Tag Archives: abuse

But He Never Hit Me, Part Three

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Woke at four needing to get some of this down. It’s like knowing you have surgery the next day. Just spent the last couple of hours getting a first draft on paper and realized, I can’t face this again for awhile.

Usually, I get thoughts down, then sit on a piece like this for a few hours,  going back  through four or five times for clarity. Not sure I can this time around.

My apologies for the poor editing. When I’m able, I will go back and rework for clarity. It may be awhile.

My husband spent the next twenty-five years ruling our household through cultivating  fear and the *threat* of violence

Following the incident related in Part Two, things get murky. When I try to wrap my mind around the last twenty years, I find disjointed fragments, ugly memories like buried splinters clogging my thoughts, popping up in the middle of sentences to block the flow.

My original intent was to work chronologically, but that’s just not going to happen.  Some things happened so often they  became almost daily occurrences. I’ve  listed a few below in no particular order.

Pets

He beat and choked the dogs when angry. This started with our second dog, a high strung, larger breed that whined and barked constantly when outside. He held the dog off the ground by a choke-chain, feet dangling and beat the dog with a belt as hard as he could until I became hysterical. I’d scream at him to stop, he’d tell me to get back inside and not to interfere again. When he looked up, his eyes were empty. No emotion—almost like nobody was home.

This happened over and over until I talked him into selling the dog. I told him I wouldn’t ever put up  with that sort of animal abuse again—it was morally wrong. I still see that dog’s tongue hanging out of her mouth, hear her crying.  I wish I could go tell her I’m sorry.

Later, he confined his mistreatment of animals to shoves—his definition for kicking with a steel toed boot, sending the animals flying across the yard. Another favorite involved choking and dragging a dog by the chain. He would become angry at one of us and turn on the nearest animal, find some fault and let fly. Then he glared at us and stalked off. This happened so often, we learned to appease him so he wouldn’t mistreat the animals. When confronted he claimed ‘it never happened’ or ‘there was no connection to any of us and it was all in our heads’ and ‘we must have had a guilty conscience.’

Toward the last, he designated one of the dogs as mine—a small breed female with a yappy nature. He decided  he hated my dog in particular and threatened her constantly, heaping verbal insults and threatening to  throw her through a window or against the wall. She weighed less than ten pounds. I had no doubt he meant me, not the dog. The pup wasn’t the one who made meatloaf for dinner.

By the way, he was the one who insisted we have pets. For some strange reason, the idea of adding a new pet to the household met with  mixed emotion.

However despite the fact that it was his decision, we were responsible for all care and training. As we were home during the day, this was logical  however it brought an uneasy dynamic. The dogs were ‘disciplined’ for lapses in training which were ‘our’ fault because, according to him, if we had done our job and done as we were told, then the dog would be perfectly trained by now. But we were all ‘lazy’ and ‘never did anything right’ and ‘he was the only one who ever did anything around here’ and now ‘look what you did.’ Later, he simply mistreated an animal and glared at us accusingly before storming off. The message was the same. This animal is suffering because of you.

Verbal Threats

He constantly warned me and the children not to set him off because if we did, ‘he wouldn’t be responsible for his actions’. I heard this so many times, it replays in his voice inside my head. Another favorite line— ‘once I start, I will not stop.’

He seemed proud of his past and his capacity for violence, repeating the stories of unprovoked attacks against innocent bystanders who ‘had it coming.’ He said over and over that he ‘still had those thoughts’ (this with a faraway, half-crazed look in his eye) and “why, why, why didn’t God deliver him when he had asked and prayed and begged for so many years?” And then the kicker—“ But He hadn’t. You have no idea the kind of thoughts I have. You don’t know what I’m capable of.” The last part was delivered deadpan, glaring  before stalking off and punctuated by cursing and  door slamming.

He came home from work on a regular basis and spoke in very graphic terms of wanting to beat up his co-workers—of how he’d do it, how he couldn’t restrain himself forever what with them all being such assholes and how he couldn’t stand to look at them without wanting to bash their heads in. Later, I recognized the same expression on his face—the veins standing out in his neck, the purple, swollen look to his skin, the eyes bugging out—when he was angry at me for not having his laundry done or putting leftovers in his lunch when clearly, I should have read his mind and known he didn’t want that meal twice.

When I related some trivial happening by someone in the family his reply was always the same (but only if the story was about a woman.) It always caught me by surprise. I’d learned to keep most stories to myself and only related those I thought were funny. He would turn, that same furious, bug-eyed look and raise his voice—‘if my wife did *that* I’d put my foot so far up her ass she’d never sit again.’ There were several colorful variations on this one, but it always involved feet and a woman’s ass.

Which brings up another point. His threats were always aimed at me, but spoken as if speaking of another.

“If my wife ever (threatened to leave, spent too much money, refused to make dinner, went out with her girlfriends)—then I would (take the kids and she’d never see them, turn them against her, kick her ass, make her wish she never had, teach her a lesson she’ll never forget)”

“No woman will ever–(treat me that way, speak to me in that tone of voice, walk out on me, take my kids, refuse to do what I say, neglect the house)”

“I’ll never put up with some woman who–(disrespected me like that, spoke to me that way, treated me like scum)”

To which I’d say—‘hey, your wife is standing right here.’  To which he would glare and stalk off.

So either he had a whole boatload of other woman around or these threats were all aimed my direction. The thing is, I don’t remember ever doing even one of the things he mentioned. I never threatened to leave him, or charge up the credit cards, or take the kids away. I guess this was a pre-emptive strike. I do not remember one of these aimed at a man. When confronted, he simply said he was talking about someone else and never made any threats.

Weapons

Early in our marriage, he was obsessed with knives. He had a huge collection and carried two at all times, everything from tiny pocket knives to huge sheathed hunting knives. Later, he added throwing knives and martial arts weapons to the collection and practiced knife throwing in the yard. When he felt ‘threatened’, he would open a long blade and walk around hiding it behind his hand, blade point held down by the fingertips, handle up past his wrist and walking with his hand next to his leg. He made sure I saw.

When I protested, saying there wasn’t any danger in the middle of the shopping mall, he assured me that ‘he could tell’ because ‘he knew people’ and ‘he would protect me.’  The men I saw him glaring at were usually much smaller than him and minorities and it sure looked to me like his staring was intended to provoke a response.  I hated going out with him anywhere.

A few years later, his dad bought him his first  handgun. Then another. And another. By my estimate, he had close to forty when I left. He also had at least twenty shotguns, and an equal number of rifles of all sizes and calibers plus many duplicates ‘as an investment’ and buckets of ammunition for every gun. He obtained his concealed handgun license, went to the range on a regular basis and kept  a loaded pistol in the car, down by his feet. We had toddlers. I protested, fussed, begged but my objections to so many guns—loaded and unloaded—made no difference. He eventually bought a massive gun safe which was crammed to overflowing. It made no difference as he had way too many to ever fit inside.

For the last ten years or so, he had two loaded guns on his person at all times, one tucked into his back waistband so he could reach around and grab it easily and a tiny revolver tucked in the top of his boot. He seemed to take a certain delight in showing these off to other men at every opportunity.

On one occasion, a few months before I left, he confronted three of our grown children with a loaded pistol in our garage. He was angry because they came in late and claimed ‘he didn’t know who they were’ and ‘saw a suspicious vehicle on our road’ (his own truck.)  Problem with that? His daughter recognized the pistol, knowing it was the largest  he owned and buried at the back of the massive gun safe. It would have taken quite a while to find it, load it and wait in the garage for the kids to arrive.

 That’s all I can stomach at the moment. More later.

But He Never Hit Me, Part One

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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.

 

 

New Series: But He Never Hit Me

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Articles have been few and far between. I’ve painted pretty flowers, painted ratty walls and painted my nails. Whistling in the dark. Sometimes this business of open disclosure is tough.

I’ve been avoiding. Seriously, completely, absolutely avoiding for months now. Thrashing around the bed last night, I realized that freedom comes with speaking the truth. I’ve spoken on intimate topics before but this one has me stumped.

Living In Fear

Late at night I wake to noises in the house. I listen for the dog to bark, then remember  the pup knows the beast. Sometimes I picture his truck in the driveway, a knock on the door. When I answer, he  blows off my face with his favorite shotgun, then goes after my babies before turning the gun on himself.

Then again, maybe he hires someone else to do the job. That car that keeps circling the block? Why keep looking at the house that way? The truck blocking the drive when I try to pull out? I don’t breathe until it moves on.

I wonder if the news will reach my new friends.

I wonder if it will hurt.

But He Never Hit Me

I lived with him thirty years. I know what he’s done, what he’s threatened, how far he’ll go to exert his manhood, to exercise complete control. Without doubt he is fully capable—and killing all of us would be the ultimate last word. And yet I cannot scrape together enough for a restraining order.

He is careful. He rides the ragged edge, staying within the law. Funny how well versed he is in the finer details. I cannot point to one incident, one definitive moment and convince a jury that this man is dangerous.

I feel crazy. To those who see only his charming side, any such talk would sound like a one-way ticket to a padded cell. But I am *not* crazy. Enough darkness leaked out around the edges over the years to earn him a reputation and those who lived with him, those closest all know. Its the main reason the grown children refuse contact.

The writing won’t be pretty. I’m triggering like crazy just thinking about reliving this nightmare.

This will take several days. Please remember me in your prayers while I write. Planning to take it in small chunks chronologically and post as I go.

Tempting to write another article on sex. As tough as that topic was, it’s way the crap easier to emote on the horrors behind the bedroom door.

Death of an Abuser

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Tonight I’m going to the funeral of an abusive man. No, his wife did not kill him although how she restrained herself all these years is a mystery.

In fact, this wife was just about as mean to others as her husband was to her. She served him slavishly, catering to his temper, his drinking, his demands for total control over her and their nine children. As far as I could see, he contributed nothing. She turned her anger outward, lashing out at anyone offering friendship. She circled the wagons, developed a them-against-us attitude toward outsiders and twisted realities to fit her viewpoint, carrying those twisted tales to others and causing all sorts of mayhem.

I doubt she ever knew why.

Once years ago, long before I realized my own mess of a life, this woman called crying. She said her husband had laid out his current demands for a cleaner house, children who obeyed instantly at his command (apparently their ‘rebellion’  was her fault because she did not ‘follow through’ when he wasn’t around) and greater progress with the children’s academic work as she was clearly lazy and his offspring, all being geniuses, should be above grade level in every subject.

Listening to my friend, I knew her husband had her cornered. I told her he was being unreasonable. I said she needed help. Perhaps they could hire someone to come in once a week to scrub the floors and bathrooms? She said her husband contended that if she managed her time more wisely, she could get everything done the way he wanted. He believed the children should be cooking and cleaning but had zero tolerance for a learning curve, immaturity or ‘sloppy work’, spanking them if the cleaning didn’t pass his inspection. Even the toddlers were required to perform to adult standards or else.

I pointed out her workload which included a newborn waking her up randomly all night ( her husband couldn’t be bothered as he had to work the next day), three toddlers in various stages of potty training and five others taught entirely by her ranging from those learning to read to one preparing for the SAT, a huge home that in olden days would have required an entire staff to keep clean and an almost grown son who wasn’t allowed to help as this was ‘woman’s work.’

When she insisted they could not afford to hire a maid, I pointed out her husband could sell his private airplane and the monthly fee for hanger rental alone could pay for someone to come in weekly. She said I didn’t understand and I never heard from her again.

She’s right. I didn’t and I still don’t.

We haven’t spoken in years and I doubt she wants to see me. Knowing then what I know now, I would have approached things different, speaking to the root of the poison tree rather than the rotted branches.  More than likely, our friendship would have ended regardless. But telling her to hire a maid when her husband had the entire family under lock and key makes about as much sense as insisting she sprout wings and fly.

She never thought of herself as abused. I tell myself  many things can change in seven years and I pray truth broke through at some point. Call me cynical, but I doubt it.

My guess? She will now canonize the creep. In death, he will become the Godly Man of her Dreams he never was in her nightmarish life.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope for her sake and the sake of her children she found the truth. Otherwise, I suspect the entire bunch will repeat the pattern for generations to come.

Dear Lord above, please let me be wrong.

Recommended: The Lord is the Friend of the Lonely by Jeff Crippen

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Jeff’s written a powerful article over at A Cry for Justice titled, The Lord is the Friend of the Lonely Who Fear Him.

One of the themes that inevitably comes through in these stories is the incredible alone-ness of the victims. One recently told me how she felt after finally being able to leave her abuser, “I was grieving for my marriage, my home, my husband, and I was all alone in a new town.” Christians to the rescue? Hardly. Some of you are STILL alone. That is one reason we began this blog. We hope it is growing into a community of real Christians who “get it.” Don’t ever be afraid to contact us. We will believe you and do our best to affirm you and share some of the things we have learned. We will believe you. I wish we had a giant place and we could just tell victims, “come on down here. We have a place for you!” We should all pray that something like that might happen one day.

The works of the enemy thrive in darkness. Just as our Lord delights to see us free and whole, it is our enemy who keeps us bedded in shame, hiding behind closed doors, terrified to speak. Confusion, fear, torment– all from hell itself.

Whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been, no matter what happened–you did not deserve the nightmare of torment.

I’ve gotten to know Jeff virtually and I’d like to encourage survivors to prayerfully consider sending your story as he requests in this article. There is power in our collective testimony. As we break the isolation of our suffering and speak out, others will take courage.

No matter where you are on this journey, you have something to contribute.

You may have nothing left but you own the truth of your story, your life, your experiences.

You Married a What?

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One day shortly after I left, this showed up on a blog that has nothing to do with domestic abuse. With a few possible exceptions (very few) it’s a description of the anti-husband written by someone who never met him.

Glibness and Superficial Charm

Manipulative and Conning: They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.

Grandiose Sense of Self: Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”

Pathological Lying: Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.

Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt: A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.

Shallow Emotions: When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.

Incapacity for Love

Need for Stimulation: Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.
Callousness/Lack of Empathy: Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.

Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.

Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency: Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet “gets by” by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.

Irresponsibility/Unreliability: Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.

Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity: Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts.

Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle: Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.

Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility: Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.

Irresponsibility/Unreliability: Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.

  1. Contemptuous of those who seek to understand them
  2. Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them
  3. Authoritarian
  4. Secretive
  5. Paranoid
  6. Only rarely in difficulty with the law, but seeks out situations where their tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired
  7. Conventional appearance
  8. Goal of enslavement of their victim(s)
  9. Exercises despotic control over every aspect of the victim’s life
  10. Has an emotional need to justify their crimes and therefore needs their victim’s affirmation (respect, gratitude and love)
  11. Ultimate goal is the creation of a willing victim
  12. Incapable of real human attachment to another
  13. Unable to feel remorse or guilt
  14. Extreme narcissism and grandiose
  15. May state readily that their goal is to rule the world

It’s also the description of a sociopath.

I cut/pasted/squirreled away the clip, then googled ‘sociopath’ trying to identify the train that hit my family.

Not sure how I feel about the clinical definition of sociopath. Seems a little fuzzy. Maybe Big Dumb Jerk’s a better fit.  I do think the concept of  a conscience seared over has a place in the discussion.

Of course you can’t go around diagnosing folks with an internet checklist and that’s not the intention. Finding this simply provided a starting place for prayer and further study.

Seeing in print all the anti-husband’s lovely traits helped realize (finally) what I’d battled all those years and eased the guilt of what I saw as my failure.

I mean, really. How are you suppose to build a relationship with  that?

Sex in an Abusive Marriage, Part 3

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Around the ten year mark, I knew—really knew—I could never please that man in bed or anywhere else. I decided to focus my attention on pleasing God instead. In seeking the Lord with all my heart, fully believing that in Him is fullness of life, I would be a better wife, a better mother and whatever problems I had in bed would eventually be addressed as I grew in grace and truth.

The problem with that? My husband was not growing in grace and truth. He was headed the other direction entirely. He was drinking again and his use of pornography continued. He was busy raising his hands and singing in church every Sunday and terrorizing us the other six and a half days a week. I suppose I thought my gentle and quiet witness would eventually win him over.

It did not.

 Second Decade

Things ebbed and flowed. Some years were better than others. I did my best to perform on autopilot. Most is a blur.

I remember horrible things vaguely, routine things not at all. Gradually over the years frequency diminished. With newborns, colicky babies and toddlers scared of the dark it’s not surprising but it always, always made the beast angry. He thought I should leave a hungry infant crying and hop in bed. That was not going to happen. He believed I should leave three children under the age of seven unsupervised, their little paws banging on the bedroom door while we locked ourselves inside and got busy. Not in a million years.

Looking  back, I set boundaries and imposed limits but I did not feel one bit good about the process. By this point I knew I’d feel bad no matter which decision I made and the beast would be unhappy either way. If a man’s going to be angry no matter what, what’s the point?

Always the focus was on him. His needs, his demands. At some point, I told him to quit talking about my appearance and get use to it. I was getting older  and I wasn’t going to morph into Cindy Crawford. If he didn’t like me at a hundred pounds, he wasn’t going to like me after three kids and a hundred and fifty.

Rather than concede that I’d insisted he shut the crap up, he reframed this as some sort of major concession on his part, another proof of his great restraint and self-sacrifice as he refrained from speaking of my deteriorating physical appearance. He did however, decide to become overly concerned with my health and came up with all sorts of creative suggestions on ways to help me tone up and lose those extra pounds and inches. I stopped listening. One time I counted. He told me to work out on average five times a day. He also had plenty of pet names, each highlighting some feature he found repulsive. If I asked him to stop he said I was too sensitive, he was just joking.

Decade Three

Around year twenty,  I had major abdominal surgery that went terribly wrong. After surgery, I went septic. I came within inches of dying and to this day, I believe the only reason I stayed this side of the veil was sheer determination. I wasn’t leaving my babies, not with him.

A year later, I could barely stand long enough to cook dinner. Damage to my internal organs caused chronic pain that never let go. I came dangerously close to an addiction to narcotic pain killers, tempting for more reasons than one.

I was home less than two weeks before the beast began asking for his marital rights, said I couldn’t possibly be in that much pain. We resumed sexual relations after three months and I thought I would die. Nothing—and I mean nothing—was ever okay after that. My internal organs were broken. My lady parts damaged. But worse was the emotional backlash—I  almost died and I could not understand such callous disregard for something that kept me bedridden for months from someone who said he loved me every single day.

He thought I was slacking, that I could get up and do my job if I wanted. His anger during that year permeated our home, taking what had always been bad to ever higher levels. He resented everything. He took to finding fault with the children while they tried to cook or clean, punishing them as a way to get me out of bed, an over-exertion I paid for days afterward.

By year twenty five, other body parts are starting to scream in protest. Joints, neck, back. I lived with chronic sciatic nerve pain and ongoing issues from the botched surgery. Migraines came without warning and stayed for days. I had all sorts of symptoms of auto-immune disease but I knew the truth. My body was turning out the lights and I knew it.

God Knows My Heart and I Am Screwed

By this point, I’m numb. I don’t care anymore. I don’t care if I please God, I don’t care if the earth opens up and swallows the beast, I don’t care if it swallows me. Sex is no longer an issue because I hate it with everything in me. I take off my clothes, do what I have to, say no to anything I don’t want to do anymore and flip him off as I walk out of the bedroom.

I am angry. It takes me days to recover afterward. Sometimes I curse him in my head the entire time he’s inside me, then repent until I fall into a stupor. I decide that if God is going to send me to hell for this, it doesn’t matter because I’m already *in* hell and it can’t get much worse.

Occasionally I try to talk to this person I’m beginning to suspect might not be human.  He refuses to address anything going back more than a few weeks saying I’m being unforgiving, he said he was sorry and bringing something up for years back is proof I’m at fault. Nothing’s changed. I shut up.

The last year, for reasons that have everything to do with the mercy of God Almighty and nothing to do with anything in me, the Lord mounted a rescue operation. Hopefully I can tell that story someday.  The point is this: When the Lord arrived to deliver me from my oppression, I still shouldered all  the blame. I saw myself as a whore, as an unclean, unlovable woman. I was ugly, defective. No one would ever love me, no one ever *could* have loved me, so what was I complaining about?  Something was desperately wrong with me. Why else would this have happened?

But when God shows up, His goodness comes along. Healing began, starting with  those tears I’d bottled up for close to two decades. The love inherent in the Lord’s sweet presence awakened all those emotions I’d stuffed for years.

Emotions are Pesky Things

Now that my coping mechanisms were starting to fail, I couldn’t function sexually, even in the limited damaged capacity of years before. Frequency dropped. When I couldn’t figure out one more reason to say no, I’d sit on the toilet afterwards leaning my head against the tile trying to will his semen into the sewer where it belonged. I scrubbed myself raw in the tub an hour at a time, then head to an upstairs bedroom and cry myself hoarse screaming silent into the pillow. Still, I was too afraid to stop having sex with him entirely.

I prayed and prayed beforehand. I begged for divine help. I prayed that God would deliver me somehow, someway, whatever it took. Somehow, it never occurred to me that God had already given me a way of escape–something called, free will. I had the power all the time. I had the right to say no more.

I did not know I had a right over my own body. That I could refuse and if that jerk didn’t change, I could continue refusing until he left. In the emotional, mental state I was in, I had no business trying to service a man who I suspected was servicing half the town anyway.

But I was afraid. I knew deep in my heart that if I ever stood my ground, there would be hell to pay. I knew he was dangerous and I sure knew he would never put up with me cutting him off. I knew that whenever I refused his demands, the kids paid. I was weak and afraid.

God provided a beautiful little home, a sweet place to stay. He prepared the heart of someone to take us in. All I had to do was the hardest thing in my life. I had to walk out.

As I pulled out of the driveway, one of the first thoughts I had– I’ll never have to have sex with that jackass again.

Summing Up

If you read part two, you’ll note I got stuck somewhere between Wife Gives Up and Husband Blames Her Forever. I spent the last two decades in a quagmire that wrecked havoc on my soul and didn’t fix anything. Its an ugly place to live.  I allowed someone who despised me to abuse my body, to assault my inner being over and over. Physical intimacy should never be forced. Thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach.

The sad truth? I’ve heard stories much worse than mine.

Don’t tell me a man can’t rape his wife. Don’t tell me a man can’t sexually abuse the woman he married. I’ve heard the stories. I’ve lived through the fire. I’m a mild mannered woman but I will shut you down if you’re ignorant enough to try to argue with someone who lived through the hell and knows firsthand. Honestly,  I really don’t care anymore, but I’ll go to the wire on this one for every other wife who’s whispered her story in the dark.

For those who’re reading, all I can tell you is this. You cannot fix what you did not break. I tried to please my husband. My husband did not try to please his wife.  All his focus centered on his wants, his needs, his desires. Never once do I remember any consideration for my needs or desires. He was a horrible lover. Why did that never cross my mind? I don’t know, but it didn’t. I thought it was my job to take care of him when in truth, it’s husbands who are repeatedly instructed to love their wives.

The problems were not mine. A woman cannot respond when there’s nothing to respond to—no love, no tenderness. I did not ask for much. I didn’t ask him to keep his hair or have a killer six-pack. I never asked him to buy me flowers or take me on dates. I asked for kindness. That’s all. . . just a little consideration but apparently that was way too much for him to give.

Did I do everything I could have those last two decades? I don’t know. I did everything I was capable of doing. I wasn’t mentally, emotionally or spiritually able to do more. I’m not trying to justify my decisions and it sure isn’t fun to tell this story. Believe me, I could be graphic but I still have to look myself in the mirror.

If these men are this miserable, why don’t they just leave? I came to the conclusion my husband did not want to be happy. More to the point, he did not want *me* to be happy. He fed on my misery.

Shame on him.

I’m tired. Very tired of carrying this. I don’t enjoy bringing up the subject but ignoring the gorilla in the pantry doesn’t save the groceries. I write this story to say you are not alone. If you see yourself somewhere in my story and understand  it’s not all your fault then it’s enough reason to stand naked in the kitchen and brave the monkey.

That’s it! Thank you for your prayers. At some point, I may revise this but for now, let’s call if finished.

Recommended: Susan Powell’s Family Reacts to Husband’s Double Murder, Suicide

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I can barely read about the recent double murder/suicide involving Susan Powell’s husband and her two sons. A couple of statements caught my eye in a Fox News article from this morning:

Susan Powell’s brother-in-law, Kirk Graves, spoke out after yesterday’s tragedy saying he thinks Powell was afraid of taking the polygraph. He also said, “I think he saw an opportunity to hurt a whole lot of people at the time that he ended it for himself, so he took the boys with him.”

and this (emphasis added):

Later on America’s Newsroom, Kiirsi Hellewell, a friend of Susan Powell’s reacted to the news. She revealed that she has believed that Josh Powell killed Susan for quite a while now, and hypothesized that it may have been because he felt as though he were losing control and that Susan was gaining too much independence. Hellewell said, “She told me in the past that when they would have arguments, and fights about things and talk about divorce, he would say things like ‘You’re not getting the kids unless it is over my dead body.’”

Threats are not idle. Threats are threatening. They are made for a reason.

When the abuser loses control, he just might pull the nuclear option.  In his mind, he wins, gets in the last word and hurts a whole lot of people in the process.

If you’re being threatened, please, please, please listen to what’s being said, document the threats by writing  them down somewhere and date the notation. Take it seriously.

Never make the mistake of thinking a controlling, abusive man ‘can’t possibly mean’ what he chooses to say with his own mouth.

 

 

Deal Breakers and Monkey Love

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Women talk to me. Not sure why. Maybe it’s this strange tendency to laugh inappropriately during confessional sessions. More likely,  my Christian pedigree worked the magic– pastor’s daughter, pastor’s granddaughter, pastor’s great-granddaughter. We attended my father’s church for years, my household appeared to be in order, therefore surely I’m an expert on the ways of matrimony. The whole ‘older women instructing the younger’ kicked in somewhere around thirty-five despite the fact I didn’t have a swinging clue.

I did not cultivate bleeding hearts by the front door, they just appeared right and left. Quite possibly the teaching in our church contributed—just as politics or law enforcement tends to attract a certain personality type, the heavy emphasis on the wife’s submission  and patriarchal headship attracted men with an abusive streak, . I’m going to go with that theory and believe our churches were top-heavy with abusive men because the atmosphere made them feel all warm and snuggly rather than the cynical viewpoint that most men are abusive.

The Blind Shall See

For years, I did not understand what I was hearing. I spent lots of time waving my hands about and squealing. I tried to offer help but generally said something lame like, ‘my husband can be pretty difficult at times too.” or “when I figure this out, I’ll write a book and we’ll move to Reno.” They thought I was joking. Silly women.

Once upon a time, I was a highly social person. When I left, only a couple of good friends remained, both  blessed by the anti-husband’s seal of approval. Nice ladies who I loved dearly, but the fact remains, when I broke ranks, I lost their companionship.

Let’s take a moment while I feel sorry for myself a little.

***

During those years of informal counseling sessions, I did learn to recognize the difference between a difficult man and an impossible one. The difficult  might be proud or stubborn or shortsighted, but once they  recognized the unhappy wife in their kitchen,  they tried to make amends in some fashion, no matter how awkwardly. These wives would come back later, grab me in church with a twinkly eyeball thing that made my nerves scrape together and say, “Thank you *so* much Sister  Ida for praying with me the other day. Can you believe? Melvin prayed about it and already things are improving! God is so good!”

This always annoyed the crap out of me. For one thing, I couldn’t follow my own advice and expect a hallelujah chorus and, for another, how come God kept answering their prayers for marital bliss while the fish in my own kitchen continued to rot the airwaves? And another-nother thing. . . you know what kind of advice I gave? “Have you told your husband how you feel about that? Go home and talk to the man for heaven’s sake. He isn’t psychic.”

Despite my nasty inclination toward self pity,  I realized these women didn’t want instant perfection. They wanted to feel heard. They wanted to know their husbands cared enough to listen and respond and make a few adjustments in the right direction. (We are, of course, talking about women who actually came for advice, not the really scary women who  generally hung out by the alter offering advice no one ask for.)

Meanwhile, Back on Topic. . .

Yes, I was a stellar counselor to the weak and weary. This constituted the extent of my helpfulness. Still the hurting arrived on my doorstep whilst I continued to complain to the Almighty.

Looking back, I’m just now starting to see God’s plan.  I was learning to discern abuse in others even though I could not see the same patterns acted out in my own living room. Please explain this if you can because I do not have a clue. I’m going to blame the fog of confusion the beast kept wrapped about my mind with his constant stream of crazy-making. I do know the fog lifted only after I refused to listen to him any longer. Still, once my eyes pried open, many things snapped into focus and those  years of hearing story after story made all the difference.

The Turning Point

I was beginning to see a different breed of husband, tyrannical in nature, taking no prisoners, determined to have its own way at any cost. These men were nothing like the flawed yet somewhat reasonable men who took their wives feelings into consideration (upon realizing their wives had feelings.) No, the tyrants refused all compromise. Backed in a corner, they might give ground  only to extract a heavy price later. Their wives came away feeling worse with every encounter. They looked beat. They looked unloved.

Another distinction—the wives of these bullies showed up at my doorstep confused. No way they could articulate their ongoing troubles. If they did manage to come up with a complaint or two, they also supplied a half dozen reasons why nothing suggested would ever help. The scary part?  They were correct and I knew it. These women felt trapped—the rock and a hard place, the double bind, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

In contrast, the Normals had a really good idea what they wanted. They had actual, concrete problems. He spends too much money. He won’t help around the house. He looks at other women.

Problems loomed. Ignorance abounded. These ladies might or might not take advice. They might leave the living room and go do something stupid like running off with the pool boy. They might take  advice and discover they should’ve shelled out the cash for a trained counselor in the first place. They might be miserable, unhappy, unfulfilled and sexually frustrated but they were not held prisoner in confusion and fear.

The Big Picture

Here’s how I came to picture the difference:

In a normal marriage, you’ve got two imperfect people sitting on a sofa. They fuss, they smile, they smooch, they fuss some more.  They conflict. They scoot away from each other toward opposite ends of the sofa. Maybe one goes and gets someone else to come sit on their lap. The other may walk away, or the offending spouse may leave with their new squeeze. Or they may kick the third party off, learn to scoot closer to each other and eventually smooch some more.

In an abusive marriage, you’ve got two imperfect people sitting on a sofa. Right smack in between, you’ve got a five hundred pound orangutan holding hands with the husband. The monkey makes sure his boyfriend always gets his way. The man may scream, holler and yell, or make snide remarks and sulk and brood. He may get some girl on his lap and smooch her while the wife tries to peek around the monkey. Every time she thinks she sees something, the monkey smacks her good. Every time she tries to say something, the monkey smacks her good. Every time she tries to address something, the monkey smacks her good.

The monkey is a deal breaker. You cannot reason with a monkey. You can’t fix a broken marriage as long as that monkey is on the sofa.

Deal breakers come in other forms—drug abuse, alcoholism, mental illness.  The important point here? To realize that advice given to Normals will not apply to Monkey Marriages. Books written for conflict resolution, counseling, marital advice, sex education will not work.  So the big step—the very first, very big step is–Name the monkey.

The First Step is Always the Toughest

If there’s an orangutan on your sofa, you are being abused. Or you’re Steve Erwin’s wife. The first is more likely.

In my experience, this is the most difficult step to freedom. Stop allowing the one abusing you to define abuse. You must discern. There are objective criteria. There are books out there to help you understand. Ultimately, you must stare that monkey down and say its name.

If you  identify abuse, you need to understand a few things to get  free. You are dealing with a different animal  entirely. Stop focusing on your mistakes, your issues. Stop taking blame for everything wrong in your marriage.

Of course you make mistakes. Of course you aren’t perfect, who claimed you were anyway? Of course you have issues from your childhood.

None of that can be addressed with someone whopping at your head so stop trying.

You are never, ever going to make that threesome work.

Naked Pencil Dance~ A Little Clarification

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This blog began with two objectives. Be honest, Help others. Seems straightforward enough but just for funsies, let’s make a few clarifications.

In the spirit of self-disclosure, I curse sometimes in rough draft. Those spicy little words are not intended to make it to the blog. Years ago while writing fiction, I learned that allowing the subconscious to speak brings wild-eyed revelations, particularly for someone who locked away her feelings for so long. Sometimes it indicates anger or bitterness. I’m not afraid of anger anymore and considering everything that happened, anger is a reasonable response. Bitterness on the other hand, sends down roots and defiles many. I do not want to be a bitter person. Therefore,  I treat these posts the same way I treat counseling. Everything goes to the Father. Writing gives me plenty to pray about.

If you find a word or two offensive, it probably got skipped over in editing which might in itself indicate a need for extra prayer sessions. I’m not ashamed of calling the estranged a jackass, I simply don’t want to turn others off who might possess more delicate sensibilities. Once upon a time, I was very delicate myself, an outwardly holy armor to keep from having to think too much. If you find the entire post offensive, then you and me have a problem. I can’t change who I am or what I’m going through and while my natural tendency’s to stay quiet, stay in hiding and lick my wounds, that helps no one.

One day, I hope to write about these issues in my own name. Therefore, every word on this blog is mine and I own it. Someday, when the Lord and circumstances release me, I’ll out myself. I’m not hiding behind anonymity to write any old thing I want. I’m hiding because my family is still in danger.

This is my Angry Face

I have feelings—good, bad or indifferent, they are mine. In my fifth decade, I’m finally learning to identify emotions like anger, sadness, humiliation. In some ways, my emotional health is woefully immature and its liable to peek through from time to time.

Everything you see here is just me, struggling with those nasty little emotion thingies. You’ll find no self-censoring, no judgment calls about the rightness or wrongness of any feeling unless, of course, I’m feeling guilty in which case I’m likely to beat myself about the head and shoulders whilst waxing eloquent on my many moral failings.

I do try to be honest but honesty took a turn a few years back. From the moment the I-do’s were said, I took sole responsibility for any and all marital problems while the beast took none. I didn’t realize this was the case for quite awhile but once it became clear he blamed me and me alone for anything and everything he said or did, I knew I just couldn’t carry this burden any longer.

Did I make mistakes? All the time but I’m learning, not so many as I once thought.  Do I share some of the blame? Indeed, but not in the ways I always suspected.

So you won’t see much groveling here. I spent way too much time groveling before someone helpful enough to grind me in the dirt. Frankly, I’m done.

Assumptions Make an Ass

If you’re wondering, I’m not given to making assumptions. So when I say he blamed me, he did. Literally. It isn’t nice to pretend to know what’s going on in someone else’s head and I will not write something here unless he said it himself. Sometimes I may qualify things—he seemed to think, he acted like we were, I got the idea that he—but if there’s no qualifier, it’s straight from the jackass’s mouth.

Laying on your back at the bottom of the pigpen, its hard sometimes to find the diamonds in the muck. One blessing in disguise occurred because I stayed so very long. The beast began to say the most astonishing things. He said out loud things I suspected but never quite believed, at first only to me, later in front of our grown children. I’m guessing he got so comfortable with his level of control and my submission to his every whim,  he literally thought he could get away with saying anything simply by denying it loudly later. I could list a few dozen examples but perhaps it’s best to let those crop up organically in the stories.

Beastly Man, Really

I’ve had a couple of comments about calling the estranged the beast. It’s much nicer than anything else I’ve called him for awhile now but this will probably not make the critics happy either.

A husband, by definition, loves and protects his wife. He should be proud she’s his, think she’s awesome, want to see her grow and learn, nurturing her gifts, gently living out his life with her while they both become more like the Savior. The two grow together in grace.

Living on the other side of the Looking Glass hurts like bloody hell.

Discovering you’re married to someone who hates you, who wants to dominate, control, manipulate your every thought and action—that’s a tough cookie to choke on.

Since the day I found out just how much my husband despises me, I’ve had a hard time admitting we’re married (which we are, by law even if the marriage is zombie-fried.) Sitting across the table from someone for seven days and listening as they outline how much they truly hate you cannot be described. Forget my heart, felt like someone blew away my entire chest cavity.

The problem went something like this. I thought I married someone flawed but somewhat reasonable, someone with similar values, goals and beliefs. I didn’t. I married someone lacking in things essential to personhood—things like a conscience, empathy, reasoning skills. Because of this, he didn’t see me as a person either which made any sort of cooperative relationship impossible. For him, it was all a contest. Win or lose, me or him.

When I call him the beast, I’m not trying to be mean. It’s simply a fitting description.

Full Disclosure

At some point, I intend to write about some really bad days.

Writing is cathartic. I rearrange things, place them in their proper spots, look for patterns, find the beginning, middle, and wrap it all up. It helps process things I might otherwise internalize. For example, when the Going to Hell email arrived, I literally felt a sensation of flying apart. I couldn’t read, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t think. Then the numbness set in. Hurt gave way to nothing. Nothing at all. In case you’re wondering, kiddies, this is not good.

I set the email aside, prayed like crazy, showed it to a friend and let her tell me what it said, called another friend the next day and ranted for over an hour, then sunk into a blinding pit for several days. Only then did I feel strong enough to reread the missive and only because my original email asked questions about financial things and the answers were  somewhere in that mess of damning my soul.

It wasn’t until I hit the keyboard that relief oozed in and the absurdity in his demented raving became crystal. That post helped heal my spirit.

A dear friend does the same with her art. She loses herself in the colors and shapes, stretching beautiful scripture around her pictures like windsongs. Another plays the piano, pouring herself into the melody, the throbbing, pounding chords of the old spirituals and hymns. Our creativity is a direct reflection of our Creator, a living gift. We cannot heal ourselves but the Spirit of the Living God, working in beauty and harmony with his creation can partner with us to pull us right side up again.

I did not write the day I fell apart. I wrote on the upswing. I do believe to be truly helpful, I need to let you peek into the anguish that overtakes my soul, the pit my enemy dug just for me. It won’t be pretty. By God’s grace, I don’t live there anymore.

But if one dear lamb can be helped by my honesty, then it’s what I have to offer. If one other can recognize my brokenness through these words, maybe they can recognize the wreckage in others. Maybe they can begin to see their own.

Maybe we can stop trying to be so perfect and just be.