Unfortunately, the controlling behavior of an abuser will often continue even after a woman leaves the abusive relationship. Even with the finality of a divorce, she may find that the games continue on as her ex strives to maintain control. And if that control is no longer possible, then he'll do everything he can make sure she never forgets him.
If this sounds all too familiar to your situation, the article below offers insight on the abuser's mindset and tips on how you can deal with it.
We have been through all the hurtful, horrible things our abusers have done to us... and possibly our children, too. We reached our limit, said ENOUGH and got out. This is wonderful, FREEDOM feels great. Then the "new" set of games begin. These can be every bit as confusing and hard to deal with, especially when we are a bundle of emotions and trying to heal, to start with.
Once we leave, our abusers will do whatever they can think of to try to gain back some control over us. They NEED a victim. They need someone to have power over and they will sink to any level to try to continue to hurt us, or promise us anything to get us back.
In their minds we are their belongings, they don't want to admit when it is over, they don't want to feel they lost us. They are so sure of their power over us, they feel if they can say and do everything we want to hear and see; we will go back to them. Sadly enough, this often works.
When we first leave, so many emotions can surface. Emotions we couldn't feel while we were with our abusers. More often than not, there is a sense of loss. The end of a relationship, whether good or bad - gives feelings similar to the death of a person very close to us. We have grieving to deal with. We lost a dream, our hopes, our plans of growing old together, etc. There is a lot to grieve over.
We went into this relationship thinking this was the right person for us. We were in love with them. Most of us changed our entire lives for this person. Made them our center, everything we did was to make them happy, to adjust to their wants or demands. In the process of that, we lost ourselves. We became what they wanted us to be. We gave up things important to us or people they didn't want us around. You become very accustomed to living for them. They have worked very hard to get us to that point.
Then we are FREE, able to do whatever we want. It takes time for that to sink in. They usually have us unsure of our own choices, now we have to make all the choices. Everything is up to us now. Our minds are like a whirlwind, trying to sort it all out, plus trying to grieve and heal at the same time.
Then they call. Says they LOVE you, misses you, knows they were wrong and is so sorry. They never meant to hurt you. Can't we work it out, maybe we could try one more time and go to counseling this time? They'll promise to change, quit drinking or doing drugs. They'll spend more time with you and the kids. They'll communicate more and let you be part of decisions. They will listen when YOU speak and be more caring and understanding. Etc., etc., etc.
These are ALL lies. We have all heard them, probably too many times. I think they sell this right next to the "Pick-up Lines" book! The sad part is we want to believe them. We want it to be true. We want our dream back, that person they used to be in the beginning. And often, we go back. I did, more than once. The abuse escalated and he thought he could get away with anything. He was wrong...
We have to be honest with ourselves, we know they won't change. We have to remember why we left and stay strong. I decided, after leaving and falling for his sweet talk, I'd do things differently this time. When I got this last RO, I made a promise to myself, for ME. I would have No Contact at all with him. Not on the phone, in person, not even a letter. That was on March 2nd of this year and I have held that promise as the most important thing I can do, for me and my daughter. It has worked!
This can be very hard and hurtful to deal with. Our children become innocent pawns. They may tell them mom or dad's keeping me away, its mom's or dad's fault, I really want to be with you all the time, if mom or dad would change their mind...
Our children don't understand this manipulation. They want to believe all this, too. They can unknowingly become a partner in the manipulation. Our children may get angry at us, even turn on us - for making mom/dad leave.
Trying to deal with this can be heartbreaking. Our children mean everything to us. We want them to understand and realize all the facts behind our decisions, but they can't. Most of the time they are too young and immature to even begin to comprehend these issues. We as adults, having lived through it, have a hard time understanding. We can't expect our children to either.
Our abuser may turn into the "model" parent after divorce; spending time with the children, either in visits, on the phone, writing letters and a lot of times, trying to buy their way to their hearts. Big gifts mom/dad can't afford anymore - is a favorite with many of them. This can make us feel very intimidated and defeated.
We have to remember money can NOT buy love. Our children will in time, as they grow older and wiser, see through all these games. Then they will appreciate us even more, for being there and being the constant in their lives. Unconditional love and a good abuse-free home will be the greatest gift they will ever receive from us.
They may go the opposite, ignoring the children and acting like they don't even exist. Not paying the child support, because they are angry at our leaving, thinking this is a way to hurt us and get back at us. This can be devastating to the kids and put us in financial turmoil. We need to have Child Support Enforcement make them pay their child support. In the meantime, the State can assist you with cash assistance, food stamps and Medicaid. They can also get you and your children into counseling to deal with these feelings, which can be a great help.
If none of this gets to us, they may bring mutual friends or family into the picture. Getting them to phone or drop by. Most of the time these people didn't know or realize there was abuse going on to begin with so, they will usually speak highly of the abuser. They might say what a good provider they were, how good looking they were, what a great sense of humor they had, how we seemed like the perfect couple, etc. It could be anything to get us thinking of their good points. We know the whole story, though and have to remember that.
They may have someone join in with harassing us; keeping us on edge with hang-up phone calls, or prank calls. Log every one of them, with the time and date. These need to be reported to the police and the phone company. They can trace these calls and after 3 traces, can file charges on anyone, who is making them. A lot of times they use the Caller ID number block, in these cases the police will put a tracer on your line. They can and will find and prosecute them.
Maybe they will try to keep us in fear with actual threats or more subtle ways like driving by our houses, leaving items so we'll know they were there. They might send strange gifts through the mail, with no return address. All these things are to keep some power over us. It keeps us their victim, which they need to have. All these things need to be documented and reported to the police. We have to let them know we will not be their victim or let them play their games with us.
When all else fails, they may try to get to us through the courts. This can affect us both emotionally and financially, not to mention be on-going and exhausting.
All these games mentioned and many others are all to keep some form of power and control over us. How we react and deal with these situations will determine the outcome. Our own feelings are the core. We can choose to stop them, or let it continue. Stopping them will not happen overnight, it will take time. But, there are plenty things we can do to make our situations better. Changing to a new unlisted phone number, moving if need be and setting up supervised visits at a county office, so they don't know where we live.
The most important thing is to never second guess yourself. We made a big decision, for many important reasons. Mainly to be SAFE and FREE, and to break the cycle for our children, so they could have happy, productive lives. Once we are out, we need to follow through. Document everything and report any unwanted activity to the police. Press charges when you can, and don't feel sorry for them. These are choices the abuser is making, to try to keep us off balance. How we choose to deal with this is the difference between staying a victim and being a SURVIVOR.
No the "game" playing doesn't always stop once we leave - it takes on many different forms. All of which can cause us emotional distress, while we are already trying to heal. We have to deal with it all, being sure of ourselves and with a positive attitude. Knowing we are the ones who are right and that the abuser is at fault. The truth will, in time, set you free! When you find you need support, call a friend or a counselor to help get you through it. When you need some encouragement or advice, we are always here for you! Most of all, stay Strong and Safe and know you are not at fault!
Return to top of Controlling Behavior
Escaping an abusive relationship is never easy due to financial issues and the threat of being physically attacked. On top of this, an abused woman often lacks the confidence necessary to break free because of the systematic erosion of her self-esteem at the hands of her abuser.
For more information about controlling behavior and the effects of abuse, read the following articles: