Sunday found me mentally and emotionally exhausted. I just couldn’t bring myself to write anything, because what is really weighing on my heart seemed too intimate to share.
I started the Anonymous series for this very reason. I find that I keep many things to myself because I’m worried about what people I know will think of me if I shared certain aspects of my life experiences. People would be surprised and shocked and would probably respect me less if I shared some things about myself. And so it occurred to me that I may not be the only one who wants to shout from the rooftops while remaining completely unknown.
I am a child of divorce. My mother left my father at 30 years old with 2 young boys and a 1 year old little girl: me. When my mom talks about that now, her reasons for leaving were purely for peace of mind and safety. My father was a physically abusive man, and after over a decade of living in that kind of fear, she left. I grew up grateful for her decision because I was spared seeing that violence and such an abusive display of what was supposed to be a loving relationship. But I have also grown up in fear of ending up in such a relationship myself. When my mother speaks about my father, she speaks not only about the abuse but also the good husband and father he was sometimes, so I learned very quickly that my father, while abusive, was not a completely bad man; there was good in him too.
I don’t think women always marry men who are abusive from the get go. Sometimes they start out being very good men who treat them well and one day, a slap across the face spirals into much worse. This was my fear: that I would not see it coming and I would find myself stuck in a situation that I would not be able to get myself out of.
Fortunately for me, I have never been with a man that has ever been physically violent. but not so long ago, I found myself in an emotionally abusive relationship which is, from conversations with many women who have been physically abused, exactly the same thing. Today, I will share some of the indicators I picked up from that experience.
It’s the little things
A phrase we have heard many times about showing someone that you care about them. There were little red flags in my case. In the same way that physical abuse starts with a slap, emotional abuse starts with an insult or a small comment intended to bring you down. I think back on so many insults that were hurled my way in an argument that often had nothing to do with what the fight was even about. I remember telling him after the dust had settled on our very first argument that it was not OK to speak to someone you cared about the way he spoke to me, even during a disagreement. I remember an apology and a disbelief on his part for the things he said. But it continued that way for a few months in our arguments. I also remember the comments. These are said with more tact: almost like a tip about how to be better – for him. These comments clearly indicated that I was not doing that one thing well enough to please him. They poked at my self esteem and my need to be affirmed that I am good enough and made it very clear that I wasn’t. And they were everywhere, like little paper cut flaws in all aspects of our relationship. Both of these eventually accumulated to much bigger insults and flaws about me and sometimes even merged into one. If I was a weaker person, I would have believed everything he said and I would have worked my tail off to be more worthy of him to no avail.
These land from the clear blue sky, after weeks of fighting and being broken down, just when you, no matter how strong you think you are, start believing that all these things he says to you are true. He would pour out his heart to you; the very thing you’ve been wanting him to do for the longest time. He will tell you how much he appreciates you and all that you have done for him. He will promise that he will do better by you in the future. There will be hugs and kisses, violins will play in the background, just like the chick flicks when they reunite at the end and your hope in him will be restored! But then a week later, it will be back to square one, back to the comments, unanswered calls and messages and even a disappearing act and coming back with no explanation or even that you are not owed an explanation. Your life essentially swings back and forth. You dread the little things and suffer through them while hoping for the grand gestures that will make this roller coaster worth the pain.
It’s Your fault
I’ve heard physically abused women say that eventually, they get so tired of being hit that they start hitting back. Of course, he hits harder but at least you get some shots in in the process. I got angry over time too. I was outraged that this man thought so little of me and that even now as I am typing, I can think of only a handful of times that he was actually nice to me. The more he dragged me down the more frustrated and angry I got even though it was mixed with the hurt of believing him and eventually, I learned to give as good as I got. After weeks of being cold yet demanding; after tactics and spun stories about people who have done more for him in order to make me feel obliged to do more, I would throw insults back at him and tell him his flaws that were so much bigger than mine and then, it would be my fault for lashing out. I would then be the one making amends in the end. He would then have full rights to bringing me down because I would have started it!
He controlled everything: we saw each other on his terms, we drove his way to a mall I visit on my own on a regular basis from the same area, we ate what he liked, drank what he liked, watched what he liked and he left when he liked. I did all the giving: we discussed in detail what he wanted for his birthday and I was not to surprise him. My birthday, on the other hand passed without a word ( our birthdays are 2 weeks apart). I did all the prescribed giving while he showed up empty handed and expectant for more because what I gave was never enough. I was under his thumb.
I knew a long time ago that this was not the life I wanted for myself, but I chose to believe and hope in the best of him. Eventually, though, I saw that very little would change in the future and I would be stuck in this cycle with him and it may even escalate to physical abuse. I also hated the person I was becoming: defensive and unengaging and beginning to see my flaws getting bigger and bigger. And so I ran for my life. There are days when the deepest darkest rejected parts of me think that amends can be made and things can be fixed, but I know the reality. My father remarried after my mother left and the physical abuse continue in his new home. And I know that it is very unlikely that anything will change if I go back to this…
Phew, that was really hard to share with you and I am anxious about anyone I know reading any of this, but I do believe that someone may read this and be in the same situation and not know it. This is for you: You are enough and you are strong and a life alone is better than a life of anguish! Protect yourself always, dear readers!
Thank you for visiting today. I hope this was helpful. I’ll see you on Sunday!