Don’t believe it happens? Let Ron Mattocks tell you how his wife mentally abused him and how it ruined his social life, his career, and left him ready to commit suicide. Then find out how he turned things around.
I remember exactly what went through my mind at the suggestion that I had been emotionally abused by my now ex-wife. Horseshit. The very idea sounded ludicrous. I had been an all-state athlete, an Infantry Captain, and an accomplished corporate executive—positions that required strength and mental toughness. The only halfway legitimate version of an abusive wife I could conceive was that of a 400-pound woman squashing her rail-thin, hen-pecked husband because he forgot to bring home the extra side of gravy she wanted from KFC—fodder for Jerry Springer, Tyra, and all those talk shows that specialize in bringing off-the-chart social dysfunction to the masses. I don’t think so, girlfriend. I knew who my baby mama was, and I didn’t need a paternity test to prove that the three boys born during eight years of matrimony were mine. On the other hand, I would be quick to admit that our blessed union was anything but.
The longer our marriage lasted the more my wife and I fought. Early on we attributed it to the bumps that come after the honeymoon period—except there never was a honeymoon period to begin with. Still, we rolled with it; during truces, we even joked about how I just needed to learn that timeless truth upon which every successful marriage is built: the husband is always wrong. But it was no laughing matter.
Our arguments got worse, sometimes with me smashing whatever object was nearby—a reaction that, by its virtue, automatically negated my position, valid or not. In time, my anger issues were singled out as the culprit behind all our problems. Oddly enough, I never had any anger issues prior to meeting my wife, a detail that bothered me. Knowing my behavior was considered to be a form of abuse, I was terrified at the prospect of being a monster. That wasn’t me. It had always taken a lot to make me see red, and yet, regardless of my efforts to maintain control, I was throwing more and more glasses against walls. It had to stop; and so, to avoid the slightest hint of conflict, I made sure to back down early and often.
However, even this failed to curb my wife’s growing unhappiness, a sentiment I attributed to her disdain for military life. Being a career Army officer had been my lone dream since childhood, and my bride-to-be knew what she was marrying into when she said “I do.” Yet despite promises to support me, she wasn’t shy in expressing her contempt for my chosen profession, making sure to tack on her prediction that, if forced to choose, I’d pick the Army over our family every time. Not true. And either consciously or subconsciously, I began sabotaging what, until then, had been viewed by my superiors as a very promising future. Shortly thereafter I left active duty—three months prior to September 11.
In making this choice, I hoped my wife would recognize where my real allegiance lay, and as a result, our marriage would improve. Instead, she claimed that I would only resent her as the reason behind giving up my dream. Things didn’t improve, not even with the rapid promotions I earned, affording my wife the lifestyle she had spoken often of wanting. I sunk into a deep depression and, after another blowup, agreed to seek counseling for anger issues. I felt better having someone to talk to in the form of my therapist; but even so, determining the source of my anger proved to be elusive.
Soon thereafter, I was promoted again, this time to a corporate-level position, a move that created new friction with my wife. She resented that it required me to be more socially active, attending corporate dinners, participating in charity events, and traveling to other parts of the country. Coming home from work, I had to endure several hours of passive-aggressive silence before being forced to talk things out once I had gone to bed.
These so-called “talks” usually boiled down to her latest item among a growing list of petty criticisms: I hung pictures too high, I made the bed the wrong way, I didn’t put the dishrag in the right place, I folded T-shirts poorly—all things I did to help around the house. Eventually, to avoid these evenings of eggshell-walking, I began staying at the office until I knew she was asleep.
Sex was a rarity. I quipped to my therapist that there were three verifiable encounters that I could recall, and that’s only because they resulted in an equal number of children. On the off chance my wife did act interested, she’d shut off soon after starting. For our anniversary, she decorated the bedroom and wore lingerie, before then going on a diatribe, guilting me with every wrong I had ever committed against her.
Finally, one night I snapped. On top of the marital stresses, there were problems at my job, but my wife didn’t want to hear about it. Instead she wanted to take issue with my emotional unavailability. Months of restrained frustration erupted as I grabbed her and screamed in her face to leave me alone. I was immediately terrified. Until then, I had never laid a hand on anyone. Now I didn’t know who I was anymore. Ashamed, I broke down and left. My wife, in turn, filed a domestic abuse report with the police, thus giving her all the ammunition she needed in proving I alone was to blame for our unhappy marriage.
A separation ensued, followed by reconciliation—one with a lot of conditions. I increased my therapy sessions, and at my wife’s insistence, allowed myself to be convinced that my anger stemmed from an abusive childhood (even though my life growing up was as stable as they come). Yet somehow my wife managed to twist isolated moments from my youth into a childhood fraught with abuse at the hands of my parents, none of which was remotely true. For almost a year, I agreed to cut off contact with them. Meanwhile, nastier criticisms were levied at me: she chastised my parenting with comments such as “It’s a good thing we didn’t have daughters because you would just fuck them up psychologically.” Other times she’d belittle me as being nothing more than a 14-year-old boy trying to get laid. And when she disgustingly asked if I was ever going to be a man, I answered with my new standard reaction—tears and silence.
After another one-sided argument, I admitted she was too good for me and agreed to move out. But even this did little to alleviate her control over me. When I mentioned I’d be flying to a critical corporate meeting later that week, she waited until I was boarding the plane to inform me that I would be barred from seeing my third son’s birth. This made me an emotional wreck and I performed poorly in front of our CEO. A week later I was demoted.
Thankfully, though, I did get to be there for my son’s delivery—only after she relented, reasoning that not having me there would’ve raised too many questions with the church. I will never forget that day—my wife snoozing in her hospital bed, my wrinkle-skinned son nestled in my arms, and me, slumping to the side, one career ruined, another on the verge—friendless, isolated, emasculated … suicidal.