Divorcing an Emotionally Abusive Spouse? Here’s What You Need to Know

  • 03 Jan 2020

Divorce is never easy, but it can be especially complicated if you’re divorcing an emotionally abusive spouse.

All the hurtful words and controlling behavior don’t automatically stop the moment you call it quits on your marriage, which can make divorce an even more emotionally gutting, harrowing process than you ever imagined.

If you’re divorcing an emotionally abusive spouse, here are 4 important things you need to know:

Set Boundaries Immediately

Your former spouse was someone you once shared a lot of intimate details with and, depending on the nature of your relationship, you may not have had a lot of boundaries in the past. 

Divorce means you have to immediately set some hard and fast boundaries, and this process is even more important when you divorce an emotionally abusive spouse. Boundaries are what keep you safe and sane, helping you crawl out from the wreckage of your marriage.

Where you may have shared your good and bad days, the petty little fights with family and friends, and the things that make you happy with your spouse, you have to stop this practice as soon as you split up. Oversharing with your emotionally abusive ex gives them too much control over your emotions and your day-to-day interactions, and gives them potential ammunition to sling farther barbs your way.

The same goes for who you allow in your life and your home, what favors you ask of your ex, and any other issues that you may see presenting themselves. 

Be warned: Your ex will try to stomp all over your boundaries, especially at first. They’re used to being able to run in and out of your life however they want, and when you suddenly start putting up walls and not allowing them in, there will be some resistance.

Stay strong and keep the boundary firm and your ex will eventually learn that they can’t just always have their way.

Use “I” Statements

When you use the word “you” in communication, especially when you’re in a heightened emotional state, the other person immediately goes on the defensive. This causes the conversation and any opportunity you may have for a productive conversation to shut down, putting you back where you started.

Shifting your communication with your ex to “I” statements instead of “you” statements helps you take back your power in the conversation and begin to own your own feelings and thoughts.

Instead of saying, “You are making me angry when you talk to me that way,” say, “I don’t like it when you speak to me that way.” This helps to create some distance from inflammatory language and behavior and can de-escalate a situation that may snowball if the other person goes on the defensive.

Use Distance

Now that you’re not married, you don’t have to talk to the other person face-to-face every day. This can help you distance yourself from the abuse you suffered.

However, instead of causing the other person to calm down their attacks on you, physical distance can lead to an increase in emotionally and verbally abusive behavior. This may mean that any time you do communicate with your ex, however infrequently, you’re left feeling bombarded by negative words and energy.

Whenever possible, communicate with your ex via email and text instead of in person or over the phone. This distance allows you to take some time to distance yourself from the words that are hurled at you and gives you the opportunity to respond in a more careful, measured way.

It is often the more immediate, emotional response that leads to you showing more vulnerability, which your ex latches onto and exploits. If you can take some time to more carefully and calmly respond to even the most hurtful words, you take the wind right out of their sails and they don’t get the response they want.

Mind Your Self-Talk

When you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, you can begin to start incorporating some of the things you hear from your partner as truths. Even when there is absolutely no truth to what they were saying, it can be difficult to separate reality from what you’re fed.

Now that you’ve gotten out of the relationship with your abusive ex, it’s time to start rebuilding your mind so that you’re creating a healthier mindset and can move forward with your life.

If you find yourself thinking negative things, take a step back and ask whether what you’re thinking really is true or not. Sometimes, it helps to write down what you’re thinking, put it on a shelf for a day or two, then look at it when you’re feeling in a better headspace. 

A few days and a better mindset can give you the distance you need to realize that what you’re thinking isn’t actually the truth, helping you regain control of your thoughts.

Experienced Representation in Emotional Abuse Divorce Cases

At the Law Offices of Sandra Guzman-Salvado, we work hard to provide exceptional representation in all sorts of divorce and child custody cases, especially when emotional abuse is part of the equation. Our team of experienced divorce lawyers helps guide you through the entire process, giving you the opportunity to rebuild your life. Don’t hesitate – Schedule your consultation today!

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