a list of words

through a fence

Negative things Kurt said to me

You are too emotional
You are too sensitive
You shouldn’t be so sensitive about the things I say (I’m being funny and you should know that)
You are the Queen of Assumption
You aren’t very tactful, you say insensitive things to me
You are not soft and sweet
You nap too much
You are too busy
You don’t take enough walks with me
You are a selfish bitch
You aren’t feminine
You ar not a team player
You are headstrong and independent
You are too lenient with the boys
You coddle the boys
You need to be more tender and nurturing with the boys
You need to be a hard-ass with those boys
You get too engaged in debates with the boys
You should make money, get a job, other women do it, why can’t you?
You care more about the boys than about me
You are not submissive like a proper Christian wife
I talk to my sons like a man talks, it’s none of your business
Your feelings are incorrect, you have too many feelings
You are kicking me in the nuts
You do not respect me
You don’t trust me
You take life too seriously
You are manic-depressive
You are too “heavy”, you need to keep things light
You push all my buttons on purpose
You have the life of Riley
Your forehead is wrinkled
You make me get angry
This pain in my chest is from the stress you cause me
You are not my soulmate
You are not easy
You laugh too loud, it’s weird
You are abrasive
You are too opinionated
You don’t need me, you’re too strong

Messages that I internalized

I’m not loveable
I can’t trust someone to stay, be committed
I can’t trust love
I have to behave a certain way to keep someone around
I shouldn’t have strong opinions, it’s not attractive
I’m not okay the way I am
Being strong and capable is not feminine

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may i borrow a bandaid?

bandaid

This has been a good year. Really. For most of it I was working and rebuilding my world in a new place. I was happy with my man-friend and the fun stuff we did together. I moved to a lovely new home of my own (renting, but my home). My youngest son graduated from high school and began college. I finally got a divorce from my ass husband. Our house sold and I have a bit of money in the bank. It truly has been good.

However. In the process of rebuilding, I recognized that I was still replaying negative, hurtful messages that the ass husband had recorded in my heart. I thought I needed some talk therapy. I first looked into joining a small group at church. Not successful. (See reasons below). Then I found a Divorce Care group at another local church. It is an excellent source of support and healing. It is definitely bringing old wounds and new challenges into the light for me to deal with. That probably has plenty to do with the state I find myself in right now.

But I decided I needed a bit more. Any one person can’t monopolize the entire group meeting to share their pain, and talking is a huge part of healing for me. So I contacted our church about the lay counseling that is offered. I received an email yesterday:

We may be able to help you with one of our women counselors, but probably won’t be available till the week after this, January 5th or so to schedule. How are your support systems now?
I give strong encouragement to join as many of the activities our church, our women’s ministries in particular, offer if you haven’t already. The women’s bible study on Tuesday night or Wednesday mornings is so encouraging on Gods amazing love for us – such positive messages!
What I want to address is that “join as many of the activities our church, our women’s ministries in particular, offer if you haven’t already” part. If you have experienced genuine depression, not the blues or being depressed, you will understand.

This sweet woman is trying to help. And it is true that it can be helpful to get out of the house and enter the land of the living. But putting yourself in a social situation that will require your participation in reciprocal cordial dialog or adherence to acceptable group behavior can be excruciating if not downright impossible.

Bipolarsojourner describes his experience, “the awkwardness comes from trying to project a place where i am not. the forced smiles, the faked hello’s, the phony greeting hugs, they represent a facade, a fake front, like trying to force a victorian front onto a modern neo-classical building. it just doesn’t work for me.”

I belonged to a women’s bible study for many years while I was married and raising my children and being physically and emotionally abused. The women show up nicely dressed with their jewelry on and hair combed. They aren’t trying to fit a role that has been scripted for them, they are just getting out and being sociable and connecting. It is healthy. But I wasn’t healthy. So, although I was trying to pull myself into the real world to help myself feel normal, it felt like fraud. It felt fake and painful. At home I had this person who would alternately show kindness and then disembowel me with his words. I’d try to pack my guts back in and heal the wounds but he’d be back soon for more eviscerating. Showing up for any mingling required shoving my innards into place and putting a plastic smile on my face. If you were damned sure you belonged in the ER, what would you think if you found yourself hobnobbing at a dinner party? Not only are you slowly dying from a life-threating condition, you are standing there pretending everything is peachy.

 So, no, thank you, I don’t think I’ll join a small group or women’s bible study or the other activities the church has to offer. Thank you for your concern. May I borrow a bandaid?

It has been a good year. There is still pain and, apparently, still depression. But I’ll seek out real help, take care of my genuine needs and not fake it. This next year will be even better and I will do more of the things that make me happy and the wounds will heal.

field of fire

text

First “holidays” that I am not communicating with my former husband. Actually, last year he was my husband. Actually, we are still communicating.

Last time we had any interchange was over the remaining item that he had agreed to split 50/50 with me and he refused. The “discussion” was gross and abusive and I let it go. That was right on the heels of the moving nightmare in which he tried to control the agenda that was entirely my plan and investment of time and money. I utterly fell apart that day.

Then a couple of weeks before Christmas he emails with a polite request for our youngest son’s Christmas wishlist. I didn’t feel like replying, but I did. I also continued staying in touch over receiving the package via shipping and wrapping it. I was cordial. He was pleasant. Too pleasant. My birthday is right before Christmas. I got a text, “I just want to wish you a Happy Birthday :).” I tried to ignore it, but it ate at me. I certainly didn’t respond.

Do I sound like an unforgiving bitch?

I got another text. He wanted my input on a gift pair of shoes for our son. The one that doesn’t speak to him. Does he not understand that I don’t want to hear from him? Anyway, what idiot tries to buy an 18-year-old American boy a pair of shoes that he hasn’t specifically asked for? Will they fit? It’s certainly guaranteed that he’ll think they are “gay” anyway. Why doesn’t he just ask the young man himself instead of getting me to figure it out? How about helping out with some of the f@$%ing expenses that I incur feeding him and keeping him in college? Maybe that’s his way of trying, you suggest. Well, too freaking bad. It’s lame. It feels like he’s trying to ingratiate himself. The other gift was generous enough. Really.

I’m sure by this point that you think I’m an unforgiving bitch.

I respond, “Kurt, I have no idea what kind of shoe he would choose. An 18-year-old boy is very difficult to buy shoes or clothing for. I’m not sure why you keep texting me.”

He replies, “You’re right I don’t know why I text you. I won’t do it again.”

How does that sound to you? Reasonable? Yes, probably doesn’t seem the least bit offensive to you. But you haven’t heard his hurtful, cruel voice for the last twenty-some years. You haven’t gotten the angry, cold-shoulder treatment from him. Or felt the passive-aggressive hostility day in, day out. You haven’t had him spit venomous crap at you. So that’s what I hear. And I’m pretty sure I’m not imagining things.

So, just with a pleasant, harmless, generous text, I am still in harm’s way.

You probably don’t see it that way. I’m over-reacting. Maybe I am. Maybe I am an unforgiving bitch.

forgiveness does not equal reconciliation

forgiveness does not require forgetting

forgiveness does not deny hurt and suffering

I forgive Kurt. I know he is a man with his own hurts and baggage from his childhood. He is imperfect and sinful. So am I. He did what he did. He had his reasons. He made mistakes. So did I.

But he hurt me immeasurably. He hurt our sons incalculably. I am certain that he has not changed. He may be sorry, he may want reconciliation, but he has not changed. I will not subject myself willingly to any more of his abuse or manipulation. Is it possible to have any sort of reconciliation with an abusive person? No. Let me make that clear.

It is NOT possible to reconcile with an abusive person.

To do so would simply put me right back in the field of fire.

So I am just going to have to look like an unforgiving bitch to everyone. And that is hard to live with.

born as a human being

nativity ornament

Jesus came as a helpless baby. He arrived in squalor and poverty, but within a family that sacrificially and faithfully chose love and obedience. His companions and associates emerged from the common masses of a Roman-occupied territory that was regarded with contempt. He showed love and compassion to the crippled, the anathema, the beggar, the thief, the immoral and the greedy.

Do you know who he showed contempt for? The prideful, the arrogant, the elitist… those who, in their own self-sufficiency, did not recognize him or their need for him.

He healed a man, blind and mute, possessed by demons. He spoke gently to and forgave the sins of a woman caught in adultery. He brought an extortioner into his closest circle, his own disciples. He associated with those who were immoral and dishonest. Yet the men who held to the strictest moral and religious laws, those he called a “brood of vipers” and hypocrites.


A couple of years ago, my former husband and I were making a last-ditch effort to salvage our marriage. I was already out the door, sleeping in a camping trailer in our driveway, but he “didn’t want me to leave.” We were seeing a counselor.* He asked me to make a list of 20 things Kurt could do to make me feel loved. I thought this list was ridiculous, but I worked on it…

1. don’t ridicule me, belittle me or call me names
2. hug your sons at least once a day
3. find at least one of my weaknesses endearing, not something to criticize
4. don’t ask me to engage in anal sex
5. i feel cared for when you pay attention to what is important to me
6. be more merciful and less judgemental/critical when i/boys don’t meet your standards
7. don’t yell or put others down
8. give gifts of service and take care of our house more
9. i appreciate that you’ve been accepting my less-than-usual cooking and cleaning lately since i’ve been in school
10. accept more responsibility for keeping your family cared for, protected, loved
11. don’t kick the dog
12. talk pleasantly to our children
13. go away
14. don’t disrespect me
15. have the same standard for yourself as others
16. fuck yourself
17. listen… pay attention
18. take care of the yard, vehicle, roof, etc.
19. go away
20. stay away

In my eyes, in my heart, this man who I married in love, had never genuinely expressed the love and acceptance I dreamed of, longed for. Very quickly the relationship became some sort of bad dream in which he treated me with a disrespect that I never witnessed while we were dating. There was a sense of control and ownership. An element of male privilege. An air of superiority and demand. It wasn’t a mutual love and affection, reciprocal need and nurturing, vulnerability and trust. It was manipulative and domineering. Arrogant. PRIDEFUL.


What we see in Jesus, the one who came to us in abject humility, who lived with us in such acceptance, who wooed us with unconditional love, is the unspeakable beauty of grace. Grace in all its amazing perfection. Grace does not deny truth or sin, but embraces it and corrects it with tenderness. Grace can only come from a position of absolute authority, but never condescends or belittles. Grace raises us. It opens our eyes to our best and encourages us to reach further.  Grace shines the light on our filth and washes us with mercy. Our response is not scripted or compelled, but a genuine abandon. When we experience such unutterable favor in the arms of God, we have nothing but joy.

My husband’s lack of acceptance, his arrogance, his pride, destroyed us. Please take notes.

Jesus shows us how to lead. How to live. How to love.


You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,

he did not think of equality with God

as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

he took the humble position of a slave

and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,

he humbled himself in obedience to God

and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

~ Phillippians 2:5-8


* My advice is that a couple with an abusive spouse NEVER EVER go to couple’s therapy or counseling. It is extremely toxic for the victim. Our counselor should have known better.

angry becomes empty

branches

I’ve been thinking about how I used to feel around my former husband. Since we are focusing on anger in my divorce recovery group, I am looking at anger in my life. I’m not often angry anymore. Someone treating me unjustly… that’s what makes me angry. Makes anyone angry because it’s not right. That’s what anger is. A signal that something is not right. And the best response is to speak to the person about their behavior and what you are willing to accept. A respectful person would listen to that and respond by adjusting their behavior or letting you know that they are not willing to adapt for you. Then you choose whether to remain around that behavior or not.

But I was married to someone who did not believe it was his responsibility to adapt his behavior. And he did not respond politely, but with either arrogance or hostility. At the same time, he believed, that as his wife, I was not entitled to decide to not accept or endure whatever behavior he chose to dish out. It was my place to deal with it and actually embrace it.

He worked diligently at retraining me, stubborn as I was, to believe that his male priviledge included the authority to dictate what I should or should not think, how I should feel, and to accept his decisions whole-heartedly without question. It was his conviction that as head of our family, his beliefs and opinions were the default truth and were not to be challenged or questioned.

I remember one instance of this idiocy when my oldest son was in high school. He had a black argyle sweater that had purple diamonds. Kurt was of the opinion that straight boys do not wear purple. I thought that was downright stupid. I didn’t express my thought, but he did know that I had helped chose and purchase this sweater. Kurt whispered to me that I needed to back him up on this, that it was really important. He proceeded to tell both boys how purple is a color, like pink, that only girls and gay boys wear and that if they ever wore those colors, it was a declaration to the world of their sexual preference for males. He then turned to me for my confirmation of this fact. What did I do? What would you do? Do you know what the consequences for having or expressing anything other than complete and unequivocal agreement would have been? Do you think this made me feel kind of angry?

As a general contractor, he was responsible for finding his next job. He often would have the opportunity to bid several jobs, and if awarded, could schedule them several months out. But he also like to have time off. So, frequently, he would take several months off in the winter. He spent a great deal of that time, while I was home schooling the boys, sitting on his computer, surfing the internet. The boys, who were of junior high age, still had very limited use of any computer or electronic device. My youngest son had saved up enough money to buy himself, with our permission, an iPod touch. This is not a phone or anything with internet capability, just music. Kurt resented that thing like Satan. He would restrict our son’s time using it, take it away as a disciplinary measure, and he also opposed their use of the computer that we had gotten for them. It had all the parental controls on it, but Kurt just couldn’t abide any leisure time they spent on it. He was constantly taking the monitor away so they had no access to it. Okay, so, in my mind, if you are going to set down such standards for your children, then you should set the example and limit your own leisure time on your computer. Nope. Hours and hours he would sit there watching YouTube and Wimp and useless stuff. He actually even told them not to use him as an example. So I’m just really not respecting this leadership. I’m biting my tongue, but inside I’m feeling pretty angry.

So, if you are spending years and years of your life with this internal anger, how do you cope? It will eat your insides up. You can keep giving it over to God to take care of the mess, the injustice, but when it goes on and on and on… you start to give up. There’s no hope of it getting better. I did keep reaching out to other people, but nothing ever changed, so I just had to let a lot of my convictions go. I chose to accept behavior that I found unacceptable in order to maintain peace. And when you do that over and over and over, you begin to lose your sense of who you are and what you believe. It is a kind of numbing and brainwashing. I felt empty.

But there remained a voice inside that insisted on being heard. It kept prodding me, “Not right… this is not right. ” And I whispered back, “Go away”, but I could still hear it. And, feeling a stinging need to do something about this voice, I sought counseling.

January 2006

Talked to Lupe tonight. Lord, you seem to be confirming through her that this is not what a marriage is. It is not what you want for us. How can I save this marriage? What can I do? I can’t bear this. I don’t want to chose divorce. Lupe said, “Divorce starts in the heart.” I need to think about that.

Lupe asked, “Are YOU the one responsible for making the marriage work?”

I do not feel like one flesh. Isn’t that what marriage is?

I feel betrayed

despised

unloved

manipulated

abused

emotionally molested

My friend said “reign of terror” about her chidhood abuse.

Is that where I leave my children by doing nothing?

Lord Jesus, convict me, if not for myself, of what is happening for my sons. Show me in your perfect truth where they are in this. What is this like for them? What do they need?

Strengthen me and show them your love through me. My love is insufficient and pathetic.

there is only the trying

turkey feather

Last year at this time, I was confused and emotionally upset. I’d just filed for divorce. My husband did not want to separate, he didn’t want a divorce. Well, wait a minute… he’d actually been threatening to divorce me for years… since the first year of marriage he’d been holding it over my head. But here he was, saying he didn’t want this, he wanted to stay together. And then he would turn around the next week and tell me how he was glad to be getting rid of me, how peaceful his life was without me. But with the holidays approaching, we both wished for that sense of family and wanted to be able to create it for our sons, too. The last year had been so fractured and broken. But recently we had spent some time together and it felt okay. I was doubting my decision, again.

It took me many years to come to the point that I was ready to file for divorce. It was not a decision that I took lightly or could choose without measuring the cost to everyone involved. And when I finally left for good, I had to focus on all the crap I’d been living with, the abuse, the double standards, the moving target, the gaslighting, the verbal and emotional poisoning he’d tormented me with, and I had to push any positive, happy, close and wonderful memories from my mind. If I reminisced about the good us, the happy family, I would be tempted to go back. I had to steel myself against that. It took a monumental effort to finally leave. To leave with the intention of never going back. To say “no more.” So I had to constantly hold the abuse and dysfunction in the front of my mind to keep me away from my home, my family, everything comfortable and familiar. And, of course, to someone who has been controlled or manipulated for so long, even the unhealthy, destructive behavior is comfortably familiar.

When I left, I still didn’t really comprehend what had happened all those years. It took me months to untangle it all. And my husband kept asking when I was planning to come home. He was concerned that the longer I stayed away, the more I would be accustomed to being on my own. He really said that. He wasn’t concerned about what was best for me. I’d asked for years for a therapeutic separation and he wouldn’t cooperate. He was more concerned with preserving our marriage, or the appearance of one, than he was with my welfare. But I didn’t exactly see it that way at the time, it still seemed like it was his affection for me, desire to reconcile, that kept him pursuing. So I agreed to “date” him through the holidays so that we could see how things went.

It is a bittersweet achievement to have escaped the abuse, come through the divorce, begun to heal, but still feel so empty inside.

He was going to come down for the weekend. I felt physically ill before he arrived Friday evening. I managed through dinner and going out. But Saturday we went hiking and in the midst of our day, I wanted to vomit. I could barely stand to look at him. I couldn’t tell him that, that would have been hurtful, so I just endured the rest of the outing and then I think I made up some excuse about not feeling well to put an end to the day. I felt awful. I knew I could hardly stand to be around him. What was I going to do? I’d committed to Thanksgiving and Christmas with him and the boys. He went to a lot of effort to make all the trimmings for Thanksgiving at the house. Our oldest came home from Southern California and brought a friend, our youngest came with me, it was supposed to be a wonderful holiday. It was miserable for me. Everything was horrible and awkward and my husband seemed to be trying too hard. Yet he still managed to be difficult. At some point we had a conversation that he was able to twist around and accuse me of getting everything my way. It was utterly confirming for me that I couldn’t go back.

This year I won’t be seeing him for any of the holidays. I am wistful. I regret the loss of family and belonging. I feel that I have failed my sons. My youngest son and I will have Thanksgiving alone because our holidays always involved my husband’s family, and now we don’t want to see him. And some of them don’t seem to want to see us. That’s okay. I understand. It’s hard. And my oldest isn’t coming up to visit this year. It’s okay, he’s growing up. We’ll see him for Christmas. I’m trying to look forward, to tell myself things change and this is all a process. Different years will bring different circumstances and it’s all fine. It is a bittersweet achievement to have escaped the abuse, come through the divorce, begun to heal, but still feel so empty inside. I have to remind myself to keep going, it will get better.

“There is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”
T.S. Eliot

information would have been helpful

As the years went on, I struggled more and more with depression. Kurt seemed to be caring during my worst, debilitating bouts, when I could barely get myself out of bed.  Since we home schooled, I had to get up and moving each day. But there were times I felt like an empty shell. When he came home he would take the kids out for dinner while I pulled the blankets over my head. I was so grateful for his help. I blamed myself for my struggle.

But I want you to think about this… what if someone is good and kind to you, provides for you. You need that person. You lean on that person. Then, that person, who is your partner, turns on you. Tells you everything that is wrong with you, why they should leave you, how you fail them daily, that they are GOING to leave because you are so selfish or headstrong or dependent or busy or lazy or loud or quiet or a bitch. You do this too much, that not enough. Be more strict with the boys, be more tender, be more organized, be more flexible, be firm, be sweet, do this, do this, do this, do this, why don’t you just sit down and relax! And don’t complain about how I treat you, you are just not submissive enough like a good wife should be and you just are pushing all my buttons and trying to start a fight! So, you try harder to make things work, to hit the target (which keeps moving) and be a better wife, better mom. And he is sweet sometimes and woos you. And you feel happy that he loves you, and he wants you to lean on him and trust him and let him love you and then he’s angry and yelling again, or giving you the silent treatment. He shouts till his face is shaking, he throws things, he towers over you at six and a half feet and holds his fist in your face and it gets hard to get yourself out of bed in the morning to try to make this impossible world work.

Obviously, I was doing something wrong and needed to fix myself.

The following information would have been helpful at that point…

Domestic Violence is a violent confrontation between family or household members involving physical harm, sexual assault, or fear of physical harm…

The batterer uses acts of violence and a series of behaviors, including intimidation, threats, psychological abuse, and isolation to coerce and to control the other person. The violence may not happen often, but may remain a hidden and constant terrorizing factor. Domestic violence is not only physical and sexual violence but also psychological. Psychological violence means intense and repetitive degradation, creating isolation, and controlling the actions or behaviors of the spouse through intimidation or manipulation to the detriment of the individual.

Domestic violence destroys the home. No one deserves to be abused. The responsibility for the violence belongs to the abuser. It is not the victim’s fault!

Symptoms of Abuse – Misuse of Power And Control

Abuse in a relationship is any act used to gain power and control over another person. Women who are abused physically are often isolated. Their partners tend to control their lives to a great extent as well as verbally degrade them.

Listed below are some of the warning signs of domestic abuse. Look to see if there are multiple warning signs that are occurring in your life.

Using Physical and Sexual Abuse

Hair pulling, biting, shaking, pushing, pinching, choking, kicking, confinement, slapping, hitting, punching, using weapons, forced intercourse, unwanted sexual touching in public or in private and depriving her of food or sleep.

Using Emotional Abuse

Insulting her in public or in private
Putting down her friends and family
Making her feel bad about herself
Calling her names
Making her think she’s crazy
Playing mind games
Humiliating her
Making her feel guilty
Using Male Privilege; acting like “Master of the Castle”
Treating her like a servant
Making all the big decisions
Being the one to define men’s and women’s roles.

Using Economic Abuse

Preventing her from getting or keeping a job
Making her ask for money
Giving her an allowance
Taking her money
Not letting her know about or have access to family income
Not allowing her a voice in important financial decisions
Demanding exclusive control over household finances.

Using Coercion and Threats

Making or carrying out threats to do something to hurt her
Threatening to leave her, or to commit suicide
Threatening to report her to welfare
Making her drop charges
Making her do illegal things.

Using Intimidation

Making her afraid by using looks, gestures, or actions
Throwing or smashing things, destroying property
Abusing pets
Dangerous driving
Displaying weapons.

Using Children

Making her feel guilty about the children
Using the children to relay messages
Using visitation to harass her
Threatening to take the children away.

Using Isolation

Controlling what she does, who she sees, what she reads, & where she goes
Limiting her outside involvement
Refusing to let her learn to drive, go to school, or get a job
Not allowing her to freely use the car or the telephone.

Using Jealousy and Blame to Justify Actions

Minimizing, Denying, Blaming
Making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously
Checking up on where she’s been or who she’s talked to
Accusing her of infidelity
Saying the abuse didn’t happen
Shifting responsibility for abusive behavior
Saying she caused it.