On the eve of my minor surgery for damage done to my nose during my abusive marriage, I’ve taken time to focus on the little things that put a smile on my face.
- My boys’ faces and smiles.
- Driving with the windows down at night with the music blaring and my youngest and I belting out the lyrics (all the wind blocks out what a horrific singer I am).
- Smelling all of the antiperspirants at HEB because suddenly my youngest has outgrown plain ‘ole deodorant.
- All things pumpkin spice.
- My beautiful friend who is driving me to and from and staying with me while I’m out like a light and drooling.
It turns out my chronic sinus infections were partly because of the internal damage that happened when my nose was broken years ago. I thought it was simply cosmetic. Because only doctors ever really noticed it, I haven’t felt compelled to shell out $3,000 - $4,000 to fix it. I’d rather take a vacation.
But it turns out that a broken nose is more than just a vanity thing. An X-ray showed that my nose is seriously jacked up.
October was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence comes in a lot of forms and like my nose, it’s the internal damage that you can’t see that can be the most damaging. National statistics show that “on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. One in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.”
But those statistics only account for physical abuse. “Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional or psychological abuse.”
Another form of abuse is stalking. “One in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked. Stalking causes the target to fear she/he or someone close to her/him will be harmed or killed.”
In my opinion, gaslighting is one of the worst forms of abuse because it makes you doubt your sanity.
Victims of domestic violence stay silent out of shame and fear. No one wants to be known as a victim of anything. We want to be known for our accomplishments and our positive attributes. Even if victims do speak up, there is little the law will do unless physical violence actually occurs. And if that victim is stuck in a situation, turning to the authorities gives their abuser more ammunition to use against them.
An abuser seeks control and when they start to lose it, they ramp up their efforts to keep it.
Controlling behavior comes in many forms. “Psychology Today” lists the following:
- Isolating you from friends and family.
- Chronic criticism - even if it’s small things.
- Veiled or overt threats, against you or them.
- Making acceptance/caring/attraction conditional.
- An overactive scorecard.
- Using guilt as a tool.
- Creating a debt you’re beholden to.
- Spying, snooping or requiring constant disclosure.
- Overactive jealousy, accusations or paranoia.
- Not respecting your need for time alone.
- Making you ‘earn’ trust or other good treatment.
- Presuming you guilty until proven innocent.
- Getting you so tired of arguing that you’ll relent.
- Making you feel belittled for long-held beliefs.
- Making you feel you don’t ‘measure up’ or are unworthy of them.
- Teasing or ridicule that has an uncomfortable undercurrent.
- Sexual interactions that feel upsetting afterward.
- Inability or unwillingness to ever hear your point of view.
- Pressuring you toward unhealthy behaviors, like substance abuse.
- Thwarting your professional or educational goals by making you doubt yourself.
But there are more subtly controlling behaviors as well.
- Ingratiating behavior
- Never being understood
- Silent treatment
- Expecting mind reading
- Defining problems
- Black and White - everything is just fine or horrible.
- Asking questions
- Excessive talking
- Never agreeing
- Pretending not to understand others
- Abusing truisms
After being criticized daily and told that I was old and fat, I started working out again. Fifteen pounds lighter and back in shape, it didn't matter to him. I still wasn't good enough for him. But what I saw was that I would never be. In fact, no would ever be good enough for him because the problem was with him, not me or anyone else. Taking care of myself lead not just to physical changes but mental ones as well. That discipline made me mentally and physically stronger. Strong enough to actually, finally, leave.
Getting away is a win. I’ve never been happier even on the days when he files motions that cost me thousands of dollars, time off work and energy to fight it. It’s a win because I’m free and no longer a daily puppet in his show. Eventually, it will all come to an end. He'll get tired of fighting or end up in jail. I believe in karma, the goodness of the world and God.
Restraining orders are hard to get. Lawyers are costly. The system is designed to protect the abuser more than the victim. But I can honestly tell you that it can be done. You don’t have to end up in the hospital to get away. And on those days that just suck and don’t go your way, you can focus on the little things that put a smile on your face.