In part one and part two of this article, I discussed my early experiences of emotional abuse from my husband, including gaslighting and economic abuse–as well as my multiple thwarted attempts to leave the relationship.
I disregarded a lot of awful things my husband did, such as him being mean and abusive to my oldest son. As my son got older, it started to seem like his very existence infuriated my husband. My husband would call my son “annoying” or “little shit,” trying to mask this as a fun pet name. That’s another sign of emotional abuse—saying hurtful things disguised as “jokes.” Therapist and relationship coach Sharie Stines says, “Then when you complain, they claim they were only joking and you’re too sensitive. There is truth to the saying that behind every mean or sarcastic remark is a grain of truth.”
Then, my husband started pushing and punching my son. I’ve even seen him kick my son on more than one occasion. This was something new for him, because in the beginning he treated my son like his own, and was even overly loving and giving. After this physical abuse started, I left again when my son was about two. This time, I had no intentions of ever going back. I wasn’t going to allow anyone to treat my child badly. Yet somehow, he found a way to get me back. He promised to go to therapy for anger management. That lasted a little over a month. He stopped being as mean towards my son, and he stopped putting his hands on him. But you could tell he still didn’t want him around. He had somehow managed to make me believe that he was just a grumpy person, and to forget about the violence I had already witnessed.
As soon as I was accustomed to one form of abuse, he’d throw another one in the mix. He would pick fights with me, and bully me. He terrorized me with things like what I did when we were separated, picking arguments just so he could throw past events in my face. He’d make me apologize for the things I did over and over. He would try to poke holes in the things I told him. He then found reasons to go through my phone–not even conversations with my mother were safe from his surveillance. He wanted me to stop talking to my family and my friends because they were “bad influences.” He’d say that they were the reason I left him, or they wanted me to go be a “whore” just like they were. This was him attempting to isolate me, by making it seem like he was the only good person in my life.
I have been walking on eggshells for so long now that I can’t remember a time my stomach didn’t hurt all the time from anxiety. He didn’t want me going to therapy, either, because “they were against him” too. All of this caused major arguments between us, and still to this day, everyone and everything else is the reason for the failure of our marriage.
Even though things weren’t ideal between us, I became pregnant with my youngest son. I was overjoyed, because I had wanted another baby since my oldest turned 3. It took us about a year and a half to conceive. The moment I walked out of my grandmother’s bathroom with the positive test and a huge, hopeful grin, I was confronted with yet another awful thing I didn’t even know my husband was capable of. He not only stole money from my grandmother’s purse that day, but he also stole my grandfather’s credit card information. Of course, I confronted him about it before I told him I was pregnant; he actually told me the truth because I had proof that he couldn’t deny. He stated nonchalantly, like it was a common thing to do, that he took the money to pay bills. I can’t believe I forgave him, but I did. I attempted to smooth things over by getting him to apologize to my family and pay the money back. Things after that seemed to go as planned. He was being nicer to me and my son. I believed things would finally get better, that maybe babies do fix marriages. It’s hard now not to see myself as naïve to believe such nonsense, but this is how intimate partner violence and abuse works.
Sadly, my pregnancy only opened a new opportunity for abuse. He was cheating on me. I remember on our third anniversary I cooked his favorite meal, and he refused to come home. He said he was going to go drinking with his friends and be back later, for me to just wrap his plate up for him to eat later. He never came home. I was so hurt and heartbroken. The following morning I awoke to messages from his mother stating my husband had gotten into a car accident on the way to her house. After finding out he was fine but my car was totaled, leaving me car-less, I was infuriated. He had not only ruined our anniversary, but he’d managed to destroy something I had worked for over the past three years. My car, the first thing I ever bought with no help from him or anyone else, and he took it from me, leaving no way for me to be independent anymore. And with the car being gone, he had no reason to live with me at my mother’s house, so he moved back to his mother’s house. Which provided him with a better environment to cheat on me and then gaslight me about it. He drove me into antenatal and postpartum depression. And if things couldn’t get worse, I could no longer work due to complications with my pregnancy. This stripped me from economic independence again, leaving me to rely on him to provide me with clothes and shoes. He would buy himself nice designer clothes, weather-appropriate things, while I had to make do with things I could no longer fit in due to my pregnancy. This not only lowered my self-esteem, but gave him fuel in his attempts to terrorize me. I was now a burden to him. I felt ugly and pathetic my entire pregnancy, because I couldn’t afford to clothe myself or leave.
My husband has made me contemplate suicide, something I had never, no matter how depressed I had been, thought of before. Since my youngest was born, my husband has been in a fully public relationship with another woman that he claimed he broke off to be with me. I accepted him back regardless of everything he had put me through with open arms, with hopes that my family would be whole again. I thought he was growing up and trying to be the husband he had always promised me he’d be one day. I keep finding, losing, then re-finding hope.
Now my husband actually is entering the Armed Forces. With a little less than a month left for his deployment, I’m proud to say that I have left our relationship again, this time for the last time. Not only have I left, but in writing this article I’m also shedding light on the abuse. Something he wouldn’t have approved of. I’m not alone in this struggle to leave an abusive partner, nor am I alone on how many attempts it took for me to leave. Thirty-five percent of all women who have been married have experienced emotional abuse, twenty-nine percent have experienced physical abuse. I hope me voicing my truth will give someone the courage to run, or even just to realize they are in an abusive relationship. It’s not always bruises and broken bones. Mental wounds take the longest to heal because no one can see them to treat them. If you are being abused in any way, please seek help. I’m currently looking for support groups myself. Talk to a therapist, a family member, anyone who could help you. This is no way to live.
If you or someone you know is in an emotionally abusive relationship, you are not alone and can get help. The National Domestic Violence hotline offers free and confidential help via phone and chat. Learn more at https://www.thehotline.org/ or by calling 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). If you are local to the Triangle in NC, the organization Interact likewise offers free and confidential services, including support groups: http://interactofwake.wpengine.com/get-help/.