I mean, what 20 year old girl hasn’t met a man?
But this man, he was different. He was 9 years older than me. He had a great job. He was mesmerizing. He swept me off my feet. Two and a half years later, he married me. And the fairytale died. On our wedding day.
We had gone for a mini-pre honeymoon to a friend’s lake house. I remember being very excited about something I wanted to do, and I remember asking him to go do this *thing* with me. And then I remember receiving the snarkiest, nastiest comment from him I’d ever heard. I was crushed. While I’m sobbing and upset, he sat there, apathetically and told me to get over myself.
And that was just the beginning.
Three months into the marriage I was seeing a therapist because I hated myself. I wasn’t good enough. Smart enough. Pretty enough. I couldn’t keep the house clean enough. I couldn’t ride my horses well. I couldn’t rope good enough. I spent too much money. I couldn’t cook anything he liked. I never said anything appropriate. Our life was a secret from the world and only certain things need be shared. I never shared the right things. I was constantly criticized for giving people too much information. I didn’t get what the secret was. I didn’t need to be in school. College was stupid. There was nothing wrong with him, of course.
Two months of therapy later, I had just learned to cope- and pray for him- because you know that’s what good Christian girls from the South are supposed to do for their husbands. Because prayer changes everything and makes all things better. And because Christian girls from the South, don’t get divorced.
Irresponsible doesn’t begin to describe this man. He pulled in a hefty 6 figures a year yet our phone and electricity were constantly shut off. The propane tank was never full. My dad still made my truck payment. But somehow there was always money for him to go out with his friends. And stay out. All. Night. Always money for him to buy the latest fashions, suits and ties. While I shopped at Wal-mart. Because you see, he needed to look good for his job.
Eighteen long months into this terror that was now my life, it was discovered that all he’d told me about his past was a lie. He’d never been to college; he’d never run at TCU or TT; he’d never made the alternate Olympic team for the mile relay. The list goes on. Once these were discovered, the terror that was my life got worse.
I made an attempt to kick him out at that point- but that didn’t work, because, you see, he made the money, so he paid the rent and he wasn’t getting kicked out of a house he paid for. The grocery list had to be *approved* based on what he deemed we needed. And instead of the wall for his punching bag, it became me. I was terrified to call the cops on him because he told me they’d never believe me. That I was wrong. That I had made him do it. There’s more, but I choose not to relive it if I don’t have to. I don’t recall if my parents even knew that the physical abuse had started. It was while I was in another set of therapy sessions (this time for clinical depression) with the college shrink that I began to realize I wasn’t myself anymore. That the old me, the girl who had the world by the tail, who had confidence in herself was gone. I wanted her back. But I was too scared to go after her.
When I finally managed, through all of this, to graduate from college in December of 2002, my parents threw my younger sister and I (I was on the 6 year plan- she made it through in 4) a graduation party. He didn’t come to the party. In fact, he didn’t acknowledge it. It was at that point, that silently, I considered leaving him.
I cannot begin to describe for you how sick I felt when a few days later, my little brother suggested that we go move me out. He suggested it while he knew this man was at work. While we could sneak over and get the things I needed out of the house; be in and out before he knew what had happened. You see, a man like my ex huband, he has a sixth sense about things. I just knew he would come in and find me, and I’d be caught and things would get ugly.
I didn’t get caught. However, he did call while we, my dad, brother, sister and I, were in the process of moving me out. I didn’t answer. So he called my sister. Then my dad, and finally my mother who had stayed behind. He continued to call. We continued to ignore him. Finally I had collected my thoughts enough to talk to him. Hindsight being what it is I probably should have just continued to ignore him and had a lawyer call him the next day, but I was scared of him. By the time we actually talked, he was at our former home, to see the mess I left behind. And of course he tried to talk his way back into my life. He had no idea I felt this way, and he didn’t know what had caused me to leave. And why was I so unhappy, blah, blah, blah. (You know, as I write this, I have that same, sick feeling in my stomach that I got that day I left).
Leaving him was the bravest thing I ever did. It went against everything I had grown up believing- that marriage is sacred; that God can change all things and make things good; that I just needed to try harder, pray harder, work harder. I’d like to say that leaving him instantly healed my self- loathing and low self esteem. To some degree it did- though it was and still is a process.
I still find myself, 7 years later, wondering if I said too much, or shared too much or if what I said was inappropriate.
I still doubt myself on occasion and once in a while that girl who hated herself shows up. Someday I hope she’ll be gone completely.
For more spins on bravery, visit Jen at Sprite’s Keeper.