Read This When You Want to go Back

  • Unable to Compromise
    • He could never do something that one of us liked and one of us disliked.  We always had to find something we both agreed on and so there was rarely a time in which both of us were happy with the chosen route.  I felt that I was the unhappy person more often than not, though I am not sure he knew that. I would agree to things I only kind of wanted, mostly because I wanted him to be happy and his happiness was more important than my dissatisfaction.  But he would only agree to things he actually wanted to.  He didn’t do things he didn’t want to just because I would enjoy them.
      • Things = movies, visiting gardens, restaurants, vacations, etc.
      • I have to admit, he did agree to things he didn’t want to occasionally.  But he would make sure I knew that every minute was grueling torture.
  • Anxiety attacks
    • His refusal to admit he experienced anxiety attacks in new social settings was frustrating, particularly when he then blamed his discomfort on me. Then he would shutdown and shut me out.
  • Easily threatened
    • He felt he lost worth as man if I was unable to orgasm.
    • He felt he lost worth as a man if he was not able to be the breadwinner and then put my words in my mouth by saying that I looked down on him for not being the breadwinner.
    • He felt he lost worth as a man if I suggested bringing toys into the bedroom.
    • Oh don’t even get me started on anything that even looked similar to feminism or gender equality.
    • Something was always wrong with my family – we were spoiled, rich, gave too many gifts, weird, shopped too much, and privileged.  It made him uncomfortable.
  • Everything was black and white
    • He had this inability to hold 2 conflicting ideas at the same time, like he was stuck with a 4 year old’s reasoning ability.
    • Discussions of subjects like gender equality and racism were always issues that left him feeling threatened and defensive.
    • There was definitely only one right way to load a dishwasher, do laundry, train a dog, raise a kid, etc.  And that was his way.
    • He could not accept that life isn’t fair and some people are just more privileged, rich, etc., and that that did not make him any less valuable.
  • Manipulation
    • He manipulated me into our first time having sex.
    • He would shut down if we didn’t have sex when and how he wanted.
    • He would say that I hadn’t been clear enough when I tried setting boundaries – I now know this is a form of gas lighting.
      • When I told him I didn’t want him spending time alone with *her,* he said he thought that meant being alone in public, so taking her to lunch was ok.  Apparently I had just not been clear.
  • Gas lighting/manipulation 
    • He made me feel stupid and childish, as if I needed a parent constantly hovering over me to ensure I didn’t do anything foolish enough to endanger my life or the lives of others.
    • When we were planting peonies, he noticed his hole did not look like mine.  He asked why, so I showed him the directions that I had offered to him only minutes before.  He threw down his shovel and stormed off, despite that I said nothing (and did not care) about the differences in our holes.
    • He told me my vagina smelled and was dirty.  He rarely (once a year, maybe not even) went down on me.  When he did, he made sure I knew he was doing it for me and that I should be grateful.
    • He wanted to only drive manual transmission cars.  He wanted to extend that to me. He told me that “driving stick builds character and keeps you focused.”  So we sold my automatic and got a second stick shift.
    • He convinced me that it was my fault, that I was doing things that made him mad, made him ignore me, and made him shut down or storm off.
    • He often expressed anger that we weren’t presenting a united front as a married couple -things like me excusing myself from his/our board game nights because it was a work night and I had to wake up early.
  • Mental health
    • He refused to look into medications, therapy, or treatment for himself & he was never comfortable with my endeavors to improve, which included explorations into prescribed medications, therapy, or treatment.
    • He prioritized his career/service over personal mental health and over marriage.  That’s why he never mentioned his suicidal ideations to his military unit.  He needed and wanted to deploy.  They don’t let you deploy if you’re “crazy.”
  • Other things
    • He did not believe being alone with other women as a married man was a problem.
    • He had this obsession with making our lives like Friends, HIMYM, That 70’s Show, etc. He was convinced our lives could and should be filled with constant and unending fun, that friends should be around or living with us 24/7.  He wanted non-stop, spontaneous adventure/hijinks as often as possible, on a daily or weekly basis, if possible.
    • I was constantly trying to fix things, make him happy, help our marriage, ease things, trying to spend time with him, trying to be sexy, dropping everything to spend time with him or make the house clean or make him happy or serve him.
Things I want in my SO next time:
  • Must not read at the dinner table
  • Must be willing to eat meals at dinner table
  • Must be willing to spend half of holidays with my family, if possible
  • Must be ok with meatless meals every once in a while
  • Must go to “girly” restaurants without complaining (soup & sandwich, tapas, international, etc)
  • Must go to church/raise kids in church
  • Must make enough money for me to stay home, if I want to/Must be ok with my working, if I want to
  • Must understand racism and sexism exist and not allow them to threaten his manhood
  • Must occasionally (2-3x annually) be able to do thing he doesn’t want to do (girly movies, theater, dancing, gardens)
  • Must be willing to seek therapy/professional help, when needed
  • Must be able to commit to marriage for life – divorce is not an option
  • Must let me tease him without becoming offended
  • Must plan time alone/dates for us (6 annually?)/make time to be alone with me and ask me ahead of time
  • Must occasionally ask me out to eat or take me somewhere fancy so I can dress up and feel beautiful
  • Must not want roommates, ever, if at all humanly possible
  • Must have or be willing to follow a financial plan
  • Must be ok with me loading dishwasher or doing the laundry differently than him
  • Must be willing to put up with me -a bubbly morning person!
  • Must not be interested in threesomes or polyamorous or LGBT
  • Must agree that, unless specifically ok-ed by spouse and all details spelled out, hanging out alone with non-family opposite sex without one’s spouse present is not appropriate (including roommates) -crowded bars and restaurants are still alone
  • Must have the ability to be romantic – including a knock-out amazing proposal

Cheating and Killing. In Reverse.

This is a story told backwards.  This a story that starts small and then adds layers.  Please be gentle.  You can choose to stop where you want, where your judgement lands.  You can choose to go back as far as you want.

You can have compassion for anyone if you know their whole story.

January 15 – “You deserve this.  I am going to teach you a lesson.  You are mine.  No one else’s.  Got that?”
I spread my legs and brace myself.  I feel him behind me.  I feel a little frightened, but thankful that at least he isn’t leaving.  He is angry, understandably.  I hurt him.

January 15 – “I slept with someone.  I am asking you for forgiveness.  I am sorry.”

I told my my husband that I slept with another man the day after he returned from a 7 month deployment to an embassy in a war zone/area with hazard pay.

October – I felt horrible.  For months, I struggled with depression.  I asked a friend to take my firearm from the house so I would not be tempted.  I prayed daily, asking God for help to make it through.  I confessed to the chaplain’s wife.

July – He was kind and respectful, he told me I needed to just relax and get out, forget about what happened.  I trusted him, so I said yes.  There ended up being alcohol, loneliness, grief, and confusion.  There are no excuses, just context.  It happened.  One time.  Then I cut him off.  Never again.  No one else knew.  I could keep it a secret, if I wanted.

June 3 – “Gunny told me to call.  What’s wrong?”

I told him, but he said he couldn’t support me through this.  He needed to focus on his task and he was literally oceans away.  He was protecting the world from evil.   Couldn’t I call my family or lean on the other wives? Oh, of course he still needed me to send him a dirty video to help him out, and a few erotic emails, but he would let his family know to keep an eye on me, from where they were, 1,000 miles away.

June 2 – She didn’t make it.  Neither did her unborn child.

I never saw her -not until her limp body flew by driver’s side window.  Completely parallel to the ground.  The only sound I can remember is the screeching of my tires.

I myself just a newlywed -4 months into marriage, 2 months into a move that put me thousands of miles away from any family or friends, 1 month into his first deployment.

She ran across the highway at dusk.  A teenage girl.  An immigrant.  I’m sure she was kind and beautiful, but I will never know.

I was driving home from work.  Oh my God.  Oh my God.  Oh my God.

Sometime in between – If he didn’t care that I was a virgin and that he took that precious gift,  what was the point of all of that hard work and all of those repressed desires for so many years?  Maybe I should have slept with everyone I wanted to.  There were not that many.  Maybe I missed out.  He slept with other girls before me, after all.  He didn’t try waiting for me. He didn’t attempt to show me his love and commitment by saving himself for me.

Did he really value that he was the only one I had ever slept with?  Did he simply use me to get what he wanted, not caring for the years of effort and abstinence I had committed to, trudged through, in an effort to be the best damn wife I could be?  He said he didn’t care.  He didn’t think of it as sacred.  Just a physical act between two consenting adults.  Did I marry him because I slept with him?  Did I marry him because I had committed to only sleeping with my husband, and I had slept with him, so he must be my husband?  So much guilt and confusion.

So much hurt and pain and perceived betrayal.  He didn’t care that I had given him that precious gift, nor did he care that I had worked so hard to keep it safe from others.  He didn’t even try to do the same for me.  He said it wasn’t important.  But it was.  It was my identity.  It was my value.  It was my faith.

2.5 Years Earlier –  “I thought you meant you never had before, not that you didn’t want to.”

I must not have been clear when I tried to explain that I didn’t want to go all the way.   Everyone is going to be so disappointed in me.  God is sad, I know it.  My friends will be too.  My entire identity was based on being a virgin, waiting until marriage, and being a good Christian.  Sure, I made out with boys.  Snogging was fun and I had to have a little fun.  But I let him know that I don’t sleep with guys.  Waiting until marriage is important to me.  I’m a Christian.

5 Years Earlier – “I am leaving your dad because he has slept with over 1,000 men during our 30-year marriage.”  And just like that, my world stopped.  I felt like my dad had died.  And it suddenly made sense why I felt I was so unlovable.  I cried for days.  I still felt unlovable, but at least I knew a little bit more about why.

1 Decade Earlier – The preacher said that if I wait until my wedding night, my future husband will be so proud.  My innocence will be like a wedding gift, a perfect gift, for my husband. He will cherish it.  How else will he know that I love him and no one else?  Sure, people will tell you that you won’t know what you really want if you don’t take it for a “test drive,” but if you are only ever going to buy one car in your entire life, what’s the point?  Wait until marriage, then you will earn your white dress.




An Ugly Word

Abuse is such an ugly word.  It’s still hard for me to say.  I am coming to terms with it, but slowly and in my own way.

Abuse is a serious word.  It conjures up bruises and violence, screaming and brokenness.  Surely I didn’t voluntarily offer myself up for this kind of treatment?  Surely I wasn’t so blind and naive, lacking such self worth that I let it happen? That kind of thing only happens to girls on the other side of the track, uneducated girls whose dads left before they were born.  It certainly doesn’t happen to perfect little girls like me.

Abuse seems almost like a trophy of which I am undeserving.  What I went through is nothing like the horror stories of self preservation and terror that other women go through.  Then again, I have done that before -refused to wear a label because I thought I wasn’t bad enough for it, wasn’t broken enough for it.  Looking back now, I was.  Back then, it was the scarlet letter of Anorexia.  Now it is the scarlet letter of Abuse.  It took years of therapy to manage the first to the point that the voices only yell loudly in the darkest of hours, the voices that I didn’t even know I had until the therapists showed me them.  I am only just beginning to be able to recognize these new voices for what they are:  the voices of Abuse.  Funny how they blend in and hide in the crowd so that you can’t tell them apart from the truth.

He would have told me that the therapists are just making up these problems so they can get paid.  Maybe. But my life sure goes much better when I pay…

I don’t want to think of him as an abuser.  He was the one I chose.  The one I loved.  The one I gave everything to.  He is probably the last one I will ever be that vulnerable with.  He certainly doesn’t think of himself as an abuser.  And in his own way, he was abused.  I believe those wounds are what led him to the place where he thought abuse and manipulation was simply how a relationship was supposed to be, therefore it wasn’t abuse.  Abuse is abnormal, a diverging from the normal.  How would something he knew all his life be abnormal?  So no, it wasn’t abuse to him.

That’s what makes it so hard for me to say it was abuse.  But then again, you don’t get to choose if your actions or words hurt someone.  Only they do.

I worry that he thinks I abused him sometimes.  He did call me controlling once.  I am still not sure exactly why.  Perhaps because I wanted to paint the kitchen grey and the bedroom light blue, whereas he didn’t like painting and thought the colors the house came with were fine.  Perhaps because I insisted on having a wedding after we eloped, and he didn’t understand why I wanted a real wedding so badly.

I wonder if I did abuse him. I certainly made mistakes.  Are mistakes the same as abuse? Is abuse just a series of mistakes that turn into a pattern?   He often said I treated him unfairly.  Perhaps I treated him unfairly one too many times and we both began to abuse each other.  Am I using the word abuse to liberally?

He said I treated him unfairly when he wanted to sex and I didn’t.  Of course, he never felt the same when I wanted sex and he didn’t.  I left him alone when he said no.  But when I said no, there was pouting and surliness, and he made sure I knew his entire value as a man was being decreased solely because of my selfish choice.  I tried not to ever say no.  Mostly because it wasn’t worth having to put up with the chip on his shoulder that every “no” created.  So instead, I just began to dread it.  It became harder to enjoy.  Sometimes, if I thought about someone else instead of him, I could enjoy it.  That sounds horrible.  It feels horrible.  It fills me with guilt and shame.  But if I didn’t pretend or lie about enjoying it, he would insist we go until I did.

Whatever the reasons were and whatever you call it, there is no denying that he made me feel as if I was dumb and unable to form complete plans of action, incapable of accomplishing basic household tasks, and too irresponsible to even be trusted with the smallest of items like driving an automatic vehicle.  I walked on eggshells because I wanted to make him happy, and if I was careless, he would pout, criticize me, or ignore me.  And good wives do not make their husband pout, criticize me, or ignore them.

There were times I messed up.  I said things in our church small group that I realized afterward made him seem careless.  I was trying to make people laugh.  And I hurt him.  I apologized and asked forgiveness.  I cannot remember a single time he asked me for forgiveness when I told him he hurt me.  Can abuse simply be never admitting you were wrong, but always pointing out when someone else is?


Things Lost, Things Unwanted

How many things did I lose trying to win you?
-Romantic movies, walnuts in banana bread, afternoons in art galleries.
How many things did you lose trying to win me?
-Spontaneous adventures, relationships with females, horse backriding?

Did we even know we were giving those things up?  Or did we do it willingly, knowing the other person was worth it, at least for a while?  When did they not become worth it?

When did you begin to lose yourself?
You asked me to find somewhere else to stay, but I planted my roots deeper.
You asked me for a “year break” to find yourself, but I searched harder.

Despite my tantrums, you began taking your time, your activities, your friendships back long before I did.

I was so lost, so wrapped up in trying to be “us,” avoid upsetting you, that I didn’t even know I was saying no to so much that I wanted.
I was trying to say yes to you and to us.  I thought that was what you wanted.  I thought it was what I wanted.

And it was what I wanted.  I was willing to give up everything, my whole self, for us, for the us I wanted it.  Maybe that’s exactly what you didn’t want.

I will now choose to be thankful for the things you didn’t want.  Even if I didn’t have a choice.

Missed Love

I turned my head when you tried to kiss me, and your lips never found a landing place.
You would ask why, and I would respond truthfully that I didn’t know you were even trying to kiss me. It wasn’t on my radar that that was something you would even do.  I was trying to make dinner or put away the groceries.  Kissing was not on my mind.  But you didn’t believe me.  You walked away, silent for the next hour, leaving me alone with my thoughts in the kitchen, knowing I had missed an opportunity to be loved and it was my fault.

You were telling jokes around the campfire.  You looked so good in the glow.  I came over and tried to sit on your lap, but you asked me to move, preferring to be able to drink your beer without spilling, preferring to enjoy the fire without my bones jutting into your quadriceps.  I obliged and went to find another seat, the only one open, too far away to even hold your hand, which was not offered anyway.  I knew I should have respected your desire to talk and enjoy yourself.  Maybe if I had kissed you a little harder to let you know how much I wanted to be near you, but I didn’t and so I will have to try harder to love you next time.

You woke me up. Small and fast thrusts into my back body. Desperate hands pulling me close.  I was tired, but opened anyway.  I didn’t respond, just lay there.  You noted I wasn’t in the state you were hoping, so grabbed that pretty bottle of liquid on the nightstand and tried again. So tired, I don’t even know if you got what you wanted.  I lay there hoping you would, wanting to go back to sleep, but knowing that I had disappointed you. Sometimes I didn’t even care that you would be sad the next morning, that I made you feel rejected in the middle of the night.  I often wondered why I didn’t feel the excitement too.



I thought

I thought you teased me because you thought I was cute.

I thought you taught me how to do things because you wanted me to grow.
I thought the razzing was flirting.
I thought the lack of support was you giving me space to be independent.
I thought the silence was because you were finding your thoughts.
I thought the refusal to compromise was because of standards.
I thought the refusal to stop working was because of a desire to serve.
I thought the constant get-togethers were because you wanted us to be part of community.
I thought the escape into reading was because you wanted to learn.
I thought the late nights without me were because I am a morning person, not a night owl.
I thought your desire to appear unified was because you wanted to actually be a unified team.
I thought your sensitivity to my teasing was because I was out of line.
I thought the lack of roses, gifts, and time were because manly men didn’t do those things.

I still think the disappearances were due to panic attacks.
I still think your biases are rooted in a deep insecurity.
I still think your perfection comes from a fear of abandonment.
I still think your refusal to rest is because you’re afraid of losing your value.
I still think your refusal to seek help comes from a fear of not being enough.
I still think your inability to love me comes from an inability to love yourself.

One Night Mistake

Did I do this to you?

I felt so lonely.  I felt ignored.  I felt jilted because you did not value my virginity as I had.  I felt looked-over.  I felt like I had missed out, like I was missing out.  I wanted your attention, your affection, your smile and laugh, your gifts, your thoughts, your words.  I desperately waited for the ping of your messages or emails.  I didn’t even let myself hope for the ring of a video call, like the other girls did.  I wasn’t that deluded.  You were busy saving the world.  Who was I to hope for a video call?

Instead, I listened to that last voicemail from you, every night, as I fell asleep, alone, in our bed.

Except one night.  One lonely, regrettable, but cathartic night.  He was nice, said I needed a break from the crazy, said he would take me out.  I went.  And I did it.  What I thought I never would.  But you know what?  I cut him off.  The next morning.  Never again.  And I told you as soon as I could.  I begged for forgiveness.  I knew I had done wrong.  I knew I deserved horrible things.  But you said you forgave me.  You said you would move forward and not hold it against me.  You never brought it up again.

But I always wondered, were you the manipulator, the insecure, the deceiver, before I did that?  Or did my sins lead you to that place?  Did I cause your cruelty?  Did I drive you to shutdown with my one night mistake?  I thought honesty would help.  But maybe I drove you to a place of darkness you would have never found if you had never met me, if I had never provoked you.

I did ask you for help.  Once.  I was afraid that one night was going to happen long before it did.  But you said you couldn’t.  Understandably, you had a lot going on, a lot to focus on, a lot more than your lonely wife at home.  But really, how would you have helped, so far from me?  Maybe if I had listened to you and pulled myself together, I wouldn’t be able to ask myself if I caused you to be so cold.

The Victim

You never meant to hurt me.

You are so strong.  That’s why I chose you.
I can see the man in you.  You want to be the best, for yourself and for those you love.
You want to protect and provide for as many as you possibly can, to help them avoid as much pain as possible.

You are a hard worker.  That’s why I chose you.
You excel at everything you do.  You are the best, you make sure of that.
You will not fail.  I know you stayed up late at night worrying.  I was never worried.

But you are broken.  That’s why I wanted you to find healing.
Every action you take is a monumental effort to ignore your wounds long enough for them to scar over.

But I kept ripping them open, breaking bones, hoping they would set correctly this time.  Perhaps I am the cruel one?

The Moments

The moment I chose you:
I was walking home from my stop on the DC metro’s red line, about halfway home and in the middle of the cross walk at Newton and 12th St NE. I was scared and excited all at once and said under my breath, “fuck it, I am going for it.” Even in that moment, I knew that it would turn out to be either one of the grandest adventures of my life or quite possibly my biggest mistake. Looking back now, I know it was both. And I do not regret jumping into that great risk -in the end, both the intoxicating joys and the incomprehensible pains, were worth the risk. I knew I would love him with everything I had, as deeply as I could, for as long as I could.

The moment I knew something was terribly wrong:
Years later, when I saw them driving together in the traffic lane opposite me, him and her, without me, knowing truly he saw her as just a friend, and did not mean any harm to me, I still knew in my heart he was choosing everyone/anyone else over me. I knew in that moment, I couldn’t have him wholly. The moment I asked him to choose me over her/them and he said it would cost me everything, I knew what that meant, but I didn’t want to. I held on, refused to let go. I looked for solutions, excuses, answers, anything to make sense of it and make worth the risk I took in that DC crosswalk.

The moment I gave up on that dream:
I tried everything I could. I screwed up and inflicted wounds onto his precious soul that I did not know was capable of. I prayed many hours, alone and with others, seeking guidance, making suggestions, demands, and ultimatums for what I thought would bring healing. In the end, the moment came when I saw the absence of the ring I had so lovingly and hopefully placed on his left hand. In that moment, I felt in my soul that all was lost. It did not matter the dreams and futures I had envisioned, nor the risk I had taken on and was still willing to endure. He was gone and I had no choice in this time.

The moment I fought for myself:
No matter what you say, it was not a mistake. I knew what I was choosing and the risks that came with it, though I did not quite fully understand them at that time (and who really does?). I will now fight to regain my footing and then my wings. I loved, loved well, loved harder than I knew I could. I fought without a Plan B -some may say that was foolish, and maybe for someone else it would be. But when I love, I go all in, giving everything and holding nothing back. So now I will find my compass and move forward, despite the whispers of failure that feel as if they are closing in. As the lyrics of LaLa Land’s Audition Song go, “Here’s to the ones who dream / Foolish, as they may seem / Here’s to the hearts that ache / Here’s to the mess we make.”