It’s not often that I speak of my own personal experience in life, since I prefer to share the lessons I learn, but as I was brainstorming on topics to write a post about, I was urged by my sister to discuss the story of how my first marriage ended; she felt it was quite inspirational.
I was lucky to have left an abusive situation while I did not have any children, or any property in common with my ex-husband, which made our divorce a simple one. Today, I find myself single and still without any children, but I have my niece and nephew, my family, and at least the hope that someday my dreams of love and family may still come true; all because I am alive, and I know that where there is life, there can always be dreams of what could be.
It’s not at all easy to leave an abusive situation, but I do hope that telling my story will give others in similar situations the courage to do something about it, whether they are a woman or a man going through it. This post is in no way designed to demonize my ex-husband, because I do understand how heavy guilt can be to carry. I’ve hesitated to tell my story many times just to avoid hurting his reputation, but today I feel as though sharing this will do more good than harm.
I am twenty eight years old today, but in 2009 I met the man I had expected to spend the rest of my life with. I turned 21 in December 2009, and we started dating the following year. He was my first kiss, my very first experience, and I wore the rose-tinted glasses that went along with my innocence. A month later, he proposed and we were married by the seventh month of dating. We could definitely spend a whole year discussing the prematurity of our marriage, but it was not the cause of our divorce, so I will leave it out as another topic for another day.
It is difficult to say when his abusiveness started, and even harder to say which one of us triggered what. As in with any relationship, responsibility of issues that arise are usually shared 50/50. Our relationship was not at all different from that model, but in a way, I guess I could say that we were not on the same page about what our marriage entailed. My rose-tinted glasses just wouldn’t come off, while he grew wary of my eagerness to act my role as his wife. The worst of it all must have been the fact that I started working from home as a Quit Coach, which meant that I was always there waiting for him with a big smile on my face. In retrospect, I feel as though my being so available to a man who perhaps was not as ready for “forever” without having something to chase, was what started the downward spiral that lead to abuse.
Just to name a few, during our marriage my ex-husband often rejected me for affection, complaining that I was too clingy. He often compared me to the little pig in the Geico commercial, who was always so annoyingly happy. He almost always rejected me for sex as well, complaining that I was behaving like an animal by approaching him. One time, we were not intimate for a whole month, and he celebrated that fact like an impossible milestone, as I usually preferred a minimum of four times/week. In response, I either approached him in his sleep, or ignored him completely by using my vibrators; that rendered him even angrier about the latter, not the former, and he threatened to throw them away. In retrospect, I do now wonder if the fact that I have a twin flame played a major role in our mismatch, and unhealthy dynamics. I do sometimes feel bad for him having to deal with two of us in one. Yes, it is difficult to tell which “I” thought what.
He usually only purchased flowers for me when I did something he deemed worthy of them. For example, when I graduated from college with my Sociology degree, he purchased many bouquets, adding that I now deserved them. Though both myself and my mom competed with that belief by purchasing flowers for myself all the time. We decorated the whole apartment with them, which he did find frustrating. He tried to find every excuse to get away from me, and often stayed late in school to prepare for his exams. He also never took a vacation day under the pretense that he was saving them as paternity leave.
Into the second year of our marriage, everything turned completely bitter when after an argument during which he remained completely silent, I threw a glass of water in his face. At that point, we had already reached home and he had gone to sleep. I went outside to the living room, and sat on the couch, when I saw him come out of our bedroom, walk over to the kitchen, and fill a glass with water. I patiently waited for him to walk over to me, which he did, and he expectedly threw the water in my face. It is interesting how I almost laughed at that moment about the banality of that situation, as I concluded that I deserved that since I had thrown the first glass of water.
I started to get up from the couch, only to be violently pushed back and pushed down forcibly. My ex-husband punched me everywhere for what must have been at least a minute, and I remained completely unmoving. When I finally had some time to breathe, I tried to get away but he pulled me back, ripped my clothes completely off of me, and resumed punching me everywhere. That part I do not remember very well, most likely due to Trauma Transference Syndrome (TTS), which isn’t uncommon for people who have suffered from trauma to acquire. It means that we remember parts of our stories or talk about it when we are triggered by energies around us who go through similar things (news, etc). But he told me later that he himself was in shock to watch himself punch me endlessly, while I rolled myself into fetal position. He said the fact that I never fought back left an imprint in his mind, and that he could never erase that picture no matter how much he tried. But that was much later, when he was able to speak of this candidly.
When he finally stopped punching me, I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a knife, telling him that if he tried to hurt me again, I would use it. This must have been the most defining moment of that whole incident; as he calmed down, he told me: “Kristeen, you know how the story goes. I will tell you that I am sorry. I will tell you that I will never hurt you again. But you’ve seen the movies, and you know how it ends. Why don’t you pick up your things and go to your mom?”
After this happened, even as shocking as it was to see my already brown body black with bruises, I had not yet decided to leave. I completely blamed myself. After all, I was the one who screamed at him, got on his nerves, and said some things I regretted saying, and I was the one who threw the first glass of water. I thought it was entirely my fault. I didn’t believe my life to be in danger, until the night I found myself sleeping next to him after a very happy “normal” day, to then open my eyes, finding him on top of me with his hands around my neck and yelling at the top of his lungs. He was not squeezing my throat, which I found intriguing, because the expression on his face as I observed it said it all. I calmly told him to take his hands off my neck which he did. Then he rolled off of me to go back to sleep. I can’t remember how fast I ran outside to call my mom and tell her everything. But I still had not decided to leave…
I almost decided to leave when I read a book. I can’t remember its title now, but in the book, the author explained that we are responsible for what happens to us; that we cannot blame anyone else if we can help it. In other words, if he killed me it would be my fault if I remained with him. If it was to be a random happening, then of course I could not be blamed. But I could not blame anyone else, and especially not him, if I stayed. I chose to stand in the middle of those train tracks, waiting for that train to hit me, and I was responsible for leaving me there at its mercy. He had already showed me who he was to become, he had already told me what was to come. Staying would mean that I agreed to it, and should not even complain to anyone about my impending death. I understood this quite well, but it still was not what got me to leave.
What made me leave was one of the straws that broke the camel’s back, so to say. As I was talking to my best friend one night, she told me that she would help me find solace. My ex-husband had been absent, spending the whole night “watching the game” at his cousins’. My friend gave me specific directions: she said to stop by WalMart, and purchase some coffee and a cake, because it would be a long night; I would need props for my act, and lots of energy. She told me to drive to his cousins, ring the bell and present the cake as a surprise so that I could catch him cheating. When I told her I didn’t have the courage to get in, she said to park close by, and watch for him coming out of the house with women. After a while of waiting, I asked my best friend what the whole point of this exercise was. She responded to me that she was trying to get me to catch him in the act of cheating, so that I could have one more good reason to leave.
That was when I decided to leave. As I thanked my friend in tears, I told her I didn’t need to see it, because my life was important enough. Just the fact that I had parked my car outside made me feel shameful of myself, as I realized just how low my self-esteem had been that I needed to find my spouse in the midst of having sex with other women, in order to feel worthy of leaving. At that moment, I saw myself in the mirror for what I was: He rejected me, pushed me away, called me names without cause, hurt me physically, and yet I still needed to find a good reason to leave… I had become one of those women I watched on television who looked so pitiful and devoid of all self-love, and I didn’t like it, because deep down I knew how much I loved myself.
I drove home that night, called my mom, and told her I was leaving. I asked my ex-husband for a separation and refused to allow him to even touch me. It was actually funny to watch the tables turn for that short period of time before I left. During, he begged even to kiss me and to hug me, he pleaded for therapy, and became very attentive, but I would not have it. Besides, realizing that he had cheated on me, I became more protective of my health and wished to avoid getting any STDs. I knew that the moment I said yes to his affections, everything would go back to exactly the way it was.
I secretly rented a new apartment, and I patiently waited for my rent to start, so that I could move. At the time, my grandma had stayed with us, which also meant that he had not threatened me physically with her presence, though he yelled and called me names so much that she asked me if he had been abusive. During this time, I also received calls from his co-workers who wondered why he was flying off the handle so easily at work, and his father who had come to visit once asked to be dropped off home immediately, because his son could not utter a sentence without screaming at everyone.
My grandma was scheduled to go visit my sister when she lived in D.C., and my rent at my new apartment was to begin on the very next day. I did not tell her anything about my marriage, but I warned my mom that I would not stay alone with him. A friend of the family who knew of the situation was kind enough to fly to Florida from Texas and stay with me for that night in case I needed protection. The very next morning, as my ex-husband was on his way out the door, I warned him that he would not see me there when he came back home from work.
After he left for work, my moving truck arrived and I was completely moved to my new apartment by the end of the day. When I left, I made sure he had enough food in the pantry, and that his clothes were left organized. We also cleaned up, and threw out the trash so he ended up finding me there still cleaning, when he came back from work. We said our goodbyes, and I left. It was funny to then see him again at the WalMart that very same night, looking for a lamp, as I had left with mine. I was myself looking for a new shower curtain since I had left my own there. I helped him find a new lamp, and then we said our goodbyes yet again.
I also made sure to get an apartment with a garage since I had moved less than a few blocks away, and for months I lived in complete fear. I became so frightful that even seeing cars similar to his triggered panic attacks. However, I was happy to have left and even happier to notice that as time went by, he did not try to hurt me. By the end of the year, I asked him to petition for divorce, and soon afterwards, everything was finalized in 2014.
In retrospect, I realize that what made me leave was to see that I loved myself. I still remember the days I tried to give myself courage when I’d stand in front of the mirror and tell myself that I deserve better. In my culture, abuse is seen very differently, so I was encouraged to stay and to call the police if I needed any help. In response though, I told them to prepare a nice outfit and the most beautiful flowers to bring to my funeral. My ex-husband even told my friends that if he had really punched me with his strength, I would be dead… He said this as a way of showing he had been merciful, mind you.
I think that other people telling me to stay also helped as reverse psychology, and I used the same tactic to help someone else who was in a similar situation: I told her to stay. I told her, you’re very young, so of course you could be single and start over with someone else when you feel ready. But you can always stay, that shouldn’t be an issue at all. Go to therapy with him, and see if maybe you guys can work out a plan for him not to hit you too often. It might take some time to get there, but I am sure that he will eventually learn to respect you and to love you enough to reduce the amount of bruises. Less than a month later, I heard my friend had ran off, got a divorce, and she is now happily dating. It worked.
Today, I still have to face the aftermath of my marriage, and sometimes feel as though I am still leaving. During my marriage, I was not aware of just how sensitive I am. I am extremely clairsentient to the point of being affected by thoughts, and I have a crystal aura, which means that it is easy for me to absorb energy and take on others’ personality traits who are too close. The whole time of being married, it never dawned on me that I felt so imbalanced emotionally, because he was cheating on me and bringing those energies into our home, and essentially into my person. It took me almost three years of divorce to get back to myself and my personality almost completely, and to remove all lingering energies that energetically affected me.
But to anyone out there living through this every day, I say bless your soul. My vision of a relationship is respect, love, compassion, and acceptance. Of course, I joke a lot about having a twin flame and I do believe I will find him someday, but at the end of the day, the most important relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself. Men, women, pets, family, friends… we’re all here for you. But in the end, you face your truth alone. You face the consequences of your decisions alone. And you are responsible for the beautiful person that God has created as you: take good care of it.
Photo credit: http://theromantic.com/creative-romantic-ideas/date-disasters/storiesdatedisastersdate2-htm/romantic-woman-leaving-bad-date-ex-girfriend-date-disasters/