The Great Motivator to Leave
January 2009... The Beginning of the End
In January of 2009, we argued a lot, we always did. This always instilled a lot of fear in me of his reaction because of the size difference. While I was plus sized, I was only five foot one, not giving me much advantage in any physical altercation against a burly man who stood over a foot taller than myself.
At that point my only escape was the internet, we lived in a small mountain town where I was isolated from his anyone but his family, and I was in near servitude to them, if I found a rare quiet moment, I was suddenly recruited for some household chore that someone else could do. My oldest was in school, my youngest at home because she was too young to attend.
It was cold, we lived in North Carolina, in the mountains, and it was winter, which meant a regular -10 or more temperature. We had no heat, and his reluctance to buy the fuel we needed to warm up our house and our children. He was working at a job where he made over $1000 every month, and we had a small surplus after the bills, it should not have been so hard to heat our home. He would go to his warm office every day while we sat at home fighting off frostbite with space heaters that could only heat one room at a time and with three of them going we could only get that one room to sixty degrees because the ambient temperature of the house came close to matching that of the negative temperatures outside.
While me and my children spent a lot of time cooped up in that fairly small room with seven cats (I had two cats when I started... they had one litter and we "adopted" another after he was just dropped off with us despite my protests) which provided the three of us with some extra warmth that was much needed.
At this point, as well, my children and I had basically been snowed in for a couple of months, we had no car since we lost mine due to engine fire before making the journey from Florida to Virginia, right across the state line from where we lived at that point. The strain on our collective mental state was getting to be a bit much to handle. I would decide to go out, when it was only a little bit below zero, bundled in my heavy winter coat, thick sweater, a long sleeve tee, a short sleeve tee and a tank top as well as a few more layers of pants and socks and boots, walk a mile and half and pick up pizza because I could not stand to be inside any longer. To go along with this I had severely sprained my shoulder in a retreat to take a hot bath to escape the growing cold a month or more earlier and I was still in a fair amount of pain because of the cold and pressure from the seemingly endless storms.
Needless to say, at this point, I was fighting like mad with my childrens' father on a daily basis over stupid things, often things that he would start yelling about. He would find something to gripe about, and that would drive me crazy and a fight would break out. It came to a head one night in a screaming match between us, with me sitting on the end of the bed. I am not sure but I believe it all boiled down to my bank account. I had sent him for cigarettes with the last five available dollars in my bank account and he had come home with sixty dollars of unnecessary junk food, meaning he had overdrawn my account. He, of course, told me that he was going to put the money back in and put me back to a zero available balance, and it was payday and it did not happen, just another kick to my already flailing credit score after six or so years of him doing this and things like it.
As we sat there, him screaming at me for saying anything about it, and me screaming just so that I could hear me, much less him. Then it happened, his hand drew back and landed across my cheek.
At his point, that was the fourth time in six years that he had put his hands on me. I was afraid, I was already using only my computer for socializing since I knew nobody and his family was not exactly a social one. I didn't sleep much because his temper was so bad and he had hit me while in bed before, and I was, at that point, shaken and scared. It was immediately followed by a bevy of apologies while I tried to process exactly what had just happened, again.
Amongst the crying, apologies, and stinging pain in my cheek, a bevy of thoughts raced through my mind along the lines of:
How did it get here?
How did I manage to get myself into a relationship like this?
Did he really just hit me?
Why have I been putting up with this?
Is this really what love is like?
This cannot happen anymore.
Enough is enough.
This has to be addressed.
How will I leave if I have to?
My entire family is not here.
I am alone. What am I going to do if this ends?
I have a daughter that I cannot let think that this is love. (She didn't see it but she still had ears.)
I realized that I was being isolated, he had been getting worse and worse because my father was there to step in when the fighting got to be too much before. He wanted me away from my only safety net.
After a day of numb shock at what my relationship had become with him, and realizing that things had somehow gone horribly awry, I messaged him, being better with the written word than the spoken, this was to be expected, because, among other things, we were at that point that it would have just erupted into a storm of screaming again and would be counter productive to the relationship that I, for some still unknown reason, wanted to save.
I told him, very simply, that it was an unacceptable thing. If it happened one more time I was done. That it was not good for us or our children for him to be putting his hands on me, and I would not be putting up with it any longer.
The Loss of my Smile
One Week, and One Last Straw
After the events of that day, I had a physical therapy appointment and happened across a business card for DANA, which stands for Domestic Abuse is Not Acceptable. His mother's friend had driven me, and I slipped it into my pocket. She, being a survivor of a much worse situation, felt like a safe option to talk about what was going on with her.
I brought it up carefully, testing the waters a bit, since I was unsure exactly how sensitive the subject of her former marriage was. After a few minutes of discussing it, I asked how she got out. She had taken a fairly direct approach and just left. I did not have that option, so I dared to speak the unspoken. I told her the truth, halfway home I said those awful words that nobody wants to hear, especially if it is someone they love doing it, "He hit me."
She processed this slowly. I sat, cringing inside, expecting her to call me a liar because she had known him his whole life and he could not possibly be capable of it. Then she sighed, and discussed what might need to be done. I told her I had considered calling the police because I was afraid he was going to do it again.
I never revealed the fear induced insomnia, my hands were wrapped in gloves so she could not see that I had bitten my nails to the quick worrying over when it was going to happen again. I never told her that I was afraid of leaving my room for more than long enough to grab something quick to eat or a fast bathroom break. I never revealed that I was afraid to speak when he was in the room because of the possibility of a repeat performance.
I think she knew. She was calm and kind, gave helpful information, and did not judge me for coming to her.
I waited before doing anything, I still had the card in my pocket, but did not use it.
The inevitable happened almost exactly a week later. Our son's DS was a bit of a mystery to me, at least with all of the games that he had, I did not understand the controls, so when my five year old came to me asking him to work the latest game, I sent him to his technologically minded father to find out. After a few rounds of back and forth and one very upset child, the screaming began again.
He came in, screaming at the top of his lungs, and the fight began. It was not very long before we were back to him screaming at the top of his lungs and me giving as good as I got. My son wandered back into the room, flapping his hands (my son has autism) and, of course, crying, in the midst of all of this. When his father raised his hand, he paused, I almost let a breath escape me as I watched him think before he followed through... which he did.
Instead of wondering how to save my relationship, at that point, I was furious. I held it back, I refused to stoop to the level of putting my hands on him like he had done to me. An escape plan began to form. Taxes were not far away, I would have to actually leave then, but the relationship had to end. He apologized profusely, again, and all I could think was, 'No, you're not! This would never have happened if you didn't want to do it.'
Making the Call
As I fumbled searching for the card I had hidden in my coat pocket, my hands shook violently. This time, not from the cold, but from sheer, unadulterated fear. I was afraid I was going to be caught, that calling them would make things worse if he found out.
I had to dial the number four times before I got it right. The thing I knew most about these situations, was that they had a tendency to escalate.
As I spoke to the nice woman on the phone, I shook and all but glared lasers onto the road leading up to our house, praying not to see his mother's car pull up with him inside. I told her what had been going on, she told me that there were several things I could do. The problem with living in a very small mountain town was that there were not exactly a lot of options for someone with nowhere to go, but she told me that I could call the police and press charges and that, even though he did not leave marks outside, an x-ray could likely tell the story for me.
After agonizing over things for a few days, and a couple of calls, I called his mom's friend and we decided to sit down with him so I could end things with him. She and I briefly discussed sending him to jail while he was at her house, and she and I opted for her to just bring him back so I could end things and I could call the police if I needed to later.
Once they got back, I was shaking uncontrollably as we all sat down in the freezing living room, and ended things. The talk was long and emotional, with lots of tears, and a hug from my usually very physically distant son.
In The Long Run
It was another three months before I got to actually leave North Carolina, and in the long run, my children and I all moved back to Florida, where we've been ever since. I have been fighting for child support since somewhere around late 2009, and finally, I am getting somewhere with it.
To say that my relationship was no good at best would be an astute statement, but I do love and adore my kids, even when they drive me crazy. I often say that they are the only good thing that came out of that relationship. I ended up throwing my ring into a lake, glad to never see it again.
There were difficult times, of course, but we made the best of what we had available, Since I had my son right out of high school I had never taken the time to attend college when I was younger, and now I am currently slated to graduate from getting my AA in Business in July. I am currently planning on a move to a different town at the end of the school year so I can start my BA in Business (and possibly a second AA in massage therapy) on campus.
While life has given me a lot of curve balls, I have not let it get me down for very long at any one time. Things have not always been perfect in the wake of all of this, but they are better. I have taken time to realize that being alone is better than being in a bad relationship, and that I can be self-sufficient despite the struggles we've faced.
Have you ever judged someone in an abusive situation?
Why I Asked
I asked the poll question because I am dealing with someone who actually felt like they could judge my previous relationship, despite only knowing me for a few months. This because I tend to stand my ground now as opposed to years ago when I would have conceded just to keep peace. I stopped allowing people to just run over me and treat me as if I was supposed to be there just for them and their needs. While I try to treat others kindly, there is a limit between being kind and being used. Once I started telling them no, trouble started and we ended up with the judging.
I am certainly of the mind that nobody should feel so much fear that they do not sleep or speak for fear of being harmed. Nobody should fear so much for their safety every day, and I do not believe any person should hold that kind of power over someone, much less someone that they are supposed to love.
I also firmly believe that someone that can say they understand what he (or anyone like him) did, is very likely to share some of his worse traits, such as the controlling and anger issues. I do not think it is right to ever judge someone based on a history you were not there to see.
I find that since I left this relationship I have become very protective of my children and myself. This has created a bit of an attitude when someone oversteps the boundaries I set regarding my children and their care. Of course, this has caused problems with roommates and others who make a regular appearance in my life, who do not seem to understand that despite the fact that I can be the type to hold my tongue and not say something, I will stand up to anyone, any size, to defend and protect the three of us and our well being. This comes from me not disciplining my children the way that they often want me to, and it leads to problems. I have been a fighter where it comes to my children for a long time, and nobody is going to change that, be they a roommate, a romantic partner, or anything else.
I have been forced to become a fighter by life, though that does not mean that I am constantly fighting for anything more than my childrens' health and well being, and maybe a few minutes of peace and quiet, or even a rare night out with friends, which any single parent will tell you tell you is difficult at best.
If someone who has been in my situation seems hard on you for the way you act with them or their children, then you should probably listen. Once they have learned from their past, they will use those lessons as a reason to stand up for themselves, and you will not be able to push them around. It just means to back off when asked and do not push the subject when told no on things.