Almost 3 years after my first husband died, I met someone. I just wanted someone to hang out with. I thought. This man made me laugh more than I ever had. He had been through some similar life situations as me and we were about the same age so we had a lot of cultural stuff in common, which was nice. My first husband had been 16 years older and, in terms of music/movies/TV, we were quite different. But NewGuy and I laughed and I wasn’t so lonely anymore.

There were red flags. Big ones.

NewGuy wasn’t empathetic or compassionate. He was unkind and judgmental. He didn’t like my kids or most of my friends and they didn’t like him. I overheard conversations he had with other people that indicated that he enjoyed me spending my money on him. He told me he didn’t find me particularly attractive. He corrected the way I talk. He tried to change my beliefs.He tried to tell me how I should raise my kids. To be fair to him, a lot of people were doing that. But he wasn’t kind about it.

I still was so in dread — not just afraid but in DREAD –of being alone that I turned a blind eye to all of it. Lost a friend (at least for a while.) Damaged my relationship with my kids. Heard over and over that I couldn’t, I wasn’t able, I should do it this way, etc. I started to believe it. But I needed the companionship. Alone was worse than all of that. Besides, he didn’t hit me, so it wasn’t abuse. Right?



“Codependent No More”. Stephanie Ellis Ecke has written on codependence here. Pia Mellody also did groundbreaking work and this infographic from here is pretty handy: Pia Mellody on Codependency (click to download) I’m including all of these links because when I first realized (and accepted!) that I’m a codependent personality, it was like a lightning strike. I could accept all of the “A” programs that I might need, but CoDA (Codependents Anonymous)?

REALLY? I am strong and tough. I’ve withstood much. I haven’t stopped loving people. Wanting the best for them. Trying to make the best happen for them… and that’s where the train begins to go off the rails. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the people in your life to be happy and healthy, but that “trying to make the best happen for them…” Yowser.

Especially when that means staying with someone who isn’t safe — whether that is unsafe to your body, your heart,
your mind.

Signs of Codependency… 10 signs of codependency.

  1. Feeling responsible for solving others’ problems.
  2. Offering advice to others whether it is asked for or not.
  3. Expecting others to do what the codependent says.
  4. The codependent feels used and underappreciated.
  5. Trying to please people so others will like or love the codependent.
  6. Taking everything personally.
  7. Feeling like a victim.
  8. Using manipulation, shame, or guilt to control others’ behavior.
  9. Lying to themselves and making excuses for others’ bad behavior.
  10. Fearing rejection and being unlovable.

I’m raising this issue of codependency because a) it is a part of my overall story and, b)while I am not a therapist or counselor, and there is some dissension about whether those who suffer domestic abuse are codependent, I have lived with domestic abuse and I am codependent. And I’m not alone. I have met many codependent women, many abused women, and there is blurring of the lines. It becomes nearly impossible to make a decision. And I desperately want the readers here to not give up hope on the women who go back again and again and again as they strengthen themselves for that final break. I was rescued. And I went back. And I have regretted it a million times. Sometimes, we just have to have time to strengthen ourselves a little more. And, sadly, life with the abuser is familiar. And most of us crave the familiar.

Please don’t give up on the women you know who need to get out and just haven’t been able to find the strength yet. They are likely fighting battles you can’t imagine. Please be there for them. Listen without judging. Don’t “should” on them (you should do this, you should do that); they get enough of that from their partner.


On October 31 last year, I left my husband, the area I’d lived in for over 30 years, and headed for a new life in another state. This was the culmination of 10 years of a very unhealthy and frequently verbally and emotionally abusive marriage. It is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done – and that’s saying something since my first husband died while we still had kids in school.

I haven’t kept good track, but I think that before this final break, I had left and gone back four times. I know people wonder why you’d leave, make a getaway, and then go back. It’s confusing even for me to understand. Mostly, church tells women in my position to be respectful, submissive, and pray for him more. There is love. My marriage wasn’t awful all the time. HE wasn’t awful all the time. It’s familiar and I’m a person who thrives on routine and the familiar. I am super nonconfrontational by nature. I have physical disabilities and I’m not particularly adventurous. And I had people in that area whom I loved.

My very close friend was very ill and she and I both knew that after I left, we wouldn’t see one another again this side of Heaven. She was ill and fragile, and it is hard for me to travel. We were right. She died about six weeks after I left. And it still breaks my heart.

And yet with all the hard about leaving… there was a dream of living a life in which I didn’t have to walk on eggshells, being afraid to say the wrong thing, not doing a given task just so. Freedom to explore hobbies and to daydream, to work on my general health, to talk to friends and family freely.

Reach Out Speak Out helped a lot. With practical matters. With encouragement. So did a few friends. I got on a plane and moved 1400 miles away. With the clothes on my back and what I could fit in a carry-on and one checked bag. I broke free.


Breaking free isn’t the hardest part – well, at least it wasn’t for me. It was hard to leave my husband all alone, to leave my friends, to leave many sentimental belongings behind.

But the part that’s really hard is choosing freedom. It was weeks – actually, probably months — before I could embrace that I could read as I chose, go for walks as I wa able, sing (off-key!), play the keyboard, not scour out the sink every day – and it was okay. No yelling, no name-calling, no accusations, no criticisms.

It’s foreign and just kind of weird.

It’s lovely…

I’ve had a series of illnesses pop up, including an issue with panic attacks, and my doctor thinks that the 1-2-3 of it all happening one thing right after the other is just my body finally realizing that it doesn’t have to be in fight or flight mode anymore and things that probably have been becoming issues gradually are now screaming to be attended to.

Not gonna lie, I do miss my husband. The times when we were companionable and getting along. I don’t miss the other 90% of the time. Going No Contact has not been a perfect process. There’s a grief around our separation that is reminiscent of my first husband’s death.

November 1 is officially one year in my new place. I’m getting better at choosing freedom – getting out, going places, doing what I want, sleeping on my body’s schedule, doing the things that I can in order to try to manage my health issues. I haven’t made any friends here yet, but I’m going to push my introvert self to start getting out and trying to be social. I think I just needed this first year to heal. That sounds kind of dramatic, but feels right.

Now I’m embracing freedom and I can’t wait to see what the next year will look like.

If you need information about leaving your abuser safely, please contact us at [email protected] or on this SAFE website


Over the next few weeks, I would like to discuss the phases of domestic violence. The first phase is known as the Honeymoon Phase.

This phase takes from the old adage “the honeymoon is as good as it gets.” Picture the early stages of a relationship. The couple is still getting to know each other. To them, their partner seems warm, charming, and endearing. They share interests and make each other laugh. At this point, there are no red flags. The abuser in this scenario creates a sense of love and security that they hope their partner will love and appreciate. The hope is that, over time, the victim will become so dependent upon the security the abuser provides that they will begin to ignore concerns that begin to creep up. The victim may rationalize these concerns as being a result of their actions.

They may think it’s what they deserve for being difficult to love. They may hope that, by changing themselves, they may be able to change the behavior of the abuser. But by that point, the honeymoon is over, and the reality of the relationship takes hold.


In Phase Two, the tensions begin to build. Often, some outside stressor begins to cause strife in the relationship. Maybe they’re having trouble at work, money is tight, or someone is dealing with physical health issues. An obvious tension begins to linger in the room when they’re together. The abusive partner begins to lash out in one way or another. Some use belittling words. Some use physical or sexual violence. Some use isolation from social support.

Some use controlling finances or electronic use. These are just some of the possibilities. The victim may find themselves becoming anxious and hypervigilant at the sight of their partner. They may try to appease and placate their abuser in the hope of not setting off their anger. At times, they may feel frightened, helpless, and numb. They may begin to fear for their safety. The abuser likely makes excuses for their behavior and blames the victim for bringing this treatment on themselves. This phase is often the most fluid and changing of the phases.


In Phase Three, the simmering tensions reach their boiling point. The abuser, feeling they have the upper hand, begins to escalate their behaviors to a new level. More name-calling, public and private humiliation, controlling the victim’s actions, destroying property, physical and sexual abuse, and abuse to others in the home such as children or pets may occur. The abuser may follow up their actions with shows of affection or apology, or they may compound their actions by insisting that the victim deserves it. They may use their social clout to pit members of the victim’s family or community against them.

At this point, the victim likely feels powerless and isolated. They may feel that they cannot trust their support system due to its proximity to their abuser. They may also be confused by the continued mixed signals they get from their abuser. Often coinciding with the violence phase is the “Make Up Phase,” wherein the abuser tries to calm tensions and often tries to make the victim believe their concerns are in their head. In many cases, however, this make up phase is temporary, and the manipulation occurring during and after it is often just another part of the abuse.


The final phase, the Leaving Phase, seeks to break the continuing cycle of abuse. This can often be when the victim is at their most anxious. They may worry in the lead up about the repercussions of being caught or by the prospect of upsetting their abuser. Stopping abuse is often not as simple as just leaving. In most cases, the abuser makes it difficult for the victim to leave because they starve victims of the financial and social resources they may need to get out.

No two situations are the same, but one thing is clear. We need to work harder to stop the cycle of abuse. We need to engender more support for victims of domestic violence and provide opportunities for victims to break the cycle for themselves and their children.

Growing Up in an Abusive Home – Part 1

This is part 1 of a 4 part reflection of a grown adult who lived through parents in a DV relationship.

Have you wondered what happens to children whose parents had a unhealthy relationship or domestic violence situation? As someone who has been through it, I am here to give a little insight over the next several weeks of blogs.

It hurts. It has a long-term effect on those children. We see what is going on, and while we’re younger, we may not quite understand what is going on, but we can sense something is off. Even as a young child, I knew there was something different about my parents’ relationship. As I got older, I realized that my father did not treat my mom with kindness and respect. He was verbally and emotionally abusive, and that’s what I grew up seeing as “normal”.

I didn’t know there were marriages that had mutual respect and spouses that supported and encouraged each other. I knew all about the wife being submissive to her husband, but I didn’t know the husband was supposed to love his wife like Christ loves the Church. That’s the father figure I grew up with, and while not every single day was terrible, I didn’t know what a “good” marriage looked like. While my father was not abusive directly to me, I saw the toll it took on my mom. At some point in time (I forget how old I was) I guess he thought I was old enough for him to vent to me about all the “shortcomings” of my mom. (More on this in a later blog). I was fortunate to not be a direct target, but not all children are that fortunate.

Beth is an adult now and through life lessons and counseling has been able to understand what a healthy relationship looks like. But her story and what she went through as a child is a very good lesson for each of us to look at as we are in various relationships.

Growing Up in an Abusive Home – Part 2

Last week I said I was not directly abused, but grew up seeing my mom stay in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship. That impacted me as a child, and carried on into young adulthood and even middle age (now). Because I didn’t know what a healthy marriage looked like, I grew up having no desire to meet or marry someone. I didn’t want to go through what I saw happening to my mom. No way, no how! I deserved better, and was happily single and fiercely independent.

No man was going to put me down!

Thankfully, later in life my mom learned how to set up boundaries to keep herself somewhat protected. Sometimes she was very good at enforcing those boundaries, and sometimes not so much. When my my father ended up in a nursing home, and my mom finally realized he wasn’t going to come home, I could see a weight lifted from her shoulders. She was a new, free woman once My father didn’t have 24/7 access to her. Other people noticed she had more “pep in her step”. As an adult “child” then, I realized how profoundly he had affected her. I was glad to see her happier than I had ever seen before, and it gave me some hope that things could work out for some people.

As someone in my early/mid 40s now, I still have no desire to be married. I know there are MANY healthy, happy, positive marriages out there. I have seen them. However, growing up seeing and experiencing what I did, I don’t have any strong urge to see if I would end up in a good relationship or something like my parents had. I believe there is hope for all children that have lived through abuse or grown up around it.

Don’t forget about the kids that see the abuse and get them the help and counseling they need. They are the future!

Beth and her mom had a very special relationship. As her mom became ill, Beth took care of her until God saw that it was time to take her home in December, 2022.