I had known this fellow for two years and dated him for one of them. He was every bit the gentleman. Then, three months in, things began to happen that made me very unhappy. Most people would consider them silly, or immature, just like he did. How do I know that is what he thought? He made sure to tell me constantly; any time I did not agree with him. If there was a negative thing in the world a person could be, I was most certainly it according to him: stupid, fat, b@%&h, dumb, ignorant; the list seemed never-ending.
I was ashamed of myself for being so stupid and falling for him. I was embarrassed at how things were turning out and therefore kept everything inside. My parents or a friend would call and the second I hung up the phone he would bellow, "Who was that? Your boyfriend?" It got old...quickly. I reached a point where I had enough; enough of it all. I went back at him, telling him he was being ignorant and he should stop being so paranoid, before turning and marching off.
I heard his footsteps behind me, and I don't know how it happened, but I ended up backed up against one of the large solid oak doors that were in our ground floor apartment of a beautiful old house. I don't know if he was holding me there...I don't remember. What I do remember is his fist coming at me and closing my eyes. The door panel directly beside my head literally split when he hit it and I felt the air from the force of the blow move my hair. He was so angry he was literally red. "Don't you ever talk to me like that again!"
Damn it! Why didn't you hit me?!
I thought so many times about leaving. I could just imagine the reactions of friends and family when they asked me why. It basically all boiled down to one answer, "He's mean." I could picture my own reaction to it. Besides...it was an invisible Hell. Nobody knew what went on, because I didn't tell anyone. Why would I?
Everything was about him and things always had to be his way or there would be Hell to pay. It was much easier to go along with whatever he said and avoid the constant barrage of insults and degradation. It was a control issue. And there were so many things...stupid things...
- Blinds had to be kept closed 24/7.
- I was not allowed to wear makeup
- No "tight" clothing (clothes that actually fit!)
- No colored or fancy undergarments - plain white cotton because, "Who the Hell is going to see it anyway besides me?!"
On and on the list went. People have said to me, "I would NEVER have imagined you putting up with this!" This was not an all-at-once thing. It was a long, drawn-out brainwashing process. One little thing at a time that he would blow up about and it eventually ended up being a list that was more strict than anything I've ever personally seen and was about a mile long.
Somewhere in the middle of the so-called 'relationship,' I remember asking him to go to marriage counseling. "You're the one with the f#^*@%! problem! You go!" After a few times asking, I took his advice. I found out I wasn't the one with the problem... I was the one who would have to resolve it. Life moved on and I turned to digging in the dirt and planting flowers while listening to Mozart and to cross stitch, which I became quite proficient at. I did anything and everything to stay away from him. He wanted me with him everywhere he went, but didn't want me to talk to anyone. If I wouldn't go, he wouldn't go.
The next morning I had four hours, one truck, my Dad and a few friends to pack up what remained of my shattered life and head for the hills. At 26 years old, this is NOT what I had in mind.
The aftermath was not a cakewalk, and he intended to make everything as difficult as possible. I had to pay him spousal support for nearly two years after filing for the divorce for two reasons:
- He refused to sign the papers
- In the state of Pennsylvania (at least at that time), overtime was counted into your base pay. I was working anywhere between 50 and 65 hours a week because I didn't want to go home and the work was available. In a nutshell, this technically meant that I made more money than he did, even though in reality, I didn't.
But... I was FREE!
Emotional scars are invisible... and they take much, much longer to heal. Some never do. Sometimes, even to this day, if I begin to get a bit down about something I hear him, "You are never happy! You will NEVER be happy! You are a miserable ..." The difference now is that I can shut him down and tell him he is so wrong.
The old saying about walking a mile in someone else's shoes? The people who stay, for however long they decide to, are living in a nightmare. The last thing any of them need is someone who has never experienced such a thing giving them advice or judging them. They need love. They need your support. They need you to be a friend. All of us their own individual 'tipping point.' The point where we hit the wall and say, "I've had enough!"
Just because you can't see the scars or because you don't understand, well... you never know when your seemingly small act of kindness could be the light at the end of someone's very long, dark tunnel.