A Recollection about Leaving My Abuser:
The Rescuer becomes the Tormentor or Another Abuser Masquerading as a Lover
I began to realize that something was terribly wrong with Paul and our relationship. “W-h-a-t do you WANT?!!?????!!!!!!” “W-h-a-t is the PLAN?!!!!!??????”
He often would yell this, without waiting for an answer. He asks without wanting to really know. The only right answer is his answers, his rules, his opinions. I am speaking a language from the moon and he has no plans to go there.
I ignored the red flags and deal-breakers and minimized the innumerable violations of physical and emotional space, the crowding, the yelling in my face, even sneaking through my emails and personal Facebook messages, accusing me of having affairs with “unknown” male FB friends. It was like getting caught in a hurricane with no shelter in sight. I was so exposed and ended up feeling bruised and battered. I didn’t understand about emotional and physical boundaries since they were non-existent during my early years, so any attempt to express “NO!” turned into silent whimpers of protest. I felt trapped, ashamed and alone. I know now something I sensed while with him: it is incredibly dangerous to leave an abuser.
His reaction to my physical deterioration haunts me. His lack of kindness pained me. He was cruel, condescending, without a trace of empathy, explosively hostile when alone. A sinister contempt. Contempt is a terrible thing in a relationship. My vulnerable state was pathetic to him. God forbid I burst into tears. That’s when it’s beyond repair, when a partner is contemptuous. I knew this, but I had learned to not say my thoughts out loud.
He thinks that learning to treat a woman as an equal partner is just too much trouble. He tells me he’s not going to change. It’s me that needs to change, because “I’m not playing my cards right with my many complaints.”
Only when I worked out of the house was I valued, and when I did get a job as an attempt to sooth his anger, and was unable to sustain it, he’d sneer “A job is a job! You and your complaints! I didn’t sign up for this. What about me?? There is only so much a man can take!!!”
While he slammed cabinet doors in the kitchen, working himself into a rage and frenzy while I cowered in the next room, fighting back the tears. DON’T LET HIM SEE ME CRY.
He’d go into one of his many temper tantrums and yell, “Who’s going to take care of me”??!!!
Once again he was the victim of a hysterical and mentally ill woman. I had heard hundreds of obsessed stories about Carol, his ex-wife, especially around his own children.
Since he “was doing all the heavy lifting”, and unless I “pulled my weight”, I wasn’t worthwhile. He seemed self-satisfied through dominating, intimidating and humiliating me, only in private. The time came when I could no longer tolerate the mind games, the emotional and verbal cruelty. Yet I was paralyzed about what to do. I drew a big fat blank for a very long time. I knew nothing about domestic violence, or emotional and psychological abuse. I minimized the threat of living under the same roof and appeased him by saying “yes” even when I didn’t want to. He didn’t hear “no” anyway. His sadistic behaviors and sudden outbursts of rage had whittled away any self-confidence or self-worth I may had started out with. That was all gone. My nerves were shot. I felt like a hopeless mess. I thought of myself as a pathetic wimp, without strength to stand up for myself. It was too exhausting when I tried. “Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” said my medical doctor.
It crossed my mind that he would use physical violence soon, he had become more and more threatening in body language. Clenched fists, gritting teeth, contorted, twisted features. He has really scared me more than once. He even ruined and sabotaged more than a few important events. I tried asking for some emotional space to prepare and sooth my own anxiety about a crowded art reception, for example, but he wouldn’t listen and would rant and insult me the whole 2 hour drive to Los Angeles. I’d be a mess by the time we’d arrive, and of course he was always fine. Gregarious, good eye contact. I lost a few art sales with him in tow. Since he felt better using me as his dumping ground, he expected me to feel better too. Rarely was that the outcome for me. He would bring me a glass of wine, tell me to “Relax!” and act like the doting, adoring, supportive partner. It’s cathartic for HIM to rain abuse on YOU. Nothing cathartic for you. You’re the target but he thinks YOU should feel better because HE does.
One of my greatest frights, besides the occasional classic drunk-angry driving, was the night before our court appearance to get married. He would have assaulted me if I hadn’t signed the prenup. So I signed, and turned into wood. I was good at that. Numbing out to not feel anything, just like Papi. I kept getting the message that I was not important and that I didn’t matter. Only what he wanted and needed was all important, and of course he was admirable and superior in his own eyes, therefore entitled to preferential treatment. He was the master, that was clear.
I realized he could not respect or support me, could not, and most definitely did not trust me, given the many false accusations of “affairs” or “flirtations” when a man happened to make the grave mistake of engaging me in a conversation.
In any relationship, it makes sense to use sensitivity in tackling a difficult issue. There are ways to voice a grievance that avoid making it sound like a personal attack, and if you mix in some
sincerely confused over my “bad” behavior. And why shouldn’t everyone believe him?
Incidents like these magnified my sense of isolation and helplessness because no one else seemed to notice that anything was awry w Paul. He sometimes acted like he adored me in front of others, especially my children.
My life and freedom has slid down the tubes because of what he has done with my mind, and his life doesn’t. I’m left in shambles while he continues with his work, his life, his family, his friends and his new woman/women while convincing them I’m the one with the problem.
In the beginning I was used as his “good-looking” showpiece around his friends, like a prize he deserved “after what Carol put him through (again “poor Paul”) More and more my humanity was ignored and I was just his property. Eventually get-togethers were all about what interested him and his friends. When I attempted to converse, it was uncomfortable because some of these men weren’t interested in a woman’s point of view, or even what I wanted to talk about. It was often one-sided so I grew to hate these social outings. As it got later mostly they became drunk and belligerent, and I was bored or wish I had brought my own car. Paul would never permit me to do that. One night I did in fact do that, and he sulked and ignored me the whole time, and I sure got a tongue-lashing later when alone.
He believes “taking me to Paris” cancels out every crummy thing he’s done to me. From my journal, one month after returning from our “honeymoon” in Paris:
We are in the danger zone. Cause and effect, I’m told. One more barrage of accusations and harsh criticisms, again, in the middle of the night and I’m dead tired and unable to be coherent and awake during it. After that unexpected explosion, my body reacts with muscle tension and insomnia.
He says “I’m done. I remember that night with Carol when I knew it was over”, as he sits on the bedroom chair, hunched over, gazing at the wood floor. After him leveling off harsh words and spiteful criticisms with dominant tone and body language, seething, I am aware that I’ve reached my threshold. After he’s launched into a general attack (first my lack of contribution to our life, then my plans to travel with friends, now to my weak character, my flimsy values, my Peter Pan behavior, etc etc etc) I understand he is once again saying its not okay to be me. Even my wish to spend time with friends is taboo, I am not free.
This negativity that explodes jarringly unto my being, unprovoked and unexpected, time and time again, has jeopardized my feelings for him. He says ” you’ve changed and are with me for convenience”, and “I don’t feel your love anymore” That’s pretty accurate. Cause and effect. One too many emotional, violent attacks. My psyche is exhausted.
The trip to Paris.
ANOTHER TYPE OF ABUSE
I read “studies show that women whose partners abuse them sexually can have some of the greatest emotional difficulties, including depression, of any abused women. So that explains that.
Something was terribly wrong with me when I allowed him to practice unsafe sex with me, later finding out I had caught an STD. When I questioned him about it, he announced that “everyone has that! Don’t make a big deal about it. I got it from the ocean”. He’d get angry when I questioned further about how he really got it.
Often I became nervous and uncomfortable at bedtime, knowing he was aware that I wasn’t making any attempts at seduction, and his hostility and sulkiness was palpable. How I dreaded his entitled advances, and he tried to make it MY problem rather than a product of his coercive, disrespectful, and humiliating sexual behaviors. Like being sexually assaulted. He would pressure and I’d end up violated. What kind of love relationship is that?
Most of the time i felt dirty and slimed on. I was like a machine to be used for his sexual use. A baffling question loomed in my psyche: why does he want to have sex right after an Incident in which he had been horrible to me? He often forced himself on me with threats or manipulation and sleep deprivation. It was only about meeting “his needs” with no heart to heart connection. It was like an invasion. I hated it. I usually gave in. It ends up being better to just get it over with. Like a rape. It’s awful, but at least now he’ll let me sleep. Or I’d end up in shock, heartbroken and betrayed, feeling that my life had turned completely upside down. And often I couldn’t sleep, as if I missed that window when I was really exhausted and sleepy, and because he forced me awake I couldn’t settle back to sleep now that it was finally over. My insomnia worsened, along with a plethora of physical and emotional sickness.
He doesn’t grasp how ugly he appears when acting cruel. He seemed to seek a quick fix for his abusive behavior by fucking me. As if now everything can be forgiven and forgotten. I could not be a human being with rights, my own needs and feelings.
Entitlement behavior: “Even if I’m mean to you, I still get to have sexual access”.
He wanted me to know I owed him big time, for “putting a roof over my head”.
“You continue to be mine as long as you live under my roof so I retain all rights to your body UNTIL I DECIDE OTHERWISE.”
Having to watch pornography only added more insult to my injuries. He’d maliciously ridicule me for not being “with it.” The ugliness of it was the coercion. What I needed or was feeling was never important. If I attempted to whimper a feeble rebuttal, all hell would break loose and he’d make me pay for “complaining” by turning into a major fury-fest and then as exhausted as I was he wouldn’t allow me to sleep. I had to stay and hear his rants and insults. So I learned to keep my comments to myself. The insomnia became chronic. Lack of restful sleep can really wreck havoc during the day. My psychiatrist says its no wonder I have sleep problems. His abuse disrupted my normal sleep patterns and it’s hard to feel safe enough to fall asleep, often fearing I’d get “woken up” suddenly.
Now I’m beginning to understand that I did not cause his abusiveness, and I could stop figuring out what was bothering him and work hard at meeting his needs, as I often did. As long as i was making him feel better, that’s all that mattered. Now I know that emotional upset and unmet needs have little to do with abusiveness. When I’d say “Don’t yell at me, it frightens me” his response was that he has a right to yell at me because I’m not listening to him, that’s ABUSE.
Since I couldn’t be perfect or play my cards right, or even care to try after all the torturous therapy sessions and the punishments after, his attitudes now revealed that I needed to accept a certain amount of abuse. It came with the territory of being married to him. Especially since my doctor now insisted I quit work, file for disability, and work on recovering from Fibromyalgia. PTSD, Major Depression, anxiety and who knows yet what else.
On my birthday his abuse was especially mean-spirited that morning. I emailed a friend:
On Nov 1, 2012 7:45 PM, “xxx xxxx” wrote: If I may share honestly… not doing well. Therapy has been really hard. Our relationship is not on solid ground and it’s becoming more evident as we continue with Maria. I’m a commodity to Paul, and it’s a business deal in many ways. I can’t bring up important things to decide and discuss and converse in a way in which I feel heard, and that’s really really tough. We’re in such different places I need his understanding and it doesn’t feel like he understands most of the time. My ideas get pushed down, and it’s getting progressively more difficult to be in a relationship with someone who can’t be attentive when I have a concern. There is no emotional commitment. It’s all financial and material according to Paul. He’s trying to put a price tag on it since he’s not getting a return for his “investment” That’s painful to keep hearing. I am alone in this relationship emotionally.
He loves me, but he doesn’t get it. He’s asking me to be less than who I am, and there’s no respect and trust. This attitude is very hurtful. It’s my birthday today and I dont want to have dinner with him when I see my kids tonite. That’s really terrible!!! xoxo xxxx
A few days later, I wrote to no one:
“I am at a loss; I have no idea what to do right now except to tell you that I have to remove myself. I can’t take it anymore. That’s my reality. I need to remove myself since the wounds keep being perpetuated.
I am hurting and sad and scared…(and right now, It’s important to be surrounded by supportive, heart-centered people who make me feel safe and secure).
He was at his “Barbie” tenant’s condo Wed night for 3 hrs while we’re in a crisis Saving face is more important than saving his marriage
if the relationship was normal and healthy, I could say stuff like:
“I disagree with what you did/said, not with who you are.”
“It isn’t you against me; it’s us against this issue and we are in this together.”
“Rather than complaining about my behavior, can you help me understand what you’d like me to do?
During the month of November I began to plan what I could do to survive him and the dreaded holidays coming up.Even (dare I?) possibly escape somehow, so when on his birthday and his entitled behaviors were full throttle, he had his way at bedtime. I could care less about acting like I was interested, or pretend to enjoy it.
He turned over and flatly says, “That was a mercy f++@ if I’ve ever seen one”, @#**#
I was losing my ability to pretend, like our last Thanksgiving/holiday family event before I left him. I really lost it that time. He was bragging to his brothers about his latest conquest, his new tenant Susan and her “huge rack”. And that I was “jealous for nothing”, unnecessarily threatened, and “overreacting.” It was clear he was punishing me for not meeting his standards for the cookie-cutter wife he wanted. Susan seemed more his type, and I sensed it. Clingy, vulnerable, bouncy Blonde, always-in-pink, playing helpless, girly, cheery and dumb. Gag me.
Oh, and now he had a buxom weapon in Susan.
His dehumanizing view of me as his personal possession grew even more ugly as the relationship drew to a close. I had reached my threshold as the offending object to destroy. That was evident now as one of the “punishments” was his sexy, available, flirtatious and demanding new tenant. He tells me he can’t believe I’m jealous since its only about money, and he needs it. And that I don’t understand that (because I’m a woman and it’s a “man’s” thing). Unbelievable. That’s another long story. Yet in therapy he tells Maria that our relationship was going down the tubes because my last therapist had moved to Bali and “he had noticed my decline into even more depression”. He has ALL the answers.
! I thought he was going to include me in the “finding a new tenant for the condo endeavor” instead he dismisses my offers to help in the selection and application process. Oh yeah, tells me the only help he needs is to CLEAN THE THREE BATHROOMS. Scrub toilets is all I’ve got for the missus, “his little helper”.
I wanted to be happy, confident, glad to be married, not threatened at all, secure. BUT I was scared and really confused. Feeling replaced. I was a hot mess. I needed to get good and angry, but I didn’t know how. Where was my inner Feminist? She had booked it long ago in this relationship!
He dragged me with him on moving-in day to “take her a beer and be a good neighbor.” It seemed totally inappropriate. Can I say sadistic. Him bringing her alcohol. She flirts and playfully moews:
“Only one??!!!” I’m not there.
All these terrible thoughts are racing through my mind. My heart is beating fast and I’m sweating. My self-talk is “face your fear’!!!! I swallow my bitter discomfort, like a horse pill, as I’m led into her opulent and gaudy domain. Paul seems to get pleasure in watching me squirm. I survey the chaos, briefly scanning the area. Her hefty male movers, almost a half dozen, have accidentally broken a window and 2 large holes on the walls as they carried her gaudy heavy furniture up the stairs.
I think ” if I were the landlord, I wouldn’t put up with this bullshit. I’m in a nightmare!”
Paul acts like it’s nothing, actually says its nothing, for her “not to worry, it’s no-big-deal-kinda-thing. He’s enthralled doing the BFFFFFF thing. She’s assigning chores for everyone, including me. Did she just ask for my help?? WTF?! But I say “I’m making dinner and have to get going, sorry!”
I can’t stay because my anxiety and alarm skyrockets and shoots through the ceiling. I may pass out. Susan sweetly asks Paul to help her figure out where the best placement is for her dining room pieces and ugly-ass credenza. Ugh. He clamors like a fool to help. I tell him dinner is almost ready. He’s already lugging the dining table (as if she didn’t have enough guys) and has the nerve to say, “Give me 10 minutes, sweetie.”
Oh no he didn’t!!!!
What does that balding Caveman know about furniture arraignment? Suddenly he’s a Feng Shui Master. I’ve had enough. It’s so absurd, I can’t even pretend that I’m okay.
I start packing up the car to go to Jan’s.
An angry and controlling person is like a vacuum cleaner that sucks up a person’s mind and life. And I want them back…My belief was that you love the person enough to put aside your armor, agenda, weapons. I didn’t have a partner willing to do his part and take any responsibility. There was no mutuality. He could not meet me halfway.
I realized it was useless to continue in therapy. Hearing the same usual excuses and rants were insulting AND confusing, and sometimes, really painful. In those days I began to agonize over how to leave. I really was NOT “playing my cards right” any more. I disliked that term anyway. He couldn’t, or wouldn’t step back, he was so angry at me for standing up for myself. He couldn’t even consider that he needed to shift in his thinking. The marriage was over long before we showed up at Maria’s office. He didn’t think his brutal verbal, mental and emotional abuse, or even violent and dangerous behaviors to constitute a failure to “love and cherish”. BUT MY DECISION TO MOVE AWAY FOR SAFETY DOES.
His need to control is full-blown now that I’m gone and I’m uneasy and nervous that he will find me.
THERE’S VALID REASON TO LIMIT CONTACT WITH PAUL.
I’ve been told by people I respect that I’ve very brave not to return. Not even once. Only to get my things.
Encourage the women in your life to insist on dignity and respect, to have faith in themselves, to be proud. Expect boys to be and men to be respectful, kind and responsible and don’t settle for less.
With an abuser, there is no way to bring up a complaint in the “right” way.
Sexual coercion or force is abuse so is chronic sexual pressure. Call a rape hotline
QUESTIONS I’VE ASKED MYSELF:
Are you afraid of him?
Are you getting distant from family and friends because he makes these relationships difficult?
Do you repeatedly leave arguments feelings like you’ve been messed with but can’t figure out exactly why?
When it comes to changing your life, unbridled optimism may be necessary, but it certainly is not sufficient when dealing with a controlling abuser.