With all this happy going on in my life right now (great marriage! first house! baby!) I think it’s time to finally close the final chapter of what came before. This is the hardest post to write, mainly because I still haven’t quite healed from all that madness. There are scars that will probably always grow with me, and I’ll never quite shake. But you know what? That’s ok. Healing is a process, and as issues arise, I’ll deal with them as they come. And if this is your first time hearing about this stuff, you can catch up with Part 1 and Part 2.
So I’ve talked about how I got all wrapped up in this mess, and how the control and manipulation affected my mental, emotional, and physical health. I was malnourished from his constant badgering about my “weight problem” (5 foot 4 and 105 pounds) and lost all presence in the relationship due to my “relationship issues” (buying a ground beef brand he didn’t like, wearing my hair in ways he didn’t approve). My confidence was almost completely drained, I had become a shadow of the happy, healthy person I was before. I didn’t have any friends, since I was becoming increasingly isolated. Yet even with all this, it still took more to finally wake me up and get myself out of there.
I’ll never forget the first time he hit me. We were on our honeymoon, the day after we landed in London. It was in a hostel, at 6am. Since it was a shared room, all my belongings were in a locker, with just the key kept handy on my person. I got my shower things from my locker, went into the restroom to get ready, and stashed my key in a pocket in his bag. Once I was ready, I went to look for my key. I knew very specifically that it was in a ziplock bag in a side pocket, but as there were several that were identical, I couldn’t find it right away. No big deal, right? I knew where it was, it was just taking me a few extra moments to find it. Oh, no. You’d think I’d just slept with half the men in that dorm, for the reaction I got. He was absolutely livid. He dragged me back to the restroom, demanding I find it there. I told him it was in the bag, I just needed to find the pocket. He grabbed the front of my shirt and pulled me close, then was whisper-screaming in my face. His face was barely-controlled rage, red and swollen and furious. He was saying things like “I never should have married you, I knew you were worthless, you can’t do anything by yourself, you’re a moron, a loser, I hate you”. Mind you, he’d just said his vows less than 48 hours before. I started crying, a natural reaction. It only made him angrier. When I finally turned away, he punched me, hard, in the lower back. “You never turn away from me.” Well, needless to say, I kept crying, ignored him, and went to his bag, where I found my key less than a minute later, exactly where I said it was. The rest of that 8 day trip followed suit to that horrible morning. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when things were light and fun and enjoyable. But the whole trip was tainted.
Once I returned to the states, I thought that isolated incident was behind me. It wasn’t. He would find reasons to hit me. It was normally in non-marking areas, like my back or thigh or stomach. Once when I dropped his iPhone, he punched me in the sternum for being so “damn careless”. I also accidentally dialed one of his employees from his phone while out with a couple of friends, and he grabbed me by my upper arms and slammed me up against a wall around the corner for a good dose of reprimanding. Any time he became frustrated, he would slap my arms or body. Over the course of the few short months that followed that horrible trip, I was hit at least once a week. But never my face. The first time he struck me in the face was the last.
It was after a night out to celebrate his birthday. He was trashed drunk, which was pretty normal at that point. He wanted to stop and get chicken nuggets from Wendy’s on the way home. Once we got there, he sat down in a chair, popped one in his mouth for a chew or two, then passed out with his mouth wide open. Disgusted, I reached in to try and get it out before he choked. I quipped, “You can’t die on my yet, I can’t pay off your student debt alone.” His eyes shot open. He backhanded me across the face, knocking me to the floor and my glasses across the room. He would pick me up and slam me against walls, screaming in my face. I was worthless, I was a loser, I didn’t make any money (at my first job out of college I was making a respectable $32,000/year, which may not be much, but is pretty good for an art job), I had to have my parents pay for everything. He finally threw me on the bed, threatened me about not coming out, and slammed the door. That was it for me.
The next morning, he swears he didn’t remember anything. He would never do something like that, how could I even say that about him? Yet somehow he conveniently remembered my “horrible insult” about his debt. I’m sorry, but remarking that I can’t pay your $72,000 worth of student loans alone is hardly demeaning in any way. That proved to me that he did remember, at least in some capacity. And his response was not anything out of the ordinary, he had displayed such aggressive outbursts at increasing frequency over the past month. Yet I was in the best place I could have been. I’d just started working a new job with Lone Star Marketing (my current contract position) and our biggest client was ANTHEM, the Alliance for North Texas Healthy and Effective Marriages. I had access to a great counselor, who agreed to see me immediately (and for free). I explained to her a lot of my experiences, and she read from a textbook on emotionally and physically abusive relationships. I was a textbook case. She told me if I didn’t go straight home and leave, I would be hospitalized within two months because of how quickly he was escalating.
So I did. I went straight home, shoved everything that would fit into my car, and called my boss that I had worked for less than two weeks. And Bestie E (the best boss slash business partner slash friend soul mate I could have asked for) told me to come straight to her place to stay. She opened her home to me for three months, until I found my own place in downtown Dallas. It was a rough time, but with her help, I was able to get through it. On December 4, 2008 I received my annulment. The whole office went out to celebrate, and I ate a big fat slice of cheesecake downed with a “full-fat” Coke. It was my last stick-it-to-him moment. No more diets. No more fear. I was free.
Though this was a really hard time in my life, I learned a lot of lessons. I grew. I can’t say that I don’t regret my decisions, but there are certainly positives that came out of my experience. I was able to testify at our State Senate for marriage health bills, and helped a friend escape her own abusive relationship. I know how to value the marriage I have now, one that’s healthy and satisfying. I’ve become an excellent communicator, and as a result we’ve never had to fall into bad relationship patterns like unproductive yelling or name-calling or aggression during conflict. I know how to value my health, and love the little things. I’m happy. And I hope that if you are trapped in a bad relationship, or know someone who is, you find the courage to get help. Check out this website, and please, don’t ever let anyone make you feel worthless. Nobody is worthless. Certainly not you!