By Maxine Browne, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
Part of our Series on “Parenting Toward Nonviolence”
I got out of a 10 year marriage characterized by extreme control. Although there was almost no physical violence in the relationship, the severe verbal, emotional and psychological abuse was off the charts. I had been erased as a person. I was crushed into dust.
After I left and began rebuilding my life, I had one persistent fear: How could I prevent my (then) 10-year old daughter from marrying someone like her father because this was all she has ever seen?
I did not want to undermine her relationship with her dad. However, I could not allow her to think that his way of doing things was acceptable. So, I began pointing out what healthy behavior looked like whenever unhealthy behavior was present.
When he would call and hang up and call and hang up, screaming into voicemail, demanding that I answer the phone immediately, I would say, “When someone does not answer the phone, you leave a voicemail. When the person is available, they will call you back. What you are seeing is not healthy behavior.”
When he would say horrific things about my side of the family, I would tell her, “Just because Daddy says it doesn’t mean it’s true.” Then, I would bring her around her family as frequently as possible so that exposure to them would in itself dispel his lies.
As she grew, she seemed to figure some things out on her own. She recognized stalking behavior when she saw it and she named it as such. She grew to love her family, in spite of the things he had said. She exhibited healthy behaviors.
As she attended high school, I saw that she now had extracurricular activities and needed a cell phone for communication. So, my new husband and I provided one for her. Her father had a fit and said that he did not want her to use it during the weeks she was in his house. (This happened to be the times when she needed the phone the most because he had her during the school week.) She asked to be able to have the phone anyway and said she would make sure Dad did not find it. We agreed after warning her that this was a risky decision.
Well, a few months into this plan, she used the phone to call home to let her father know that she was getting a ride home from school due to an after-school meeting. When she arrived home, he was furious that she had the cell phone. He demanded she give the phone to him, whereupon he dropped it into a five gallon bucket of water and left it there for 24 hours. She called us to let us know what had happened.
Oh God! Another teaching moment! And this one would require more drastic classroom tactics. I wanted to teach her that no one has the right to destroy your property, especially since she had been raised in a home where her father went through my purse and other belongings and where there were no boundaries when it came to property. This lesson mattered.
I called my ex and explained that we were going out of town for two weeks. When we returned, I expected my daughter to have in her hand a phone of the same model and with the same features as the phone he had destroyed. If he did not replace the phone, I would then call the police and have him arrested for destruction of property.
When we returned from the trip and my child arrived for my visitation weekend, she had the new phone in her possession. I was, however, frustrated by what she said to me. She said, “Why did you do that to Dad?”
I wanted to scream! Instead, I told her, “I did that for you. I was trying to teach you that no one has the right to destroy your property. It is wrong. It is even illegal. The lesson was for you. It really had nothing to do with your father.”
My daughter is now 19 and in her second year of college. There are fewer classes these days, but I still play watchdog. I am determined to break the cycle of domestic violence with me.
One failed marriage and two kids later, Maxine Browne married a man she thought was the answer to her prayers. He turned out to be her worst nightmare. After 10 years of debilitating emotional and psychological control, she found herself contemplating suicide. She left instead and rebuilt her life from nothing. This transformational experience made such an impact on her that she committed her life to empowering others. Maxine Browne uses her inspirational story as a keynote. She facilitates workshops on The Dynamics of Domestic Violence, Rebuilding Your Life after Divorce, and Co-Parenting with Your Crazy Ex. Maxine co-authored the International Best Seller, The Missing Piece compiled by Kate Gardner. She is the author of Years of Tears, the story of her family’s journey through domestic violence and recovery. Contact Maxine to speak at your next event at email@example.com. Visit her website at www.maxinebrowne.com.