There is something about hearing another person’s voice, the pauses and tension, their body language, the way the air fills with the words that have been spoken. The sound vibrations in the air bouncing between us. There is a harmony, a resonance in a conversation with another person who knows from their own experience what you’ve been through. It is a sweet relief tinged with pain, because you don’t wish this difficulty on anyone. Yet, there it is lingering between you, the pieces of our stories which are the same. They click into place, we find a place to rest, fitting next to each other.
Hearing the stories of other women helped me sort out my own. It was too much to understand all those pieces, little and enormous, that fit together as abuse. Labeling it abuse was an after the fact realization.
A friend described it this way – things happen that just don’t seem right, but you can’t put your finger on it. You might even ask someone what they think. They think it’s weird too, but not serious. So you set that incident aside and move on. A little while later another strange incident occurs, and again not sure what to do, and even maybe embarrassed by it, you set that aside too. After so many years you don’t even realize that the pile of incidents is enormous and looming. Then there’s the day when you see the pile, even though it’s always been there YOU SEE IT – it clicks.
Here are a few incidents to bounce between us:
-While out for date night I bring up an issue of concern. He disagrees and I won’t drop it, he drives wrecklessly; speeding through streets, barely yielding at stop signs, ignoring my requests that he slow down. When we get home my heart is pounding and I’m scared. He acts like nothing happened.
-We agreed that he would help around the house by taking out the trash. If I mention that the trash is full, he waits at least another day to take it out.
-When I tell him the kids need new clothes and ask what we can afford to spend he says, “If they need clothes, they need clothes. Just spend as little as possible.” I shop at Target and second hand stores. When he finds out how much I’ve spent he lectures me.
-When we’re eating dinner he’ll frequently ask the kids questions like, “Do you know who the first astronaut was?” These questions are usually far beyond their capacity. When they answer wrong or say they don’t know he takes pleasure in giving long explanations to show how much he knows. Which has the added influence of making the kids feel like they aren’t intelligent.
-When I make the commitment to a big project that I’m excited about he says, “Are you sure you can handle that commitment? Is that going to be too much for you?” Throughout the project, he questions my ability to complete it or handle other responsibilities at the same time. When it’s done, and done well, he says, “Wow, great job, honey. I didn’t think you could pull it off!” This leaves me feeling hurt, but wondering why, since he just complimented me, right?
-When we’re out with friends, or at other social engagements, in conversation he often cuts me off or talks over me. I feel so horrid about how embarassing this is in public situations that I smile and act like it doesn’t bother me.
You are not the casing, you are not all these incidents that surround you. Please let these truths click – You are inside there, somewhere deep down. These things that happen are not you. They do not say anything about how valuable you are. They say something about the person who does them, not who he does them to.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” 2 Tim1:7.