How Do I Stop the Abuse from Supporters of My Abusive Husband?

Reader’s Question

How can I stop the abusive behavior of people who support my abusive husband? I am finally getting divorced from a Narcissistic husband who portrays himself as a victim, implying he was stuck with a “crazy b****” (as I am stereotyped). My husband is from an old, established family, while I am an outsider. It didn’t help that as I became depressed over the years, I didn’t want to deal with people, so I stayed home out on a farm. He is handsome, outgoing, self-effacing, and is very charming.

When I wanted to die from the agony of emotional pain, I got help. I don’t know why I didn’t get help sooner; I guess I thought it was my fault and if I’d just stop messing up, it would resolve.

It’s now been two years of marital separation. I want to finish a divorce. But there are people who help my husband abuse me, from just being rude by telling me off to hiding marital assets (making divorce complex), and one time even beating me up to “teach me a lesson”.

I got away from him, but now…how do I get through to my husband’s supporters that I am not the woman he portrayed me to be and that I just want to be left alone? I now carry a weapon for safety. (I NEVER want to be so vulnerable that I can be beat up again; I thought I was going to be killed. Even the officer who took the report stated he believed me to be unstable and was the attacker…so not true). They think they are doing my husband any number of favors, getting back at me for him.

Psychologist’s Reply

First of all, you need to give up the idea that you can convince his supporters that you are a good person and just want to be left alone. By definition, his “supporters” are going to support his position. These individuals have chosen to support his view of the relationship. I’d recommend developing a strategy to survive the divorce ordeal rather than try to prove yourself. For example:

  • Recognize that applying emotional and social stress and pressure on the eventual ex-spouse is often a divorce strategy. Your husband may be intentionally encouraging others to torment you in the hopes that you will accept a less-than-fair divorce settlement in order to end the torment.
  • Accept that a small community typically gives increased credibility to established families and minimal credibility to “outsiders”. In a community where everyone knows everyone, you can reduce your social pressure by using a neutral strategy. Rather than explaining yourself to everyone, which might then be used as gossip, reply to all questions and comments with a neutral statement such as “Yes, we’re going through a divorce. It’s difficult for both of us. I hope both of us will be happy in the end.” When we use a nonthreatening and understanding approach, people gradually see the public complainer and protester (your husband) as someone who is being inappropriate.
  • While your husband has the benefit of credibility and support in the community, you have the benefit of your country’s or state’s (in the US) divorce laws. Your husband may be orchestrating this aggressive social effort against you because he realizes he’s at a disadvantage legally. In this situation, you want to play to your strength — the legal and business side of the divorce. You can’t “out charm” him — but you and your attorney can take a very firm legal position. At this point you are playing his game — a game involving community credibility and support. If you didn’t have a good legal/business position in the divorce, there would be no need to torment you.
  • Seek mental health help as you move though this difficult time. While he will threaten to bring your therapist into court, that’s mostly a threat as bringing a therapist into the courtroom allows testimony that his behavior has created your stress and depression. In 37 years of clinical practice in a small community, I’ve never been called to court during a divorce hearing for that reason.

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Many years ago I worked with a woman in the process of divorce. Her husband, an industrial contractor, was tormenting and threatening her. She felt helpless and hopeless until a casual stop at the local bank revealed that she owned one-half of his entire contracting business. That evening, when he demanded that she surrender her automobile to him, she said something like “That’s fine. I’ll just drive one of the 22 trucks, 4 cranes, 8 bulldozers, or 4 road graders that I own!” The threats stopped at that point and he suddenly went into “negotiation” mode.

Stick to business and law. You can repair misconceptions about you and your behavior after the divorce…if you decide to remain in the community.

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