Everyone has a story. Many hide it due to shame, fear, guilt or any multitude of reasons. I choose to own mine and make it past history, not destined to repeat itself.
I met Joe when I was 21 years old and started working full time. He worked in a department of the company that I had to interact with often. He would tease or make fun of me to get my attention. Little did I know then that this was actually something rooted deeper within him. It just seemed juvenile to me. If you are interested in someone, be honest, have a conversation. I just dismissed it and carried on with my work.
One day his friend came to me and said he really does like you. What is this high school? I said if he wants to get to know me, drop the digs and talk to me. To my surprise, he did.
We became platonic friends (he was dating someone at the time) and eventually BFFs. We did everything together – went to movies, talked for hours, went to his family functions, we were the +2 to any event his girlfriend wasn’t available or I needed an escort. There was no sex, but emotional intimacy (or so I thought).
After three years of friendship, one day he asked me if I would consider dating him. We both were single at that time. I laughed in his face at first. I thought it was a little weird, like dating a family member. But then I thought about it. We were best friends. Isn’t that who you want your partner to be? I knew he wanted to be married, have kids..all the things I wanted as well. So I said yes. A few months later we were engaged (and living together) and spent the next year planning the fairy tale wedding.
I always knew Joe liked things a certain way..the towels folded in thirds, the trash taken out as soon as dinner was done etc. I didn’t care how, as long as it was done, so I did it his way. No red flags or gut instincts came to me that anything was amiss. I thought I had found Prince Charming. Friends called us Barbie and Ken because we were always well dressed, put together, had rising careers. The “perfect couple”.
No red flags or gut instincts came to me that anything was amiss. I thought I had found Prince Charming. Friends called us Barbie and Ken because we were always well dressed, put together, had rising careers. The “perfect couple”.
Move forward to the wedding day. I dressed in my “princess gown” walked down the aisle and married the man that I would thought would be forever. This day, he did not even tell me I looked beautiful when he saw me at the altar. His groomsmen were all over it, but not him. I brushed it off as nerves. The reception was more of the same. He felt cold to me. I wondered what I was doing wrong (this theme will come back time and again).
After the reception, we were staying overnight in a B & B before heading to Florida for our honeymoon. The hotel and the entire honeymoon expense was a gift from my father. That night we were not even intimate. He just said he was tired and went to sleep. Again, “what did I do wrong?” went through my mind.
On the airplane to Florida the next day he informed me that our honeymoon was going to be “a low budget vacation.” Wait..what? It was all paid for! Basically what he meant was that we were not going to go out to eat, and that I was going to cook. I love to cook but this is our honeymoon! I tried to have a conversation about it but he went silent.
While we were there, everything was my fault. The air conditioning did not work in the house we were staying at, the chicken turned out bad from the grocery store, he got sunburned, took the keys to bed so I couldn’t drive anywhere, and the list goes on. Long story short, we came back from the honeymoon and I was miserable. Felt like a failure and didn’t even know what I did wrong.
Long story short, we came back from the honeymoon and I was miserable. Felt like a failure and didn’t even know what I did wrong.
Back home, we had decided to both go back to school to get degrees. Since he already had a bachelor’s, it made sense for me to go first. As I was excelling at school, he became more accusatory of where I was, and who was I with. At the time, I was working full time, going to school part time and keeping up the house. There was nothing else. Communication broke down further when he said, “I can’t remember where and when, write it down.” So I did but he continued the grilling and it turned to anger and jealousy. I was doing what I loved and he was stuck where he didn’t want to be.
All of this built up over a three month period and it turned personal. I was expected to be the “perfect” wife while we were out and he would “grade” my performance on the way home by who I spoke to, what I said, what I wore, etc. If that wasn’t enough, the name calling started. My ears were too small, my breasts were too big. In his eyes no matter how much I did, it was never right. I tried on numerous occasions to talk to him but he would shut down or walk away. No one (not even my family) knew I was dealing with this. I was silent.
One night after a very long work/school day, he started in with the “where were you?” I told him and said I had written on the calendar. Not good enough in his eyes. I was so exhausted that I said to him, “I can’t live like this. I want to go to counseling.” He looked at me like I pulled a banana out of my ear. There was nothing ”wrong” with him.
I said if we can’t fix this then I will have to reconsider the commitment that I made to him. He was sitting in a chair in the living room and I could see the vein in his forehead starting to pulse as the red rage built up in his face. I left the room and just as I did he picked up a picture frame and threw it right where I had been standing. I went into the other room, packed a bag and went to my sister’s house.
I was not going to let this get physical. At that moment I realized the emotional and verbal abuse had already left scars. I called him the next day and said I was leaving the marriage. I was thunderstruck when he wanted me to go to his best friend’s wedding. What was he going to tell them when I wasn’t there? Anger set in right then. I said tell them whatever you want..I’m sick, I died or how about this..the truth…I left.
I DID go to counseling. The counselor said to me, “why are you here?” I said because my world is falling apart. I am a failure in life, my marriage etc. He said, No, you did the one thing that many abused woman don’t do. You left. You left before it became physical. You left before you became financially, physically, and emotionally so attached to him that you felt you couldn’t. You don’t need to see me, what you need is time. In time everything will fall into place. Hold firm to your decision. You are not a failure; you are stronger than you give yourself credit for, even before this decision. The counselor was right.
No, you did the one thing that many abused woman don’t do. You left. You left before it became physical. You left before you became financially, physically, and emotionally so attached to him that you felt you couldn’t. You don’t need to see me, what you need is time. In time everything will fall into place. Hold firm to your decision. You are not a failure; you are stronger than you give yourself credit for, even before this decision. The counselor was right.
I look back now and wonder were there signs? Did I not see them? Was I so focused on the dream, that I wasn’t looking at the reality. I did not do this to beat myself up, but to understand. Maybe there were some, but I think he hid his true self from me and the world. I was a possession to him. That dawned on me the day I came back to get my final things from the house. As I was leaving he said to me, “I’ll let you do this”. I turned to him and quietly said: “That is the problem Joe. You don’t “let” me do anything. I am not a piece of furniture. I would have done anything for you, but I deserve to be asked.” I had found my voice.
Fast forward 25+ years. I never gotten myself into an abusive relationship again but I also did not let this horrid experience jade me from the fact that relationships can be good. It made me turn the tables and really look to see: is this many worthy of what I have to give? Does he treat me and others with respect and kindness? Do we communicate in a good, healthy resolution-oriented way? I wasn’t willing to let that experience have the power to control my life and my happiness.
Today, I am married to the most caring, honest man I know. He is a genuine, gentle soul and honors me every day. You can have it all! If I was to give advice to anyone in a similar situation, I would say this: you have value. Do NOT dismiss your worth. Reach out to someone, anyone, even if it is to talk. You are NOT alone.