You tell yourself it’s just a bad day. A bad week. A rough patch. You make excuses. He has a lot going on. He’s stressed. He’s taking it out on me, but I can take it. You rationalize. He had a bad childhood. You’ll prove to him that not everyone leaves. What real love is. You tell yourself that you’re a tough cookie. You’re smart. Smarter than others, maybe. You of all people can make this work.
It doesn’t get better. You find yourself avoiding family and friends so you don’t have to lie. So you don’t have to become That Woman. So you don’t have to say That Word. If The Word is never spoken, by you or anyone else, then maybe it won’t be true. You can still have a handle on it. Have some sort of control of the situation.
People will think you are a victim. And have all of the stigmatic characteristics that come with that word. People will not understand why you stayed. What they don’t understand is that it’s not about you having low-self esteem or believing that you somehow deserve this. It’s not about believing that you are worthless or that you can’t do any better. It’s about the complexities of love. It’s about the in good times and in bad. It’s about loyalty and working through things. It’s about believing that this is something that can be worked through. It’s not about being weak. It’s about trying to be strong. It’s about wanting to help someone who is sick. It’s about believing that you can fix it. That everything will be ok. What people don’t understand is that it is about hope.
It gets worse. The screaming. The name-calling. The tearing-down, piece by piece. The avoiding everyone. The isolation. The weight loss. The reading of your emails, the taking away of your phone. The threats. The gun to the dog’s head. The waking up every single morning with a pit in your stomach, not knowing if it will be an Alright Day or a Very, Very Bad Day.
I will not let my child grow up in this. I will not let my child grow up in this. I will slit his throat in his sleep so that my child will not grow up in this.
And then you realize that it is time.
Here’s how you get out.
You tell yourself you don’t have to live like this anymore and you believe it.
Listen to me.
You tell yourself you don’t have to live like this anymore. And you believe it.
You call one person. You tell them the truth. All of it.
You go to the police. You tell them the truth. All of it.
You get an emergency restraining order.
You let people help you. You let go of the burden of hiding this. Of managing it alone.
You put one foot in front of the other and go from there. One hour at a time. One day at a time.
And then one day, you are out. The worst is over. There may be memories, there may be flashbacks, there may be a particular song or smell that triggers a bad feeling. But it is behind you.
You begin to rebuild. And it becomes your past, not your present. Not your future.
This is how you get out.
If you are thinking that maybe you should get out, you can. You can do it. Tell someone. Tell one person. Anyone. Today. Right now. Do it.
It is so much better on this side of the fence.