Today we continue our series called the Real Life Series, in which we share stories written by Nashville area moms, posted anonymously. By and large, these stories are more sensitive in nature or cover topics that may be triggers for some readers. Publishing the piece does not suggest an endorsement by Nashville Moms Blog.
We want to give these writers the chance to share their stories in a safe space. We hope that their stories might resonate with someone else who may realize they are not alone. Topics in the Real Life Series are likely to draw a lot of opinions, but we want to be clear: out of respect for the writers of these pieces, we will be monitoring comments carefully and deleting anything that is shaming, hurtful, derogatory or otherwise abusive.
When my daughter was three years old, I would kneel by her little toddler bed late at night while she slept. I would kiss her cheek. And, with tears streaming down my face, I apologized to her for providing such a bad example of how a woman should expect to be treated in a relationship. My abusive marriage was no example for her. I told her she was beautiful and smart and independent. She always deserved to be treated with love, honor, and respect. Apparently, I no longer believed those same truths about myself. Then, I crawled into bed and cried myself to sleep.
I spent nearly a decade married to an emotionally abusive alcoholic. Not often home, he preferred to spend hours on end (even hours he should have been working) at the bars with carefully selected drinking partners. Those drinking partners who would not judge his decisions and absence from his family. And sometimes? Those gatherings included other women with whom he would flirt. And whom he would ask to join him again. The receipts in the pockets of the pants I diligently washed for him and the text messages I found on his phone (from women he had met) all proved this to be true. When he was home? He drank alone in his office. He ventured out only long enough to call me names or complain about how I kept the house. He told me how unattractive I was and how depressed he got every time he drove home and saw me standing there waiting for him.
This was not supposed to happen to me. I was an educated professional. Perfectly capable of taking care of myself both financially and emotionally, I knew the way I was being treated was not appropriate. At all. But here I was. I had become the wife about whom scripts for Lifetime movies and “very special episodes” of sitcoms are written. It was embarrassing. And I felt so desperately alone.
I read books and watched other seemingly happy couples. I sought counseling by myself—all in search of what I could do to make the marriage better. Keep the house cleaner? Lose weight? Wear more make up? Try to anticipate every emotion he might have at any moment so that I could be ready with the action needed to keep him from yelling at me or storming out? I tried to be funny and charming around his friends. Surely if they liked me, he finally would like me too. I accepted that he rarely wanted to get together with my friends. And I said nothing when he made fun of them. Instead, I begged and cried for him to stop drinking and come home. I told him I would do anything.
I finally got the strength to tell him to leave when he swore at me in front of our daughter (again)—calling me yet another obscenity instead of using my name. This happened at the beginning of an eight-hour road trip. We proceeded to make the entire drive in complete silence. He moved out the next morning. A week later, he was in his own apartment and told me he had never been happier. He claimed that the only mistake he had made in the past ten years was marrying me.
I’ve now been divorced from my ex-husband for as long as I was married to him. And I do not recognize the woman who stayed in that relationship for so long. But getting to a place of confidence and self-worth took a long time. And I’m definitely still a work in progress. When the person who is supposed to be your partner, your best friend, your biggest cheerleader instead tells you every day for years that you are ugly and stupid, a lot of you needs rebuilding. I continue to engage in that growth process. I surround myself with friends who care for my daughter and me and give myself credit for the decisions made to create a safer and more loving home.
This post was written anonymously not because I am ashamed of the abuse I endured. And let me clear—verbal assaults and emotional manipulation constitute abuse. You do not need bruises for abuse to be a fact. I am quite proud of the lessons learned from that marriage and the life built since for my little family. Instead, I choose not to share my name because the story of her father is not one that my daughter needs to have posted publicly. She must bear the cross of having an alcoholic father. But she must have the privacy to do that on her terms. She does not need to Google my writing someday and see our family’s issues aired for general consumption, or to allow my expression of a relationship to determine—anymore than it inevitably will—the lens through which she sees her father.
But I needed to write this post because you must know something. You are not alone. If you are in a marriage in which you are made to feel not enough, if you are belittled or mocked or called horrible names, if you feel abandoned or isolated or defeated, if he demeans you or ignores you? Other women exist who experience the same thing. You know them—even if you don’t know this part of their story. I hid my family secrets well for many years. Hear me:
You are worthy of more. You. Deserve. Better. And so do your children. Your children love you and deserve a strong and healthy mom.
I had many false starts before I finally was able to leave.
Multiple times I put my daughter in her car seat and called the one friend I trusted to know all of my truth. She had been in my position once and always had a bed ready for my child and me whenever I decided I was ready. Multiple times my husband convinced me he wanted our family to work. He would do better. Multiple times I believed him. Even when our split finally happened, I was terrified—and wanted him to come home. I cried to a friend, “I don’t want to be a single parent!” She replied, “You already are. You always have been. You can do this.”
If you can relate to my story, you probably are already essentially a single parent, too. If you can save your marriage without losing yourself? If both participants want to make the changes necessary to create a healthy and loving partnership? Then embrace that opportunity—and give it every effort. But if you are ready to leave the abuse? You can do this. Like I did, you will know when it’s time—even though there will be moments of doubt that will follow.