I wrote of this once. In fiction. It was easier to speak in third person, hiding behind the characters I created. When he choked her to near unconsciousness, I could protect myself with that invisible wall.
But it’s time. To speak out. To use my name in telling my story. For myself. For others. Because I have the words to speak of it when so many others don’t. And then the question inevitably arises…
Why do women stay in abusive marriages? This is what most people think, if they don’t ask it outright. Hell, I STILL ask this question, as I have yet to come up with an adequate answer for myself.
The short answer is I don’t know. But it’s not why you think. How do I know? Because I stayed for almost 10 years. And it wasn’t for any reason that most people imagined.
After all, why does a dying frog stay in a boiling pot of water? Because it takes time for the heat to be a true threat.
By then it’s too late.
The signs were there from the beginning, but to a young girl blind with love (or lust?) they were easy to ignore.
We met at a bar, but it was a fluke, right? I rarely went to bars. No reason to think he was an alcoholic just because he was there that night too.
He promised to cut back, and he did. Our whirlwind courtship left little room for the demon of doubt to wiggle his way into our love.
The first time his arms wrapped around my body, not in love, but in hate and anger, I was unprepared. He was drunk. I was desperate to keep him from driving. I ended up in a heap on the floor, throat sore from choking, the sound of his screeching tires telling me I’d lost him.
I was still there three days later when he finally decided to come home.
It was then that I knew I’d also lost myself. (And everything in our joint bank account!)
Next, the demon of war came to our home. He was on alert to fight in Iraq. To save lives with his medic training. In and out of these threats, we tried to stay strong. Ignoring the heat building around us.
This death of soul crept into me slowly. Stealing away at who I was, while I fought to keep my life from falling apart. Then the demon of fear came to live with us. It was to him I was married for nearly a decade.
If you had asked me 15 years ago what I would do if a man strangled me, threatened to kill me, or hurt me in any way physically, my answer would have involved many expletives and a detailed description of what his key body parts would be doing without him.
I was strong. Beautiful. Independent. Intelligent. Educated. Trained in martial arts. A feminist. I was all the things you would NEVER expect of an abused wife. And then I became an abused wife. And all those other adjectives fell to the wayside as I became a ghost of myself, haunting my own life.
My husband wasn’t an evil man. I wasn’t a spineless, uneducated wimp. These are stereotypes that people like to imagine are true, so they feel immune to the realities of what could be.
Why do women stay in abusive relationships? Because we don’t feel the heat until we are already dying.
This is the first part of a 10-part series on domestic violence and relationships based on my life that I will be posting every Monday. Please come back next Monday for the next post, The Beginning of The End, or follow my blog or sign up to receive email updates. You can also like my Facebook Page for updates on my blog, my books and more.