Discovering Normal

Updated: Aug 11

I specifically remember in my marriage, telling him him that what was happening was not normal. Even though I was confused and internally felt off balance, deep down I knew something was not right about the situation.

His response was to scream at me that everyone lives like this, This is happening up and down the street. (absolute gaslighting)then in his attempts to maintain control in any way that he could, he would scream "there is no such thing as normal." Completely contradicting what he had just said I was left in absolute frustration and internal pain.

One the most painful parts of the marriage was that everyone else got a nice version of him. He was the kindest, most thoughtful generous person to everyone but us. He made a big show of being polite. And he watched me like a hawk, after our public outing he would lecture me about how I had offended this person or that person. I needed to change, I was so rude. What the fuck was wrong with me, didn't I know how to behave. Those words felt like knife cuts all over my skin. I would be left burning in pain and injustice. Sometimes my offense would be as small as saying no thank you to offers of help from the shopkeeper (that particular event led to accusations of my being racist, I actually didn't even know she was black, she had spoken to me from behind, I had never even seen her) I had no defense from these accusations, in our home his word was the law and the record of truth.

It was all a façade, and I was responsible to help maintain that image. Of course, traces of what was really going on at home would surface. I would be out of sorts, edgy, reactive. No one knew what was really happening, so they would chalk it up to me being a bitch. There were a lot of people who bought into the narrative that I was a controlling jealous bitch that my poor kind husband had to tolerate. They didn't know that I had likely been berated 15 minutes before our entrance, or that perhaps I suddenly received a bill for thousands of dollars I was expected to pay but had no idea about until that morning. I was expected to look happy, play along with our part, and pretend he was amazing. It was so confusing because the man I experienced was far different than what they saw. I had been living that way so long, I really had no idea what a healthy family life would look or feel like. Maybe I was expecting too much. Perhaps it is me. While I was confused and hurting, somewhere deep inside I was accepting this is what life is, and is meant to be. I know different now.

It's painful for me to realize how long I endured the turmoil unnecessarily. With time, I am learning this is absolutely not how people live. It's absolutely not normal, and on the extreme end of emotional abuse. In many ways, he is continuing it, by pretending none of it happened. In retrospect, I do not understand why I stayed, why I kept trying so hard. Why I couldn't see it. I was told by someone "You were doing what you needed to survive, you were doing your best to keep all the balls up in the air" That is definitely sums up what was happening at the time. He nailed it. (Thank you, you know who you are) Yes, I was doing my best to survive. I should forgive myself. Self-forgiveness in not something I have yet achieved. There is no doubt that part of my continuing anger is self directed. For not seeing that situation was abusive, that his behaviour was outrageous and my challenge of overcoming it was insurmountable.

I have been on a treadmill of anguish. Wanting to just get over it. Not quite knowing how you do that. Beating myself up for not just being able to put it behind me. Enduring an endless loop of unwanted memories. Disgust that I ever allowed a man like that near me. Wanting to rip him apart now that I realize how much damage he deliberately inflicted. Realizing he knew exactly what he was doing. He did it on purpose. He lied and lied and lied. He really didn't care about the consequences for me, as long as he had control. But also having calm and peace, experiencing genuine joy. Ironically, these good feelings just inflame my anger because it increases my awareness of how long I went without it. How bleak my existence had become in my marriage. UGGGGGH so MANY completely wasted years. And finally the awareness, I am still wasting years. He still torments me, if only in my memories. I want to get past that.

Of course, he works hard now to portray himself as happy in his new relationship. He has to make sure it looks like the problem was me, not him. Any victim of abuse needs to learn that this is to be expected. They move on fast, but that doesn't mean they finally found their true love. (though the new person will no doubt think this) It's just them moving on to someone that is easier to control. My ex moved on to mother with two young children. She doesn't work, and it doesn't appear like she can drive. She will be very dependent on him. That's the perfect victim for a man like him. And you can be sure, both will make a big show of how happy they are. Back when I first met him, I did it too. The woman before me saw a happy couple, True love! The truth didn't become public for 27 years but the hell actually started about year 2. You can be sure. The same thing that happened to you, will happen to them, so don't waste anytime thinking he has changed. He hasn't. The mask just hasn't dropped yet. That's all part of the abuse cycle.

I have been thinking of ways to actively engage in strategies that would help break out of this loop. It's easy to fall into a trap of just going around and around living in your misery. At some point you have to break out of it. I decided to share some of the strategies that I have come up with so far.

1) Spend time with your old support systems,

This weekend, I spent time with family members, some from outside the country. It was a reminder how good it feels just to forget sometimes. We sat, they drank beer, we ate pulled pork and just did a lot of laughing. It reminded me of the way it used to be, before I was married. While my immediate family has always been problematic, I was always super close to my extended family. They provided the guidance and support that got me through my teenaged years and inspired me to graduate university. I am not too sure why that ended. It's my understanding that often in abusive relationships, they will isolate you from your support systems, and often they will convince you it was your idea. I feel like this might have been what happened.

2) Engage in Physical Activity

Last night it was beautiful out. I decided off the cuff to go for a walk. I headed off down the road just thinking I might walk for a few minutes. Before I knew it I had walked 10 kilometers. It was glorious. I watched the sun as it slowly descended down over the fields. My mind had a chance to completely relax and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings. I had forgotten how much I enjoy walking. It felt so good to just go, I walked and walked with no concern for where I was going or how long I might be out. I allowed my body to make the call for when I had gone far enough. In the end, it was sunset that determined the end of my walk. There are no streetlights here so I had to call my son to come pick me up from the side of the road. This reminded me of my next point.

3) Practicing Gratitude and appreciating the changes.

My son coming to pick me up reminded me that we are still a family unit. A reformed family unit, along the way there was some turmoil but we have found our cohesiveness. Going for aimless walks was one of the things I actually enjoyed in my marriage. I would often get out of the car where ever and walk home. When ever I felt like I was was done, I would call, give my co-ordinates and get picked up by my then husband. It was a level of freedom that I loved. Even after our separation, if he would see me, he would stop and give me water. My son coming to get me reminded me that those positives of having support are still there. It's just different people. I don't need to put up with my ex-husband's bullshit to be able to get those benefits. The rest of us have reorganized and come together to fill in those gaps. While I was out walking, another son was home taking care of the massive overgrowth that has taken over the yard. We are finding our way. Not only he is not missed, but his absence has improved our lives dramatically. We will carry on.

In this moment, I feel gratitude for what is not there. There is peace. There is no yelling, no anger, no tension. No expectation of perfection. In the past, I guarantee you my son would not have been allowed to drive my car. My other son would not have been allowed to use the weed whacker. (they were not allowed to touch any machinery, no one could mow the lawn except for my husband, only he had the competence, anyone that attempted to engage in any form of maintenance or repair activity would face his wrath.)

4) Let yourself enjoy the laughter

Last night, my daughter opened up a bottle of carbonated water I had purchased, as soon as the lid opened a crack, it sprayed absolutely everywhere all over her and the kitchen. She had a genuine deep belly laugh. Her laugh made me laugh as well. It was a beautiful moment. I enjoyed that we could laugh. There were no reprisals for "being an idiot and making a mess" No angry clean up. We just laughed. It felt so good.

That is my life now. We laugh. I feel gratitude that genuine connections are returning. The protective guards we all had up are starting to come down. Everyone is starting to relax. My trauma therapist brought this up, remember what it was like, and how it is different now. When I do that I am filled with gratitude.

I want to add, this did not come easy. At first we went through a period where everyone was angry with each other, one of my sons didn't talk to me for almost a year. There were divisions I didn't think would ever heal. Some very bleak times. But with love and patience eventually we did pull through. I remember a particularly lonely Thanksgiving dinner. Just me and my two youngest, after being used to having very large gatherings it was extremely sad for us. I almost gave my turkey to my ex to cook with his new crew because I felt so low. Fortunately for me, my aunt convinced me to do it anyway. "Do it for the kids" She said no matter how bad you feel, carry on those traditions. Rebuild. I am so glad she gave that advice. No matter how much it seems things have fallen apart, just do what you can. I think that moment turned the tide, it was a moment I almost gave up.

I know my posts seem to ramble these days. It is a reflection of my mind at this point. Thoughts and feelings come and go for me right now, I am all over the place. But I think the most important thing is to get it written down, capturing the process. At some point I will go back and organize these thoughts, but for now this is what we get. I hope it helps someone.

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