October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. This is the second in a series of posts at my experiences as a victim of spousal abuse. I am writing these posts in the hopes that it will help others be more aware of their relationship and behavior patterns and catch problems before they take over their lives. The first post on this is: An Introduction to Healing Wounds
By the time I knew there was something wrong with my husband, 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. Get help!
I do not hate him. He died 9 years ago. I have forgiven him but have not forgotten. I do miss the man I married. But he is at peace now and so am I.
My childhood was in a loving home with happily married, loving parents. My childhood was filled with love, learning and sharing with my family. I was a happy, positive kid.
From there I grew into my teens with many dreams about marriage and family like the one I grew up. Church was a big part of our family life. With it came many teachings about how a wife should be submissive and obedient to her husband.
My First Love
My first day of middle school I saw a tall, red-headed guy walking toward me. Later after we had been friends he asked me out on my and his first date.
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 earned my three year RN diploma near my family home while he finished his last year of college for his Bachelor of Arts in Raleigh, NC. During the year he was finishing school we decided to wait to marry until after he had graduated the next year. I was independent for a year while working at the hospital where I trained and rented a duplex.
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 being excited about our future and anxious because I didn’t know anyone except him there and I was leaving my family so far behind and starting a new life.
Being a student his time was full of classes, 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. While living in New Orleans we enjoyed many fun events and made some wonderful friends.
Somewhere between our fourth and eighth year of marriage, things got unbalanced. He gradually became irritable, controlling, and much less affectionate. He was, most of the time, pretty normal but when I did something wrong or upset him, he would get mad.
Sometimes he would ignore me afterwards for a day. 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 he had 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 been 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 a different idea than his, he would convince me with his logical thinking that his idea was best. Many times I later wondered 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 whitewashed his behavior by deciding 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 of something 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. We both chose the healthiest methods we could learn about for caring 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. Talk about stress! Through all of this I worked night shift in critical care units and slept short hours 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. My husband yelled at me because I was the adult and therefore the one responsible for our son’s injury his care and protection! How could I protect our son from everything!!?? I became the scapegoat for whatever negative event happened 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!