At a certain point, I knew I needed to leave the extreme abuse being inflicted upon by my narcissistic husband, I just didn’t know how. I prayed for a sign from God. I wanted a fairy godmother to appear, to give me sparkly red shoes and direct me to the yellow brick road as I sat in a pumpkin carriage with my kids, but it didn’t happen. And every day the verbal and emotional abuse worsened. The threats from him increased and he began degrading me in front of my innocent toddlers.
I inevitably devised a plan to leave him. My plan saved me money, stress, my sanity, and may have even saved my life. Below is a list of what I did in what I’ll call “Step 1” of my Escape Plan. I hope the following will help someone as much as it helped me.
1. Prepare. Save cash. Go to the ATM each week and start taking money out for “lunch.” Save most of that. Hide it. Try not to get cash at the register at a store. On your bank statement, it might show up as “purchase plus cash back.” I noticed this on my bank statement and immediately stopped getting cash back at the register, so he couldn’t track it. Sell items that you don’t think he’ll notice is gone. You will need cash to retain and pay an attorney and to take care of yourself and your children. No matter how tempting, don’t spend that cash! How much cash should you save? Shoot for at least $2,000. It’s a lot, so pace yourself. It might take a year to save it up, so be diligent.
2. Open a new, private e-mail account. Memorize the password and do not link it to your phone or tablet. Be careful not to leave this account open and turn off any “remember me” links on the site. Log out completely each time you access the account from home.
3. Open a checking account at a small bank he’d never suspect. Have all correspondence from the account be electronic – sent to your private e-mail account. Most banks only require a $100 deposit to open the account. Don’t put more than around $100 in the account. When you file for the divorce, you’ll have to disclose this account and he may be allowed half of what’s in the account. So keep your balance low and keep cash hidden elsewhere.*
4. Open a safe deposit box at the bank above. Pay for at least one year of the fee.
5. Consider opening up a post office box. I did, and set this as my back up mailing address. So I started having mail I didn’t want him to see forwarded there.
6. Buy gift cards. Almost every time I went to the gas station, I’d get some gas, but then would buy a gas gift card. At Walmart, I’d buy a small item (milk, gum), and buy a store or VISA gift card. Collect the gift cards and hide them.* Resist the urge to spend them or give them away as gifts.
7. Buy one or two flash stick drives. You can get this from anyplace – Walmart, Kinkos, Best Buy, etc. Keep one for divorce docs and one for personal docs.
8. Scan household photos and items you’d hate to lose if he kicks you out. Save them all to your personal flash stick. In fact, I bought a back up drive and backed up everything that was on our home computer. Photos, videos, you name it. I stored the back up drive in my safe deposit box. I’d take photos off the wall and scan them one at a time. I also snapped photos of pictures with my cell phone and forwarded them to my private e-mail account. The last thing I wanted was for him to destroy photos of my deceased mother, grandparents, and baby photos of my kids that hung on our walls.
9. Stock up on toiletries, household goods, etc. I bought extra dishwasher soap, body wash, contact lens solution, cleaning supplies, the “good” face lotion, extra bottles of foundation, mascara, sanitary napkins, toothpaste, etc. All the stuff that I took for granted, but were must haves. I hid it in empty shoe boxes in the back of my closet. I hid the cleaning supplies in the basement. After he left, it was such a relief to not have to buy that stuff. I had enough to get me through almost a year. (Save it with a trusted friend or family member if you can, in case he kicks you out.)
10. Gather all important documents – marriage license, birth certificates, social security cards, health insurance documents, pay stubs, passports, copies of all bills (including utility bills), mortgage or lease documents, credit card statements, bank and investment account statements, anything that reflects money going out or coming in to your household. Save a list of all passwords (prepare to change all passwords on your accounts after you file for the divorce.) Save everything in your safe deposit box (order second copies if you need to; photocopy all documents if you can’t take the originals). I also saved memorabilia (baby books, jewelry) in the safe deposit box.
11. Download a recorder app to your phone. There are many free options for recorder apps. Record every conversation you can with him, especially the arguments. E-mail these to your private e-mail account as often as you can (in case he accesses your phone).
12. Tell no one. Besides a therapist and one or two trusted friends who has limited or no contact with your spouse. This is not the time to be sloppy or forgetful. The fewer people you tell, the fewer people you have to keep updated. And the lesser the chance he finds out.
13. Interview attorneys. Google the Bar Association for your state. Find divorce attorneys in your area and start calling them. (In another blog I’ll list the questions to ask.) I recommend calling at least 15 attorneys. Start doing the groundwork now.
14. Limit your communication with your spouse. I got ahead of myself and blurted out that I was going to divorce him. I had already done everything on my list and felt very emotionally strong. But my attorney needed a few more weeks to get things done on their end. It ended up okay, but as you gain confidence, don’t get ahead of yourself. Pace yourself and keep your mouth shut! Stay calm. You won’t regret it.
15. Open a credit card in your name only. This should be a major credit card, like VISA , American Express, or MasterCard. Have all statements be e-mailed to your private e-mail account. Buy small things (gum, bread) and pay it off each month from your new private checking account. You need to have an emergency credit card and establish credit on your own. After you file for the divorce, you’re going to want to remove your name from any joint cards immediately. So having a card of your own will be necessary.
*Good hiding places include: locked desk drawer at work, safe deposit box, with a trusted family member or friend. Try to keep cash outside the home, just in case he kicks you out or goes through your things. I had a separate car from him, and he rarely drove my “smaller” car. So I would hide documents and gift cards under the floor mats in my car until I could get them to my safe deposit box.
(Posted by a member of our community)