There are moments in your life when you realize you’ve been walking around with your eyes half closed, seeing and feeling only what you want to admit to yourself.
Several years ago, I was sitting on my bed, watching a special on spousal physical and sexual abuse, feeling self-righteous that even though I had survived a terrible marriage, it wasn’t abusive.
Our divorce was taking twice as long to finalize than it should, but it gave me time to heal from the marriage and for the sadness to abate.
As the show went to commercial, they announced the second half of the special would focus on emotional abuse, the one where the blows to the victim target the inside and not the skin.
I considered turning the TV off; after all, it didn’t apply to me, but in my laziness, I didn’t get up in time. As I reached for the remote, it was like I had been sideswiped by an oncoming auto. It was like someone had turned the camera and was filming me. With my finger on the off button, I realized they were talking about me.
I had survived a marriage rife with emotional abuse: the façade where the spouse charms the world and is the total opposite person at home with his wife, the need to subjugate a ‘strong’ woman and find her emotional weaknesses to whittle away at her self-esteem until she doubts her self-worth without him, the devious ways of confusing her reality and gaslighting her until she believes all their marital problems are her fault and his infidelities are his due.
The list went on and on, and I started to bawl. This was me.
I escaped my hell only because he no longer needed me. He had found someone else to “love.” Knowing it would only be a matter of time before she realized what he was truly like and send him packing, I prepared myself for the inevitable. He would try me again; after all, I had believed his lies for twenty-nine years.
She did. He tried me again, but by then, my eyes were wide open. I realized I wasn’t the bad person; he was, and he was not coming near me, ever again.