Learning to Forgive after Domestic Violence

Learning to Forgive after Domestic Violence
 
Today marks the one year anniversary of sending my husband to jail for assault.  It has been a day of reflection for me.  I wondered how I would feel when this day came.  I could relive those awful memories of my husband slamming my head into the tile floor in front of our son or of the police handcuffing my husband and putting him in the back of the police SUV.  Or I can focus on the positive changes in my life since that terrible night.
 
But first, how did I get here to this day marking this terrifying anniversary?  I didn’t realize that what my husband was doing was abuse at first. He wasn’t punching me in the face and giving me black eyes.  So, it couldn’t be abuse, right?  It started with him grabbing me by arms during arguments and leaving bruises.  One time he threw a beer bottle across the room at me.  I ducked and the bottle shattered on the TV damaging the TV in the process.  Eventually, it escalated to pushing me and then shoving me up against the wall during arguments.  I don’t even know what the arguments were about anymore.  One night, I woke him up getting into bed.  He was so mad he hit me in the stomach twice then threw me out of bed.  I went to the sofa to sleep. 
 
There was emotional abuse as well.  Periodically, he would take our son, a baby at the time, to run some errand to the grocery store.  He would be gone hours. I would try to call and he would never answer.  I would worry they were in a wreck, or in the dark recesses of my mind I wondered if my husband had kidnapped my son.  Eventually, they would come home with some excuse they went to the park or a long drive, etc.  He did this continuously, even though I asked for him to just answer the phone and let me know.  I realize now it was all about controlling me. 
 
Like with sex.  Sex was awful. He forced me to have sex and held me in position, never caring that I was hurting or uncomfortable and obviously not enjoying it.  It was never about me.  It was always a selfish, controlling and aggressive act.
 
It has been difficult for me to get my head wrapped around the idea that I was being abused.  While, I was not beaten regularly, I was controlled, made to feel insignificant, and pushed and shoved around.  And then finally the last straw.
 
It was the day after Christmas.  We were home relaxing.  I was reading a book and he was watching football.  We had made chili.  We had both been drinking some wine.  He had some beer earlier with a buddy while watching football.  Our son was at the kitchen table eating.  I was trying to talk to my husband about something.  He got pissed I was interrupting his game, and grabbed my leg right above the knee and squeezed hard to get me to shut up.  My reflex action was to grab his thumb and pull his hand off. Apparently, when I pulled his thumb back I hurt him.  He was so mad, he started yelling and calling me names.  He called me a “stupid cow.”  (He’s British and stupid cow is an extremely degrading term.)  At that, I throw my glass of wine in his lap and walked off.  Should have I done that?  Probably not, but I walked away.  That is when he came after me.  He grabbed and threw me to the floor.  I landed halfway between the kitchen and the laundry room.  He then stood over top of me and started to slam my head into the tile floor.  At this point, my son walked up and was crying.  My husband turned to grab him.  I didn’t know what he was going to do, so I grabbed my son and ran into the office.  I thought about leaving and driving to my mom’s.  But I realized, “No.  This is it.  I’m not going to let him get away with this anymore.”  And I called the police.  The police came to our house, arrested him and kept him in jail for the mandatory 48 hours.  I felt guilty, betrayed, sad, and scared.  But I knew deep down I did the right thing.  And this is how I began my journey of healing, learning, letting go and forgiveness.
 
People talk about forgiveness and acceptance.  One thing my journey has taught me is that forgiveness is not a one-time deal.  You don't forgive the person that has caused you harm and then life is peachy.  I must continuously forgive.  Forgiveness is an ongoing process.  I have forgiven my husband to a certain extent.  Overall, he is not a monster or an evil person.  (I do not deny that there are some abusers out there that are indeed monsters and basically deserve the shit beat out of them.) But for whatever reason, my husband is a man who is unable to process his emotions and anger in an healthy way.  He is arrogant, self-centered and extremely selfish.  I have given up trying to understand the reason he is the way he is.  And I have stopped blaming myself.  But I must forgive in order to stay sane.  Until you forgive, that person will always have power over you.  And as a survivor of domestic violence, you certainly do NOT what the abuser to continue having power over you.
 
I have forgiven him for what happened that night. More or less.  There are some days it all comes back and I would love the opportunity to beat the living snot out of him.  There are bad days when I absolutely hate him.  Then there are good days when I can talk to him on the phone about our son, our old neighbors and friends.  But then a couple days later, I am blindsided by something he says that trivializes what happened that night.  On one occasion, he complained about his thumb still hurting as if I am supposed to feel sorry for him.  It reminds me that he has not learned much since that night.
 
But I, on the other hand, have learned much.  And that makes me the more fortunate person.
 
I love the quote by Joseph Campbell that says, "We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."  Being a victim/survivor of domestic violence was not what I had planned for myself when I graduated college.  And this is where letting go comes into play.  So, I made mistakes.  Had a relationship with someone that did not respect women or me.  Me of all people! I thought of myself as invisible, street savvy, strong, confident.
 
And I still am.
 
 There is another life waiting for me.  Maybe I was knocked down for a little while, but I've come back even stronger.  I know now how to set boundaries, to understand what I am and am not willing to accept in relationships.  And the beauty of being in my early 40s is that I am not subject to the cultural pressure of finding a man who "will take care of me" and "have children with."  That's all bullshit anyway.  I can begin a relationship with a man on my own terms.  And if he's not up to snuff, I can walk away.
 
At the end of the day, I still have my warm and peaceful house with my beautiful, sweet son to come home to.  With or without a man.
 
 

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