We were just back from our honeymoon when my new husband didn’t like something I said, and he backhanded me across the face. It was the first time he ever hit me.
I sat, stunned, my teeth ringing, as his wedding band, the symbol of forever love, smashed into my mouth. I tasted blood. My hands covered my mouth as my lip grew twice its size. He stood over me yelling, “Don’t you ever talk to me like that again!”
He looked blurry through my tears and “mmhm” was all I could say since my tongue was holding my teeth in place. My lip developed its own heartbeat.
I didn’t lose any teeth that day, twenty-five years ago, but I lost so much more. I lost my dignity and my emotional bearings. It felt like chains had been put on me and I was thrown into a prison and the key thrown out. And to make it worse, I felt like I had chosen this prison. After all, I chose to marry him. This is kind of my fault. I should have known, I should have seen, I never should have married him. The shame I felt could have filled a crater on the moon. I couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want anyone to know how very unloveable I was.
There is more to my story to help you understand why I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone about my abusive husband and why I felt so trapped. First, it was my second marriage. I had already failed at one; I couldn’t have two failed marriages. What kind of loser has two failed marriages? This second marriage was my second chance, and I had clearly screwed it up, so too bad for me. Second, my family never talked about our problems. We were very private and so we never reached out to get help when, for example my older sister battled drug addiction. It was kept secret. That was our way, to keep family issues private, not for the whole world to know. So that’s what I did, I held my secret.
If you’re in an abusive relationship or marriage, I’m sharing this with you to encourage you; to let you know that you can get out. There was a time that I never thought I’d be able to leave, but I did, and you will, too. You may not be able to see how it will happen, but you can be free.
Don’t make the same mistake I did, though, and keep everything bottled up inside. No, tell a trusted friend about the abuse you’re suffering. Emotional abuse and verbal abuse are just as harmful as physical abuse, so don’t minimize that simply because he’s never hit you. I remember one woman I worked with told me her husband called her the meanest names and put her down constantly, but she added, “oh, but he’d never lay a hand on me” as if the verbal lashing wasn’t nearly as abusive as physical violence. All abuse (emotional, verbal, spiritual, sexual, physical) is about power and control and is harmful to the spirit.
It may feel impossible today, but with God and Love and believing in your value, all things are possible, and my dear sweet friend you are made in the image of LOVE, so you already have all you need to get free from this abuse. Keep thinking about the life you want, the safety and freedom you want, keeping it in the forefront of your mind. And then share what you’ve been going through with someone who can help you come up with a plan.
Please feel free to share this and any of the domestic abuse articles with anyone you fear might be in an abusive relationship. Chances are there is someone in your church, neighborhood, at work, family, or circle of friends who is suffering silently that could use some help.
The National Domestic Abuse Hotline is 1-800-799-7233 or visit http://www.thehotline.org for help developing a safety plan.