Warning this blog has triggers about abuse. Please avoid if you think you will be affected.
When ever I get chatting to someone, the subject of my previous marriage usually pops up. This typically occurs if I am speaking to a guy and he asks about my relationship history.
It usually starts with 'I was married for 7 years but now divorced'. Then the question of why I got divorced comes up. The conversation is usually quite predictable and flows like:
Me: "He was physically and emotionally abusive"
Him: "Man that sucks, I can't believe a man can hit a woman, I would never hit a woman. How long did it go on for?"
Me: "Well it started before I got married until I walked away"
Him: "What do you mean?"
Me: "It occurred over 7 years, but it was never bad enough to require medical attention"
Him: "Eh? why would you stay with someone who hits you?"
Me: ..... (insert meh emoji).
I recognise I am a highly sensitive person. This is a term used in psychology to describe:
Someone who has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in an highly stimulating environment.
I always get upset when I recieve this response. It is like someone telling a girl who is insecure about their weight, that they are 'overweight'.
Yes, I'm already beating myself up for being stupid. I'd rather not have that verbally confirmed by someone I barely know. This response usually causes me to black list that person and I withdraw.
Most people who experience the motions of abuse don't realise it is happening, until after the relationship ends. In fact the first person who said that I was in an abusive relationship was a friend who mentioned it about 1 year before I left the ex (6 years into the marriage), she even used the words 'control' and 'coerce'. I was shocked.. me?! domestic violence?! controlled?!! even now I struggle to accept this. Surely, I'm not that cliche, wouldn't it be blindingly obvious?
I never really explain to any guy (or even the majority of my friends) about what I concluded from my reflections on what happened, and how I ended up in this situation. I have got so fed up at trying to 'justify' how I ended up in an abusive relationship I decided to blog about it instead.
Everyone has limits and boundaries. This varies from person to person. One person may have a higher tolerance for actions when compared to another person. Usually an individual's boundaries is established through childhood experiences.
As a child I had grown up feeling inadequate and insecure. I have reflected on why I felt this so strongly and concluded it probably started when I realised I was different because of my cerebral palsy (my first memory of this was getting told off by the nursery teacher for running 'funny').
I still keenly remember my first sense of academic failure in primary school. I wanted to play the violin in year 3 and was told by the music teacher that I didn't have enough natural talent. I remember feeling very upset that I wasn't clever enough, and that I must be stupid. This pretty much continued throughout my education- I was disappointed with my mediocre SATS in year 6 when I got levels 5, 4, 4 and was especially upset I didn't get a Level 6 in Science, getting Cs in French and English Literature (despite doing 3 GCSEs a year early and getting A* and As in my other subjects).
Probably, because of these feelings of inadequacy, I sought external validation to make myself feel better. As a child this was mostly sought from my mother. However, she is a bit of a tough cookie and I grew up feeling I was never quite good enough around her.
When I did something wrong I received the silent treatment. As a child I found this unbearable and would apologise/beg for forgiveness. The odd time I used to admit/own up to something I never did because I couldn't bare the fact she wasn't speaking to me. Other things also happened but I'm not going to go into further detail .
My feeling of inadequacy continued through college and university.
I was never depressed but there was a lot self loathing/being critical at myself. I was never happy with my appearance, weight, body, academic capabilities, dancing skills, I didn't feel like a good enough human.
I used to think about my future. I genuinely thought a guy would never be interested in me, why would they?
I ended up meeting my ex-husband in my second year of university. I was amazed when he started showing interest. 'As if a guy is interested in me!'. I used to practice religion more than I do now (another blog post in it self).
I was never 'attracted' to him and there was never a 'spark', however I reasoned to myself why I should give him a chance. "Someone is actually interested in me","he's nice guy", "I doubt anyone else will ever be interested in me". There was actually no reason for me to say 'no'. We got married quickly (within 4 months of meeting).
It was fine at the start comments of "I can't ever imagine us arguing", 'You’re amazing', 'I love you' etc were said to me. It was nice to hear these comments.
Many of my memories of the marriage are hazy and this is something I struggle with. Why can't I remember? am I making things up?
However, my first memory of him getting angry occurred near the university. I can't even remember how it started, or the exact time but somehow he got angry, swore at me, 'hit' me and walked off. At first I was a bit shocked, but then the unbearable feeling of making someone angry about me kicked in. I couldn't cope with it, I made contact and apologised for upsetting him.
Another time we were both attending the funeral of a friend's relative. Another friend had asked me to stay with her because she was upset. I said of course, naturally. When I told my ex this he immediately started getting annoyed saying that I couldn't, because he had to go back to university etc. He got quite irate about it and started saying some harsh things. I was shocked and responded 'Can't you have some respect? we are at a funeral'. He saw red- I received a barrage of abuse (Including being called a f***g cu&t) and he left me. I didn't have any cash, I was miles away from my flat and my phone had died. After some time I managed to compose myself and decided to go to the library to study. At 8pm that day he randomly turned up with a few mutual friends. They had decided to go out to eat and wanted me to join. He said he figured my phone had died and that I must be in the library. He was behaving like nothing had happened in front of our friends and I accepted it. This is how the cycle of hiding his behaviour started.
Another time we were having food in a restaurant. Again I can't remember what we were talking about but he got angry. He started swearing, shouting and then threw a fork at me before walking out. I remember feeling so embarrassed and ashamed as people were just starting at me. When I brought it up some time after he laughed at me, said I was bonkers and making things up. It made me doubt myself.? did it really happen? Is my mind just playing tricks on me?
About a year after being married I brought up his anger problems and how it had to stop. He started crying, said he is sorry and feels terrible/guilty. I felt mollified. I couldn't bare him crying so much so I forgive him.
I figured he would stop doing it at some point and I would tell myself he was behaving like this as I was provoking him. If I just kept my thoughts/feelings to myself then he would be fine. When he wasn't 'angry', he was a 'nice' person, so I just needed to stop triggering his anger. He was only angry because of me.
For the first year, these episodes would stress me out. I would call in sick at university and sometimes turn up late to clinical placements. However, after 2 years I started becoming emotionally detached and it stopped affecting me so much. I was told I was a 'cold' person.
I first decided I wanted a divorce after graduation during my FY1 year. It was the first time I disclosed to my parents what was happening. My mum's response was 'it's your own fault, you chose him and you shouldn't have married him in the first place'. My dad's response was 'be a more tolerant wife, he's young and stressed about job prospects, he'll grow out of it, give him a chance and try be a nicer wife'.
This cycle happened a few times, I even disclosed what he did to some of his family members. Responses I received included 'at least he is a faithful husband who will never cheat on you', 'well if he is getting angry and hitting you, there must be a reason for it'.
About 4-5 years into the marriage I started fighting back. If he lashed out I'd 'defend' myself. This then progressed to mirroring his behaviour. One day I became mortified at what was occurring and decided enough is enough. I finally mustered the strength (albeit feebly) to ignore the guilt and pressure from my dad to stay and left (hurrah.!).
How do I feel about this now?
Well, I do feel like I have moved on from what happened it feels like history. I feel guilty about my behaviour, I wish I didn't stoop to his level, and still beat myself up for wasting so much time (the prime of my life!).
Perhaps you are wondering why I've decided to write about this now?
Well, this blog was triggered by a conversation I recently had.
I was telling someone that a guy had told me "you're intimidating -doctor, PhD student, into fitness and beautiful". Its not the first time I've heard similar-ish things. Even though I find it a ridiculous notion, I didn't think anything of it. If anything, I perceived it as his way of trying to give me a compliment.
I was shocked when said person became outraged on my behalf. I was told this is a 'red flag', 'manipulative abuser in the making', 'narcissist' and 'put down artist' (FYI I've never even heard of this term had to google it but its a thing). According to said person he was making himself feel better by putting me down.
I'm baffled by said persons response, I really don't see this.
It's making me question everything? I thought I’m an okay judge of character, but am I?
I've been thinking about my boundaries, tolerance and (perhaps) self perpetuating ground hog day cycle of being interested in guys who aren't good for me.
I have no idea what to do. Perhaps treat it as a personality deficit and make a conscious effort to fix?