Frank Relationships: Michele Weldon, author, I Closed My Eyes: Revelations of a Battered Woman

Monday, Nov. 11th 2013 9:18 AM

 

Are you a battered woman? Do you wonder what makes battered women stay in abusive relationships? Well, stay tuned as we discuss this powerful issue … on this edition of Frank Relationships.


FRANK RELATIONS: MICHELE WELDON, AUTHOR OF “I CLOSED MY EYES: REVELATIONS OF A BATTERED WOMAN”
Guests: Michele Weldon
Date: November 4, 2013

Frank: Are you a battered woman? Do you wonder what makes battered women stay in an abusive relationships? Well, stay tuned as we discuss this powerful issue on this edition of Frank Relationships.

Welcome to Frank Relationships where we provide a candid, fresh and frank look into relationships with goals of acceptance, respect and flexibility. I’m Frank Love and you can find me, my blog and my various social media incarnations at franklove.com. You can also download the podcast of this and other archived shows on iTunes or your favorite podcast app.

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Does the battered woman exist in your head? If so, who is she? What does she look like and what’s the best way to help her? Today’s guest is an award-winning journalist and the author of, I Closed My Eyes: Revelations of a Battered Woman. The book is a potent and painfully honest chronicle of her own experience. She is a storyteller, a speaker an instructor and a writer and she believes that true authentic stories are her mission. Please listen closely to hers. She is Michele Weldon. Michele, welcome to the show.

Michele: Thank you so much for having me on, Frank. I appreciate it.

Frank: You bet. Let’s start with the slam dunk and that’s just simply, what is domestic violence?

Michele: Domestic violence can be physical and also emotional. It’s when one partner, and that can be a man or a woman–but it’s more likely to be a man abusing a woman–takes control and abusive actions and also abusive emotional *(inaudible) 03:46 toward a partner. It’s when someone is hurt physically or mentally or emotionally, intentionally by another person. It exists in every country in the world and every city, community, state around this country and in every social strata and in every age group. It is everywhere.

Frank: How do you determine that someone is intentionally hurting someone? How do you know?

Michele: I was a victim of domestic violence and I said it’s almost as if there’s a playbook out there, how a partner abuses another. They don’t wear signs. Sometimes the batterer is the most charismatic popular person in the room. They’re usually really high energy, really convincing and they’re very romantic and then when something doesn’t go their way the whole game is about power.

They seduce a partner into believing they’re the absolute perfect person in the world to be in a relationship with and then when something doesn’t go their way or they want to control a situation, they become inexplicably violent. It can be anything from throwing something or a strike, but you know when it happens.

There’s an instinct we have as humans to protect ourselves and you know instinctively when someone is trying to harm you. A lot of women, like myself, talked myself out of it, like “Oh, he didn’t mean that,” or “I went to counseling with him,” and “Oh, he’s under stress.” There’s a million excuses, but you know instinctively when someone is trying to harm you on purpose.

Frank: There’s a fine line that I’m going to play with today and that’s being devil’s advocate while also not attempting to downplay the experience. So I want you to walk with me hand-in-hand, please and let’s see what we can excavate.

What you just said–to know that someone did something intentionally, it means that they looked at this situation and said, “I am going to hurt that person.” That is intentional as far as I’m concerned to–.

To react and to not even have clarity around why you’re doing something or to believe that he or she deserves it or he or she wants it or this is–I guess to some level, “This is the dynamic in our relationship,” that doesn’t seem quite intentional. I think it can certainly be played with. Anything there?

Michele: Yes, congratulations that you don’t fully understand it. All the men in my life, my father and my brothers and all my good male friends, don’t understand it either, and that means they’re not capable of this. So, I’m so happy for that and for your family. But a batterer has been called–and it’s been studied–“a cobra.”

He intentionally–not like losing his temper, because he would not l-lose his temper that way with his boss or with his friends or with he covert workers. It’s very targeted, and they measured heart rate before and after and outburst and they can suddenly calm down, so it’s incredibly targeted. There’s preparation involved. It isn’t just an explosion. Sometimes the victim is most often–is most likely a woman–has no idea what’s around the corner.

For me it would be, “You didn’t vacuum the rug.” That’s ridiculous. Or “You made fun of me at the party. You told a joke I didn’t like.” It’s like you have no idea what’s happening and because in your mind this doesn’t make sense. It’s not logical. You don’t behave that way. “Why would someone talk to me that way?” It’s just so incredibly confusing and the batterer counts on creating that chaos.

He says, “No, no, no, I didn’t hit you on purpose. My hand just went across your face,” or “Oh no, I was trying to do ‘x’,” and “I didn’t mean to break your jaw.” The most ridiculous thing I ever heard was, a batterer said reportedly, he shot his partner and said “She ran in front of the bullet.” So there’s all sorts of rationalization and I really would like your listeners to understand, it’s not a two-way street. It’s someone who has the power and control in a relationship and is catching the other person off-guard completely.

Frank: Doesn’t the chaos in a situation like what you described, become predictably though?

Michele: No, wouldn’t that be great, if it was? In my instance, I was married for nine years. We dated for three years before we were married and he was the absolute perfect partner. My friends would say, “You really scored big. He is fantastic.” He would send my friends flowers on their birthdays, but that’s part of the seduction process and batterers turn to shoot real high, find a woman who is highly prized so then that is–they’re almost like predators. Then, once they have you, usually there’s no violence until you move in and or you get engaged. In my case, it was getting married and then it changes.

Like I said, it could be a volcano boiling over inside him or as I said, possibly her, but you have no idea. You don’t have an internal temperature on him. Things could be gong extremely well and then there’s an eruption.

In my case, we were in counseling for 10 years and the final straw for me was the day after a really great marriage counseling session. That’s part of the whole confusion. You’re trying to be rational and trying to be understanding and that actually is what can kill you.

Frank: Tell me about the first time that you found yourself in an “abusive” situation with your husband.

Michele: Sure. As I said, we dated for three years and we’d been married four months. We were married in August of ’86 and then on New Year’s Eve, we went out to dinner and we got back to our apartment. I don’t even know what the argument was about. It was maybe dinner or what he said. I don’t know. *(inaudible) 11:41 something and he shoved me on my chest and pushed me down and I was absolutely stunned.

I’m not a physical person. I work out, but I’m not imposing and he had been a boxer in college and he was an athlete. We went to counseling after that. I was so shocked and I thought, “I am so ashamed I can’t tell my parents. If I told my parents, they would–” I was living in Dallas at the time–“They will come down and get me and they will drive me away. I cannot tell my sisters. I cannot tell anybody. I can tell the counselor, but I can fix this.”

His excuses were, “You know I’m an athlete and that’s how I react.” He was appropriately ashamed and for myself and for a lot of women who are in this position, there are months, sometimes years of calm, where you think its find and you think it all is going to be great. Hence, I had three children with this man.

Frank: At that point had you had three children?

Michele: No, none.

Frank: None, okay.

Michele: No, and so we continued to go through counseling and that was the focus of the counseling. That’s another thing that they have since discovered is not helpful is to go to couples counseling, because the batterer will always have his side of the story for the therapist and that isn’t necessarily true.

Frank: Tell me what you all were saying to each other, if you can try to nail it right before he pushed you. What do you think lead to that, and I know it’s been quite sometime?

Michele: That’s a problem and that’s why it was so shocking, is you have no idea what the trigger–like I said it wasn’t anything big. We didn’t have any problems. We both had jobs. We both were leading good lives. I thought we were happy. It was New Year’s Eve, we’d just had a nice dinner out.

That’s why, that’s where the power control comes in. You have no idea what the trigger was.

Frank: So you had–

Michele: Well, someone would say, “Well, I can’t wear red. If I wear red, then it gets him mad.” That’s ridiculous. You can have no idea what sparked the flame.

Frank: It sounds like the person who thinks they can’t wear red has an idea of what might set him off. I’m not saying–it’s whatever I might think is reasonable, but that sounds–

Michele: Right, right.

Frank: A person that’s making an attempt to try to figure it out.

Michele: Right.

Frank: Right, but what made you–

Michele: But it can’t be really.

Frank: Well, what made you stay? There’s a quote or there’s a story that I don’t know if you’ve heard of the author, Byron Katie, but she does not seem to believe in abuse and when asked about it during a class or symposium or speaking engagement that I went to some years ago, she said that, “If you walked past a fence and the dog runs out and bites you or walk past a yard and the dog runs out and bites you, you know this dog bites. And if you want past that yard again, given that you know that about the dog, it’s not and the dog bites you a second time, it’s not the dog that bit you, you bit yourself. You put yourself in the situation again.”

Michele: I would love her to do the advocacy work I do. I’m on board for domestic violence shelters and I speak around the country and I get 20 letters a week, and have for 15 years, from women from all strata of society–and even in prison–who talk about the situations they’re in. That’s a really comfortable, judgmental finger-pointing way to blame the victim and I think that’s absolutely the wrong approach. For me–

Frank: I don’t–

Michele: For me–

Frank: Uh-huh.

Michele: I thought I was powerful enough to change him. I thought he did not feel good about himself, he was an incredibly charismatic, handsome, smart, intelligent man. It was like, “Well, if he’s doing this to himself and acting out to me, now let’s fix him.” I was in counseling with him for, as I said, for 10 years and somebody I knew my whole life and there’s shame involved and there is guilt involved. I am a Catholic and it’s like, “Oh, I couldn’t have a broken marriage and I have to fix it.”

There are women who are not towering in a corner. There are women who are trying to fix it, and there are also women, we have to consider, we have no options, women who have no education.

There’s a huge method of violence problem in communities you might not suspect, like immigrant communities and women who don’t speak the language here and their husbands say, “If try to leave I’m going to shoot the dog, I’m going to shoot you. I’m going to kill your family. You have nowhere to go.”

There are so many things we have to consider why women stay and we can never, ever, ever say, “Shame on you, you should have known better.” We absolutely cannot. We have to be empathic and try to help women get out safely. Especially, a woman is in more danger of being killed the moment she says she’s thinking of leaving or divorcing him. I really have a hard time with that stance saying, “It’s her fault. She walked past and the dog bit her again.” The dog bit her. The dog said he wasn’t going to and he did.

Frank: I’m going to play Byron Katie. I’m going to try to bring her to this conversation.

Michele: Sure.

Frank: So you said it’s judgmental and finger-pointing. However, I see it much more as empowering. If you understand that you have–and everything that you mentioned, you said, “There’s shame. There’s guilt and there’s a feeling of being Catholic and wanting the relationship to work,” and all of that good stuff. Well, whether we see it or admit it or not, there’s value in all of those.

Michele: Right.

Frank: There’s something you get out of shame and there’s something you get out of guilt. If you refuse to have shame and say, “Look, I’m going to be looked down on, and I don’t care. If I leave this relationship, that’s it. I’m not even going to worry about whether someone is, thinks that I’m less than. If you refuse to feel guilt– the same thing. “I’m not going to feel guilty for making a decision that I think is best for me,” and if you refuse to embrace, “what some would consider Catholic principles or tenets” and that sort of thing and say, “No, I’m not going there. I’m going to do what I think is best for me and this particular scenario.” If you are even aware that those things are options and if you refuse to go there, that is a powerful place to be.

In fact, it’s not being judgmental, but it’s saying to my daughter shall we say, instead of saying, if she were to say to me, “X, y and z happened, would I think that I was benefiting her more by telling her, “Oh you were the victim, poor baby. Let’s help you,” or would I think that she would be more empowered by me saying to her, “You have a choice as to whether you go back to this situation, and what happens after you go back is up to you. You have a decision to make here and you have what it takes to make that decision. Yes, there will be consequences. Yes there will be ramifications. Yes, you might miss him. Yes, you might feel guilt. Yes, you might feel shame. Yes, the church might look down on you. However, you might also find yourself, if you were to go back with a black eye, and the church is not looking down on you. You pick which one you want to do, but understand what some of your choices are and how you’re empowered to make them.”

Michele: Right.

Frank: I’m pretty clear where I think I would be doing my daughter the biggest service and it doesn’t sound like–

Michele: Right.

Frank: You and I agree.

Michele: No, I disagree that we don’t agree. I am 100 percent in agreement with you. I had to get to that point where my friend said, “You’re going to have ‘victim’ on your name tag for the rest of your life,” when I wrote the book and I went on Oprah about it and I’d done 200 TV and radio interviews and I’m quite open about it.

What I’m talking about is, when a woman is in a relationship–and I’ve been working for 15 years to help women get to the place that you’re talking about, where they’re empowered to walk away, but blaming her for being in there is not helpful. Let’s say, “Okay, let’s get you a room and a shelter for your kids,” because there are so many reasons a woman doesn’t leave.

It isn’t because she doesn’t feel good about herself and she feels, “Oh, I’m upset and I’m ashamed.” There are women with no options. I am incredibly lucky. I had options. I had a job and education. I had family behind me.

Frank: You didn’t leave? So, how does that really–

Michele: Pardon me?

Frank: I said you didn’t leave after the first time, or it sounds though, even the second time. So, how do you merge all of that?

Michele: Because I thought I was doing due diligence for it. I was in counseling with him. There were points in our marriage I was counseling three times a week with him, and then he was in a separate counseling. I thought, “I’m fixing it. This is what you do. This is what happens. You try and fix the problem.” It wasn’t that I stood around and pretended it didn’t happen. I was ashamed to tell the world. I was not ashamed to tell the counselor.

I was delusional about the power of therapy to fix it. I read books about it. Yeah, it’s behavioral now. No, he can change it. No, he can choose to–and with the confusion that he says, “Of course, I know, that was terrible. That’s never going to happen again,” there gets to be a point where it’s not rational to try and be that rational with someone who’s irrational. That’s the point I got to.

“It was like the last time was the most outrageous act,” and that was the day after we were in counseling and the marriage counselor said, “What grade would you give your marriage,” and I remember so distinctly, he said, “B-plus.” The next night when he’s going crazy, I was like, “This is a B-plus? I’m done.”

So, every woman has to get to that point, and I completely agree with you–help your daughter–God forbid, if she’s ever in that situation–get to that point. But there are reasons women don’t incant. There’s money, there’s language, there’s education; there’s employment, there’s children, there’s threats. There are all kinds of things. We just can’t be simplistic and judgmental it and say, “No, you bit yourself.” We just can’t have that kind, because then women don’t tell. Then, that starts a cycle of saying, “I’m going to get somebody blaming me, telling me I was a victim and telling me I was not standing up for myself.” That’s absolutely what we can’t do.

Frank: It sounds as though there’s a little bit of gap in terms of what we’re saying. You hear me saying or you hear Katie saying that, she’s blaming the woman and I don’t hear that. I hear her saying that the woman has power in this scenario and she’s not using it. There’s a big difference between pointing out someone’s strength and where they have power and blaming her. So you’re saying blaming her for being there isn’t helpful–

Michele: Right, right.

Frank: But it’s not, it’s not blame that’s happening. She’s not saying–

Michele: Okay, then maybe that was the wrong language that I misinterpreted, but the scenario you said was the first time you walked past the fence and the dog bites you, it’s the dog’s fault, the second time a dog, you walk past, the dog bites you, you bit yourself.

Frank: Yes.

Michele: To me, that was a blaming statement, because it said, “You–you did this to you.” That to me is where I heard the blame, so if that’s not what she intends then I interpreted the “you” statement as a blame.

Frank: It’s more so you put yourself back in this situation and if you want to see that as blame–it depends on who you’re talking to, it depends on the connotation I see as in the conversation.

Michele: Right, right.

Frank: You can see that as blame, but you can also–

Michele: Right.

Frank: See that as, “Hey, you’re right. I did put myself back in this situation and I did it and I wasn’t even aware of it.” Now, that’s not blame–

Michele: That’s where I got to stop you. The woman is totally aware of it.

Frank: Okay.

Michele: She is totally aware, you don’t have to say, “Oh honey, he hit you in the face.” He hit her in the face, so she is totally aware of it. There are all these other considerations. What Katie is talking about–the next sentence could be, “You bit yourself, but let me help you figure out how to extricate yourself and your children safely,” because as I said, a woman is at most risk of being killed when she announces that she’s leaving.

Frank: Doesn’t that presume she needs help? It’s possible that–

Michele: Oh, she absolutely does need help. There are women who are completely trapped financially and there’s a whole mind game going on. “I told you I’d never do that again, but if you leave, it’s going to get worse. I’m going to show up at your office, I’m going to threaten your family.” These things happen. It happened to Jennifer Hudson’s family. It happened to Nigella Lawson. It’s people who are in *(inaudible) 27:14, it’s people of all races, its men and women, it’s all ages. There are people who don’t think as rationally as you do.

Frank: The help and are you saying she absolutely needs help–

Michele: Right.

Frank: And it’s possible the help is the pointing out of the importance of making a decision now. Not going back into the situation and thinking it’s not going to happen again and once you point that out to her that could be the help.

It sounds as though the help you’re suggesting is more handholding–or more it’s even more detailed–it’s automatically more detailed than that and I don’t think it necessarily is. If you are willing to point to the area where you can make a strong decision and today, that might be all the help she needs.

Michele: Okay, that’s really idealistic. I agree with you for a small percentage of society–that works.

Frank: Okay.

Michele: You make a decision, you drive away in a car that you own that’s in your name with your kids in the back seat and you go to your mother’s house where it’s safe and you go to your job the next morning, you’re still going to get paid and you still have money and it’s going to be okay. You just separate yourself from a terrible situation and now you fine, because you decided. I have talked to tens of thousands of women who don’t have the car in their name, who may not even speak the language.

Frank: Why doesn’t she have the car in her name?

Michele: She has three kids under three–pardon?

Frank: Why isn’t she–

Michele: She doesn’t have a job and her husband made everything be in his name.

Frank: Okay, so.

Michele: There are so many women who don’t have the options. There’s women in–domestic violence is huge in rural America. A woman with three kids under three working on a farm in her husband’s name, she doesn’t have a truck or a car. The next house is three miles away. What in the heck is she going to do?

Frank: Okay.

Michele: There are so many scenarios where it’s not simple to say, “Well, you stand up for yourself and you get out the door and everything will be good and it was just this crisis of confidence.” There are so many situations we have to be compassionate about it. It’s not handholding. It’s like, “Here’s an address or someplace where you and your kids can sleep,” and hope that if they go to school the next day, the batterer won’t be outside the school to take the kids. There’s so many horrible scenarios that we have to realize–

Frank: I’m the first to say–

Michele: That happen everyday.

Frank: That compassion is important in many scenarios, but compassion is not a slam dunk automatic modality that’s going to solve the problem. I’m not advocating one way or the other exactly how the scenario should be dealt with.

Compassion is a real thing that can help many people. Candid conversations are real things that can help many people. I don’t think that the automatic place that you go is to an area or to a modality of necessarily a hug or holding. I mean, I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing. I’m just saying it works sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t work.

Michele: Right.

Frank: But I want to play with the, why isn’t the car in her name and why doesn’t she have a job? Let’s start with why she is completely dependant on him, so to speak, and she’s not. In a situation where a woman is a housewife, when the man goes to work, I am not one that believes that she’s completely dependant on him. I think he is in many ways dependant on her too. But let’s play with that. Why does she get out of stepping to the back–a housewife and having the car in his name? What is she getting out of that when things are good?

Michele: I mean I’m really surprised that you don’t know how often this happens.

Frank: I didn’t say I don’t know how often anything happens.

Michele: Yes, well or why this happened. He may have presented that there’s no choice. This is the way it’s going to be done. It sounds ridiculous in 2013 to say that about happens. Well, I’m going to put all the money in my account and we’re going to just have one account and I’m going to write the checks.

There are all kinds of agreements that happen in a marriage. They might be incremental. “Well, let’s just get everything in my name,” and you can have a big fight about that, but a woman might say, “Well, that’s not worth the fight. Okay, let’s just get it in his name.”

Frank: Well, if it’s–

Michele: I’m surprised that–

Frank: It’s not worth the fight and so it’s also, if she’s willing to say, “It’s not worth the fight,” then it isn’t worth the fight and it is worth fighting about it or having the problems that you’re suggesting that she might have down the road. It’s important for all of us man, woman and wherever you are in whatever relationship you’re in, it’s important for us to advocate for ourselves. I mean every step of the way and if we don’t, it is important for us also to understand what the ramifications are.

Michele: Sure.

Frank: There’s no victim to you not advocating for yourself. You get–

Michele: Right.

Frank: You can either put the time in now or you could put the time in later. You can advocate for yourself now or you can advocate for yourself later, when or if the doo doo hits the fan. But there’s no victim in that scenario of not advocating for yourself, but go on please.

Michele: But for someone who is a control freak. Your assumption is two rational people. It’s someone like you who it’s all give and take. “Let’s discuss that and let’s figure that out and let’s have that argument now.” The balance is so skewed in an abusive relationship. You’ve also heard, “Pick your battles, it’s not worth the fight.” If the bearer is going to go screaming, keep you up all night, because you said, “I want both our names on the car.” “Okay, I was up all night, you were screaming put this thing in your name.”

Frank: I’m going to scream and yell, I’m going to address that being screamed and yelled at all night then, because the situation is not going to get better. That is clearly a coping mechanism for that person that you’re identifying as a batterer. I’m going to address that now. It’s not going to get better in 13 years. Again, I’m going to advocate for myself today or I’m going to know that there’s doo, doo to deal with in 13 years if I decide I want to get out of the relationship. Again, there’s no victim here. “I get to pay now or I get to pay later.”

Michele: You’re absolutely right and that’s why it’s really important–I do talk to high schools. It’s really important for a 15 year old to understand that the boyfriend who appears everywhere she is and is texting her all the time and, “Where’d you do now, where are you,” and “I’ll pick you up” and yells at her, it’s like “Get out now. You’re 15–“

Frank: Yes.

Michele: “This is a bad situation.” So, yeah. I completely agree with you. I agree with you completely, but I just want us to leave open the possibility, where there is a woman who feels completely trapped by that and really seriously has difficulty making the declaration that, “I’m done, I’m leaving.” There are economics considerations. A woman might even have medical concerns and the insurance is in his name. There are all kinds of things that make it difficult for a woman to leave, and I’m saying we have to make it as easy as possible for a woman to leave. One of those things is to be a culture that doesn’t blame her, that doesn’t say, “Why didn’t you just go,” or “That’s on you.” You’ve got just lower that volume on that and say, “I agree with you completely. It’s a bad time. You’re probably heading for 13 years of this.”

Frank: Or more.

Michele: But there are so many women like me who tried to fix it. Had one of the counselors along the way said, “He’s never going to get better,” I would have gone. I would have said, “Okay,” because nobody ever said that or “Come back next week” or “This is improving,” or “Oh good, you’re a B-plus,” right?

Frank: Right, right.

Michele: I think we don’t disagree. I just think there’s that faith that we need to help a woman find the strength and the practical solution to getting out.

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Michele, we’ve been talking about the topic of domestic violence, but we haven’t narrowed in on your book that closely. Please tell the audience where they can find your book, and if you’d like, where they can find you.

Michele: Great, thank you. The book, I Close My Eyes, is a memoir of my experience and it explains what happens and how it feels and how I got out and what’s happened since. They can get it on Amazon. There’s a 2012 edition with new chapters. I also have a website: micheleweldon.com. I’m happy to answer questions or comment with anybody.

Frank: I want to discuss your relationship a little more in terms of what had gone into the book, and so far my understanding of what happened was you had your first experience where he went off. It’s clear to me that you went to counseling. I’m not really sure what else happened. If you would fill me and the audience on some more of the details.

Michele: Sure. There were long stretches of time where things were great. Hence, the three planned children and–

Frank: That would be a year, three years, five years?

Michele: Yeah, the boys in five years.

Frank: Those stretches, things were great. How long would those stretches?

Michele: It could be anywhere from one to two years.

Frank: Uh-huh.

Michele: We were together 12 years; three years of dating where there was nothing more than that. So, the incidents over nine years, the pattern, the incidents got closer together. It wasn’t until I call “the final incident–” and one of my sister’s is a lawyer–I called her and she prepared an order of protection for me and had me write down all the incidents. I hadn’t seen them all. Of course, there are all kinds of delusions and self-whine that happens there.

I was so shocked to see the pattern of when they happened and a woman so clearly remembers every incident. Remember this was Christmas Eve and that was that year and he was one and to write them all down and see the pattern that they were getting closer.

I was really pleased that I finally could see the whole picture, because when you’re in it, you can’t see the whole picture. I have to say also publicly, he was absolutely adoring. People that I was thought I was *(inaudible) 41:14. I remember probably just two months before I had him taken out of our house, we had a party at out house and he’s giving me this grand toast to me about how I’m so marvelous and the best wife anybody could ever ask for. “She’s so incredible” and he’s got a room full of people believing *(inaudible) 41:35 and I was talking to a friend and a friend said, “Aren’t you listening to him?” I was like, “Yeah, I’ve heard it before.” So, my friends thought that I was–

Frank: Insensitive.

Michele: Ungrateful.

Frank: Yeah.

Michele: It’s like, “Yeah, you know what you did Friday.” People were shocked. He was an attorney in a big law firm and really handsome and successful and a volunteer at the church. All of this and people were completely shocked when I came out with the truth about our relationship.

Frank: I saw on your website, your boys. You have a picture of you and your wonderful–

Michele: Yes.

Frank: They look like teenagers. Is that right?

Michele: One is.

Frank: Okay.

Michele: They’re 25, 22 and 19. The oldest one just got back from graduate school in Spain and is working in a high school as a teacher and my middle son, 22, graduated from *(inaudible) 42:38 State and is working in IT, and my youngest is a sophomore at University of Iowa.

Frank: Tell me about your relationship with them, their relationship with you, their relationship with their father and how they processed everything over the years if they did or if they were exposed to it.

Michele: I actually just finished writing the updated memoir, called Escape Points. They haven’t seen or spoken to her father in 10 years.

Frank: You said, you haven’t or they haven’t?

Michele: Oh, they haven’t. He has nothing to do with the boys, physically, financially, anything. He moved to the Netherlands, almost 10 years. He moved to the Netherlands in February 2004, stopped paying all child support, and that includes–I paid for two college tuitions and a Master’s degree in a year and a half, so far my youngest’s college tuition–no financial support, no contacts, nothing for nearly 10 years.

That was hard and that wasn’t because of me. That was totally his choice. He moved to Europe into a country where his wages could not be garnished for court ordered support. I mean, that’s a whole other game.

Frank: Yeah.

Michele: The abuse that I endured, I feel that was continued on to the boys. That makes me really upset, but, of course if you could imagine as a man, what that does to a young man and to a boy. My youngest was nine when his father moved away and had nothing to do with them anymore.

What helped them was they were all athletes and they were all wrestlers in high school and my oldest is a wrestler at the University of *(inaudible) 44:58 his first year. They had a coach that who was like a father to them and who’s still highly involved in their lives.

Quite frankly, I don’t know what I would have done without that male presence and without them being in athletics. If you can fathom how hurtful that is–to treat them so immoral, to pretend your children don’t exist. So, yeah, they had a lot to deal with, but they’re really great young men and I have to say, they have no tolerance for domestic violence or disrespected women or any of that. So, that’s how it affected them.

Frank: What was their relationship like with their dad up until he left?

Michele: It wasn’t great. He was highly unreliable, cancelled a lot. He would erupt in anger with them. I got sole custody when we divorced in 1996. The court recognized his anger problems and he had really limited custody for, I think, about three years. He couldn’t have them overnight, because he was considered a danger to all of them.

It never was really good. I never stopped visitation. I never stood in the way ever. I tried to encourage it. He canceled all the time. If someone explained it to me, a therapist friend of mine explained it to me that–my boys are-you saw a picture of them. They’re really handsome. They’re smiling. He saw them is threats to him. I’m sure as a father you can imagine the pride that you would feel in a successful child.

Frank: Right.

Michele: That to him is a threat, is what has been explained to me. I can’t read his mind.

Frank: How do you perceive that his reputation was affected? It definitely went to court. That’s not out of the ordinary. But was there a court battle, or it was pretty much–

Michele: No.

Frank: There was no court battle?

Michele: No.

Frank: It was pretty–.

Michele: No, there many appearances in court, but there was no trial.

Frank: Got you.

Michele: He was a lawyer. He brought me to court for things probably weekly. That was often an attempt to drain me financially. My last court date with him was in December 2012, trying to re-coop 10 years of non-child support and I settled for 10 percent.

Frank: What percent?

Michele: Ten.

Frank: Ten percent. Wow.

Michele: Ten and he wanted it less than that. That was the offer–ten.

Frank: And–

Michele: At the time he owed more than $350,000 in that child support. We’re talking about someone who really dropped–he didn’t just drop the ball, he slammed the door on raising his children.

Frank: What’s your relationship been like since you all split? Have you dated? Have you remarried?

Michele: No, I have dated. Yeah, I’ve got to say when I was divorced, the boys were six, four and one and I was working full-time, trying to keep it all together, I was dating here and there for about 10 years. I didn’t have time for relationships, I just didn’t. Then, I was in a really good relationship for about six years and he wanted different things than I did. You know how that goes. There was no acrimony. He’s a wonderful man. He’s just older than me and wanted to be settled and I’m not at that stage. I date here and there, nothing really floating my boat right now. You’ve got any suggestions, send them along.

Frank: Alright, will do. Will do just that. Anything in the book you want to highlight before we wrap up, and any take-home message that you really want to drive home?

Michele: Yeah, any woman who is in a relationship now, I say, as I’m sure you would, do what you can now to get out, because it really is not going to get better. Envision what your life will be like a year from now. Don’t concentrate on the heavy chaos that’s going to follow right after you leave. Concentrate on where you’ll be a year from now, five years from now and I guarantee you will be in a much, much happier productive place. It’s so much better for you, emotionally and for your children to be in a home without that poison, because it’s a toxin that affects you, whether you acknowledge it or not and affects your kids and it changes who they are.

To those of us who may have friends or sisters or moms or classmates who you notice that are in that kind of relationship, be as compassionate and helpful concretely as possible. Say, “Come to my house. Here’s the key to my house. When something happening, come here. I will pick you up. I will give you a $100 to stay at a hotel, until we sort it out,” but be someone’s help and don’t ever blame her or possibly him for the situation.

Frank: The book, I Closed My Eyes: Revelations of a Battered Woman, has received quite a bit of acclaim. Would you share some of your success stories with us, some those awards and the accolades that you’ve received?

Michele: Sure, you know its funny? Next week I am receiving an award in Washington D C.-a Justice award from George Washington University Law School. They have been using that book in family law classes for 10 years.

Frank: Very nice.

Michele: That’s actually kind of common, I understand. It’s in about 20 law schools around the country, but that is something I am so proud of that it isn’t just a throw away. “Here’s one woman’s story.” It’s like, “Here, we need to understand who our client might be. We need to understand,” so I’m really, really proud of that and that’s a trusted thing.

Frank: Extremely nice. Congratulations.

Michele: Thank you. Thank you.

Frank: You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’ve been talking with Michele Weldon, an award winning journalist and author of, I Close My Eyes: Revelations of a Battered Woman. Michele, last time, how can our listeners find you and your book?

Michele: Sure. It’s on Amazon. It’s in Kindle form. You can also find it at: micheleweldon.com. I’m a professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, outside of Chicago. You can find me there. I’m happy to connect with your listeners *(inaudible) 52:58.

Frank: Nice. Along today’s journey, we’ve discussed blaming the victim, the children and compassion. I hope you’ve had as powerful experience as I’ve had discussing, The Revelations of a Battered Woman with Michele Weldon.

As always, it’s my wish for you to walk away from this conversation with a heaping helping of useful information that’ll help you create a relationship that’s as loving and accepting as possible. Let us know what you thought of today’s show at facebook.com/relationshipflove, on Twitter @mrfranklove or franklove.com. On behalf of my producer, Phileta Legette, my assistant producer, Anayza Stewart and the man on the boards, Jeff Newman. Keep rising. This is Frank Love.

END OF TRANSCRIPT

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How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

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