Originally Published May 1, 2009
This is a story that I want to tell. Maybe you know part of it, maybe I’m repeating mysef for bits of it–but this is a story I need to tell. This is the story of how I left my abuser.
I’ll tell the story of how it all started another day. I’ll leave the story of how he wooed me and romanced me and slowly wrapped chains around my soul for another day. Today I want to tell about how I got free.
Before I can tell the story from a month ago (has it been that long already?), when I was driving away, or even two weeks before that, when I first really realized that what I was dealing with was abuse, I need to go back a little further, to let you understand how I was even able to see it, to understand how I had somehow become strong enough to open my eyes to my own life.
We (that is, Mr. X and I) ran into the brick wall of infertility in 2007. It was so very devastating to me, though at no time were we ever told that we would never be able to have children; we just kept running into roadblocks. Within just a couple of months of dealing with the roller-coaster, I was in as deep a hole as I had ever been, and seemed to find my only comfort in food (but only when I was alone, and there was always a lot of self-loathing attached–so it was quite the cold comfort). I started seeing a counselor to help me deal with the devastation of infertility and, oh, so quickly did the therapy’s focus expand to what I called in my other blog “my myriad issues.” During this time I was so overwhelmed that I could barely take care of myself, much less keep all the balls in the air to keep Mr. X happy, too, so I felt immense guilt about the problems in my marriage (a.k.a. his being pissed that I wasn’t taking care of him like before).
Between the counseling and work I did on my own outside of our sessions (the books Overcoming Overeating, When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies–among others) I started to get healthy. This was particularly true from March of 2008 onward, from which time I started to seriously work on my food issues–which were really a mask for my emotional issues. In fact, Mr. X would later tell me that he “knew” I had decided to leave around that time–Spring of ’08–which was not true, but, then again, maybe it was. I had no intention of leaving at all, but perhaps the moment I chose good for myself instead of the dregs, the moment I thought of myself first instead of always always always last, perhaps that was my choosing, perhaps not to leave, but definitely choosing the best path for myself, whatever form it would take.
Looking back on 2008, it seems now that the healthier that I got, the worse our relationship got. Now that I have the benefit of hindsight and the framework of verbal and emotional abuse through which to look, this is clear to me. At the time it wasn’t. At the time I just knew that my marriage was getting worse and that I was seeing more and more clearly that my husband had some pretty serious problems. At the time all I knew was that when I would choose to meet my own needs, it would somehow backfire and I would end up miserable.
At some point in the summer of ’08 Mr. X went to counseling, too, under the guise of dealing with his work stress. We would talk about our counseling sessions (this was back when we still talked). At one point he said something about “running out of things to talk to [his counselor] about.” I didn’t really understand that then (especially because I could see that he had PLENTY to talk about), but now, based on that, and some other things he said, I’m pretty sure he never opened up to anyone, especially a counselor. Unless something pretty drastic happens in his life, I don’t really see him ever really opening up to anyone, including (especially?) himself.
We made two different attempts at couples’ counseling in the fall of ’08. The first was a total disaster. We went together to see X’s counselor (my idea–I thought he’d feel more comfortable). We fought the whole time–the counselor had nothing for us, that I can remember. The second attempt at counseling seemed a lot more successful, but I have a different view of it now than I did at the time. Number Two took the view that her job was to help us reconnect to our positive feelings for each other and so we really didn’t talk much about our problems while in her office; she got us to try to remember what we liked about each other. And it seemed to “work” in that we fought less for a while and I felt happier for a time. Looking back, it seems that we were in an extended honeymoon/calm phase (of the cycle of violence/abuse). And just as I question how I could not have seen what seems so obvious to me now, I also question that marriage counselor and I wonder how she could have missed the signs and some of the things that were said in her office–right in front of her. The difference is that she wasn’t inside the relationship and that she was a professional and had an obligation to be on the lookout for things like abuse.
Just when I was getting nice and comortable, just when I was thinking we were starting to build a foundation of good feelings, Mr. X surprised me (and counselor Number Two) in late November by telling us that he “needed a break” from counseling and wanted to stop our sessions. That was all the explanation he gave. I was very upset, because I knew that we were not “strong enough” yet. Number Two told us that if we found that we “needed” to come back, her door was always open. I knew, though, that if we got to that point, X wouldn’t want to come back. Eventually this proved to be correct, but I’ll continue this story another day.
Next: Continuing the downward spiral.