You do not know me. I’d melt into a sea of faces, nothing special I’m afraid. I am normal by today’s standards; a hard working, busy mom who hides her dysfunctions successfully. I’ve acquired the doting husband, the two children and the white picket fence. The American dream is mine, according to many. Yet they do not know the secrets I hold.
I am a professional peacemaker, a master illusionist and an accomplished dancer in the tangled steps of marriage to an emotional abuser. I am frequently on the edge of disaster, exhausted and don’t know how I can face another day. I have had to dismiss sexual abuse as proof of devotion, physical venting as a normal means of letting anger out and emotional put downs as protection from pride.
For years I thought abuse happened to the underprivileged, certainly not to me. I was a straight ‘A’ student, a leader, talented and kind. Everyone who knew me, loved me. Future success was assured. I went to the best college, studied abroad, and received my masters. I traveled the world, sang in the most distinguished cathedrals in front of dignitaries, governmental officials and even the Queen of Jordan.
The best was mine. I figured my future was rosy, and full of sunshine. Now I know that life is not a straight road leading to the good things that Heaven has for us. There are many twists and turns that we do not expect. Life is not fair, or easy. Domestic violence is no respecter of race, ethnic background, economic class, or religion. It knows no boundaries and affects everyone with the same severity.
To the public eye, my husband Charlie was adorable, funny and the perfect husband. Only I know his secrets. He shows his true self only to me. No one knows what happens behind our closed doors. No one would believe me anyway. He’s that talented at hiding his true identity.
In the beginning he was my Prince Charming, the one for whom I had prayed for, for many years. At the time I was amazed at how I saw God working in both of our lives to place us together. I know it sounds cliché, but he completed me. He showed me how special I was in God’s eyes, as well as his own.
Never questioning that God brought us together, we married after a year of dating. We were overwhelmingly naive, of course. We believed that we were strong enough, on our own, to break the generational curse that tainted both our lives. He had grown up with a drug addicted father, physically abusive step father and had himself been sexually abused as a teenager. He knew mine. I had grown up with a narcissistic father who abandoned his family, leaving me to play his parental role.
Yes, Charlie knew that I dealt with rejection issues and low self-esteem. He helped me face these problems head on. Together we became stronger. Together we were sure that we had enough love to kiss all of our past and future boo-boos away.
We married and immediately settled into life together. We bought a house and acquired two cute puppies. Suddenly we began playing family. Slowly the red flags started showing themselves. Charlie’s job required him to wake up early in the morning and he never went to sleep early enough to make up for his loss of sleep. Easily he began to fall into the rituals of either being high on energy, or extremely low, being grumpy and snapping his frustrations at me. I passed it off as him just being tired and this became our new reality.
Six years later, being unhappy at work and homesick for home (3,000 miles away) I cried to Charlie that I wanted to move. I wanted to start a family and raise them around Christian relatives (my relatives). His parents never went to church, or lived the lifestyle that I wanted to teach my children. Reluctantly, he agreed. We sold our house and a car and moved across the country.This started the next phase of abuse- put downs and blaming. For the next few years Charlie complained that everything that ever went wrong, was because I forced him to move. I learned to put up with this, because I felt that it was the price I had to pay for getting the desires of my heart.
Then the children came, and life turned upside down. I became consumed with motherhood. Charlie became detached and angry. I asked him to be involved, yet invariably he was too tired. Jealousy cropped up, he hated that I spent so much time and energy on the children. He often complained about what I did all day. I just laughed off the put down, shaking my head at his classlessness.
Happy, I was, but still becoming discouraged and alone. Charlie began threatening to leave us, because he wasn’t happy. He wanted to move back home to his family, because they at least cared about him and had time to spend with him doing what he wanted to do. So, I tried harder to make him happy. Nothing seemed to work and soon he was telling me that I didn’t love him. I assured him that I did. “Prove it!” He said. This started the next phase of abuse- sexual.
Charlie pushed the limits of everything that I didn’t want to do. He didn’t care if he hurt me, he said that it was the only way that he knew that I loved him; to sacrifice of myself. I cried each time. Then he tenderly held me, assuring me that he loved me and would never leave me.Then came the most recent phase of abuse- out lashing.
I let him down. I talked to a guy, an ex-boyfriend in fact, and didn’t tell Charlie, for fear that he would explode. He found out and then knew that I had kept it from him. Suddenly I was a liar and a cheater, just because I talked to some guy 3,000 miles away. Charlie fell into a season of anger, ignoring me and treating me like filth.
Since then I’ve slowly faced the fact that changing a lifetime of habits is one of the most difficult journeys one can ever embark on. I started attending an abuse, 12 Step support group, where I have learned that it’s not my job to change Charlie, but to change me. I had to stop this unhealthy dance by reconnecting myself to the Ultimate Healer, the God of Heaven.
I am not sad as I look back. In my almost half a century of life, the abusive years I suffered were short in comparison. I’ve been through the fire and have come out stronger because of it. I can see how I got there, what I did wrong and have begun to fix my broken behaviors. I have written three books about abuse and look forward to publishing them someday. It is nice to know that I don’t need to be a victim anymore; instead God has a plan for my life, a hope and a future.
If he can use me, I know that he can use you. You are not alone. God loves you.