I have been coming back to try to keep up with the conversations on the last post, and when I make a Resources Link, I think I’ll add the link to that post because the experiences and insights from all of you would be priceless to someone new that was looking for help.
Yesterday I was too exhausted to write. It will be five years in September that my son was hit by a car on a bike. He was on a bike provided by his school, and the brakes failed. I can’t really write more of the details, because even after all this time, it’s still not resolved legally. I will say that it’s a nightmare to fight a big insurance company with deep pockets. We had a long phone call with the attorney, and that was what just took it out of me. Gone are the days of much emotional energy reserve. I live in a state of triage with my energy anymore.
We’re all individuals here. We may differ in age, ethnicity, nationality, faith, personality, and cultures. We’re all individuals of worth who have experienced the impact of a kind of diminishing that is covert, subtle, and implacable. Passive aggressive abuse defies reason, and because it wasn’t reasonable, it hid in plain sight as we searched for a reasonable response and understanding. It weakened, sickened, debilitated, and stole from us while we were swinging at ghosts.
I’d like to continue where I left off, with trying to answer comments from lonelywife (who is a valued and respected poster here). Below is her comment, and I’m following with a time snapshot from the past:
“I realize after reading so many “stories” that I don’t have it so bad with PA Man…he’s so into making himself look great, that I can do whatever I want…shop, go to lunch with friends, get involved with community service, etc. because he can then brag about how he “spoils me”…and “encourages ” me to do these things…whatever!” (lonelywife77)
I don’t think my husband has ever overtly discouraged me (not in a way that could be seen as discouragement by outsiders). Over the years, I’ve come to see what I viewed as ‘support’ as being something non-threatening to him, and that means he didn’t undermine or sabotage me. It was so convoluted that in the midst of it, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
For example, there were times in years past that I took classes (that didn’t lead to independence, these were okay), worked in ministries, taught a Bible study, taught Sunday school, worked part-time or temp jobs, and was the main photographer in a large private school that my homeschooled kids were enrolled in (this in exchange for tuition) . And yes, lol… even went shopping! With his ‘support’. He seemed perfectly happy about it, and there was no problem. Maybe no genuine interest in what I was learning or doing, but no sabotage. Even better was when I could find ways to include him, which meant being able to shine the light on him or give him the credit. Instinctively, I did that without admitting it.
In the beginning, my going back to school was a huge issue of covert sabotage. When he asked me to marry him, I wanted to wait a year. My young life had been in turmoil, and I wanted to get a year of university under my belt before we got married. He vowed and promised that my education would be his priority. He painted his ‘support’ in such glowing, positive terms, that it sounded quite wonderful, touched my heart, and I agreed to marrying much sooner.
The reality played out quite differently. We had our first child sooner than I planned (that happens sometimes). When she was almost two years old, I brought up The Plan for me to get to back to school. He agreed in such ‘supportive’ language, and seemed all for it. He went with me to the university near us in our Midwestern city, so I could pick up their catalog and applications etc. I was so excited! It had been a rough and rocky time right from day one in our marriage, and now I felt maybe things would take a turn for the hopeful better.
I began to dream and hope. Choose classes, fill out the application forms. When it was time to turn in all the forms and a registration payment, he ‘reluctantly’ and ‘sadly’ told me that we just couldn’t swing it financially. But next year! (he promised) Guess what? He was speaking the words to someone who had grown up with financial instability, and wouldn’t voluntarily cause financial turmoil. I feared financial instability (even though it’s become my life). I agreed to wait… a year.
The next year, we were living in a different state near the Rocky Mountains, and off we went again to the nearest university. Same thing. We walked around, I got excited, picked up the catalog and application, and moved towards my enrollment. Until he ‘sadly’, really ‘sadly’ explained that we were still recovering from some extra costs etc., and he was so ‘sorry’ but if I could just wait… one more year… everything would work out and The Plan would be a green light.
I was so young. Mid-twenties. Busy, active, determined, vocal, strong, and hopeful. Naturally, I was getting suspicious at this point. Just slightly, but there was always enough rationale for it to theoretically make sense. Also, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and believed him, with a small, niggling question in my gut, but I hadn’t yet learned to listen to that.
Our oldest son was born near the Rocky Mountains, and then shortly after that we moved again, this time to Montana. I’d hemorrhaged after that birth, had transfusions, and so I was weak and sick when we moved (he was six months old). By the time he was nearing two, I was recovered and ready to resume The Plan. I had my sea legs back with two kids, I’d become good friends with the assistant pastor’s wife, began working out at the Y, and was ready to fully engage with my future goals. We went to the college where we lived, and this time I was almost glaring at him, daring him to ‘do it again’. Picked up the forms, began filling them out, and of course, it happened again. Only this time he wasn’t quite so ‘sad’ when he told me. He was more subtly angry, defiant, and defensive. He painted a very good picture of himself as having the best intentions, and doing his very best, and somehow it was demanding, ungrateful me that wasn’t working as a team. If I could just be patient. Did I expect him to do more than his best? Bet you all know this drill.
We moved again to yet another state. This time it was southern CA, and at the time, you could go to a community college for only fifty dollars plus books. Yes, no matter how many units I took in a semester, only fifty dollars plus books! When I found that out, I was like a small storm unleashed. I stared at him (because deep inside, not acknowledged consciously, I was expecting sabotage) in a take-no-prisoners way and let him know that there was absolutely no reason for me to not do this. He agreed (of course), and the ‘support’ was voiced. I was so happy. So ridiculously and extremely happy. I went to the college (by myself), filled out the forms, checkbook in hand, registered, and bought my books. I took the entrance exams, and was immediately placed in all honor classes.
Looking back, it was the best and worst of times. I had so much hope, that each reality check from a passive aggressive snipe attack, or withholding punishment, felt like a death knell was tolling, while simultaneously I was able to talk myself out of it and go full steam ahead. I was getting solid A’s, and led two courses as the top student among all the freshman enrolled (including Biology). I was in my late twenties, constantly mistaken as having just graduated from high school, and asked out on dates (which I thought was funny and annoying at the time). I thought I was so old. Wow. If only I could go back in time and talk to her!
The downside was that there was constant and subtle teflon pressure and tiny sabotages and hidden punishments going on at home. Could I connect it to my going to school and doing so well? Only the suspicion in my deepest gut, and certainly not to explain to any outsider. If I’d even tried to acknowledge it and explain it, I would have sounded paranoid, crazy, and like some unappreciative nag. Because he was handsome, funny, charming, worked hard, helped with the kids and pets, and disarmed people with his smile and humor. I was inwardly becoming wary with no outside validation for it whatsoever.
The one thing that was a legitimate challenge was childcare. I viewed it as the sticking point for me to keep going and succeeding to reach my educational goals. Since my conscience worked over-time, it was difficult to justify that expense (at the time it was difficult, now it wouldn’t be). I came up with the perfect plan when I realized that every class I needed for the next semester was offered in the evening! How lucky was that? I felt like nothing could stand in my way now, at least not for the next semester.
How wrong was I? I finished the first semester on the dean’s list with honors. Semester two and I was full of excitement and hope. Barely days into the second semester, as I stood pacing and waiting for him to get home from work (dinner made, house cleaned, laundry done), the phone rang. He was going to be late. So sorry. He’d get there as soon as he could. I walked into class when it was half over. When you take an evening course, it’s like taking 2-3 day classes in one session, so missing half a class is bad. I scrambled to connect with other students to get notes and assignments. I was stressed. Really stressed.
You all know the rest of this story, right? Another phone call. So sorry, but he had to work tonight. Another phone call. So sorry, he had no choice but to work late. This missing class or missing half a class continued for half a semester. The stress of trying to keep up was draining and overwhelming me. I dropped out in the middle of the semester. I felt beaten and demoralized. Deep inside, very deep inside, came the skeptical questions of why suddenly he had to work late or work evenings. That just happened ‘coincidentally’ when I was taking evening classes. I wasn’t at the point yet to consider he was just… a liar… or to call him one. But the seeds of doubt were planted.
I certainly hadn’t reckoned or considered that he might actually want to hurt me… intentionally. That was just so wrong that it couldn’t find a reasonable place in my thoughts when I weighed and analyzed things.
Meanwhile, he’d continue to be consistently inconsistent at behaving as though he loved me. So I bobbed up and down on that roller coaster, always seeing that sparkling magical carrot just barely out of reach. I still believed that love would make us turn a corner, and bring our happy ending. I don’t know that it was about my loving him, but my believing that loving him was the right thing to do.
Circumstances arose that required my working some temp jobs, and that distracted me. It also ate up more time, but I was too young to see the big picture. I began to consider a new plan that would lead to my finishing my educational goals. I certainly didn’t plan to give it up.
“The years teach much the days never know.” Ralph Waldo Emerson