Denial is a funny thing. As long as she kept her head buried in the sand she could pretend that there wouldn’t be a next time. She could tell herself that Charles really loved her and that he didn’t really mean to hurt her. She could go on in a false hope that if she just did this thing or that just right she would be enough to satisfy him. But once she started to wake up to the reality that it wasn’t her, it was him, she couldn’t paddle her little boat up that river anymore. She was tired, exhausted in fact.
Things continued to go downhill. If she was five minutes later getting home than usual Charles accused her of having an affair, demanded to know where she had been and who she was with. He was constantly asking her who she was giving her “stuff” to. Was it the guys in the shop? She always reassured him that he was the only one for her. She literally had no time to herself, not even to take a bath. He would call her at work several times a day because she needed to calm him down over some perceived wrong he’d suffered on his job.
Despite the fact that Ruth had stopped seeing the therapist she came to the conclusion eventually that she had been right. Ruth was going to have to make some changes if she wanted the crazy-making to stop and this marriage to survive. No matter how afraid she was she would have to be more assertive and she would have to learn to be proactive and less reactive, regardless of the consequences. Why it took her seventeen years to figure out that giving in to his demands and catering to him was like having a two year old she will never know. The more she gave in the more demanding he became. Even then she wasn’t ready to do what was necessary, she wasn’t exactly sure how to.
Charles and Ruth had bought a house to flip just before the bottom fell out of the market. It was a cute little bungalow in the historic district and they got it for a fantastic price. They had figured out how much the remodeling would cost and how much of the work they’d do themselves. About half way through the project Charles decided it was just too much for him. He would “help” her do the work, but he didn’t want to make anymore decisions. He told her to just do it and let him know how he could help. So she did. Ruth loved doing this, it was her niche. It was something she could be in control of. Ruth took the bull by the horns and contracted out the demo work, the drywall, the carpet, the hardwood floor refinishing, the rewiring, the plumbing, and the new kitchen cabinets.
She made arrangements to meet the cabinet maker, Mr.Robinson, at the house on Saturday and she asked Charles if he wanted to go along. He did, he wanted to see the progress. The drywallers were there working away. Ruth and Mr. Robinson began discussing things and he asked her a question she wasn’t sure how to answer so she deferred to Charles. She simply asked him what he thought, he didn’t even acknowledge her. Embarrassed, she turned back to Mr. Robinson and said, “I guess he doesn’t have an opinion, so lets figure this out”. Charles came unglued. He shouted at her in front of everyone there, “You haven’t asked my opinion about a fucking thing on this house, I don’t know why you would want to know now”. Oh my. She was caught like deer in headlights. How would she respond to this? She pretended it didn’t happen and finished her business with Mr. Robinson.
After they left he continued his tirade cursing and yelling at her all the way home. She went into the other room to escape it and think about how she would handle it. He commenced his usual silent treatment. When they went to bed she asked if they could talk about what happened. He didn’t say a word. She began by reminding him that he hadn’t wanted to make any decisions. He broke his silence at that point. He jumped out of bed and yelling again he said, “That’s my money you’re dealing with, I’m the head of this household and you’ll do what I want”. Ruth fired back “Yeah, right. Yes sir, daddy”. He sailed across the bed, grabbing her by the throat with one hand and by the hair with the other. He slammed her head against the headboard a few times and screamed in her face, “let me tell you one thing, bitch, I’ll kill you”. Ruth looked him dead in those crazy eyes and calmly said, “take your hands off of me”. He stared her down for another minute and then let her go. He said, “I’m going to sleep in the other room! No, wait, this is my house, this is my bed, you go sleep in the other room. Get out of my sight, I don’t even wanna look at you”. Ruth got out of bed, put her clothes on, grabbed her purse and started out the door. Charles said, “If you go out that door don’t bother coming back”.
Ruth had nowhere to go so she drove around town for about an hour. She called to tell Charles that she was alright, but that she wouldn’t be home that night and that she loved him. He warned her again that if she didn’t come home now not to bother. Charles’ mother was out of town for the weekend so she let herself into her house and spent the night on her sofa. She waited until she knew Charles would have already left for church to go home and get ready herself. Then she went to church and sat next to him in their couple’s Sunday School class and then in the sound booth during worship service. She and Charles had obligated themselves to operate the sound and video equipment for the services. They didn’t speak a word to each other the whole time.
After church they went home and Charles summoned her into the living room where he was watching tv. “That’s the most inconsiderate thing you have ever done to me. How could you make me lie there all night wondering where you were and who you were with?” Ruth spoke and said, “For your information I spent the night on your mother’s couch, alone. Now let me ask you something. Sam is married now, she’s your daughter. If she came to you and told you Mack had done to her what you did to me last night, what would you think she should do?” He thought for a minute and said, “I don’t know, but it wouldn’t be that.” Ruth replied, “Bullshit, you know exactly what you’d tell her to do.” Charles retorted, “I want a divorce. I’m not gonna live like this, I’m not gonna lay in bed at night wondering where you are”. Ruth replied, “If that’s what you want, you got it. I’ll get some things be out of here in an hour. I’m not gonna walk around here on eggshells anymore.” Charles said, “I wasn’t aware you ever had any problem saying what was on your mind. And no, I changed my mind. I don’t want a divorce, you aren’t going anywhere”.
The silent treatments increased, the mental, emotional, and sexual abuse continued and intensified, but Ruth thought she’d finally at least gotten through to him about the physical abuse. A year and a half went by and there had been none. Now she had to contend with the fact that Charles had established rules for sex. She had to initiate and if she didn’t he would chide her about it. Not only did she have to initiate, but she had to initiate in the way that he had envisioned it in his mind. Today one thing, tomorrow something different. And all of this had to be done before the nine p.m. “deadline”. Then there was that fixation he had. She had given in on that before, but she decided she wouldn’t do that anymore either. He brought it up in everyday conversation, picked at it like a sore.
She stupidly thought that she could explain to him how it made her feel and because he loved her he would have compassion on her and drop it. She told him how it made her feel violated, how it made her cry and feel the need to shower afterwords, how the mere mention of it made her blood run cold, and how it made her have irrational thoughts. He had brought it up one morning before she left for work and on her way she briefly considered wrecking her car in a ravine to make it appear to be an accident. She fleetingly thought that if she were dead she’d never have to hear that again, nor would she have to do it. He didn’t even ask her what irrational thoughts. It only made him angry that she would have the audacity to tell him no. His response: “If I ever bring that up again I’ll shoot myself. But I don’t see how it can be right for you to tell me no to anything I want. You know, your body is not your own and the marriage bed is undefiled”. With that he got out of bed and slept on the couch. Not even two weeks passed by and he was picking at the sore again.
Shortly after that he got angry about something and lost his temper again, pulling her hair out by the roots, and telling her she was lucky he didn’t knock her goddamn head off. Then one day she was walking through the living room in her bath robe when he stopped her, put his arms lovingly around her and sweetly said, “You have got the perfect body, it’s fantastic. It’s just a damn shame you’ve got something wrong between your ears because you don’t have a clue what to do with it.” As crazy as it sounds that was the moment Ruth knew she would divorce him. All this time, for nineteen and a half years, she thought he didn’t get it. She was the one who didn’t get it. This man didn’t love her, he couldn’t possibly. He wasn’t capable of it.
She tried to get past that feeling. She had been able to before. But now she was fully out of denial and there was no going back. She had once sworn that Satan couldn’t have her marriage. Suddenly she realized he already did. When she confronted him with her feelings, she gently told him that she thought he had a problem and that he needed help. If there was any hope for their marriage they would need counseling. They tried to muddle through. They even went for some couples counseling with the Methodist Pastor. He begged her not tell anyone at their church, this was all so embarrassing. Meanwhile he went to their pastor and told him he thought she was having an affair. For two months they went for counseling with the Methodist minister and he tried to teach them some communication techniques. Charles thought they were silly, so he didn’t fully participate. The Methodist minister helped Ruth establish some boundaries which Charles barreled through like a wrecking ball.
His idea of an apology was this:
Charles: “I know I’ve done some stupid things, but I didn’t know I was hurting you that bad. You never told me. And all the sex stuff was for you. I didn’t get anything out of it, it was all for you. I just don’t know what I did so bad that I can’t get a second chance.”
Ruth: “Let me get this straight. You think it’s okay to hurt me a little, as long as it’s not too bad. Who gets to determine what hurts too bad? Why would you want to hurt me at all? And as far as the sex stuff, what of that did I EVER ask for? The really sad thing here is you really believe that. You’ve lied to yourself for so long you don’t even know the truth anymore.”
Charles: “I don’t know what comes over me. You make me angry and I loose it, but I never hit you.”
Ruth: “Which is it, Charles? Are you in control or not? Either you are saying you loose control and may not know where to draw the line, or you know exactly what you’re doing and are deliberately choosing to hurt me if for no other reason than to intimidate me. Either way isn’t a real comfort to me.”
Charles: “So are you saying you want a divorce?”
Ruth: “Yes, I think I do.”
Charles: “You never loved me, did you?”
Ruth: “I don’t know how you can make your mouth form those words after everything I’ve put up with just to be with you. Who does that? Who subjects themselves to this kind of treatment for nineteen and a half years for anything short of love? But if that’s what it takes for you to feel better about it, if that’s what it takes for you to not be at fault, if that’s what it takes for you to be able to sleep at night, then you think what you need to.”
Charles: “What happened to ’til death do us part’?”
Ruth: “What happened to ‘to love and cherish, to protect and to honor’? That was what was supposed to be ’til death do us part’.”
Charles: “But what did I do that was so bad? Didn’t we have some good times too, you’re forgetting about those. Don’t I deserve a second chance?”
Ruth: “We’ve been over this and over this. I don’t see how you can’t understand what you’ve done here. I’m not forgetting about the good times, but they don’t excuse the bad ones. You’ve had a thousand second chances, do you honestly think one more mulligan will make the difference?”
Charles: “There IS someone else, isn’t there?”
Ruth: “As a matter of fact, Charles, there is. Her name is Ruth and I’m leaving you for her.”
Charles and Ruth separated on November 28, 2009. On January 4th, 2010 Ruth filed for divorce and it was final on April 12, 2010.