Dear Single Mom and Dads,
What do you do when you have to co-parent with someone who thrives off of tormenting, taunting, and controlling you? If you have found any successful steps of action please leave your thoughts in the comments. I feel angry and violated. I feel shame and guilt. These are not easy things to talk about. I would rather keep them to myself. I am scared to share my story and journey with people who have not experienced physical or emotional abuse. However, my soul will not rest until I write these words. God has spoken clearly to my heart that the only way to become a true survivor, a hero no longer a victim, and help others do the same is to share my story.
It was my daughter’s birthday recently. Our court ordered holiday schedule allows for the “custodial” parent, me, on odd years, to spend the entire birthday with my daughter. Her Father in odd years gets to celebrate with her on the day “before or after the actual birth date.”
To make a long story short the court order was not followed. The only time I could get him to agree to let me pick her up was at 3 pm on her birthday. When I got there he demanded that I bring her back by 9pm. I both showed and read to him the actual court documents and his response to me was, “You need to ask me for permission to take our daughter, or call the police and make them do it.”
To you, that may seem like a no brainer. Ask him for permission, take your daughter, and get the hell out of there. To me, it was something much, much deeper.
When I was married to him, I had to ask permission to do everything or risk explosive and violent episodes of anger, or worse, passive aggressive episodes that left me in constant fear of a violent explosion. The constant fearful submissions made me hate myself and sent me into a deep depression. I was in denial of exactly how bad it was. I tried being even more vulnerable than I already felt and told him how small his comments made feel. On other occasions I expressed that I constantly felt like I was worthless because of his racist, sexist and generally derogatory comments. Most of the time he would just laugh at me, or say sorry and then humiliate me in front of his friends or family. There were even times where he told me the only way he could stop being angry or forgive me was if we had sex.
I have no desire or intention to offend anyone. No one single assault or rape is the same. If I leave out anything important it is not my intention. What I do want everyone to understand is that physical assault and rape is an act of control, a forced submission. That is why I compared my daughter’s father’s actions to emotional rape. The effects on the mind are the same. You feel helpless, violated, ashamed, guilty, and angry.
I would do anything to avoid traumatizing my daughter by calling the cops. He knows that. The only other option I had was to submit to him, something that reminds me of self-hatred, fear, shame and guilt.
At one point I even asked him, “Why do you still feel like you have to be in control?” His response was, “I don’t need to be in control. I am in control. I will always be in control.” And as long as that is how he feels, nothing will change between him and I, not even for the sake of our daughter.
There is an old saying that an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So if you can relate, I do want you to have some ideas of what you can do to be better prepared for next time. For my next time, I know the right thing to do in order to save myself from emotional rape is to call the police. Instead of trying to avoid traumatizing my daughter at the expense of my own well-being, I will call upon her angels to protect her and trust that in our hour of need, God will be there. However, trusting God does not mean I can continue to be naive. I also need to be prepared with court documents at any given time. I must remember that I need to prepare myself for psychological warfare every single time I interact with him.
The only way I survived the days that followed was by calling upon God every hour. I could not bear the burden of the anger and shame I felt and asked him to carry the burden for me so I could focus on work. If you’re still spinning from your last interaction with your child’s other parent, I encourage you to call upon God. The strengthening Grace of our Christ and Savior’s atonement is real. He has felt all our pain and sorrows. The other things I do to cope as you have seen before is to watch funny and uplifting videos. I’ve included one of my recent favorite uplifting music video version of “I Need Thee Every Hour.”
One hope, One prayer, One day at a time.