Dana’s story: Cognitive dissonance is a measurable sign of abuse


BETHESDA, Maryland, October 29, 2014 — Dana* is a survivor of abuse living and recovering in The United States.

I was in this relationship from the age of 15 to 50. So before the relationship, I would say that I was an open, enthusiastic and loving person. By the time the relationship ended, I was suffering from chronic depression and needed lots of therapy. In between, I became a loving mother and a freelance writer and newspaper reporter. I often wonder how much more I could have accomplished had I had a supportive spouse.

After “going steady” for two weeks, he told me that he loved me and that we would be married. He talked about how hard it was to eat and sleep after just a few days; how, if it had not been for me, he was planning to run away with a friend of his. I was so impressed, but I attribute this partly to our youthful state and inexperience. Of course, this was long before texting, sexting, etc.

My husband was a sex addict and was emotionally distant and very passive aggressive. He found ways to belittle me, criticize me, make fun of me and often say, “I’m just kidding.”  There was never the opposite side of valuing me, appreciating and nurturing me. My spiral into depression was treated with disregard and disgust. I finally had proof he was cheating on me and told him many wives would leave him for that. He told me, “Not the good wives.”

When I was “losing it” on a regular basis near the end of our relationship, despite being in therapy, he had me believing that even my emotional distress at learning he had been on adult sex hookup and porn sights for years, was a symptom of my own mental weakness and that  I needed intense therapy.

When his mother (whom he doted on) was dying, he left for business, despite being told she would only be going downhill. When he contacted me to say they wanted him to stay longer, I got angry and told him he was abandoning us during such a difficult time. He said nothing and suddenly showed up at home. He then told me that he could never forgive me for what I had forced him to do. There are so many more stories like this.

I sought marriage counseling early in our marriage when I found myself attracted to another man at work and separated from my husband briefly. We reconciled and went on to have a family. Later, in our 40’s he became very difficult, and I again initiated therapy. This pattern went on for the remainder of our marriage.

There were so many instances of cognitive dissonance that I cannot begin to list them. Much of it centered on my ability to stay in denial about his use of porn and his lack of interest in me sexually or otherwise, really. I just kept trying harder.

Near the end, I know that I came close to just giving up on my own life as opposed to actively ending it. There were a few times that I felt such rage I didn’t know how to release it, and it occurred to me to drive recklessly, etc. Though, I never harmed myself.

To escape, I think I lightly abused the drug clonazepam, which was prescribed for sleep, but I sometimes used just to knock myself out and not feel anything. I also used my work and became very involved in it at times.

My biggest challenge since the marriage ended has been rebuilding my life. My children are grown, and my career as a journalist ended at nearly the same time as my marriage. I spend time in therapy and joined a 12-step group for partners of sex addicts. I have been successful in surviving and rebuilding my life. I am in a new, stable relationship and have a sense of happiness that I have never had before.

Each day during the month of October, column author Paula Carrasquillo will feature a story written by a survivor of domestic violence. At the end of October, a compilation of all stories will be available for free as an e-book.

*All names have been changed to protect the survivor and the survivor’s family and friends.

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