This is a story from one of our sweet readers. We found KayM’s question “How?” to be very profound. Kay has had time to look back and analyze all that has happened in her life. She has now found peace. This is KayM’s story.
How Did it Happen?
Over the past few years, since my divorce began and papers were signed, I have asked myself “HOW?” How did I let myself get taken to such a dark and hopeless place? Did I not as a child have the love and support of my family? Was I not strong and smart and confident once upon a time? Did I not have very explicit boundaries concerning what I was willing to do/ how far I was willing to go physically before I said wedding vows? Didn’t I have hopes and dreams – to go places and meet people and when the time was right find the perfect mate?
I knew myself. I knew what I wanted. I had gone so far as to write a letter to myself when I was twenty years old listing the qualities I wanted in a man. I still have that list! The very first thing I wanted was ‘A strong Christian with firm convictions and values.’ Under ‘Other Characteristics’ I wrote:
“I don’t mind if he doesn’t talk much (if he doesn’t like to dominate conversations) but I would like his words to be thoughtful. It’s fine if he is stoic as long as he shares his feelings with me. I want a man with a goal, with ambition. I want a man to provide security and stability. I want to feel safe with and about him. I want to be understood as the someone who has her own life, the girl who wants to be able to depend on him. I want someone who is calm not anxious. I want someone who loves me with all of his heart but remains in control – remains true to himself. I want someone who is strong and sturdy – who isn’t persuaded easily. I want someone who challenges me – someone who loves my mind and soul more than my body…who would love me if I had no body. I want someone who will keep me up at night discussing the world, souls, emotions, love, people, careers, family. I want someone who wants to be married and have children – eventually. There is NO rush. I want someone I think about and smile…someone I love to be with where ever I am or where ever I am going. I want someone who fits I into my world without changing my world completely…and I want to fit into his world in the same way. I want someone I can play with, cry with, be serious with, be silly with. I want someone who makes me the best person I can be. I want someone who takes life lightly
“I want harmony –peace. I want electricity. I want a life-partner and a soul-mate. I know that he is out there. I would rather have no “special person” in my life than accept the wrong person. If no one can give me these things then I will enjoy my friendships…but I feel in my heart that this is not an impossible list. I won’t search for him – we will find each other if we are supposed to meet.”
I wrote this a month before I met “him”.
Instead of reliving the gruesome details that would become the next 22 years, I want to answer the question, “How?” How could I have been so wrong? And when I recognized that he was not who I thought he was, how could I have been so weak? How could I have been married to the absolute opposite of “What I Want in a Man”.
I have never seen a counselor about the abuse. A few close friends know about SOME of it, and my children’s counselors know a little bit because my children have and continue to be victims of power plays and manipulations and words that shred their trusting hearts. And occasionally they have been the victims of physical threats (never punches those would be too obviously wrong). Forceful grabs, pinning to walls after being shoved up against them. I know. I know that and much more. Let me make it clear – he was smart enough not to break my bones or bruise my skin. A broken heart being made an object with the purpose of providing him whatever he wanted whenever he wanted or be made to pay is not easy to explain to others.
And it is not easy to explain to oneself either. This man is supposed to love me, right? He took vows before God and man to cherish me, right?
First let me say that the only characteristics that “he” met on my list were that he had a goal and an ambition… me, and what I could give him. He was anxious not to lose me. He knew that treating me badly would not keep me, but instead of hating him for his constant cruelty, he successfully made me pity him for his flaws. He made himself seem wounded and vulnerable. I actually felt sorry for him when he had treated me badly!
[Note from Jeff C: According to Martha Stout (The Sociopath Next Door) this is one of the key identifiers of a sociopath – the ability to get people to feel sorry for them.]
I was told often of his childhood. His parents had not been there for him… they had not been attentive and he had gotten into trouble with drinking and drugs and sex as a youth because his parents had been neglectful. He was sent away to school because his parents had put him in a school that he hated, and he missed as many days as he went! He had to join the military and pay his way through college because his parents had been so selfish and not planned… and worst of all… ALL of his problems had stemmed from being the child of divorce. DIVORCE was TABOO. And he knew it was for me too. I adore family. He knew that I was not the type to ever break a promise.
He told me throughout our short courtship that he knew he wanted to marry me the first time he saw me, that he had told himself from the first time he saw me that he “was going to have me”. At first it was flattering, even seemed romantic and “destined”, but by the end of our marriage those words came back to haunt me as the first steps of his very orchestrated plan to get himself a “good” girl. It really could have been anybody as long as they were young, naïve, trusting and a hard worker. He knew I was the type to work myself to death rather than fail. Simply I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I never was a person after all. I completed the picture.
It was a constant cycle of flattering words; playing on my pitying heart-strings with his sad excuses; bad-behavior “fixed” by apologies, and special attention… until the next round of bad behavior that usually came within a few days of the “make-up”. This was the carousel ride that I unwittingly got on. And once on the ride I realized that he had no intention of ever stopping it to let me off. In fact it just got faster and faster, more and more out of control. It made me sicker and sicker as time went on. Finally I just closed my eyes and pretended not to be there, and that is how I survived. Does that sound mellow-dramatic? There was no mellow, my friends, I assure you.
It never was about “me” as a human being. As I said, I was the right “type”. I looked the part and would create the perfect camouflage for the illusion that he wanted to create in society. I was the perfect smiling wife with the perfect smiling children. We were such a pretty picture. He did not know me as a person any better the day that I finally decided I could not take it any more than he did when he first met me. I was a baby maker, a bill payer, a house cleaner. If anything went wrong it was my fault: If the children were tired and cranky it was my fault. They were “brats” because of my poor discipline. If the dogs caused damage in the yard it was my fault. If there were dishes on the counter at the end of the day a scowling look of disapproval and the cutting words, “It looks like you’ve been busy today!” could be expected. Nothing was ever right. Nothing I did was ever enough. If I tried to look extra attractive, he would spot the flaw. If I tried to make a special dinner, he had eaten a big lunch and wasn’t hungry. If I asked him to do anything for me it was certain that that would be last on his priority list. If I asked for help again I was a “nag” or a “bitch” or far worse. If I asked him to stay up and help on Christmas Eve… forget it. And I learned the hard way that if I woke him to talk or to help me in some way, I took my life in my own hands. But these are minor. These are nothing.
Abusers, I think, have a six sense about them – a “charming device” able to detect naïve, trusting, loving, caring, believing, God-fearing people.
What “type” do they seem to be looking for – other than naïve, trusting, caring, etc.? It may be a wounded person who is looking for help. It may be a lost person who is looking for love. It may be a young person who is simply naïve and doesn’t know that there are people who cannot be trusted.
To make a long story short, I had physical boundaries that had been honored by honorable boys, but I was unfortunately not dealing with an honorable boy. I was dealing with a man with an agenda. I took responsibility for this mistake for years and years. I rationalized that I had let myself get in a situation where there was the chance to turn back. But there is no chance to turn back if you are a little girl and that is not what he wants too. And he didn’t. And when it happened once, the guilt I felt within myself and the pressure I felt from him to continue down that course was too great for a young girl who truly believed that in God’s eyes I was now as good as married anyway. A few months later I got pregnant. I said I would marry him. I had a miscarriage right before the wedding, probably from the terrible stress of knowing I was making a monumental mistake. But I already said I would marry him. So I did.
Friends, let me just say that there were already so many red flags at this point that I CAN NOT believe I did not run away as fast as I could… but the wedding date was set and our friends and family had been invited. I had already been torn down so far before that day even happened – I truly believed I had already made my bed and now I had to lie in it – and of course he was a huge supporter of this mindset. When I think back on all of the things that he did to shame me and make me feel unworthy – all of the ways that he usurped any power that I had – his attempts to alienate me from my family and my friends – his attempts to control what I did – his attempts to consolidate all of our finances. And he succeeded!
He was not supportive of me quitting my job to raise our children at first – he liked my income. But I believe he liked me without an income even better. He liked me being completely dependent on him for everything. He liked telling me exactly what I could and could not do. He liked making me account for my time, my purchases, my involvement with groups (if they were even allowed), basically for my entire life. As my children got older he wanted me to go back to a job that made big bucks so that he could buy big toys for himself. (I was working for my church at that time, making close to nothing but it was something I loved. It was the only thing that was my own and it made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile. He considered it a waste of my time, and told me so at every opportunity). I confided in a friend that if I did get a job that made money that I would certainly try to escape, so I applied and interviewed, but nothing happened. I couldn’t understand why then – now I know it was not the right time.
I thought that I was keeping our family together for the well-being of my children. When they begin to ask me why I was married to him, I had to re-evaluate. If I wasn’t married for them, I sure was not married for me. It still took me years to come to the place where I was strong enough to do anything.
How did it happen? It happened first because I did not know there were people in the world that are users. There are people that truly have relationships purely for what a person can do for them. Not a relationship based on love or friendship or respect or feelings of any type. I had closed my eyes a long time ago and was afraid to open them, because then I would have to confront “it” and I was scared and not ready to admit that there was literally nothing that I could do. I could not love him enough, in fact, I hated him! But I tried to convince myself that love was a choice and if only I could do more. But I could not do enough, I could not forgive him enough, I could not share with him enough, I could not stroke his ego enough. It simply did not matter. I was not a person. I was an object to be used, abused or dismissed.
Did “he” know that I believed in marriage and hard work and did not believe in divorce? You better believe it. That is what he was counting on when he did the things that he did. He knew that I would not tell anybody. He knew that he could get away with whatever he wanted because I had always taken it from the very beginning. I took the little things, and that encouraged him, emboldened him to do more.
What he didn’t expect was for me to have a heart to heart talk with God. And God said to me, “this is not what I want for you. You are no good to your children or to me while you are with a man who is destroying you. I have given you gifts that you are discouraged from using. I have given you enough love for everyone. If “he” cannot see it or accept it, that is not your fault. There is a way out, but you will have to be strong. Walk by faith and not by sight. Take My hand and keep holding on… it is not a short walk. In fact you will have to keep holding on from now on. But do not be afraid because I know the way.”
And these words kept showing up during this time that God was leading me from my own personal desert to His Promised Land –
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, “declares the Lord, “and I will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:11-14
God is good, People. I am not free from troubles, not even close. “He” still attempts to control me and the children. I am still finding my way from captivity. But God knew the desires of my heart and God heard my cry and God has provided me and my children a home of harmony and peace. And God has brought me a man who is a life-partner and a soul-mate. And I am so grateful. I am so thankful. I appreciate all of God’s gifts like I never would have if I didn’t know the difference.