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Overcoming an Abusive Relationship
There is life after an abusive relationship.
I'm like one of those trees with many branches; each one takes a different direction but all come from the same root. There are many things I could describe myself with: artist, mother, wife, daughter, and grandmother. But I think the thing that defined my direction most was my first marriage. My husband turned out to be one of those wife-beaters you hear about on the news but never expect to meet or marry. His story is a mystery to me. He never really opened up about his relationship with his father and said very little about his relationship with his grandmother, whom he lived with. However he had an exceptional attachment to his mother. Or maybe I should say, she had an attachment to him. Whatever the reasons, he beat me continually, with his fists, his belt, electrical cords, whatever was nearby, including kicking me with his steel-toed boots. I was just 19 when I married, inexperienced and naïve. I had no idea what was coming or what to do about it. And I was raised to believe you married for life. I felt I had no way out. At one point I even swallowed a bottle of pills to end it all. He drove me to the hospital, had my stomach pumped, standing there the whole time so I couldn't tell the doctor anything he didn't want him to hear. Then he took me home and beat me for embarrassing him like that.
If you need help: in the US, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)
Abuse is never OK
16 Signs that you are in an abusive relationship:
If your partner teases you in a hurtful way or is verbally disrespectful in private or in public, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner doesn’t want you to have any friends, male or female, or even family members as friends, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner picks out your clothes for you or insists on you wearing loose fitting or baggy clothes, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner is checking up on you by phoning, driving by, or even getting someone else to, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner insists on knowing everyone you talk with in a day, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner can’t stand anyone touching you, including a store clerk handing you change from your purchase, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner gets angry so often you feel like you’re “walking on eggshells”, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner can’t stand you “looking at other people” including on TV or as you are driving down the street, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner punches walls, drives dangerously or fast, or does other things to scare you, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner goes through your mail, your purse, or other personal papers, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner keeps you in the dark as to how much money you have, keeps money from you, or has secret savings accounts, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner has made you give up your driver’s license, sold your car, or kept you from driving by not repairing your car, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner has threatened to hurt you, your children, friends, family, pets, or even himself, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner forces you to have sex, even when you don’t want to, or in ways you don’t want to, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
If your partner has two faces, one for public and an angry one for when you are alone, you are probably in an abusive relationship.
Just 20 years old in Europe.
Escape is possible without suicide.
I know a little about the abusive cycle. First you have given your complete trust and love to the abuser. He counts on that. You begin to believe that he is right when he says you are useless. You probably had a low self-esteem before you met him. He counts on that too. He has added to your self-loathing by saying that no one else would ever love you like he does. LIE. He has told you that you are the problem. You are causing him to beat and abuse you. LIE. You cannot cause anyone to do anything. You are merely giving him opportunity to reveal the hateful attitude and meanness that was already in him. He says he won't do it again. LIE. He will do it over and over again until something changes: you die or you leave him. Actually if you die, he will move on to do it to someone else. The only way you can help him to overcome HIS problem is for you to leave him. That is when he will see the light that something is wrong (hopefully). That is when (if ever) he will seek help. You see, he really doesn't want to loose you. He needs you. He needs someone to make him feel less pain by inflicting it on you. If you love him or ever loved him, you will leave him to help him. TRUTH.
When I discovered the truth, that I was only enabling him to stay mean, that is when I got strong enough to leave. I packed up my little girls and drove for several hours to my childhood home. For the first time ever, he went to see a therapist. He didn't want to believe that any of my pleadings were right until I left him.
What would you do?
What would you do if you encountered someone in an obvious abusive relationship?
The Abusive Cycle
They told me that once I had married an abusive man that I was going to find another abusive man to marry. That was my fate and that cycle would continue. LIE. You do not necessarily have to pick another abusive man to marry. Not unless you want another abusive man.
They told me that I would become an angry bitter woman, and pass those abusive tendencies on to my children, who would abuse their children, ad infinitum. LIE. Not necessarily. I have heard that some women abuse their children when they had been abused by a spouse. That is not a hard and fast rule. The abusive thing would be to stay with an angry, mean man so that the children grow up thinking that is the way men are supposed to treat women. This is not something I wanted my children to learn. One more reason to leave while the children are young.
They told me that my children would be damaged by the divorce and would never forgive me. LIE. While my children were upset by the changes and distressed that they couldn't see their father except once a year, they weren't damaged for life. Again the ultimate damage would have been to allow them to be in close proximity to that kind of angry, abusive man for their formative years. Whether they were unhappy with me or not, I saved them years of continued abuse.
Photo of myself and my girls after the divorce.
4 years, 2 months, 28 days till I ran away.
It took a while for me to see that things were not going to get better. I had two little girls to think about. But when I saw him begin to hit the girls, I knew I was being selfish staying with him. This is a big problem with abusers. If they are willing to hit and hurt you, they will eventually hurt the children too. It's what woke me up. Letting him hurt me didn't give me the right to let him hurt them. For me, it was the children who made me think of leaving him seriously. After being married to him for 4 years, 2 months, and 28 days, I grabbed the girls and ran away.
You have to ask yourself why you are still there, and what would make you leave. I remember thinking that I didn't want to leave because I had nice things, lovely furniture, a nice home, and security. Then when I realized how shallow and selfish my reasons for staying were, I knew I had to think of more than me. I had to think of the girls, and I even had to think of him. He could never get better with me there. As long as there are children, he will never completely be out of your life.
For the longest time I still feared him. He said he would kill me if every I left him. LIE. He said he would carve his initials in my chest before killing me. LIE. After he remarried and came to visit the girls, I still trembled from fear when I heard his voice on the phone. It has been over 30 years now and I no longer fear, but then I no longer have to see him regularly either.
Abusers want one thing only: to control you. They use fear, intimidation, manipulation, guilt and shame to get what they want. They don’t tell you the truth about your choices, your rights, or your future. You can survive without them. At first you may not want to. But there is life after abuse. And a very good life at that.
- Realize you cannot change him. You can only change yourself and your location.
- Find a place to go, and quietly leave. Sometimes you don’t have time to pack, but don’t worry. There will be people there to help and supply your needs.
- Don’t look back. My biggest regret is that the first time I left, I went back. He promised to be better. But when it didn’t happen, I left the second time for good.
- Build a better life for yourself.
Turn crushing disaster into comfort and compassion for others.
It took me a long time to come back from my first marriage and the crushing divorce. My first husband didn't get better for a long time. But he didn't physically abuse his second wife as much as he did me. And he only verbally abused his third wife. Now married for the fourth time and (from what I hear) losing that marriage too, it seems that he never really stopped the destructive cycle. As for me, I was alone and untrusting of men for many years before I met a kind and caring man. We have been married now 29 years: so if you are reading this from a place of despair, there is hope for happiness.
For many years, I was bitter and jaundiced toward men. But I also had a heart for abused women. I understand the problem and the cycle of shaming and blaming. When you are free, you will be able to help those who are not yet able to help themselves. This doesn't have to be the end of life, it is only the beginning of a new branch in your life. This one will be confident, helpful and compassionate.
No one deserves abuse. No matter who you are, you are unique and valuable. You are worth better than a person’s angry words and fists. Demand nothing less than the best. When you are willing to settle for second best, very often, you get it. I have found that a life without a partner, even lonely, is a hundred times better than life with an abuser.