I find some topics harder to write about than others. My story seems to be one of those…
I wrote Part I quite a while ago and had Part II in the works not long after. And there it sat. There are several reasons why it has been difficult to write. The first being nuances. I will use a book/movie combination to explain what I mean.
A couple of years ago I was at the library and I noticed some promotional posters up on the walls. They were black with a gold symbol in the center and only three words for a title. After that day, it seemed I kept seeing this symbol and title everywhere I went, yet I still had no idea what it was about. Finally, I did what many other of today’s post-modern adults do: I asked the Google. The symbol was a bird with an arrow in its mouth inside a golden circle. The title: The Hunger Games. I read a synopsis and then forgot about it.
Not long after I looked this up, I heard some co-workers raving about the book, so I bought the book. I have to say, I enjoyed it. (The sequels were progressively more disappointing, however). Then, when the movie came out, I watched it, but I liked the book better. Why?
The author wrote in detail about much of the protagonist’s inner struggles. They contributed a large part of understanding who she really was. In order to capture this on film, however, the first movie would have needed to be made into three. She was a complicated person and her thoughts were just as pivotal to understanding the plot as the action itself. It is really what gave the book its complexity and made it a good read.
Herein lies my conundrum. The nuances make the difference.
How do I take my complex, yet at times seemingly innocuous, day to day interactions with all its nuances to give a cohesive recollection of events without looking like a disgruntled woman using a public platform to bash her former husband? It is the nuances of day to day life that I cannot, without writing volumes, quite convey, yet are the key to understanding the situation. In fact, it was only after they listened to conversations I had recorded that the couple who helped me was able to completely comprehend what I had been trying to explain. Listening to it in action shed a whole new light.
I think the part of the answer lies in my about me page.
I mention the “You too?” concept of camaraderie where you realize that you are not alone and someone else is going through the same thing as you. It was in reading about other situations where I had those “That’s him!” moments that helped me see that this was actually a real thing and I was not crazy.
Sometimes reading the nitty-gritty details help while at other times reading more general descriptions can be just as beneficial. I have decided to write in generalizations while using a few specific examples to shed a little light when needed. This is, after all, not an exposé or a page from a diary, but an attempt to shed light on a topic that runs the gamut from being misunderstood to being kept hush-hush and covered up in order to protect a person (the abuser), an organization (the church) or an institution (marriage).
The second reason my story tends to be a challenge to write is time. In a quote by the narrator of the 2015 Cinderella movie, time is credited with being the means through which healing takes place.
“Time passed and pain turned into memory”
Life goes on. And time, the great equalizer, takes wounds and turns them into scars. And with time, scars fade. And as the scars fade, newer healthier skin begins to emerge. Some wounds cause long-lasting damage. Some scars leave more noticeable marks. People recover from their wounds differently, but ideally, time works its magic. Like the lovely lotus that grows from muck and mud, our lives can take wing and soar above the pain of the past.
But as time passes, details fade. It is how it should be. But as details fade, recollection becomes more challenging. It is a blessing really, to be free of the past. As the past continues to fade, I will do my best to accurately recount what details I can in order to fulfill my purpose for this blog.
So here goes…..
It didn’t take long to realize that things were far from Utopian. Though I have no doubt that at some point in every new marriage the realization sets in that each member of the union is flawed and not nearly perfect as once thought, this was different.
This was not about finding out your spouse perpetually leaves the toilet paper roll empty, leaves dirty socks on the floor, or clips his toenails on the carpet and leaves them there. These were more malignant in nature: control, isolation, blaming, belittling, denial. It would not be until later, much much later, that I would be able to accurately identify what this behavior was though.
Within the first year of our marriage, I was requesting counseling. The man that started off as the “nicest guy I had ever met,” became very different. I never met that man again.
My existence became about meeting his needs, making him look good and being his supply for self-worth. I never could meet those needs though. No one ever can meet the needs of a narcissist. Notice I say no one. There will often be other sources used to attempt to meet those insatiable needs, but there is never enough supply to meet the demand.
I went from being an independent, confident, secure single woman to become an insecure suspicious married woman. I lost myself at age 25.
I knew things weren’t right and I have regretted not following my instincts early on so many times. Despite the fact that I knew that something was up, I was always reassured that things were fine and it was all in my head.
It’s all in your head. Be wary when your “spidey senses” are tingling but you are being informed that you are imagining it. Yes, after a while you can start to see things that are not really there, but let me tell you something: in moments of candid revelation, for whatever reason he decided to be truthful, he confirmed that many of the times I suspected something was up and he reassured me things were fine, I was dead on. Like a red herring used to set a false trail for a fox hot in pursuit, the declarations of my overactive imagination were used to draw me away from the truth.
That is part of the crazy making though. A pivotal part of it. It is the very thing that makes you doubt yourself. When you think things aren’t right but you are being told you worry too much, or are imagining things or any other meant-to-soothe lie that proceeds from the mouth of the narcissistic beguiler, don’t allow yourself to be convinced that you are just hypersensitive with a vivid imagination. Many of those times you are right on and it may take the use of some more sophisticated means of investigation. Something I will discuss in a later article. Something that I eventually used myself and changed the course of my marriage.
Besides the perpetual suspicion that things weren’t right, I was beginning to find out how I really had lost my freedom. Freedom to make choices, freedom to have opinions, and eventually freedom to do little things like talk on the phone to my family when he was home. There are a lot of little ways where you are not “allowed” to do things that add up to become a cage. Bar by bar the cage became more secure and bar by bar I complied.
The reasons behind his stipulations were sometimes out of jealousy. I was ready to go back to school to get my master’s by the time we were married. It was my plan from early on. He had other plans though. Because I got out of college and got to experience the real world before him, he said, he got to go back to school first. I talked about it multiple times over the years and yes, when the kids were young I dropped that dream myself, but when they were older it re-emerged, but still it was squelched. I am finally back in school now, but only after I obtained my freedom.
He just did not want me ahead of him. That became the story of my life. Many achievements, successes, or times I excelled at things were cause for jealousy. It was not uncommon for him to refuse to speak to me if he thought I showed some intellectual advantage.
Now mind you, he is an intelligent and accomplished man, but he just could not stand the thought of my doing something better than him in something that was important to him. Despite my constant reassurances of his own intelligence and like the spoiled child that does not have the exact same toy as another, he took no solace in his own achievements in those moments. He felt inferior and I was to blame for that. This led to regular accusations of being prideful. I cannot tell you how many hundreds of times I was informed of how prideful I was. To be sure, I am. Just as we all are. But it was particularly those moments when I succeeded at something that he chose to make that accusation.
I was regularly ridiculed for dressing “Amish” and for spending too much time and using a commentary when I read my Bible. I had strict standards to which the house was to be kept. As time went on, the insults became much more personal, including how I didn’t measure up physically. Being a woman in this world is hard enough, but having your intimate partner regularly inform you of how you don’t measure up (mind you I was being compared to both real women and airbrushed enhanced computer images) is a difficult pit to come out of.
I was finding out that I just was not good enough, but ironically I was extolled at the same time. I am not sure I can explain the psychology of that, but the emotional whiplash is overwhelming. Of course in public, I was always the best thing since sliced bread. It wasn’t until the end, when he started to unravel, that he was not always able to keep up that facade.
As time went on, I started working harder and changing myself to try to become good enough….