I stayed. I stayed long enough to be pinned to my queen-sized maple slat bed by my first abuser, my husband, while our 4, 6, 7, and 9 year old children watched from 3 feet away. They saw him place a pillow on my face to try to stop me from breathing; they saw him squeeze my neck. They saw him rip the phone cord and outlet from the wall so we couldn't call for help. He yelled, calling me vile, vulgar names, and left. Never again did he enter our home as part of my family.
The good news is: we leave because people believed in us and said they would help us. Ironically, those people can turn out to hurt, too. We leave because our children deserve to see mom happy and not crying. We leave because even though we don't think we can really make it on our own; there is someone telling us "YOU CAN".
Maybe we as a society need to open our eyes a little wider to recognize an abused woman. She can be poor or rich, have dark skin or light, have two college degrees or be illiterate. Domestic violence doesn't discriminate. And say those words she needs to hear..."You are better than that"! It is too heavy a load to carry. We are not to blame for another's anger; we are not to blame for another's abuse.
We are, however... survivors. We are mothers; albeit ones that carry those hurtful words and deeds done to our bodies and our minds, forever. To love someone who hurt you, don't ever expect to hear those words that you think will make it all better: "I'm sorry." Don't ever expect the opportunity to tell your abuser you forgive them. And never expect that they will know you have loved them. Yet... who are we not to forgive?
When you move on, take a breath.
I stayed- twice. I made the same choice, with different men- twice. The second time, it was about control and manipulation, how far he could stretch reality to suit his needs. His wife, a friend, had an affair for many years, and he wanted comfort. I was full of kindness and comfort and had a copious supply of tissues. Truly, he managed to prey upon every weakness, blame me for everything that went wrong, and continue unabated in his desire to have it all or nothing. Verbally abusive to his own ex-wife, in front of me, my kids, and their kids, I tried to stay out of it and shield the children. Violent first to himself, a black eye given to him by him, with me being asked to support his cover story of falling off a bike. This was a mere two months in, while still being gentle and kind to me, he was angry and inflicted pain to his own face with his own fist and objects which left bruises.
I did what most women would do, I felt bad for him. I wanted to soothe him- to fix him. I supported him, trying to make everything better so he wouldn't feel pain, wishing I could lessen it or even make it disappear. As a result of me doing that, he had put me where he wanted me, devoted to making him happy. Then, he began dictating who I could see, when to see them, and threatening me when I didn't play the game his way. The real abuse and control, as I recognized it, began. My dear friends, long time and even lifelong friends, recognized it, too, and tried to gently persuade me he was not well, not doing right by his kids, himself, or me.
He plays a high-stakes game now, and he achieved "check-mate". (Update: Today, he lost). The emotional abuse continues unabated. My kids see it, my friends see it, my church(es) saw it before I gave up on God. Most importantly, I see it. I wish other people who should see it could see it, but the spell he casts is a powerful one because he can appear so charming and warm. It's hard to criticize anyone else for falling for it because I fell for it, too.
I put my blinders on and get through each day with dignity and grace.
I've learned many lessons; for myself and for my family who needs me. My girls love their father, who they saw hurt me. They once loved the man who hurt me afterwards; they see the pain he still causes my life, 8 years after I last spoke a word to him. It breaks my heart to know, in and of itself, that makes them more susceptible to choosing to be with a partner who abuses them. They've seen the fall-out. They still live it. It has colored their childhoods a messy posterboard of dark and mismatched fingerpaints.
I will never, ever make the same mistakes again and pray my children don't make them even once. Life will never again be the same, even trying to move on has created completely unexpected complications because of Mr. Wonderful. But it can be different and filled with Joy.
I have no solutions or words of wisdom. Be safe and choose to be in places where you ARE loved for you, and not because what you can do can help someone else fulfill their own needs or wishes that have nothing to do with you. Value yourself and know he values you. If he doesn't, do what I never did have the strength to do- realize you deserve more and better and LEAVE. Be gentle to yourself.