BETHESDA, Maryland, October 18, 2014 — Rachel* is a survivor of domestic violence and pathological abuse living, thriving and raising her children in The United States.
I must have been weak and needed help, because Mr. Right (wrong) rode up in a nice car and “saved” me from my lonely life and “fixed it” so I would fall completely in love with him.
He told me we were soul mates. Funny. How could we be soul mates when I never quite understand nor comprehended how to make my unique husband happy? I did not know how to play the game right; and before I knew it, I was frequently told how bad, stupid and incompetent I was.
I did lots to work on me, to figure out what was wrong with me. The stress levels became too much, and I enjoyed when he was on business trips. While he was away was when I became concerned about his long and frequent trips. Although my sense of right and wrong was not completely dead, I found it harder and harder to discern with every passing year in the fog he had created and maintained.
I put him in the “managing” position within the family. I tolerated his yelling and what became physically abusive behavior toward me. I defended my love and fidelity to him, but it was frustrating not to get that back in return. By the end of 13 years with my husband, whom I chose, I felt more like a ghost. My soul was almost dead; I was actually telling my closest friends that I felt dead inside, but they could not really understand my description.
For me, the only way out was to reaffirm my relationship with God, because there was nothing left of me, the wife of a narcissist.
I went to six counselors trying to find one who could comfort me. I kept telling my counselors that I did not know who I was. How could a man, whom I loved and trusted explicitly, do so much damage to me? I cried and cried, sometimes on the floor. For hours. For days and weeks. I prayed for healing of my broken heart. Meanwhile, my husband did not seem affected.
He quickly moved on to his next soul mate, his next “victim”. But that was minor compared to the really mean attorney he hired who landed him a really favorable divorce settlement with no regards to fairness and decency.
It has been more than a year since the divorce. I know he continues to covet his money and will continue to live an empty and angry life of mistrust. The kids are caught in his web of manipulation; and as long as everyone is on his good side, they will receive money, which is easiest to please teenagers.
While married, he told me daily how I was not good enough at anything I did or wanted to do. I really wanted to be appreciated or thanked for the good and nice things I did. I never got that.
I sought marital counseling. He went twice but no more after that. I even read the book Cracking the Communication Code by Emerson Eggerichs. Finally, we attended Retrouvaille, an intensive and spiritual weekend retreat for couples with broken-ness. He did great during the weekend to make me feel better, but the week after we got home, he refused to continue doing the exercises established that required careful communication. He would not meet with other supportive couples either. Nothing was working, and I knew that I had done everything I could do to save our marriage.
He had nicknames – silly to rude – for everyone of my friends. He made negative comments about all of my friends, as if no one was good enough for him. Yet, he had no friends of his own, male friends that is.
He kept changing companies, too. It got weird. He would be home for a few days, and I would finally asked, “Were you fired?” Every two years or so, there was a different job and each one had to have a better title than the former.
I did not harm myself, because he instilled enough fear in me when he forcefully harmed me. Instead, to escape the pain, I found scrapbooking, volunteered around the kids’ activities and tried to keep my home-based business going despite him constantly imposing his negativity.
Since the end of the marriage, the biggest challenge was finding the necessary strength to grow from being a scared little girl and to co-parent my four children with the monster that is my ex husband.
To heal myself, I learned how to breathe. I practice breathing slowly and with intention. I went to a year’s worth of counseling. I needed more, but I felt my kids needed it even more. I attended college classes and realized that I am quite smart and can learn. Hopefully, I will be gainfully employed one day in a healthy environment.
If you are struggling in an unhealthy relationship, listen to your friends. If enough of your friends (the ones that you have left after your self-esteem and friendships have been destroyed) tell you how bad it is and how wrong the things your spouse/partner does are, then it is time to leave. Don’t wait for more abuse; trust yourself to know enough is enough. Gather a safe leaving plan and please do not go back and risk getting sucked into the poisonous web of your abuser.
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.