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Fill in the blank: ‘Detaching from the abuser in my life feels like _____’

By Eleanor Cowan

One early evening at the end of the second year in my support group for Parents of Sexually Abused Children, we were invited to participate in a new activity together. Our lead Social Worker, Aidan, also an artist and storyteller, suggested that we complete two unfinished sentences, each in our own words.

The first was, “Detaching from the abuser(s) in my life feels like _____.

The second was, “Once I let go, I found myself _____.

I’d like to share the responses I heard that evening with Lovefraud readers.

Aidan, also a former victim of physical predation both in her childhood and in her adult life, began:

“Finally detaching from my abuser dissolved tiny sharp shards of anxiety in my gut. My breathing changed from whisper-light to deeper. I went to bed smiling for the first time in my life. I awakened feeling well in the morning. I could lay back on my soft pillows for a few moments instead of leaping out of bed to ‘busy’ away from the usual rush of stressful thoughts.

“Once I let go, I found myself decluttering my home. First, my crammed bedroom closets. Next, I emptied the stuffed storage cupboards in the basement of things I hadn’t seen in years. At last, free space. ”

Next to Aidan, Ruth cradled her warm teacup. She became a lawyer after she was widowed, after she entrusted her son to her brother while she returned to law school. Her brother sexually abused her son, a youth who later hung himself in Ruth’s basement. Now working on behalf of trafficked teens, Ruth regularly attends our meetings.

“Detaching from the abuser of my son felt like only a toothpick of weight was lifted. The price of my brother’s predation was so high. After he was sentenced to jail, I followed behind the police van taking him to his prison gates in Ontario. I watched as the metal doors clanged shut behind him. Then I threw myself into my work helping youth whose innocent bodies provide pleasure for criminal consumers. Every time our team convicts a predator, I feel relief. That’s what helps me most of all.”

An amputee, Ruth often points out she’ll never get her missing leg back, but she has the best prosthesis available. “I’ll never get my son back, but I do the very best with my life that I possibly can.”

Next in the small circle came Lee, abused by an alcoholic parent, who struggled with food issues most of her life. When her two girls were molested by their older brother, Lee’s arthritis and diabetes symptoms soared. “Detaching at last from the predator of my daughters, my own son, felt like I’d been handed a diploma. I knew I’d earned this, and yet, when the welcome moment of release happened, it honestly felt like a tremendous personal gift. I kept saying to my kids, ‘I can’t believe it! I’m happy again! I’m happy!’ Once I seriously came to terms with my son’s pedophilia, I found myself looking up weight loss programs. I joined one that had a social component – not too many rules – just lots of support. I’ve made wonderful new friends. With my weight loss, my arthritis pain is reduced, and my diabetes is less acute.

That year Lee transformed her gourmet catering business into a vegetarian/vegan enterprise, more in keeping with her own eating goals.

Soon, it was my turn to complete the two unfinished lines. I used our leader’s prompts as a starting point, but answered in my own words:

“Realizing I was really and truly free from my abuser occurred in gusts of reality, bursts that erupted into consciousness. There’d be spontaneous joy as walked to my new home after work, or purchased pastry for the kids’ dessert, or realized I’d slept in peace through an entire unbroken night. Months earlier, someone had asked me how long it took me to get over my divorce. I’d replied, ‘A single weekend. Once I made my decision, the suffering ended.’ Those grinding years of demoralizing confusion and self-blame ended. The duration of years of submersion in disassociation, while living with a covert pedophile, hurt far more than the ending.

“Once I escaped, I found myself seeking more support – a group for adult children of alcoholics, one for adult children of parents who had committed suicide, another for victims of rape and mental abuse. I chose one in which I felt comfortable. I also found myself reading inspiring memoirs filled with powerful insights about reclaiming one’s life.

“Words like ‘forgiveness’ and ‘letting go’ felt irrelevant to me. Instead, vocabulary such as analysis and research and examination meant far more. I wanted to study a society that produced so many conscience-less predators, rapists, and pedophiles. What was wrong? What caused this horrible human aberration? Why the taboo of silence around such atrocity? I decided to add to my teaching credentials to become a certified life skills educator. Studying for a forever career cost a lot less than forever therapy, and put me in a position of responsibility, one I’d honor.”

All of us agreed, that evening, that we felt liberated now, free to live, to accomplish, to excel and thrive in an imperfect world.

Yes, we’d detached from our abusers, but far more important, we’d found our very valuable selves!

This was a great exercise. How would you complete the sentence? Please feel free to write your response as a comment.

Eleanor Cowan is author of “A History of a Pedophile’s Wife,” which is available on Amazon.com. Visit her at eleanorcowan.ca

 

 

 

 

 


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17 Comments on "Fill in the blank: ‘Detaching from the abuser in my life feels like _____’"

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Detaching from the Abuser in my life, feels very scary.

Now that I am letting go…..I feel like there is a life for ME out there….. I feel like anything is possible

Detaching from the abuser in my life felt scary at first. I was in awe, to actually believe I had the courage to detach made me feel stronger and more empowered.

Once I found myself letting go, I began to enjoy being with myself. I no longer feel the need to run from myself. I no longer have the need to busy myself in order to avoid facing my painful existence.

Today I am comfortable with me.

Feels like it would b impossible

prettybird54 – it is possible to detach. Please understand that these involvements are highly addictive, so escaping is like breaking an addiction. It may be difficult, but it can be done.

The result is a new life – as getstrong and kathrine9 say.

When I left, I was a mental/physical wreck; I could barely think for myself. I was SO afraid he would find me, alone away from any safe places/friends, and I’d be killed. When I moved into my house, I was ALONE..not just for a short awhile, but at night, in a bed ALONE..(except for my pets). I would lay awake, shiver and shake like a leaf, as the long-oppressed memories flooded from long hidden mind places. I didn’t sleep well for many nights to come. The image I had, during my daytime, was being a piece of driftwood, cast up on a beach.from being storm tossed for too long in stormy seas. Letting fully go, took far longer. No, I had NO desire to go back. The little things I came to enjoy took longer, too: taking baths/showers ALONE, having my coffee/reading time ALONE with No interference. Being able to make mistakes, without someone finding fault/screaming insults/name callings. Being able to talk to people face to face, without fear of being chewed out later when we were alone. Driving alone. Finding WHO I was (or what was left of me)..

regretfullymine – you have endured so much. I am so glad you are away from him. Thank you for sharing.

Detaching from my abusers felt incredibly painful (almost like an addiction) and once I let go, I had to rebuild my definition of trust.

monicapz – you nailed it. These involvements are highly addictive.

I am leaving my 27 1/2 yr marriage because I truly didn’t see anything all that awful until I was physically incompacitated with phyical pain, on pain meds & having 50 injections for pain. I never knew the silent treatment that started then for months at a time, even had a name. I knew nothing about passive/aggressive or covert narcissists until about 2 months ago. I am actually someone with a college masters degree & it must sound ridiculous that I never knew. I seriously thought I had the nicest ‘good guy’ in the world who would actually be great after the silent treatment. He would go as far as getting up any hour of the night & come down stairs & take care of me & sleep there even when he had to go to work. Yet, also use the silent treatment, not tell me why, and was totally unaffected that I was lonely, confused, distraught while in pain on the couch. He would watch tv and laugh at the funny shows with no care in the world. Then to find out that I NEVER said or did what he was punishing me for & hearing a quick apology like it was no big deal made me crazy. So did the use of telling me things were never said or done to make me crazy, making me believe he had no memory or couldn’t finish things cuz he said it was his recent diagnosis of ADHD. Yep- I believed it. He was home every night exactly the same time from work every day & never went any where on the weekends without me- ever.
Last summer I started to physically feel better & my mind was sharper & not controlled by how much pain I was in. I noticed he didn’t have any emotion that I was better, I could do everything in the house & enjoy our social life. I came to realize that no one who loves you could ever use not talking to you for months at a time for any reason. Seriously, I could not ignore my sweet cat for even 20 seconds if she was hurt & crying.
So, I typed in the internet’When your husband won’t talk to you for months’ & then read everything I could on silent abuse , passive/ aggressive & covert narcissists and it opened my eyes to the very very painful truth. I confronted him & basically he admitted it & then did the silent treatment again cuz I told him I don’t do abuse ever again or I am done.
So, now he refuses to leave & lives upstairs & I live downstairs because he abused me financially that I didn’t know till recently until our first hearing.
I do not have any communication with him or even look at him.
I believe he thinks I am bluffing about the legal separation because he has not received any thing legal yet. He thinks that I am just really angry, I guess.
This week he will have to sign for the certified court papers & our first hearing is at the end of the month.
This has been the hardest thing I have ever lived through & I have lived through a lot. My sisters & the rest of the small family have refused to believe he isn’t the ‘good guy’ and have never comforted me once or even act like it is happening. This has devestated me way more because I am basically all alone. I will not be around them unless I have to because them ignoring me these last 2 months after professing to care & love me all these years is too much for my already broken heart.
Sorry this is so long and I am leaving out so much. I know I wouldn’t be alive through this if I didn’t have my relationship with God, which can only account for me having this much strength all alone.
My heart goes out to all of you💕

smarter1310 – Welcome to Lovefraud. I am so sorry for your experience. Was he committing some type of fraud against you all these years – running through your money without you knowing it?

In any event, as painful as it is, I am glad you know the truth.

Hi smarter1310,

I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this after so many years. I have a similar question in my mind to what Donna may be thinking when she asked whether your husband was committing any kind of financial fraud all this time. You did mention that he “abused you financially” in some unspecified way. However, there’s another question behind that, which amounts to “What the heck has he been doing all these years, and did you notice anything in all that time?”

I feel reasonably safe in saying that most pathological abusers (I use the term “abuser” because it’s deliberately broad; not all chronic abusers are psychopathic by any means, or even necessarily have a Cluster B disorder); usually have some kind of behavior problem all along, even if their partners don’t notice it, can’t figure it out, or unfairly blame themselves for the problems in the relationship. Some abusers, psychopaths especially, are downright predatory, stripping their targets of money or simply exploiting them for whatever they want, or cheating wholesale while lying about everything under the sun. Other abusers are just aggressive, have anger problems or are badly behaved toward their partners for one reason or another. Partners often don’t understand “what’s wrong” until late in the relationship, when they learn about the nature of these pathologies.

However, once they do learn, I think most partners are able to look back on the relationship and see things that had always bothered them about the behavior, but they never figured out what was behind it until now.

That doesn’t seem to be what I’m hearing from you. At least, you did say you “truly didn’t see anything all that awful” until recently, which suggests there were some bad things happening now and again. Yet you also said you thought you had “the nicest good guy in the world.” So what gives? On the surface, it sounds as if your husband’s formerly “good” attitude changed abruptly for the worse when he had to deal with your pain problem. But how likely is that?

True, a great many abusers do or say nice things to fool their partners into thinking they “care” when they don’t. But your husband’s attitude seems puzzling, because I can’t imagine how it would “fool” anybody if he’s doing “caring” things on the one hand while refusing to speak to you at the same time. It almost sounds as if he feels obliged to do these acts of “care,” while simultaneously harboring resentment about this obligation, which he then proceeds to vent on you.

In my mind his particular mixture of behavior doesn’t seem to fit a definite pigeonhole. But he does sound a very cold person emotionally, and I’m wondering if he’s really always been that way throughout your marriage, but for some reason never gave you real cause to notice it. Here I’m wondering too about the attitudes of your sisters and other members of your family who I’m sorry to hear are not supportive of you. Unfortunately that happens all too often when outsiders have had no opportunity to observe someone’s abusive behavior and refuse to believe he or she could really act that way.

However, I’m wondering if there’s more to this: if, for instance, members of your own family have always been emotionally cold. If you were raised in an environment deprived of real emotional warmth and empathy, that could have seemed “normal” to you at the time, and if your husband was no different, you’d be less likely to notice the absence of something you’d never truly experienced in the first place.

It may be food for thought anyway, whether it’s the case or not. I hope things go well for you in dealing with all this. Take care!

Hi, if you read about passive/ aggressive & covert narcissist he fits it to a tee except for not criticizing in an open way. Mean things slipped out of his mouth which he panicked about & tried to cover up very quickly. It was everything to him to look like the ‘good guy’. I have read that in their early 50’s( which he is) it may get worse. I think that before I retired from teaching & with all my health problems & Pain ,I was not able to stop & think & figure out what is wrong. Had papers to grade at night, went to bed at 8, got up at 4 because it was a long drive & not feeling good. I guess that was all my mind could handle. Then I retired after 30 years & herniated my neck, caused pinched nerve damage down my right arm & hand, arthritis, fibromyalgia30 yrs, Tmj, sleep apnea( even though I am thin), & 10-15 debilitating migraines every month has been my life the last 8 yrs. Now, I had too much time to think and I could not suppress seeing something was very wrong but not until he started the silent abuse did I know -how wrong everything was. And I wanted answers from him and the more discussions we had, the angrier & depressed I was & the more pain I had. He did not ever seem sorry, even though he apologized all the time, ignored how hurt I was, smile at inappropriate times( very creepy)& I started to realize that this man has been faking empathy & all emotions except for self pity & anger. He admitted it & told me that’s why he was so good at being the ‘good guy’.
Yesterday it hit me. Everything I thought I loved about him was what I liked about myself that he was copying. Every time we helped anyone together was NEVER his idea. I can not remember one time he helped another human being on his own. The nice things he did for me was all manipulation to hide behind so I would not figure him out, that there is nothing inside of him. He has no friends or family any more that he has a relationship with.
I know why I didn’t figure this out. I grew up in a dysfunctional family with huge problems that my mother denied. My father was very quiet, strict, intelligent & very mean when he drank. My mother was another child my father had -basically. But there were so many great times too. So, no wonder denying problems with good times, being grateful, loving unconditionally seemed normal in my marriage. There was nothing normal about any relationship in my life, so I tried harder to be a good person and love as hard as I could with actions & grew closer to God. So, my family is denying my problems, but also denying me any compassion. I have always been there for them but they have never reciprocated. We are ages 58,60, & 62 , grownups that have lived through a lot & I don’t understand how they can not have learned compassion with actions. How could they not feel bad that I sat alone on Easter crying, that ending my marriage to someone I loved is breaking my heart, that I just found out it was abuse & the whole thing was an act & the secret bills & investments that I never knew about is devastating for anyone. I was not able to have children which they all had, so my sisters, their 3 kids (that I was so close to) and the 4 grandchildren (that I am even closer with) & of course their spouses- are my family that have been everything to me.
Someone pointed out to me that they can’t accept that the quiet good guy was all an act because they would have to accept that they too have been duped for the last 30 years of knowing him. I also know that they only have ever wanted me to listen when they had problems or just be fun. When I wanted to share what was hurting me, they turned their eyes away, interrupted me & never noticed that I stopped talking & didn’t finish.
Yikes! I am sharing too much & you all probably fell asleep reading this😂

smarter1310 – many people have shared your experience – you were too busy with your responsibilities of life to notice your husband’s behavior. And, the roots of your pain go back to your family of origin.

You have identified the issues. Now comes the healing journey. It will take time, it will sometimes be bumpy, but you can get through it.

Thank you Donna, I have read everything I could find & it is sad that there are so many! Unfortunately, we don’t know this info until we are in it or on our way out. It makes me nervous thinking about what other ‘evil’ I don’t know about that would help me avoid something like this. I do have a lot to heal but unfortunately the psychiatrists & psychologists in my area that I have seen never picked up on this.
My own medical Dr has told me that we do not have great mental health workers in my area & he is hard pressed to come up with one name for me. So, I have to heal with God’s help cuz the last 2 I went to would not let me talk, told me their problems & told me not to tell anyone. Yep, I could not make that up if I wanted to🙄

Hardest thing I ever did at first but feel stronger now

‘Detaching from the abuser in my life feels like …. a lot of anger.
Today I am changing my previous answer because I am so angry that I found papers in the closet about a lawsuit that he had told me he won. It was a lie. Not only did he have to pay the company that sued him but also for their lawyers & ALL court costs. Then I found another paper that those lawyers sued him cuz he never paid those lawyers & the court costs & he never showed up in court. They have been attaching his wages for the last 4 years.
All this time he has blamed me because of my medical bills that we were short on money or something little I bought. I am glad he is being served the legal separation papers today. I need to get a punching bag to get this anger out. I am also very angry at my family for not supporting me at all, never coming here once to listen, let me cry or offer compassion & horror for what I have just found out. I can not be around them now cuz it is as horrific as his silent treatment abuse for months was. Being ignored when hurting this bad is abusive to me.
No one gets to hurt me any more especially when they are fully aware that they are.

smarter I understand your anger. Use it in a constructive way.

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