I have been struggling with a myriad of memories this past week, all of them competing for my attention. Memories of the two previous times that I left my husband. Me, desperately trying to make our marriage work. Memories of feelings of despair over the way my husband treated me. Images of my husband screaming at me, telling me that he wanted a divorce and then saying that he didn’t mean it. Me, worrying about paying my medical bills while my husband was buying Harley’s, Corvettes, dirt bikes, trucks, and whatever else he lusted after. My husband leering at other women every time we were out in public, the skankier the better. And me, crying over it. I felt so inadequate. It makes me angry that I allowed him to treat me the way that he did. I wish I had been stronger. I should have told him to go to hell. I should have walked out after the first month of marriage. I distinctly remember thinking, “There’s no way I’m going to be divorced again!” I felt like such a failure. I didn’t want to tell my family or friends. Of course, eventually they all figured out that he wasn’t the prince charming that he portrayed himself to be.
I have been trying to make sense of it all. But, it doesn’t make sense. Why did he marry me to begin with? Perhaps he wanted children. We tried to have children, but I had a miscarriage and then a tubal pregnancy. I thank God that I didn’t have his children. What a nightmare it would be to have my child under his control. And, I’m so grateful that I don’t have a permanent connection to him for the rest of my life. We were already having sex, so it wasn’t the sex. I wouldn’t move in with him unless we were married. Could that have been it? But, honestly, he would have been better off hiring a cook and a housecleaner. I was so exhausted raising my kids and working full time that I far from June Cleaver. He railed against me all the years were married. Granted, the verbal abuse did get better after the second separation. He went on meds and it helped. But, all that meant was that while he didn’t call me a whore as often, he still treated me like one. And, after a couple of years he went off the meds and the insanity continued.
The thing that gets me the most is that the first two times we separated, he begged me to come back. And, both times I did. We went to counseling and both times the counselor recommended that I move back in. To be honest, I wanted to. The first time I was out of work, my parents were both very ill and I was overwhelmed financially. At least when I lived with my husband, I didn’t have to worry about paying rent and basic living expenses. The second time I was living in a converted studio apartment added onto someone’s house. My two teenagers and myself living in one room. My main problem was that while I moved out, I didn’t break off contact. I still allowed him to manipulate me. He called me and we spent hours on the phone together. I allowed him to flatter me and tell me that he loved me. He told me how sorry he was and that things would be different. But, it never was. I’m not sure if I thought that it would be different, or I was just in denial. Denial that I had another failed marriage. Denial because I was told that God said I couldn’t leave my husband. And if I did, I could not ever remarry or… or what? I’d go to hell? After all, there were so many things that I could go to hell for. Telling my husband no when he wanted to have sex, disagreeing with a decision my husband made, not “submitting”. The churches I attended spend an inordinate amount of time telling the wives what they could and could not do. I did not hear much about what the husbands should or should not do. Sure, they offered the token “the husband should love his wife like Christ loved the church”. But, what were the consequences if he didn’t? The bottom line is that I was still supposed to “submit” regardless of how my husband treated me. It was my duty.
I was talking to my sister last night. When I had surgery several years ago, she flew out and stayed at the house while I was in the hospital. Our bed was high off the ground and my husband had purchased a small step stool so that I could get into bed while I was recovering. My sister could see that it would not be easy for me to use the one my husband bought, so she bought an aerobics step instead. It was perfect, not too high and plenty wide for me to balance on. However, when my husband saw that she had bought a better step, he became enraged. While screaming obscenities he kicked the small step stool out the bedroom, down the hall, down the stairs, through the living room, onto the kitchen and out the door into the garage. My sister was shocked. She told me that after witnessing his rage, she was convinced that he was beating me. She said that she drafted a long email telling me why I had to leave my husband and sent it to my brother for him to look at it before she sent it to me. He convinced her not to send it and told her that I had to decide for myself. I have to admit, the first thing I thought when she told me about this incident, was that I wished that she had sent it. Maybe I needed to hear it. I likely wasn’t ready to leave at that point. But, perhaps if more people had told me, it would have sunk in sooner than it did. The second thing I thought of was how sad it was that what was so disturbing to her was commonplace to me. At what point did the abuse go from shocking to typical?
My biggest fear is getting involved in another abusive relationship. I have serious doubts regarding my discernment of other people’s characters. I’m very cautious about developing friendships right now. And very leery of pastoral staff. I really like the church I’ve been attending. But, I realize that it is very likely that the attendees and staff probably believe the same things about women’s roles that other churches I have gone to believe. The gender role beliefs so prevalent in Christian churches are centuries old. The main belief is that women are somehow on a lower hierarchal role than men. Those beliefs kept me trapped in an abusive marriage for far longer than I should have stayed. So, while I am enjoying making new friends, I am taking it slow. For now, I am content getting to know my kids again and being a part of their lives without my husband’s interference. I’m learning to enjoy the little things in life and rediscovering the beauty all around me.