The only way I can write this is to tell myself I won’t publish it. I don’t even know how to write it. I know it’s convoluted because the only person who could understand it on the first try is the criminal lawyer.

When I moved to Pennsylvania with the kids last November the Farmer gave me a bill for $35K.

I told him, “Fine. I’ll pay you back in a few months.”

I have a long track record of paying him back huge sums of money.

But then he called his bank and told them I stole his credit card and have been charging things on it for half a year.

I leave 20 messages for 20 lawyers. I tell myself it’s like a job interview – each time you explain you get a little more clear. But I can’t get the story to make sense.

My husband’s credit cards were tied to my PayPal account and he’s saying all the transactions on PayPal with his cards are fraud.

My ex-husband is frustrated that I’m not paying him back fast enough so he is taking the money I paid other people.

I was living with this guy for seven years and I used his credit cards to pay our bills but now he’s saying I stole the cards.

In the meantime, I try to make the boys feel normal by watching Silicon Valley. Season 3 episode 4. We snuggle together on the too-small sofa and watch Pied Piper implode.

No callbacks.

I call my dad. No answer. I do two calls right in a row – the universal signal for an emergency.

I tell myself maybe he wouldn’t have helped me anyway. We’ve asked him for help with legal stuff since we were kids. My brother asked him to argue a parking ticket and my dad said, “I’m not a traffic lawyer.” My mom wanted him to write a letter to the neighbor about sewage, and he said, “I’m not a civil litigator.”

My dad becomes a master of all things legal only when it’s useful for him. Like when I finally called the police on him.

I call my brother to see if he can tell me what kind of lawyer I need to talk to. He tells me, “You should go to a domestic violence center.”

I get pissed. I hang up on him. I am not homeless. I need a lawyer. When he needs a lawyer he goes to a million dollar NYC law firm. When I need a lawyer he thinks I should go to a place for women who are falling apart.

I call my mother for help. She points me to her divorce lawyer. She was his favorite client. In 1987. They still keep in touch. He listens to me for 30 minutes. I can tell I’m still explaining it poorly.

I call Melissa.

This is all my fault. I’m terrible with money. I misused his money. He had such nice life before he met me.

She tells me to go to the same place my brother told me to go. (He texted Melissa to tell me since I hung up on him.) She tells me what he’s learned: that the financial stuff amounts to harassment and harassment is a form of abuse and it fits the pattern of people likely to conduct more physical abuse.

I ask Melissa if she thinks I should go. She says yes. There is data to back this up. She reminds me of this article.

So I finally call the number my brother texted me. I try again to explain what happened, this time to the crisis person.

I was in an abusive relationship with my husband and I left. And he’s not really my husband. And he thinks because I haven’t paid him back what I owe him yet that I’m a thief. And he is telling his banks that I stole his credit cards.

She says, “It’s very common for physical abuse to turn into a another form of abuse once there is physical distance.”

I start crying.

I get lost on the way to the domestic abuse place. They hand me a form that asks me about the last time I was abused. I leave it blank. I am not sure what was abuse and what wasn’t.

The form asks you to check off the types of abuse you have experienced: One of the choices is vehicle. My first thought is: What? Then I remember the Farmer trying to run me over with his tractor. I make a check mark. I am shocked. I make another check mark next to physical. I would never be checking these boxes if I didn’t document it all here on this blog. I take a picture. Here. Right now. I’m scared I won’t believe I was ever here.

The social worker hands me a printout. It is a circle to show the cycle of domestic violence. I cry again. I tell her the Farmer would say I do all these things.

I have written about the cycle. But I can write about the cycle and it’s like I write it and then it’s out of my head.

She shows me the part on the wheel where the abuser makes the victim feel responsible.

I tell her he would be so so angry to hear someone summarizing our relationship this way. He thinks I’m manipulative and full of shit.

The center of the cycle says control. The social worker says, “The abuser is always trying to get control.”

I feel dizzy and sick but I don’t tell her that because the Farmer says I make him feel dizzy and sick and he would say I’m manipulating people when I say that.

The lawyer comes in. I cannot get a restraining order when I’m not in the same state. She tells me she can help me file a criminal complaint with the Attorney General. “What he’s done is very serious,” she tells me. She warns me I cannot withdraw the complaint once I file.

I feel too sorry for him. I don’t file.

The criminal lawyer calls me back. He says, “Wait. I don’t get it. Is there a lot of money here or not a lot of money?”

I say, “Do you watch Silicon Valley?”

He says, “Yes.”

I say, “It’s like that. I either have tons of money or no money.”

He gets it.

Toward the end of the call he says, “I totally agree — this an extension of physical abuse.”

Wait. What did he just say? I didn’t even hear what he said after that. I write it down. So I’ll believe it later.

He says it’s not a big deal. He’ll call PayPal. It’ll take him an hour or two. He’ll call the Farmer and explain this is not credit card fraud. He says in the worst case the Farmer can sue me in a civil case, but it’s highly unlikely because he has a weak case and it would cost so much money.

In the middle of all this my older son gets a text from the Farmer: “Hi. How are you doing? Did you get the package I sent with your mail?”

I lay down. I feel delirious. I shut my eyes. My phone rings. It’s my dad.

I don’t answer. I text instead: “Thank you for calling back. I needed some advice but I figured things out.”

He texts: “I called your mom. Is everything okay? Is the marriage over?”

I text: “Yeah. I don’t think he realizes that it’s over. He actually thinks things are fine. He thinks he is doing nothing wrong and I have poor judgment and that’s just how life is. He said he’s coming next month to celebrate the boys’ birthdays.”

He texts: “It seems that he has always had doubts about your judgment, but managed to accommodate. Be careful. He’s a good man who can deal with your quirks. This is not easy to come by.”

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200 replies
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  1. Tina
    Tina says:

    Penelope, this is a horrible situation for you. I’m sorry that you have to go through this. I have commented several times that I thought this move was stupid, BUT now that you are sharing more, I see that the move was not really about the kids or cello. It was your reason to escape. You may chosen Swarthmore because of the cello teacher, but really you weren’t moving because of cello. You needed to leave the farm. I am sorry.

    Don’t go back to the farm. Stop talking to the farmer. Get more counseling for you and your boys.

  2. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Thinking of you and hoping you get everything you need for you and your kids to be healthy and happy.

    You bought all those nice things for the farm, like your oven…can’t you guys call it even and make a clean break?

  3. Virginia
    Virginia says:

    Oh wow. My opinions about your situation have changed from post to post. In the back of my mind, I have felt for years that the farmer was bad for you. Then, some time would pass and there would be a few happy stories. Then, I would think about how important marriage is. Now, I am convinced that this isn’t good for you. Everyone is right, this is abuse. Abuse is abuse and it is something you should walk away from. I’m sorry Penelope. You need to take care of yourself and your boys. He’s trying to control you. I know you feel like you need to pay him back the money, but I don’t really think you have to and even if you did, it is reasonable that it would take awhile. You need to set up a new house and there are a lot of expenses with that. Besides, he has a piano, a garden and a fancy oven.

    • Valerie
      Valerie says:

      Yes, even if he wouldn’t have picked some or all of these items, he still has them, right? Worth some money.

  4. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Your dad is abusive and a rapist, and so of course he thinks the farmer looks like a good guy. WHAT HE IS TELLING YOU ABOUT THE FARMER IS WHAT HE WANTS TO BELIEVE ABOUT HIMSELF. It is NOT truth, it is a lie he needs to tell you as a bridge for his biggest, most important lie to himself: that he is not a despicable human being.

    Do not fall for this. PLEASE listen to your lawyer; you are paying him to give you good counsel. Trust that he is giving it. Anyone telling you something different from what the lawyer and Melissa are telling you are only doing so because THEY have something to lose.

    They are looking out for themselves – your dad, the farmer. They are not looking after you. You need to look after yourself. For your own sake and for your kids’ sake.

    Or they will go into adulthood thinking it is okay to run over their wives with a tractor, as long as she’s “crazy” enough to “deserve” it.

    I am so sorry this has been happening to you.

    • Wendy
      Wendy says:

      Also: you always said INFJs know what people should be doing but may not always want to hear it. I hope you will just listen to this one thing:

      Get a restraining order against the farmer before either of your kids’ birthdays.

      My guess is that he means to hurt you, and he wants those boys to see it.

      • Wendy
        Wendy says:

        Okay I just remebered you said you can’t get one when he isn’t in the same state, but since you have it on record via text that he PLANS to come (if not, find a way to get this), maybe you can use that. There must be some way to use that info.

        Or just tell him he cannot come. And that if he does come, you will get a restraining order against him.

  5. Ak
    Ak says:

    The best I can say about your father is that he brings nothing positive to your life, from what you’ve ever written about him. No wonder you can’t see the farmer’s abusiveness. Anyway, good for you for realizing it’s over and reaching out to a couple of actual helpful people.

  6. Karla
    Karla says:

    Being crazy, irresponsible with money or whatever is not an excuse to be abusive with anyone.

    He could act with empathy or just leave. Aggressiveness is his fault, not yours.

    But unless you work on your self steem nothing will change.

    What I don’t understand, if this is true, is that you expose those children to this man.

    And that you still talk to your parents.

  7. Ylva
    Ylva says:

    No matter what the farmer did to you, please do not use his credit card without his permission. It does not matter whether you had that permission before or whether his card is connected to your paypal account: if he has told you that you shall not use it anymore, you must stop using it. Immediately. (And his telling you to stop using it after you decided to move out with your kids does not constitute abuse – of course not).
    Remember that your lawyer wants your money and s/he will to a large extent tell you what you want to hear. Therefore your lawyer will tell you that you do not have to fear being convicted for a crime in this case (which is true) but s/he will not tell you that what you did is still legally and morally wrong, possibly even criminal (which is also true).

    All the best to wonderful you and wonderful boys. I hope that all of you (including the farmer) will be able to later remember some of the great times together at the farm without bitterness.

  8. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    Still following……the thing is, the lawyers are going to try to ramp everything up. It will get uglier, hugely expensive and everybody loses. Lawyers have an interest in keeping it contentious until they sense the money running out, then they miraculously come up with a deal. Nobody wins. There is no money left either.

    Mediation? It’s worth a shot. It’s a lot less expensive.

    I guess this seems too obvious, but have you thought of hiring someone to manage your money or teach you how to do it? You hire everything else. Ha, you could make it a family affair and include your boys; financial management 101.

    I’m not being snarky. I’ve been doing it with my boys who are both launching this year. We do it together and I DO have to put up with a certain amount of ribbing about it, “Mom, this is the worst thing you’ve ever made us do…..” as we listen to Dave Ramsey and his archaic, sexist jokes….He’s just SO bad…… but, he has simple sound principles, so I deal…..He has a podcast I listen to all the time. I want my boys to feel secure financially, no matter what they earn.

    Anyway, I am sorry you are going through this. I know it’s scary and hard. You will come out okay, no matter what. It’s just going to be painful to get to the other side.

  9. Cate
    Cate says:

    Hi Penelope,

    Lots of good advice here and lots of bad. Can I recommend a book for you?

    Why does he do that? Angry and controlling men by Lundy Bancroft

    This is really a spot on book by a man who has run a counseling program for 1000s of abusers (men). He focuses less on the physical and more on how abusers mentally operate. He is so compassionate to women in relationships with these men and often tries to reach out to them as well, so over the years, he has gotten their perspectives as well. His book will help you feel more at ease and clear with yourself.

    Penelope, this is a difficult time. Trust your good impulses, see if you can provide stability for your boys, and be gentle with yourself. You are a good person, Penelope. I believe that and I am rooting for you.

  10. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Advice is a very tricky and interesting topic. It evokes much emotion and feedback whether it’s solicited or unsolicited, directly affects us in some way, or is merely heard or read about. Advice is very much context related as it depends on the source (i.e. their knowledge of the issue and relationship to whom they’re giving the advice) and the input given. Each person asked for their advice has a different relationship with you and was given different input. It’s the nature of asking for, getting and giving advice. Therefore it’s important we process advice within it’s correct context. The advice you sought and received from members of your family and others were small bits of information that you must put together as you would a puzzle to make sense for you.
    I think the farmer isn’t handling the relationship and money issues with you well at all. They’re intertwined and he feels he’s lost control. When you tell him you’ll pay him back all that you’ve borrowed from him, it sounds much different to him now that you’re not living with him. It wasn’t said and meant with any less sincerity but he does feel his control slipping. There’s no doubt the money borrowed from the farmer and his credit is important to him. However, I think it was wrong for him to report the credit cards as stolen. A less controlling and vindictive solution in my estimation would have been to hire a lawyer. But that would require more money and time than notifying a bank. And more negotiations that would likely involve a stove, piano, and other things that would further erode any control that he may think he has over you. Your brother gave you good advice as it helped to steer you in the correct direction. I’m sorry all this is happening but I know you’ll get through it as you will confront and overcome the hurdles before you and your family. Take care.
    P.S. – Your skirt, socks, and shoes all look nice and match well together. But what struck me is you’re looking down to get that perspective. Perhaps reflective of your mood. I hope that changes. So my advice would be to look up more often as a deliberate effort for better times ahead.

  11. japfest
    japfest says:

    You’ve been wildly frivolous and irresponsible with your money and instead flaunted that irresponsibility for years, acting like financial responsibility was for others in your life to manage, not you. You’ve given yourself permission to be stupid with your money by telling yourself the story that you’re not the financially responsible one, your credit is already fucked, so you have carte blanche. You’ve validated that thinking for your kids and no amount of talking about it will change that when a child sees a parent doing something they shouldn’t they walk away with the feeling for the rest of their life that, that thing really isn’t that bad. You’re stealing this guy’s money months after you’ve left him. Not that you shouldn’t have left him, it sounds like it was a bad relationship, but come on. This is a pitiful rant-post about how it’s so unfair that he’s not letting you steal his money? Grow up.

  12. May
    May says:

    I hope you listen to Wendy, Penelope.

    ISTP kind of seem like they can go for really drastic measures with a stone-cold emotionless look in their face, but their body tension and intent for vindication will deem otherwise. He may literally set your new apartment on fire, the threat he has harped on about for years.

    Tell him it’s not a good time for him to come around because you both need to cool off (for a year or so!). He should have just cancelled his cards without calling it fraud, etc. Had he really not wanted you to keep using his stuff, maybe he should have made sure you didn’t continue to have access? This kind of aggressive passive-aggression is like a warning for further leadup.

    I think if you have to talk to him, do it through a third party, like a lawyer. Even if you are going to pay him back, have it through the lawyer or a mediator. I think both of you are too entrenched in bad habits and patterns to deal with each other directly anymore and may only escalate things.

  13. Valerie
    Valerie says:

    Why is it so hard to explain to the lawyers what happened? You might want to detail the facts.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      They aren’t married, and the cards are his only, and she left a while ago and continued to use them. Maybe there were recent charges that he didn’t approve and decided to report it and reverse them and cancel the card. There is a complete lack of factual detail because it is extremely grey with both parties at fault. No one is even clear if they continued their relationship (doesn’t look like it).
      My complete speculation: Once no more access to credit for payments, P had to figure out what happened and then take action to save her finances. This is the way she’s dealing with that. I don’t think she expected / planned for him to put a stop to the charges.

      I still don’t understand why a lot of commenters are afraid he will fly over and murder her. He already stopped his cash flow problem, which was huge for him. I think he’s just done with all of it and wants to maintain his relationship with the boys. He should ship the stove to her, though.

      • Jim C.
        Jim C. says:

        “No one is even clear if they continued their relationship (doesn’t look like it).”
        Read Penelope’s post from April 4 about how she wants him to move to Swarthmore, or did as of that date.
        If anyone asks me, they were a mismatch from day one. Fortunately they were never legally married, because her previous debts would have devoured the farm. No divorce is necessary. She should end the relationship. She has already moved 900 miles away. They’ll both be relieved.

  14. me
    me says:

    Dear P: Please save your own life. Others can give advice, but in the end, it’s up to you to put yourself first.

    Only you can save yourself; no one can (or will) do it for you.

    Stay strong, sister ….

  15. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I want to thank you for all the comments. I have been reading comments for more than a decade, so I’m good at finding the comments that will help. You have given me books, and examples, and mantras, and all sorts of things that will help.

    I read each comment, and I’m so appreciative that you care to leave a comment. Each of you.

    In the last two days I have received so many emails from people close to me who say, “Look at this comment” and or “ignore this comment”. And people send those emails to me because they know I read each comment so carefully.

    So thank you for leaving your input.

  16. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    The crazy cycle of abuse. It shows up over and over again and you are left trying to sort out what just happened – or not. You wonder to yourself if it is you that is causing all this….the unbelief, the raw gut emotions coming out of you but you don’t know exactly why. You don’t know the “why” because you can’t put your finger on exactly what just happened. You can’t articulate it to yourself let alone anyone else. You run the scenario over and over in your head – analyzing every word, every inflection of voice, every body movement…..where were the kids? Did they see or hear anything? What do I tell them? I’m crying….wait, I can’t cry because I have to make dinner and I want to protect them and make everything “normal” for them. I want them to eat without feeling sick because we just had this huge blow-up and I want them to know I’m ok. I’m strong. I know what I’m doing. I’m glad this happened because I totally want out of this toxic mess….. Then the doubt starts to sink in. You put the kids to bed and make a dash for the shower – because you can shut the door and lock it. You can turn on the water and let the screams out a little bit because the water drowns out your voice. You cry. You hold yourself and let the water wash off all the nasty that you swallowed while trying to just survive. Maybe you throw up. Maybe you just stand there and your mind is numb. Maybe you just want to curl up in your bed and sleep. Sleep and not wake up – but you have children and that is not an option. Besides, who would think that way anyway. You wonder who to call. Who to talk to. When you try to explain you loose your words because it is so convoluted that you can’t. You begin to worry that people will think YOUR the problem. That you are the abuser. You try to explain to yourself that your not – you are RESPONDING to the abuse. You have learned to defend yourself and do things that you would have never done in a million years before being subjected to the crazy-making. You live in two worlds and it begins to catch up with you. Your exhausted. You don’t sleep. Your self-care goes down the drain and now your doing good if you wash your hair 2x a week. You put all your energy into your children and use the rest of it trying to psychoanalyze yourself, your behavior, your options and your judgement. You play nice with your other half because you don’t want to set them off again. You walk on egg shells and you live in a fog. Once in while, when the “normal” kind of life has been happening, you have a spark of creativity and find the time to actually produce some of your work. To connect with the rest of humanity and do real “adult” things… go out to lunch or perhaps go to the mall to shop. Maybe even plan something. But then, that rug that you thought was a safe place to stand gets ripped out from under you again and it starts all over.

    I get what your saying Penelope. I totally get it and I am so, so very sorry that you are going through this.

  17. Candice
    Candice says:

    Too many comments to read all of them, but your dad’s comments are an extension of [your dad’s] abuse toward you. Your first abuser telling you to mind your manners around your current abuser? How charming!

    Listen to your brother, Melissa, the crisis counselor, and your lawyer. Get together with your sons’ father and figure out what the two of you can do to terminate your boys’ relationship with the farmer. If the farmer can’t directly abuse you, he will either move onto your children or abuse you thru your children. You need to stop that now.

  18. Logan
    Logan says:

    I thought TheFarmer was the perfect guy. What happened?

    He’s been supportive of you over the years; he’s financially supported you, now he’s an abuser? WHAT?!

    Are you sure the two of you don’t just need to have a talk?

  19. Amy K.
    Amy K. says:

    I’m glad you got away. I’m sure you are experiencing incredibly difficulty emotionally and financially, but hopefully better days are on the horizon.

    I hope that as part of your healing process that you are able to look your “I’m really bad with money” demon in the eye. Sometimes we all have to make hard choices. Maybe you’d do better in a job that takes out your taxes for you. Maybe the outsourcing of education to tutors and instructors isn’t financially feasible right now.

    Maybe it’s ok to say out loud “homeschooling and working full time is really fucking hard and maybe not the best choice for everyone.”

    I wish you & your boys all the best. I think you made a smart choice in moving to PA.

  20. Grace
    Grace says:

    I was someone who told you that your marriage is more important than your kids’ cello lessons and tutors. I WAS WRONG!!!!

    Do not go back to the farm. EVER. Leave your stuff there. Extract your finances from your “husband’s” bank accounts, credit cards, etc. NOW!!! Thank God you were never married. This “marriage” needs to be terminated immediately. The lack of legal formalities makes it easier for you to escape.

    Run–don’t walk–away. The Farmer is a controlling sociopath. Just because you are also crazy (as you admit yourself) does not make it alright for him to treat you like this. He has been gaslighting you for years. He makes you feel crazier than you already are. He brings out the worst in you. Also, you clearly bring out the worst in him. You two are TOXIC to each other.

  21. Liz
    Liz says:

    My last comment was deleted. Here’s another one, without a swear word and which consolidates my meaning. Calling it now. If Penelope doesn’t leave, the Farmer will leave when he finds another woman. The boys will feel the brunt of the collateral damage and be confused for a very, very long time.

  22. J.E.
    J.E. says:

    In a relationship you should be bringing out the best in each other. The behaviors in your relationship with the farmer going back to before you were “married” show that the two of you weren’t the best combination together. It sounds manipulative the way he would repeatedly break up with you. Like he was testing how much you would take. One breakup I maybe would have given the benefit of the doubt, but repeated ones? No, way. Why did you stick around? Did he present himself differently at the beginning and then show his true colors after you had committed and moved to the farm full time? I don’t mean to sound insensitive if I do, I’m just honestly trying to understand . It’s best to be done with this relationship. Every time you even remotely think about getting back together, remember all of this. Besides, most of your readers have already taken a dim view of him now and their opinions aren’t going to change. If you want it in business terms, he is now a liability to you and your business.

    • Grace
      Grace says:

      Well put. The Farmer is a liability to you in every respect. Especially to your physical, mental and emotional well being.

  23. Ruo
    Ruo says:

    Do you have a good accountant/bankruptcy trustee who can consolidate your debt and manage the phone calls from debt collectors?

    It sounds like the division of finances is instigating a lot of the farmer’s mistrust in you. I’ve read some writings about how you manage your income on the farm and spendings..etc, but they didn’t make sense. I shyly agree that bad money management is never going to allow a spouse to trust you completely. Without that trust, there’s never going to be a relationship. Im in the tax line of work, and deal with tons of good people who are bad with money, bad credit, bad with the banks, bad with family problems. None of them are directly related to tax but they all end up with a tax filing problem. Lots of them have the “i either have lots of money or dont have any problem.” We basically put them through a proposal program (which is one step down from a full-blown bankruptcy) to appoint a trustee to help them manage the creditors. The right arrangement let the clients continue to live their current life and afford a relatively similar lifestyle (esp when kids are involved) and keep the debt collections at bay. The accountant essentially manages all other litigation matters brought upon the client because it relates to settlement/contingency funds. So if you owed money to the farmer, and you have been paying it back in lump sum in the past, the resolution was you needed a negotiator to talk some sense into the farmer. Perhaps the litigous nature of US is that he can call fraud on you. which is absurd on his part for doing it. I cannot read between the lines to figure out if you also believe his claim or if you still love him and want to stay together – it’s an altogether separate problem from your finances.

    I try not to judge the clients for staying or leaving in their bad relationships but having their finances completely managed and separated from their partner/spouse seem to have eased the tensions from a total breakdown. I recommend you sort through your finances with Melissa, or a bankruptcy lawyer to manage your finances and cash flow so that money wont ruin any future/existing romantic relationships anymore.

    I didnt scroll through all the physical abuse blog posts so cannot comment on what else is happening.

    I don’t have any other advice for you besides the one thing I’ve seen is once your finances are managed, other problems are much more manageable. You can focus on your 2 kids and your businesses.

  24. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    I think every single person who has never been through an abusive relationship needs to extract themselves from this conversation. They have no business, no right, weighing in on this. None. It is impossible to understand how abuse affects a person until they have been through it themselves.

    I also don’t understand is how people are baffled that others are saying the farmer might kill Penelope. Did you people even read the post? He literally has tried it before! What do you think he wanted do when he was trying to run her down in a tractor – stub her toe??

    Penelope, I think for now, you need to ignore every comment here that tries to cast the blame on you – this is exactly the type of thing that causes abuse victims to tell themselves they “deserve” to be assaulted, and thus allow it to continue. Yes, you probably upset him and did things you shouldn’t have – that is completely irrelevant to your looking out for your and your children’s safety at this moment. Nothing justifies spousal violence. If the farmer or anyone else thinks otherwise, that’s their own problem.

    Your lawyer can help you sort out all the financial stuff – while maintaining distance from the farmer.

    I think the time things will get really dangerous is if/when the farm itself is in jeopardy. At that point, he will start to think he has nothing to lose, and you to blame for it.

    Please please please do everything you can to make sure he never sees you or your children ever again, unless it’s with your lawyer or some other third party who can make sure you’re safe if you do have to see him in person. I know you’ve been trying to preserve this marriage for your kids’ sake, but at this point, everything you and the kids had to lose from breaking up with the farmer has already been lost. And there’s too much you still have to lose by maintaining contact with him.

    Whether this is all over the top or not, when your family’s safety is at risk, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

    • J.J. (one of them)
      J.J. (one of them) says:

      Here’s what she wrote about that:

      “So he walks away, gets back on the tractor and starts to drive off.

      I walk in front of the tractor so he will stop and talk to me. He drives it into me, so I jump on top of the front. He keeps driving. It is very hard for me to keep from falling off.

      I am screaming, “Stop driving!” and he is ignoring me.”

      The Farmer is trying to get away from her! She’s blocking him from doing that! Portraying it as him actually trying to run her over is pretty misguided.

      Next, look at the situation from The Framer’s point of view. His quasi-wife is in constant money trouble from her entrepreneurial activities, money sloshing in and out without much control, and with him ultimately responsible for it (because somehow it’s happening on his credit card). Then it blows up, she moves to another state with the kids, in what appears a one-sided decision. The relationship is pretty much over, and he’s out $30k. But she keeps using the cards so he’s still responsible. Now it’s $35k. I’d sure try to limit the damage too.

      Here is what I think Penelope should do, if she can. I don’t have a full view of what’s going on so I may be mistaken, but here we go. Calm down. Stop thinking about burning money on lawyers. Get your personal economy under control, because otherwise I see a bankruptcy coming your way. As part of this, negotiate a serious plan to pay off your debt to The Farmer, however much it is. For instance, if you have a cash flow problem and you’re willing to part with the stuff you left behind, maybe he can write down the debt appropriately. Who knows. Or maybe you could ebay it. Anyway, be realistic and then stick to that plan, pay it back, and you’re done.

      • Wendy
        Wendy says:

        Are you missing the part where it says “He drives it into me”? As in, he deliberately drove the tractor into her?

        Let’s say there’s a pedestrian, clearly mentally ill, who walks in front of your car. They stand there yelling with no intention of letting you pass.

        Do you just run them over?

        This is not a legally acceptable course of action for a total stranger, let alone one’s spouse. If you think that’s the case, maybe you need help too?

        If Penelope’s lawyer, her brother, and Melissa are all telling her the same thing, and they all know way more about the situation than we all do, especially Melissa and the brother who both personally know the farmer, than that’s who Penelope should listen to.

        Not to people who not only don’t know the situation firsthand, but also demonstrate that they place a low priority on her personal safety.

        • Anon
          Anon says:

          Sorry to be blunt about this, but he was putting the same emphasis on her personal safety that she put on it at that moment, which is to say—none.

          That’s not to say that in an ideal world, a significant other wouldn’t stick their neck out when someone is busy trying to off themselves by jumping in front of a vehicle, but this is not an ideal world, nor an ideal relationship.

          What she did was a bid for control of that situation, one that escalated it significantly. He escalated back in kind. Adolescent behavior from both.

          But you can’t blame him without blaming her. She put her life at risk first. If she’s not going to care about her life, it’s not shocking that those around her aren’t going to show more regard than that, particularly when everyone is busy pushing everyone’s buttons and everyone involved is a head case.

          Neither was engaging in premeditated activity; quite the contrary, both were acting explosively and impulsively.

      • W
        W says:

        “I walk in front of the tractor so he will stop and talk to me. He drives it into me, so I jump on top of the front.”

        Unless she has a vertical leap of about six feet, we’re talking about a lawn tractor. Slightly less homicidal.

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          It sounds like they are both mentally ill and handling things like 14 year olds at that point. Not homicidal in the slightest. Every story on this blog is heightened for effect, remember that.
          In a fantasy world farmer is a lunatic murderer and Penelope is a cartoon character quasi business owner with two kids who roam around dabbling in things. The plot line changes to a prodigy going to Juilliard (I am rooting for him personally) and parents fighting for his place in a huge battle of competition while the paternal potential murderer tries to kill the mother over a paltry sum of 30k, which he could easily get by auctioning some home goods. Somewhere sometimes a biological dad pops up, sees all this happening and does nothing for the kids.

          Now back in reality- they are suffering from a long distance relationship that is breaking down due to no plan of action for the marriage (remember they only moved for the cello son after they lost their second car). On top of that two homes is costing a lot of money they don’t have otherwise this article wouldn’t exist right now.

          These are very simple problems to sort out but the characters involved are acting incompetent under the immediate stress of the move and finances. They don’t need lawyers, they need someone to mediate all this out of proportion rage from both sides.

  25. Ashley
    Ashley says:

    Even if you were the most annoying person on earth – so what? He pursued you. He invited you to the farm. If you were so horrible, why did he stay? I know the nuances of a (abusive) relationship are so much more than can be boiled down to this but I hope it helps you.

    From reading your blog forever – I know your dad is disgusting and foul. So his opinion can be ignored (and his number blocked).

    I’m sorry you are going through this. I am sorry that you feel you aren’t enough. Your work has helped, entertained and inspired me so much. Do what you have to do be happy and at peace.

    • Bailey
      Bailey says:

      “I know your dad is disgusting and foul. So his opinion can be ignored (and his number blocked).”

      Great idea – ignore and block Dad.

      He’s already torn up his “Dad card” with his bad behavior. He’s no longer Dad. But no Dad is better than “disgusting, foul” Dad.

  26. Virginia
    Virginia says:

    Penelope, you need to get out of this relationship and protect yourself and your sons. It is ridiculous for your husband to suddenly demand you pay back all the money he has ever spent on your family. Marriage and relationships come with some sacrifice. I know you aren’t perfect and have spent money poorly, but that is no excuse for him calling the police.

    I am sorry that I have not spent the last seven six years telling you to get out of this relationship (not that one commenter carries that much weight). I support marriage, but not abuse.

  27. Jen
    Jen says:

    I am sorry you are facing these tough times. I am glad that you took this big step. You are going to be ok. I put the comment below on your blog 5 years ago. The fact it took five years to get to where you are now is a sign of how tough and determined you are. And that toughness, mental fortitude and refusal to quit is exactly what is going to enable yourself to pick yourself up and be ok. Thinking of you. And keep talking with the DV people. They help.

    from 2012…”I have an MBA and am a female business executive. I support myself very nicely. I was also married to a violent man for 12 years. I thought because I was SO smart I could fix my situation, unlike those “poor dumb unemployed” battered women. Like you are bent on doing now, I tried changing myself, tried counseling, tried romantic vacations, tried to be more submissive, tried to be more…what my husband wanted… I loved my husband. In some ways, I still do love my ex. I came to find out though that I was just like the stereotypical impoverished battered woman, I just drove a nicer car and had an office with a big desk and leather couch. Everything else in the cycle of violence was the same but I didn’t believe it for the longest time. You’ll have to figure the situation out for yourself, but it is really hard to watch you get hurt and to know what is in store for you, knowing what I know now. As an impartial observer without any emotion for Farmer, I already KNOW you will get hit again. I already know that you can’t change yourself enough to make him stop. I wish you were smart enough to know that. Good luck.”

    PS… my ex.. now convicted of ag. stalking… in addition to battery…

  28. A
    A says:

    Not sure all of it, but P definitely admitted to putting the Farmer in a bad spot with all of her spending and financial instability.

    Perhaps she was running, not from abuse, but from her financial missteps and the building pressure of knowing that she could no longer keep the shell game going…

  29. Julie
    Julie says:

    Wow, I’ve never read anything that touched so close to home. I’m currently in a very similar situation.

    Sometimes, I have to call my sister so she can remind me that im a victim. I am, I was severely mentally abused for years by my ex. So much that even a year later, I still have trouble getting him out of my head. I just don’t feel the rage once i am removed from the situation. Tell your story and remember that people will help you if you let them.

    This is my mantra:

    Speak your truth, You’re not crazy.
    Trust your instincts,
    As much as you can, do not rationalize your feelings; you are allowed to be very angry, very scared, very sad.
    You deserve to be ok.

    I also have a playlist that includes alot of Muse and Imagine Dragons. It helps me destress and reflect on my situation while reminding me that I deserve to be ok and that I am a force to be reckoned with. ;)

    Check out “Legendary” by Welshly Arms whenever you’re feeling less than inspired. You’ll never not file that paperwork again.

    Remeber the quote:

    “you own everything that has happened to you. Tell your story. If people wanted you to speak nicely of them, they should have behaved better”

    Meaning you are not responsible for rationalizing his behaviour. It is not your job to protect him.

    You’ll get through this. In the end, you’ll be ok.

    Ps. Thank you for writing this blog. Lots of love and good vibes.

  30. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    Hmm. I stay with my judgement that Penelope Trunk is “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”

    As Lady Caroline Lamb said of Lord Byron, the poet.

    Poor bloody Farmer. That’ s what I think.

  31. Dannielle
    Dannielle says:

    I am so sorry for your pain. It hurts to read.

    It will help other victims to read it.

    May God bless you and keep you safe.

  32. sahil jangid
    sahil jangid says:

    Oooh…great post. Really it’s too informative nd interesting for me and I enjoyed and learned lots from this post. Thanks for this post keep it………………

  33. J.E.
    J.E. says:

    I kind of think that maybe the farmer first saw Penelope as the manic pixie dream girl type, as someone he could “save” because he felt he knew what was best for her. I mean, they met because he emailed her and said she sounded like she needed a friend on a farm. I also think he figured that because she made so much money she was set financially and didn’t count on her borrowing money from him. Once they were living together 24/7 he found that P wasn’t a manic pixie dream girl like the movies present them and things began to slide downhill. There’s lots from past posts that, to me at least, show this relationship should never have gone on as long as it did. Penelope held onto this relationship with a death grip, I think, because she still feels bad that her first marriage ended in divorce and by god, she was going to make this one work come hell or high water. Things devolved into abusive (mutual or not) fighting tactics and head games. Penelope, ask yourself if you were ever enamored of the farmer for who he was (or at least presented himself to be) or because he’s a farmer with a working farm and you’ve said yourself you have always been fascinated by farms.

    It’s going to be hard, but sign the needed documents. Also I agree with the comments that say to hire someone to handle your finances. You’ve hired out other tasks before, this shouldn’t be any different. I think once you get your finances under control it will be a big weight lifted and you can focus on yourself and your sons moving forward. Also, could your sons go and stay with their father for a bit and give you some time to breathe and formulate where you go from here?

  34. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Thank you for sharing and so sorry about the Farmer. If it helps, I will set an appointment with a therapist to treat my depression if you can prevent the Farmer from coming to your home. Take care.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      What?! Just go to the therapist on your own accord. This is really strange. The internet is wierd.

  35. Randa
    Randa says:

    Practical advice: find a lawyer you like and trust, who seems competent (the criminal lawyer sounds like a good start), and let him/her handle all of the legal and financial wrangling. I’m not just shilling for my profession here – having an ojective advisor right now is so important, even when you normally are the objective advisor. Dealing with emotional trauma takes all of your energy. Letting someone else handle the legal/financial parts will (a) take something off your list of things to deal with right now and (b) make sure you don’t get screwed later just because you didn’t deal with those things. Hang in there.

    • Randa
      Randa says:

      PS. Extricating yourself from a relationship where finances were shared is much harder than several comments have made it seem, esprcislly when one party is abusive and controlling the accounts. There’s more involved than just leaving, and a Wisconsin lawyer is absolutely your best option for advice. In a state that recognizes common law marriage, you have to get divorced the exact same way as if you’d had a ceremony at a church and an announcement in the local newspaper. PPS – I’m not a Wisconsin attorney and don’t have any knowledge of Wisconsin law other than it’s a community property stare, like the one where I practice.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        WI is not a common law marriage state and does not recognize community property unless shared in marriage.

        I agree the attorney needs to be WI based, but I don’t think there will be any community property or marriage law she is entitled to invoke. There won’t be a divorce since they supposedly already broke up? That’s unclear.
        The best she can do is have removers go to the house and store all her belongings including the stove and chandeliers. I’d do that first. But maybe she needs to sue him to gain access at this point.

        I really don’t even think any of this is an issue- I think he was being petty and stupid and just trying to take care of things due to overages. But anyhow, WI attorney to clear up the mess and rights.

      • Randa
        Randa says:

        Ugh…I typed this comment on my phone and am now mortified to see typos. But still, use a Wisconsin attorney for advice. And to hell with the commenters who are psychoanalyzing someone they’ve never met.

  36. MH Williams
    MH Williams says:

    Penelope, This is my situation right now. I am living with a domestic and emotional abuse . No family, no friends, no job. It’s been a steady decline for the last 11 years that I really tried not to notice because I’m supposed to be smart. I kept telling myself it wasn’t happening.Until he almost squeezed the life out of me. This time I went to a domestic abuse center.I have 6 more months before I graduate. Pray for me. i will for you,

  37. Mu
    Mu says:

    You paid $12000 for an oven, and $35000 for a piano right?
    So how do you owe the farmer money?
    If anything HE owes you!

    You were right to leave. You will be fine.
    Sending you a big hug Penelope.

    • Will
      Will says:

      That stuff is worth nothing to the farmer, and almost nothing in resale in Darlington WI. If she wants it she should have it shipped to Swarthmore. Otherwise he should donate it to a school or church for the tax deduction.

  38. Debbie in California
    Debbie in California says:

    You are one the most insightful people I have ever met (virtually and by phone), Penelope. You see straight through all the illusions in society like a hot knife through butter. This farmer guy is definitely not making sense. Thank you for telling us, and you have all of us SUPPORTING you to head far away from him.

  39. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    I just wanted to say, Happy Mothers Day”, P. I know it’s been rough for you. Enjoy the love of your boys today.

  40. Chels
    Chels says:

    I think its twice as had with aspergers because you’ve been told so much how YOU are the one who thinks different and different equates so easily with wrong when you’re in the minority. So it makes it all the easier to doubt yourself, think the normal person must be right. Add in that we have emotions and don’t always recognize them or know how to deal with them and it makes it so much easier- even as smart and independent people- to be manipulated and mistreated.

    Your dad’s comment is so not ok. If youre unhappy with a partner, he should be supporting you. That was degrading to talk to you as if you aren’t loveable because of your aspergers so better try to keep what you got. That’s a sad answer and maybe he hasn’t heard the whole story. But you can support yourself and dont need the Farmer and to make him more important than your happiness is not ok. To say you should stay because he likes you despite your aspergers is not ok. I get it, I have a hard time with relationships too. But my friends also like me because of my “quirks” not despite them. Dad needs a healthy dose of perspective.

  41. Concerned Observer
    Concerned Observer says:

    I am a longtime reader. Every now and then I post.

    I am a man that got out of a relationship that was physically and emotionally abusive, and there was a period of about a year when things got very complicated and very dangerous. I have a security system in my house now, and a locking mailbox, and I keep my doors double-bolted.

    At the same time, I now have a reasonable (though not tension-free) relationship with my ex.

    Here’s the thing. There are two layers going on here:

    (1) Emotional
    (2) Legal

    You need to separate these two, and you are doing a lousy job of it, which we all do, because when emotions are running high, the legal dimension seems abstract and pointless and ridiculous.

    First thing: Stop spending his money. People who are saying that this is abusive are missing the mark. The problem is that it is open to interpretation because the two of you have no formal status or decision on your relationship. So you feel justified in using his credit cards because you’re in one place on the “how broken up are we” spectrum and meanwhile he feels justified in cutting you off and may even be frantic himself because he’s in another place on the “how broken up are we” spectrum and may be trying to save his finances from someone that *he* sees as acting in abusive ways. The reason need not be that either of you are evil; the fact is that whether or not your spending or his cutting you off is right or wrong depends entirely on whether your relationship is officially over or not—something the two of you failed to decide together.

    Given that you’ve documented here that your presumption was that the relationship was not necessarily over, you probably have a good case that your behavior was reasonable and legal. At the same time, given that you moved out, far away, and are writing about the relationship *probably* being over, he also has a good case that your behavior was unreasonable and illegal.

    What you’ve both done is put yourselves at the utter mercy of the legal system and the biases of the particular individuals you’ll end up dealing with in the legal system. This does not make for happy endings, for anyone.

    The solution here is for both of you to grow up and handle this. You need to talk and make decisions. And if you can’t do it because it devolves into yelling and hang-ups and other similar nonsense, you need to take a good hard look and ask yourself: Why can we not settle this like adults?

    If your answer, with good, hard, honest introspection (a loaded phrase because for one or both of you, this may be impossible) is that he is too emotionally heated to finish an exchange without leading to bomb-throwing, then you need to take it upon yourself to:

    – Take any legal steps to formally document to the system (i.e. so that it’s in records, whatever your steps) that the relationship is over (a restraining order, a legal separation, a sworn statement of some kind, whatever)
    – Stop spending his money immediately
    – Inform him that the of the two points above and say that he need not worry about further spending or about further interaction because the relationship is over
    – If you owe him money, propose a timetable for paying it back and tell him that if it’s not acceptable to him, you’ll have to go to mediation/arbitration and you’ll abide by the outcome

    If your honest answer after long, hard introspection is that you can’t settle this like adults because *you* are impossible to talk to, then you need to:

    – Ask him to meet you in mediation
    – Get with a therapist and have them help you through the mediation process
    – Probably *still* carry out the steps above anyway

    The hard facts are:

    – This relationship is over
    – It is dangerous at this point for both of you
    – The rules are unclear because the status of the relationship is legally and formally unclear
    – Your feelings (and his!) should now play second-fiddle to the legal ramifications for all
    – If you can not bypass the emotional stuff and focus on the legal stuff, it is likely that *both* of you will feel/be royally (and legally) screwed in the end, and miserable and living in fear until then (which can be a very long time)

    Short summary: Decide on a formal status of the relationship. Make it legal. Then decide what the obligations are under that status. Then take any necessary legal steps if obligations aren’t being met (and he will do the same).

    You’re going to suffer either way at this point. But you’re going to suffer longer, and more—and so is he—if you don’t sort out the legal questions.

    • Concerned Observer
      Concerned Observer says:

      I almost forgot. There is a saying that is apropos here:

      “Good fences make for good neighbors.”

      You are living without a fence. The result is that you are engaged in trench warfare. Do the hard work to negotiate a border, and then build the fence.

      • Grace
        Grace says:

        Concerned Observer, yours is the the most logical, constructive and helpful advice I’ve read in a long time. You need to start your own blog. Seriously. You’re awesome.

  42. junkinthetrunk
    junkinthetrunk says:

    The Farmer and Penelope enjoy their psychodrama at the expense of her sons. It will not improve. Split up and let the boys visit and be visited by their step-dad.

  43. TLH
    TLH says:

    When I read this blog, I feel like I’m either reading the brutal truth of Penelope’s life, or a chapter of Gone Girl. Is she being authentic? Or is she writing posts that she knows will generate comments and traffic? If I took her word for word, I would believe she is a dedicated mom who puts the needs of her children above all else and is now in the throes of trying to leave an abusive relationship. If I didn’t, I might believe that she makes decisions based on what suits her current needs — a farm is a great setting for someone trying to build a reputation as a leading expert on unschooling, but maybe not so great for whatever Penelope is planning to do next.

    Since I am not Penelope, I suppose I’ll never know which is closer to the truth. So like everyone else here, all I can do is jump to conclusions or speculate.

  44. Leandra
    Leandra says:

    The reason why I like your blog so much is precisely because of your candor – it makes you so much more relatable. And I think you’re extremely brave for keeping it up despite the difficult times you’re going through. To be completely honest though, your recent posts have been somewhat of a turnoff. They come across as someone overplaying the “victim” card. I can understand you’ve been through alot of shit and can empathize with the fact that you’re going through particularly difficult times, but don’t let the women’s shelter mentality get to your head. I don’t know you personally but from what I’ve read on your blog, you seem stronger than that. Get help if you need it but for f*ck’s sake don’t be a victim. What a great opportunity to instead write about what you’ve realized about your patterns and how your upbringing and past trauma experiences contributed to them!

  45. Amy
    Amy says:

    When I was getting out of an abusive relationship many years ago, I had to tell myself constantly that it was not my fault. At first I didn’t believe it, but I just kept repeating it – multiple times a day and whenever my doubts started to creep in. Eventually I came to realize that no matter what my “quirks” were, I did not deserve to be bullied, abused, threatened, etc. You do not deserve it either.

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