I have heard so many opinions from unknowing people asking and answering for themselves: “Why do woman stay with men who abuse them?”, “They have the power to leave, and if they stay, then they deserve what they get!”
I am a woman who lived with an abuser. I was married to this man for 21 years; over half my lifetime, at the time that I finally left him.
This man led a lonely life, not at all like my own. His real mother had eight children and all but two had different fathers, three of which she gave away; my ex-husband was one of them. He never knew her until he was in his 30’s, and we met her for the first time together. I cannot fault her. She was a beautiful woman inside, who made some wrong choices and wrong turns. Who am I to judge, looking back on my own choices, twists and turns.
The woman that he believed was his mother, died with a bad heart when he was twelve. He adored her, she adored him, and spoiled him, and he never knew she was not his natural mother until that time. His step father soon found another woman who did not want to be bothered with him, and he soon found himself out in the street. Even though there was a rich man in town who gave him a job and always came to his side when he was in dire need; he raised himself on his own; too young, lost, unprepared to loose his innocence, and to survive with good judgment and love. He had no true roll models, but many fears and much insecurity, loss and resentment.
I was young when I met him. Not long out of high school. I myself, had many fears and much insecurity, and at such a young age had already made some wrong choices and wrong turns myself. We married.
His drinking increased after that. Or maybe, I just didn’t see it clearly before. He was abusive, and sometimes would be gone for a week at a time without coming home. I remember driving by, on my way to work in the morning, the bar he hung out at most, just to make sure he was still alive, and okay. He would be passed out in the front seat of his truck in the parking lot; only to wake up and start it all over again. I can’t count how many times that I slept with something propped against the door, the window open and the screen out, so that if need be, I could hear him enter and get out, which did happen many times. Sometimes I would just side crouched outside the window, full of fear, and feeling I had no place to run; sometimes wondering aimlessly into the cold, dark and damp night, with no destination.
When my son was born six years later, things changes some. Believe it or not, I actually believed that he was the one who changed, but only later realized it was me. I truly believed he had traded the physical abuse in for verbal. He no longer stayed gone for a week at a time, but the drinking didn’t get any less. Sometimes it did…for a short time…but it always went back to where it started…eventually. Round and round the merry go round…
But what had changed was…I no longer had only myself to think about, and I had learned the signs to look for all too well. I could see the change when it happened…in his eyes. In the blink of an eye you could literally watch the change, and I learned to look for it. We could be at a large gathering, and not always at each other’s side, but I was always…always watching…those eyes. I was always ready at any given moment to quietly, without detection…grab my purse, my son, and head out the door without a word. It didn’t matter where we were. No good-bye’s…no parting hugs.
My son and I spent many nights in a hotel room…never in town, and always in a different place. When he was small, he never knew or understood what was going on. I always turned it into an adventure, and besides…this was something we had always done. He would never realize it was strange.
When my son was in his early teens, I met someone. Someone, who it seemed, was the first person who really believed in me. I certainly had lost all belief in myself. Even though I had always been the major, and usually the sole bread winner…I always heard that I could never make it on my own. I was not smart enough…pretty enough…you name it. If I was doing this, I was criticized for not doing that. If I was doing that…I should have been doing the other thing. I don’t remember a time when I was ever doing the right thing at the right moment, in my ex-husband’s eyes, or mine eventually.
I had an affair…another wrong turn in the crossroads of my life. This man that came into my life told me how smart I was, how strong I was, how beautiful I was inside and out, and how much he admired me. He was a successful business man…but always asked me for my opinion. He not only asked, but took my advice on many occasions. For the first time in what seemed like a whole lifetime, I actually felt good about myself… and I left my ex-husband.
When I left he pulled out ALL the stops. If I ever thought I had been abused before…it was nothing compared to what I was about to endure. The biggest thing was, he used the one thing I had EVER let him know I cared about…and that was my son. He had a tool…and he used it with precision.
He started threatening suicide to him. My son, at first, stayed with him because he was terrified of what his father would do. He would call me up literally bawling in deep despair. He was afraid to go to school. He was afraid to leave his side, because he was afraid of what he would come home to…He told my son not to kiss me, that I could have contracted Aids and give it to him, due to the affair of course, and actually carted him down to the Health Clinic for an aides test…just to make good and sure he was getting his point made. He knew about the affair, and wanted to build a wedge between my son and I, and implant a fear of getting close to me. They wouldn’t give my son one, and told him that even if it was true, (which is not true, or course) aids could not be transmitted through appropriate kissing…but the point and the damage had already been done…and that was only within the first few weeks before he really got warmed up, and just one of the many lies to come, among other things. He was loosing the control that he had clung to for security, and he used cruelty in a desperate attempt to regain it.
My son eventually saw through what was happening and came to live with me. What a mess I had on my hands by that point. He had been taught well! There were times when he didn’t get his way that he would take a knife and put it to his throat and threaten to kill himself, and told me that it would be entirely my fault, and how was I going to live with that? I have been driving down a highway at 60 miles an hour when he would open the door and threaten to jump out. I would actually have to look my one and only child, the one pride in my life, straight dead in his eye and tell him…no…it would not be my fault, and I would have nothing to feel guilty for. Should you feel you need to take that knife and slit your throat, or jump out of the car…that is your choice. I gave you life, but only you are responsible for the choices and decisions you choose to make.
Six years down the road…
My son is now eighteen. He had moved in with his father and another guy, as “The Three Bachelors”, for less than a year. It was the first time that my ex-husband had ever really spent any time with my son. Even though my ex-husband could not keep a job, and my son worked to pay both of their ways most of the time (he took right over my roll gracefully); my son felt he was actually getting to know his father, on a personal level, for the first time.
Between work, and his new girlfriend, my son got so he didn’t spend much time at home…he hadn’t realized that he hadn’t seen his father in three days. His father had been depressed again, and was spending most of his time in his room. My son came home from work one day and realized things didn’t smell quite the way they should. At first he thought that it was the dirty dishes, stale and dirty water in the sink, but as he made his way down the hall…
I received the call from him immediately, along with the other guy who lived there. My son had fled to his girlfriend’s house, unable to quite comprehend or believe what he had just discovered. His mind was totally and completely unable to except what he knew was true. Even after all this man had put me through, I fell to my knees when my son told me. I was living more than an hour away at the time, but it took me less than a half an hour to get there. It was the roommate who made the call to the police, and they were not letting anyone in till they investigated. I found myself with this frantic need to be by his side. I couldn’t silence the feeling that he was in there…all alone.
Three days had elapsed between my ex-husbands final moments and the moment of discovery…three days, after Mother’s Day…his final message…along with the short note that read:
I ________ leave all of my possessions to my son. I want to be cremated. I want my son to know how proud I am of the man that he is turning out to be, but I am done.
My how short…and to the point…all business.
Now my son, at 18, was expected to take care of everything from there, all the arrangements were expected to be made by him…he was his father’s only next of kin. Do you also realize that unless you pay an appropriate price (in their eyes), that due to aids and hepatitis, that once the carry the body away, that everything is left up to the family at this point? I could not even allow my son to go in that house, and get his clothes or anything else…until all the last remains of those final moments, were swept neatly and tidily under the rug. Out of site, but never out of mind. My son, forbid me to touch anything of his fathers, other than what absolutely had to be taken away. Only those final moments could I go near and sweep away. Everything else were to be left in its place, just as his father had left it, per my son’s instructions.
My son and I went back late one night before we packed all of his father’s remaining possessions away, and moved my son out. All I could do was sit there quietly while he picked up first one thing and then the other, as he relayed a memory that he recalled that went along with each item, and then carefully replaced it…just as his father had left it. He never cried…but he stared deep into each one of those items, and quietly questioned…”Oh dad, why…why did you do it?” “Oh dad…why…?”
I picked up his father’s phone. I had to see who he called that fateful day. Who was it that he reached out to, in one last final attempt to bare the will to survive? What did he turn to for the final desperate need to feel loved, accepted and secure…hope? Nothing…there were no calls that day. The decision had been made. There was no turning back. All hope was gone.
As far as the rest of the cleaning up, other than to make all the phone calls to friends and family were left up to my son. . I could only stand beside through each excruciating step and decision. Too young and too unprepared to ever have to deal with what lay ahead.
What happened to the man I had an affair with? His son was involved in an accident with his mother shortly after I left my ex that left him in a coma for two weeks, and now short term memory damage He went back to his wife, to take care of his son. His son came out of it well…financially. His son has all the money any person would ever have to need for a lifetime…but at what price? I guess the consolation is…he doesn’t remember…
So why did I stay for 21 years? Did I ask for it? Deserve it? Maybe.!?
Fear plays such an important role in our lives. We do so many things due to fear that….
(That’s a whole other article)