Survivor Story: Enough is Enough!
Writing this story has been challenging for many reasons; it is painful, personal and hard to know where to begin. I cannot mark the beginning with a major event; rather it was a slow, gradual and progressive thing. My story happened over 20 years in my relationship. There are still many things I am not ready to share, but here are some I am able to share.
The Beginning We knew each other as kids and became “boyfriend/girlfriend” all throughout junior high and high school. We were young… “In love”. Just your typical American high school sweethearts. I wish I knew then what I know now. Looking back, there were many red flags and warning signs I just couldn’t/didn’t acknowledge at the time.
I remember when I realized he first liked me as more than just friends. He was so charming, handsome, sweet, and attentive. He doted over me. I thought he was the ideal boyfriend and I was smitten! With all of my infatuation with him, I withdrew from activities, withdrew from friends, both guys and girls. My disconnection with girlfriends was because he was my world and I no longer had time for them if I wanted to spend all my time with him. My disconnection from guy friends was because he didn’t like me having guy friends.
I would have done anything to make him happy. He wanted to spend time with me, and wanted me all to himself so I thought that must mean that he really loves me. We broke-up off and on many times over the years and every time it was my fault. I was told I wasn’t good enough, that I had wronged him somehow and asked how I could do “that” when he loved me so much. Every time it left me feeling guilty and like I did something terrible (even if I didn’t know what I had done). Every time it was me begging him to work things out and give me another chance.
Fast Forward We were engaged when I found out that he had cheated on me. I remember him being upset when I found out. He was crying, telling me how much he loved me, and saying how sorry he was. I remember him blaming it on the fact that he needed me and I wasn’t there. Wow! It was my fault that HE cheated on me. He told me if only I had been there for him like a good girlfriend should’ve been, it wouldn’t have happened. I thought, how could I not forgive him when I was partly to blame?!
Fast forward Some More We’re married and have kids. I had my perfect little family; living the dream! Only problem was, I was messing it all up. I did “this” wrong and “that” wrong. How dare I ask for his help, his time, or share my feelings or concerns? Actually, how dare I have any opinions or express any feelings at all unless it was happiness and submission. Convinced I was the problem, I read every self-help book I could find on how to be a better person, the perfect wife, perfect mom, and how to make your’ husband happy. I went to counselors so they could help “fix” me; but nothing worked. I was hopeless. What was so wrong with me that I couldn’t be fixed and be a good wife?
The First Time He had been out all night and I had no idea where he had been or when he was coming home. He came home late the next morning. He worked a lot and when he finally got a day off, he chose to be away from our family. I had been home with the kids by myself all day and night. They were little and I needed some relief. I was upset, exhausted and remember asking him where he had been. I was crying and trying to get him to talk to me. Nothing. Silence. He laughed at me, then locked himself in our room and slept the whole day. He finally woke up that evening and came out. Still not talking to me, I kept trying to get him to talk and tell me what was going on and sharing my feelings that we had a family now and that needed to be priority. I tried to explain that we weren’t kids anymore and couldn’t live like kids, doing whatever we wanted. We needed to be a team.
He started walking down the hallway back to our room. I followed him, asking him to please talk to me and grabbed his arm, begging him to please talk to me. He swung around and pushed me, knocking me back. He kept pushing me over and over, all the way down the hallway until finally he pushed me into the front door. I hit my head against the door and the force put a hole in the drywall beside the front door when some part of me had hit it. He finally stopped and stomped back to our room. I was in disbelief. What just happened? Later that week, he apologizes the way every abuser does, “I’m sorry, BUT you should have left me alone. You gave me no choice.”
I really believed that I had done something horrible and pushed him over the edge. Obviously since it was my fault for pushing him to that point; I could change and keep it from ever happening again.
Life Goes On That was the first time he had gotten physical with me; but it wouldn’t be the last. Yes, I was constantly walking on eggshells. Yes, I was always on edge, never knowing what mood he would come home with. Yes, I was constantly catering to him and chasing to be whatever idea of perfection he had at the time. Anything to keep the peace. Anything to make him happy. Isn’t that what a good wife does?
The physical abuse wasn’t constant or for long periods of time. In between the physical abuse, life was great! We were happy, in love, the perfect little couple! But oh the bad times… they were so bad! Every time, I believed it would never happen again. There would be times a year or more would go by between incidents and I would think things had changed.
One day we were in the kitchen. I was working on lunch. Life was great! We had been great! He picked up a package of hotdog buns that one of the kids had left open. He was annoyed and saying they were stale, why hadn’t they been used or thrown away already, and that it was a waste of money. I apologized. I went and picked them up and put them in the trash can. Out of nowhere, he grabbed me by the neck and shoved my head into the trash can, telling me to get them out. I was crying and pleading. I got the package out of the trash. He is still holding my neck. He opened the fridge and shoved my head into the fridge. I don’t even remember anything he was saying to me. I was hurting and I couldn’t breathe. I put the package into the fridge and he shoved me down and walked off. The next day he was loving and sweet like nothing had ever happened.
I was so scared. This had by no means been the worst incident. I had been through worse but something about this time really scared me. For the first time ever, I had the thought that I had to do something.
I filed a police report. Pictures of the bruises on my arms, face, and neck were taken. He was arrested. I was scared of what he’d say and do. I couldn’t believe I had done that. What was I thinking? I was ruining his life.
A few days later, he was out. He called me. He was the most sincere I’d ever heard him be. He promised me everything in the world and told me everything I had ever wanted to hear. “Finally!” I thought. He just needed a wake-up call. He was going to change. He was going to get help. He was a changed man. Everything was going to work out and he would never hurt me again.
But… it would happen again and again. Multiple times. Every time it was my fault. He always would tell me that wasn’t who he was but I brought the abuse out in him. It was my fault that he did those things. He would warn me that if I didn’t just do what he said (leave him alone, not speak, and/or sit in a room by myself) then it would be bad for me. He never took responsibility for his actions and always made it my fault for his behavior.
It would happen when he decided he was going to discipline the kids. I would cringe every time he threatened to spank the kids because I knew that meant that it was going to happen. I am all about discipline but I knew that went beyond that. It got to where I learned if I placed myself in the middle then he would end up coming after me and most of the time end up leaving them alone.
It would happen if we were having a disagreement and he didn’t want to deal with it or was done talking about it.
It would happen if I crossed him somehow. It would happen over trivial things. Each time I would hold on to him and beg him to stop. I would cry and say over and over “I love you. Please stop. You don’t have to do this. I love you. I love you. I love you.” Nothing helped. Nothing stopped it once it started, except him deciding he was done.
Invisible Abuse There was mental and emotional abuse in between there, but I had become so used to it that I didn’t recognize it or see it for what it was.
He called me names, put me down, made threats, controlled money, and always had secrets. He was controlling. He wouldn’t come straight out and tell me that I couldn’t see my family but I knew that I had to be careful and not go visit too often or too long because he would make me pay by shutting down, ignoring me, withholding affection, or criticizing me. He would find something to be unhappy about. I got to where I would be on edge trying to make sure we were home by the time he got home. If I wasn’t, he would take off and say things like “well you don’t care to see me after I worked all day to support you so I’m going to just go do my own thing and go out.” I would cry and plead with him to just come home. I could literally be only 5 minutes behind him showing up. It didn’t matter. It was just another way to control and manipulate me.
I remember hearing ads on the radio talking about signs of domestic abuse and how to recognize it in those around you and how to help them, and feeling panicked. I knew those ads were about me. I worried someone would notice and I wouldn’t be able to hide it anymore.
I remember hiding bruises. I remember being afraid to tell anyone because I believed there was no way that anyone would believe me. If they did they would surely blame me somehow, because everyone loved him. Everyone always talked about how patient, loving, kind, and selfless he was. He wasn’t capable of hurting a fly. No one would believe the explosive anger and rage, or the hate that could spew from his mouth. I remember hating myself because obviously I was the problem when everyone loved him so much and saw this completely different person.
Awakening This was my life. I had decided that it just wasn’t God’s plan for me to be happy. I was supposed to have a hard life. I was determined to make my marriage work and to do everything I could. I forgave countless times of abuse, affairs, drugs, drinking, secrets, and lies. I just had to change more, love harder, and forgive more.
It wasn’t until many years later, that I had an “awakening.” It took a scary situation that I never saw coming and a cop looking at me and saying “Go! You need to get out of here. Take those babies and leave. There’s no telling what he could do. Get you and your kids safe!” That shook me. I realized that if I didn’t do something, nothing would ever change. I would be stuck in the same situation 20 years down the road (if I made it that long). I knew then that I had to get out and I did. It was hard! Brutally hard. BUT, I did it!
The Aftermath It has taken lots of counseling, support, self-reflection and grace to get me where I am today. It took people being blunt with me. It took seeing multiple counselors talking with me about narcissists and abusers and how they manipulate, brainwash and control people before I was open to the idea that maybe I wasn’t this terrible worthless person after all. It took someone believing me and taking me serious when I finally did say something about it. It took them telling me that I didn’t make him lose it, and that he chose to lose it with me and control it around everyone else.
It took my family telling me for years that I had lost myself and how worried they were about me.
It took years to get me to a point where I could say, “Enough is enough. No more!”
I still have hard days where I want to go back to what’s familiar to me. I still have to remind myself to see it for what it really was. I still have days where I feel like I’ll never overcome. I have days where I’m scared I’ll fall for it all again and get sucked right back in.
I was in that for 20 years and I have to remind myself every day that I won’t overcome it overnight but here I am taking it a day at a time, surviving! I am slowly getting back to being myself again. I am learning so much about who I really am and I’m loving myself.
If you’re reading this and you have been on the fence about breaking free, do it! Please do it! Do it for you. Do it for your kids. You are worth it! You deserve so much more than the life you’ve been living. Trust me! I know. There is a brighter future out there. There are people who will believe you, help you and support you!
It’s time to stand up and say, “Enough is enough. No More!”