But He Never Hit Me, Part Two

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To my friends: Several have called or emailed, concerned for my current situation. Some of you know parts of the story I’ve been unable to share here on the blog which might heighten your concern. Let me reassure everyone that the situation has not changed.

The fear I struggle with comes and goes. It’s current and on-going and once triggered it comes back in all its fury but there are no new developments to report.  At the moment, we have peace. I am the one who lacks peace and thus, this series of articles.

I so appreciate your concern! Thank you for loving on me from afar~

Part Two

One point bears repeating. The man never changed.  Once we married, his vocabulary changed but his actions  did not and  the anger witnessed towards others now turned my direction.

He now identified as a conservative Christian and acted accordingly, at least in public. He quit cursing, quit drinking, and quit smoking but added all those back in, one by one. He had a hair-trigger temper and exploded on a regular basis.  We had a few good months during our engagement, a brief honeymoon period that ended the day of our wedding.

The first couple of years consisted of a cyclical, systematic need to control based on one principle—he had to have his way.

I know you will find this plenty hard to believe, but I had a smart mouth. It’s one of the reasons I got labeled rebellious and unsubmissive, particularly by some of the men in our church. But when someone wakes you at four in the morning to starch and press their work jeans before heading off to a construction job because they demand perfect creases, knowing full well  you face a twelve  hour day on your feet plus a two-hour commute, then stands over your shoulder furious that  you’re doing it wrong  while doing absolutely nothing because ‘this is your job and my wife will do my laundry the way I like or else’—well, a body gets a little cranky.

I tried to be careful never to attack him personally, call him names or demean his manhood  but it would be a lie to say I never crossed the line. I was smart with a dry sense of humor. When something bordered on the absurd,  I pointed out that fact.  His logic and ability to reason seemed pretty limited, probably because he wanted what he wanted when he wanted it without backtalk. Logic, truth and reason had nothing to do with anything.

I could point out something bordering on the ridiculous and he couldn’t really argue.  Unable to actually come up with a reason for his demands, he used anger, rage, manipulation and control to gain compliance. But the fact remained, I refused to do everything I was told, particularly concerning the housework.

I stood up to him. We conflicted on a regular basis.

And then he backhanded me.

Ida Turns Political and Skirts the Issue

Aha! You said he never hit  you.

Indeed I did. I said it constantly. In fact, I forgot completely for more than two decades. If someone asked—and they did a few times over the years at the oddest moments—I always said no.

Almost thirty years later I’m sitting in the counselor’s office and he asks the same question. Did he ever hit you? I give the usual response. My legs are crossed, one foot swinging away like crazy and the counselor narrows his eyes, turns sideways a little in the chair, settles his shoulders and grins at me, tipping his head in that come-on now, we’re all friends here way of his.

Really? He never hit you? Not once?

And I said, ‘But it was an accident.’

And the counselor takes a big breath and closes his eyes, shaking his head up and down, up and down, yes, yes, yes, yes, and I’m staring across the room wondering where in the blue blazes that came from.

I remember the kitchen wallpaper and the gingham curtains I made in the window so at least three years after the wedding. We’re having a fight. A run of the mill, end of cycle, blow-off-his-rage fight. Nothing special. He is yelling, I am trying to be reasonable. Trying to make him see. . . something. He walks off, I follow. I see  him whirl around and BAM. He backhands me across the face, connecting thoroughly with the side of my head.

I remember staggering. I recall not being able to focus my eyes. I remember my mouth open and slobber on my shirt. And his face, inches from mine. His voice totally changed from the raging maniac to the penitent sinner. “I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry! I’d never do anything like that on purpose, you know that right? Right? You know I’d never hurt you, right?”

I remember not being able to answer.

And then the clincher–“ Don’t ever do that again. You have no idea what I’m capable of.”

So back in the present, the room is spinning and I’m blacking out as the light fades from the edges of my vision. So cliche’. I think I just might throw up all over the counselor’s shiny shoes and a part of my brain is processing. . . processing.

Mr. Smarty-pants counselor says, “So he didn’t have to hit you again, did he? He put you in your place and you complied with his demands.” And I want to smack the counselor but I’m aware enough to know this is misplaced or transference or some other such thing and I am hating myself all over again for being so stupid for so, so long.

No one ever bothered  asking twice.

My therapist was right. Things changed dramatically from this point forward.

I learned to do as I was told.

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10 responses »

  1. So glad you let everyone know, as we all care about you so very much.

    It’s not at all uncommon to “forget” horrific instances of abuse; it’s all part of the way our mind copes with living with trauma in the daily, and not having a safe place to go. Your family, your friends, your church … everyone who was your support …. they all chose to see the repentant sinner, the charming sociopath, the dear man who was trying so hard. How could you deal with being beaten by a man who had sworn to love you? A man whose strength was enough to crush another man and yet he took every bit of that strength to wail on you, his wife. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    So glad you found a good counselor, one who cared enough about you to deal with the hard stuff. You ‘remembered’ in his office because he had become “a safe place” for you, perhaps one of the first really places of sanctuary you had ever had. God bless him.

    • Hadn’t really thought about that but you’re right. The counselor was the first to ever listen without casting doubt on my story and as a Christian, it made a difference that *he* was a believer and spoke to me regularly of prayer and his relationship with God.This whole thing was hard enough for me to believe sometimes, much harder when someone expresses their doubts while you’re trying to explain.

      Also see this as wisdom on his part. I suppose he’d heard enough of these cases and had enough personal experience to figure *something* must have happened. And yeah, he’d already discovered I was pretty adapt at covering for the husband and possessed highly developed personal stuffing skillz.

  2. What you were in has all the makings of a POW camp, complete with physical and psychological torture and brainwashing. Classic – he hits you in the face in a horrific, evil act of intentional anger (well, intentionally directed and controlled anger that was very purposeful), and then immediately dumps verbal threats masked masterfully in terms that made the whole thing really your fault. Instant education for sure. Evil is sooooo evil.

    • And then never hit me again. That’s the clincher.

      I was able to completely accept the beast’s explanation and stuff this away *because* it never happened again. So it must have been an accident, right? Men who hit their wives hit them over and over– not just once with a twenty-five year hiatus. But the effect from this one incident was massive! Instill fear, threaten constantly, physically bully.

      Diabolical really.

  3. What a terrible memory. I was hoping that maybe what I was reading was just a bad dream.

    Not only am I horrified by what he did, but how treacherous his reaction – to immediately apologize (cover his rear), and then threaten you with more or worse in the same breath. I am even surprised that he never hit you again, but he had no need to. The constant weight fear under which you survived all those years is terrifying to imagine. How wrong. How terribly, terribly wrong.

    I am so glad that you have been able to pull that up from the depths, so that you can process it and let the light in and begin to heal from that wound. I’m sure it was hard for you to even write the words, to go there one more time.

    Thank you for having the courage to speak up. Your story will give others the courage to share theirs.

    May your blessings be multiplied, Ida Mae,

    Cindy

    • You know, it just never made sense. *Had* to be an accident right? Because he never hit me again and that isn’t the pattern.

      I’ve heard one other who told a story similar–one incident of violence early in the marriage to instill fear and establish control. I have to wonder if maybe it has happened to others but they’ve dismissed the incident the same way I did. I think if I heard another woman talking about her ‘irrational’ fear of her husband when ‘he’s never been violent’ I might go digging a little.

      The next portion is going to be the hardest to write, I can already tell. The therapist had to confront me with the truth– that there *was* physical element to the abuse, it was just shrouded and hugging the line. I had to be led through the stories step by step, sometimes more than once before I could see the patterns and admit what happened.

  4. Dear Ida Mae, I’ve been way long putting a comment here, I know, but it’s been on my open tabs all the time, I assure you!
    I mis-read your comment “one incident of violence early in the marriage to instill fear and establish control.” I read “embellish” control. And then double-take – no, she said “establish” – but “embellish” would fit too!
    One incident of violence embellishes the control extraordinarily well. Like the royal icing on the cake.
    … remember… don’t remember…. remember… but don’t remember…
    … let you cells remember… but don’t let your brain remember….

    so glad you dug it up
    so glad you are telling us
    so glad you are bringing it to the light

  5. I had to come back to this post to document what happened today! I recently came across the path of a woman who is trying to leave her abusive husband. Married 28 years, 4 grown kids, he is a pastor.
    And I asked her… was he violent? And she said oh no, it was all verbal/emotional abuse. She is seeing a therapist and separating from him. The kiddies are angry that she stayed this long, you know the drill.
    And as we were into our second conversation, this post of Ida Mae’s floated across the back of my mind. Hmmmmm.

    I said to her — so. You’re sure that he never ever hit you? Really?

    And she went – well. Just once. but it was at the beginning. We were married two years…he hit me in the head..one time.

    And I thought – Connie needs to hear this. There is another lady like you, struggling to come up for air. She asked me if there was any hope that she could be healed someday. That there was a goal that she could work toward.. bless her heart. I told her yes yes yes.

    • Whoa. . .my goodness. That is almost eerie.

      My counselor had a name for it but I can’t remember now what he said. (Inciting incident? Controlled act of violence?) He also said it wasn’t all that uncommon but you sure don’t hear of it often.

      After coming out of the fog, I remembered my husband and some of his cronies talking about this type of thing, very deliberately. Putting the woman in her place. Showing her who’s boss. “I’d backhand my old lady. She’d never do that again.” or “I’d put my foot up her ass.”

      Give her a few yes’s from me, will you? Tell her that in a few years, the healed parts are so much bigger, you sometimes forget the ouchies until one sneaks up and nips your backside. Then you’re just thankful its been so long between times 🙂

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