A few months ago I saw my ex in Court. We were at a pretrial conference for our divorce. My ex, myself, my Lawyer and a Judge all crammed into a small room trying to hash out the details of our divorce. When my Lawyer asked my ex why he had not signed off on the divorce given, we had been separated for five years, he ended up looking at me with a cold glare saying, “You will get your divorce once I get to see my kids” (due to other Court Orders he does not have access to our kids at this time). That look, those eyes, hit my soul and with a pounding heart I immediately looked down to my feet. Was I avoiding confrontation? Yes, but to be honest I did it because he still scares me, he still, it seems, has power over me.
I was really angry, after that meeting, that I had looked to the floor. I have gained such strength since we have separated so why could I still not look him in the eye? Why did I have to cower? Am I weak? If my fiancé pulled that same stunt I would have looked him in the eye and told him how it was so why was it different with my ex? These questions, and the act of beating myself up over the whole thing, carried on for a few weeks, ok months. It needed to stop.
Every abusive relationship is built around one person wanting power and control over another person. This is achieved through fear and intimidation. In 1982 the Domestic Abuse Program in Minneapolis created the Power and Control Wheel to explain the nature of abuse, to delineate the forms of abuse used to control another person, and to educate people with the goal of stopping the violence. Many tactics are used by your abuser to achieve power and control; coercion (threatening suicide, threatening to report you to welfare, threatening to hurt you), intimidation (threatened with a weapon, brainwashed to fear looks & gestures), economic abuse (controlling of funds or creating debts in your name), emotional abuse (name calling, insults, humiliation), isolation (controlling your social activity, who you talk to and see), minimizing, denying and blame (blaming the victim for the abuse, denying that it is happening or minimizing the severity of the abuse), using children and pets (threatening to hurt or take away your children, threatening to hurt or kill your pets) and using privilege (treats the victim like she is a servant and he is the king of the castle). All are used to make you quiet, to silence your voice.
Silencing my voice. That is what my ex was trying to do in that meeting room and throughout our whole marriage. If he kept me silent in our marriage he could continue to abuse me and have power over me. He could continue to feel like the King of the Castle and do as he pleased with me. He could feel all powerful. In the meeting room if he could trigger that old fear with just a look he could possibly silence me again and I would not continue telling the Judge why my children cannot have access to him for their own health and safety. Suddenly it all made sense.
If you have someone continuing to exert power and control over you know that it is not healthy. You are your own beautiful person who can chose your own clothes, talk to your friends and express your own thoughts and feelings. No person has the rite to take that away from you. Stand firm in the fact that you are not going to be controlled. Tell them to STOP!! Seek individual counselling (joint counselling is not recommended with an abusive person as you risk being re victimized) and gain strength. You can be free.