Bubba and I met in college. I had gone from one relationship to another throughout high school and college. The only thing I ever wanted to do was get married and have children. When Bubba came along, I thought he was perfect for me. He wanted to take care of me and I wanted to be taken care of. We were married the year after we started dating.
Bubba was very attentive. He couldn’t stand to be without me. I remember that he took a trip to visit his family and he wrote me constantly. He would write and ask me if I missed him and how much I missed him and he would tell me how sad he was that I didn’t write to him and why didn’t I write more…. It went on and on. Back then I thought it was endearing – that he just loved me so much that he couldn’t stand to be apart from me. I was busy in school and I didn’t have time to write to him as much as he wanted. I had the very vaguest, most fleeting thoughts that he was needy and annoying. Yet, I told myself that he just loved me so much that he just wanted me know that.
What I didn’t understand back then was that I was being sucked into the abusive dynamic. He was exerting his control over me but trying to have me tell him exactly what I’d been doing all day, every day. He wanted to know where I was and who I was with and what I was doing. Back then, he made it sound sweet and caring. Now I clearly see that he was proclaiming his ownership of me – his brand new possession. It was ever so subtle and I didn’t know what to look for. I was so desperate to get married that the still, small voice I heard telling me that he was annoying and that I didn’t like how he was acting was silenced by the huge part of me that wanted to get married RIGHT NOW!
I don’t remember a lot about the first few years we were married. At points he was working a couple of jobs and I was working full-time also. They seemed like happy years and I don’t remember anything jumping out at me as being off or feeling weird. The only thing I can think of that was “off” is that he went to church with me all the time before we got married and then abruptly stopped right after the wedding. I chalked that up to us both being busy. I found a way to excuse him.
The one thing I really had to come to terms with after I left Bubba was that I spent 20 years making excuses for his behavior, justifying how he acted, and blaming myself for his actions. When he snapped at me, I told myself that he’d had a long day at work. When he blew up at the kids, I blamed myself for not being a better mother and teaching them correctly. When he threw objects around in his anger, I told myself not be afraid of him because he hadn’t thrown them *at* me – he safely threw it across the room instead.
No long day at work excuses yelling at your spouse. A father blowing up at his children is not because the mother is not good enough. Throwing things around is meant to instill fear, even when the objects are not lobbed at one’s head. After years and years of these behaviors on Bubba’s part, the children and I were all too afraid to leave our places. We worked tirelessly to try to keep Bubba happy so that the next explosion wouldn’t happen.
Sadly, the next explosion always happened. I now know that I could’ve been perfect and he still would’ve terrorized us because it was never about us. He chose to act the way he did. He chose to scream at us, he chose to gaslight us, he chose to throw things at us and around us, he chose to physically intimidate us. Nothing we did or did not do could have prevented him from acting like he did. His abuse wasn’t about us. It was about him – his attitude that we were his possessions and that he could treat us as he saw fit.
Over the years he escalated. That is the nature of abuse. It starts out very subtly and it is insidious. If one saw it coming, one could escape. The trick is to gently draw your victim in so that by the time she realizes that she is miserable, it is entirely too late to get out. By the time she realizes she is miserable, she will also firmly believe that it is all her fault. That if she was just a better wife, a better mother, a better cook, a better housekeeper, better in bed, better in front of his friends or family that he wouldn’t hit her, scream at her, throw things at her, take her money away, hide the keys to the car, refuse to let her out of the house. She will firmly believe that it is all her fault and she will tirelessly try harder to not displease her husband.
I will say that Bubba never hit me. He pushed me, threw things around me, slammed doors, drove like a maniac, and gaslighted me horrifically. Bubba’s favorite form of abuse was psychological abuse. He tortured my mind, trying to convince me that I was crazy, that I couldn’t remember things, and that I didn’t talk to him about things I knew I talked to him about. I used to walk away from 95% of our conversations questioning my sanity. I’d wonder, “I thought I told him about those plans I’d made last week. Now he says I never told him. I could’ve sworn I was sitting right on the corner of the bed while I painted my toenails and told him about wanting to do that today. I remember he agreed to it when I had to tell him to hold on while I got up to let Shane in the room.” I could remember our conversations exactly and remember what I was doing when we’d discussed things. Yet, I would walk away believing we’d never talked about it because he was so convincing in his denial. It amazes me now that I never really went completely crazy. He had me questioning my reality on an almost daily basis. I think the only thing that saved my sanity was that Serenity was old enough that I could question her about things I knew she was witness to. If it wasn’t for Serenity saying, “Yeah, Mom, I remember you told him about that last week. I have no idea why he’s saying you didn’t talk to him about it,” I don’t know that I ever would’ve made it out with my sanity intact.
In my next posts, I’ll start going through the Power and Control Wheel. I’ll get into each area of the wheel and how Bubba abused me in each of the areas and my thoughts and actions back then and my thoughts about it now.