Just before I agreed to participate in the Brave Woman campaign, to spread awareness and support women in abusive relationships, I learned that a friend was struggling. While not the victim herself of domestic abuse, someone very close was in an abusive relationship.
Understandably, she was frustrated, concerned, bewildered, but most importantly, incredibly frightened for the victim. While I had never been in her shoes, I was filled with sympathy for her plight; wanting desperately to intervene, to protect, to shelter.
Out of compassion, I shared with my story, from what seem like so long ago, another lifetime truly, to help her understand; to help her find a way to help.
I grew up with privilege, in a small, exclusive community. Our family dynamics were peculiar - with three sisters, we all grew up to be very strong women, but my father was very rigid. My home was an extremely stressful environment during most of teenage years, my family not physically or verbally affectionate. Perhaps for that reason, I had a tendency to form very strong relationships with boyfriends, often spending significant time with their families.
Although the atmosphere in my home was a bit frigid, there was no physical abuse. I can recall seeing talk shows, where battered women were guests and not for the life of me understanding why they didn't just leave.
When I was...a sophomore in college, I met my first "bad boy". The "adventure" of that was thrilling and opened me up to an entire world I never even knew existed. Unsure of what I wanted for my future, changing my major several times, it provided a wonderful distraction from concentrating on what I should have.
The exposure to this one desensitized me to all things that should have left me running scared in the other direction. As the oldest, I grew up under the greatest amount of restrictions, the least freedom. I somehow thought I was...beyond my peers in my ability to connect and interact with all kinds of people...seeing what was inside them, as opposed to the way their appearance and actions appeared to the rest of "my world".
Retrospectively, out of my need to feel loved and coddled, I had a tendency, especially post high school, to become involved with "project" boyfriends. Their need meant they needed me = belonging, self worth = love. Faulty, true, however, a window into my mindset during that time.
My first husband was devoted to me and pursued me relentlessly, feeding my ego to no end, until I relented and began dating him. His family was the complete antithesis of my own. Again, in retrospect, his constant attention, in addition to perpetual plans with his circle of friends served to separate me from my existing friends, as well as pull me farther from my family. I was warmly welcomed by his close knit group of friends, all couples. I continued working and attending college full time and within a matter of a few months, we had moved in together, announcing our intended year long engagement.
During this time, he was still totally devoted, things began to change, but slowly, subtly. His inability to leave me in peace while I tried to study began to negatively affect my classes, as well, his endless need to be the center of my attention. By this point, I never saw any of my friends; my friends were his friends. Although, retrospectively, warning signs were present, there was only one incident prior to our wedding that truly scared me.
In a quarrel, two days before the wedding, after deciding I was finished with the senseless argument, I turned my back to walk away. My soon-to-be husband grabbed my arm and spun me around, essentially flinging me to the ground. I remember looking at him with new eyes in that moment, but uneasily pushing aside the internal alarms. It was, after all, only two days before our wedding. It must simply be pre-marital jitters.
I was wrong; So very, very wrong.
It was a prelude of what would lie ahead.
Of course, almost immediately after we were married, things got worse. Looking back, I believe it was a combination of pride and commitment to my marriage that kept me silent. Not trusting myself, I avoided my family and had long since been isolated from my prior friendships.
Within two months, he quit his job and the full scope of his financial responsibility became painfully clear. Although I struggled for nearly a year, attending classes and working two jobs to keep up with his never ending needs, my education was eventually abandoned. As quickly as I earned, he spent, however the money never went towards minor concerns, like rent or utilities, rather for his own personal amusement.
The sweet, affectionate attention was gone, and with it, my sense of worth and self preservation. The verbal abuse, the process of breaking me down, began almost immediately.; the physical abuse, six months later. By that time, I was so broken, I was a empty shell. I wasn't raised to live this way and I could never tell my parents. They would have been so disappointed. I don't think I visited with my family more than twice, despite living within 20 minutes of them, the whole of our marriage
Out of financial desperation, I asked my parents for some assistance. While they helped willingly, they said they would rather help us in a way that would have a long term impact. I talked to my husband about taking some classes at the local community college, to which he readily agreed. Of course, upon receiving the check from my parents to pay the fees, he decided to only take one class and spend the rest on his latest hobby.
I was devastated, reaching to last of any sense of hope that anything would ever change. Shaking, I refused to give him the check, the money I had humbled myself to ask my parents for. The battle that ensued literally brought neighbors out of their houses. Even so, it wasn't until after he had finished with me, leaving me in such a state physically, but more so, emotionally, that I truly think I could have laid on the floor until I just died, he started hitting the dogs.
His anger seemingly spent, he called to one of the dogs to leave with him, as was his typically pattern. When the dog only cowered at my side and refused to come to him, his anger returned, full fury. Only this time, my beloved dogs were the target.I don't know where I found the strength to even move, but I threw a nightstand at him, ran to the phone and called my father, who called the police and came to me immediately, to bring me home.
I found out later, my parents had been waiting months for that call.
Of course, as soon as I was gone, he began calling, and apologizing and swearing everything would change. However, I was the one in power at that point; a power I had no intention of relinquishing.
I was nothing but a shell. No emotions, barely any thoughts at all. I experienced some guilt over my failure in marriage, over my mistake. I did agree to meet with him, but insisted upon marriage counselling. I met with the counselor privately for an initial session and told him everything. His words were few, but they hit home
He may need you, but you don't need him. You have to do what is best for you.In the days until our joint meeting, those words kept running through my head. Likely, because nothing else was. In our joint session, I let my husband speak first. I didn't even listen to what he said. When he was finally done, I turned to him and told him that I wanted a divorce and walked out of the room.
He called and called for weeks, harassed the counselor, but in the end, he gave up.
I saw the friends, a couple of the girls in particular from his circle, a few times afterward. They told me that he was like that with all of his other girlfriends. When I asked why on earth they didn't tell me, they had no answer. I never saw them again.
I am not the same person I was before. It is harder for me to let people in, to have meaningful, rather than superficial friendships. Now married to a wonderful man and looking forward to our millionth anniversary in just a few weeks, despite his inherent machismo, as a former Marine, I will always wear the pants in the family.
So long ago, a different life, a different person.
A Brave Woman.
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This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias.#CBias #BraveWoman The opinions and experiences above are both honest and my own. Images sourced from Brave Woman.