Don’t complain about your Ex!

I recently joined Tinder, the free dating app. It seems to have taken the world by storm, or at least I’m hearing about it more and more and in a more positive light. The rumour is that it’s no longer the sleazy pick up joint that it once was, and there may be actually be some distinguished gentlemen out there looking for a sophisticated woman like me! Could I really meet my next soul mate on Tinder? It was worth a try! So I tentatively uploaded my profile and began swiping! Basically, you either like or reject a person based on looks. Superficial it is to some, but I think how a person chooses to represent themselves in these photographs can be more insightful than first meets the eye. 

So we have “John 45” who is wearing sunglasses and is shirtless. He proudly displays his “sexy” torso and flexes his “awesome” biceps. Wow, I gasp! This guy loves himself more than he could ever love me. Reject! Next, “Reg 43”, sitting on his beloved, shiny motorbike. Yawn! Definitely not my kind of thing. Onwards, “Ivan 43″, photo is cropped to remove someone, but strands of long, blond hair are just visible. Tacky beyond belief! How difficult is it to take a photo of yourself these days? It’s called a feckin selfie! Moving swiftly on to ” Mr Serial Killer”, no, of course that’s not his real name. I actually can’t remember his name, only his horrible, staring eyes and cold, icy gaze. Maybe he thinks this is somehow sexy or attractive? Or maybe he really is a psychopath! Yikes, no thanks, I’d rather be forever single. But then, Hello! “Hans 45” has a warm, kindly smile, and he has even written a few lines about finding his soul mate. This is definitely a step in the right direction, so I ‘like’ Hans 45 and lo and behold we’re a match! Hooray! A fleeting moment of euphoria arises in me and Hans and I begin chatting. So far so good, no sleaziness, just the usual getting-to-know-each-other questions. I establish that he is separated, a loving father, has a job, seems interested in getting to know me and not interested in one night stands. I think this guy may just be worthy of meeting in person, so off I go on a Tinder-arranged date to meet him. Hans passes the first test, which is that he actually closely resembles his profile photo, and is therefore instantly recognisable. No nightmare scenario of meeting someone who turns out to be twenty years older than I’m expecting.  We meet in a nice cosy, Irish-type bar and I notice that he is much shorter than I like, but I try to stay open-minded because he has that warm smile and he puts me at ease by ordering and paying for the drinks. Call me old-fashioned, but a girl likes to feel that she’s worthy of being bought a drink and it’s really NOTHING to do with money. It communicates a feeling of being special and valued. Well done, Hans! We chat happily about lots of topics easily, but he keeps staring and gazing at me, and it makes me feel a little uncomfortable, so I awkwardly look away, and then he comments on my shyness and facial expressions. Now that’s a little irritating. Just stop staring at me!

So as always, I’m curious to know why this guy is single. Why did his marriage breakdown? It’s important to me to know if he’s done some self-reflecting because I know my soul mate will have done his inner work on HIMSELF. At my stage in life, I certainly want and expect someone with baggage, lots of it in fact. But, I expect that baggage to have shaped him into something wise, and that he’s become the best version of himself. If he’s made mistakes, I want him to admit to them, at least to himself and not repeat these mistakes with me! I want him to show vulnerability, compassion and understanding for others.  It’s very endearing when you look in someone’s eyes and see their authentic self and not feeling the need to hide behind a mask.

I smile understandingly as he begins to tell me that his wife just announced one day that she no longer loved him, and wanted out. Really? I thought. I said there must have been some clues along the way, surely. No, he says, but later admitted that they had done couple therapy for three years. So not totally out of the blue then after all. He boasted that he had the family home now and that I might come by one time to enjoy the romantic log fire. But any fire that was burning in me was definitely put out when he admitted that he put his ex out of the family home, because she couldn’t afford it on her part-time salary. She had been bringing up the kids, he said, but she deserved this treatment, as it was her decision to end the marriage. In other words it was all her fault. Alarm bells were ringing and as much as I tried to be on his side, I just couldn’t. The final straw came when he announced that he was looking for an au pair to take care of his kids whilst he was at work, as he no longer wanted his ex, the children’s mother, to do this when it was his “time” to be with the kids (they had adopted a 50:50 model) and I assume that he did not want the mother of his children having more time than he did.  He would rather trust a stranger. He was frustrated that she cried when he told her this. Of course, I have no idea where the “truth” lies between this couple, but I left the date not feeling good. I didn’t comment, but wondered how the children would feel about having their own mother sidelined for a nanny or au pair. At the end of the date, Hans made it clear that he really wanted to see me again. However, early that morning I felt very uneasy about this situation and decided that I definitely could not meet him again.  It was clear that this woman whom I did not know had hurt him, dented his ego and now he was getting his revenge by wielding his financial power, and removing the children from her care. Horrific. I declined the second date with Hans and wished him well, but didn’t tell him the real reason. Maybe I should have, but I doubt he would have listened anyway. Meanwhile back to swiping on Tinder again…

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Almost-new

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I have no plans to have any more children, so I thought it would be great to have a clear-out of baby furniture and create more space for the new. I could have tried selling it but I decided to donate it to the refuge that looked after me and my children. For me, it is my way of fulfilling a desire to “give back” and heal old emotional wounds. I feel really uplifted as the items will go to a woman and her three-month old baby, who have just moved out of the refuge and in to their new appartement. I consciously only gave items that were in excellent condition and gave them a good clean, so that they looked almost-new. There is really nothing more degrading than the feeling of having to accept other people’s old junk because you have nothing better. It is humiliating and is not good for a woman’s self-esteem, when it is probably at an all time low anyway.

I am extremely grateful to all the people who helped me when I was homeless, had no money, no clothes and the children had none of their toys. When I left my comfortable, large home five years ago, my children and I could take only the things that we could carry with us. I left my clothes and furniture all behind in order to literally escape. When you leave such a situation, taking any excess baggage just weighs you down and you just need to get yourself and your children to a safe place. Once we were in the women’s refuge, I was too terrified and traumatised to go shopping or to return to my house to pick up my belongings, not forgetting that my bank account had been emptied! For the first time in my life I felt like I was a refugee and it was a further trauma on top of everything else. I remember it was spring time and the weather suddenly turned warm and sunny. This was lovely but all I had was my warm, winter boots and I was uncomfortable. A very kind woman also staying in the refuge took pity on me and insisted on giving me her spare pair of sandals. I am by no means a fashionista, however I have to admit that I am a bit of a fuss-pot regarding second-hand shoes. So when a pair of old-fashioned, well-worn sandals were produced, my heart sank. I know I may sound ungrateful to some, but it’s just how I honestly felt at that moment that on top of everything I had gone through, here I was reduced to wearing someone else’s old, smelly shoes.

Luckily after just three weeks in the refuge, an apartment was found for me and the children to move in to. I was extremely relieved to have somewhere to call home, but of course we had nothing to furnish this apartment with and no money to buy anything. A friend of mine, Esther had already brought over some summer clothes for me and some toys for my children. She then emailed round a couple of contacts, who emailed round their contacts and made an anonymous appeal on our behalf. The response was overwhelming and within a few days people were dropping off items such as: wardrobes (with a handy man to rebuild them), kettle, cutlery, crockery, bed linen, books and toys. On the one hand I was  so deeply hurt that I had ‘lost’ all of my former possessions, yet I could see the generosity and kindness in humanity by all these people who had donated their items to us. After a few weeks of living in our new apartment, the children and I still had no sofa. I was hoping that my lawyer would be able to get a court order for me to retrieve some of my things. However, once we came to court all that I was able to secure was my clothing and the rest of our items were supposed to be shared out a later date. I was disappointed as I had hoped to reclaim my own sofa and it seemed so unfair that my husband was living in an affluent home while the children and I had to make do with charity. However, shortly after this, my friend Lisa came to the rescue, hiring a van and dropping off two red sofas which she no longer needed. These acts of generosity certainly lifted my spirits at a really hellish time in my life, and I will forever hold these people in high regard for not turning a blind-eye to my situation.

Five years later and I am still using some of the household items that were donated to me. Interestingly, my ex never did give me any of our furniture back, he used this to try to punish me for leaving him. We never discussed who should get what, nothing was ever fairly shared out. In the end, I got to the point of realising that I would not be controlled or dependant on him for anything anymore. The prospect of creating a new, shiny future became much more appealing and I realised that I did not really want this old ‘stuff’ anyway. It was time to make a new home for me and my children, so that’s what I did!

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Are you a victim of Gaslighting?

Gaslighting

Are you in a relationship which leaves you questioning your sanity? I read this article on Gaslighting, featured in the link a few months ago and it immediately grabbed my attention. Awesome to learn that it even has a label! I wish that I would’ve known about gaslighting 10 years ago because had I been able to spot this form of very subtle, yet highly manipulative behaviour, it would have saved me from so much suffering and self-doubt. I hope the article on gaslighting will give you an “aha” moment, as it did me when I first stumbled across it. It now makes perfect sense why my ex would happily let me go alone to couple therapy – after all, I was the one with the problem. Or the many times that he would deny conversations that we had existed. Or the way he would take a small grain of truth and twist it into something totally unrecognisable and present it as fact. So much so that you are left very confused and thinking maybe I have got it all wrong!  If any of this resonates with you, chances are you are not wrong, nor are you crazy but you probably have been subjected to gaslighting! According to the article:

The term comes from the 1944 MGM film, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. Bergman’s husband in the film, played by Charles Boyer, wants to get his hands on her jewelry. He realizes he can accomplish this by having her certified as insane and hauled off to a mental institution. To pull of this task, he intentionally sets the gaslights in their home to flicker off and on, and every time Bergman’s character reacts to it, he tells her she’s just seeing things. In this setting, a gaslighter is someone who presents false information to alter the victim’s perception of him or herself.

I now realise that I could fill a whole book with all the instances of being gaslit! For today, the one example that springs to mind occurred around 7 years ago when my family moved from my country to my husband’s country to start a new and happier life. I was looking for a job in my profession as a teacher. As a family, we desperately needed to start earning and It was expected that I should look for a job because I had always been the bread winner. At this point we had been married for 8 years and my husband had spent this time busying himself with various money-making schemes (which he always sabotaged) alongside being a half-hearted student. So there we were, new immigrants with lots of huge uncertainties and I was nervously preparing my CV (resume). I was perhaps expecting a little encouragement, but instead I remember being quite shocked by his reaction. He said to me quite seriously that no-one would really want to employ me! According to him my qualifications and work experience were just typical of thousands of other applicants and I was nothing special! My initial reaction was that this was harsh criticism to say the least, and I was angry at this very unfair criticism and I went into defence mode. He retaliated of course with more criticism and “evidence” of my shortcomings. But interestingly, this is where the gaslighting effect really worked. I later started to think that he may have a point. We all know that It can be tricky securing a new job and so I started to put myself down and minimised my qualifications and my unique experiences that I had to offer, his criticisms still ringing in my ears. At this point in time, I was newly living in a foreign country and I was slightly nervous about being able to just slot in to a totally new environment. I was absolutely more vulnerable.  I also believed that he must be right because it was vital that one of us needed to get a job in order for the family to survive. It would therefore be absurd that he would deliberately sabotage my chances of securing a job, wouldn’t it? That would have been just crazy! For a while, I also held the false belief that my husband wanted the best for me and supported me. Of course when someone says something so negative and discouraging to you, warning bells should be ringing loud and clear. The warning bells for me did ring but I dismissed them. I ignored my own intuition and truth, as I did many times in this relationship, to my detriment.

So you may be wondering why did he do his best to sabotage my chances of finding a good job, putting the whole family at risk. I will never really know for sure but I now believe that along the way, something went badly wrong with his way of thinking. In reality, because of the poor choices he made, he knew that deep down HE was nothing special. He definitely had lots of potential and coupled with coming from a privileged background he also had many opportunities, but he wasted everyone of them. Therefore when we moved to his home territory, he didn’t want anyone to notice that he wasn’t capable of getting a job, yet his wife was. Also, It was easier for him to mislead people about his “achievements”  when we lived far away from his friends and family. I believe he suffers from Narcissisitic personality disorder and as a narcisist, he always had to be more knowledgeable, superior and the best at everything. But the truth was that despite being academically very able, his arrogance prevented him from ever finishing university or being able to work under someone – therefore when he made those negative, damaging comments to me, he had a long pattern of starting something then not completing it. He would argue with experts which was embarassing and would opt out of any situation in which he thought he might “lose” or come out second best. This resulted in a pattern of perpetually walking away from things, developing no inner strength.

I first really noticed this destructive pattern when he abruptly decided to quit his first university course after studying for 3 years.  At the time I tried to convince him to complete the final module, so that he could at least graduate with a basic degree but he would not be persuaded. He always had lots of “evidence” to back up his ideas: on this occasion a whole string of allegations to suggest the university were highly incompetent. He could also be very charming and convincing and would beat you down with his arguments, so I was silenced and we never talked about it again. I recently had a conversation with a friend of his who thought that he did graduate from this university. Did the friend get it wrong, or was he also deliberately misled? The really annoying thing is that his friend was doubting my account of the situation – that’s how convincing gaslighters can be! To date, he has now “studied” for 9 years and has changed universities and courses many times. In addition, he started many businesses but never put in the hard work to make them a success. As a consequence he has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of our money (we lost our family home) but also money from his friends and family. Typically he chooses to blame everyone but himself. He also chooses to put others down in an attempt to make himself feel better about his own inadequacies. I feel pity for him that he can not live an authentic life and it’s such a tragic waste.

Thankfully, for me education is powerful and I hope that the next time someone tries to gaslight me I will be able to recognise it and then act upon it positively.  I don’t want to repeat the pattern in any future relationships. My soul’s lesson here must surely be to always follow my inner compass and not let other people’s egos distract me.

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http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/democratic-congresswoman-uses-steak-vodka-and-caviar-to-hamm

I’d really love to visit the USA again sometime, infact, you could say it would be a dream holiday for me, but I’m feeling quite grateful that I don’t actually live there! Before offending any of my US cousins, I’d like to explain why i’ve come to this conclusion. I am a fan of the author Marianne Williamson, from California and on her facebook page today, she posted the above link regarding the cut in food stamps. I found this really shocking! Forcing other fellow human beings, especially our children into poverty is not only narrow-minded and short-sighted but false economy. It really helps no-one. In the long run, we all know that poverty leads to suffering and desperation and desperate people do desperate things, leading to a rise in social problems such as drug and alcohol abuse and crime.  Who wants to live in a society full of victims and based on fear? Even if you don’t really care about the suffering of others and hold the belief that “they probably deserved it anyway”, don’t be foolish enough to think that by saving this money that it will make your society a better place to be. It doesn’t take a genius, or me for that matter, to point out that an increase in crime correlates, not only to heightened fear, but an increase on spending for more private security, policing, courts and prisons! Doesn’t sound like a win:win to me. It’s just stupidity personified.

This story also resonates with me in a very personal way, as I turned to the state for assistance. Previously, I never thought that I would be in such a situation and I learned that if It could happen to me, it could happen to anyone. The experience certainly humbled me and I hope that I’ve learned my lesson not to be so judgemental of others. The wiser I become, the more I realise what little I really do know! I consider myself to have come from a “good”, respectable family. I graduated from University and I have a profession, as do my parents and siblings. So how did I end up becoming utterly dependant on the equivalent of the US food stamps? When I left my abusive husband almost 5 years ago, I left with one suitcase and my 2 very young children. Overnight we became homeless, my ex emptied my bank account, and I had just enough clothes for the three of us for a couple of days. Can you imagine? Suddenly, after being relatively well off, we had absolutely nothing! At that time, we had only been in Europe for 2 years, but because my ex exercised his rights, I was legally unable to return to my family, with my children to my home country where I would have received the emotional and financial support of my family. This was very frustrating to say the least, as my ex did not (officially) work, therefore the courts were not able to force him into paying up. You can’t get blood out of a stone and all that. Consequently, we ended up at the Welfare Office where we were provided with health care, dental care, housing, food, toiletries and clothing! All our immediate, basic needs were met, so I’m grateful to all those forward-thinking and compassionate politicians. I found myself in a situation which I didn’t expect, nor would I have chosen, and although I grieved for the many material things that I had lost, I actually found myself feeling quite grateful, relieved, and hopeful. This financial support eased some of the pressures on me and meant that my spirit could start to heal. Had I been forced back to work at this time, I have no doubt that my children would have really suffered as I did not have the inner resources to cope with so many demands at that time. I really had to take things one step at a time. There I was with a small baby and a small child, alone and in a foreign country with a different language – it was scary!!! Getting back to work in such a hellish situation would have been totally overwhelming. Moreover, because of the psychological abuse which we were subjected to, the children and I were also very traumatised by our experiences and they needed me more than ever at this time. Our spirits needed to heal, as they were so battered and bruised. Having been given this financial safety net, my children and I have had the chance to begin getting back on our feet and leading a more normal life. I recently started my own business and it feels rewarding getting back into the work force. I am proud of myself as a mother because against the odds, I have been able to provide a stable and loving environment for my 2 children. The children see me having to face adversity, but also seeing me find a way through the challenges, as opposed to remaining a victim. I hope that my children will also learn something positive from this adversity and it will shape them positively as they grow up into adulthood.

Of course some critics would argue that if parents paid child support there would be no need for these state hand-outs, saving the tax payer a fortune. I understand this view point totally and I wish that there was a better way of getting irresponsible people to behave responsibly. But until a cure for irresponsibilty is found, I am just grateful that my children were not penalised by society for having the misfortune of being born into the circumstances that they found themselves. Thank you Universe!

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It’s all about control!

People often question naively why women stay in abusive relationships. The answer is simple: you are trapped and terrified. In my case I was afraid that I would lose my children. This was the big threat which my ex-husband repeatedly used against me and it chilled me to the bone. I knew that I could never leave without my children, so for a long time I hoped things would get better and stayed. After accepting that he would never change and plucking up the courage to walk away, the story was far from over. Infact it had only really begun! Typically, he refused to let us leave – talk about control!  So I nervously called the police with my mobile phone which I had deliberately put in my pocket. The event was highly traumatic and I will blog about that later. But for now, the police came and thankfully they correctly read the situation and permitted the children and I to go. They even waited with him for an hour so that he couldn’t follow us. Me and my children ended up in a Women’s refuge which I was really nervous about, but it turned out to be  a blessing. At the refuge we received lots of emotional and practical support such as finding somewhere to live and sorting state finances to live on. The biggest advantage also was that we were protected there by experienced and professional workers who understood the challenges of abused women. I have a loving family but because they lived in a different country, my husband used the law to stop me staying with them – that’s why the refuge was also neccessary. But as I said, the refuge was very supportive and they even let my mother come and stay with us because of the circumstances. The following is a list of the ways in which my husband tried to have his own way:

  • Refusing to let us leave
  • Refusing to give me my clothes/belongings
  • Refusing to give me the children’s clothes and toys
  • Refusing to split our furniture
  • Clearing my bank account
  • Filing for 100% custody of our children – Unsuucessfully
  • Insisting that children should go to a foster family, when he didn’t get custody – unsuccessfully
  • successfully having the children’s passports confiscated
  • Refusing to let us travel to family who lived overseas – thank goodness for Skype!
  • Lying to social services claiming that I was suicidal & under psychiatric care
  • Fabricating stories to suggest that I was an incompetent mother
  • Refusing to get a job
  • Refusing to pay child support
  • Taking me to private criminal court for speaking out about the Domestic Abuse – case was dropped
  • Refusing to cooperate and sell our house in order that I can pay my legal costs
  • Exploiting every and any legal technicality to avoid divorcing me

An abusive, controlling man (or woman) will do everything to try and stay in control and this can be very scary, but this actually leads to their downfall as in time they will slip up and show their true colours to the world. I urge anyone in such a relationship to contact women’s aid or equivalent. There you will find sympathetic workers who are experienced in dealing with these issues and you will get practical and emotional support – I could not have done this alone!!!

Although it was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do and I was petrified, I have never regretted leaving ever! I would have certainly become very depressed or worse had I stayed. Now I have hope, freedom and my spirit can thrive again. I found a brilliant therapist and I am becoming stronger and re-discovering the real me which would have never ever happened had I stayed in such an awful relationship. The kids still see their father regularly and he tries to bully them and wants 100% control over them, but he is shooting himself in the foot, as they are now less inclined to visit him.  My kids and I have had to deal with so much adversity, he tried to eliminate me from their lives, but it just made our bond stronger.  We have now created a house full of fun, laughter and love and I know that when they are with me they are genuinely happy and Im sure that you will agree that that’s all that really matters.

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Clara Hinton – a modern day Heroine

 For the past few months I have been avidly following the blog of Clara Hinton – Married to a Pedophile.  And although I have never met Clara in person, I am so in awe and inspired by her courage and spirit. She is also an amazing mother to eleven children – her son Chris, described her as a saint! She also has lots more grand children. Over the years, Clara suffered terrible psychological abuse at the hands of her preacher/pedophile husband, John. At the same time, he led a secret life which involved sexually abusing children in his parish. Clara’s abuse lasted for around 40 years until she plucked up the courage to leave. Of course that was not the end of the story because controlling, abusive men never just let their wives walk away peacefully or seek a win: win compromise. They just can’t do it and it is really because they are sick and need help! But due to the very nature of this illness, they won’t admit to themselves that they need help and continue to turn on others, usually those who are closest to them.

Clara’s husband was a well respected Preacher and pillar of the society, and no-one initially could believe that he was capable of such hideous behaviour, as his public persona was totally different to his secret, dark side.

Here is the link to Clara’s blog: http://findingahealingplace.wordpress.com

I urge everyone to read Clara’s blog for her own in-depth account. Thankfully, Clara’s husband is safely behind bars now for abusing children so the children are now safe from him. Clara’s family really are an inspiration to society because of their strength of spirit and authenticity. They are now left picking up the pieces of the devastation that has been left behind, but they are doing so in such a dignified and sophisticated manner. Clara & her son Chris’ authenticity have inspired me to try do the same when faced with a really difficult life situation.

As you can see, this story has really got my attention and resonates often with me in a very personal way, as I too was married to a psychologically abusive man. Although thankfuly he is not a pedophile, he is however a deeply damaged person who uses control, manipulation and threats to try and keep his weird and warped agenda together. After seeking the advice of experts, I now believe that he suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Like Clara’s husband John, in public my husband could not be more charming, charismatic and helpful. But look a little more closely and there are many red flags which should warn others of such dangerous personalities. This blog is really difficult for me to write as it brings up lots of emotional pain to the surface. But if my story, like Clara’s can help and educate other young men and women about the signs, then hopefully it will help people avoid or be able to get out of these highly damaging relationships much sooner than Clara and I were able to. We all deserve to live free and authentic lives, so trust your vibes people!

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Oh, the shame of it!

I recently read and was inspired by Dr Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly on her research into shame. In the book She says:

“Shame needs 3 things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence and judgement”

In the aftermath of leaving an abusive relationship there are lots of feelings and emotions that arise and certainly shame is high amongst them. How could I have let this happen to me? Being an abused wife does not really fit the idea of who I thought I would become, although it is definitely not the end of the story!  I certainly experienced lots of secrecy, silence & judgement perpetrated by myself as well as others. But I think accepting the situation and talking about this may offer some sort of healing for me and bring more understanding for others to hopefully avoid these types of relationships.

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