Continuing my series about healing from abuse. When I left off, I had just finished discussing the first big area of focus that I had. Moving on –
2) Free myself emotionally
I left my ex-husband five times. I think. To be honest, I lost count, but I’m pretty sure it was in the neighborhood of five. Why didn’t I stay gone the first time? After the events of this post? Well, he wouldn’t leave me alone. He would drive around town (it was a small town) to find me. I had a restraining order in place, so naïve little me reported him to the police. Tell me, have you ever tried to have the police enforce a restraining order against a member of the military in a deeply red state? I don’t know how it went for you, but for me, the police were NO help. “Are you SURE you’re not purposely running into him? Are you SURE you’re doing everything you can to avoid him?” Okay then. I was on my own. And then I was broke and hungry and didn’t have any food for the kids and he sure acted like he was sorry and was going to change and marriage is sacred and marriage is supposed to be sacrifice and you never ever EVER give up on your marriage if you do you’re selfish and you’re wrong.
In the face of all that was the psychological trump card that kept me going back – what if it works this time? If it does you’ll have the happy marriage you want without all the “drama” that seems to make people pull back from you right when you most need their help. And if you don’t give it one more try and it would have worked this time, then you’re too selfish and give up too easily to be married in the first place.
So next time you wonder why abused women go back to their spouses, this ^^ is a pretty good bet. Combine that with the fact that being abused really warps your sense of what normal is (see #4 later in this series) and it’s not too hard to see how people get caught in this loop.
So how did I do it?
This is another area where I was very, very lucky. His Army unit deployed to Iraq and stayed there for 15 months. With him literally on the other side of the world from me and unable to physically get to me, I was able to finally clear my head. I realized that with him gone, I felt so SAFE – I hadn’t felt that way in so long that I honestly forgot what it felt like. And that was how I realized that this marriage was destroying me. I knew that I had to get out, no matter what it took. And I knew that I couldn’t trust myself to stick to my resolve when he was around.
So I recruited some backup. I started dating and living with a guy who was twice my ex’s size and literally violently protective of me. Seriously. He almost started a fight when he THOUGHT he heard one of my guy friends insult me. Once the ex got back, I found that it was possible to keep him emotionally at arm’s length with the help of my boyfriend keeping him physically at arm’s length. Then all I had to do was wait for him to get orders for his next duty station. Thankfully, it only took 7 months. And I was finally, permanently, physically free. And I needed that security of being physically free in order to get emotionally free.
I understand that the conventional advice is to work on yourself first and don’t jump into any other relationships. But here’s the problem – while you are working on yourself, you need to make sure you have safeguards in place so you don’t slide right back to where you were before. In my experience, I needed other people to keep me grounded and help make sure I had those safeguards in place to finally break free for good.
To be continued.