I’ll call her Janet. She spent years of her life married to a man who used emotional abuse to control her. When she had her epiphany and filed for divorce, he threatened her and swore he would take everything that she cherished, including custody of her children. Even after getting a restraining order against him, she was being stalked and intimidated by his wide circle of friends. And she was forced to leave her church where the pastor regularly preached that a wife’s duty was always to support her husband without question. She had to move out of her house in the middle of the night. She was terrified every time she had to go to court. She was terrified that her ex would succeed in taking her children away. She was convinced that his power and influence and money would ensure it. She had no voice.
Janet is not alone. As a divorce coach, I hear many stories of women, and sometimes men, who are in controlling relationships. After years of emotional abuse, it’s difficult to see the intimidation, the manipulation. And the basis for this control is to keep you in doubt, insecurity and inadequacy. Your entire existence is focused on trying to make him happy or trying to avoid the next conflict – all of which you can never succeed at. And you lose yourself. You lose who you are, trying to be what you think you “should” be. You lose yourself in a constant focus on him. And this kind of hyper-vigilance is exhausting. And like Janet, you suddenly have an epiphany that your partner who was supposed to love and cherish you until death do us part has become a very real saboteur in your life.
Finding the courage to leave an emotionally abusive relationship is incredibly difficult. And finding yourself and your voice in this divorce process is crucial to getting what you want … and what you deserve. It can feel impossible … but it isn’t with the right help and perspective.
I started working with Janet in the middle of her divorce. Through coaching, she found herself again. She discovered parts of herself she thought were long gone. She found her strength, her wisdom and her voice. She gained clarity around what was most important to her and a vision of having everything she wanted. And she finally started to believe she could have it. And then she was thrown into an intense 4-day negotiation to settle her divorce. She used the tools and structures from coaching to focus on what she wanted. She refused to be intimidated. She walked out with everything she wanted, including custody of her children. You don’t have to do this alone. Get the right help so that you can learn to be you again. You don’t have to be a victim in life or in this process. It’s never too late to start putting yourself in a better position.