Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Why I Left

October is domestic violence awareness month

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

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Photo Credit – Ruth There’s a critter playing peek-a-boo!

A NEW LOVE interest

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

I still believed these verses and I still wanted to live these out even if he did not.  But after a long time of trying I came to the realization that I couldn’t love enough for two. I could live these verses out for myself alone.

I found a new love and began a love affair that continues to this day.  Shocking, I know.  I didn’t plan it; it just…happened.  I started going out with my girlfriends and I took up jogging.  I got in shape physically and emotionally. In the process I found my self-respect and discovered that I had a lot to offer.  Yes, I fell in love with another.  Me.

I learned to love myself and began to take care of me.  Instead of always putting him or my marriage above all else I began to put myself, my safety, and my needs first.  I learned that unless I loved myself I wasn’t really worthy of love and couldn’t properly love another.

forget religion

Divorce was still a dirty word.  But I decided it was better than the alternative.  Though I still viewed it as sin I decided that the options of suicide or murder were more sinful.  These thoughts, fleeting as they were, were a wake-up call.  It terrified me that I could even ponder these things.

I daydreamed about driving my car into a ravine.  I envisioned picking up a knife the next time he had his hands around my throat.  This shit is hazardous to your health in more ways than one!  These are not normal thoughts.

It’s really bad when you either wish you were dead or, you know, there might be some unfortunate accident on your partner’s way home.  This may be a startling admission on my part.  But it’s honest. So I entertained the previously unthinkable and initiated a separation.

I discovered it was against my religion to enable my abuser’s behavior to continue. Eff martyrdom!  Where’s the glory in that? God would surely forgive me for breaking my vows. They had long since been broken anyway.  Honor, cherish, protect, love…all gone the first time he hurt me.

honor

I could no longer live in shame.  It was overwhelming and debilitating.  The only way for me to continue to live was to honor myself.

I figured out that his problems were his and they didn’t have to cause me shame.  I figured out that it didn’t matter what other people thought.  It only mattered that I could hold my head high because I knew the truth.

I figured out that I was worth saving.

recognizing my weakness

I recognized my propensity to be insecure and self-deprecating. I recognized that I found esteem in being the perfect wife.  Not from my abuser, but from my God and from those in the church.  Being a help-meet was not all I was created for.  It was not noble and prized by the one person who should have appreciated it.

I still had my weaknesses, no doubt, but knowing what they were my abuser could no longer exploit them at every turn.  I grew weary of the mind games and emotional blackmail.

Having been emotionally tied into knots I saw the belittling for what it truly was.  There was no way to be better enough.  Better would never be good enough.

i was stronger

I still have that same tenacity.  I’ve just employed the old slogan, ‘Work smarter, not harder’. Still, if I am a failure it won’t be said that it was because I didn’t try.  I just came to the realization that I can’t fix everything.  Anything can be fixed.  Everything…not so much.

I could fix me and only me.  He would have to do his own repair work if he thought it necessary.  But I could not.  In order for me to repair what had been broken inside of me I had to make different choices. I had to set up boundaries; something that before I never thought I had a right to.

I found strength in knowing I did have a choice.  So I exercised my right to live in a safe, stable, sane environment.

acceptance

I had to acknowledge that it was that bad no matter how often it happened.  It could be worse but so what?  Why should I settle for bad simply because it could be worse?

Fists are not the only way to physically abuse.  I had to acknowledge that strangling, hair-pulling, pinching, and having my head bounced off of inanimate objects is physical abuse. It should have frightened me to know that he could have killed me.

People may say that sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.  But that’s a lie.  Words hurt and leave scars that will never completely heal.  That’s what pushed me over the edge.  I could have taken the punishment, but the near-constant verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse was more than I could bear.

I stopped minimizing the danger and pain I was in.  Once I was out of denial, once I saw the abuse for what it really was, there simply was no way to stay.

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You can find the reasons why I stayed here:  Why I Stayed

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Don’t Pray for Me

I can still remember the lipstick stains on the cigarette butts.  She was beautiful.  Her make-up was always perfect, her hair curled, and her nails were always polished. She was my very feisty, crude, chain-smoking grandmother – my mother’s mother.

There was no stop sign between the thoughts in her head and her tongue.  If she thought it, she said it, and let the hair go with the hide.  She was the queen of the backhanded compliment.

She’d been through hell in her lifetime, I suppose. Her first husband beat the hell out of her on the regular.  She divorced him and later married my granddad. He was a salesman and a fall down drunk. And funny and kind.  He let us jump on her couch when she wasn’t there which got us all into trouble.

For some reason, I’m guessing because she loved him, she stayed with him.  Or maybe it’s because she’d already been divorced once and didn’t want another under her belt.  This was the good old days when such things were shameful.  He never laid a hand on her, so maybe she thought that was as good as it got.  At least she wasn’t having a near death experience every day.

I can’t remember if he lost his license because of his drinking or if she took his keys so he couldn’t drive drunk.  She worked two and sometimes three jobs waitressing to pay the bills.  I don’t think she could count on grandpa for that.  She worked at a restaurant just down the street from their house and he’d show up on the riding mower, embarrassing her I’m sure, for a cup of joe to sober up.

She never went to church that I know of and I’m not sure of her beliefs. She was pretty cynical about church in general.

When she was in her seventies she was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. My aunt talked her into undergoing chemotherapy treatments to prolong her life a little.  She’d already lost her best friend(my mother) and couldn’t bear the thought of losing grandma.  So grandma relented and took the treatments.  That landed her in the hospital a fair few times with pneumonia and other chemo-related illnesses.

While I was there at the hospital for a visit one day a man of the cloth came by and asked if he could pray with her.  I’ll never forget what she said.

“Hell no! You have never darkened the door of my house.  You didn’t give a good goddamn about me when I was in good health, don’t come around here when I’m dying wanting to pray with me.  Get out!  Don’t let the doorknob hit you where the good lord split you!”

He left to the sounds of her murmuring the like.  After I picked my jaw up off the floor I asked why the man couldn’t just pray with her.

“God nor him ever did anything for me in this life. I’m for damn sure not expecting anything now!”


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Powerless: Long Story Short

Rock….meet hard place.  I should have been more prepared but I had no idea how to even prepare.  Samantha, my step-daughter(the one I’ve raised since she was five), and I haven’t spoken much about the divorce or about my relationship with The Tour Guide because I knew she was uncomfortable with it and had indicated she didn’t wish to speak about it.

The last time we spoke about it was a year or so ago.  When I came back from a trip to visit The Tour Guide I went to see her to tell her that we were engaged.  I would prefer she heard these things directly from me than from someone else.  She reacted surprisingly well to the news given her reaction to our relationship up to that point.  When I told her we were engaged her immediate response was, “I guess I’d better get to know him.”  Given that I thought maybe we were past the animosity about it.  I still didn’t discuss it with her in great detail because, after all, I’m sure it’s still awkward for her and she really doesn’t want to hear about it.  I go to visit her and the children about once a month and we keep the conversation to the kids and local happenings.  She never asks me how I’m doing or what’s going on with me so I’ve taken that as a sign she doesn’t want to know and I don’t talk about it. That’s not meant as a slight toward me or her.  It’s just that it’s awkward for her and I know it so I don’t push the issue.

When The Tour Guide was here in September I called her to ask if she and her husband would like to go out to dinner with us.  I figured that a neutral public place would be best because if at any point she became uncomfortable she could excuse herself  and leave without feeling locked in.  “Let me get back to you on that,” she said.  I never heard back from her and decided to leave well enough alone.  I haven’t brought it up since.

With The Tour Guide arriving for good and wedding plans in place it was time, once again, to make the trek to her house to tell her myself rather than her hearing rumors about it. The Sunday before he arrived I went to her house. I don’t really know how to approach it with her so I play with the children for a while and then while they’re in another room playing I broach the subject.

Suffice it to say the conversation didn’t go very well.  It was long and at every turn she had all the answers for why I had to have been having an internet affair and how it was really all my fault that I was abused.  He only did what I allowed him to do.  I went along with things, never saying I didn’t like it, and then was resentful.  She knows so very much for someone who doesn’t want to talk about it all.  The thing is I can see where she gets the whole internet affair from.  As inaccurate as it is, I get it. I’m not really even offended by the accusation.

Still I felt just as low, just as dirty, the shame of having been abused washed over me anew.  There it was.  It was all my fault.  I should have left sooner.  I shouldn’t have put up with it.  I should have tried harder or I shouldn’t have tried at all.  If I was going to stay and try to work it out, why didn’t I try harder?  Why did I go through counselling when I already had my mind made up?

“I didn’t come here to argue.  I came here to tell you something important and I’ve done that. I love you and I will always love you.  I hope that we can find some way to work through this and at least be friends.  I think it’s best if I leave now.”

It’s taken me nearly three weeks to even get to the point that I can write this.   I’ve cycled through all the emotions I went through when I left my marriage.  I’ve beaten myself up, I’ve gotten angry, I’ve felt sad and I’ve grieved.  Mostly now I realize that I feel powerless.  Just as powerless to stand up for myself with her as I did her dad.  Powerless because I made a choice not to tell her all the things that led me to this point.  Powerless because she didn’t ask for any of this, it isn’t her fault, and I can’t change the fact that she’s been hurt by it.  I can’t make it better.  The only thing I know to do is allow her to cycle through her own emotions.  Maybe we can be friends and maybe we can’t. It will be up to her.

And I didn’t even address the subject of why I’m not going to church.  I can only imagine what kind of response that will draw.  I likely won’t discuss this with her, at least for some time.  Sometimes I’m torn between coming out of the closet on it and remaining deep in the back.  Secrets have a way of biting me in the butt.  Just look at the mess keeping my private marital secrets has made.

In the end I did send her an invitation with a handwritten note from me reminding her that I love her and I always will and that I’d love for her to be there, but if she doesn’t come I will completely understand and my feelings will not be hurt.

It’s taken me about this long to remind myself of all the reasons I’ve done what I’ve done to and come out of the funk that all this crazy baggage puts me in sometimes – giving myself permission all over again.  I’m reminding myself that although I felt powerless in that moment and for a couple of weeks after knowledge is power.  She probably feels pretty powerless, herself.  I have knowledge she will never have.  Now I’m trying to put myself in her shoes and look at this from her eyes.  I will admit this is a struggle.


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Love is All You Need

It’s been a while since I’ve read this book, but it’s basic premise is this:  Women need love and men need respect.  Just look at it’s title.  Love and Respect:  The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs.  Sounds good doesn’t it?  The answer to all your marital woes.  Easy enough.  Except it’s not.  Even the title makes it seem as if the husband’s love toward his wife is just a want, but her respect for him is a deep seated need.  Indeed there is a difference between wants and needs, is there not?  It sort of minimizes what a man should be giving and elevates what a woman should be giving.

Inside the flap of this gorgeous little gem is says this:

Discover the Single Greatest Secret to a Successful Marriage

Psychological studies affirm it, and the Bible has been saying it for ages. Cracking the communication code between husband and wife involves understanding one thing: that unconditional respect is as powerful for him as unconditional love is for her. It’s the secret to marriage that every couple seeks, and yet few couples ever find.

Today, you and your mate can start fresh with the ground-breaking guidance that Dr. Emerson Eggerichs provides in this book. His revolutionary message, featured on Focus on the Family, is for anyone: in marital crisis…wanting to stay happily married…who’s feeling lonely. It’s for engaged couples…victims of affairs…pastors and counselors seeking material that can save a marriage.

Using Dr. Eggerich’s breakthrough techniques, couples nationwide are achieving a brand-new level of intimacy and learning how to: – stop the Crazy Cycle of conflict – initiate the Energizing Cycle of change – enjoy the Rewarded Cycle of new passion

And if you’ll take this biblically based counsel to heart, your marriage could be next!

Here’s the thing that this book doesn’t tell you:  Women need way more than love and men need way more than respect and both of these things are earned.  In fact it’s doing all that other stuff that earns you love and respect.  And a little secret?  Men need love and women need respect.

This book promotes the idea that a wife should give her husband respect because of his position, regardless of his behavior and that a man should love his wife regardless of hers – unconditionally.  When the little woman gives her man unconditional respect it magically transforms him into a man that deserves that respect.  Not only that but he then begins to love the wife unconditionally.  Or when the man is fed up and at his wits end, if he’d just unconditionally love his woman, she’ll suddenly come to her senses and start to give him the respect he so desperately needs.

For some marriages this may be true.  Maybe both people are really good people and they’ve just begun taking each other for granted.  That implies, though, that the man is respectable in his own right and the woman lovable in hers.  That isn’t always the case.

Most people I know need things from their partner(yes, I said partner) like honesty, faithfulness, reliability, and affection.  These are mutual needs. If you want to be respected, be respectable.  If you want to be loved, be lovable.  If you want  either of these things then be honest, faithful and reliable.  Don’t just assume that your partner owes you love or respect.  The idea that one should simply unconditionally respect or love their partner is ludicrous.  It gives license to take advantage and take for granted your partner.

Am I saying that this book offered no insight into marriage relationships and that I got nothing useful from it?  No.  I did take it’s advice.  You see, at the time I read this I believed every word of it.  My marriage was in trouble and I needed to stop the Crazy Cylces.  This book posited the idea that just one person in the the relationship could do this. They can’t.  Sure, the crazy cycles may get diffused for a while.  But they don’t stop.  One person in a relationship cannot do the hard work for two.


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Taking a Deep Breath….

…and letting it out.  Ruth can finally exhale.

Shell be packing up and moving to a smaller, less expensive place in a few days.  It’s bittersweet, really.  This was supposed to be her last home.  But with the divorce, then losing her job it was more than she could afford.  It was really too much for her to try to keep up, anyway…way to much maintenance and grass to cut.  She decided the Tuesday before Christmas to put the house on the market.  By the Tuesday after Christmas she had a contract on it.  She’s never been much for playing the lottery, but maybe she should buy a ticket.

So now Ruth is moving from Small Town, Bible Belt, USA to the neighboring Big Town, Bible Belt, USA.  While she dreads the move she knows it’s a good one for her.  The only reason she’s held on so long is because it was the one constant in her ever changing landscape, the one piece of familiarity.  We’ll see how she does with city life.  Country life has suited her well.

A lot has changed over the last two years for Ruth.  She’s gone from a nineteen year marriage, about as long in her fundamentalist Christian belief, the security of fifteen years with a company she thought she’d retire from to divorced and engaged, doubting everything she believed about Christianity, and, count ’em, not one but two new jobs plus a client or two for her own business and now a new dwelling.

Everything has changed.  I guess Ruth doesn’t do anything half-way. *grin* If Ruth maintains her sanity there is most assuredly more change to come.  She’s accomplished a lot in a short amount of time.  Deconstruction is hard work and the demolition isn’t over quite yet.  But for now Ruth is looking forward to her future.  Looking back over everything that’s happened over the last couple of years Ruth knows how lucky she is.  That’s right, lucky.

Ruth takes another deep breath and lets it out.  She’s been holding that in for far too long.


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Daydreams of a Possessed Woman

She’s breathing so hard.  Her heart is racing.  A cloud of dust pluming with each strike of her foot on the dry ground.  The sandals she wore broke long ago and now she carries them in her hands as she runs far, far away.  Her face muddy from the dirt and the tears it was covered in, she sits down under a lone tree along the path.  She wipes the blood from her lip.

As she leans back against the tree visions of what her life could be like danced through her head.  She sees herself tend her children, the garden and the livestock, and gaining the adoration of her husband.  She sees a table filled with the richness of their bounty, vegetables from their garden, bread she’d made with her hands, lamb from their flock.  Love fills her imagination.  She conjures feelings of lightness, hope and freedom.

Having caught her breath she rises, picks up her sandals, and begins the long walk back to that place that she can never really leave.  Running away means giving up her children and being alone.  She is owned, a possession, damaged goods.  Those were just dreams after all.  He may possess her, but he cannot control her daydreams.  There she can be free.