3 Laws (& Assignments) for Successful Dating After Domestic Violence

Law 1: Individuality

Let’s face it. After experiencing living in an abusive relationship, you most likely don’t know who you are or what you want. You were probably told many times over the past few years who you are, what you should be and do and what you shouldn’t be and do.

I highly recommend staying out of serious relationships for at least a year. I know it’s hard. I know you long for that companionship and you may even have kids and would love for them to have a positive influence in their life, all of that will come, in time, when it is meant to.

The first three and a half years after leaving my ex were spent going through my divorce, dedicating my time to my then toddler and socializing. Yes, I went out. Yes, I spent time with men and with women. No, I did not date. Once I began to date, it was a year and a half of nothing serious with a lot of first dates with a lot of different guys. These dates were wonderful because I learned about myself and about what I want and don’t want. You can do it.

Now I am in a relationship with an amazing man who I met almost three years ago. I get to experience what a  healthy relationship looks like, feels like, smells like, tastes like and sounds like. It’s wonderful.

Assignment:
Guess what? Now is the time to discover who you are. Take time for yourself. Seriously. Date yourself. Go out to dinner and a movie. Go for a walk. Go bowling. Do fun things just for you.

Law 2: Vulnerability

Telling a person who’s been surviving most of their life by being guarded out of necessity for their safety is like telling them you have removed all the mines from a mine field and it’s safe to run through a mine field they have navigated for years. They know where each hidden mine had been placed and they still instinctively avoid stepping in those places, even with the knowledge that the mine field is clear. For them it’s a matter of life or death.

The tragic part in all this, is that in order for a person to have the happy, thriving, and successful healthy relationship they want, that vulnerability and trust needs to be there.

Assignment:
The best way to get through this is to be patient with yourself and allow yourself to experience the emotions. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, play some good instrumental music, and write (for at least 10 minutes) ‘I am afraid to be vulnerable because…’ and see what comes out. You’d be amazed at the insight this will give you into yourself.

Law 3: Love Yourself

This may be the most important thing you can do to help yourself. Often times people who experience abuse have fought a daily battle with their partner. And the daily message they give you that you are not good enough, not worthy, no one else will want you, takes a toll on even the strongest self esteem. Especially because it comes from someone you love and someone who should be lifting you up every chance they get.

The ironic thing about loving yourself is, once you truly get there, then the right person will just meander unexpectedly into your life at just the right time. The more you do to help prepare yourself for that time, the better off you’ll be.

Sure I can say ‘love yourself’ all day long, but how do you actually do that? It actually takes a little work and a little effort on your part.

Assignment:
For the next 30 days write down five amazing things about you each day. The best part? It gets to be something different each time. So at the end of 30 days, you’ll have 150 amazing things about yourself written down. These can be things about you as a person, a friend, in your work, your body, as a parent, as a romantic partner, anything you like. Just make sure you do it. And make sure you stay positive.

Reprogramming your brain is a lot of hard work. Don’t let that scare you though, you’ve already allowed it to be programmed the way it is currently if you want a better life, it’s your responsibility to take ownership and create it. You got this.

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3 Simple Tips For Loving Your New Normal Now

Were you like me? Did you daydream about how your life would turn out? Would you marry your prince charming and raise beautiful children together? Be present for your children as they progress though all the stages of life? Be a stay at home mom? Be totally spontaneous and decide last minute to go on some fun mini family vacation out of state? Have one of those wooden signs hanging above your door with your last name and the words ‘established 20??’ via Pintrest style? Would you be pregnant at the same time as your sister or cousin or best friend and really bond together over that shared experience?

These are some of the dreams I had growing up and especially after I was proposed to. I used to daydream of the life I wanted to have, everything being so perfect. That is not how things turned out for me. Instead I married an abuser, we are divorced and have one child whom we co-parent (sometimes well, sometimes not). Since my son was one year old I have sent him to his dads house for visitation and I haven’t had the privilege of being involved in every facet of him growing up. I have missed out on loosing teeth, boy scouts ceremonies, caring for him during illnesses, being the first to take him to a movie he was looking forward to in the movie theater (sounds silly, but ask other single parents, it’s kind of a big deal), and many, many things that I don’t even know I missed. I work a full time job while I grow my business and I have taken on a second job here and there as needed. Per the divorce decree, I have to inform my ex 30 days before I take our son out of state. I have no ‘established’ wooden sign hanging above my door. I had one pregnancy and never got to experience it at the same time as a sister or friend.

I have spent many nights crying over these lost dreams, things I always wanted and never got. There are some things I have since let go as never going to happen and there are some that I still hope and pray for. A few weeks ago I was talking to a woman who was asking for help for her sister who had recently left an abusive situation, and she said one of the hardest things for this sister was learning to live in a new normal, and I instantly knew exactly what she was talking about. In the years since my divorce I have found some things to help navigate the new normal.

Trust In The Greater Good

Whatever it is you believe in, God, Buddha, the Universe, Karma, what ever your higher power is, trust that if you keep believing in a better life, keeping dreaming for the life you want, keeping speaking words of growth and encouragement, what it is you have lost will in fact be restored. There is truth in the fact that whatever it is we concentrate on, focus on, dream about, and think about is what will happen for us in our life. So why didn’t things work out for me the way I thought? I look at this two fold.

Part of being alive on this planet right now is learning the lessons we want to learn and are meant to learn. In order for us to learn something as divine as forgiveness, someone has to do something to us to be forgiven for. How can you forgive if you have never experienced something that needs forgiving for? Why did I have to experience a domestic violence marriage and following, a divorce? Maybe so I could create an even better marriage after. Maybe so I could know how to help others who experience it. Maybe so I could learn forgiveness, understanding and love. Maybe because I am the person who could help stop the cycle of abuse from my ex husbands family from continuing forward in my sons life. It could be any of these reasons, all of these reasons or reasons I am not yet wise enough to know. I trust that there is a divine reason.

Before I did marry my ex, I had this nagging feeling that maybe I shouldn’t do it, but he seemed so great and I couldn’t actually place my finger on any reason why not. I talked to my mom about it, and she agreed that he was a great guy and that I probably just had cold feet. I think that it really was my subconscious seeing the truth about my ex and trying to give me a warning signal, maybe it was even a small whisper from my higher power saying ‘this one isn’t the one.’ But I was 20 and thinking that since I had lived in seven states across the country, I was preparing to graduate with my associates degree, and that I was a mature 20 year old, I was ready for marriage and all would be well. Even on my wedding day I had doubts on the way to and during the ceremony. Clues I should have listened to. After my divorce, I thought of my divorce as the end to my life. Who would want to date someone who had a failed marriage? Who would want to date someone with a kid? All these other people I knew (family and friends) had long successful marriages, what was wrong with me? Now I look at my divorce as a gift of freedom and life from the uniformed decision of a naive 20 year old. I am grateful I am no longer married to the man who treated me with little respect and more like an object than a person. I now have the gift to move forward in my life with love and respect, love and respect that I now give to myself.

The bonus? Universe, God, Life, has a knack for knowing what is better for us than we do, and the gift of restoration. Yes, I miss out on the children I could have had, I am sad for the companionship I lost. When I look at my life now, I find in addition to my son from my ex husband, I am blessed with the two sweet children my boyfriend brings into our relationship, and I am blessed with a healthy relationship in which I feel encouraged and safe to be myself. I was blessed with time to enjoy my 20’s and make and meet wonderful friends. Not bad for messing up in choosing my spouse the first time around.

 Mourn and Let It Go

Go ahead and go there. Imagine what might have been. Imagine what could have been acknowledge what you feel you have lost. Even when leaving a relationship for your own safety or the safety of your children, there is still a loss and still a reason to mourn. Allow yourself that time and space and don’t feel guilty for your grief, Write a list of all the things you feel you will never experience and all the things you have lost because of your divorce. Maybe it’s your house, maybe it’s having to share the kids, maybe it’s having to work now to support your family. As you write feel the emotions that come with each item on your list. Feel the loss, the anger, the sorrow, allow yourself to cry, allow yourself to yell. And then in a safe, controlled environment, (like in a grill or a coffee tin) burn that page. The burning is symbolic of you letting go of that life and starting fresh, anew.

Find New Dreams

Part of the process of buying a new car or a new home, is giving the other one up. You may love that old car, maybe it was your first car and you have been through a lot together, you’ve got memories and nostalgia built up with this car. Buying a new one is scary and exciting at the same time. The new one has new features, it drives differently, it breaks differently, you have a lot to get used to, including the unknown. Same thing with your new dreams, once you let the old dreams or life go, you get to create new ones. These new dreams can be frightening and feel different, you have a lot to get used to. But you get to create them however you like. You have the power. Dream big dreams. Create a vision board with all the amazing things and goals you want. Remember with a vision board, make things quantifiable, you need to have a measurable goal for yourself. Something like ‘Be a better mom’ could be replaced with ‘complete a parenting course’ and once one vision is achieved, you get to replace it with a new one. You are the author of your future, go out and make it amazing.

Changing Your Clothes Will Change Your Life

One of the most important things women who have experienced domestic violence can do is to build up their own self-esteem and start loving themselves. In my very first guest blog post, Kami Woodward, Wardrobe Mentor (kamiwoodward.com) explains how to give yourself permission to be you and love yourself!

Perfect Pink High Heel
They were the perfect pink high heels. I was 11 years old and they were the most beautiful shoes I had ever seen in my life. My mom and I were shopping to replace my worn-out scuffed-up black church shoes and I spotted the pink ones. There were only two obstacles: 1) they weren’t on sale and 2) my mom thought they were ridiculous.

I grew up in a family where you didn’t ask for things because the answer was always “no” for money reasons. But I wanted these shoes. I didn’t want another pair of boring black flats – I wanted grown-up fancy pink high heels! I begged. I pleaded. I promised the moon and more…and finally my mom said “yes”. She also said, “You’ll end up not wearing them because they won’t match anything – they are bright pink!”

I love my mom but she was wrong. I LOVED those shoes! I felt beautiful, feminine, and all grown up. They were my “power shoes” that I wore when I needed extra confidence. And as a nerdy pre-adolescent? I needed extra confidence a lot! I wore those shoes over and over and over until the bottoms fell off and the heels cracked SIX YEARS later. Like I said; they were the perfect pink high heels!

Do you remember your first piece of clothing that you LOVED? That went beyond function and practicality and transformed the way you felt about yourself? Think for a moment.

I’m a wardrobe mentor specializing in the emotional and energetic side of fashion and I often ask my clients this same question. Do you remember the feelings that piece of clothing (or accessory) sparked inside of you?

Confident. Beautiful. Powerful. Happy. Courageous. Joy. Strong. Giddy. Feminine. Sexy. Fun. Comfortable. Like YOU.

What you wear is powerful. Everything we put on our bodies has an emotional energy to it. This is the difference between that first piece of clothing that you LOVED and the old t-shirt your ex-boyfriend left at your house. The difference between your wedding dress and the sweater you had on when you found out your mother passed away. Fashion is emotional and what we choose to wear perpetuates those emotions in our lives.

When you get dressed in the morning, do the clothes in your closet make you smile? Do they make you feel as amazing as I did in my pink high heels? Why not? What the heck happened?!

There are 4 levels of wearing clothing:

1) It covers your naked bits
2) It is practical (coats in wintertime) and functional (pants to ride a bike)
3) It is what you like and in your unique style
4) It is 100% perfect energy, emotion, style, ideal for the occasion, and makes you look like a million dollars

The vast majority of people have achieved level 1 (they aren’t naked) and level 2 (what they are wearing allows them to function in their lives). Your wardrobe transitions from logical to emotional when you take it to level 3. Whether it’s your whole wardrobe or just a few outfits, this is where changing your clothes will change your life.

Those feelings you had with your first piece of LOVED clothing? Those are level 3 feelings. You can decide to feel that same confident, beautiful, powerful, happy energy each day when you get dressed. That’s a level 3 wardrobe. Imagine getting dressed into something you enjoy wearing and that’s your unique style. You are feeling powerful! There’s a smile that’s big and permanent on your face, shoulders are back, and you’re walking tall. You’ll go downstairs to breakfast and interact with your family differently because today, you are powerful! Then you’ll go to work and your relationships with your coworkers will be better because today, you are powerful! Throughout your whole day, you are successful, accomplished, and respected because you physically put on power that morning in the form of an outfit you love.

Remember: what you wear is powerful. Changing your clothes will change your life. And if you ever get off track, just remember your most LOVED piece of clothing and the feeling it gave you.

I challenge you to pick an emotion from your memory of most LOVED clothing and apply it to your wardrobe today. For example, if your emotion is “powerful”, then ask yourself when you get dressed: “Does this make me feel powerful? Why or why not?” Then make the adjustments necessary to move towards a more “powerful” personal style. You can do this! Find YOUR “perfect pink high heels”!

(If this is all a little overwhelming but sounds good and you’re ready to make a change, reach out to me at kamiwoodward.com for a free 30 minute wardrobe consultation.)

Re-wiring the Brain for Healing after Experiencing Domestic Violence

My heart was pumping and my mind was whirring even though my body was still. I was lying on the floor looking up into his eyes, he was straddling my waist and holding my wrists above my head, pinned to the floor. I was helpless. I couldn’t move, couldn’t escape. I had already learned from previous similar experiences that he was much stronger than me and no matter how hard I struggled, I had no power to move his body even the slightest. I felt the cold, hard linoleum kitchen floor pressing up against my back.

This was the moment that I would just listen to him, let him scream at me. Let him get all his frustration out. I would agree that I was in the wrong, that I was a horrible person, that everything I did was a mistake because I was too afraid of what would happen to me otherwise and I knew it was the only out of his physical trap.

People who experience domestic violence, have more effects on their lives than the abuse itself, whether physical, mental, emotional or other forms of abuse. Seldom talked about are the lasting effects of abuse, the chronic health conditions that can and do happen as a result of Domestic Violence.

Healing from Domestic Violence is a journey, and it actually takes a lot of work. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t instantaneous. People who experience Domestic Violence actually need help in this healing process, and they cannot do it all alone. I have explored many ways to heal and this post is about one of my favorites: affirmations.

Changing your thoughts and the way you think about yourself and your body actually can and does cause healing to occur and it’s not just woo woo stuff. It is backed up scientifically. Let’s look at the brain for just a second.

Inside our brains is the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS is considered the brains attention center, is the key for switching on your brain, and is considered the main center of motivation. The RAS is connected to the spinal cord where it accepts information that travels to the mid brain and forms a complex neuron collection.

These neurons create thoughts and beliefs in the form of fibers called axons  which release chemicals called neurotransmitters to be released at junctions called synapses. The more and more we think a certain thought, the more we create the synapses, the more we build up neurons or new beliefs that begin to take over our core thinking. Conversely, the less we think a thought, those pathways disintegrate and no longer exist.

We do this, already, all the time, our negative thoughts and emotions actually create disease in our bodies because it is a dis-ease in the way we think of ourselves and thus care for our bodies.

This great infographic shows the link between domestic violence and chronic health conditions.
image

Louise Hay, one of my great mentors and a pioneer in discovering the link between our thoughts and the effects they have on our bodies, has written several books, one of which, You Can Heal Your Body, reveals the hidden messages our bodies are telling us.

70 percent of women suffer from chronic health conditions. 44 percent of women admitted they have experienced domestic violence. I took the information from the infographic and from You Can Heal Your Body and linked them together, the result is fascinating.

Health Condition in bold

Probable Cause in standard text

Affirmation in italics

High Blood Pressure

Long standing emotional problem not solved.

I joyously release the past. I am at peace.

Lower Back Pain

Fear of money. Lack of financial support.

I trust the process of life. All I need is always taken care of

Headaches                        

Invalidating the self. Self-criticism. Fear.

I love and approve of myself. I see myself and what I do with eyes of love. I am safe.

Migraines

Dislike of being driven. Resisting the flow of  life. Sexual fears.

I relax into the flow of life and let life provide all that I need easily and comfortably. Life is for me.

Difficulty Sleeping          

Fear. Not trusting the process of life. Guilt.

I lovingly release the day and slip into peaceful sleep, knowing tomorrow will take care of itself. 

Depression                      

Anger you feel you do not have the right to have, Hopelessness.

I now go beyond other people’s fears and limitations. I create my life.

Anxiety                             

Not trusting the flow and the process of life.

I love and approve of myself. and I trust the process of life. I am safe. 

Yes, you can heal completely from domestic violence. Yes, you can have a better life than the one you did before. All you have to do is the work. You’re future is up to you.

5 Reasons Why Marriage is Improving

Recently an article was posted listing 5 reasons why marriage doesn’t work any more. The truth is divorce rates are lowering and we as a society have been learning (and doing) what it takes to make marriage work. Here are my 5 reasons marriage still does work.

First, take a glance at the article to see what he listed.

Second, know that what he talked about are social agreements we have made that aren’t true.

The truth?

1. Sex is Important in a Relationship and We Don’t Have to be Supermodels in Order to Enjoy it

We all have the capability to show case our own natural beauty by exercising, eating right and learning how to do hair, make up and dress for own personal beauty and bodies. And the choice to make sex a priority. http://www.dressingyourtruth.com

2. Finances Are Just an Experience, Not the End All Be All
We all have the ability and the right to create a lifestyle of luxury and affluence. Money does not have to be a struggle. Money is a actually a spiritual experience. We have the ability to heal our negative experience with money are begin enjoying a positive experience.
http://www.deepokchopra.com

3. The Ways We Communicate Doesn’t Change How we Communicate, We Do
We have the ability to use texting to connect to each other on a deeper emotional level to enhance the relationship. My boyfriend and I work opposite shifts and don’t see each other during the week. We text. We talk on the phone. We snapchat. We stay connected. Yeah sure I could worry about who else he is doing all those things with, but I don’t. I trust him.
http://www.texttheromanceback.com

4. Your Love Life is Your (and yours alone) Responsibility
Before we can experience love, we have to first love ourselves. We expect other people to solve our problems for us or to change so we will love them more. The truth is, we have to change ourselves. Our love life is our responsibility.
http://www.thework.com

5. It’s Getting Better
It’s not getting worse. It’s getting better. We are aware that too much media is damaging. Step one is admitting you have a problem. We can’t control other people, but we can control ourselves. It starts with us. We make the change in our lives then we help others to make the changes for themselves. http://www.3keyelements.com

The links I included are some great resources to learn more

50 Shades of Domestic Violence

With all the talk about 50 Shades of Grey, the experience I had with domestic abuse, and the fact that I speak out about it, I figure I would speak my peice on the subject.
No, I have not read the book (I don’t even have the desire to). Yes I did see the movie (a friend took me along, and thank you for taking me, I love girls nights,  but it wasn’t my cup of tea, and here’s why):

I think the first red flag that stood out to me was a scene where Anastasia was at a night club with friends and drunk dials Christian. Sure, that’s something fairly normal when you first meet someone, Should I call him? Should I not call him? Drunk you however, has a loose filter and calls him. It raised the hair on the back of my neck when he went to the bar to find her, punched her male friend who was awkwardly trying to hit on her and then berates her for drinking too much. When she passes out, he takes her to his home, changes her clothes, and puts her in his bed. Without hardly knowing each other.

How would a man in a healthy relationship have handled the situation? He would have chatted with her on the phone for a little bit, made sure she was okay, and then trusted her decision to go out drinking with her friends. IF he had been at the club with her, he would have at least gotten her a cab, or gotten her friends to take her to her own house, and let her sleep it off.

It’s not romantic to stalk someone and tell them what to do. Sure he can talk to her and let her know he thinks she drinks too much and that it would be better for her in many ways if she backed off, and he has the choice if he wants to be in a relationship with someone who drinks as much as she does, or he could move on and find someone who drinks less. It really is that easy.

Similarly when Anastasia goes on vacation to see her mom, and Cristian just crashes her vacation and shows up unannounced. This is not romantic. This is creepy. It is stalker behavior. I would personally like to be in a relationship where I trust my man and I feel that my man trusts me in return. This is what makes a relationship last long term. And besides the fact, sometimes distance and space is a good thing. It’s good to miss each other. It’s good to disconnect with each other so you can connect with yourself and not forget who you are, because who you are is who they fell in love with in the first place.

As far as the sex goes, yes, sex is vital to a healthy relationship, yes, couples should experiment in the bedroom and try new things. Yes, it is good and healthy to build that intimate bond with each other. Talk about sex with your partner. Even have sex when you don’t really want to. It’s okay to have a quickie when you don’t feel up to it, and often times it will make you feel better anyway. And the more you have sex, the more you will want to.

A healthy relationship is NOT one where one person is made less (through their own feelings or through actual physical means) than the other in any way. Anastasia is bound and must do Christian’s bidding, obey him, and if she doesn’t, she is punished. Yes, I know the argument of that being what turns some people on, in a healthy relationship though, I think there is no place for it. Healthy relationships are about lifting the other person up and helping them feel good about themselves. You know that euphoric feeling when you feel good about yourself? What if you were able to extend that euphoria to the bedroom?

In order to stop the cycle of abuse, we need to change the way we think, speak and participate in relationships. I challenge you to expect respect, love and trust in your relationship. You start it by setting the intention, giving those things yourself amd changing what you speak about, think about, participate in amd understand about relationships.

Can we Remove Abuse from the World?

Abuse is in the media a lot. People who haven’t experienced it question it a lot. I’ve already written about it, and I have more to say. I want to help others understand what abuse is, and what abuse isn’t.

Abuse sneaks up on a woman
The first date isn’t wrought with emotionally or physically abusive jabs. The abuser doesn’t share stories about his abusive behavior in past relationships.

It’s fun and light and you talk about future plans and personal favorites. You try to impress each other a little bit. It’s a normal first date. And the relationship builds from there. You are courted and pursued and easily fall wonderfully in love. Yeah sure, maybe you have an argument or two. Maybe he yells at you and you yell back, after all we are all human, we all have emotions we are learning to process. We all have bad days.

So when does it become abuse?
You know, it’s interesting. As the abuser changes, he actually blames his partner for changing. And he’s usually pretty good at making his partner think they are the one who is changing. When you’re the one who is experiencing abuse, your world becomes so entangled in your own head, you don’t know up from down.

When the abuse happens
The very first time real abuse happens is usually a shock for the person experiencing abuse. After all you have already been together for months or sometimes years before something happens, and you have never seen this kind of behavior before. It’s easy to dismiss it as a one time thing, especially when the abuser is so apologetic.

When it happens again, you begin to wonder and right around the third time, you see the pattern setting in.

The Three Phases of Abuse

image

Once abuse happens, the cycle starts. First, there’s the explosion: physical, emotional, psychological, financial, sexual, spiritual, etc abuse. This phase doesn’t last long and it is the most dangerous. Often times this is when the person experiencing abuse takes action, protecting themselves, the kids, the pets, calling police, or leaving.

Second is the honeymoon phase. The abuser fills his partner with apologies, gifts and promises of change, reform and counseling or church attendence. Anything he can do to get her to stay.

Third is the tension building phase. This is the longest phase and often the most frightening. The abuser starts to get moody and demanding. He often times starts falling back into old patterns, far away from the reform he promised. The person experiencing abuse can sense that an explosion is going to happen, so to avoid that, she does anything and everything she can to make him happy, often withdrawing from the outside world. This phase is a frightening waiting game. I don’t even know if I can explain how it feels. It’s terrifying, you feel like you are walking through a mine field, trying to pick your way through, but scared to death that one misstep will lead to that dangerous explosion. Every nerve on your body is on edge and it is exhausting.

And of course, after the explosion does happen, the honeymoon phase starts right back up again, and she thinks maybe, this is the time things will be different.

All of this centers around a pocket of denial. We buy into this denial as a society even, not really talking about abuse or believing it happens, especially if someone we love happens to be the abuser. What if we could change that? What if we started talking about abuse more? What if we helped the world realize this is something we no longer have to participate in? That we could perhaps teach people how to have healthy, loving relationships and how to get their needs met without resorting to abuse?

This is the world and the society I am working to create.

Say What You Want to Say

If I were to take my filter off and say what I really wanted to say about Domestic Violence and abuse, it would reach out and touch people I love and care about. It would maybe even come across as harsh and judging and possibly hypocritical, I’m not even perfect, after all I grew up in an imperfect world and I know how hard it is to change and break away from how we were raised. If I were to state what we needed to do to stop abuse and violence, it would go something like this:

Stop Shaming

We often times other people for not being like us, in our culture, our religion, our work, our schools and even our families. I had a friend who recently posted four words on her Facebook page that really hit me hard THIS IS NOT THAT. This person is not that person, this relationship is not that relationship, this situation is not that situation. It amazes me that we are living in a world where so much changes so quickly, and yet we expect others to be just like us. It’s okay if someone doesn’t worship the same religion the same way you do, or a different religion, or no religion at all. It’s okay if someone is gay or straight or anywhere under the rainbow of the sexual preference umbrella. It is okay if someone is a different culture or race than you. All of that is what makes us beautiful, and your Higher Power (whoever that may be for you) loves us all just the same, in fact, all the Higher Powers are on the same team, and why wouldn’t they be? The truth is, as we love and accept other people for who they are (which really is all we want other people to do with us), that’s when we see miracles happen and that’s what brings us closer to a world of no abuse.

What are the Messages You are Sending Your Kids?

I see parents yell at their kids all the time. You are affecting your kids on a daily basis of who they will become as adults and what they will do to seek out filling those needs you are pushing aside by yelling and degrading them. Kids are not doing things on purpose to bug or bother or hurt their parents. Kids are simply trying to get their needs met, if you choose to instead meet those needs and take the harder road of you by to meet those needs in healthier ways, you will raise healthier children and as a result, do your part to change the world for the better.

Give up the Porn. Really

Really I’ve heard so many excuses trying to rationalize porn. ‘It’s good for the relationship.’My significant other is okay with it.’ Stop. Just stop making excuses. Stop rationalizing. What does porn do? It puts up unrealistic expectations. It damages relationships. It and how the brain works. Would you want your daughter performing Porn? Then why do you watch other people do it? Do you want your significant other to feel wanted and loved? Do you want to feel wanted and loved? Then .

Figure Out Who You Are and What You Want First

Take time to really love you and know what you want. Spend time with you. Get to be your own best friend BEFORE you get into a relationship. It’s okay to be alone. Take yourself out. Spoil yourself. Buy yourself presents. This is especially true if you are coming out of an abusive relationship. Please, I know part of you will want to jump right into another relationship, and I also know taking time off of relationships is doable, it is affordable, it is a worth making.

Give Up Social Rules

A mother and daughter we preparing for a Holiday dinner together. The mother cut the ends off their holiday ham and placed it in the pan and then in the oven. Watching her mother the daughter asked ‘Mom, why do you cut the ends off the ham?’ ‘I don’t know, the mom replied, it’s the was Grandma always did it, let’s call her and ask her.’ They picked up the phone and made the call only to find out the reason Grandma always cut the ens off the ham was simply because the whole ham would not fit in the baking dish she had. Are there things we believe and say and do as a society that pattern this? Start being aware and paying attention of the things we could change and begin that change with you.

So My Dad Helped You?

“Mom, why did you leave my dad, why!” My eight year old demanded of me yet again. It was not uncommon for him to ask me such a question, and I knew whatever I said would go back to his dad. We were driving home from the gym, it was dark and rain sprinkled the windshield as the wipers sloshed back and forth. I pursed my lips.

“Why”?!? he repeated.

My mind flashed back across the things I had told him, ‘you’re not old enough, I’ll tell you when you’re older’ resulted in him pressing me over and over until one night I was tired enough to give in and tell him the basics, that his dad did not know how to treat mommy right, that he would hold me down and not let me up and a few other things, and I prayed and prayed about it and felt that leaving was the best choice for me and for him. Ever since then, my sons inquiries changed to include ‘dad wasn’t holding you down, not all of his weight was on you, you could have gotten up.’ which was one of my ex’s favorite things to tell me, so I knew my son was telling his dad these conversations. I knew I needed to tell him what he needed to know in a kind and loving way.

When my son first began asking me he would say ‘Mom, why did you take me and run?’ My mind flashed back to the months right after I had left my ex, he had filed a protective order on behalf of our son, against me, and the order started off with his statement that I had ‘taken our son and ran.’ I knew that’s how he perceived it. That I was suffering from postpartum depression and that my actions were a result of that and my mother telling me what to do. He didn’t understand that I had told him several times he could not and should not treat me the way he was treating me, that those actions were abuse. It’s so interesting to me that people who have never experienced abuse often say ‘I would never let someone treat me like that.” Yet, when you are in that situation, when you feel your well-being, and your life is in danger, you would do just about anything to get the other person to settle down, to calm their actions. I told him, what he was doing was abuse, I told him it was not okay, I went to his parents, I prayed, I did everything I knew how to do, and none of it mattered. I still lived my life in secrets and fear.

Nearly eight years after leaving my ex though, I have a different viewpoint on what that experience was for me, my ex, and even my son. I know my ex was raised in an abusive home. I know his parents were also raised in abusive homes. I know that his parents suffered from just wanting to be loved and to do what is right, they are normal people, they want to live normal lives and have normal things. They are all kind and good-hearted people who are actively involved in their community and church, who love to help and to serve their fellow-man. They are just living out cycles they don’t know how to fix. And for me, it was a cycle I refused to have continued in my home and with my son, and that is why I left. I used to think ‘it’s okay, I can handle this, I can love him and teach him what love and a happy home is really like.’ I would put up with the days of abuse with that thought running through my head until my son was born. Until the day I was standing in the kitchen cooking dinner with my infant son playing in the bouncer while my husband played video games in the front room, my son began crying as I was tending a boiling pot and my husband saying from the front room ‘I know, I know, mommy doesn’t love you…’ when my husband would smack our 5 month olds hand for taking a beanie off his head to teach him he needed to keep the beanie on his head and that ‘daddy knew what was best for him’. When those things began happening I knew I could no longer stay in that home. And how could I tell my son all that? He loved his dad very much, and his dad really did do his best to take care of our son, I didn’t want to start a war, I didn’t want our son to think badly of his father, after all, I had been told by adult friends who grew up in divorced homes, to never speak badly of the other parent, and that as children grow up, they learn the truth on their own. I believe childhood should be a world of wonderment, magic, and discovery, I did not want to ruin that for my son. I knew he wanted a good, solid answer, and that ‘I’ll tell you when you’re older’ wasn’t cutting it anymore. So I told him the truth.

I told my son that his dad was not always nice to me, and that he did not always treat me the way I deserved to be treated, so after lots of prayer and meditation, I left, and after leaving, I knew it was my calling to help others experiencing domestic violence to make it through and to heal. I knew it was my calling to help the women and the children who were affected, and there was no other way for me to know that’s what I wanted to do, or that’s what I would do had I not experienced it myself. I knew I would not be able to understand how to help these other women if I had not been through the challenge of leaving, of running, of fearing, of court and custody battles and single parenting had I not gone through it myself. I told my son, someone had to teach me what all that was like, someone had to play that role for me, and it was his dad, I told my son that I am grateful for his dad for teaching me what I learned and that I could not have done it without him. ‘So, my dad helped you?’ my son exclaimed. “Yes,” I replied. “You’re dad helped me. And I am grateful to him for it.” Which for me is true. There is always a silver lining in each and every experience we go through, finding that silver lining and living by it makes life worth living.

Types of Abuse

Abuse comes in many forms. There are different kinds of abusers who abuse in different ways.

Physical Abuse
Of course, physical abuse is the most well known and talked about. Abuse generally doesn’t start here though, it builds up in small ways until it escalates to physical. Once it gets to this point, there is usually years of more subtle types of abuse that lead up to it.

Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is getting a lot more talk than it used to. Emotional abuse is when the abuser manipulates the person experiencing abuse to feel a certain way in order to get a certain response from her.

Mental Abuse
Abusers will generally do anything to keep the woman in his life. This includes cutting her down verbally and telling her how worthless she is or how no one else would ever want her. The abuser uses this to guarantee his partner will stay with him.

Sexual Abuse
Even in a long term relationship, a healthy sex life involves both partners being willing participants. Sex is intended to build the relationship. When sex is good, it’s a 10% focus in the relationship. When there are sexual problems, sex is 90% of the focus.
You should never be forced to do something you don’t want to do when it comes to sex.

Spiritual Abuse
You should be able to experience the spiritual relationship you choose to pursue. An abuser making you believe one way or another or do one thing or another is not okay. You choose the spiritual path you wish to follow. Sometimes abusers will begin the relationship following the same spiritual path and once the relationship is established they slowly move away from that path and expect you to follow. Or even visa versa. Perhaps your spiritual path begins to change and your abuser does all he can to keep you from that path.

Financial Abuse
Money is a big experience for people right now. We need money for everything. To buy food and water, clothes and shelter, we need money to survive. Often abusers will restrict what his partner is allowed to spend. He won’t let her have a job or if she does, he monitors the money very closely, she is given an ‘allowance’ and spending any money beyond that leads to punishment of some kind.

Isolation
This is a tactic most abusers use. They keep their partner away from family, friends and even co-workers. The abuser will do all he can to keep his partner away from any support system because he knows if she becomes independent that she will most likely leave him.

Ghost
Abusers will do whatever they can to make their partner rely on them. Sometimes this includes ignoring his partner, pretending like she isn’t there or doesn’t exist. This often makes the woman more attentive to her abuser. And once again the abuser gets his way.

Be aware of what’s going on in your relationship. Look for these types of abuse.