This Thing Called “Love”?

IMG_1917 (2)Winter, on the calendar, was over several days ago but to look outside my window you would never know. We still have several feet of snow on the ground and despite brilliantly warm spring sun the air has a distinctive chill to it. However, I am happy to say most of my birds do not  know spring is delayed and last weekend I heard the pleasant, if mournful, “Who, who, oooo?” of my mourning doves. I love my pair that seem to return year after year and look forward to a summer full of their offspring at my feeder.

In the news

I really don’t know about other states but here in Minnesota our news has been too saturated with spousal abuse, specifically spousal abuse that ends in the death of young vital women and sometimes their abuser. This abuse crosses all social and economical barriers. Spousal abuse, like mental illness, is the elephant in the room. Most people know it is happening but no one wants to talk about it and then suddenly the unthinkable happens and a woman is found dead, or not found at all and everyone’s life is changed forever.

These tragic deaths have been haunting me and I knew I had to, at the very least, share my story. All I can think when I see yet another woman has died at the hands of her significant other is the utterance of John Bradford as he watched prisoners being led toward their execution at the Tower of London “There but by the grace of God, go I.”. If telling my story can help even one person escape the snare of spousal abuse it will have been worth the hours it took me to compose this posting because I know, all too well, the pain and fear of physical abuse at the hands of someone who supposedly loves you.

First the good news

First let me say, I have been married for 34 years this year to a wonderful man. He is my soul mate and I love him deeply with a great appreciation for his gentle nature. We were introduced in December of 1978 by a childhood friend of mine who knew all I had been through and just wanted my daughter and I to find happiness. Nine months after John and I met we were married and became a family of three. My years with this man have been full of  joy and we have experienced a life I never thought was possible all those years ago.

I probably appreciate his calm demeanor even more because of my past, namely a first marriage at a very young and tender age of 18. It was a marriage of short duration, about two years, I think. To be honest, too much time (38 years) has passed and too many good memories are filling my memory bank to recall specifics of number of months we were married. I do know I escaped the marriage with my approximately two-year old daughter and she and I went on to a very happy and full life.

Now that we know some details will be missing or inaccurate let me try to tell you my story of abuse as best I can recall.

Boy meets girl

I met the boy who would become my abusive first husband in junior high school. Let’s call him Vincent. Vincent was my age but a year behind me in school. His gang of friends were all the “bad” boys, cute but naughty and I didn’t find that very attractive. He, however, pursued me relentlessly or as relentlessly as a teenage boy can pursue a teenage girl. I found his attention somehow flattering but off-putting; he was just too different from me and the world I was accustomed to living in. His pursuance prevailed and what had started as an initial repulsion for me turned in to a crush and at the very gullible age of 15 I was puppy lovesick.

When we entered the high school years the fun and games ended and the infatuation began. My teenage infatuation was so bad that if he didn’t call me for a few days I would be physically ill. If he “broke up” with me to date other girls, which he did several times over the years, I wouldn’t eat for days. I suffered inane jealousy if he paid attention to other girls which he often did. Suffice it to say, I was young and naive (I should add he was very young and naive as well) and what should have caused me to run the other way as quickly as possible just left me even more engaged.

My high school years, to this day, remain marred by this harmful relationship but I cannot blame him entirely, I was an active participant in this debauchery. That he was the product of a very unnurturing childhood (and possibly even abusive) does play a role in the person he was and actually it was yet another reason I justified his bad boy behavior (“bad boy” being drugs and alcohol). After all, Vince couldn’t help who he was. He told me over and over his broken home was to blame. I have always been a bit of a warrior for a cause and I just knew he would be good if only he could. (Lesson number one: We all can choose good over bad behavior no matter our circumstances, so never fall for the excuse that life is to blame for their behavior).

As if things weren’t ugly enough

In my senior year of high school he became physically abusive but honestly I cannot recall how it even started or even the very first time. What I do recall, is that I was knocked around in the hallways of my school and in front of other students, mostly for being seen talking to other boys. I remember being pushed in to lockers and as spittle from his rage ran down my cardigan bodice I cowered and prayed that no one was really looking nor hearing what was happening. In the privacy of my childhood home (both of my parents worked and were away from home all day) the violence was much worse. The worst of which occurred after I gave a commencement speech and appeared to get a standing ovation. I guess, nothing good was supposed to happen to me and if it did it was cause for a beating.

The audience that late spring eve stood up not for me, nor my speech but for the person I talked about, our hard-working principle. Not to belabor the point but this man, one  William Shannon, had just suffered an entire year of ridicule from some difficult parents and I was mad as hell, so I made him the center of my commencement speech. Sadly, the ovation was too much for Vincent and the next day in a fit of his jealous rage I suffered the wrath of his anger that to this day is evident in a dining room table that belonged to my parents. I received a full on body blow that knocked me in to the solid cherry wood dining room table, cracking the extended leaf in two. I can’t even recall how I explained that broken table to my parents because worse than a broken table, I was three months pregnant and I knew there was no escape now.

Marriage, of course

I was secretly pregnant, by the way, and no one but Vincent and I knew about it until much later in my pregnancy. To his credit he quit abusing me after that day and the entire time I was pregnant. When our daughter arrived in December and after everyone knew of my pregnancy, and met our lovely daughter, he asked, no, told, me we had to get married. He really wasn’t very interested (nor was I) his father had insisted that our baby have their family name, so we married.

I have to admit I no longer loved this person. I was no longer even remotely infatuated. What I was, was threatened with death if I didn’t do what I was told as in “I’ll kill you if…..”. Believe me, dear reader, I understand if someone is telling you they will kill you! At that point, if you are too scared to do the right thing you do as you are told but also know this, if a significant other is threatening you with death it is time to confide in someone, anyone who can securely keep a secret, and then get the hell out. I didn’t do that for almost two years.

The intervening years

At first after our “marriage” we lived with my parents but since that meant he really couldn’t yell at me and use his fists we had to move, so we moved in to a hovel about 20 miles from my parents and all our friends. I worked part-time at a bank and loved my co-workers and my job but once home I knew things would be ugly especially if he had been or was drinking. One night I was holding our daughter in my arms trying to fix supper when because supper wasn’t coming along fast enough he socked me in the stomach so hard it knocked the breath out of me. Hitting me was one thing but hitting me and possibly hitting my baby was another thing entirely and I made it clear that was the end, “IT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN”.

Well “it” didn’t, he never hurt our daughter and I know he never would have, his wrath was directed at me and me alone. The violence ended for a few months (again I think it was months) and then we moved again. This time in to a trailer home being rented out by a nice older couple we had come to know. I loved that trailer and made it as cozy as I could for the three of us but one day after a particularly long night of drinking and drugs he came home and I looked at him wrong (seriously that’s all it takes).

I have never been thrown on a floor so fast nor had my head bashed in to the ground so hard and so repeatedly as happened that day, so when I saw my chance to escape I ran out the door screaming for help from our neighbors (the couple who owned our trailer home). Vincent came stumbling after me in a drunken rage but by the time he caught up with me the neighbor was standing there and in no uncertain terms said “This is never to happen again, not here anyway!” Hmm, I wish he hadn’t added that “….not here anyway” clause.

Needless to say, we moved, again. We had been found out and that necessitates a move. This time we moved in to town. Thankfully this house was very near my parents. The previous owner had just died and my mom and dad bought the house for us to live in and we paid them back every month. Talk about love, I loved this house. It had previously belonged to an elderly woman whom I thought the world of and now I got to live in her house with its well cared for interior and lovely brick fireplace. Trouble is the violence did not end.

I would go to work with hair that had missing patches, tear streaked cheeks and bruises that were probably not too well covered by clothing or makeup. To the credit of nearby neighbors they did call my parents a time or two to report screaming coming from our house but when my parents confronted me I lied. Yup, I said nothing was wrong. Oh God! Everything was wrong and I knew it and I also knew if I didn’t get out of this marriage very soon I would be dead. I also knew if I did get out my parents might be dead because he had threatened them as well.

By the light of the full moon

Then one night after a heated argument over something that was directly due to his drinking too much, I lay in my bed beside Vincent who was now snoring, noisily sleeping off yet another 12 pack of beer. I couldn’t sleep and as I looked up through a window above my bed I saw the full moon bathing me in white. I suddenly felt very peaceful, I really did, and at that moment I resolved I would not spend my life this way. I didn’t deserve it and I wouldn’t put up with it anymore.

I was lucky I had family to support me, so I went to my parents and confessed everything they already were suspicious was occurring. Together, we hatched a plan to get me out, safely and quietly. It actually was quite ingenious and needless to say, it worked but I won’t go in to details as I promised not too much verbosity. What I will tell you is it took an entire family. My parents, bless them put it all together. All my siblings and their wives were extremely supportive and involved. Even my uncles and aunts had a part to play in our escape (a family reunion I needed to attend was the ruse to get me out of the house). I am still grateful and in awe of that entire sequence of events that put an end to a very abusive segment of my life.

I am also happy to say those character building years were over within months of my full moon resolve. I try not to have any regrets only lessons of life because without those few years of my relationship with Vincent I would not have my lovely daughter nor her two boys who light my face every day with their smiles. My strength comes from knowing that I made the decision to stop living that life. My self-confidence comes from my ability to learn that I never deserved to be treated that way. All this knowledge of who I am (or who I was) made me stronger and more sure of myself.  I was woman. I would survive.

Kris Insight

I feel breathless. That was a whirlwind summation of several years of unhappiness and I have skipped many details but you, the reader, get the gist. The gist being, a person who is in an abusive relationship must first admit to themselves the relationship is harmful and possibly deadly. That is the first and most important step. Then find a confidante who is trustworthy, not a friend who knows you both (unless it is your mother or father, brother or sister) and tell them the gory details. Do not be embarrassed, you are not the one who is abusive, you are the one who is the object of the abuse, there is no embarrassment in that and no good comes of letting it be the elephant in the room, believe me.

Also believe this, despite what an abuser says it is not something you said or did. Once the abuse starts it does not take a catalyst to cause an explosion. It often takes drugs and alcohol but sometimes not even that. Perhaps you talked to another man or went in to a bathroom with another woman (this one happened to me and the woman was my mother). Seriously, any normal behavior can ignite the anger and once the beating starts, adrenaline flows and the blows get harder and harder. You are not the cause; you are just the easiest thing to strike out at when their anger builds beyond the boiling point.

There are many organizations that will help abused partners (not just women are abused and these organizations will help men as well as women). You (and your children if there are indeed children) need a safe house you can go to where the abuser cannot reach you, reach out to you, nor harm you in any way. The people at these safe houses, hopefully, can also put you in touch with counselors who will listen to your story and help you understand why this happened and teach you how to prevent it from ever happening again.

I can tell you from my experience you will need help rebuilding your self-worth and confidence. I am eternally grateful for my friends and family who helped me get back my mojo in those dark days but not everyone has friends or family who can be there when you need them, so the counselors are there to assist you in this process.

They may even be able to provide you and your abuser with counseling and put the pieces back together but I am not a great believer in this. Once a partnership is broken by violence it is difficult to assemble the remaining pieces in to a whole that is really worth saving. Yes, I know it can happen. I just read about an older couple who travel the country counseling people on how to put the pieces back together after an abusive relationship. This couple has now been married for 50 years but for the first 20 years he beat her ruthlessly. Seriously, how could you forgive and forget 20 years of abuse? I also think the abuse may just take on a different personality. Emotional abuse is no better than physical abuse it just doesn’t leave physical evidence.

My wish is that the abuse would stop. No more “Top Headlines” about husbands killing their wives in front of four little ones. No more husbands dismembering the spouse they have just murdered in cold blood and hiding her parts everywhere and nowhere. No more pregnant women being stabbed and baby and mother both dying. But the reality is it won’t stop, it has gone on for eons, so my wish has to be more realistic. My more realistic wish is if you or anyone you know is being physically or emotionally abused please talk about it. Do not let the elephant in the room remain. Admit there is a problem and then find the help you need or your friend needs to solve this life threatening issue.

I have completely and unashamedly exposed myself today but I am hoping if more of us come out of the closet and tell our stories of success and happiness after abuse others will see the light at the end of the tunnel and seek the help they need to improve their lives. Please, please, please if you are being abused by a significant other, or know of someone who is, reach out before it is too late. Someone will receive you with open arms and someone will help you. I know this to be a certainty because if you can’t find it anywhere else contact me, I will help you in any way I can. Just leave a comment. All comments are approved by me and are not public until approved, so what is private stays private.

Santé,

Kris

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Lovely Lady~ Wow, what a powerful post. Thank you for sharing such deep personal experiences. Reading your story and learning about how you have healed another part of your life (other than the all-encompassing thyroid!) is very special. You have created much inspiration and power in opening up in the way that you have.

    Reply

    • Posted by Kris on 8:00 at Tuesday, April 2, 2013

      Thank you Mikelle. The most difficult things in life are sometimes the most rewarding (as those of us with thyroid disease know better than others). I still feel a bit naked but was reminded again this morning why I posted it when I did. It was all about the abused partners out there who are still alive. I can’t stop abuse from happening but by speaking up maybe someone will make the decision to leave and start anew.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Anonymous on 21:28 at Monday, April 1, 2013

    For one who knew you at that point in your life I know this took a lot of courage to tell your story. I hope this might help many people who live in these abusive relationships. You and your daughter were so lucky to get out from under “Vince’s” control. God bless you, Kris and I’m glad you found that wonderful husband 34 years ago!

    Reply

  3. Wow Kris! I had no idea what you have been through! Thanks for sharing your personal experience and rich understanding of this social illness that plagues society.

    Reply

    • Posted by Kris on 8:15 at Monday, April 1, 2013

      Thanks Kathy, it is difficult to expose something about yourself that society sees as a weakness but if the abused are shamed in to silence it remains unspeakable and more will suffer at the hands of their abuser.
      I will say that having been an abused woman is one reason I am such a believer in energy medicine. If one keeps that negative energy in your body it is harmful. I can’t prove it for the scientifically minded (aka skeptics) but unloading negative energy through energy healers has made a huge difference for me. I never felt hatred for this person (he was young and addicted) but I realized once I started working with my homeopath that deep down there were lots of tears and that translated to negative energy (or invisible scars).
      Thanks for doing what you do and thank you for the comment.

      Reply

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