When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
– Maya Angelou
I’ve just started reading (and working through) the book But He’ll Change: Ending the Thinking That Keeps You in an Abusive Relationship by Joanna V. Hunter. And I do mean ‘just’. As in, at the beginning of my lunch hour today, only pages into the introduction. The quote from Maya Angelou is there; I’ve heard it before, but it didn’t really click. You know? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure. Got it, moving on. Ms. Hunter pairs it with the following:
Not just the first time he hits you, but the first time he puts you down or makes you feel less than who you are. The first time he runs over your boundaries, or discounts your feelings.
The 2 together really caught my attention. Thinking back to when the relationship with Sam first started out. You know, when it’s supposed to be all rosy and sweet. A new relationship, so exciting and uplifting. Only…not so much. Oh, I know hindsight is 20/20. I know the later events in the relationship are likely coloring my view of the start… But… I so did not believe what he showed me. Jokes about my ethnicity. “Oh, but not you. Not your Mom. You guys are different. And of course, your dad is, what, German?” Oh, okay. He and his friends think that way about Alaskan Natives, but not about us. We’re special.
Sure, I’d end up paying for our dates most of the time. Yeah, I got the last tab, and I’m getting this one; I’m sure he’ll get the next one. I think it’s sweet how he wants us to be financial equals in the relationship.
Sure, I ALWAYS had to drive through the city to the south side for our dates to pick him up. The movie theater out here in the outskirts to the north of town is not as nice as the new ones mid-town. And of course the restaurant I wanted to go to is not nearly as good as the one he wanted to go to. It’d be so helpless-female-ish to expect him to drive when we go out or expect him to meet me there. Besides, his car is always breaking down…
Ummm… Okay. Rosy… rosy… rosy… What was a happy memory? Him teaching me to roller blade. That was nice. That was a nice day. Him taking me to a hilly, gravelly part of town and leaving me… to try to skate… while he skated with his buddies. Oh. Hmmm…
Okay… Christmas Eve that one year! He actually came out to my house! Remember? He was polite to my family and especially to my Mom. Not a single racial joke. Plenty of compliments on dinner and the house.
There’s one! Oh! And on one other Christmas Eve he actually took me to his family’s celebration / open house… And the Christmas Eve’s when we were married, well those were for OUR family. Not to share with my family or his family. Just the 2 – or later the 3 – of us. That’s romantic, right?
Any way. So far, there are a lot of things from the book that I want to copy and paste to my refrigerator, or my mirror, or my computer monitor, and I’m only in the introduction. I’m kind of amazed. Just at the fact that a book I’d bought but put off reading because, well, because I’m already gone from the relationship, still seems to be resonating with how I feel.
So here’s the thing. I’ve been physically gone from living with Sam since April 2008. That’s nearly 4 years. 4 years. 4 YEARS. I’ve been in therapy for dealing with PTSD, recovering from the abuse and rapes that Sam put me through for about 1/2 that time. I’m still finding new insights into how the relationship started out and evolved into one where I stayed with a man who berated me, ridiculed me, intimidated me…. raped me.
4 years. That seems like a really long time. Why does it take so long?