Archives for the month of: October, 2013

This sums up the process of emotional abuse and how it creeps into our lives without us recognising…and it has a positive ending.

Many Small Voices: Speaking out about domestic abuse

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I haven’t been ‘me’ for years. That may sound like a bizarre statement, so please, let me explain.

I was stuck in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship for 5 years. Stuck because I was committed to the relationship. Stuck because we have children. Stuck because I’d worked so hard for our children and I didn’t want to let it go. Stuck because I believed some of the things he had said about me and to me, that I was incapable, stupid and nothing without him.

Stuck because I was afraid to leave.

The immense pressure of being in an abusive relationship isn’t always tangible. It’s the kind of thing you get used to slowly, over time. Abuse isn’t thrown upon you all in one go. No one would get stuck in a relationship like that. Abuse creeps up and let’s you settle at each level, normalising before you progress…

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I went to my counselling session last week feeling great, wondering what there was to talk about.

I explained why I was feeling great: husband away at weekend; a chance for us all to relax; a few days, rather than a few stressful hours anticipating his return, to be able to get and maintain a perspective; not responding to the triggers when he returned.  I’d set some boundaries and had managed to maintain them.

And that’s continued.  Instead of absorbing things (I can’t even explain exactly what they are and give them a name), they’ve bounced off me and left me unaffected.

There have been times when I’ve felt the anxiety but I’ve acknowledged this for what it is and got on with things.  I’ve realised that a lot of my reactions are not a result of something tangible but come from a fear of imagined consequences.  In other words, they are in my head and I’m creating the situation based on my past experiences and a desire to avoid similar consequences.

In the first session, the counsellor said it seemed like husband treats me like a child. This made me think of a book that was on my reading list at uni that I bought but never read, ‘Games People Play’ by Eric Berne.  I’d downloaded a sample.  For the first time this week, the counsellor recommended a book. I think you can guess which one.  I downloaded it and have started reading it.  And I can already see that certain triggers send me into ‘child’ mode.  Even though the ‘adult’ me can see the truth of the situation, it is the ‘child’ who reacts.

Every week, I learn so much, gain far greater insight and understanding.

After counselling, I go to yoga.  This week the theme was ‘breaking bad’, in other words, ‘breaking free’.

When everything comes together like this, I can’t help but feel they are signs.

Once I understand the Games, I will be able to ‘play’ more effectively.  I will recognise whether I am responding as a Parent, Adult or Child, perhaps begin to understand why, which hopefully will lead to more satisfying relationships, not just for me but for the other person as well, whoever that might be.

The journey of discovery continues…

Husband’s back.  And with him, the mess.  His stuff takes over every surface.  He takes over every space.  I used to think it was me, incapable of keeping the house nice, but after the weekend, I know it’s him.

Did he have a nice time?  He says so but he’s in no better humour, grumbling and moaning and speaking aggressively about the things he’s unhappy with (my texts not getting through, the phone company being uncooperative).  I asked him not to talk to me like that and he put on a pathetic, girlie voice and asked me if he should talk like that.  Honestly, how childish. I’ve got no time for this anymore.

He complained about a pile of clothes on the landing – the girls had been sorting and clearing their wardrobes and we need to decide what we’re going to do with them.  “What’s happening with the clothes?” he asked.  That’s how he expresses his disapproval “what’s happening with…?”  I’ve got no time for this either.

Then I heard him tutting and sighing and reloading the dishwasher because he wasn’t happy with the way I’d done it.  Another thing I’ve got no more time for.

Because this weekend has reminded me how I want to live: with music and laughter and joy and cooperation and support.  And after four days of us living like this without him, I’m not going back to the old ways.  I’m done with pandering to his stupidity.

And when he came back, I realised that I might still be here as a physical presence, but in all other ways I have checked out of this marriage.

And I am not to blame.

Because I know how to be happy, and I know how to love life.

And I want to be happy, and I want to love life.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

And if he wants to be sad and miserable and look for the worst in everyone, then that’s up to him.  It’s his choice.

But it’s not mine.  And it’s not my children’s.

And the woman who went along with his miserable way of living?

Well, she’s gone.

Husband-free weekend, like all good things, is coming to an end.

It’s been different, so relaxing.

I’ve gone to bed when I want to and got up when I want to without enduring the disapproving question “what time did YOU go to bed last night”. In the mornings, I could lie in without someone banging around and waking me up.  We didn’t have to creep around the house silently because he was sleeping.  I could stretch out in bed, not lie squashed on the edge.  I didn’t get blamed for disturbing his sleep, although one of the reasons I don’t sleep properly is because of his snoring and sleep apnoea, made worse by his drinking.  In the same way that the rest of the house doesn’t feel like mine, I now realise that the bed also doesn’t feel like a space to which I have equal entitlement.

Daughter’s boyfriend told her the house felt different, that husband rules the house.

I watched a programme that I like on TV.

I read or wrote or did my art when I felt like it.

We had dinner at a time that suited us and we ate what we wanted.

We played music all day (and sang along).

We sat in the lounge together and chatted and laughed without him telling us to shut up because he was watching TV.

Daughters and I went out to lunch with my step-mum and sister and daughter’s boyfriend without husband complaining that he couldn’t come because he was working and why didn’t we arrange things differently (except he could take time off if he wanted to and the weekend is when people want to do things).  I went out two nights running without feeling guilty.  I chatted with a friend until three in the morning without having to make excuses and explain myself.

And the next day I had an afternoon nap because I felt tired.

The housework got done but to my schedule and the place remained incredibly tidy.

We worked together as a team to get things done instead of trying to work like this but having his negativity and moaning dividing us.  Daughter one’s boyfriend collected daughter two from a party so that I didn’t have to cut short my evening out; in return, I paid for his lunch.  It was reciprocal give and take, the way life should be.   There was no husband implying that I wasn’t a good mother because I was putting my selfish night out before my child.  Everything was just worked out satisfactorily between us and everybody was happy.

And I realised even more what a negative impact he is having on our lives.

Daughter one said we should change the locks.

Daughter two said she felt bad saying it, but it was better when he wasn’t there.

I haven’t put these ideas in their heads. They come from their own reality of the situation.

And this morning I’ve found myself scanning the house for potential areas of complaint.

I know I shouldn’t be doing this, I keep telling myself, I’m constantly reminding myself of what I know is the truth.

And I realise the extent and effectiveness of his brainwashing me.

But I will overcome it, eventually.

Because this weekend has given me a taste of what life could be like.

And it is delicious.

 

This is a lesson I need to learn.

Husband’s away for the weekend.  The atmosphere here is relaxed.  I came home last night from a guilt-free evening out – I drove home feeling like a proper adult who was capable of making her own decisions, not a naughty child who had done something wrong – and my daughter was sitting in the living room.  She normally stays in her room when he’s here because the living room is HIS space.

He often shows his disapproval at the state of the house. I feel like I’m not a good housekeeper.  Yet the house is really clean and tidy at the moment and I realise that he makes the mess but complains when I tidy his things!  Another no-win situation.

So it was all going great.

And then I got a text from him this morning asking if received his text yesterday, which I did and replied to.  So does this mean that he didn’t get my reply and thinks I’m ignoring him. And will he get my reply to his second text?  Or will he think I’m doubly ignoring him?  And, if so, is there going to be a blow-up when he gets back?

Argh.

He’s doing it when he’s not here.

But I’m going to forget about that and get on with enjoying my guilt-free weekend with my friends and family in my clean and tidy house.

This is what it could be like all the time.

Couldn’t it?

 

I feel an inner peace, a profound sense of calm.

Why?

I’ve had a shift in thinking. I realise that I have been living my life based on other people’s reality.  I have been accepting that reality as superior to my own.  I’ve doubted the validity of my own reality.

But I finally seem to have accepted that my reality is not inferior. It is important for me. If I don’t live according to it, then I am denigrating myself.

It’s finally sunk in that it’s ok to live my life in a way that feels right for me.

I hope that doesn’t sound selfish – I don’t like to appear selfish – and that’s been part of my problem. In an effort not to be selfish, I have allowed others to be selfish.

For many years, husband told me that his work was the most important thing. I accepted that, even though I felt that WE were the priority.

For many years, husband told me I was being unreasonable by asking him not to drink so much.  I accepted that, even though I had to suffer the consequences of this.

For many years, husband voiced his wishes and demanded his needs be met, either forcefully or manipulatively.  I accepted that, even though I felt that my needs were equally important.

When I tried to make us a priority or asked him not to drink so much or said what I wanted, I was told I was being selfish and unreasonable, and I accepted and believed that.

Now I know that it wasn’t true.

And I feel different.  I feel like me.

I feel peaceful and strong and deserving.

And I must hold on to this.

Because herein lies the answer.

 

Every week after my counselling session I feel that I’ve had another thunderbolt of insight and understanding.

Today I was explaining how I felt when I had lunch with husband last week: angry and frustrated because he ignores the growing chasm between us, but simultaneously guilty and selfish because he invited me to lunch and is trying.  She asked me to picture that couple as an outsider, sitting there in the restaurant, him talking about plumbing and football, her silently seething and feeling so bad about doing so.  What would I say to her?  Would I suggest that she’s being unreasonable?  After years of trying to sort out the relationship only to be met with rejection, resistance and blame, would it really be realistic to expect one lunch to erase all the hurt and disappointment?  Would I tell the woman to stop being so selfish and be grateful for one lunch, one lunch where the issues cannot be discussed?  Would I tell the man that everything will be ok now because he’s taken his wife out to lunch so everything can now go back to normal?

Would I tell that woman to stop being a selfish, unreasonable bitch?

No, I wouldn’t.

Yet that’s what I was telling myself.

I could have cried as I pictured that poor, confused, desperate, angry, guilty, frustrated woman.

But the tears won’t fall even though they collect in my eyes.  They are there as I write this, and again as I read what I’ve written, but I won’t let them fall.  I fight to hold them back.

And that, I think, is a bad thing.

And it’s so sad when it just doesn’t happen.

I now realise that from day 1 in our relationship, husband’s work has taken priority. It’s governed what we do and when we do it. I have worked around it; I have organised my life and my work around it.  I have allowed everything else to take a back seat.

Initially, this was because of the nature of his work. It was shift work and it was potentially dangerous work.

However, when he was forced to change career, his work still took priority. He chose to work every weekend (and still does) but that was ok because several times a year we would go away and this quality time compensated for the rest of the time.

Then he stopped coming away, so there was no compensation, no quality time, just me spending every weekend on my own. And even that was ok. I made the best of it because I accepted there was no alternative because that’s what he told me.

So I developed my own life. And that was ok for me, not what I wanted but I put up with it and got used to it and started to enjoy it.

But that isn’t ok for him. He doesn’t like it.  He seems to resent the fact that I’m enjoying myself without him although I have NO choice. He refuses to take time off (except for next weekend when he’s going away with friends!).

So in reality he refuses to take time off to spend with me. I’m not his priority. And that used to really hurt.

Except now I don’t care.

Just trying to understand how we’ve got here.