What Abuse Looks Like

Written by my friend JM who was in an abusive situation. Although not a pleasant topic, I think it's important for people, especially those in similar situations, to hear about someone else's experience. It can help them understand what's happening and get the help they need.

It also highlights why the typical relationship advice doesn't work in these situations.


Today is my one year anniversary from leaving my narcissistic, emotionally, mentally, financially, every type besides physically abusive ex husband.

I wanted to originally post this to my page but, even though my boyfriend, friends, and family support me, a fb war between me and my ex or people that think he’s “amazingly awesome” is not what I want. He and I both taught at the same high school (I left), so he has a LOT of people who think he’s a wonderful human and I’m responsible and abandoned him. Lol.

So, here’s the post I was going to write, as well as a before after picture (about a 25 lb and a hell of a lot of happier difference)*


A year ago today I got the courage to leave my abusive marriage. No, he didn’t physically hit me, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t abuse. Some people have said afterwards, “it takes two to tango,” “there are two sides to every story” or “marriage is hard work, couples fight.” That’s not the case when you are with an abusive partner. It doesn’t change. I went to therapy 6 months BEFORE we even got married just to try to become happier when there were tragedies in our lives and his outbursts seemed to be getting worse. I blamed the tragedies. He blamed the tragedies.

In counseling, I learned new ways to think so that I wouldn’t be so down on myself when he would make me feel badly, called “cognitive behavioral therapy.” I made charts, I wrote journals, I drew pictures of his anger and abuse. I learned how to use “I” statements so that when I would try to bring up something that bothered me, he wouldn’t feel attacked, or blamed, or in the wrong, even though he definitely was. I apologized for everything, I took the blame for everything, because he made me feel as though I was the one at fault. Anytime he yelled at me I would get this retort, “Well, JM, I wouldn’t have to yell at you if you didn’t do...”

I did yoga to relax, tried to workout more to relieve stress, went on walks while listening to podcasts about happiness and better habits to try to figure out how to make him happy and not yell, belittle, or be critical of me, my friends, my family. All the while I was “selfish” for bettering myself or trying to make myself happy.

It seemed his favorite name to call me was a “terrible f... wife,” “a..hole” or the rare occasion I’d get “b...” even though he promised to never call me that or [the c word]. If I wasn’t those things I was “awkward,” my ideas were always “insane” or “asinine” and he couldn’t believe that “anyone could be so crazy or idiotic” to think the way I thought. When he wasn’t yelling at me or calling me names, he was threatening divorce. He was telling me my catholic background or parents make it impossible for me to divorce him or what would they think? If I had a thought he disagreed with or said something that upset him he’d say “your parents would agree with me,” “you don’t think our friends fight like this, you’re an idiot, of course they do” “you can’t tell your friends what happened, you’re going to make them have a terrible view of me,” “don’t tell our personal issues to anyone we work with, that’s my reputation and your reputation.”

Those that I eventually told a little bit to didn’t understand why I didn’t leave earlier or they would say, “well he’s a good guy did you try talking to him?” Or “I’m only getting your side of it”


There is no other side. I’m not saying this to smear his name, bash him, or do anything to him, no, I’m saying this because it’s not ok that people don’t understand the full scope of domestic violence because it isn’t talked about. Yelling at someone “f... you” over and over and over until they cry and then they say “oh there you go crying again and making me feel like the bad guy. Grow the f... up. How dare you make me feel like I did something wrong when you made me yell at you. You’re unbelievable. I can’t believe you’re my wife/fiancé/girlfriend.”

Yea. That’s abuse. That gave me and countless others PTSD. That gave me stress so badly that my nose bled once during a fight when he was screaming “f... you, you f... b...” at me after he promised to never speak to me that way again for the umteenth time. That made me lose so much weight that people would tell me I was looking sickly and “needed to eat a burger.” Even when I tried to put on weight I couldn’t. I went to doctors who even put me on Ensure. The only thing that actually got me healthy again was when I started ignoring him. When I went numb to his and his family’s constant abuse. When I began telling family and friends how he actually treated me. When I told them about the lying, manipulation, screaming, belittling, condescension, swearing, unwanted sexual touching, refusal to give up drugs and alcohol because it was me who “had the problem”.

It was when I finally admitted that he was abusive. That he was a narcissist that I started my recovery. When I left, he ran out of the house chasing me and screaming after me. He screamed countless “f*ck you’s” how he would “call the cops” on me if I didn’t give him his keys, how I was abandoning him, and flat out intimidating me. When I left, cheering that I actually did it, he called my dad and told him he couldn’t believe no one told him about the “mental issues” that I have and how dare he not confide that in him. He said that knowing full well it would crush my dad because he knew how much my parents went through when I was suffering through depression in high school and college. He had to find yet another way to hurt me and my family. That was also not the last time he or his family tried contacting my family and sending harassing, condescending messages. If you or someone you know is being abused, get help or do what you can to help them. It’s not as easy as just leaving. The abuser makes it very difficult to leave.

And no, domestic abuse is not just physical. Emotional abuse IS abuse. Financial abuse IS abuse. Mental abuse IS abuse. Sexual abuse IS abuse. Intimidation IS abuse. Don’t let someone say “at least he doesn’t hit you.” Trust me... I wanted him to hit me. I wanted him to cheat on me. I wanted a reason someone else would see as a good reason to leave him because then they’d also see he wasn’t the perfect guy everyone else saw. Everyone else saw his mask, the mask I saw when I first met and fell for him. They didn’t see what went on behind closed doors. Please believe victims. It takes a lot of courage to say something, to get out, to start over. Please don’t become another person that they don’t trust.

* excluded to protect privacy

Jeffrey Hill - Entrepreneur

Jeffrey Hill - Entrepreneur

One of the fascinating and successful entrepreneurs interviewed for my book 21 Questions for 21 Millionaires, Jeffrey Hill, proved to be as sharp as he is intriguing.

When you’re talking to Jeffrey, you better keep up. He knows what he wants, has vision, and moves straight toward it. I think you’ll enjoy reading about his business successes and the interesting man behind them.

If You Are Trying to be Normal, DON'T

"If you are trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be." Maya Angelou

I was cleaning out some stuff in my office and came across my MBA commencement program. I had a note next to one of the graduate speaker's names, Crystal Howard, with the quote above because it impacted me. 

If you like things in more colloquial terms, "Why fit in when you were born to stand out." Dr. Suess 

Be you. Be the most amazing version of you. Stand out. Find out why you are here. 



How to Make the Olympics: Hannah Hardaway

More truth and insight from my interview with Olympic mogul skier Hannah Hardaway.

BP: When did you know that you wanted to be an Olympian?

HH: For me it wasn’t really about the Olympics. It was always about performing my best and being the best that I could be and then it just kept leading to the next level. 


What's all this talk about you have to have an end goal in mind? A goal not written down is only a dream? Hannah's line upon line experience is VERY consistent with many other successful people I've interviewed. Without an end goal in sight and without writing it down that she wanted to be in the Olympics, she made it there. Guess there really is more than one way to skin a cat.

Not Reaching Your Goals? Read This...

A few years ago, I was playing around with my food intake because I was getting migraines more frequently than I cared for (because getting migraines at all is pleasant?). My migraines started when I was 12, at my aunt and uncle’s wedding reception. I remember not feeling well so I walked home. On the way home, I had a visual aura and felt nauseous.

The migraines continued in similar fashion for many years and for several of those I took a preventative medicine. It was somewhat effective, yet didn’t wipe them out, and I had to wear sunglasses in physics class (and boy did I look hot) since the florescent lights seemed to trigger migraines. The classic pattern for the migraines was 20-30 minutes of visual aura—looks like dancing splotches in my field of vision—followed by intense pain in my head. The next day I would usually start the day with a residual dull ache. Many times I was nauseous.

About 17 years ago, I figured out that if I take 2 ibuprofen at the onset of the visual aura I could short circuit the rest of the process so that all that would happen is a dull headache for the rest of the day or often just a few hours. I was still wasn’t happy about getting them as often as I was, so I tried herbal supplements, to no avail. That’s when I started playing with my food intake.

I wondered if the migraines had something to do with what I was eating. I know, you’re so smart that if you were in my life earlier you would have suggested that when I first started getting them, but you weren’t so it wasn’t until later that something clicked that it might be food related. Pat yourself on the back for how smart you are and keep reading.

Trying to figure out what was causing them, I stopped eating breakfast, the ‘most important meal of the day.’  The result? I dropped 15-20 pounds without trying, I felt better, and poof, virtually no migraines.

What?! Skipping the most important meal of the day all these health benefits accrued? How can that be?? Well, a few important things happened. Since I was only eating two meals a day and there was only so much I could stuff in at a time, I was eating about 1600 calories or so (without even tracking it). In other words, I began getting the right amount of calories for my body. Also, something about skipping breakfast must have reset my metabolism, allowing me to process the foods I was eating better so those foods responsible for the migraines were having less effect.

I want you to follow me here – I didn’t set a goal to lose the weight. I didn’t set a goal to eliminate the migraines since I didn’t even know if that was possible. I was simply tired of the migraines and was willing to try things to figure it out. And what I did flew in the face of the so-called experts and the conventional wisdom that we all throw around.

Fast-forward a few years, I was in school as an adult learner with several kids and a full-time job. I didn’t have time to workout. Or at least I didn’t take the time. The result? Carrying around more weight than I wanted.

Once I was finished with school, I had time to work out and a travel schedule that was amenable to doing so several times a week. In combination with that, I was in a rough emotional spot, had access to a great gym at no cost, and was receiving a per diem for meal expenses when I traveled so anything I didn’t spend I got to keep. The combination was potent.

I was eating the right amount of food for what I needed without eating out so I wasn’t consuming too many calories and was saving extra money. I was working out 4-5 days a week, cardio and weights. I had time to make the workout as long as I wanted. Since I was in an emotionally tough spot I was working out to work things out mentally and emotionally.

The result? Best shape of my life. Six-pack. Stronger than ever.

Follow me here. I didn’t set a goal to get a six-pack. I didn’t set a goal to get stronger. I was just trying to use my time wisely and take care of my mind, body, and spirit.

Fast-forward to now, July 2017. I want my six-pack back (I let it go during the divorce and the lead up to it by eating handfuls of Fruit Loops at 11 pm). For 4 years now I’ve told myself I’m going to get it back. For 4 years I’ve said hundreds of times, “Today is the day I start,” only to find myself eating 600 extra calories after dinner. For 4 summers I’ve said, “This is the summer I’ll get my six-pack back,” only to find I still have a little extra padding. For 48 months I’ve said something like, “By this date I want to have it back,” only to find the cookies at the hotel front desk more appealing.

I’ve set the goal to get my six-pack back dozens of times and I’ve failed each time. I even wrote it down and told others so I was accountable. Still failure.

What is my point?

Of the 21 millionaires I interviewed, 3 of them consistently operated with goals to become successful. Only 3. Of the 12 Olympians I have interviewed, each has goals during Olympic training, yet not all of them had a goal to become an Olympian.

Goals as we currently understand them don’t work for everyone.

I lost weight trying to resolve my migraines. I got a six-pack trying to use my time wisely. I get nowhere trying to lose weight and get my six-pack. 19 entrepreneurs became millionaires not really trying to be.

Photo credit Nick Youngson

Photo credit Nick Youngson

I’m sharing this because I get so frustrated with the common success literature that claims to have the ‘right way’ to do everything, including reach your wildest dreams. And goals are almost always a big part of that. What if they weren’t though? Not at least in the way we understand them? What if we operated better another way, as the experience of these Olympians, millionaires, and my own path demonstrate?

What do you really want in life? Sure, set that as your ultimate goal and path. But maybe, just maybe, aside from setting SMART goals in a business setting where you have to be aligned on what needs to be done and when, YOU might be like the millionaires, Olympians, and other successful people I’ve interviewed and you might operate a little better another way.

That other way might be to set an intention and focus and let it guide your decisions. That other way might be as Matt Given put it, following the next logical step. That other way might be to set plans then play your hunches, trusting your gut. Here's the thing; I don't know what way you operate best, but you do. I simply want you to have the truth about my own and others' experience that flies the face of the 'undisputed experts' and conventional wisdom.

What you do with it is up to you...

Looking for Happiness? Be Present

Of all the lessons Vicki, a wise and patient counselor, taught me, being authentic and present is high on the list.

The best experiences in my life this last year, especially those involving my children, have come as I’ve put the phone away and just been in the moment.

Backpacking with my son. Playing a silly game with the kids. Hanging on the beach. Floating along in the ocean waves next to my daughter with our faces buried in the water looking at the creatures. And this past weekend.