“As long as we see abusers as victims, or as out-of-control monsters, they will continue getting away with ruining lives. If we want abusers to change, we will have to require them to give up the luxury of exploitation”Lundy Bancroft
A couple of months after x had moved out, when we were still trying to reconcile, and about the time I had finally started using the term exit plan with my therapist, x brought our daughter home at bedtime after one of his weeknight visits (the ones I had asked him to have with her twice a week so she wouldn’t go weeks without seeing him if he was tired or busy.)
He had not fed her dinner. She had a pretzel and a small chunk of cheese, by his own account.
I sighed and asked him to make sure he fed her dinner in the future.
I had to, at bedtime, make dinner and get her to eat it and so bedtime would be at least an hour late. She was four and a very slow eater. And we both had to be up at six to get ready to get her to preschool and me to work. He knew what it meant to fight her in the morning when bedtime ran late. He very much knew.
He stiffened his back and shrugged his shoulders and smirked at me and said, way to complain about being a mom. Wow. What a mom.
As soon as he left my porch, he posted a status on Facebook that read something like: I hate it when people complain about having to be a parent.
Some of you chimed right in about how that’s bullshit and who would do that. One of you chimed in how you’d give anything to be able to parent your (dead) child.
He took a situation where he failed as a parent and almost instantly reframed it for maximum pity and enabling. And maximum damage to my image as a mom.
You all fell for it.
Or if you didn’t – you certainly didn’t call him on it.
I cried when I read it. As I was making dinner at what was past-bedtime.
I was still so much in the fog that I thought I could convince him it wasn’t what he said it was. I texted him justifying what shouldn’t have needed justifying. I spent hours doing that that night.
But he knew it wasn’t what he was pretending it was. He knew. He knows I’m a good mom. In fact, it drives him mad that I can run circles around him in the parent department. It’s part of why he attacks that particular trait.
He has zero allegiance to the truth – it doesn’t matter to him at all.
Praise and all your cheers do, though. They are like air and water to him.
There are so many, many incidents where what really happened and what you he told you happened are galaxies apart.
To you: Dude, she gives me grief any time I try to hang out without her
To me: Nah, I’d rather hang out with you. He’s always so damn negative. I get tired of hearing it. You’re way more my speed.
To you: She gets upset if you just show up. She’s real private about home.
To me: I did invite her – totally told her she could come by anytime. She just gets really busy, that’s all.
To you: She’s so jealous- we can’t even hangout in a group or she’ll freak out.
To me: Oh, she’s just some old friend of so and so’s, she keeps bugging me. I wish she’d fucking stop.
To you: Can we meet up? I miss you so much and I can’t take this much longer.
To me: She’s just an old friend. She’s married with three kids and we talk about our kids all the time.
If you’re his friend, you know him as funny and loyal and almost always hard on his luck.
If you’re his family, you know. The truth. Deep down you know. But you excuse it and soothe his wounds and let him say it’s all my (or her or her or her) fault. You even help him do things like kidnap his own kid and play the part of doting father to a child whose mother abandoned him. Because, you know, family.
And we’re just bitter, selfish, crazy bitches anyway.
This letter isn’t for his family. They know. They just still enable him. Help polish him up to catch a new woman each time he has to start full-time trolling again.
This is for those of you who’ve known him a long time. Think you know him.
For those of you who would be appalled to know what you enable. Shit, maybe it’s just for the girlfriends of his friends. The wives. The ones who think they help and uphold women but are, through him, abusing women (and his children) left and right.
When I met x, he was hanging out several nights a week with two longtime friends who lived nearby. In the very very beginning, he even still went out to dinner with them and then came over after. He would offer to not do that and I would tell him to go – I’d go to the gym or relax at home or call a friend and then we’d see each other later. Quickly, he stopped hanging out with them at all.
I’d say Go make plans with so and so. Don’t you miss your dudes?
Nope. He’d say. I prefer you.
I pushed him to see his male friends for a solid year. And then, after countless times of him telling me they were always complaining and negative, I finally stopped. Figured he’d only spent so much time with them before because he was bored or lonely or whatever. It wasn’t my job to make him go hang out with friends.
I didn’t know it was my job to figure out that he was lying. To all of us. All the time.
When I met x, he was also in three bands. Practicing at least two nights a week.
I liked that he had music as an outlet, as a hobby. I wanted time to write. And I like being alone and having time to myself. One of the promises I made to myself when I moved back to California after having ended a thirteen year relationship is that I would be better about not losing myself in the union. I would still find time to be alone and hang out with girlfriends – alone.
Pretty quickly he quit one band. Then another.
Each time I said, do you really want to do this? Cause I don’t need you to do this.
He said, yes. My choice. Studio rent is too expensive and I’d much rather hang out with you.
Three bands to one. Two close friends on the regular to just me.
When I ended it, though?
She’s toxic, man. She made me stop hanging out, she made me quit the bands, she even made me stop inviting my family over.
The version of my life you’ve heard and the one I lived are oceans apart.
The guy you’ve known for years, the one who’s loyal – he shouts ACAB with you all and talks big about fuck the police. He’s called the cops on me at least five times in the last year and a half – for things like not answering my phone. Or not agreeing to a FaceTime call with our daughter on a night that he forfeited his time.
That heartbroken guy you know, he’s punched my car while our daughter screamed in the back seat and raised both hands up – middle fingers stiff and tall – and called me a fucking bitch as a five year old wailed and screamed in the back seat.
By the time I got out completely – and could finally see clearly, the trauma bond thankfully having given way to full repulsion after that last pathetic stalking-light of a twenty-three year old bikini barista by his fifty-year-old balding self – was that not only had he lied about the thousands of things I had already figured out, but he had lied about pretty much everything. Everything.
From the beginning but also from before the beginning. From before the before the beginning.
I suddenly saw that everything I thought I knew about his marriage and his divorce and his ex-wife was garbage I let myself be fed. I had swallowed it whole – and when I doubted some of it, I just told myself he was embarrassed or not emotionally intelligent enough to discern the gray areas of all that.
What I wanted to say to you ALL very early on was this:
Why do you think both women who have had children with him couldn’t stay with him until even their child’s fifth birthday? Started breaking up with him by the time the kids were walking and talking and kept going back to him and trying to make it work until they just couldn’t do it anymore?
(Why do you think the women he’s been with keep taking him back over and over before finally ending it? Did you know it takes, on average, seven attempts to end an abusive relationship? For someone to break the trauma bond enough to weather the abuser’s attempts to pull them back in? And they all do: try to pull you back in with apologies and promises and vows of undying love and devotion. x was again trying to reconcile with his ex-wife only weeks before I met him, in fact. I saw the messages.)
Why, when the women who had children with him each ended it, they had to lawyer up and go turtle to stay safe?
Why? Two very different women who had to go into the very same protective modes and couldn’t stay with him, not even for the kids. Who both had to hide and try not to talk to him at all in order to feel safe.
I still want to say this. And so much more.
A few of you watched him take a bat to a band on a stage over some old dumb beef, using that band playing too long and fucking with the set list as an excuse. Watched the whole crowd circle around him and try to beat him out of the venue because he was clearly in the wrong and you still cheered him on. Those who weren’t there heard about it and still laugh and high five about it, nearly a decade later.
He walked out to his car and came back with a bat and shut down a whole show by rushing the stage and swinging at the band members and their equipment.
His eyes suddenly all pupil and his breath short until he came back to himself, many many minutes after another friend got him and I out of the building and to safety from the mob who wanted to take him out.
You are the first people to act like it’s out of the realm of possibility that that same man – the one who went black eyed and almost robotic in his rage in a crowd of a hundred people – can’t possibly be cruel and abusive at home when he has just one person to rage at and try to control.
The disconnect and denial involved in pretending a man who would would attack a band, in a crowd of spectators, with a bat that he had to go to his car to get as his rage surged and swelled, would not direct anger and rage and cruelty at a woman at home – that disconnect baffles me.
I don’t not understand it, though. I was even there. I saw it. The bat and the stage and those eyes.
Those eyes haunted me (still do almost ten years later) anytime I let that memory surface from the folds of my brain.
I repressed it all. Trauma bonded and foggy and holding down the parts that made me want to vomit, I strong armed it all into the darkest recesses of my brain until I couldn’t any longer.
But I was never ok with it. Not that night. Not the next morning when I made it clear I wouldn’t live like that. That if that’s the life he wanted then we needed to part ways.
You all, though, you laugh with him about it and then still believe he was/is abused instead of the other way around.
I get that you don’t want to admit that the guy who is funny and lively at parties is a monster when you all aren’t looking. I didn’t want to see it either and I was the recipient of it.
But your denial and your discomfort don’t make it untrue.
His story: I fight for my kids.
Reality: he hasn’t spent a penny since the $435 he had to spend to file his initial reply to my paternity filing to establish custody (a fee he complained loudly about at work).
The reality: He has cancelled visitations too many times to count for trips, his girlfriend’s birthday weekend, fake work training that was really whiskey tours with friends in Kentucky.
The also reality: he never files his court papers correctly because the loan he took for a lawyer went to a six or seven hundred dollar bicycle, a trip to new Orleans and who knows what else. He won’t take the time to meet with the free legal help or google what form he needs to submit but he can do lots of research on what the new iphone will do or what wheels are best for his cool new bicycle.
What he says: She’s killing me with child support and she makes twice what I make.
The reality: He’s only paying now because he’s garnished and I do make almost twice as much as him. And I juggle all the childcare and pay more bills than him, partly because of what I took on to house him and his son as we built that strawman family. And I paid 100% of all child expenses for more than a year before that garnishment kicked in. All the shoes. All the underwear. All the dance classes. All the food. He hasn’t contributed to a single one of her medical expenses in years. Still.
The reality: he makes less but he has plenty for colored vinyl, studio rental and recording time and sailing trips to look like a hero to his girlfriend (for now . . . she’ll get the real him eventually, we all do).
What he says: She’s keeping me from my child and she just lied to the court now to do it.
The reality: The court, this last time, gave me full custody and suspended his visits without me asking for those things. Think about that. You may not know what I know about family court – but that’s huge. A-lot-of-parents-in-my-support-groups-can’t-believe-that-really-happened huge.
The reality: He could already have visits back, supervised, but he hasn’t shown any sign yet of doing what the court asked him to do first. (see: studio rental and recording time for ideas about what he’s been busy doing and prioritizing over getting visits back).
His lies on social media (and so so many times in court already) aren’t reality no matter if you want them to be or not.
I could tell you so many lies and then the truth. About the credit card debt he lies and says I left him with (he owed me over $1500 and I still owed just over $500 on one of his cards – for a debt he swore he would split with me but didn’t). About the times I cried, worried over money I needed for a surgery, and he said do it, we’ll pay it together, we’re in this together and then refused to pay a cent.
About the sports his older child never got to do because he said it would be too much driving every weekend.
About the things he’s said to business associates of mine about me while he posts that *I’m* harassing him. About the numerous false harassment claims he filed against me at work that resulted in him being written up at the suggestion of an impartial third party investigator.
So many more small and large lies I could debunk if I wanted to take the time and space to do it. Too many. Your eyes would cross before you could finish reading them all.
So much I could say about the cruel things he says and the mindgames he plays when no one else is looking.
You’ve all seen him argue just to argue online. He does that to confuse and fuck with the women who love him. For sport.
I am telling the truth.
His ex-wife is telling the truth (for the first time in a long time to anyone other than her closest friends because the level at which you all rally around him and believe his bullshit victim stories is enough to drown those of us he’s hurt on most days – we absolutely know our stories won’t be believed by most of you, if by any at all).
He’s lying to you all. All the time. Just like he was lying to me all the time.
There is no lie too small for him.
This man you know who was posting about how his child’s mother wasn’t even reaching out or trying to call her son while hiding him from her and not allowing her to see him gives you as much of an act as he gave me.
This man who introduced me to a woman he had dated before me saying she’s just an old friend whose husband died and we all rallied to help her. I just felt bad for her and her kid.
This man who falls in love so fast and finds real, true love after such bad luck in love over and over and over. It was me. Before me it was someone else. After me it’s her. And after she wises up (or can’t take the confusion anymore), it will be someone else.
This man who says I am psycho and crazy and an unfit mother is the man who left his child in my care for our whole relationship. Who fixed her lunch three times in four years. Who gave her zero baths on his own. Who has cancelled visitation because he’s tired and hungry.
Who, when the mediator asked him, after he filed a neglect charge against me to get more time with my daughter, said Well, I just want some holidays and any extra time I decide on later. Not 50/50. Not actual parenting.
He’s the man who went to pick up a used bbq on his lunch hour the day I had to go pick up his son from summer camp for having an altercation with another kid. Just get him, I don’t want to flake on this bbq again.
I went to camp and coaxed his son out from under a table and held him and told him it would all be ok and he was loved and was a good kid no matter what.
A free bbq. That didn’t work. So he could repair it and give it away sometime in the future.
While his son and I waited for him more than half an hour to all talk about what happened.
That’s the standup guy you know.
One female friend, who I met through him and who is married to a friend of his, told me I’m just trying to support my husband who wants to see his friend and then quickly fell off the chart when I started finally talking about the harassment that was happening (not even the abuse yet).
The sister of his who cried with me saying he definitely does go to a dark place switched immediately when I ended it to you betters and you’ll never get what you think you’ll get. She left my daughter and I out in the winter cold for hours as a locksmith worked on my doors instead of walking (or driving) over a spare key she had because apparently enabling his delusion and trying to hurt me is worth more than a child she supposedly loves. It’s a ten minute walk if you walk slow. It’s a three minute drive. It was finger numbing cold out.
The friend – the same one he called so negative and who was so friendly to me for years every time I saw him – looked like he’d seen Hitler when I ran into him at the neighborhood grocery a few months after ending it.
The woman who met me once at a show and wouldn’t know me if I walked up to her on the street called me such a selfish fucking bitch when x posted lies about having to drain his 401k for a lawyer because I wouldn’t just work it out.
Know who’s drained their 401k? Me. Know whose NEVER had a lawyer for any of the nine hearings we’ve had so far?
Don’t rush. I’ll let you think about it.
He’s a con man. It’s all smoke and mirrors.
And you all eat it up.
You’re like the people on the news who knew the serial killer and say Well, he seemed like such a nice guy.
And if you looked close, you’d see that he even keeps you all at a distance. Seriously. I saw it all from inside. Could see he never really even answered the calls from his best friend.
Go ahead, I’d say, I’ll just go read while you talk.
No, he’d say, I don’t feel like it. He just talks and talks.
I know he’s told that friend that I got mad if he’d do anything but be with me. I know it without having to know it.
I used to ask why he never called his family. Never invited his sisters over after our daughter was born. I finally, three years in, just started inviting them myself. Asking them myself if we could work out a time to do Thanksgiving or Christmas.
And still they swallow his toxic, controlling version of me like a thirst quenching drink of water.
I get it. Somewhat.
I did the same thing for almost eight years.
But some of you are going on thirty or more with him. Decades helping him abuse women and children while praising him for being a good dad.
It’s hard to see that someone you like is bad. Bad bad bad.
Doesn’t make him not bad, though.
When you ignore an abuser, when you abandon the person telling you the truth, when you feed into his pathetic lies and pity parties, then you aid in his abuse.
You aid in his abuse.
Being in a house with him and loving him and being abused and hoping I could fix it was an awful place to be. Lonely and painful and completely disorienting.
But nothing was as lonely as when I ended it and the people who seemed to like me and, especially, the ones who really saw me through the years, suddenly treated me like the abuser. Like a leper.
Didn’t even ask me for my version. Still haven’t.
You all just take your discomfort and dissonance and go buy him a beer and let him lull you back into fully buying into him as a good dad who just can’t seem to pick the right mom for his kids.
A common trope in groups for abuse survivors is that you will fully see who are your friends. And you do.
But you also see the circle that swells and swells and swells around a sociopathic liar spinning a sad, sad tale.
Who two months later is happy in love and moving in with someone else. Whose ex is bitter and vindictive. The same ex, by the way, who a few months earlier was the best for throwing him three birthday parties and he’s so lucky to have her.
With him it’s always that – the best or the worst.
It’s the classic black and white thinking of an abuser or disordered person.
It’s incredibly dizzying when you live with it.
She’s the best. Until she decides she’s done being used.
Then she’s bitter. Toxic. Crazy. Psycho. Petty.
You’ve all seen that he gave his current girlfriend the same ‘creative’ valentine’s gift that he gave me. Twice.
You’ve all heard him complain about the city he now lives in – would even say he hated it. He used to complain so much I would beg to drive us into that city whenever we had to go so he wouldn’t bitch and complain the whole way.
Now he lives and works there with her. Has he told her he always wanted to but I hated it? Probably.
You’ve all seen him say the same flattering things he said about me. And the one before me. And the dozen or so others between his ex-wife and the one before me.
It’s one thing for her to be fooled by that. How would she know?
But you all? You don’t think that’s at least odd? That he uses the same tropes to prove he’s a loving, caring guy?
The same recycled heart boxes he’s posting online getting strangers to give to him instead of just buying the damn chocolate and taking it out of the box?
In our most recent court date, the judge gave me sole legal and physical custody.
I hadn’t even asked for it this time.
She decided that.
I’m saying it again because it’s a big deal. It shows a lot. And: I didn’t even ask for it. Meaning: I didn’t do that to him. The judge did. Based on his actions and the way he’s hurt his child.
I’d bet my savings he immediately posted about how I robbed him of his child or some other dishonest revision of the real events.
Lots of you probably don’t know how hard it is, usually, to be granted that.
What he tells you is not the truth.
About me. About his kids. Especially about himself.
But just saying the lie makes you consider it as a possibility. And that’s all he needs.
As long as you all feed into his illusion and bolster him, you are abusing also.
Not just me. Not just his ex-wife and his kids.
But his current girlfriend. And whoever comes after her.
I had testimonials from women who knew him that he was a good guy.
I believed them.
Why wouldn’t I?
They were wrong. And not looking hard enough to know they didn’t know enough to say that.
They (some of them I am still friends with) helped him to abuse me.
They helped him.
I helped him abuse his ex-wife and who knows who else.
I have atoned for some of what I did when I believed his lies. And some of it I will never be able to give direct apologies for – but I have them ready just the same.
I write them out when I remember some way I helped him abuse someone else so that I can shed it and let it go.
I helped him abuse until I faced the truth.
Stop helping him abuse.
Stop thinking love you, bro doesn’t high-five him right into snagging another woman who thinks him having all these friends proves something about him being a good person.
Stop saying cruel things about his exes because he lies on social media. You encourage his lies and his abuse when you engage in it.
He says crueler and crueler things when you all eat it up. He escalates.
You embolden him. You give him power. And energy to attack me or someone else that day -your words and support are fuel helping him feel righteous and entitled.
You deciding it’s none of your business helps him abuse, too.
Read that again.
Stop helping him abuse.
Stop refusing to see who he really is so you can hold onto to who you want him to be, who you have thought he was all these years.
It’s hard. I know.
But it’s important.
Stop putting coins in his chaos machine.
None of it is no harm / no foul.
None of it.
And if you can’t or won’t stop feeding his abuse, then at least stop pretending you are an advocate for women.
You’re not. Not as long as you aid in his abuse.
You cannot build up an abuser and say you support a woman’s freedom and autonomy.
Get honest. And make a choice.
But if I can do it from inside the chaos machine, if I can dig my way out to say NO, to say STOP – then anyone can.
So if you don’t, save the excuses.
Helping him polish up the facade is helping him abuse.
Staying silent is helping him abuse.
The truth is there to see.
Stop looking away.