I’ve said about all I have to say on the topic of my violent marriage. I’ve described feelings of love in the midst of physical, emotional, mental, sexual, and financial abuse. I’ve depicted the struggles that I continue to face every day as I try to recover from that traumatic relationship. I’ve expressed my hope that the future will be bright and free from the things that made me susceptible to an abusive man in the first place. It is hard to believe that all of that emotion could be summed up in 60 short entries.
My objective when I started this blog was personal therapy. I got exactly that. I was able to tell my story to anyone willing to read. The story is no longer my secret. Instead, it is a part of who I am. Writing it all down helped me further realize that this wasn’t my fault and there was nothing I could have done to change it other than leave sooner. And I’m not ashamed of that either. If I had left at the first sign of trouble, what would that have said about my character? I was willing to stick things out until my life depended on leaving. No one can ever claim that I wasn’t committed to a positive outcome.
What I hadn’t considered when I started writing is that so many people would read this blog. I’ve received many comments and signs of support from people I know and from people I don’t know at all. This was an exercise that proved to me that we are not alone in this life even if we feel like it sometimes. The people who have reached out to me have given me a renewed hope that there is goodness left in the world and for that I am grateful.
Other people who had endured domestic violence were always the ones who could capture my attention. I wanted to know their details. I wanted to understand how they survived. I wanted them to understand me in a way I didn’t think anyone else could. Where I felt others would judge me, I felt other victims would understand.
My problem at first was that I was so ashamed of my situation that I wouldn’t let on that anything was wrong. I felt like I was the only person in the world who had ever experienced what I was experiencing. I felt alone.
As time went on and I began to share my story, I found that domestic violence was a dirty little secret that affected many more people than I realized. I met many people from various backgrounds who showed me that domestic violence did not discriminate. Friends, co-workers, and acquaintances had been victims or knew someone who was. I was not alone. There were people all around me that understood exactly what I was going though. The validation was liberating. The company of others was empowering. The truth of how many people are affected by domestic violence is saddening.
I was eight months pregnant when he unilaterally decided to let his highly intoxicated friend drive my car home. They had been drinking beer and smoking weed in the garage all night while the kids and I slept in the house. When the fun was over, he handed over the keys to my car.
His friend made it about five miles before he decided to back up at a stoplight and ram into the car stopped behind him. To make matters worse, he took off when the other driver got out of the car.
About an hour later, the police were pounding on my door and wanting to ask me questions. I didn’t even know the car was gone much less that there had been an accident. He wouldn’t speak to the police. He was too busy hiding in the bedroom.
After the police left, I drove to his friend’s house 20 miles away to see for myself what was going on. I found my car with significant rear end damage parked in the driveway and his friend fast asleep without a care in the world in the house.
Luckily, no one was injured in the crash. For that I am thankful. I’m not nearly as thankful for the insurance bill and subsequent premium increases that I paid due to the poor judgment of others. I’m even less thankful for being pushed down the stairs after he found out I yelled at his friend. I didn’t have the right to be angry. I was just a dumb bitch.
He and I had been together just over a year when his mother’s house entered foreclosure. The house was in his name and she hadn’t been making the payments. He didn’t want a foreclosure on his credit report but couldn’t come up with a way to save the house. So I did it. I financed the house in my name and saved her home. Surely he should have loved me for that. Surely his mother should have been grateful to me for saving her home. Surely it shouldn’t have turned out as poorly as it did.
It became the topic of a fight every month. There was always contention between us because I was so resentful of the financial burden I was shouldering. His mother lied about when she sent the payment, if she sent it at all. He was stuck in the middle of a no-win situation. Every single month presented a reminder of the mistake each of us had made. I hated the position I was in. He hated that his mother and his wife couldn’t get along. His mother hated me and hated being held accountable. We were all unhappy with the situation. Foreclosure would have been a much better alternative.
When our divorce was final, I was ready to be done with the monthly drama of his mother. I evicted her for non-payment of rent and put the house up for sale. I’ve been making payments on that empty house for almost a year now. I still hate sending the payment in every month but not half as much as I hated being the fool at the mailbox waiting for a payment that never came.
The Child Protective Services waiting room was stale, cold, and filthy. I didn’t like that place. I didn’t like how I was spoken to when I checked in with the receptionist. I didn’t like how the family in the corner looked at me when I sat down. I didn’t belong there in the first place. My mandatory visit to that office was a mistake.
The social worker called me into her office twenty minutes after my scheduled appointment. She read aloud the anonymous report that described how my children were exposed to violence in my home. I already knew what it said. The person who filed the report had given me a heads up in advance. I begged the worker to drop this and not visit the house. He would kill me if he knew I had told anyone what happened much less that they had filed a child protection report. No, the kids weren’t being harmed. Yes, they were in the house when it happened. But they were in a different room. Yes, they could hear what was happening. Yes, they knew why the police were called. No, I haven’t talked to them about it. Please, please, please let this drop.
The social worker finally let me go with a referral to a different social agency. She didn’t pursue the report any further. I let out a huge sigh of relief. I was off the hook. I had dodged a giant bullet. Things would be fine from that point forward. I was sure of it.
Things weren’t fine though. We had another incident and another and another until I finally got up the strength to stand up to him and get out of the relationship. With my escape came the kids’ escape from the violence. They didn’t belong in that situation in the first place. Their mandatory visit to that lifestyle was the real mistake.
I could have just left anytime I wanted. It wasn’t that easy though. He had a strong control over me and my thinking. I may have possessed the power to free myself from that life but I believed I was powerless. The process of gaining the strength to believe that I could survive on my own or even wanted to survive on my own was a long and hard road with many detours.
As part of the process, I turned to the system to help me. That was a struggle too in that I didn’t fit into the system very well. I wasn’t in need of financial support or help finding a job and I wasn’t dependent on his income. Thankfully, I found a good fit with a local domestic violence shelter and in particular a good fit with their support group. I’m not naturally a person who will know everyone in a room but the thing with support group was that most of the other women weren’t either. They were living in violence and shame too which gave us a lot in common despite our differences. The group became a close bond of strangers which is a very interesting dynamic for a relationship. We shared our deepest fears with each other but not our last names. We confessed the details of our home lives but not our addresses. We spoke of our futures but knew we would never share one. My relationships in group were unlike any friendship I’ve ever had. There was freedom in the anonymity and comfort in the lack of judgment.
Throughout my journey, group served a key role for me. Sometimes it was a place to talk about my problems and sometimes it was just a place to be. It became part of the routine in my life and in many ways was a place for me to have an affair with myself. It wasn’t about him. It was about me. Eventually, I learned that my life wasn’t about him either. It too was about me.
I gave my sister a kidney 14 years ago today. It hurt like hell and the recovery seemed to take a long time but once it was over it was over. There are no lingering effects of the surgery.
I gave him my heart 9 years ago. When he broke it, it hurt like hell and the recovery is taking a long time. I’m not so convinced that the lingering effects will ever go away.
I know I felt that the intense pain after the transplant surgery would never end while I was in the middle of it. I hope I can look back 14 years after the divorce and see the good that started in my life after he was removed. Now that would be an anniversary worth celebrating.