“And so they lived happily ever after…” That’s what every little girl wants to have when she is growing up.
I was swept off my feet in the summer of ’09. It was kind of one of those whirlwind romances – where all of a sudden you are in so deep that you can’t imagine your life any differently. We met on Myspace, blast from the past – huh? We then moved our friendship over to Facebook. On the internet, he is one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever met.
All you need is love
When I fell, I fell hard. This man was the sun, the moon, and the stars. I went to bed thinking about him and I woke up thinking about him. He was on my mind all day and had you asked me then, I couldn’t have told you one negative thing about him – except for the distance. He was ten hours away from me.
I moved to a totally different state, away from my family and friends, after getting married to a man I had known for maybe 8 months.
So, when we met in the middle for Valentine’s Day ’10, he made a joke about how we should get married. He “proposed” in the bathing suit section of Target in Texarkana, AR. I shrugged it off and laughed then, but on the five hour car ride home I couldn’t stop thinking about if he was serious.
Two days later, I called him and agreed. I thought it was a great idea for us to get married. We loved each other. All you need is love, according to the Beatles.
But then it all started to go downhill. When I say downhill, I don’t mean we started arguing randomly or that we got into small fights. I mean we would scream at each other on the phone and he would cuss me out and tell me how terrible I was. I thought it was totally normal. It was just wedding planning stress. It would go away.
Little did I realize that “I do” signed me up to living my nightmare daily. I moved to a totally different state, away from my family and friends, after getting married to a man I had known for maybe 8 months. I’m not usually much of a risk taker. The hasty decision to get married did not fit my usual habits.
Once I was done moving into our apartment, I realized the terrible mistake I had made. I called my mom every night from the first night I was there until I got to come back home. And what I know I said more than anything else, “I shouldn’t have gotten married.”
Screaming matches and being afraid that my husband was going to put his hands on me wasn’t my idea of “happily ever after.” After a month and a half of living with him, he got deployed to Iraq and he was going to be gone a year. I was sad, but I felt a sense of sharp relief. I felt like I would be able to breathe again. I packed my bags and moved back home to live with my parents.
During the year he was gone, we fought every day that we could talk. I don’t mean the fights where you just don’t have anything to say anymore so you just fill the void. I mean the fights where he would make me wish I wasn’t alive anymore. He would tear me down so far that I didn’t want to get out of bed for days. At one point I put him on speaker phone and let my mom hear the way he talked to me. She ripped the phone out of my hand and told him to NEVER speak to me like that again.
Screaming matches and being afraid that my husband was going to put his hands on me wasn’t my idea of “happily ever after.”
The thought was nice, but he just kept on talking to me like I didn’t have any feelings.
After a year of fighting and trying to miss him, he was finally coming home. I was going to be reunited with him. And actually, I was excited. I can see why you wouldn’t think I was, but genuinely I was happy to see him alive and happy to be with my new “family” once again. It was like a fresh chance.
I stayed because I was stuck
But when he got back it escalated from only emotional and verbal abuse to becoming physical. We acted as if everything was ok all the time. None of my friends or family knew the pain I was in. I kept up this act for a while, especially online.
I was the one who put myself in this situation. Why did I need to let anyone else know my reality? No one would have believed me anyway.
A few months into being home together, he started to get really angry over the smallest things. There is one night that will forever stick in my head. We got into a fight over having sex. I wasn’t feeling well and I wasn’t in the mood; normal men would have been ok and moved on and just waited until their partner was feeling better.
We acted as if everything was ok all the time. None of my friends or family knew the pain I was in.
Not him. We got into a screaming match in the bathroom. He had me against the wall by my throat and was so close to my face that he was spitting on me while he was screaming. I will never forget how red his face was. How many veins popped out of his neck and face. Once I was unpinned in the bathroom, we moved into the living room and finally into the guest bedroom where he picked up the mattress and box springs and threw me into the window sill.
I was bruised and scratched from falling and hitting everything on my way down to the cold, hard tile floor. I couldn’t call the MP or anyone else, because he took my phone and my computer. I was alone in this dark room all night trying to figure out what I did in life that made me deserve this.
On the bright side, my mom and stepdad were on the way to visit me for a few days. I needed that piece of happiness from home. When I told my mom about the incident and she confronted him, he said it was an “accident” – yeah, because accidents like that happen all the time.
Time after time he would get angry and throw stuff, say extremely mean things, or even push me into the wall again. It happened a lot and I began to believe that I deserved it. I began to believe that this was the life that I was supposed to have. I don’t want to make it to seem like we never had good days, because we did.
When we were good, we were great. When we were bad, I feared for my life.
I stayed because I was stuck – I had no job, no money, no car, no way home, I was ten hours away, and no one knew what I was going through.
Another story stands out. My 21st birthday. One many people look forward to and then remember forever with fondness. Not for me though. I will never forget how excited I was. We were buying all of this alcohol to party. I would be with my best friends back home.
I will never forget the incredibly strong Hunch Punch. I won’t forget taking shots of what tasted like straight rubbing alcohol. Being drunk and happy with friends was something that I needed after the long months of being away from home and lonely. I had always heard that alcohol lowered inhibitions, but I didn’t know how much I believed that then. I can tell you now that I am a firm believer in how dangerous too much alcohol can be.
When we were good, we were great. When we were bad, I feared for my life.
I had my best friends and my sister carry me to the bed at my in-law’s house because I was very drunk, and I couldn’t stand up any longer. As they were getting me in bed, my husband came in angry that I allowed myself to get that way and he started slapping me – you know to “wake me up.”
I won’t ever forget the feeling of him hitting me and the red marks on my face. I won’t ever forget how hard I was crying and how fast my sister got me out of that bed and took me to my mom’s house. I will also never forget the look on my in-laws face when they told me they didn’t think he caused any harm intentionally. That we were both drunk and if I didn’t want to be held accountable for my inebriation – he couldn’t be held accountable for how he acted.
The ride back to Texas was the longest, most uncomfortable ride of my life. I knew then I was totally done with being married to him. I knew then that you could love someone and hate them at the same time. I knew that I was worth more than that.
Goodbye – for good
It wasn’t long after that when we moved back to my hometown. It was another chance, but instead of looking forward to another opportunity for this new family of mine, it was a chance for escape. I told him that once we moved his attitude had to change or I was gone. I was gone because home was closer than ever before.
I don’t think he believed me though because New Year’s Day of 2013 he put his hands on me one last time. And I left. I packed my bags and told him that I needed a break from all of the anger and madness. I will never forget the look on my dog’s face as I was walking out of the house. I didn’t take him with me and my ex threw him against a wall. Not to be over dramatic or anything, but that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through.
I am thankful that I believed enough in myself to get out.
But then I was home. I could go to my family and I had support. All I asked for at the time was space away from him to think, but he wouldn’t leave me alone long enough to get my thoughts together. He called me one night while I was out with my friends and I told him to leave me alone and that I wanted a divorce. I remember I told him, “If you don’t respect me enough to give me the space I need, I just need to be done with you. Goodbye – for good.”
I never thought I’d be free of the abuse and the terror, but there I was – taking my life back. It was a long road to June 5th, but I made it. I made it through the mean text messages, the horrible phone calls, and being watched when I was moving my stuff out of the rental house. I tried to stay as classy as I could, but I will admit I went a little “Before He Cheats” and broke some beer bottles and ripped pictures up and tossed them all around the house on my way out.
When June 5th rolled around, I had my mom drive me to the courthouse so she could be with me on this monumental day. I could have come out way ahead in the divorce, but I didn’t. I left with the stuff I came in with and our German Shepherd that is my baby. I let him have the house, the car, the motorcycle, and the money. I didn’t need any of that. I just needed to be free.
We sat there for over 2 hours and he wasn’t there. Since I made him file, he had to be there before 10. At 9:45 we decided to leave. As I was walking out of the courthouse, I saw him – he looked sickly. He lost a lot of weight and wasn’t wearing clothes that fit properly. He rolled his eyes at me and we left.
I was finally legally free and after almost 4 years of being in an emotional prison – it felt amazing. After the papers were finalized, I received a couple of text messages telling me that he was glad to be free of me and that he never wanted to see me again. I promise the feelings were mutual. All that mattered to me was that I could finally breathe.
You don’t have to suffer in silence
Still as an adult, I watch Disney princess movies and I sit there and think about how lucky I am to have that now.
I know I didn’t have it as bad as some of the women out there. I know that my story didn’t include any broken bones, but all forms of abuse are terrible. Some may be worse than others, but you are NOT alone. You don’t have to suffer in silence.
I tell my story in hopes that it will help someone else. I used to be so angry at him and everyone who didn’t believe me, but now I thank them. I thank them for helping me become who I am now. I am thankful that I believed enough in myself to get out. Even though I had been broken down into someone I could not recognize, I knew that I had a purpose in life and that staying wasn’t it.
Happily ever after
I believe that had I not been through that hell, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I am happily married to an amazing man. We have an amazing daughter. We have another amazing daughter on the way. “And so they lived happily ever after…” That’s what every little girl wants to have when she is growing up. Still as an adult, I watch Disney princess movies and I sit there and think about how lucky I am to have that now.
Please never be afraid to reach out to someone for help. Please never think that you aren’t worth saving. You are so worth it. You deserve the world and everything in it. There is help. There is a way out.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline | thehotline.org | 1-800-799- SAFE(7233) |1-800-787-3224 (TDD)