This post is entitled Courageous Women #6 because I have just changed from BlogSpot to WordPress. If you click on the above link it will take you to my prior blogs. My dream is to reach as many women who have been abused as I possibly can. When I first began my blog, it was six months since I had rung him from my counsellor’s office to tell him that it was OVER between us. I told him that our relationship was unhealthy for both of us, and that I felt unsafe and therefore there was a protection order.
This month, on the 16th, it will be eight months since I told him that I was leaving him in…definitely and nine months since I last saw him. I have come a long way since then. However, some of the ramifications from our violent relationship have followed me. My desire this year is to be able to fully grieve – to express the deep hurt, wounds to my soul and my own anger for the way I was treated. I said I was fine for so long that I have forgotten how to express my true feelings.
Therefore, I thought that I would start at the beginning and try to express why and how did I marry someone who was abusive. This is a big question and a hard one.
Many times I have asked myself how I ended up marrying him in the first place and why it took me so long to leave him. In this blog, I try to put my thoughts into words.
I was young when I met him and he was my first serious relationship. I had just turned 20. I appeared confident on the outside – I was a leader at youth group, I played keyboard in the Youth Band, I was in my third year of studying to be a nurse, but emotionally I was very immature. I did not have a clear understanding of who I was and what I truly wanted from life. I had a fear of being found out, of being a fraud. Of not being good enough. And in the midst of all of this I met HIM. He had a completely different background to me and he intrigued me. On first appearances and even for the first few months of getting to know him, he seemed to be a gentle, kind hearted person. I would never have believed that he was capable of such depths of anger and violent behaviour.
No one had ever discussed with me about physical abuse or manipulation. I was not prepared for the mental issues that he presented with. He was very depressed when I first met him and he continuously said that no one loved him. I am a sensitive person and when he got in these moods I would hold him and say over and over, “I love you, I’m here.” He would send me texts saying “Goodbye.” The first goodbye text was when he walked out on his job and then decided that he would walk out on me and life as well. On receiving those texts, I would drop everything and go to him. He would get in moods where he would say “No one loves me. I’ve done nothing with my life. I may as well kill myself.” I would once more quickly put my arms around him and reassure him that I was there, and that I would never leave him. Eventually, his mood would shift and things would settle down for a while. I didn’t see at the time that a pattern was building where I responded to his needs out of fear that if I didn’t help him he would hurt himself and it would be my fault.
Fear became a normal part of our relationship. I kept tabs on him continuously. I would send constant texts during the day, asking how things were going and if I didn’t hear from him I assumed the worst. I never felt settled within our relationship due to the instability and the potential for him to become angry unexpectedly. However, I never considered leaving him. I had promised multiple times when he was in those moods that I would stay and that I wasn’t going anywhere. My deepest fear was that if I left he would commit suicide and that it would be my fault, my responsibility.
For some reason, I thought that everything would change when we were married and living together. He blamed a lot of his behaviour on his past, his family – particularly his mother leaving him alone for long periods. I rationalised his behaviour based on this and was sure that as long as I created a loving, happy home that things would settle. I accepted the victim role that he constantly portrayed. I would tell people when episodes happened that it was because of his childhood and that he couldn’t help it. Communication was a huge issue within our relationship when we were dating. He could not handle me raising any concerns about our relationship. If I did bring something up he would withdraw into a black mood or threaten to harm himself. His behaviour resulted in me taking everything back and we never resolved anything. This issue actually became worse upon getting married. He reacted to everything that I brought up, even small things such as asking him to help with cleaning up the house before a visitor arrived would set him off. Next thing he would be storming around the house, gritting his teeth, throwing things and I would be trying to calm him down in time to pretend to the guest that everything was okay. But things were far from okay.
I stopped bringing things up and tried to create a loving home with no conflict at all. We hung out mostly with each other and I tried to create a safe bubble for us. However, I soon realised that it did not matter how small I made our world, he would always find something to react to. One time it was because the internet was not working efficiently… There was nothing either of us could do about that but he started an angry episode and ended up running out of the house and going AWOL because of that.
Due to all the trauma from the episodes I became highly anxious whenever he withdrew. I would start to talk faster and I had some phrases that I would say over and over – “It’s fine. I love you. Don’t worry about it.” I coped with his intense anger and violence by downplaying my personal feelings and emotions. When he rang me at work and told me that he had gotten angry and had broken something, my instant response was “That’s fine.” I never got him to face the consequences of his actions. I would take responsibility and apologise on his behalf. I would hug and console him. I would tell him that “everything is okay. I love you.” He ruined so many important events with his unprecedented anger. Family gatherings including birthdays and weddings, people visiting, church services, nothing was safe. There was no area of my life that was left unscarred. My parents were a huge support to me during this time in my life. The last few major episodes, I would force him in the car and dump him in their lounge and then I would retreat to a bedroom, close the door and cry.
I could not go on like this. My epiphany came the day that the psychiatrist at the police station said that he was not going to kill himself. The psychiatrist said he did not believe that he would follow through with any of his threats to commit suicide and that it was purely behavioural. This changed everything for me. Up to that point, I had thought that a black cloud came over him and that he was enveloped in deep, dark anger that made him do things that he didn’t want to do. After that, I tested it to see if he could control it. He threatened to throw a glass and I snapped at him: “Put that down!” He immediately put down the glass.
This was a turning point in our relationship. He had hurt me so much and I had always played the victim card in his favour but now I realised that I was enabling his behaviour through my inability to speak up in my defence. I realised that I needed to get out, yet I still felt stuck and like I couldn’t leave just in case he did hurt himself. It wasn’t until my dad rang me during the final episode that I actually managed to leave. I had called the crisis team and the police were present as well. But the problem was that he always presented well – chatting and communicating readily with them so they were about to leave him in my care again. My dad rang and I left the room to speak with him. He encouraged me to leave, he said it was a good time to do so while the police and crisis team were at the house. I took a deep breath and came in and was brutally honest. He had been joking with the police and saying that everything was fine. I knelt on the chair in my dining room and said, “It’s not funny and it’s not fine.” I said I wouldn’t stay there with him and that I was leaving. They asked him if he would hurt himself if he was left on his own. He said that he would be fine. It wasn’t the way I wanted it. I had wanted someone to stay with him because I still felt responsible for his actions. But, I took another deep breath, packed a few things and left.
It was from that point on that things slowly became a lot clearer. It still took me many counselling sessions before I would admit that I had been abused and that I was a victim of Domestic Violence. There is a misconception that Domestic Violence is only applicable to women who have been physically abused. Domestic Violence encompasses emotional abuse also, and from my own personal experience, I can say that emotional abuse is equally damaging to an individual. I have come through it and I can tell you straight that it is very hard to get out of a relationship which is built on this. While leaving is very hard, I can tell you that once you have left it does get easier. The further away you get from that awful, all consuming situation, the more you will be able to reflect on the past and let go! Once he is out of your life, then real life begins! Your world will become a whole lot bigger, I promise. I believe strongly that there is no way that we are supposed to stay in relationships with people that are slowly but surely ripping our insides to shreds until one day we wake up and we are at the end of ourselves. You and I deserve a whole lot more, do not settle for a life of fear, pain, and turmoil.
I have a refrain that I often speak out loud, to remind myself that there is no way I am ever going back.
I’m saying NO to fear,
& everything that holds me back
I’m saying NO to pain,
& everything that means.