers. To clarify, having a personality doesn’t make the abuse “okay.” Nor does a personality disorder diagnosis mean you’re a selfish asshole because you don’t want to live with the disordered person’s abuse anymore.
If shared children are involved, find an attorney and a therapist who specialize in these issues. They can explain the kind of documentation that will be helpful. For example, audio recordings of abuse that occur in front of the children, threats to file false police reports, parenting logs, etc. You’ll also need help making a sensible and safe as possible exit strategy. Never underestimate an abusive woman’s ability to lie convincingly and the extreme measures she’ll take to destroy you and preserve her fake public image or false self.
FOG-proofing (fear, obligation, guilt).
She can’t pay the bills on her own? What about her 26 rescue cats and 15 rescue horses? How will she take care of them if you’re not there to do it? But she can’t secure her own mortgage or lease due to her voluntary unemployment/under-employment, financial irresponsibility and subsequent poor credit score?
None of her issues and bad choices will be your problems once the divorce is over. Her problems were never your problems. Nevertheless, you agreed to take them on — happily or reluctantly — and here you are. Say it with me now, “Her irresponsibility is not my responsibility.”
Her pathology will no longer be yours to bear either. Shrug off the FOG (fear, obligation and guilt) of abuse. Be single-minded in carrying out your decision to free yourself. If you show weakness (e.g., feeling sorry for her or feeling guilty for kicking her out) she’ll sense it like a shark detecting chum in the water and exploit it.
Deliver appropriate consequences for boundary violations and any criminal acts Crazy perpetrates before, during and after the break-up. Don’t fear taking proportional and lawful self-protective measures due to pity or “not wanting the mother of [your] children” to have a record if she assaults you or destroys your property.
Adult abusers are basically overgrown schoolyard bullies. They don’t stop messing with their targets until they experience real punishment for doing so. Or, are made to stop by an authority greater than themselves like law enforcement.
Consequences aren’t mean. Natural and proportional consequences aren’t unfair. They’re deterrents to future unwanted behaviors and other boundary violations. What do you think would happen to you as a man if you did the same things to her that she’s done to you? [Insert police siren and jail doors closing sound effects here.]
Set the record straight with people who matter to you.
Narcissists, histrionics and borderlines love a good smear campaign. If you care about the opinion of any mutual friends or in-laws, you may want to consider setting the record straight with them immediately after you leave. Try to do this before the abusive woman realizes what’s happening. However, don’t be surprised if she’s already been smearing you to family, friends and acquaintances during the time you thought you were happily married.
Many clients are shocked by how far back their partners and exes bad mouthing, character assassination, exaggerations and role reversal lies go. In some cases, the smearing began while they were dating and during the engagement. It’s yet another retroactive betrayal. Like lying about being on birth control or that her career is important to her.
Abusive women (just like abusive men) lie, distort, blame shift and play victim. She’ll claim that you’re guilty of abuses and perfidies that she’s committed. Set the record straight with the people who matter. Many of them likely didn’t believe her anyway.
There will be people who do believe her. Let them go along with your ex. Typically, these people are the enablers, flying monkeys and negative advocates are are also drama-feeding professional victims.
NO CONTACT, NO CONTACT, NO CONTACT.
You need peace in order to heal. This means putting as much physical and emotional distance between yourself and the abusive ex as possible. In other words, go No Contact. This is easy for some clients and difficult for others.
Don’t respond to emails, texts or voicemails — unless it’s a legit child emergency. Avoid places your ex is likely to be. Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. Stay away from her social media.
Tell any remaining shared friends or acquaintances that you’d rather not hear any updates. Unless, of course, it’s six ‘o’ clock newsworthy embarrassing material and then maybe. If there aren’t any shared children, there’s really no reason to have any communication once it’s over.
Property disputes can be handled through attorneys. Same goes for financial matters. Do NOT agree to share custody of the pet goldfish — or any pets for that matter. Any continued contact is just an opportunity for the narcissist or borderline ex to continue to manipulate you or cause mischief. Don’t do it.
Be prepared to let go of other relationships. Power wash your life.
This one can be tough. Especially if you gave up friendships and your family relationships during the marriage. Many clients do this to avoid conflict during their relationship with the narcissist, histrionic or borderline ex. Isolation from loved ones is a common abuse tactic.
Unfortunately, mutual friends and acquaintances are often weak links in your efforts in ending a relationship with an abusive woman. These individuals become collateral loss. However, it can also be an opportunity to clear out the rot, till the soil and grow new and healthier friendships.
Narcissists, histrionics and borderlines usually don’t attract healthy people into their social circles. They often have an odd assortment of sycophants, lackeys, stooges, enablers, fly by night exploitative manipulators, ne’er do wells and the occasional genuinely nice person who buys into her or his false self/mask of normalcy. Hose it all off. Think Silkwood shower.
Clearly communicate that the relationship is OVER.
Ambivalent language, “being nice,” or a wishy-washy stance isn’t going to work. Appearing weak or uncertain about your decision in ending a relationship with an abusive woman will be misinterpreted to mean what she wants to hear. She’ll go into full Hoover-human bulldozer mode.
Be direct and clear. You’ll probably be called a narcissist. Or, you’ll be accused of “being mean” and an asshole. Allow me to translate that for you. If your NPD, BPD or HPD ex accuses you of being a mean asshole, it means you’re setting clear boundaries and aren’t falling for her manipulations. So take it as a compliment and embrace “being the asshole.”
Deafen your ears.
Ending a relationship with an abusive woman can be dangerous. Many narcissists, histrionics and borderlines like to make litigious threats at the end of the relationship. I once worked with a woman whose extremely narcissistic ex tried to bully her into signing an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) for both him and the woman he cheated on her with. He tried to intimidate her with the threat of lawsuits.
Specifically, he threatened to sue her for two years worth of his income and his mistress’ income if she told anyone about his infidelity. Totally crazyballs. In the end, it’s usually just a lot of sound and fury with these people. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s the equivalent of an angry toddler calling you a poopyhead. Did I mention No Contact?
If you’re a man, however, there’s a caveat to this. If an abusive woman threatens to make false abuse allegations and file restraining orders against you, take it seriously. And protect yourself accordingly.
Embrace the grieving process.
Don’t confuse the pain of grief with having made a mistake. Loss hurts. Oftentimes, the healthiest choices are also the most difficult and painful. Your grief process will be more complicated if you’ve unresolved childhood family of origin issues. Don’t run from the pain, walk into it.
Eventually, it will pass. Focus on you and what attracted you to Crazy. Don’t focus on why the narcissist’s a narcissist, the histrionic’s a histrionic or the borderline’s a borderline.
Instead, ask yourself why did you tolerate the abuse? What made you vulnerable? Why did you give away your power, dignity and self-respect in exchange for “love?”
Real love doesn’t demand these kinds sacrifices, subjugation and degradation. If you do have family of origin issues, be patient. You didn’t develop these vulnerabilities overnight and you won’t rid yourself of them as quickly as you’d like.
Taking care of yourself often falls by the wayside in an abusive relationship. Abusers resent any self-care you do. This is especially true if it takes attention away from them and makes you healthier. Abusers like their targets weak because it makes it easier for them to control you.
Start eating healthfully, getting regular exercise, improving your sleep habits and limit your alcohol and recreational drug use. Drugs and drink will mask the feelings you need to feel or make you feel even worse, so take it easy and don’t try to numb yourself or escape the grief.
Get outdoors. Seek solace in nature. Fresh air, sunshine, trees, lakes and mountains are a tonic. Long walks can help bring things into perspective and clear the head.
If you allowed friendships to fall by the wayside because your ex sucked up all the oxygen in your life, rebuild your social circle. Reach out to old friends. Reconnect with family members. Re-engage in activities or pursuits that your ex resented and made it impossible for you to enjoy.
Ending a relationship with an abusive woman can seem impossible at first. It isn’t impossible. I’ve helped thousands of clients do just this. Not being able to live without your abuser is just another lie the narcissist or borderline ex told you.
If you want your life back, don’t expect her to meekly release you. The price of freedom is potentially incurring her narcissistic rage (or borderline rage). It’s going to happen, so prepare for it and brace for impact.
If you want out, you’ll most likely have to pay the proverbial troll under the bridge before you can walk across and then blow the damn thing up. It can seem like a daunting and overwhelming task, but what’s the alternative?
What is your health and well-being worth? Certainly it’s worth more than wasting it on someone who’s incapable of love and feels zero remorse for hurting you.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals with relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. For over a decade, she has 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.
Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.