Divorce and Allegations
Two weeks after my family’s betrayal – less than a month after I realized Bubba had been raping me – I filed for divorce. I’d tried to keep up the pretense of giving him a year to work through his issues so that I could try to squirrel away a bit of money but he was escalating because I maintained my boundary of only communicating with him via email and only about the children.
Bubba had started sending me wild emails. He sent me a 6 page letter that was the last straw. In his letter, he took about 2 pages to admit to the abuse while turning it around and blaming me. He then spent the last 4 pages detailing how I’d abused him over the years. These were not the words of a repentant man – a man who is owning his actions and taking steps to make sure his family was safe. These were the words of an abuser trying to get his possession back into her place. Two days after receiving that letter, I filed and made it official. I was seeking a divorce.
If I thought Bubba had escalated prior to this, it was nothing compared to what happened once he found out I’d filed for divorce. The real mud-slinging began. He adamantly denied the abuse and started alleging horrible things about me. My family believed everything his twisted mind came up with.
Before my family turned on me, I’d shared with my sister, Nancy, that I’d begun texting with Luke as he made me laugh. She lambasted me for seeking emotional support from a man who wasn’t my husband. She said that I should only turn to my husband for emotional support. That confused me because she wanted to me seek emotional support from the man who caused my need for emotional support. It made no rational sense, but I was to learn that my sister could not ever be accused of being rational.
You see, Nancy, is a fundamental Christian, steeped in legalism. She would vehemently deny that fact, but she chose to sit in judgment of my decisions when it came to me leaving my marriage. She fully believes that a Godly wife suffers in silence, no matter how horrifically her husband treats her. She was staying in her very verbally abusive marriage and suffering for Christ therefore, I was expected to too.
I believe that Nancy judges me so harshly because, secretly, she is envious of the fact that I got out. We had talked many times since before she even got married about how her husband was not good to her. The entire family urged her to rethink marrying and we stood beside her each time she tried to separate herself from him. I used to despair for her, knowing that she and her children were living in hell and I was powerless to help her. I could so clearly see it in her marriage while wearing huge blinders to it in my own marriage.
The big difference between her husband and Bubba was that her husband was very overt in his abuse while Bubba was covert. Nancy’s husband would verbally attack her no matter where they were. We were all too afraid of making things worse for her to stand up to him and confront him so while he attacked her, we would sit there awkwardly and not say a word. I’m ashamed of my silence now. I wish I’d had the strength back then to stand up to him and demand that he treat her better. But I know my parents were right in that he’d take it out on her and it would make it worse for her.
Where my brother-in-law didn’t care who witnessed his abuse, Bubba was the stealth bomber of abusers. He was adept at keeping it in our small family. I was very adept at hiding it from outsiders too. Since my family had never seen him in action, when I finally came out and said he was abusing me, they didn’t believe me. It was easier to believe his lies rather than to take me at my word that he really was the abuser I was telling them he was.
His allegations included: that I was having an affair with Luke, had become an alcoholic, was having a mental break-down, had joined a cult, was poisoning the children against him, was keeping the children from him, was abusing him, and was bossy and controlling Let’s take a look at each of these.
Having an affair with Luke: This is totally laughable. I hadn’t seen Luke since before Bubba and I even started dating. I started texting him a full 2 months after The Incident. My mind is still boggled by the fact that he accused me of this when I’d never done anything to remotely make him think I’d ever cheat.
The fact is that Bubba has had several affairs over the years. The children found history on his computer of him watching internet porn and being registered on a dating website. They also found pictures of a naked woman saved on his computer that were taken from a Skype conversation. Bubba was very good at projection. Projection is often used by abusers. After awhile I learned that I could tell exactly what he was thinking and feeling and doing by what he accused me of. It was eerily accurate and I knew what he was up to when I just listened to the craziness that he came up with.
Being an alcoholic: Nancy knew I’d had that one wine cooler. From that, it morphed into alcoholism. If I had one wine cooler, I must be a raging alcoholic. You see, for the past 13 years, I’d barely touched alcohol. I would sometimes try Bubba’s wine but it was only a tiny sip. I was just not a drinker. But now, I’d had a wine cooler so of course, I must be an alcoholic!
Having a mental breakdown: Why else would I leave Bubba? It was obviously because I’d gone out of my mind. It couldn’t possibly be that he actually was abusive and I’d finally woken up to it. No! Certainly not that.
The fact is that Bubba was the one who’d just spent three days in the psych ward. Somehow he was allowed to sling mud at me about being mentally unstable but the fact that he’d recently been in the psych ward was never given any credence. I still don’t understand that one!
Having joined a cult: Last summer I started wearing long hippie skirts. A friend of mine, Arcadia, wears them all the time and talks about how comfortable they are. When the kids and I fled, I just threw things into a suitcase and grabbed stuff out of the hamper and threw in a trash bag. I didn’t pack carefully at all. When I got to my parents’ house, I realized I’d only packed one pair of shorts for myself. I went to Goodwill and happened to find two hippie skirts. I bought them figuring it was a good time to see if I liked them as much as Arcadia did. Oh my!!!!! They really are the most comfortable things I’ve ever worn in my life. I’ve since added to my collection and greatly enjoy wearing my skirts. What I didn’t know then was that long hippie skirts apparently are required attire for members of cults. At least that is what Bubba and my family think.
He and my family also thought this because my friends were supporting me in getting out of the abuse. We had a weekly playdate that I considered fellowship (we sat around and discussed all things but we discussed our faith, religion, our beliefs, and of course, Jesus) since I’d been burned by the “church” so badly in the last few years of my marriage. The thought of attending any type of organized religious service scared me and I was not ready to try it again. Instead, I got my fellowship time by spending it in a small group with other Christians.
Since I didn’t attend formal religious services, Bubba and my family were convinced I’d been sucked into a cult. What they fail to understand is that being a Christian is about having a personal relationship with God. Attending formal religious services actually hurt my relationship with Jesus because I was stuck in Fundy Land – working hard to please God because it was all about the rules. I was working hard to please God because I had to or bad things would befall me. Now, I work hard to please God because I love God and I want to please Him.
Dictionary.com defines a cult as:
1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
3. the object of such devotion
4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
5. Sociology . a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.
I have a group of friends. Nowhere do they meet the definition of a cult. How one dresses and what one believes does not make one a member of a cult
poisoning the children against him: I simply didn’t have to do this. Bubba’s own actions poisoned the children against him. When you speak to a child about his mother’s faults and constantly blame her for all the ills of the world after you spent years abusing that child, that child will be poisoned against you. It is not anyone else’s fault. If you are abusive and your children don’t like you, take a look at your own actions. Children are not stupid. They understand your words and actions.
I think I was accused of this because I stopped defending Bubba to the children. I’d always made excuses for him and apologized for him to the children and then I simply stopped. I’d realized about a year before the marriage broke up that it wasn’t my place to do either of those things anymore because it meant that I was invalidating my children’s very valid feelings. When Bubba would promise to go to the park with us and then choose work instead at the last minute, I used to tell the children, “Daddy is sorry he couldn’t make it today. Something really important happened at work and he had to go take care of it.” Now I was saying, “I’m sorry you are hurt. You have every right to feel hurt by this. Can I give you a hug?”
My children’s feelings of hurt and anger that they’d been kicked to the curb once again were very valid. I realized there was no excuse I could offer for Bubba’s decision that wouldn’t hurt my relationship with my children. By defending him, I was invalidating their feelings. It wasn’t fair to them.
keeping the children from him: The children got twice a week phone calls with Bubba. There was one time that Bubba requested calling the children an hour later because he had to work late. I emailed and told him that it was fine but it was up to the children because that was dinner time and I wouldn’t ask them to give up their dinner. Because of this ONE instance, I was keeping the children from him. It was ONE time.
One of the times he called each week was a playdate day. My friends were there and saw me trying everything I could do to get the children to talk to Bubba. The children had a lot of understandable anger at him. He’d treated us horrifically and continued to badger them during their calls and treat them horribly along with bad-mouthing me. Of course, they didn’t want to talk to him when they were living in peace on a daily basis now.
I had to bribe the children and beg them to talk to him. I had to tell them they had no choice (which was the hardest – knowing we were still subject to what Bubba wanted and that the children’s feelings were not being considered by the family court). Bubba and my family accused me of keeping the children from Bubba when my friends saw me bend over backwards to get them to participate in their court-ordered phone calls twice a week.
abusing him: In his 6 page letter, Bubba accused me of abusing him. His accusations ranged from forcing him to get me pregnant, forcing him to have permanent birth control, giving him the silent treatment, withholding sex, treating him as if he was the enemy, and so many more things. Things that he’d done to me were twisted around that I’d done them to him. He was projecting all over the place. Even this far out from his abuse, it was hard to reread the letter today. In fact, I did not read it. I skimmed to pull out the highlights. It is still too painful and frightening to read. It started to pull me right back to where I was when he originally sent it.
His accusations of abuse didn’t stop with that letter. He convinced my family and our Guardian Ad Litem that I was the abuser. It still boggles my mind that they could believe him. He is a master manipulator.
being bossy and controlling: My family has always thought that I was bossy. It is part of my personality. I try to remember to say please but sometimes I forget. Not adding a please to a request is the same thing as being bossy in their eyes. I was baking the other day and I have a very small kitchen. Serenity and my friend, Hannah, were sitting at the table. Hannah was closest to the garbage and when I opened a stick of butter, I handed her the wrapper and said, “Throw this away………please.” (I’d almost forgotten the please.) I apologized for being bossy. Hannah looked at me quizzically and told me it wasn’t being bossy. I was baking and she was between me and the garbage. It just made sense to have her throw it away for me.
That is exactly the type of thing my family would’ve jumped down my throat for. I never mind helping out as I’m able and I just assume that others won’t mind either. Hannah had to tell me that delegating tasks is not being bossy as the people I’m talking to are free to tell me no. I told her absolutely. If someone tells me no, I think nothing of it and just do the task myself.
I also started to become adept at setting boundaries. I’d read Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend and was starting to implement some big boundaries in my life.
You see, setting a boundary is not about telling someone else what they can do, it is about telling that what you will do in response to their actions. You can’t control anyone but yourself. I couldn’t stop Bubba from contacting me but I could set the boundary that I would only communicate with him via email. I couldn’t tell him not to email me about all the changes he was making in his life, but I could tell him that I would only respond to emails about the children. I couldn’t control him but I most definitely could control myself. I couldn’t tell Bubba to stop abusing me, but I could make myself unavailable to take his abuse any longer.
As I set these firm boundaries to protect myself, my family thought I was controlling. They didn’t understand the concept of boundaries. They thought I should continue to open myself up to Bubba because if I didn’t, how would we ever be able to solve our differences? The fundamental flaw in their thinking was that they did not (and still do not) understand the abusive dynamic. They do not understand that it is a never-ending cycle. They also didn’t understand that abuse is 100% on the abuser. They wanted me to take 50% of the blame. I wasn’t willing to accept blame for something that wasn’t mine to own. I didn’t make him choose to hurt me. He chose that on his own. It was not my responsibility. It was not my sin.
As the divorce progressed, the accusations continued flying. I was seeking a no-fault divorce because I didn’t want to hurt Bubba and I didn’t want to drag the children through a nasty divorce. The weekend before I filed, I sent a proposed settlement to Bubba. He never responded. I tried two more times to send settlement offers to him and he completely ignored those too. We were reprimanded by the judge to act like adults and work this out. I tried, repeatedly. Bubba was more interested in punishing me for escaping his control. He began his smear campaign and I ended up losing all of my Family of Origin (FOO) in the process.
For some incomprehensible reason, they chose Bubba and his lies over their flesh and blood and her truth.