(Update: Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and How to Defeat Each One of Them is now available.)
Here’s an email I got that’ll just about tear your heart out. The author hopes it helps any woman now living in the sort of abusive relationship she managed to escape.
I am still nervous about writing this as I very rarely talk about the time with my husband. However, you seem to have women reading your posts who are still in troubled abusive relationships and I would like to help, to tell my story.
I was 19 when I got married. I met him at a seminary where we were both studying. He appeared to be a gentle, kind, God-fearing man. Our dating was very short and we were married in a little under two years of meeting each other. He first hit me on our wedding night. He apologized profusely and cried and made promises about how he would never do it again. I believed him. A few weeks later it came again—more violent, more angry, terrifying. I didn’t leave. I was scared of what others would think, how my family would react, when they were against the marriage in the first place.
In the next two-and-a-half years I was in the hospital twice with violence related injuries; was in the psych wards twice for attempting suicide; miscarried in the middle of a beating; gained 165 pounds through misery eating; and I developed a drinking problem. I was cut off from my family and friends; I wasn’t allowed to leave the house or socialize. At church I was there to make an appearance, and then packed up and taken home as soon as service was finished. My life wasn’t a life. There is much more I could say but it is still too soon, too hard.
There was one person in my life who brought a ray of sunshine. She was a non-Christian friend, someone whom I thought the least likely to help. My husband hated her because she made me think, challenged my beliefs. She would come round every day and sit and talk and smoke and just be there. I thought she never noticed anything, but have found out since that she knew what was happening, but also knew that if she went to the police I would’ve have bailed him out, stopped talking to her, and lost the only person who could help me in the process. It was unbelievably hard for her to watch me suffer, yet she knew that she was helping.
The night before I left him, my husband put a pillow over my face while I was asleep. For the first time I felt the need to fight back, damn it, I was going to live, I was not going to die like an animal. So I fought him off and I left. And I went to my friend’s house. She took care of me for two weeks while things were arranged back in my home town for my return. She was my angel.
The last two years have been hard but so worth it. I have battled with the idea that God does not condone divorce in physical violence situations. People in the church (and never my non-Christian friends) have told me that I should forgive and forget. I have argued to the point of exhaustion that I am doing the right thing. I have now got a full time job, I have lost 132 pounds, am in AA for my drinking problems, and I am going back to finish my degree in theology. God has been my lifeline, and I now see the hope at the end of it all.
I write this because I want all the women out there who believe that they are in the wrong, or that they can’t leave their abusive relationship, that there is hope, sometimes from the least looked-for sources. For all those who think he will change—that he loves you, and is sorry: He won’t, he doesn’t, and he isn’t. If you are in a relationship for him to change then you are in it for the wrong reasons. If he was sorry, then he wouldn’t do it over and over again, much less with increasing intensity. And anyone who says they love you and hits you DOESN’T love you. When he comes crawling to you with shame saying how sorry he is, think of all those parenting courses on toddlers. If a toddler wants something and throws a tantrum, and you give in because you feel bad, next time they will just throw a longer and harder tantrum, because they know you will cave. Don’t cave. For yourself, your children and all those who love you, please don’t cave. This is not the life God wanted you to have, not the one you deserve. And though you may not feel that at the moment, trust that once you are out of there, life will open up for you.
I lost my child to violence, to its own father. If you have children, leave him for them if you aren’t strong enough to do it for yourself.