PTSD Comes in Many Forms
Until my marriage crumbled in the close of the eighties I had very little knowledge of the psychology of spouse abuse. That is often the case with the abused; even educated ones like me. Yes, I am a male spouse abuse victim or I was for twelve years. This may seem strange since I am extremely well read. As soon as I started reading in the first and second grades my Mother; who only had been allowed to attend the third grade of public school, always found money for books. Being mountain folk we were quite industrious. So, in addition to my Dad working in the local paper mill also we ran a re-upholstery business and had about an acre and a half of garden plus a Burley tobacco crop. So, a few dollars here and there was not a problem especially since I was an only child.
During high school I was homosexually seduced by someone I thought of as a brother. It profoundly changed my life. It was the sixties and gay was worse than being black in a small Southern Appalachian town. So I was never allowed to date. I don’t mean that my parents wouldn’t let me date; the entire town wouldn’t let me date. So a few years later when I entered college everyone that knew me was amazed. Because I didn’t just date I would often take two and three girls on a date at the same time. The little college town that was near the college had nothing in the way of entertainment. Two restaurants, a one screen movie house, and a liquor store. Of course, there were a number of gas stations but they didn’t count when it came to dating.
My favorite place to hangout happened to be the Baptist Student Union because it was easy to make friends with all the girls there. Of the eighty or so students around half were female. So my friends from my high school that were also attending the same college were shocked when I went down the street with three beautiful young things in my car. Getting the dates was simple. My parents’ house was about twenty to thirty minutes from a fair sized city that had two duplex theatres, an adult theatre, bunches of restaurants and a new mall! For 1971 it was pretty tricked out. In addition my parents were the epitome of Southern Hospitality. So my undergraduate years were not lonely at all. But as I started my senior year I was uneasy about what came after school. Because I knew that after I finished my degree in Blind Rehabilitation that I’d be back out in the cold cruel world and that was really scary.
In my first semesters of grad school I didn’t have time to be lonely. In graduate school you learn to sweat blood. But I had the summers off. This allowed the professors to monitor second year students’ internships.
That summer while visiting friends and an old girlfriend at my alma mater I met my future wife. She was in a summer program for visually impaired students and her room was next to my old girlfriend. Since the incoming students in this program were encouraged to mingle with the old timers we saw a lot of each other. So I asked her out and it was lust at first sight. We had sex on our first date. Often after that I would show up on weekends and we would spend the whole weekend in bed. Actually even if it was the Swingin’ Seventies that wasn’t a good thing. We only had three real dates. So summer was a blur of lots of sex some chit chat and not much else.
When I returned to grad school I missed all of the lust and companionship. Of course I had given her my number. But since she was visually impaired we could also exchange boxes of cassette tapes and not have to pay postage. So I was soon spending hours and hours taping to her and on Saturdays I would spend a couple of hours on the phone. Looking back though I realize that all of this was feel good chit chat; I didn’t get to really know this hot little number that I was thinking about marrying. After all I was a psychology major and getting a masters, boy were those famous last words.
When I returned at Christmas I asked her to marry me. Twelve years later as I was being tossed out with the garbage I was informed that she had never really loved me; she was trying to get away from her insane father.
I would learn a couple of months after we married that over a number of years her father had developed into a paranoid schizophrenic with heavy layers of ritual behavior and delusions in her early adolescence.
During our marriage he was constantly being sent to the state mental hospitals and wound with a full mental disability check from DSS. After we separated I was to realize that my wife had been a victim of severe sexual abuse as a child and teenager. Unfortunately, she had been taught to be adamantly opposed to any type of therapy. For twelve years I tried constantly to get her to get therapy. To my knowledge she never has.
I think it’s ironic that she chose to be silent about all of these problems. Because if she had enough courage to come out about these issues right after we married our marriage could have been her happy ending. Instead I slowly descended into hell.
Understand that what I’m talking about is behavior that usually at normal levels being ramped up to extreme levels. It’s normal for couples to argue but it’s not normal for one of the people to still be going after the other one at 3 AM; and that was a regular part of my life.
When I started to work for the state of South Carolina I was extremely lucky to get a job at the School for the Deaf and Blind. In fact by the second winter I had a house a mile from the school. Since my job involved constantly walking it was a short stroll away. But when the school year ended they had me to be itinerating; I had half the state for a territory! That summer I would put over 50,000 miles on my car. I would be between clients or waiting on the rehab teacher that I worked with and would walk around in a mall to get away from the 1050 heat that was blanketing the state. One time I saw some really cute china horses in a gift shop and they were only a dollar a piece. Knowing that my wife loved horses I got her three or four.
When I got home not only did I get yelled at for being late. It was around seven when I finished but for the next two weeks I was yelled at for rubbing it in that I got to drive all over the state and she couldn’t drive. I soon learned never to say anything about having to make long drives after a hard day’s work; that was my rubbing my being able to drive in her face.
When the job fell through in SC (because I had a co-worker that no one could work with) I was forced to leave Blind Rehab. She didn’t want me to be itinerating. I was offered a position with the Commonwealth of Virginia; they had three openings and they wanted to show them to me and let me take my pick but no I had to retrain and work in factories. For the next eight years I was working in hell. I loved working with people not in factories. By that time she had finally forced me to have a kid. I had been trying to avoid children because I didn’t want to expose them to her. But the demands about work didn’t stop there; she always had a DSS check because of being born with RP. So she would suddenly decide to go visit her mother, I had to call in to work and take her. It might be for a weekend or it might be for several days. Thankfully she could only handle her mother for so long; the woman was a bitter person who constantly complained and was totally cold. Once my wife told me that she couldn‘t believe it when she started being around my parents. Because they were constantly telling each other that they loved each other and rarely even said a cross word.
Because of my having to lay out and frequent taking off to appease her I couldn’t even keep a job with temporary services. In 1988 I had to be listed with seven different agencies just to keep from starving. In fact, that winter things got so bad that I had to sell all of my books to get food. I had several dozen autographed copies of Science Fiction novels.
I hate to think of all of the good jobs I had to quit. Even if things were going great I would be expecting it to go to hell because it was going good. A number of times I was offered permanent jobs and promotions that I had to turn down because she didn’t want me to have any raises and such. Several times it also cost me the temp job! She didn’t care because we always had her DSS check and Foodstamps!
But the humiliation didn’t stop there. Early in our marriage my wife would act very suspicious and try to cover things up. Being a trained observer as an Orientation & Mobility Specialist and having a degree in psychology I knew that as early as two months after our wedding she was fooling around. While we were in Jackson, MS we went to the swimming pool several times so I had bought her a string bikini to wear. I enjoyed having other men stare at her; my trophy wife. She would often flirt with the janitors at the place where we were staying and “work on her tan” while I was at work doing my internship for graduate school. Later when we moved to South Carolina she would hang out with the neighbors in the apartment complex we were in. When I asked her about it she said that she was just smoking a joint with him and the guys. She was always complaining about the fact that my having to be careful about image. Smoke a joint; I couldn’t even go to a bar to have a beer and I bought our whiskey when we visited one of our parents since each was far away from the kids at the schools parents.
About nine months after we arrived we were in a house that we had bought and she confessed that she had been being a “slut” and having sex with the guy next door.
I told her that I had known just by the way that she was acting that it was very obvious. But it only excited me. I showed her some old men’s’ magazines with stories about men sharing their wives with other men that I had kept for years. Polyamory was not known to me then, but now I live by a simple philosophy I don’t put limits on love. During our marriage my wife introduced me to twelve of her lovers; who knows how many others there were. So yes the sex was incredible but because of how badly I was treated out of the bedroom it wasn’t worth.
A couple of months after that she told me to hit the door that I was totally worthless. Looking back it seems silly that I was shocked when the therapist informed me that I had PTSD.
Published orginally at Love’s Notes – A View from the Trenches at lovesnotes21.blogspot.com
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons