I loved that guy. Who’s this guy?

People always say, “I don’t know how you put up with it for so long.”  As I sat next to my ex at our son’s high school basketball game last week, I pondered that very thing.  How was I married to this guy for so long?  The truth is that I wasn’t married to this guy.  I actually married a completely different guy.  Oh sure, he looks exactly like this guy sitting next to me in the bleachers, but he wasn’t so unhappy and mean and negative.  He was happy and fun.  He had a positive energy that I wanted to be around.  The guy that I married was dang near perfect. 

No, really, I swear.  I used to tease him that he must have kept a “Book of Lines” in his back pocket because he always knew the right thing to say.  He made me laugh.  He made me happy.  I loved that guy.  So I stayed married to this guy and endured ten years of hell because I remembered being married to that guy for those three short years of heaven.  I was just waiting for the real guy to show back up.  I just knew that he would.  He simply had to!

When he didn’t show back up on his own, I figured that I needed to help him find his way.  I tried to say all of the right things, do all of the right things, and be just the right person to make this guy happy.  To make him want to be that guy again.  Any tiny glimpse of that nice guy made me try that much harder.  I just knew he still existed beneath the surface.  I just needed him to break through.  I would have done just about anything to make that happen.

When he said that I didn’t decorate the house enough, I ran right out and spent money that we didn’t have on throw pillows for the couch.  When he said that I didn’t clean the house enough, I stayed up for hours scrubbing the grout with a toothbrush.  When he told me that something was wrong with me for being tired all of the time and not wanting to have sex daily, I made an appointment with my doctor to get a prescription for testosterone to boost my libido.  If only I wasn’t such a stupid, fat, lazy person, he would be nice and love me again.  I just needed to try harder to be the person that he married and was proud of, and not such a constant disappointment to him.  This change in him had to be all my fault.  Why else would he change?

The night he punched me in the head, I sat on the bathroom floor, replaying the scene over and over again.  Did that really just happen?  It couldn’t have.  He wasn’t that person.  I hid the bruises and went along with his story about our young son accidentally head-butting me.  I didn’t want people to think he was that person.

I look back now and the only explanation that I can give for staying so long is shock and denial.  It happened so gradually.  I never saw it coming.  There was no reason for the change, so it had to be temporary.  I just simply didn’t want to accept it.  To be honest, even after the divorce, acceptance was a far-away target.  It wasn’t the goal that I wanted to achieve.  I wanted my life back.  I didn’t want to move toward a new life.

I wish my story was one of those where I woke up one morning, saw the light, and filed for divorce.  I didn’t.  Not then.  I filed for divorce as a bluff.  He was having an affair, and I wanted him to know that he was dangerously close to losing me.  The gambling hadn’t driven me away.  The drinking hadn’t driven me away.  The abuse hadn’t driven me away.  I wanted him to think, though, that the affair would drive me away.

I was devastated when he took that opportunity for freedom.  I spent two years mourning the loss of a marriage that I should have ended years before.  Then I spent a few more years in the other phases of the grief cycle to finally arrive at this place of acceptance.  My marriage ended.  My marriage needed to end because it was bad.  This man sitting next to me in the bleachers is not the person that I married.  He never will be.  He will always be this abrasive, mean person that makes my children feel bad and tries to make me feel bad.

Here’s what I’ve gained with acceptance, though.  I don’t have to feel bad.  I don’t have to try to be someone else just to try to avoid his negativity.  It will be there no matter what, so I might as well just be me.  I don’t have to try to explain my actions or decisions about the kids.  When he gives his negative opinion, or an entire basketball game worth of negative opinions, I don’t have to listen.  I don’t have to take what he says as a statement of fact.  I can simply ignore him.  Just lean back and smile, while daydreaming about seeing this guy tumble down the bleachers.

And you know what?  I think that guy I married would find that imaginary scene funny, too.  Because this guy is a total…donkey.

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25 comments

  1. hello, i could have written that – time scales are different 9 months loved up, further 2 1/2 years of gradually declining into an abyss. none of the abusive acts were enough for me to leave, i loved him so so much. he was not this monster…took realising he was going to kill me for me to leave x

    1. When you are in it, it’s hard to see the potential danger. I remember an attorney asking me if I had a gun in the house, and if I was prepared to use it. I was shocked. He said that you never know what will drive a man with a history of abuse to the edge. Most abused women never thought he would shoot them…until he did.

      1. agree, i have a very real fear that he will find a way to kill me

        1. I do hope you can stay safe. There are so many resources out there. I hope you can find something that works to help you.

          1. i have loads of support x

      2. totally, i know he will kill me if he can arrange it

  2. There is such a big difference, isn’t there – between that guy and this guy.
    You are a stronger you. Thank you for sharing this here.

    1. I think its safe to say that I never would have married THIS guy. I’m now even embarrassed to admit that I was married to him. I used to try to defend his actions. Now I wonder why he doesn’t live in constant persecution.

  3. Yes, exactly. The change from that guy to this guy is so gradual, it’s hard to believe both that it happened and that he’s not that guy anymore. Perfectly captured.

  4. Bob, the Dad of a Daughter of abuse. · · Reply

    GREAT you found that “place of acceptance”, and more importantly that you GOT OUT in time.

  5. So many of us stay for just this reason, and abusers know it. Happy to hear you’re out and whole.

    1. I agree. I think he knew that I would try harder. He never had to accept blame or responsibility for any of his actions because I was so willing to take it all for him.

      1. He chose you because you would try harder, a common theme among victims – abusers seem to take special joy in breaking down an otherwise strong partner.

  6. Seeing THAT guy tumble down the bleachers, yes we would all like to see that. I am so glad that you GOT out and are safe and happier and healthier for it. Thanks for sharing!

  7. esewalter · · Reply

    I know much about shock and denial. Especially denial. It’s taken me a good while to start coming out of denial but one day at a time. I am so happy you can see it now. Your boys have a strong women for a mom. They are truly blessed.

    1. Thank you! I can say that raising boys alone causes so much of my self-doubt. I fear that they will continue the cycle. I’m sad that the cycle even exists.

  8. svivr2013 · · Reply

    So proud of you for getting out….and staying out. You are much better for it! We could have all written this story. Your boys have a great example of strength to look up to. Good for you. Peace and continued healing for you. Thanks for sharing your story.

  9. I think the guy he is now, was probably there all along. That’s what’s so scary about abusers–they can maintain a façade for awhile but then the pressure gets to be too much. Glad you’re not in that relationship anymore!! 🙂

    1. I’ve read a lot about narcissism since my divorce. Wish I had read about it when I first started seeing the signs. Perhaps I wouldn’t have held out hope for so long.

      1. On top of wishing for things to be different, the narc also makes you believe everything is your fault, so you continually try to fix what’s broke, in hopes that will make everything better. It’s a vicious cycle, one that some people never make it out of.

  10. In lots of ways this could have been my story. I spent ages thinking if I just do this, or that, he would magically transform back into my beautiful soulmate – the man I first fell in love with rather than the demon he became. It was only once I got out, and started making sense of the abuse, that I realised that Prince Charming and the frog were one and the same, and he was never going to change back. As others have said, it’s all a charming illusion – the real man is the one you escaped. 🙂

    1. So well put! The prince and the frog are one in the same! I’m going to chuckle about that for a while!

  11. Great post -and great way of putting it- that guy and this guy. So true.

  12. It’s insane how they can change, I would embrace being able to talk to an abuser, if they can be honest, and ask them if this is something they plan. Is it part of the big picture to eventually beat their partner physically and emotional ?

  13. […] am so very touched and excited!  Melanie from Deliberate Donkey invited me to write a guest post on her site.  You might have already found her site from my […]

speak loudly, donkeys are sleeping

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