Was he going to be pissed off again when he came home tonight? Or was he going to pretend to be happy? These are questions I asked myself every day. I knew he would be home at 5:45 and I knew everything had to be perfect. And supper had to be on time. God only knows what would have happened if supper had been late, or if anything was out of place or any chore left undone. God knew, and so did I. I had suffered the bruised jaw and pulled hair often enough to know.
I met my ex-husband through a mutual friend back in 1984. He was going through a divorce and was trying to raise his kids and work full time. I was young and naïve, fresh out of a bad relationship. He needed help with the kids and so I moved in as a babysitter. Becky said he was a good guy, and I took her word for it.
It wasn’t long until we became involved. Naturally, things were great for a while. He seemed to be the model father; his kids adored him. He worked through the week while the kids were in school, but he was off on weekends so we often took the kids places to have fun.
The abuse started unexpectedly with insults. He would call me stupid and then apologize and promise not to say it again. He would be so nice and sweet. He would explain that, because I had done something wrong, he had gotten angry. Maybe I had cooked the chicken a little too long or folded the towels wrong. He told me that as long as I did thing right, he wouldn’t get upset.
So he would call me stupid, apologize and then tell me what I had done wrong to cause him to insult me. In his logical world, it made sense that anyone who didn’t do things his way was ignorant.
I remember a time when he was cooking supper. He opened the cabinet where the canned goods were kept and when he saw that the cans weren’t lined up correctly, according to him, he threw a fit. He screamed and cussed, called me names. And then apologized and proceeded to tell me why I was stupid. “It’s easier to find what you’re looking for if everything is organized.” The cans WERE organized, just not the way he thought they should be.
In spite of the abuse, he was a good provider. We had a nice home and nice vehicles. The kids always had plenty of stuff kids need to have. There was one time both vehicles were having trouble and we borrowed and old Ford Galaxy from him uncle. I think it was a’63 model. This was in 1997 and we had been married about ten years. I was getting ready to go somewhere one day, probably the grocery store. It was on a Saturday so he was at home. He told me to take a gas can to get gas for the lawn mower so he could mow when I came home. I put the can in the trunk of the car and, after closing the trunk, I got into the driver’s seat. I had just shut the door when he came outside raging mad. He screamed at me saying I had shut the door on the car too hard and shook the whole house. He wouldn’t listen when I tried to tell him it wasn’t the door, that it was the trunk. He reached through the car window, grabbed my hair and punched me in the face three times. I ended up with a busted lip and a black eye.
Typical of a woman in an abusive relationship, I never told anyone. Abusers have a way of making their victims believe the abuse is their fault. They convince their victims they are stupid. That they can do nothing right. No matter how hard I would tried, nothing was ever good enough. I could spend all day cleaning an already clean house. When he came home, he wouldn’t compliment the clean house, he would say something like, “You need to clean the fireplace.” It was summer time.
For the first few years of the marriage, the abuse was scattered. An insult here, a push or shove there. It escalated over time and I tried to learn how to do things to keep him happy. But it didn’t do any good; he always found something else to bitch about.
I wasn’t allowed to have friends, at least not on my own. I could be friends with his friend’s wives, but I couldn’t associate with people he didn’t know. If I made a friend through work, I quickly learned not to mention them at home because he would go crazy. He would accuse me of getting the friend to set me up with another man. Once he even accused me of having a lesbian relationship with a friend.
In 1997, he allowed me to join a gym. I was fat, according to him, so it was necessary. So I joined and I enjoyed it. Got into shape, made friends that I never told him about. The gym was my sanctuary. I went every day except Sunday when they were closed. Funny thing was, when I got into shape, my husband hated it. I looked good and he couldn’t stand the thought that another man might notice. He started bitching about my gym membership. But something had happened to me, inside. I refused to give up the gym no matter how much he didn’t like it.
We bought a computer in 1998 and I discovered the Internet. A couple of years later, while browsing, I saw a headline that read something like “Is Your Spouse a Control Freak?” I read the article and it was as if the writer had stepped into my life and written everything about it. He knew I had to fold towels exactly right and line up the can goods. He knew I couldn’t have friends or speak to anyone in public. He knew that everything that went wrong in my married life was my fault and that I messed up everything. Not literally of course, but that is what an abuser makes their victims believe. Abusers also tell their victims things like “I love you, I wouldn’t lie to you.” And “I love you and I want you to learn these things so other people don’t think you’re stupid.”
The article was a revelation for me. It told me I wasn’t stupid like I had been made to believe for so long. It helped me to understand that he was an abuser with control issues. And it helped me become a stronger person. I began saying what was on my mind. When he would call me stupid, I would smartly explain how his ways were stupid. What difference did it make if the clothes in the closet are facing right or left? He would get really pissed and was violent on several occasions, but he learned to calm down when law enforcement would take my side.
We stayed married until 2007. Our divorce was final the day after our twentieth anniversary. The events that led up to that final step are still fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday.
In 1997, we had moved to the town where his uncle lived. They were close and had a lot in common. He kept the same job because he had been there for over twenty years and the pay was really good. He would occasionally stay at his mother’s for a couple of nights to avoid the long drive of almost 100 miles one way. He worked Monday through Thursday with three days off. So I know the day was Thursday because he was coming home after being away for a couple of night.
I heard him drive up and attempted to be happy. I was cooking supper and the door into the house was just across the kitchen counter from where I was standing. He opened the door and I knew by the look on his face that it was going to be bad. He was pissed, to say the least.
He stomped in without saying a word. Put the things he had carried in on the counter and went back out to get his suitcase. He never said a word; he just stomped around, putting his laundry in the washer, dirty dishes into the sink. He went into the bedroom and changed his clothes. In shorts and t-shirt he got a beer from the fridge. After a couple of gulps, he started in on me.
Apparently he had almost fallen asleep on the drive home and almost had a wreck with an 18-wheeler. That was my fault of course, wasn’t everything? He cussed and ranted and cussed some more. I didn’t say anything, I thought it was best to let him vent and get it over with.
He threatened me, telling me he would knock the shit of me if I didn’t say something.
“What do you want me to say?” I asked.
“Anything is better than just standing there like you don’t give a shit if I die in a wreck.”
He threatened me some more and continued to rant and rave. At some point he remembered he had left his 44 Magnum in the car. It was legal for him to carry it because of the distance he traveled. He went back out to the car, still stomping and threatening me. When he came back in with the pistol, he put it down on the bar, just within my reach.
As he turned to shut the door, he said, “I bet if I knock the shit of you, you’ll have something to say.”
That was the last straw for me. I grabbed the 44 Magnum off the bar, cocked it and aimed it at him and I told him “Shut the hell up! Stop threatening me!” I held the pistol with one hand and called 911 with the other. Within minutes five cops were at my house with guns drawn.