October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I hope to help more people be aware of domestic violence and that the effects of it can persist for many years. The first post on this topic: https://joyful2beeblogs.com/2019/09/30/letter-to-my-childhood-self/
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 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 emotional, mental and physical domestic abuse/violence. 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.
There is actually a difference between emotional and psychological (or mental) abuse. According to KP O’Hagan’s ebook, “Identifying Emotional and Psychological Abuse,” emotional abuse is about what we feel, which includes coping mechanisms. Mental abuse affects the development of “cognitive function and memory.”
I am an intelligent woman. And in some ways I was weak but i more ways I was strong. But I was totally unprepared and in denial over the changes that took place over years in my marriage to my teenage sweetheart. 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 to be abused, insulted, accused, shoved and more.
2.) I hope to help others be aware of potential abuse issues in their present 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. (See a pattern of blame?)
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.
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 to be abused!
Being in denial I could always find excuses for my husband’s behavior when I sensed that someone was aware of our problem. 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 had a repertoire of excuses lined up for myself. I told myself: He’s just upset because: “I forgot something” or “failed to follow instructions” or “didn’t do something his way,.” (the right way)! Sometimes I would say to myself and later to others, “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 and paid the bills. But as the disease process progressed there was less and less affection and more and more stress, confusion and pain for me, and perhaps for him.
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 better 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!
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.