We first met through my job, and he was wonderful. I was married to a man who was verbally abusive, and here was someone who thought I was pretty, smart, sexy (all the things my husband never seemed to notice). This man wanted to spend time with me. Also, my husband was a musician, and not very financially responsible. This man was an associate professor, and was working on his PhD.
I ended up leaving my husband, and fairly quickly moved in with the new man. I noticed that he liked to go out to bars a lot, but I didn’t mind at first. I really didn’t recognize that he had a possible drinking problem until the night he grabbed me by the throat, and accused me of still being in love with my “husband.” I’d never had any man behave that way towards me. My father was always nice to my mother. This man apologized to me fairly quickly, and I thought I was so strong when I told him to never do that again or I’d leave. Of course, things were fine again, and eventually we ended up marrying (I know!).
I realized he was drinking too much, and there was always drama. He didn’t have any male friends, except for a college roommate. But he was good at making friends with the women at work. The secretary in his department didn’t like him, but women in other departments all thought he was funny and charming. I never knew exactly what happened, but he ended losing his job, and that’s when things got really bad.
I remember thinking, “out of the frying pan and into the fire.” That’s how the two relationships felt. How did I get myself into this mess? There were so many embarrassing and scary times with him. Part of the problem was I was also drinking too much. It gave me the courage to stand up to him, but it also made me feel complicit. Going out to a bar started out as fun. I would have a couple of drinks, we’d dance, and flirt, and I’d feel so attractive and good about myself. The other thing I should mention is my first husband wasn’t interested in me physically, and I was in my early 20s and a virgin when I met him. My new boyfriend/husband couldn’t get enough of me, and that was so exciting for awhile. It gave me validation. But gradually I started losing interest because who wants to have sex with someone abusive, especially when you realize you don’t really like that person very much anymore. And, you also realize that sex has started to become your “job,” and has nothing to do with liking or loving the other person.
Everything that was wrong in his life was because of someone else. He did have a bad childhood, since both he and his sister were given to an aunt and uncle while his mother was more concerned with her relationship needs. He had been married, and had two fairly young children, and now his ex-wife was a problem because she made visitation difficult. The people at his job were treating him unfairly, etc., etc. The funny thing was, his PhD was in psychology!
The final “blow” (I thought) was the night we ran into my ex-husband at a party. We spoke briefly, and at some point my now husband became upset and left. Fortunately, I had the car keys, and as we drove home my husband became more enraged until he finally told me he wanted out of the car. We were at least 5 miles from home, and I was more than happy to drop him off, hoping he’d go somewhere to sober up. I drove back to our apartment, and soon my husband was knocking at the door, asking me to unlock it and promising he wasn’t going to do anything. Why did I fall for that?
I think part of the reason was embarrassment. The police had been called to our apartment once before, and I can’t describe how ashamed I was. We had been yelling loud enough that someone called them. I didn’t want that again, so I let him in and he immediately grabbed the front of my top and started dragging me forward. He liked doing that because I’d end up losing my balance as I tried to pull away, and I’d fall.
Somehow, we ended up sitting at the table, and I remember telling him I wanted to leave. That’s when he went to the kitchen and grabbed a large knife to threaten me, so I quickly backtracked and said everything was fine; I’d stay. Fortunately, he decided he wanted me to get out, so I grabbed my purse and ran. This was before cell phones!!! I ended up hiding in the entrance to another apartment building where there happened to be a pay phone so I was able to call my parents. My mother ended up calling my brother who came to get me that night, and the next day I was back in my parents’ home. Of course, my husband started calling, and he told my mom that he was going to AA. I was willing to give him another chance because I know I felt bad that I was failing at a second marriage so I wanted to do everything I could to make this one work. Things got better for awhile, although there were setbacks. After a year of not drinking he seemed to think he was not really an alcoholic. Of course, he was wrong, and soon back at it, and then back to AA. Then he found a job in another state, so off we went.
Again, things were okay for awhile, but gradually he started drinking again. He would accuse me (always) of seeing other men (I wasn’t). But gradually I did become attracted to another professor because he was so kind to me. He was nice to everyone, actually. Why wasn’t my husband like this?! Meanwhile, I had a part-time job with the school working for one of the philosophy teachers, and that was probably the best part of my life at that time. She invited me to attend one of her classes on “women’s studies,” and that’s when things changed. One evening she showed her students a movie about domestic abuse, and suddenly things were very, very clear to me. I knew I wanted out.
Today, I am very happy. The only hard part of leaving that horrible marriage was deciding what to do. I didn’t want to go home, and I actually had no way to get there immediately. So, I moved in with a student temporarily. Meanwhile, my mom came to help me. First we went on a wonderful trip together to visit some of her family in Virginia (I was in Ohio). I will always cherish that time with my mother; she couldn’t have been more supportive. When we got back, she bought me a car!
I continued staying with my friend, but immediately started looking for a job, which I found quickly. Then I found an apartment, and before I knew it I was living in Columbus, Ohio. It was really my first time on my own, and I’ll admit that there were times when I was lonely and scared. I was in my late 20s, living in an apartment with practically no furniture, sleeping on the floor, and worrying about my future. The turning point this time was when I told myself I’d give it one year, and if I still wasn’t happy, then I’d go back to Wisconsin where I had family and friends.
Then I met the man I’ve been married to for over 30 years now. We actually worked together, but he was not in the office a lot because he was a consultant and often traveling to other companies. Gradually we got to know one another, and he started offering to drive me home to my apartment so I didn’t have to take a bus. It turned out I was living in his childhood neighborhood, so he would drive around and tell me where all his friends lived when he was growing up. He treated me like a friend, and someone he enjoyed being around. I also noticed that the other employees seemed to like him. To be honest, I didn’t think he was all that attractive initially, but he was so nice I could easily see having him as a friend. Of course, things changed, and eventually we started seeing each other as a serious relationship. Let me say, that he is just as kind and considerate today as he was when we first met. We’ve had our differences, and I’ll never say marriage is easy, but you can get through a lot of obstacles when you’re both committed and feel like the other person has your back.
To anyone experiencing abuse… No one should make you feel bad about yourself. If you’re in a relationship and getting feedback that you aren’t good enough, you’re being accused of things you know you aren’t guilty of, you’re worried that there’s going to be trouble, then it might be time to start talking to someone you trust. If people are already telling you they see problems, try to listen without being defensive. If you are feeling guilty because you think you are part of the problem, stop. Being in a sick relationship makes everyone a “little sick,” too. It’s hard to be objective, and it’s easy for the abuser to make you feel like it’s “your fault.” It’s not.
If you don’t have children already, PLEASE don’t get pregnant. Do whatever you can to protect yourself because children don’t need to be a part of this problem. If you do have children, think about how this impacts them. What are they learning? Are they even safe? The sooner you are able to find help (and safety), the better. None of you deserve to be mistreated. And that includes verbal abuse. Tell someone they are stupid, a loser (fill in the blank) long enough, and they start to believe it. That’s especially true for children.
Life is short, and the time goes by quickly. You’ll realize that even more as you get older. Don’t waste it on a relationship with someone who makes you miserable. You have more control that you think.