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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Marriage to an Aspie - Aspies are abusive

By the time you realize just how abused you've been, it's
become your new "normal".
 Once again, all the websites will say what a wonderfully honest person your Aspie is.  All the reading you do will tell you that with a little bit of understanding and an abundance of love, you and your Aspie can have a blissful co-existence.

This may be true, for some, but the reality is much, much different than anything you'll read elsewhere.  Life with an Aspie spouse is awful, abusive and soul-crushing (and this last one is the one spouses of Aspies will say the most).

The abuse will be incredibly subtle, at first, and you won't even see it.  For me, there were two incidents I can look back on now that set the stage for the following 20 years.

The first one was when I'd made a dinner salad for the STBE ASH and his kids from his first marriage.  I'd spent the entire afternoon making this salad as it wasn't exactly complicated, but it was time-consuming.  When the time came to serve it, I set the salad bowl down on the dinner table, called everyone in, asked them all, "What would you like to drink with dinner?"  Once they all told me, I went back into the kitchen to get them their drinks.  When I came back, all of two minutes later, my STBE ASH had served everyone.  Everyone but me, that is.  Yes, the salad bowl was empty, all their plates were full, mine was empty.  I didn't say anything, just set their drinks down, took mine back into the kitchen with me, made a sandwich and ate it in the living room while I watched television.  Then, it took my STBE about 15 minutes to realize I wasn't sitting at the table with them, noticed what happened and told the kids, "When you've eaten all you're going to eat of the salad, put it all together so Nancy can have some."

Wow, don't I feel special now!

I realize at this stage you're all thinking, "But it was just a salad!"  Yes, it was just a salad, but it was also an indicator of how the rest of my life was going to go.  I was never considered part of "his" family.  I was a servant to him and his kids and nothing more.  And thus went the next 20 years or so.

Another incident (and this happened more than once) came from Saturday mornings.  Every Saturday, his kids went to a bowling league they were in.  The routine became the STBE taking them to bowling while I cleaned the house.  They would be gone for about four hours, if you add in his taking them to lunch afterward.  During that four hours, I'd clean the entire two story row home we lived in on Lowry AFB.  I'd start at the top, tossing things down to the stair landing that belong downstairs, and vice versa when I was cleaning the downstairs.  I did the dishes, swept and mopped all the floors, cleaned the wood floors (every room but the kitchen and bathroom), did all the laundry, ironed his uniforms, got dinner planned and started, vacuumed all the furniture of dog hair.  If I had time, I would go grab some stuff at the grocery store.

From the first time I did this, the first comment the STBE would make when he walked in the door was, "You didn't clean the baseboards".  Forget I'd just cleaned a 1500 square foot home from top to bottom, all he could say was, "You didn't clean the baseboards".  There was no appreciation for what I'd done to make life easier for him and his kids, just a comment on what wasn't being done.

Both of these events happened in the first few months of our marriage.  I should have walked away then, but I was already pregnant with our youngest son and we'd been married less than two years.  I was able to convince myself he was suffering from the stress of a baby on the way.  And so the abuse begins.

Again in our first year of marriage, we were in the midst of an argument that was getting pretty heated.  I've always been one to try to keep a cool head in an argument, feeling a hot argument is pointless because both people are defensive.  One way of cooling down for me is to get in the car, turn up the stereo on full blast and just drive country roads.  It lets me focus on something besides the argument, it allows me to gain some clarity and it's a really soothing thing for me to do.  On this particular day, the STBE decided I was going to stay there and argue and he refused to allow me to leave the house.  If I tried to open the door, he slammed it shut and pushed me away from it.  If I went into the bedroom to separate myself from the argument, he followed me in there, continuing to berate me, demanding of me that I remain engaged in the argument.  No matter what I did to get away from the argument, he kept at me to stay with it.

Finally, I was feeling desperate and trapped.  I was feeling incredibly trapped and it was causing me huge confusion and distress.  (Remember, I was pregnant with my youngest son at this time)  My fight or flight was kicking in and I knew if that happened, things would really get out of hand.  I had no choice but to call the military police to help me out of this.  He heard me doing this and immediately went into "I'm the calm, rational one" mode (and this is something you'll see hundreds of times during your marriage).  By the time they got there, I was still crying and I was begging them to get me out of there.  He started in with, "She's pregnant and emotional."  They fell for it and so began the extreme abuse.  The name-calling, the hitting, the gas lighting, all of it.

The military police did tell him to let me leave the house that day, if that's what I wanted to do, which I did.  I was gone for several hours, having driven up into the Rocky Mountains to an A&W Root Beer stand in Idaho Springs, for no other reason than it wasn't home where the arguing was going on.  By the time I came home, he was an emotional wreck.  He was afraid I wasn't coming back (this is the push me-pull me prevalent with Aspies, those with Bipolar Disorder and those with Borderline Personality Disorder)  He was incredibly apologetic, promising me he would never do this again and he felt awful he'd treated me so badly!  This was the first of many, many apologies for bad and abusive behavior.

Most abusers are also narcissists
#11-sympathy can also be empathy
As time went on, the abuse got worse and worse.  I was in and out of therapy so much because of his abuses of me and the kids.  Why was I in therapy and not him?  Because part of the abuse is being convinced it's YOU who is the problem, not them.  And the times we went to marriage counseling, it generally didn't take the therapist more than three or four sessions to zero in on the STBE abusing me emotionally, verbally, mentally and physically and they'd try to focus on that.  That was the exact moment the STBE was done with marriage counseling.  At least until the next time.  The times we lasted the longest in marriage counseling were the times he was able to gas light the counselor the most.  We'd had a counselor through the Air Force when we were stationed in Biloxi and he had her COMPLETELY fooled.  He really liked this therapist because she ate up whatever he told her and she did everything she could to take his side.  Her extreme preference for the STBE was so obvious, I had to file a complaint against her with her commander.  No matter what he did, she took his side.  Once, I'd reported he'd hit me and her response was, "What did you do that made him want to do that?"

Which brings me to Abuse By Proxy - This is an insidious form of abuse because now it's not just your abuser but everyone around you.  This form of abuse generally begins once you start to wake up to what's going on, but with my STBE, he did this for the duration of our marriage.  Abuse by proxy is the abuser enlisting others to abuse you, too.  They won't believe you when you try to tell them you're being abused (AKA The Cassandra Syndrome)

He received no chastisement over hitting me.  There were no consequences for his hitting me.  I was the one raked over the coals by her for "making him do it".  He and this therapist even cooked up between them that I'd threatened the STBE with a shotgun - the same shotgun I had no keys to (for the trigger lock), no ammunition for and no understanding of since I really hated guns at that time and refused to handle them.  To this day I'm still not 100% it was all as innocent as they made it seem.  For a therapist to become SO loyal and slanted towards a patient, losing her objectivity like this one did, there was more there than I was allowed to see or know.  A few months later, this therapist left the military to go into private practice (so she could ruin more marriages and families on a larger scale) and she contacted my therapist at the time to have him ask me to recant my complaint against her as it was affecting her finding a job.  I refused to do so and actually resented her using her professional relationship with my therapist to cover up just how bad she was as a therapist.  I kind of resented, too, that he even came to me with the request.  He should have flat out told her "No, I won't do that".

I tell people now, though, if only he'd kept it to hitting, his abuses of me, I might heal from that more quickly.  It's the verbal, emotional and mental abuse that stays with you for so long and taints your entire life.  He'd run me down physically, telling me once, "You're so fat, it makes me nauseous to see you without clothes on" or the much more subtle skill of telling me just how wrong I am all the time, thus bringing me to believe I'm stupid or not able to trust my judgment.  It's a calculated thing they do so THEY can feel good about themselves.

I'll end this posting with some resources for people who read this - so you can get help to not just get away but to begin the process of healing.  You WILL need help getting your abuser out of your life.  All abusers are reluctant to let go of their current "person to abuse".  I've seen this phrase in several places in my Asperger's Spouse world - All parasites need a host to survive.

And fair warning - your abuser will replace you very, very quickly so be prepared for the heartache.  The truth is, your Aspie/abuser never really loved you not did they care about you at all as anything more than a whipping post and victim.  Aspies can't love anyone but themselves.  Once you leave your abuser, you'll hope they love you enough to want to change, thus keeping you in their life.  But the reality is, when it comes to abusers, the moment you've figured them out, they're done with you so they can move on to abuse the next unwitting victim.

Aspies/abusers NEED someone to abuse like you need oxygen to breathe.  So, yes, they will move on to another very quickly.  BUT - they will first try to bring you back to them.  It's easier to keep the old victim than it is to train a new one.  Stand your ground.  You've heard it all before, the promises to change, the promises to get help, the apologies, all of it.  Ask yourself how many times you've heard this before?  Too many times to count.

Don't fall for it.  Love and respect yourself more than that.

Places to go for help escaping your abuser:

  • Find a therapist who specializes in trauma, PTSD 
  • Contact a domestic violence hotline - The national hotline linked here isn't the most responsive one, but they have some good tips on getting out.  And domestic violence and abuse isn't just physical abuse.  Mental, emotional and verbal abuse are abuse, too.  Do a search for a hotline specific to your state.  Try Googling "Fill in state here Domestic Violence help" and odds are great there's a statewide hotline where you can talk to someone.  They can also give you resources local to you.  I've called my state's hotline and they've given me SO much support!  The people you'll be talking to are people who have been through it, too.
  • Stop hiding in shame - be vocal about the abuse to friends and family.  These are your best resources for help in getting out.  Once you do, you'll be surprised at how much they've actually seen, in spite of your silence, and you'll learn they really DO want to help you in any way they can.
Excerpted from the National Domestic Violence Hotline page is some excellent advice for maintaining your control over your life once you've left the abusive relationship:

Why is moving on after abuse so difficult? Abuse is rooted in power and control, and an abusive partner holds that power by minimizing their victim’s self-esteem and breaking their spirit. If you’re leaving an abusive relationship, rebuilding your life can be a hard process, but with time and space, finding closure and peace is possible. A violence-free life is waiting, and you are so very worth it.

1.  Cut off contact with your ex - During the healing process, you may feel the need to offer forgiveness, help your abusive partner through the break up, or show them how you’re better off. However, it’s difficult to really get closure without severing all ties with your ex.  

Try different methods to avoid contacting your former partner. Delete their phone number and            change yours. If you're picking up the phone to call, put the phone in a different room and walk          away — or call the hotline instead.

 Resist the urge to look them up on social media. Unfriend or block them, and if pictures or news         keep popping up, it could be helpful to remove mutual friends as well.

Try writing a letter with all the things you want to say to your ex and don’t send it — or, if                   you're in counseling, send it to your therapist instead.

2.  Surround yourself with support -After an abusive relationship, allow yourself to get help and support from others. Spend time with friends and family who care about you. Tell them what you need from them, whether that’s someone to talk to about what you went through, or someone to keep you from answering phone calls from your ex, stop you from texting them back, etc.

If your abusive partner isolated you from friends and family, you may find that you no longer have that support network — but there are always people who want to help. Consider finding a counselor to talk with one-on-one, or join a support group. If you call the hotline, one of our advocates can connect you to services in your area.  - A note from me - It was difficult, but I contacted my family to let them know what's been going on all these years.  They were remarkably supportive of me and my divorce.  Never underestimate the love they have for you.  And if they're anything less than supportive, walk away from them until you're in a better place emotionally to deal with them and set your boundaries.  Don't exchange one abusive relationship for another.

3.  Take care of yourself - Taking care of yourself is such an important part of the healing process, and that begins with understanding that the abuse that happened wasn’t your fault.

Find things that make you happy. Rediscovering what hobbies you enjoy can be a learning process, but that’s half of the fun. Join clubs or try activities like a group fitness class to meet new people.

If you have children, find ways to make time for yourself. Some gyms offer free childcare while you work out, and different domestic violence centers provide childcare while you’re attending support groups.

Praise yourself for accomplishments, little or big, and counter any negative self-talk with positive mantras or affirmations. Becoming aware of what you think and say about yourself can help shift negative thoughts.

4.  Remember that you’ll get better with time - The old saying that “time heals all wounds” can be incredibly frustrating, but there is truth in it. Recovery does take time and space. Give yourself as much time as you need to heal.

Recovery looks different for everyone, and each person has to find what works for them.  Note from me:  You'll hear from nearly everyone, "But you're out of it now!  You'll find someone new!"  Don't fall into this trap of believing you need to get into another one before getting over the last one.  Find out who you are, fix what's broken in you, before you bring another person into the equation that's outside your normal circle of support and friends.  It might take weeks, months or even years.  But #3 is the most important one in all of this.  Take care of you, first.  If you have kids with your abuser, take care of them, too, to help them work through the abuse and divorce/breakup.

5.  Consider counseling - If you feel that therapy might be helpful, sooner is always better. Therapy can be beneficial for everyone because it’s a place where you can learn increased self-awareness, clarify your goals and look at the choices in front of you.

Counseling sessions provide a safe and confidential environment for survivors to express their feelings, thoughts and fears. Counselors are nonjudgmental third-party advisors who listen and can help survivors work through the things that they are experiencing.

Entering counseling does not necessarily mean that you are mentally ill or can’t cope on your own. Therapy is about how much you’re putting in place to support yourself in healing and succeeding.

Speaking with a trauma specialist can help survivors to deal with their remaining anxiety and find ways to relieve that stress. These specialists can help to process traumatic memories or experiences so that it is possible to move on. They can also aid survivors in learning to regulate their strong emotions like fear and anger.

A good match between therapist and client is one of the most powerful healing factors in a therapeutic relationship. Look for someone who makes you feel heard, understood, safe and comfortable.  Note from me:  I entered counseling the same day I filed for divorce from my abuser.  I ended up finding another therapist when the first one didn't seem to work for me.  If you find you're not comfortable or getting out of the therapy/counseling what you feel you should be getting, move on to another therapist; and even another one, and another one, until you find one that works for you.  And again, find one that specializes in trauma and PTSD.  For survivors of abuse (and that's what you are!  A survivor!) we can have what's called Complex Post Traumatic Stress, which is long-term exposure to trauma (the abuse) and the inability to escape it.  Defined from the link given here:
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological injury that results from prolonged exposure to social or interpersonal trauma, disempowerment, captivity or entrapment, with lack or loss of a viable escape route for the victim.
 And with this, I'll bid you adieu.  I'm meeting with a new attorney today to help shield me from my abusive STBE husband and his bat-shit crazy attorney.