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Josh

Josh

I never realized I was in an abusive relationship until several months after it ended.  Our first ten years together were the happiest years of my life; the changes happened so gradually, I never understood.  How long does a cucumber soak in the brine before it becomes a pickle?  Does it matter?  You can tell which is which by the taste.  

Trying to understand the transformation from bliss to abuse intellectually is, in some ways, impossible – because there isn’t any logic behind certain choices & events; just emotion.  And behind those emotions, there is pain, and there is fear.  Fear of loss.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of change.  Memories float to the surface unbidden, like bubbles of methane gas from long-dead, decomposing bodies of pre-historic creatures entombed in the black, noxious mud of a lonesome bog, flares of hope like will o’ the wisps luring me away from solid ground.  

“But, she loved me, once…”  No.  She loved what I did for her.  She loved my vision of her.  And I allowed what she did to me, because I was in love with vision I had created.  The good memories come on their own (why are those still the most painful?).  I have to struggle to resurrect the corpses of the traumatic engrams.  When she broke down the door, missing the head of our newborn baby by inches as I tried to shield him from her rage, I insisted upon counseling; we spent several weeks in the counselor’s office discussing my masturbation habits.  Her temper was hardly mentioned.  

When I told her that honesty & faithfulness were my core values, and she lied and said she’d never had sex with our mutual friend at the time, I should have known he was to be only the first of many mutual friends with whom she would betray me.  When she lied to the detective investigating the rumors of her inappropriate sexual relationship with her high school teacher, it was a dark foreshadowing of how she would manipulate the local police department during our divorce, culminating in the loss of my professional license for the crime of my acquiescence to her demands.  Yet I listened as she lied, I knew the truth, and I stayed quiet.  When she threatened to leave me, she knew she was violating a boundary that was very important to me; I knew how these threats could be used as a form of control & manipulation and had made sure it was well-understood since the beginning that this tactic was forbidden.  I moved her belongings outside my apartment building and locked the door.

Through the window I watched as she stood there, sobbing in the rain.  I had grown up in a world of loneliness, isolation, withdrawn affection, & unpredictable rejection; I knew that pain, and I could not stand to see another suffer in its freezing, desperate despair.  I didn’t hold my ground; I let her back in.  I participated in my own destruction, every step of the way.  By the time we got married, I had shown her she could lie to me, cheat on me, abuse me, and threaten me, and I would forgive her.  To keep her from hurting me again, I would offer her whatever she wanted.  My core values were sacrificed like offerings to a false god, burned to ash in desperate & futile attempts to appease her and avoid the pain of the betrayals that never stopped.  

As her secrets multiplied, I strove to be a model of transparency, honesty, and integrity.  In quiet, private moments, I wanted her to see me – but I soon noticed that every vulnerability I had revealed to her eventually became a target for her psychological abuse.  What could I do?  I wanted true intimacy; true friendship.  

I did not want any barrier between her and knowing me fully.  But her alcoholic, abusive rages were becoming more & more devastating to my sense of self-worth, and I could no longer continue enduring her attacks without some form of protection.  Feeling I had no other option, I built a wall — but a wall made of glass — and I placed it around my heart.  I was not happy.  But leaving her was unthinkable.  I bargained and rationalized and denied, and in so doing, I lost my identity.  As her toxicity became my own and the damage to my personal & professional life elevated, I naively trusted in the truth to be my shield, little realizing the extent of the contagion growing inside me at that time; a mistake which would soon cost me dearly.

Trying to separate her abuse from what I am responsible for is like trying to wash the blood from clothing that has been fused to my skin by an atomic blast.  When the bomb went off, the glass wall around my heart imploded.  The pieces went everywhere but on her.  I lost my finances.  I lost my career.  I lost my dignity, and my privacy.  Most of all, I lost my innocence.  

This is victory, I remind myself, as I pick shards of rose-colored, blood-stained glass out of my heart, wash them off with my tears, and re-assemble them into a beautiful mosaic.  I won.  I beat the odds.  I survived a sixteen-year marriage to a narcissist, and its aftermath.  I escaped.  I’m free.  And I will heal.  Stronger, wiser, and happier than ever before.

MamSouth

MamSouth

I am an alienated mother who was alienated from my children in South America. I grew up in Ireland and emigrated to South America in my early twenties. I met my husband there, got married and we had a son and daughter.  I can, like many people who are separated or divorced, say that we were happy at one time, enjoyed life and had children together. But as one knows, life can change and rearrange. Over time my relationship with my husband began to deteriorate. It is one thing to split up but to be deliberately and vengefully alienated from our beloved children is an entirely different matter. I had a woman helper in our home. One day she came to me in the kitchen and said,  “Your husband is saying bad things about you to the children in the living room”.

I have witnessed separating parents who do not alienate the other parent. They are able to part and still be good  co-operating parents. These children play, go to school knowing that both parents love them. The benefits to the child are huge.  They remain being loved by their extended families. This benefits the extended families who are not torn from their nieces, nephews or grandchildren. This leads to more peaceful communities which in turn leads to more peace in society. Our reactions to being an alienated parent are not always what they should be. One is thrown into new territory that one couldn’t imagine or plan for. There is shock, disbelief and anger. We are thrown onto a rollercoaster that we were not expecting. It’s full of troughs and very few rises. We are thrown around like sand in a dust storm.

Why does this happen? It happens because many legal systems in many countries are not set up to deal with this situation. Alienated parents are hurled into legal systems where there is little knowledge or training of what Parental Alienation is, or how to identify it, or how to deal with it effectively, or quickly. The alienating parent knows this and presses the button on the rollercoaster. There is little or no accountability for the alienating parent in many of these legal systems.

They cannot be arrested for drowning the natural love and affection a parent has for his or her child or children so that they can grow and develop into decent citizens in society. 

From my research and personal experience, alienated parents can be dragged into court again and again costing money they can ill afford. In the meantime, children are growing up. These children can be asked to make adult decisions while their young, growing and developing minds are trying to find their own identity as humans, sometimes within a home war zone. These are children without fully developed personalities or life experience being asked to make adult decisions they are totally ill equipped for. With a vengeful, alienating parent pulling the strings, these children are sometimes asked to choose which parent they want to live with but then they can- or may be forced to– choose to alienate the other parent who can become isolated not only from his or her children but also from in-laws who side with the alienator.

As a result, the alienated parent cannot stop it,  cannot control it, cannot change the legal system on their own. They have to go through it. I know of some alienated parents who have walked away in despair. The fight is too hard,  too exhausting.  A friend of mine in South America committed suicide when her three children were alienated from her. The youngest child was a four-year-old girl. I knew this woman and often visited her when our children played together. I witnessed a very good mother who loved her children. This was long before I knew what Parental Alienation was.

I am now retired and live here in Ireland.  I have not had a relationship with my son for twenty-two years. My daughter has kept in touch on and off over these years. We have had a rocky journey and at this distance, it is harder to repair. However, we have not given up on each other for which I thank God. My Christian faith has sustained me in this horrible journey where one struggles to find meaning when one has lost the love of one’s beloved children.

My two adult children live in South America. They are in their thirties now and they are both married. Here, I give two quotes from my adult daughter in two particular phone conversations over the last few years. “I have to keep both your secrets,”. This comment refers to the fact that my ex-husband refused any contact with me over the years because I divorced him. On another phone conversation, I brought up the fact that I had been alienated from her, and my son. Her reply was “Who did that to you?” When I realised she had blocked out what happened. I changed the subject. There have been times when I thought my heart would burst out of my chest in the agony of losing the love of my children.

Janice

Janice

In my early 20’s, I dreamed about disappearing off into the sunset with the man of my dreams. I imagined how I would marry that man at the top of the mountain. And from then on, it would be just him and me.

I met the man of my dreams. But he came into my life with an addition; he had a 6-year-old daughter. At that time, we lived in different countries, and I did not think of myself as becoming a stepmom.

I wished only to be with him. I was in love with him. Soon, I decided to move abroad to be with him.

I will never forget that day when my father gave me a lift to the airport. He gave me a warning.

“My dear daughter, you know that being a parent is very hard. But being a stepparent is even tougher. Are you aware that you will never be a priority to this man? And that is quite normal…His child will always come first. I am not sure if that is what you want. Think about it…”

My father spoke from the experience.

He was married to another woman before my mother, and he has a daughter with her. My father’s ex was a source of many of my parent’s arguments.

I ignored my father’s warning and followed my heart and in no time, I became a stepmom.

It’s been over 4 years now since I’ve cared for another (bdp/npd) woman’s child. I have learned a lot. I had no idea what I was signing up for. I also underwent several tough stages of becoming a stepparent in my first years.

I was in denial.

I left my previous life, my friends and family, and followed the man of my dreams. I was optimistic. I felt terrific about my partner, I was positive his daughter will warm up to me and there won’t be any external issues.

At first, everything was new and exciting to me: picking up my partner’s daughter after school, playing with her, getting to know her and her routines. I believed I will feel that way about being a stepmom forever.

Somehow I forgot the fact that becoming a stepparent was a major life transition that includes major challenges— most of which I had no idea were coming till they hit me.

I’ve realized that this child won’t be troubleless forever; the envious ex will never simply vanish from my life. Life in a blended family will never be smooth sailing. But I had my pride, I wasn’t ready to give up.

The honeymoon phase started to wear off, and I began recognizing issues. I fought these concerns by trying harder, doing more, and providing more.

Unconsciously I was trying to prove to myself, my partner, his daughter, his ex, and my father that everything was perfect and that I am doing a remarkable job at stepparenting.

I bought presents for my stepdaughter. I cooked her favorite meals and scheduled fun and sometimes over-the-top family activities. I was trying to go from being a “Stepparent” to being a “Super Stepparent”.

By doing all these above-and-beyond things for my stepchild, I was just extending the denial stage of my stepparenting. There is not one single gift I could buy or action I could take that will ensure my success in a blended family. Soon my optimism and spirit faded and jealousy took over me.

I was jealous of the relationship between my partner and his child. I was jealous that my partner and his child already have a family, and I am on the outside. I often wondered why I am even here when it seemed that there was no place for me to fit in. What about the fact that my partner already experienced pregnancy and childbirth with someone else? I was upset that we will never have our firsts…

I even felt jealous of strangers who popped up on my Facebook feed with pictures of their completely normal, traditional “first comes marriage, then cute kids” life scripts. I deleted my Facebook profile. Why was it so simple for them and so hard for me?

My jealousy was indistinguishable from resentment, and I felt like oozing poison onto everything I touch. I was ashamed, humiliated, and furious with myself for not being able to rise above such a petty emotion as jealousy. But I knew that the pain of not sharing past experiences with my partner will start to matter less than the future we are building together.

I felt guilty.

The guilt I have felt as a stepparent goes beyond any guilt that I have known so far. Guilt that I have not done right by my stepdaughter. Guilt and fear that I am becoming the worst possible version of myself. That I am becoming someone else, trying so hard to fit into this new blended family.

I felt guilty because I knew how much easier life would be without the child around. But then, again, I knew very well what I was getting myself into, didn’t I? And my father did give me a warning. I imagined a peaceful, idyllic marriage and family life. Just us two. Driving into the sunset.

I replaced the guilt with anger.

At times I got furious, and livid. Canceling, rescheduling, adjusting, compromising…When will it all end? Many of our arguments used to arise just because of the fact that we are a blended family.

Who are “we” without all those problems? What do “we” wish for? What are “we” building for us?

And who am I?

I felt lonely.

I felt lonely and isolated as a “newbie” stepmom. I was not counting the major fact that I was living in a foreign country, far away from family and friends. I used to have a different lifestyle and routines back home. I used to have a dog. I left him with my family. I have changed my normal routines, my life and ultimately myself to make room for someone else’s normal routine and try to meet somewhere in the middle.

However hard I tried to blend in I still felt like an outsider. Sometimes I thought that the efforts I have put in went unthanked and unnoticed, even by my partner.

One day I stopped feeling angry, instead, I was tired and exhausted and I needed a recharge. I needed to step back, and so I did. And acknowledge everything that I have done so far for this little girl. But most importantly acknowledge what she has done for me.

I accepted the fact that life in a blended family is highly challenging.

Being a stepparent is one of the most difficult parenting roles to take on in a blended family. And I took it. Many great stepparents are not given enough credit for the work and love that they put into their stepchildren.

Behind a lot of great kids is a hidden figure of a stepparent, who stepped up, stepped in and gave a shit. And I cared and loved. The truth is stepparents are warriors.

I am a warrior.

I don’t share the child’s DNA. I will never have the same rights and privileges as her biological parents. But I still make a big difference.

I am physically and emotionally available when my stepchild needs me. Maybe it helped that my stepdaughter and I “clicked right away” as she likes to say. Maybe it’s because I didn’t feel the need to “mother” her and was patient about how our relationship developed.

I can unconditionally love a child that is not my own.

The love I feel for this quirky, energetic and resilient child only differs in that I haven’t had the pleasure of being there to see her grow up from the ages of 0–6.

There are lots of stories and funny experiences that I have to learn about through the retelling. I parent her differently from her biological parents. When she misbehaves, I step aside and let her dad handle it. When she gets stressed about anything her dad is the one who takes her for a walk and talks to her. If she has a complaint, I let her dad take that one too.

It has not only helped me strengthen our relationship but has also helped her see that although I parented her in many ways, I was not there to “replace” anyone.

I didn’t carry her for nine months and excitedly prepared for her to be born, picking out baby outfits and wondering what she would look like. I missed the joys of her first smile, her first word, her first steps.

Our relationship flourishes because we both know I’m not her biological mother. I’ve never tried to “replace” her biological mother nor have I ever suggested she calls me “mom”. I am too young for that… She turns to me when she wants to go swimming, shopping, drawing, learn new “cool” skills, and play video games.

This year we had to move with my partner back to my homeland. Unfortunately, my stepchild wasn’t able to relocate with us. My initial wish came true. It was me and my partner now. Just us two.

But soon I realized how much I miss her. I realized that our “family” was incomplete without her. And just perhaps it was perfect when it was “the three of us”. Now I see her less and I miss her so dearly. Now I know I was destined to become a stepmother.

It is so damn hard to establish normalcy while only seeing her once a month. Being O.K that anything I promote during her stay with me is forgotten when I don’t see her. It’s demanding trying to build memories during the visits I have and being excited for a vacation with her on scheduled dates.

I feel sad when she misses a special occasion for which she should be present. But I also have the opportunity to make special plans for the time when she is with me and give her all the attention she deserves.

I have chosen to love her, despite all the obstacles that life has put in my way. I choose to see her as a part of my family when she is not with me.

I hope that the little time I have with her will leave a lasting impression, and someday she will appreciate the value I have in their life, but not necessarily expect that to happen.

The amount of personal growth I’ve achieved in the last years has been astonishing.

I was not ready to be a parent when my stepchild came into my life. But it is what I needed the most.

Becoming her stepmom has taught me compassion. It has taught me the importance of honest, thoughtful, gentle communication and honoring myself and my own needs. To value and cherish and care for me above all else. To agree only when I want to. To not give a shit what other people think of me, because their opinions of me don’t define who I am as a person.

Sometimes I wonder that if it wasn’t for her, I would not be so proud of the woman I have become, not only in my personal life but professionally too.

She taught me how just one member of the family can bring positive energy to the household and overturn the mood. She has taught me that being yourself and taking care of yourself at all times is an important ingredient of a healthy blended family.

She has taught me to stop portraying myself as a perfect stepparent 24/7.

I stopped trying to impersonate what I thought she would like me to be. Instead, I became myself: insecure, resilient, anxious, caring, nurturing, obsessive, creative, honest, determined, and sometimes stubborn. The real me.

She taught me to prioritize myself, and my relationship with her father. She is the loveliest gift I was ever given and never asked for. She taught me what unconditional love is.

I love my stepchild through the good and the bad, through the highs and the lows because I know that one day when she is grown up with kids of her own, she will look back and remember what love is. Because I and her father will serve as an example.

My life truly began when I met her father and one of my greatest achievements was getting to know her, and helping to raise her. Knowing and loving her has made me a better person and has made me realize who I am.

Who am I?

“I am brave. I make a difference. I am fearless.”

I am the “Chosen One”. She wasn’t raised to love me. I am not her parent. She has chosen to love me. Just recently she sent me a drawing: she drew me as a “Wonder Woman”.

None of us chose our parents. We were born into whatever situation and the parents who gave us life made choices for us. But when it comes to stepparents a child always has a choice.

And she has chosen to love me, she picked me!

It is a wonderful feeling when I hear my stepdaughter tell me every day that she loves me. I know she means it. Because she doesn’t have to love me.

And when I tell her that I love her too — it’s not because I saw her take her first breath or feel her kick within me for nine months. My love for her was not injected into me.

It’s because I have gotten to know her, because I have shared many years of life growing together as a family, and I truly love her for the person she is. While she loves me for the person who I am.

Without her, her father would not be the man I love and will hopefully soon marry. Without her, I would not look forward to having children of my own with her dad; without her, I would not have learned how to unconditionally love another woman’s child.

Without her I would not be O.K to be me. Even though her mother is a full-blown narcissist.

sMomma

sMomma

Nobody wants to be a stepmother. It is not a fairytale. I remember dreaming about the day I disappear off into the sunset with a man of my dreams. Marry that man on the top of the mountain….…I would raise another woman’s child. I will hear things like “you’re not my Mom” and will be called by my first name. My partner has a nine-year-old daughter. I moved countries and followed my heart. In no time, I became a stepmom.

Stepparents are very discredited for all the effort and love they put into their stepchildren. Being a stepmom is one of the most difficult parenting roles to take on in a blended family. Stepmoms experience significantly greater anxiety and depression than biological mothers. They have an awful rep. The words “evil” and “stepmother” go together, thanks, in large part, to Disney movies. When in need of a villain, it seems the heroine’s stepmom is the first choice. In the name of all stepparents, I will step up to Disney and show how incredible we are. We endure a lot and we give a lot. It’s time to be acknowledged.

You Are Not The Parent

I will never be her biological mother. Even if her mother rarely sees and spends quality time with her. Even is my partner’s daughter calls me “Mum, I will never have the same rights and privileges as her biological mother. One thing is handling the truth of you not being the parent of your partner’s child, the thought ugly truth is that I am childless. I feel underestimated because surely I has no ability to care for kids when I has none of her own. When a woman is not a biological parent herself, there is a certain grey area surrounding mothering. It hurts.

You Are An Outsider

Often I feel isolated as if there is a family unit in my home but I am not a member. My partner and his child have unique experiences and memories that they have shared for a long time. I was not there. Naturally, my partner would dote on his daughter and the two of them would enjoy reminiscing about memories they shared, pictures and toddler videos. Their behaviour was innocent but it always made me feel like an “outsider”.How can I that when his kid is here, all of a sudden I feel as though you are no longer part of the family? It sounds so selfish!

You Are Expendable

The moment I became a stepparent my self-esteem was put to the ultimate test. The times when his daughter ignored me, blocked me on the friend list and the times the decisions in my life were dictated by her biological mother, were the times when my mental health suffered. I became overwhelmed with anger, resentment and even jealousy. Handling the truth that I am are the priority in the relationship and number one to my partner is quite hard. I have various roles in our household. Some days I am the leading lady. Some days a stagehand. And on the dark days, I am not in the scene at all. After all, there is no law anchoring me to my family. He really could be gone at any moment. If my partner leaves me, so would his daughter. In an instant, I would lose my whole family. I would lose a daughter who I learned to love so dearly.

You Don’t Impress That Much

My stepdaughter naturally wishes to please my partner first. She doesn’t look for the approval or advice from me. I am aware that it is nothing personal. The need to impress her biological parents runs on a much deeper level. Her father is the authority figure, listening and respecting me, on the other hand, is optional. I have learned that knowing when to step back is very important to survive in a blended family. Learning to be physically and emotionally available when my stepdaughter needs me helped me straighten our relationship.

You CAN Make A Difference

Once you establish a steady relationship with your stepchild, you can become an essential contribution to its life. I believe that I have a good influence on my stepdaughter. I have cared, nurtured and loved her as my own. I have supported her in expressing her creative and artistic side. I wish she doesn’t give up on her talents and achieves greatness later in life. I will make sure to be by her side every step of the way. Our relationship flourishes because we both know I’m not her mother.

I’ve never tried to “replace” her biological mother nor have I ever suggested she call me mom. I am too young for that! She turns to me when she wants to go swimming, shopping, drawing or play video games. Few times she told me she feels “extra cool” when we’re in the spa together. Sometimes we pick for each other clothes. Once she looked up to me and said: “You are so beautiful”. It was the best compliment I have ever received because it came from a 9-year-old child. It was honest, innocent and it made me cry. We both enjoy annoying her father when he works late and doesn’t spend much time with us.

She sighs and rolls her eyes at me every time I ask her to practice English and Maths, but in the end, she does her homework anyway. Her tendencies to procrastinate anger me and with no desire to do anything other than play Minecraft, she is incredibly lazy. She is also prone to tantrums whenever something doesn’t go her way. She reminds me of someone. She reminds me of myself. Often I doubt myself as a stepmother. But I don’t ever doubt my relationship with my stepchild. I am happy. I am fortunate to have a healthy, unique relationship with my daughter.

Knowing and loving her has made me a better, less selfish person.

Josh

Josh

When the breaking began, I painted over the cracks with crimson & gold. I did not think to ask myself what was the source of these brilliant hues, why I felt weaker & paler with each stroke of the brush, why the radiance no longer lit my steps, or why the dark shadows inside me were lengthening. I ignored the heavy stickiness, too thick to be paint, and the magical sparkling flecks, too precious to be merely real gold. It was my own life force & potential I was sacrificing to maintain the illusion, and the more I surrendered my reality, the more essential it became to me that I maintained my delusion. I was pale, cold, and dim by the time life pried the brush from my numb, desperate, unyielding hands.

“There’s a danger in loving somebody too much…”

I had spent a lifetime wishing on shooting stars and believing all I had to do was believe. For twenty years, I had given away my most valuable possessions to the least-worthy person imaginable. To the point when, once they were returned to me, I no longer saw them as being worth anything at all. My heart was held together by a network of scar tissue; the pain was all I had to hold myself together. As much as I hated this new self-image of weakness & victimhood, I depended upon it as the only source of any cohesive identity I had left. Without the pain & the scars, I was nothing but dust & fragments, and the winds howled with vicious indifference.

“Change, change, change…”

You wanted this broken, patchwork heart to love you, and I wanted to believe it could. I willed it to work as it once did, the seams bursting, tearing, and ripping, each beat a contracture of dead tissue producing agony that I did my best to hide from your sight. For twenty years I had loved something fake, a mirage that existed only in my head; it had become the only way I knew how to be loved, too. I thought if I pushed through the anguish & discomfort, the remnants of the cells’ memories would return with time, that patience would be enough to restore the familiar patterns… until I realized that it had never known how to work properly. There was nothing there to return to but a roadmap to dead-ends & disasters.

“Love is not a victory march.”

I reached the end of the desert, and felt a few sprigs of grass under the cracked soles of my dry, leathery skin. I tasted the faintest hint of moisture in the breeze. I opened my eyes wider, peering into the distance, imagining I could see chariots rising, ascending to the light and the gold and the beauty…

“What a fool am I…”

And then I turned around and walked back into the sands, knowing if I looked back, my resolve would crumble. My pain is easy to ignore; yours, I can barely endure. Seeking the absolution which I know will never come, I give myself over to the scorching heat to be burnt away, down to the ashes from which I hope to rise. My heart cannot be repaired; therefore, it must be remade. I could never be at peace with offering this broken love to you, or any other; I would always see the cracks, and be dissatisfied.

Maxim

Maxim

My  ex-girlfriend and I lived together for about three years. Like most couples, we went through a lot of things together. Sometimes she would just get really angry if things didn’t quite go her way. During those times, sometimes we’d argue loudly. I’ve never hit a woman. It goes against everything I believe in. When we’d fight, sometimes she’d throw things and even break them or other things. One time she used a cooler and smashed my car window with it. If you ever heard about domestic violence against men, this was a classic case, but I was really into her. I’m also very loyal and, as a Marine, I don’t give up easily.

I can put up with a lot of things and I thought this was worth fighting for, so I stayed. The only things that would have made me leave would have been infidelity because as I said, I am a very loyal person. She asked me once if I’d ever leave her and I told her that cheating would be the only thing that would be the final straw. She actually said, “You’d leave this?” kind of showing off her body (she used to model), and I said, “For that reason? Absolutely!”

I used to work a lot of hours, from 0500 until sometimes 1900 or 2000, but I made good money. She would work, too, but not as many hours as me. Her modeling jobs were sporadic, too. Sometimes she’d take lower-paying jobs.

One day I came home and there was someone else at the house. I knew him, but not very well as I hadn’t grown up in that area. She had, so she knew quite a few people. After he left, I asked her why he’d been there and she said that she’d had car trouble and that he had stopped by to help. That bothered me a bit, but I accepted that answer. It did sit in the back of my mind for a few days. About a week later, I ran into him again, just as he was leaving the house. He said hi to me and said he was just dropping something off. That was the night things came to a head.

We talked and after lots of questions and a lot of back and forth, she confessed that she’d cheated with him the last time he’d been at the house, and this time he really stopped by to drop something off.

I was so into this woman that I could see us getting married someday. That night, I packed my bags and left her with everything in the house. We didn’t own it but had an executive lease on it. I left that to her as well. I stayed in the area for another few weeks, got some money together, and within 3 months, left the state. People that knew us and had seen our fights told me that I should leave and that one day, they thought she might really harm me physically. I didn’t listen until that day. I still have a scar from when she bit me in the arm because I wouldn’t (physically) fight back.

Toxic relationships are like cancer. They start to eat away at you. You don’t reason with cancer. You don’t talk to it. You can’t bribe it. You just need to cut the disease out and move on. That’s what I did.

Laura

Laura

I was raised with shame, so it followed that I would choose inappropriate partners as an adult.

I had split from my husband, and moved back home with my toddler to care for my dying father in San Francisco. He continued his verbal and emotional abuse, and this time it included my son, so I planned to leave once again.

At that time I had a semi-boyfriend, more like just an amusement to pass the time, but he was often drunk, drugged out of his mind, and mean, so I was eager to leave. I stupidly gave him an address to write me. My ex husband was kind enough to let me and our boy stay with him and his future wife until I got my own place, but a knock on the door changed all that. It was him, he had stalked me up to Montana. All sorts of bad events followed, including rape.

Fast forward a bit, I’m forced to stay in the homeless shelter, because he was causing trouble. He was always around the entrance, waiting for me to leave the building. One night, I had my son in the shelter for a visit, and when I left the building for some fresh air, my father-in-law rushed up to me and yanked my son from my arms. People were screaming: that guy stole her baby! My ex had passed a forged check at my father-in-law’s bar, so not only did he take my son, I was arrested at the same time and spent the night in jail.

The next day I was released and went to a homeless clinic held once a month. I was diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and pregnancy. I had no options left. My ex had run off to Nevada where his mother was to avoid jail. I contacted him, and in my condition, believed him when he told about how his mother was a pillar of the community, how we would have a place to live, furniture, how he would be going to AA, etc. I had lost everything, including my beloved son so I went.

I found myself trapped, held prisoner, locked inside a dumpy trailer with no running water in the middle of a freezing winter. He wouldn’t let me use the payphone to call my family. He told me the corner store thought I was a thief, so I wasn’t allowed to use the restroom there anymore. I was raped repeatedly. He refused to take me to the doctor, and began selling the furniture donated to us so he could get meth. He refused to buy food, preferring his beer and expired sandwiches donated by his mom from the store she worked at. By this point, I had lost all my friends, my family, my self-respect, I had no belongings, no money, nobody to help me. It was the worst experience of my life.

One night, he passed out early, and had left the front door unlocked. I escaped in my bare feet in the snow, running to the first neighbor I could find. There was a motel nearby, and one of the workers had a room, he opened the door and let me inside. I hid inside his garbage while he screamed “I’m gonna kill her!”. I was terrified. Eventually he left, and this amazing, kind stranger fed me for the first time in days. He let me sleep in his bed while he took the floor. I was able to shower for the first time in months.

The next morning, we called the police and they brought me to the local domestic violence shelter. My ex found the shelter quickly, so they gave me a bus ticket up to a different DV shelter, in a different state. By the time I arrived at the new shelter, I had stopped speaking completely and could only stutter or write my responses.

I gave birth to a healthy baby girl, by myself in the hospital (with doctors, of course). During my pregnancy, too many people told me to “get rid of IT”, but I chose to fight for my baby. My daughter knows that she saved my life. If she wasn’t inside me, I would not have fought, I would have died. Within 9 weeks of her birth, I had my own apartment and a job.

I was still in contact with my ex because he was after all, her father. But by this time, I knew to keep him at arm’s length. My daughter is 14 now, and has known nothing but peace, stability, and love in her life. I’ve already written too much, so I won’t explain how, but we have been safe and joyful living for the past 10 years. I do not regret my experiences, because they have made me more compassionate, more caring, kinder, and stronger!

I am in a good place now, and feel like I earned this safety after my lifetime of trauma. I finally learned to accept real love, I never had that before, and I’m grateful every single day for the life I have now. I am disabled, but I am safe and loved. I am financially poor, but my children have all their needs and even some wants met. I have a support system, I know people who like and respect me again, and I finally like myself as well.

There is hope, never give up fighting for what is right.

Joseppe

Joseppe

It’s been two years since I’ve been back at the office. For as long as I can remember I was always an advocate for the “work from home” model. I have my personal reasons for it: I enjoy working along with my partner our his apartment. I have a comfortable work-from-home set up with a proper chair that gives me no back pain. I have two dogs, one of which is still a puppy — instead of having meaningless chats in the office, I go for short breaks out with my doggies.

Sometimes I suffer from anxiety (an anxiety attack could literally hit me out of nowhere — so obviously I prefer to stay at home).

But i also has solid professional reasons why I believe that working from home is a benefit to the business and health. I presented my reasonings to the higher management (along with like-minded colleagues):

• I invest more time working than commuting.
• My performance increased when working from home and I’ve managed to exceed my targets.
• My mental health has improved.
• I have taken fewer sick days than in any previous years.

The higher management listened to the employees but choose not to implement work from home or hybrid model. Their argument was that employees are missing on socializing in the office and therefore the team is not as efficient. Ironically, the team’s performance was better than ever so obviously this was a lie.

The real reason is that someone “from above” just wished to control and micromanage the teams.

After coming back to the office I did what I was encouraged to do — started socializing. I noticed that the team members are nipping out nearly every other hour, having a cigarette or just going to grab a quick snack. It was obvious that the team is unhappy to be back on the company’s terms.

So they started talking. When asking the usual questions such as, “How are you?” the responses were unexpectedly honest.

“Unhappy. I wish I could work from home. This is literally killing me. I am so stressed and I feel like I do less work done…”

Coffee and lunch breaks started revolving only about one topic — unhappiness at work. This lasted for weeks until one of my colleagues got so fed up and approached the CEO directly and told him that his employees are unhappy. What followed was next was a Sherlock Holmes investigation.

The CEO appointed a team lead to find out who has started this horrible rumor around the office that his employees are unhappy. Yes, you heard me right. The company spent resources on the interrogation of the employees.

The team lead scheduled one on one calls with every member of the team to find out where did this hostility come from. Even though every single member of the team voiced that this is not a rumour, and that people are voicing their feelings, the CEO demanded to find someone to blame for “poisoning” the office spirit.

I passionately told the team lead that it’s me voicing my opinions about the toxic work “from the office” policy in the midst of the pandemic.

People fear catching viruses — being vaccinated doesn’t make them invincible. People don’t want to go back to the old normal when nothing is “normal” currently. The company is struggling to find new talents just because they don’t want to provide their employees with what they deserve — trust and respect.It puzzles me especially when the team’s performance skyrocketed whilst we all worked from home. There is no logical reasoning behind this policy.

The team leader decided that I was the one who started this “propaganda” and “gossip” at work. So, he called me out and I received a warning. “One more strike and you are out!”

I was already on my way home, anyway. But what the company didn’t expect was that many others were about to follow me.

But not everyone has the balls and the privilege to voice their opinions and just walk out. Not everyone believes in themselves that they will be able to find another job easily. And others get too comfortable and used to abusive corporations just like they get hooked up to toxic worksites. They fear suffering significant costs by challenging their managers.

Companies would benefit if employees would speak up. When employees voice their opinions, suggestions, or concerns, organizations become better at handling threats and opportunities. Unfortunately, employees remain silent with their opinions. They are afraid to share what they are really thinking and feeling. They fear the consequences of speaking the truth.

For employees to speak up the company should build a foundation of trust. The managers should be transparent and authentical— they should implement the employee’s suggestions into the company. But most importantly they should create a feeling of safety for the employees. If companies implement a witch hunt just because employees discussed issues in the workplace then obviously those who fear losing their jobs will remain silent forever.

If you aren’t allowed to honestly say “I am not okay” to your colleague/ manager then the best thing you should do is leave. Don’t wait for the company to change — you change instead. Your opinions matter, don’t let anyone silence you.

Anndrej

Anndrej

I’ve seen too many women alienate children from their fathers. My ex-partner was one of them. I asked myself why? It too me years to understand that the reasons is that they wish to hurt their ex-partner for leaving them. These partners focus only on their own wishes and needs — they are driven by an obsessive desire to punish the other parent. They don’t understand that children need both parents to develop into healthy adults.

I am struggling to co-parent with my ex. I tried for years to keep the communication open, positive, and productive. I engaged in countless, nonsense communications with my ex to keep in touch with our children as I feared that the ex would cut me out of our children lives.

But I am a parent too. I parental responsibility and my ex can keep up causing issues but I have the right to be involved in our children’s lives. This year I finally secured a court order.I hoped that things would become easier but they didn’t. The ex continuous to engage in toxic behaviours such as:

• Intervenes and limits the communication between me and our children.
• Tells lies, badmouths and belittles me in front of our children.
• Speaks poorly about my family.
• Undermines my authority.
• Disregards the court order — visitations and contact arrangements.

I’ve realized it’s nearly impossible to to co-parent with a toxic parent who does the above things. Co-parenting is teamwork. It’s a mutual effort to do things in the best interest of the child.

But I understood after few years what I can do to protect myself and our children:

“I got a court order.”

You can’t negotiate with terrorists. You need to have a plan and know what you want to accomplish. Go before a judge with a plan, ask for visitations, create the timetable when and where you will be seeing your child. Add also online contact — phone communication. How the ex should keep you up to date with school issues, medical emergencies or anything else related to the child. Keep the communication in one place, ideally via email. If she the ex-partner starts making mistakes and creates issues, you can take them back to court. Get the most detailed court order that you can.

“Wait…”

The best thing you can do is wait: wait for your ex to mix up the court arrangements, show hostility, forget to pick up the child. You should also wait for your child to grow older to be able to make their mind of their own. Waiting doesn’t mean giving up — on the contrary, waiting means being there for your children when they need you and they will need you very soon.

That’s why keeping your distance and focusing on building your life for you and your children is the best thing I and you can and should do.

“In the Meantime, Live Your Life”

I can’t change your ex. I did all you could. Now I need to focus on myself — this way you I am helping my child. I took time for myself and to improve my mental health, sought therapy. Every time I come by to pick up children — I come with the biggest smile.

“Keep The Focus On Your Children.”

I call, text and am present in my children’s life. Even if my ex hides the phone and tries to cut contact I have the evidence that every day I texted your children goodnight. One day you I will be able to show all of these messages to my kids.One day, my children will come back to me because they won’t stay children forever. From now on I only focus on today and tomorrow, for my children.

Jose

Jose

I Have Three Children, But In Reality, I Have None.

“You know, always wanted to have a family. I wanted to have children. I wanted to be a good husband and a devoted father. I wanted to be the provider for the family, someone they can always lean on and find comfort and support…I have three children and somehow I feel that I have none…”

I am an empath.

A few years back I got divorced. I was married for 8 years, and in the last 5 years of my relationship with my ex-wife, our communication and closeness started fading off. I have two boys with her. She too wanted a family, but not with me.

She just wanted the kids — not the relationship.

She persuaded him to move from Berlin to a small town in south Germany, just so she can be close to her mum and dad. She stopped working, and I was okay with that. After all, I was the provider. The man!

My wife decided it would be good if we buy a flat in Berlin, but live with her parents, under their roof in this little town. I obliged and took a mortgage and got them a spacious apartment in Berlin.

Years went by and my wife along with her parents made more decisions, excluding me and just demanding more money from me. I  kept on giving them the money. By doing so I hoped to keep my family. I worked long hours, and side gigs, and gave money directly to her father.

Later I found out that he was actually paying off her father’s debts, but most importantly I realized that I have been shut out from the family. I was never asked or consulted about any of the decisions and when I tried to communicate with my wife — she ran off to her Mummy and Daddy.

I kept all of these frustrations bottled up inside, until one day I could not anymore. I stood up and asked my wife to move away with me and our children back to Berlin — to start again, to seek therapy, to get closer. She refused.

The next day I was informed by her father that it would be best if I would leave, adding that his daughter will be divorcing me! I was devasted. What followed next was months of suicidal thoughts, depression, and pure agony.
I left for Berlin and within two months her family pressured me to sell the flat that I bought for her and our children. I didn’t want to go to court, nor i could handle it emotionally or financially. I agreed and sold it. All the money went to her.

From now on I was seeing my sons, once or twice per month. She refuses to take them to Berlin so I embark on 380 miles journey to see them whenever the finances allow me. I call, and the phone is turned off. I send gifts and they are undelivered.

At my lowest point in life, I meet another woman. And just then, I so desperately hopes that my life might just turn around for the better. Unfortunately, it didn’t. It got worse.

I fell in love with a narcissist, who not only suffers from NPD but also from a borderline personality disorder and OCD and god knows what. Within the first three months of our relationship, she displayed minor traits of the above diagnoses such as jealousy, obsessiveness, black and white thinking, and subtle manipulation.

Soon she got pregnant her true persona came to life.

She beat, belittled, and isolated me. She stopped me from communicating with my two children, she controlled all the finances and threatened me.

“If you dare to leave you will never see your child again!”

I made the same mistake again.
I took another mortgage and bought us a smaller flat, but this time, but didn’t marry her. This abuse lasted for a year and when I finally reaches the bottom — being punched in the face so hard, that my lips were swallowed, my face scratched and my work computer destroyed just because I dared to go to the office meeting instead of staying with her and working from home.

I gathered the strength and the will to admit that I am a victim of a toxic abuse relationship and that it will never get better.

And with the help of my friends, and the family I left her.

Now I live in his mother’s home, while the flat I pay off is empty. She demands the flat be sold and half of the money be given to her. She demands spousal support even though she was never my spouse. She demands an unimaginable amount of child support. She demands that I pay her rent.

She calls me 10 days per day and leaves threats.

“You will never get rid of me! Never, you hear me?! Never! I will make the rest of your life a living hell and when our son is older I will tell him all about you!”
My friend sees his baby twice per week. His baby is only 7 months old. His son is innocent. But what awaits this baby?

So what can people like I do?
When you spend time with your child you need to focus on maintaining a loving, positive and compassionate relationship so the child knows that they are safe with you.
Never speak about the other parent in a derogatory way. Focus on your child, listen to them, and don’t pressure them into speaking when they aren’t willing, just be there for them. Always be even-tempered and keep your emotions under control.
Keep reassuring your child that they can always speak to you about anything and everything and that you are here for them. Keep telling them how much you love them. Keep showing up. Be always rational and reasonable and have the best interest of the child at your heart.
Be proactive, if you can and are allowed, seek therapy for your child. Search for a specialist in a PSD and someone who is not affiliated with the alienating parent in any way.
Be the role model for your kids. Show your children through your actions that you have their best interest as your priority.
Stay focused and most importantly present when you spend time with your children. Keep calling even when you know that the phone will be hidden, show up at the door even when you know that the other parent has made plans and your child will be made unavailable.

This will be painful but you must and will endure because you must remember that you have the tools to give your child a chance to develop into a healthy adult.
Please don’t care what other people will say, think or do. These are your children and you are their parent. And only you know who are you dealing with when it comes to your ex-partner.
Stay strong and don’t give in. There is a long bumpy and treacherous road ahead of you so you must be physically and mentally prepared to embark on it.
At times, you must make your well-being a priority, before helping your children. And that’s okay, don’t be hard on yourself.
Life was never meant to be easy, and it’s not your fault that you’ve ended up in a relationship with a narcissist.

But it’s also not your children’s fault.

Do your best to help your children grow up and become responsible parents so they don’t repeat their parents’ mistakes.

Protect yourself and protect them from any harm, even when it comes to protecting them from their own families.