Sometimes it Sucks to be a Good Sport

January 10, 2014

I am going out with a few girlfriends tonight and another person, who I don’t really love, invited herself along.  I worry that she is too aggressive.  Too self-centered.  Too judgemental.  Too…. much of an alcoholic.  Too much of an abuser.  I definitely see two sides – the side that she always wants to show me, and then the side that I hear about from other people in other circles – hopefully we can go and have some fun tonight.  I will try to keep an open mind!  I will try to be the bigger/better person – but honestly, I’m not thrilled to have my party crashed!

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About Being a Responsible Adult

January 9, 2014

Last night when I was shoveling snow, in the dark, I thought about Ed’s reluctance to take responsibility for anything.  It reminds me of my future sister-in-law.  It is surprising the number of people who numerically “grow up” and then wait for opportunities to fall into their laps.  I am a hard worker with a high level of commitment.  I will stay at work even when I don’t want to because something has to be finished.  I stay up late at night studying and push harder than my classmates because I know what I’m capable of.  I have often wondered about the primary differences between people who push and people who wait.

At church on Sunday we each received a random piece of paper with something to consider or work on in the new year.  Mine was contentedness.  This might seem like a good or easy thing, but for me this is exceptionally hard.  I always want better.  I want to run or bike faster.  I want to get an A on every assignment (I have a cumulative 4.0 and will complete my graduate degree in 6 weeks).  I want to have a better body.  I want to pay off my debt as quickly as possible.  I want to live in a bigger house.  There is nothing content about my drive.  I often feel if I sit back and look at what I have accomplished I might lose some of that drive and push.  And I like those things about myself.  It is so hard to find balance. 

I never want to be Ed, or Shelby, or some of the people I have known in my life.  I don’t want to wait for life to bring great things to me.  I want to run out and find them.  Tromp through the wilderness, leave what I am not interested in, shake out what I am and prepare for the next great adventure! 

 

Dear Abby’s List of Signs of an Abuser

January 8, 2014

(1) PUSHES FOR QUICK INVOLVEMENT: Comes on strong, claiming, “I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone.” An abuser pressures the new partner for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.

(2) JEALOUS: Excessively possessive; calls constantly or visits unexpectedly; prevents you from going to work because “you might meet someone”; checks the mileage on your car.

(3) CONTROLLING: If you are late, interrogates you intensively about whom you talked to and where you were; keeps all the money; insists you ask permission to go anywhere or do anything.

(4) UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: Expects you to be the perfect mate and meet his or her every need.

(5) ISOLATION: Tries to isolate you from family and friends; accuses people who are your supporters of “causing trouble.” The abuser may deprive you of a phone or car, or try to prevent you from holding a job.

(6) BLAMES OTHERS FOR PROBLEMS OR MISTAKES: It’s always someone else’s fault if something goes wrong.

(7) MAKES OTHERS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OR HER FEELINGS: The abuser says, “You make me angry” instead of “I am angry,” or says, “You’re hurting me by not doing what I tell you.”

(8) HYPERSENSITIVITY: Is easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really mad. Rants about the injustice of things that are just a part of life.

(9) CRUELTY TO ANIMALS OR CHILDREN: Kills or punishes animals brutally. Also may expect children to do things that are far beyond their ability (whips a 3-year-old for wetting a diaper) or may tease them until they cry. Sixty-five percent of abusers who beat their partners will also abuse children.

(10) “PLAYFUL” USE OF FORCE DURING SEX: Enjoys throwing you down or holding you down against your will during sex; finds the idea of rape exciting.

(11) VERBAL ABUSE: Constantly criticizes or says blatantly cruel things; degrades, curses, calls you ugly names. This may also involve sleep deprivation, waking you with relentless verbal abuse.

(12) RIGID GENDER ROLES: Expects you to serve, obey, remain at home.

(13) SUDDEN MOOD SWINGS: Switches from sweet to violent in minutes.

(14) PAST BATTERING: Admits to hitting a mate in the past, but says the person “made” him (or her) do it.

(15) THREATS OF VIOLENCE: Says things like, “I’ll break your neck” or “I’ll kill you,” and then dismisses them with, “Everybody talks that way,” or “I didn’t really mean it.”

Readers, if you feel you are at risk, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or http://www.thehotline.org.

Reading this list gets me EVERY single time.  While it might seem like love early it can be terrifying in the long fun.  I was especially challenged because my parents marriage dissolved when I was very young, so I had nothing to model and at times our CRAZY relationship seemed very normal to me.  I wasn’t allowed to wear make-up because I looked “too good” to go to work.  The mood swings were out of control, everything was fine, I was a crazy bitch, I didn’t love and support him enough, no physicians would provide the care he needed.  I am SO blessed to have escaped.  I was afraid for so many years.  The best advice I can give is, don’t ignore Abby’s list.  Listen to your gut.  If you want out early get out early, there is nothing that will change his treatment of you.  If he hits you once he will do it again. If he screams and throws things don’t stick around to find out what happens next.  There is nothing sexy or loving about pain and drama!

Domestic Abuse

January 7, 2014

Those words on the page seem so simple.  Domestic Abuse.  The clean and legal definition of the injury of one person by another.  When the two have an intimate or marital relationship.  For years it wasn’t even prosecuted.  It was private.  Something that no one discussed.  My great grandparents had a marriage full of abuse.  The Klu Klux Klan in Iowa even burned a cross in their front yard to shame my great-grandfather.  Not only did he beat his wife, he nearly killed one of his children for disobeying, drinking and coming home late…. and being gay, but that is a different story for a different day.

One of our close family friends has been called for jury duty this week.  It’s a domestic abuse case.  The judge has promised all the jurors that it will be a one day trial.  While this is good for the jury and the justice system, it is interesting for me to think about all the suffering this pair has endured to make it to a court date and the knowledge that this will be decided in less than eight hours.  Women are sometimes killed when leaving because the abuser is so hell-bent on control.  I worried about that so many nights.  And I honestly believe that I was justified in that fear.  Hopefully the injured party in this case isn’t bullied, tricked or sweet talked into letting the abuser off.  Hopefully, the jury can offer her some protection.  Hopefully she is strong enough to leave, and willing to take advantage of the people who can help her, without being too proud, or too stubborn, or too embarrassed to admit that things were so bad, for so long!

I Am Leading a Happy and Full Life

December 31, 2013

2014 will be such an amazing year!  I will cross the stage for my Master’s degree in less than one month.  Amazing!!! I really can’t believe how far I have been able to come.  I am training for two different events, I have wonderful friendships, a supportive husband who loves me and will do anything to make my life easier, a successful son who is thriving in college, a boss who thinks I am capable of anything, a home that I love and more blessings than I can count.

I know that my success in jumping out of an abusive, alcoholic marriage is the exception and not the rule.  This June will mark 9 years since I left Ed.  Sometimes it feels like it’s been longer.  Sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday.  I talked to my son last week while we got ready for Christmas.  About the ways that addiction changes people.  About the ways that marriages fall apart.  About the good memories, the days before the narcotics, the chronic pain, the unwillingness to come to terms with problems.

My son will be 20 this spring.  That is how old I was when I married Ed.  Even though I thought I was ready, I can admit now that I wasn’t.  Now as an adult, with success under my belt, with an education, with years of employment, with nurtured relationships, I know what it takes to build and sustain a successful marriage.  To grow a relationship.  To love other people and to let them into my life.  When I was 20 I was unprepared to be an adult and, even though he was 12 years older, Ed imagined that the world would simply take care of him.

When I was married to Ed there was fear, scarcity, desperation.  I have been able to walk away from those things.  I can let go of material possessions and know that they are just things.  I can fall asleep without worrying about the electric bill.  All our bills are paid on time, collectors don’t call and I’m not afraid.  I am in a different place and I feel like a different person. 

I will blog more in 2014.  About success, and achievement.  Maybe some of the confessions of being an abused spouse.  Maybe the challenges of being in a relationship with someone who was in recovery and slips away from their sobriety.  Maybe about how hard I will train for my first half marathon and triathalon.  Maybe about learning who I really am!

Dear Shelby

September 3, 2013

This seems like an odd thing to write, but my middle brother-in-law is engaged, to a girl 12 years younger than he is (does that sound familiar)?  There are so many things I want to say – but I can’t…. so I’ll put it here for myself, and for others that are in similar positions.

Dear Shelby

12 years in age difference is a long time, especially when you are in your very early 20’s.  Make absolutely certain that you want to go down this path.

Living in your boyfriend’s parents basement isn’t fun.  If he cannot provide adequately for you now, what makes you confident that he can do it in the future?

Look at his actions, do you really want to spend your life with a man who isn’t interested in helping his family?  Is it fair that your future sister-in-law is coming over and mowing the house that you are living in when “your man” has the day off work?

If he is willing to lie to your family to get his way do you think he’ll be willing to lie to you for the same reasons?

Do you want a dad or a best friend?  When he walks along behind you telling you what to eat, what to drink, what to get, where to sit, I want to jump from my chair and punch him in the mouth – do you feel the same way?  That level of control will get worse, not better!

Bringing a puppy into a relationship is like bringing in a baby, it will make life more stressful, more challenging, there will be more disagreements and more work.  You need to be absolutely certain that you are up for it.

Men can be incredibly selfish.  Sometimes they realize it, other times they don’t.  He will expect to sleep in when he wants, he will eat and drink to excess, he will make decisions for himself and not for the greater good, he will leave butt prints on the toilet and toothpaste in the sink.  I have known him for 11 years now, these things will not change overnight, if at all.  If you are willing to do extra or put up with these idiosyncracies make sure that you are getting enough in return.

He is lashing out at family members for expecting better of him.  Who goes to their mother’s 60th birthday party without a gift or a card?  Who throws a temper tantrum when asked to wear casual dress clothes to their parents 40th wedding anniversary?  These kinds of emotional highs and lows will wear on you.  They will cause you to be more defensive.  They will make you sad and resentful. 

Finally, everyone around you should be excited while you are planning for your wedding, even if you have a smidge of Bridezilla.  Your family and his family have expressed serious doubts.  They are not trying to make you miserable.  They are asking you to seriously consider the decision and it’s impact on your future.  This can be a fling.  Just because he proposed doesn’t mean you have to go all the way down the path.  People break engagements.  It is easier than breaking apart a marriage. 

Really think before you do this.  You seem strained, tired, annoyed.  Not the happy YOUNG girl we met a year ago.  A relationship shouldn’t feel like this.

 

Flashes of Abuse

July 5, 2013

Yesterday afternoon, during a brief break from yard work, homework and party preparation I watched a few minutes of a Lifetime movie (shut up, there was nothing on) about a husband and wife from Canada who were charged with murdering 3 or 4 young women.  I remember watching other news about the story, and I know I have read about them (I used to be a true crime buff) but seeing the way that he treated her, I remembered all my years of walking on eggshells.  In the brief section of the movie that I saw, he beat her and then yelled TERRIBLE things at her and was throwing her out of the house, until she called her parents and they arrived to rescue her.  Then his miserable mood changed on a dime, he told her that she could never survive without him and then blackmailed her to stay and threatened to tell people about the bad things she had done.

It was so familiar.  People make mistakes, and an abuser takes advantage of those mistakes and uses them to threaten, embarrass and destroy the psyche of their victims.  While I am still very ashamed that I was tricked by Ed into being with him and staying with him, I know that he wound a very careful web of control and manipulation.  I know this sounds crazy, but often it was as though he knew exactly what to say or do to put me in the position that he wanted.  Ever after we moved out he was able to maintain a frightening degree of control. 

I am so glad that I have escaped.  That I am re-married, happy, and treated like a princess.  We have a good life.  One that is safe.  One with financial security.  One where I would never be threatened with anything.  A love in which I am nourished, protected, provided for and treated as an equal.  One in which I never have to fear.

 

Control

March 27, 2013

What an odd day!  This morning at work I toured a new provider who is in the midst of major changes at work and home and has her mother preparing to move in with her.  She explained that her mom has spent the last 15 years in a very controlling and abusive relationship and that they are thrilled that she is getting out of it.

When she was talking she said that her mom had been under such tight control she couldn’t make any decisions.  Not what to wear, where to go, what to do, what color purse to buy, etc.  In an effort to help her regain her independence, whenever she asks for help now her family tells her she has to make her own decisions.

I felt sad for and connected to this woman I have never known, and who I had never even heard of before today.  I know that I am no longer the person I was when I was married to Ed, and I know that I was on a VERY tightly held leash.  I know I said this not very long ago, but I am so happy that I am free!

Interesting to Learn New Things

March 22, 2013

Learned this week that Ed has re-married.  Interesting.  I have some pre-conceived notions of what the woman is like and what the result of the marriage will be if he is still using and gambling.   

Tomorrow I will be gutting the rest of his possessions from my laundry room, sending anything important to his mother, and giving the rest to the mission, to people who will appreciate clothing and kindness.

A New Year – A New Me

February 12, 2013

I haven’t posted forever – this Friday (2/15) would have been my 16th wedding anniversary if I had stayed married to Ed.  It’s funny – I’m not in contact with anyone from that day except people who are related to me. 

I watched a LOT of television the last several months while recuperating from surgery, and saw my fair share of true crime.  Snapped, Solved, Disappeared, 48 Hours Real Mysteries, even a few episodes of Hardcover Mysteries.  In MANY of these cases the women were abused, everyone in their life knew it and they thought they are doing a bang-up job of covering it up and pretending that nothing was wrong.

Wow – I can totally relate to that.  I can honestly say that I didn’t realize how bad things were when I was living it.  And I can only hope that my friends and family didn’t know what was going on in my life and how bad I let it get, because honestly, it is completely embarrassing.  Ed controlled what I did, who I saw, where I went, when I returned, and mastered the art of making me feel stupid and then perfect in regular intervals.  A few weeks ago my husband paid me a really lovely compliment, except that it was EXACTLY something that Ed had said to me for years.  I almost didn’t know how to reply.  I wanted to jump from the car screaming even though I know that I am safe and loved now. 

Seeing all of those women hurt, or pushed to the point where they hurt someone else made me realize how lucky I am to be out.  I’m of course glad to be away from all the manipulation but I can easily imagine how bad things would have continued to be and how they would have escalated with just the two of us alone in the house. 

Today I am SO GRATEFUL that I got divorced, that I had support when I left, and that I am free to enjoy life!