There are so many steps to take when getting out of a toxic relationship, especially when it’s gone on for nearly 20 years, and two children are involved.
For me, the hardest – and first – was finally realizing that what I considered normal was actually a distorted, unhealthy reality that I could no longer tolerate for myself, or the kids.
So it was time to consider my options. This was hard. I was settled, and although I knew I didn’t want to be around the ex, I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want my kids to have to move. I didn’t know what would happen with my job and was reluctant to give up all the activities which rooted us in the community.
I did understand that careful planning was necessary, and equally important was… money.
It took me a couple of years to figure out what to do and how, but when I was able to finally get the ex to physically leave the house, I was emotionally ready to move on.
“I’m free!” I thought, until papers were filed, and all hell broke loose.
The next year was full of nonstop legal battle, as well as approximately $100,000 in bills, which I will be paying back for decades. I looked forward to the day that I’d finally get the divorce, which I believed would guarantee an easier, more peaceful existence. How wrong I was!
Soon after papers were signed, I was back in the legal system, where I have remained: more than seven years have passed since the beginning of my trying to get away from this monster.
How could this be?
Well, after quickly learning that my ex was no ally and he became a “deadbeat dad,” I devoted my life to ensuring that he adhered to the divorce agreement.
If he refused to be emotionally supportive and present for our kids, the least I could do was hold him financially responsible.
I speedily learned to prepare for more war in court, and, having no money to spend, took him head-on myself.
I am now a veteran of the legal system; in less than three years, I have had more than 50 court appearances in two states, while largely representing myself (“pro se”).
And despite having no degree in law, with outside help and support, I have been able to rack up countless successes in the courtroom against a slew of lawyers whose behavior has mirrored that of my sociopathic ex, and judges who couldn’t care less.
I have not only saved at least half a million dollars in legal fees, but have learned how strong and articulate I can be when required.
I have discovered how to stand up for myself – not just against a toxic ex-husband, but an entire family court system that largely allows abusive behavior to take center stage.
Is this topic front and center for you right now? BTGO has an interactive workshop that goes far beyond what we cover in this post. Learn more.
It has also given me the opportunity to show my children by example that even though life is inherently unfair, justice is worth fighting for.
I have had several triumphs, and many moments of sheer anxiety, but yesterday was a VICTORY!
After a grueling, remote three-hour court session, I was finally able to get some tough New York court orders with TEETH. (The Connecticut ones were meaningless on paper, as no one enforced any of the promised consequences).
COVID–19 has been brutal, but, on the bright side, it has slowed things down. Even though the courts are overwhelmed right now, a fair and patient judge took the time to thoroughly examine the issues of this dragged out my case… and I should finally and swiftly be able to collect most of the huge debt owed to my family since 2018 by the narcissist I was once married to.
I’m going back for the rest of it, armed with years of experience under my belt, and a long list of scathing court orders formally documenting his despicable behavior.
Who woulda thunk?
Being in, and especially leaving a toxic relationship can be BRUTAL. But there can be many silver linings, most of which you can’t even imagine. For me, it was an incredible opportunity to discover strengths and talents I never would have realized had I remained in the grips of someone whose only goal was to disrespect, control, and destroy me.
I’m certain the narcissist I was once married to for nearly half my life – and his flying monkeys (if he even has any left) are reading this. And I’m sure he’s continuing to try to paint himself as the victim.
But who cares? Who’s listening anymore?
Editor’s note: If abuse in the legal system is an issue in your life, and you’d like to know more – especially what you can do about it – consider viewing our interactive workshop, Stalking by Way of the Court: Abuse in the Legal System, which is available in BTGO’s Sanity School now.
Well done you. Yes I am 2.5 yrs in. I have been to court 5 times and have 3 more hearings to go. I too have found that the judicial system enables the perpetrators and is against the victim. I feel like I have had to fight them all just to get heard and to get the justice I deserve. My soon to be ex has manipulated two of my adult children and so I am fighting three Narcissistic psychopaths. My god, in order to divorce them you have to be one heck of a resilient and assertive person. You really are a true survivor of abuse. I would not wish this on anyone but if you are going through it too, justice will prevail in the end! You will be happy and they will remain evil, malicious, vindictive and sad. Take care of self and good luck in the .future.
Thanks so much, and you know I feel for you – we do have to “fight them all just to get heard!” It is heartbreaking (and familiar) to hear that your ex has managed to manipulate two of your children.
I am hopefully seeing justice prevail – it happens slowly, and toxic people try to wear you down so much that you just give up. I’ve heard (and seen) this happen in so many cases, and agree that it’s a tradeoff to use so much energy, time, and money to continue to engage in a legal battle. For me, it was really necessary, and I’m glad that after all this time, it feels like things are moving along, though I’m gathering my strength to get more stuff together this week and continue with the rest of the matter!
I wish you luck, and many triumphant moments – please keep in touch!
This blog has kept me sane during the first year of getting out. Everything i am going through has happened to you at some point and to me as bad as this sounds I needed to know I wasn’t the only one going through this. I live in a place where either no other person has experienced this or no one is willing to talk about it. I have a serious mental illness (bpd1) which until my luvly ex cheated and in the most horrible way btw no1 ever knew or guessed i had any problems…its now used against me at every opertunity to make him look like the victim even though im raising 2 babies alone have no help or even support from him or his family. My children are happy and even im happy he strikes a0gain with the next messed up chapter to this night mare. Anyway Reading ur story has made me be one step ahead and brutally honest and forward in every situation that arises. The impact of my new found idgaf attitude has made it harder for him to face me so thank you for sharing your story it has been a secret support for me and I will always look to this fir advice before going forward
I’m so glad this has helped you (even though I’ve been so remiss in blogging regularly, as we have been really involved with creating these interactive workshops on many of the issues related to toxic relationships (now on our Sanity School part of the site)).
Knowing you’re not alone is HUGE – I know I myself kept so much a secret because when I tested the waters with talking about it (in the beginning, before I knew anything about narcissism or domestic violence), everyone else’s situation seemed way more “normal” than mine, and it feels terrible to feel like you’re the only one in all the chaos. Now, like me, you know you’re NOT.
Please keep in touch, and let me know if there’s anything in particular you need help with – feedback is what spurs the content for Been There Got Out’s blogs and courses, and I like having assignments that I know are helping address an important issue that should be explored. Because if you’re asking, it means hundreds – probably even thousands – of people are dealing with something very similar.
Take care and stay strong,