October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Rumi, a famous Persian philosopher from the 13th century, once aptly penned: “The wound is where the light enters you.” I wonder what kind of pain he experienced to understand wounds and healing so well.
I want the light of understanding, wisdom, compassion, hope and change to come through this story to help heal me and others. I will be sharing some very painful and personal information about my life in some of my future posts.
I loved the man I married. From the observations of others and from my own early experiences (7 years of dating him) I know he loved me. But his health and emotional unrest caused him to go where I could not help him.
The truth is I was a victim of spousal abuse. Even writing it makes me cringe. I do not like to admit that I was a victim because “victim” sounds like I was weak and I do not like to sound weak. I am an intelligent woman. But I was weak and in denial. The truth is I am strong now because I survived and am healing. I have been healing from these wounds since my husband’s death in 2009.
I want to share some of my “lessons” in the future blogs for the following reasons:
1.) I want to understand the factors of my personality that facilitated the abuse. In other words: “What did I do wrong???” That sounds like self blame. NO! I did not deserve the way I was treated.
2.) I hope to help others be aware of potential abuse issues in their relationships, whether they are partners/spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends or even friends, whether male or female.
3.) I want to stop blaming myself for “allowing” this to happen to our relationship and our family.
4.) I want to stop analyzing memories, stashed subconsciously years ago, that still pop up. I want to finish healing so I can put the past behind me, along with the self doubt, pain, mistrust of my own decision making skills and mistrust of a potential future man in my life, if there is meant to be one.
5.) I hope my thoughts will help me understand better how our situation evolved from our early years.
After a 36 year long marriage my husband died of health problems August 5, 2009. (Actually in my mind a part of him died gradually over the years.) It is not my goal to speak ill of the dead. He was not a monster. He was sick with his own health (physical and other) problems. I saw his self control weaken, his tolerance to stress lessen along with his affection. The quality of our relationship declined along with that of his life.
I still loved the man I married and the good man that was there some of the time. But his problems are not the issue here. No matter what his problems were, no matter how severe or minuscule, no matter how frequent or infrequent, I did not deserve the abuse I received!
Being in denial I could always find excuses for my husband’s behavior. I wanted everyone to know the good, intelligent side of him. In order to keep people from knowing of our problems I excused his behavior by taking the blame: “I forgot something” or failed to follow instructions or do something his way, (the right way)! Sometimes I would say, he was just under a lot of stress. Personally I denied and hid my wounds so well from everyone else that I even hid them from myself!
I was surprised to find later that not just my family and close friends knew something was amiss, but also some of my co-workers. My behavior betrayed my secrets. Some of those who loved me tried to make me aware that at times my husband wasn’t treating me as a loving husband should.
But I dismissed them every time with the good things he had done and how smart and responsible he always was. I could always depend on him when I needed him. He honestly did take care of me when I was sick, paid the bills and left me with a great credit rating.
But no matter how I tried to be a good wife, his behavior evolved from name calling, to belittling, to controlling behavior, to physical threats and later to occasional violence. Listen to that out loud. “Occasional violence, as if to say, “It only happened occasionally!” That is wrong!! Violence is violence no matter how frequent or severe, physical or emotional!! Sometimes I think if the violence had been more frequent or more severe I might not have been able to excuse it so easily or explain it away.
Being an optimist I seemed to cling to Scarlet O’Hara’s famous line, “After all, tomorrow is another day!” So I persisted in my delusions that all would be fine the next day.
So why didn’t I see I was in trouble? I wanted the happy marriage that my parents had. I desperately wanted to continue the happy life I had growing up. I wanted everything to be like it was supposed to be! But it wasn’t! I had also developed a bit of Stockholm Syndrome, I think.
The turning point of this story came after several years of warnings from my friends. One unique and inspiring book”Women Who Run With Wolves” by Dr. Clarissa Estes PH.D, helped me understand that women are not the weaker sex but are stronger than they are often allowed to believe.
But the most crucial help came from my wise son (who knew what was happening before I did). Finally I realized that I did not deserve any of the abuse that created my daily walks on eggshells.
Some of the fault for our marital problems are mine to bear. I had my own problems that allowed the abuse to begin, to continue and to escalate until I woke up! But…… Listen to me! I am already trying to blame myself! NO! I AM responsible for my behavior, not his temper, not his anger, not his belittling, not his abuse!
After his death I realized that I had shut out painful memories to keep my “happiness,” false though it was. I believe now that denial was my way of coping with a situation I could not deal with then.
After all, why would anyone want to realize how starved they were for attention, affection, affirmation, acceptance, respect, validation, dignity, value and love from their own husband?? “Someone who is ready to heal,” is the answer!
And so I will start at the beginning of my story in another blog soon to come.