I am writing this to try to help others see patterns of behavior of my husband’s and myself that contributed to the crumbling of our marriage. By the time I knew there was something wrong with him, it was too late. If you see yourself or your spouse in this story, get help. Listen to your friends. Find a shelter for abused people.
I do not hate him. I have forgiven him. I do miss the man I married. But he is at peace now.
I was always an optimist and was excited about life from childhood on. My parents had a wonderful marriage and were loving parents. My childhood was filled with love, learning and sharing with each other. From there I came into my teens with many dreams about marriage and family, along with many teachings about how a wife should be submissive and obedient.
My first day of middle school I saw a tall, red-headed guy walking toward me. He was the first guy to ask me out on a date after we had been friends. I noticed that he was kind, protective, extremely intelligent, loved to explain things to me, and he really thought I was wonderful. He was the first and only man I dated more than once, before I married him.
We dated for seven years
Those seven years included the four years he went to college in Raleigh, while I studied nursing in Greenville, SC. We dated during holidays and his summers off from college while he worked. I know he loved me. He actually hitch hiked across North Carolina to be with me at a church camp once. He gave his time and affection to me in so many ways. I couldn’t help but fall in love with him. I finished nurse’s training near my family home while he finished his last year for his Bachelor’s Degree. My school was a three year RN diploma school which made us decide to wait to marry until after he had graduated the next year. I was hired at the hospital where I trained; rented a duplex and learned to be on my own that last year.
Our marriage began
We married the July after his May graduation and moved to New Orleans where he wanted to earn his Master’s of Divinity. I remember feeling anxious partly because I didn’t know anyone except him there and I was leaving my family so far behind and starting a new life. But I was excited about our future.
Being a student he had his hands full with studying, and later research as he progressed from the master’s degree studies to the doctoral program. I was our main source of income. But he worked part time jobs while he studied. We enjoyed many events together there.
The financial arrangement
He wanted to handle the finances so he could feel more like he was contributing to our financial situation. Because the wife of an old friend of his almost had a nervous breakdown from worrying about their finances, he worried about the same strain on me; since I was working full time and paying the bills. So he took charge of paying the bills and did a wonderful job of paying things off.
Somewhere between our fourth and eighth year of marriage, things got unbalanced. He became irritable, controlling, and much less affectionate. He was, most of the time, pretty normal but when I did something wrong or that upset him, he would get mad. Sometimes he would ignore me afterwards. When I asked him for something he would say, “Why should I cooperate with you! You didn’t cooperate with me!” I would apologize for letting him down or not doing as I was asked to do. Many times I cried during these altercations, feeling so horrible that I couldn’t make my husband happy and feeling angry at myself for ruining a calm, peaceful time!
I descended into deeper levels of stress, self recriminations, poor self image, and lowered confidence. I became more clingy, like I had never had before.
Since he was a very intelligent man with a doctorate, could speed read, quote lines from everything imaginable and had a very logical mind, I decided to leave most of the decisions to him. After all, to my mind, I only had a diploma and “only a year of that was in college.” He might on occasion ask me what I thought about a decision. If I told him I didn’t agree with his idea, I would be “convinced” by his logical thinking that he was right. Many times I would later wonder why I had agreed with him. In short I gave my power over my life to him.
Things degenerated to his calling me hurtful names. I remember the first time he called me “bitch.” I sobbed in surprise and shock. I worked through things in my mind that he was just under a lot of pressure from school. After all earning a Masters Degree and then a Doctorate was quite stressful. He would be up late studying often so sometimes I figured he was just exhausted. But things didn’t get better.
Increased fear and stress
I became more stressed and became afraid of disappointing him. I would run an errand for him sometimes and become so anxious that I forgot what brand or how many he had asked me to buy! I knew there would be an argument when I got home, so I just shut down and let him yell at me. Since it was after all “my fault.”
An Interlude of Joy
After graduating with his doctorate it took a year before he was offered a job in a small church. It was soon after that we had our son. We had wanted to have a baby after his classes were over. But it was four years before we finally got pregnant with our firstborn. We worked together through Lamaze classes and the final delivery. We were both ecstatic! He was very supportive of me and my emotional ups and downs of pregnancy and we both chose the healthiest things we could learn about for our baby and for me. Our son brought so much joy into our lives but soon the old behavior began again. Now I look back and wonder what was I thinking to expose a baby to so much pain.
Friends knew something was wrong
Finally the warnings given by friends and even family, for many years hit me. Several had been asking me why I “let him talk” to me like that? The mother of one of my son’s friends had a heart to heart talk with me about domestic abuse. I continued to excuse his behavior with how stressed out he was about our finances, about his job; or he was behind on his sleep or whatever. All of this while I worked night shift and slept short many times.
A disintegrating relationship
In the meantime the name calling and insults disintegrated to blatant emotional abuse and on rare occasions, to physical abuse. I felt I was stupid, couldn’t remember anything, was a bad wife and mother, and a failure.
Once our son got a splinter in his finger as a toddler. I was blamed because I was the adult and I was responsible for his care and protection! How could I protect our son from everything!!?? I became the scapegoat for whatever happened bad to our son.
There were still good times. We went on trips. He took care of our son when I had to work night shift and needed to sleep. They both loved trains and so they would go to the train station and watch them come in. We ate out a lot together too since I was often tired.
In the next part “Finally I Woke Up!” I will tell how I found myself!