When my soon to be ex (stbx) informed me on July 2nd, 2017, that we (meaning he) was done, I literally felt like I couldn’t breathe. If he had stood in front of me and punched me in the stomach, I think I would have preferred that momentary pain than the pain he inflicted for seven long arduous months. He used to care about me and my feelings, so I thought that if I appealed to him from a rational point of view, then perhaps we could save this marriage. I appealed to him that since we had two of our kids entering long term relationships that it would be essential to show them that when a married couple hits a rough spot, you don’t just walk away. I asked him to consider marriage counseling, which he seemed amenable to, but which ultimately we only attended four sessions.
My stbx suddenly had rules that I was to follow. He expressed wanting freedom and not wanting any responsibility. He also told me that he didn’t want to be married to his mother, meaning I was absolutely forbidden to ask him any questions about where he was after work or who he was with. There were more nights than I care to count (but can’t forget) where he came home very late and on more than once occasion, never came home. If I reacted to any of this, then I was being emotional and irrational.
About a month or so after he told me he was done, I discovered he was having a relationship with a woman that he worked with. His justification for this behavior was due to a comment that I made to him on two separate occasions. This is a comment that I’m not proud of, but while I said the words, my actions showed that they were just that – words. So what did I say to my husband? For some context, throughout our 32 years together, my stbx has spent a lot of time and money on his passion – his cars. The summer of 2016 was our 30th anniversary and I really thought he was planning something special. Instead, he was spending a majority of his time and money on a new muscle car he had purchased a couple of years previously.
I was feeling resentful toward him and his cars. Sometimes in a long term marriage, resentments happen. I expressed my dissatisfaction in a way that was not appropriate by telling him that perhaps he should find someone who was into cars like him. As he likes to remind me, I said that to him two separate times. However, I saw the devastation that my words caused him and renewed my efforts in working on our marriage. We started spending a lot of time together on the week-ends, going to Santa Cruz, and I thought, reigniting and renewing our commitment to each other.
For a year, I thought we were on this path. I was so convinced of his commitment to us that we purchased a home together and I took out money against my 401K to help buy furniture for this new home. I felt like our sex life had never been better. I was excited about our future and looked forward to growing old with this man who was the love of my life. In the summer of 2017, my life as I knew it changed, inexplicably. I went from being in a secure relationship with a man that I thought loved me to being married to a man who told me he despised me. Who told me that he didn’t know when I would be punished enough for what I said to him.
Emotional abuse does not happen in an instant. Instead, it happens over time. It happens when the person that you have built a loving and trusting bond with, decides that you no longer matter to them. They will kiss you, make love to you, tell you that you are beautiful in one moment and in the next, they will be inches from your face, yelling at you and telling you that everything that is happening is your fault. It happens when you do everything that they ask you to do for them and yet, they still want more from you. My therapist at the time said that for someone who is trauma bonded, it is like the gambler who is looking for their next fix. The euphoria you feel when your abuser tells you they loves you keeps you hooked when they are being abusive. You are looking for that next high, no matter how quick or temporary.