People who abuse are manipulative and controlling. Some you can spot a mile away, while others, like my ex, can be charming, loving and sensitive. When that happens, you are likely to be dealing with a narcissist.
One thing I knew after a few months of dating was that my ex had low self-esteem but he didn’t show it. He was over-confident at times and a know it all. I thought that some of this was immaturity but he had so many other qualities that I was drawn to. As a self-proclaimed and self-aware Mother Hen (I now know I was an empath) I thought I could help him build his self-esteem and recognize his worth.
When I finally, after 15 years, realized that he was deeply wounded beyond repair and would always teeter between feeling good and feeling very unloved and worthless, I knew no matter how much love I gave him, I could not heal him. You cannot heal someone that does not recognize he is hurt. This was something that happened long before I came along.
He survived by creating a facade. Some of his friends and associates were shocked when they heard we were divorcing. He was unbearable at home. Yelled every day and told me what was wrong with me. We didn’t have a bad day. We had all bad days where our kids would say “today was a good day with Dad.” He talked in public and in his business about his perfect, beautiful family. This mask he wore allowed him to feel good about his life and himself in public. He took if off when he walked through the door and like a child who is great at daycare and then breaks down when you arrive, he to would break down when he could no longer hold it together. He had held his mask to his face all day and couldn’t do it anymore.
He knew I was a caring, loving, patient woman (albeit not without faults) and he would use it to manipulate me. He attacked me first as a wife, lover, and friend and then to the very core of me, a mother. He lied to me about how people saw me. He would tell me his friends, my friends hated me and no one wanted to be around me. He would come home after we were out and he would yell at me for being too friendly and seeking attention. The next time I would be quieter and careful and we would get home and he would yell at me for being bitch. “You just sat there, not talking to anyone. Don’t you know how to smile?!” Contradictions like that happened all the time. I would say, “But last time….” were always met with “I NEVER said that!” I began writing things down. When confronted with my notes he would become enraged. “You’re writing lies. I’m not looking at that!” I felt like I needed to save myself and my sanity so a few times I mailed myself my notes. He wanted nothing to do with opening the sealed, postmarked envelopes. I only did this a few times just to prove to myself that I was not crazy.
I began not to care how he saw me. I began to not respond when he called me a liar so he found other ways to abuse me beyond the emotional abuse. Physical, financial…he would also say I didn’t love him because I wasn’t “fighting for our marriage”. I realized then that he lived on the drama. He lived to constantly be in turmoil. His attacks on me to get what he wanted, continued. He wanted his family to walk on eggshells and be afraid. He wanted us off kilter because he was pretending not to be. He even went so far as to tell my brother-in-law and sister-in-law that he thought I was either gambling or doing drugs. He knew I didn’t like gambling and he also knew I had never done an illegal drug in my life! Luckily my sister-in-law who knew me very well, stuck up for me because she knew my moral compass. I didn’t even drink!
I was seen by some people as a drama queen. He made me out to be over-reactive and working only to be heard, bored stay-at-home Mom and housewife. He even said this to me when I ended up getting a restraining order because he smacked me in the back of the head walking down the stairs in his place of business. “You got a restraining order to stomp your feet and to be heard.” I had 2 more restraining orders after that. One for verbal abuse and one for holding a hatchet to my son’s head in anger while camping and muttering to me, “I’m going to kill him.” “You want to be heard…see me! see me!” He mocked.
He violated my trust and even though I had been to 3 counselors all telling me to leave, that I was an abused wife, he had me so convinced that I was unlovable and unworthy, I thought it had to be me. I was the reason he was never happy. I kept changing counselors in an attempt to find one that would agree with him and he pushed me to keep going. He was always seeking validation of my being the sick one.
I know now, that he is a sick man. I walked away from our last marriage counselor together, validated in my ability to have a healthy relationship. This man pulled no punches with him like the others had. He made it perfectly clear that I was abused and I needed to leave and did so in front of him. My head had always known but my heart loved him and wanted to make him whole.
One day, my then 11-year-old son said, “Dad doesn’t like you. I think he loves you but he doesn’t like you. Doesn’t he see how many friends you have? People are always hugging you and talking to you. I don’t get it.” I knew then the situation was unfixable. I knew I had to make changes.
The first thing I had to do was admit that I was abused. Not everyone wanted to hear it and some of those closest to me accused me of not moving on quick enough after we split. But it was MY process. No one has the right to tell you how long to mourn or process your feelings. I had been abused in the worst sort of way. I had to process letting go, building trust again, trusting my intuition and instincts. As some people fell away from my life, people I had trusted and loved, I had to forge forward. It was their problem if they couldn’t handle or refused to understand my truth. I couldn’t give up on me this time! And their words began to feel abusive and unsafe as they tried to control my process. I started to slowly but surely embrace my truth. I didn’t need anyone’s validation or approval of my process. I had lived it every day and I was no longer concerned with defending my mourning process. It was 28 years of abuse, starting subtly at 19 and ending in brutal reality at 49.
Some people I NEVER thought would leave my side, left. I had to mourn them too. They didn’t want me to reach out to others, talk about my abuse. They wanted me to remain in my silent prison so they could stay comfortable. Again I was confused by someone I loved. How could they not embrace the change they so often encouraged me towards? It felt as if they wanted it to be on their terms but I was done with other people’s expectations of my life. These people lived through my abuse with me but then flat out told me I was not a victim. Now that it wasn’t “our secret” anymore, they wanted me to lock it away and move on. No one can fully heal if they lock it away and I felt so strongly that God was calling me to help and heal others through my writing. I couldn’t ignore it! Despite losing this person, who had always been like a sister, I had to adhere to what I felt was a calling from God to reach out to others and share my abuse and my successes.
I left my marriage out of desperation for my sanity and a need to save myself and my children. I had to allow those people to drop off as well. I hold faith that one that we will come together stronger at a later time but I had to take care of myself. I do hope that one day our lifelong connection and my changes and her acceptance of my changes will bring us back together as I love her so very much but she wanted me to move on in her timeframe and in a way that she deemed right. I couldn’t. This time, I had to do things on my own, in my own timeframe with no outside influences.
So, here I am. Healing, happy and no longer a victim. I am changing my life one day at a time and fulfilling what I feel is God’s calling for me at this time.
Remember, you are not crazy. Stop allowing him/her to make you believe you are and lean on people but always follow your own inner voice. Take back control…..Empower yourself and live!