It was probably the third or fourth call from him in the past hour. I didn’t even bother to say hello when picking up the phone. In fact, I didn’t say anything. He did.
“Miss divorced fat old white female, you brought this one on yourself with your pigheadedness. You asked for everything you’re getting. Good luck with the next guy. You’re going to have so little success. You’re going to die alone or with someone you don’t even want to be with. They’re going to treat you like shit. There are going to be so many guys who won’t ever even want to come near you unless they have the promise of sex.”
I let him talk and did a quick self-assessment to keep things in perspective. I definitely wasn’t as thin as I use to be, but I certainly wasn’t obese or unattractive either. Even if I was, my value didn’t rest in my appearance, anyway. As for the part about dying alone, it was a risk I was willing to take. And yes, I was being pigheaded. It was about time I put my foot down. Come to think of it, I probably should have just hung up right then, but I didn’t. A part of me wanted to hear the criticisms and take the abuse. It strengthened my resolve. It made me dig my heals in even deeper. I was becoming an impenetrable and immovable master of my own life.
“You fucked this up so bad, you don’t even see it. You don’t even know what a good thing you had. Right now, I’m angry and that is good because later, I won’t even care whether you walk the earth or not. You already don’t care. That’s why this is your fault. That’s why you’re not denying anything I’m saying, because you know I’m right. Am I right?”
I said nothing.
After a few seconds, he continued, “Your silence is telling me everything I need to know.”
I still said nothing and of course I was silent. One thing I had learned is that you didn’t argue back unless you wanted to be threatened and wanted things to get destroyed. He hoped I would speak up. He wanted a reason for things to escalate. It’s why he kept at me the way he did. There was just one problem with his tactic, however. I didn’t need to change his warped perception of our situation. I didn’t need to convince him that I didn’t agree with his judgments and conclusions. If he wanted to think I agreed with him, I figured I’d let him. After all, I had no control over his thoughts and opinions and I didn’t need control. I just wanted to take back the control he had over me.
“You are a chickenshit aren’t you?” he continued. “How did I not know that you’re a spineless chickenshit? I use to think that you had some spine, but you have none, do you? You’re afraid of your own god-damned shadow, aren’t you?”
I almost wanted to laugh, but I stopped myself. Did he honestly think this was going to work and get me talking? We weren’t little kids on a playground. Well, maybe one of us was.
“You haven’t seen me treat you like shit,” he went on. “You should know the difference, too, since you’ve seen me treat others like shit.”
Yep. He was trying to play into my fear that I might lose his love, affection, and respect. Too bad one can’t lose what one never had to begin with.
“What we had really wasn’t that bad, it will be now, and I don’t know why you can’t see that. You’re slower at some of this. It takes you longer to figure this stuff out. But, I know you will, though, and you’ll regret it.”
Wasn’t that bad? Just because it could have been a lot worse, didn’t mean it was good. And besides, I had walked on eggshells around him for years. That’s why it wasn’t that “bad.” Anytime I didn’t, I was punished; like when I would rather sleep at three in the morning than cheerfully take being poked at, pinched, or otherwise tormented. For that, he physically kicked me out of our bed by placing his foot on my back and pushing until I fell off.
As if reading my mind, he now brought up this very occurrence. “I don’t think I’ll fight with everyone like that, but I do think you will….and you will realize when you’re with that next guy.”
So, this was what he had come to think about his actions……that he only acted like he did with me. Well, then. If that was the case, it didn’t change the fact that he acted like he did, and time would tell if it was the same for me in other relationships. Even if it was the same, that may just indicate I was still stuck in a cycle of being drawn to abusive people and abusive relationships. It happens. People go for what’s familiar and comfortable. Even if I was attempting to break free from such a relationship now didn’t mean that I wouldn’t go right back into another one like it. It was like an addiction or a habit and those are difficult to break. Sometimes, they’re life-long fights and struggles.
“I think it’s difficult for people to see their own part in things,” he continued. “That’s why I thought we should go see a counselor. I thought maybe they could make you see your own part in all of it.”
Uh huh. I saw my own part in it all right. I saw my own part in taking his abuse and putting up with it and I had finally decided that I no longer wanted any part in it at all. I had decided that I needed to stop blaming him for my misery and take back control over my life. My life was what I had made it and I had decided I wanted to make it better. Why the hell did he think I took out a home equity loan and gave him money to move out? I wanted a divorce.
“You did acknowledge that you’ve been stubborn. You said that you’re afraid of me, but you have nothing to be afraid of. You’re afraid of life. You’re afraid to live. You’re afraid of my emotions. There is a lot of fear there, but very little of it is me. Most of it is you.”
On this, he was right. I was afraid. I was afraid of his emotions. I was afraid of what he would do. I was afraid that he would destroy everything we owned, take our kids and disappear, harm me and/or our kids, or harm himself. Call me crazy, but when your husband grabs a pistol and sticks it in his mouth in front of you because you won’t agree to let him move back in with you, I think you should be afraid. Maybe he had never threatened our kids, but I just didn’t know what he was capable of doing. Who knows how far anyone will go until after they’ve gone there.
“I’m not really a very scary guy,” he rambled on, “and I just had a woman tell me that the other day.”
Yeah, well Ted Bundy wasn’t very scary, either.
“You totally misunderstood why you’re so miserable. I don’t think it has as much to do with me as you think it does. The real problem is you. A lot of your pain is from your own misinterpretation of things. I think you’ve got issues. A lot of the things you’re hurt by are all in your head and self-inflicted. You chose to be hurt by things. You can blame it on me, if that will help get you through.”
At one point in time, I had blamed it all on him. If I stayed with him, I might even continue to blame it all on him. But I would always know better. My life and happiness were my responsibility. That’s why I wanted the divorce. He could blame me for that if he so chose…
(the above dialog was written from notes taken during a conversation that took place around the year 2008, approximately two years prior to my husband’s suicide)