Domestic Violence Answers

How would I know if a person has truly made changes to themselves and no longer are hurtful

How would you know if a person has truly made changes to themself and are no longer hurtful?  That is a question that would pose different answers based on context.  I see you provided some context and that the person you ask about was abusive, has been to jail, has received counseling, and apologized to you.  Given that small amount of context, I will do my best to answer your question.  Everyone is unique, so there is not a set of criteria to reference if someone has changed or not and may no longer pose a threat to another person or no longer has tendencies to harm again.  Medications can be helpful in regulating moods and regular counseling after release from custody would be things I would immediately look for and learn statuses about.  Other areas to pay attention to are behavior and timeframe.  Depending on how long someone has been living with different habits, manners, and acting on good choices rather than not so good, are also fair indicators.  By verbalizing alone that one has changed, is not a great indicator.  Change is not limited to changes in thinking and behavior, but also moderating our emotional responses which are strongly influenced by our thoughts and perceptions.  Change occurs when perceptions are no longer distorted and emotional responses are experienced and expressed in ways that don’t cause distress or harm to oneself or another person.  Questions to ask when trying to determine if one has changed overall as a person might include: how do you see yourself now?  What do you think and notice is different about yourself?  What are your beliefs about yourself and why you needed to make these changes?  When was the last time that you experienced anger?  What did you do, how did you handle/express your anger?  I'm going to stop here because if the person responds something to the effect that they are no longer angry and do not experience anger as a feeling, that person is likely to be dishonest, as all humans experience that emotion from time to time, it is how we react and respond that provides a wealth of information.  If the person does not have a lot to say about what they learned in regards to anger expression and communication, there is a good chance they may repeat old patterns that could include the same unchanged behaviors.  Given the context of a justice system indicates the person may not have entered into the changes on their own motivation but rather was court-ordered to a punishment sentencing and attend counseling.  This does not mean that people can't or won't change, but it might mean that they did not willingly choose these changes of their own free will or motivation.  Motivation for change can provide some insight as well.  Questions to ask that might provide some insight into this person's motivation for change could include: What do you think were the best changes that you made?  Can you provide me with a few different concrete examples and outcomes that have happened since you believe you have changed?  Questions to ask yourself since you indicate you are fearful this person may repeat behaviors, despite changing some things, it sounds like many changes would have been helpful for this person to make.  How long was he incarcerated, do you believe that is enough time for him to be able to fully process what happened and learn how to change?  How long were they engaging in unhealthy behaviors?  What does that timeframe say about the amount of time they claim to have learned, practiced, and made healthy changes into patterns and habits?  What makes you still fearful?  Do you have an uneasy feeling in your gut when you are around him now?  What have you witnessed since release that indicates to you these changes?  What have you witnessed that indicates to you there have not been enough changes?  Also, what timeframe are you making a deciding factor in?  Are you willing to jump back into a relationship?  What benefits are there for letting time pass to really observe and understand his changed perceptions and behaviors?  I would hope no big decisions would be made before a substantial period of time, as time is a great indicator as well when analyzing changed behaviors and patterns.  
(LPC, NCC, SAC-IT)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Jealousy husband all the time

Hello, I think it's great that you're recognizing that you need some help. It sounds like the situation with your husband is escalating. He seems to know what to say to put you down and make you feel insecure in the relationship.  The first and most important concern is safety. Sometimes when individuals try to control others in relationships they become increasingly possessive and can become aggressive. I don't know whether has been violent toward you in the past, but the first priority needs to be making sure that you are safe. If you feel that he could harm you, I strongly suggest reaching out to an organization for help. I don't know where you live, but if you look online you can find some programs that help women in these situations, such as the YWCA. It sounds like you have support from some family members, and even though he may be wanting you to avoid making them aware of what is going on in the relationship (if you have their support he may feel a loss of control), utilizing your support is extremely important, especially if you feel unsafe.  The challenge with situations like these with regards to therapy is that couples counseling is only effective when both partners are motivated to make changes. I don't know whether that would be the case for him or not and whether broaching the idea of couples therapy would be something that you would consider. Without him being willing to engage in therapy, the reality is that there is probably little chance that his behaviors will change.  However, while individual therapy with yourself would not change his behaviors, it could be helpful for you. You could work on coping with how he has hurt you, and you could work on being assertive with him and setting and maintaining boundaries. You could work on reaching out for additional support, and you could work on, if you chose to do so, coming up with a plan for distancing yourself from that relationship. Additionally, if you are in a relationship with a man who has gained control over you by putting you down (for example, trying to convince you to stay with him because you will not find anyone else), then your self-esteem has probably suffered quite a bit along the way. Working on recognizing your strengths and power, as well as your overall self-worth, could help you gain a greater sense of independence and self-love.  Again, I only have some details of what the relationship has been like and maybe there has been a lot of joy and affection within the relationship too. Some of the statements you made though suggest that there could be emotional abuse happening in the relationship. I understand that you may love him, but keeping yourself safe and taking care of yourself and your children need to be the priority.  So in summary, I strongly encourage you to reach out to an organization in your area that can help women who may be facing emotional abuse. A quick Google search should help, or you can contact the police in your area for resources. I also encourage you to participate in therapy, and I would be happy to work with you. Remember that your husband is unlikely to make changes until he is ready to do so (sometimes people need consequences before they make changes) and that often controlling behaviors in relationships escalate, sometimes becoming physical and dangerous. Please reach out for help and let me know if you have any questions about therapy. Take care of yourself! Nick 
(MRC, LPCC-S, LICDC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Will my narcissist husband , ever change ?

Hi Shania,  Thank you so much for reaching out with this question and issue. It sounds like you are going through a lot with your husband. It sounds like you have been patient and like you feel you are on a rollercoaster with no clue of when it will stop. I will try to provide some guidance here based on the details you have mentioned.    I can't tell you if your husband is a narcissist or if there is some other issue going on. He would need an evaluation for that. I can tell you that people who are diagnosed with personality disorders often find it painful and very difficult to change. It is possible, but often takes years of intensive therapy. It sounds like his alcohol use is also contributing to difficulties in your relationship. Separately from personality disorders, people who have alcohol or other drug use disorders on average take 7 attempts at getting sober before they can make it a significant amount of time.    If you are concerned about him cooking for you I would recommend that you begin taking over in the kitchen or at least cooking for yourself again. If you are concerned about him messing with your skincare items I recommend getting a locked box to put them in. Generally, people who are abusive will push back on your efforts to have boundaries and may use manipulation tactics like emotional blackmail, threats, or guilt-tripping (saying you don't love them or trust them). Do not give in to these tactics. You aren't doing anything to him by protecting yourself.    I also want to note that he is likely using the manipulation tactic of "love bombing" which is a common tactic for abusers to use when they sense you pulling away or saying you are going to leave. It is an attempt to control you with no real effort to change.    I would recommend that you start leaning on your support people a little more. You didn't mention other family and friends in your description. Make contact with family if you've lost contact. Talk to your best friends about what is happening and let them know what you need (you might not know what you need, so asking for a listening ear and validation is fine). You will have to watch for family and friends who attempt to downplay your experiences; they are not safe, supportive people. You may also have to be on guard for family and friends who try to tell you what to do. It is hard for family and friends to see you go through something difficult and their reaction may be out of a place of love. Ultimately it is your decision if you stay or leave; how long you stay; how you leave if you choose to do so. It is okay to tell family and friends that you just need them to listen and support you in whatever decision you make.    Something that is similar to connecting with personal support is attending support groups. You can look online for Al-Anon groups which are for family members of loved ones who are addicted to a substance. You can also look for other support groups for domestic violence survivors or Codependents Anonymous. Many of these groups have moved to online platforms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can just go and listen to what they have to say. If you like what you hear, or if it resonates with your experiences, start attending regularly.    Another thing I would recommend is getting started with therapy as soon as possible. Having a therapist means you can get an outside/ expert perspective on your situation. A therapist who is familiar with trauma-informed care and domestic violence situations can help you identify your options and local resources available to you. They can also go more in-depth with teaching you about how to look for manipulation tactics and how to respond assertively and protect your own peace in the process.    Shania, I hope I have provided you a helpful answer. I hope that you begin investing time and resources into yourself because you are completely worthy of having a good life. 
(LMHC, CSAC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Why I’m still in a relationship I don’t want to be in

It sounds like you feel trapped in an abusive relationship and I sincerely hope you find a way to find comfort and peace in moving forward with what is best for you.  It takes an enormous amount of courage to reach out for help so make sure you are giving yourself some credit because your thoughts about yourself and your situation will lead to the next steps (behaviors).    To answer your question, there are countless reasons why individuals choose to stay in relationships that are toxic, unhealthy, or abusive.   The most common reason shared with me is fear.  This may include the fear of further consequences of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.  It may also be a fear of being independent or trusting your ability to take care of things without your partner.  Let me emphasize that fear is a common response and does not make you weak in any manner. If you have grown up in an environment where abuse was the "norm" it may be challenging to understand or observe what a healthy relationship may look like.  This may not be the case for you because it sounds like you have the awareness that your relationship is unhealthy and are in a place of trying to make the change.   Healthy relationships are based on trust, respect, communication, and effective conflict resolution methods.   Shame and intimidation are other reasons people remain in toxic/abusive relationships.  In this, individuals may tell themselves things like "This is my fault.", "I am wrong.", "I deserve (insert partner's action) because I was in the way".   Individuals may feel that simply by experiencing the abuse that they are weak but it is important to remember that abusive partners may use blame-shifting to justify their actions.   Intimidation may be a culprit of fear in leaving because your partner may have information about you that you are afraid others of knowing.   Five years is a long time to be in this type of relationship and a long-term effect of ongoing abuse may include anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.  If you have experienced being blamed for the abuse it becomes easy to believe that you are at fault for the abuse which could not be further from the truth (or reality).  Ongoing support and counseling may help you challenge some of the irrational thoughts that are taking place.   Our brains have a way of tricking us on occasion into believing irrational thoughts about ourselves and our situations.   Another reason individuals remain in toxic/abusive relations longer than they desire could be a lack of resources.  Perhaps they are financially dependent on their partner or do not have opportunities to exercise independent opportunities (for work, living arrangements, language barriers, or a strong support system).  Sometimes these factors can make it seem like there are no other options.  This is especially the case when there are children involved.  Individuals may feel responsible for keeping the family together the abusive partner may use the children as leverage to threaten their spouse into staying with them.  I noticed you mentioned your parents are a potential option so it may help to explore some of the reservations in going to your parents?  You mentioned you can't which makes me curious if they are aware of the abuse? One of the most complex emotional ties that contribute to challenges with leaving a relationship is love.  When someone experiences abuse and genuine care for a partner who is causing them harm (of any kind) are not mutually exclusive.  Survivors may still have strong, intimate feelings for their abusive partners.  Survivors often maintain hope that their partner will return to being the person they were when they met them.  It is really important to remember that we only have control over ourselves, our choices, and our behaviors.  Waiting or hoping someone will change may contribute to increased stress and anxiety.   No matter the reason, leaving any relationship can be difficult and seem impossible without support.  Regardless of the circumstances, you are a survivor and you deserve to be supportive while you reach the most appropriate decision while reclaiming a sense of control in your life.  I would certainly recommend individual counseling and utilizing community resources in your area.  You can also access the National Domestic Violence Hotline by texting "START" to 88788.   Best of luck to you in your search for that.
(LPC-S, NCC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

What type of therapeutic approach is best suited to rehabilitation following domestic abuse ?

I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling with low self-esteem and that you have experienced such awful abuse. It will be important to recognize when your feelings have a purpose versus when they do not.  We of course want positive feelings in our lives, but sometimes negative feelings are there for a reason and we need to live out that purpose in order for it to get better.  If we do not live out the purpose of our feelings, it likely leads us to feel worse.  For example, something as simple as having anxiety about needing to get the chores done has the purpose of getting us motivated to get the chores done.  Therefore, if we do not live out that purpose and the chores remain undone, that can lead to more bad feelings, such as, “I am lazy” or “I am worthless.”  This is a simple example of how if we do not pay attention to our feelings and live out the purpose, they can become much, much worse.  So, I would encourage you to try and separate out the thoughts that have a purpose from the thoughts that do not have a purpose and are more intrusive.    For the ones that do have a purpose, it can be helpful to allow yourself to think through the anxious thoughts because anxiety has a nasty way of going to the worst possible scenario.  If you can wrap your head around that scenario, it can make it less scary.  For example, I had a client that was very anxious daily about being single for the rest of his life.  Thinking to that extreme is clearly anxiety and it just lingers there.  So, then he was able to think through that scenario and come up with a plan to make it less scary.  He then came up with that if he really is going to be single the rest of his life, which is highly unlikely, he is going to work towards being able to live close to the ocean since that is a dream of his.  Thinking about it now does not make him as scared because he recognizes he could be happy with that. So, try to think through specific things you are anxious about that have a purpose and make sure you have a specific plan on how to improve those things. For example, having a specific plan for how to address specific anxieties you have about being intimate with others again at some point.   Intrusive thoughts tend to not have a purpose and it can be really helpful to try and overpower those before they are accepted as truths.   We can have power over our thoughts and I want to help you not engage in these thoughts that make you so upset.  The easiest example of this that I can think of is if I went skydiving.  If I went skydiving I would have some obvious, rational, anxious thoughts.  If I really have a desire to skydive though I will need to not engage in those thoughts.  I might have thoughts such as, "My parachute could fail, I will hit the ground, I am going to pass out, etc."  However, since I really want to follow through with skydiving, I would want to stop those thoughts in their tracks with, "I know this is going to be really fun, they inspect the parachutes ahead of time, people hardly ever get hurt doing this, etc."  By focusing on those thoughts and not engaging in the others, I would be able to follow through with skydiving. Try to sort through any thoughts that get you down about yourself and that you can’t handle all of this and try to overpower those.  These types of thoughts are very common when dealing with such awful trauma and abuse like this.               As you do those processes it can be helpful to validate yourself as someone of worth and that has been able to get through challenges in your past.  Something that could be helpful for you is what I like to call centering thoughts.  These are thoughts that are predetermined and unique to you for you to turn to in low moments.  They need to be powerful enough to bring you back to your center.  It is important that these thoughts are accessible for you to look at when you need to.  Some clients prefer to read and re-read them and some prefer to write and re-write them until they feel better.  I have clients that write these somewhere they will see daily such as their bathroom mirror or phone background, while others simply have them in their phone to pull out when they need to.  An example of a centering thought would be from a client I had that related to nautical-themed things and her thought was, "I will not let this sink me."  Another example is from an Olympic skier that actually had difficulties with negative thinking getting in the way of her performance so she went to therapy.  She mentioned that she learned about centering thoughts to battle all of the people telling her she “should be” or “should do.”  To battle those thoughts, she uses the simple centering thought of, “I am.”  She can then remind herself that she is good enough, that she is confident, and that she does want to still compete, which really affirms her own feelings and not others.  Hopefully, you can come up with something that helps validate your worth and abilities to move forward.       I hope that some of this is helpful and that you can apply it to your circumstances.  I hope that you can lean on some family and/or friends through this.  Doing so can help take the weight off of your shoulders as well as hopefully get some valuable advice from them. Try to take the healing one day at a time and adding one positive thing back into your life each day. I wish you all the best and I hope that you are staying safe.
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Should I stay in relationship with someone super suspicious and controlling?

I am glad you reached out and are questioning what is happening in your relationship.  Healthy relationships include trust in each other, friendship, and mutual respect.  They do not include fear or walking on eggshells, so to speak.  The description you provided does include symptoms of paranoid personality disorder, but those behaviors are also red flags for domestic violence.  One does not necessarily exclude the other, that is to say, that someone with a personality disorder may be likely to perpetrate domestic violence.  Deleting your social media accounts is isolating you from others who may help and support you.  Accusations and blame are designed to take away your power and erode your self-confidence.  Always checking on you undermines your independence and autonomy.  Individuals engage in these tactics to gain power and control.  These are serious signs that this relationship could lead to more severe domestic violence. Domestic violence is not always immediately recognizable in a relationship.  The domestic violence perpetrator is often very nice, accommodating, and charming initially.  They are often well respected in the community, and people outside of the immediate relationship may never suspect those traits in that individual.  There is a cycle to domestic violence that is often observed including rising tension, an incident of some sort followed by gifts, kind words, promises designed to promote reconciliation, and then a period of calm.   Because power and control are very important to domestic violence perpetrators, their partners usually face a lot of danger when attempting to leave the relationship as this represents an ultimate loss of power and control to the offender.  I have experience working with survivors of domestic violence.  Be cautious.  Trust your instincts.  You are uncomfortable and reaching out for help for a reason.  Please don't hesitate to reach out to a therapist and visit The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) at ncadv.org/get-help or call 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).  Additional red flags for domestic violence can be found on their site.  All red flags do not have to be present to indicate signs of an unhealthy relationship.  The NCADV can offer support, education, safety planning, and shelter if needed.  
(LCSW, LAC, MHPP)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I overcome a past trauma without therapy?

Hi Lostinreality, Domestic violence is about Power & Control. There are many nuances of manipulation to toy with your thoughts and emotions. You feel powerless and beat down when you are abused, neglected, and traumatized not only by the abuser but society in general that includes law enforcement and the legal system. Your first step is to seek ways to become empowered. Certainly, this process can begin in individual therapy and counseling, but, of course, that can be costly and, for other reasons, not practical for you at this time. Online resources can be a great place to start to get support, information n, and even legal advice. EndAbuse https://www.endabusewi.org/ provides info and resources to help you get connected. DAIS https://abuseintervention.org/ has staff on hand that can help you identify your options and what steps you can take. DAIP (Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs) https://www.theduluthmodel.org/ is based in MN and has taken a leadership role in the movement to end domestic violence throughout the world. Also, be aware that whenever it comes to legal proceedings, the District Attorney's Office in your county may have a specialized Victim-Witness Unit whose role is to advocate for victims in any Court case. The staff of a V-W Unit can provide you with support as well as join forces with the prosecuting attorney handling any case to make sure your voice is heard and properly factored into any decision coming from that office. I would also recommend reaching out on a larger scale by contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Either go to their website https://www.thehotline.org/ or call them at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You are not alone. There is always strength in numbers. You will gain empowerment as you become better educated on this field, understand abuse in its entirety, become more connected to those facing the same challenges, and take the steps you can take to be in control of your life. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. You deserve to be happy and fulfilled in your life. You deserve to be loved by someone who truly cares about you and what's in your best interest. I also want to recommend another resource that will help build your confidence, self-esteem, and help you Build Your Winning Self-Image. I was provided with this information over 30 years ago. His programs and guidance significantly improved many facets of my life. You can go online to get more information by clicking on https://www.jonathanparker.org/workshops-retreats/ Also, I have a website and created a model that helps you Stay Focused on Healthy Living, Healthy Relationships, Freedom, and Career Development. My model is designed to help you organize, store, and retrieve information to Stay Focused on Your Goals and find peace and happiness in your life. The link is http://www.stayfocusedcounseling.com/ I wish you the best!
(LPC, CSAC, CS-IT)
Answered on 10/21/2021

What do you know about the after effects of emotional abuse?

Hello Lion, Thank you for reaching out with your question to The BetterHelp Platform. It is encouraging to hear that you have been able to 'let go' of the person!   So, I hear that you are now wanting to know how to 'let go and heal from the emotional aftermath. Emotional abuse is extremely painful, but you can heal and live your best life yet.  Healing From Emotional Abuse There is hope to heal from the pain emotional abuse creates.  You are not alone in your journey. Like you, many people have experienced emotional abuse and have found healing and meaningful connections in healthy relationships.  Below are 5 steps to help you in your healing process. STEP 1:Acknowledge the Abuse Thinking about and accepting your past abuse as a real event can be very difficult to do but it’s the first step to healing from your experiences.  Many people find it difficult to acknowledge their past abuse. This can sometimes be due to a belief that says “I’m shameful for having been abused” OR “What I experienced really wasn’t all that bad”. Other times people repress their past abuse with the hope that if they don’t acknowledge it, it will go away.  One thing can be sure, the longer your emotional pain from abuse is allowed to remain unacknowledged, the more negative impacts it will produce in your life.  As you begin to acknowledge your abuse for what it was, you will also begin to take back personal power over your life.  When you decide to engage with your old wounds, be aware that it’s normal to feel the same emotions you felt at the time of your abuse. These painful feelings have remained inside you and will only be healed when you accept and move through them. STEP 2:Change Negative Thought Patterns Emotional abusers alter your experience of reality by telling you lies about yourself and about the world until you accept their explanation of reality over your own. After enough time, you begin to accept these messages which affect the way you see yourself. These unhealthy thoughts can become the voice in your head (your self-talk) that tells you exactly what your abuser told you.  As you begin to process your past abuse, one way you can begin healing is by challenging your self-talk and dispensing with the negative thinking patterns you find there.    Below is a list of unhealthy, negative thought patterns that people who have been emotionally abused often experience.  Some negative thinking patterns you may be reinforcing are: Black and White Thinking: “I either get it right or I’m a failure” Over-generalization: “All men are like this” Disqualifying the Positive: “Nothing good ever happens to me”, “I can’t ever do anything right” Unrealistic Expectations: “I shouldn’t make mistakes” Name Calling: “I’m so stupid” Self-Blame: “It’s all my fault” Catastrophizing: “I won’t be able to figure out how to do anything without my partner,, then I’ll be hungry and homeless” Should Statements: “I should be further along by now” Emotional Reasoning: “I feel guilty, I must be a terrible person” Personalization: “He’s upset because I’m a terrible girlfriend” False Permanence: “Things are going to stay this bad forever” Magical Thinking: “If I were skinnier, my partner wouldn’t have cheated”   Negative thinking patterns have been linked to anxiety, depression, and feelings of shame, guilt, and blame.  These types of messages will retain their grip on your life and mind until you begin calling them out for what they are and replacing them with new and healthier patterns of thinking.  STEP 3:Engage in Self Care Many of the suggestions below may seem trivial but they are extremely important to your healing process. When you begin to take care of your needs, you will have more energy, support, and nutrients to overcome the struggles you’re facing.     Here are a few practical ways to begin the process of regaining power over your life:  EMBRACE MORE OF YOUR WANTS AND DESIRES Many victims of abuse recall that their only purpose was to keep their abuser satisfied.  You may have forgotten likes, dislikes, passions, hobbies, etc. To begin the process of healing from your emotional abuse you will need to rediscover who you used to be and who you want to become.  Start Small: Do something you love. Ask yourself what you have been wanting to do. Have you been wanting to join a bowling team, go to a painting class, or take up underwater basket weaving? DO IT! And after that, do something else you have wanted to do. This is your time to reclaim your mind and life.    Oftentimes, people who have experienced emotional abuse can carry excessive shame when it comes to being their authentic selves.   MAKE YOUR PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, AND SPIRITUAL NEEDS A PRIORITY Part of the healing process from emotional abuse is caring for yourself. When in an abusive relationship you can quickly lose sight of what a healthy, normal lifestyle should look like.  Loss of self-esteem is one of the hallmark consequences of emotional abuse victims because they are led to believe they don’t matter or they aren’t valuable. We take care of the people who matter to us. When you take care of your needs, you will begin to develop the belief that you matter.   Treat yourself like you’re valuable and you will begin to feel like you’re valuable too.  GET YOURSELF MOVING Begin by asking yourself what type of exercise would you enjoy most? Remember, whatever you decide to do is entirely up to you, so do something you love.  Exercise releases endorphins in your brain. These endorphins are often referred to as your brain’s “happy drugs”. They are responsible for regulating your mood.  Doing aerobic exercises for as little as 90 minutes each week can help to reduce your risk of depression and help you sleep better.  EAT RIGHT When you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, your focus is always on the other person. Not only this, but the intense emotions in these volatile relationships can also lead you to eat in unhealthy ways and amounts. When you begin to eat right, you will find that your body has the nutrients it needs to better regulate your energy levels and emotions.  GET ENOUGH SLEEP There is no better way to keep yourself from making progress than being exhausted all the time. Try some of the following: Creating a routine gives you more control over your life (And enough sleep). Create a habit of going to sleep at the same time each evening, getting a solid 8 hours of sleep, and then waking up at the same time each morning.  Create a relaxing evening routine that helps you wind down (What helps you relax?). Over time, your brain will associate this evening ritual with sleep and you will begin falling asleep faster.   Exercising during the day will help you be sufficiently tired in the evening.  Don’t use electronics before bed.  Be sure your room is sufficiently dark.    Below are some different relaxing activities you can do before going to sleep: Put on some calming music or sounds of rainstorms, the ocean, etc.  Do 3 minutes of deep breathing Do 5 minutes of mindfulness exercises Read a book Dim the lights Drink bedtime tea   3. CREATE HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS AND ALLOW OTHERS TO SUPPORT YOU Friends, family, and faith communities can support you as you work through difficult situations (even if you don’t feel comfortable sharing with them). While you never have to do anything you don’t want to do, it can be very helpful to find one or two trusted friends or family members who will listen without judgment and offer the empathy and compassion you need to heal.  If this isn’t an option, we suggest you think about joining a support group with other people who have been through traumatic and abusive situations.    Abusive relationships break down your trust in other people and keeps you isolated.  Remaining socially isolated can keep you feeling down and dependent on unhealthy relationships.  It is also common for individuals who receive constant criticism, judgment, and rejection from past abusers to experience feelings of unsafety in social relationships or a fear of being negatively evaluated and rejected by others.   If social isolation has crept up on you, it’s time to reconnect.  Healthy relationships have been linked to an increased sense of worth and belonging and decreased stress. Not only this but engaging in healthy relationships also increases the release of those happy neurotransmitters called dopamine, giving you feelings of happiness and fulfillment. Consider doing the following: Go to lunch with a friend you have spoken to in a while. Invite a family member you enjoy to a movie. Say yes to an invitation when your feelings are telling you to stay home.  Engage in a social hobby to meet new people.   Don’t rush yourself, healing can take some time   Be patient and empathetic with yourself as you heal. Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel confused, scared, tense, angry, or any other emotions that come up.  These feelings are a normal part of the healing process and there is no rush to get past them. They are yours and it’s okay to sit with them and experience them. Having and experiencing painful feelings doesn’t make you anything except courageous. STEP 4:Set Boundaries Asserting your boundaries when in an emotionally abusive relationship can often antagonize abusers and escalate tension in the relationship. This happens because abusers don’t want you to have control of your life. The more control you begin to take back, the more they begin to feel out of control and chaotic.  Learning how to implement and assert healthy boundaries between you and other people is a necessary step in your journey to retake control over your life WHAT IS A BOUNDARY? Healthy boundaries are indicators that let you and others know when they are crossing over from their space into your space. Just like the fence with a gate in your front yard or your front door, some people should be allowed in and some people shouldn’t.  People who are being abused often have no boundaries and are completely enmeshed with their abusers.  After people have been hurt, they can often erect impenetrable boundaries that keep EVERYONE out.  Both of these are unhealthy.  Healthy boundaries allow the right people in and keep the wrong people out. Boundaries also let you and everyone else know where YOU begin and where YOU end; what areas of your life are under your control and which are not.    Below is a list of everything that should be within your boundaries, and therefore under YOUR control.  Your thoughts Your emotions Your attitude Your choices Your behaviors Healthy boundaries give you control over these areas and allow you to recognize when others are attempting to take your control from you.  In addition, healthy boundaries let you know when others are holding you responsible for areas you are not responsible for: their thoughts, emotions, attitudes, choices, and behaviors. When you have healthy boundaries, you should notice these changes: You won’t need to defend yourself: You don’t need to defend yourself for anything within your boundaries or feel guilty for having your own needs, wants, or desires. This is as ridiculous as defending what things you keep in your house to your neighbor. It’s not their house and so it’s not their business.   You won’t take it personally: When someone has a problem with what’s within your boundaries, it’s exactly that, their problem. If an abuser doesn’t like the way you act, think, or feel or hold you responsible for how THEY think, act or feel, this is also their problem, not yours. These things have nothing to do with you so you should not feel ashamed, guilty or anything else about it.  You won’t try to make them understand: Trying to make other people understand and approve of what is within your boundaries is like trying to explain to your neighbor why it’s okay for you to love that ugly brown couch you’ve had since college. If that couch is in YOUR living room, the only person’s approval you need is your own!   STEP 5: Know When to Seek Help Knowledge is power.  Emotional abusers want you to depend on them to determine who you are and how you should see the world. The more knowledge you have, the more power you will have to get your life back under your control.    While working through past and present abuse and the emotional trauma it brings into your life is a difficult process, there are many resources and avenues available to help you along the way.  “You don’t have to wait until the house is falling apart to fix the windows” is true. Therapy can be a helpful resource for you no matter where in the healing process you find yourself. Here is a list of indicators that may be helpful to you when considering if it’s time to seek professional help. EMOTIONAL PROCESSING You have got over the breakup but not the emotions: Your feelings are too powerful to face alone, and you want help to process.  Your past trauma is too much to handle alone. You think you may be depressed.  You feel afraid or anxious often.  You’re experiencing nightmares, flashbacks, or your startle easily.  You find that you’re not able to manage your day-to-day responsibilities.  You’re having problems sleeping You have been using mood-altering substances to cope. Consider the steps outlined above and you will be well on your way to healing from the wounds of emotional abuse. There is hope for you! Is Complete Recovery Possible After Emotional Abuse? I believe we can conquer all of these horrible side-effects after emotional abuse is out of our lives. Some effects will take more time than others. Trusting myself seems to be at the core of it all. You may not be done healing, but you will completely heal. You will completely trust myself. It will be sooner rather than later. It can happen for you, too.  I would urge you to seek support with this from a trusted source, perhaps that is by you seeking mental health therapy where you can get some guidance on how to recover back to healthy.    Recovery is possible!  I wish you the best of luck in your journey. Kindly, Gaynor    ]
(MA, LCSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021

I need help eliminating my obsessive thoughts about my x. I find myself lurking on his profile etc

Hello, I first want to say that I am glad that you survived the abuse. Each year, a lot of people lose their life from domestic violence. When I think about the obsessive behavior that you speak of, I feel as if you have been dealing with this person for a significant amount of time and it became the norm for you. He had total control over you by using violence. There may be several reasons why you were not the one to leave due to safety concerns. However, the fact that he did leave should prove to be the best possible outcome for your quality of life.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It will be beneficial to explore your thoughts and feelings about your ex and the past relationship. Hopefully, that can explain why you are engaging in obsessive behavior.  Once you find the root cause of your behavior, you will need to have further interventions to refrain from doing the unwanted behaviors.  There are also other questions/factors that can be considered, such as: How long were you in the relationship? What kind of relationship do you have with your family? What kind of relationship does he have with his family? Do you have a support system? Were either of you abused as children? Do you have any issues with self esteem?   Since you have been out of the relationship, have you had any counseling? I believe that Cognitive Processing Therapy(CPT) would be a good choice for addressing your trauma. CPT is a form of CBT that focuses primarily in "stuck points" that are preventing a person from healing or making progress from their trauma. This method looks at the traumatic event, your beliefs about the event, and the feelings that arise from the trauma.  Even though your relationship was unhealthy, it would also be worth it to ask him for specific answers regarding his past behaviors. Sometimes people can move on after getting the answers that they seek from their abuser.  I hope that this information provides you with some insight to help you.   Sabrina     
(MA, LPC, CRC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Do you think I have ptsd?

Hi Bree! First, I am so so sorry to hear that you experienced this. I can imagine how difficult this must have been for you. Just reading your brief description of the incident, it is clear that you suffered quite a bit and that this was a very painful time for you. As for whether you qualify for a DSM V diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, based on the information you provided, it is impossible to say. You would need to have a full assessment of your history and of your current symptoms in order to know for sure. While experiencing trauma is a prerequisite for qualifying for a Posttraumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis, experiencing trauma does not automatically mean that you have this disorder. A qualified licensed professional would need to thoroughly talk with you to assess your current symptoms. They would also need to know the timeframe of when these events occurred. There is specific diagnostic criteria that you must meet in order to qualify for this diagnosis. Some symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder include hypervigilance, flashbacks to the trauma, and nightmares about the trauma. Those are just a few of the symptoms that may indicate that you qualify for this diagnosis. Even if you do not technically qualify for a Posttraumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis, that does not mean that your symptoms do not need to be treated. The fact that you are reaching out for information on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder indicates that you probably would benefit from counseling services. Counseling can offer a safe space in which you can process the trauma that you experienced. It can help you grow stronger and healthier and lead to you feeling ready and able to live a full, rich, and peaceful life. To reiterate, it is not possible to diagnose Posttraumatic Stress Disorder from your brief description. That would require a full assessment, conducted by a licensed professional. Additionally, if you do not qualify for a Posttraumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis, that does not mean that you do not need treatment or counseling to help you move forward after what you experienced.
(MS, LCPC, LCADC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Why do I still have nightmares about my emotionally and physically abusive ex husband?

It makes a lot of sense that you would continue to have nightmares about your living with your ex as you were with him for a long time. When you began your relationship with your ex you were fairly young and this can be a very vulnerable time. There are usually many pressures from society and from family members that would have made it very difficult to leave. Abusers are often able to present a very good image to outsiders; a lot of times so good that it could make you doubt that your perceptions are right! There is often a cycle of abuse where the man (or the woman, but usually the man) will be abusive and then try to make up for his behavior by being very apologetic and attentive. This can certainly be very endearing and eventually convince you to come around. Unfortunately, the cycle then turns down again. As the victim, you are often blamed for all of his issues and the problems in the relationship and it would be difficult to avoid feeling guilty. I am sorry to hear that the restraining order has expired and that I am sure makes you feel even more vulnerable. However, much experience with abusers (after 35+ years working in corrections) tells me that it is most likely that your ex has moved on and found someone else to victimize.  During my time in corrections and since then, I have helped many women to move on from abusive relationships and start to deal with the trauma that they have experienced. Many women have had expperiences within their own families that have led them to accept poor treatment (especially when the man looks very good initially), unfortunately, women around the world are often regarded as second class citizens and there is little protection for them from their families or social services agencies. It is so important to have the resources to maintain independence so that you do not need to stay with a man that you do not feel comfortable with. You want to have a good life! You are strong to have moved on from this relationship and to have the self confidence to start to a new life without him. Many women do not leave and stay until the bitter end; unfortunately this could mean death! I would like to work with you in continuing to find growth and independence if you feel comfortable. Joe
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I stop myself from being so easily triggered, which normally leads to anxiety/irritation?

Hi there. I'm glad you reached out to ask this question.. I think it's an important one for a lot of people in the same situation as you.   So, first, I want to take a moment to normalize what you are experiencing. Leaving an abusive partner is hard, but it is sometimes the start of the work and what you are experiencing is normal. If you feel comfortable, I would suggest letting loved ones know what you are experiencing and what you are struggling the most with. it isn't necessary to go into details if you don't feel like you aren't able to, but it may help your loved ones to understand what you are dealing with. This isn't asking them to change their behavior or walk on eggshells around you, but may help them understand your reactions.    My next suggestion is once you are in a place where you know you are experincing triggers, to keep in mind the moment you knew were safe, or the moment that you were out of that situation. Remember where you were, what was goig on around you... things you heard and saw. Sometimes we get stuck in the trauma and forget that we are no longer there, and that we are in fact in a safe place now. This may be harder if you aren't yet in a place where you can feel completely safe. If that is the case, I would recommend using grouind techniques.   You can do this with any object that you have. Use your fingers to touch it and notices the different textures in the object, use your sense of sight to notice everything you can about the object, smell it, taste it, even put it up to your ear. Anything that will help to bring you back into the present (this is helpful in the above suggestion. Remembering what you were experiencing in the moment you knew you were safe also depends on our senses and can do the same thing).   Our brain is programmed to keep us safe, and one of the ways it does that is by finding familiarity in situations where we have been anxious or afraid or not safe so that we don't get into those situations again, or if we do, we will be more likely to find a way out of it.  Our brain is really good at keeping us safe, but at the same time, the brain doesn't know the difference between actual danger and the feeling you have gotten in the past when there was actual danger. All it knows is that it is seeing your hear rate rise, your breath get faster and other things that indicate anxiety.    I hope this helps. Thank you again for reaching out.   
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I deal with my verbally abusive ex husband?

Hi Lisa, That sounds like a very challenging situation. Do your children also live in the home, and is he abusive toward them? If you feel like he is this close to a breaking point, it may be time to look for outside resources or places for you all to stay to ensure your safety until you are able to buy your house and move out. Do you have friends or family who you could stay with temporarily? Have you been working from home during the pandemic? If so, there may be opportunities for you to go into your workplace during the day. Spending as much time away from him is probably your safest bet, and the best for your own well-being if he is abusive and aggressive when you are home. Alternatively, is he better when other people are around? Could his sister or mother or someone from your family or friend group stay with you for a while until you close on your house and move? Sometimes people who engage in abuse are less likely to do so with an audience. It sounds like you have made a commitment to yourself by making the decision to divorce someone who is abusive and made some big decisions for your future and your children’s future. You should commend yourself for what you have already accomplished, as many people never get as far as you have! Entering your master’s program will be very empowering for you and hopefully help you heal from what you have been through. If you have to live with your ex-husband while you are attending classes, he may attempt to sabotage your progress or make it difficult for you to study and get your work done. If you anticipate that you will still be living with him once you start school, see what on-campus resources there may be for places to study, housing, and perhaps even support on-campus for people who experience domestic violence. Many schools have women’s centers and resources available for their students, as well as counseling centers. Having your own house and space to settle into with your children will also feel like freedom and likely be very empowering to you. Hold on to the thought of the moment when you can be in your own space. A good distracting/coping skill for you right now might be looking up what you will need for this move so you can start planning and feel some control over your life, even small things like carpets or curtains or paint colors. For now, your safety and the safety of your kids is the most important thing. You should also never be afraid to call the police if he threatens you, throws things, breaks things, makes any aggressive gestures or motions toward you, etc. It is not okay for you to feel unsafe in your own house. Getting all of those incidents on the record is very helpful if you would ever need to get a restraining order or other protection from him in the future. There are also many domestic violence hotlines you could call if you are in a panic and are not yet ready to call the police. You would have to check for local hotlines, as I am not sure where you are located, but here are some national ones that would work well: https://www.thehotline.org/ https://ncadv.org/resources If you need to get out immediately, there are likely women’s shelters in your area that would take you in if you can’t afford a hotel or find somewhere else with short notice: https://www.domesticshelters.org/help#?page=1 Other safety measures you could think about are things like getting a deadbolt on the room you sleep in, locking away important papers and possessions you may need for the future, or getting a sound machine or noise-cancelling headphones to block him out when you need some peace. There are some great meditations you can find on mindfulness apps and youtube that work great with those headphones. Here are a few examples: https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-apps/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZToicYcHIOU   Hang in there! This is a difficult time and probably has been proceeded by many difficult years being married to someone who does not treat you with the kindness and compassion you deserve. It sounds like an end is in sight, and hopefully coming sooner than later. I hope this has been helpful, and I am sending you good thoughts to get through this and get to a place of safety and healing.   Take care, Katherine
(M.Ed, LPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Would you consider this PTSD or anxiety or both?

Although I would need to know more information to diagnose you with anxiety or PTSD, PTSD does seem plausible. You were involved in many situations that made you fearful for your life as well as your daughter's life. Now when you have memories of the event, or talk to him, your body appears to be reacting physically from that fear as if you were in those situations all over again. However, no matter if you technically have anxiety or PTSD, it would be good to work through your past trauma and find ways to heal so you can feel free from those past events and not feel triggered every time you talk to him or think about what has happened. Also, if you ever feel like you are in immediate danger, please do not hesitate to call 911 or your local authorities immediately. I get you probably do not want to get the law involved, but your life and your daughter's life are worth protecting. I am so sorry you had to go through that and are continuing to deal with it emotionally. Being hurt or threatened by the ones you love most can leave a lasting scar and be so confusing. My hope is that through counseling, you will be able to work through that confusion and heal any wounds he caused. Trauma can be so confusing because everyone reacts to it differently. No matter who you work with, it is important that you feel heard and understood and feel like they are taking the time to understand your story and how you are reacting to the stress. Through that supportive and caring environment, you can learn skills to calm your body down when you are being triggered and teach your body that you are not in danger. Once you are able to consistently manage your anxiety and not let your body get into fight or flight mode, you can begin doing the hard work with your therapist to process the trauma and heal from it. It is a long road ahead to recovery, but you took one of the biggest steps by asking this question and seeking help! 
(MA, LPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

I'm pregnant and always sad, the father doesn't care and let's his family disrespect me. I'm so tire

Hi Chelle,  Thank you so much for your question. I am so sorry to hear that you're dealing with this challenging situation, especially while pregnant. You deserve to be happy and you deserve to be with someone who respects you. You are not to blame for his treatment of you. You are not the cause of his behavior. You and your baby deserve a safe and happy life. You are not alone.  If you're ready to end the relationship, there are many options out there of organizations that can support you and provide different types of assistance depending on what you need. You don't share very much in terms of specifics here about the nature of the abuse and toxic history with this person but it's very common for there to be barriers in place for you to be able to leave easily or fully. It's also common for abuse and manipulation to escalate when there are perceived ties that might make it harder for you to get away (in this care your pregnancy might be an example of that).  If you’re hoping your abusive partner will change… The abuse will probably keep happening. Abusers have deep emotional and psychological problems. While change is not impossible, it isn’t quick or easy. And change can only happen once your abuser takes full responsibility for his behavior, seeks professional treatment, and stops blaming you, his unhappy childhood, stress, work, his drinking, or his temper. If you believe you can help your abuser… It’s only natural that you want to help your partner. You may think you’re the only one who understands him or that it’s your responsibility to fix his problems. But the truth is that by staying and accepting repeated abuse, you’re reinforcing and enabling the behavior. Instead of helping your abuser, you’re perpetuating the problem. If your partner has promised to stop the abuse… When facing consequences, abusers often plead for another chance, beg for forgiveness, and promise to change. They may even mean what they say in the moment, but their true goal is to stay in control and keep you from leaving. Most of the time, they quickly return to their abusive behavior once you’ve forgiven them and they’re no longer worried that you’ll leave. If you’re worried about what will happen if you leave… You may be afraid of what your abusive partner will do, where you’ll go, or how you’ll support yourself or your children. But don’t let fear of the unknown keep you in a dangerous, unhealthy situation. Whether or not you're ready to leave there are steps you can take to protect yourself. This process is about creating a safety plan. Contact a domestic violence or sexual assault program in your area. They can provide emotional support, peer counseling, safe emergency housing, information, and other services whether you decide to stay or leave the relationship. Build as strong a support system as your partner will allow. Whenever possible, get involved with people and activities outside your home. Be kind to yourself! Develop a positive way of looking at and talking to yourself. Use affirmations to counter the negative comments you get from the abuser. Carve out time for activities you enjoy. Wherever you are in the process of getting yourself out of this situation- therapy can help. Talking to someone who can help you process what you've been going through and what you want your next steps to be can help you feel like a better life is possible. And it is.  Please take care of yourself and good luck. 
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I move on and forget someone who I thought loved me but played mind games and controlled me

Hello Stacey, and thank you for reaching out with regards to the internal struggle you appear to be experiencing....not wanting to remain in an abusive relationships/situation, but also struggling with the opposite side of the spectrum in being "on your own" as you put it.    Leaving an abusive relationship can be one of the hardest things a person does. But even after your ex is out of your life, sometimes the emotional and mental effects from experiencing abuse can linger on. You may experience feelings of depression, guilt, anger, loss and even symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder: Anxiety, Trouble sleeping, Being easily frightened or scared, Avoiding of stressful triggers that remind you of abuse, Difficulty maintaining relationships, and even feeling emotionally numb. There is no one way to feel or heal after you leave an abusive relationship. It may be hard to stop thinking about your old relationship. You may still think about the little comments that your ex said to break you down, make you feel worthless or to make you think that you didn’t deserve better. (Your ex was wrong by the way). You may even think about the nice things that they said and the good times that you had with them. Being in an abusive relationship, or leaving and getting back together more than once (which is very common) can hurt your self-esteem and make you doubt yourself. If you’re feeling bad, you may even question your decision to leave in the first place. The important thing to remember is that you did leave and that took a lot of strength. Now it is time to channel your courage into healing and getting back to being a happy and healthy you. Below are some common steps to try.   Re-establish your sense of safety. This means feeling confident that your ex won’t harm you anymore (whether that’s by cutting off contact, getting a protective order or even moving) and beginning to find stability in everyday life. Stability looks different for different people. Sometimes it’s just getting back into your school routine again. If you’re older, it can mean finding a steady job and feeling financially secure.   Recognise that you’re not to blame. What happened to you is not your fault. There is nothing wrong with you and you are not responsible for another adult’s actions. Abusers have a very canny way of making their victims believe that what they did is your fault. They often use words like ‘you made me do that’ or ‘I wouldn’t have to do that if you__’. Emotional manipulation is just their way of carrying out their abuse and exercising control over you. It is not normal for people to go around destroying other people’s lives. If someone treats you badly, there is something wrong with them, not with you.   Give yourself some time to grieve. It’s normal to feel sad or angry for a while. It’s important to let yourself experience those feelings and to let them out, rather than bottling them up. There are lots of healthy ways you can do this: journaling, writing poetry or songs, creating art, exercising or dancing. In addition to being expressive, all of these activities can slowly help to restore your sense of power over your own life. They can remind you of your strengths and the beautiful things you are capable of creating.   Reconnect with ordinary life. It can be difficult to remember what life was like before an abusive relationship. You may feel emotionally closed off, and it can be hard to trust people again. Your ex-partner may have even physically isolated you from your friends and family, and you feel you have no one to turn to or that nobody could understand what you have been through. There are always people to help. You are not alone!   Use Your Anger. Search beneath the fear and guilt, and you might find a deep level of anger. Society often judges those who are more prone to angry outbursts, but anger has its uses. It can act as the fuel that drives us to get out of bad situations. That being said, it's important to make sure your anger is being projected onto the right person. If you feel your life is out of control, if you find yourself reflecting on how unfair the situation is or find yourself sick of asking for help, use the anger to build a path out. Use the energy to plan the life you want, the partner you deserve and the career you dreamed of. Do nothing out of a need for revenge. Express the anger through a good life, a happy life and the abuser will have less of an impact on your new life.   Trust that mental scars CAN fade away. Physical wounds heal; that’s the wonder of the human body. Mental wounds only heal if you allow it to happen. Your scars can become just a reminder of your struggles. They can show pain and suffering but more importantly, they can show your will to survive. Mental scars can fade away and become a distant memory. Learning to let go of the past is the key to future happiness. The mental pain you felt yesterday can become the strength you feel tomorrow if you are willing to let it happen.   Don’t suffer in silence. You can feel lonely after you’ve left your abusive partner, especially as most abusers will isolate their victims so they can better control them. Don’t suffer in silence, you are not alone. You can reach out to family and friends. If you are not ready for that yet, there are a number of organisations that help survivors of abusive relationships get back on their feet. You can also reach out and join social media communities of other survivors like you. When you are ready, share your story. It helps you heal from your past and your story can give inspiration and courage to someone else.    Rebuilding Self-Esteem. Creating a sense of worth comes from decisive action and positive reaction. It comes from having our experiences validated, from scrapping any designated roles (whether its husband or wife, father or mother) and valuing ourselves as something separate and individual. This can easily get lost in life, as we cross paths with so many varied personalities with their own self-esteem issues and different ways of making themselves feel better.   You deserve to feel great! Although it may difficult, this is the time that you need to focus on you and your own happiness. You never did anything to cause this and you deserve to be happy and feel safe. What you went through is not who you are. Healing is a process and through it, you will remember how strong, capable and extraordinary you really are. You will have good and bad times, but every day free from abuse is another piece of yourself that you get back and, eventually, those pieces will come together.  
(LMHC, MCAP, TIRF)
Answered on 10/21/2021

how should i handle this?

Hello, I believe your question has two components, a legal one and a moral one. You have mentioned several incidents of abuse and manipulation on the part of your son’s father. You may want to contact legal aid to get some information on what your rights are and legal obligations you have as a mother and to see what legal rights he has to custody since he did not sign the birth certificate you could search the internet for additional information and resources also because you have been taking care of your son without him for awhile it seems. However, it is always better to speak to individuals in the legal field when it comes to matters of custody and other legal issues to make sure you know your rights and legal obligations. The moral part of your question has to do with how comfortable will feel allowing your son to spend time alone with a person he does not know? True his father may have changed; however, you do not know how true that is or if the change has been because he has not placed in a situation to upset him. I am sure you want to protect your son so maybe you could set up some virtual meetings to see how they get along and to also check in on the father’s mental state also as it seems in the past when he could not get his way, he took things out on his children. It is understandable to want children to know their other parent however, as the custodial parent you want to make sure the environment you are placing yourself and your son in is safe. Loving, and caring. You want to make sure you are keeping yourself safe along with your son at all costs and that sometimes means keeping yourself and child anyone from family members and friends that could potentially cause harm to you and them. And that he is in environments that promotes love, understanding and positive teachable moments. You will experience many different situations in your lifetime and if it does not provide positive value to your life, you should try to avoid it if you can. I hope this helps. 
(MA, LPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How to deal with someone that doesn’t see you as a person

I am so sorry to hear that you are coparenting with someone who you do not feel treats you right, and that this abuse has been going on for 5+ years. Gaslighting, guilt tripping, and mentally "punching you around" are all forms of emotional abuse which is domestic violence. Emotional abuse is devastating to a person, and it is not uncommon for victims of emotional abuse to be in so much pain that they have thoughts of death because it impacts your confidence, your self-esteem, your trust in others and your trust in yourself. Now that you have a child together, the situation makes it nearly impossible to completely remove that person from your life. However, there is a way to navigate this situation and for you to rebuild, heal, and have a wonderful quality of life. There is hope, and there are resources. A safe place for you to start is to 1) work on healing from your own abuse from this person through therapy, 2) learning how to set very strict and clear boundaries so that you protect yourself from future abuse and 3) finding a way to engage in a routine of self-care. Therapy can help you work through core beliefs that are a result of emotional abuse such as, "I am unlovable" or "It is my fault that these things transpired" or "There is something wrong with me." etc. These core beliefs are fear-based, a result of abusive messages from your partner that are meant to keep you compliant and under their control. There is a way to reverse these messages and develop healthy ones. We are all worthy of love. It is never your fault for someone else's behavior. Therapy can also help you with boundary work. These boundaries will be physical and emotional and they take time to establish. You can learn how to minimize contact and to reduce being triggered by this person, even while co-parenting, through the "Gray Rock Method." Self-care is vital in order for you to start putting your energy back into loving yourself and recovering from the abuse. There are many people who have been in your situation, and there is a lot of literature out there to provide you with the wisdom and knowledge that others have learned as victims of emotional abuse. There is also the domestic violence hotline/webiste where you can find information, support, and resources here: thehotline.org. 
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I be a better mom to my daughter and son when I'm mentally not there?

Hi    First of all, thank you for reaching out as it takes courage to ask for help.  You have taken the first step to establish safety for yourself and your children which is the most important step to begin with.   You are experiencing, what unfortunately is all too common with survivors of domestic violence, and that seeing yourself through a squewed lens.  This is a response to the trauma that you endured and can be worked on with the support of a therapist.  The therapist will help you to learn to see yourself through a different lens by processing the trauma (as appropriate) and having you learn and practice new coping skills.  By working on yourself you will also be role modeling new effective coping skills which might also help your children. I'm not sure if you have ever been in therapy, and although it can be hard to address issues that perhaps you have never addressed before, it can be very rewarding.  The process will be of working with your therapist to figure out what your therapy goals will be.  I usually focus on establishing good self-care as I see that as the best foundation for everything else.  Sometimes learning how growing up in an abusive environment affects how you see yourself, your relationships and the world, helps to actively change patterns for your children.   Being a domestic violence survivor has left you with the negative feedback given to you by your ex-partner and therapy will help you change that.  It will teach you to be informed on red flags, how to determine your limits, set them as you see fit and how to begin to trust yourself.  I hope that you will take this opportunity to continue to help yourself and your children.  You have already taken the most important step and that was to leave an abusive relationship.  I hope that you will see that you are strong and capable of attending to your needs and those of your children.   I hope you know that you aren't responsible for ex-partner's actions.  That person said and did all of that to keep you in control.  You are worthy of being safe and seeking support.  Best of luck 
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I move on from my abuser? I called the law September of 2020?

Hi! My name is Christina and I am a licensed therapist.  I am very glad you reached out for some support.  Domestic Violence can have multiple layers to it as to why someone would be abusive toward those they are supposed to love and care about.  For some, it is childhood experience and imprinting meaning it is how they "learned" to resolve conflict.  For others, it is about power and control in order to make themselves feel strong.  What I mean to say is, "It's complicated".  The most important thing for you to know and recognize is his behavior is not YOUR fault.  Many times the abuser will turn the behavior back around and excuse their actions by making it somehow caused by something you did/did not do.  Please do not buy into this.  Domestic abuse is the issue of the abuser, not the abused in any way, never.    For you and how to move on, especially if you are experiencing trauma symptoms, I suggest setting up your own therapy to work through your feeling and to get support.  The after effects of domestic violence can be debilitating and rob you of fulfillment, happiness and your own success. Trauma symptoms untreated do not normally just go away on their own.  A therapist who specilaizes in truama can truly help you to manage the symptoms and begin to heal from the pain and disappointment of being treated so badly.  Often times too, starting over is hard.  Basic things like shelter, work, food, education and transportation can be problematic to utilize.  A therapist can serve as a navigator to give direction in accessing resources you may be able to get to help meet your basic needs.   If by chance you have children who have witnessed the abuse, they often are also negatively impacted and may also need a therapist for support in processing things they saw or heard.  Sometimes we think we have somehow kept them out of it or think they do not know what was happening but most of the time, they know and also need to talk about it with someone.    Most of all please make sure you are somewhere safe.  Even a court ordered Emergency Protective Order is no guarantee the abuser will not seek us out and attempt more harm or say all the "right" things to make us think they won't hurt us again. I hope this has been helpful!   
(MSSW, MSCFT, LCSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021