What I Wish I’d Done Differently During Separation and Divorce, Part Two: Survivor Wisdom Series
Here’s more wisdom from the loving, strong, amazing women of faith in my FB community, Confusion to Clarity Community for Survivors of Covert Psychological Abuse.
This is the second installment in the Survivor Wisdom Series.
I asked my community the following question:
What do you wish you had done differently? What advice to you have for other women walking the hard path you’ve taken?
There are two parts to the What I Wish I’d Done Differently wisdom articles:
Part One: Before and during marriage, and when I realized he was an abuser.
Part Two: During separation and divorce, talking to others, and dealing with Christianity.
I hope that every covertly abused woman who is reading these words can learn from what we’ve learned the hard way!
These are quotes from the woman in my group:
WHAT I WISH I’D DONE DIFFERENTLY
When We Separated
While we were separated, I wish I had stronger boundaries and did not assume that we would get back together so soon.
I wish I’d gone grey rock/no contact as soon as possible in the process to minimize his threats and continued psychological torment against me.
I wish I had gone no contact earlier in the process. I was so trauma bonded that I thought blocking his number would make me “miss out” on something he said, when, in fact, he continued to manipulate me and make me cry almost every day with his phone calls and texts, even after I discovered what he was.
I wish I had immediately closed all the cards he had access to because he used some money on them before I got around to closing them and, of course, he’s never going to pay me back for that.
I wish I had started praying Scripture daily earlier on in the process because it definitely changed my mindset and helped me move from walking in fear to walking in faith.
Not believe his lies that he wants to change.
I wish I would have understood parental alienation sooner and protected the kids sooner. Get help. Counseling. Litigate it all right away.
I wish there had been support groups back then, and information about healing that was trauma-informed rather than changing beliefs by changing thoughts which didn’t help my trauma.
I wish I had not let myself get talked into dropping the PFA. Protection From Abuse... a restraining order.
When We Divorced
Expect him to go on attack during divorce.
I wish I hadn’t trusted that he would go along with an amicable dissolution.
I wish, while I was reading everything about the narcissist, I learned more about the divorce process and drilled my lawyer for every piece of information with explanations.
I wished I hadn’t depended entirely on prayer in the legal process and had been more shrewd.
I wish I would’ve believed others when they said mediation won’t work (although I’m happy to know I tried everything in my power to separate amicably).
I wish I didn't believe it was going to be amicable. I wish instead that I prepared myself for his continued toxic behavior and that he was going to do whatever he could to get back at me even after the divorce.
I wish I had gone for the expensive lawyer and the expensive forensic children’s therapist straight from the start — “saving money” in the beginning led to years of FAR higher legal expenses as things dragged out due to legal mistakes and oversights by professionals uneducated in DV.
I wish I knew Family Court hurts women in my situation.
Not trusting him to be fair in the divorce.
I wish I’d been more prepared for the divorce- like reading the book “Splitting” way earlier.
I wish I had known that I personally could never get better without help. I thought I could fix things on my own. No one can. God is wonderful, but He gave us professionals, support groups, and more for a reason.
Please share that each state in the US has a free counsel line with the State Attorney General’s office to get an idea of how legal things look, and they also share resources based on zip code for battered/abused women shelters and ministry services.
The Attorney General is (800) 252-8014. Just call to share confidential info on situation and set up an appointment for them to call back for free counsel. Many times the call will be within an hour, and this is the same thing you’d hear from a pricey one hour counsel sitting in a lawyer’s office.
When I Talked with Friends and Family
I wish I hadn’t been so triggered and defensive when people didn’t believe me, and, I didn’t think I had to convince them of the truth.
I wish I had known about PTSD and learned how to calm myself down before talking with friends. Every time they repeated a lie he told them, I would go off like a rocket in fear and defensiveness. It made me look unstable and angry- the exact thing he was trying to convince others of.
I wish I had really understood that you can't convince flying monkeys of the truth.
I wish I had known that some people close to me would turn their backs on me and leave me reeling with the betrayal and rejection.
Let go of people’s opinions – the earlier the better. Live for ONLY the Audience of One!
I wish I hadn’t been so isolated from non-believers. I would have gotten much better help, support, and understanding from them since they aren’t all caught up in Christian lies about marriage.
I wished I would have seen the smear campaign and triangulation that was to come.
I wish I would have talked to someone sooner rather than dismiss things and/or hide things. I had learned that you had to always speak highly of your husband and anything negative was not allowed.
I wish I’d known how the trauma of abuse affected me and that the fact that I was an emotional wreck wasn’t sin or my fault. I wish I’d known about all the ways to calm myself down and handle triggers that I learned later in my healing. They would have helped me get through the panic and PTSD and fear so much.
Not trying to convince his family and others that he’s an abuser.
I wish I had been more careful about who I trusted with details of my life. I never suspected my sister’s husband was a flying monkey spy for him.
Not trying to get others to know my heart.
I wish I’d done more to counter all the lies he told our friend circle and his family so the truth would at least be out there.
When Dealing with my Church
I wish I’d followed advice from others to not tell my church what’s going on or go there for help.
I wish I had not allowed “church authorities” to dictate my response to the abuse.
I wish I would’ve stood up in the middle of a ladies bible study and corrected some of the incorrect info that was being taught.... would they have listened? No, but then I would’ve been like “buh-bye.”
I wish I had known that most churches don't know what to do with somebody like me other than to tell them to try harder. They just aren't equipped.
I wish I hadn't assumed any clergy would meet my pain with compassion and educated assistance.
I would not seek advice or help from my pastor or church. He and the church mean well, but they are wrong. The pastor told me not to leave my abuser because my abuser had cried with him in his office, and if I stayed I would see my marriage grow in love. I stayed, and he did not change.
These well-meaning Christians believe someone can cry, and then change will happen. They are not likely to understand the evil of an abuser and the emotional manipulation they use with everyone. They do not think, “Is this man crying because he repents or is it that someone has caught him?”
I went to other Christians for help when I was nearly homeless, and they rejected my request for help because I refused to reconcile with my abuser. An unbeliever at my work who I only knew a month offered a room in her house.
About Christian Doctrine
I wish I’d studied Scripture (about submission, counseling, and relationship basics) for myself, instead of trusting others’ opinions.
I wish I hadn't believed the church teachings about marriage. I wish I hadn't been so forgiving for so long.
I took my vows way too seriously because of religious beliefs and stubbornness. I wish I would not have felt trapped after saying “to death do us part.”
I wish I hadn’t been controlled by the purity culture dogma of shame that prevented me from knowing it wasn’t my fault when he stole my virginity before marriage in a non-consensual way. I wish I had confided in someone.
I wish I had come into contact sooner with Christian authors’ material about egalitarian marriage: the triad of reciprocity, mutuality and freedom. Plus the way patriarchy creates inequity in the relationship– the power over model that is so debilitating. I associated what little I knew about those fundamental truths for a successful marriage with “liberal” thinking.
I wish I hadn’t martyred my happiness and self-worth for the sake of the institution of marriage. Somewhere along the way, I came to believe that I was only worth love and affection if I earned it through suffering and sacrifice. This became a form of legalism I was enslaved to without recognizing it.
I wish I’d been completely honest with folks about what was really happening to me instead of being the “good Christian non-gossipy” wife that we’re all made to feel like in unsafe churches.
I wish I had rejected Complementarian theology sooner.
Not idolizing marriage.
I wish I’d understood how the patriarchal roots in Christianity have warped the teachings about women and marriage, and that outside of conservative Christianity, there’s whole other world of theology that accepts women.
A note from me
I hope you’ve learned some valuable information from women who’ve walked this difficult and painful road. Keep remembering, no matter how hard it is, we’ve all come through and are finding a wonderful new life!
If you’ve experienced covert psychological abuse, come join our private Facebook group for women of faith who are covert emotional and psychological abuse survivors and hang out with these wise women!