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Is Divorce Deadly?

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So many people have been killed in family massacres this week ... here are the warning signs to look out for.

Gun

There have been so many horrific family massacres this week. First in Colorado, a man murdered his ex-wife, then killed himself with a shotgun blast. In Texas, a man shot his estranged wife then himself on an Army base. In Washington, a man whose wife was leaving him shot and killed five of his children in their mobile home before taking his own life. And in Alabama, a man sought in the killings of his estranged wife and three others was found dead Tuesday.

These killings are just the latest in a long line of similar incidents. Last month, a gunman barged into a nursing home in Carthage, N.C., looking for his estranged wife. Police say he killed seven elderly residents and a nurse who cared for them.

Last Christmas Eve, Bruce Pardo dressed like Santa Claus and barged into the house of his ex-wife's parents. He shot and killed his ex along with eight of her family members.

Tragedies like this make us wonder: Can divorce be deadly?

"It's unlikely a woman would marry a man she believed to be dangerous," says Jane Greer, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist in New York City. "In the beginning of a relationship, it's easy to ignore the warning signs of abuse and focus on the positive aspects of a person. After all, you're on a romantic hormonal high so everything he does seems wonderful."

What's more, people are not just two-dimensional. We all occasionally act in ways we're ashamed of, and nobody is perfect. And sometimes relationships go through rough patches and it can be difficult to gauge between someone behaving poorly and legitimate abuse. However, Dr. Greer says to be aware of specific signs a person is capable of hurting you.

If your spouse or ex exhibits any of these behaviors, seek help immediately:

• Explosive anger or violence (i.e.: throws objects, is physically aggressive)
• Blocks exits or hides car keys to prevent leaving
• Isolates you from family and friends or otherwise limits your contact with the outside world
• Emotional abuse (name calling, ridicule, frequent criticism)
• Disregards your feelings and has a complete focus on their own needs

"The problem is, for many women, abuse is an ongoing cycle, and even if they acknowledge what's going on, they may feel it's their fault -- especially if the aggressor has worked hard to make it seem that way," says Greer. "And because the woman thinks his behavior is her responsibility to fix, she won't take proper safety precautions."

And oddly enough, many times controlling behavior can feel like love. For instance, if your spouse complains when you spend time with your friends and family, at first it may seem flattering ("He wants me all to himself!"). However, Greer says this is a sign he wants to remove your support system so you have no one to turn to -- except for him.

If you see these warning signs, Greer says to disengage from the relationship right away. "Leave with your children, then call to let him know you won't be returning and clearly -- but briefly -- tell him why," she says. "Don't confront him in person -- otherwise, he'll likely try to stop you."

If you fear he'll track down your family, don't stay with them, but make sure loved ones know where you are and have ways to reach you.

But sometimes, there really are no warning signs. And that's the most tragic part of all.


next: Let's Pretend to Deliver Babies!
14 comments so far | Post a comment now
clevan mccrae April 9, 2009, 12:15 AM

i hope those signs can be posted as regards a woman. i have known as many women as men who exhibited the listed behaviors. what about the rash of moms killing their kids???

whatamess April 9, 2009, 1:14 AM

Funny thing is…when someone steals money from the government, ie. a bank…they WILL shoot him if caught in the act, etc…however, when a woman steals 39K from a husband (last case of a man shooting wife who he was about to divorce), then he is expected to just “take it”…go figure…

I know more abusive women to men, than the other way around…except when a woman, even on shows like Cheaters etc…hit a man, nobody stops them…when a MAN hits a woman, then it’s called abuse…go figure…

Kristy April 9, 2009, 8:01 AM

How is taking money from a joint bank account stealing? That money belongs to both parties. Division of property is determined during the divorce.

I hope that whatamess is not actually suggesting that this man was justified in shooting his wife and family.

lisa April 9, 2009, 11:49 PM

In response to Ms Greer..this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Battered women are not listened to and if they try to protect their children from an abuser many times are told by the courts that they are not fostering a relationship with the father. Until the court system is cleaned up this will keep happening. Look into the recent Connelly case in Illinois.

Janet April 14, 2009, 11:41 PM

I live not very far away from the home where the 5 children were killed at the hands of their father. It was a beautiful spring day. The annual Daffodil Parade was happening just a few miles away from the home where these children had been left. The sad reality is this happens all the time and this woman(mom) was a victim of abuse and he still is abusing her after his death. I also have 5 children and I live and breath for my children. Taking their lives was a cruel and sadistic thing to do. It takes a lot of hatred of one person to take the lives of innocent children. These children witnessed the abuse on a regular basis and one of the children even attempted to fight off his or her fathers gun. It blows my mind that someone could be so cruel and hateful to one person to do this much damage. This poor mother will forever suffer his abuse when she wakes each and every day. She will no longer hear the children laughing while playing a game or watching a movie. She won’t hear her 4 daughters or son tell her they are engaged. She will never experience formals and first dates. I cry thinking of what this woman had for so long and no longer will ever see again. My prayers and thoughts go out to each and every woman man and child that witnesses abuse in any way shape or form. GOD BLESS this MOM for everything she does in her life and may GOD provide her with peace and love of many family members. She will need it from this day on.

Foolpatrol April 16, 2009, 8:00 PM

Very sad storey re: the five murdered children. My comment is not intended to blame the mother/victim. My prayers are with her.

Nonetheless, abuse usually doesn’t just happen. There are escalating signs and incidents. I personally believe that any woman/man who has the resources to leave an abusive relationship and chooses to stay subjects their children to further abuse and is as unfit to parent as the abuser.

In representing abused and neglected children, I am constantly bombarded with the “cycle of violence” and women who continue to return to their abusers despite their escapes into safe environments. Cycles break when we make the choice to break them. Women who choose this option and subject their children to it are as abusive as the abuser. She has every right to choose a man who goes upside her head if she wants; she has no right to screw up her children because he is more important to her than they are.

Foolpatrol April 16, 2009, 8:01 PM

Very sad storey re: the five murdered children. My comment is not intended to blame the mother/victim. My prayers are with her.

Nonetheless, abuse usually doesn’t just happen. There are escalating signs and incidents. I personally believe that any woman/man who has the resources to leave an abusive relationship and chooses to stay subjects their children to further abuse and is as unfit to parent as the abuser.

In representing abused and neglected children, I am constantly bombarded with the “cycle of violence” and women who continue to return to their abusers despite their escapes into safe environments. Cycles break when we make the choice to break them. Women who choose this option and subject their children to it are as abusive as the abuser. She has every right to choose a man who goes upside her head if she wants; she has no right to screw up her children because he is more important to her than they are.

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