The first topic I want to focus on is how perpetrators are not obvious about their true nature. Duh, if we victims knew from day one, do you think we’d even pursue him? No. Our perpetrators seem like normal, loving, individuals, and the possibility of abuse being present in the relationship is far from being obvious in the beginning.
I was 18, fresh out of high school and not getting along too well with my parents. I wanted to drink and party, and they wanted me to live my life to the standards and values I had learned growing up. I was going through a difficult time in my young, adolescent life. My ex-husband and I met in a restaurant where I was working. I was his server, and he was with a bunch of his buddies. I wasn’t in the habit of giving out my number, but he was cute, charming, and I lost a bet to him, so I gave it to him. After talking with him over the phone, I learned that he was in the military and from a large city back east. Things moved pretty quickly for us. I went to parties with him on the military base and we did exciting, fun activities. At parties, guys who would hit on me would immediately back off when I said who I was there with. At first I thought that was a sign that the other guys respected him, but now I know it was not that at all (I’ll explain that later). We visited his hometown, (I will call it Big City), after only two months dating, and I fell in love with the city, and the spontaneous trip we took together.
After two months of dating, he got deployed for seven months. I was in love with him, or so I thought. I had a hard time with the separation. I wrote him every single day. I sent him care packages. My whole evening revolved around the possibility that he would call me within a certain timeframe. I was smitten.
When he returned after his seven months deployment, things began to change, although I wouldn’t admit that something was different for many years. When I would go visit him on base, he would play video games non-stop. He didn’t seem to care that I was there, but when I wasn’t, he’d always try to get me to come, mainly to be intimate. We’d go get dinner or go to parties, but it wasn’t the same. When we were with other guys, my ex would get into heated debates with them constantly. My uneducated, immature teenage self saw this as passion and knowledge for what he was debating about. But, he wouldn’t ever let me in on the conversation. I would just sit there as if I was a spectator at a presidential debate.
One evening, about a month after we started dating, while he was driving with me in my car, we got in an argument. He told me that someday, he planned on sharing a house with his best friend and his wife and kids. Not because they had no where to stay, but because he just wanted it that way. I didn’t like that idea, and after voicing it to him, he flipped out. We were driving on base (he was behind the wheel), where I was unfamiliar (I wasn’t in the military yet at the time). He screamed and yelled at me like never before. He stopped the car, forced me out (of MY CAR!), and drove off. I was on a military base with customs and rules and gates that I was unfamiliar with. I was scared and felt trapped. I couldn’t even have any family or friends come pick me up because they wouldn’t have the military ID to get on.
About five minutes later, he came back. He didn’t say a word. He drove me to his dorm room and left me there. He went to a party without me. When he came back, a little drunk, I felt like I had to apologize for his actions. Although I felt strongly about how I felt about the argument, I already knew, just that once, that if I didn’t agree with him and apologize, I would lose. I was scared too. So I apologized and we went to the party as if nothing happened.
Many of you may be thinking, “why didn’t she just leave him then?” Well, I can’t give you a straight answer. The good traits he had, the fun things we did together, the excitement of him being in the military, were all enough to keep me in his grip. I thought that this would be the worst of his behavior, and that I must have really hurt his feelings by not agreeing with his dream.
A week later, he got discharged from the military because of some trouble he got into while he was deployed. (Another warning sign I did not see!) He had to move back to Big City in 30 days, and he offered to take me with him. Because of my relationship at home, I said yes. We had only known each other for 10 months, and 7 of those were while he was deployed, but I went. It was a long drive, and when it was my turn to drive, I took a wrong turn, and he yelled at me. Called me degrading names. I remember thinking, “what have I done?” but it was too late to turn back.
I’d like to end this post here. I want to point out the warning signs to this point before I continue my story. Although there was no physical abuse at this point, there was some extreme emotional abuse going on. The first major, major sign is isolation. He took me from my family, from the west coast to the Midwest, thousand’s of miles away, to isolate me from everything familiar and everyone I knew. He knew he had me wrapped around his finger. He never wanted to meet my family, and everything we ever did was always with his friends, on his terms. Isolation. I forgot to mention too that even though my family only met him once or twice, they did not like him.
Another warning sign is the arguing. When he would “debate” with other people, it was all one-sided. He was the “expert” on every subject. Abusers use this tactic to control their victims, to confuse them, to stop them from voicing their opinions and feelings. Another sign was obviously kicking me out of my car and stranding me. He did this to scare me, to control me. If he scared me enough, I’d agree with him. And it worked. When guys would back off after finding out I was with him, that wasn’t respect. They worked with him. They knew that he was trouble, and they didn’t like how he treated others. They backed off because they didn’t want to associate with him, or make him mad and get in a fight, verbally or physically.
I intend on using the book I mentioned in my introduction post to explain some of the things I’ve experienced, so if you have the chance, I really hope you can start reading it. I will start on that tomorrow as I go deeper into the advanced stages of my relationship with him and the abuse that steadily got worse. Thank you for reading.