"Time after time you were made to believe that every act of violence or abuse was your fault. Day after day you were made to feel that you were unworthy of him."
"I am NOT your punching bag!"
The counselor grabbed my arm and hustled me out of the room after I screamed this at my soon-to-be ex-husband. She took me into her office, sat me down and told me to get a hold of myself, to calm down and really think about what I was doing. Was my anger and screaming any more productive than his hitting me for so many years? Wouldn't it be better for me to let go of my anger, focus on healing and let the past be left in the past, revisited only to prevent the same mistakes from being made in the future?
After a long, stubborn and brutally honest look at myself, I realized that by holding on to the abuse and the violence, the only person I was hurting was indeed, myself. This did not mean forgetting about the incidents, or allowing them to continue--but it did mean letting go of the 'hold' I dangled over Leroy's head every time something did not go my way.
Leroy and I are married. At the time of the angry outburst in the therapist's office, I had filed for divorce and was letting go of our relationship. There had been some serious and violent abuse towards me and I had finally had enough, I was leaving. Leroy and I were at the worst downward spiral of our relationship. This counseling session was my security blanket for having to deal with the apology requirement of his alcohol treatment. But it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to our relationship.
Leroy and I had always had a bond between us. From the first moment we saw each other we were intensely drawn to each other. We ended up being friends for about three years before we started our relationship, but once we decided to give us a try---the flame went crazy!! The bond we had was cemented and all the good and bad in our relationship was magnified. He was an alcoholic and an abuser, I was the perfect doormat. He was the leader and I was the reluctant follower. We were happy lovers together. I made him my hero, he tried to disillusion me. But through all the trials, tribulations, elation, happy times and abuse--there was the two of us, together, loving each other.
The abuse started out small and grew out of control, and I let it happen. I would never think to stand up for myself, to fight back or to protect myself. I grew up abused, so it was the devil I knew. After too many years of all the pressure building, of learning that I was a person with rights as well, of taking it and never standing up for myself...all hell broke loose. I fought back, left and filed for divorce. And finally, after all that, Leroy went to alcohol treatment. And I was pissed!!!
Why wait until we were finished to do the one thing that would have helped the relationship, that would have ended the abuse? He was only violent with me when he was drunk, and he waits until I leave to get help?? Well, fine, maybe it will help the next person to come along in his life, I thought. (Though even thinking about another person with him made me feel like I was being gutted with a hot knife.) I was self-righteous and I was finished.
I did have reason for my feelings, the hitting does take a toll on your mental well being. It can make you very timid, scared and angry. Angry at the person who hit you and angry at yourself for allowing it to happen. It can also make you react very childishly, since much of your emotions are hidden from others in this situation. You do not want others to know how stupid and helpless you feel in private.
When this meeting was set up, Leroy had completed his treatment and wanted to meet and apologize to me for the damage to me personally and to our relationship. I agreed, partly due to wanting to see him grovel and also because I was lost without him. I was as messed up as he was, but did not see it yet. And then I shouted out those few words that changed the path of our lives...for the better.
I did think about why I yelled at him, all the anger festering inside, the pain I could not hide anymore. I also thought about the reality of our relationship, the closeness we had when he was sober, the great times in our life together that was unparalleled by any other relationship. I thought about how we knew each other inside and out, how we loved each other so deeply and how it had been destroyed in part by bad habits and addiction.
I used to drink with him to avoid having to deal with his anger when I didn't want to drink. I became resentful, making little pokes and probes to even the score. No--he should not have hit me EVER, but I will admit, some of it was provoked. I was not entirely blameless in our cycle of abuse. Did you know the abuser will sometimes get the abuse 'out of the way' by provoking it and letting it happen. That way they can go back to the honeymoon period of the cycle sooner and everything will be okay again. This was the cycle of our relationship. Even though I would not fight back, I would poke and prod and therefore contribute to the situation.
When Leroy told me about how he felt about hitting me, abusing me and the mental damage, he realized I had gone through, I fell apart. I admitted to my part in the cycle and the counselor asked if we thought there was any part of the relationship that could be salvaged. I cautiously thought maybe we could be friends---Leroy wanted it all. And he was willing to do anything it would take to get it all back. He wanted us to be married, to be partners, to love and support each other for the rest of our lives. I was not willing to go quite that far, but agreed to put our divorce on hold. I would see what could be salvaged out of the mess we had made of a great relationship.
After about four months of very intense counseling, we cancelled the divorce proceedings. The bond that drew us together was stronger than ever and we realized that without the addiction causing him to resort to violence and my resentfulness egging it on--we could be happy again. I moved back in to our home and we made a new life together.
It was not easy to rebuild trust, hope and to have faith in our relationship again. The first few arguments we had sent me out the door faster than a racehorse off the gate. Time and more counseling did help and I learned to stay and work our differences out by talking--not shouting, to stop being so defensive and hostile at perceived insinuations, to quit reading between lines that were not there.
Leroy had some issues, too. It was too easy to go to the store and grab some beer when he got upset. This was better than the whiskey he became violent on, but it created its own issues. It wasn't an easy road we were on, but over the next couple of years, it slowly got smoother and we learned to trust each other.
Amazingly, the one area that never took a hit in our relationship was our sexual compatibility. We could always make that work out for us and we both had the same strong sex drive. This was a new aspect for me, since my physical diseases prior to our relationship had made sex very painful. I was still a bit of a prude, okay a lot of one--but I did have a bit of a reason. Painful sex does not make a person adventurous. Now that I lacked the pain, I also lacked confidence in myself as a sexual being. Leroy changed that and made me feel like the sexiest person alive. If only I didn't have stretch marks or a tummy pooch...
I had started to watch porn and enjoy it and also had a couple pocket rockets that were pretty fun. I thought we were the naughtiest couple ever!! I even started to wear lingerie and with the hiding of my stomach--I had gotten pretty daring!! I was a 'wild' woman!!
We had taken our communication level to a new extreme and could talk about almost anything that came to mind. This was due in part to working through the abuse and making a new commitment to each other. A gentler commitment, we had been through the depths of hell together and emerged loving partners. We had risked everything and now knew how fragile and strong our relationship was. We were finally in it for the long haul.
Enter Eden...I found the site and Leroy was cautious. He told me I better really look into it first, before joining--I wanted to join right now!! I waited, oh...an hour, until he went to mow the yard, then signed up. When he came back in the house, I was a member of Eden and was well on my way to getting my first item for review. When I asked for that item later and it was being sent to me with free shipping, his skepticism was still on high. After we received the item and I reviewed it, received enough points to make an order and went through with the order--he was as committed as I am!!
We made plans--picked toys and realized that even though we were far more open with each other than most anyone we know--we could have even more fun and play harder than before!! No more agonizing trips to the nearest adult store 120 miles away!! No more guessing about what might or might not work for us!! Life is good and our sex life, well...let's just say I have reviewed over 400 items and have many more to go.
With the help of counseling, alcohol treatment and a strong sex life, we have overcome an enormous obstacle. We also truly loved each other and had a deep and lasting bond that tied us together, that was strong enough to last while we worked through some very deep and damaging issues. We made it through the worst of times and even though our life is not perfect, it is solid.
Do Not Try This At Home...
It is not easy to make a relationship work out when there was serious, violent abuse happening in the past. The abuser is usually the one with major issues and most of the time, they are in denial. After all, no one wants to admit the sense of power and the thrill they get from punishing and hitting another into submission. Abusers also are generally not going to get help or work on their issues, after all, in their own mind, it usually is not their fault. However Leroy did get help, he worked on his issues alone and with me during counseling sessions. He went to treatment for his alcoholism and worked very hard at changing the violent alcoholic he used to be. He made on hell of an effort to change and it worked.
I am also not entirely blameless. I took the abuse, internalized it and lived as a victim. I became self-righteous, helpless and was an enabler. The violence is uncalled for--unforgivable even, but holding it over his head?? Also unforgivable. Hindsight is 20/20--but what we have overcome in order to build the relationship we have now is incredible. It also goes to show that not all abusers are hopeless. Some of them can change, can learn new ways to cope and can be loving partners eventually.
Do not EVER stay in an abusive relationship. Get out and then decide what is to happen in the future. Not all abusers are willing to go to such extremes to change. As a matter of fact, it is very rare that they do. I realize that my situation is pretty rare and our relationship is very unique. I am a lucky woman to have survived the abuse, much less to have the relationship change and develop into a lasting and happy marriage. We still have our rough times, but overall--damn, I love that man!!! And now I know he loves me as well.
If you are in an abusive relationship, call your nearest S.A.F.E. house and get some help. They are there for YOU--and the people you will talk to do understand. They are usually former victims, themselves.