What I Learned From Living in an Abusive Marriage
I want to take today’s blog to tell you about the lessons I have learned coming from an abusive marriage. I also want you to know what it looks like to walk in healing – a process God is still working in me.
An abusive marriage is like existing in two simultaneous realities – the good one where you are both happy and love each other and the bad one where the abuser hates you and everything about you. The abuser is actually two people – the good person and the monster. You never know which one you will get and when the bad one will come out to interact with you. The bad personality is always bad, in one way or another. The good personality is the person you fell in love with – the person you think you know. I believe the abuser is aware of this and that the good person you fell in love with is actually part of a cleverly devised scheme. It can be possible for that “good person” to love you but it is a warped love at best and does not come from good motives or intentions. My late husband was both the “good person” and the monster. I think he was very well aware of it and aware of his behavior. I can only imagine what a day in his mind must have been like for him – such confusion indeed. Our house was definitely a mess of confusion - strife, hard feelings, neglect, fit throwing, aggression then loving remarks, quality time, gifts – one confused mess.
I used the term existing in my last paragraph. Why? In an abusive marriage you don’t really live, you exist and you exist to survive and try to anticipate when the monster will visit again. You may feel like you are living when the good personality comes back out but I can promise you this is a short lived experience and a lie, a scheme as I have said before. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the concept of trauma bonding but with abuse and an abusive relationship of any kind there is trauma bonding. What I mean is the person being abused actually bonds in unhealthy ways to the abuser. They may believe they can love the abuse out of them (me). They may give them excuse after excuse for the abuse (me). They may blame themselves and try “harder” to be the good wife, girlfriend, etc. and be more “pleasing” (me). They will stay long after the opportunity to leave has presented itself (me). Can anyone tell I was trauma-bonded to my late husband? I did not know it at the time but I was very much bonded in many unhealthy ways. It took leaving the situation and creating space to clear my head to see what I needed to see, not only about my late husband but about myself too.
God showed me the way out one evening when my husband was melting down for the umpteenth time. I can only say I “knew” in my heart it was time to leave. I had my chance and I took it. I told him I could not do this anymore. I packed a bag and I left. Oddly enough, he did not try to stop me. I chose to walk through my open door of escape. My late husband killed himself about a month after I left the relationship. He had many years of pain tucked away in his heart – pain from abuse in childhood and severe mental illness among other things. I tried to love him and I did my best. I would not have wished that for him but that was his choice. He too was a Christian and I believe despite his choice to be an abuser and severe mental illness, he is with Jesus. Why do I tell you this? It is not to give him an excuse for abuse nor to make up a happy ending. I want to remind us all there is more going on than we see many times, even with the abuser themselves. The abuser needs as much help as the one they are abusing many times but sadly, they will not acknowledge they do or seek help. This is one of the hardest lessons I have learned over the past few years.
This marriage took a lot from me. It took time I’ll never get back. It took pieces of my heart and my identity. It took my joy and my peace. It took my self-confidence and chipped away at my worth. Yet, it did not win. Allow me to explain by answering a question you may have.
What do you do after leaving an abusive marriage or relationship? You work on you. You work on healing and rebuilding your life. You do not do this by jumping into another relationship. You do not do this by suddenly deciding that you hate all men or women. Hate will only drive hurt deeper into your heart and wound you further. You do this with prayer and time. You surround yourself with loving friends and family. You get to know yourself again. You get to know Jesus – your true rescuer. Have any of you ever wondered how you got out of a situation that seemed to suddenly have an open door? Jesus did that for you. He saw you where you were and he saw the evil you were suffering under, he did turn away from you. He opened a door of escape to set you free! He opened the door of healing for you. My precious readers, go through that door!
Healing, as with anything good, is a process. Healing deep wounds takes time and care. He is still working out his healing in me. He has shown me how I ended up with my late husband and what motivated him. He has shown me lies I believed all my life that got me to the point of choosing my late husband. I had to let go of many emotions I deserved to keep by society’s standards. I do not mean that I did not feel them or not acknowledge them. I felt them, acknowledged them and then let go of them so they did not control me nor interfere with my healing process. Does this make sense? Writing was my way of dealing with not only the negative emotions but also to look at the good in myself and in my life in general after I was out of the relationship. I encourage you to find a positive way to deal with your emotions be it writing, art, song, exercise, spa days, etc. You will be amazed at how well these emotional outlets can help. I would also like to suggest on last thing you can do to aid you on your healing journey – a trusted counselor who can be an objective, listening ear. I went through counseling for 9 months after my late husband’s death, both for grief and for the abuse – it was the best thing I ever did for myself. An objective person will allow you to say what you need to say without judgement. They are also not afraid to let you know if you have the wrong mindset or need to tell you something about yourself you did not want to acknowledge.
My hope in writing this piece is that you will learn from my lessons and take the time to invest in yourself and heal. We all deserve healthy, stable relationships where we can be ourselves. Do not accept a substitute! You are worth too much to do otherwise!
With much love,
*If you want to know more about my journey, please see my book The Road Less Traveled: A Story of Love, Pain, Hope and Everything In-Between, available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and Audible.com