27th June 2020 at 3:07 pm #107797
I am reading new posts quite frequently where considering material possessions are barriers to leaving an abusive relationship. I have copied and pasted a reply I put on to a thread some weeks ago to create it as a new topic. Hopefully it will help some ladies re-assess their situation to show that material things really don’t matter in life when life itself is at risk.
Some years ago, I went on an Equality and Diversity training course. I learned something very valuable that day that I would like to try and share here and explain it as well as I can without the visuals that were used. It went like this:
All of us hold dear our thoughts, values and beliefs. They are all individual to each of us, and we hold them in a particular order of what is most important. These may be things like our health, our family, our children, our friends, our job, our wealth, our status, our home, our security. We do not want to give them up, we will fight for them and defend them until our very last breath.
The course trainer had a number of cards in front of her with one word on each.
We were handed a set each and asked to prioritise them with the most important one to us at the top of the pile and work our way down. When we’d done that, we were to hold them close to our chest. This order of the cards was now what was most important to us in our lives.
And then something happens in life. A Significant Emotional Event. Something that makes us SEE things differently. The trainer threw her cards up in to the air and let them all come crashing down to the floor. This Significant Emotional Event had rocked her world, suddenly meaning everything important to her had dramatically changed.
Her immediate response to the change was to quickly gather the cards up off the floor and put them together again. Only now, the priorities were out of order. What once seemed so important was no longer AS important, something else had now taken priority.
To help explain this, the example she gave was as followed:
There was a family of mum, dad and two children. Mum and dad both worked and had well paid jobs. They both had new cars. Finances were good. The children had music lessons, went to dance classes, enjoyed sports. The family home was large, it was in a wealthy area. They gave off a good status of being well off. This was all very important to them, they had no wish to change anything.
Then one day, one of the children was diagnosed with a very rare cancer and was told they may not survive. The cards of this family were thrown up in to the air. This was their Significant Emotional Event and now in their lives they had to SEE things differently.
The mum, who worked full time in a job she loved that paid her a very good income, handed in her notice to care full time for her child. The job was no longer a bigger priority than the health of her child.
They both sold their cars for a cheaper ones so that they could use the money to pay for medication that was not funded by the NHS. A new, top of the range car was no longer of importance to them, this status did not matter any more.
They researched and sought treatment in other countries and found a source of treatment available in the US that the NHS did not offer in the UK. They fund raised for this, and sold their house and rented somewhere else in order to release the equity from their home to take their child to the US.
They adapted their lives, they managed differently, they all survived.
The above is a true story.
The point of this is to prove that ALL of us are capable of changing the way we live, but we will only do that when something happens that makes us SEE things differently.
I have talked before about boundaries, and every woman having her own personal boundary of what is acceptable. The day that boundary is breached may be the day of your Significant Emotional Event, and that may be the day that you finally admit to yourself that the man you love is an abuser, and your set of cards will get thrown up in to the air. What was once important to you is no longer the case. You will then do whatever you have to do to get out of that relationship. The fact you may have to downsize from a four bedroom house to a two bedroom flat is no longer a problem. The fact you may have to stop working full time and work part time to raise the children will no longer be an obstacle to stop you leaving. The fact that you want to live a life free from abuse and to protect your children from seeing it too will be the driving force that will make you do whatever it takes to leave that life behind.
If you are not yet ready to admit to yourself that the man you love is an abuser, how about asking yourself this?
Does this relationship make me happy?
If you’re not happy, it’s also okay to leave a relationship that does not make you happy.
If you are living in fear of leaving, be honest with yourself which ‘fear’ it is? Some fear is real, some fear is a state of mind. If your abuser has threatened you with violence, violence to family members, damage to property if you leave, then this fear is real. Leaving a relationship with this level of violence and threat is unlikely to be achieved without involving the Police.
If your fear is that “I won’t be able to live without him” / “I can’t live by myself” / “I don’t know how to manage finances” / “The children will never forgive me for taking them away from their (abusive) father” then this fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. It’s an invisible barrier to leaving. It is a barrier that has been created, maybe by him filling you with doubt, to stop you from leaving.
Sometimes, the things that are holding us back in life are all in our head. When we really put our minds to something, we can achieve it.
27th June 2020 at 7:35 pm #107844BeautifuldayParticipant
Thank you so much for this! I feel you have really given me strength and opened my eyes
I have a big problem with being attached to things i was never like this before. I think having the house together is the only barrier stopping me going. I worry too much about the what ifs. If I could I would pack a case and move to my mother’s which she said I can no problem but then I think what happens with the home then? He has such a bad credit rating that the bank advised me not to have a joint account with him but open a separate savings account in my name which he transfers half to each month, if i upped and left I would just want no contact but that wouldn’t happen as I still need to make sure he’s paying the money I yo the account etc and if there were missed payments everything is in my name:(
I would walk out the door in a shot if I could but feel tied because of the house. I couldn’t bare the thought of living with him while waiting to sell the house , the option I would like most is to just buy him out and get rid but even then I’m scared stiff of bringing up the subject of divorce or separation as I feel immense guilt i just feel confused, lost, empty, not knowing what to do. The saving grace is i dont have any children with him so I don’t lnow why I feel so trapped 🙁
27th June 2020 at 8:00 pm #107846
So glad this has helped you. Sometimes it helps to put things in to perspective in different ways.
I fully get all your worries and concerns, I had them too. When the abuse wasn’t too bad my abuser put all these obstacles in my way that made me think that getting away from him was virtually impossible. I hadn’t got the emotional strength to fight his ideas, and I was so mentally exhausted I didn’t even know where to start if I had. It all seemed to be so much of an uphill struggle.
What we try to do is look at the whole picture and figure it all out, but what we need to do is just do a bit of this jigsaw at a time. As soon as we put one bit of the plan in motion other things start to slip in to place. Once we get away from the relentless presence of our abuser we start to think more clearly, see things more rationally, plan things more effectively. It really is a case of dealing with one thing at a time, and that first ‘one thing’ is leaving. We plan how to leave, and then we leave.
After that, we have to start to look at the child contact arrangements and/or the financial issues; the buying out / selling the house / dividing the assets / getting him out and moving back in. And it’s not going to be plain sailing, we know that. Abusers will not compromise. They have to win at all costs, even if that means they take themselves down with us, so sometimes that means we both lose in some ways. In my case my abuser told me he would financially destroy me – and he did. But in order to do that he financially put himself in to a huge amount of debt too, something he could have avoided if he’d have just compromised. But to compromise would have allowed me a ‘win’.
My advice is not to plan too far ahead. Concentrate on the main thing first, which is our physical and emotional health and well being. I had tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt in order to free myself and my son from abuse – and it was worth every penny. Well over a decade later I am financially secure again and living a good life. I no longer have a ‘show home’ house or a sports car, but I realise those things were superficial anyway. What I do have is a life to live as I choose, peace and harmony. Oh, and I’ve learned never to combine finances with anyone ever again!
28th June 2020 at 10:50 am #107913AnonymousInactive
I love this! Thanks for posting it again. It’s spot on!!
30th June 2020 at 1:36 pm #108259
Bumping for the new women on the forum.xx
3rd August 2020 at 8:41 pm #111538
Bumping this really useful post. xx
11th August 2020 at 1:31 pm #111887
14th August 2020 at 7:17 pm #112113Lotus20Participant
Hi Wants to Help
Thank you for the insightful exercise. Yes that red line for me has been verbal or physical violence whilst I didn’t thinks of the emotional and psychological abuse and damage that much. The boundaries crossed when he threatened to take my baby away and that was the realization moment of my life that this is it and it has always been it but I didn’t want to see it untill I was threatened to take my baby away from and until his emotional abuse extended to use baby to control and manipulate me and that was my red line and he crossed it and now I know this now good for me but most of all not good for my baby,, I can not no longer go one step back and do this again and no more. I’m done now and yes we need to know what is the most valuable to us and that’s it and that’s all I want being free from abuse both me and my baby.
Thank you so much
17th August 2020 at 1:19 pm #112309PaleBlueStarParticipant
This has really helped me.
I had a Significant Emotional Event during lockdown when my husband abused our son so badly that poor child was screaming and totally distraught and then he turned on me – and then he sobbed on the floor and said that we had all done this to him and my little daughter comforted him and he contuned to rob her childhood.
The line has bene crossed.
The process has bene started.
The relationship makes me very unhappy. I am always in trouble and always scared and I can’t relax.
I can cope with a smaller house.
I need safety for me and my children. I will no longer believe all the promises.
2nd September 2020 at 10:53 am #113062
One of the most important threads I read that helped me SEE what really was important in life and helped me get out PDQ. For me it was my children. And what I had been holding onto which I thought was for my children, security, stability, financial security, was NOT important, the only thing that is is love and safety, if you have those you can survive anything. xx
2nd September 2020 at 4:45 pm #113064TickleribberParticipant
I can see the point of this exercise, but I’m really having trouble getting my head round living in a one bed flat in the worst part of town.
If I do that, there’s a lot of crime and vandalism, probably no pets allowed, and it sounds like a nightmare of another kind.
Also he’s not willing to leave, which gives me the option of either leaving him in charge of my biggest asset, as the very little house we own is paid for and then renting which I can’t afford to do, or trying to get a divorce through while living with him. Both very bad options.
Perhaps my OH just isn’t bad enough, yes he’s a really mean and cruel man but still I feel in like I’m in catch-22, won’t win whatever I do.
Might as well just do my own thing as children are grown up, and hope for the best.
who wants to grow old anyway. Don’t think I do!
27th June 2021 at 7:32 pm #127820
One year ago today I posted this, thought I’d give it a bump 😁
27th June 2021 at 8:16 pm #127822marmotParticipant
I totally agree that in a lot of unhappy marriages /relationships people stay together because of the fear of losing home, lifestyle, status etc. Things people have worked years and years to acquire, and which can vanish in financial proceedings.
I am not so sure it is the overwhelming factor in a usive relationships. Here the trauma bond has huge power. Women on average try to leave 7 times before they succeed. The traumatised brain simply can’t process and act.
Speaking personally I am a bit confused by the throwing cards in the air and then re ordering them. Every woman I know always has children and health top, no matter what re ordering. Yes I am sure finances can come v high up the list for people, but I would be shocked if they persistently dominated top spot.
Anyway given me something to mull over so interesting.
28th June 2021 at 8:15 am #127830beachhutParticipant
Thank you for re-posting this thread, it made so much sense to me, and so aptly described my situation, my SEE was him being arrested, so my cards were in complete disarray but are gradually being put into a new order with my well-being at the top.
Take care of you, beachhutXx
30th June 2021 at 1:15 am #127961CamelParticipant
I agree this is a very positive post. If we were faced with a significant event and had to put things in order of importance, of course we’d put safety above ornaments. But often there isn’t a significant event. We fantasise about leaving but can’t imagine what it looks like to start again.
There’s also this thing about fairness. Why should we leave with nothing after everything? Maybe we feel that we’ve earned them? We don’t always realise that ‘things’ don’t bring happiness. Or that not having these things will bring unhappiness. ‘We’re staying together for the sake of the solid oak dining table’ sounds ridiculous. Yet isn’t that what we’re saying?
6th July 2021 at 1:57 pm #128333soxyParticipant
I have found this post so helpful – thanks for bumping it up. I agree we do need that moment when we SEE what is really going on and is important and once you see it for what it is you can’t not see it. Or at least that’s how I feel. I also joint own but I really don’t care about it, it doesn’t mean anything because it’s all what he wants, i just live here and pay the bills. Still not made the move to go, but it has helped me in planning because I really don’t care. Thanks again for sharing this.
14th July 2021 at 7:24 pm #128808nbumblebeeParticipant
Wow. Im not sure how i feel after reading this.
15th July 2021 at 2:36 pm #128864ISOPeaceParticipant
This is an interesting thread. I totally agree that events can dramatically change our perspective on priorities but I think abuse makes things a lot more complicated. In my experience with abuse, it was more the case that the lower priority cards seemed higher up because my fear was looking for reasons to not leave. It was as if the trauma bond and all the manipulation jumbled everything up, so my perceived order of priority wasn’t my real order. I expect it’s also that our abusers manipulate/intimidate us into having certain things further up the priority list than we really want… like them at the top!
For me there wasn’t a single line crossed that changed my perspective. It was the cumulative impact of many crossed boundaries that made me realise I was losing my ability to look after myself and if I stayed, the best I could hope for would be clinging onto the brink of my breaking point.
In my experience, some of the fear was about things that could happen (like my ex saying he’d take the kids away), but because there was no zero risk option, I had to weigh up the risks. Staying meant certain misery and emotional damage; leaving meant the risk of bad things happening, but to some extent I could manage this by getting legal advice, going no contact etc. I realise that weighing up the risks will be different for everybody and depends on how ready we are to leave, especially for those at high risk of serious violence if the leave.
I agree that some of the fears are created by our minds. I also agree with marmot that this is a product of the abuse and trauma bonding, so it’s not easy to simply challenge the fears with rational thought. In my experience, the closer you are to being ready to leave, the easier it is to see the rational counter arguments. Bessel Van Der Kolk says in the Body Keeps the Score something like: no amount of insight helps until you feel safe enough to leave. Maybe in come cases a big act of violence/aggression makes leaving seem like a safer option than staying, so can be about relative safety?
I really value the prompt to think about my own experience. I also think it’s really helpful to see that while a most our experiences of abuse are very similar in a broad sense, our experiences of leaving and feeling ready to leave seem to be more varied.
15th July 2021 at 2:46 pm #128865
When you’re traumatised and abused you’re living though significant emotional events on a daily basis and you can’t even see the cards falling. It’s a good example for those who can rationalise but trauma robs us of that.
15th July 2021 at 3:03 pm #128868gettingtiredParticipant
The problem is it seems that abusers are very skilled at taking things to the very brink and then pulling back. In my experience the abuse can escalate to a point but then he may withdraw so I feel ‘safe’ again. There are plenty of incidents that have occurred which crossed my boundaries but it’s very easy to be pulled back in with genuine sounding apologies, future taking and false promises etc. X
15th July 2021 at 3:35 pm #128873
Yes I remember feeling I was hanging on by my fingernails on the brink of a breakdown then he would reach down and pull me up. They sense that breaking point.
15th July 2021 at 3:07 pm #128869marmotParticipant
I totally agree with KIP and ISO Peace. I know some ladies have found real insight and help through this thread and that is fantastic. But, deep breath, I am going to be honest here, it really upset me. I felt I was being told I was not leaving my abusive relationship because my priorities were wrong and that I was not putting my children and my health first. That made me so depressed and again sent me into a spiral of self blame. But I sat up. I thought no. My decision to stay with my abuser for years was nothing to do with finances. I desperately wanted to protect my children. The only times I stood up to him, even though so so terrified, were the times my children would be directly affected. Everything was negotiating a path to keep my children safe.
I stayed because I could see no way out. He controlled everything. My mind could not process options. My entire life was subservient obedience or else. My entire life was terrible anxiety and eggshells trying to please and avoid the rage, or abject terror and trying to save myself when he exploded.
There was no incident to change my mind. I simply realised that he was going to kill me one day and I had become resigned to it. So I tried standing up gently on a minor thing (except nothing minor with him). He spent months coercing me back into line. Lockdown saved me and allowed me to get free because we coincidentally were apart. If not, maybe I would not be here now.
My priorities never changed throughout the relationship. Finances and status were not in my mind. Survival and trauma bond was all.
Prior to my abusive relationship, I did have a split from a long term ordinary relationship and yes priorities apply there. It is a balancing exercise. Totally different experience for me from an abusive relationship where my powers to rationally process were destroyed.
I am going to be utterly utterly honest here and mean no offence. For me, this thread devalued and upset me. I totally get that others will find it supportive and positive. We are all different.
15th July 2021 at 3:43 pm #128876
Hey marmot, I’m sorry this thread upset you. We are many women from many different backgrounds and experiences and with abuse one size doesn’t fit all. It’s good though that you recognise that this thread wasn’t your experience and now you can see that it would have been the experience of others. Please don’t let it affect you negatively. No one on here will ever judge the actions we took to keep ourselves and our children safe. We all lived in survival mode and trauma robs us of our ability to rationalise and abuse removes any choice from us. It’s not like we choose to stay. We simply don’t have a choice to do anything. You articulate it very well and my experience was very similar to yours. A significant event outside abuse for me simply added to the stress and anxiety. And no doubt my abuser would see that significant event and use it against me x chin up. Onwards and upwards. Good riddance to bad rubbish x
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