Abuser. It’s still so weird to type that word out. It took me years to come to terms with what really happened. I wouldn’t say it. I struggled with thinking it. I defended him.
Abuser is the right word. It’s his identity. I never wanted the victim identity though. I wanted so badly to not be a victim that I whitewashed who he was.
Years wasted on semantics and denial. Years I could have spent saving my family. There are some things I really wish I had spent those years doing instead of trying to please someone who refused to be pleased. In no particular order, six of them are:
Giving up my career had a devastating effect on me. I lost my financial independence and my earning power. Becoming dependent upon him helped me become voiceless. It was a specter over me every time I kept my silence. How could I speak up if he could just send us to the streets in a snit?
Maintained Independent Relationships
When I left work, I lost contact with my peers and friends. Slowly, I found myself restricted to spending time with the friends he chose for me and select members of his family. When I attempted to nurture new friendships, he always found a way to discourage or sabotage them.
Rented a Storage Locker
THIS would have been amazing! If I had thought to acquire a safe place to stockpile essentials and protect our valuables, you can be damned sure I would have. Toilet tissue, laundry detergent, non-perishables, clothing, cash, etc. If I had a place he didn’t know about, I would have been able to protect some of what he destroyed and keep some of what he took.
This isn’t about legal advice; it’s about what I wish I would have done. Any sane lawyer will tell you not to do this. Even so, I wish I would have had access to enough money to pay a retainer or make regular payments. Or to buy groceries. Or fix the car. Or see the doctor.
Started Standing up for Myself
This is so much harder to learn when you’re leaving. Seriously. You’ve just pissed off someone who hurts you when he loves you and NOW you’re going to try to stand up for yourself? Oh yeah, he’s gonna get right on respecting you and your boundaries. Also, water is dry and unicorns are real.
Felt What Was Going On
Becoming emotionally numb is a remarkable coping mechanism. It helps you to navigate trauma and manage your survival without getting knocked off balance by pain or anger. When you spend enough time numbing yourself, you can agree with your abuser that it really wasn’t that bad. Honestly, if (s)he was that awful, you probably would have felt something. But you didn’t because you learned long ago that your feelings were wrong and had no place in your relationship.
I didn’t do any of those things. As a result, I slid deeper and deeper into his web. Like a twisted spider, he fed off of me for years. It wasn’t until I was a drained, weakened shell that I tried to escape. The fat, cruel spider fought aggressively. Even today, my very survival is an affront to his existence.
Had I managed to hold onto something – my career, my friendships, my self-worth, my feelings – things would not have gone as far as they did. And I wouldn’t still consider myself in recovery. And my children would not continue to suffer.