I met him when I was 10 years old; he was 16 and to me he was totally cool. He was dating my oldest sister for a short time and after a few months she felt uneasy so broke off with him.
We had an issue with communication in our family. My parents wanted us only to express “positive” emotions, so her concerns about him were never brought up.
Meanwhile, my mom had essentially noticed he was a bit of a lost one who could benefit from a healthy family and so, “adopted” him. My sister never said much of anything whenever he showed up for dinner, but she always had a lot of homework those days.
He went off to VietNam for not one but two tours as a Green Beret. Special Forces, rah rah. Mom was so proud. He never told us anything, just brought gifts for each of us whenever he returned to the hometown and ended up at our dinner table again.
So, when he proposed 12 years later, I sort of knew him but only realized later that I had no idea who he was. I thought since he cherished his “home away from home” at our house, he understood and believed in the kinds of ethics and love we exhibited.
I was eager to get away from New Jersey and he offered a route away. I was such a fool. Naive. Innocent.
And so I jumped in, prepared to love this man until death do us part.
But on our first few weeks of marriage he wanted to invite another woman to join the two of us on his boat on one of Nashville’s lakes. I suggested he should not; that we could enjoy some “special time” in a secluded cove, but he was not on the same wavelength.
I had a friend from college visit and after dinner I drove him to where he was staying the night and he asked me how I was. He saw clearly that something was not right. I denied it. All was fine.
Still in the reserves he would go spend his weekend up at Fort Campbell where he worked in the hospital. He was trained as a medic and had dreams of becoming a physician’s assistant but had no sticking power in his studies. He would leave the house to go to school but I noticed he never worked on any homework. One day a woman called asking for Sargeant X. I gave him the phone and he took it into the bedroom for a private conversation that included a lot of laughter and lasted over an hour. When he came out he told me that she wanted to know who had answered the phone. He had not told her he was married.
One day while riding in his sister’s car we were struck by a truck. My head hit the side window hard but I recovered my wits faster and told her to put her foot on the brake as we were headed to a ditch. . When I called the place where he was hanging out (he should have been in school) he told the person who took the call to tell me he was in class. I told her to tell him we had had an accident and where it was. Believe it or not, he was there in about 15 minutes, an illegal driving speed was evident. But he did not go to me. He enveloped his sister in a warm and caring hug. She had started sobbing as soon as she saw him, and told me to get out of the way. On the way home he told me her stomach was upset and I needed to make chicken soup…from scratch…and have it ready fast. I was glad I had some in the freezer. But he never asked how I was and since I had a raging headache for 3 days, I probably had a concussion.
I needed my wisdom teeth extracted. He came to pick me up about 2 hours after I called him I was ready and then dropped me at home and took off to join “the guys for a drink”. I truly felt unloved.
But I was raised that all issues in marriages can be worked out and that there would be no such thing as divorce in our family. So I tried all different things. I tried being nice and sweet. (okay, it was not as hard a stretch at age 23 as it might be now…quit laughing) I tried to be firm and strong back at him. He only raised his voice and got angrier.
My sister, his old flame, came to visit with her husband. She told me later that he hit on her, but at that time she shared a technique she had been learning while pursuing her master’s’ degree in psychiatric nursing. The treasured “When you do such and I such I feel this way” which is a fairly non confrontational alternative to “What the hell are you doing treating me this way!” He got angrier with that one also.
There was no way to escape his anger. Basically, there was no escape. He had the car and a motorcycle and never gave me a set of car keys. He often would leave the house on a weekend day on the motorcycle, taking the car keys and not tell me when he would be home.
All this is classic emotional abuse. It was my fault there were red lights. It was my fault it rained. It was my fault if I did not automatically intuit what he wanted for supper. But I kept hoping things would get better.
My period was late one month, something that never happened. Yes, I prayed. I knew children with this man would be a mistake. The prayer worked a couple of days later. Thank you Lord.
And then he announced we were going on a honeymoon, about 15 months into our marriage. He wanted to go scuba diving at Grand Cayman. Cool. I also learned to scuba.
But I anticipated a new beginning. I bought a new negligee and was ready to play the excited and eager bride. He had selected a place to stay on the eastern side of the island, far away from all the touristy things. I loved it. It was a small place where each room had a slider out to the beach.
I suggested we go for a walk on the beach and he angrily said no. He then proceeded to rape me.
Some people believe that in a marriage there is no such thing as rape. I anticipate a lot of women snorting when they read that statement. We know, so without getting graphic, let me explain.
When you want to make love you spend a bit of time making sure your partner is relaxed and then titillated. That caresses and kisses help build the energy and help the juices flow.
When you have a man who has no concern other than where to put HIS body part, it can be a long, dry, painful experience.
The next evening, when he expected the same activity, I smiled in what I hoped was a sweet way and suggested we make love.
He hit me.
Immediately I knew he could kill me. I grabbed my clothes and went out on the beach. I sat there, waiting for him to come out, to apologize, to realize he had chosen something very wrong.
After 3 hours I went in. He was snoring.
The next day he told me he would prefer if I would leave. From Grand Cayman. When he had the money and the tickets and was supposedly the man who had promised to care for me. I stayed.
Grand Cayman has a bit of a volcanic section called Hell. It has a post office and I actually had enough chutzpah to send him a postcard at home that said simply, “The next time you tell me to go to Hell, I will remind you that you drove me there.”
He was not amused.
Everything came to a head about a month later when my parents came to visit and he was rude, even to my mother, someone who had always given him love. She said to me “I don’t understand how you can stay with him” and the gates permitting me to leave opened.
I left the next day, after my parents were gone. Three weeks later he came over to my friend’s house where I was staying and tried to rape me again. I was able to get him to leave.
Valentine’s Day came and went with no comment from him, not even a “I know we’re in a tough place but we can work this out.” I filed for a divorce the next day.
I had nightmares for years.
So when I see women in a similar situation, particularly women I know and consider friends, I don’t avoid the issue. I want them to know I have been there and they need not stay there.
Most never make a move. Most continue the same way.
Someone posted today on facebook that about a third of all women have been the victim of domestic abuse. I think that number is low.