Help from a stranger

by Sarah Green
(Philadelphia, PA)

It wasn't obvious. It didn't just start. It gradually happened so that it took me years to understand what my abuser was doing to me. It took a stranger to make me start to look in on myself and realize something was wrong. It's amazing how it takes someone who doesn't have any preconceived ideas of who you are and how you act. Everyone else just assumed I was okay. Not this stranger. He saw right through the facade everyone else blindly followed.

He noticed my anxiety.
He noticed my low self-esteem.
He didn't know why,
Neither did I.

I was never like this. I was always carefree, happy, loving life, loving myself. But somehow, I had become my worst enemy, my biggest critic. I was afraid of disappointing everyone because that's what I was, a disappointment.

But wait, from where did that fear come? Then one night I realized. I had bought him concert tickets for his birthday to five different concerts. Because he's hard to please, and I thought he would at least be happy with one of them. He wasn't. He was indifferent at first. He opened them, acknowledged them, and continued with the rest of his day. I had bought two for the same day, so I found one of the shows on a different day so he could still do both. I asked him to help me sell the other tickets. He was best at buying and selling. He controlled the finances. He could do it best.

He asked me to pull the tickets up online. So I did. I had ordered them from two different sites. I went to the other website first but decided to print all the tickets off for him so he would have them, and I would not forget later. Self-Esteem wasn't what he wanted.

"Why are you doing that? That's not what I asked you to do. You can never listen to what I ask of you. You paid too much for these tickets. That's great that you make money, but I don't, and we need to save. What is wrong with you?"

- Our 10-month-old son crying at my feet -

"I'm selling two of them; I don't want to sit in seats, I wanted a standing room ticket. Just move, get out of here, and I will do it since you can't."

I get up and take our son. I tell him just to leave us alone.

He finds me later and tells me he can't sell them. That I managed to pay double price for every ticket. He goes into the basement and doesn't come up the rest of the night. I cry and then hope he won't see me cry because that makes him angry. That's when I realize what it is, what has me anxiety-stricken and low self-confidence, and always feeling like I'm failing.

And it isn't comfortable to admit.

All the things I was too blind to see come rushing into my head. The acknowledgment that the person I love that I chose to have a life with and have a family with is the reason that I move through the motions of life without taking time to enjoy it anymore. It wasn't comfortable to admit. It was crushing. I'd rather it just be a chemical imbalance in my head. The reason that he always gives me when I'm too emotional for him.

He made me think I was crazy.
He tried to get me to fix myself.
He never thought it was him, the same way I never did, until now.

He wasn't like this from the beginning. It was magical and perfect, and he understood me, and I understood him, and it felt like we could read each other's mind. He would hold my hand in public, something my last boyfriend insisted we didn't. He didn't like public affection. He didn't want it to be evident to anyone else that we were together.

It started subtly, getting annoyed with me for saying the wrong thing, and getting upset for asking for sex too much. That was the first rule. I couldn't ask for sex. I had to wait for my partner to come to me. It made him feel more like a man.

He was mean to other people. I could see that, yelling at coworkers or his brother or his mom, but never me. I was different. I got to see the good man he was. Sure we had our issues, but everyone does.

Then, we got engaged.
Then, my partner hit me.
According to him - I was drunk. I was pushy. I don't know when to stop. I made him do it. He felt so sorry for what he did.

So I told him it was okay. I said I knew he didn't mean it, that it didn't bother me, that I realized it was my fault.

But then, he did it again. And he gripped me up. He pulled me by the arm when I didn't leave the party fast enough, as he was ready to go. He pushed me into the car because he was so angry that I didn't know how to listen. He didn't understand why I had to act like that.

I argue back. I say what I think. I yell at my partner because when I drink is the only time I'm not afraid of his reaction when I tell him how I feel. He just ignores me. He refuses to talk to me. He walks away from me. He's going to bed. I cry because I'm frustrated. Why won't he hear me? I slap him across the face. I end up on the floor. My ears are ringing. He goes to bed.

He didn't mean it. I was just out of control. I pushed him to it. I make him act like this. It won't happen again.

But it does.

I was drinking again. I was yelling at my partner. He didn't like it. He pushed me. I got up and went for him. I say I'm not going to take it. I'm going to fight back. I ended up with a black eye.

I came up with a story to tell people. I laugh and say silly me. I'm clumsy. No one thinks twice. They know me. They suppose that I'm happy and go lucky and that I'm tough. Others believe that I would never let anyone hit me and get away with it. I smile but cry inside.

It made him so upset to see it. He was sorry. He didn't know how it happened.
That was the last one. I never had any more bruises after that. So that means it was better right? We were in a safe place.

We got married.
We got pregnant.
He didn't touch me.
But, he was still distant.

My partner would say "You are so much better when you can't drink. Alcohol causes so many problems for us than when you are sober. You don't cry as much."

Then I had the baby. And he slept less. And he was frustrated.

One night, we were fighting, and I can't even remember the reason. I told him to get out of our bedroom. I didn't want him in there with the baby and me. He wouldn't leave. I said okay, I would take the baby and we would sleep in the living room. He didn't like that. I was walking away, and he grabbed me by the back of the shirt. It ripped, and I fell into the wall holding the baby.

Why would I do that! He hates when I have to act like that. My partner would say. He'll sleep on the couch if that's what I wanted. I laid in bed and cried and felt sorry for kicking him out. In the morning I comforted him and told him it was okay.

Every time the emotional abuse occurred, it hurt me a little more inside. I didn't bring any problems I thought we had up. It only made my partner upset. He doesn't want to talk about it. When I cry at night, he leaves. Crying makes him feel bad, so he leaves the room. I hyperventilate. Sometimes he comes back to help me breathe again. Sometimes he doesn't.

Why does he not want to be around me?
What can I do to get him to care?
How can I make him happy?

But I'm not innocent.
Why do I push him?
Why do I make him do it?
Do I do it just to get an emotion from him?
I deserve this. I cheated on my last boyfriend. I'm not a decent person. I deserve not to be happy.
I deserve to be in a marriage where I can't decide if my husband hates me or loves me.
I caused this to myself. I need to take my punishment.

It's not always bad. Sometimes my partner gives me kisses and tells me he loves me, and I'm beautiful. He will get me flowers just because or pick up a movie because he knows I wanted to see it. He only laid his hands on me once since the baby was born. He's getting better, or I don't care enough to fight with him anymore.

To admit all this hits me harder than I thought it would. It's incredible how much you can't understand until you meet someone that doesn't view you the way everyone else does. A person that notices you have anxiety and notices you have low self-esteem. And you ask yourself why? And you figure it out. And you realize you can never unknow it even if you want to. And you don't know what to do next.

Click here to post comments

Return to Ongoing DV Stories - The Domestic Violence Cycle.