I want to share a very personal and painful story with you. It's my story. The story of me being in an abusive relationship. I feel a deep passion about sharing this story with others because I hope that somewhere, someone will be helped because I share my story. Not because I think I should put my "dirty laundry" out here for everyone to see, BUT because it might help someone else. And if knowing my story can help you to help a family member or friend, well then, telling you MY story is worth the moment of uncomfortable I'm feeling in sharing it. But I do want you to know from the beginning two things. One, I am a very fortunate woman that fell in love 14 years ago with the best man I've ever known. This summer will be our tenth wedding anniversary and I treasure ever single day we have together. The second thing I want you know is that my abuser died in February of 2011 and I finally am completely at peace with my past.
I've written before about my Donald, who is truly my soul mate, so know up front that my story has a happy ending. But the Drew Petersons, the Scott Petersons of this world prompt me to tell you about a time in my life that I don't talk about, no one in my family mentions, and friends who have only known me since 1997 have no idea about. I'm sure this post will bring questions from some of them. But at this point it feels like a movie I watched, not my actual life, so I'm going to share.
It was 1996. I had just turned 31, I owned Lane Realty and was a single mom, life was not easy, but it was pretty good. There was a man I considered a friend. We had sold his home a few years before, he owned his own business, was quite good looking and VERY charming. Over a few years we'd hung out from time to time, not dated really, just hung out as friends. He had referred his clients to me if they needed a real estate agent and I'd sent business his way as well over a few years.
The summer of 1996 I was dating a construction foreman and when we had our "break-up" it was very difficult for me, not so much my relationship with him, but he had two children just a little younger than my own daughter and I was very close with those children and it broke my heart for them to leave my life. I turned to my friend with my heart ache and that's where the romance began.
He was there for me and so charming. I knew his father lived here in town and had no idea about anymore of his family and it just didn't seem important at the time. In October of 1996 I made the worst mistake in my entire life. I said yes. In November got married. He moved into my house with my daughter and me and the nightmare days began immediately.
There was part of my clothes he didn't want me to wear, he would get angry if I needed to work on weekends. He began to need me to do "stuff" for him if I was on the phone with my mom or wanted to stop by her house. Being cut off from my friends and family felt subtle, I can't say that while I was all happy, newly wed and in love I really noticed any of it. Looking back of course it's all quite clear. As time moved, the verbal abuse began. Me, being a natural problem solver, just keep looking for ways to "fix" it, to "fix" him. To make him understand there was no need to be jealous.
It only got worse. Christmas morning was a total nightmare. He got so angry over a Christmas card in my Christmas card hold (before any gift opening) that had come from a male high school classmate (who happened to be married with three children) that he stormed out of the house and frankly ruined my little 8 year old Abigail's Christmas that morning. By this time, I was a nervous wreck. I was living my life walking on egg shells and loosing about 5 pounds a week without trying at all. People were asking me if I was "sick" all the time. I didn't reach out to anyone for help, I crawled deeper into a shell and tried ever so hard to hide my problems from view. From the outside looking in I wonder how bad it looked, but I spent a lot of time convincing myself it would get better. It didn't.
By February I was simply a shell of my former self. I looked like a sack of bones and he began to try and force me to eat more. I was failing at everything and I felt totally to blame. I couldn't focus on work, I wasn't being a good mom and I'd cut off all my friends with excuses and had minimal contact with my family and that was mostly on the phone. I even stopped going to church for a few weeks just so I wouldn't have to answer questions about looking sick.
In March I had a call from a client and needed to go to the office and he threw a huge hissy fit about me not "being able to make the phone call in front of him" and that was the day he crossed the line. There was hitting, their was hair pulling and there was a gun. My daughter witnessed it all. I was only ever in the same room with him one time after that day and that room was the court room the day a judge granted me my life back in May of 1997. May 9th. My personal "independence day" Also my attorneys birthday in fact. I did look over my shoulder and around corners, I cringed when I saw what looked like his truck until a year ago.
From the outside looking in on other women who are involved with abusive controlling men, I had judged them. Prior to my own experience. It's so easy to sit in judgment and say... "why don't they just leave". I can't really explain in any words that make sense, but I know I felt... I felt love, I felt the desire not to fail at a marriage, I so wanted to "fix" him and make him understand he could trust me and make it all better. So please don'tbe like me... before I lived it, don't judge.
My point in sharing all of this...
It was my daughter who gave the strength to walk away. I put one foot in front of the next and move forward. I did it for her, not for myself.
Frankly the shame of it all kept me from reaching OUT to anyone during that time and NO ONE was reaching in to me. From where I sit now, it is SO easy to spot these control freak men and see the abusers. Over the past 15 years I've reached "IN" to many women and let them know I'd do whatever I needed to do to help. Two of them have been family members even.
I don't want a single person reading this to feel sorry for me. I'm good. I don't need sympathy or sorrow. I made it through it and I don't even regret that I did have to go through it. I learned from it. My daughter learned from it. The minute one of her boyfriends in high school would get clingy and jealous she'd toss them to the curb in a heart beat.
What I want from you after reading this, what I demand of you after reading this... is a promise that if you see even the slightest hint of abuse you will reach "in" to the person suffering the abuse. Talk to their family, talk to them talk to their friends and yes, talk to the police. Not so long ago a man walked into our local Lowe's and shot his wife who worked there. He then walked out, got into his truck and shot himself in the parking lot. I didn't know her, I wish I had. I wish I'd reached in. I am now a very strong, brave woman. I've walked up to couples fighting in public and stepped in, and I'll go it again. I'd do for a friend and I'd do it for a complete stranger. I certainly wouldn't ask any of you to do more than dial 911 if it were strangers, but if it's a person you know... promise yourself not to look the other way, but to reach "in".