Its been a long time. Life gets in the way. Injured kid, potty training kid, suddenly we are prepared for an unexpected deployment, I could go on and on….But that’s not what’s important today. Everything will be fine and time marches on.
Today, I need to write more for me than for anything else. I have approximently 12 years to figure how to have a conversation that I know I want (and need) to have with my teenage children and it wont be getting any easier. This is now relavent for unrelated reasons that I won’t go into now. This is going to be long, but perhaps someone in a similar situation could still benefit from my experiences. So here goes nothing…
I was married once before, and it was an abusive relationship. *deep breaths* There it is. Not many people know anything about it, or perhaps little bits about “my ex” when its a relative moment, my husband has only heard bits and pieces (but enough to get the gist). And here is my story:
After high school I did the whole go to college thing, but soon ran out of money (couldn’t get a co-signer to get approved for a reasonable loan) and came back home. A few whirlwind of months of working later I was living with my boyfriend in a one bedroom apartment half way between the jobs we had at the time. 18 year old me felt so independent and it felt “so right”, like it was meant to be (blah blah blah), all was good with the world. Sure, there were some “signs” my mom and friends started to see “red flags” but 18, then 19 year old me didn’t care. “There’s no way, they aren’t right. They don’t live with us, they don’t really know” (blah blah blah). Not too long later we were engaged (that only made sense, we were “practically married already”), and then 20 year old me walked down the isle one August and kick started what was going to be “the perfect small town life”. (and, YES, I was having second thoughts, but blew that off as “cold feet”)
Alright so back up a few months, throughout the engagement (bridal shower, wedding planning, etc) my mother REALLY started to see signs and red flags that something just wasnt right. Again, 20 year old me ignored these warnings and happily let him “take control of things”. We started house hunting, and purchased a super cute home in the middle of town with a closing date just about a week before the wedding. His being the better credit and income we put the mortgage only in his name (which made a lot of financial sense, honestly, getting a better interest rate). He made a “joke” before closing that now if anything happened the house would legally be his, and he liked it that way “just in case”. But I blew that off too, he was just being funny, right?
So the marriage had a little rocky start, but moving is stressful, I had gone back to school and started a new job which is stressful, so in my mind we just needed a little extra effort – I knew the kind of wife I wanted to be and was striving to fulfill this roll. I have always had a “I can be better” attitude so it took next to nothing for him to turn ‘I can do better’ in “you should have done better”…and that’s where it started. With classes, and both of us working I was still 100% responsible for all meals and house and yard work. I would get up at 3:30am to go to 1st shift of care work while he worked a 9-5 and he would get home at 5:30pm and the house wasn’t spotless with dinner on the table I would hear about it. Subtle comments at first that soon turned into things like “what did you even do all day?”- even though I also had worked a full shift at my job.
I took everything as an indication that I needed to work harder, countless conversations with my close friends – words that I can’t even recall now but I know they were trying to tell me. Everything that I needed to know but just couldn’t force myself to hear. I did more, I worked harder, at the same time he wasn’t even coming to bed at night anymore – there was zero affection left in a relationship that had started out so focused on affection and making each other happy. I reached out to his best friend, and was soon after told that us having a “private friendship” made him too uncomfortable. Hindsight is 20/20 and oh was I so so blind at the time. I was SO lonely and so frustrated with myself because I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.
The verbal fights started when I (a natural fighter) just couldn’t hold it in anymore. “What am I doing wrong?” “Why am I not good enough”….but everything always ended with me in the wrong, picking fights for no reason when he “works so hard so I could have everything I wanted” (while I also had a full time job). As things went downhill I put up the front even stronger “everything is wonderful” and all of that bullshit. The ONLY one who knew anything was his best friend, and even how much he tried it still was putting a band aid on something that needed stitches. I’m sure a lot of you have seen #HeMightNotHitYou that is the point we were at here.
The first physical incident occurred on my 21st Birthday, I had wanted to go out with friends (he did not, it was a weekday), so I had bought some drinks for us to celebrate at home – he was already 21 but didn’t go out very often. He got home from work and went straight downstairs to play xbox – and never came back. He said that he thought it was stupid that I wanted to drink together “just because its your birthday”. After I couldn’t even tell you how many times of asking him to come upstairs, I went downstairs upset, disappointed, frustrated, and most of all wondering why I wasn’t good enough for him to spend my birthday with me. Words were exchanged, I grabbed his sweater at one point and he thought I broke the zipper which set him off even more. Being a fighter I said “I should just break your xbox, then you’ll have to spend time with me” to which he replied “break my xbox and I’ll break you”. I took a step forward and he wrapped his body around me and threw me across the room. my legs hit a chair, my head hit the wall, and in one swift motion I was all the way back up 4 staircases to our bedroom. I called his best friend and told him what happened frantically before he could make it up to the room where I was. Honestly, I can still feel the fear and the pain as I type this and that is something I NEVER want either of my children to feel. (its all a part of healing but I need a little break, and a beer, right now)
After this, I had a bag packed and hidden, but didn’t think I’d ever use it. I knew we were at that point, but I wanted so desperately to make it work. There were a few more incidents, mostly late at night when he wouldn’t come to bed, or during the evening when I just so desperately wanted his attention. The day that I left in the middle of a fight, I got my bag went to the door and yelled to the house (he was downstairs) “this will either be the stupidest or the smartest thing I’ll ever do” and walked out the door.
My story doesn’t end there, there was court ordered counseling, a suicide threat if I left again, a restraining order (which ended in his sister stalking me), and countless extremely scary, ridiculous situations. The worse it got, the more I knew that I made the right decision. Now, I didn’t make the best decisions to try to get my life back on track (again with the hindsight thing), but I realized this and made the decision to change my life which got me into the Army. And for me, that was the best decision that I’ve ever made.
This may be the abbreviated version but its a start for me. And I hope that anyone that is in that “its a start” phase can be helped to realize that there may be more going on.
This is healing for me, this is a big thing for me, I don’t talk about it and I’m going to need to know how to talk about it. This is a good place to start.