Trapped

Writing my post yesterday brought up a lot of feelings for me, it reminded me of the frustration and anguish I often felt in that marriage. I often felt like a absolute crazy person. In my mind the accusations and degrading comments had no influence on my mind or my psyche. I thought I was so tough, Teflon. No, I am ok, I can handle this its all good. With time and distance I see that yes, I was deeply affected. The name calling and the constant accusations of incompetence had a tremendous impact on me. It did affect me, and deep down I did begin to believe it.



One of the first times I remember him deconstructing my personality was in my first adult job. I had landed a job as an assembly worker at the Johnson & Johnson plant in Peterborough. It was a windfall for us. I was just finishing up school, and it was 32 dollars an hour, there was an excellent benefit package.


We already had two small children. It was a really good job, but it was also a job that wasn't going anywhere. You come in as an assembly worker, and you stay an assembly worker. My goal was to climb the later. I was looking for a professional job. I started to apply for the sales jobs that were posted on the company bulletin board.


I made a critical error, in that type of environment ambition is not a positive quality. My colleagues had high school diplomas, and the opportunities I was applying for were not available to them. I was stirring up discontent when I discussed my future plans. They figured I thought I was too good for them and the job we were doing.


I was probably also fairly awkward around others at the time, no doubt this impacted my ability to get along. I did not have confidence, and I believed that not liking me was the default position, I felt fortunate when someone actually approved of me. I had a deep seeded belief I was defective, and I was not worthy. Totally conditioned to accept scraps.

And as what happens when people sense someone weaker in their midst, that person can become a target.


At work, we sat around the machines, switching every 30 minutes, there were a couple women in particular that took an extreme dislike to me, and I was subjected to what I considered bullying. I don't really remember the specifics, I just remember it was tough.

But most I remember, going home at night and telling my then husband about my day, thinking I would get some comfort. Instead I got a painful rebuke about how this was all my fault. It felt like a slap, hearing this from someone who was supposed to be on my side was isolating. I felt defeated.


He told me, that I was the problem because I didn't know how to get along with people. I had a fundamentally horrid nature. Everything they said about me was true, and the way they treated me was completely justified. I deserved it. This really hurt, I felt extremely alone, and it really didn't help me get through my days. It just caused me to fall further into despair, and the hyenas smelled blood so they circled. The situation just continued to deteriorate. I just wanted to feed my kids and pay my rent. I wanted more for my life, I didn't want to live hand to mouth forever. It seemed I was doomed. At the time, I was finishing my degree once a week I would hop into my car after work and drive the three hours to Ottawa to finish up the last of my coursework. I would return the same night, and report to work the next morning. I was really struggling to balance the goals I had for myself and my family and the reality I was living. In this mix, was a partner that was actively picking me apart.


It is important to recognize what was going on here. It's the foundation of increasing control in the marriage. I was a student when we first met, his superiority was clear, at least in his mind. He was the money maker, he had the big job. I was a starving student. He treated my education like it was this cute little hobby I had. My pursuit of education was secondary to his activities. I could go to school as long as it didnt interfere with his dinner or the house being clean. (and of course to his standards) I remember being home alone for a week as a full time student, with two children under two years old. He would return from his week at work up at the mine and as his came through the door he didn't stop to say hello or kiss me. He would immediately would come in and start inspecting the house, searching it until he found some spot I had missed in the cleaning. He wouldn't stop until he found something. Then he would say "AHH! look at this!!" Eventually I gave up, I stopped making any effort because no matter what I did, it was never good enough.

When I got the job at Johnson & Johnson, that put me on the same level as him. In fact, I was making more than him in my first job, and I was attempting to climb the corporate ladder, which would have increased that gap. I never considered this at all at the time, to me it was all for our family. I considered my success to be his success. My success was actually a threat to him. I was no longer in the down position, the dynamics of our relationship were shifting. My position was a threat to him and his role as head of our family. I ended up getting fired from J&J, they did it nicely and told me it was because I didn't fit in, and they told me they needed people that were happy to stay as assembly workers.

I got another job, pretty quick as the Executive Assistant to the President of a local cabinet manufacturer. Looking back, it's an indication of my natural talents. that is a really good and prestigious job. A successful entrepreneur choose me to be his assistant. One of the previous occupants of the position had risen up to become a manager of corporate operations. This job paid peanuts, but it was definitely a career development position. I gained skills there that would lead to opportunity and success later. Again, I was undermined at home. When conflict arose at work, I didnt get a supportive ear. Instead, I was told about how it was all my fault. I had to get up at an ungodly hour to take the kids to daycare. I was getting berated at home daily. I was having a hard time focusing on details, and I struggled. I was dealing with his past financial issues at the time. He came into our marriage with a horrible credit rating. He had stopped paying his bills, and allowed everything to go into default. Unfortunately, when I married him I became responsible for his debt. I started off my career in the hole trying desperately to dig our way out. Our financial situation affected me at work, I couldn't afford to buy anything for lunch. I remember one week, my lunch was an orange everyday. I hate oranges, but I ate it because I was so hungry. This is an immediate throw back to my childhood, having no food for lunch. My days were just surviving. I was also getting calls at work from creditors and trying to work out solutions with the bank. It all affected my productivity. At the same time, he would continue spending money we didnt have on things we didnt need. He didn't take care of the things he did have. I remember endlessly buying him designer jeans at a 100 dollars a pair, that would be destroyed because he would wear them to his job in the mill. He would then complain about how he didn't have any nice clothes to wear, (and somehow this was my fault) until I would break down and buy him another pair, that within a couple months he would destroy. Even though it was his actions that lead to his lack of clothing options, somehow I bore the blame and had to absorb the blows of his anger when he had nothing to wear into town.


During this time, I was also expected to be the caregiver for our children. When it suited his schedule he would help, but only if it worked out. He would let me know when he could babysit the kids. At this time he worked out of town, a two week in, two week off schedule. I was still finishing up my degree, and driving to Ottawa once a week. Two weeks each month, I was basically a working single mother trying to finish her degree. To help with the bills, I also got a job at a local restaurant serving tables at night when Ted was at home. It was exhausting. There were times, I just wanted to go out and have dinner and relax with no kids. He would always insist on bringing them, because "he wanted to see them". This meant, I spent my dinner looking after kids. He would play and have fun with them, but when it was time to look after their needs, that was my job. And when I would ask him to watch the kids so I could have some time away or a break, he would tell me "I am on my days off." In his mind, because it was his day off from work, he should not have to help me with the kids. That was my responsibility. Thinking back to this now, it was insane. Of course in front of others, he was a doting husband and father. My co-workers thought I was an incredibly lucky woman.



It was also at this job, when I had my first experience of sitting at my desk shaking. I cannot remember what was the catalyst for this incident. But I remember clearly sitting outside the presidents office surrounded by the bustle of a successful business around me. I even remember what I was wearing, a black checker skirt and a black sweater. The phone rang, I can still see it there on the corner of my desk, and when I picked it up I heard my husbands voice, he had been watching the kids that day. I heard him say "If I hurt these kids, its your fault". Then he hung up. It was the middle of the day, I was helpless, I could not go home to get my children. I remember clearly the room spinning around me, and I started to shake. I couldn't tell anyone what had just happened. I had urgent sales orders I needed to examine and complete for the sales team. The expectations for my position were high. I was supposed to be a high performer with excellent attention to detail. I was terrified. My young children were at home with a man who had just threatened to hurt them because I wasn't doing what he wanted. I thought I was really tough when I called him back and told him if he laid one finger on those kids I would call the police and have him charged with child abuse. My response did prevent him from hurting the kids. But really all it did was shift his tactics of control to more subtle methods.

All of these factors completely undermined me at work. At the time, I blamed myself. I just kept trying to work harder. The fact that I couldn't concentrate and would make mistakes was evidence of my lack of abilities and further evidence that I was really an imposter. My inability to cope was due to my character and my skill set rather than the stress and confusion I was living with at home. I just worked harder. I just kept sucking it up. When I got knocked down, I would crawl back up and keep going. I had a vision and I did everything I could to achieve it.


Its one thing to be faced with hard times. When you come together as a team to overcome them. This can be rewarding and satisfying. But its another thing when you are being undercut and destabilized and the hard times are completely unnecessary.

At the time we had options, there were things we could have done that would have completely changed our position. We had a debt of about 15 thousand dollars, and the payment was around 300 dollars a month. Not a lot, but at the time it was killing us. It meant there was nothing extra, and we often did without. If we could deal with that debt, we could live on our salaries. It would have still been tight, but it was manageable. We had two vehicles, we had a car, and he had a truck, a little black Ford Ranger, it was still fairly new and we could have sold it for 15 thousand. That would have erased our debt and put us in a pretty solid position. When I made the suggestion his reaction was swift. "I am NOT selling my truck! that is MY truck and I AM GOING TO DRIVE IT, I am NOT giving it up" This was one of the difficulties at the time, it was my responsibility to find the solution to our financial problems that he had created. (that 15,000 was the loan for buying the truck). But he was not going to give anything up, he expected to be able to continue to live at a certain life style whether we could afford it or not. For some reason, the fact that we couldn't make ends meet was my fault. Again I would be berated and criticized for even the suggestion of selling his truck.


It just seemed everywhere I turned, I was met with struggle and inflexibility. I took full responsibility for this, I internalized my failure to achieve the life of stability I had dreamed of as a child. Growing up I had always told myself, I would make sure I had enough money to pay my bills, I would have a stable budget, I would have savings. I would be a successful career woman. I had none of these things, and I internalized that it was because I was not good enough. I didn't have those things because I wasn't good enough. I did have what it took to make that happen. I tried reasoning with my husband, I tried to come up with solutions, but nothing worked. I felt like a complete failure at life.

So how did I feel at the time. Very confused, I was trying to keep the balls in the air, and he kept throwing new ones into the mix. Even though we were together as a couple, I felt very alone. He tended to speak to me with a very demeaning and condescending tone. His contempt for me in private was clear. In public he would say proudly "Hi, this is my wife Carolynne" There was never enough money, and I wasn't getting emotional support. I was lonely and the world seemed harsh and unforgiving. I wanted out. By this point, I was completely trapped, and I had only been married to him for about 3 years. I was terrified of being poor, and or some reason it didnt occur to me that financially I would be better off with out him. I believed I was completely dependent on him for my survival, and on my own the kids and I would be homeless.


The whole situation felt enormous to me, I remember I used to sleep a lot and I thought it was my fault. I actually thought I was lazy. I was ashamed at my failure, I felt I was missing out on life because I was not able to do the things other people my age were doing. I didnt have contact with my friends, and I hadn't been making new ones. There was simply no time or money to do that. But at that point I accepted it as my lot in life, while I wanted out it was only a pipe dream and I was going to be married to Ted til I died. Not because I wanted to be, but because I had no choice. I was completely trapped.

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