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Penny Rayas, MFT
Penny Rayas, MFT, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 395
Experience:  I have 20 years experience in the mental health field
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Hello, my name isXXXXXm seeking help for myself for some

Customer Question

Hello, my name isXXXXX seeking help for myself for some advice with regards XXXXX XXXXX ex-husband and how I feel and how to set some very specific boundaries with him. I know what I want to do, but I just need a bit of a helping hand and some ideas to do it. Some emotional support I think. I would also like someone who has experience with physical violence in relationships, as this applies to us.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Penny Rayas, MFT replied 4 years ago.

pennyrayasMFT :

Hello Anna thanks for asking JA

pennyrayasMFT :

are you in danger right now

pennyrayasMFT :

Do you live in the same house as your ex?

pennyrayasMFT :

let me know when you are online?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hi Penny, no it's ok. We have been separated for 4 years now. :)
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I am really just looking to assuage some guilt I suppose. I am just so angry with him, and am trying to sort through setting up ongoing boundaries that will work for me, if that makes sense.
Expert:  Penny Rayas, MFT replied 4 years ago.
Hello there Anna, the site does not let me go back to chat I am not sure why. Can you tell me what you mean when you say that you can't set bounderies?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Yes thanks Penny. I have spent the last 4 years basically keeping the lines of communication open with my ex as this just makes sense to me. He is a human who is the father of my 2 kids, so I have wanted to give him the best opportunity I could - as I would anybody - at being a good father and being involved in the kids lives... But recently I realised that he is really just now continuing with that kind of cycle of abuse - just without the physical activity involved if that makes sense. So he has in the past four years continued to be amazingly incredibly rude to me, continues to show me no respect for me and has begun to very consistently undremine me with the kids I believe. So I suppose I have just reached the point of realising that this may continue unless I put a stop to it. So now I am just trying to figure out how to...
Expert:  Penny Rayas, MFT replied 4 years ago.
I understand what you mean, I think if he calls and is rude to you, you have to say, " Call me back when you are ready to talk without insults or raising your voice, or manipulating. Name the behavior and tell him you will not talk to him while he does____. Hang up the phone. As for the kids you can't stop him from say whatever to them but you can put bounderies and rules with the kids about their behavior towards you. Kids copy their parents so they probably do not respect you sometimes. You say to your kids, those are our rules, name the rules of your household and have consiquences if they do not follow the rules. Have rewards if they do such as more time with you or extra TV or video time. The kids will say "Dad said" say I do not want to hear that in our house we have those rules and name them. I think it will take time for your husband to understand that you will not take his abuse any longer but if you stand up for yourself and will eventually learn that he will not control you. It is great that you are noticing and changing yourself because you are teaching your children healthy bounderies. Your are recovering from abuse and growing. I am glad to see that you are taking your power back. Remember that now that you know your own power he does not have any power over you.
Penny Rayas, MFT and 2 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thanks Penny! I've just managed to log in again.

That is very helpful. They seem like such simple things don't they, but of course having felt so intimidated and bullied by him for so long it is hard a lot of the time to 'see the wood for the trees' I suppose. The trees being my emotions I think!!

But you are right. It is hard to imagine doing this well, but I have to change the thought and feelings surroundings that type of communication with him and the kids from a negative to a positive don't I. Because I AM doing the right thing - both for them and for myself. And he is not and should not be considered my problem any more should he. Although on a more altruistic level, I have to be fair to myself and always look at the facts - not his screwed up version of them. The fact is that I have kept and will always keep the 'door open' for him to sincerely XXXXX XXXXX make amends. But he is not and has not chosen to do that and doesnt appear like he's going to. So I have to move on don't I. I can only act on the behaviour he is currently presenting. That is fair isn't it. It is something I've really struggled with - not thinking the best of others - but the fact is that this is what the English civilisation is built on isn't it. Actions and consequences etc. Anyway, I think you are right and that advice is very sound thank you. I will have to figure out how best to communicate the above and then step back and wait for him to respond to it. I have thought about taking out a violence restraining order if he refuses to stop smsing, but I'm really not certain about it, as it seems what you've outlined is the more civilised approach. I'm aware I'm probably posing a second question now, so please don't feel the need to reply to that. Probably something to pursue with a counsellor as I feel the need to over, but I appreciate very much your encouragement and again the advice. So thank you very much, and I hope you have a good day! :) All the best.
Expert:  Penny Rayas, MFT replied 4 years ago.

Thanks so much for working with me! I really enjoyed working with you.


Expert:  Penny Rayas, MFT replied 4 years ago.
Hello Anna I would like to know how things are going for you.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hi Penny,

I'm going quite well all things considered. I think! Thank you for asking. I am pursuing the dv counselling, and have been attending a women's recovery group for 3 weeks now, which has not been without it's challenges but I'm determined to learn what I need to. My ex-husband is now trying to communicate with me - it seems to happen when I withdraw into myself - and this I find quite challenging, as it's at these times that I see his 'nice' side. The problem is of course that my trusting human nature would like to give him the benefit of the doubt - but my analytical purely logical part of my brain says don't be ridiculous.

I had an epiphany this week that I've now known this man for 11 years. And that scares, angers and saddens me. But I have to keep a distance from the emotion - because it is so potentially overwhelming. I worry about the effect my distancing myself from him will have on the kids, but I think I can only reassure myself that it is for the best as otherwise they are only going to be learning all the lessons that I don't want them to. ie women are to be seen and not heard, that I'm just a doormat and that my opinions and feelings, hopes and dreams don't matter.

I know this is all quite insular! But I guess that is the result of having been in such an abusive relationship for so long. I have to look at myself and see what is missing, or it is never going to be fixed is it.

Anyway, thank you very much for the follow up. It is always beyond nice to meet someone else who cares. I truly have had a deficit in my life for some time now, so I am always very grateful. Thank you.

I would love to ask you another question with regards XXXXX XXXXX family of origin if you are available at all today?

Thanks once again, and if I don't hear back all the best regardless. Thanks. Take care.
Expert:  Penny Rayas, MFT replied 4 years ago.

Hello Anna and thanks for letting me know. Be patient with yourself. You did not know all this until you realized it. Don't be critical of what you did in the past, look into the future, you are becoming a different person and that is good. Yes most women need some space from the abuser because it is the only way to break the emotional abuse cycle. The abuser feels bad and becomes nice once in a while but can't change the cycle with the person abused. Your husband is sick and needs to heal without you. It is the most loving thing to say. You are not affecting your children negatively by staying away but the oposite. He has to learn how to control his anger if you will let him into their life, is not a punishment but you are protecting you children also. Your DV class counselor can give you resources where you can have supervised visitation or you can have a relative be with him when he visits. You being there is not adviced at this time. I really care and I have to tell you honestly that I went through this 25 years ago that is why I would like to help others. I know the feelings of low self esteem, thoughts that nobody cares, and feeling guilty for standing up for yourself. You deserve love and someone who treats you right. Healing yourself will give yourself and your children a better happier life. It takes time but it is worth it. You can ask me any question you want/

I am going to be online today.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hi Penny, thank you so much for your answer.

It is amazing to be cared for again, thank you. Also amazing to realise what I have allowed myself to get into. And yes, I realise I am being hard on myself, so yes I will continue to try not to. I am also so sorry to hear that you went through something similar. It has truly been the worst experience of my life without even a whisper of a comparison, so truly not something I am happy to hear anyone else has been through.

It has been such a humiliating experience, to lose the capacity to think due to the fear that he and the whole situation inflicts. I think as we said that perhaps a part of healing and being able to move on is just the distancing of myself and my emotions from him and these events. I just have to put the blame for his behaviour off of myself and squarely onto him.

Thank you for being a part of that for me. It is so hard to separate the empathy I feel for him - as I would for anybody - from the actuality of how he treats me. It is always such a rude shock to be treated so terribly, and I really struggle the most with this I think at the moment.

But it is a process, and I hope that I will find answers in the group, the counselling and also just in my own reading and searching. It is so hard to understand how these people 'tick' - but your analogy of a sickness certainly seems like a simple way to do it.

Unfortunately, he is already having access to the children and I don't really know what I can do to stop that. I am at the moment looking into getting legal advice as to how to potentially arrange a VRO *violence restraining order as I wonder if this would help to teach him the lessons he so clearly needs to learn - or would this just be a mistake?? It seems like I would be still involving myself with him to do that.

Mediation is a ridiculous idea, so if I don't go for the VRO I am thinking of divorcing, and then asking the court to restrict his time according to what I think will help the kids. I have to get legal advice don't I.

Anyway, that wasn't at all what I was intending to ask/tell you, but I just am so grateful for the ability to speak to someone that is capable of both understanding and offering good advice. The thing that I struggle with the most is simply the ongoing effect that the whole situation is having on the kids. I struggle with feelings of rage, and really want/need again to be able to separate myself from this so that I can better deal with the situation.

Anyway, (again!) thank you so much for your help and advice. I think that with the help of a counsellor I will simply work at putting in place those boundaries that I so desperately need. It is so exhausting isn't it. I would love to hear if you had children if you have the chance to write back. But I won't be able to accept any more answers for a few days now. So please don't rush. I would love to hear back from you eventually though. Thank you so much once again.
Expert:  Penny Rayas, MFT replied 4 years ago.

You are wellcome Anna, I believe that things that do not kill us make us stronger. I know abuse is a terrible experience but eventually you will be a stronger kinder woman because you overcame this experience. Your feeling of rage will become one of empowerment and you will use your feelings of anger to not let anyone treat you that way again in the future. You will learn that you anger is an appropriate emotion teaching you how to protect yourself. You will learn how to express your anger to protect and express yourself. When you get angry ask yourself. Is someone trying to harm me? My kids? How can I express my feelings and needs to protect myself and direct my anger in a good way. You will start to use "I" statement to express yourself and ask for what you want and stop what you do not want.

It is the beginning of a new life. I think abuse patterns run in families, and you are learning how to overcome this and it will not go to the next generations. If you feel better my experience gave my daughters a great gift that they will not let anyone to abuse them. I think I broke the cycle of abuse and so will you!

I am very proud of you and you should be proud of yourself also.

This is not easy to do but you are doing it. Against all adds.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you so much.

It is so true what you have said. I like to think of it as a learning lesson - simply a very hands-on one. I will take your answer to heart I promise. The action bits are the most important right now I believe - what should/can I actually DO as an appropriate response to the anger I feel (which is very appropriate).

So thank you once again. I think I will stop trying to put a time 'guesstimate' on my recovery - and just start to enjoy it instead. You are right, this CAN be a good thing can't it. Why not. None of us a born into a bubble - this is the world we live in, whether we like it or not! And abuse is so prevalent in our societies, that I really have to look at it as a good thing in that sense.

Thank you so much. I will have to come back here on Friday (our time, I think it's your Thursday) and press the accept button again, but in the meantime, thank you and I hope we can talk again at some stage.

All my best.
Expert:  Penny Rayas, MFT replied 4 years ago.

Thanks Anna, I am so happy that my answers are meaningful to you. Yes be patient with this process. Life is a marathon and not a spirint someone wise told me long ago. Let me know if you have any questions.


Penny Rayas, MFT and 2 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Dear Penny,

hi, how are you??? Thank you once again for all the things you've said here. It really feels like I am finally taking these things to heart - with no other interference any more - I mean in the sense of me feeling regretful or sorry or trying to accomodate my ex's unhealthy emotions and feelings. I am taking steps to find out more about the RVO and whether or not or when I should apply for one. And it feels like I've reached a sense of closure about it all at last. Which is amazing.

Well, anyway, I would really like to continue to ask you questions :) I have one today - quite a big one, so assuming it's ok with you :) here 'tis!! :)

So I feel at the moment like I'm coming out of this time. It's comparative to emerging from a cocoon, which is probably the best way I can describe it... I feel like I've been buried underground for the last 7 years or so - not able to work, not in good touch with any real friendships, not taking care of most of my own personal needs (yes that was mostly as a direct result of the abuse)...

And I feel like I'm also coming out of a time where I've really had to focus on healing... I've spent time just doing things I enjoy and probably just very very depressed. Lots of trying to cope and trying to maintain my sense of wellness and happiness so that I'd have energy for the kids at the end of the day and enough enjoyment that I wanted to keep living...

Now I finally feel ready to get back out there into the world I feel... It seems a bit melodramatic, but that's how I feel and I guess I just want to bounce some ideas off of you, or someone like yourself that has enough experience that you'll be able to tell me if something sounds a bit too over confident or anything. And it also helps me to feel less alone! :)

I've read a lot about the basic human needs over the past couple of years, and basically I feel like I'm missing the following : a sense of connection, rewarding work/career that is challenging (including volunteering), hopes and dreams (also career-wise), a healthy lifestyle and a reasonable sense of control over my own life.

So in relation to that, and this is my question!!! (that took a bit of explaining didn't it!!) I want to start doing the following things: eating healthier foods and exercising, settings some goals for myself with regards to becoming a writer (career!) , and volunteering one day a week somewhere - which I think will help with my sense of belonging and just help me feel like I'm a helpful part of society.

So I guess I just want to find out if that all sounds reasonable?? I hope you understand I'm not in any way minimising what I've been through or who I already am or anything. I do of course focus on valuing myself as a mother, and know that in and of itself that that is a rewarding and wonderful role in life.. But I guess it't the other things that it feels like there has been a void of and I am just finally feeling like it is time to come out of this.

And the eating healthy and exercising (probably just walking!) will help me feel better in myself I think. I recently gained a lot of weight which I'd really like to slowly lose, but it's also just for a general sense of wellbeing isn't it? I was very much a high achiever at high school and University - and Sports were an area I really excelled in amongst others.. So I just really miss it, and I miss the feeling of feeling physically good. And healthy.

So!!1 I really hope this has made some sense. I know that it probably sounds like I'm setting myself up for a lot of goals - but I guess it's just been so long since I've had these things in my life that it feels reasonable to want these things to me.

I'm really hoping that it can't be such a bad thing to start trusting myself again right?? I would love to go back to Uni (for the Writing) and do that for myself.. but I just want to check in and see that this doesn't all sound crazy I guess!!!

I think part of the reason I am feeling so much better is I've started to meet people online again - which has been lovely and so much fun... I really am beginning to feel whole again. I hope that makes sense.. It's a good feeling.

Ok, well at the risk of sounding crazy I'm going to send this off!!! Thank you so much for reading this, and again for your answers, which I will always treasure.

Thank you again, and I hope this finds you having a fabulous week :)
Expert:  Penny Rayas, MFT replied 4 years ago.
Hello Anna, I am very happy to see that you are thinking and taking possitive steps about the future. I can see that you are finding your old self and that you are anxious to start doing the things that make you feel good. I agree having goals is a great way to keep you going forword. Eating well and exercising are great ways to feel better and get over depression. I would try to find someone who can walk with you. Most cities have groups that walk together look for local meet ups where you can find some other lady that wants to get back to exercising. Motivation is needed and I have noticed that other increase our motivation when we feel down and give us support. In addition you can find a good friend and I know abused women loss all their friends. Yes the writing is your career and I wonder if taking a class in your local community college can motivate you and stracture your time to get back into the writing routine. Now the kids, trying to find other mothers who can be a support system and exchange day care can help you out create community and play dates for the kids adult companionship for you. I can't stress enough female companionship you will need a support system that will help you when all this wonderfull goals sometime get overwhelming. I am not sure if you have any family members but I think if you do they would like to hear from you. Learning how to ask for help and support is one of the most difficult things that you will have to learn. It is a very rewarding path but expect setback as they are a regular part of life. Start slow and set a few goals that are achievable. Make sure to not overwhealm or expect too much for yourself to fast to soon. You will need time to cry, laugh, hell. I can see you are a very goal oriented person that is great but give youself some time and be gentel with your own self. Your are like a new baby out of your cell and your skin is now sensitive so treat yourself with care. You will do all this and there is time. Don't rash yourself take small steps and you will get there. This is a very exciting time. You are finding yourself again. You are learning and growing enjoy the process. It is really nice to see you comming out of your cocoon and turning into a butterfly. You can't rash the process!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hi Penny,

thanks for the reply. Yes, I think everything you have said sounds very rational. I'm feeling a bit worried for myself this morning in a way actually, as I have had a real mood crash. It makes me wonder - something I've worried about for years - if I could have some form of bipolar or something. Of course you're going to tell me to get myself diagnosed :) Which is nothing new to me. But I just wonder if there isn't another way through this.

Anyway, thanks you so much again for the interaction. It is such a priceless thing to be able to get on here and interact with somebody like yourself at such short notice. I really really appreciate it. So thank you.

All the best.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hi again Penny,

my sincerest apologies. My bank is refusing to process this payment, so if it's ok with you, I'd like to keep the question open and return to pay it next week.

I am truly so sorry. Even after this many years of not having enough, I am still not used to having to scrape and scrimp and plan ahead for basic needs. I can only say I'm sorry again, and I will return to pay the balance.

Best wishes.

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