Domestic abuse is in the news right now, because a football player knocked out his woman in an elevator and it was caught on tape, and he’s now being punished by the NFL. One of the morning news shows was discussing the topic with a woman who has suffered from abuse and had started the hashtag #whyistayed, defending the idea that leaving an abusive partner is not easy.
She’s right. It isn’t easy.
Don’t panic, this isn’t a cry for help in a currently abusive relationship. My husband, Jesse, is amazing, and we have domestic happiness.
But, I have been a stayer before. I don’t think about it very often anymore, but the interview this morning brought up emotions from the past. Why did I stay? For 4 years? When he and I met, my self esteem was at a low. And pretty much instantly, he “loved” me. Nothing is nicer than being loved, especially when you don’t love yourself. Of course, that all quickly changed. Unfortunately, I was already hooked. Our relationship was so labile – we were either so, SO happy, or so, SO dark, and my mood was driven completely by his. It became normal for me to cry every day. I was owned by him – I had to change my phone number so old friends couldn’t contact me, he scaveneged my phone records because he didn’t trust me, he would wake up before me to check my phone to see if anyone had called or texted me. When he was at work, I had to answer my phone every time he called, which was 3-10 times per day, or I had to answer 1,000 questions later. I couldn’t take my phone to work with me, I had to leave it at home with him. And that was just the phone stuff.
I was cut off from my family and friends, even though my parents lived 15 miles away, I couldn’t visit them by myself. My friends became his wives’ friends and the girl I sat by in nursing school. (I’m still not sure how I ever managed to finish nursing school). If I answered his phone call while at school, and he could hear male voices, he believed I was cheating on him. There were 8 guys in my class, but somehow it seemed like he was always hearing them in the background. I had to bring my own lunch, couldn’t eat at the student union, because I might come into contact with guys.
I owned no lacy underwear, because if I wore them, he was convinced I was wearing them for someone elses benefit. I owned no v-neck tops. I wore t-shirts under my scrubs at work, even in the summer, because he was accusing me of showing my breasts if I didn’t (to whom, the old people who lived there??). If I went for a run, I had to show him what I wore when I was running. He picked out many of my clothes when we went out.
These things that I am telling you, they are just the surface things I remember in 2 seconds. And these are an example the emotional abuse things. He hit me, too. But honestly, the emotional abuse was worse. Too bad you can’t see emotional abuse. People who love you don’t abuse you in any way. And, if you ask someone who has been in this type of relationship, I venture to say they’d agree, getting hit didn’t hurt like being told you were worthless and controlled in every aspect of your life.
So,why did I stay? I saw no other way. When I would mention breaking up or try leaving, he would remove battery cables from the car so it woundn’t start. He would take my phone. He would promise he would change. I was physically and emotionally trapped. It took me a month of actively planning in my head before I could even try to leave, and it eventually involved calling my mom to come and get me while he was at work.
I don’t like thinking about or talking about that life. But, it is important for me to put it out there, so if you, the reader, are a stayer, know that you are not stupid, you are not weak. You are afraid. Your choices feel limited. And you probably see no way out.
But when you do leave, you’ll see the world in full color again. Things will get better. You can and will move on. Please, if this is you, please, don’t stay. You are worth so much more.