For the first of hopefully many Guest Posts, please welcome Twindaddy, writer of humor, honest self-reflection, and stuph™ over at Stuphblog (go take a gander, and while you’re there, click that blog-happy Follow button).
And, before you begin this story, I would like to say thank you to Twindaddy for sharing his journey to freedom. It is one I know will resonate with so many of us. I would also like to thank him for sharing that abuse happens to men too. It’s not a violence against women issue, it’s a violence against people issue. I trust you will be as kind and supportive of him and his story as you are of me and mine.
I’m going to share a story with you. It’s a story that I, for some reason, have always been too embarrassed share. I have no idea why either. I have only told one person about this story prior to this post. Since it’s a story of overcoming abuse I asked my dear friend Melanie if she’d like for it to be told on her blog, and she graciously accepted. Thank you, Melanie.
I was once in an abusive relationship, though I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t consider it to be abusive. I always thought abuse was either physical or verbal. You know, hitting and insults. Then I learned that there was a form of abuse called emotional abuse. According to counselingcenter.illinois.edu, emotional abuse is defined as follows:
Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, and verbal or physical assaults. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to ever be pleased.
Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching,” or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones (Engel, 1992, p. 10).
This happened to me. I didn’t know it happened to me until I was out of the situation, but it happened all the same. You see, my first wife bullied her way into my life. Sure, I was interested at first. She was kind of fun. She made me laugh. So we started seeing each other. As I got to know her, I found out we were quite different and very incompatible. She, however, disagreed.
I tried to break up with her and she became suicidal. I stayed. I tried to leave again. She became suicidal. I stayed. I planned to sneak out while she was gone. She found out somehow and actually attempted suicide. She survived and I gave up all attempts to leave her. I lost myself in her. I was not allowed to be myself because it offended her. She didn’t like my sense of humor. I wasn’t allowed to joke about sex. I wasn’t allowed to say certain words (those of you that know me know that I have a very R-rated vocabulary). I wasn’t allowed to hang out with certain people if she didn’t like them. I wasn’t allowed to have time alone with my friends without her inviting herself along.
When she became extremely angry, she did become physically abusive. She raged something fierce. Guttural screams. Swear words. Insults. Picture frames thrown. Punches thrown. Holes in the wall. Slammed doors. Chaos. So I bottled myself up and made sure I never told her anything that would upset her for two reasons. One, I didn’t feel like dealing with her stunning likeness to the Incredible Hulk. Two, I didn’t want to deal with another suicide attempt.
So I was unhappily shackled in a marriage, or at least a reasonable facsimile of one, for seven years. Nine years total. During that time I could only be myself when she wasn’t around, which wasn’t often. We worked for the same employer the entire time. So not only did I live with this woman, I spent my breaks and lunches with her, too. I couldn’t get away from her.
In early 2006, I started hanging out in Yahoo chat rooms online. It was really my only escape. I couldn’t hang out with real people because my wife would either invite herself along (which ruined any fun that may have been had) or she raged and had a temper tantrum because “you never want to do anything with me.” The latter part was technically true, but really I did everything with her. We did everything together because she wouldn’t let me out of her fucking sight.
So after she went to bed each night I would stay up and go to the chat rooms so I could interact with other humans. Even if it was just through a computer screen, they were still human. And I could be myself without reservation or fear of scorn. Over time there were a group of regulars I fell in with. We were on almost every night. We talked about our children. We made jokes. We had a good time.
There was one particular woman who I liked more than the rest. We would have our own side conversation going most nights in addition to being in the chat room. Over time I developed feelings for her. I would think about her while I was at work. I would wonder what she was doing or think about the conversations we had the night before. I would wonder if she would be online that night. If I would get to talk to her. We shared each other’s problems. She told me about her youngest child, who had multiple health problems. I told her about my horrible marriage.
A strange thing then happened. I fell in love with her. It sounds stupid to me, even now, to admit that I fell in love with someone through words in a Yahoo chat room. That is the reason I’ve never told but one person about this. It is also the reason for my embarrassment. But it happened. One night I boldly confessed my love for her and to my surprise she reciprocated. We loved each other. Feelings I hadn’t felt since I was in high school poured through me. I felt happy. I felt alive. I felt loved.
It was at that moment I realized that I deserved, and could get, so much more than I had settled for. I realized that there was a woman out there who would love me for me. Love me just the way I was. Who would accept me as I am. Her love and belief in me gave me the courage and incentive to do for myself what I hadn’t done in over nine years: to stand up for myself.
I left my wife. It was a tough battle. I had to fight off her acerbic words. I had to shrug off her tempestuous punches. Her vengeful kicks. I had to dodge flying picture frames. I had to make myself not care that she was devastated. That was the hardest part. Her punches and kicks didn’t hurt. She wasn’t that strong. Her words didn’t faze me. I was determined. Her tears made it hard. The tears of my children made it damn near impossible, but I kept my resolve. I had to do this for me. I hadn’t done anything for myself in almost a decade. I hadn’t done one thing for my happiness for over one-third of my life.
I moved in with my brother. We didn’t have internet immediately so I gave the woman (we’ll call her Julie) my phone number so we had a way to communicate. For the next month we talked almost every night and fell deeper in love. Unfortunately for us, our children prevented things from going further. She lived in Oklahoma and couldn’t move her kids. I lived in Cincinnati and couldn’t move lest I never see my kids. So I told her I had to let her go. I couldn’t keep falling for a woman I had no chance to be with. I needed more from a woman than just words. It was hard. I cried as I told her, as did she, but knew in my heart it was the right thing to do for both of us.
Months later I emailed her to thank her. Without really even trying, she saved me. She made me realize that I was someone worth loving. That there was happiness out there for me and it could be mine if I decided to take it. She woke me up and showed me the stripped, bare version of me I had become. She gave me the courage to get myself out of a relationship I was afraid to leave. She gave me the courage to conquer my guilt, which was my biggest obstacle. It was guilt that had kept me there. Guilt for her potential suicide. Guilt for her hurt feelings. Guilt for hurting my children if I left. Guilt of a failed marriage.
So wherever you are, Julie, thank you. From the very bottom of my grateful heart, thank you. You helped me believe in me again. You gave me my life back.
I’ve written some things regarding that time of my life on my blog. Here are links to a few:
Interested in sharing your story, any story of abuse, escape, or recovery? Send an email to me (Melanie) at firstname.lastname@example.org. This summer I will be featuring Your Stories to keep this blog active with insightful, heartfelt, and informative stories while I play and play and play with my kids.