Divorcing an abusive man can be even more dangerous than the marriage. Once the divorce process begins, the woman faces the potential for an escalation of the abuse, which may include destructive and outrageous behavior and verbal harassment, as well as violence. In this case, it’s vital for her to have a framework for how to prepare to get out, take control of her life and ensure she is taking necessary financial and legal steps.
Breaking Bonds: How to Divorce an Abuser and Heal – A Survival Guide by financial advisor and candid abuse survivor Rosemary Lombardy, provides a safe haven for women to refer to throughout the many phases of divorcing an abusive spouse. Pairing essential financial and legal information with practical self-care tools and healing techniques, through Breaking Bonds, Lombardy helps women to minimize stress and feel empowered as they deal effectively with their abuser.
Specific details provided throughout the book include:
- Financial and legal considerations—including things a lawyer or an accountant might overlook.
- What to pack in a go-to bag if you need to plan an escape.
- Life-changing – and, in some cases, life-saving – tips, such as to always back your car into the driveway and keep the driver’s door unlocked, with a hidden key, in case you need to escape in a hurry.
- Strategies to minimize the damage he will try to inflict both financially and emotionally, how to deal with trauma, and be confident in a better life ahead.
- Typical behaviors to expect from abusers and how to counteract them.
- Mistakes that she and others have made—and the potential ramifications— so the reader can avoid similar negative experiences.
“I’m dedicated to raising awareness around this important issue, and to empowering and supporting other women to break the cycle of domestic abuse in their own families,” adds Lombardy. “My goal is to give a voice to abused women—so many of them hide the abuse from friends and family out of shame —and give them the essential roadmap to break free from an intolerable situation and move toward a positive and joy-filled future.”
Q + A
Where are the places one can look to help (at any stage) in breaking the destructive bonds?
Call the 24 hour national domestic violence hotline at 800-799-7233, see a therapist, or go to domestic shelters.org if you need to find a safe haven to go to with the children. Go to the website www.breakingbonds.com, a free resource dedicated to the specific needs of abused women. It include emergencies, legal and financial resources, as well as many informative articles. My book, Breaking Bonds: How to Divorce an Abuser and Heal—A Survival Guide is available on this site as well as on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback versions. There is also a recommended reading list on the website. Become informed. You may want to join one of the private Facebook support groups or go to a Divorcecare meeting in your area for additional support.
What is the number one way to avoid repeating an abusive relationship?
Maintain a policy of no contact with your abuser, so that he does not have the opportunity to keep subjecting you to abuse. If you have children with him and share custody, use one of the many online apps available for schedules and emails so that you can minimize contact. Take plenty of time to heal before jumping into another relationship. You may suffer from trauma, low self-esteem issues, depression, and use negative coping tools such as excessive caffeine consumption, emotional eating, drinking, drug use, or overspending. It is very important that you seek therapy, read books on healing codependency and healing from abuse, use positive affirmations, learn boundary setting, and focus on taking care of your own needs and wants first so that you will be able to have healthy relationships in the future. You must become a different person to have a different outcome. Still intrinsically you, but stronger and more confident of who you really are and what you deserve to have.
What is your best advice for dealing with people who enable the abusive behavior?
If you have to deal with enablers of abuse, do not confide in them and do not take their advice. Limit or eliminate contact with them, even family members. They may mean well, but they are only reinforcing bad behavior by making excuses or even condoning it. Putting up with or condoning abusive behavior only perpetuates it. The only way to end abuse is to remove yourself from abusive situations. If enablers question you, set a boundary and explain only one time to them that you will no longer tolerate abuse and you will not let yourself be victimized. That’s it. It is up to you to protect yourself from abuse if you want to be happy.
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My Personal Experience
Throughout my first marriage (dating to divorce), I experienced abuse. It was primarily emotional, mental, and verbal; however, it was difficult nonetheless. In some ways it destroyed me, yet it also built me into a new, stronger woman.
My ex consistently tried gaslighting me — manipulating me through psychological means into questioning my own sanity. I am not too prideful to admit that I did struggle with jealousy; however, after finding a watch and makeup compact in our home that didn’t belong to me, I suspected that I was hitting the nail on the head. He swore that they were mine but I’d never owned the expensive brand of watch and the makeup was far too dark of a color for my fair skin. A woman knows if she’s owned a watch and which makeup colors she’s purchased. Somehow, he managed to make me believe that I was imagining it.
I was frequently told how worthless and stupid I was, as well as other verbal cut-downs such as being called fat, ugly, and told that no one would ever want me. He would expect me to have all of our laundry washed, yet he wouldn’t leave money for me to take them to the laundry room at our apartment complex. I had to often wash them by hand and hang to dry. Then he’d complain about clothes hanging everywhere.
After he wrecked our primary vehicle (he fell asleep on his way home from clubbing), I lost my job. Instead of replacing it with a sensible family vehicle, he got a loan and bought a motorcycle. He began to blame me for our poor financial state and even convinced his family that I was being ‘lazy’.
During our divorce, the biggest battle we had was how I wanted to go back to my maiden name. Out of all the things that can hold up a divorce, that was the biggest one. Because I had never changed my name via the Social Security office, the judge easily approved my request.
Because of our children, I have to continue communicating with him. I’ve tried to make it direct, no-nonsense; but he still manages to manipulate the situation and I catch myself taking the blame. He frequently changes his job, phone number, and address without updating me. Then that puts me in the situation of having to deal with his mother for visitation. Eight hours after I miscarried and had surgery, she called me being nosy and when I told her that my personal business was none of hers, she screamed at me that I was selfish and “should have died”.
Recovery from abuse has not been easy. I still have difficult days; however, I am learning to recognize the storm brewing and remove myself before the downpour. My husband has been an amazing source of support and he continues to help me grow out of the deep, dark mindset that I was in when we first met.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is how to distance myself from those who enable and even encourage the behavior. Fifteen years ago, I would have told you that I deserved the abuse. Today, I am confident that no one — absolutely NO ONE — deserves to be abused. I truly wish that Breaking Bonds: How to Divorce an Abuser and Heal – A Survival Guide had been a resource during my struggle; however, it is still an amazing tool for getting through the extended abuse post-divorce.