Are you on Pinterest? I joined to find pictures and blogs about domestic violence. Lately I have seen lots of pictures that talk about NO CONTACT with your abuser. This interests me, because it seems no contact is now a “thing,” which I didn’t know. I instituted almost complete no contact with my ex-husband ten years ago when I got a restraining order against him. We haven’t spoken on the phone for 10 years. We communicate solely by email. It is pretty wonderful actually. The only reason we communicate at all is that we have children together. I talk about setting boundaries with your ex-abuser in my upcoming book, A Journey to Healing After Emotional Abuse, which will come out in January. You can read a preview of the book here.
I would like to share my experience and suggestions about how to limit painful conversations with your abusive ex. The following is taken from my new book:
If you have children with your ex, and are forced by the courts to co-parent with him,* this doesn’t mean he should be able to contact you 24 hours a day. You might try to limit your contact to text messages that only concern scheduling for the children. If he takes advantage of this and sends you text messages about other things, such as trying to reconcile with you, speaking abusively toward you, or threatening you — really, for any reason other than scheduling the children — you may want to block him from your phones completely and only use email communication. Some email carriers (such as gmail) may make it easy for you to block him from your current email and then you can force him to use a new email address. Other carriers may not make this so easy. You might find it easier to acquire a new email address for everyone else, and use your old address to communicate with him. He doesn’t have to know you’ve done this. This way, you will only need to look at his emails when you want to. He could email you ten times a day, and you might decide to look at this account once a day or once a week. This will relieve you from being bombarded by his correspondence if they are sent many times each day.
His emails may be controlling, angry and emotionally abusive. Try not to react to his abuse. Skim the emails for content that’s important to you, and teach yourself to ignore the rest. You will likely find this difficult at first, but you will find it easier over time as you become less emotionally tied to him.
I learned this lesson the hard way. My ex-husband was a great arguer. During our marriage, I never won an argument, because he could “logically” talk me out of any position I held, no matter how well thought out. When we first separated, he would attempt to talk me out of things I wanted to do for our kids, like signing them up for a class or taking them on a trip during my parenting time.
I read his controlling emails and got angry. Then I would make the mistake of trying to explain myself. He would shoot back an email telling me I was wrong and stupid. This would make me more furious, so I would send back an angry reply. This could go on indefinitely. I eventually realized that I would never win an argument with him, nor would I get him to see my side of a situation. I was wasting my time, and I was giving him what he wanted—my attention. I began asking myself, “Why am I allowing him to ruin my days with his abuse when I am divorcing him to get away from it?”
A friend of mine, who had been through this with her ex-husband, gave me excellent advice. She said, “Only respond to the emails you absolutely must, such as questions about schedule changes for the children. Don’t defend yourself, your decisions, and your actions—even as they apply to the children. This only adds fuel to his fire and keeps you engaged with him. Your goal is to disengage. If you feel you must respond, give a one-word answer such as OK, yes, no, sure—but not a curse word. Making him angry won’t help you disengage with him, but will keep you tied to him.”
I found this difficult at first, but finally realized the less I responded the less he emailed me, giving me a more peaceful life. One way to visualize this is to see your interaction with him like a TV show. When you argue with him, your interaction is vivid, in living color. Imagine your interactions in black and white. You are trying to drain the color out of the communication. Make it as fact-based, boring, and brief as possible.
A word of caution: Abusers who tend to be violent may become enraged as you disengage. Speak to a crisis center domestic violence advocate if you are concerned for your safety.
I hope this idea helps you if you are in a position where you must try to “work with” your ex. I would love to hear if this method worked for you.
Proverbs 29:11 (ESV) says:
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
I pray Jesus will give you the strength to be wise.
May the Lord bring you His peace today.
* In this blog, I call the abuser “he.” The same principles apply if the abuser is female and the survivor male, or if the abuser and survivor are of the same sex.