I let it the abuse go on for so long because I believed it.
After dating noncommittal jerks, I was done. I was thirty years old, and didn't that mean I was supposed to be married already?
I had been a bridesmaid three times and had had enough. I was happy for my friends, but if I had to witness someone else's joy while I was a total failure, I couldn't handle it. I felt like it would never happen to me. I must have not been worthy.
So when he showed up, my now ex-husband, I was ready. He was cute. We had chemistry. He had a stable job. He wanted to be with me. It was going to be perfect. Right?
Before we got married, he cheated on me. But he was really, very sorry.
Before we got married, it was obvious his family hated me. But he loved me anyway and we would make it!
Before we got married, he had shown me his temper. He told me how he had to be physically stopped from throwing a woman down a flight of stairs. But he loved me. He would never get that bad.
Right? WRONG. Dead wrong.
I was too worried about what the societal script was feeding me. I was too worried about being thirty and single. I was too caught up in sexual chemistry and good looks and desperate need that I wasn't thinking about the blatant writing on the wall about this man.
I simply shoved our incompatible puzzle pieces together and prayed our glue would stick.
He never threw me down the stairs. He never hit me. He was even great on some days. Some weeks. Some months. No one is ever always awful. If a person was that bad, would anyone get roped into an abusive situation? No.
But still, he broke me down, day in and day out in the quietest of ways until eventually, his anger and abuse became louder and harder to ignore. And I let it go on. I allowed it to happen. I believed in his narrative of me.
I was, according to him: Unable to care for myself. Stupid. Lacked common sense. Not humble enough. I needed to stop cheering for myself. I needed to stop being so sensitive. I needed to have more common sense! I needed to be useful and stop being so useless! I was stupid.
He did his best to dim my light and shove me down in the slightest and subtlest of ways. He was loving sometimes and very present. It wasn't always doom and gloom. But he was never happy. He blamed me. I had made him unhappy. It was all my fault, for everything.
Things were good with him when things went his way. Things were good with him when he wasn't frowning, and when he wasn't frowning he wasn't smiling, but at least he wasn't frowning.
I did what all abused women do: I tried to love him enough to make up for it all. I was warm and effusive. Forgiving. I thought he was better than he was. It took having a child with him, a son, and listening to him call me useless while I was ill, to realize who I was really married to.
Still, even after we split and even after we were long done, I heard his voice. I heard him tell me, "No one is going to love you." Still, as we are now long apart, he tries to control me. To play games that involve my son. Finances. To remind me who he thinks is better. He even messages me to say, "You're not worthy."
I let it go on for so long because I believed it. But I no longer believe it.
I no longer sign up for his "messages" and brainwashing. I no longer care or allow his voice into my head. I no longer allow him to rain on my parade. To darken my sky. To extinguish my candle.
But it took a long time to believe in my narrative of me, and not his false narrative about who he wanted me to be.
He told me he wanted me to change from the start and he was mad I hadn't. I'm glad now, years later, that the old spirit in me didn't die out completely. That I didn't just fade to black like he wanted.
I thought he was better than the others, but the fact was that he was the worst kind of partner. And I allowed him to be, until one day, I left.
And I lived, happily ever after. Finally.