Abuse is Tricky

When this photo was taken, I was 6 weeks pregnant with my little love. In that moment, I couldn’t have been happier. I was in love with him already, fresh off our trip from India and in a place I thought I would be my whole life. Exactly one year later, I left my ex-husband {for the first time}.

Abuse is tricky. It takes your breath away and then gives you more life than you’ve ever imagined. I was covered in diamonds (that I was repeatedly reminded of their cost), taken to the most exclusive and delicious restaurants, had clothes that helped “style” me to look perfect. I was covered in material love.

As I learned years later, through my support group at Respond Inc, abuse has a specific cycle. The three phase cycle of abuse, was first explained as a developed theory in 1979 by Lenore E. Walker and explains the patterns of behavior in an abusive relationship. These three phases are (1) Tension Building, (2) Acute/Crisis Phase and the (3) Honeymoon Phase. As with any “normal” relationship, this cycle looks different for every couple within abusive behavior. For some, the abuse is physical with the Crisis Phase being physical in nature, for others it is an emotional realm. Many abusive relationships begin with emotional and lead to physical violence over time. The Honeymoon Phase varies from couple to couple as well. Perhaps your partner is smothering you in affection, physical touch, words of affirmation or any of the five love languages. For myself, the Honeymoon Phase was always material. I had a beautiful wardrobe, gorgeous purses (that my cat eventually ruined) and many, many dinners out.

For some time, I had been trying to communicate with my parents about how and why I was emotionally abused. I am smart, capable, strong and otherwise a kind of remarkable person. And yet I was repressed and fed lies that I actively believed for years. How in the world could I have been taken advantage of in this way?

Fast forward to about a year after I left. Grey’s Anatomy (yes, my favorite show… and yes, it’s still on the air), aired an episode on emotional abuse. When it was over I was shaking and crying in the corner. I pointed to the television and said “Mom, THIS is what I have been trying to explain to you for a year now. The conversation between the two battered women went like this :

JennyGod! I’m smart. I’m a scientist. I’m a feminist! I never thought that I would end up in something like this. It happened so slow. I stopped talking to my co-workers, friends he didn’t like, then my family didn’t understand, they got worried so I brushed them off and then stopped talking to them too and then my circle got smaller and smaller and smaller until all I had left was him. And then I stopped believing myself. Things I had seen and heard, things I knew! Because he told me I was crazy and I just believed him. He knows me so well, he can zero in on an insecurity and make a whole argument turn on a dime. And now it’s my fault, it’s my fault again, I’m always the one that’s wrong. When he started hitting me, it was barely just a surprise. And he told me it was my fault and I actually believed him. Until you talked to me yesterday, I really believed him. How did I believe him?

JoBecause he was good to you in the beginning! And on the good days! Jenny, we’re not stupid. We don’t fall for someone who beat us. We fell for someone who made us laugh and made us feel wanted and loved and seen. Paul is brilliant and charming and persuasive and the good outweighed the bad. Until it didn’t.

Until it didn’t.

Abuse is tricky. It is full of denial, shame, repression, confusion and so much joy. When I look back on my marriage, I wonder “was that because he truly loved me or because he made another mistake?” I often look at photos and instead of seeing a smile on my face, I can tell you the exact fight that lead us to that expensive restaurant. I can tell you which court we were in on a given day before he bought me yet another handbag I didn’t want or need. And the night we went to Cirque Du Soleil? It was because I visited him at work the day prior with our newborn and he came home belligerent telling me never to visit him again.

The joy is the hardest part.

I look back on parts of our journey and am deeply confused or torn. Did he love me? Was any of it real? Is there any sliver in our story where he wasn’t giving me lies of omission? Did I force him to marry me as he always claimed? Did he ever truly love me?

Because I loved him, deeply. He was my entire world. I would have leapt off a cliff, stopped a bullet and done anything to save him and our marriage.

Until I couldn’t.

Until I decided to save my son.

Until I decided to save myself.

Marriage is a contract made between you, your partner and God. I fully believe when I entered into my marriage that I was there with the intention to love, serve, honor and yes even obey. I was under the impression that by supporting his dreams, helping him with legal paperwork, sitting by his side day in and day out, working with him to build a life for us, that I was being the best partner I could be. I honestly believed we would be together forever.

So when I found the first lie 6 weeks before our marriage, I thought: that’s okay, it’s a small lie. When I found the next one 3 months into our marriage, I told myself: this is forever, we will work it out. When I found another small white lie 5 months into our marriage I said: okay, lots of lies, but we will work through it. The lies got bigger and my confidence shrank. I forgave the unforgivable. I went to church. I worked on myself. I tried to continuously prove I could be the best wife in the world. I tried to explain lies of omission (because maybe he really didn’t understand). But when the drinking began in full, when I feared for my son: I couldn’t lie to myself anymore.

Abuse is tricky.

Oftentimes there is not one thing that happens that makes you think about walking away. I hear so many women who haven’t experienced my marriage say “I would leave if he did ______” but they don’t know. Your marriage is sacred. Everyone makes their own choices and sometimes a small slip is enough to stay or leave. Sometimes the abuse is hidden with sunglasses and make-up, other times it’s hidden by saying “I’m okay” even as you watch your friends spouse openly hit on other women while his pregnant wife sits beside him bright red.

I cannot tell you where to go, where to be, or what to do. I can only offer my own story from my perspective.

If you feel as though any of this resonates with you, I encourage you to look at your relationship from a new lens. Connect to your partner. Ask them how to feelWork together as partners to go through activities such as The Five Love Languages or read the book Open Wide. Check on your girlfriends. Ask them how they are, really. Take time to connect to the people and activities you love. Listen to your intuition.

If you need resources, Respond, Inc. in the Boston area is amazing. Yoga saved my life in so many aspects of the word. Reiki and crystal healing, grief massage and acupuncture are reconnecting me to the lost pieces of my heart. Support groups and tribes of women are everything. Yoga for Famillies of Addiction, Inc. is the perfect place to land if you love an addict. And I’m always here to chat or provide healing services (comment below or send over a message).

Sending you abundant love as always.

xx, namaste – Jenny

7 thoughts on “Abuse is Tricky

    1. Jenny R Post author

      Thank you for commenting Elizabeth! It’s always good to hear it resonates with people. Have a beautiful afternoon.

    1. Jenny R Post author

      Thank you thank you thank you! I hope someone sees these who truly needs my words and am honored to be the one to share. Xx

  1. Shawnette

    You are an amazing woman Jen , thank you for sharing your story.
    Z is so lucky to have such a strong mama!

  2. Bob Murphy

    As a man I am moved by your words thank you for sharing your story. These words will help others help themselves. Sometimes we need to be vulnerable in order to heal and get stronger. I am lucky to have met you and look forward to improving my practice and life under your guidance .


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