Fear took root before we married.
My life was sheltered. I’d dated a few church boys at an age where I probably shouldn’t have dated at all. When I met the beast at school, he seemed exciting and somehow mature. He had his own place, worked long hours (or said he did) and had manners
Yeah, I know. Took awhile to see the irony.
He spouted off things about protecting women and children. How a real man never hit a woman. Never thought to question just why he needed to be reminding himself so often. I was easygoing, compliant and obedient. The idea that men were somehow morally and spiritually superior already had a home somewhere deep although it’s doubtful I would have articulated the idea quite that way. From my mother came the notion that a woman was nothing without a man– any man. Combine all that with a simple naivete that tended to believe what I was told.
He said I was wonderful, different than all the other girls he knew. After that first kiss he said, ‘I know this is crazy but I’m falling in love with you.’ I wanted to be loved—badly. I had no feelings for him. High school meant Friday night movies, holding hands and a kiss on the front porch. You got a phone call on Monday to arrange your weekend or you didn’t go. I had an out-of-state, full ride scholarship and plans for the future. Trying to explain—and back off—brought on a torrent of shaking and tears. His, not mine.
After his declaration of undying love, he said he didn’t know what he would do if I broke up with him.
He would go crazy.
He would hurt himself.
He would beat up any guy I went out with next.
I told my parents and asked a few friends for advice. No one seemed to take this seriously. They said to break up if I wanted and move on. From my point of view, it didn’t seem so simple.
Red Flags Waving
He showed me the holes he’d punched in the sheet rock of his apartment, drove down main street and pointed out the hole he made in the plexiglass sign when he heard that an old boyfriend had called to check in and wore a big bandage to cover the resulting scabs on his knuckles. As time went on, he bragged about the people he beat up including random strangers standing in line at the 24 hour McDonald’s just because ‘he hated them on sight’ and ‘felt like beating someone up.’ Several months into the relationship, he pummeled one of his best friends—while I watched—for suggesting I be careful, saying my boyfriend who expressed undying devotion in my presence was seeing other girls behind my back.
When confronted, the beast did not deny a thing. He didn’t repent. He never said he was sorry. He just drove the car over to his friend’s place and sucker punched someone half his size, beating him to a bloody pulp before the guy could get off his motorcycle. This incident proved symbolic for much of our marriage. He gets caught lying, beats up the messenger for being ‘disloyal’ and scares me into submission with an act of controlled violence against someone who can’t defend themselves.
I had no idea how to handle this. Passivity, not violence, marked my homelife. I decided to wait him out. I was leaving in a few months for school. I’d be gone, he’d be out of the picture. In the meantime, we had prom and senior activities. I could do this.
Right around graduation, he had a spiritual conversion. He began calling my mother and grandmother and asking how ‘to be saved.’ They prayed with him, bought him a Bible with his name etched in gold letters. My mother was thrilled. I saw little change and said so. I was informed that he’d prayed the sinners prayer, old things were passed away, all things are now new.
Nothing he’d done during our dating time could be remembered, held against him or taken into consideration. He was a new creature in Christ Jesus. After I left for school, he went on a wild campaign to become uber-church boy. I regularly got calls from family and friends telling me how broken up he was without me, how wonderfully spiritual and loving he’d become, how his conversion was a testimony to the power of God to transform sinners.
My, my– wasn’t I a lucky girl.
Today, I remember this. Back then, I was just confused.