Monday, September 22, 2014

Memories of #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft

Did you watch Meredith Vieira last Monday when she talked about an abusive relationship in her younger years? A woman this well know stepping up to share #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft puts more focus on an issue that has long been in the closet needs to come out. Her sharing also brought back memories of my experience.
I married young the first time, and went from my parents’ rules to those of my new husband. At first the ‘do this’ and ‘do that’ wasn’t’ too bad. I’d been used to a lot more rigged demands. After all, he was military and was used to things being done a certain way. So what if he discovered an example of my first attempts at writing a book and laughed. All that meant was I sucked. The manuscript ended up in the trash and the love of writing became more focused on reading books by those who could tell a story.

Several years and two children later things were rocky. The first time he hit me was while stopped for a traffic light he yelled, “shut the f***” up.” I’d heard those words before, but not the slap that followed. Shocked, I huddled against my door and worked to stop the blood flowing from my nose.
The next morning my neighbor and best friend called and told me to come over for coffee. I hesitated, but put extra makeup on the bruised side of my face and forced a smile when I entered her house. She looked at me and asked, "What the hell happened to you?”

My efforts to cover up the bruising hadn’t worked. I broke down and told her what happened. She encouraged me to leave, but where would I go? My family couldn’t afford to support us and my job skills were ‘homemaker’ and according to my husband, not a very good one. “He apologized and promised not to hit me again,” I told her. (He had apologized and promised never again.)
He kept the promise too, until a few weeks later when he came home late and drunk. His cold dinner didn’t set well and that led to an argument…and another slap.

This time I wasn’t stunned and stood my ground. I picked up the cast iron skillet setting on top of the stove and waved it at him. “You ever lay another hand on me and you’ll regret it.”
His response—laughter and pointing out he could take the skillet since he was bigger and stronger.

“Yes, but you have to sleep at some point.” Maybe it was the implied threat, or he saw the determination in my eyes and knew I meant what I said, but he turned and went to bed.
No, he never hit me physically again, but he did continue the hurtful comments. They eventually included the kids. Foolish ME still worked to save the marriage for the sake of the children. Then one day after he had a nastier than usual tirade, my little girl burst into tears and screamed at me, “Why do you make us live like this?” I knew then we had to get out. At that time we lived in a foreign country, but with the transfer back to the states we ended up close to the city where my best friend lived, and thankfully, I knew people in the community who helped in my job search.

Fortunately, I did get a job even without a college degree, and we got by. And yes, I’m glad I left. In fact, I wish I’d left sooner. I did manage to get counseling for myself and the children. We made it through to a bright life.
That was a lot of years ago and I remarried. That one ended in my husband passing, but he never raised a hand to me.

The children from my first marriage are now adults and have families of their own. Watching them interact with their spouses makes me proud. They disagree at times, but there is give and take, just like I have in my third marriage. As my daughter said at our reception, “Mom, I think you got it right this time.”
Have you been in an abusive relationship, or know others who have? How did you, or they get out? If not, reach out to a women’s center in your area. Don’t stay because he promises to change even though you love him. Unless he is willing to seek help, change isn’t going to happen.

And if you can't find the information you need, check this list of organizations that can direct you to someone.

#WhyIStayed #WhyILeft #FindHelp


Sara Daniel said...

Lizzie, you are a strong woman with a lot of courage. I admire you more now than I already did. Thank you for sharing.

Vonnie said...

Lizzie, so much of this comes from men in the military. Just mentioned that this morning when the bodies of a woman and her children were found. In Australia there now seems to be one a week on the news and that of course is the tip of the iceberg. Is it that we are more news conscious and social media more pronounced, or is it that domestic violence is on the increase?

Marci Clark said...

I grew up watching my dad hit my mom so husband number one, guess what I went for. The biggest jackass I could find. His abuse was emotional and I stuck it out until the first time he pinned me against the wall by my throat and told me I'd never leave him. My first thought? "Wow, he really loves me." My second? "Damn, I'm f*cked up." I told him the next day I was leaving. He ended up stalking me until I moved to another state. It's crazy to think that I'd fall into the same trap as my mother, but by the time we got married I was so convinced I was nothing that I really felt he was my best option. I still lack the confidence I should considering how much I've accomplished. I still hear his voice in the back of my head sometimes, tearing me down. I try to ignore it, but honestly, he still gets to me almost 15 years later. That, right there, is my stupidity but I own it.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Lizzie you've been through some tough times and I salute your courage and the way you changed your life around.
But, I know you have ended up with a diamond, and a great couple you make !

Sam Cheever said...

I always knew you were amazing. I really had no idea... You rock, girlfriend!

Sloane Taylor said...

I am so sorry you and the kids had to go through this. To move forward because of the physical abuse takes a hellova lot of strength. To overcome the mental abuse from that man is more than remarkable. You're a tough chick, Lizzie, and a damned good writer. Congrats on saving the futures of your kids.

Sharon Ledwith said...

Yes, when you left you not only saved your future but your children's future as well. Kudos and hugs for a tough but necessary post to write. BTW - men also go through what you've gone through. My hubby was in a terrible, abusive relationship and thought he had to stay because of the kids. She threaten him to the point that he couldn't sleep at night for fear of getting knifed. Then I came along and the rest is history...

Rhea Rhodan said...

Thank you for posting this, Lizzie. Your courage and strength show not only by your having survived and flourished, but in your willingness to share. I was a much slower learner and experienced several abusive relationships, both physical and emotional, before I found my HEA. I think our trials have inspired us to a deeper appreciation of both the hero and heroine in romance.

P.S. Thanks for raising the point about men being victims too, Sharon. I can't help but think our society lays an extra layer of shame on them.