Sometimes in life the biggest heartbreak or disappointments often come with the biggest blessings. This being said, it does not make any such trials easier. Often times it shakes us to our core, but as we have some time, positive influences, support from friends, family, or even co-workers the fog begins to lift. We can begin to take those small steps to regain our confidence, courage, and most of all self worth.
When I met my husband I had already been through some difficult times. I was coming out of them and making progress, I was on a path to finding me. It was refreshing when I met him; we hit it off immediately as though we had been friends for years. He was patient, kind, funny and most of all supportive. However, I told him from the very beginning that he could not fall in love with me as I could not handle another heartbreak. He stuck around and showed me with his actions that he truly did care. He did the sweetest things to remind me that I was beautiful and strong. I eventually promised him my heart, the remaining portion as well as the pieces that would never be full again. Things were good.
About a year into our marriage and an argument over something I can’t even recall now. This was the first time that he used my independence that I had worked so hard to gain against me. I will not repeat the exact phrase that he uttered at me, but what followed was along the lines of “you cannot continue to be so independent.” “We need to depend on each other if this relationship is going to work.” “I need to know that you need me.” I was so hurt by the words that were coming out of his mouth. When he met me he loved my sense of independence, my strong will, and my desire to try new things. Part of me tried to see from his point of view, but even so why would he call me such a nasty name. This became a reoccurring theme. And slowly I began to give up what I had been working so hard on finding. Best friends and significant others need to be able to depend on the other person for everything….right? We made that commitment to each other so why not fully embrace it? Maybe I was being too independent.
Life is full of surprises. I had always had a belief in God, but this was new. This made me feel good and gave me answers and a calm reassurance. I began to get involved, go to church and had a new desire to learn. I had always gone to church growing up but had never felt a spiritual strength such as this. This was an answer to some of my otherwise believed to be unheard prayers. My husband was an inactive member when we had met, but had also found the renewed desire. We were going to do what it took to make it there as a couple.
Next came a job offer that would require time, focus, and sacrifice. He had been accepted into the police academy. This came around the same time that I had just said yes to going on a yearlong tour with the military to Afghanistan. I had been waiting my entire military career to finally give back to the brothers and sisters who had gone before me. I love my country and I knew upon my enlistment that this was a strong possibility. I was excited for one of my goals to finally be met and scared of the unknown, but more than ready. At first my commitment had brought back the man that I had fallen in love with and everything between us had a feeling of true appreciation. We were soaking in every little moment and he was cherishing everything about me again. And just like that, the tune began to change. “Please don’t go I don’t want to lose the woman that I fell in love with.” “Deployments can change people.” “I don’t think I can make it through the academy without you.” “There are people here who need you more.” Self doubt set in and I began to question everything. In the end I turned the deployment down as my contract would have had to be renewed, my husband needed my support, and how did I know if I could truly handle a deployment after all of the things I had already been through. I could kick myself now.
The police academy was hard, but patrol proved to be even harder. I knew that certain things would change; we would have terrible shifts for years, missed events together, and little quirks that would carry over in to day to day life like not being able to sit with his back to a door. I did my best to let him know that I fully supported him. I would bake cookies for the squad, hide love notes to be found, go on ride alongs to understand his day to day experiences, and encourage side hobbies to occupy days off. With all of this the temple had been put on the back burner for him. We would set a new goal and it would come and go. He wanted to go, but there was always something holding him back. I still had the strong desire to go for myself and one day mustered the courage to ask if it was ok to go alone. He said yes that he supported my choice and that it would not make things different between us. The day I finally did make it, was one that I will forever cherish. The words that he spoke to me after were of love and of how proud he was of my dedication.
He had begun to lose the soft side that drew me towards him, and was replaced by a lack of empathy, patience, and rage. Once loving words were replaced with others such as “kook,” “crazy,” “weak,” or something explicit. I would ask him to not call me such things and he would eventually apologize. If I had my feelings hurt from something he said or did, it would infuriate him and then he would be mad at me often times breaking things out of anger. Instead of granting me space that I would ask for during an argument I would be followed around the house being belittled and bullied. I began to feel as if I was crazy and sunk into a deep depression. I gave up going to the temple. It was easier to give up something that I loved than to have hateful things said about it towards me or use my happiness against me. I began to contemplate why I was really even here on this earth and expressed my thoughts to him on why life wasn’t even worth it. At these dark times he became a master at pushing a little bit harder until I would want to end it all. He would then swoop in to save me and reassure me on how much he loved me and was going to be a better husband and that he didn’t mean to criticize me the way he had.
I was dedicated to my marriage and the belief that his love was still there and this time he was going to try harder and we would be happy. There were times when it was so painful that I would tell him that I could no longer do it. He would promise to try harder, the love I knew would resurface as well as his kind gestures that I had originally fallen for. For a short period of time everything would be peaceful again. I gave everything I had and more, this marriage was going to be successful. I would not quit on him, he must being going through hard times from things he had dealt with at work. He continued to take and take, and eventually no longer bothered to meet me half way or even try to put in the effort. One day when my feelings had been hurt again and I had withdrawn emotionally he screamed at me with hate and fury “go ____ kill yourself.” Repeatedly. I was devastated and knew then that nothing would ever be the same. My life was disposable to him. I spent the night in the office with the door locked and for the first several hours he came back to apologize through the door. The following day he had to work and when he came home it was as if nothing had ever happened. I was so emotionally battered and had zero sense of self worth that I tucked the pain further down and continued to carry on in the same fashion.
Thirty days later he came home from work to tell me that he was leaving me. He had several paths that he could choose in life and that he was unsure that he wanted it to be with me, but he wanted to continue to be my best friend and hang out once a week. Everything that I knew and had been working for had been swept out from under me. Words cannot begin to describe the loss, pain, and confusion that I felt. How can you want to be my best friend but no longer my husband? How was I ever going to make it without him? How would I survive financially? Who would ever be able to love me now? What was the point of putting up with all of his hurtful behavior for him to just walk out? And to your surprise the funniest thing happened, I survived.
The weeks following his decision were some of the hardest and it was now that the harassment heightened. It was during this time that I asked for help. People that I knew and loved stepped up to offer me support, encouragement, and patience. All the while letting me know that I was worth it and the behaviors that had been going on were not okay. I had my phone number and locks changed. The only form of communication was an email thread that he had started. I kept my answers to his questions very simple, but then realized that there was nothing left for me to say to him. He had made his choice and I was going to move forward. This did not sit well with him and he began to threaten to show up at my work or home. I continued to stand my ground and eventually he apologized. To which I still did not respond. I had the control over myself now and I was never going to allow him to treat me poorly again. I did make sure to get the proper people involved so if anything was to happen or he was to show up they would know what the history was. I was gaining back my control.
My court date came, and with that a huge sense of relief. Our legal ties had been broken and I had been restored to my single state. I was continuing to make progress personally and emotionally. If I could say one thing to my now ex husband it would be thank you. Thank you for setting me free, for unknowingly making me stronger and giving me a fresh start. Thank you for helping me to realize what love is not. I am no longer subject to your cruel and hurtful ways. The once negative living environment feels peaceful again and I can breathe a sigh of relief. I am turning a new chapter in my life and I am going to take it and run. I am going to learn to love me, start doing the things I once used to, go back to school, and have set the goal to step back inside those temple doors. Every life has a meaningful purpose and everyday is a gift, I am going to live my life as such.
When I look back at some of the things that were going on I should have reached out for help sooner. And the biggest reason that I didn’t was that I felt ashamed. Do not feel ashamed of the unacceptable behavior of others. You can only control yourself and your actions. Please know that if you are in a bad situation, you are not alone. There are so many people and organizations that are willing to help you seek happiness, a healthy state of mind, and safety. The biggest and scariest step is reaching out and asking, but when you do this I promise that you will be surprised at the love and support offered. There is no reason that love should ever hurt. We need to continue to educate and spread the message so that others too may find courage to leave a dangerous situation. I am grateful that I was able to walk away, but sadly too many are unable to do so.
Below are some red flag warnings and support services that you can reference or share to others that may be in need. Remember that domestic violence can affect any age, race, or sex.
* Wants to move too quickly into a relationship.
* Flatters you constantly and seems “too good to be true”.
* Insists that you stop participating in hobbies or activities, quit school, or quit your job.
* Does not honor your boundaries.
* Wants to know where you are at all times of the day and frequently calls, emails, or sends texts.
* Criticizes or puts you down; says you are crazy, stupid, and/or fat, unattractive, or that no one else could love you.
* Rages out of control but can maintain composure around others.
* Make you feel as if you are constantly walking on eggshells.
* You find yourself crying a lot, being depressed or unhappy.
* You feel afraid to make decisions or bring up certain subjects so that the other person won’t get mad.
SHARE (Phoenix Valley Support Group) -1(602)279-2900
National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1(800)799-7233
www.thehotline.org – organizations, publications, facts/figures, and videos
www.womesnlaw.org – state by state directory of domestic violence shelters