“You can’t change what you do not understand.” Marilyn van Derbur
My thinking is if I can get people to understand domestic violence then I can get people to begin to prevent domestic violence. Domestic violence needs to be changed doesn’t it? Abusing women and children is so say, 1950’s isn’t it? Let’s blaze a new future together.
My domestic violence story #2. As I share these stories there are continual theme’s that will run throughout the stories. Power, control, and manipulation are the top three. There are other themes but domestic violence starts with the premises that, “ I am better than you. My needs matter more than yours, and in fact since you’re needs don’t matter I don’t even want to hear about them. If you feel that you must continue to share your insignificant needs they will be dismissed every time.” Who would sign up for this?
Inside the DNA of domestic violence is that you are insignificant, unworthy, and so undeserving of love. The worse I can make you feel about yourself and break you down the more likely your shattered self esteem self will continue to stay with me. The breaking down does not come all in one day; it is a series of events that happen several times a day, everyday, over time. I can chronicle thousands of these breaking down events that occurred in my relationship. They could fill volumes of books but I think it is significant to re-tell my first two encounters with power and control that lead to a pattern of domestic violence. I don’t think abusers show all of their cards at the beginning of a relationship.
There is a long courting phase where the abuser is trying his tricks out on you. Then he carefully observes your response to his inappropriate behavior. Some people would exit a relationship biased on these two stories alone, or even one of these two stories.
I am forgiving, loyal, and I always give people the benefit of the doubt. My personality was the perfect drug my for abuser. He mainlined me everyday. Other people would have left, blocked his phone number and moved onto greener pastures. I did not recognize the warning signs like I do now. That is the purpose of these stories to educate the uneducated, to help end domestic violence. Thanks for reading!
I dated my husband for three years before we were married. There was not a parade of red flags in his behavior that signaled the abusive behavior that was to come. He was pleasant, agreeable, fun, easy going, and enjoyable to be around. When I rewind and view our three years of dating very few if any crimson flags were present. I think this is one of his personality skills to pretend to be someone he is not. He was and is very, very good at this. The few incidents that I did witness did not lead me to draw the conclusion that he was dangerous, and we should break up.
October 1994. I had known my future husband three months. In those three months we saw each other frequently, he made time in his schedule to walk the park with me after work and made dinner with me. On the weekends we went to the movies or spent time with friends. He was new to the city so I spent some time being the happy tour guide.
In mid October I came down with a nasty case of the flu. It struck suddenly and it was all I could do to let my car coast on auto polite from work towards home. I could not stop at the store to buy the obligatory aspirin, 7-up and chicken soup. I got home, drawled the blinds, crawled into bed, and placed a phone call to him. He said, “I’ll be right over.” I was thankful. When he came in he was visibly annoyed. He had never seen me functioning at any level less than 100%. I was pale, feverish, and laying in bed. I said, “I am sick.” He said, “Where is your aspirin? Do you have any chicken soup?” I said, “No.” He went on a rage saying things like, “I can’t believe you are out of aspirin. Why do you not have any chicken soup?” Being someone who suffered from migraines I was never without this mandatory pharmacy item. I think this was the only time in my life that I was without aspirin in the house or car. He said with increased urgency, “Do you have 7-up? Do you have chicken soup?” But these were not simple questions they were accusations and his voice escalated with each question. I said I was too sick to go to the store. He said, “Well how are you going to get better if you don’t have these things?”
He started riffling thorough my kitchen cabinets and found some soup and made it. What confused me was that his reaction to the situation and his intensity did not match the actual situation. He made me feel awful that I was out of these items. How could I let this happen? What kind of a low life person runs out of these staples? I found myself defending my lack of necessary resources, then regretted that I did not call a different friend. I don’t remember if he went out to the store, as a sane person would have. I know he make the soup then left because he did not want to catch my illness. I remember thinking after this cloud had passed, “Boy, he does not really have a good bedside manner, does he?” But he had so many other positive qualities that I let this slide and we never spoke of it again.
After I recovered I remember buying several cans of chicken soup and three bottles of aspirin. This fact is fairly significant and replicated itself in our relationship more times than negative campaign aids run on prime time television during election season. He got angry because I was out of flu supplies. Then I respectfully reformed my behavior to decrease his anger. I went shopping as soon as humanly possible because I did not want to come across this angry man again. I thought counter productively if I never run out of aspirin again I will never witness such hostility and unnecessary anger from him. This was a fatal flaw like when someone chooses to leave the site of a plane crash rather than deciding to stay with the wreckage.
Once the decision to leave the plane is made troubles begin to mount like an oncoming tsunami. I should have confronted his behavior, not try and compensate for it. This started a type of control addiction with him that continues to this day. I am still compensating for his negative choices. He will not provide our daughters with love so I am constantly trying to provide this in abundance and filling in the holes in their souls he has carelessly left.
The second time I witnessed his unpredictable anger was October 1996. We had just arrived in Mexico and were taking a cab from the airport to our hotel. I was thrilled to be in Mexico! I had never been out of the county before I was high on the humid air and the promise of a week at the beach. We were enjoying our ride to the hotel we had just sailed through customs since he was a native Spanish speaker. He looked at me like he had just lost his keys just before leaving for a crucial meeting at work and said, “Do you have a dollar to tip the driver?” I said, “No.” He said with more urgency than I ever use for everyday events, “You don’t have a dollar?” Then he escalated, “ I can’t believe you don’t have a dollar!” I said, “I don’t have change yet. I only have 20’s.” Then he said it more angrily, “I can’t believe you don’t have a dollar!” Like he just didn’t say this one minute earlier. I said, ”Do you have a dollar?” He said, “No.” Somehow his “No” was enough for me to comprehend. I did not ask the question again. I did not make him pay or feel like a subordinate traveler for not having the required change. Then he said again with more anger than needed, “I can’t believe you don’t have a dollar!” I said nothing. I looked out the window wondering how in fact I did wind up in this cab without one US dollar. My thought pattern is crucial. I am wondering how I wound up in a Mexican cab with no US dollars.
This is not the question. If you ask the wrong questions you get the wrong answers. The question so glaringly is, “Why are you in a cab with a person tormenting you for not having a dollar? Better yet, why are you staying in a cab with this person?” The person is the problem not the dollar.
I thought this behavior was so random and so bizarre it was almost funny to see someone getting all worked up over 8 pesos, which was the exchange rate for a dollar. I did not analyze this behavior for significant clues. Being the archaeologist that I am today I should have asked, “Why is it solely up to me to provide the tip?” More importantly, you don’t have a dollar either. So why I am I the one getting yelled at for this?” We both didn’t have change for the cabbie. It is not a life threatening.
Let’s problem solve, how about you go into the hotel when we get there and get some change? That would be all too easy. This conversation and exchange was not about change at all. It was a way to throw me off balance and prove that he was in control of this relationship and called all of the shots. As they say, “Hind sight is 20/20.” Oh, how wish I had had seen these signs. His abuse was like childbirth pains at first the contractions are days apart then they slowly they become closer and closer together without any real warning. Near the end there is barely time to catch your breath before the next one is upon you. Our relationship was like this. The abuse started out slow and oh, so subtle. Then last few years of our marriage the abuse was daily, several times a day. It did not matter what I did it was never good enough for him. He held a standard of some issue over me. When I worked and reached the standard he would then change what he wanted. My accomplishments were always unrewarded as the end result of what he wanted was always changing.
I mention these two fairly benign stories because they were the building blocks of abuse in our relationship. These stories may be easy to dismiss and not labeled as “real domestic violence.” But later in our relationship when he borrowed money from my retirement to buy a car and did not even put my name on the title I should have not been surprised. I should have been smarter. But I was not.
So I am hoping to influence other’s by my lack of skill and information. If you are seeing signs even small signs in your relationship stay tuned for the next blog from Julie Federico.
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This information is so useful and oh so powerful!
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