Maybe I Was Married to An Abuser

rape-marriage1I am basically the same woman I was ten years ago – when I finally divorced my abusive husband.  I think my kids and family and friends would agree that my demeanor, priorities and personality are not so different now from what they were then.

So I wonder at times why the man to whom I am married now does not make it a habit to condemn or criticize me, or refuse to help me with household responsibilities, or find it convenient to list all of the ways I have fallen short.  This man is so pleasingly different from my former husband; he doesn’t spend money we don’t have, or tell me that there is something seriously wrong with me or shake his head in disgust while telling me that his life would be so much better if I wasn’t such a lousy wife.

My husband does not leave for hours at a time without telling me where he has been; nor has he stolen thousands of dollars from our bank account, or hidden stashes of pornography in strange places around the house.  He doesn’t abuse prescription drugs and alcohol or try to get me to do things in our bedroom that make me feel cheap and dirty.  He doesn’t glare at me with hatred in his eyes or lock me out of our bedroom as punishment.  My husband doesn’t terrify the kids, and he doesn’t shake a finger in my face and demand that I submit to him when I am morally uncomfortable with his choices.

Remarkably, the man to whom I am married cares if I am hurting and does everything he can to make sure I am content and feel safe.  This is a man who, when I am sick, goes to the store to get medicine and returns with not only cough drops, but also a box of my favorite cookies and a magazine to read while I am camped out on the sofa with a blanket, a box of tissue, the remote control, and a tall glass of orange juice.

My husband never verbally runs over me until I am so emotionally exhausted that I defer to his unreasonable demands.  He has never sarcastically rolled his eyes while asserting that I just need to forgive him and get over it; or that if I truly loved God I wouldn’t be so bitter.  The man who shares his life with me today listens to my stories and doesn’t make me feel stupid when I tell them.  My husband believes that I have something to offer, wants me to be fulfilled and isn’t the least threatened by my successes; in fact, he affirms me and even boasts of our relationship to his friends.  He opens the car door for me, holds my hand when we are out together, and for some strange reason he still thinks I am beautiful when I am wearing my grungy painting clothes and no make-up.

I have to believe that I am not much different from the woman I was ten or so years ago.  Yet there are those who, when they discover that I have been divorced, cast a sideways glance my way, and a flicker of judgment crosses their faces.  Surely, they must suppose, I must have done something to trigger the abuse; I must have incited my former husband’s rage.  I’m sure they feel certain that I was probably not kind or helpful or understanding enough.  I must have been overly demanding or probably had unrealistic expectations of him.  Perhaps I misunderstood his needs.  Or maybe they are right.  Maybe, as my former husband told me, I was just incredibly selfish, insensitive and prone to overreact in the face of such trivial marital matters.

If those things are so, then why haven’t I failed miserably in this new marriage?  Why does my husband see me as the most precious person in his life?  If I am so difficult to live with, why does my husband appreciate me and enjoy my company?  If the cruelty to which I was subjected was so obviously deserved, then how come the man I share my life with now doesn’t blame me for his unhappiness or yell at me for the slightest misstep?  Surely, he must see how messed up, self-absorbed and unforgiving I really am.

And why is it that I am no longer compelled to tears on a regular basis?  Why do I no longer carry a burden of ongoing physical and emotional distress, depression and anxiety?  What gives me the right to now enjoy my leisure time at home, and why doesn’t a surge of panic still well up in me when I hear my husband’s car pull up in the driveway?

Seeing the overwhelming contrast in my marriages, I have to suppose that maybe, just maybe, my first marriage failed because I was married to an abuser.  It must be plausible that I was living with a man with a design to dominate, control and demean me.  It sure seemed as though his behavior was a calculated attempt to maintain his superiority, get his way, and make sure I was kept in my proper place.  I can’t think of any other reason why my former husband would intentionally look for ways to isolate me from my friends and family or keep me off-balance, confused and doubting my worth, except to make sure I was constantly preoccupied with him.  Or was it really my fault that I was reduced to living in a constant state of fear?

I only know that I am pretty much the same woman now that I was then, but with one major difference.  Now I am married to a man who wants me to know that I am loved, cherished and appreciated.  I know that my love will go to any lengths to make sure I am safe and happy.  I had wondered whether it was possible, had almost ceased imagining that I might be worthy of such love.

But I guess I am.

So, to those who doubt my character and the effort I put forth to contribute to a healthy marriage the first time around, I have to say that you won’t be the first, and you won’t be the last to arrive at the conclusion.  But maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t my fault that the marriage failed.  If it was I who compelled my former husband to treat me so badly, how is it that the man I am married to now treats me so well?

In truth, there is no “maybe.”  It wasn’t my fault.  I was married to an abuser.

If you are living in a similar situation, then you need to know that perhaps, in spite of all the things he may have told you, it’s not your fault.  It may be that no matter how hard you try or how badly you want a happy marriage, you may never be able to fix it.  Maybe, just maybe, you are married to an abuser.

 

Copyright 2013

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17 thoughts on “Maybe I Was Married to An Abuser”

  1. Wow what a wonderful marriage you have. The outsider would think I’m in the same sort if marriage but my husband does things for me with love but will get resentful, huff and puff around the place, get angry. He says he celebrates my successes but really doesn’t help me to succeed in what I really want to do. If I’m doing what he wants me to do and succeed that’s good but if I studied and it took up time I should be at home being a housewife and mom he would give me a very hard time.
    I had an operation a couple of years ago. It was a day stay op, very painful. I was still in pain two days later. He stood over me while I was resting on the couch on the third day and got so angry at me for not thanking him for his help and support. He was so angry. I was in shock, he said I was selfish and only thought of myself. He said its not that painful, it was only a small operation. I was devastated. He has never apologised and I still feel the affects of that and of course this is just an example. I have many many other things that have happened.
    I get anxious when I’m sick, never know how he will react. Nice or resentful. You are a blessed lady. 🙂

    1. Hello, “Love.”

      Thank you for taking the time to write. I appreciate your comments, and, yes, I am a very blessed woman. I am quite certain that I am married to the best man in the world…

      I am sorry to read some of your story, though. Surely, you deserve better. I confess I wonder why you accept his behavior toward you as normal. Since you read my story, I guess i’m concerned that it may apply to you as well. Could it be that you are married to an abuser?

      Please know that I am happy to help if I can. If you want more information, I hope you will visit my website, if you haven’t already.

      All the best,

      Cindy

  2. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your writings. You are really helping me get my head together. I am ordering your book! But I would like your thoughts on one subject. My husband recently started counseling with a new therapist. I really thought this was going to work in my favor. Unfortunately everything I tried to communicate backfired. I found myself pretty devastated when instead of defending me and helping me the therapist basically turned to me and tried to figure out what was wrong with me that I was imagining how bad things were.

    I belong to a group for people with So’s who have Borderline Personality Disorder as mine does. A post came across today that struck home. One man who was starting therapy with his diagnosed BPD wife was shocked when their therapist said to him “For [every sickness is a person, their spouse has], a complimenting and equally deep set of issues on the other side- other wise they wouldn’t have found each other and gotten married. ” I hope there is not a problem with me repeating this. She then essentially told him not to label her or blame her but to only think about how to fix himself.

    While I fully acknowledge that I have deep issues that brought me into this relationship and has kept me here I cannot accept that my “sins” are any where near the proportions of his. My love, my forgiveness, my strength and my faith, which are virtues I cherish, have been used against me like weapons by him- and now I feel doubly persecuted as I feel my therapist and his are essentially blaming the victims. I wrote this in reply:

    “Oh wow what punch in the face. I am sorry but I think she is a quack. Yes we victims have issues which is why we get sucked in and stay in. But to say equal in anyway is truly minimizing the beast and blaming the victims. By all means work on yourself. Try to keep the good parts that brought you into the situation and figure out what you need to do to better protect yourself in the future. But know BPD is a beast that needs its name so it can be understood. It needs to be labeled and called out and so it can be seen and dealt with. If left to lurk in shadows it keeps its power to destroy. Don’t self blame, but do heal and as soon as you can- run.”

    What do you think about this? Should we try to defend ourselves? Yes there is truth to what she said, but is what she said true? What do I even do with this therapist? For now I have given up trying anything. Every time my husband comes back it seems he comes back with a new set of ammo about things the therapist told him that is used against me and I wholly believe he was wrong about anyway. And yes, he makes me feel crazy, and yes this therapist thing is really truly cementing this feeling!

    I plan to post your reply in group- so many of us there need input and I am so glad to have found your site. I hope I can send many of them to your site that has helped me so much.

    1. Hello, Anna. I am glad that you found the website and appreciate that you are open to input to attempt to answer these difficult questions.

      I understand where you are coming from and your desire to know whether what the counselor said is true with regard to the co-responsibility that exists in a dysfunctional relationship. Generally, I am inclined agree with the therapist. However, I think that refusing to identify behavior or label it can serve to minimize its impact. If identifying behavior by labeling it provides clarity and a basis for correction, then I think doing so serves a valid purpose. I will share my experience in this, and you can take what you like…

      In an encounter with my own counselor many years ago, she helped me to identify the dynamic in our household as abusive – something I had never truly acknowledged. She explained that the only way abuse could continue in our home was with my permission. I was not simply a victim, I was a passive contributor. My husband was an abuser but I, in turn, was his enabler. It was a very painful realization for me – but true. My attempts at being patient and forgiving and loving were actually a manifestation of denial about the true damage that my abuser was causing in our home. My intentions were good but the outcome was disastrous because I was either unable or unwilling to accept the truth about what was occurring in our home. It was my own denial that allowed the abuse to continue. In that way, yes, I must accept a burden of responsibility for the abuse. I accept a label, if you will, as a recovering enabler. That is true. Only when I admit my role (with or without a label) can I begin the work of making better decisions and dramatically working to change my behavior going forward.

      My abuser’s overt hostility, silent cruelty, power-mongering, controlling and terrorizing behaviors were nevertheless completely unacceptable and absolutely wrong in every way. He failed to honor the God-given authority given him whereby he should have been serving and protecting his wife and children. I will gladly label him as well. He was (and is) a narcissist, a liar, an abuser and, knowing what I know now, he may well be a full-blown sociopath. With or without those labels, he would easily be described as emotionally toxic. He must take responsibility for his behavior and choices and I, likewise, must take responsibility for mine. My responsibility lies only in changing my behaviors and releasing my abuser to address his own. I am not obligated to coddle or protect him or to dismiss or minimize what he has done. That is also true.

      When all is said and done, labels mean nothing and truth is everything. A willingness to see the truth and act on what we know to be true is what matters most. With that in mind, I would urge you to get past what your therapist tells you and what your abuser says. Words are only words, and actions will reflect the truth. If what you hear makes you feel confused, then it is not truth, it is likely crazy-making, a diminishment or twisting of the truth. Partial truth is still not truth, and our instincts are usually pretty good at telling us when something is off-kilter. When we learn to listen to our instincts and trust them and then identity what is really true and act on it, then there is peace, whether or not others agree with us. Furthermore, as a side note, I no longer support couples counseling with an abuser, and it is important to understand that most abusers go to counseling, not to correct their behaviors, but to earn the sympathies of the counselor and gain an ally in the abuse game.

      I hope this is helpful.

      I wish you well and hope to hear from you again.

      Cindy

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