Here’s one of my biggest pieces of advice to those of you in difficult relationships: Write yourself letters. Keep a journal. Document it. You should never forget or confuse your painful reality.
There were times in my highly abusive marriage that I thought I would explode in anger, sadness and frustration. One day, I started writing myself emails as a reminder that I was living in Hell. I did not want to have another makeup session with my husband and “forget” how horrible things really were.
You see, life can be really confusing when you are living a life of volatility. There are good times and then – bam! – things turn horrible and ugly in an instant. And then there’s a period of calm and peace until – bam! – again, another terrible episode. During those “good” times (I use this term loosely because when one is walking on eggshells, nothing is ever good– you know that life will become ugly and frightening again, you’re just not sure when), I needed something I could refer back to that reminded me of my true reality. Something I could read and remember, and could use to smack myself upside the head and say “Lizzy, your Hell is REAL. This whole ‘he’s being such a great guy right now’ is a fallacy.”
Sometimes instead of writing myself an email, I’d draw pictures. One night, my husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic) came home drunk, screamed at me, and passed out. It was early, like 7 pm. I sat on the floor not far from our bed, watching him breathe and I loathed him. I took out a piece of paper and drew a picture of a volcano exploding. I wrote notes that said things like: Rob is happy (that was near the bottom of the volcano when the lava was nowhere near the top), and then the smoke coming out of the top (Rob is about ready to scream at me), then spewing volcano with a stick figure of me covering my head in fear. I filed it away so I could pull it out at any time and remind myself that somewhere in that picture of a volcano was Rob’s behavior– either calm or exploding. One thing that was a given– Rob would cycle through my volcano picture: calm, seething, exploding. Repeat. Because of the uncertainty of when any of this would happen, life was truly scary for me Every.Single.Day. Dreadful, really.
My emails, writings, and diagrams have helped me. There are times even to this day when I will start remembering only our good times and wonder if maybe I overreacted. And then all I need to do is refer back to my trusty file and read and remember. No, Lizzy, you were right. Things were bad, very bad. As tempting as it can be to romanticize a former relationship, this can be extremely dangerous, especially if you are trying to escape, or are escaping, an abusive relationship. You must never, ever forget reality.
I will leave you with one of the emails I sent myself when I was still in that horrible marriage. I needed to read this today. I needed to remember the ugliness. A snap back to reality. To feel confident that I did the right thing and that, as painful and traumatic as divorce can be, I had no choice. This was written about 15 months before I finally fled the marriage for good.
Note to self:
Your son of a bitch soon to be ex husband yelled at me for not doing enough. Mind you, I usually get criticized for not relaxing, but that’s another story (though shows the inconsistency of my soon to be ex husband’s arguments). So he doesn’t want to make dinner because… because… because… he dropped off the kids and picked Siena up at school. Hmmm… No problem, husband of the year. Instead, sit down on the couch, watch TV, and go out for a sandwich. I made dinner for the kids, finished the laundry, put all the laundry away (and the kids laundry basket was overflowing), helped Morgan with homework, work with Siena on puzzles, made lunches, played a game with Siena, put her to bed, and put Morgan to bed. Oh, yeah, and I put the dogs ‘to bed’– all the while soon to be ex husband went to bed before 8:00 PM. I mean, how much does a sober person need to sleep? Ah, but he’s not always so sober, is he? But he thinks I’m dumb and gullible and he thinks that I don’t know he doesn’t sneak a drink here and there. But he’s wrong. I am not a gullible idiot.
My soon to be ex husband forgets that he goes out of town for days most every week while I do EVERYTHING but he deserves a fucking MEDAL when he drops the kids off at school. Wow. Amazing. And he tries to give ME parenting advice? Yeah, I’ve seen the fruits of his parenting and… NO THANKS. It is outrageous and insulting that this pathetic soon to be ex husband thinks that he deserves a Father of the Year award because he’ll go to school and talk about thumb sucking and thinks that is PARENTING but actually buying groceries and Christmas gifts isn’t. He has NO IDEA and I don’t quite frankly care except that I have to try and live with this man until we sell the house. Hello soon to be ex husband: I’ve done my research and I’ve carefully plotted my escape. I know exactly where I’m going, I already have my budget done, and I’ve already thoroughly vetted out my rights (or, rather, his lack of rights).
My soon to be ex husband (who I will from here forthwith refer to as ST BEX- ha ha) loves to hail what a great dad he is. Seeing he fruits of his labor shows he is crazy. He says how PRODUCTIVE and well adjusted he and his siblings are. hahaha That is so unbelievably funny. If that is success to him, then we cannot and will never think alike enough to try and live together.
And what’s even funnier is that he thinks he pays more attention to the kids than I do. hahahahahahahahahaha He is delusional. ST BEX has taken the kids to very few doctors appointments. Most of the dr appts take place at night after work. I went to more Morgan soccer games, skating practices, teacher conferences than he has. And Siena? Well, she hasn’t had any teacher conferences yet– but those conversations he’s had with the school? So have I. It’s whoever picks her up at school who has the conversations with the teachers. And I want to take Siena to skating lessons and tried to sign her up for soccer practice. ST BEX thinks she’s too young and really just wants to go out of town every weekend, making it impossible.
I don’t need him. I don’t need this marriage. I think I am better off without him. For sure, I will be happier without him. He is not a net positive in my life. My life is far more complicated with him in it. And I am far better off without him than I am with him.
Tick tock. He is evil. He is hateful. He tries to put me down all the time. Well look in the mirror, fat alcoholic with Santa Claus belly and tiny miniscule penis and high pitched screaming screeching woman’s tone. BOB: YOU SUCK AND IF YOUR PENIS WERE SMALLER YOU’D BE A EUNUCH.