I should know.
When someone is being continually emotionally and verbally abused by the ex with whom they share custody of their children, people attempt to be helpful by saying things like:
"Well, you already know that's his MO. Why are you still letting it bother you? Just laugh it off and move on. It can only bother you if you allow it to."
You may know someone who still complains about their ex at least once a week — if not once a day.
Sometimes you probably think to yourself, "Come on. They're just words. Don't read the messages if they bother you. Or just let them roll off your back. Who cares what he says? Why are you still so hung up on it?"
Or you may be on the receiving end of your own regular onslaught of angry, bullying messages from your own ex. You know they will be coming. You can pretty much predict when, why and most of what they'll say like clockwork, because it's been going on for so, so long already.
And sometimes you probably think to yourself, "Come on. They're just words. I know I have to read the messages because the court said so, and because somewhere buried within the verbal feces being slung at me there may be some minor detail related to my child that I do need and want to know. But why can't I let the rest of it roll off my back? Why do I still care what he says? Why I am still so hung up on this?"
Either way, humor me for a few short minutes.
Picture someone you know and love, whose ex of several years still drops by 2 to 3 times per day (on average) ... to hit them in the head with a bat.
The victim — your friend — has been court-ordered to allow that ex into her space as often as he wants to enter it, just in case one day during one of those drop-bys he says something important about the children.
The ex never does say anything important.
He just hits your friend with the bat and walks away.
So every single day, one or more times per day, your friend is smashed in the head with the bat ... again.
And then again.
It isn't that your friend hasn't asked him to stop. Your friend has asked. And asked.
It isn't that your friend baits him or tempts him to come on by.
Your friend is sitting in the privacy of her own environment. Working. Playing with the kids. Cleaning the house. Resting. Relaxing. Or at least attempting to do these things.
The doorbell rings, and the court says she has to answer it. At least within 24 hours, but preferably sooner. So she does. And WHAM.
It isn't that your friend just doesn't practice "self-care."
She sees her therapist. She makes plans with friends. She thinks about going to the gym, and sometimes she even makes it there.
She starts to feel better and is just about to pour herself a bath and then — DING DONG!
The bell must be answered. The court said so.
It isn't that your friend hasn't tried to be cooperative or kind or empathetic and he is just acting out in response.
Your friend knows "it takes two to tango," right? So she's offered him extra time with the kids. She's tried to be flexible about scheduling and the transfer of the kids' belongings and holidays and homework and more and more and more.
Even as he takes what she offers at the door with her best "Let's do this together!" smile, just before he leaves he pauses, puts the gifts down, gives her the hardest WHACK he can summon, crams the gifts into his bottomless pockets, and goes away. For now ...
It isn't that your friend just doesn't "love herself."
She's done her work, read self-help books, and meditated like a natural guru. She's look inward and outward and she has brought true, positive change into her life. She doesn't think she probably deserves better, she knows it without a single doubt.
So as she gets ready to look and feel her best to head out on date #3 with a guy who so far looks like a man of honor — there goes that buzzer and SMASH in the flawlessly winged eyeliner goes the aluminum special slugger ...
A woman can feel as fine as pure spun silk, but the thought of going on a date with a freshly bruised eye and its searing pain is rarely appealing. Sorry, new guy. Maybe next time.
And it isn't that your friend hasn't tried to get help through legal means.
I know you mean well when you say, "Surely there must be something the court can do! Call the police! Hire a badass attorney! You can't just ALLOW him to keep doing this."
You've seen your friend bleeding. If it hasn't stopped by now, you reason with yourself, she either hasn't tried hard enough, or she must not really want it to stop.
But she has tried.
Maybe the court felt it was easier or wiser to allow her and her ex to work it out amongst themselves, and pressured her into settling in the hallways.
Maybe a custody evaluator stated from the witness stand that while yes, her ex does smash her in the head with that bat quite often, he only does it because she hasn't played nicely enough with him. If she just behaves properly, he'll probably stop hitting her with it ... eventually.
Maybe the attorneys told her she doesn't say enough to him after he attacks her with the bat. Or she says too much. Or she says the wrong thing.
Maybe the child's therapist told her he says bad stuff about her too. He even says that SHE hits HIM with a bat! No, of course the therapist hasn't seen bruises on her ex like she has on her, but it isn't her place to judge what happens between the two of them anyway.
Maybe all of these things happened. Maybe even more. It doesn't really matter.
What matters is that still, every single day, an average of 2-3 times per day, her ex comes back and he brings his bat and he feels angrier and stronger than ever.
In this situation, would you ever once stop and say to your friend:
"It's the same thing he does every single day. Why are you letting it hurt you so much? You should just laugh when he hits you and think about positive things ...?"
If you would say that to a friend who gets hit in the head with a bat, I'm sorry, but you are an asshole.
So stop staying it to friends who are hit in the head with emotional and verbal assaults.
And it causes more damage than you could ever possibly imagine.