Trigger warning: This post may be upsetting for readers who have experienced violence.
No girl ever grows up wanting to be abused. It’s not like you dreamed of your Prince Charming hitting you. Nobody ever chooses this.
But the thing is, it’s rarely simple.
You meet a guy. He’s lovely. He has problems yes, but so do you. But somehow your imperfections work to make you perfect for each other. He loves you. You love him.
Maybe, you wrestle. Maybe you tickle, and pin each other down. Maybe, sometimes someone gets hurt. Sometimes he hurts you, sometimes you hurt him. It’s not bad. You are just two very physical people, and sometimes you both take it too far. But it’s okay.
Your mother worries. You reassure her that everything’s okay. You start to see less of your friends, because you are so wrapped up in this amazing person who loves you so much. Some of your friends don’t like him, so maybe you see less of them. Somewhere along the line, life changes, maybe you move away with him, and you start to lose contact with friends, and you see your mum less. Suddenly he is all you have.
You still wrestle. Play. Sometimes it gets a bit scary. You need each other so much. Sometimes he gets so intense, so down. You worry about him, so you give more and more of yourself. He is wonderful. But sometimes you wonder about the life you are missing out on, when all of yours is wrapped up in him. You have trouble making friends, and you come to rely on each other so much, but it’s okay.
You get married. Maybe a few people worry about you, you’re so young. But you love each other so much. You are sure that it’s right. You travel, you buy a house. You are happy. You still fight sometimes, now it is less wrestling, and more physical fighting. But you don’t really hurt each other (often). Sometimes his anger can be terrifying. But most of the time, you provoke it. If he hurts you, it’s because you hit him first. So you kind of deserved it. Occasionally you have a really bad fight, one that makes you question every decision you made that led you here. But you love him so much. And he loves you. It’s still okay.
You have kids. That makes things… harder. Maybe he changes jobs, or his job gets more stressful. That starts bringing things out more. You say horrid, unkind things. You are not nice to him. You watch yourself become more bitter, angrier. He gets very angry at you sometimes. He is careful not to leave marks. You start to rationalise things. He is stressed, he is under a lot of pressure. You do provoke him. Sometimes you still hit first, so then you do deserve it. He still loves you. You still love him.
You find yourself drawing lines in the sand. If he ever really beats you. If he ever punches you. If you ever don’t provoke him/deserve it. If he ever hurt one of the kids. If he ever started leaving bruises. If he ever does it without a good reason. The ground shifts and the lines become blurred.
You start to think about what you could do. Where you could go. But now you have children. It isn’t just about you. You don’t work. It’s been years since you earned money. You aren’t qualified for anything. You can’t support them on your own.
You worked so hard with him to create this life. Surely it will get better when he just gets that promotion, or gets a bit more help at work, or makes more money. You just have to hold on, and wait. Things will get better.
Sometimes you still get angry, that’s when he gets really scary. So you try to stop. You try to make yourself smaller. You start to become less you. You don’t feel safe at home sometimes when he’s home. You put on a happy face when you’re out.
You go to church, playgroup, bible study, coffee dates… serene. You are still okay. You can still be okay when you need to. Sometimes when he isn’t home you fall in a big heap. You neglect your children because you are so drained and exhausted. But when he comes home, you put on the mask and try to numb your feelings so his barbs and stings won’t hurt so much.
He can still be lovely. You still love him so much. You still see the good man in there. You are sure things could still be okay.
You enjoy sex less and less. You put it down to the pill, to having children. But it has gotten… nastier. Sometimes you still make love. But more often than not he starts needing things to be dirtier. You don’t like it. You do things you hate.
Sometimes you find yourself just praying and wishing he would have an orgasm so it could be over and you could go have a shower. Sometimes the foul things turn you on, which makes you feel even worse afterwards. He seems to have more trouble coming now than he used to. Sometimes he has to hurt you in order to come. It has grown more degrading. Is it your fault? Are you less attractive?
You start to worry a lot about what the neighbors might be hearing. You watch your children. Terrified of the impact it could be having on them. Your kids seem to fight so much. Is that your fault? Sometimes when you are angry, you recognise the look on your daughter’s face as she recoils. You watch your son’s face as he gets angry. Terror and blame grips your heart. You start praying for things to be okay again.
Somewhere along the line, you realise you have come to believe…. you have no worth. You are stupid, and ugly, and fat, and lazy. You spend too much money. You are a bad wife. A bad mother. A bad person. Everything has lost it’s taste. It’s flavor. You lose your temper with your kids. Sometimes you lose your temper with him. But you pay for it. You always pay for it.
Sometimes, it’s like you are watching your life happen. You say something cruel and bitter, and he smacks you across the face as you hold the baby. When did it come to this? You still love him so much. But you don’t love yourself at all anymore. You question how did we get here? How did I make this happen? What did I do wrong? What can I do? It is so not okay.
You hear of a story about an abused woman, and you realise…. that’s me.
If you need help escaping domestic violence, you can call 1800 RESPECT 24 hours a day.
The author is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous.