November is Domestic Violence Month here at Band Back Together. If you'd like, please share your stories of domestic violence to remind each of us that we are none of us alone.
None of us.
He only shoved me once.
It was on our first anniversary. We had been drinking, celebrating at an inn on the Columbia River. I was naked, wrapped in the bed's comforter and dying to go outside. It was dark, no one would see us. It was the kind of thing we'd done before we were married.
He had different expectations of me after we married. Or, in his view, after I became "HIS wife." Suddenly it wasn't okay that I didn't cook. Suddenly I didn't look good in pants. Suddenly I was socially awkward. Suddenly people didn't like me. Suddenly I was too obsessed with my graduate school classes. Suddenly I could only follow his lead.
None of this was explicitly stated, of course. We were feminists; flannel wearing Pacific North-Westerners who went to brew pubs and read the alternative paper. Being young, in love and a little screwed in the head, well, I didn't see the expectations as rules. I saw myself making my husband happy. I saw myself trusting my husband's opinions. I saw myself making sacrifices for looooooove.
I'd like to say that that night changed things. That after he shoved me because I had the audacity to try to go outside even though he didn't want to, I realized what a controlling jerk he was. That lying to everyone about how I'd sprained my wrist made me see that something was wrong.
But instead it just made me scared. Scared that he would leave me because I was "so wild." Scared that he'd shove me again. Scared that anyone I knew would suspect. Scared that I could make him so mad that he'd "resort to getting physical." He had me so confused and insecure by the time he shoved me, I was absolutely positive that it was my fault.
Surely no guy who cried over the plight of starving children in Africa, who worked for Greenpeace, who thought women should be running the country - surely that guy couldn't be abusive. I was out of control, I was a bitch, I had to fix myself - even though I didn't feel broken.
I tried. I tried so hard and my stress level got so high that I had my first ulcerative colitis flare. The steroids I needed to fix that, plus my natural inclination to eat when unhappy, caused me to gain a lot of weight. His put-downs got more overt, his attitude became nastier, and our physical intimacy always had a mean edge to it. He suggested I needed therapy so that I could lose weight and "stop being so whiny" about my lifelong autoimmune disease.
His sending me to therapy just proves how deluded he was. He really thought that therapy would make me better at meeting his expectations. I never even told the therapist about the shove or all the times he would keep me trapped in a room until I agreed with him. I didn't have to.
It took a few months before I realized that his expectations were bullshit. Suddenly I grew less afraid of the anger and the threats. He suggested a separation. We'd been married just over 3 and a half years at that point. He was still so sure of himself and so sure of my incompetence that he offered me my freedom, thinking to terrify me.
The separation would commence, he said, when we moved to Kansas City so he could go to graduate school and I could teach. I'd never lived alone. I knew no one in Kansas City - wasn't even due to start my job until 3 weeks after we got there.
I said that if I lived alone for any amount of time, I'd never be able to live with him again. If we separated, that was it. I said that I took my vows seriously, that I thought we should try marriage counseling in Kansas City. He said I was the one with the problems and that I'd fall apart on my own. We separated.
It was just like removing the splint from my wrist - suddenly there was so much freedom, suddenly I was capable again. Suddenly I could use all parts of myself again.
Our divorce was final a year later.