Our Last Conversation

[CN: emotional abuse]


weddingday1

Dear G,

I tried talking about you again last night.

At one point, I referred to you as “that fucking asshole,” then promptly apologized: “Sorry, I’m working through a lot of anger this week.”

Charles shrugged, a half-smile dancing across his face. “You don’t have to defend your ex-husband to me!”

But it’s not about defending you, this discomfort I have with the seductive comfort of anger. It’s not about defending myself either, not anymore. Not like in the early months (or early years, if I’m honest), when I did not know how to hold you accountable without also unleashing a torrent of rage against myself: for my own failures, my own weakness, my compliance. I am more understanding towards myself now, even if I have not yet come to full forgiveness.

My mind was carrying unexploded landmines when I met you, and I had learned over decades to tread around them with exaggerated caution. I think they have all detonated now. While I still bear the wreckage, there is at last nothing left to diffuse.

Perhaps I should thank you for that.

I think I probably won’t. 

I.

I was not a rape survivor until after I met you, even though my assaults had occurred fifteen years prior and I had last spoken to my rapist when I was still a teenager. When you and I met, I had a past issue still seeking resolution. I did not have post-traumatic hyper-vigilance or suicidal ideations.

I was not yet the kind of survivor who refuses hugs even from her friends and who cannot touch her own flesh for pleasure without risking flashbacks and terror.

Not until after you had loved me.

II.

After we separated and I had a whole bed again to myself, it took a full year before I relearned how not to sleep just on my right side. My body arranged its curves to fit against your remembered shape, and I kept my left elbow pulled awkwardly (and painfully) behind my back. Do you remember how you trained me to sleep like this? How you would ask me to spoon against you, always the same accusing tone to your request — “why don’t you ever hold me? why don’t you ever want me to feel loved?” — yet when my arm lightly touched your body, or I rested my hand at your waist, you snarled me away with angry petulance — “I can’t breathe! You’re crushing me!”

It is a hard task, to hold someone without using any of your limbs. It is an even harder task to convey love, under duress, to a body devoid of trust. Under your rigid stage-direction, I suspect the best I managed to provide you with was warmth. And obedience, of course.

Still, I preferred this arrangement to our other common sleeping position: your leg wrapped around both of mine, your encircling arm holding both my own in a cross tight against my chest. Your body weight would pin me against the mattress as you rolled almost full on top of me, your front against my back.

“I can’t sleep like that,” I tried to explain over breakfast. “I need to have some ability to move.”

You explained back, each time less patiently, how I was not, in fact, feeling trapped. That this was how loving people slept. This was how loving people expressed their feelings.

Night after night, it remained the same combat.

“Stop struggling,” you hissed into my ear each time I tried to jockey enough space to let my ribs expand, and I would freeze at the angry tension in your voice.

Over time, I learned to will myself into sleep, to ignore the shallow breathing that was all my squashed lungs could accommodate and to suppress the claustrophobic panic that threatened to climb up and out my throat. Each morning, we woke to find the fitted sheet corner by my head pulled completely off the mattress, as if desperate hands had sought to claw their way out.

“What do you do at night?” you’d laugh, as together we remade the bed yet again.

Did you really not notice, before your own slumber, how far I tried to pull away from you? How I sometimes stretched a hand out to the floor, to brace myself against tumbling out of the bed altogether?

III.

I have been working to remember the good times between us, or even just times that I thought were good when they were happening:

~ The way you claimed an early-evening bat had startled you, the first time you held my hand, and I knew the bat was both an excuse to grab for me — and something you found genuinely unnerving.

~ How you held me as I sobbed, the Sunday morning my cat died suddenly, and I knew you’d stay with me as long as I needed, even though we were standing in the aisle of the church where you worked, and you had gospel singers waiting.

~ The first time you played for me your favorite recording of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

After our first date — which started as a 2 pm meet-up for coffee and didn’t end before 11, when the restaurant we had moved on to ended its dinner service — I emailed a friend to say, “My expectations have forever been raised!” You had listened to me so intently, asked such interested and interesting questions about my research, I could not imagine ever again settling for the standard first encounter, with its tepid chitchat of ‘where’d you grow up?’ and ‘what do you do for a living?’

I used to include that date, no question, on my list of remembered good times. Until I shared the story with a woman who had herself spent years in therapy to recover from an abusive relationship. “Mm-hmm,” she nodded at me knowingly. “Of course he listened carefully. He was studying you. For weaknesses.”

And so our first date moved to the same list as our last, evidence to reference any time I plague myself with doubts.

Not that I need more than one item on that list. I have only to remember the New Year’s Eve beating, picture the glee on your face at both my physical pain and my public humiliation, to be quite sure: things were rotten between us from the start. No one who had ever loved me could have treated me like that. No one who saw me as fully human would have even imagined it.

No memory is good enough to outweigh that ending.

There were no good times.

IV.

Often, when I talk about our years together, I find myself tangled in a surfeit of tiny details. The precision you insisted I adopt in my own habits: from an exact schedule to follow for washing my hands, to the correct way to fold a cereal bag so that it doesn’t unroll again inside the box. The way you monitored everything: how long I washed vegetables before I chopped them, how often I used your shampoo in the shower, how infrequently I sanitized the drawer handles in the kitchen.

I recite a litany of these minute indignities, as if I can — through enough detail — make anyone other than us understand what living together felt like.

Or maybe I am still trying to win our own past arguments.

Or maybe I am hoping my listeners will be your judges, and I the prosecution. “Case closed!” they will shout. “Verdict! He was undeniably at fault! We hereby grant you better treatment from your next lover!”

As if anyone but myself can make that ruling.

As if anyone but myself can give me permission to know what I know, or want what I want.

When the truth is: I did not act as the steward for myself, and for my heart, that I needed. Or that I deserved. This still does not excuse you.

I failed myself. You failed us both.

Another difficult truth? We may have both been trying — the best we were able — to live full lives, despite the long-dealt damage we each still bore. It was just that yours was the kind that left you unsafe for anyone who stood too close.

Your damage made you dangerous.

V.

I keep coming back to an image from a story you once told me: how you mowed lawns the summer your parents got divorced.

You would not have been very big, just out of first grade. Even a push mower must have been unwieldy, as you dragged it back-and-forth, back-and-forth, across the grass and weeds that never stopped growing. I imagine you persevering, fueled by your outrage and confusion, and the need to feel productive even though you could never produce the one result you wanted. You still almost shook, when you told me your childhood perspective. How your mother selfishly abandoned a man who only wanted to love his family, and you had hated her for it. How your father gave up his rights to everything — house, money, children — in a failed effort to get his wife back, and you had despised him for it.

The years that followed must have hurt as well. Your mother’s boyfriends, from your description, were a revolving door of dysfunction and abuse, who often took it upon themselves to help her delicate, musical son “be a man.” I shudder to think of the tall stranger, reeking of liquor, who bent down to place a gun in your small hands and ordered you to pull the trigger at a target. No wonder you practiced at the keyboard so many hours a day. The piano was predictable, and you were good at it.

I have deep compassion for 7-year-old you, filled with impotent rage and indignation.

But when that 7-year-old heart still beat in your 35-year-old chest, you were no longer helpless. You were merely frightening.

I know, without an iota of doubt, that I was not the first surrogate mother-figure you loved into brokenness, then ground my pieces to dust beneath your well-polished boots once I proved yet another disappointment. I strongly suspect your new wife will herself not be the last.

VI.

I can hear you protesting: “But what about all YOUR family crap?!”

You’re not wrong; I was trying to heal my own childhood injuries through our relationship fully as much as you. I think I will decline to discuss that today, though. I’ve spent enough time already listening to you detail every last fault of my relatives, and I prefer not giving you further ammunition. I will concede the point that you were, in absolute fact, not my father — and it was unfair of me to respond to you as if you were.

Let me remind you, however, lest you have forgotten: every time you capitalized on my fear of your disproportionate anger? You were beneficiary of lessons learned at my father’s knee.

I don’t agree one achieves any special nobility through the willingness to cut off all ties with a family member. When you urged me to do this, either to my parents or my only sibling, you were merely extending the pressure you had already used to separate me from most friends and to disrupt my closest social ties.

When you bragged about how you had abandoned your own brother in Florida years before — how you had driven away in the middle of the night, leaving behind a half-apartment’s worth of stuff and a co-signed lease — nobody but you heard a story about healthy boundaries. I am quite sure your parents heard exactly what you wanted them to: a barely-veiled threat that they could be next.

You were always very good at threats.

VII.

The last time we spoke in person was less than five months after I moved out. We signed our divorce papers together at the notary’s, then went around the corner to a Starbuck’s, where we sat and talked for over three hours. It was nice to see in you, again, something of the man I had once loved.

When we got back to the loft apartment that doubled as your office, I noticed your business partner standing outside the building, smoking a cigarette. I thought the young woman looked unexpectedly tense, though I dismissed as paranoia any thought that she might be unhappy at our long disappearance. I had not yet realized, you see, what the relationship between you two had long since become — nor how the dissolution of our own marriage had provided the backdrop for you to court your second wife.

When I learned all this several months later, I realized: during our last, long conversation, you had lingered not to make a final connection, nor to wish me well. You were keeping your new lover nervous.

I realized, too, why I had recognized the discomfort in her expression. I had seen the same look, many times, in my own mirror.

VIII.

Speaking of realizations, I do hope you know that in this letter today, I am not talking to you.

Not you.

I am conversing with the voices in my own head that still want to speak for you, that still feel compelled to take your side as I try to make sense of how I got so lost, for so long, with so little awareness. It is not you — only a version of myself — that I am now addressing.

Because you? No longer matter in my life.

And I still do.

Love, Me

weddingday3


“Our Last Conversation” is part of an ongoing memory project.
Previous installments can be found here.

32 thoughts on “Our Last Conversation

  1. There’s so much I want to say in response to this that I’m afraid anything I say will come across as incoherent. But the one thing that is brightly clear is that this post, and your poem, remind me why I read, whether it be fiction or nonfiction: to be transported elsewhere, in another state of mind not my own. To have half a chance at becoming a better person, more loving and understanding, through the experiences of others. Thank you once again.

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    1. Thank you for that moving response. This was a real watershed post for me to write (even to be able to write), and it is incredibly gratifying to hear that it does some work in the world, as people read it.

      “To have half a chance at becoming a better person, more loving and understanding, through the experiences of others.” YES. For me sometimes as well, what reading the works of others transports me to is a place where I understand more deeply the state of my _own_ mind. This piece is in many ways companion to one I wrote/posted a few days earlier (“Confessions”), which is structured around conversations with other poets & writers about ‘what is the nature of intimate storytelling?’ Engaging with their work — and their thoughts about that work — helped to open a channel for this particular piece to get told.

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      1. What I often struggle with in my own writing is conveying sentiment without being sentimental. And this piece helps me realize that writing from a place deep within that is uncompromised and raw is the best place to start.

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        1. Yes, I think that’s (often? always?) true. Though I don’t write fiction, which means I already have raw materials to work with!

          Sometimes it startles me when people talk about the emotions they sense in pieces like this. When I am writing, I try to focus on getting the details precise and the structure solid, to the exclusion of any sense how it might play to an audience. I just go deep as I can. And try not to flinch.

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  2. “Your damage made you dangerous.” i think about this sometimes: despite my efforts and desires to be peaceful and at peace, my own damage makes me dangerous to those i love because i am safe to be dangerous around them. and that makes me feel very, very guilty. because i have not accumulated much more damage since then, i am hopeful i will continue to make progress, but every day requires vigilance from self-violence or violence against others (in whatever form that takes: sometimes silence is violence, you know?).gl.

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    1. “i am safe to be dangerous around them” — there is _so_ much encapsulated here. Intentions and self-awareness matter tremendously, our own as well as those of the people around us. It is not possible to be human without getting somehow damaged in the process. And we are none of us safe to be around until we learn to be. Ideally people teach us that as we are growing into adults; otherwise, we have to teach ourselves as adults, when it is all much, much harder. And the consequences potentially much greater.

      I don’t know the specifics of your circumstances. I do know that in my own life, often the greatest burdens of guilt I feel are attached to acts in which I was acting out of old injuries, and I am taking on not only responsibility for my own actions — but also for the harmful actions that were done unto me. *That* is a guilt that can go all the way down, bottomless, until/unless I release it back to the person whose choices those actually were.

      Your comment about silence makes sense to me. I think about silence a lot too. It’s tricky: the ultimate empty cipher. Silence can be anything. Which brings me back to knowing intentions and awareness, which is what I must rely on — even if the most any of us can truly hope to know deeply are our own. You yourself come across as very quiet, at least in the social media spaces where we interact, yet I sense a great deal of care and intention in the visible gestures you do make. Which is why I am moved that you follow my writing, and so grateful for your comment today.

      best, alice

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      1. It’s probably not necessary to know my specific circumstances. They’re all the same story really, right? But that’s one of the reasons I value reading what you write: to remind myself that despite whatever fear, shame or guilt we carry, we don’t live alone. What I’m super curious about though: how is it that some of us manage to escape?

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  3. Responding to Deb: I WAS warned. The two previous women who were “involved” with the nasty little abuser literally screamed at me to run. It did no good.

    And Alice, thank you for posting this. You just told my story.

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    1. Thank you for your comment! I am glad — and also very sorry, if you know what I mean — that it resonated for you.

      I have not heard a story, not once, not ever, about someone being effectively warned off by a new romantic interest’s former partner. On what basis would I trust this person I’ve never met before? How do I distinguish between reliable testimony and the rantings of a jilted ex with an ax to grind? Especially if that ex is *literally* screaming at me. Especially since my new lover has a vested interest (and is likely to be quite skilled) in portraying their exes as unstable, unhinged, damaged — and “woe is me, I put up with the same abusive screaming from her myself for far too long, take pity on me for having such a vindictive woman coming after me…” And if this ex seems mentally unstable (as I certainly WAS) or drunk or high, how can I know if her condition/addiction is actually the *result* — and not the originating *cause* — of their breakup in the first place?

      So I’m not surprised you didn’t listen to the women shrieking alarms. I wouldn’t have — I *didn’t* — either.

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    2. Sylvia, thank you for your response to my questions of Alice. I suspected that this might be the answer that many victims would give. I have so little knowledge about victim/abuser relationships, other than what my sociology studies covered, and what I learn from blogging with those who have lived with various levels and types of abuse. I truly appreciate your input, and I hope that your situation is now one of recovery and empowerment over your own autonomy.
      Deb

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  4. That was fantastic. I need to do one of those. I think we had the same ex. I am sure you hear that all the time from other battered women. So many abuser tactics are the same, we should all get together and do a composite and put it out there. I bet someone has already done that…

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    1. THANK YOU FOR THIS COMMENT. I agree — most of them are drawing from the same playbook of tactics. I certainly read other women’s stories and see myself reflected. But the strange thing? When I first read your comment last night, I wept.

      Because it still matters to me to be seen. Because I am still surprised when people tell me they see themselves in my stories. Because I work very hard (both technically and emotionally) to make these kinds of pieces as accurate to my experiences as I can…and yet — without fail — the first time I read a post *after* I’ve published it for others to read, my thought is always, “Oh. Crap. None of this sounds so bad. This actually sounds kinda normal, doesn’t it? Won’t people read this and wonder what I’m making such a fuss about?? That’s certainly what I’m wondering…”

      So thank you for seeing me — and yourself — and for letting me know! I’m sure there’s a better term for this cognitive insecurity than just borrowing “imposter complex,” though that’s what it sometimes feels like. (“Who do I think I am?? PTSD is for people with REAL problems, people who have experienced REAL trauma. Not someone just like me. Why don’t I just get over myself already…”)

      I’m sure there are resources of writing by survivors, though I’ll confess, I haven’t (and may not yet be ready to?) sought any out.

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      1. I was lucky enough to be able to sit around a table with a few different groups of survivors. The first group was everyone’s first. Someone would say ¨My husband did this…¨ and the ¨Mine, too!¨ would echo around the entire table. It happened in every group I was in. Most was familiar. It was eerie. I thought about it a lot. I don’t think they share tactics. I think it is a personality disorder that they have, that creates the same behaviours. That is what the professionals say, I believe. But it seems supernatural when you compare experiences.
        I call them monsters.
        I have the same problem with my PTSD. I find it embarrassing. I met women who had been permanently injured, who were incapable of leaving their abusers, etc. I have some survivor’s guilt. But some of us were lured in by love bombing and mirroring, and then within a few years had our realities turned upside down with the devalue and discard stage(whether they left or not). It is harrowing, to have someone intentionally worm their way into your psyche with honey and then pit and scar it with acid. You doubt everything you ever knew, every decision you made, every person you want to trust and worst of all – you doubt your own self.
        I was lucky to be an adult when this happened to me, so that my personality was already formed and I had already had some successes in life with which to reassure myself of my sanity.
        Knowing others who endured bad treatment at the hands of disturbed people makes it easier to forgive yourself, to accept you have a right to be injured, that you did in fact, endure trauma. Sometimes you have to tell yourself your own story as if it had happened to someone else, in third person- and see what your reaction would be to someone who suffered so. It gives some objectivity.
        We are here, honey. There are so many of us, it is truly epidemic. You are not alone, not in experience and not in kind. All of us who made it through are keen to spot tactics and we have a decent radar for abusive language and behaviour (micromanaging is one of them). Exactly like that woman who knew what the first date was about. Keep writing, whenever you are up for it. I know it will prove healing.

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        1. “Devalue and discard” — yes! (I keep forgetting those terms, though I recognize the pattern.) And the DOUBTING. Sheesh. You’re exactly right about the personality disorder; I don’t think anyone could pull this kind of mindfuck off if he were doing in a deliberately *conscious* way — it’s too baked into every word, every gesture. I imagine a group like you describe would have been invaluably helpful, especially at the beginning. If you don’t mind my asking, how long after(? or during?) your relationship did it take before you knew something was terribly off? Before you began to name it as abuse? Because for me it wasn’t until 2 years after we split that the word “abuse” began to come up between me and my therapist. Even though I became actively suicidal 1.5 years “post-him”, I never actually connected any of it to the marriage. It just seemed a “good time to go,” y’know? The only way I saw that decision as relating to him was in the thought: “well, now that I’m no longer living with someone who will be affected…”

          Even though I was in my 30s when I met him and had — as you say — some adult successes already under my belt, I also had this unnamed, untreated trauma lurking around in my head from when I was 18. Not full-blown PTSD, but I had a long-standing pattern of dissociating for longish periods and some other intermittent-but-severe symptoms — all of which had been misdiagnosed, or simply missed, by therapist after therapist, and shrink after shrink. . .even though I’d been seeking help for over a decade. So when he started in with the full-blown gaslighting, there were enough grains of truth in his complaints that it was easy to be convinced he was right about all of it. And then, early in our marriage I got misdiagnosed as “bipolar” by some truly incompetent mental health folks. And I became an abuser’s wet dream — all that emphasis on how bipolar patients need to be “compliant”? On how you should look to your personal support system (like the dude you live with, natch!) to help observe for changes in your mood and behavior? HOLY SHIT. I’d go to my shrink (new person, who came highly recommended and is highly regarded by his peers and patients) and say, “Well, I think I’m okay? But my husband told me to tell you he’s noticed X and Y, and is concerned my meds are not sufficient.” And I’d walk outta there with yet another damn prescription.

          I was so doped up by the end — on anti-depressants and anti-psychotics and mood-stabilizers — you coulda told me my home town had just been nuked and everyone I knew was smoke and ashes: I’m not sure I’d have even blinked. After he threw me out (the one thing I am truly grateful to him for), I moved back to the city we had recently left and started seeing a former therapist. Who is fabulous, and to whom I owe so much — but he had me so turned around that I had gotten even her to buy into his version of reality. “What is the back-up plan,” she actually asked me, “now that he will no longer be around to monitor you? I’m concerned.”

          I didn’t mean to go on so long about this! Oops. Also: thanks, if you’re still reading!! You’re right — it is epidemic. We are LEGION, we survivors. And the contacts I make through blogs with others of that tribe (like with you!) are precious beyond anything I can convey.

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        2. What tipped me off was my log. My ex had been diagnosed with a PTSD, the sort I have, where I can function. An atypical, I think it is called. So when he started getting violent more frequently I started keeping a log to try to spot a pattern so he could take it to the doc or so I could head off incidents. When I looked at the log from third person, it blew my mind. I would never want anyone I cared about to live under such conditions, much less raise three in diapers in that chaos. When I saw the amount and frequency of incidents, I started asking the hard questions. Like why was I keeping my log in phoenician, why was I so scared? Why was this happening when he had assured me when we met that he was a moral and ethical person supporting women’s rights? Then he did it to his mistress, and gave me a huge cover sob story before the truth came out. That was my Bingo! It wasn’t me. It was him.
          It was two years after the relationship began before he laid a hand on me. It was years later before it was a regular thing. The change happened so slowly that I did not notice it, and being so busy with babies did not help my logic. I did not call it abuse until the mistress incident. I had been convinced by him and religion and culture that it was my own fault, something to be endured. But my children were becoming broken in the mind, malnourished, and he wanted them pulled out of preschool. So I knew what he told me when we planned a family and what was actually happening were at odds. I knew he was the crazy one.
          I had a teenage history of mental illness, and he used that self doubt to convince me I was crazy with his gaslighting and his mistranslations. He had me go to the practitioner of his choice and placed on antidepressants. That really helped him, because I cared less about what hurt me emotionally, and did not bother to take steps to protect myself by distancing from him.
          Don’t worry about going on. These sorts of conversations are important for our recovery! Call it self care.

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        3. Huh. That is *very* interesting, that he also used antidepressants — and the shrink that prescribed them — as a tool against you. Because I am not aware of (nor have I personally experienced) any protocols within psychiatry that screen for domestic violence. Not in the context of “is this patient here due to pressure by a coercive/violent partner? and are their depressive symptoms better understood as a response to that situation?” Whereas I have heard a number of stories recently from friends who are pregnant or new mothers, about interactions with health care workers who took discrete but systematic steps to ascertain that they were not in fear or danger from their partners. We know from data how pregnancy is a particularly vulnerable time (so I was really glad to hear such screenings are finally becoming standard, at least in Philadelphia). We also know how susceptible people with mental health issues are to various forms of violent treatment — including domestic abuse. Vulnerability of any sort being as chum to sharks, for such “monsters” (to use your term).

          I also feel like I need to clarify: my experiences don’t fall within the range of what I would consider “battered.” And he never “put his hands on me,” in the way that phrase is generally meant. I don’t want to misrepresent that. [Not that you’ve said anything that makes me think you are overly concerned with this level of category, or specifics. In case you are, though, I want to be clear.]

          Thank you so much for taking this time with me today. I am deeply, deeply appreciative.
          best, alice

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        4. I believe whether there is physical violence or not, it is the same result for the victims. I might offend some others who have experienced violence with my opinion, but I would rather be physically hurt than experience all the insults, gaslighting, harassment, and accusations. My mind has been slow to heal.
          I don’t know if they screen. I know my medical doctors did, but I did feel safe at home, which is the question they asked. Only at the end did I feel my life was threatened, and by then I had no access to medical care or even transportation.
          I wish for the screening questions, they would explain first that women can safely get away, that there were resources in their area. If women knew that they could get away cleanly, more would leave.
          I appreciate your contribution, too! Thank you!

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        5. Alright, I thought I was done, but. . .one more thought! It seems to me that any taxonomy of abuse (emotional vs. physical vs. sexual, for instance) can be useful for categorizing specific experiences after the fact — but is fairly meaningless in terms of actual outcomes. Or experiences as they evolve: where’s the exact line, for instance, where one crosses from emotional coercion to sexual violence?

          I’ve heard people say things like, “emotional abuse is what’s hardest to recover from” *as if* there is any form of intimate partner violence that is NOT ALSO emotionally abusive. As if batterers ever raise a fist against a person *before* laying a groundwork through emotional terrorizing. I do totally understand your “rather be physically hurt than gaslit” point, to be clear. I suspect minds are slowest to heal because minds, unlike bodies, are injured by all of it.

          Okay, NOW I’m really done. [/soapbox] Have a good rest of your weekend! 🙂

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        6. I think the line comes from compromises. When a woman keeps moving her boundaries to accommodate her reality, that is the red flag. I do think this ought to be taught. No one taught me any of this, and it is a real health risk. Why did I spend hours in gym class and only fifteen minutes on intimate violence? I am going to teach my children about respect and boundaries in relationships. I hope it works.
          There were many women who suffered the violence amid a lot of honeymooning in my group, and did not feel emotionally terrorized, though they should have. Those women felt like they could not leave. They were really hooked. They would insist their partners were misunderstood, or understood them better than anyone could, or… you get the picture. Like it was just a one time display of temper, except on repeat.
          It is definitely easier to leave when you can identify as feeling terrorized, unloved.

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        7. YES. Healthy relationships, boundaries — I’d include sexuality on the list — these are HEALTH ISSUES. Hells bells, these are public health concerns — and they have real material and economic impact (if that’s what it takes to make someone care) on EVERYONE. It’s heartbreaking, your description of these women. It’s also uncomfortably familiar sounding.

          The thing I love most, in reading what and how you write about your kids: the ways you acknowledge their agency and autonomy, even though they are so very young. The ways you model respect.

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        8. Well, thank you! I want to make sure that they know what they want and can be assertive. I am far more concerned with their emotional growth than their academics, given their past, so I tend to focus on it. I do plan to explain to them the abuse cycle and anything else from the Duluth Model that I can, when they are old enough.
          I have been exposed to a lot of literature on psychopaths and sociopaths, not that I have read it all, and lately someone turned me onto fishead. I think it was Carrie Reimer, of Ladywithatruck’s Blog, and this documentary is about corporate psychopaths, how our decision makers are probably disordered and lacking empathy. That might explain a lot about our government policies! I didn’t make it through (too many chores), but it seemed obvious stuff, since power attracts these types.

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        9. I saw a similar documentary, made a few years prior, focused on the anomie and lack of empathy of corporations and, by extension, those who run them.

          Of course, I saw it with my ex back at the height of his “I’m gonna beat all the sharks at their own game and amass my own empire of wealth” delusions. He was (unsurprisingly!) quite good at getting folks to give him free labor and piles of cash.

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        10. Also? I think I need to start taking down notes of terms from your comments. 🙂 So far we have: Duluth Model, love bombing, mirroring (not sure I’m familiar in *this* context).

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        11. Love bombing is laying the affection on thick. Mirroring is the phenomena in the beginning of the relationship where Surprise! he likes all the same things you do and agrees with you on so much. Mirroring your own feelings, opinions, and ideals. Both are forms of deception.
          The Duluth Model is the most holistic method of dealing with domestic abuse out there, it is being test run in Britain, even. It is built on a feminist theory.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. One of the most powerful posts yet. I have to ask, did you look at the woman, waiting anxiously for him and just want to drag her away, scream at her to run, try to make her understand…and if you had would it have made any difference then…or perhaps she was already hearing her own voices, her own warnings and brushing them aside in an attempt to believe whatever it is we convince ourselves to believe as women about our abilities to ‘change him’ ‘tolerate him’ ‘love him’ ‘stand by him’ ‘forgive him’ and my personal favorite ‘accept him’

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    1. What an…interesting question. Thank you for asking. No, is the short answer. I am not comfortable posting more than that.

      Though the fact that you are asking me this question — well, it tells me I have really accomplished at least some of what I set out to do with this piece.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Understood…and a question that can, and is applicable to so many situations, mine included in a more general, minor way, but still questions I don’t care to admit to or apparently deal with as I keep asking and keep sitting with the same tired answers. I am proud to know, through this medium, a woman like you who is working for better, to be better, and who is inspiring rather you realize it or not.

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        1. Thank you so much for saying that!

          I actually wrote out an answer (in two parts!) to your question, but decided I was not comfortable sharing certain details online. Because not all stories are mine to tell — or even to pillage. While I suspect it sometimes seems as though I’m letting everything (up to and including the kitchen sink!) hang out there in these posts, I actually put a lot of thought into what details I share, or not. And how to do so ethically.

          You ever find yourself in Philly, though? Let’s do lunch — and I’ll dish on all the skinny! 😉

          Liked by 1 person

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