There is no way this could be me, my life, this happens to other people, not me. That’s what I told myself for years. The hole he punched in the wall right next to my head because I had a different opinion then he did. The destroyed kitchen I came home to, because I didn’t get home fast enough when he requested my presence. The headbutt I took to the nose because he was wasted, had out wore his welcome at a friends and I was trying to get him in the car safely to get him home. But there is no way that I was in an abusive marriage, that’s just not possible, it happens to other people, not me.
42 Domestic Violence Warning Signs even now I look at this list and can’t believe that I experienced 29 of the 42 things during the 21 year relationship. That’s right, it didn’t start when we got married, that hole in the wall, that was only after dating a few months. Psychological Abuse #6 Gaslighting: to cause a person to doubt his or her sanity through the use of psychological manipulation. This is a super powerful form of abuse. You walk around questioning everything and forgiving so much, because you can’t even tell if its reality or not anymore. The answer to the question I know you are asking yourself right now, “Why the hell did you stay in the relationship?” I won’t go into detail which of the 29 I experienced, but I can say there is not one of the 8 categories that I escaped experiencing.
Knowledge is power, the more I read, the more I learn, the more in control and powerful I feel. I wish I could say that I always see things as they are happening and the past doesn’t affect my current life, but I pray that those things I miss and later realize happened as a result of the past, contribute to the continued growth and healing. Writing it all out, bravely sharing it with the world (even if it sometimes takes me days to hit the publish button) has been one of the most empowering things I have done in the last twenty years, hence the recent domain and blog name change.
So of the 29 things I experienced the hardest was the emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse. For obvious reasons the emotional and psychological abuse is difficult and being in a marriage you never want to think that you can be sexual abused by your partner. I am certain there are going to be plenty of people who are going to think what I am about to share is going to far, but before you judge me, please understand, I only share things in hope that if there is someone else out there like me, experiencing these things, they will feel less alone, see that there is hope on the other side, and reach out and get help to get out of their situation.
Of all the things that happened to me two stick out to me the most. February 13, 2016 the day before he decided he needed to get sober, he was drinking VERY heavily. I could see that it was going to be a really bad night. I had put all the kids to bed early and tried to avoid them seeing or hearing his behavior. I mentally prepared myself for the usual battery of words that would be thrown at me to make me feel as low as possible. There is only so much you can prepare yourself for no matter how many times you been through the same situation, and typically you miss something. Late in the night he decided he was going to try to be “playful”. I was in our bedroom when he left the bathroom, right next to our bedroom, so he came in and began to force himself on me. I tried to say no, and when he just wouldn’t stop, I begged and pleaded with him to just please shut the door so the kids wouldn’t see if they woke up. A few minutes (which was probably really seconds, but felt like forever) later it was too late, our oldest who was almost 18-year-old (at the time) walked past the room. He has always been very protective of me, he had begged me to leave his dad since the time he was 10, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t regret the fact that I let him down by not being brave enough to leave sooner. I’ll never forget hearing him scream at his dad “Get the F&@$ off of her!” He walked into the living room and threw his dads beer can across the room so hard that it split it through the center. In a moment of frustration, embarrassment, I’m not really sure what went through his head, but my ex grabbed his keys and left. We ended up getting him to come home so he wouldn’t kill someone with the car and I didn’t speak to him again until the next day. I remember him standing at the kitchen sink pouring out what was left of the beer in the fridge and telling us all he was done drinking. I thought this might actually be the rock bottom that would save him. The one thing that would make all the years I’d stayed wishing he’d get sober and be the dad my kids deserved, so I gave him the chance to prove it. He was sober for 3 months. It was the 3 best months of my kids lives with their dad.
Fast forward to February 2017 when the detective told me that it would get worse, and I needed to make a plan and get out sooner than later. I never imagined it would be something happening to me, after all everything he was doing the last couple of months was focused on other women not me. Unfortunately February 26th we were out-of-town at our last club tournament. He was again wasted and overly aggressive. I remember laying in bed like I had so many times over the years, laying as still as I possibly could, hugging the edge of the bed, praying that he wouldn’t wake up and touch me. Usually once he was snoring I was in the clear, but not this time. I woke up a few hours later with him on top of me. I pushed and pushed trying to get him off of me, finally freeing myself. I was terrified. The gaslighting started, but this time, I was done. I wanted to call the police, but we were in another state, and I couldn’t handle my kids being put through the spectacle it would cause, so I did nothing, I said nothing to anyone for months. I filed for divorce two days later.
By this point you are probably wondering why in the world I am sharing such a personal and painful experience with the you. I can still see vivid images in my mind of them happening as I sit here typing. It makes me physically ill. But, I remember thinking when I spoke to someone about it the first time a few months later, the power I felt in getting the words out, not hiding behind the things he had done to me. I also remember thinking that I would NEVER let anyone else do anything like that to me again.
About four months ago I started dating again. I was on the fence about whether it was a good idea, but felt like I needed to somehow breathe life back into my…life. So I made an attempt at Match, I realized quickly (I didn’t even last a week) that was a mistake…far too many unsolicited photos and messages, it was just too much. I took a quick breather during the holidays and then hunted for something else. I wasn’t doing Tinder, and I was hoping to find something that was a little less here send me a photo of your junk type of thing. So after some looking around I landed on Bumble. Bumble, similar to Tinder in that you have to swipe left or right. Once you both swipe right, the man pops up in the woman’s hive and she has 24 hours to send them a message, and they then have 24 hours to respond. So now after several months “bumbling”….I’ve met mostly nice men. Some pleasant conversations, some new friendships, and some nice dates. I’ve been super cautious, some might even think overly cautious, I was actually wondering if they were right….until a few days ago.
I met a guy and we chatted for about a week, he seemed pleasant and normal and he asked me to have a drink with him. Lately I’ve been reluctant again to go through with meeting anyone, and almost canceled, but my friend said just go, have fun…so I went. Everything seemed normal to start. He was drinking a little more than I would have liked, especially given that we had talked about my alcoholic ex, and I was having a water. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, he seemed extremely nervous. The date itself would have been great, had things not gone the direction they did. In hindsight, I keep thinking about how terribly wrong things could have gone. We walked from the bar to another pub and had dinner, it was beautiful outside and nice alternative to sitting across from a table the entire time talking. On our walk back to our cars, he stopped at one point to kiss me, and apparently decided he knew me well enough to start “touching” me. I grabbed his hand and told him that wasn’t ok. He stopped. I spent the rest of the walk back to our cars trying to avoid any further progression of things. Can someone please tell me why in the world any man (or woman) would rationally think that this was acceptable behavior?
The next day I met my two best friends for dinner. We talked through the happenings. In case you ever date me or anything of the sort, you should probably know we have a very open relationship and share just about everything. Imagine the coffee shop scenes from Girlfriends Guide to Divorce.
So a) don’t be a jerk and b) expect that they probably know things, that’s just how we process the craziness of our lives. As I’m telling them the story, it’s almost like I can’t even believe what happened, to be honest still in this moment, I keep thinking there is no way this actually happened, and the more violated I keep feeling. Of course both of them are trying to figure out why I didn’t punch the guy. As it was happening I was trying to think who can I call to help me if needed. I’m usually pretty careful about telling them where I am heading for dates, so they at least have somewhere to start, if I come up missing, but at this moment I wished I had a panic button in my pocket.
After talking through everything with them, I of course in very predictable Jen fashion, I keep thinking (or over thinking as some would say…(clearing throat) Chris…Kobie…yes that was directed at you, lol) the situation. This leads to me crying myself to sleep. I continue this cry fest the next couple of days off and on. I’m just so angry at myself for not having a better plan. For thinking I was being safe, and yet somehow I managed to get lucky and it wasn’t worse than what it was. It makes me angry that there are men out there that think this kind of behavior is ok.
Once I got through the emotional roller coaster, I kept coming back to my friends saying they couldn’t believe I didn’t punch him. It really started to eat at me, WHY didn’t I punch him. Why did I choose any of my actions/reactions the way I had? Finally as I was doing the dishes today, it all hit me like a Mack truck, and I fell to my knees in sobbing tears. I allowed it because I had been desensitized and conditioned for so many years to think that this was all I was worth, and I deserved to be treated like that. It was common for my ex to be drinking and “handle” me the way this guy had, and I was just supposed to accept it or face the damaging words that would follow.
So four months ago when I decided I was going to attempt this dating thing, I can’t say I’m sad that I did, it did help me breathe life back into my life, but I think this last event will make it extremely difficult for me to meet anyone new for a while. I think its time to hang that hat up for a little while and reevaluate how I respond to things, what is normal and what just seems like it should be normal based on my past conditioning, and maybe take a self-defense class. Because unfortunately no matter how much I want to think it wasn’t me…it was me…I was in an abusive relationship, I did live 29 of those 42 warning signs of domestic violence.