You have the perfect family: two girls, a boy, and a husband—although he is not drop-dead handsome, he makes a pretty decent living. When the two of you first met, he used to send flowers to you at work and surprise you by showing up without an invitation at places that he knew you would frequent. For instance, you would come out of a store and there he would be, standing in the parking lot next to your car. When you asked him how he knew you were there, he would say that he just happened to be passing by and saw your car. He was a guy that almost read your mind.
Early on in the relationship, you would catch him gazing at you while you were sleeping. In the beginning, whenever you talked, he would be all ears, and you found it truly intriguing that someone found your conversation so interesting. He wanted to know everything about you and all your associates. Before long, he was ready to move things to another level and commit to a serious relationship. He started by laying down the ground rules for what he thought a relationship should look like and what role a woman should play in it. One day, he told you that he never wanted to live without you and pulled out a ring. People came from all over to celebrate this union, and you were the envy of many women’s eyes. Shortly after the two of you were married, though, the honeymoon was over.
One day, the new puppy that he brought the children urinated on the floor, and he went into a full rage. Without notice, he grabbed the puppy and threw him into the wall and then out into the yard. The children were terrified, screaming, “Daddy, please stop,” but he slung them off of him as if they were rag dolls, threw them out into the yard too, and closed the door. The next five hours were spent drilling you on how stupid you were and yelling, “Get up the piss before I throw it on you,” and tossing furniture through the air. Now, the reason that he insisted that he must have at the bare minimum an acre of land around the house you bought has become very clear. He needed the privacy for what now feels like his torture chamber.
Right from the beginning, he was overly codependent to the point of being creepy and you are always tired because he keeps you up all night talking. He doesn’t think your friends and family value you enough, or even at all. He demands so much of your time that you find yourself always explaining to people why you cannot go out with them. Although you enjoy the attention your anxiety soars if you’re just a few minutes late, because you know how worried and upset he will be. However it feels great to finally have someone willing to spend quality time with you.The only thing that you know about his family is that he told you they were abusive and they have been estranged for many years.
As a direct result of him being abandoned as a child, he has great difficulty trusting strangers and chooses not to have any friends. To you, his past only goes back to the day you met him, and you are his only plans for the future. When you finally get the nerve to pack your bags to leave, he threatens to commit suicide and report you to child welfare, because he claims that you are a horrible mother and that the children are not properly taken care of.
You have been intentionally isolated from all of your family and friends, one at a time. Because of the influence of the Internet and cable on children, he has seen no need for any of those services in the home. You had a pretty good job when the two of you married, but he begged you to allow him to be the man of the house and fully support his family. You had always wanted to be a homemaker while your children were young anyway, so you put your career on the back burner to stay home with your family.
Now that you depend solely on this guy’s income, your days are spent hearing how stupid, fat, and ugly you are. Dinner should be on the table when he gets home from work, and if it is not what he wants and the way he wants it, you, the children, the walls, and the floor get to wear it! You are home now where he can’t watch you, so he constantly accuses you of being sneaky and unfaithful. You can’t even go to the bathroom and close the door without him wondering if you are dating the toilet paper.
Although his bedroom manner is degrading and abusive, if you show any sign of rejecting him, it only makes matters worse, so you wait for him to finish so you can wash away the misery after he falls asleep. All of his shortcomings, character defects, and problems are suddenly your fault, because he has the weight of the entire family on his shoulders. Whenever he is around you get a sick feeling right in the pit of your stomach because you are afraid of what he may do. So you find yourself always trying to avoid certain topics, out of fear of angering him. Being criticized and put down has become part of your daily routine. Lately, you can’t do anything right in his opinion and as a result you provoke him to anger constantly . You are starting to feel like a piece of property or a sex object, instead of a person.
In an effort to weather the storm, you start drinking to numb the pain of emotional injuries that have gone without treatment and thinking about the severity of your situation. Alcohol is sometimes used daily by both of you as a means of escape from the everyday reality of this toxic relationship; however, it is like throwing water on a grease fire.
You stay and put up with the abuse because you have now been forbidden to get a job and therefore lack the financial independence you need to leave. Emotional abuse has taken its toll, and your lack of social support helps your partner to control you. Shame keeps you from contacting friends, family, and the outside world about your dilemma. Isolation has become your prison without bars. You have been humiliated so much by him in front of people that you isolate yourself voluntarily so that you don’t have to worry about his mood swings and public embarrassment. Your soul cries out to be restored, but it falls on deaf ears.
Eventually, he starts using threats of physical attack to keep you in a state of perpetual fear and tells you that if you attempt to destroy his family by leaving, he can and will kill you. Somehow, you feel that perhaps the violence is temporary or caused by unusual circumstances; you even start to blame yourself. You think about how great things were in the beginning and somehow begin to wonder if you or perhaps the pressures of work or his sad childhood have something to do with what has happened. Could any of it be responsible for his actions? And the cycle of domestic violence continues.
Subsequently, after a violent episode, he has no problem performing a four-alarm cry in front of you to prove how passionate he is. However, if you allow yourself to look straight through the tears into his eyes, the tunnels to his soul, you will discover that this man is empty on the inside. The telltale sign of his emptiness is the fact that he is trying to fill himself up with you.
Often, when facing consequences, abusers will beg for forgiveness and promise to change. They may even mean what they say in the moment, but their true goal is to stay in control and keep you from leaving the isolation camp that for some reason, you’ve almost managed to escape. Most of the time, the abuser will return to abusive behavior once he feels that the threat of abandonment is no longer on the table and he has been forgiven.
Although you may think you’re the only one who understands him or feel responsible to fix his problems, by staying and accepting repeated abuse, you’re only reinforcing and enabling the abusive behavior. Most abusers have psychological issues and must be willing to first take full responsibility for their behavior and stop blaming you and others for their shortcomings. They should seek professional treatment.
You need to know that the abuse that you suffered at his hands was never your fault at any time or place. Never accept any responsibility for abusive behavior that’s been inflicted on you. Even if the abuser gets counseling or attends a program for batterers, there is no guarantee that he will change or that the abuse will not happen again. Make your decision to be with this person based on the person he is now, not on the man you want him to be.
Try not to allow the fear of the unknown, such as what your abusive partner will do, where you’ll go, or how you’ll support yourself or your children, to paralyze you and keep you living in a torture chamber. Instead, focus on what you do know now: things will not get any better if you don’t make an attempt to rescue yourself. In fact, there is a very good chance you may not make it out alive if you don’t. Start with a small step, like breaking the code of silence that you have internally vowed to maintain, and soon you will be walking into your victory! Take a deep breath, because you already know what to do, now do it. Author Tamara Neal