You ever come to a fork in the road where you either had to go left or right? You had no map, no compass, and no signs to tell you which way is the way back to civilization? I recently found myself at those same crossroads.
Did I make the right decision?
Did I go the right way?
At first I didn’t think so, but as time unfolded the road before me I realized it was the only way to go. I am not going to start at the beginning, that will come later, but I will start with four years ago.
Sitting at my black computer desk watching the kids play xbox in the living room my husband walked in from work and collapsed on the couch, he had teased all day with news of coming down on orders from the U.S. Army. His uniform was worn as it always was, the pen that always seemed to find itself in my dryer was sitting in his sleeve. I smiled at him. “Tell me!” I couldn’t hold back the excitement. Where were we going? What was going to happen?
I had been so sick for a while that I wondered if they would have good medical facilities, would they be able to find out what’s wrong? I looked to my kids as the fear of not seeing them grow up was an all to real phenomenon in the house. Then my focus turned back to my husband who had his hands over his face and had yet to tell me. I turned on my phone and went live under my pseudonym, from my author life, and we waited, but his face said this was not for all to see. I said goodbye to my readers and my fellow authors who were as curious as I and I listened.
“We got Fort Drum, we report in April.” The words echoed off the walls as the kids grew quiet, my husband spoke of delaying reporting until the kids were out of school, and my stomach grew uneasy. They don’t even have a base hospital, they are constantly snowed in, and it was a bad situation. My husband and I spent the next week talking over our options, with specialists lined up and he decided I would stay behind with the kids. After all what’s 3 years to a couple who had been through that before with deployments.
The first couple weeks after he left was hard. I wound up in the emergency room having an adverse reaction to a shot my doctor gave me. My car broke down at 4am leaving me and the kids in a bad area when we were trying to get home from the hospital. There is even a video of my lowest moment.
The days that followed had ups and downs. My husband went up there on a budget, but his car broke down, he spent more each month than what we had figured and things got hard. Seemed like we were always talking about money or the kids. So, we talked about other things. We forced ourselves to talk of other things. I saved up all my money and what my mom gave me for Christmas and bought my husband a plane ticket after about 9 months. I was so excited to bring him home. I just had no idea what I was really in for…
To be continued in detail, but to sum up what most already know. His trip home was met with cruelty as he told me he had lied to his family, blaming me for things he wouldn’t take responsibility for. The kids were absent a parent as he spent his time on the xbox and both (yes, two) cell phones. He listened to me cry myself to sleep at night and was fine with it.
Following that trip, he sent me gifts of foods I’m allergic to and could have killed me, he lied about needing a new oil pan multiple times and each time I sent him money. Even sent him all the money I got from my student loan that should have been for school. He stopped talking to the kids and the calls to me were sporadic and only he could call me, he didn’t answer when I called him.
This time away and the harsh way he was led me to therapy to learn I was in a relationship with a narcissist. I had all the textbook signs of being trauma bonded. The stories from the beginning were laced in love bombing, he was so amazing then, and then it changed. The gaslighting and manipulation tore me down until I was ready to put a bullet in my head. I would have never done it, I would never leave my kids, but he made me believe I was that worthless.
I tried to confront the things that bothered me the most. I confronted him about his silence towards the kids. He said it was my fault, that I wasn’t doing more to make them come to him so he didn’t have to reach out. I asked him to tell his family the truth because they hated me for the lies he told, they don’t even talk to the kids who are supposed to be family. He said they wouldn’t understand and that I could take the hit because I was strong enough. Then I confronted him on why he didn’t treat me like a wife. He said I was fragile from having medical illnesses. He saw me as less than what he wanted because I had been raped before we ever met. Then he said the fact that I allowed myself into a position to be raped made me seem weak. 14 years of marriage at that point and everything was my fault. His cheating on me was also my fault because I didn’t go to New York with him, but I wasn’t even given the choice.
I had written him an email because our conversations would get so mixed up that when I would hang up I would feel like I was crazy. I waited and waited for a response. Finally, I confronted him and he said he had read it, but since he didn’t know what to do he would do nothing and hope I got over it. My shrink said start recording the calls and when I wasn’t in the conversation and was clear headed to listen to them. I still have them today. Hours of gaslighting and manipulations. Days worth of him trashing his family in one breath and then telling me how I needed to parent better when he wasn’t around. I wasn’t crazy, he made me feel that way. When I said a friend was helping me stay busy and out of trouble his response was to tell me he wasn’t having a threesome with her. It was like I was having one conversation and he was having another and they were not in sync. He would take whatever I was saying and move it just enough that I would go defensive, that would eventually lead to him forgiving me for me being defensive because I knew what I said, and then I would be thankful and change the subject.
My husband was the monster in my heart, the cruel bastard in my bed, and even though I knew he was bad, even though the therapist said they can’t change unless they want to get help and actively work to get better, I loved him. I wasn’t safe with him, but I loved him.
My faith, my trust, and my heart were all completely shattered, and yet I stayed until the day came when I knew he had a new supply and I would be discarded.
I waited for his call, I tried to tell him I wasn’t okay. I tried to tell him I was drowning and he was helping to hold me under water. His response was to ignore everything I said and instead ask me if I could ever murder someone. I said no. He gave a list of scenarios of reasons why he believed it would be okay to kill someone. It scared me. I paraphrased my belief that suffering is living a harsh life, killing someone let’s them off the hook and puts him on. Then he said he was capable of murder and he could do it.
This was the 3rd time I’d heard that. The first being when we first met and I had to talk him down to keep him from murdering a woman who he claimed had broken his heart. The second was about someone he worked with. There wasn’t going to be a fourth.
I pleaded with him to get help. He said he would. Three months of him missing calls because he was in therapy and I don’t want to pry, but I wanted to know how it was going, so one day I asked. He told me it was all a lie. He never went to therapy and if he did it would only be to manipulate VA into giving him 100%. He wanted money, not help, and he didn’t care what he was doing to us.
He had friends in NY, one had a wife that became an author. She spent time getting to know me, telling me all the lies my husband had told her about me. I used my resources to help her with her book being released… after that I never heard from her again. She was just another crayon in his box of colors that was set in place to scribble all over my feelings.
The other women, the lies, the gaslighting, the absolute cruelty, he abandoned his own child and the two he adopted because he didn’t want them and didn’t want to pay for them. He was awful, yet I stayed.
At the end of the day, I filed for divorce. The trust between us was gone and it wasn’t coming back. My head fantasized about him being bold and honorable and fighting for his family, but it was all part of the trauma bond. There were days I cried harder than I had ever cried before, and when I would come up for air I’d pray for God to fix my family, but he didn’t and my husband would move to Maine where he would find the next person he’s going to hurt.
When I look back at that fork in the road, when I wonder if I made the right decision, I don’t even question it. I know I did.
I used to run from storms, from conflict, from our bed, from him when I felt unsafe or when he would break furniture or when he would hurt me physically… since I left I sleep in my own bed without issue, I don’t run from storms, I don’t escape conflict, instead I work to resolve whatever it is. Without him, I am safe, I am loved, and there’s no one in my life who wants me to be there doormat. He was an incredible person for the first few years, but then he changes.
This is what my life was like being married to someone like him. We don’t have an official diagnosis because that would be him having to admit something was wrong.
I wish him whatever in life going forward, I hope his family never knows what he’s really like, and I hope his dad does keep my photo up in his shed on the wall of regrets, right next to his first wife, because our picture on that wall might be their regrets, but for us it shows we survived them and that’s everything.
If you ever find yourself in a relationship where anything I’ve said is relatable, step out of it and take a look. Are you happy? Are you safe? Are you waiting for the good version of them to return? If so, take it from me, they don’t change. My ex will go silent and cut me off so I’m not around to warn anyone or correct his lies about what happened. Not that these ladies would listen, but he keeps separation so we can’t ever know each other, so the next supply or victim goes in believing she’s won the lottery in finding him and in time he will change on her like he did us and they may wind up like me.