Toward the end of the second decade of my marriage, he surprised me with a 40th birthday party.
My underlying thought from that night was that he must really love me. I could not understand why I might have doubted him. It is only from this vantage that I see what came before and the emotional deterioration of our life together afterward.
That party, that year and that place in time marked the turning point in retrospect. I was thrilled at the surprise party, seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. All the while he assumed the dutiful, loving husband to the group.
My 40th birthday became a more sinister turning point. He implied I was now old, I looked old and that diminished him in public for me to look so old.
It was also time for me to push toward finally obtaining my undergraduate degree. I had taken courses for years but now it was time to make a firm commitment.
What happened then was later admitted as his goal. I was diminished with every course I took. Not only was there enormous isolation and pressure to be doing my degree by correspondence, the online education of its day, but my abilities were constantly scrutinized. Essays were dismissed. I didn’t write well and I probably wasn’t smart enough to complete my degree.
He began a curious public display of affection. He’d stand behind me and put his hands right around my neck. Almost daring himself.
He started finding reasons to be away from home for long stretches. Where work had been strictly 9 to 5 before, it now required many evenings ‘at the office.’ If I felt mentally alone, I now felt physically alone as well.
Piece by piece my psyche was being shredded. But in the midst of it, an older friend became my mentor. She knew what abuse looked like and she told me I needed a counselor. She knew the best one and directed me to her.
His reaction? He smirked. For the next 2 ½ years, through my subsequent separation and divorce this social worker kindly and thoughtfully put me back together.
In the death throes of our marriage, I had a home accident that resulted in a large cut to my hand. He stood there, stared at me, didn’t help me up or get anything to help clean up the blood. Then just walked away. The unsaid was I don’t care about your wellbeing anymore and haven’t for a long time. You are on your own.
Emotional abuse is a systematic destruction of a person. The perpetrator knows you well, knows all your insecurities, and knows where to stick those emotional knives for best effect. There are sly, clever daily emotional assaults all to cause a state of disequilibrium.
It’s a bit of a game too, because later I discovered he’d subversively invited one of his latest paramours to several social gatherings at our place. He would shift the conversation during the course of the evening to expound his disdain for a friend’s marital unfaithfulness.
In the final months of our marriage I found out our whole life together had been built on secrets and lies. It was a relationship that stretched back to high school some thirty five years previous.
We met when were we were in our early teens and more or less dated until we married ten years later in our early twenties. I realize we both never really grew up emotionally. In many ways we behaved as teenagers until the day we parted some twenty-five years later. We went through the motions of being adults but there was an emotional immaturity in our relationship from beginning to end.
All the insecurities we experience as teenagers followed me to the end of the marriage. He had always held the power and I never challenged that. The emotional abuse was just an extension of his power. In many ways he did it because he could. During the years of abuse I was complicit because I allowed him to treat me as he did.
There had never been any fidelity toward me I discovered in those dying days of the marriage. There was always another in his closet. There were at least three in our crowded marriage from our wedding day. My counselor said don’t ever feel sorry for him because he made the choices that brought about the demise of our marriage.
I did not fight back initially because I wanted what had been. I lived this teen fantasy that my marriage was idyllic. He turned to abuse as a pathway out the door.
Years of anger and frustration were about to pour out. We all have times in our lives where we lose our dignity and a certain animal instinct takes over. The next stage was the painful birthing of a new me.
ABOUT LINDA SIMPSON
I take strength from your calm, your honesty, and the hope you give me for my future.” Cheryl
Linda is a fresh voice in the divorce advice world. She offers a pragmatic, common sense approach to life after divorce issues based on over twenty years surviving and thriving following a very traumatic divorce.
As a single parent, her sons are an enormous source of joy in her life. She is a loving mother and grandmother to four delightful grandchildren.
She holds a degree from the University of Waterloo with concentrations in sociology and philosophy and guidance counselling certification from Queen’s University.
She is an accredited trainer for The Peace Education Foundation, a leader in conflict resolution training. The institute is ‘dedicated to educating children and adults in the dynamics of conflict resolution and promoting peacemaking skills in home, schools, and community.’
In a long and successful teaching career, she also served as a counsellor and workshop facilitator for SEL (social emotional learning) programming and The Peace Education Foundation throughout her school and school district and was a frequent conference presenter for SUNY Potsdam Faculty of Education USA.
She writes for The Divorce Magazine UK and her blog is seen regularly on Huffington Post Canada where the focus is life after divorce and parenting issues.
She is a writer and poet and is presently at work on a book based on her divorce experience.