Looking back isn’t easy. We are told to leave the past in the past. As much as I agree with not living in the past, we can and should definitely learn from it. Looking back can also help us realize how far we’ve come and what we’ve been delivered from.
One of my best friends has recently had the courage to share her story of childhood sexual abuse. What bravery. Her willingness to share helps others to know they are not alone. Sharing removes the mask and the secrets and shame the enemy wants us to carry forever. Jesus broke that chain and empowered her. She has forgiven her abuser, but forgiveness doesn’t mean she can’t share her story. It’s the truth and it’s her story to share. Her willingness to forgive brings grace front and center when we realize what she’s been through. Her courage inspires me to look back and share.
This is me looking back. Maybe someone can relate. Maybe someone won’t feel alone. Maybe someone knows someone else who needs to read this. Maybe someone can learn something.
Looking back on my wedding, I remember the hurt feelings. I can still feel my shoulders fall and the tears sting during our first dance. I knew, at that moment, I would remember it for the rest of my life. That special moment was ruined for me by a flippant comment he made. Looking back on our honeymoon, I remember his excitement when he found Motocross on TV and his annoyance with the beach. The honeymoon was less about us and much more about what he was willing to do while we were there. One night he actually wanted to go to the beach…..but alone.
Looking back, I remember begging to get pregnant and both times finally getting a very reluctant, “ok, if it means you stop asking and crying” agreement. At the time, that made me so happy. None of it was happily ever after or how it should be. I was neglected, physically and emotionally. I wasn’t doted on or taken care of. I wasn’t told I was beautiful. Instead, I felt lucky to be pregnant and when I complained he reminded me of that fact. This is what I wanted, after all. I put on a happy face and looked forward to us being a happy family one day. I thought maybe he would love me more if I had his child, especially a son.
We had two girls.
I remember the look of disappointment both times when he found out. I remember, even his parents, saying they would need time to get over the fact that the second wasn’t a boy. They wanted him to have a son too. A football player, a hunting partner. Looking back, I felt sorry for him that I wasn’t giving him one.
Looking back, I remember feeling like my meals weren’t good enough and like I didn’t clean house well enough. We both worked full time.
Looking back, I remember being made to feel like a dismissive mom when I asked if he would take time off to take our daughter to the doctor or stay home when she had fever. Our first was sick a lot. She had recurrent UTIs, ear infections, and strep throat. I missed a lot of work with her. I remember when I asked him, I would get the response: “Don’t you want to take her to the doctor? You’re the mom.” Ummmmm….yes. It’s not a matter of want. Of course, I do. But, I have a job too. Instead of saying that, I would think “you’re right, I am the mom. I should take off…” And, I’d call in or cancel my patients….again. I tried so hard to be the best mom and wife I could be.
Looking back, I remember trying so hard to stay out of debt. Telling him, yes, I’d love to have a boat too, but can we pay such and such off first? He bought the boat the next day. If he wanted it, he got it. He bought boats, guns, second vehicles, hunting gear, and dear leases. When I asked to go on vacation, we could never afford it. “What a waste of money” he thought. I took our daughter to Disney World twice…once alone and once with my mom.
I knew we couldn’t afford for me to go part time at work. But, I did it anyway. That’s the one time I knew I made a risky financial decision, but it was worth it to me. We could have easily afforded it and vacations, if it weren’t for his spending. I remember buying him gifts he returned and buying tickets to events specifically for him that he refused to go to or chose to take someone else. Looking back, I didn’t tell my friends or family about this treatment because I wanted them to love him as much as I wanted him to love me.
Looking back, emotional pain overshadows a lot. Still, I would constantly try to focus on my blessings. The pain continued. What should have been special times in my life were taken from me. Looking back, my oldest daughter’s toddler years were precious to me, but my “incompetence” in his eyes seemed to increase. I am just now regaining and recognizing the fact that I was and am a good mom to our girls.
My youngest was one year old when he left. Her first birthday party was a disaster. He held back from being in any pictures. I was convinced that was the night that he’d come back home. Instead, he called me manipulative and blamed me for everything after the party. I gave him an open door and he slammed the door to our marriage tighter. I should have been the one throwing him out by the way he was treating me and he was refusing to come home. I just couldn’t understand. The pain increased.
While the pain of my divorce was intense. Looking back, the pain I endured during the marriage probably did the most damage and is taking the longest to unfold, recover, and learn from. Story after story after story. Looking back, I remember, holding my head in my hands and asking my mom “Let me get this straight. He treated me like this and then left me?” She simply nodded, yes.
It wasn’t until I couldn’t bare the thought of my girls thinking this treatment was okay, that I stood up. It wasn’t until he stopped touching me at all. He wouldn’t even hug me if I asked. I would never want them treated that way by anyone, especially their husband. And, if they were, I’d have no one to blame but myself for allowing it. That’s what it took. And, that was his way out. Out of a marriage he hadn’t wanted to be in for a long time. And, he took it. He blamed me on the way out the door…”Just so you know, you kicked me out. I didn’t leave my family.” After begging him to come home one night (Why? To work on the marriage, I didn’t want a divorce), he told me he’d rather live in a ditch than come home to me.
His words hurt in the very beginning. His words hurt in the middle. His words hurt at the very end. By the time he left, I was an emotional bloody pulp.
Looking back, I see how bad it was. I couldn’t when I was in it. Looking back, I see God showing me more love than I’d ever known or felt in the midst of the least love I’d ever known. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that He was with me. Even through the deceit and blaming, God covered me. The emotional pain was killing me and God wouldn’t allow that treatment one more year, one more day. My desire to stay married and honor my vows, no matter what, prevented me from walking away. Instead, I got left after summoning the strength to stand up. The Lord removed him. Then He picked me up, washed me off, and started the work of healing, comforting, and teaching. What a beautiful sight.
I thought that I was just that miserable to live with, but it turns out he was in love with someone else. They’ve been together ever since.
From the moment I knew divorce was imminent, I started asking God to help me. To help me forgive. To help me coparent. To help me do it to His Glory. And to protect our girls. I have forgiven him. I release that pain to my Father. And, I have learned from it. We still deal with each other on an almost daily basis because of the girls. But, he treats me better now. He loves them very much. He comes to their events. He takes them to the doctor. He’s a better dad now. And, I thank God for that.
My prayer for him is not that his marriage falls apart. Not that he comes back. Not that he gets left. Not that he suffers like I did. Not that he feels abandoned or blamed. But, that he treats her better. That our daughters will see him treat his wife well. That he will look to the Lord for guidance and learn to respect women. That he receives the love and grace offered to him. And, whether he chooses to or not, that our girls will never consider that treatment normal or acceptable. That they will know they are worthy of respect and kindness. That they will value themselves enough to stand up to the alternative. I care too much about their hearts and futures to pass along anything else.
Thank you, Lord, for the strength to stand up and the strength the share.