It was only after David L left his relationship of thirteen years that he realized he had been emotionally abused during that time.
I’ve come to the realization that I have been abused for the last 13 years, not physically, but emotionally. I finally have the answer to why people don’t leave an abusive relationship—they don’t realize it is abusive. Even after my separation I didn’t know, I had to hurt a friend before I realized there was even something wrong with me. This is a friend I would rather have never contacted than to have hurt them.
I hurt my friend because on top of abuse I seem to be co-dependent as well. I am not entirely sure what co-dependency is yet, I have been a bit scared to face that, but if I ever want to have decent friendships again I will have too. The online quizzes I have done say my flavor of co-dependency is denial, lack of self-esteem and compliance. Basically I’m needy, clingy and shy. Sadly, at the time I most need friends to help me through this, the neediness sabotages my ability to make new friends and the shyness stops me from asking for help from old friends. There is also more than a bit of shame as well, I don’t really know how to tell people I was emotionally abused. And the people I tell don’t tend to believe me.
It is dealing with the abuse I need help with. I am struggling to understand why I haven’t been in control of my life for the last 13 years. I’m struggling to even understand what I am feeling. It hurts so badly I have been barely been able to hold back tears most of the time. The closest I can come to describing what I feel is violated, the butt of some sick and cruel joke, that someone has been taking something from me for years and I was so helpless I couldn’t even recognize they were doing it. I feel like I am missing 13 years of my life and I won’t get them back and even worse I am going to be missing the next few years trying to get better. I need help because I can’t see how to get better; I don’t know how to make friends anymore, I am not sure anyone will even believe me. The people I have told so far keep telling me I am grieving my marriage but I’m not, this is different but I don’t know how to explain it.
I should start with how I worked out I was in an abusive marriage. Hurting my friend was a sign something was wrong and started this nightmarish journey. I also seemed to have been leaving messages to myself in things I said and wrote to other people. When I was trying to work out what was wrong with me, to understand why I was so sad, I came across the emotionally abused quiz (linked below) and my jaw dropped. More than half the questions were almost direct quotes about what I had experenced. There is a list of statements at the bottom of this article which are all from things I have written and said over the last three months, and they nearly all appear on the quiz in some form. I couldn’t really deny what I had written and said with my very own hand and mouth. That prompted me to make an appointment with a counselor.
In a nutshell my ex is an almost alcoholic, although she would deny that to her dying grave. She binge drinks every three days, like clockwork. She would drink two bottles of wine, three if I had made the mistake of having more alcohol around the house. I know some would say that’s not a lot compared to some alcoholics but it was enough. I think she knew she had a problem somewhere inside her but she seemed to circle that line between normal and alcoholic not quite ever being either. It meant, though, that my life for 13 years consisted of a three day cycle, Drinking Day, Recovery Day and Good day although sometimes when she was stressed the Good day would go missing.
Drinking day was a barrel of randomness for me and I never looked forward to it. When I would call her in the morning I could usually tell she was going to drink that night, there was an excessive happiness in her voice, almost manic and when I heard that I would usually brace myself for impact when I got home. When she drank I would have someone who would branch into one of three personalities.
- Happy drunk: “The world is awesome.” This was the drunken side of her which was enjoyable when we first started dating but that disappeared only to be seen every now and again a few years after our first child.
- Love Drunk: “I want you.” The only time we would ever have sex was when this personality came out, maybe once a week but sometimes months apart. I can’t actually ever remember having sex with my ex sober.
- Mean Drunk: “You’re a waste of space now aren’t you?” This one started surfacing about a year into our relationship but it started replacing the other two more and more. This was never pleasant for me and literally anything I could be blamed for I was—the fall of Rome, Hitler, the sinking of Atlantis, anything. When she was a Mean Drunk she would tell me I was fat and unattractive, that she was going to divorce me, that she didn’t love me and she didn’t know why she married me in the first place. This would be when all my failings would be held up and have a light shined on them, I’m not even sure now whether some of them were failings but it felt like it after she was finished. It wasn’t even a surprise when she finally did ask for separation. When you have heard the same thing once a week for three or more years it lacks the surprise element.
Recovery Day. I don’t need to say much about this except imagine how you treat your significant other when you have a hangover from a really big night. Cranky, tired, short-tempered and irritable. I might occasionally get an apology for Mean Drunk if she had been particularly vicious the night before. I could never talk to her about the day before in any detail, I would be shut down or her crankiness would come out and I would be told if I picked my act up she wouldn’t need to get so mean.
Good Day. I imagine this is what people in a normal relationship experience as a normal baseline. (To be honest, I can’t remember much about what my relationships were like before my ex, mostly just moments here and there.) This is the day we might go out to the movies, dinner, go for a drive or just relax and watch a movie at home. This is probably the only day we would “connect” as a couple but I suspect even that is a stunted view on what connection is. I think I talked a lot about my hopes, dreams etc., but looking back I can’t recall my ex having much in return. I actually don’t know a heck of a lot about her childhood, her past boyfriends (except for one who is far better than I am) or anything really. It’s not that I am a bad listener—just all her stories were usually only a few years old.
So in the end, after our second child, I shut down, although I think I had been heading down that path for a while. My day became a drudgery of get up for work, drive, work, drive home, help with dinner put the kids to bed and before I would know it would be 9.30 pm I would then play computer games until bed depending on what day in the cycle it was. Even playing the computer was hard work, inevitably every five minutes my ex would find some meaningless trivial task she could have done herself for me to do. Repeat forever.
Somewhere along the way I lost contact with most of my friends. I’m not really sure why that is. I used to socialize at least once a week with friends but somehow that stopped. I think some of it was because if my ex was in her recovery day she would want me to stay home and look after her, some of it I think was because if I went out and she was in her mean drunk day I would cop a lot of flak for it and some of it I think is because I couldn’t maintain a relationship with my ex and friends at the same time, not unless she wanted it anyway.
I find myself now near 40, isolated from all my friends and family, and being shunned by all my ex’s friends, people I once thought of as friends as well. I’m a different person now, I exercise, I no longer start to fall asleep at work, I am out and about—camping, to the beach and other activities with the kids when I have them. I don’t miss my ex at all, the day she left the house has been one of the biggest reliefs I have ever experienced in my life. When I have to talk to my ex, or worse meet up with her, I start to feel nervous and anxious. She has already manipulated me into something I didn’t want to do this week but I don’t know how to just say no.
So this second I am anxious, desperately trying to hold back tears, my chest feels like there is a lead balloon in it and basically I am waiting to see the counselor hoping they believe me and hoping they can tell me what I need to do. I want to know if I will be able to have a normal friendship again. I want to know if I will be able to have a normal relationship again. I want to experience these things everyone else seems to take for granted. I want to fall in love again and trust the person on the other end of that relationship; I don’t want my ex to infect every relationship I have from now on. I just want to have a few years of my life where my heads not being screwed over by someone. I don’t think I am asking for too much. It so daunting knowing I will have to spend probably years having to fix myself before I can even do things normal people take for granted.
Here are things I have said, which are signs of emotional abuse:
- It’s like I found myself from 10 years ago
- I was dull and grey
- I had to walk on eggshells
- I feel trapped down here
- I had no energy
- I became this dull grey distant blob who had nothing left, no energy, no will, no desires, no dreams or hopes just someone who let life happen to him.
- I couldn’t say what I felt because xxxx would either shut me down or it would be me not letting her be her
- Somewhere in my marriage I forgot to be myself
- For years I acquiesced, kept the peace, took the highroad, didn’t tell her how I really felt
- I don’t ever want a relationship again where I can’t tell my partner how I feel even if it means my partner may hate or resent me for what I am feeling or going through
- She would have a good day every three days, if she stopped drinking we could have had more good days
- She forgets we had conversations from the night before when she was drinking
- When she drinks she is really mean and says she can’t find me attractive because I’m fat
- I can’t win an argument with her
- When I pull away from her because I don’t want to fight she follows me into the next room to keep it going.
- She kept saying I was having an affair even though she knew where I was all day and I didn’t have spare time to have an affair
- I called her from my work phone every day so she would know I was at work
- I’d come home and she would be cranky at me, I hadn’t been home long enough to do anything wrong
- She kept telling me I was controlling and I don’t understand how
- She wouldn’t let me talk about the things that were bothering me
- I didn’t feel like I had a say
- I have no friends anymore, I don’t know where they went
- She would ring me up at work and tell me she was horny and could I come home. I said I couldn’t and when I would get home that night she said I had missed my opportunity
- I would never know when she was drinking if she was going to be the happy drunk or the mean drunk.
- She would apologize the next day after being mean but I couldn’t ever talk to her about it.
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Photo: jancissmells / flickr