Peter's personal story
Thursday, September 14, 2017
One in Three Campaign

I have just found this website… such relief.. I am not alone!

I read other’s stories and wince… I am hardly surprised. It is familiar, so very familiar.

I am now 12 months post separation. The emotional abuse I suffer has intensified as it has been continuing passive aggression that I am forced to deal with. She is a professional in a regional centre and I the “trailing” spouse. I was the “stay at home” dad when our 2 children were little. I “retrained” at the local university once they got to school, and post-graduation found some project work which petered out so bought a small business. Post-GFC this has had to morph into web based sales. Supplementary income for the family to compliment my ex’s reliable professional income… or so I thought.

She wanted her own professional rooms.. I was supportive, and spent nearly 6 months of my time project managing the renovation of a building to her specifications. We incurred a large debt. That was 3 years ago.

The children have now left home, both graduated from university, and both working in their chosen fields. At least they are not caught in the crossfire as the once happy family disintegrates.

The separation caught me by surprise. I really didn’t see it coming after 28 years of marriage. To say I was gutted would be to miss the point. I was devastated. The pain, oh the pain of it… horrendous. I had been hit with such brutality I was hurting to my core. Not physical but emotional pain… the essential difference - there are no obvious bruises.

I accept that the marriage wasn’t perfect and had lots of issues to work on. Old fashioned idea I know, but I had exchanged vows with the woman, and I did love her. I had invested 28 years of my life with her. I had promised to stick with her through thick and thin. This was the first serious affront to our marriage. I believed that those vows were exchanged for moments like these. To hold us together so we could work things out.

Neither of us have been physically violent. But now I look back on the emotional games I was subjected to. The moods and stony silences, the outbursts of anger that had their origins in day to day things – for example the telco’s privacy policies that had meant I had to “approve” her purchasing a new mobile phone, given I had set up the account 20 something years before when she didn’t have the time to do it for herself - but where directed against me.. the constant walking on eggshells, and the stubborn resistance to any discussion about money, budgets and the like, even to an accusation of financial abuse towards me when her credit card was maxxed and I hadn’t had the time to transfer funds, being as it was the end of the month and pay-week for my 2 part timers. Yes, I managed the family finances, but her interest was in spending (she earned a lot of money – it was therefore hers to spend as she saw fit), and I was allowed no input into that. Any attempts at discussing budgets or questioning the need for the latest acquisition was awkward, to say the least! I would seek the advice of the accountant (a lady) to try and set a budget that would have allowed for all household expenses, and for the debt to be managed, and for me to have just a little bit of spending money. But these meetings were viewed negatively, that the accountant and I were somehow conspiring to control her.

The passive aggression took many forms. If I didn’t give immediate support to her ideas about a new stove, installing central heating, the design of a built in wardrobe, or a plan to leave my fold up bike in another city after she had borrowed it for a weekend, I was shot down in flames. She didn’t like her ideas to be challenged. An expert in her field of training, hence an expert in all matters.

The process of separation was like a slow motion train wreck. Having announced she was leaving one Sunday morning, she returned later in the day. A colleague had suggested to her that some joint counselling would be appropriate. I eagerly embraced the suggestion. She made the arrangements (discretion was to be essential given her high profile in the town) and I went along with it, ecstatic we could at last try and resolve some of the stresses and strains that had built up.

In her mind I was the aggressor, and so she would accuse me of bullying. I refute this of course. Any attempt to get a discussion happening would be interpreted as hostile. Her busy schedule as a professional limited the time we could spend together. In retrospect, I now question this, and suspect that a lot of this was avoidance. I had penned a few notes about issues I wanted to discuss, to work through, bearing my heart and sharing my concerns about our relationship. I was asking for her to walk in my shoes, to look at our relationship from my perspective, what I had contributed to the family. It was interpreted as being an attack on her, that I was insensitive or disrespectful to her. It showed me just how self-absorbed she had become, and how little empathy she retained for me.

I was asked not to contact the counsellor separately. I complied to start with, and when I did seek a separate meeting, my ex refused to give her consent. “You can say anything about me to my face, not behind my back”. The counsellor failed to read the signs and did not overrule, and so I was not allowed a separate session just to myself for 3 months.

She made good her threat to move out of the matrimonial home during this time – “long service leave” she called it!

I recall the frustration of trying to have my concerns taken seriously by the counselling professionals. But she had chosen to leave; she is a professional so there must be valid reasons for it. Her motivations were never questioned. I was asked if I had a thing about divorce. She wasn’t. Such a condescending question.. As if I was incapable of appreciating the implications.

The abuse really got going with the separation. I had been able to deal with the passive aggression prior to that. I was able to accommodate the mood swings and the like as being part of the midlife changes many women experience. Always trying to put a positive spin on it, hopeful that my world which was starting to spin out of control could be righted and the destruction of 30 years together could be averted. It had got progressively more extreme. I only had to ask a question to be accused of being a bully.

Once the “trial of separation” period had run its course, the lawyers got involved. The anger that was occasionally evident prior was now reflected in all the correspondence.

Requests for some spouse maintenance have been rebuffed. We had a seaside shack. It has now been sold. I am allowed to use some of the funds to live on. My business struggles on. I look for paying work. I am now nearly 60 (she is 8 years younger) and that is as scarce as rocking horse **** in this regional centre. I live in the “former matrimonial home”. We had downsized and moved into the town as part of the process of setting up her professional rooms. That house is now for sale given the large bank loan we incurred in setting them up. I have to be prepared to have complete strangers come into my home at a moment’s notice, always contemplating that I may not be living here in a few short weeks. Ever hopeful, but to date disappointed. This has been the reality since the house went on the market. So far it has been more than 6 months.

I inherited some family treasures. She insists that they be valued as part of the property pool. I struggle with the emotional implications of all of this. Does this count as emotional abuse?

The process of separation of assets will be long and involved. I am unwilling to move into a smaller (rented) home until the house she insisted we buy sells. She rents a cosy little cottage and has it all “just so” while I am left to deal with what is left. So my life is in limbo. I have very little money. She gets on with her life. I am confronted by the realities of the family disintegration each and every day. I am powerless to avoid them. Does this count as abuse? And then there is the vexed issue of instigation. I won’t go there.

I post this under a pseudonym. Even now I can’t discuss all aspects of my sad situation openly. She remains a practicing professional “above reproach” in the eyes of the community and I have a vested interest in her maintaining that role, at least until I get a fair and equitable settlement. She is the beneficiary of the substantial debt that is forcing the sale of the house I currently occupy. She works hard and generates a substantial income. Her successful business is by far the greatest asset when it comes to the property pool. And she has that business only because of the efforts I went to in establishing it.

And there remains a cruel twist. She evidently continues to view herself as the victim. Correspondence from her lawyer is infused with threats and demands. My anxiety levels increase with each new instalment. New demands are made, more uncertainties revealed. She remains intent on exerting control. My agony continues with no end in sight. This is domestic violence without an end point.

I have been cast aside by a woman in a powerful position.

I am under the radar.

I have the black dog with its piercing yellow eyes stalking me.

Everything I have done to attempt to head off this crisis has failed. The train wreck keeps unfolding. What is my fear? I end up with nothing. No home, no job, no money. And the perpetrator of this injustice will continue to make excuses for her unfathomable conduct.

The lawyers work at their own grinding pace, I am yet to be convinced that the family court can give me any comfort. Dear God that this was all a bad dream!

Article originally appeared on One in Three Campaign (http://www.oneinthree.com.au/).
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