I never knew the name of what I felt. In fact, that would be inaccurate because I knew the name just never attributed it to my life. For years I stayed silent and just watched as the entire relationship continued to disintegrate. Abuse. A five letter word that is short but speaks volumes even to those who not only read it but live it every day.
In retrospect, people ask you “Why did you stay?” and your answer is non-existent because even you are not sure why you stayed. Was it fear for your life? Or was it because you thought you had to make it work? Whatever the reasons I believe that you only stay until staying is not an option any more.
There were 14 turbulent years of aggressive shouting matches back and forth and what started with being grabbed and pushed around. Never a lash to the body but many threats to by way of being grabbed by both shoulders and shaken or pushed around, or having that person’s hand landing very near to your body as a way to show you how hard you could have been hit. These actions made you scared and angry at the same time but at the time you had an 18 month old to deal with and had already given up your life to move to another country. Maybe reasoning would help and for a while it would until the next time.
Sometimes you miss the little signs but then again that’s a lie. Thinking back to the arguments that erupted even during the dating phase and realize that the writing was on the proverbial wall. Times when your gut told you to get out but you stayed hoping it would get better. Or maybe that time you were given a new phone by a client and the jealously came out and you were cursed every which way. Eleven years later the option of relocating to a foreign country to get a fresh start became a farce because that chip on the shoulder reared its ugly head and every attempt at success became a nightmare.
They say that turning a major milestone can have a profound effect on your life. For me it was turning 40 and finding my spiritual balance. I looked at what my life would be in 10 years if I remained in this relationship and did not like what I saw. It would be the same angry existence and I was raising two children – one of each gender. What kind of lessons was I teaching them? To my daughter, was I teaching her to stay regardless of how bad it got and that it was the way a man would treat her? To my son, was I teaching him that this is how you proved your manhood? To be aggressive and abusive in the name of love? Was this how he would treat other women?
Having had to cope with both physical and emotional abuse was not an easy task. Being told you were nothing or that you came from nothing did not sit well and slowly your self-esteem dropped to low levels. Where was the girl of 1990? Surely she was lost forever but there were bits of her somewhere, hiding, scared to even look out.
Having gone through a fairly unpleasant but not nasty divorce you learn a few things about yourself and your spouse.
1. The abuser will never see himself in that role. In fact, he will genuinely tell people that he has no idea why the divorce occurred.
2. The battle of who gets the friends can be a silent one that you are not even aware of. Everyone takes sides and those who do not, ignore you.
3. Your married friends suddenly treat you differently. They no longer invite you to their parties and you are left in limbo because suddenly you are the third wheel.
4. Getting involved in a new relationship, even six months to a year later can have both great and disastrous consequences. The new guy has to be really strong and understanding and that can be difficult at times on both sides.
5. Your kids can be strong and resilient but that doesn’t mean they are not hurting. They hate when you cry and sometimes provide comfort like no one can because their love for you is different.
6. You learn how to fix things you never had to like plumbing and furniture. In fact that pretty much sums up your day but it is rewarding because you get a sense of achievement at the end.
7. Your ex husband will still be bitter and abusive AFTER the divorce. Mine took to cursing me out once and then banging up my car in anger with his fists. He later denied this to the police just like he denied we were having problems.
8. Former in-laws and family will be bitter and treat you like the pariah because you dared to break up your family. Suddenly you are called every name in the book.
9. Your ex husband still feels he is entitled to details of your life so he turns to emotional blackmail of the kids. He would also tell them that the reason you are not a family anymore “is because of mummy”. Thankfully, the kids are old enough to separate fact from fiction even if they say nothing.
10. The decision to leave was the best decision for everyone concerned even if they don’t realize it yet.
Can abuse continue after divorce? In my case, yes. However, I choose not to give him any more power over my emotions and am taking slow steps to regain myself. Maybe it was the shock of the attack that sent me reeling into that dark place but no more. I have to be strong and fight this battle on my own.
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