Lately I’ve seen a couple articles pop up on my Facebook newsfeed identifying signs that you’re in an emotionally or verbally abusive relationship. I read them, because I like to double check. And whaddya know, perfect score every time. Why do I do this? Well, because when you’re in a relationship like that, you start to think you’re crazy. That you’re the reason for these problems, that they aren’t real outside of your own mind. Even now that I’m free, those thoughts are still there. I need to double (or triple) check that I’m sane. This whole thing seems so surreal sometimes, that a quick assessment is somewhat understandable, I think.
Basically, it was like this: Girl gets drunk, is adorable, meets boy. Boy is amazing: Boy buys girl flowers, has a job, takes care of his own responsibilities, draws girl pictures, pays for dinners, likes girl’s kid, gets along with girl’s friends, makes girl laugh, stares deep into girl’s eyes and tells her she’s everything he could possibly ever want and more. Then, he writes her a song, learns to play an instrument just to perform it, buys her a ring, gets a dress made for her, and flies her to shiny Vegas to get married. Are you kidding me? Things like that don’t happen outside of movies. Except for this one time, when they happened to me, and found myself reciprocating with the kind of movie love I was previously convinced didn’t exist.
Then, I didn’t do the dishes. For 2 days. Whatever else did or didn’t happen during that time meant nothing, so justifying it now won’t either. Suddenly, I was a terrible wife. I was lazy, disgusting, greedy, a bad mom, and had he known I’d be this way, he never would’ve married me. I was heartbroken. I couldn’t believe I’d let him down so badly, and all I could think of was how to fix it. I cleaned, I cooked, I spent vacation days I’d taken off from work picking up dog crap in the yard. I was a decent wife again.
I kept trying to show him how much I loved him by proving what a good wife I could be. I mean, I’d already been divorced once, so my track record was pretty shitty, he was totally right in saying what a bad wife I was, and I needed to listen to him. That’s what I thought, because I loved him. And he loved me, why wouldn’t he just be looking out for my best interests?
A couple days later, I’d worked back up to best wife that had ever existed, and it was as if the whole thing had never happened. Life was good. For maybe a week and a half, then another infraction occurred, and the pattern began again. It repeated for a year. As time went on, the distances between the highs and lows became shorter. I could go from terrible to amazing and back again in the same week, if I really tried. As the ups and downs increased, so did the hurtful things he said. He accused me of cheating, told me I was terrible in bed, asked me if I was gay because he wasn’t satisfied with the frequency of our marital relations (though why he cared if I was so terrible anyway I never figured out), tried to keep me from my friends and even my own son, and told me that he liked that I was insecure because it meant I needed him. (When I then asked what would happen if I ever gained confidence, he quickly replied “I’d knock ya down a peg or two.”) That’s just the highlight reel, I won’t bore you with every put down and sly manipulation.
I remember somewhere in the middle of all this texting my sister, and asking her why I was so unlovable. Clearly the problem was me. I had all of these broken relationships, this one with someone who seemed to be so amazing, and yet I just kept failing. The common denominator here was me, it had to be my fault.
Then, something amazing occurred. I told my sister what was happening, and she believed me. She didn’t assume I was being overly dramatic. She didn’t tell me I was taking things wrong. She just listened. She gave advice in the beginning, things I could do to help the relationship, and checked back with me to see how they were going. She also made me laugh. Then, when things started getting worse instead of better, she told me without judgment, to get my crap and go. This was huge. First, because marriage is very sacred to my sister, and not to be exited out of for almost any reason. Second, because she always judges me. Lovingly, and with large doses of sarcastic wit, but it’s still usually there. The fact that it wasn’t this time meant shit had gotten real. But I wasn’t ready to make a huge change yet. I still thought I might be crazy. I got told all the time that I made a huge deal of things, that nothing made me happy, and I was depressed.(There was never concern about any would be depression, just diagnosis from an unqualified source, and blame.) Crazy seemed to fit right in. So I talked to a few more people. Miracle of miracles… they believed me too. After a little time, some last attempts to fix things, and therapy, I made the decision. I can’t fix anyone but me. If doing that threatens other people, or if they aren’t willing to rise up and meet me there, then I don’t need to be around them. I deserve love and respect. Not because of any great accomplishment or amazing quality I have, because I’m a human. Also, because that’s how I treat the people I choose to spend my time with.
Figuring all this out wasn’t easy, and stuff still comes up from time to time. But I do know how lucky I am to have done it so quickly and not spent years of my life being miserable. As proud as I feel of myself, I don’t want to just sit around pasting little gold stars on my walls. I want to help other people figure it out, too. I want to listen, and let them know that someone believes them. I know what this feels like, and nobody should have to.
So someday soon, I’m going to go to school. I’m going to get some kind of degree in something helpful, and I’m going to find an official way to help women who are victims of abuse. (it’s not that I’m sexist, I just have a lot more experience being a woman. My time being a dude was very short-lived and awkward.) Clearly I have a few details to work out, but that’s what the goal is.
Until I accomplish all of that, I’ll still be here, posting articles, ranting about assy pop songs that make women out to be possessions, and making people uncomfortable by telling my story. I’m ok with it. This isn’t comfortable. Abuse is bullshit, and if you find yourself and the receiving end of it, you’re not alone. You’re not unlovable. You just need a hand. I gots two, mo-effers.
If you feel the need to check the signs like I do, or want something written by someone who will not call you a “mo-effer” (psh.) then here is the article I was talking about way back in the beginning. It’s a bit vague, but you’ll know if you know.
Oh, one more thing. You people, the ones that listened to me:
I literally could not have done this without you. You mean more to me than you could ever know, but I’ll never stop trying to tell you anyway. I fucking love you.