I’m sitting here, amazed. Just amazed. Or completely flabbergasted. Or a mix of both. That expression, ‘one step forward, two steps backwards’ makes SO much sense today. And there’s absolutely no particular reason for it. It’s not something someone said, it’s not because of something I read. It just hit me and brought with it the elusive sense of clarity that had been hiding for a long time.
You see, I thought I knew everything about myself. With the exception of the fuzzy, not-yet-accessible repressed childhood memories, I thought I knew everything else that happened to me, everything I did and that was done to me, every single STUPID-ass decision I made (and now I also understand the reasons behind these) and everything that I’ve spent every day simply trying to move past and to survive. Because right now, life is good. Aside from all of the shit that’s ‘in the background,' life is truly going as well is it’s ever gone. I know I’ll never be able to get back all the time where it DIDN’T go so well, so all along, I’ve been trying to make up for it, instead.
See, I just thought I'd had it all figured out - why I am the woman I am today. Also, what I need to do to improve…to be the woman I want to become.
I’m not by any means trying to say that I’m a bad person as is…if you’d take the time to get to know me, you know this isn’t the case - but deep down, I know I can be even better if only I’d allow it. I know I can be healthier. I can smile wider and mean it, and I can laugh more, I can be more loving, compassionate and considerate to those around me, to include family members that I’m struggling to even like at times. I can certainly travel that extra mile, make that extra effort to be better. While this is all true for just about everyone on the planet, for me, it’s the result of a defense mechanism triggered by shit I’ve been holding onto for most of my adult life. I find that instead of dropping everything and rushing to another’s rescue, I hold back. Mostly, this is the case with the aforementioned family members but lately I’ve been finding that I do it with friends, too…old and new friends, alike.
And I don’t want to, anymore. I have been trying to reach out, under the impression that this is how it’s supposed to be…if I don’t reach out, how am I supposed to be your friend? How are you supposed to be mine? I mean, I can be anyone’s best friend - I’m there for someone whenever they need or want. They call and I’m there. But when I need or desire some company, support, a bag of popcorn, whatever - I don’t ask for it. Instead, I wait. I suppress, I stew. I focus as much of my healing energies elsewhere. For a while, though, that worked wonders. I found that in supporting others, I was slowly, but surely healing my own self, too. I firmly believe there’s no right or wrong way to deal with what’s built up on the inside - someone just does what they’re comfortable with and what feels right. And for someone like me, who isn’t in a position to seek out therapy (GOOD therapy) then if this method works, then what’s wrong with that?
I mean, I’d love to say that I’ve been able to fully lay out all my cards on the table and list everything, all the little secrets that still bring me shame...although I KNOW I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of…these were things done TO me, things that I know were not my fault at all. I’m just trying not to feel like the phony I KNOW I’m not...because I'm so understanding and extremely perceptive when it comes to other people, what they are feeling. I can answer their questions, but when it comes to my own, I draw blanks. You see, it seems that no matter WHERE I turn, there’s new questions, new realizations and my mental list gets longer rather than shorter. I’m finding myself understanding things I never would have thought of before and it’s nothing short of unsettling. Things that I never admitted, even to myself, things that deep down, I was more than aware of for YEARS and buried rather than dealt with.
I didn’t even know what gaslighting was until I was educated by an earlier post. I swear, for a moment, I thought this woman had dated my ex. God, it’s TRULY unnerving to say ‘me too’ to something you really never thought was a problem, isn’t it? Especially when it’s something you originally knew wasn’t quite right but didn’t really have a name nor could I properly categorize what was happening as being a form of domestic violence. A silent, more difficult to recognize version of domestic violence in the form of mental, verbal and emotional abuse. I always thought that domestic violence consisted of screaming, door-slamming, one spouse beating the other, one spouse controlling the other, perhaps there was unwanted/forced sexual intercourse. To me, THAT was domestic violence. It just didn’t fit with what I formerly perceived it to be.
While there were many heated arguments between him and I during the course of our marriage, (mostly one sided - he’d always be the one to belittle, bully, etc and I’d be the one to apologize for things I didn’t feel I needed to be sorry for) he never, EVER raised a fist to me.
However, the very confusing sexual advances/encounters did happen a small handful of times toward the end of our marriage, I’d thought to myself it was probably because just as I was confused and needed to get used to us not being together anymore after eight years, he, too, had to make that same adjustment. We had agreed to separate (he asked for it) and since he was penniless and unable to relocate into his own apartment which would make him responsible for two times the amount of bills, etc...I allowed him to live at home with me and the kids - we figured the transition would be a little bit easier on our little ones if he remained consistent. I suggested that while he could stay for as long as he needed to set up somewhere else, he should sleep on the sofa.
He looked absolutely APPALLED with me then…
"After eight years of being together, you would kick me out of my own bed, too?” He said, “You know I have to work in the morning, I should at least be able to get a restful night’s sleep in my own bed. Especially since I’m the one who has to move out eventually."
He piled the guilt on, layer by layer. He was the sole breadwinner in the family. He paid the mortgage, all the bills, bought all the food, supplied the clothing. All I did was maintain the house (not very well, either), cook the meals, and tend to the kids…and here I was, kicking him, the hard worker and sole supporter of our family, out of his bed.
I remember that day so clearly. I was making a PB&J sandwich for my then two-year-old. He was standing behind me, having just gotten home from work and we were having our “daily” discussion. We had so many of those. As part of our separation, he’d asked if we could talk a little bit every day - especially since he was now ready to start seeing someone else (I do think he knew her long before this - he’ll never admit to that, though) and he was ‘concerned’ with my frame of mind and how I’d be able to cope with his being the first one to move on. He’d say he wasn’t officially leaving until he was sure I’d be okay on my own. Trying to be a nice guy throughout the whole divorce process so that looking back, he would be able to say he was decent throughout all of the proceedings.
And so I shrugged when I finished making the sandwich. “Fine. You can sleep in the bed, but we’re not having sex anymore. We can’t.”
“Why not?” He asked. I could have told him that he was glowing in the dark, he appeared THAT surprised. All I could do was look at him with the best ‘are you serious right now?’ look I could manage. But no words came out. I just didn’t have any. I mean - what? You don’t want to be married to me, but you still want to have sex with me? You want your cake and you want to eat it, too?
A few weeks passed. He one day came home from a night out with the woman he was now seeing regularly. I was already in bed when he slipped under the covers and began to have sex with me. And then, when he was finished, he said, “I can still see us doing this ten years down the road, even if we’re with other people.” Stupidly, I nodded. I don’t know why. No, I didn’t agree with it…I am not someone who cheats, therefore I would NOT be engaging in sexual intercourse with him if there was someone else in my life. And maybe in a way, this was his way of admitting to me that he’d cheated before and was capable of cheating again. I didn’t have someone at that time. He did. He had HER, this woman he was spending most of his free time with now. What did he need me, for?? So now, he was cheating on his mistress with his wife. How ‘bout that? How much sense does this even make??
Luckily, this only happened only a few times. In different ways, he would solicit sex and if I resisted, he would make me feel as if I was the one behaving irrationally. (“You’re all of a sudden not comfortable with me anymore? After all this time?”) And so, believing I was already dead inside, I’d give in and participate, even if it meant laying still and ‘checking out’ while he did what he wanted. Eventually, I suppose he tired of the ‘stick in the mud’ personality I’d adopted for the time being and it stopped completely, but from time to time, he’d remind me of our little ‘secret,’ and that he trusted me not to tell anyone. And like an idiot, I didn’t. Like a CHILD, I didn’t. I held onto it. All of it.
By now, he was ready to move out. His ‘mistress’ was letting him spend the nights at her place - so there simply was no need for me, anymore. And so from there, he moved out and the divorce was finalized.
Now, his mistress is his wife. And now, ten years later, SHE'S miserable. The person he is, has not changed. He still thinks of himself to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. He provides for all of his children (he has five total - three others in addition to the two we have together) and he is an active, present father. He’s just an absolute shitty husband, and while I understand his wife’s current situation all too well, I don’t pity her at all. I feel horrible, but I’m partially glad it’s not me, anymore. Another part of me feels that maybe she's not having as much of an issue with him...she's still married to him, after all. And, maybe it was just me he treated the way he did, because he knew I was too weak to defend myself. But, maybe I'm completely off and the reason she's still with him is because she's not ready to break away yet. History repeats itself, sadly.
And although I am no longer with him or live with him, the effects are lasting and I imagine these scars will be with me for the rest of my life. Because of him, I’ll never feel as if I’m anything less than an ugly, fat cow. Because of him, I’m afraid to speak my mind sometimes, I’m afraid to disappoint someone if my opinion differs from theirs, even though they’re not like him and would probably be okay with a differing perspective. Because of him, I remain silent when I should be using my voice. I was weak when I met him. And instead of making me stronger through the love a husband is supposed to have for a wife, instead of helping me to build myself up into the woman I deserved to be, he further battered me with words, with insults, with bullying. He constantly undermined me, disrespected me, called me names, even made fun of me in front of our children. Yes, there were occasional good times - probably more good than bad, in hindsight, but whenever there was a rough patch, it would ALWAYS overshadow the good parts to the point where I couldn’t remember them anymore.
In case you are wondering, I did tell my fiancee about all of that stuff when we got together. But, no one else.
This, right here, is the only place I’ve spoken of it. This is where I’ve given it the name it deserves and where I’ve finally recognized this, along with his behavior throughout our marriage, as being so, very wrong. This is where I break my silence and for the first time, acknowledge that I am a survivor of domestic violence.
There's probably more I can say. Probably more I NEED to say. But if I don't post this now, I probably never will.
I feel both relieved and ridiculously gross at the same time. Back later.