Self esteem story about a living in a physically abusive relationship
I am the oldest of four; I have three sisters and a brother. At 24 years of age, I was the last child still living at home, given both of my younger sisters had already married. It was then my military father asked me a very direct question: “What’s wrong with you that some man doesn’t want to marry you?”
The number one man in my life was speaking out loud a question that I had been asking myself time and time again. It sent me spiraling emotionally. I considered myself to be an attractive, intelligent and approachable female; full of energy and life. Yet, despite getting asked out on plenty of dates, for whatever reason, I had no suitors. And believe me when I tell you, this reality affected my self-esteem greatly.
My feelings were compounded because I was the unmarried mother of a young preschooler from a previous relationship. His father had decided that he wasn’t ready for children, much less marriage. Truth be told, neither was I, but I took responsibility and managed to support both myself and my young son. Working at the phone company as a Directory Assistance Operator provided us with just enough to take care of necessities and put me on a path for future independence. However, the lack of a relationship… the love of a man… seemed to validate the perception that I was unworthy of being loved. I didn’t need my father to reinforce the belief that something was indeed wrong with me. I already felt it deep down within myself.
So, when my girlfriend insisted we go out one evening with two young men she knew, I accepted her invitation. The four of us met up at her apartment after work. It was late fall in Chicago, so already a bit too cold to be outdoors. We sipped on warm drinks and ate her amazing spaghetti in the warmth of her home, getting to know one another.
Both Anthony and Tyson were Navy men, which attracted my attention. Back then, I didn’t make the connection that my attraction was likely related to the fact my dad had been in the Air Force for 20 years and I had grown up as a GI Brat living on military bases. The conversation was easy and military life provided subject matter that we could mutually discuss; an icebreaker.
The evening extended well into the next morning; as the other two slept, Anthony and I continued our conversation well beyond daybreak and into the weeks that followed. We went out for pizza, to jazz concerts and plays, while enjoying long phone calls and hanging out together over entire weekends. Once, when my car hit a pothole and dented the wheel, putting it out of commission, Anthony called my father and worked out an arrangement where my dad got it fixed and he covered the cost of the repair. He also made sure the majority of our outings included my son and helped buy basic needs, like new shoes or a new winter coat for him, as well. Anthony seemed to be very mindful of the time I needed for my commitments, not only for my baby boy, but also for my job. I quickly began to see him as my ‘Knight in Shining Armor’!
When I discovered I was pregnant with my second child, his first, I was extremely hesitant to tell him about it. Given I had already been down this road and lost a father-to-be, I initially concluded that it would be best to take care of it privately and keep going without a word.
However, I couldn’t; it’s not my style. Instead, I called him and asked if we could get together that evening, as I had something important to tell him. When we sat down together, I shared the news, along with my intention not to keep the baby. Immediately, he responded as I could have only hoped, with the declaration that he wanted us to not only keep the baby… but get married. And that we did.
Our courthouse wedding was officiated by a Judge, with all of our closest friends and family from both sides in attendance. Both his and my Parents stood with us and my girlfriend and sisters coordinated a very nice brunch reception with champagne mimosas and a cake. What a fairytale ending this was turning out to be. Perhaps my father was wrong; there wasn’t anything wrong with me, I just hadn’t encountered the right man – until now.
Things went well… at first. We built a quiet and stable home in a nice middle-class neighborhood. Three bedrooms, a two car garage, fenced in backyard with a swing set. My now Kindergartener had his own room with a set of bunk beds, put together by my dad and Anthony, and our new son had his crib in the second room.
One weekend we had a cookout and invited many of our friends over; which included his friend, Tyson. I hadn’t thought of Tyson since that that night I had met him at my girlfriend’s place. I treated all of our guests with the same care and hospitality, or so I believed. Apparently, Anthony didn’t see it the same way. At the end of the evening, when I packed up cake to go and went to hand it to his friend, I was struck across my face with such force that it knocked the package out of my hand and to the ground. I was stunned and speechless!
As our friends politely exited, my husband shared the reason for my ‘punishment’ with me; He said I was flirting. I took it as a personal failing and that I had made him unhappy.
The fighting began… and continued for the remaining few years of our eight-year marriage. Until one day, after I had arrive home from work, eight weeks pregnant with my third child, his second, excited to share the news that I had received a 25 cent per-hour raise on my job. Anthony got angry and accused me of flaunting that I made more money than he did; acting as if I were better than him. His response was to pick me up and physically throw me across the room.
I don’t remember much about the rest of what happened that night, beyond the feeling of blood flowing between my legs. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you how I got to the ER. But, I do remember waking up that next morning in a hospital bed, as my gynecologist tried to explain to me that the baby had detached and that (in her words) “sometimes these things happen”. I never told her what had actually happened; not then, nor after the dilation and curettage procedure (D&C) that I had to undergo in order to remove the remaining tissue in my uterus from the miscarriage to prevent any infection or complications with the bleeding.
I was released the following day and spent the next three months away from Anthony. And, although he never apologized for what he had done, he also never put his hands on me in anger again. We divorced five years later.
Now in my fifties, I’ve lived an equal amount of years beyond that time. And, although the memory of it now seems like just a momentary crisis in my life, I realize that it was a crossroad; would I continue to go down the road of allowing my esteem to be defined by someone else’s idea of my worth and value; to be validated as a woman because there’s a man in my life? Or, would I begin to honor and appreciate who I knew myself to be… or who I could be… even if I never have it confirmed by a man’s love?
I choose the latter.