All the things I didn’t tell you — a guest post
You may have wondered, “How could that marriage have ended? They seemed so sweet. So together. So loving.” We made a pretty picture. Gaggle of adorable children. Serious Christians. Dedicated to our faith and family. Oh yes.
When I left, you thought I was just giving him a wake-up call, probably. You understand that. Husbands get complacent. Or grumpy. Or unhelpful. A wake-up call is OK, you figured.
But I didn’t go back, and that confused you. You still see him at church. He’s lonely and mournful, waiting for his wife to return from her straying. She took his children too, you see. He is sad, so sad.
He’s very spiritual, I know. He prays a lot. He’s good at leading prayers. He knows his Bible back to front.
He’s never been anything but sweet, humble, thoughtful, and kind to you. Surely he couldn’t be so bad?
I didn’t tell you everything when you “encouraged” me that marriages go through hard times and God will surely restore ours.
I kept it palatable and generic. “We were in trouble for a long time. The kids are afraid. I have to protect us.” And you raised your eyebrows but tried to believe me, even while my words did battle with the image of Nice Man you knew.
I didn’t want to smear him.
I didn’t want to ruin his relationships or his ability to stay in the community where his only shallow, tenuous friendships existed. I didn’t want to do that to him, as angry and hurt as I was. So I kept discussion to a minimum.
I just disappeared. And you probably wonder occasionally why I never came back.
It’s because of the things I didn’t tell you.
I didn’t tell you that he fooled you. And me. And all the people he worked for. Pretty much everyone. I think my mom knew though. She was anxious about my marriage, and I thought she was nuts. But she was right to worry, I know that now.
I didn’t tell you that the man you know is not the man I lived with.
I didn’t tell you that on the honeymoon, a switch flipped. I was his. And I would be adjusted to fit his view of how a wife should be.
I didn’t tell you that in the early weeks of marriage, when I was horribly ill, newly pregnant, homesick, and lonely, wondering why he was so angry with me all the time, I wrote a paragraph in my diary describing those feelings and he read it and then stood over me and forced me to erase every last word.
I didn’t tell you that his disdain for me in the first year of marriage drove me to self-harm. It might have driven me to suicide had I not been pregnant. My baby saved me. (1 Tim 2:15)
And my baby became another victim.
I didn’t tell you that he started calling me stupid very early on. Stupid. And lazy. Foolish. Thoughtless. Incapable. When he was talking to me, that is. Often he would simply withdraw completely, leaving me gasping for his approval and affirmation, like a drowning person gasping for air. Do you love me? Why do you hate me? What is going on? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? I believed him. I was worthless. And he LOVED that.
I didn’t tell you about his paranoia and irrational demands. He would do things like set the air conditioning or heating in the house at some ridiculous extreme that made it virtually intolerable to be inside. He would threaten to abandon or kill the children if they did not comply with his expectations of ‘correct behaviour’. He routinely would not allow me to leave the house except to buy groceries. I hid from him how often I took the children to the park or to the library. He would call as soon as he arrived at work in the morning, to make sure that we all up for the day, and he’d demand to know what we were all doing. It didn’t matter if I’d spent the entire night tending to a sick child.
I didn’t tell you how he would deliberately interrupt my sleep, especially if I was more than usually overtired.
I didn’t tell you how he gaslighted me. How he would hide important objects from me, then ask me to find them… and he’d allowed me to go crazy thinking I’d lost them. I would be without the needed object. I could be housebound with wiggling kids and no groceries for days. When I realized what he’d done the first time, I confronted him, and he denied it so firmly that I ultimately figured I must be crazy.
I started hiding my keys myself. And my purse. And anything important to me.
I didn’t tell you about his physical abuse of me. At the time, I didn’t realize it was abuse, myself.
He never hit me.
He only threw something at me once.
But there was sex. He used that as an effective weapon. Six weeks after a child was born was too long for him. I’d be bruised and bleeding still, and he’d demand I put down the baby so that he could assert his possession of me again, lest I get too comfortable. I went along with it. I sensed that resistance was futile. And I was right.
I didn’t tell you that the one time I said, “Please no. Please not right now. Can we do this later please? Please?” he simply took what he felt he was entitled to, over my objections and physical resistance, and left me feeling used and sick to my stomach.
I didn’t tell you about the occasions where he could have killed me without touching me.
I didn’t tell you about the time that I was having a gynaecological emergency and he sat there stone-faced. And when, by the providence of God I was saved from death, he bought me a cup of coffee and I was so beaten down by that point that I raved for months about how much he cared for me.
I didn’t tell you that one time when I was pregnant and became acutely unwell, the midwife had to ask him to leave the room because he was arguing with me about what I felt. And when that didn’t work, he insisted that I was exaggerating or maybe I had made myself sick. He spent most of that time pressuring me to leave the hospital. And he said that if I died and the baby died, that would be God’s will.
I didn’t tell you that the one thing he threw at me was a huge, heavy Bible.
I didn’t tell you that he was physically and mentally abusing the children with the kinds of tactics that torturers use. I didn’t tell you that the children begged me not to leave them alone in the house with him.
I didn’t tell you that I left once, and he begged and pleaded and promised, and I went back. And it got worse.
I didn’t tell you that the day I left for good, he had not spoken a word to me for weeks, apart from demanding that I come with him to co-sign on a loan for yet another item which I knew we could not afford.
I didn’t tell you that after I left, he harassed me nonstop for a very long time, switching at a manic pace between apologies and threats and invectives.
“I love you I love you please come home….you stupid idiot…please, I miss you….those women at church who you talk to are manipulating you…I love you please come home….I will abandon you and you’ll be held responsible for all the debts I’ve run up….I miss you, come home, I promise things will change….aren’t you ashamed to have run back to your family….please come home please please….you will ruin the children….I love you…”
I didn’t tell you all these things because I was a good little Christian girl who doesn’t make waves and still thought I had to protect my abuser in some way.
Now you know why I didn’t come back.