Tag Archive | emotional abuse

How I got out

FreeBird

All these posts about my ex have probably left you all wondering a couple of things.  You may be wondering why on earth I stayed and put up with it all or how I can refer to him as “passive” when his behavior and actions, from the way I’ve described him thus far, just don’t sound “passive” at all.  Well, you’re in good company because sometimes I wonder those very things myself!

An important piece of the puzzle, perhaps, is that when I first met my ex- husband, I was running away from something else in my life.  I had left home and gone away to a small, conservative, college out in the middle of nowhere.  I had reasons for attending that school, including a full scholarship, but I was also trying to get away from a lifestyle that I knew would be my downfall if I continued to live it, as well as from some of the people involved, one in particular. 

My life as a teenager deserves a whole nother series of posts, or perhaps a book, lol.  To try and explain it all here would be too much, but in short I was hanging out with folks that one man described as “crawdads in a bucket”.  As he put it, when one of us tried to climb out, the rest would grab on and pull that one back, so none of us were going anywhere.  As we all know, the fate of a bunch of crawdads in a bucket isn’t a good one and sad to say neither was the fate of many I left behind when I managed to get out of there.

 I know far too many people who are now in prison, or dead.  The ex -boyfriend that I most needed to get away from was in prison at the time I left and as far as I know still is (though he may have gotten released and put back in a few times since).  I couldn’t risk him knowing where I was, should he get out, due to his stalking behaviors and insane jealousy.  Not only that but he was feared by many and the police associated me with his name and would follow me around questioning about him, forcing me to lie and deflect information.  They were convinced he was the “biggest gang member” in the area and surrounding counties, though small town cops do tend to exaggerate, lol.  In any case he was bad news and even to this day it is hard to get disassociated with his name among the folks back home. 

Yes, my lack of good judgment regarding the male gender seems to have gotten me into more than my fair share of trouble in life.  My thug phase is long over but I still sometimes question my ability to make the right choices.   I like to think I’ve learned a lot and am much better at screening them, but it’s hard to trust myself in that regard.

 In my defense I had a horrible example.  My mom’s choices in men were notoriously awful and left us with a trail of abusive stepfathers as well as have gotten her into all kinds of hot water since then.  I try very hard not to emulate that and it’s one of the reasons I’m so afraid of bringing guys around my kids, no matter how nice they seem, and mostly avoid it.  Even the Professor, who so far has been great to all of us, has spent a limited amount of time around them.

So anyway, I was still fairly fresh out of Dodge when I met my ex, the first semester I was in college.  I already knew I needed to make some radical changes in my life and I guess someone like him and with his ideas, seemed like just the ticket.  He wasn’t completely wrong saying I needed to get away from various folks in my life and get on a different path.  It just all went….too far in the other direction. I was blind too, to his faults or that he was being “controlling” because compared to the likes of the guys I’d been with in the past he seemed extremely “tame”.

Also, outside of politics and religion or debating those topics, my ex really was very laid back.  Even in a heated debate he would smile and come across as a “nice guy”.  He’s very non-confrontational outside of discussing his beliefs.  Post- divorce, in some ways, that’s a good thing and I also thought so in the early years of our marriage and child rearing but I’ve since come to acknowledge that he uses very passive aggressive tactics to get what he wants or to “get back” at people.

To give a recent example, he enjoys undermining my parenting by doing things he knows will cause trouble or make me upset.  Like I would bring them for visits and he would load up the children with energy drinks right before sending them home in the evening.  He even gave an energy drink to our two year old once.  When I expressed serious concern about that he laughed and acted like it was a big joke.  During our marriage he behaved similarly, making me out to be the “mean” parent who insisted on the children following rules and then would turn around and encourage them to disobey when he was there, laughing like it was funny. 

If I tried leaving him with the kids for even long enough to go to the grocery store he seemed to make sure I regretted it.  Some huge disaster would happen right after I left, the house would be completely trashed, he would call every 5 minutes asking questions about things as if he didn’t know what to do, anything to infringe upon my time alone.  He actually still does this.  Whenever the children are with him, he texts and harasses me endlessly, asking when I’m coming back even though I’ve been gone less than an hour.  The Professor and other guys I am with will be like “ignore him, he can wait” and mostly now I do but he knows darn well that I am going to be on edge, worrying that it might be a real issue with one of the kids.  He does this even when I’ve given a specific time that I am going to be back, and then acts to the kids as though I have failed to show up when I am “supposed to” and gets them calling me too, hours before we agreed upon.  It’s all a continuation of his emotional sabotaging.

The behaviors were rarely “in your face”, though a couple of times he was outright cruel, telling me things like that the reason he wouldn’t sleep with me was because I was “ugly”.  He later apologized but in a way that made me question his sincerity.  I asked why he would marry someone he wasn’t attracted to and he said that’s not why you get married, you don’t base it on looks. 

The thing that bothered me the most was that if he honestly found me unattractive there were so many other men who wouldn’t have.  In marriage counseling, towards the end, when he fell in love with another woman, he also used the excuse of my “unattractiveness” but I’m not hearing that from anyone else.  I think I’m actually, to most people, pretty decent looking.  So he changed it to that I was “sexually unattractive” and well, I’ve never had another guy tell me that, ever, despite the crushing blows to my self- esteem.  I’d go so far as to say the vast majority of men seem to find me quite fuckable!!

Those things hurt and caused me all kinds of stress but some of his behavior was just downright odd.  Like his lack of protective instinct towards me and the kids.  There were a couple instances, in the middle of the night, where I had to get up and deal with a possible intruder.  Like once our dog was barking and it turned out to be a woman breaking into one of our vehicles and I opened the door and yelled out at her what was she doing and she ran off with a bunch of stuff she had taken and was eventually caught up with by the police, but the ex just lay there in bed and let me deal with it all, wide awake.

Another time the dog got out and was running circles around a man in the street, barking.  I had to go and try to pull her away from him, but he was drunk and leering at me and acting aggressive towards the dog.  I had tried to get my ex to come help but he refused to get up out of bed.  Again, he wasn’t asleep, just didn’t want to deal with it.

When I had the affair, I once had to drive home late at night and my affair partner was freaking out that I would be all alone driving and telling me to call him if I needed anything and lock all my doors and keep the windows up and obviously all concerned.  He could not understand how my ex could not be worried about me doing that but he didn’t give a lick.  He wanted the car back so he could go somewhere in the morning and could care less about my safety on the road.  His entire attitude made me feel so unloved.

Gosh I could go on and on about specific instances but I won’t because I’m emotionally wore out from just talking about it.  I will point out the time he dumped out an entire bulk bag of shredded cheese through all the layers of the refrigerator just because he was mad that I hadn’t made his lunch for him before work and he had to make his own.  I was dealing with a fussy nursing baby and unable to get to it in time.  He knew darn well that I couldn’t just leave all that mess there while he was gone and would feel as though I had to clean it. It’s a perfect example because  that was really typical, if exaggerated behavior on his part.  While on the surface we rarely ever argued or even talked much outside of his lectures on politics and religion, he was doing things to deliberately get at me.  Often it involved making big messes because he never cleaned and knew I was overwhelmed as it was trying to keep up with everything.  So if he felt irritated with me he’d do things to make my job 10x harder.

So whyyyy did I stay??  What the hell was wrong with me??  I can only say that I didn’t feel like there was another option.  We’d married “till death do us part” and I was so determined to honor those vows. 

It’s funny how when you are married everyone chides you not to “give up” so easily and tells you how divorce shouldn’t be an option and how you need to “work harder” on your marriage.  Then, after you get divorced they are all saying “why didn’t you leave earlier??”  Umm…  wait a minute!  I thought I was supposed to be “making it work” and “fighting for my marriage”. 

We’d married under some pretty old fashioned ideas about marriage and religion as well and were surrounded by like- minded folks.  It wasn’t until I had my affair that a door was opened back into the “world” and freedom for me.  It was the guy I had the affair with that reminded me that not only were men still attracted to me and wanted to have sex with me, but that someone could appreciate ME and my interests and my writing.  He actually was a big part in encouraging me to get back to a more “normal” state of living as well.  In order to continue on what we had I needed a cell phone and started getting away from the house to attend MOPS meetings (Moms of Preschoolers, they have on site babysitting in a church) and I even got DSL (like 10 years after everyone else, we finally had internet when I started the affair but it was dial up and very slow). 

So while a lot of people look at affairs as evil, I don’t so much.  Mine was my lifeline and it opened my eyes to what was going on and what I was missing.  Not to say my affair was all candy and roses because we actually had a lot of emotional things to deal with and I cried A LOT over him.  All those tears, that I’d held back for so long I was finally able to open up and express again.  It wasn’t easy but in a lot of ways it was healing for me.  He is also someone who had known me back in those turbulent teen years and just knowing that someone could love me without judgment when he’d been there and seen all my vile “sinful” past, meant a lot.

 So I don’t regret it.  It may have been dishonest but that was my ticket out for good. It also helped me cope when my ex “fell in love” with someone else that didn’t even want him and got a sexual harassment type charge filed against him at work.  I don’t know how I would have gotten through that if my heart wasn’t already elsewhere.  Divorce wasn’t easy but I’m so glad I’m not in that prison of a marriage any longer.  You can read more about the affair in Confessions of a Cheater if you haven’t already. 

This is also a continuation of the three previous posts about my ex husband and the spiritual and emotional abuse that occurred and his passive aggressive behavior.

STUCK in a prison of my own making

bible

All this writing about my ex -husband is bringing up more and more memories, things that make me question how I could ever think that my marriage was happy and good, but I did.  I thought that we were living the way we were “supposed” to be and that I was doing the right thing in not only listening to my husband, but being supportive of him.  So when other people were critical of his extremism, I was quick to back him up.  Remember, he was constantly drilling into me that we were doing this for God, putting Christ first in our lives, living for the Lord.  At times, when I would question or disagree with something he would re-iterate that it wasn’t “right” to question God’s plan for our lives, as written in the Word.

I don’t want to give the impression that I never questioned or challenged his beliefs, because I did, and frequently, but he ALWAYS had an answer for anything I brought up.  He always had a well thought out “Biblical” answer.  He’d been studying the Bible his entire life and HIS father was also a preacher.  He was always quite sure HIS answer was the RIGHT answer and that there was no other way and everyone who thought differently was wrong.  Even his own parents and family, including his father, the very old school preacher, sometimes felt he was taking things too far.  In fact most of our social interactions with other people as a family included hours of debating between him and whoever we were visiting with.  Hours of him debating until he felt like he’d “won” the discussion, affirming that his interpretation was correct.  The debates were virtually always about the Bible, or politics.

I can’t even tell you how overwhelmed bringing up either of those topics makes me feel today.  That’s all that was ever talked about.  I got so tired of religion and politics.  Anytime I’d bring up something else interesting he’d brush it off and change the subject, unless of course it was one of HIS pet hobbies.  He’d go through phases of getting really into one thing or another for a period of time and that would dominate the discussions for a while, to the point where I could no longer stand hearing about it.  For a time it would be gardening, or making bow and arrows, or sheep.  I kid you not, he went through a phase where all he talked about was SHEEP, like all kinds of various breeds and whatnot.  He wanted to start a sheep farm along with his ministry.  I thought I was going to go crazy hearing about sheep.

I know it probably sounds like I’m just bitching about his personality but it’s more than that.  The resentment that built up was so strong because he wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise!  Any time I tried to talk to him he would brush off anything I had to say and only want to talk about HIS obsessions.  He even went as far as to tell me that my thoughts and ideas and the things I was interested in were “stupid”.  My dreams and hopes for the future, in his mind, were completely irrelevant.  We were only going to follow HIS dreams, no matter how far- fetched.

In fact, one time, when I suggested that once the children were grown I would like to go back to work and make money so that we could travel the world as a couple when we retired, he got very upset with me.  He said that I was supposed to be helping him in the ministry and that he thought that when the children were grown I should continue to do so and not be trying to do my own thing. 

So, in the face of all this I made do the best I could and tried to support whatever it was HE was interested in at the time.  When he went through a gardening phase he would plant the garden and obsess over all kinds of seed varieties and leave me with the work of weeding and watering and storing all these vegetables and trying to cook with them.  Totally made me hate farms and gardening, lol.  We had about an acre of garden and that was a lot of work!! If it was bow and arrows or sheep or whatever else he was interested in I spent a lot of time just LISTENING to him talking about it, offering ideas, whatever I could but it was exhausting and he never gave me a chance to have any hobbies of my own.

Keep in mind that I was doing all this with babies on my hip and toddlers attached to my ankles.  I was stuck at home because we only had one car and couldn’t go anywhere by myself.  He would be off 40 miles away working and attending seminary and I was home on 6 acres of land, surrounded by Amish folks for neighbors.  I had no tv, no internet, no cell phone and our land line was 12 cents a minute to call anyone out of town so I was limited there too.  No music other than Christian, no radio, and very few books. 

This is how isolated I was.  I was desperate for adult conversation.  When he’d come home I was so eager to talk to him but most times he’d brush me off and pretend not to hear what I said, heading off to read the Bible or “pray”, which involved walking all about the property while I did all the housecleaning and caring for children.  He’d ignore me to the point where I had to raise my voice multiple times to get his attention.  I’m generally pretty soft spoken so this was out of character.  He made me feel like a nag if I even wanted to talk about something cute the kids had done that day.  I tried to remain positive but became increasingly frustrated.  He’d say he ignored me because I didn’t have anything interesting to say, but he never really gave me a chance.

I’d also become increasingly isolated from my own family and friends.  He told me that I shouldn’t associate with them because they were not Christians and would therefore bring me down.  On the rare occasions that we visited with them he was actually kind of rude and distant, only talking to preach the Bible at them or spout his view on politics, knowing they disagreed.  It was embarrassing and further drove them away from spending time with us.  He had only negative comments to make about them and would point out their “wrong” lifestyles.

 I was unable to go to any kinds of women’s meetings at the church or meet new friends that way because he and his parents (who eventually moved next door and kind of ran things) felt that it would be irresponsible of me to expect him or them to “babysit” for me so I could be running off socializing.  They told me horror stories of women who left their husbands watching the kids and how these women ended up having affairs.  In fact, I once left my ex with the baby for about 20 minutes so that I could drive 5 miles down the highway to McDonalds to get a salad one evening and his parents panicked.  They ran over to see what was “wrong” and made a huge deal out of him being “left” with the baby.  Oh, my goodness, they were SO WORRIED about him trying to take care of an infant all by himself!! They thought I was practically abandoning him.

On top of that he would compare me to the Amish women.  He’d say how they were working in the fields all day but that he thought I was being “lazy”.  My “laziness” included caring for kids all day, keeping the house clean and menu planning and cooking, laundry, keeping the budget and paying bills, typing and editing all his papers for Seminary (I swear at least 60% of that Master’s degree he has should be mine, he supplied the thesis but I did most of the work in writing it out), and planning out everything for teaching Children’s church each Sunday.  And oh yeah, the garden, freezing and canning, feeding the cows, mending clothes.  It wasn’t like I ever just sat around watching tv….or like I ever had time to “pray” like he did.

He was the Children’s Pastor, but I wrote the puppet shows, planned the activities, made homemade goodies for the kids each week, organized the Christmas and Easter plays, the bake sales, the walkathons, dealt with the parents, attended board meetings (all with kids in tow) and did virtually everything but his 10 minutes of Bible preaching. 

Unfortunately, it was a small country church and there really weren’t many people I could socialize with there, even though we came 3 times a week.  Mostly it was older people or I was involved teaching the kids and didn’t have a chance.  Plus the ex and his parents were always reminding me that as a pastor’s wife I was always going to be living in the fishbowl, on display for everyone to see and needed to be above reproach and come across as “perfect”.  Not that in their eyes I ever could be!  I was under constant criticism, and never got any praise for a job well done.  I tried, I really did but it was never “good enough”.

One of the things that could never be “good enough” was dinner.  Though I was completely clueless on how to cook before getting married I learned and learned well.  A lot of people praised my cooking and it is something I enjoy doing, I eventually even wrote out my own cookbook, but my ex would only comment if he thought something was wrong with the food or that I was doing something wrong.  He’d stand over my shoulder and offer “advice” that was mostly useless but kind of controlling. 

He also expected dinner to be ready the instant he walked in the door after work.  I didn’t really even mind playing the 1950’s housewife, but the problem was that he didn’t come home from work every day at the same time!  So it was impossible to predict exactly when to have the food ready and he was THAT particular about it.  If I was a few minutes late he’d act hateful and irritated, slamming things around, glaring at me, and never explicitly SAYING what he was pissed about.  He made it clear though, that he thought I was a failure as a wife. 

So to end this post (which maybe sounds like a gripe session, lol) I am going to point out some more ways in which this behavior was abusive.  If you read through and are aware of the signs you will see a big one was the isolation.  I was isolated from family, from friends, and even to an extent from church people.  I was made to feel like they were always watching, always critical. 

In fact, there was a time when the senior Pastor’s wife had given a little speech on journaling and prayer journaling and I was so excited to come home and WRITE.  I love to write (as you can see!) and hadn’t in a long time.  My ex shot that down pretty quickly.  He said you should NEVER write out your feelings and thoughts because someone could find it and read it later and use it against him in the ministry in the future.  I’m not sure why he assumed I would be writing anything negative but he did and discouraged me from ever writing down a journal.  I was also reminded repeatedly by his parents that divorced men could not be preachers in their denomination.  This was a subtle way of insuring I felt horribly guilty that if I ever left him I’d be ruining his entire career. 

Besides the isolation, he made sure to criticize me for the very things I was trying to do best.  I poured my entire life into children and homemaking and he would subtly try to make me feel like I wasn’t doing any of it “well enough”.  He’d throw little passive aggressive “tantrums” when I didn’t have dinner done the second he walked in or lurk over my shoulder while I was cooking to make sure I was doing it “right”.  He rarely raised his voice, he never cursed, but his attitude was one of disdain.  He’d point out the hardworking Amish women but “forget” that they had lots of other people helping them and lots of older women and children to help with little ones.  They had a social life and community.  Nevermind that my mother in law was always telling me the Amish women have short lifespans. :p

He trivialized any of my interests or ideas and even kept me from writing for myself (though it was encouraged when I was writing HIS papers).  I did a lot of work, all day long and was trying to please but none of it ever returned a compliment.  He had nothing nice to say and it was all expected.  He felt “entitled” to be waited on hand and foot while he did whatever the hell he wanted or lie around “praying”.  I was made to feel that his “praying” was first and foremost and never given a chance to do so myself unless it was lead by him in a “family devotion”.  To argue with that would be to go against God because his “praying” was important in determining his future and ministry.

There was even a time where he was out of work for 7 months straight and at home ALL DAY LONG and he didn’t lift a finger to help.  He “prayed” most of the day away and I was expected to continue to run things and also to help him find a job.  I looked and looked and he’d accuse me of “not having enough faith” if I stressed out over bills or if I suggested that maybe I should try to work instead.  If I worried about money it was a lack of faith.  If I didn’t think God was going to drop a job down from the sky or send us money in the mail it was all my failure to “believe” strongly enough.  Notice how any problems or difficulties were MY FAULT.  It wasn’t his lack of motivation or his job loss, but I was holding us back because I wasn’t giving it all to God.  The blame was all on ME.

Not to mention his parents would harass me daily, also blaming ME for his lack of work.  They thought it must be me who wasn’t “getting after him enough” to go out and get work, that I was expecting help from him with the children and letting him sleep in too late.  It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with his own personal work ethic!

So blame, isolation, knocking down my dreams and things I wanted to do, putting me in a position where I was incapable of going anywhere (out in the middle of nowhere with no car), subtly making me feel like a failure no matter how hard I tried, convincing me that others were also being critical (church members)…

Oh yeah, on that note he was AWFUL on Sunday mornings.  He’d lie around, getting himself ready at the last minute, while I was expected to have all the children and myself ready in time for church.  There was always an extra diaper to be changed or someone had lost their shoe or another issue to be dealt with and he’d stand there and fume instead of pitching in.  Then he’d act angry and drive really fast or run stop signs in an attempt to frighten me into doing better next time. He was constantly saying how I had “no concept of time” and was “always late”.  A funny thing I’ve noticed since the divorce is that HE is always late on his own!  Much more often than me!!  He has also been witnessed driving fast and running stoplights when he was upset with his current girlfriend.  Hmmmm…  Old habits die hard…

He’d also be nasty regarding me getting myself ready.  He’d say it wasn’t important for me to wear makeup or dress nice and if I asked if I looked okay he said I was being “vain” and that I should be happy to go to church in a potato sack.  Never a compliment and he acted as though he didn’t find me attractive.  He was never one of those guys who said “you look nice” or used the word “beautiful” and his attitude combined with his disinterest in sex made me feel so ugly.  It was such a relief to find that other men still found me attractive, once I got back out in the “world”. 

In case you aren’t following, this is a continuation of a couple posts I have written about my ex husband, including Emotional and spiritual abuse, how it all began and How he got in, breaking down the door.  You may also want to check out my post When Men Don’t Want Sex because it talks about him and his attitude towards me in that regard. 

How he got in, breaking down the door

breakingdowndoor

I don’t know if any of you all watch Wife Swap on tv, but I saw an interesting episode the other day when I was visiting the Professor. I normally don’t watch much in the way of television, so I don’t follow the show, but he was finishing up his shower (I got there early) and it happened to be on.

In any case, there was a polyamorous family involved, as well as an ultra –religious, conservative, couple, so it caught my eye. I cannot tell you how much the right wing, conservative, politician guy reminded me of my ex -husband. Not in looks, (this guy had crazy hair and my ex was actually a pretty good looking fellow) but his behavior.

The polyamorous wife who was staying at his house as part of the swap seemed mostly sweet and easygoing. Her only request was that they not discuss religion or politics, but dude would not stop trying to shove the “gospel” (according to his interpretation) and his political beliefs upon her, despite her setting up a jar and insisting the family members put money inside every time those topics were brought up. The money would go to benefit some kind of gay and lesbian organization. At one point he even put in a $250 check, just to “buy” the chance to spout scriptures from Leviticus putting down her lifestyle and letting her know he thought she was hellbound. Eventually she ended up in tears, unable to respond or know what to say to these accusations or how to react to his attitude of superiority. The kids watched on in seeming agreement, obviously having been taught that their father’s way was the only one as well.

Watching that brought back a lot of memories of my marriage. It brought back the feeling of what it was like to try and discuss something rationally with my ex only to be shot down constantly by his superior attitude regarding Biblical knowledge and politics. Those were also his two favorite subjects (and he has degrees in both). In fact, no matter what I tried to talk about, he virtually always brought it back around to religion or politics in a very insistent way that only HE could be right and that nothing I had to say was in any way relevant or worth considering. This was the one area in life where he was definitely NOT passive. He could out argue and out debate and out-shout anyone for hours when it came to discussing his conservative viewpoints or interpretation of the Bible.

So while outwardly my ex- husband was passive natured, when it came to religion he was convinced that not only was he right but he was called and ordained of God to teach this stuff to others. I knew exactly WHY this conservative couple decided to be on Wife Swap (though they ended up bailing and declining to finish the show). They felt it was their God given DUTY to preach the word to anyone and everyone they could. There was no way Mr. Politician Husband was gonna shut up about this, money in the jar or not because that was his SOLE reason for being there, on TV, where they could get their message out, not only to this woman, but to anyone who was watching.

I am quite familiar with this mindset, because I lived it, daily, for almost 15 years. During our courtship I pretty much became my ex- husband’s pet project, a person he could convert and change into what he thought I should become, which was absolutely nothing close to what I WAS at the time. Don’t think I went in without a fight either! When we met I was quite liberal and my religious beliefs were far from Biblical.

In a way, it was sort of like a war. We debated a lot of topics and went head to head on things because I vehemently disagreed with his worldview and mindset. Yet, eventually I relented and gave in. He won. Why?

I can only say now, looking back, that I believe it was because he began hitting me where it hurt (verbally, not physically). He started to tear me down as a person, my life up until I had met him, my beliefs, just me. Telling me how wrong everything about me and my family was in the eyes of God and how shameful I was. He found my insecurities and doubts, the personal things I’d revealed, and used them to make me feel bad about myself. While to me these debates were originally just interesting discussions, to him they were for a purpose. In his view, a “higher” purpose.

I think he felt like he was “saving” me. Saving me from myself, my “sinful” nature, and my “evil” heart, things he said everyone had, but seemed to have a way of making it appear that I was worse than most. He’d quote scriptures to me and I’d express doubt. So he insisted we read through the entire Bible together as a couple. This became how we spent our dates (hot, I know right?). He said it would “prove” the things he was saying were true. I’d never read the Bible but I was open to hearing what another person had to say, probably too open. He used those sessions to drill into me his beliefs and ideas, and what it all meant, with a very authoritarian attitude. You couldn’t question God and he’d shame me when I tried.

Eventually, my skepticism wore out. He convinced me that he loved me like no one else would, that he wanted to marry me and that he would treat me so much better than all those horrible people in my past had done. It was true that I’d come from an abusive past and had some experiences as a young person that would be considered bad by a lot of people, yet he vilified them even more. He said he didn’t want to have sex with me until we were married, out of love and respect, that he wasn’t going to be like all those other guys who were only using me and treating me badly (his interpretation of course, which confused me and led me to question any times I’d thought may have been different in the past).

Admittedly I’d never experienced anything like this and I guess I fell for it, feeling like he was doing me some sort of “favor” by being with a girl like me. After all, I already had doubts about myself and insecurities, doubts that men wanted me for anything more than “just sex” and doubts about my marriage worthiness. Heck I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to get married, but what if this really was the only man who would be willing to take me? That’s sort of how he made me feel, and honestly I think he viewed it that way. Due to my sexual past I was “damaged goods” that no one would really want. Sadly, though I hadn’t really viewed it in that light before, I started to wonder. Is this how it really was? Did guys really think like that? Was I as awful as he made me out to be? If this “nice”, “Christian” man thought of me this way wouldn’t others be even crueler?

Basically, he was following the standard abuser pattern. Setting me up to feel like he was the only person that would be “good” to me and all the other guys would treat me worse because I was such an awful person, that didn’t deserve it. Only he was using the Bible, scriptures and religion to put the fear of God into me and the fear of Hell (which of course he believed in and told me if I didn’t that was where I’d be going). I was 18 years old, with no clue about the Bible or religion and wondered if he could be right? What if he was right and I made the mistake of not listening?

Eventually, with lots of pressure from him and from his parents and also from the church we’d started attending together, I caved in and got “saved” and baptized into the denomination he’d been a part of since birth. It’s not that I don’t believe the people there had good intentions, I think many of them did, but he went above and beyond even what the church taught, believing in a very old fashioned, hardcore, Bible thumping version of it all. After we got married his views just seemed to get more and more conservative.

We couldn’t go to movie theatres. I never understood that one, or how it was “against God”, but he was adamant. There would be no drinking whatsoever, or setting foot in any kind of a bar. Even restaurants with a prominent bar were questionable. We didn’t own a tv, which was fine because I didn’t have one in my dorm or ever have time to watch it anyway. He was adamantly against anything “secular” in our home and especially music. This was one of the hardest things for me. I broke down in tears when he asked me to throw away all my music because it wasn’t glorifying to God. I didn’t want to do it and he guilt tripped me into it, reminding me over and over how if I was “really” a serious Christian I wouldn’t hold onto “things of this world”. He was like what if our future children listened to this stuff? And went on to say how upset that would make him, if one day our children found one of my beloved tapes (hey this was back in the late 90’s) and turned away from God because of it.

I finally relented. He wouldn’t even let me sell my music because he said what if someone bought it and we caused them to turn from God by listening to it? So I threw caseloads of music into the dumpster behind our apartment that I had acquired throughout the years, music of all different genres, stuff that he said was in no way “glorifying to God” due to being “secular”. Any time he caught me humming to myself in the days, months and years afterwards, he would start singing loudly, in an attempt to drown me out with praise songs and hymns. I could no longer sing unless it was worshipful to God. On road trips and in the home, he’d want me to sing WITH him and sing songs I didn’t know, criticizing and making fun of me any time I made a mistake. Despite his own off key renditions and my years of choir practice, he was convinced that he was a much better singer.

He made me get rid of all my books too. He said he felt no books were necessary other than the Bible. He would reluctantly agree to occasional other books and later to children’s stories from the library with our kids but he was especially against marriage and relationship books and anything that reeked of “Psychology”, which was my major in college and what I have a degree in. He would make fun of and put down anything I said that he thought was using “psychology”, even going so far as to laugh and mock in later years when I worried that his calling the children “dummies” or putting them down could affect them badly in the future.

I could go on, there is so much more to tell, but I’m going to stop here today, while pointing out a couple of the ways in which his abusive nature was beginning to show. He was attempting to make me feel bad about myself as a person, to see him as the only rescuer, to mock the very thing I had a degree in, to take away things I loved and was interested in (music and books) and tell me they were “bad” for me (and future children) and in direct conflict with God, all to make me feel guilty and “wrong”. He would out-sing me and try to cover up the songs in my mind with the “songs of God”. This is even when I was singing songs from musicals I was in as a child or things I sang in choir, not stuff you’d necessarily associate with “evil”. In later years he told me that I “hated music” and that he was the only one who liked it, just because I wasn’t interested in hearing him blare Opera or classical music at high volumes when I was trying to focus on something else. At that point he’d decided that those forms of secular music were okay but anything I liked was not. Not that I even dislike Opera or classical music, particularly, it was just the way he was using it to drown me out.

When I had my affair it was such a relief because here was someone who is highly musically talented (he plays the piano, used to be in a jazz band, writes his own music, sings beautifully and often for people’s weddings and music was one of his majors in college) who actually APPRECIATED it when I sent him a video of a song I liked and reminisced with me about things we used to listen to when we were young. It was like, wow, I’m not crazy after all. There isn’t anything wrong with what I like even though I have someone here telling me I’m wrong all the time and that I have bad taste and what the hell I “don’t like music”? Me???

Yeah, more and more when I write it out I can see just how unreal it all was and how stereotypically his behavior folded out. In case you aren’t following this is a continuation of my last post Emotional and spiritual abuse, how it all began I’m sure I’ll have much more to write in further posts. Stay tuned.

Emotional and spiritual abuse, how it all began

brainwashing

I never wanted to be one of “those women” who talked bad about her husband. Saying negative things about your husband was crass, unsupportive, and reflected badly on your competence as a wife. This attitude and belief kept me silent for YEARS regarding the way my ex -husband was treating ME. I was afraid to tell anyone, and even now it is difficult for me to talk or write about.

I’m going to try though. Partly because writing about it helps ME. It helps me process the things I went through and helps me to understand what I never want to tolerate again. It also helps readers who maybe are going through or at some point experienced similar things. You all don’t know him so this gives me the opportunity to be REAL, to show his negative side without worrying that people will think I am just trying to make him look bad, post- divorce.

Gosh, even with saying all of that, this is difficult for me. It’s hard for me to write all this out without worrying that people will think I am “being a victim” or blaming someone else for my own failings. So please, recognize that in writing all this out I am not excusing my own part in my marriage, in staying, in accepting the behavior, or denying that I made a myriad of mistakes also. I’m not saying that my ex- husband doesn’t have any good qualities or that he is an evil, awful human being.

What I am trying to show, is that his treatment of ME, however mislead and from wherever he learned these beliefs and behaviors, was harmful. I was in denial for so long that even when the marriage counselors at the conservative Christian counseling we attended pointed out that his behavior was emotionally abusive, it was hard for me to admit. He was so passive so much of the time. How could anyone refer to him as “abusive”?

According to them, they felt I was accepting his treatment due to my own past, my childhood where I was never able to protect myself or stop the abuse. I failed to learn how to set boundaries, and instead became stuck in “learned helplessness”. While I could debate fervently on a topic or stand up for others when need be, when it came to myself I was frozen with inability.

I also just really didn’t know any better. I didn’t know or understand what a healthy relationship looked like, I’d never seen it modeled and only dreamed of some sort of “ideal”. I THOUGHT I was protecting myself when I got married. One of the big things I considered was the fact that he rarely seemed to raise his voice. I was so afraid of repeating the cycle of abuse in my family that I went to what seemed like the opposite end of the spectrum.

Someone who didn’t yell wouldn’t be like what I’d experienced at home, my mom crawling into my room at night on her hands and knees trying to get me to call the police due to my stepfather and his rages and physical abuse. Memories of hiding my siblings under the stairs in the basement to try and keep us all safe from the objects that were being hurled, the screaming, of trying to get the baby from my mother before seeing my stepfather punch her in the face (and in doing so hit a two week old baby) all drove me toward this very passive seeming man.

Little did I know that I was really marrying someone like my mother. Someone who appeared passive on the outside, but on the inside was a manipulative, selfish and cold individual. Recently, a therapist of mine referred to him as a “passive aggressive narcissist”. I’d never thought of those terms being used together. Narcissists, you’d think of being more outwardly cruel, but the more I’ve pondered it the more I’ve realized the label fits him quite well.

Since the divorce and moving away from him, I have felt a HUGE sense of relief. Even though on the daily I have struggles, an enormous weight was lifted off my shoulders when I got away. I could never go back. Never. I could never want to be with the man whose criticisms and moral ideas of what I “should” become turned me into a shell of the person I once was. To someone who was unsupportive, unloving and unkind and put ridiculously high expectations on me while systematically tearing down every attempt I made to please.

I wish I could say that the divorce ended it all but it hasn’t. He continues to passively aggressively sabotage things for me, even now. Now that he has a live in girlfriend, I have seen instances of him doing the EXACT SAME THINGS to her. It makes me feel sorry for her to a degree but at the same time there is relief that his abuses are directed elsewhere, off of me and hopefully away from our children.

I wish I could say that I was the only emotional target, that the children were left unscathed, but I can’t. His behavior towards them is upsetting on so many levels. Seeing the way he has mostly abandoned them hurts but sometimes I think it’s for the best. If he were more involved in their lives he’d have more chance to put them down, to tear apart their sense of self, to damage them beyond repair. I can only hope that his limited contact has less chance to affect them.

In any case, I feel kind of like I’ve escaped from a prison. Not only was there emotional abuse but much of it was of a spiritual nature. He used GOD to shame and put me down, to make me feel like it wasn’t really him but GOD that I was being accountable to. Not being well versed in religious things, and him being so Biblically “knowledgeable”, I took his interpretation of scripture to be correct. I listened to him because I had no grasp on the meaning of Christianity on my own. I’d never even been in a Christian church before meeting him, though I’d participated in some youth group activities with a very new age fellowship.

So, as embarrassing as this is to admit, I became brainwashed, not only through him but through teachings of the church, his religious family, by the people around me. I was so blind to this too. I thought I was doing the “right” thing in becoming a Christian. I believed him when he told me what an awful person I was for the things I’d done in the past and how I needed salvation from that.

It is especially embarrassing for ME to admit, having been taught by my father to always question authority. To never become a “sheep” that blindly followed the teachings of others. My father wouldn’t even attend my wedding, he was so upset about me marrying into this Christian family and he said and used the term that I was being “brainwashed”. I so wanted to prove him wrong and in a way that was my own form of rebellion. I was convinced that I was going to do “better” than anyone in my own family.

I was bound and determined to have this “perfect” life. To be the “perfect” wife and mother and it was very difficult for me to let go of that goal, to realize it was all a farce. So much of what I learned as a “Christian” was really about appearances, much less so about the heart. Sure they used a lot of language to convince others that this was NOT about that at all but the actions were much like what Jesus himself, in the Bible, was preaching against!

In any case I had high ideals. We were going to become missionaries. To me this meant HELPING other people and I wanted so much to feed the hungry, to bring relief to the hurting, to save people from living in misery, to brighten their lives in every little way we could. My ex would disagree with me though, that this was what it all meant. He said all of that was only secondary and the goal was to preach the gospel. That only when people believed and followed Christ would any of those other things begin to matter.

All this background and I haven’t even begun to tell you of the actual things my ex -husband did to chip away at my sense of self, at my purpose in life, at my competence as a wife and mother, at my relationships with my family, at my feelings and my value as a human being. I feel like I need all this explanation to let you see just HOW he managed to get me into a position where I would ACCEPT any of this. Where I thought it was my duty to listen and believe what he had to say about me, about what I and our lives were SUPPOSED to look like.

A short time after my divorce I read a book called Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft. I know I’ve mentioned it on my blog before and really feel like it’s something every woman would do well to read, even if you are not dealing with an abusive man in your life. Heck, I didn’t even realize I would end up seeing my ex- husband all over the pages when I started. I was actually concerned about my relationship with the guy I had the affair with at the time. While he and I had our share of arguments, there was much less I could relate to him than my ex in that book.

I’m actually grateful I had an affair because it brought to light so much that I really needed to see. For over a year and a half I never mentioned to the guy I had an affair with what was going on in my marriage, until one day I finally broke down and told him I was “unhappy”. I still remember it because I was crying and in the bathtub text messaging him. I don’t even recall what had set me off at that particular moment but I know my ex-husband was outside the door and I could feel his condescending presence. I couldn’t even articulate to him what was happening at the moment, only that he wasn’t being physically abusive but that I was feeling unhappy. He demanded to know more, out of concern and I eventually spilled out some of the details of us not having sex and a few of the events that occurred, but most of his critical comments and hurtful behavior I never mentioned to anyone. In fact, I’ve blocked out a lot of it. It’s painful to think about.

I’ve debated even writing about this on my blog. I’m actually going to end here right now. Not to leave you all hanging but because this is a deep and difficult subject for me and I want to take a break after giving you a backdrop. Hopefully I’ll be able to expound further in another post.