On Instagram, I follow a few women with similar stories to mine. A few weeks ago, one of them posted something that caught my attention. It was also something I struggled with, but I never fully understood how it impacted me.
For the majority of my relationship, people would comment on how lucky I was. While we were out, he was doing this or that and people thought my ex was the cat’s ass. I am not saying whatever it was he was doing at the time wasn’t nice or helpful, it just wasn’t genuine. His helpfulness was often for selfish reasons. He NEEDED people to comment on how he was this or that or how great he was, he fed off of women saying they wished their husbands would help out they way he did. He needed that praise as fuel. Inside I would be screaming that he wasn’t like this at home. I wanted to yell that he just wanted attention, or that it wasn’t genuine, that it was all for a show… but often I would smile and agree. There was even times I would agree and brag on how wonderful he was, I tried to convince myself that how I felt was wrong. I tried to see what everyone else saw. I wanted that man to be the one I was married to, not the one that was waiting for me at home. I wanted to believe the good existed in him like others saw. Everyone sees this man who is so perfect, why can’t I? Why am I so miserable? Why do I feel like a huge failure every moment he is around. He could be a wonderful man, he could be helpful, he could do things for me. Unfortunately, often it didn’t happen unless someone would see it, unless he could be praised and someone else could validate his existence, his ego. Then that same day, when we were alone it would always be the comment of why can’t I appreciate him like everyone else seems to. If I could just learn to appreciate him, then things wouldn’t be so hard. He does so much for me, why can’t I be thankful for him. Hearing him say how I would be nothing without him was hard to hear, over and over again. I was selfish and I was spoiled. I began to believed every word. I believed I couldn’t be thankful, I slowly became more angry and resentful of those who could be grateful, thankful and happy. I was convinced that something was wrong with me. It didn’t help that I had a husband flat out telling me that I was the sole reason for the unhappiness in our marriage. Oddly enough, when I was being told I needed to appreciate him for all the things he did for me, his ass would be parked firmly on the couch.
When I look back this was an internal battle for years. I knew what other people saw, I heard what others said and it aligned with what he told me. He did so much for me and I was so lucky. At times if felt like I was invisible to the world. Thank goodness I had such an amazing man to carry me through life, how could I ever survive on my own? He provided well for me and our children so I should be thankful that he took me along for the ride. I felt that if I spoke up about what life was really like or how I felt, no one would believe me anyways because no one saw the other side of him. I never said a word about the things he would say to me, I never said anything about his temper or his porn addiction. I sure as hell didn’t say a thing about the rape. Every single time someone told me how lucky I was, the part of me that wanted to fight back slowly died. The more I heard it, the quieter I became and the more I withdrew from everyone. Especially those who felt that my ex was such a wonderful man. My internal dialogue became filled with self sabotage.
I know that if any of those people who thought my ex was so amazing would have been able to look at what went on behind closed doors, their thoughts on him would change very quickly. I know these comments were well intentioned, and how could they know that I was hiding the truth from everyone? I was lying to everyone, including myself. Hearing these comments on how lucky I was, made the idea of leaving seem almost impossible. It made me unable to speak to anyone about what was going on in my life. Until the day comes that you are so broken, that you don’t care who is with you. You don’t care who is against you. You don’t care what you have to do to get out, you just need to get out as fast as possible.
As much as these comments shut me down and made me quiet, it did the opposite for him. The more he heard, the more dangerous he became. The more outrageous the things he said to me were. The more inflated his ego would become. The wilder the accusations became. I had heard him tell me time after time that I would be nothing without him, and every time a comment was made on how awesome he was he would puff up like a peacock while I withdrew and just wanted to become invisible to everyone and everything.
Now that the dust has settled, and my daughters open up more and more to me everyday. I hear them say they felt the same things I did, and it was the happiest day of their life when they realized that they didn’t have to see dad everyday. There are some who are close to me who would have seen the way he treated my oldest daughter, and how my intervention in the situation did nothing to stop it. I know people saw things that should have raised concern, but no one questioned it. After all, many believed the charade that he could put on every other day was who he really was. Even if someone had come to me and questioned his behaviour towards my daughter or me, I likely would have backed him up or stayed silent. Made some sort of a joke about the whole situation, I would have covered it up. I can’t imagine any situation where I would have told anyone the things I talk about now. I felt embarrassed about the situation I had fallen into. I was ashamed that I was such a dead weight, and surely no one cared about me. They would all believe him, and I would be alone. This is the dangerous trap that women fall into. This is why nothing it said, why women don’t leave. We are isolated and made to feel like we have no one else, and that we should be so lucky to have them because we don’t even deserve that.
I know that I am not alone in this. I know there are women covering up how they feel, how they are treated or what they are told by their husbands with or without physical abuse present. In so many ways I am considered to be a strong, take no bullshit type of person, so how is it possible that I could ever fall into a relationship like this and allow it to continue and get worse for so many years? I did. For 16 years I was that person. It is so gradual you don’t understand or see the change. It is confusing and lonely. I can tell you for more than 12 years I struggled, and with every year that passed things got worse and so did my outlook on life in general. As I have said before, when you are in it you can’t see it. You add that to the façade that many of these men wear in public and you have the recipe for years of abuse to occur unnoticed and unreported. When women finally find the courage to leave these situations they are called crazy. This combination is so deadly, and it is no wonder there is so much abuse that occurs in our society and why so many women are afraid to leave, feeling that they are totally alone.
I don’t know what the answer is, except talk to your daughters, your sisters, your loved ones. Let them know if they ever find themselves in a situation that seems off in any sort of way, you will be there for them. Listen to them, hear them and not judge them. Most of all believe them if they finally open up, they will be struggling to find the words and make sense of it all.
There is a lot of guilt having daughters in the same situation as me. When I hear my daughter say how she would hide from her dad if I wasn’t around upsets me. She tried to tell me, but I didn’t think it was that bad. I believed her, and tried to help her but as it turns out the only was to help her was to physically remove her from the situation. It hurts my heart to know that she endured so much more emotional pain because I was too scared to walk away.
As time goes on, and we continue to heal I know the guilt will fade. I just hope they cycle ends here.