‘He was hunched over in our guest bathroom, holding a gun. My birth control failed. I found out I was pregnant days before.’: Woman survives traumatic divorce, ‘You always have a voice, use it’

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“I panicked, my body uncontrollably shaking with fear. Standing in our apartment hallway, soaked in sweat, and sure I was going to die, I tried to stay calm and rationalize with him.

He sat in our guest bathroom, hunched over and holding a gun. A few days earlier, I had found out I was pregnant. I was only 21 years old, and I was terrified. This was not planned, and I had no idea what I was going to do, other than knowing I was going to continue with the pregnancy and find the strength to figure it out.

He was almost 30 years old, and we had only been dating for a few months. I had recently started a new method of hormonal birth control and had been experiencing issues with it. The problems were a precursor to its inevitable failure, and I was in a state of shock.

There was so much more that I wanted to do with my life. I hadn’t had the best start to life nor the best role models, and I struggled with figuring out how to live after leaving the controlling home I was in at 18 years old. I wanted to enroll back in college and finish my degree. I wanted to travel and see the world. I was the girl who was the life of the party, always looking to make new friends and for any opportunity to dance or be silly. That was all changing now, and although some red flags had already surfaced, I thought that I would be able to navigate these abrupt changes with the man I was with, who had so passionately declared his love for me just two weeks into dating. I had no idea the living hell I was about to embark into.

I met Ted at a time that I was extremely vulnerable. I had dated a little bit, but I just couldn’t find the connection that I wanted. I wanted the love story and all the romantic things I had seen in movies. Growing up, I only saw the extreme, toxic passion in relationships. My mom and stepdad were insanely jealous, always arguing and getting physical over the slightest accusation. My stepdad is an alcoholic who never learned how to treat other people with respect unless there was something in it for him. As far as he was concerned, he seemed to enjoy the power he had when abusing and controlling women and children. My mom never stopped him. It didn’t matter how many times he broke bones or bruised her body; she would never leave him. There were constant screaming matches, and my childhood was filled with haunting moments of terror, threatening to kill my mom or kill us all, that still ring in my ears to this day. I had no idea what a healthy relationship looked like, nor did I have any idea what it meant to be treated with respect. My parents didn’t respect me, and the lifetime of bullying and never fitting in didn’t help. I escaped in movies and TV, allowing myself to be consumed in the unrealistic ideals and expectations I saw. I was young and naïve and desperately wanting to escape the generational curse of misery and build a happy life of my own.

Ted was my manager at a big box store in Arizona. He wasn’t really my type physically, but I have always been drawn more to personality and connection than looks, so it was easy to override. He seemed to get me. He paid attention. He figured out all my little nuances, likes, and dislikes. We seemed to like all the same things, and he made me laugh. He was eight years older than me, but it didn’t bother me. I wanted maturity. I was young, but my mission was to find my forever person and build a life with them, far away from the life of pain and abuse I knew with my parents. Ted seemed different than the other guys. We were working together the day he coyly asked me out on a date. He tried to be casual about it, suggesting that he needed help shopping for clothes at the mall. I was giddy. The date went great, and I couldn’t believe how much we had in common. I had no idea that I was being mirrored and manipulated. I felt like I had won the lottery.

The love story continued down this path for a little while. He would surprise me with flowers and romantic dates. He would leave me love notes, and only two weeks into the relationship, he confessed his love for me. I had already begun the process of moving in with my brother and starting a brand-new chapter in my life, but on that same night he confessed his love for me, Ted asked me to move in with him. I felt immense pressure, but my naivety and desire for love got the best of me. I eventually agreed and moved in with him. It was one of the worst decisions I could have ever made.

My parents had taken notice of how he doted on me whenever we visited, and I had so many people telling me how lucky I was. That was it. At 21 years old and only a couple of shitty boyfriends, I believed I had found ‘the one.’

The first major red flag appeared within the first month of dating. While at his place, he had asked me to get something for him on his computer. I was a little detective wannabe as it was, and I saw something that intrigued me while I was searching for what he needed. While I am not proud of it, I opened the file. It was a letter to his ex-wife. I met him right after his divorce with his first wife, or so I thought. He didn’t tell me that he was still going through the divorce at the time we met. It seemed nice, and I would later realize that it was planted there for me to find. He knew me. He worked tirelessly to figure me out – my personality, my flaws, and my weaknesses, and it was all part of the plan.

Next to the letter file was another document. This seemed to be a diary of sorts. It was filled with incredibly detailed recollections of women he would come into contact within his daily life. I only glimpsed through and saw a few sentences about a woman at the rock-climbing gym and how muscular her back was, and how he daydreamed of touching her. In hindsight, it was very reminiscent of the character Joe Goldberg on the Netflix series ‘You.’ Reading it made me feel sick to my stomach, but I assumed that perhaps I was the problem and that this was just how normal people loved. I truly had no idea.

This led to finding bestiality porn in a folder titled ‘Pr0n’ on his computer. I knew I had to confront him after finding that, and I did. He explained it away as something that his friend sent him in an email as a joke. He claimed innocence and that he had no idea it was what it was. I pushed as to why it was saved if that was the case, and he came up with some long explanation of how the computer did it by itself, and once again, he was just not aware. He played it well. Still, it should have been enough for me to run, but my already abused mind from the home I came from was psychologically manipulated even more. He even pretended to be angry at his ‘friend’ who sent it to him.

The red flags continued after this, and there were many times where I thought I should just end it, but I would be met with the ‘but you’re so lucky’ talk from everyone around me.

It surely must be me, and I just need to learn how to love him better and figure out how to change myself, I thought.

Everyone around me encouraged that mentality, even my parents. There was a rollover accident that he caused while driving one day, angry for no reason. It should have killed us, and it was a miracle that I walked out with nothing more than a few scratches and bruises.

One of the more major red flags, his friend Brad almost raped me after Ted had sent me, drunk, to Brad’s place to pick up something for him. After waiting on his friend’s couch for a while, he eventually rushed over, held me down, and started trying to tear off my clothes. When I told him no, he kept telling me that I wanted it and to just relax. I started screaming while I fought against him as hard as I could. I was able to injure him, and I ran out of his apartment, screaming, trying to call Ted to tell him what happened. I thought I would be met with support. Instead, I was screamed at and called a whore. I was told that if I was trying to make him choose between his friends and me, he would always choose his friends. Shaking and crying, my shirt ripped from the scuffle, I was stunned. The pain of his words and anger at such a terrifying moment in my life cut me to my core. He made sure to convince me that it was my fault. If I wasn’t so friendly, and if I didn’t wear the clothes that I did, Brad would have never gotten the impression that I wanted to have sex with him. It was all my fault, and I sunk deep into his brainwashing until I believed that everything was my fault, and his abuse was simply because I needed to work on myself.

These incidents would be mixed in with grandiose gestures of love. He swept me away to Las Vegas for my 21st birthday, showering me with gifts and sending me to my favorite store to get pampered and pick out whatever I wanted. I thought I was living the love stories I always saw in movies. It was confusing to me at such a young age because I felt like he must be a good person, just with a couple of issues just like the rest of us. This love bombing only reiterated to me that I must be the problem and how I should work harder to change myself into a person that was more deserving of his love.

And there I was. The moment I had always dreamed of in my nightmares was finally here. I thought he was going to kill us both and our unborn baby that night.

All he kept saying was that he didn’t want to be a dad. He wanted me to get an abortion, but I refused, and he was too scared of my crazy, Sicilian stepdad to force it. If there was any kind of silver lining, it was that as terrible as my stepdad is, his presence kept Ted from abusing as much as he wanted to and could have very well saved my daughter’s life and my life.

I called the police, and by the time they came, he had changed entirely, hidden the gun, and suddenly, it never happened. This incident would come up through the years only to be met with him, telling me I imagined it.

He told the cops that I was pregnant and ‘unwell.’ I wasn’t. I was fine. He said to them that I just imagined the entire thing and that nothing happened. Because our stories didn’t match and he intentionally didn’t leave any proof of the incident, there was nothing that the cops could do. It will forever sit in a police report that Ted still denies to this day.

My parents were not supportive or helpful at all. Even after this incident, I was encouraged to stay and to change myself. My parents pressured me to marry him because I was pregnant, and I agreed. There wasn’t a proposal or even much discussion. It was just an agreement that Ted and my parents had made and forced onto me. At this stage in my life, I had no self-esteem and lacked the ability to say no, even when it was to my detriment.

His abuse only worsened, and at one point, he had thrown a massive set of metal keys at my pregnant belly, grossly missing and hitting me in the upper thigh instead. He threw it with such force that it left a giant hematoma that I needed to go to see a doctor for. My mom told me that I better not tell my stepdad because he will kill Ted, so I never did. Perhaps I should have and should have let them both go to jail and stopped both of their abuses right there and then. I’ll never know, but I will always remember standing outside with my stepdad at his house. The hot Arizona sun beat down on my increasingly growing body, my mind raced, and my heart ached. I told my stepdad that I didn’t want to marry Ted and that I wanted to get out now. He didn’t have much to say other than some more suggestions to fix myself to get Ted to love me more, and when I wouldn’t give up, he made an offer for me to move back in with them, and we would all raise my daughter together until I could get back to work and become self-sufficient again. Most people would have jumped on this offer, but I was caught between one hell or another.

While they were two different situations, they were both rampant with abuse and toxicity, and I didn’t want my soon-to-be-born daughter exposed to any of it.

Memories of bloody fights, screaming matches, and my stepdad throwing me against walls and dragging me by my hair washed over me in a warm, uncomfortable flush.

How could I do that to my daughter too? I knew if I accepted his offer, that I would only be committing to a lifetime of hell for my daughter and myself. They would never let me leave – their control was just as strong and desperate as Ted’s was.

I decided that it would be easier for me to change myself and try to work on things with Ted and give my daughter two parents than it would be to move back into my parents’ house of horrors. It seemed like the lesser of two evils, and something I would have to navigate alone.

I ended up marrying Ted, under an apple tree on the deck of an event house in Madera Canyon. There was nothing happy about that day other than the beautiful weather and views. Our wedding day was immediately followed by a ‘honeymoon’ to a local hotel in Tucson, where I was promptly ignored and treated like I was the most disgusting, vile human on Earth.

The seven years that followed were much of the same, a blur of his meltdowns, insults, intense psychological abuse, occasional physical abuse, and intentionally unkind actions.

He was always lying about something, even when there was no reason to tell a lie. He lied for fun and the mind game aspect of it. He thoroughly enjoyed hurting other people and getting them to break.

I remember when young Mormons would come to our door. I do not agree with the religion, but I refuse to be unkind to others, especially when they have good intentions. I would always listen for a minute and let them down gently. Ted would rush to the door with unabated excitement, ready to hurt their feelings and make them cry. He always got enjoyment out of making others cry or get upset. It only became more prominent as the years went on.

Ted was an absent father. He would work late as often as he could, and when I would try to ask if we could spend time together, I would ironically get called ‘controlling,’ and he just stopped bringing home his work schedule altogether. I would never have any idea when he would be home or what his hours were, and I was not allowed to bring it up anymore. He would roll in at all hours of the night, claiming he had to ‘close’ the store, and it ran exceptionally late every time. I never bought it.

When he was home, he would spend as much time as he could in the garage or his office, playing around on the computer. He had a porn addiction but, just like everything else, when I tried to talk to him about it, I would be the one who was at fault for everything, and he would just deny it. His best excuse was that a virus-infected our computer and was being remotely controlled somewhere by the hacker. He claimed that the hacker could use our computer to search for porn, and because it was remote, it would show up in our search history just like if it were one of us that did it. That is ridiculous. I did not believe him then, and it cost me. He threw a glass at me while I was holding our infant daughter, and then later tried to break my arm.

He was never a good dad or an active dad. I did everything for our family and our daughter, while he played a part in public and kept everyone fooled. Our daughter was always scared of him. He couldn’t even play a board game with us without having a meltdown and attacking her. He would hold her down at four years old and make her scream, all because he wanted to ‘make her’ explain why she did something the way she did. She did not have the reasoning skills at that age to do so, and unfortunately, all he did was damage her psyche. She would beg to be let go, and if I tried to help, I would get pushed and hit. I did call the police once, and he just lied. It seemed that there was no one on my side or anyone that could see through his many masks to see the truth.

I tried to leave several times; each time being met with threats of him taking my daughter away from me forever. He would always say that I had no one, and it would be me against him and his entire family, and he would win. The truth was that I did not have anyone. I moved from Arizona to Texas for him. It was his family that was there. I did not even have a supportive family anywhere else. I was on my own. It was nearly impossible to save money on the side because he was so controlling and monitored everything.

A co-worker and a very dear friend of mine helped me see the abuse for what it was. I was in denial for a long time, convinced that it was me. He opened my eyes and gave me the confidence and courage I needed to finally leave. I felt like I finally had a support system, even if it was tiny, and that I could conquer the challenge to make a better life for my daughter and myself.

When I asked for a divorce, Ted played the game. He got angry and then played the sad card. He tried desperately for a week to win me back. The man who ruined every single holiday and made sure to make me cry every Valentine’s Day and birthday, was laying out a trail of rose petals with little love notes. I was so accustomed to his sociopathic patterns of abuse that I knew it was just a ploy to reel me back in. I ignored it, and sure enough, within two weeks of asking for a divorce, he was already seeing someone new and bringing my daughter around her.

He was a diehard atheist his entire life, but he became a born-again Christian overnight. Most wouldn’t think twice about this, but when you are dealing with a sociopath, these types of behavior changes are important to take note of. It is not normal to swing so aggressively between ideals and beliefs. We lived in Texas, where you can’t meet anyone new without being asked what church you go to. It was definitely the bible belt, and he knew that. He knew that he had to adjust his public image quickly if he wanted to enact the revenge he so desperately sought: taking my daughter away from me and torturing the both of us for years. He became a born again, Christian, to polish his image to the point that no one would believe me.

See, I didn’t let him leave me. I ended it before he could get to the discard phase with me. He works in patterns. He enjoys destroying people and only leaves them when there is no longer anything in it for him or when he feels like his psychological abuse will leave a lasting impression that will likely hurt his victim for years to come. Everything is like one big chess game to him, and he feels that he is the master chess player who can beat anyone.

He couldn’t let me go and have a better life with our daughter, whom he never wanted and abused often.

He did everything in his power to remove her from me, and he won.

He built a little army of flying monkeys to help him in his smear campaigning. He went back to old friends, family, and anyone else who he thought could help his game, to convince them all that he was the victim, and I was a terrible person that he should have never married. This pattern would continue to repeat itself in his newest relationship as well.

He worked the court system with his sociopathic strategies. Everything he did was so calculated and planned.

To this day, I am alienated from my daughter. He has nothing but excuses and blame. Everything is my fault, according to him.

It doesn’t matter that he lied to her school to ensure that I couldn’t be involved in her schooling, no matter how hard I try.

It doesn’t matter that he has never sent a single medical record or even told me about doctor appointments our daughter had.

It doesn’t matter that we have joint legal custody, and I have equal rights to our daughter.

Our divorce was in Texas, where one parent needs to be named the ‘home’ parent, or where the child will reside. He made sure to game the system and forge paperwork to get that designation, making me the technical ‘non-custodial’ parent, despite having 50/50 across the board.

He refuses to stop recording our Skype calls, despite the court order clearly stating that there is a restraining order against either one of us recording our daughter or video calls in any way.

My daughter can’t stand it, and the calls became taxing for her. She was paralyzed during the calls, knowing she was being watched, and we often never were able to have any kind of conversation.

I gave my daughter my cell phone number and told him that until he could stop recording the calls, that she could call me on my cell phone whenever she wanted.

She had to sneak calls when he wasn’t home, but he has now found out, and I haven’t heard from her in weeks.

I contracted COVID-19 and almost died, and I was still denied telephone contact. He was perfectly okay with letting me die without my daughter ever having spoken to me. I tried contacting him in several different ways, and each time, I was ignored.

I had to call for a well check to make sure my daughter was even okay, and it was only then that I received an aggressive email that everything was my fault. He stated that I needed to pay for Our Family Wizard, an app that courts sometimes have parents use to communicate and ask him to speak to our daughter through there.

It did not matter that he was now communicating with me through email. I had to do it his way and follow the court order to the letter, something he has never even tried to follow himself, or nothing at all. Even when following his demands, he still denies contact.

My daughter is not doing well at all, and I can tell that if she is left in that environment any longer, she may pass the point of no return and develop issues that she will not be able to overcome.

She walks to school alone and is often left home alone. Her dad drinks and plays video games with his girlfriend instead of paying attention to her. My daughter was constantly dumped off on whoever would watch her so he could go party with his new girlfriend, for days at a time. Every time it would be a lie that he was ‘helping someone move’ or going to a ‘work conference.’

He is not involved in her schooling at all yet grounds her when she struggles with her grades and assignments.

Ted is now divorced, again, for the third time. He immediately started seeing a woman he worked with, who is almost 20 years younger than him. He has already moved the new girlfriend in with him, and our daughter, and they are now moving into a new rental together.

My daughter can only call me when no one is home, which I’m sure he has now made it impossible to do it all. I have no idea when I will be able to talk to her again.

I could file through Court to try and resolve this, but I went through so much with that Court, I’m not sure it will even be helpful. Ted tells so many lies and weaves his web so intricately that he is often able to get others to overlook how terrible he is and give them what he wants. I fought for years to get her out of there, only to go bankrupt and have more taken from me. I had proof. I had police reports and hospital reports. I had CPS and police departments behind me. I did everything legally, yet I was accused of kidnapping my daughter when I refused to return her because she showed up with bruises and claims of abuse (later corroborated by the hospital).

No one has ever listened, and no one has ever helped. I am still on my own with this, and there is seemingly no end in sight. Ted continues to get away with everything and destroy my daughter in the process.

I am not perfect. I am far from it and I have made my fair share of mistakes in dealing with him and the issues that followed leaving him. There are a lot of things that I wish I knew and would have done differently, but there is no sense in dwelling on mistakes or the past. All I can do is grow and evolve and be a guiding light to others going through the same. No matter what I’ve been falsely accused of or what lies have been told about me, I am and have always been an excellent mother that loves and protects my children fiercely.

I am not a drug user. I do not abuse alcohol. I am not abusive. I’ve rarely ever even so much as swatted my daughter on the bottom. I do not have psychological issues or mental health issues that interfere with parenting. My daughter and I were so incredibly close, and I did everything with her and for her. Instead, I am now diagnosed with C-PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder from everything he put us through.

This is the story of life with a sociopath. It is a story that is frighteningly common, yet our stories are never told or heard.

We are often silenced, either by our fears, threats, or the Courts enforcing gag orders preventing us from speaking out.

Our abusers wear their masks and play their game so well, that their victims are the ones that are demonized and punished for leaving them.

I am changed forever, but I am stronger, wiser, and a better person for it. He will never rob me of my spirit or my heart, nor will he ever be able to break the bond between a mother and her child.

I am worried, however, for my daughter. She is deep in the psychological abuse, and every time I have talked to her recently, the issues now surfacing because of it are more and more apparent. She is struggling in school and is starting to gravitate towards dark and disturbing themes. She is a people pleaser, so she pretends to be who her dad wants her to be when she is with him, and she is getting lost in the game. I have talked with her at length about being honest and how to not be fearful, but we are dealing with a dangerous sociopath, and she just cannot bring herself to do it. She knows the punishment she will receive if she even tries now.

All I can do is hope that one day the Court will listen, that someone will help, and that his situation will turn itself around. I will never give up, but there is only so much I can do legally.

My story is the reason why I spend my free time trying to help empower other women. I learned the hard way in the hopes that I can save others from doing the same.

No matter what Ted has done to me over the years, even if at times he felt successful in destroying my life, he and all the others like him cannot stop us from having a voice. They can threaten and use the Court to try and keep us quiet, but just know, you always have a voice. Use it.”

This is an exclusive story to Love What Matters. For permission to use, email Exclusive@LoveWhatMatters.com.

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by C.F. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTubefor our best videos.

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