You know I usually write about something funny or even stupid, but today I feel the need to share something serious and even potentially life-changing. I hope it’s not the case, but maybe someone somewhere needs to hear it. It’s not something I’m proud of. Hell, it’s actually mortifying to even discuss it. But it’s part of who I am now, I guess, and it certainly explains some of my overbearing control-freak personality issues.
I grew up with a mom and dad who loved each other and loved my sister and me. We were a pretty traditional family, but my mom wore the pants in the family, for sure. When she and my dad would get into an argument, she’d say what she needed to say, he’d just “listen,” and the next day, he’d come home with flowers. Not exactly perfect, but it worked for them. She was the Type-A control-freak, and he was the laidback, easygoing one. Opposites attract, right?
You could say that… While I was in high school, I was extremely shy, polite, and soft-spoken. I was smart and ran track and had my tight-knit group of friends, but I wasn’t crazy preppy popular. Well, what do you know??? I get hit on by one of the most popular seniors in the school when I was only a sophomore. Go me… go me!! I ignored him and blew him off, which I guess in weird guy language, means “Try harder.” So he did. I finally gave in to him and agreed to go out with him.
Boy, was he charming. In fact, he was the most charming sweet-talker I’d ever met. He knew just what to say, and I was a stupid naïve and innocent 15-year-old. You may imagine where this is going. I eventually ended up spending every second I could with him. Of course, there was no way that we were going to mine or his parents’ houses… Could you imagine?? So we’d go to the park or the movies or the mall. I guess those are the usual places where teenagers used to go.
It didn’t take long before I found out that he had not one other girlfriend, but TWO. But by that time, it was too late. I was IN LOOOOVE. He told me he loved me, that I was the only one for him, and that eventually he wanted to marry me. Okay. Sounds good to me. And if you tell me that things are over between you and her and her, then that must be true, right? Wrong. Right.
Anyway, I laid off of the accusations about the other girlfriends and “dated” him throughout high school. During my junior year, I was shopping at the mall, and I happened to run into one of these other non-girlfriends. She asked me a million questions about the love of my life, trying to figure out whether we were in fact an item or whether I was just making it up. After I kept insisting that he and I were going to be together forever, she decided that the best thing to do was for us to confront him since he was obviously lying to both of us. After all, they were going to be together forever, too. Hmm… how is this gonna’ work?
He happened to work in the mall at the time, so we walked down to the store he worked in, he took a break, and we all went outside to the parking lot to get to the truth of the matter. While we’re standing in the parking lot, he looks at her straight-faced and tells her that he hardly knows me and that there’s nothing going on between us. WHAT???!!! Are you kidding me?! Of course, I call him out right then and there, and he becomes furious with me for not lying for him. What does he do, and how do I know he’s so angry? He backhands the crap out of my face. Yep. You read that correctly. He hit me! Now keep in mind this son-of-a-bitch was 6’4” and 275 pounds, and I was 5’4” and 90 pounds.
Needless to say, when he hit me, I landed on the hood of his car that we were all standing around. I was floored. I couldn’t even believe what had just happened. I was in shock, and like an idiot, I didn’t call the cops. I didn’t know what to do! I had never seen anyone get hit before in my life. Ever! My parents fought occasionally, but they never even came close to getting physical with each other. I picked my jaw up off the ground, snapped out of my shock, and left and went home.
Of course, I didn’t tell my parents about what happened. They already hated him because he was a cheating liar, and I always stuck up for him and made excuses for him. I knew they would skip the whole police thing, too, and go straight for the part where they killed him themselves. So… I kept it a secret.
I ran what happened through my head a million times over the next few days. I was devastated, but what’s worse is that I still “loved” him. What the hell?
A few days later, I was at work, and I turned around, and he was standing right in front of me. My instinct wanted to punch him in his fat face, but I reminded myself that I was at work and to act professional. So I just glared at him instead. You know… that “I hope you die” stare? Yeah – that one.
So he begs me to just hear him out and says, “Off the record, I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for what happened the other day.” Off the record?! What?! I was livid, so I just walked off and went back to work. He called me that night and begged me to meet him so we could talk. Like a sucker, I did, and he begged and cried and pleaded for my forgiveness and swore it would never happen again. He didn’t know what came over him, blah, blah, blah. Like an idiot, I believed him. It sounded good, he was crying, and again… He told me how much he loved me and wanted to marry me and all that “good” stuff.
To make a long story short, this was the beginning of my battered woman syndrome. I know it’s a controversial concept, but believe me when I tell you: IT’S REAL!!! And terrible.
As you now know from yesterday’s post, I left home when I was still pretty young. I was 17 when I graduated from high school and moved out the very next day. Not because I hated my parents or my life, but just because I’ve always been independent like my mom. (I’m definitely my mother’s child…) I couldn’t wait to start college, I had just found out I was pregnant, and I didn’t think I should stick my newest responsibility with my parents.
Considering the fact that I was pregnant, scared, and had no idea what I was doing, I moved in with him. It was the right thing to do, right? I didn’t want to raise a new baby as a single mom, and abortion sure as hell wasn’t an option. I felt like it was my only choice. And things with a baby would only make our relationship better, right? It had to. That’s how things were supposed to work.
Things got worse while I was living there, before I even had Gerald, and continued to get worse as the years went on. He hit me countless times after that, including while I was pregnant. As always, he would cry afterward, promise that was the last time, and beg on his knees for forgiveness. I would blame myself and had myself convinced that I did something that deserved what I got from him. I even covered for him on several occasions. I was that dummy who used the excuse that I fell down the stairs or bumped my head. All while this was going on, he was also having multiple affairs with the underage girls who worked for him and didn’t know any better. So why the hell did I stay with him? That’s what you’re dying to know, right? Why the hell I would stay?
Well, my reasons were classic textbook, actually.
– As effed up as it may sound, it gave me something to make him feel bad about. And whenever he felt bad about it, he would be extra sweet. Psychiatrists call this being positively reinforced by the “honeymoon” phase.
– I was financially screwed without him. I was working full-time and still only making enough to pay daycare, which I had to do so that I could finish college and get my degree. I was terrified of being homeless with two babies. And, like the moron that I was, I was terrified of going to my parents for help. My pride forbade me from allowing them to tell me, “We told you so.” I didn’t want to hear it and face the fact that they were right.
– I honestly believed that I could keep the peace as long as I was doing everything right. So I went to work, went to school, took care of my babies, and still managed to cook dinner and clean the house… the stuff I thought would keep him happy. And calm. I didn’t understand at the time that the bastard was bipolar, and nothing that he did was any reflection of me.
– Probably the biggest reason I stayed was because I was truly scared to death of what the psycho would do if I took the boys and left. He seriously was the type of crazy who would pick up the kids for visitation one day, and then I’d never see them again. I really thought he would either kidnap them or kill us. I was terrified of him, and he knew it. He used it to his complete advantage.
– Sadly, by that point, I had also felt so badly about myself that I thought that I’d be a burden to anyone. I thought I’d be alone forever, with no help and no support. I mean, who would want to support a naïve girl, who’s still nearly a baby herself, plus two little boys? I had rejected myself before I even gave anyone else the chance to do so.
– In hindsight, I also recognize that I was severely depressed. I had no idea of that at the time. I’d never dealt with anyone who was depressed or had any emotional issues, for that matter. I just didn’t have the psychological energy to leave or to fight back.
Pretty pitiful, right?
So what made me finally grow some balls and leave?
The day he beat my kids. Yep. I’m serious, sadly. I got out of the shower one day, and he was beating the crap out of the boys with a belt or a cord or something because they didn’t clean their rooms good enough for his standards. I freaked out on him, so he stopped. Then, I told him I was taking them to the water park for the day, and I drove them to the police department. I was shaking like a leaf, and I had no idea what I was doing. It was a Sunday, and the police station in the small town we lived in was “closed” and the doors were locked. I had to call 911 and tell them that I was outside of the station with two kids and couldn’t go back home. They let us in, took pictures, and wrote a report. When they told me it was safe, I started driving the boys and me back home. On my way, we passed by the police car that he was handcuffed in the back of.
I’ve never been so scared in my life, but I knew, even in that moment, that it was the best decision I would ever make.
You may think that this crazy battered woman cycle is just a bunch of psycho-babble crap, but please believe it. It’s a vicious vicious cycle. And it’s real.
Ladies, if you’re in this situation, get out!!! Get help. I didn’t know at the time, but there are so many abused women’s shelters and safe-houses that can get you help. You’re not alone. And please, don’t ever be as prideful as I was. I was too ashamed to open up to anyone, including my family, because I was scared of what they would think of me. I’m a strong person, and I didn’t want to be seen as a victim. In fact, I still hate that part, and the only reason I’m sharing this is because had someone shared something like it with me, I may have built up enough courage to get out of my situation years before I did.
My concern that I would never find someone who would love me and my kids was ridiculous. My second husband loves those boys more than their sperm donor ever did. Unfortunately, our problems stemmed from outside stressors and things we had never dealt with before, and we just didn’t know how to handle them. But I can say, without a doubt, that he accepted the boys like they were his own. He still does, as a matter of fact. (He’s “Father Figure” in my posts.)
Our fears are exactly that. Our fears. And sometimes they’re not nearly as big and unsolvable as they seem. If people don’t know that these fears exist, they can’t help.
Having gone through all this has definitely affected who I’ve become. I’m [obviously] no longer that shy, soft-spoken little girl. If I think something, I’ll tell you. And I’ll be damned if I’ll allow anyone else to hurt me or my kids again. Hopefully someday I’ll find the perfect balance between the two.
Yes, I still hope Sperm Donor steps off a curb in front of a bus, but I’m past the point of actively plotting his death. I’ve finally learned that wasting my energy and emotions on him only allows him to keep that power over me that he once had. No more, buddy. Never again. He’s not worth it. I’m better off focusing that energy on my raising my boys right and helping others. And for that… I’m a better person.
“Once you tell your first lie, the first time you lie for him,
you are in it with him, and then you are lost.” ~Anita Shreve