Or: Why I left.
I’ve posted all this before, but it was in a post where I was specifically responding to a post from someone else. So I wanted to put it in a place that stands on its own.
I married a man that had been my best friend for a year and a half. Would I have seen something in him to warn me to cut and run if we had dated longer before marriage? I don’t know. But I do know that if you don’t at least give yourself some time, you really limit your opportunities to see the red flags before it’s too late. You want to know if that great guy you just met is actually a great guy or if it’s just a façade. A really savvy abuser can say and do anything to convince you that he is The One. Give to the needy? Yup. Go to church with you? That too. Have deep philosophical discussions about God, the universe and everything? That as well. He can also take care of you when you’re sick, cheer you up when you’re in a bad mood, explore your taste in movies and music, introduce you to his taste, and discover new passions and hobbies with you. He can even be absolutely committed to marriage and lifelong love and putting every effort in to keep your marriage going strong.
Until you actually get married.
And you have a baby.
And you decide to stay home, because you both agree that it’s very important for children to be raised by a stay-at-home parent if at all possible.
Suddenly, the power dynamic in the relationship has changed. You’re not working, plus you’re busy with the children, while he makes all the money and is free to come and go as he pleases.
And because he can go wherever he pleases, he finds himself in the arms of another woman. And then another one. And he comes home and tells you about it because he wants to be “honest.” And then he asks for your permission to continue – “Don’t you want me to be happy? I’m not happy with you.” Of course you’re upset about this – he did promise to be faithful to you, didn’t he? And funny enough, cheating was never even close to an issue while you were dating. Knowing your spouse is unfaithful is painful enough; knowing your spouse is unrepentantly unfaithful is soul-crushing. So you get upset, and you fight. It gets physical. You scream. Neighbors call police. Police come and find a quivering, shaking woman with not a scratch on her. You’re a little fuzzy on what happened because it happened so fast, but you know you’re going to have some bruises, um, here, and you think over here, too. He soberly and carefully points out the bites and scratches you made to desperately fight back against him, sadly telling the police that he doesn’t know why you did this to him but he loves you so he doesn’t want to press charges. You try to interject that he unplugged the phone so you couldn’t call for help, shoved you across the room, threw you down to the ground, your neck narrowly missing the edge of a crate on the ground, pinned you down and started to choke you. He had pulled back when you bit him which gave you enough air to scream. He looks at you sadly, then shares a knowing look with the police, “She’s crazy – you see what I have to put up with?” And of course he had found a second to put the phone cord back in the wall before they showed up.
And because you live where he is stationed, you have no family or friends to turn to for help. No money of your own because you don’t work. No one to take care of the kids even if you were to get a job. Nowhere to go that you can get to on one tank of gas. Any of the friends you do have were his friends first and guess whose side they take when it all falls apart? That’s right – his. You have NOBODY.
So you try, and you try, and you try harder. Whenever you try to talk to him about that night, you want him to know how hurt you were and you want him to apologize. He looks at you like you’re crazy – “that never happened.” No matter what you say, he appears not to know what you are talking about. So you start to wonder if you are crazy. Maybe it was your fault. Maybe you were just imaging things. Maybe you were overreacting. It’s not like you have any other options, right? You try being the woman he wants. You dye your hair, do your nails the way he likes, wear the clothes he likes, try to always cook dinner on time and always have the house clean. You stop talking to the couple friends you managed to make because he doesn’t like them. You act like a porn star in bed for him. You do … things … that he physically forces you to do. And the worst part is – you end up reprogramming yourself mentally into thinking that this is normal in order to survive. Marriage changes you, right? Marriage involves sacrifice, right? Love keeps no record of wrongs, right? You need to be committed to marriage as an institution because divorce is bad, right? See? Nothing to worry about – everything is fine! It’s a feature of marriage, not a bug.
“Okay, Athena. That’s all well and good … I guess … but what does this have to do with anything?”
The reason I’m telling you all this is because I want it to be absolutely clear that I didn’t leave my ex lightly. I believed with my whole heart (and still do!) in the sacredness and permanence of marriage. I married a man who had been my best friend; and being his wife nearly destroyed me.
Negativity is all well and good, but I think it’s very important to balance it out with the happy ending. Part I is here.