About a month ago, I sat in a small room that smelled of lavender. I held my three-month-old baby girl and sat next to my husband of five years on a little love seat going over the details of our relationship with our marriage counselor. I sat there, as I did several times before, watching him cry and plead how much he loved me, his kids, his marriage, his life.
How he would do anything to save it. I felt empty. This man is practically begging to improve on every mistake he has ever made and be the man of my dreams. What kind of person am I that his hurt had no effect on me?
Then the counselor looked at me, asked what my thoughts were. I told her, I told her everything.
I told her about how I was neglected and overworked.
I told her how I felt restricted.
How I had to always be home, or in the same room with him, with my full focus on him.
I told her how he read my conversations, forbade me to talk to friends and certain family members.
I told her how he was jealous of my attention to my kids or any man I worked with.
I informed her on how, even though I make equal money, I was put on a $20-a-week allowance, only to have it taken away.
I explained how sexually he was cold and distant. I didn’t even need to be there. “No” did not mean “No”. He would take his anger out on me sexually, saying I deserved to be treated like a “whore”. His wife that he cherished so much, the mother of his three children, deserved to be treated like a whore.
As I talked, my emptiness turned into anger, and then quickly faded into defeat. My husband cries that he “loves” me, yet I can’t remember a time I felt love from him. I was not cherished in our marriage; I was an object. He is obsessed with me, yet has nothing nice to say about me. I was not loved, I am not loved.
Then the counselor looked at me, she stared at me for a moment as if she didn’t know how to proceed. After a moment, she calmly leaned forward and said, “I know that this is going to be hard to hear, I know you aren’t going to want to believe me and this is going to come as a shock… but you are in an emotionally and sexually abusive relationship. You are.” He just sat there. After a few seconds, he just said, “I know, but I am getting myself fixed.”
Looking back on that day, I am not sure what shocked me the most. The fact that, for once, someone did not feel sorry for him or the fact that he knew what he had been doing.
Later, after we left, he of course recanted and said he is not “abusive,” that he is a good father and a good man — which he is, in some aspects. That’s the hardest part for me; in a lot of ways, he is a good person. I always pictured abuse as the drunken man in the wife-beater yelling at his wife how ugly and stupid she is.
From that day, our counselor has asked to see me privately, and I am slowly re-defining what “abuse” is in my head. There are so many forms of it, and I can’t even begin to describe what “healthy” looks like, but I am learning!
Every day, I feel differently about my situation. One day, I am motivated to move forward and take charge of my new life as a single mother. The next day, I want to just go back to ignorance and pretend this isn’t my life. But what I am learning is that is OK.
It is OK to feel every wave of emotion.
It is OK to some days consider just forgiving him and having my family back, giving my kids a home with both parents, and planning our Disney trip. I do not act on those feelings, I do not communicate them to him, and I’ve learned to only share with people who have my best interest at heart.
When I started dating a boy at 16 and made the slow walk down the aisle at the ripe age of 21, I thought I was done. I had it all! I had the husband, the beautiful home, three healthy kids, and a great job. Now, here I am at 26 and finding out my life is about to change drastically. The planner in me is dying a little inside not knowing what is next. The adventurer in me is smiling and saying “bring it on!”
First and foremost, I am a mother. How am I ever going to teach my girls how they should be treated when I can’t even tell myself? How am I supposed to teach my son how a wife should be respected and cherished if I don’t even know what that feels like? So one day at a time, I am learning and I am teaching. Because even though I don’t know what is going to happen, I do know that I am breaking this cycle.