Because it’s like living with two people. And you want to believe that the good one is the real one, because how could the evil one be real? How can both of these opposite extremes exist in the same person? The mind fragments, and rejects the existence of the wicked one.
How could he corner me in the back of the house in a bedroom far from the street, screaming in my face every minor rule he says I’ve violated for the last two months, since the last time he did this, while pounding on the wall inches from my face to scare me? And he won’t let me explain how I wasn’t trying to hurt him. He won’t let me defend myself or my thoughts. He yells that I can’t think for myself, that I failed him, that I’m out to hurt him and he doesn’t pause, doesn’t stop. Not until I put my head down and cry. Not until I admit he’s right. Not until I say I’m sorry. Then he leaves me, a crumpled broken spirit on the floor. This is how we resolve arguments.
Tomorrow he’ll take me to get a dozen flowers, or we’ll go somewhere I’ve been asking to go, or maybe he’ll buy me something or watch a movie that I wanted. Not because he’s sorry. He never says sorry for this. He won’t acknowledge it happened. If I bring it up, he says every man treats his wife this way. All marriages are like this. He never uses the word abuse. He doesn’t know it. And he believes what he says, because he witnessed his father do it and much worse to his mother his whole life. I wonder what else his father did to him. Did he hit him? Is he going to hit me next time?
It doesn’t matter, because he’s right. He’s always right. Whatever he says is truth must be truth. He says I can’t rely on my memory. He says I forget things since my surgery and the treatment. His memory is more reliable than mine. He has to help me think. He’s doing it out of his kindness.
After he does the nice thing for me, I’ll brag on social media and to all my friends, especially in his hearing, about what a kind, great, perfect guy he is. I call him Superman, and he says I'm his cape. I’m trying to convince myself this is who he is, and also he’ll reward me double for it. Maybe he’ll even start kissing me again. Maybe he’ll find me attractive enough to flirt with again. It’s been so long. I used to be so much thinner and prettier when we were dating, and when we first got married. Now I’m fat and going gray. I don’t blame him for not being interested in me often. I wouldn’t be either. I’ve started exercising more to get thin again. I lost a lot of weight, but for some reason, when I bring it up, it seems to make him angrier. He wants to know if there are any men in my aerobics class. How old they are. Where they stand. If any of them come near me. Of course not, I reassure him. I’m not interested. I make that clear. I only want you, I practically beg. Good, he says, confident, cocky, for the moment.
The better I follow all his rules, I tell myself, the better he’ll treat me. He just gets upset sometimes. It’s not that big a deal, and it’s my fault anyway for upsetting him. He works so hard. And full time too. I’m only part time. It’s my job to serve him and make his life easier by doing all the household chores (except the two he does when he has time and energy) and buy all the groceries and cook all the meals and serve them to him at the computer while he plays video games until 2 AM because he’s tired. He works so hard. He deserves to not be nagged about watching a stupid chic movie with me that he hates. To not be bothered with running errands he hates to do after working all day, like grocery shopping. And he’s trying to keep me safe when he wants to know if there were any men at the store who talked to me, when he wants me to text him each time I leave a store or switch to another location like the gas station, in case my car breaks down. It is unreliable, after all. It could break at any time. And we can’t afford to repair it. We don’t have enough money. We never have enough money. I don’t know why. I’m never allowed to look at our finances.
I wanted him to explain budgeting to me. He did it once on a piece of paper with examples from his bank account. I’m not allowed to see his bank account. But that’s ok because I have one that’s joint that I have access to. That’s why I have my own job, so I can have my own money to spend on things I want for the house, or clothes, and food. We do spend a lot on food. He does eat a lot. But he’s a big guy, strong and muscular. That’s one of the things I liked most about him in the beginning—his strength. It means he can protect me from any men who want to try to hurt me. That’s why I have to tell him so much, so that he can keep me safe from other men who would try to hurt me.
He really does love me so much. He spent $1,500 on me over the weekend of my 30th birthday, between the four-star hotel with private beach access, and fancy dinner and breakfast, a pedicure just for me, and the botanical garden we visited, and all the gas. I know how much it was because he told me three or four times, but he also said I’m worth it. He even offered to stay an extra night after they offered a special hurricane rate. He’s so generous. It’s just a coincidence that that weekend was after he pounded the wall again and scared me, and I was depressed for a week. Or was it the time when he screamed at me so hard in the car and I had no way to get out, and I tried to open the car door and run out onto the street but he locked me in so he could finish his list of ways I’d disobeyed and failed him as a wife? I can’t remember. But it must have been my fault.
The pandemic and quarantine hit him really hard. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for him. His boss is so mean to him, and bullies him, and pushes all his own work onto my husband, making him do double duty, unable to get up from the desk to even take a lunch break. That’s why he’s so angry when he gets home every day.
But that’s not why I take a double dose of L-Theanine (a natural calmative) before I go home every day. Those two things aren’t connected. I must be doing it because work is so stressful and I need help calming down before I get home so I can serve my husband properly and not upset him or disobey him or break any of the rules. Like being on my phone when we’re watching tv together, even if he’s playing games on his phone. That’s different. Or messaging my friends back. I spend too much time with them and not enough with him. I need to just sit. In silence, ready to do whatever he commands me. That’s what good wives do, wives who get hugs from their husbands when he gets home. Wives who get kissed, or complimented, or appreciated. Wives who don’t get criticized because dinner was made the way he doesn’t like. Or because it had coconut milk, or kale, or too many spices, or the meat was too dry, or slightly raw, or had a salad for the vegetable (who needs vegetables anyway? except broccoli or canned green beans) or I used the crockpot. He hates that. He also hates it when I make a mess in the kitchen. He doesn’t do that when he cooks, and he cleans as he cooks, so there are no pots or pans dirty at the end of the meal, and he doesn’t have to be kept waiting for me while his food gets cold on the table and I put water in the pans to soak to make it easier for when I have to wash them later. He’s a much better cook than me—I’m always telling him so, to build his low confidence— so considerate, sometimes he even cuts the vegetables into hearts to show me how much he loves me! He’s so nice to wait for me to eat, and to pray before we eat.
No one serves God like he does. No one serves me like he does, providing this whole house instead of a trailer like we each grew up in. Paying all the big bills since I started working part time, so I would have more time at home with him, and for chores. I spend too much time cleaning anyway. Who cares if the house is a little messy? His parents’ was. Actually, his parents' house was like an episode of hoarding, with layers of dust and animal dander everywhere, and you had to walk sideways into rooms because of the piles as tall as a person of rusted and cluttered, useless stuff his dad wouldn’t get rid of, and you couldn’t even sit anywhere until they moved into his grandmother’s house. There was one couch and two chairs there that had only a few clothes on them and could be moved to sit. But I’m not allowed to talk about that. I’m not allowed to say anything negative about his dad. OR how broke he always was and how much money we had to give him every month, so he could spend his money on cigarettes and going to the bar because he was lonely (my husband doesn't know about that one, but his brother and brother's ex-wife told me). No, we can't, I can't, say a single negative word about his father. That REALLY makes him angry. (Protecting his abuser maybe?)
He and his dad are alike in some ways, I think. They both prefer to be served their meals in front of the TV or a computer. I comply because he doesn’t get as angry if I give him uninterrupted time to kill things in a game, or to watch the shows he likes. Sometimes he’s even nicer afterward. As long as I stay off my phone when we're watching his shows together, no matter how bored I am. And don’t interrupt him to show him the funny meme I saw. I’ll share that on his social media wall instead, and maybe he’ll like it and laugh when he’s ready, when he has time. He’s tired, and he works hard. He reminds me every day. Poor thing. I should work harder to be a better wife for him. He’s had a hard life. Much harder than mine.
Respect is so very important to him. I need to learn how to respect him better. I keep asking him how, what practical thing can I do for him to show him respect? He doesn’t know how to answer me other than saying “a sincere engagement of your time and energy.” I guess that means stay off my phone (I do spend too much time on apps looking at recipes and playing games and self-soothing; I just can't figure out why) and maybe it means be ready for him whenever he wants me, just like his dad did to me when he stayed with us a little while. His dad used to yell for me and I had to come running and do whatever he wanted. But I couldn't ever offer to help him because then I’d hurt his pride. It was a delicate balance. I wasn’t very good at it. Luckily he didn’t stay with us long, though I never said that to my husband. I never expressed my relief when he moved out. I was never that relieved when any of the other ten people who lived with us moved out. Just his dad. But that's because I'm not compassionate enough.
Anyway, respect, that’s one of the most important things. I’m not good at that either. That’s why he had to kick me out of the house on Easter Sunday. I disagreed with him about something, defended my actions, tried to explain myself and understand why he was upset and what I could do better. Nope. Interrupting him is a no no. I shouldn’t have done that. He told me to leave. I said why? What did I do? He said I had a bad attitude and I needed to get out of the house until I had a better one. He had anger and hate in his eyes. They’ve been looking at me like that a lot more lately. I asked him where to go, everything was closed. The whole world was under quarantine. My best friend had the virus and I couldn’t go to her place. My other best friend’s mom was sick and she didn’t want anyone coming over just in case anyone had the virus and didn’t know it. He knew I had nowhere to go. I don't care, he said. I got in my car and drove a couple miles until I found a retention pond on the parkway. I parked beside it and sat in the back seat and cried. A dad in a minivan parked and got out with four boys and checked on me. He asked first if I was ok, then if my car was. I lied, held up a book, and said I was reading. He looked at me like he didn’t believe me. He said he’d be right over there fishing with his kids if I needed anything. Why was he nicer to me on Easter Sunday, a holy day, a special family day (or should have been, except all my family moved away and I was already feeling so, so lonely even before the fight), than my husband was to me? What did I do? I must be such a terrible, disrespectful wife to get kicked out of my own house on Easter Sunday. He’s never kicked me out before. But why couldn’t he tell me specifically what I did?
The first time he punched a wall was a few months after my baby sister committed suicide. I don’t remember what I did to upset him that time. It was years ago now, after we'd already done pastoral counseling and learned how to "better communicate" with each other. He told my cousin about it. He said to him, “I don't know why she makes me so angry that I have to do that to her.” My cousin didn’t say anything to me about it, not until after I left my husband. So many people saw so many ‘little” or “weird” things that they’ve mentioned since I left. I wonder why no one ever spoke up. Not their business, I guess they thought. Would they have stepped in when he hit me? Who knows.
Why does she stay with him?
Because he’s never used the word abuse, and she doesn’t believe it is.
Because he told her that her memories were unreliable and he has has to help her think.
Because she thinks no one will believe her because he always hid this behavior after the first time people saw (on their honeymoon, at Disney, in line for a ride) and they glared at him for screaming like that at her while she put her head down and cried and cried and he kept yelling; they just didn’t understand why he HAD to do this to her, why she DESERVED it.
She stayed because no one would believe her because he’s such a nice, helpful guy, who serves in church and helps people move and drops everything to help people in need, and she's always posting what a good husband he is.
She stays because the nice version, the one who smothers her in love and affection and gifts (especially right after a fight), that HAS to be the real one. This other one, who yells in her face and says she acts like a slut when she goes out to dinner with her girl friends, and pounds walls and makes her feel so, so badly about herself, like a complete failure because she can't make him happy, can't make him confident, can't figure out how she's disrespecting him—he isn't real. He’s temporary. He’s a bad dream. He’ll go away if she works harder to please him in every way, if she obeys and submits more and better, if she stops interrupting him and explaining herself, if she stops trying to subject him to hearing about her feelings, if she follows all the rules on his list, no matter that’s it’s been growing longer and longer.
She just needs to try harder, spend more time on him. Time is so important to him and he needs so much.
She stays because her pastor and other believers (who have never been abused) said he can change if she prays hard enough, if she believes big enough, if she submits better.
She stays because last time she tried to leave 9 or 10 years ago, he said he would finally go to “counseling” with her and their pastor (not a therapist) and they would learn how to communicate better. Communication is the problem, he says to her. They just don’t understand each other. "I'm just trying to learn you," he says. (Learn her for what? Is she a test to study?) He must have learned something way back then that she didn't, because she's the problem, not him. And if she just works harder, loves him more, forgives him again, then he'll change, someday. Right? That's what they're telling her.
She stays because it’s easier to stay. It's harder to leave. Terrifying even. But she’s not staying anymore. It's more terrifying to stay. He’s getting ready to hit her. He’s conditioning the dog to not react when he does.
There’s a new game he has her play. When they sit on the big comfortable couch that he spent his (our) tax return on one year(because he's so generous!), and he gets the chaise longue because his back hurts, and she sits beside him and puts her leg on the chaise next to him, he has her pull up her shorts all the way up the thigh, then he smacks her thigh, just a little hard, just enough to sting a bit and to make a loud noise. Then she’s supposed to scream as realistically as she can. When the dog (a boxer-mastiff) comes running up, thinking she's hurt, she’s supposed to laugh, and pet him. (Reassure him that his mommy is ok; it’s just a game). You see, the dog is very protective of her, ever since they both got attacked by a pit bull last year and he saved her. She thought this game was strange and it scared her. And she realized she’s been scared to go home every day of quarantine.
She found herself praying for those in abusive houses. She realized he’s been angrier more often lately, and the anger is getting worse, deeper somehow, and it never lets up, is never released. It just keeps building. She realized he’s stopped doing nice things for her. She hasn’t seen the nice version of him since February (it's late May now), and it doesn’t matter how hard she tries or what else she does. She’s scared and can’t stop buying comfort objects—pillows, blankets, books, tea—anything to feel safe she realizes. And she's started seeing a new look in his eyes. It looks like hate. She swears his once-green eyes darken to deep deep brown, almost black when it happens. It made her so scared once (because she was smoking a cigar, also a no no) that she went into the bathroom of her parents' house and threw up. Then she lied to everyone that she had a stomach bug. She'd never been that afraid of him before.
So she talks to a therapist—a Christian, but someone who's actually licensed to notice and diagnose and help people heal from psychological issues. A trained professional. Then she goes to another for a second opinion, just to be sure. Then she talks to a couple trusted friends who have been abused before and ought to be able to tell the signs better that people who haven't been abused (but definitely have strong opinions on whether or not she should stay). "He’s conditioning the dog to not react when he hits her, which is coming soon!" They all say. "Get out!"
She prays, and God confirms what they’re all saying. Get out! He's dangerous and going to hit her! She argues with God, thinks she must be misunderstanding Him. God gives her Bible verses for confirmation, tells her to leave, to go somewhere safe, that her husband and her house aren't safe, and he's repeating a generational pattern.
She doesn’t know where she’s going to go, or how she’s going to make it, can't even think about tomorrow, just takes it one thing at a time. She can’t tell him this is going to be a separation for anything more than a few days, or he won’t let her go. He’s so strong, so muscular, and so angry at her, even now. She can see his eyes darkening. And she’s so afraid. But she’s more afraid of him, she realizes. She knows in her marrow that he’s going to hurt her, would know it even if the others hadn't told her. She's been married to him twelve years, and she's never seen anger like this before in his eyes. She can see the caged animal look, like a tiger about to strike, as she gathers a few things, only enough clothes for 5 days, a toothbrush, what else? Think!
But after 12 years of waiting and forgiving and loving and trying HARDER and nothing getting better (he never apologized for these behaviors, or admitted fault, or said he's done any abusive things, instead shifting blame because she dared to yell back, once she even pushed him away from her! so she must be the abuser! poor him! pity him!). With 12 years of nothing about him changing or improving, no end to the abuse and it's only gotten worse and worse these last few months despite what the non-abused keep telling her (just give him ANOTHER chance!); she finally leaves. She finds a way.
If you are feel unsafe or are (suspect you are) being abused, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233 or go to thehotline.org.
Abuse is wrong. Emotional and Verbal abuse are real, and count just as much.
If you are unsure what covert emotional or verbal abuse look like, call the number above, or look at the following articles: confusiontoclaritynow.com/blog/what-is-covert-psychological-and-emotional-abuse
Or this video by Patrick Doyle about emotional abuse or any of his others: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMnaexahcLo&feature=emb_rel_pause&ab_channel=theDoveTV
© 2020 Amanda Lorenzo