Dear ones. This post is for you. It’s for anybody out there who might be going through something similar, or for anyone with a loved one in this situation.
Because I’m sure I’m not the only one. People like my soon-to-be-ex are out there. They hide where you least expect them. They make headline news. They spawn TV shows about this stuff.
And so far, I’m lucky. I’m alive. I’m making it.
There is so much that I’ve learned, and so much that I’ve done, over the past few weeks. Each day, most days, jam-packed with tasks and errands and actions.
And I want to share them with you, in case they ever help someone.
The fine print: I’m no expert. This is my first rodeo, and hopefully my last. My strategies might not be applicable to other peoples’ situations. Other people may be in different situations requiring other strategies not covered here, because they didn’t apply to mine. Also, some people may not agree with, or may even object to or otherwise question, some of these strategies. It’s ultimately a judgment call; I made mine, without apology, but that doesn’t mean my actions are right for everybody. Your mileage may vary. It’s also important to point out that at the moment, I have no proof that my husband has actually done anything illegal. He has run searches for illegal material, but I have no proof that anything he has clicked on actually ran afoul of the law. Thus, turning him in is not a clear-cut solution right now.
First, what I’ve learned:
- That my husband is not who I thought he was.
- That I actually don’t know exactly who my husband is.
- That my husband has a secret life, the content and extent of which I largely do not know.
- That my husband is a pedophile, at least in fantasy, although I don’t know if he’s ever actually carried out any of his fantasies.
- That my husband is what is known as a Factor 1 (primary) psychopath, with a few subtle undertones of Factor 2 (secondary) psychopathy.
- That my husband had stashed $25,000 into a separate account under his name only.
- That my husband has downloaded not one but several smartphone apps used for international calling/texting, which provide alternate phone numbers.
Now, what I’ve done:
Now let’s talk about what I have done thus far to get away, and what I would do differently if I were to do it over again, knowing what I know now. There’s a lot; I’ll try to remember everything.
First, to learn the above information, I had to check his tablet; his phone is under a passcode that I don’t know and wasn’t going to ask him for. The important part is not to tip him off–about anything. His tablet, however, was out in the open, without a passcode. I checked his text messages (synched up with his phone), his YouTube watch history, his Instagram account, and his browser history.
That–and that alone–is how I pieced any of this together. Without that gut feeling telling me that I needed to sleuth, I may never have found any of this out, and life would have gone on like normal, until law enforcement showed up at our door, with guns and a search warrant. Some may have a moral objection to snooping, and I admit I hated doing it (which is why it took me so long to listen to the nagging intuition in the first place), but ultimately I’m glad I did it, and I’ll never apologize for doing it.
I took photos of the potentially incriminating evidence. At the advice of my attorneys, I subsequently moved them onto a thumb drive, and then backed them up onto Google Drive (on an alternate Gmail account). Thus, the material is in a safe, secure place, both hard and soft copy, in case I need it later.
I reached out to my closest friends and family first. I disclosed the situation to them, pouring out everything that had transpired, everything I found out. I’m extremely grateful that they have all stepped up to help me in any way they can, offering me shelter, financial help, job training, moral support, career ideas, resume development, kitty-sheltering, listening ears and sound advice, storage of items, and technology assistance (downloading apps on my phone).
I changed my passwords, to both Google (with email and YouTube) and WordPress (private journal blog), and I neglected to have my browser save those passwords. I trained myself to log out of each session every time I left the computer, especially if it was a shared computer. I put my primary laptop under a password as well.
This prevented him from seeing my email, my YouTube search and watch histories, my Liked videos and other YouTube library items, my Google search history, and my private journal blog on WordPress. This blog is public; I either didn’t pull it up on a shared computer, or I closed the tab and deleted the cookie and item from the browser history. As such, he doesn’t know about it.
I also changed my primary laptop’s ID and password, to correspond with my phone, the password to my phone’s account also changed. I use passwords that are similar but not identical.
This prevents him from using frightening apps/software that can spy on one’s phone, viewing text messages, even encrypted ones sent over secure apps like What’s App and Signal; viewing all apps, photos, notes, and calendar events; and logging keystrokes like passcodes, passwords, logins, and searches run. Yes, with these frightening apps/software, one can hack another’s phone, gleaning all of this information, and all they need to know are your phone’s login/ID and password. And you’ll never know you’re being watched.
I stashed assets that are mine alone, which he does not have legal right to, at the houses of trusted people, or in my vehicle. I did the same with important documents, such as birth certificate, vehicle title, passport, Social Security card, and so on. I also did so with my (clean) electronic devices.
This protected my cash, and because my friend/neighbor had given me their spare key with the standing invite to come and go as I pleased at any time of day or night, I knew I could access that cash 24/7.
I also opened up bank accounts in my name only, with funds that are legally mine only, to which he also does not have legal rights. One is a savings account and the other is a checking account, complete with a debit card, in case I need to access funds that way. I used a completely different bank, unaffiliated with the one that holds our joint accounts.
This allows me multiple forms of payment, in case I need a product or service that only allows for one particular payment form or another. That way, I don’t have all my eggs in one basket, so to speak – I now have cash or debit card (which is co-branded to look like a credit card).
I networked with friends to create an emergency plan that we could execute instantly, in case I ever found myself in fear for my safety. This also included a “survival kit” for my vehicle.
I downloaded an app known as Talkatone. This is a free app that lets you select a free phone number through which to make or receive free calls from any number in the US or Canada, including landlines, as well as send text or photos anywhere in the world. It is ad-supported; you can pay to remove the ads and perhaps unlock other features, but I’ve never needed those features. I tested it out, both sending and receiving calls, and ensured that it worked as described.
This app allowed me to call attorneys and divorce coaches, without their numbers appearing on our joint cell phone bill. It also gave me an alternate “burner” phone number (without having to obtain a second “burner” cell phone) through which I could receive calls from those same sensitive parties, also without showing up on our cell phone bill.
The one thing I wished I’d done is download this app before making any calls to attorneys and coaches. I think he found out I was considering divorce, and I think he did so by combing through our cell phone bill and googling the numbers that showed up, especially if they appeared more than once. So, download the app first!
I also downloaded apps for banking institutions that held both our joint accounts and also my separate personal accounts, and set up my own login and password. This way, if my husband changed any of the existing logins and passwords in an attempt to lock me out or keep me from seeing them, I had my own access that he could not turn off. And since the apps are on my phone (requiring a login each time), I could check on the financial statuses any time.
I protected my vulnerable spots. One is the little kitty I’d recently inherited from a friend; I moved her back to his place temporarily, as they’re both familiar with each other and he was never mean to her, so she would be safe there. This is because a narcissist and/or psychopath may “flip” or “snap” and either harm or threaten to harm your pets (or otherwise let them out or bring them to the shelter), especially if they know they could use that to control you, coerce you, or hurt you/retaliate against you.
The other potentially vulnerable spot is my large treasure trove of music downloaded with questionable legality; most of it is from friends, but I’m not sure they obtained it legally, and I didn’t want my soon-to-be-ex to be able to gain any leverage on me. So, I disconnected that (external) hard drive moved it to the house of a friend he’d least suspect would house it. And I didn’t say a word about its disappearance; I’m not even sure if he noticed or not.
I did hire a law firm recommended by a friend. Do not attempt to go this (leaving your narcissist or psychopath) alone. It will backfire. I also hired a divorce coach. Divorce coaching is a relatively new field; it’s like a life coach, but one specific to the divorce process. They will “meet you where you are”, whether it’s considering divorce (on the fence, wondering if it’s the right thing for you), or you’ve already made it through and the divorce has been finalized – and of course, anywhere in between.
They will help you understand the divorce process, practice self-care to preserve yourself through it, formulate questions and lay out your options, strategize your next step or several, and set goals for yourself and your life after the divorce. They complement the attorneys very well, who mostly speak in legalese and tend to be very matter-of-fact, without considering the personal element.
I have found my divorce coach to be extremely effective in helping me understand the process, what’s happening now, and what will happen later. He also helps me iron out and nail down my questions, concerns, emotions, and thoughts, drafting a list of questions to ask my attorney (divorce coaches can’t give legal advice; still, try to find one as local as possible, because they’ll be more familiar with the process and laws in your state/county).
All texts of a sensitive nature (getting divorced, my husband’s activity and demeanor, and so on) go through Signal, a truly free (even ad-free) app that functions like What’s App, except that it is not associated with Facebook like What’s App is. It is private and secure, with all messages encrypted from end-to-end. Nothing goes out over regular SMS text.
Once I’m out of the house and staying with a friend, I will be providing freelance services and selling some (of my) personal items to minimize the amount of space I need and maximize my funds. This will likely require Square and PayPal, so I’ll be installing them on my phone. This is part of my plan for obtaining some funding to contribute to my share of the food and utilities, once I’m staying with my friend.
I’ll also be developing my first resume and putting it up on a website (I forget the name at the moment) that another friend recommended. This will allow job recruiters to find me, which will help me land a job. I’ll also continue training with yet another friend, on their job, which is completely remote, with an intermittent workload, which will allow me some time during most business days to continue working on longer-term projects.
I think that’s everything, at least so far.
- Gather Support Network, Disclosure – I told my friends and family everything that was going on, keeping them in the loop as events unfolded and developments occurred.
- The Basics – I secured my Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – food, water, shelter – with a friend. I did the same for my cat.
- Weak Spots – I protected my vulnerabilities – my cat, my music treasure trove, and my own electronic devices.
- Assets – I protected my assets (those which are legally mine alone) by moving them out of his reach. I installed my banking apps and Credit Karma on my phone.
- Security/Privacy – I secured my online accounts and covered my tracks by changing my passwords, putting passwords/passcodes on devices, and logging in and out without having my browser store any information. I downloaded Talkatone for my sensitive phone calls.
- Professionals – I hired my professionals–legal team and divorce coach–while covering my tracks.
- Financial Planning – I will be opening up accounts with Square and PayPal, and installing them on my phone as well, in order to be able to accept payment for various things – whether it’s items I sell or services I provide. I’ll also attempt (in several ways) to land a remote work position.
With any luck, this may help someone else in a situation similar to mine, or someone who knows someone in this position.
It’s one day at a time for me, dear ones. One foot in front of the other.
Just keep going. And going. ❤