How to Ruin Your Ex-Husband’s Day

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by Annie Kaszina on October 31, 2017

My post-separation fantasies

When I walked away from my toxic marriage, I was in pieces – just like every other emotionally abused woman that I met since. I felt hurt, wronged, ashamed – and angry.  I struggled to understand how my husband could have behaved so badly to someone (me) who loved him so much. Plus, I had a couple of repeating fantasies.

Fantasy #1 He came back, a changed man who, “finally realized what a fool he had been and… just wanted to spend the rest of his life making me happy.”  (Well, I still reckon he was a fool – although he would never, ever own that sentiment.)  As for the making me happy piece, that was seriously problematic.  As he saw it, my role was to bend over backwards to make him happy. Nobody ever said anything about my happiness.)

Fantasy #2 I would “show” him!!!  What would I show him? Well, the way I envisioned it, I would fetch up somewhere in my Mercedes convertible, with a BIG diamond on my figure, and a BIG smile on my face, flanked by a new, adoring, super-high status husband.  The wasband would eat his heart out.

Neither fantasy materialized.

Fantasy #1 was never really on the cards.  It never is. Abusers and Narcissists have a serious allergy to the idea of making someone else happy. 

Fantasy #2, I soon discovered, was a waste of my time and energy.  When I started to think about what I really wanted, I did not truly care about the Mercedes, or the diamond ring. Still less was I interested in ever seeing the wasband again.  Let alone parading a new partner in front of him.  All that “showing him” stuff simply meant that I had something to prove to him and myself.

Life gets much, much better when you stop feeling you have to prove anything to anyone in order to feel good enough.

These days, I have no wish to “show” the wasband anything.  I have never wanted my lovely partner to meet him because I would not wish any unnecessary unpleasantness on a person that I care deeply about.

How to ruin an ex-husband’s day

So, how does this fit with the notion of ruining your ex-husband’s day? Is there still a place for a little gentle ruining?

This week, I have been working with a new client who was deeply worried at the thought of seeing her ex-husband again, for the first time in years, in a very public place, with a cast of hundreds.  He is a high-profile, silver-tongued snake who thrives in that environment.

As she saw it, he is powerful and charismatic, while she is powerless and invisible. She could not help worrying about whether she would be able to cope with sharing the same space as him, as well as how she would be judged  for no longer being with  Mr Silver Tongue, and how he might put her down to other people.

Now, you have to accept that public occasions like this are the emotional abuser’s dream.   For him, this is the perfect moment to reinforce the message he worked so hard to render believable about being Mr Marvellous to your Ms Incredibly-Lucky-To-Have-Him…

My client has moved on, massively, in many, many ways.  However, as can happen to us all, the narrative inside her head about who she was and how little she was worth had remained stuck in a time-warp. She still felt about herself the way she had felt all those years ago when he “rescued” her.

You can’t change an abuser’s point of view

As a coach, and a recovering emotionally abused woman, I have come to realize that you can only ever work with what is possible.  You can never change an abuser’s point of view – much as he may be wrong and you would like to.  Therefore, my lovely client and I focused on working on what is possible. We worked, therefore, on her old feelings about herself. As we did so, she started to revise her opinion of her own worth upwards.  Quite radically.

At first, she struggled to see where her self-image fitted in all of this – which, in itself, speaks volume.  But, then, it was like watching fog dissipate with the sun’s rays.

My client finally got it!

She is actually an impressive human being.  She always had been.  She has nothing at all to fear from facing someone who is, as she realized, justl the same old dismal, self-congratulatory creep that he had always been.

For her, that was a huge mind-shift.

Suddenly, she understood that she had no need to fear his judgement.

My client had earned her place at that event through the work that she has done over the years.  She finally saw that she had every right to be there.

We celebrated the significance of this shift in her thinking.  But then I couldn’t help myself.  I said to her, “You do know, don’t you, that every upside has its downside.  When you show up at the event in this frame of mind, you will totally ruin your ex-husband’s day.”

My client’s face, as she listened to those words, was fascinating to behold.  First, it showed anxiety about this possible downside – she had had more (true) downsides in her life than anyone needs. Then, it changed to lo mirth as she registered what I was really saying.

I am not a fan of revenge of any kind. While abusers doubtless do deserve to be punished for the harm they do, I would not encourage anyone to become the deliberate agent of that retribution.  Otherwise you end up drinking the poison that you might like them to swallow.

The role of the abuse survivor

The role of the abuse survivor is to commit to her healing and happiness.  Somewhere along the way, chance may well throw her objectionable ex onto her path. If so, she can bet that he will have the same old agenda he always had.  He will, inevitably, have one of those abuser moments (stolen from the Evil Queen in Snow White) when he just has to ask, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the most powerful of them all?”

Clearly, he wants – and expects – the predictable response,, “You are, oh Evil Drama Queen!” that he could always rely on in the past.

That is not the answer my client’s ex, Mr Silver Tongue, will receive because my client.

  1. a) Will not dissolve into a small puddle of misery at the sight of him.
  2. b) Will simply –and confidently – decline to engage with the old rattlesnake, at all.
  3. c) Will continue to enjoy her own right to be at the event.

That is enough to ensure that the likelihood of his day being ruined is very high indeed.

What could be more distressing for an abuser than to realize that his designated victim is profoundly unaffected by him?

Your job is to get on with making the rest of your life as enjoyable and meaningful as it possibly can be –for your own sake.   If, however, in the course of doing that, you encounter your horrible ex and your happiness ruins his day, well, what is not to love about you enjoying your win-win? That is the least you deserve.

There is no point ever setting out to ruin an emotionally abusive ex’s day. But if, through their own petty-mindedness, they ruin it for themselves, at the sight of you, well that won’t be the end of the world, will it?

When you get to enjoy the silver lining that you richly deserved, while your ex gets hung up on the cloud of his own making, that strikes me as a deliciously right outcome.  Sometimes bad people bring bad things down on themselves.  All by themselves.  Hey ho!

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