|December 27, 1999
I have learned that acceptance of
this statement is mandatory for my recovery. I've known for years.
I'm learning now, to trust and respect my feelings. I've made many choices
in my life, and now I live with the consequences.
In denial, I chose to live my marriage as a fantasy. I thought that
with my cheerfulness and optimistic attitude that I could help my husband
see that life should be happy - and he would be content. I've
learned that this is a controlling idea, used by codependent
personalities. Yes. Codependent people use the
pacifying, giving-in tactic as a means of controlling their abuser - to
get him to do what they would like him to do - like stop yelling. This
was only one of many mistakes I would make in the years to come.
I remember how excited I was when he asked me to meet his parents. Until
recently, I had forgotten that I had threatened to stop dating him if he
continued to treat them with what I felt was disrespect! Parents
that would not settle for disrespect (thankfully) raised me. He
promised me that he would change, and I trusted him.
Later, I believed (as a codependent) that if I denied my "gut"
feelings, and just let him do whatever made him content enough not to
complain - that we would live happily ever after. This
tactic works for the short-run only. This was to be the
biggest mistake I've ever made in my life. And I did it for
twenty-three years. I lost respect for myself. In turn, no respect
for me or my feelings were forthcoming from my beloved husband...
I thought I was doing the right thing by forgiving his actions. He
convinced me that I was crazy for even thinking about making any "big
deal" out of his mis-behaviors. His actions? I'm
referring mainly to his closeness with multiple female "friends"
throughout the entire course of our marriage. After watching him
interact with them, my "gut" feeling was that this
"closeness" had more of a sexual than a friendly quality. These
women would cry on his shoulder - rather than with their girlfriends
It is easy to be the sympathetic "good guy" to a friend in a mutually
affirming relationship. Mutual affirmation is easy when real-life
demands are lacking. The angry controller, who cannot deal with
intimacy since the partner is expected to anticipate and meet every
need, does superficially well in a forum where sexual tension is high
and expectations are low. There is little need to push sexually-tinged
friends away; they are escape hatches. A wife, on the other hand,
that is a relationship that can hurt, disappoint, and deprive when the
expectation is that one's needs be met. Yet, when I needed his listening ear, along with the
compassion that he gave to them - I encountered a closed door. Why
should he listen? I gave him no boundaries, no limits. If he
could abuse me verbally and emotionally at his whim, (whatever my
reasons were for letting him) why should he even consider that I had
feelings? Why should he respect me, when he can control me?
Looking back, I realize that I was enabling his abuse by trying to be the
"good wife", and giving up - rather than defending myself and
setting limits. I didn't like to argue. Most of all though, I
didn't trust my own feelings. I had betrayed myself. Yes.
The most damaging example of his disrespect and betrayal of me took place
at a New Year's Eve bash. I left our table to go to the ladies'
room. I ran into him alone in the hallway with a close female
"friend". I didn't expect to see them and said, "What
are you two up to?" He yelled at me, "I came out to
take a g*****n piss - is that alright with you?" I was in
shock. His anger took my breath away. I looked at her, then
him, and replied, "I can't believe that you would talk to me that
way." He continued, "And what are YOU doing out
here?" "I came out to go to the bathroom."
"Well, there it is, GO!" With that, I went back to the
table. The two of them followed shortly thereafter and sat at their
respective tables. I should have left at that point, but (believe it
or not) I was concerned about causing a scene and embarrassing him in
front of our friends. Turning the situation
around is a common strategy the angry controller uses - and often knocks
the victim off their feet. You caught him. How dare you!
I felt sick inside. For the
rest of the evening he gave me angry, dirty looks and harsh treatment. I
decided to try to have the best time I could anyway. I went to the bar for
some ice water. I stayed there (away from him), and watched people
dancing while conversing with mutual friends. He sat at the table,
remaining very angry. The next thing I remember is when he came to
the bar and threw my jacket at me. I looked at the men I was talking
with and said, "I guess it's time to go." Then he said,
"Yeah, and if we don't leave now, you can find your own f***ing way
home!" Now I was frightened. Both my (married) companions
at the bar were shocked at his behavior and offered to drive me home.
Their wives were in agreement!
I considered the offer, but didn't
accept. I was afraid of the resulting consequences. I left the
party with an angry man I thought was my husband, but I was no longer
sure. When we arrived home, he went into another part of the house, slamming
the door behind him. He didn't speak to me for two days. When
he finally opened his mouth, we were in a yelling match. He was
angry with me (are you ready for this?) because I embarrassed HER!
No matter how I tried, I don't think I was able to convince him that he
should have been more concerned about MY feelings - NOT hers! We
never discussed it again. I made up my mind at that point that I
would never go to another of his family's parties. Here's
a secret: he was really concerned about how he would look to her. He
doesn't care how anyone feels unless it is to manipulate them into liking
or thinking well of him.
Time passed, and our relationship seemed to be on an even keel. It
wasn't ideal, but it was tolerable. We had a common retirement goal
for our retirement: a retirement home on a tropical island, right on the
water. We looked at house plans for this home the summer after The New
Years Party. Throughout this time, several incidents took place
involving this same female-person "friend" from the party.
If I dared give her (or him) any impression that I didn't want her around,
I was yelled at. I was accused of being rude since I couldn't find
it in my being to be especially nice to someone who I felt was "too
close" to my husband. This never changed.
In the beginning of this year, we experienced the heartbreaking loss of
his brother. To add to insult to injury, I had to deal with another
"gut" experience: he called "her" about the funeral
arrangements BEFORE he informed ME! She baked and bought lots of
food to his family's house. In her generosity, she became a major
player that day. They both made sure of it. After all, she was
a very close friend of the family.
The summer was a difficult time. We
continued to have problems communicating without arguing. A friend of mine
had recommended the Patricia Evans book The Verbally Abusive Relationship - How to Recognize it
and How to Respond. I found it hard to stop reading; here was my
life in print. I began seeing a counselor. After the
confirmation I received from reading the book as well as from two
professionals I consulted with, I stopped blaming my codependence for our
problems. Yippee! I confronted him with
the fact that he was and has been an abuser for a number of years.
He emphatically denied this, (as they normally do) but promised he would
try not to be. The conversation became very emotional, and before I
knew it - I was crying. I told him that I couldn't accept his
treatment anymore, and that if it didn't change - I wanted him to leave.
I was surprised to hear myself say this.
Before going to bed that night, I
kissed him and told him that I wanted him to continue to be a part of my
life. He asked, "What do you want with an abuser in your
life?" I answered, "I don't." I just wanted him to
stop the abuse. When I got home from work the next day, I didn't
know if he would be there or not. He was home, doing yard work.
I greeted him with a kiss. He said that he had decided buy an organizer
for me. I had no idea what this was. On the way to the store,
he gave me a computer magazine to read and decide which one I'd like to
have. This was not an inexpensive purchase. I said something
about not needing to spend the money on it, and he said that I never buy
anything for myself and that it would be very useful to me. I didn't
argue (rarely did), and we bought one. I was told later that this
was called "honeymooning". From what I had read, and
descriptions from sites on the internet, I realized that this treatment
(abuse) would only continue - and that it would eventually get worse - if
he (we) did not agree to get professional help. Yep.
Shortly thereafter, he hit me for the first -
and last - time. He was ignoring me and I was trying to get his
attention. I accidentally hurt his finger in the process. He accused
me of hurting him on purpose (not the first time), and felt justified in
hitting me. I requested that we go for counseling. He was
reluctant, but agreed to two sessions. Very little was accomplished,
and he continued to deny that he was abusive. He told me that I was
"allowed" to continue, but he "wasn't going to be any part
of it". All I could think of was that the abuse would get worse
without treatment. I was not willing to be a part of it!
I did some real soul-searching, and
even thought about suicide at one point. But I love me. Good! Other people love me too. Good! Even though it was painful to realize, the
anger that I felt from him most of the time helped me to understand that
ours was not a healthy, loving marriage. I couldn't change it alone.
The only way to stop the abuse was to stop being a victim. I had to
make the most difficult choice of my life.
We planned a party and invited family and some friends. I asked him
whom he'd invited. He mentioned a few people, but not his current, close,
female "friend". She had been the topic of a few
"discussions" during the summer. I wasn't comfortable with
his greater concern for her feelings than for mine, and he was well-aware
of this. If I gave the slightest impression that I didn't want her
to be around him, he yelled at me for it later. No concern for MY
feelings, even when I was honest and open about them. Even though I
was his WIFE, and not just "a friend".
Well into the party, she arrived
with her husband. I suddenly realized that my husband deliberately kept
his invitation to her from me. This was the last time he was going
to disrespect me. I left that night. I let him know that I would
return when I was able to talk to him about why I had left. I stayed
away for two more nights. He was very angry, claiming he couldn't
understand why I left. He interrogated me, demanding an answer.
There was no CONCERN at all. I was simply a QUEST for him.
This was the straw that broke the camel's back. I realized there was
no point in discussing my position with him. He wouldn't have heard
anything I had to say. My decision was made.
The next day, I saw an attorney. I told him my story, and in a
highly emotional state learned about my options. He was glad I was
seeing a counselor. I asked him how I could make my husband leave if
I decided to go through with a divorce. My lawyer asked me why I
would want to stay in the house. He suggested I do myself a favor,
and find a nice apartment to escape from the abuse. Since I wasn't
interested in keeping the house, then it didn't matter if I stayed or left.
I remained home another week while my husband's abuse continued. I
asked him about joint counseling for the last time; he refused.
The following week, I found a place
to live. I set up my own accounts and arranged to have my mail sent
to a PO box. I signed the divorce papers and went back to live with
him for a few days until my place was ready. He stayed away except for
brief periods of time. Having no idea how he would react, I decided
to tell him I had filed for divorce while I was in a "safe place."
One morning, I called him at work and told him. I was crying. He
asked why I didn't tell earlier him that I had filed, and I told him that
I was afraid to. I had made him aware that his anger frightened me a
week ago, and that I couldn't and wouldn't continue to live in a
relationship that was this unhealthy. The main thing I remember
about this conversation is the lack of emotion in his voice. I told
him that he could to sign the papers at my attorney's office or be served.
I gave him my attorney's phone number and said I couldn't talk anymore.
It was the most difficult conversation I've ever had. It hurt even
more that he never attempted to talk me out of it. I had to keep
reminding myself that I was doing the right thing. I had to remember
that I was a good person, and that he could only hurt me if I let him.
I repeated this to myself as often as I needed to in the months to come.
I had no conception of the emotional pain I was about to experience.
I hadn't considered the possibility of losing his family. Wasn't
this "problem" just between the two of us? Not so. After
25 years of marriage, his family had become mine while my own family had
moved or distanced for one reason or another. At times, I was more a
part of his family than he was. Throughout most of our marriage, my
best friend and confidant was one of my in-laws. Whenever I needed a
sanity-check, felt too sensitive, or whenever I had that sick feeling in
my "gut," she was there to reassure me. She told me that I
was loved; she was always there for me. I never asked what I should
do, and she never advised. She listened and let me know that I was okay.
She is one of the most loving people I know. I am blessed to have
her in my life. I will never lose her. I am also still close to a couple
others and I hope this never changes.
But, I thought that the rest of his
family loved me as well. I'm not sure of this anymore. We have
an unspoken bond that I respect: they have to be there for him. What
is most difficult for me is losing the tight bond I had with them. They've
stopped communicating with me. I hope that time will heal this. My
door is open if they change their minds. In the meantime, I not only
grieve the loss of my marriage but the unexpected loss of other loved ones
as well. This is very sad. Don't think about whether
or not you are loved. They did love you. It is likely that they feel
pressure from your husband not to "betray" him. It is also
possible, if not likely, that he fed his family lies to make you
look bad and justify himself.
This has been the most painful experience of my life. I'm grateful
for all the angels I have, as well as the new angels that I came to know
when I needed love and guidance. Dr. Irene's website has also
been a major blessing in assuring me that I'm on the right path. I'm
sure that I'll experience much more on this "emotional roller
coaster", but when the ride is over I'll be a much stronger and
better person for it. I know that I'm doing the right thing. So very, very unfortunate. Essentially, you lost most of
your family. I wonder if they know how you miss them? I wonder if they
know what happened from your side? Perhaps in time your remaining close
family member can intervene on your behalf. Perhaps you can reconnect with
your own relatives. In any case, as you are already seeing, you will find
people to love and who will love you.
I'm submitting my experience with the hope that it will help others in
need of reassurance, as I did when I first visited this site. God
Bless You. Diana
Thank you for
taking the time to write your account. You did what you could to save your
marriage. Unfortunately, your husband was apparently unwilling to
participate. Part of the problem with sexually-tinged friendships lies in
the emotional escape hatch they provide their participants. The
participants have less of a need to deal with the relational issues in
their lives. The "friends" are immediately available for
comfort. The "friends" are emotionally safer than in a
"real" day-to-day relationship - where one confronts one's own
demons through the dance of intimacy.
I wish you
continued success on your path. God Bless You! Dr. Irene
Ps: I tried to send
you an email to notify you that your letter was up, but it was returned as