Tag Archives: divorce

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.