May's Domestic Abuse Story
After 29 years of living with verbal, spiritual and emotional abuse at the hands of her preacher husband, May, a Christian abuse victim, determines to break free and take contol of her life. This is her domestic abuse story:
I was married for 22 years and have been with my ex-husband for 29! It is only in recent months that I've realised that I've actually been living under mental and emotional abuse.
I thought that because he never actually hit me (he just threatened to if I didn't shut up), that it wasn't classed as abuse. I've always been afraid of him, so I've worked myself and our 4 children around pleasing him in order to maintain peace.
In the 4 years before having children, we were both equals, both out at work, sharing an active social and spiritual life. I thought we shared the same vision and values, and perhaps we did, but now, although he still works for the church, I know that if pressed, he swears at and mocks god and mocked me for my personal faith. God has been my ever present friend through all of it.
I thought that everybody's marriage was such heartache as mine. I wasn't alllowed to share personal fears because it discredited my husband and our shared public reputation, nobody dictated this, it was just a silent rule. If he found out I'd been talking about our relationship to my friends he would explode, so I found one trusted friend and confided in her, but she kept telling me to submit to him, especially sexually and stick up for myself by arguing back and he'd get easier to live with.
I kept praying and waiting for god to change my husband, because the situation was something out of my control, and when he'd spent time praying or chatting with certain friends, he'd show signs of really kind behaviour and be committed to being a better person toward me, but the phases soon wore off and he'd be back to his bad temper, constant complaining and criticism in daily life. I soon found that confronting his bad behaviour just brought about a fight and he wouldn't actually listen to anything he didn't want to listen to.
We did get on well when my husband was feeling reasonable, and I could honestly talk to him about anything and I did so, as long as it was stuff we agreed about and it didn't rock the boat, but his bad moods made him not only grumpy and argumentative, but actively belligerent. He often looked to pick a fight, and if I ever persisted in arguing past his clever mind games and threats of violence, which wasn't often, I'd be so overwhelmed by intimidation, or confused by clever argument that I'd get emotional and disolve into tears and he would then begin to deride me and put me down in every area of my life except my sexuality. It seemed that that was his one, sacred, no go area, but then he broke through that barrier last year and made personal comments about me not having the body of a twenty-something anymore ... I should have worked out then what he was up to!
I just put up with the bad because I thought it would get better. I'm an eternal optimist and I always focused on the good within him when I got the chance to do so in order to try to cultivate the good in him. even when I was being honest with him about problems and issues, I'd always be positive, giving him solutions to change the situation, and in his better moments he admitted his faults and agreed he was the problem in the relationship. I felt sorry for him cos he seemed powerless to do anything about himself. I now realise that he had no intention of change, the good intentions were convincing verbally, but produced no results. Even now, I'm carrying him emotionally and despite his constant flow of abuse via text and email, I'm positive and affirming toward him whilst being honest. I can see now just how dependant he has been on me all of this time even though he has made me out to feel so worthless and useless and has ridiculed my values and thoughts.
I thought this was my lot for life, but for years I studied friends relationships, and was envious of couples who could work together and weren't intimidated by each other.
Our situation worsened immensely when I stayed at home to bring up
our 4 children. I think it was a combination of my vulnerability emotionally
during and after pregnancy, and loss of independance being at home
full time. I didn't have the confidence to assert myself as I should
have done, and stupidly I believed everything he said about me, I
still am very easily unplugged when I know he's not approving of my
opinions or actions, and it's been a hard thing to believe that I
don't actually have to think like he does! I've resented him and my
hard and lonely life with him for years, but I have clung onto god
for everything, and he has said very different, confidence building
things to me that I have believed, and I believe that that is what
has kept me sane!
In public a different image was portrayed, we played happy christian families, and I genuinely didn't give up on my dream of my ideal husband up until 5 years ago when something inside of me snapped. We were going on a short break and driving in the car, he was calling me fit to burn as usual with the kids all in the back listening in silence as usual, and then I answered him back. I said that I didn't care what he thought about me, and that I didn't feel the need to please him anymore, and that I wasn't anything like the pathetic little person that he described me as being and that I was completely the opposite. He slammed the car breaks on full and threw the keys in my face and left the vehicle. I calmly turned the engine over and me and the kids had a great stress free break on our own.
I lost my sex drive when I fell pregnant with my first child, she's 18 on monday! And I realised my husband was drinking heavily when he started lying to me about a bottle of wine when my youngest son was a baby, he's 12 years old now.
We were involved in some nasty church politics about 5 years ago, and the marriage relationship deteriorated badly, now there was no let up in his bad moods at all, he was drunk all the time and the children started to see it now too! He was the family's unwanted stress head. And because of breakdowns in relationships at church we moved town and church, and around this time I determined to get my "ball" back, and take control of mine and my children's lives (my new years resolution).
I'd started to confide in my friends who didn't go to church and they supported me non-judgementally. They are my closest friends today. They built me up and carried me through depression. Step by step I took control of finances, decisions concerning the children because I was operating as a single parent anyway on a day to day basis, always had done. I just took money from our joint account and told him the fait acompli and didn't wait for any bad reaction. I got some of the joint finances put into my own bank account. I verbally told him I no longer loved him and that I'd move out as soon as the children left home. I told him I didn't care about pleasing him any more, and emotionally separated myself from him in my heart and mind, and didn't see him in my future life at all. All these moves helped me to grow in confidence, feeling that I was in control of my life and my children's lives.
Late last year, my husband threatened to throw me and the children
out of our home (the house was his being tied in with his diocesan
contract), he threatened suicide, he threatened to leave us, he threatened
to quit his job, I sought professional advice to find out where I
stood. I didn't have an income of my own except tax credits as a full
time mum. I genuinely had begun to be concerned for our physical as
well as our emotional well being, and feared for his mental health.
And then finally at the beginning of 2008, I found out that my husband
had been having an affair so I grabbed the opportunity and initiated
divorce. It's all amicable on paper, but he has been threatening and
abusive throughout the process. I have worked hard to keep him sweet
to get the thing through. He has had 2 warnings from the police for
harrassment toward me and toward the man who is now my fiance.
He has a relationship with one son who is loyal to him and goes to tea once every week or couple of weeks (this arrangement has since become less frequent). He has a relationship with the younger son too, but he is quite wary of his dad and frightened of him when he's on his own with him. The girls don't really want anything to do with their dad.
Now because of their ages : 12, 14, 16 and 18, and because of the content of the texts he has sent to the children, where he has slandered me, I have chosen to let the children see something of what goes on between us, so that they can make sense of stuff and adjust to our new life healthily informed. I sometimes wonder if they'd have been better off not knowing anything but, my ex-husband has behaved so badly and dragged them into stuff they didn't need to know and so I considered it more damaging for them to see my non response. I always actively encourage them to start to make a relationship with their dad knowing and seeing for themselves what he is like, because at the end of the day, he is their dad and I don't want them to have any regrets about their own choices in this matter.
I am already in a new relationship (as muted above). This man has brought such love and healing into my life I never thought I'd feel so in love again. I feel like my old self, and I'm contented and alive! I didn't go looking for it, and it hit me like a train in terms of intensity. I just didn't see it coming at all. He's been a friend for years.
It's been tough for everybody else adjusting to seeing me moving on so quickly, but I'm more than ready to love and be loved, and the counsel I'm receiving applauds this input into my personal happiness. I'm looking seriously at marriage and possibly even another baby (my new partner is much younger than I am).
I do forgive my ex-husband, and I wish him well, but I'm glad I don't have to be part of his life or his family anymore, and I don't like the kids having too much contact with him because I consider him a bad influence, especially on the boys. If he took a more mature and less selfish approach to this situation I would trust him more, but he is just stuck in the past: groundhog day so to speak, and he passes on his negative vibes to the kids when they have been with him, getting them to feel sorry for him and poisoning my eldest son against my new partner. It'd be great if he would emigrate to Australia really!!!
Return from May's Domestic Abuse Story to Domestic Violence Stories
In This Section:
Domestic Violence Stories
Sometimes Christian women get so bogged down in guilt and the need to save our marriage, that we forget to save ourselves. This book is a must read for anyone in an abusive marriage seeking spiritual guidance. Solid, Christlike interpretation of scripture will offer much needed inspiration and encouragement.
To order in the US: Keeping the Faith: Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse
To order in the UK: Keeping the Faith: Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse
Many people suffer verbal and emotional abuse in secret for years, not really understanding what is happening or why they feel so rotten. Nor do they realize how easily such seemingly mild forms of abuse can be the precursor to physical violence. This book by Patricia Evans helps the victim understand how to recognize abuse, validates the victim's perception of what is happening and offers solid suggestions as to what to do to control abuse and to protect oneself :
To order in the US: The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond
To order in the UK: The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Expanded Third Edition
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