Friday, 16 August 2013

Back to the beginning: Part 1

I thought in exploring my needs and wants in a relationship, I should go back and revisit what started this all:

As a teenager, I went to the classes, heard the lectures – abusive boyfriends, unhealthy relationships, etc. My friends and I swore we’d never be one of *those* women, who let themselves get beat up physically and emotionally by some stupid guy. I was too strong, too confident to ever let myself be abused.

I met him in September, in church. He was the first guy I dated, who claimed to be a Christian. He shared my background of Biblical values, with at least a nodding acquaintance with the name of Jesus. He was charming and very considerate. I fell hard, and we saw each other nearly every evening for three months.

Of course, we each had our baggage. I had a daughter from a previous (failed) relationship. He was on probation, with a criminal conviction for assault. I was cautious, I thought, but I was satisfied with the steps he had taken to “fix” his issues: counselling and anger management. It seemed like he had learned to control himself.

There were a few issues during our dating. A scary incident with my daughter almost ended everything 6 months into our relationship. He patiently waited and pursued, though. Another incident in a parking lot ended a date, and again almost derailed it, but he was extremely apologetic.

40 % of offenders assault their victims again within 30 months of the first conviction. (American Bar Association, http://new.abanet.org/domesticviolence/Pages/default.aspx). If violence has happened in a relationship, it’s more likely to happen again.

He proposed within a year of dating, and I joyfully accepted. We set the date 4 months away. Shortly after we were engaged, I discovered I was pregnant. He was ecstatic. I wanted to tell our parents right away, and change our date until after our child was born, but he wanted to wait until after the wedding to tell them. We compromised, and we told them about 2 months before the wedding, but we didn’t change the date.
Abusers generally want to impregnate their victims, as it’s a sign of their power and control, but abuse generally escalates during and immediately after pregnancy.

We were married.. and things started with a bang.  On our way to our honeymoon, a 5 hour drive, and he started fighting with ne. I pretended to sleep just to avoid the discomfort, but it did create a tone that was to mark our marriage.

Within 4 months we moved into a new apartment and welcomed our daughter to our family. He was working a split shift warehouse job, that made ends meet (barely) and we had a tiny 2 bedroom apartment, and we were happy, I thought.

We were happy, for about 2 weeks. Then, something changed. It was gradual, just little things. Because his job started so early, he would come home and sleep, and he told me to keep our kids quiet. Since we had an infant, that was easier said than done. He would yell at me, telling me I wasn’t a good mother, I wasn’t a fit parent since I let our baby cry, and I was selfish and wasn’t thinking of him, letting the kids disturb him. He would storm out after an argument, slamming the door, sometimes hard enough to knock the pictures off the wall. He’d zoom out of the parking lot, tires squealing, leaving me with two children, no where to go and no way to get there.

He’d come home a few hours later, apologetic and remorseful, usually with some treat for me – a flower, my favorite kind of chocolate bar, a hot chocolate. He’d blame it on being so tired, stressed at work, or some other excuse. I accepted his apology and of course he was forgiven, and I promised to try harder.

And the cycle would repeat. Sometimes it was because supper wasn’t ready when he got home, or his laundry wasn’t dry, or the kids’ toys were all over the floor. Sometimes it was because I was too demanding (I asked him to talk to me or play with the kids) or because I wasn’t paying enough attention to him (he wanted me to watch movies with him instead of doing dishes or folding laundry). Each time was the same. He would yell and blame me as the reason he wasn’t happy. I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t doing enough, I wasn’t trying enough.

As the fall turned into winter, our fights got worse. Once, he told me to go into our bedroom and shut the door, so we could “talk”. He grabbed my wrists and held them down while he yelled at me. I stood up for myself and told him that if he ever touched me like that again, I would call the police. He stormed out, and didn’t return for several hours.  

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