The Aftermath

WARNING:  This gets graphic too!

Luke left Friday morning. Watching him drive away ripped my heart out. I wasn’t ready to let him go yet.

I was stunned to discover that I didn’t even have time to be sad at his leaving or to sit and just roll around in the memories of his visit. I was immediately overcome with so many negative emotions that it felt like I’d been hit by a train. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I was supposed to have time to just sit and remember how it felt to have him here with me.  But my brain decided that it needed to play a rousing game of Compare/Contrast.  I got to experience being violently angry at Bubba without feeling like I was trying to contain Fluffy.  The anger was all me, it didn’t feel dangerous anymore, it felt good, it felt right, it felt righteous.  Fluffy and I were working together and I was feeling everything – suppressing nothing, caging nothing.  I got to hate Bubba with a blinding rage that did not consume me.

How could a man (and I hate calling him that) who was supposed to love me treat me so abominably in such an intimate act, yet a man who is just a friend treated me with the utmost care and respect?   I’ve always been told that sex should only ever happen between married people – that is the only way sex can be good, be right, and be honoring to God.

Fuck it!  I’ve been lied to.

Serenity was 4 weeks old when Bubba raped me the first time.  Even though I don’t want to, I’m digging into the memory banks to see what I can remember of that time.  Serenity was a big baby, over 9 pounds.  I’d had an episiotomy.  I was nowhere near ready for sex when she was 4 weeks old, but Bubba was insistent that we have sex.  He talked, he cajoled, he said he’d be gentle, he did not stop.  He wore me down until I gave in.  It wasn’t a physically violent act but it was rape nonetheless.  It was NOT consensual.  It was me giving in to keep the peace, to make him happy, to stop the nasty looks and the pouting that he was directing my way.  I was not happy about it but I thought I’d rather be unhappy than have him unhappy.  That was the way it was.  Be unhappy for everyone else’s happiness.

I’d learned this lesson well as I grew up.  One’s happiness should ALWAYS be put aside to make others happy.  One should never put their needs ahead of anyone else’s.  One’s own happiness/well-being was never, never, never as important as everyone else’s.  One must always strive in everything to make sure everyone else is happy.  The goal in life was made clear from a young age, one is responsible for everyone else’s feelings, especially if it comes down to one’s own feelings vs. someone else’s feelings.  One is to always choose the other person’s feelings over one’s own.

So, that first time, even though I was not happy about it and it hurt like hell, it was my job to make Bubba happy.  How could I be so selfish to deny him his needs?  I had no right to make him unhappy.  His feelings, his happiness were all my responsibility.  When it came right down to it, I really didn’t have a choice.

Well, to clarify, I didn’t know I had a choice.  Having the ability to choose my own feelings or well-being over another’s was never an option I was taught was acceptable.  It was only ever taught that it was selfish and that was never acceptable.

Thus began the 15 1/2 years of coercive rapes.  The times I did say no and enforced it were the times I was made to pay for being selfish.  The punishments were so nebulous that I don’t think I could explain the punishments and why I was so afraid to say no to someone who has never experienced psychological abuse.  They are so nebulous to me even that when I talk about it now, it seems silly to me.  Why was I afraid?  What could he really do to me?  Why did I so rarely say no?  Let’s look at these questions one at a time.

Why was I afraid?  I was afraid because I’d learned that I could never predict the consequence of saying no.

The punishments ranged from silent treatments, to him talking and talking and talking until I just gave up and gave in, to him getting so angry that I could actually feel it rolling off of him in waves.  I think that was the scariest.  Feeling all that anger surrounding him, never knowing what he was going to do with that anger.  I’d seen him flip out enough times during the years to know that there was no predicting his actions when he got like that.

I have a journal that I was going to start writing in back in 2001.  I found it right after I left him last year.  There was only one entry in it.  He’d gotten mad at me for something and thrown a plate across the kitchen and smashed it into the sink.  I read that entry now and I can clearly see how miserable I was and how very trapped I felt.  I often question why I didn’t leave then.  The answer is that I was too afraid of what he’d do if I left.  He’d shown in these rages that he was capable of hurting me.  If he could scare the kids and me that bad, what else was he capable of?  I never wanted to find out.

What could he really do to me?  He could do a lot.

He used to threaten divorce every time we’d fight.  And the way he said it, I knew it would be a battle if he did.  I knew he would hurt me during a divorce.  I knew I didn’t have the financial means to survive a divorce.  He knew it scared me and he used it as his best weapon.  I also didn’t trust that he wouldn’t get physical with me.  He would throw things, tower over us, physically intimidate us.  Who knew when he would haul back and start swinging?  I surely didn’t.  The answer to the question is that I just didn’t know but I have an awesome imagination.

Why did I so rarely say no?  Because it wasn’t an option.

Given the lessons I learned growing up and my experiences in my marriage, no just generally wasn’t acceptable but almost never acceptable when it came to sex.  The only times I could really get away with saying no were the times that I chose the punishment over giving in.  Generally speaking, it was easier to give in for the 15 minutes sex would take than to accept the punishments that could go on for days.  Only when I was too exhausted or my head hurt too badly would I willingly accept the punishment over the 15 minutes.  It was always a huge decision for me.  Which is the lesser of two evils at this point?  The sex or the punishment.  I did sometimes choose the punishment because giving in to sex was just too horrific at that point to think about.

What boggles my mind is that the necessity to make these decisions never occurred to me to not be normal.  I think it happened so gradually that it was just life.  Couple that with the martyr attitude that was instilled in me all those years and it was a recipe for disaster.  Disaster that took the form of me never knowing that there was a different way to live.  Disaster that took the form of me being a participant in my own rapes.  Disaster that took the form of me nearly losing my soul.

I struggled for a long time with the fact that I’d instigated my own rapes.  One of Bubba’s big issues was that I never initiated sex.  Well, of course, I never initiated sex, because I didn’t want sex.  After having many fights about this, I would begin by saying, “Do you want to have sex tonight?”  That was all I could muster.  I know he wanted me to come on to him, to act like the horny wife who couldn’t get enough, to act like I wanted him.  I couldn’t bring myself to do that.  So I would just ask if he wanted it.  Then I’d lead the way to the bedroom.

When I realized that this was all considered rape, it hurt to realize that I was responsible for my own rapes, that I actually asked for them.  It took a long time to see that he’d coerced me into asking for it too.  It still was NOT consensual.  I was again choosing the lesser of two evils.  I could ask him once a weekish or I could endure another lecture about what a horrible wife I was for never wanting sex.  Everything was a trade-off.  I finally could see that no, I wasn’t responsible for my own rapes.  It was just another tactic he used to get what he wanted.  I didn’t say no simply because it was less painful to bury my feelings and go along with it.

What I experienced with Luke was the antithesis of my experiences with Bubba.  I was in total control.  I was in charge.  Luke followed my lead.  He often asked how I was doing or if I was ok.  He genuinely cared how I was feeling and if I was enjoying myself.  It wasn’t all about him.  It was about me too.  He was so considerate of me.  I still can’t get past wondering how someone who was supposed to love me could treat me so horrifically and someone who is just a friend treated me so amazingly well.  It makes no sense to me.  I can’t wrap my brain around it.

Another huge difference is that my pleasure, with Luke, was about my pleasure.  With Bubba, it was about him proving what a great man he was.  Having an orgasm with Bubba was required.  My body trained itself to orgasm quickly because it was over faster if I did.  The times I just couldn’t get there were the times that lasted too long and they were extremely painful.  If I didn’t get off, he didn’t get off, and that was my fault.  It also had to continue because not getting off was not an option.

That’s why Bubba had sex.  It wasn’t to enjoy each other, it was to have an orgasm.  It was the holy grail of sex.  It was the only reason to have sex.  On those occasions that I just couldn’t get there, I would be told, “Hope, concentrate!” or “Hope, just stop thinking!”  or “Hope, what’s wrong?  Why can’t you get there?”  In all those statements it was there, unspoken, that there was something wrong with me.  He would get angry if I didn’t orgasm.  He would get angry if he thought I wasn’t trying hard enough to orgasm.  I just don’t understand how my lack of orgasm affected him so personally.

At one point with Luke, he sounded concerned and asked what was going on.  I told him I was at that point where I was close, but it wasn’t happening and I was getting frustrated and mad at myself.  He just said, “Relax, Hope.  It’s ok to just enjoy yourself and have fun.  As long as it feels good.”

What a revelation!

I swear it was like the heavens opened up and I could hear the angels singing the hallelujah chorus.  Wow!  He couldn’t have said anything more perfect at that moment.  He was so in tune with me and he was paying attention to me that he must’ve seen the frustration on my face.  He then cared enough to find out what was going on with me.  It was about my pleasure, about me feeling good, about me enjoying myself.  It wasn’t about just getting me off.  Sure, when it happened it was a bonus, but we were there to share each other’s bodies and to have fun together.  I am 41 years old and this is the first time in my life that having an orgasm was not the goal.  It was a totally new experience.

I’m just so very angry.  How did I live like that for so many years?  Why was I taught everything I was as a child?  Why did my parents set me up to be abused?  Why can’t my parents SEE what he did to me?  Why did they turn on me?

I think the worst part of processing all of this is that it is so interconnected that I feel like I’m untangling 100 necklaces that were just thrown willy-nilly into a bag then shaken until they were twisted and tied into so many knots that I’ll never get them sorted.  When I pick one chain to try to set free, I work on that one chain just for a minute until I encounter another that is inexorably tied into the first chain.  Then I have to work on the second chain until I come upon the third one that is tied into both the first two and another three.

In trying to unwind the first issue, I’ve encountered six other issues that are tied to it so that I can’t unwind the first issue without touching, at least briefly, on those other six issues.  It takes a long time to write all this stuff down because I have to take frequent breaks.  It is just too painful and too hard to sit here and get it out at one time.  This post alone has taken me about five hours to write and there is still so much more that I need to process from Luke’s visit.

It isn’t about processing his visit as much as it is processing what I now understand is the reality of the horror I lived vs. the perception of the horror that I had before I knew better.

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    1. So Much for “The Resolution” | Hope Wears Heels

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