I remember the day my mother walked into our apartment. There was only one door still standing, the front door in which she came through. She didn’t say a lot, but I saw the look on her face. She worried. She worried a lot.
Domestic violence. Want to talk about it? I am not a fan of the topic, and with good reason. I feel there’s always more to the story. People hear the words and assumptions are made – good, bad, or otherwise. I’m going to walk out of my comfort zone because this matters.
There is no cookie-cutter sub-type of abusers or victims. And on that note, I will add that I hate the word ‘abuser’, it implies monster. I hate the word “victim”, it implies weakness. He was not a monster and I was not weak.
I have thought long and hard about writing this. I thought about how I would approach it. How I could be honest without losing people along the way. I’m not sure there’s any way to really tread carefully… I’m just going to walk.
If you have ever read the literature, the statistics, you would know that the ‘typical’ woman in an abusive relationship leaves roughly 7 times before they leave for good.
The first time I left, we had been married under 6 months. He slapped me across the face. Immediately after he cut his wrists. It was more than I could handle. I called my dad. He drove across country, spoke some words to Eric, and drove me back to New York. I had taken emergency leave from the military without explanation.
The second time, I bought him a bus ticket back to Louisiana. I was stationed in Virginia. I had to stay, he did not. He had kicked down nearly every door in our apartment; the bathroom door – broken, the bedroom closet door – broken, the bedroom door – broken, the door to the patio – broken. The front door remained intact. It was made of steel and therefore stronger than his legs or fists.
The third time, I already wrote about. It was shortly after the birth of our first child.
The fourth time, I bought him another ticket to Louisiana. He instead got an apartment in a nearby town.
The fifth time, I left Houston.
The sixth time, was the time I left for good. I needed real change. I couldn’t do it anymore. I was tired and I was out of ideas and options. I had given it everything in that last stretch and all I could give wasn’t enough. It took me a long time to realize it wasn’t about what I could or could not give. It took some outside perspective. I had sought wise counsel.
I may have forgotten another bus ticket or two. Much of this seems like a lifetime ago, and honestly, it’s hard to pinpoint every ‘leaving’ moment, but I do remember the big ones.
I lost relationships along the way. He lost relationships along the way. And relationships were strained along the way. There were lines drawn in the sand. Fences were built. It happens a lot in domestic violence – it is part of the game; though none of it is a game – I can assure you.
My own family held little tolerance of Eric. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Why do you keep going back?” or “Why don’t you just leave?” I would be able to pay for graduate school in cash. Most of the people that ask that question live life in a black and white world where wrong is wrong and right is right. There is little understanding and little questioning to understand the dynamics at play. Assumptions and judgment runs rampant with that line of questioning. For either the person abusing or the person that keeps going back, they run from people that ask those questions. Many of them have their opinions and minds made up, long before they have asked the question and frankly, they really aren’t interested in your answer. Yes, we run from those people.
I never could answer that question in a quick, neat, shiny little answer and I still cannot.
When I left the final time my father bought me a car with the condition that if I would not go back to Eric. What I don’t think he understood is that promise I made about a car meant nothing at that time. It had nothing to do with a car. When I left the final time I had begun to reflect on a lot of things. I remember feeling like a statistic and being pissed off about it. My mother had married an abusive man following the divorce with my father. If you know anything about domestic violence, you would know that the odds of repeating patterns you have observed or experienced greatly increase. I spent a lot of time reflecting on that when I left the final time. At that time, I had no idea how it got to that point, nor how to climb away from it, but come hell or high water I was going to break the pattern that I found myself in. I knew it wasn’t healthy for Eric. It wasn’t healthy for me. Most importantly, it wasn’t healthy for our four little babies who were watching, learning, and absorbing what was ‘normal’ and the model to which to live by. I wrote about it in the “The Day I Left for Good…”.
He wasn’t a monster, far from it. The more I learn, the more I’m convinced that he was a textbook example of borderline personality disorder. I know this because I knew him well.
I also know that I latched onto him. He took risks for me that many had not – would not – for most of my life. For a girl who grew up feeling lost and forgotten most of the time, I became overly dependent on him in a way that became unhealthy for him and me.
My family would be surprised and even debate the fact that he had my back, but he did. I had his too, many times. Did we fail each other? For sure. But looking back, I think he would have made it. He had the potential. I always saw the potential – that’s partly why I always went back. I knew him well.
To be continued…
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