I have been struggling for a few months to push myself to write the final portion of this post, as it is something difficult for me to even speak about with those I love, much less broadcast to the world. But something inside me tells me that it is necessary for the next step in healing, and will hopefully give others the bravery to advocate for themselves and escape an abusive relationship.
In the last post I wrote about our first experience with swinging. In my studies as a nurse, I have come to believe that this incident was driven by the risk-taking behavior that can happen in the grief process; it was a poor attempt to distract myself and escape from the overwhelming feelings of loss after the death of my dear grandfather. Unfortunately, this became a pattern of behavior we adopted as a new norm- an exciting aside to the everyday difficulties and drudgery that was our life at that point. I am embarrassed to admit that I lost count of the number of sexual partners that we had. The rush and the high of hooking up became an addiction for us, and even when I wanted to stop, my husband would use guilt and emotional manipulation to get me to agree to the next one. We lived like this for years, through the birth of my two daughters and all that came with parenthood as well.
Narcissism is a topic that has been given a lot of attention lately. I realize now that I was married to a narcissist who slowly wore away at my self-worth, dignity, and independence, until I was a shadow of my former self and wholly dependent on him. Forgotten was the person that used to be fiercely able, intelligent, and self-directed. Like many spouses trapped in an abusive relationship, I couldn’t envision any other life and was terrified of losing my husband. What would happen to me and the two children that we now had? How would I cope? Would I end up living in a women’s shelter or homeless? I reasoned with myself that I was not physically abused and that my husband loved me, so I learned to push back that still small voice that told me that the things we were doing were wrong. What would happen if our children found out? What would I be teaching them?
The last couple we were with we developed a close relationship with, and spent a lot of time with. We had become careless over time, and with my husband’s vasectomy sometimes foolishly didn’t use protection. When my period was late by a few days, then a week, dread started to settle into the pit of my stomach. When the two lines showed up on a pregnancy test, I was devastated and lost. We told the other couple that we were pregnant, and they were floored as well but supportive. I didn’t know how we would explain this to our families, and I was so fearful of rejection by my husband. When I told him, he wanted me to get an abortion. He ended up telling his mother everything, and she was so angry at me that she refused to speak to me. At Easter a few weeks later, my husband and the girls went to their place for dinner, but I wasn’t allowed to go. I felt so crushed that my husband didn’t stand by me and defend me.
I had at one point decided to get an abortion and had made an appointment. But my dreams at night would not allow me- I would wake from nightmares of my baby screaming, being pulled forcibly from the womb and other images too gruesome to add. My conscience would not allow me to go through with killing my baby. My husband insisted he would leave if I refused, so I finally lifted myself from his oppression and decided to leave myself. I had nowhere to go and no money, and in desperation went to stay with the couple we had gotten pregnant with, and got a job.
I survived in a fog the next few months, taking every day an hour at a time and saving up enough money to get an apartment for my girls and I. I moved out when I was about four months pregnant, and kept working full time. My best friend became more like a sister during this time, as well as a second mother to my children as she cared for them while I worked.
The grief from my broken marriage and the uncertainty of the future wore at me terribly. One night shortly after moving out on our own, I remember lying in my bed at night and feeling so crushed that all I could think about was filling my bathtub and lowering myself under the water, escaping the pain forever. I was done. Suddenly I felt like I was grabbed by the shoulders and shaken until I came to my senses. It may sound ridiculous to some, but I felt God telling me that I was stronger than I knew, that there was a plan for me and that my children needed me. Gone were any suicidal thoughts and I was filled with hope. I got down on my knees beside the bed and cried my heart out to God, going back to him and promising to live a better and honorable life.
The shattered pieces of my life came together after that. I started to go to church, to pray and to trust in God again. I sent in an application to a nursing program, even though the deadline had passed- and was accepted! My bills were caught up on and I could see light in the future. I still struggled greatly with my pregnancy, however. Try as I might, I felt no deep sense of connection with my baby, and was worried about this affecting my ability as a mother to it. I wanted what was best for the baby, and I could not help but feel that I was not it. Over the months, speaking with the baby’s father and his wife, I decided to ask them to raise the baby. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, harder than leaving my ex. They were so excited when I asked them, and told me they had been trying to conceive for 9 years, to no avail. Their support after everything that had happened meant everything to me. So my baby went home from the hospital with them, and I left with empty arms and a broken heart, even though I knew that what we were doing was best. It took a long time to even think about everything that happened without crying. But healing came bit by bit, the children grew and we all thrived in the end.
I am pretty emotional after rehashing all this, so will leave it at that for now. There are many future posts waiting to elaborate on subsequent things,let it suffice to say that I was greatly blessed in the years that followed. As for you, dear reader, if you are in a situation where you are hurting right now, please know that it is not hopeless. There is better for you in the future, and you are worth more than allowing yourself to be hurt or used. Steel yourself, make a decision, and stick with it. It may be difficult at first, but you will be so glad that you did. Be blessed and at peace today.