Why I Stayed

We met at a dance club in 1972. He asked me to dance and immediately sat down at my table, something that both surprised and confused me.  I was hooked.

He was dark-haired and eyed of medium height and weight and watching him chew gum sent my heart into spasms. He was the one, the one my heart had longed for, the one that made me feel like a princess. He was going to be my husband and the father of my children and we were going to live happily ever after……umm, not so much…

It is hard to put my finger on exactly when things started to change. Things went pretty smoothly before marriage, well except for the fact that he had no job, no car and, of course, no money. But for some strange reason, this was all ok in my book. My Father had just been diagnosed with lung cancer and all I really needed at the time was comfort, which at this point in time, he was able and willing to give.

After my Father died things slowly started to change. I had never experienced or observed any kind of abuse, so I was ignorant of the facts and foolish in my beliefs that it would pass. A few pre-marriage events did take place as I look back on it now, but nothing like after our marriage.

In the beginning, it was all verbal abuse ( not insinuating verbal abuse is ok!) which quickly led to a sort of threatening and controlling abuse, such as not allowing me to speak, not allowing me to get out of a chair, etc. Yes, I guess the fact that I stayed through that does seem stupid. Still, I was not quite sure what was going on. I guess I thought he and our marriage was worth putting up with his demanding personality, but that was only the beginning.

Being beat and attacked by the person you love and that is supposed to love and protect you, is the most painful and heartbreaking event I have ever encountered in my life. The fact that I thought I deserved it is without understanding in the mental state I am in today but back then I believed if I could be a better wife, mom, housekeeper, sex partner, person, it wouldn’t happen. Walking on eggshells for 6 years left me in a place where I could no longer tolerate life or function in a normal capacity.

I must say that I do not know what happened to me or where I went mentally during this time. I was somehow lost and wandering in a deep, dark pit somewhere inside my mind, unable to discover a lighted path pointing the way out. I rarely looked in mirrors because seeing my face and the anguish in my eyes shook me to my very core, but still I made excuses and stayed.  Yes, I stayed.  I stayed through the beatings that grew worse every single time they occurred., I stayed through his frequent weekend excursions not knowing his physical location but knowing in my mind exactly where he was because he never failed to tell me when he did return. Yes, he would let me know where he was and what he had been doing using a vile verbal abuse about how he had been with a “real woman” and of course beating me because I wasn’t.  Actions that only continued to create new layers of cracks in an already shattering heart and mind.

So you may be asking how did I leave, where did the courage finally come from?  Let me say this, as heart shattering and mind breaking as the abuse was to my person, it is nothing compared to the physical and mental pain you feel seeing your four-year-old daughter covered in bruises. I only experienced this heartache once and that was enough to send me packing and never looking back.  I had left twice before, only to feel guilty and return to the hell I had allowed to be created for me and my children.  I hold myself totally responsible for the abuse my daughter received.  If I had only possessed the courage to never return the first time I left, my sweet daughter would never have had to endure the pain and heartache she suffered at the hands of her father.  In my mind if I had only been a stronger and more self-assured woman, my daughters would not have had to battle with these emotional difficulties throughout their lifetime and although he never hit my youngest daughter, she suffered from the visual effects of watching her Mom and her sister live in a terror-filled environment. Divorce may have ended my physical abuse but my children continued to receive mental abuse via the visitation the court system deemed appropriate. Visitation I had to allow helped to create a never-ending cycle of abuse for all of us because seeing the heartbreaking effects of mental abuse on them meant physical and mental pain for me.

We are still suffering today from the scars that have been left behind. Scars that are so deep that total healing may never occur.  I still protect him, I still hide myself, I still allow this pain to touch my life and I hate myself for this every day.  Friends, and even family, that did not know me at that time in the early to late 70’s have no idea about this part of my life.  I very rarely speak of it. I never reveal that part of myself to anyone.  My oldest daughter and I do speak of it from time to time. We are each others strength and support when ghosts pop into our lives.  My youngest daughter never speaks of her father, I know that is not healthy and hope one day she will be able to live life with a free mind and heart. The choices we make as young adults never leave us, never forgive us and can devastate our life and the lives of others. That is a pain I must continue to live with.

I am not wishing for your pity.  I am not seeking forgiveness from any of you, I am doing this for other personal reasons.  I started this post on April 18th, 2015 when the “Why I Stayed” movement began, but could not bring myself to complete and publish it.  I am revisiting the draft today to finish it, not only for the “Why I Stayed” movement, but for a member of my own family, hoping it will help her to acknowledge she needs help with the choices she is making. Choices I pray every day that she will stop, that she will be able to see what she is allowing to happen to her body and mind. Choices that are going to affect her unborn child in ways she can’t even imagine.  My heart aches for her.  I have been there, I know nothing is going to touch her until she realizes for herself what she is doing.  Her mother and I both pray that realization comes soon because regardless of what we say and do, she continues to go back.  In the 1970’s the law was on the abuser’s side, not so much today.  There is some help out there.  More still needs to be done,  I know there will never be enough help.  Stop the insanity!  Please pray for my granddaughter.

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