But How Did She Let It Get That Far?
Dano and Melissa have bravely shared with us the details of the climax of each of their abusive relationships. After reading their blogs on the subject, I instantly thought about how judgmental society and media can be with these types of relationships. I thought about the blame that gets put on the victim - “But how did she let it get that far? Why didn’t she fight back? Why didn’t she leave?” Well, it just isn’t as simple as getting up and walking out the door. Dano and Melissa are going to (again, BRAVELY) answer questions y’all have, about their individual situations. Until their Q&A, here’s my answer, from my situation, on the first question that I think comes to many minds when we learn about these abuse relationships - how did she let it get that far?
July 2010 - We started dating, long-distance (2.5 hours apart)
October 2010 - He got me DIAMOND earrings for my birthday! Because “I deserved the BEST.”
December 2010 - Our first fight. Over something stupid. Dissolved with one’s nights’ sleep and forgotten in the morning.
March 2011 - ENGAGED! It didn’t feel like the right time, but I didn’t have a reason to say “no”. We’d only ever gotten into ONE fight. We were in love (or so I thought). (RED FLAG)
April 2011 - Our second fight. It was terrible. Out of town with his family for a wedding and he SNAPPED at something small. His mom asked us to put outlet covers on all of the outlets in the condo so the kiddos wouldn't stick their fingers or tongues or anything else in those tempting little outlet holes. I grabbed a handful from the plastic bag on the counter and tossed the bag to him, who was sitting on the couch. He yelled at me for throwing the bag at him. I was being lazy for trying to make him do the work and not taking care of it by myself. I was an idiot if I thought it was a two-person job to insert a few covers into the wall outlets. From there, he RAGED at me until his mom finally interjected, told him to stop, and told him to go take a shower and cool off before the wedding. He didn’t speak to me the rest of the night. He didn't apologize. And I was MAD. I was ANGRY at him for lashing out like that. I was angry with him for attacking me. I told myself it would NEVER happen again. I embarked on the 3.5 hour drive home around 3 AM. I was uncomfortable and I didn't feel like I was in a safe place - mentally or emotionally - so I gathered my things and left Lake of the Ozarks to head back to O’Fallon. After an hour and a half or two hours, I was having trouble keeping my eyes open and couldn’t imagine fighting the fatigue for another hour and a half, so I found a 'not-super-creepy-I'm-sure-I-won't-get-murdered-or-attacked-here' motel and slept for a couple of hours. I don't remember when he called or exactly what he said, but essentially, he had a migraine the afternoon before and I was being insensitive to that. I was a jerk for not letting him rest so he could feel better before the wedding. I was the mean one for not being more respectful to him when he wasn't feeling well. The whole situation was my fault, and was I ready to apologize? Well, when you put it like that, IN the situation, I sure did apologize. "I had no idea you had a migraine. You didn't say anything. I'M SO SORRY! PLEASE FORGIVE ME!" (RED FLAG)
May 2011 - He moves to Chicago.
June 2011 - I move to Chicago.
June, July, August, September 2011 - Fights - all of the time. About dinner. About hanging out with friends. About anything he felt like yelling at me about. This wasn’t “us”. We had just moved, started new jobs, moved in together - so many big life changes. We just had to get back into our groove. (20 MILLION RED FLAGS)
September 24, 2011 - My younger sister passes away. He drives me to St. Louis from Chicago. He goes back to Chicago for work, returning Wednesday night for the visitation and Thursday for the funeral. We have to leave immediately after the funeral because he doesn’t want to be driving in the dark and he has to work Friday. We get back to our apartment in Chicago Thursday evening and he tells me we HAVE to have sex. We HAVE to get back to “normal”. I need to get over it (my sister passing away, that is). (I SHOULD’VE LEFT RIGHT THEN! So many RED FLAGS with his attitude to all of the events surrounding my sister’s death., but hindsight is 20/20 and in the moment, I believed I was the problem because of my grief.)
October 2011 - May 2012 - Too many fights to count, all because I can’t stop grieving my sister’s death and I really need to force myself to get back to "normal" and stop crying all of the time.
October 2011 - May 2012 - Also found a woman’s thong under our bed. Definitely wasn’t mine. He said it must’ve belonged to one of the friends’ who stayed at our apartment while we were out of town. Same response to the woman’s sock I found under the bed in this time frame. (Pink flags? I mean, it's plausible those pieces of clothing did belong to the friends who stayed over while we were out of town, right? And they somehow forgot them under the bed, right?)
April 2012 - Are we going to go on a honeymoon? We haven’t booked one yet. The wedding is next month. “I would rather go somewhere on vacation with you and all of our (his) friends. It would be so much more fun than just with you.” (RED FLAG)
May 2012 - Married. That reception was AWESOME. I had the BEST night I’d had in YEARS! I’m not sure where my husband was, but damn did I dance and drink the night away with my BEST friends and my sisters. (RED FLAG)
After we got married, the control really started. That’s when the excuses to see his family and not see mine began. Before we got engaged, holidays were split between our two families, or we spent a couple of days surrounding whatever holiday with each family. Well, my ex-husband has a son from a previous relationship, so EVERY holiday he had his son was automatically a holiday with his family. The second year of being together, the excuses started to come for why we needed to make an exception and spend just that one holiday with his family, until slowly but surely, EVERY holiday was with his family. There wasn't even a point in asking anymore. Easter in Decatur. Thanksgiving in Decatur. Spring Break when he had his son in Decatur. Memorial Day in Decatur. Fourth of July in Decatur. Labor Day in Decatur. I think you get it, but just to be clear - WE NEVER VISITED MY FAMILY. WE NEVER SPENT HOLIDAYS WITH MY FAMILY after that first year. There were a few exceptions - we made it to a family reunion a week or two after we were married and used it as a mini-honeymoon since we didn't take a real honeymoon. What's the trend? Over the course of our first two years together, slowly, I was isolated from my family, physically. Beyond that, he instigated and ignited fights between my family and I. He picked apart situations and made my family out to be against me until I believed him, so I didn't want to see my family... so I didn't want to talk to them or reach out. I was fairly ISOLATED from them, to say the least, and his instigation / ignition of events had me thinking that's what I WANTED.
One day, he came into the shower while I was in there showering. "You do NOT need that much shampoo!" Cliff's notes of that conversation - I was being wasteful and practically washing money right down the drain. Similar conversations occurred on different occasions concerning conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, toothpaste, and toilet paper. (No, I'm not exaggerating. This man walked in on me as I finished peeing, watched me finish using the restroom, and proceeded to tell me I used too much toilet paper.) We were at Walgreens one day and I remembered I needed to grab some deodorant. The deodorant I use is like $8.00. What can I say? I like a quality product and I don't like to sweat. Well, apparently $8.00 is too much to spend on deodorant so I was told to put that back and go get the MEN'S unscented $2.00 off-brand. I found myself questioning everything I did. Was I using too much of something? Was I being wasteful? Was I being SO wasteful that it would negatively affect our finances?
December 2012 - He went out with the “guys” from work for some Saturday day-drinking. I ended up going to the bar to pick him up, and coordinating rides home for everyone he was out with, including a (female) co-worker, Candace. On the way home, he started getting texts. I assumed it was his co-workers, one by one, letting him know they’d gotten home safely. I checked his phone to start mentally checking off that everyone was home safe. Didn’t know who Daniel Fineburg was. Weird. Never heard that name before. Ever. Well, that’s because it was Candace, in his phone under a guy’s name. Of course the confrontation lead to a fight. He called me crazy and psychotic. The name change was an inside joke. I wouldn’t get it. She was only saying mean things about me (his wife) in the texts because she thinks I treat him poorly. It wasn’t jealousy. There was no affair. I was delusional. He towered over me, screaming at me. After that fight, nothing was “the same”. Nothing was ever good.
September 2014 - I was laid off from my job. For the first two days, he was supportive. Then, the house needed to be put up for sale and he wanted a divorce. Divorce was the first thing he brought up any time we'd gotten into a fight since the Candace incident. I'd been having that threat thrown in my face for nearly two years at that point. The pattern was him threatening divorce, me apologizing emphatically, and the fight eventually defusing until the next one. I was so numb to it, I couldn't fight anymore. I couldn't try anymore. I had nothing left. I'd given everything and tried everything I could to make this man happy, and I was done. I said, "Okay." to his saying he wanted a divorce, and it was finally the beginning of the end.
The above are a few examples of how the manipulation, control, and isolation slowly creeps into a relationship in a way in which it is undetected by the victim. Situations and small power moves are disguised so it seems natural. It's repeated over time until the pattern becomes a firm routine and the victim is retrained how to think and perceive differently - in all aspects of life. The ways in which this occurs start slowly with things like product use and then escalate to things like who the couple will see for holidays, until eventually, the pattern has been exercised enough that the victim knows not to question ANYTHING. The victim has been conditioned to a new way of thinking and a new life.
This man manipulated my thinking, my mentality, my emotions, and my life to a point in which I was thinking I was a wasteful person and actually started using the $2.00 men's deodorant (Who's laughing? 'Cause it is pretty funny, now, but in a really sad, "Is she serious?!?!?!?!" sort of way.) And THAT is how she let it get to THAT point. She didn't know it was happening. It was one small incident at a time. One fight, an apology, an excuse, and done. Then another. Then I did something wrong. Then I didn't do something. It was a state of constantly being picked on and bullied, but in a "loving" way, or because "I care about you". THAT'S how she let it get to that point. Because he said he loved her. Because he said sorry. Because he was manipulating situations, and manipulating her way of thinking... her way of life.
I firmly support my sister bloggers in telling their stories of after the relationship, as well as for sharing their final escape. I hope these snapshots into my situation give a much clearer understanding of how women and men "let it get to that point". I hope these snapshots give people a firmer understanding of what to look for, what red flags to pay attention to, when to stand up for yourself in a relationship, when to find your voice and use it, and how to better identify earlier on when a relationship is toxic - when to get away, before it gets to THAT point.