Elizabeth Nyblade, Ph.D.
Gateway Centre
1313 E. Maple Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
P: 360.647.8295
Why Trump Won't Give Up the Verbal Abuse
Donald Trump is many things. . . businessman, entertainer and politician. But did you know that he is a verbal abuser?
The Verbal Abuse of Donald Trump

The presumptive Republican Candidate for President is a verbal abuser. Donald Trump has called his political opponents names like “hypocrite,” “weak,” “a pathetic figure,” “liar,” “choker.” And he relishes repeating nasty nicknames for his opponents: “Crooked Hillary,” “Lying Ted,” “Low-energy Jeb.”

I have seen and treated many targets of verbal abuse over my last forty years as a practicing psychologist. With Donald Trump as a candidate, we can all see the cycle of abuse playing out on the national stage.

Part III: How to Take an Adult Timeout
The abuser is in a timeout from you when you can no longer hear, see or pay attention to the abuser. Your goal is to take a timeout as rapidly and as consistently as possible when your partner says something that is verbally or emotionally abusive.
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How To Conduct a Positive Separation

First, Consider Your Goal:

It is rare that both partners are equal in wanting to separate. Usually one partner is leaving and one partner is feeling left. The party being left behind may not want the separation and may want to reconcile with the partner who is leaving. And the partner who is leaving may want nothing further to do with the other. The separation may be occurring in a marriage of 25 years with property and children in common or it may be a separation between college students who have lived together for a year and a half and who haven’t shared their finances or had children. There may be legal issues that need to be resolved, real estate to be sold, parenting plans to put into action.

In all of these cases, the goal of a separation should be to make the relationship more positive, whether you are the partner who is leaving or the one who has been left. If you want the relationship to continue instead of dissolving, your best strategy is to make the relationship more positive. If you want to end the relationship with the least trauma, your best strategy is to make the relationship more positive. And here’s how.

A Separation is Serious, But It’s Not a Divorce:

I generally advise people not to believe that their partner is serious about getting a divorce unless the partner serves you with legal papers. Many people threaten a divorce in order to gain more power in the relationship. If you are not served with papers, then it may be that the other is trying to make you more submissive or punish you for something you have done or not done. If you don’t want a divorce, you don’t need to file for divorce, even if your partner tells you to do it. If your partner is serious about getting a divorce, that person can see an attorney. Don’t file legal paperwork for the convenience of your partner if you don’t want the divorce in the first place.

However, if you are married and your partner moves away from you (for example, gets an apartment, packs luggage and moves in with his parents, etc.) see an attorney immediately. I cannot give you legal advice, and I won’t try. And don’t take the word of your partner for anything legal. If she (or he) says that you can’t get custody, that you won’t be entitled to child support, that you’ll starve or come back to him or her if you try to “go it alone” don’t take her or his word for it. Women are often very fearful that their partner will get custody of the children, but your partner is not likely to know the law better than you unless he or she is a lawyer. Your partner is telling you what he wants you to believe, but he may be mistaken, or he may be malicious and wrong. Get on the net and look up the laws in your state while you’re waiting for the appointment to see your own attorney.

And don’t do anything stupid. Don’t pester or harass the other partner to take you back, and if you can’t keep your temper or stop yourself from trying to make the other person listen, or make the other person agree with you or take you back, you may get charged with domestic violence and that won’t improve your life. Don’t touch the other person in anger and don’t do anything that will make it difficult for you to maintain your relationship with your kids if you have children from this relationship.

For legal matters, take legal advice.

Take the Emotion Out of the Relationship:

If you have been forced to accept a separation from someone you have been living with, or if you have just left your partner, it is important for you to get emotional support from someone else. In fact, it is preferable for you to get lots of emotional support from lots of people. Getting separated is very difficult and stressful, especially if you have property and children involved. People getting separated from a partner often experience physical symptoms like poor sleep, lack of energy, problems in concentrating and physical illnesses such as increases in colds. They may also have symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Your goal during a separation from your partner should be to achieve a positive but distant relationship with the partner that you are separated from. (See the article on this web-page: “The Two Dimensions of a Relationship”) In other words, stop trying to “fix the relationship.” If your partner offers to reconcile with you in the future, your best shot is going to be to set the ground-rules for a new relationship in front of a therapist. So, for now, don’t talk about the relationship and don’t talk about your feelings with your partner.

Do talk about your situation and your feelings with others who support you, like family, friends, and professional therapists, lawyers, etc. Nurture yourself with cheap trinkets, long baths, lunch dates with friends and as much ice cream as you want (temporarily). Do not nurture yourself with alcohol or drugs, gambling, selling your assets or quitting your job. Those are terrible strategies for reconciling. Even if you can’t make the relationship better today, you’re doing well if you don’t make the situation, or your own life, worse. Most states have waiting periods before you can get a legal divorce that range from months to years. The emotional divorce generally takes much longer than that.

Dealing with Your Children:

If you have children in common, your first order of business is to negotiate when your parenting times with the kids will be. Do this immediately, even while you’re still in the same house. Most states have statutes that say that parenting plans (or custody) are to be decided in the best interests of the children. That means both parties should put the needs of the children first. Most children who have been living with both parents need regular, structured, positive time with both parents during a separation, so this is no time to pull a disappearing act. Don’t take the other person’s word for what the best parenting plan is. See a lawyer and read up on your state law.

Work out a calendar with your partner at a time when you each have your own calendar present and make sure the two calendars match. The matching calendars should say things like “He picks up kids at 5:00 pm at her home. Remember swimsuits.” “She drops the kids at his place at 1 pm. Get the antibiotics for (the daughter).” Every time there is an issue with things to bring or take or do with the kids, write it down. Every time there is a misunderstanding about the kids, no matter who is at fault, your relationship with the other partner will get worse.

Take 100% of your visitation or parenting times with your children. Show up on time and drop the children off on time. Do not be spontaneous about this. Try not to make changes on the calendar. Absolutely don’t make changes for petty reasons like you’d rather see a movie on Friday night and have the kids on Saturday night instead. Only make changes for emergencies. Your former partner and your children need to see you as reliable and dependable. Consider your time with your children to be more ironclad than your time at work.
Don’t use the children as messengers. Don’t tell them things hoping they will share the information with your former partner. Don’t convey your feelings to the children hoping they will pass things on. On the other hand, you should expect the children to pass on everything you do and say to the other parent, so conduct yourself as an adult and a parent and don’t plan on the children keeping your secrets. This means that in your time with the children you need to be reasonably upbeat and focused on their needs and wants. The children shouldn’t be meeting your needs now, including your needs for affection. Get your personal needs met elsewhere (see below.)

Don’t use the children as spies. Don’t ask them what their father is doing, who their father is dating or what is happening at the house with their father. If they volunteer something, make appropriate parental noises about whatever it is, but don’t show them your anger and hurt or other emotional reactions and don’t criticize their father to them or in front of them.

If your partner physically abuses or physically neglects the kids, call Children’s Protective Services. However, don’t tell your partner how to parent the children when she has her time with the children. Don’t confront her with your opinions or feelings about how she is parenting. The kids aren’t going to be any more accurate in repeating things than they used to be. They are going to try to please you, so if you give the children the message that you want to hear bad things about their mother, however indirectly you convey that message to them, they’ll tell you lots of bad stuff about their mother. However, that won’t make what they tell you true or useful. Don’t badmouth their mother at all in front of the children and make sure your friends and family don’t make negative comments about their mother in front of them either.

Depending on the laws of your state, a judge could curtail your visitation if you repeatedly say negative things about the other parent in front of the children. And, depending on the state, the other parent could even get a restraining order to keep the children away from anyone you have watching the children (like your parents) if they say bad things about the other parent in front of the children.

When you are with the children, keep them on schedule and give them structure. Discipline them so they will grow up healthy, socially appropriate and civilized. Do not use your time with the children to be permissive, or keep them up late to “make up” for the other stresses in their lives, etc. Don’t be a “Disneyland Dad” who tries to make all his time with the kids a no-rules, no-holds-barred adventure. Don’t try to get their continuous approval and become their best-loved parent. That’s bad for the children and terrible for you. Become the best-structured parent in the world and parent for the future. Always be there for them, but always be a parent, not a sibling and not their best friend. They need two parents now, not two adults pretending to be their friends.

And don’t vent your anger, frustration or sorrow to the children. Don’t tell them that you’re feeling bad. Don’t tell them that mommy doesn’t love you any more. Don’t tell them that you can’t afford whatever they want because daddy isn’t giving you any money. The children aren’t your therapists and they won’t want to be around you if you’re a downer. Fake it until you make it.

Dealing with Your Partner About Children and Business:

Don’t make conversation with your partner about your feelings, your relationships, your dates, your therapy, etc. That means, don’t seek to talk to your partner in person, or by phone, or by letter or email or text message on these topics. If she wants to be separated from you now, you aren’t pleasing her so at least don’t make things worse.

Think of your partner as someone you have a business relationship with and the business is the children. You’re aiming to be positive, distant, and courteous with him and to conduct the joint business as briefly as possible while you are otherwise getting your act together. You may also have other business with him now because you own a house in common or you have joint financial commitments, etc. Your best strategy is to write yourself a note every time you think of something you need to ask him or tell him that is business-related. The notes become items on your agenda for your next talk with him.

Approximately twice a week, call your separated partner on the phone. It’s best if you have a standard time for the phone call so neither of you is being spontaneous or using the call to spy on the other or interfere with the other’s life. The conversation should go like this,

"Hi. This is ____. Is now a good time to talk?”

If it isn’t a good time to talk, reschedule the call for a mutually convenient time. If he says it’s a good time to talk, continue the conversation as follows,

“I have four items on my agenda, how about you? Shall I go first? … The first item is the time for pickup next Friday. I’ll be coming in from out of town, so I’d like to make that pickup time 6 pm instead of 5 pm. Will that work for you? Okay.”

If he says yes, put it on your calendar, make sure he puts it on his and go on to the next item.
“Second item is the JC Penney’s bill. I have you listed for that bill, but they’re calling me. Can you get me off the hook on that one?”

In other words, you are aiming to name a problem and your proposed solution if the solution must be joint or it is in the other’s control. Or you are aiming to provide him with information that you have that he doesn’t have. Any comments to him that it’s an imposition to pick the kids up, or that he’s lucky you’re going to pick the kids up, or “as usual, I’m getting calls about your bills…” means that you have just trashed the relationship and lost points. You can learn to ask questions and convey information without being emotionally reactive about it.

Your goal is to conduct a positive, courteous, distant business relationship with your separated partner in which you are not dealing with any personal relationship issues at all. Your goal is never to have your separated partner dealing with your emotions, nor you with her emotions. A marriage is about learning to deal with each other’s emotions. It’s fair to say you and your separated partner didn’t do that very well when you were together. If you want a future with him, learn how to deal with your own emotions and his emotions before you try to reconcile, or it’s just going to be more of the same.

When this advice works for couples who are separated, it works because it brings the negative interactions between the partners to an end and allows some time to heal the intense, negative emotions that occurred previously. It allows for “absence to make the heart grow fonder.” And it works to help the aggressive partner learn to bite his tongue and think before he blurts out whatever he wants to say without thinking about the goals of his comments or the consequences of his actions. It also maintains and improves the parenting relationship and helps each parent be accountable for his own relationship to the children. Parents need to learn to parent without trying to use the other partner to facilitate their relationship with the kids.

Dealing with Your Partner About The Emotional Relationship:

Taking my advice gets you accustomed to meeting your own emotional needs in ways that don’t involve the other. If the other person is dependent on you supporting him/her emotionally, he or she will likely figure out that that is what has been going on if you follow this advice. If you can’t manage your emotions alone, you’ll find it out now also.

I tell people that emotions are like body fluids. Parents start by cleaning up their children’s body fluids but adults need to clean up their own fluids. It’s no pleasure to any adult to have to clean up another adult’s messy emotions. If you’re angry, learn to make it better for yourself without counting on the other person to deal with your anger. If you’re hurt, learn to nurture yourself without counting on the other to make you feel better. And let the other do the same. You need friends, family, hobbies, coping skills, and methods to deal with your own emotions. And your partner needs the same skills. And maybe you need a therapist if you aren’t very good at dealing with your emotions without outside help.

Don’t prop the other partner up when he or she is leaving you, especially if he or she really needs you for support. And don’t expect the other to prop you up when the other is leaving you. It’s not the job of your separated partner to make it okay for you to get a divorce. Your partner can divorce you without your permission or your forgiveness. If you feel bad, you need a plan for how to deal with your feelings that doesn’t include trying to get the other to talk to you about your feelings.

Talking to your friends a lot when you’re going through a divorce is a good way to burn out your friends, of course, so be careful to pay attention to the signals your friends are giving you if you’re using friends to talk to. Many people in this situation seek out a therapist for the first time, and they’re right to do so. Look for a therapist you feel comfortable talking to about the separation and about the ways you treat the other person in a relationship.
Following my advice to limit the frequency and the content of your communication with a separated partner is extremely difficult because it is counter-intuitive. You may feel abandoned and isolated, even if you’re the one leaving. What could be more natural than turning to the person you have been living with and sharing your hurts with him? But don’t do it! If the other person wants your company, let her or him approach you. Even if the other has started a new relationship with another person already, you may be surprised to find that the other still wants you to play an important role in his or her life, a role of service of course. You have no reason to help the other adjust to life without you! And you won’t do a good job if you try, either. That’s going to be the other’s job now, and you should be going on with your life. Think about creating an extremely distant but ultimately civil, polite, and superficial relationship with the other. That’s the goal you want now whether your ultimate goal is to eliminate the other from your life or whether your goal is to reconcile and create a new live-in relationship with the person that you’re now separated from!

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Gateway Centre • 1313 E. Maple Street • Bellingham, WA 98225

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