Sunday, January 26, 2014

Post Mortem of a Marriage: Time Heals All Wounds

I have been dealing with my life after marriage for nearly a month today.
It has consumed my waking hours and haunted my dreams. I know that everyone thinks that I am crazy for putting so much of my personal life out here this way, but the writing has been cathartic and healing. Purging all my negative emotions and purifying me.

Now it is time to move on.

Too much water under the bridge now. I know too much about the man I am (unfortunately still) married to, and it disturbs me.

What is most disturbing was that I let a passive abuser into my life. A passive abuser is one who does damage in other ways than becoming violent or physical. They hold your emotions hostage.
And what was worse, maybe I was becoming one myself.

Let's look at the warning signs that I've recognized so far.

Intensity and High Involvement: Becoming involved in every aspect of ones life quickly and going over board to fit into this person's daily life. Wanting to be involved in your hobbies,  your sports team, your church activities, or going over the top with outings or dates. D/H wanted to spend every waking hour with me, and probably could have had we not both worked.  He wanted to go where I was going, and didn't mind sitting around and waiting on me. He was more than willing to drop whatever he had planned and change his plans to mine. I was flattered that he wanted to share so much of my life. He was raised in my church so I took it as no surprise that he was so willing to get involved in church so quickly and so completely. He embraced everything about it and we went every time the doors were open. He rededicated his life to the Lord and was rebaptised. We were in charge of our Sunday School department, in the choir, on the prayer team. We were active members for about 5 years before the problem that made us leave our church home. I later learned that he had done this with First Wife as well.

Pressure for Early Commitment: The abuser wants to lock you in and make sure that he has you.  D/H had told me he loved me only 2 weeks into our relationship. I could feel things going that way too. I remember we were both afraid to tell each other that. He had said that he was holding back from telling me because he didn't want to be hurt again. Within a few months, we were shopping in the mall when he pulled me into a jewelry store and asked me to pick out a ring. I knew that it was too fast, but I was in love. Now don't think that I married him right away. We dated two more years before tying the knot.

Being "Too Good to be True": If something is too good to be true, it usually is. But as grandiose ideas or claims never pan out, that is the time to start asking yourself, "Am I being had?" I remember thinking "How lucky am I to have found this man?!" But somehow, the things that he told me would never quite materialize. He would make great plans, and tease me with them to raise my anticipation. But something would always come up, so that he'd never actually have to deliver. And he always had a great excuse,  an unexpected bill, or a bounced check, that I would believe. He always knew what to say and when to say it. A real smooth talker.

When he carried me in to the jewelry store to pick out a ring early on, he had said, "Anything you want! Well, within reason of course." Then he sent me out into the mall to sit and wait while he spoke to the salesman. Of course financing didn't come through, but he was too embarrassed to tell me, eventually blaming First Wife for ruining his credit. I should have run right then.When he eventually did get a ring months later, I wound up paying it off myself.

Need for Constant Contact: Calling or texting constantly to keep them on your mind. D/H and I would talk on the phone until the wee hours every single night. He would be the first voice I heard in the morning, when he called to make sure I was up after our long gab-fests, and the last voice I heard before going to bed. Had cell phones been popular then, I'm sure that he would have texted me "I love you's" all through the day. He was always on my mind, and he had made sure that he would be.

Isolating One from Family and Friends: This one you don't really notice at first. Some people will start falling away gradually. Others will leave suddenly. Or the new partner will begin to convince you that your friends are really not your friends and that you should stop hanging around them. This is because he begins to realize that your friends may just have his number and can still influence you to leave the relationship.  In the beginning, D/H was always willing to hang out with my friends for free food and drink,. But soon he started coming up with an excuse to not be around them anymore, or would behave in a manner that would cause us not to be invited back.

Even worse were his efforts to edge my own daughter out of my life. When we met, she was eight. The very first night I let her meet him, he helped her with a school project. He was kind and sweet and she liked him instantly. She was smitten from the start. After we married, and got custody of the kids, we set about being a family. But then things changed. The sweet relationship she once had with D/H  became hostile around the time she turned 12. Former Alabama standout and Big Oak Ranch founder John Croyle always says that " you can't put anything over on a twelve year old" and he must have been right. She started begging to stay with friends rather than come home. She would openly argue with D/H, and I found myself between them on more than one occasion.  Because twelve was also the time when most girls go "boy crazy" I just wrote it off as normal teenage angst. But I guess she was starting to see through the cracks in his facade and could see the real man peeping out from behind it. Peeping being the operative word.There were some disturbing allegations, based on what I now know was his porn addiction, but he easily explained away. She was having relationships with older boys, and seemed to do anything, short of murder, to be with them. At the time, two other local girls had accused their stepfathers of the similar things. The police feared a trend was forming, but launched an investigation any way. I had been his staunchest defender, and our family had as well. I knew this man as well as I knew myself. He would not prey on anyone, much less my own child; a child that he loved and was raising as his own. The charges were dropped and we struggled to move forward. It did a number on my psyche. It affected "alone time" as the thought of him propositioning her would creep up from the back of my mind when we were together.  Her behavior deteriorated as well. Before long, she had asked to go live with her dad. We had Tigger and Kit-Kat to raise and the constant bickering caused a constant unhealthy tension in our home. D/H convinced me that it was all for the best. Let The Ex be a parent for a change. I took her to him, and things settled down for a while. But The Ex was ill-equipped to handle her. It wasn't long before the courts put her back in my custody, and everything started again. She moved out as soon as she graduated high school. Our relationship has never been the same.

Emotional Blackmail: Behaving negatively to achieve desired results. It started innocently enough.  D/H used to stick out his bottom lip like a little boy and give me the sad kitty eyes (okay, that's a Shrek reference) when he couldn't get something or do something that he wanted. He looked so adorable, I'd quickly cave and submit to his whim to make him happy again.  Big mistake. It only escalated in more and more negative behavior.

Need for Control: There is a constant need to be in control of every situation. Even the ones that he can not control. Control over our time, money, the car, and so on. On more than one occasion, we were down to driving just one car. Three times in our marriage, we spent a year carpooling. That would control how I spent my time as well. But the main way that D/H maintained control was by controlling our finances. While we did have separate checking accounts, he was always trying to whittle mine down by asking for money constantly. He never had any money left after he got paid. That was a huge mystery, because his take home pay was more than mine. He was almost always short something on his half of the mortgage payment. The utilities (which I have since learned are not that bad) were always behind, or worse, about to get cut off. I never got to see those bills, so I was left to wonder what was going on. I would ask pointed questions (Are you gambling? Do you have another family I don't know about? What are you doing with your money?) but he would always have an answer. I am not certain when he stopped balancing his checkbook but he was always overdrawn and looking to me to bail him out. The pay-day loan situation grew out of that. At first, it was just to get him by until his next pay day, but it spiraled out of control quickly. I would pay them off twice a year with my tax return and my company bonus, but he would always go back. I never really thought about it before now, but this was an attempt to bring me under some sort of control. Limiting our finances so that we stayed stuck in the rut....together. I would be mad at first, but then we would pull together and work it out. I was happy that this year we were finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Too bad it was just one of his mistresses driving the train.  I am certain this is where his money was really keep wining and dining the trashy women he was seeing.

Playing the Victim: Everything that has happened to him is someone else's fault. He just can't catch a break. He has nothing but bad luck. He's insistent that he has been wronged by life in general. Such was the case with D/H who seemed to find fault with most things in his life. In the beginning, it worked to his favor. It was him and me against the world and I was happy to take up my sword and follow him into battle. But as time went on, he never seemed to find anything positive. Always focusing on the negative. I also learned that this was how he manipulated people, as in the very first lie he told me that hooked me in. The lie about Old Flame. When this new relationship ultimately goes South, he will blame it on someone else, anyone, other than himself.

Lying To You or About You: Just as D/H had used the lie to Old Flame to hook me in, he used lies or half-truths to make his situation seem far better or worse than it really was in order to manipulate the outcome. Even not telling someone a lie, but not sharing the truth is a form of a lie, like not telling me that the utilities were behind. Or the lies he told me when he was actually with his mistresses. He was very adept at embellishment and would add things to his story to help move it along. Like the story that I was cheating on him. I have always been faithful to the vow that I made to him before God. But it made what he did, seem not so bad to others. Tit for tat. Or the lie that surprised me the most: that we were "having problems."  I was shocked to learn that he had told this lie consistently this past year. BUT  WE NEVER HAD PROBLEMS. Yes, we did have challenges that we faced.. That is what marriage is about, overcoming things together. But we never had problems. That must be the difference between a positive perspective and a negative one. Or his current quest to convince others that I am now "crazy" or "unstable." This was to aid in his "clean getaway. No, I'm not crazy. He just wasn't man enough to face me. Now that our friends know the truth, I am no longer the villain. He is, as is his mistress, who knowingly pursued the relationship. He even managed to get her to lie to me for him on the day that he left. A month out from his leaving, people now feel comfortable enough to approach me and tell me the truth. Things that he had said. Things (and women) he had done.  I'm learning something new and disturbing every day.

Difficulty Cooperating with Others: Someone who prefers to "just do it themselves" rather than working with others, because "people get on their nerves" or they can do it "better their way" are really control freaks.  They always have to be right, win the argument or feel they are in control of the situation  D/H once told me that he loved his job because he didn't "have to deal with people." He hated having to wait on customers. I have a job where I deal with upset customers and staff, all day, every day, but I love it and I am good at it. That is not for everyone. I understand that. But D/H's bosses and coworkers were always jerks and idiots. Always. He never had anything positive to say about any of them. Ever.

Also, D/H always had to be right and when he was wrong, he'd never willingly admit it. It was like that episode of "Happy Days" where Fonzie could not admit that he was wrrrrrr..... wrrrrrr.... wrrrroooonnng.  He would, however, use his apologies as emotional blackmail on me. He'd hang his head and tell me that I was right, and he was sorry and he'd never do (what ever behavior) again.

Few or No Friends of their Own: When you live in a small town, nearly everyone is kinda your friend at one point or another. Having one good best friend is pretty standard. But when those who are closest to him suddenly disappear and his time is freed up to spend with you (but not your friends) its time to start asking questions. D/H quickly traded out all of his friends for all of my friends. He seemed to always be having a falling out with his friends. We would no longer see these  men and he always had an excuse for moving them out of his life. Over the years, he had many short-term friends, many of which were fair-weather at best. But his circle of friends was constantly changing. Even his two closest friends, who served as groomsmen in our wedding, were no longer in our lives. But that didn't matter to him.  In the beginning he was always willing to go out with my friends or hang out with my friends. Eventually, he would come up with excuses to no longer want to be around them either. Unless there was food. Free food would always get his attention. But he would just eat and then be ready to go.

Road Rage: This one kinda surprised me, but trust me, it fits. I would often joke that I knew exactly how I was going to die and when I went, D/H would be behind the wheel. He had to be faster than everyone, be in front of everyone and drive dangerously, at high speeds, everywhere we went. He always had to drive. When we were dating, being a passenger was not a problem, but once we were married, I rarely got to drive. Then he would speed, follow too close, pass to close and so on. He wrecked both of my Mustangs within 3 months of one another. Both total loss accidents. One was not his fault. A man cut him off in traffic going to work. That D/H was in his blindspot because he wasn't going to let him over is a distinct possibility. The second a man was coming from a cross street and pulled out I front of him. Again, the possibility exists that D/H sped up so that the car wouldn't get in front of him, because I had seen him do this with my own two eyes.

Cheating Partners: The more cheating partners a guy has, the bigger the red flag. If no one was ever faithful to him, what does that tell you?  I had fallen for this myself. According to him both his High School Girlfriend and First Wife had cheated on him. How could these women had cheated on the poor, sweet, man? And now, supposedly, I was a cheater too.

Perfect segue to ...

Projection: they begin accusing YOU of behaviors they themselves are guilty of. D/H started telling all our friends that  I was cheating on him.  When I would work over to cover someone's shift, I was actually off having an affair. When I was out on one of many volunteer projects, I was having an affair. Actually, he would use those times to meet his mistresses. Of course, the fact that his latest mistress was trying to convince him of this too,  so he would leave me sooner, may have played a part.

Shunning: The Old Silent Treatment. When D/H was mad, he would clam up and give me the old silent treatment, even when he was in the wrong. He used to tell me that it was best that we not talk so he wouldn't say something he would regret later.  I will admit, I sometimes employed this tactic too. But as you can see, I'm a talker. I wanted to talk over what ever issue we were having and get it out in the open.

Dismissing What is Important to You:  Your job, your hobbies, your friends, your family, your dreams, your goals....what is worth losing to satisfy his need for attention. Well that is what he wants. He will probably complain that it takes too much time, costs too much money, or is just plain stupid. The only examples that comes to mind are church and Toastmasters. Church was important to both of us, but he eventually stopped going, for one reason or another. Then he made it hard for the rest of us to go. Keeping us out late the night before, Planning things that would interfere with worship  Letting everyone sleep in, I kick myself for letting that happen.  I joined Toastmasters in order to improve my public speaking ability. I was presenting an award every year at our national meeting  and TM helped me to collect my thoughts, and speak intelligently on nearly any subject. Those in the group would also give advice on tone and voice quality. This helped with my job, because, well, have you ever spoken to someone from Alabama on the telephone? Enough said.  But the local TM meeting was on a week night, What on earth were they going to do for dinner? It really became a problem when we were down to one car. When I began experiencing health issues and wanted to reduce the stress by quitting my job, we "couldn't afford it" and he was unwilling to do what I needed to help.

Grievance Flipping: I call this the  "One Up" No matter what might have happened that day to me, D/H 's day was always worse.
Every.   Stinkin'.   Time.

As I started reading up on emotional abuse, I could not believe that I had traded one abuser for another. How could I have been so stupid! I had trusted him implicitly. I guess love really is blind. I was living with a con man!

I recognize all of these traits in the man who lived here as my husband.
I also see some of these traits in myself.

The difference is simple: I recognize there is a problem and that is the first step to any recovery,

But time, as they say, heals all wounds.

I am committed to improving myself in 2014 and I've already seen the positive results of the changes that I've made. Like the positive attention from others.

I"m sure that God has a plan for me. I am sure that He will send the right person into my life at the right time and he will be wonderful. D/H will be just a faded memory that only surfaces when I come across a photo I forgot to throw out, or channel surf by wrestling.

I hope it doesn't leave too big of a scar across my heart.

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