I ignored glaring red flags in the name of love.
My ex-husband was abusive: physically, emotionally, and verbally. He was also a drug addict. I've mentioned some of this before but what I've never really said out loud is that we had been together for 2 years before we actually married and I already knew he was abusive long before the wedding.
Did I think he would change? Yes, I actually did. Did we seek help or go to counseling? Yes, we did. Going to counseling produced a prescription for him: an anti-depressant. The pills turned him into a zombie which didn't help much, either.
The violent episodes did stop for awhile, but he still attacked me verbally. He would constantly accuse me of cheating on him. He would scream insults at me if I even looked at another man, even by accident. His rants would go on for hours sometimes, calling me the most degrading kind of names one could imagine. Then he started abusing prescription pills along with other drugs.
Still, I stuck with him.
Did I think I could help my husband with his drug problems and abusive behavior? Yes.
Was I naive? Insanely.
The fact that I was 12 years my husband's junior and in my early 20s probably didn't help much on an experience level. Needless to say, despite brief periods of calm, the relationship became more and more volatile after we got married.
It's often difficult to understand the reasons why women stay in abusive relationships if you're looking in from the outside. There are many factors involved and most of them are not rational. Most of them center around feelings like love, loyalty, fear, shame, insecurity, and compassion. Keeping the abuse a secret out of pride or embarrassment is totally normal. Many women do it.
An abuser is usually more manipulative than the rest of us because they have learned to talk people into staying with them even when their behavior is unacceptable. They beg and they flatter. They make you feel special, as if they couldn't possibly survive in the world without you there to care for them. Once they have you back in their clutches, the abuse begins again, sometimes even more viciously.
I've written a little bit about my experience with domestic abuse, but I haven't gotten into the gory details too deeply. Personally, I'm far away from that life now, happily settled down and at peace. But it wasn't always so, and I want my experiences to be out there so that perhaps other girls and women will be able to see red flags in their own relationships.
With Domestic Violence Month in October, it's imperative that open conversation continues between women who have experienced this and women who may be at risk. Men also need to be a part of these conversations.
Do I think my now ex-husband is a monster? Well, I married him. And I think that his excuses for his behavior were the real monster. He never took personal accountability for his actions. He blamed and he blamed. He blamed his parents, his siblings, his ex-wife, drugs, alcohol, his friends, and then me.
The cycle doesn't end. There may be periods of time when everything seems loving and sustained. It's normal to have a “honeymoon period” of sorts in between abusive episodes. But a person who abuses physically, verbally, and emotionally won't just stop because they love you or you love them.
It's a harsh thing to hear bu truly, love will not fix an abuser — and that's where a lot of young and older women lose touch and get trapped further into the destructive nightmare.
I consider myself to be an intelligent, sensible woman. Admitting that you've put yourself in an abusive relationship is not admitting defeat and it's not admitting stupidity. This is important to remember. An abusive relationship can happen to even the most independent and savvy women out there.
You will not be able to change someone. This can't be emphasized enough.
There's nothing I can do to change my decisions now. But there's plenty I can do to get my own experiences out there to other women who may be in or who know someone in this kind of situation. If nothing else, my mistakes won't only be my own lessons but someone else's, too.
Originally a Vancouver Island native, Michelle Zunter now resides in California where she is an ex-corporate slave, writer, artist, mother, stepmother, and wife. Join Michelle as she explores society, parenting, step-parenting, relationships, and much more.