Monthly Archives: January 2012

Verbal Abuse 101

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Verbal abuse can be a difficult concept to understand. In fact, throughout the thirty plus years I was getting whipped about the head and shoulders, I argued a blue streak there was no such thing.

So here are a few verses for my old self in case I ever show up looking:

Proverbs 18:20-22 (AMP)

20A man’s [moral] self shall be filled with the fruit of his mouth; and with the consequence of his words he must be satisfied [whether good or evil].

    21Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life].

    22He who finds a [true] wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.

I like this one in context. Notice how the verse before speaks of a man being satisfied with the consequences of his words, either good or bad. The verse after speaks of finding a wife. Interesting juxtaposition, no?

Psalm 57:3-4 (AMP)

3He will send from heaven and save me from the slanders and reproaches of him who would trample me down or swallow me up, and He will put him to shame. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! God will send forth His mercy and loving-kindness and His truth and faithfulness.

    4My life is among lions; I must lie among those who are aflame–the sons of men whose teeth are spears and arrows, their tongues sharp swords.

Not sure who wrote this and too tired to click a few buttons and look it up but let’s make pretend I did and say it’s David. Pretty obvious nobody was biting on his legs or stabbing his gizzard with their tongue. In today’s pop-psychology speak, this verse would go something like, “I’m stuck here with a whole pack of verbally abusive bad guys and God’s going to get them good.” (Ida’s Imaginative Translation)

Psalm 64:2-4 (AMP)

2Hide me from the secret counsel and conspiracy of the ungodly, from the scheming of evildoers,

    3Who whet their tongues like a sword, who aim venomous words like arrows,

    4Who shoot from ambush at the blameless man; suddenly do they shoot at him, without self-reproach or fear.

Venomous words? I can relate.

Psalm 140:2-4 (AMP)

2They devise mischiefs in their heart; continually they gather together and stir up wars.

    3They sharpen their tongues like a serpent’s; adders’ poison is under their lips. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

    4Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent men who have purposed to thrust aside my steps.

Pause and think calmly? Dude—seriously. You’re triggering me over here.

Proverbs 15:3-4 Amplified Bible (AMP)

3The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch upon the evil and the good.

    4A gentle tongue [with its healing power] is a tree of life, but willful contrariness in it breaks down the spirit.

Some of the stuff flying  around my house was way worse than willful contrariness.

And of course:

The Entire Book of James

All that about the tongue being set of fire by hell and all.

No such thing as verbal abuse. Really? What was I thinking?

I’m guessing I wasn’t.

 

More to follow however, I received a scathing email from the anti-husband dooming me to the pits of hell and since I can’t respond the way I’d like, I plan to fuss here.

Just as soon as I stop bleeding.

No One Will Believe You

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Recently, I asked a friend for feedback on these first few articles. With her permission, I’m going to address a couple of concerns.

She said she was uncomfortable with the term, “the beast.” Was he really that bad?

And here we encounter a problem I’ve bumped my head against numerous times. She may have asked if the anti-husband really deserves to be called a beast, but that’s not what I heard. Without realizing it, my friend triggered a case of the Wild-Eyed Crazies.

What I heard: Are you exaggerating?

The scary part? I’m actually minimizing.

Folks want to believe only what they see. In the case of verbal abuse, emotional abuse, bullying and other cases where a dominate party violates the trust of those dependent on them, scars aren’t always visible. You can’t imagine how many times I wished the anti-husband would just hit me already so I could call the police.

It’s hard for those outside  the fractured family circle to understand the kind of torment these men dish out.  If I walked around covered in bruises, black eye, broken bones protruding through the skin, no one would question my angst. But we’re talking injuries you can’t see inflicted by actions no one else witnessed.  You’re just going to have to take my word for it and that’s a huge leap for those who can’t imagine anyone would purposefully hurt their own wife and children.

It also plays smack dab into the hands of the abuser.

Typical Family Time

The beast loved to verbally beat the bloody hell out of me and the kids right before company pulled into the driveway. Then as we stood there bleeding, he morphed into Totally Charming Man– witty, funny, man’s man, envy of wives everywhere.  Throughout the coming evening, he sat  back and watched, taking potshots at each of us in turn, saying things no one else could possibly understand without the subtext.

Challenge anything he said, I wound up looking like a heinous bitch. The kids react, he punished them publicly, making an example of them, showing his audience how fully he controlled his home. Was this abusive? Taken as an isolated incident, maybe not. Day by day, damaging friendships, dividing the individual family members from one another, isolating the family unit which no longer wants outside contact with the world– You bet it was.

Could anyone else tell what was going on?

Only if they’d lived through  something similar. Later, several friends came and apologized. One said, “I lived with an abusive alcoholic father for 18 years and you had red flags waving all over the place. I should’ve known.”

Appearances Are Deceiving

Ours looked like the perfect Christian home. Others wanted to model our success. But please understand—if you only saw us sitting in a pew an hour on Sunday morning, is that really any indication of what goes on behind closed doors?  If you come over once every three months for barbeque and cream soda, can you possibly have any inkling what’s going to happen the minute your car pulls out of the driveway?

Tell Me What Happened

I can’t. If I told you I was sexually abused as a child, would you ask me for details? Would you want me to recount the incidents, one by one so you could judge for yourself how damaging these might  be? Would you decide that fondling really isn’t all that bad and I should be over it by now? Or get into a discourse about how your neighbor’s wife was repeatedly sodomized and that is much, much worse. In comparison, what you describe doesn’t sound  like abuse at all.

And yet, abused women who live with hateful domination, verbal onslaughts lasting hours on end, raging fits designed to punish them for their crimes,  and constant  threats of violence  get this reaction all the time. Tell me a few incidents. Tell me what happened. The implied message? I’ll be the judge of whether this is abusive.

The very worst incidents are the ones I don’t want to remember. The words ‘domination’ and ‘manipulation’ and ‘bullying’ are codewords for memories that lap at the edges of the very stuff it takes to get through another day. I use them to talk about what happened without plunging back into the muck. A triggered memory–one that shows up without invitation– can set back recovery by days, weeks, even months, depending on  how long  it takes to find the shreds of truth that barely hold me up and weave them back together.

It’s taken years to even admit to myself that abuse took place. How can I expect you to understand in the thirty minutes before you head back to your semi-normal family and the husband who may annoy the crap out of you, but never would purposefully set out to destroy your soul?

Google This:

  • Emotional Abuse
  • Verbal Abuse
  • Sexual Domination
  • Manipulation and Control.

If you really want to help,  really want to understand, you’ll have to educate yourself. Material is out there, pages and pages of the stuff. You’ll have to put criticism to one side and realize that women and children coming out of these marriages are showing the *effects* of abuse.

Please try to understand:

That pain you see, making you uncomfortable, isn’t free floating out there in space.

Something caused it.

*Someone* caused it.

The pain itself is a pretty dadgum good indication the story is authentic and, Yes Virginia, it really was that bad.

Don’t  judge  victims based on your own observations. You can’t see the damage done to the human spirit with eyeballs. You can’t examine the broken and bloody soul, x-ray the innards, assess the wreckage. What you *will* see is a fairly put together woman who’s learned to shut up and play nice, peeking out around the very frayed edges who probably overreacts to seemingly minor statements.

You can’t expect a survivor to explain in ten minutes it took her a lifetime to understand.

Recommended- Yashar Ali: A Message to Women From a Man: You Are Not “Crazy”

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Excellent article on gaslighting over at the Huffington Post:

“Gaslighting is a term often used by mental health professionals (I am not one) to describe manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they’re crazy.

The term comes from the 1944 MGM film, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. Bergman’s husband in the film, played by Charles Boyer, wants to get his hands on her jewelry. He realizes he can accomplish this by having her certified as insane and hauled off to a mental institution. To pull of this task, he intentionally sets the gaslights in their home to flicker off and on, and every time Bergman’s character reacts to it, he tells her she’s just seeing things. In this setting, a gaslighter is someone who presents false information to alter the victim’s perception of him or herself.”

“Whether gaslighting is conscious or not, it produces the same result: It renders some women emotionally mute.

These women aren’t able to clearly express to their spouses that what is said or done to them is hurtful. They can’t tell their boss that his behavior is disrespectful and prevents them from doing their best work. They can’t tell their parents that, when they are being critical, they are doing more harm than good.”

Abused women will relate. In my case, things went from the type of behavior described here to a more deliberate form of crazy-making but Mr. Ali does an excellent job describing the practice in layman’s terms.

You’ll find the entire post here.

Why Did I Stay?

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Why did you stay?

I have no idea.

All I possess are tiny scraps,  embryos that might grow into possible half truths that will never tell the whole story.

As futile as the exercise might be, I still wrestle with the question every single day.

You Don’t Have Grounds

At first I stayed because I couldn’t catch him at anything.  I was told bullying wasn’t actual violence, threats weren’t actual abuse, raging fits were differences of expression. Scraps of paper with women’s names and numbers in his wallet were meaningless. Refusing to introduce me to his friends we met while out shopping only showed a lack of social graces on his part and revealed  much more about my suspicious nature. Old girlfriends calling the house meant nothing.  Everyone drunk dials occasionally. Oh! And you didn’t actually catch him with the porn, now did you?

In the prison of my narrow world, no proof meant no grounds for divorce.

Woman, Submit!

I stayed because those in my church  were quick to assign blame for marital problems on wives, not husbands. Took years to realize this wasn’t personal but a result of years of women-blaming going way back to Adam, Eve and one tricky reptile.

Blame the woman. She’s suppose to be the helpmeet so get busy with the helping already. Your man struggles with sin? Clearly a reflection of the many ways you failed him as a wife. Want to read more on this, head over to this site. (Just not after a big meal.)

Any Father is Better Than Divorce

Later on, I stayed for the children. The anti-husband told me on numerous occasions that no woman would ever take his kids away from him. He’d get full custody, he’d make my life a living hell, he’d turn them against me, I’d never see them again.  I believed him.

Perhaps it was arrogance, but I thought I could protect the children by staying right where I was— a living wall between them  and their father, even if it killed me.  I could punch his buttons just fine, thanks much, deflect his anger away from them and take the hit while they ran for their rooms. I figured, I’m plenty big, they’re little. I can take it, they can turn eighteen and get out of this hell hole.

He hadn’t crossed the line into physical abuse at that point (although the line was getting mighty soggy) and the children would get an earful of his twisted thinking during visitation. And who knew what he’d do without someone around to call the police?  The idea of the beast, alone with a pile of hurting pups who adored his every word at that point in their young lives scared the crap out of me.

The problem with that reasoning? By that time, I had no idea where the lines might be so how could I judge if he’d crossed one or not? When he screamed at our twelve year old daughter over how long it took to wash the dishes, grabbed her bodily and pinned her against the wall over his head, shaking her—that wasn’t physical abuse, was it? When he berated the kids for hours at a time before whipping them across the backside until they bruised—that was just discipline, right?

A woman who’s been emotionally and verbally battered for over a decade is punch drunk. Reasoning? What does that even mean? More like surviving, one crisis to the next, waiting for the another round to begin.

Saying I stayed for the kids sticks in *my* craw these days. Maybe it was the right thing to do. Maybe if I’d been a little braver, left a lot sooner,  maybe I would’ve met a kind man who modeled love for the children.

This is my biggest regret and on this particular topic, hindsight hasn’t  help one bit.

I Must be Crazy

The fault must lie within the one whining about the difficulty of her outwardly perfect  life. Hadn’t I been told time and time again how blessed I was to have such a perfect husband? Handsome and charming and such a godly man! After the thirty-second time some lady cries at your dining table, confessing her sin of envy over your perfect marriage you, start to think you must be nuts.

Later, the anti-husband learned a little trick called, Gaslighting. Look it up. This made the last five years particularly fun.

God Hates Divorce and He Doesn’t Like Me Much Either

Whatever reasons, large or small, there’s one I identified only recently. I stayed because I believed  its what God required.

As a Christian teenager, I prayed for a husband. Through various supernatural answers to prayer, I came to believe God gave me this man. So if you pray for a husband and God gives you a monster, what does that tell you? Well, if God is good, then I must be bad.

Maybe I didn’t start out with such twisted logic, but the verbal and emotional battery eventually had its way with my psyche.  I deserved this man, this marriage. I was unclean, shameful. I needed to be punished. This was the kind of husband I deserved.

So I stayed, thick or thin, bad or worse. He was my cross to bear. I would be transformed through suffering into the image of Jesus Christ.

Bunkum.

I was not bad or unclean or shameful. I was, however, quite broken.

When I prayed for a fish, my enemy was more than ready to slip in a scorpion and at the ripe old age of eighteen, I couldn’t  recognize a loaf of bread if Gabriel himself made delivery.  (Vague reference to Matthew 7:9-11)

But broken or not, I was also  forgiven and covered in the Blood of the Lamb. Those miraculous answers to prayer?  I believed I was flawed, I saw what I was looking for.  And the man in question was more than willing to manipulate my emotions any way possible to get what he wanted.

If I’d had any understanding of a loving, protective, merciful earthly father, I never would have fallen for the lie. My Father in heaven is a good, good God and He never intended for anyone to live in a daily hell of one tyrant’s rage and control.

So why did I stay?

Once I learned to truth, I didn’t.

There’s Always a Message

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Today the little check came in the mail, money from my mother’s estate. A few hundred dollars every month he believes he deserves and shouldn’t have to send.

When I finally left after three decades of non-stop verbal and emotional abuse, I stopped all communication with the beast. Much later, I told a counselor the only way I got out was on the run, hands over my ears chanting, “I know the truth, I know the truth, I know the truth.”

All others voices had to stop to save my family.

Early in our relationship, the Estranged learned that if he just keep talking long enough and loud enough,  he’d elicit some emotional response—fear, anxiety, guilt.  Any one of those in sufficient quantities and he knew I’d cave to his current demands. He’d put another in the win column. Nothing would ever change.

Confusion was his favorite weapon. Change the subject, get loud, get furious.  So once I was out and my family safe, I  turned off the cell phone and checked voicemail a few times a day. The kids knew how to get in touch. That’s all I cared about at that moment.

It took decades to understand that  the way he treated us defined abuse. The man was vicious and he enjoyed the carnage. I lost hope years back he’d ever change and while running and hiding isn’t exactly pretty, sometimes you just have to do the needful things.

Of course once the phone calls ended, the emails began. Those of a long and ranting nature (which meant every stinking one during those first days) met the trash bin without reply. Anything I absolutely had to address got the short and not-so-sweet treatment.

“The gas bill is in the drawer with all the others. Ida”

“Insurance is due in three months. You can’t find a copy because they haven’t sent the renewal yet. Ida”

“I will not return the car. I need transportation. Ida”

I deleted all the curse words before sending. Mom would be so proud. . .

My lack of communication infuriates The Estranged but then what doesn’t?  After three decades I know:

Anger is his go-to emotion.

Rage his drug.

 I’m his target.

Once the emails stopped, I started getting messages through friends. A six page, rambling letter (hand written, mind you) about how disappointed one woman is in my failures as a wife and Christian and how sorry she is to see that I’ve ‘hardened my heart against my husband.’ She understands because she has anger issues too! And if I’d just read these lovely books she sent on anger management, surely I would see the error of my wicked ways.

I keep this one on the shelf, tucked inside the book she sent. Someday, I just might send this Ivy League graduate a discourse on the difference between Anger and Fear.

Others messages were more subtle and bespoke the same confusion I struggled with day after day for so long.  My mother calling after a particularly long rant-fest with the beast, begging me to have my teenage son ‘just talk’ to his dad so the man would let up on us. A friend who’s support will always mean the world to me,  slipping into conversations about how my husband is calling hers and ‘You know he’s gone back to church, teaching Bible study now, doing all the right things’ and ‘he says you won’t even go to counseling.’

So when the check came in the mail today, the heart rate went  orbital. Recent messages have been subtle but oh-so-very clear. And in ways only another woman who’s ever spent the night thinking her husband’s coming up the stairs to blow out her brains could possibly understand—more threatening.

There was no letter. No note, no card. No meaningless little notation on how he’ll love me forever or signed, Faithfully, The Beast. Nope—that’s all over.

He simply wrote my name in big bold letters. He added Mrs. to the front. And scrawled a heavy underline beneath my last name to remind me who’s name I still carry.

Not for long you anti-husband you.

Not for long.

Conquering Fear

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This blog’s been a long time coming.

From the first time I clicked submit all those years ago on that first tiny bloglet, *this* is the blog I longed to write.

These are the articles I wanted to post.

These are the words I’ve desperately tried to say.

And I’m writing under a pseudonym. Go figure.

(Baby steps, woman. Baby steps.)

I am a Christian and I’ve been living in hell for the last 32 years. There is no twelve step program for that.

You see, I did something wildly radical for a sweet little woman like me– I walked out. And now I intend to regale you with all the details. I’m no theologian. I refuse to argue bible verses. But under the cover of my thin little disguise, I intend to tell the truth.

What its like to live in a model Christian home with a son of the devil.

And what it takes to be finally free.