Imagine your ideal honeymoon. Somewhere tropical maybe. Nice dinners, alone time with your new spouse, and lots of sex. While I was somewhere tropical and did have nice dinners, I did NOT have alone time with my spouse, and we did NOT have lots of sex. Instead, I was pushed aside, a third wheel, heartbroken, and left wondering if I had made the right choice.
If you’ve followed my blog, you know the abuse started happening within the first month we started dating. We got married after two and a half years of knowing each other, and the abuse was steadily getting worse. Yet, I still wanted to marry him. There’s a lot of theories to why abused women stay with their abuser and agree to marry them, one being traumatic attachments. I’m going to share a section from the book, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Mind of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft, and then I’ll tell you what happened on my honeymoon:
“Almost no abuser is mean or frightening all the time. At least occasionally he is loving, gentle, and humorous and perhaps even capable of compassion and empathy. This intermittent, and usually unpredictable kindness is critical to forming traumatic attachments. When a person, male or female, has suffered harsh, painful treatment over an extended period of time, he or she naturally feels a flood of love and gratitude toward anyone who brings relief. But in situations of abuse, the rescuer and the tormentor are the very same person. When a man stops screaming at his partner and calling her a ‘useless piece of shit’, and instead offers to take her on a vacation, the typical emotional response is to feel grateful to him” (p. 220-221)
Even though I suffered abuse from him, he still acted loving, caring, doting, and would at times be a completely different person. When he seemed to completely love me, of course I wanted to marry him. The book continues to say:
“Your abusive partner’s cycles of moving in and out of periods of cruelty can cause you to feel very close to him during those times when he is finally kind and loving. You can end up feeling that the nightmare of his abusiveness is an experience the two of you have shared and are escaping from together, a dangerous illusion that trauma can cause. I commonly hear an abused woman say about her partner, ‘He really knows me’ or ‘No one understands me the way he does’. This may be true, but the reason he seems to understand you well is that he has studied ways to manipulate your emotions and control your reactions. At times he may seem to grasp how badly he has hurt you, which can make you feel close to him, but it’s another illusion; if he could really be emphatic about the pain he has caused, he would stop abusing you for good” (p. 221)
About six months into our wedding planning, my abuser told me that he had invited his longtime friend, his “brother” he met serving in the military, and his wife to go with us on our cruise, our honeymoon. He never asked me, because of course I would say no, and when I argued, he told me they had already bought tickets. I am not against cruising with another couple; it would be fun! But not for our honeymoon. I wanted to soak in the sun, go on excursions, dance, eat dinner, etc. ALONE with my new husband; have lots of sex. Is that crazy of a newlywed to ask?
I tried to stay optimistic. I feared the consequences of arguing with him further, so I instead tried to find ways we could still spend time alone. We agreed we’d do excursions on our own, and part of me, although the nagging voice in the back of my mind said otherwise, began to accept that this wouldn’t be a bad experience.
The week before our wedding, my abuser’s friend’s wife informed us that they were getting a divorce. She would not be coming to the wedding or on the cruise. I instantly felt a flood of relief that this meant they wouldn’t be coming with us, but was also heartbroken that they were ending their marriage. Unfortunately, his friend still insisted on going on the cruise with us, and no matter how much I attested to it, my abuser called me selfish and told him to come.
We didn’t have sex once on our honeymoon. My nights were spent dancing with a couple of girls I became friends with on the boat because my abuser would spend all of his nights getting drunk and playing blackjack, ignoring my playful advances to get him to come to the room. I saved up about $2,000 just for shopping or an extra excursion, money he didn’t even know about until we got on the ship, and he gambled it all away. There were times where I welcomed some alone time to tan out on the deck, but when it was time to meet at a designated location, he would be nowhere in sight and I’d spend about 30 minutes trying to find him and his friend.
While we were in Belize, we spent a lot of time with a group of people we had just met. My plan of having some alone time for excursions was failing, and now I had to make small talk with people I barely knew just because my abuser’s friend was sleeping with one of the girls. We were about to get on the second to last ferry back to the ship when my abuser and his friend decided they were going to jump the gate to the rest of the city where tourists were not allowed to go. I begged him not to go, worrying that he wouldn’t make it back in time for the last ferry. He ignored my concerns and made me go back to the ship without him, with my new friends. I will never forget the fear and anger I felt as I sat on the ferry, watching the land get smaller, my husband of three days risking being stranded or possibly getting into trouble as he jumped the fence.
He promised to meet me on one of the decks when they got back. The captain came over the PA and said the last ferry had arrived and we were preparing to leave. After 20 minutes, my abuser still didn’t show up. And before I knew it, we were sailing away from Belize without my husband. Instant, crippling panic overcame me. I couldn’t believe he would do this! I ran to our cabin, but he wasn’t there. I went to the dining room, and he wasn’t at our table. Finally, I checked the casino, and sure enough, he was gambling. When I confronted him, he told me I was overreacting and he “forgot” to tell me he was back on the ship. Turns out, he got in trouble with one of the local cops who claimed he had bought drugs, which they have zero tolerance for, but he sweet talked his way out of it, proving he didn’t have any. Looking back I wouldn’t be surprised if he did actually buy drugs.
We did have some fun on an excursion, but the rest of the cruise was miserable for me. One night, I decided to let him know how I felt, and to ask him if he could tell his friend to allow us more alone time. That was a huge mistake. We were on a deck, surrounded by people, and he yelled at me as loud as he could, calling me names, telling me I’m selfish, needy, and immature. Everyone stared at me, while tears escaped my eyes, as he stormed off to go drink. I ran back to my cabin and just bawled. I had just married this person who had so hurtfully embarrassed me, someone I supposedly loved, and we couldn’t even make it through our honeymoon without fighting. I have always tried to make the best of any situation, and still found ways to have a enjoyable time, but mostly alone, while my husband spent more time with his friend than his new wife.
For years I’ve been embarrassed to tell anyone about what happened on our cruise. I finally told my parents, and they were shocked, of course. The crazy thing about domestic violence is that so many forms and types of abuse are present. It takes years for the victim to even comprehend the type of abuse she experienced. Yes, he didn’t physically harm me on the honeymoon. But I experienced severe emotional abuse and even sexual abuse while on that honeymoon.
Sexual abuse is more than being assaulted. It includes a partner who consistently has sex to fulfill his needs, but doesn’t fulfill his end of the bargain to make sure her needs are filled, who forces sex upon her (even refusing to stop sexual advances in a marriage is considered abuse), who does things to the victim that she isn’t comfortable with but ignores her concerns, and even withholds or refuses to have sex to establish power and control over the victim. Abusive men that withhold sex or refuse could be doing so to punish, because of drugs, because of affairs, and to use sex as a way to get what he wants. I’m not saying that any relationship where an individual turns down sex must be abuse, but when combined with other types of violence, it is likely he could be doing so to establish control and power. I believe my abuser withheld abuse on our honeymoon to establish control over me, to remind me that our new marriage would be under HIS conditions, adding to the fact that he disregarded me for most of our honeymoon.
It has been 16 months now since we separated. Our divorce is still not final, but I am not giving up hope. I know that I will eventually be free from abuse, completely, and be free to court after a man that will never abuse me, and treat me with love and respect. I wish I could tell you that after all of this time he doesn’t have a hold over me any longer, but even today, I realized that I am still suffering from his abuse.
I am recovering from shoulder surgery, pain I’ve been experiencing for five years. What I thought was rotator cuff repair turned out to be stabilizing the tendons in my shoulder that were damaged as a result of being dislocated multiple times throughout the last five years. When the doctor went over the findings of my surgery, he asked if my abuser (I disclosed that I was a survivor for a different injury) had ever twisted my arm behind my back, and I reported that he had, so many times I lost count. The dislocation and severe damage to my shoulder was because of my abuser. The years of physical therapy, cortisone shots, MRI’s, medical bills, light-duty waivers, difficulty doing my job, are all because of him. I haven’t felt the amount of anger and betrayal that I felt today for a few months now. It’s a hard realization that he not only slapped, choked, punched, and shoved me, but his abuse created such a chronic physical problem in my life that has affected me even 16 months after leaving him.
I can promise you that it does get better. You will find that as each day goes on, you grow stronger. You realize just how much freedom he took from you, that you now have back. You understand the severity of your situation, and are grateful that you had the courage to leave. If you are thinking about leaving, know that it truly is the best thing for you. I will be blunt and say that the pain never fully goes away, but like the information I learned today, use your hurt, pain, loss, heartache, to remind yourself how far you’ve come, and that you deserve peace and happiness from the constant abuse you endure.
Thank you all for getting me to about 1,000 followers. I can hardly believe it! We will get through this together.