First blog post

This is my first post – so hello!

I am hopeful that this may help someone – anyone – who is in a situation which, deep down in their gut, they know isn’t right.  Perhaps your circumstances may not be text book abuse, perhaps you think domestic abuse is physical assault – like I did.

The truth is – it can be the smallest thing that starts it off.  A comment that puts you down, the first time he demands to see your phone, taking money from your purse – anything that you don’t like or makes you feel bad, even if you can’t put your finger on why it makes you feel that way.  Listen to your gut, your instinct – in my experience it’s usually right!

The one thing that has gotten me through every aspect of my life, is my sense of humour.  I try to see the funny in the sad situations, to laugh at myself, so my writing may reflect a lot of self depreciation which may seem to contrast the person who is trying to recover – but the wonderful thing about humans is – we are all different!

I’ll try to write as often as I can, and I’d love any comments/questions you may have.  So watch this space!

Take care – there’s always a way.

post

Advertisements

Career moves

I was offered another job today as a paralegal secretary.  Apparently the knowledge I have built up in the last year of my current role is enough to get me this job.  But it doesn’t stop there.  The company like to train their staff and they would like to train me to be a legal executive.  It takes roughly 5 years alongside working.  Obviously if they train you, you are obligated to remain at the firm for a set period of time – so there is longterm security.  But it is full time – with long days, and means a lot of childcare needs for my kids.

My current role is within a charity organisation which relies on funding from businesses – or lottery companies – and you have to re-apply for this funding every year.  So your contract only runs for the time of funding left.  We are currently entering our third year.  But I only work part time around the kids schooling.

Deep down I know this offer makes sense, but I am scared.  I am scared of the commitment I need to give.  I am scared that I won’t be around as much for the kids.  The work I will have to bring home.  Five years . . . It’s not that long but it feels like a mountain right now.  But it means I won’t have to rely on the government and I will have financial security for the first time since I was living with my parents!

I am sitting here weighing up the sacrifices – mainly those which will affect my kids.  They would be 16 and 13 by the time I qualify.  I will have missed what is left of most of their childhood – would I regret this?  It’s a tug of war right now between my head and my heart – my heart has a terrible reputation for making bad decisions!

Expectations

Wow.  It’s been months!  I have wanted to write for so long but work continues to increase.  We have gone from helping women with protective orders and child arrangements orders to learning and navigating our way through the murky and challenging demands of divorce and finance.  It is interesting to watch our little project grow, but the number of women needing our help is overwhelming.  We rely heavily on volunteers who give up their free time to dedicate themselves to supporting and guiding clients through the quagmire of litigation.  Our training is ongoing – everyday there are new challenges to face, it’s never dull!

And still we are introspective – looking to ourselves to draw on our own experiences to facilitate our empathy and understanding – and this presents its own problems.  The fact that you can never truly forget or let go of the past.  The truth is, when you have children with someone, that person will always be in your life.  He continues to be the voice inside.  The self doubt.  The voice of criticism.  You are not good enough.  You just learn to live with it.

As part of my work we are required to attend supervision to talk about issues affecting us – mainly through working with clients and dealing with vicarious trauma.  It used to be monthly but they have asked me to go weekly, because I am struggling.  I take on too much, and I am starting to be affected by it all.

I think I know why though.  As a single woman, with no support at all from their father, I am responsible for everything regarding children, home, finances and career.  I make all the decisions.  There is no one to ask “what do you think I should do?”  There is no one to offer to make dinner.  There is no one to discuss the days events with.  The world expects you to raise perfect children, to have a nice home, to provide, to work and have a career.  To do it all.  To have it all.  But it’s impossible sometimes.  Sometimes I want to come home and sleep, but I can’t.   There is homework, dinner, washing and ironing to do.  Sometimes I want to sit quietly, but the kids are arguing, or asking relentless questions, or have worries they want to discuss.  Sometimes you want to go to work and just get on with the mountain of paperwork – but clients call with emergency hearings so I am dashing off to court.  I feel like I have a million lassos around me pulling me in every direction and they are all important, all in need of immediate attention – but I am only one person.  I can only do so much.  Ultimately something has to give, someone gets let down and that’s where I struggle.  I feel like I have failed.  And time for myself? Ha ha ha!

I know that I am not the only one – I know there are thousands of women like me.  Trying to keep their heads above the water, choosing relationships that often flounder because of the reality of single mothers, it’s not easy to take us on.  We have so much to offer, but we are tired and stressed.  We try to be lighthearted – but we haven’t got time for bullshit.  We haven’t got time to be led on.  You’re in or you’re out – you have a deep meaningful full on with all the bells and whistles, or you are part time.  And frankly, for me part time doesn’t cut it, because my expectations mean that I either do this alone, or with a team mate.  I would expect you to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in.  But that’s not an enticing offer.

For most single men of our age group, they have come out of a marriage that has tied them down for years.  When that relationship dies, they are free.  The women usually end up with the majority of the childcare.  The men go to work and can go to the pub or the gym, because there is no responsibility at home.  Women are dashing from work to collect the kids.  Why would the men give up their freedom?  Why would they tie themselves down again?  They wouldn’t.

So the conclusion is – this is it.  This is how it’s going to be.  You have to deal.  You have to accept.  There is no one who is going to help you.  You have to build this life to be as manageable and good as you can.  It’s not failure, it’s continuous attempts to survive.  It’s learning to let some stuff slide.  It’s remembering to laugh at yourself.  It’s keeping your sense of humour.  It’s seeing what you do have, not what you don’t.  And it is easy to tell yourself this, but reality of living it – not so much.

I often have women who say “he’s never seeing my kids!”.  I get it, I  really do – but try to see the long game, kids 24/7, working, managing the home, no break.  It will nearly kill you.  Unless you have serious safeguarding concerns, let your kids see their dad.  You will need that time.  You will need the break.  Because if you go down the tubes – how can you support your family?  You can’t.  You need time for yourself, even if it’s just a couple of hours.  We are not infallible, we are not infinite sources of strength.  We are human.  Give yourself a break.

New year – new start??

screenshot_2019-01-12-19-39-12

It’s a strange time of year to me – everyone is full of hope and expectation for the year ahead – busy getting back to school and work, and it makes me wonder what changes people are actually planning to make?  What things are they wishing for?  Material things? Spiritual things? Personal growth?  Personally I don’t really need a certain time of year to come to life changing realisations – I generally spread it out over the year – we don’t want too much excitement in one go!  I mean you don’t want to start spin classes and give up drinking at the same time – the universe may implode!

Although I must admit that I did take advantage of some of the special deals going around at the gyms at the moment – but that’s just economics!

But it seems that people generally look at themselves and feel like they need some form of punishment – like they must be these perfect specimens of human beings.  But you know what?  That’s really fucking dull.  People who obsess about their appearance especially.  Now don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with a good level of fitness, or any fitness at all to be honest, but to make it such a huge part of your life?  Dull.  If that is all you talk about, take if from me, you are boring the pants off of some poor person.  It’s very one dimensional and singular.  And lets face it, as a woman, I don’t mind a bit of a dad bod if it’s attached to someone who can make me laugh, and who I can have a two way conversation with.  Someone who wants to make plans with me, spend time with me rather than worrying too much about their physique.

I think though there is a little bit of introspection is no bad thing – because you can reflect on the things that happened last year, things that you don’t want to repeat.  My plan is pretty simple.  I just want to be happy.  I want to laugh and I want to build my future.  I don’t think its impossible – I think that’s achievable.  And you know what? – I am gonna accept the offer of that date.  Because he makes me laugh – proper belly laugh!  We seem to have a lot in common, and he makes me feel good about myself, and he has been relentlessly persistent (but not in a bad worrying way!)  Who knows?  Maybe this year it will finally happen . . .

Happy new year everyone – I wish you happiness, self acceptance and hope.

If you have Ghosts 2

Screenshot_2018-12-21-00-48-01

It’s strange when you break up with someone.  People liken it to grief.  Another person relegated to the legion of lost loves.  It doesn’t matter how you broke up, how bitter or how wrong the relationship was, it’s a void left behind.  It’s easy for anyone to say it’s for the best, you’re better off without, but what fills that space?

Time is easy to use up.  You can be busy,  can see other people, spend it with friends and loved ones – but nothing replaces.  Nothing takes away the pain in the chest or the pit of the stomach.   They are missing from the part of you where they took root and grew.  The memories that you had together were not always this sour.  The things you see or hear on a daily basis that you know only they would appreciate.  The in jokes.  The comradery.  You were in this together at one point.  Now you stand alone.

The past teaches us that you do get over it, that you do move on, love again.  But the present moment of trying to heal – it can be tough.  The initial damage was numbed by shock, but the nerve endings hurt before they rejuvenate.  I am currently licking my wounds and simultaneously picking at scabs, and praying for the morning where I don’t wake with the crushing reality that what I once thought I had is gone.  It hurts, and it isn’t easy – but you carry on and hope that the ghost quietens down soon.  I can’t see the point at which I could or would ever be this vulnerable to someone again.  Perhaps I never will, and I leave this here to remind me, if it’s really worth it all again . . .

The “One” . . .

Screenshot_2018-12-12-19-38-46

So another one bites the dust, I find myself single once more . . .

Am I devastated? No, I am honestly not.  I feel tired and quiet.  Perhaps it’s the calm before the storm.  Maybe I am simply numb.  I don’t know.

But I have been contemplating the theory of “the one.”  I have come to the conclusion that it is not possible, for factual reasons:  there are approximately 7 billion people on Earth.  Half of them are the opposite sex, leaving 3.5 billion.  One third of those are too young, and another third are too old.  This leaves just over 1 billion people.  You then have to take into account attraction, personality, hopes, dreams, compatability and whether you both want the same things from life.  Your standards, ethics and belief systems.  Even with a long complicated list, it should still leave at least a million or hundreds of thousands of people who should fit you perfectly.  The chance that the universe or some devine being placed them in your local coffee shop or sat in front of you on the train, is, well – unlikely.  More likely is that one of the many compatible people in the world crossed your path.  They all cross our paths everyday, in fact, without us even realising.  We just need to look up from our phones now and again to notice them.

But that realisation is for much further down the road.  For now I know I have to delve into the murky soup of my past, because I appear to be making lots of similar mistakes, and the one common denominator is me.  Frustratingly I know what it is.  I am “too nice”.  I have been a walk over, an enabler, tolerated things that I shouldn’t have.  And even though the last relationship was not “abusive” I still let him get away with things.  I know that this is because you look at the past and compare and think “we’ll it’s not as bad as when my ex did this or that” so you let it slide.

Here’s an example:  I love a band.  The band is a Swedish metal band who do not play in the UK often despite being quite popular.  I introduced my then boyfriend to this band, and he is aware how much of a fan I am.  He decides that he likes them too.  His daughter, 10, also decides that she likes them.  I let him know they are playing a one off gig in London.  He purchases 2 tickets, and takes his daughter.  I let it slide.  I tell myself it wasn’t through malice.  It wasn’t done to hurt me.  What it was, was extremely thoughtless, with no consideration of my feelings.  I should have said something.

Example 2:  He has pictures on his wall of all the important people in his life.  Even his ex wife is up there.  I am not.  I should have said something.

Example 3:  He writes a journal.  Now I never bothered with it, but towards the end I felt him drifting away from me, and in that moment of madness/weakness I read it, looking for clues.  It was purely about his ex wife.  There were nice things written about a previous girlfriend but hardly anything about me.  It was clear from that journal that he had never gotten over his ex wife.  I should have said something.

Example 4:  He likes running.  He likes running competitively.  His routine for exercise, along with work, studying, playing in a band and his own kids left very little time for me.  If I wanted to see him, I had to fit around him, and I made a lot of sacrifices (gladly at the time) so that we could spend time together.  This meant I only had my job and my kids.  As the amount of time we spent together got gradually squished, I had little conversation to have with him.  I became boring.  He accused me of not having a life.  I shouldn’t have allowed that to happen.

So all of these things teach me, that if I really was valued, if I really was that important, sacrifices would have been made on his part.  Not because I pointed it out to him, but because he wanted to.  But I made it too easy for him.  I wanted him to be happy.  I enabled.  I made allowances.  I tolerated things.  And I shouldn’t have, because everything built up and up into a huge tower, and crashed down with alarming consequences.  The end of what I thought was everything I wanted.

However, even so, he still hasn’t fought for me, which tells me that he had lost interest.  If i’d have addressed those issues sooner, maybe I wouldn’t have wasted so much time losing myself to him, I could have been pretty much over it by now.

So I have taken the decision not to date anyone.  It’s a choice – I already have people trying to fix me up, and men I didn’t even know felt like that about me asking me for drinks – it’s a good boost for the fragile ego though – but I decline.  I need the time to really work out how I change this behaviour pattern of being a people pleaser.  I need to please myself first.  I need to learn how to do that.

Fight or flight?

Screenshot_2018-11-12-18-24-54

Anxiety sucks.  It’s something I seem to have always suffered from.  I can even pinpoint the first time I experienced it.  I was 12 years old and at a dance competition.  I had been to dozens before, but it hit me all of sudden, right out of the blue.  I became aware that I was being judged.  I was being looked at and scrutinised – every arm extension, every leg bend, even my facial expression was considered.  I became aware of my body in skin tight clothing.  My heart began to race, I began to sweat, and I felt sick.  I looked to my mum in panic “I don’t feel so good.”  I was trembling.  I don’t know if I feared failure, rejection, ridicule or all three – but that feeling of dread took root deep in my belly, and never really went away.

It has manifested in many forms over the years, depending on whichever situation I was facing at the time.  When my mum was first diagnosed with Alzhiemers when I was 18, I ran away – a lot.  I ran away to any other situation – usually bad ones – to escape the reality.  When I thought i’d found a relationship which would finally anchor me, I began having panic attacks.  These mainly happened in busy crowded areas, especially if I couldn’t find the exit or see how I would get out.  Panic attacks were the worst – my heart used to beat so fast and my breathing so intense that I felt certain that my heart would explode.  At this time I had depression as well.  I remember hiding under the duvet cover unable to move, but fearing the consequences of not going to work.  Everyone around me thinking that I was just lazy or being difficult – as though I was doing it for their annoyance.  It was less well understood twenty years ago.

Medication never really suited me.  Antidepressants and beta blockers numbed me.  I believe the term is “letterboxing”.  I didn’t feel down or scared – but I also didn’t feel joy or excitement – just sort of “meh”.  I hated that feeling.  They also made me put on a lot of weight, which didn’t help with the depression.

Lately the anxiety has intensified.  I get the odd episode now and again but I am usually able to talk myself down (or come up with a good excuse as to why I was late – no-one wants to hear that you spent half an hour sitting on the side of the bath trying to regulate your breathing to slow your heart rate!).  But lately it’s always there, just under the surface.  It’s causing a painful flare up of acid reflux, which burns the back of my throat and makes me feel sick.  It’s causing a huge feeling of “run away” syndrome – but I can’t – I have kids and responsibilities.

I can’t pinpoint what has exactly triggered it, but I think that there is a lot going on.  Some historical stuff still affects me, my current job has been and still is pretty stressful.  It can cause mild PTSD which I have experienced a few times, and I have had to deal with quite a bit of confrontation which is way out of my comfort zone.  Money, as always causes stress, the lack of it, how to make ends meet, how to cope with Christmas.  How to maintain my car, which is crucial as there is no public transport where I live.  The fact that my abusive ex husband remains a huge dick, who tries to criticise and undermine my job as a mum, and compounds my guilt about the fact that I work instead of being with them all the time.  All the usual stuff that everyone experiences, but seems overwhelming and scary right now.

And the mask that I wear every day feels more and more awkward.  My kids ask me why I am sad all the time, why I am not happy anymore.  I try and make an effort but it’s exhausting to keep the happy face on 24/7.  I feel as though in everything I do, that I am doing just the bare minimum.  I feel like I am spreading myself too thinly.  I feel like that duck on the pond who seems to be gliding gracefully through the water, but beneath the surface his legs are working overtime to propel him along.

I know that something has to give but I don’t know what.  There seems to be nothing that I can stop doing.  I still have to work, I still have kids, I still have to provide, I am just not sure if I can do it for much longer, I don’t know what will happen when the wheels finally fall off.  Because at the moment I am the glue holding it all together.

I have been advised to see my GP but I know that it will be pills or CBT – neither of which have been successful in the past.  I guess i’ll just have to figure this one out on my own.  Unless there is a remote Island somewhere with my name on it!

“So now you’re back, from outta space . . .”

Screenshot_2018-10-30-19-11-56

I haven’t written anything for a while – and I feel bad because it’s like I have abandoned this platform – like I need anything else to feel guilty about in my life!

The truth is that my job has pretty much absorbed any free time and mental space that I had.  My responsibility has increased and I have taken on more and more tasks.  I can’t help it – I just can’t see these women, stripped and reduced to a broken shell – left to try and cope without support.  Most people don’t understand unless they have been there, and while the degrees of abuse vary hugely from client to client, the story, the perpetrator and the scars are all the same.

And so are the excuses.  But I myself have come up with a list of rules to live by – they are not all my own but I have adopted them!

1.  You are not responsible for his happiness/peace of mind/sanity.  He owns his own shit in that respect.

2.  You did not make him do anything – he needs to take responsibility for his own actions.

3.  You do not need to explain yourself to him.  Ever.

4.  You do not have to financially support him – nor he you.  You earn your own money, it is yours.

5.  Don’t under any circumstances have a baby with a man you have doubts about.  You will never be able to remove that man from your life (unless he does something really bad, of course).  He will screw with your brain for the rest of your life.

6.  Don’t ever believe you are not strong enough.  You have survived this far, you will survive life without him and it will be better.

7.  You need to put your kids before him, if you don’t,  social services will.

8.  The shame is his, not yours.

9.  Straight men certainly understand consent when a gay man hits on them.

10.  Awareness of domestic abuse is increasing – but it is an uphill struggle when even women deny it’s existence.

This isn’t exhaustive but it covers the main points.  I seem to spend most of my days trying to repair women who have lost all self worth.  It’s painful to watch, and I wish that I had a fast forward button for them, to speed them through the crappy bit, to the bit the other side, where “he” is gone and life is getting better.  That they can start taking joy in life again.  That there is a life that doesn’t involve constantly looking over your shoulder or dreading going home.

But all too often those men sliver back with words of honey “i’ll change, i’ll change for you, it’ll be better I promise, I love you.”  Those words are too hard to reject, at least the first few times anyway . . .

Trickster

Screenshot_2018-06-13-18-12-11

One of the most brazen acts of coercive behaviour is probably from the Trickster aka the Liar.  I have come up against a couple of them in my job, and i’ll be honest – they worry me.

These are the abusive partners who arrive seeking “help” for their partner.  They say that she/he is crazy and needs help.  They want to be referred to relate or counselling, and they want to attend with their partner to make sure she “tells the truth” in those sessions.  On the surface they may appear to be concerned – but I see it as another form of control.  Just the fact that they don’t want to leave them on their own sounds the alarm bells.

One man arrived at a sign posting centre that I work at.  He was older, talked for ages about how worried he was about his wife.  How much he loved her, just wanted her to get better, but then snippets of truth leaked out.  He had called the police when she attacked him, but didn’t press charges.  He had no visible marks or defence wounds.  Later in the conversation he told me how clumsy she was – always falling over, usually because she was drunk, and always hits her head.

He told me how he was unable to work, so played games online.  Some of his online friends were female and she accused him of having affairs with these women.  Then he said that he suspected that she was having an affair with the man who ran the corner shop, so he told her she wasn’t allowed to go to the shops anymore.  He said he had to accompany her everywhere to keep an eye on her.

As our conversation continued he began to be more graphic in his description of sexual encounters he had had.  That he never had sex with his wife, that he was a man with desires “you know what I mean luv? Wink wink!”

Throughout the consultation he got nearer and nearer, invading my personal space, leering in my face.  His breath stank.  Luckily there was a table between us, but he was almost laying across it as I retreated further and further back in my chair.  I tried to end the consultation, but he then became anxious, saying no one ever helps, no one listens, no one cares.  His whole demeanour changed.  His face changed to a sneer.  He lowered his voice, to tell me “you lot are all the same!  Bloody do gooders – but you never do anything!”.  I got up abruptly and walked away.  I was shaken up.  I was upset for his wife, but he scared me too.  I reported to the manager, raised safeguarding concerns and escalated to the relevant agencies, then tried to carry on.  As I left I asked the manager to walk me to my car.  He did and asked me if I was okay.  I nodded, brushed it off, made a feeble joke about stalkers and went home.

All day I couldn’t shake the presence of this man.  His face, everything about him scared me – and all I could think was about his poor wife.  He left in a bad mood – no doubt she’d get the brunt of it, and that made me feel worse, responsible almost.  I knew i’d done everything I could, but still . . .

These men are so dangerous, and are left to do as they will with the women who fall in with them.  Prince charming into the devil himself.  Things need to change, awareness is one thing, but these womens lives are at risk.

*I should add to this that I am fully supported by counselling within my job, and was able to talk through this experience with a professional.

Boomerang

Screenshot_2018-06-08-17-42-03

We’ve all done it in toxic relationships.  We make the decision to leave, to stop this cycle of abuse.  We muster courage from deep within, we plan our escape we face the consequences, we go.  How we feel about that afterwards – well, that seems to vary depending on who we are, who we left and how badly damaged we are.

You may feel the initial flood of relief.  Thank god – we got away, we did this, we are strong.  But sometimes his words, like honey, seep into our subconscious.  Because you may still feel that intimacy that you only get from living with someone.  Of seeing them at their very best and very worst.  Perhaps you are the one who they shared their most personal and private world with, you are the only one who truly understands them.  So when they call you or show up on your doorstep crying, begging, promising, it is harder than hell to turn them away.  We are human beings with empathy, we don’t like to see someone hurting – even if that person has treated us so appallingly.  They tell us only we can help them, only we can save them, they cannot live without us.  They tell us we are the only ones who understand them.  They are so sorry – it’ll never happen again “Come home baby, please.  I don’t work without you.  I love you so much, I never meant to hurt you.  You are my soul, my heart.  Without you, there’s no point.  I will never hurt you, I can’t forgive myself for what i’ve done, let me make it right.  Let me hold you in my arms all night – i’ll stroke your hair, i’ll keep you safe.  Please, just one more chance.”

And that’s it.  They have you in the palm of their hand.

Sometimes we go back because reality is – being on your own is hard, especially with children.  In my experience the hardship of living alone far outweighed the joys of abuse from my ex, so I was lucky in that respect, but for others, this is a real issue.

And sometimes you do doubt yourself.  Did I do the right thing?  Did I overreact?  Was it that bad?  Was it my fault he treated me that way?  So when he turns up with his persuasive charm, you fold because you didn’t 100% believe yourself.

In other situations your abuser may have got you hooked on drugs, and so you are dependent on him for your fix, which when trying to get away makes it nigh on impossible to turn him away.  Especially if he’s waiving it under your nose at the time.

They will use the kids: “how can you break up the family? What about the kids? Do they deserve to grow up without both parents? Well don’t think i’m paying for them!  You wanna go it alone? Fine, see how easy it is – you’ll never cope!”.

My pet hate is when other people judge women harshly for either not leaving or for returning to an abusive relationship.  They have no idea what it’s like, they think it’s so simple.  The truth is it may take a couple of attempts to leave.  That it takes a women who has been stripped of all she is, to find strength from somewhere, and walk away (or flee more like).  It’s not simple.  It’s not easy.  Give them the recognition they deserve, offer support and understanding – not criticism and judgement, because all you are doing is reinforcing all the negative things they have already been told.  They have been brainwashed into believing they are wrong already.  It will take some time before they believe they are right.

 

Evolve

Screenshot_2018-05-30-14-10-12

It’s funny how being on the other side of the fence makes you see things from a completely different point of view.  It is easier watching events unfold, you can second guess what will happen next, you know the characters involved.  It can be the same as watching a play over and over, but just with different actors, locations and directors.

As much as I really do enjoy my job it is also teaching me so much.  Things which I suppose in a lot of ways really should be obvious to most people, but they are easily forgotten it seems once you have been exposed to certain aspects of manipulation.

The main thing that seems to evaporate is boundaries.  It may be second nature, a no brainer, but boundaries are eroded over such a long period of time that you hardly notice it happens.  Tolerating more and more unhealthy behaviour, to keep the peace, as an act of compromise, in the hope of losing this battle to win the war.  As children we are taught about sharing, sacrificing what we want in order to save someone else’s feelings but promoting harmony.  We carry this through, along with empathy, into adulthood and when you add an emotion such as love to the mix, you can begin to see how easily it can happen.  Initially in the first flush of love, you want to do all you can to make that person happy.  Men are not immune to this either, obviously.

But there comes a point where you think “actually I am not very happy about this”.  It’s at that point that the relationship can go either of two ways.  You either stand up and say “this is a hard line, and I am not doing this!  I don’t really care what you think about it at this point.”  Or you say nothing or allow them to talk you round.  You may tell yourself you’ll let this one slide, but not again . . . but you do.

One of the hardest things to do is to stand up to someone who you are trying to impress!  “Hi – yeah I am attractive, funny and intelligent, and a nice person – but I am also going to be a bit of a pain in the ass by moaning at you for the way you took the piss a little bit!”  But it is one of the most important things you can do.  The problem is that when you meet someone you like, you don’t always want to admit that there may be something wrong with them, and you don’t want to upset them necessarily.

I found myself talking to a 19 year old girl about boundaries after her boyfriend had stalked her obsessively for several months. I advised her to take a break from social media, as this seems to be a stalkers paradise and explained some other tactics to keep her safe.  She said one of the hardest things was when he threatened suicide if she didn’t speak to him.  I asked her if she really believed that he would do that.  She explained that she didn’t know, but she didn’t want that on her conscience.  I suggested that the next time he texted something like that, to screen shot it, send it to his friends and family, with a note to say that she was concerned about him, could someone please check on him.  This would make her feel like she was doing something to help without actually having to get involved.

Another lady explained that her abuser was so ingrained in her head that she couldn’t help but react to his provocations.  I explained that a lot of these men feed from the reactions you give off.  If you are reacting to something, even negatively, you are feeding them, they know you still have feelings towards them.  The worst thing for them is when you no longer care.  Cut off communication, become unreachable, remove yourself from their world.  It’s easier when there are no children involved, but even then there are still ways around it.

It is strange to sit there and hear these things coming out of me.  Things that I have learnt.  They must think it’s so easy for me to sit there with answers and suggestions.  But it took me a long time on a difficult journey to learn and understand how important boundaries are.

I also understand how hard it is, in a brand new relationship, with infatuation and butterflies, to then stand up and say “so this is what I won’t stand for!” But it is the one thing you can do to protect yourself.  They may even respect you more for it!