I have noticed that there is a topic on my blog that I mention frequently, but I’ve never really talked about in depth. That would be the abusive relationship that I was in for 17 years. It’s not that I’m ashamed of it or embarrassed to talk about it….quite the opposite, actually. It’s that discussing it in this forum just hasn’t been a part of my healing process.
However, I come across articles every now and then that spark a bit of fire in me, like this one here, and I feel compelled to share so that no one (male or female) feels like they have to endure such behavior. Or feels like they are alone in their struggles. Because, despite the “popular belief”, you feel completely alone in your situation. I’m not sharing my story for your sympathy or pity. Quite the opposite. I share this story to bring awareness to domestic abuse. If you or anyone you know is in a similar situation or even fears that these symptoms exist, please seek help. If you are unsure of who to turn to for help, please contact the email link in my gravatar and I will help you find where to turn.
I met my ex-husband when I was young. Twenty-two years old and only just coming into my own. Having grown up in a loving, very protective household, I was just beginning to experience some freedom. I had moved into my first apartment and had no one to answer to if I decided that I wanted to stay out past midnight. But I was still that awkward, introverted kid. A bit of a sci-fi/fantasy loving band-geek. Remember that. It’s a big part of the story later on.
He was the first “mature” guy to show any real interest in me….although, my youthful definition of mature was probably a little skewed. I would later realize that mature only meant that he was eight years older than I was. But he was a charmer, at first. I was enamored with the attention he gave me and impressed by how he would be waiting for me at my apartment when I got off work….especially since he lived about a half hour away. Early on, he told me that he preferred long hair, but was surprised that he liked my short haircut. How sweet! But if he likes long hair, I think I can grow mine long. He also declared that he couldn’t be with anyone “fat”. Um, okay. I was very slim at the time, so I rationalized this as someone who would help keep me active. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that those were early warning signs.
I saw his temper early on. First, at situations that didn’t involve me. Then, at situations that did involve me….or at least that involved me in his mind. He would get mad at me for perceived issues. Incorrectly perceived issues. He also wanted to know everything about my past, even though I felt that was private and exactly that; my past. As he would relentlessly dig and learn things, he would accuse me of lying to him. And then declare that he couldn’t trust anything I told him. He would yell. I would cry. He would apologize and tell me that if I would just be honest with him….. Somehow, I believed that he was right. It could be avoided if I just told him what he wanted to know.
The first bit of violence was before we got married. We were getting ready to go to a picnic and I disagreed with him on something. I couldn’t tell you what it was any longer. I just remembered that I was shoved….hard. He yelled at me the whole way to the picnic. During our time together, he had made it progressively clear that I didn’t dare yell back.
Over the years the violence progressed to pinching, grabbing, and eventually choking. There was only once that he hit me. A good solid punch to the stomach. Choking seemed to be his preferred method, as the other forms faded away. It always amazed me how quickly and accurately he could find my windpipe with his thumb. And every time, the world would swim for a few moments before he let me go.
By this point, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t leave. Again, as I said earlier, the popular belief is “why didn’t you tell anyone?! You’re not alone!” There are a myriad of reasons, but I believe they all boil down to one….as women, we are brought up with this mindset that you don’t burden anyone else with your relationship issues. You pull up your big girl pants and you take care of it yourself. When you’re a young woman, the first reasoning is that you can change him. He’ll have this amazing love for you that he just can’t help but change. That is a big, fat LIE. Especially when you a dealing with someone who has a narcissistic disorder (because if it were this true, amazing love, they wouldn’t treat you like that in the first place). Then, you realize that this person is so unstable that you can’t just leave. They will hunt you down and you will get the beating of your life. You understand by this point that you are a possession, rather than a partner. Or they will find other ways in which to destroy your life. You also fear for the safety of anyone who would dare to help you. And while some people will look at this reasoning and think that it is so irrational, when you are in the midst of it, it is a reality….even if it’s only your feared reality. Your mind is so beaten down that you sometimes don’t know up from down.
That was just the physical abuse. In my opinion, the emotional abuse was much worse. As I look back on things now, I realize that he didn’t really like who I truly was. He was trying to make me into the woman he thought he wanted or maybe even deserved. I spent 17 years being compared to every other woman in his life….from his mother, to his grandmother, to every girl he had slept with. And somehow, I always seemed to fall short. I didn’t keep things as clean as his grandmother or make his favorite dishes like she did. I wasn’t as stern as his mother when it came to dealing with customer service or sales people on the phone. I wasn’t aggressive enough in the bedroom, like some of the other women he had slept with. Early on, I was naïve enough to actually believe it might be me. By the time it was too late, I noticed the pattern and risked violence if I called BS.
I became his scapegoat. He seemed to believe he could do no wrong. If he didn’t have anyone else to blame, he somehow found a way to blame most anything on me. If something was misplaced, it was my fault. If he forgot an appointment, it was my fault. If an appointment wasn’t made, it was my fault. And the list went on and on.
For me, the worst part was that I was never made to be his equal in the relationship. As I said before, I don’t believe he truly liked who I was. Many, many times I would hear the phrase, “I didn’t marry a geek!” The way I was treated revolved around this one phrase. He couldn’t bear the though of being associated with that stereotype in any way, shape, or form. If I spoke in a way that he didn’t like, I was berated. If I showed emotion that hinted at weakness, I was scolded. If I dressed in clothes that didn’t fit his definition of “cool”, I was accused. In an act of self preservation, I lost who I was. Because sometimes, these attacks on my character included violence.
By the time we built our house, I carried a full burden. I became very skilled at walking on eggshells so that I didn’t offend him. When a physical attack would happen, I learned that the more quickly I submitted, the faster it would be over. I took on the full burden of the housework, homeschooling, gardening, and cooking. All so there would be nothing he could criticize me over. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t find ways to criticize….I don’t think he was satisfied unless he found something. By the time I found the courage to leave him, I had become a bond servant. Life was an empty husk that I endured day by day. I would try to find bits of joy or happiness and hide them so that they weren’t snatched away. Three years before I ended things, I did finally find the courage to physically fight back and the physical violence ended. I don’t think it was gone, however. There were verbal threats of its return.
Now you’re wondering how I finally left after 17 years? I became selfish. On my own, I started participating in a wonderful Bible study that showed me how to find peace within myself through Jesus. As I allowed things to start falling into place within myself and started feeling that peace radiate through me, I became acutely aware of the discord around me. I became intolerant of the negative actions and abhorrent behavior. I was worth more than that.
And then one night it happened. I couldn’t take anymore. That part of my brain that walked on eggshells and lived in fear shut off. I knew clearly what I had to do. And praise God, he protected me through that night.
It has been three years, one month, and 16 days and I am still healing….but I have never been more ME. I have my moments when dark thoughts or feelings haunt me, but I have discovered who I would have been had I not lost myself. And to be quite honest, I really like this chick! During this time, I have also been blessed to find what real love feels like. Daniel has stood by me through the light and dark times, always encouraging me and never criticizing who I am. And sure, there are still things that need mending. Broken or strained relationships, mostly. But I am a strong believer in the healing power of time and love.
Early on I made the decision that I am not a victim. I am not a number. I am more than a statistic. Yes, bad things happened to me. But do I want to live in fear of those things or do I want to overcome those things? And if you are experiencing ANY form of domestic abuse, you are not a number or statistic either. You are a son or daughter. You are a brother or sister, niece or nephew. You are a father or mother. But most importantly, you are a unique individual. And I can tell you with 100% certainty that you don’t deserve to be treated as less.
Everyone must follow their own path, but consider my words. Consider my story. Are you ready to change your path? Are you ready to rediscover you? Then reach out to someone you know or reach out to me. You are the only one who can make the change.