Susan Powell was a stockbroker, a devoted mother to two young sons, married to Josh. As a stockbroker, she brought home a larger paycheck than her husband. As time passed in their marriage, Josh reportedly turned controlling. He insisted Susan tell him what she was doing when not under his radar. Josh probably demanded she tell him how much she spent—on herself and for household goods and services. In this type of scenario, as the tension mounts, the disagreements build up. The arguments escalate from yelling to shoving; bedroom doors are slammed with greater frequency, and the couple drifts apart. It’s like they are racing cars in parallel lanes—each accelerating, abruptly changing lanes, ducking emotional traffic and fearing a collision.
Women sometimes hope having children will change an abusive mate’s behavior. They hope the abuser will turn his/her life around for the sake of the children, resulting in a happy home life.
For Susan Powell, that didn’t happen. Pregnant, perhaps under circumstances beyond her control (she could have been forced as some are in marriage), Susan brought her second child into the world three years after her first. By that time, anger and violent outbursts had become commonplace in her marriage. Susan likely announced “The marriage is over.”
In the majority of abusive marriages such as this one, making statements such as, “we need to divorce” or “this is not fair to the children and I can no longer go on living this way” can be potentially lethal. For the safety of both the woman and her children, it is vital to have a plan in place before making such an announcement.
There is a stage for women, abused or not, when they verbally announce they are taking steps to end their marriage. This action lays the foundation for a scorned and angry abuser to consider their own course of action. At this stage, women begin confiding in coworkers or close friends. As I later learned from her friends and coworkers, this is exactly what Susan did.
To understand more about how alleged offenders think, I will use Josh Powell as an example. He began formulating a plan no different from the plans of other violent persons—one born of anger and desperation:
- Anger because the person is leaving and ending the relationship.
- Desperation over what he (the abuser) will be forced to carry out if he cannot persuade his partner to remain in the relationship.
Part 2 will appear next month…
A Special Note from Susan…
Before you announce your thoughts about how unhappy you are or that the relationship simply is not working for you any longer, have a solid plan in place. Women often fail to plan ahead in leaving; the underestimate what the abuser can and actually does ends up doing. The Institute offers exit planning strategies to prevent you from becoming an abuse statistic or the victim of Intimate Partner Homicide. If we can help you strategize to get ready for disconnection,* please let us. Most of all, be safe.
* You can learn more about this service here.