I started this blog with this sentence;
This is my story and this is the first time I am putting this in writing.
As I started writing it I realized I am still not ready to share it at least not fully. There is a stigma to being in an abusive relationship, embarrassment and a guilt. When people find out there is always this reaction of leave him. You should leave him. Why did you stay with him? Those words are so easy. Those words that fall off the tongues of well meaning friends, family members even Church leaders and therapists. Just leave. And if you stay than it can’t be that bad, because you stayed you went back. You are embarrassed because you know you should have left but you stayed too scared to leave.
When you are in an emotionally abusive relationship it’s easy to minimize and justify their actions. It’s easy because you have lots of practice and they have told you repeatedly that this is YOUR problem not theirs. You are the one who has an issue therefore you are the one who needs to change. I can not begin to tell you how many conversations I had where I was given a list, literally a list of all the things I needed to do, in return I would ask for respect and help. The first time I would fail to meet these unrealistic expectations it would start again and be justified by you aren’t willing to change either therefore I am justified. Name calling becomes so common place you develop a thick skin to it, you know it’s wrong but in your mind you think you are making a bigger deal than it really is. That’s how abusers get away with it. They tell you you are worthless, the isolate you so you believe you need them, they make you believe that their behavior is normal and you are the one who is crazy. They make you believe you can’t do it without them.
Even when he threatened divorce he did it in a way that reinforced those beliefs. “I can’t wait until I can divorce you” – “when I divorce you, you won’t be able to make it without me” – “I can’t wait until we are divorced and you have to beg me for help.” Those statements although all slightly different convey the same message you are so worthless I can’t even divorce you. I don’t want to be with you but I have too because you can’t survive without me. When you hear this again and again you believe it. It was even a sentiment he shared with family and friends. It is scary to leave and hard and unknown and what if they are right. For me I don’t have family here, I didn’t have a safety net, I was alone and HAD to do it on my own.
People who know me now would barely recognize the woman I was 5 years ago. Yes I was skinny, and had the nice house and car and the trimmings. On paper I had it all. A successful husband, I just had my second child, we were financially secure (not rich but secure) A revolving door of neighborhood kids would play at my house. I had my life. Everything on paper that I wanted. But I was miserable. I woke up every day knowing I would cry. Knowing I would commit some misdemeanor that was so offensive it would deserve a verbal assault or a punishment. I would be cut off financially, have my phone turned off, or just belittled and called names in front of friends and family. Believe it or not I rarely voiced my opinion or shared knowledge for fear of being told I was wrong to think that way. If I didn’t parrot his opinion than I was immediately wrong and stupid. Many people are surprised to find out I am not from Texas because my lexis matches a Texans if I ever pronounced a word British it would immediately be made fun of and called out. I taught myself to speak Texan after being reduced to tears for asking for silverware instead of cutlery in a restaurant. I was blessed that for the most part I was left alone and by left alone I mean he was not at home, I would go weeks not knowing when he would next be home to disrupt our lives. Left alone with two kids was it’s own challenge and despite the financial security I never had access to more than enough to cover our most basic needs even when I was working I never had access to money he told everyone I spent it all but I never had access to spend it. I never knew if he was coming or going, when or if he would be home. I dealt with surgeries, Dr’s appointments sick kids, school issues on my own. None of it would ever be good enough I was expected to have super human abilities and would be blamed for anything that went wrong. When things did go wrong I would be told you need to fix this but offered not help or support. Asking for help from my husband, friends or families was seen as a weakness and when I would reach breaking point that friends would step in to help there was always a price to pay for my weakness. Even in the weeks after a c-section with a preschooler at home I was expected to return to work before even my follow up appointment work full time and keep the house and family perfect on my own. I was never allowed any grace.
I was asked last night if I miss it. If I miss being married. I miss the security but that is not him. I have things I long for but I never had them so I can’t miss them. That’s a strange realization. I was with my now ex husband for nearly 10 years and yet I never had any of the things I value in a relationship and I am looking for now. I know they exist. I know I am not crazy.
For me breaking point came when my children started treating me the way their father did. That was when I knew I had to get out. But even then it took time to get ready to leave. My ex will tell anyone who will listen that he gave me what I wanted I wanted a divorce he just went along with it. He completely forgets the millions of times he threatened with it. When you live your life hearing that he wants out, it becomes a question of when not if. At some point you have to make a plan because what if this time is the time he follows through. So yes I was the one that finally pulled the trigger. Yes I wanted this divorce. Once I pulled that trigger all I felt was relief because we were doing it on my terms. Pulling the trigger on divorce was the first step I took to regaining the power in my life.
I am still broken. I still justify his behaviour and think I am not good enough and I need to do better. I live constantly feeling like I am letting those I love down. The only voice in my life who says this is his yet I still allow myself to believe it. I KNOW I shouldn’t. I know that one day I will meet someone who will love me for me. I know I am only human and doing the very best I can. The thing about abuse is it only takes one misplaced comment or incident to take you right back there to make you question whether they were really right. I am not skinny enough, pretty enough, smart enough, kind enough to be worthy of love. I know my value is not determined by others but after years of being told I have no value it takes very little for me to question it again.
Even as I write this I question whether I am just another woman complaining about my husband maybe it wasn’t that bad. The truth is it was worst. There are so many things I am not ready to share yet.
I recently had a conversation with a family member where he spoke to me in a way similar to how I had been spoke too by my ex. I reacted extremely strongly and immediately took steps to protect myself from. It surprised me how strongly I reacted to the situation. How easily it was to make me start defending my worth, my intelligence, my right to have my own opinion.
Unknowingly he tapped into a place in my psych that is extremely broken and pulled me into an abuse pattern he could not even recognize. The thing about abuse is it never ends. You learn to identify it and defend yourself but once you have been broken at the very core of your being you don’t ever full recover. You rebuild, redefine and strengthen but you can never go back to a time before that abuse. You can teach yourself to ignore the seeds that were so carelessly sewn into your being by a partner who did not value you but they are still there. They creep out when you don’t expect them and if someone starts to water them they can start to grow again.
I can give you the speech about how I am supporting my children, I truly am happy and love my life, I am surrounded by friends who value me and my opinion. All of that is true. This life right now is million times better. I survived, I rebuilt, I faced my biggest fears and I overcame. But I am still broken. I started this wanting to write about my story and how strong I am on the other side of it but as I started writing I realized that would be a lie and I wasn’t ready to share it all yet. Maybe I never will be.