“I will wait until my last child graduates and then I’m getting the hell out of here!”
She says this with pride. She refuses to let her children suffer by leaving before they’re grown. She is strong enough to make it one more year in this abusive relationship. She will not leave her friends and a close commute just yet because doing so would make it seem as though her husband won.
I do not understand her pain because I have not lived it. I have not lived in a world that measured my worth by the length of my hair or the curve of my chest. I have not been forcefully hit by someone that did so for the mere fact that they were stronger than me and thus knew I could not hit back without dire consequence. I have not been belittled by someone whose confidence was boosted by said belittling and had a definite feeling that my gender alone would likely prevent me from defending said belittling.
But I feel her pain. Anyone that believes in equality, has an empathetic heart and loves our fellow humans feels it too.
I hate that he can strike her and thus strike at her confidence, self-worth, and courage.
I hate that he can verbally abuse her. And I hate that the abuse and belittling can render a lifetime of compliments and affirmations useless.
I hate that he and other ignorant buffoons see him as a man simply because he has a pool stick and two cue balls.
I hate that she has cried in pain while he has explained away his words and actions in anger while she rests in a corner thinking this is as good as it gets.
But more than all of this, I hate that she is waiting until that last child graduates before she gets the hell out of there.
If she does not get the hell out of there sooner, his words and actions may have her lying in a corner unconscious.
His pool stick and two cue balls may be in a game of billiards with another woman that will eventually fall victim to the same buffoonery that he cast on her.
All of the compliments and affirmations would be moot, if not words in a write-up used to describe her legacy.
And all because the self-worth and courage she let him steal were on hold for another 12 months.
I want to have a conversation with you (her), so please give me the time of day. I feel you even if I don’t know you. I am a man that has never been abused and, thus, I have no idea what it is like to live in your shoes. I proceed to write this thing and pour my heart out to you and run the risk that you will not read it, chalk it off as another person with an opinion, or give it some thought and ultimately stay on your current 12-month path.
Thirty-three years ago, my mother left my birth father. My last recollection of him before this happened was a hit to my mom’s head with a flashlight. The second to the last thing I remember was him putting a cigarette out on her cheek because she would not get up and change the channel on the television. Moving backward from that, I recall punches to the stomach, words like “stupid bitch” and “ugly ragdoll”.
That same birth father tried to come back into our lives 24 years ago when I was 16. He had visitation, at my mother’s discretion, and nothing more. My recollections during these visitations are of him getting high with my siblings in a hotel room, calling me a faggot because I did not like to fish and hunt, and missing a visitation weekend because he overdosed on cocaine.
Despite these hard times, my head and my heart can feel nothing but pride and thanks for my mother who, by virtue of divorcing him 33 years ago, ensured that she would be around to raise us and that his poor judgments were limited to a scope of a few months before his visitations ended. I sit here today because my mother was around to raise me right because she left him when she did.
I have had over 400 clients, and a significant percentage of them have been women. The second worst story I’ve had to tell my wife is that I had a friend’s friend who was abused by her husband for four years before she killed herself. Her reason? She did not have the strength to leave but she was dying inside because of the impact the abuse was having on her children. She knew that they knew what was going on.
The worst story was something I just shared with my 14-year-old daughter. I had a client, 45 years old, that was waiting for her kids to graduate high school before she would leave. Her rationale was tied to money and stability for her children. She wanted to leave because her husband was openly cheating on her and he would call her names and belittle her on the regular.
What’s more, her daughter, 17, saw this. Now, this client is still very much alive, and yet, I consider it a lot worse story than the friend’s friend who killed herself. When her daughter turned 21, she got engaged to a guy that was verbally abusive to her. And while he never physically struck her, his hand and fist were in the ready position on a number of occasions. When the mother asked the daughter what would possess her to be with such a jackass, the daughter did not respond. But the mother knew. To this day, she cannot forgive herself for the example she set by staying in such a negative situation.
That quote I pasted at this top of this article is yours. It is also hers. And hers too. And hers as well. You are not alone. There are other women going through this same thing that would love to go through it with someone in their same boat. You have family. You have friends. You have the gargantuan resource that is the Internet. You have your kids and they really need you to have their sixes. You have your job or your hobbies, those things that can take you out of the negativity that’s caused by the one person you should no longer have in your life.
But above all of this, you have you. The same you that boys chased in high school and college. The same you that makes people laugh. That you that you know people come to when they need a shoulder to cry on. You are you, and that person that should no longer be in your life should not be allowed to erase you. Those children you are sticking it out for 12 more months for should get the you back that they know exists. We both know that will not happen if you stay in that abusive relationship one day longer.
this is exactly why I left. I will not allow my girls to see the abide as normal. I left for them but I left for me too. We all deserve better!!
Chris Armstrong - Author says
Thanks for sharing Sara! I’m really glad you did.
You posted this on my birthday. I am now working every day to get out of this marriage. It is hard, but I have an angry son that deserves some happiness and who fears he will be like his father. I have two daughters who had been relatively safe from his verbal abuse. But now he is constantly bashing me to them. Verbal and mental abuse are so insidious. The abuser couches his cruelty telling you they are only trying to help . I have been called every disgusting name in the book, physically threatened , thrown down or had things thrown at me. Hell, I almost prefer that to walking on egg shells and waiting to be yelled at for something he perceives I have screwed up.
I totally agree with this article. I stayed five years too long, my children were 10, 8 and 5. I wish I could have got out earlier. There is lots of support out there for women and you always have your friends to support you, hopefully your family also. It is a scary step but a step that needs to be taken urgently, don’t hold back and wait. You are better than that. You are strong and you will continue to be strong. I say if you are living an abusive life, the time is now.
Wow. Thank you. Your words gave me some much needed reassurance that I’m doing the right thing by leaving my abusive marriage.