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How "Morals of Marriage" Trapped Me in a Cycle of Abuse

Updated on March 3, 2020
Karen Whitefield profile image

Karen Whitefield loves to read, write and nap. Find her at true marriage stories [dot com].

How it all started.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Carol said. We were sitting in a bar, the kind often frequented by single women and men. Men who were as unsuspecting as my husband, Will, had been who I’d met five years ago. He was sitting across me, a handsome and innocent-looking face that did not have “abuser” written on it.

“I know it’s not going to be easy,” I said to Carol sipping the special cocktail on the menu that I couldn’t remember the name of. But it was sweet and that’s all that mattered because Will loved sweet alcohol and, in his company, I had learned to like it too.

That night, Carol and I avoided talking about Will. That had been the point of coming down to the bar while Will was away on a business trip. Carol wanted me to feel like I could live alone, make my own choices, of a life without Will. And yet, somewhere, even without my permission he slipped in. No wonder I had chosen a sweet cocktail.


The first time he hit me.

The first time Will hit me, I thought it was because I had asked him the wrong questions. Where were you? Who were you chatting with? Isn’t she the girl you had a fling with back in college?

“You are that sneaky wife that every husband dreads,” he said and I knew he was right. I should have trusted him enough to not check his phone. I should have been on the default I-trust-you-no-matter-what mode from the time we had been married.

The thought of leaving him, the thought that a slap on my face could have been a bad thing never occurred to me. It didn’t occur to me that no matter what questions I asked, no matter what I said, hitting me should never have been an option.

As it may have been clear by now, I didn’t resent him after he hit me first, I forgave him. In fact, I even thanked him for teaching me a lesson about marriage, about its morals, about its rules and about the most important thing that mattered in it: togetherness.

Back then, it never occurred to me, but now I see it: the worst thing you can do is tell an abuser he is right. Because, if there is one thing, I have learned it’s that abusers have an ego they constantly feed through their actions and the words of others. They suffer from insecurity so deep-seated that something in their minds always needs that attention, that boost of the ego, without which they feel worthless. What role insecurity plays in making an abuser is something I want to keep for another piece, but for now, it’s enough to conclude that my husband was so insecure, that hitting me once wasn’t enough for him.

The second time.

The second time he hit me was for a reason that didn’t involve his phone or snooping around. I merely suggested that I was going to quit my job and write full time. He said it was just an excuse for living off him. “You don’t know what you want in life. And quitting a job is just a symptom of it,” he said. I tried to make him understand that I wanted a chance at doing what I wanted in life and since he had a well-paying job, things wouldn’t change a lot if I quit. “I will cook for you every day,” I said, my hand on his shoulder. “Leave me alone,” he said pushing me away.

He didn’t merely brush me off, he pushed me hard, so hard that my head hit the wall. I shouldn’t be complaining because it wasn’t as though I was bleeding, he said. We were setting new standards of physical abuse. I knew well to not say such a thing out loud. The second time he hit me, I learned that a conversation with my husband wasn’t a conversation, it was just a way for him to prove that he was always right.

But I continued to blame myself. Surely, I was wrong in not being able to assess what my husband liked to talk about. I didn’t know him well enough. It had to be my fault. I hadn’t been able to understand him. All these years, I hadn’t fulfilled my duties as a wife, things that involved knowing my husband first and foremost. How could I ever hope for a “good” marriage if I hadn’t done my part.

Why I was Wrong.

But I was wrong. All of it was wrong. A marriage is never one person’s responsibility and I didn’t ask myself whether my husband was doing what I was accusing myself of not doing. Was he doing things one was “supposed to do in the marriage”, the promises one is “supposed to keep”, the effort one is “supposed to make”.

You could say that it was perhaps my mistake, my low self-worth that I did not recognize my husband’s actions as malevolent. Now that I look back, I look at things differently, surely. But back then, I had been so blinded by the ideas and morals surrounding marriage, ones that had been fed into me as a young woman through movies and television and magazines that I thought my handsome husband who had chosen me could never be right. And sure enough, I suffered the consequences.

Marriage is a union where two people choose each other. Neither is “lucky” to have another. It’s an institution that must have equality as its bedrock, if not, it creates abusers like my husband.

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    • renee21 profile image

      Tori Leumas 

      3 weeks ago

      This is a good article. I was abused as well in my 6 week marriage, though not physical abuse. I was emotionally and psychologically abused. It sure takes a while to heal from something like that.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 

      3 weeks ago from Chicago

      "The first time Will hit me, I thought it was because I had asked him the wrong questions." This is a very common belief.

      Trusting someone doesn't mean you don't get to ask them questions. It means you believe they will give you (honest answers) to your questions! Anyone who loves you is willing to assure you.

      However if it becomes a "constant thing" where a person has prove them self over and over again they may walk away.

      If you don't trust someone YOU should be walking away.

      If something doesn't feel right to you it's probably not right for you!

      Know yourself, Love yourself, Trust yourself.

      You make an excellent point about (women) in particular holding onto the "fairytale" they've been spoon fed since childhood, the romance novels, and Hollywood movies. However another component which comes into play is most "first time" couples in toxic marriages stay far too long because they don't want to be a statistic. People say second marriages have higher divorce rates. I believe it's because they put up with less crap and are aware of the fact they can survive going through a divorce if need be.

      We often hear the divorce is near 50% but no one on their wedding day believes THEY are going to end up divorced!

      In some instances there were "red flags" where family members and friends attempted to get someone to rethink marrying this person but he/she chose to ignore their warnings and now their foolish pride causes them to endure an unhappy marriage to avoid hearing the "I told you so" from their loved ones.

      Others "romanticize obstacles" or view them as stepping stones towards an eventual happily ever after. According to the movies every love story is filled with some form of "drama", fights, breakups, and makeups before things magically work themselves out. In fact love which comes "easily" devoid of "challenges" is often avoided by many people.

      "Nice guys/girls" are usually put in the friend zone.

      Playing the "blame game" is disempowering.

      If it's completely the other person's fault essentially we're saying there is nothing we can do to prevent this from happening again.

      Each of us (chooses) our own friends, lovers, and spouse.

      Each of us has our mate selection process/must haves list.

      Each of us has our own boundaries and "deal breakers".

      If you or your mate has to change your core being to make a relationship work it means you're with the wrong person!

      Life is too short to be trying to change water into wine.

      The goal is to find someone who (already is) what you want.

      No one is "stuck" with anyone. Suffering is optional.

      "Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary."

      - Oscar Wilde

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