I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently about domestic violence. Gas lighting is something that keeps getting my attention. I had never heard this term until after I was already in the process of getting a divorce, but I lived it for 14 years. John was always trying to make me feel like all of the issues that were occurring in our relationship were my fault. When he would chase me in the house into a corner and put a hand on each wall so I couldn’t get away and scream at me with his nose practically touching mine, he would say it’s because he doesn’t like the tone of my voice and it makes him angry. When he got upset with me because I told him something he did hurt my feelings he would scream at me that he would never hurt my feelings on purpose so any time I felt as if my feelings were hurt I should just ignore it and assume he didn’t mean to. I was being selfish by voicing my feelings to him because it made him upset. Any time I had any emotions about something that might have been construed as negative, things were twisted and manipulated to make me feel like it was my fault. Even now, after the divorce, John still tries to get away with this. The crazy thing is that sometimes…. even now…. it still works.
So a few days ago my son had an after school karate program. It was my night with him according to the parenting schedule, but my daughter had dance at exactly the same time. My mother went to the school to pick up my son for me. When she walked into the gym to pick him up, he was gone. She felt pure panic for the 5 minutes that she searched for him. Then, she turned around and there he was….. with John… who had decided to come to the school unannounced, watch the karate class from the gym uninvited, and take our son out the back door of the gym (into the heart of the school and in the opposite direction of the lobby where all of the parents who were following the rules were waiting). Why did he do this? My best guess is that he was trying to send me a message that he can take “his kids” whenever he wants and no one is going to stop him so I’d better watch my step.
In previous years this would have scared me so deeply that I would have just accepted it and kept my mouth shut. I was still terrified …. but I’m not being anyone’s doormat anymore. I confronted him. What was the first thing he said? “I had to take him. No one was there to pick him up”. Gas lighting. Umm… yes … there was someone there to pick him up. In fact, that person checked with the office as to where the parents were supposed to be and waited in that exact spot. And when all of the children and the instructors walked towards that door at the end of class, you walked our son out the other door on the opposite side of the gym. His response? “I did not remove him.” Gas Lighting. Yes you did remove him. You took him away from where you knew the adult that was supposed to pick him up was waiting. You didn’t notify anyone that you would be there. You didn’t notify anyone that you would be removing him from the gym. And according to our parenting agreement you weren’t supposed to be picking him up on that day.
I was so proud of myself for recognizing his attempts to twist the situation and make it my fault. I am so proud that this tactic didn’t work on me this time. I’m getting stronger. I’m getting smarter. I’m a work in progress but at this moment…. I didn’t fall for the schemes.